Opera Summer Schools Europe

Summer school

By Stephanie Fellenstein |

It is 10 a.m. on a school day yet seven teachers are lingering over breakfast at Yours Truly. No need to worry. These are retired teachers enjoying every minute of freedom from their former lives.

But it is their former lives, as part of the Hudson City School district, that have cemented their life-long friendships. And because of that, they meet monthly for breakfast or spend summer vacations traveling together through Europe.

From July 16 to 30, Kathy Eitel, Terry Lustic, Barbara Warner, Kathy Veith and Karin and Rob Swedenborg followed Roland Winzer on a whirlwind tour of eastern Europe.

The group flew from Chicago to Frankfort, Germany before arriving in Vienna, Austria. After three nights in Vienna and two in Budapest, Hungary, they spent the rest of the trip in Croatia, a place that many said they had never thought about visiting.

“I had no curiosity to go to Croatia, ” says Warner, who retired in 1994 as an American History teacher. “Of course I came home raving about it. I’d go back tomorrow.”

The story behind the trip

Winzer, who retired in 1993 after teaching German, New Dimensions and social studies at Hudson High, and coaching soccer, has been organizing trips to Europe for years. It all started with soccer and Winzer taking his teams to Germany.

“We played friendship games and did sightseeing, ” he says. “We were so well-received in Landsberg which had so many similarities to Hudson — the size, beauty, good schools, a desirable city for people who worked in Munich. The hospitality could not have been better.”

Those early trips led to Hudson’s sister-city connection with Landsberg.

Winzer says after many adults — both here and in Germany — got involved, they went to their respective city councils to make it an official status.

“City council — and then mayor Hal Bayless — voted to make Landsberg our sister city, ” he says.

Winzer also started an exchange program called the Friendship Connection in 1981. Today more than 29, 000 people have participated in the program.

“We are the second largest German exchange program that exists between the two countries, ” he says while on his way to Pittsburgh. “We’re in 22 states.”

Tour guide

When Winzer’s longtime friends, and fraternity brothers from Ohio University, found out about all the time he was spending in Germany, they suggested he put together a tour of the country for them.

And then his friends from Hudson schools jumped on board.

“He is a whiz at finding the most marvelous hotels and the best things to see, ” says Diana Kunze, who retired from teaching German this year. While Kunze did not attend this most recent trip — her brother lives in Vienna so she has been many times — she did travel through Scandinavia and Italy with Winzer on a previous trip. “It was smooth sailing, ” she says.

Now, eight trips later, covering countries across Europe, Winzer is still the main organizer.

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