Eastern Europe: The Cold War Remembered

Led by Robert Entenmann, Professor of History, and Sarah Entenmann, Freelance Editor
July 10–23, 2016
$5,750 per person, double occupancy (see inclusions below)

The bitter rivalry between the West and the Soviet Bloc profoundly shaped our world. The Cold War and the Soviet Union are history, but a history that still reverberates in national and ethnic conflicts and in the development of post-socialist economies and societies in Russia and Eastern Europe.

This Study Travel examines the forty-year history of the Cold War, which began with the establishment of Soviet control over Eastern Europe following the defeat of Nazi Germany and ended with the collapse of Communism and the dissolution of the Soviet Union, a quarter century ago. We will examine the ideological foundations of the Soviet Union and its confrontation with the United States. We will study how Communism shaped society, culture, and the economy of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. And we’ll discuss how and why Communism failed — and how Russia and Eastern Europe have changed since the Cold War ended.

But not all of our time will be spent pondering history. Along our trip we will enjoy the art, culture, and cuisine of three fascinating countries: Russia, Hungary, and Germany. We will celebrate the new as well as we reflect on the old.

Our program begins in St. Petersburg, the imperial capital founded by Peter the Great. This city was the site of the revolutions of 1917 that deposed the Tsar and established the Soviet regime. Named Leningrad from 1924 to 1991, the city withstood a German siege for two and a half years during World War II. From St. Petersburg we will travel by train to Moscow, where the Kremlin once symbolized the Soviet Bloc. We will visit sites from the Soviet era, including Lenin’s mausoleum and Red Square, and see how Moscow has evolved in the post-Communist era.

From Moscow we will fly to Budapest, the magnificent Hapsburg city on the Danube that witnessed the Hungarian Uprising of 1956. Political and economic liberalization in Hungary in (“Goulash Communism”) led to the opening of the Iron Curtain and free elections. Our tour will conclude in Berlin, where the Cold War began with the Berlin Airlift and ended with the opening of the Berlin Wall.

Explore Eastern Europe
St. Petersburg occupies a world of architectural order forged out of a swamp at a forbidding latitude. Peter the Great’s invention cost the lives of thousands of workers sent to make the Baltic Sea delta inhabitable 300 years ago. But his vision lives on — even new buildings adhere to the symmetry and classicism of Peter’s day. The sea-green Winter Palace overlooking the Neva River houses the Hermitage Museum’s staggering collection of fine art, and sumptuous royal estates dot the surrounding forests. St. Petersburg’s reputation as Russia’s intellectual and cultural center has not brought the city the prosperity that today’s Moscow enjoys, but Petersburg has better hotel choices and a restaurant scene nearly as vibrant as the capital’s.

Think of Moscow as a wax museum. Tsarist icons and larger-than-life Socialist Realism characters are now elbowed aside by trappings of an oil boom — new money, flashy restaurants and designer labels. The city’s many historical guises adorn Red Square where the Kremlin’s crimson majesty stands guard over Lenin’s Mausoleum. The marble and mosaic of the Metro stations remain Communism’s homage to the working class, while on the periphery the Seven Sisters skyscrapers — the zenith of Stalinist architecture — dominate the skyline.

Architecturally stunning Budapest is a tour de force of Hapsburg splendor, best appreciated over rich cream cakes in a chandelier-lit Gerbeaud coffee house or a sumptuous steam in a Gellért thermal bath. Beyond the grandeur of the Royal Palace and the Hungarian State Opera House, the city has its head very much in the progressive, party-loving present. Free of its communist shackles, a dynamic cultural undercurrent once again flows freely down the Danube and across the city’s grandly designed boulevards.

In 2014, Berlin celebrated the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. It was a momentous occasion, full of symbolism and emotion for those who had lived with the gruesome concrete barrier that kept Berlin — and, symbolically, all of Germany — divided for more than 40 years. In the quarter-century since the Wall came tumbling down, Berlin has re-established itself as Germany’s capital and gone through an urban and social transformation that has made it, once again, one of the most exciting cities in Europe (many would say, the most exciting). Superlative museums, grand (and grandiose) monuments, a nightlife that’s both glamorous and gritty, a performing arts scene that has no equal in Germany, fascinating neighborhoods to explore, fabulous parks and green spaces to enjoy, cafes, beer gardens, shopping, elegant restaurants and on-the-go street food — Berlin truly does have something for everyone. And although Berlin is a fast-paced, forward-looking city, it is also a city full of memorials and reminders of its haunted and harrowing Nazi and Communist past. Berlin has seen it all and lived to tell the tale — a tale that makes this city perpetually fascinating and endlessly exciting as it reinvents itself again and again.

