Roads to Appalachia Trip to Belgium, Germany and Switzerland Planned for Summer 2011

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Frank and Jane Gabor West Virginia Folklife Center is sponsoring a study and travel abroad program in the summer of 2011 called Roads to Appalachia through Belgium and the Germanic Roots of Western Germany and Northern Switzerland. The trip will explore our region’s connections to these root areas.

The trip is planned for July 8 to 20, 2011. Anyone in the community in addition to Fairmont State University students, faculty and staff, may apply to attend. Before the trip, there will be opportunities for the participants to receive background information on the places to be visited. For itinerary information or to apply for the trip, visit http://www.fairmontstate.edu/folklife/.   

Arrangements are made by National Travel. The cost is $4,089 per person, double occupancy. The cost is all inclusive: roundtrip flights; double occupancy with twin beds and bathroom in all hotels; a dining plan including 11 breakfasts, eight dinners and one lunch; sightseeing including entrance fees, professional multilingual tour director; National Travel escort; local guided tours and wireless headset; private deluxe motor coach; tipping at hotels and restaurants for included dinners; and hotel taxes and service charges. A payment plan is available. A $450 deposit per person is due Wednesday, Dec. 8.

On the itinerary are the Grand Palace and Royal Palace in Brussels, Belgium; the medieval canal city of Bruges, Belgium; the Musee du Verre, the Charleroi Glass Museum in Charleroi, Belgium, which is Pittsburgh’s sister city; an historic tour of Luxembourg, Belgium; the Institute for Palatine History and Folklife Studies in Kaiserslautern, Germany; the Arbeitsgemeinde fur Pfalzich-Rheinische Familienkunde genealogy library in Ludwigshafen, Germany; King Ludwig’s Neuschwanstein Castle in the Bavarian Alps; Zurich, Switzerland; the Lion Monument and Chapel Bridge in Luzern, Switzerland; and the Monastery of Konigsfelden in Windisch, Switzerland, which is the area that the Swiss-German settlers of Helvetia, W.Va., originated.

As part of the largest and earliest ethnic population in America, the Germans settled in eastern and northern “western” (West) Virginia by the early to mid 18th century, primarily emigrating from the Rhineland-Palatinate region of western Germany. By the mid 19th century, German Swiss settlements were being made throughout central West Virginia, with the Aargau Region of Switzerland populating the small West Virginia mountain village of Helvetia. Among the heavy wave of settlers into Central Appalachia during the early 20th century’s Industrial Revolution, many glassworkers came from Belgian cities, such as Charleroi. Settling throughout West Virginia, these Europeans brought with them varied skills, traditions, customs, storytelling and other folkloric elements that are still being perpetuated in parts of Central Appalachia.

A 2011 spring semester course, “Roads to Appalachia through Belgium and the Germanic Roots of Western Germany and Northern Switzerland,” will be offered for those traveling to the European countries during the summer of 2011. Two local texts have been chosen to accent this course including Gerald Milnes’ “Signs, Cures, and Witchery: German Appalachian Folklore” and David H. Sutton’s “Helvetia: The History of a Swiss Village in the Mountains of West Virginia.” This special study and travel abroad program will be led and hosted by Dr. Judy Prozzillo Byers, Director, and Noel W. Tenney, Cultural Specialist, both of the Folklife Center.

For more information about the travel abroad opportunity, call Dr. Judy P. Byers at (304) 367-4286 or e-mail her at jbyers@fairmontstate.edu or call the Frank and Jane Gabor West Virginia Folklife Center at (304) 367-4403.