No other city in Germany can match Berlin for the sheer number of attractions and diversions it offers. The city is particularly rich in museums (170 of them at last count) and you could build your entire trip around visiting them. But Berlin the living city is fascinating wherever you go, filled with historic monuments, gut-wrenching memorials, picturesque parks and lakes, famous avenues and riverside promenades, and lots of new architecture. In fact, Berlin has more new buildings than any other city in Europe. And, the building — or rebuilding — continues apace, so that some parts of Mitte, especially along Unter den Linden and near Museum Island, are still giant construction sites and will remain so at least until 2016.

See the itinerary for more detail about the sites we’ll visit in each city. Above descriptions edited from frommers.com.

Program Leaders
Robert Entenmann, St. Olaf professor of history and Asian studies, custom designed this Study Travel program. Primarily a specialist on East Asia, his teaching interests extend to the history of the Cold War, comparative Communism, and post-Communist states and societies. Bob’s undergraduate degree is from the University of Washington. He earned a master’s degree in East Asian studies at Stanford and a doctorate in history and East Asian languages at Harvard.

At St. Olaf, Bob teaches courses on East Asian history and Asian studies. His research on the social history of 18th century Chinese Catholics has taken him to China, France, and Italy. Bob has given and published papers in China, the U.S., and Europe on this topic, and a collection of his essays was published in Chinese translation in 2006. Bob has been a visiting scholar at Sichuan University in Chengdu, a Benedict Distinguished Visiting Professor of History at Carleton, president of the Midwestern Conference on Asian Affairs, and a board member of the Association for Asian Studies.

Sarah Entenmann lived briefly in Europe as a child and has traveled extensively in Europe and Asia. She and Bob led St. Olaf’s Term in Asia in 1995; they have also led five Study Travel programs and two St. Olaf Interim terms in China (including Tibet), Japan, Cambodia, and Vietnam. Sarah is a professional editor who recently put aside that work to engage in two ventures. She is an associate at The Clothes Closet, a nonprofit that supports Northfield’s Food Shelf. And she is an advanced-level facilitator of WRAP, wellness recovery action planning, for the Rice County Mental Health Collective. In addition, she serves on the board of the local League of Women Voters and sings tenor in her church’s choir.

What to Expect
Europe is built to be explored on foot. Be prepared for lots of walking! We will also move around in a variety of modes of transportation, including private coach, hydrofoil, and airplane. You will be responsible for your luggage going into and out of airports, so please be sure you can handle what you pack.

Accommodations will be in centrally-located, comfortable, tourist-class hotels with English speaking staff. Hotel rooms outside the U.S. are typically smaller than the average American hotel room.

To fully partake in this Study Travel program, you should be able to walk up to five miles per day over possibly uneven terrain, climb stairs that may not have handrails, keep pace with an active group of travelers, deal with the emotional highs and lows that can occur when experiencing a different culture, and be a considerate member of the group (prompt, courteous and flexible).

Rainfall for our destinations will be negligible in July. Average temperatures are:

  • St. Petersburg, low 55º Fahrenheit, high 74
  • Moscow, low 55, high 75
  • Budapest, low 62, high 82
  • Berlin, low 58, high 75

You should plan on seeing your family physician or a travel doctor at least four to six weeks prior to departure, preferably earlier, to talk about routine vaccinations. For more information on travel health, visit cdc.gov or who.int.

Program Fee
The program fee is $5,750 per person. Based on double occupancy, it includes discussions led by Bob Entenmann, assistance by Sarah Entenmann and national guides, accommodations, breakfast daily and group meals as listed on the itinerary, coffee, tea and water with group meals, bottled water on buses during group transfers, local beer and wine during the welcome and farewell dinners, admissions for group activities, ground transportation during the program, hydrofoil to Peterhof, one-way second-class high-speed train ticket from St. Petersburg to Moscow, one way economy class airfare from Moscow to Budapest, one way economy class airfare from Budapest to Berlin, gratuities to group guides, drivers and meal servers, and limited medical protection while overseas. For single occupancy, add $795.

Airfare to St. Petersburg and home from Berlin is not included. Participants are solely responsible for all expenses not specifically included in the program fee. Examples of excluded expenses are: International Airfare • Any passport and visa fees • Any recommended immunizations or vaccinations • Baggage and trip cancellation insurance • Alcoholic beverages, except at the welcome and farewell group dinners • Laundry • Dry cleaning • Phone charges • Room service or other items of a personal nature • Expenses incurred during free time or non-group activities • Lunch and dinner, unless specifically included on program itinerary.

Making Your Flight Arrangements
Please plan to depart the U.S. on Sunday, July 10, 2016 in order to arrive in St. Petersburg on July 11. Plan to depart Berlin any time on July 23, 2016.

For assistance with flight arrangements, may we recommend Noreen Deiss of Travel Leaders. She can be reached at 651-429-0039 or noreen@tvlleaders.com. We recommend you not purchase non-refundable airfare until we can confirm the program has enough participants to go.