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MC’s Spring Break Tour 2023 to Feature Historical, Cultural Landmarks of Germany, Austria

Ivan Parke, second from right, and his wife, Mary Ann, right, enjoy Caesarea at sunset on an excursion to Israel with fellow Spring Break Tour participants Renee Hargrove, left, and Lily Hughes.
Ivan Parke, second from right, and his wife, Mary Ann, right, enjoy Caesarea at sunset on an excursion to Israel with fellow Spring Break Tour participants Renee Hargrove, left, and Lily Hughes.

Whether you’re a history buff intrigued by World War II and the Cold War; a Christian scholar interested in Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation; a Middle Ages fan obsessed with medieval castles and the placid hills and valleys of the Romantic Road; a devotee of classical music enthralled by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, or an admirer of modern metropolitan cities in Europe, Mississippi College’s 2023 Spring Break Tour to Germany and Austria is certain to spark your imagination.

Reservations are now being accepted for the tour, scheduled for March 9-18, 2023. Participants will fly round-trip from Jackson, stay eight nights in four-star hotels, travel throughout the two countries in a private deluxe coach, enjoy daily breakfasts and four group dinners, and receive expert guidance from a qualified, experienced local tour director.

The trip will feature visits to historical and cultural landmarks such as the Berlin Wall, the Brandenburg Gate, the Royal Palace, the Holocaust Memorial, Wartburg Castle, Neuschwanstein Castle, and the Merchants’ Bridge, and exotic locales such as Wittenberg, Eisleben, Rothenburg, Salzburg, and the Lake District.

“Our annual trip has a long history of blessing faculty, staff, students, alumni, and the Jackson community,” said Ivan Parke, professor and assistant to the chair in the Department of Christian Studies at MC. “We get to go to great places, and it’s a true learning experience. It’s an opportunity to see history and learn new things.”

Few can match the enthusiasm for the annual trip than Parke. The 2017-18 Student Government Association Outstanding Faculty of the Year Award winner and two-time nominee for the Distinguished Professor Award from the School of Christian Studies and the Arts is passionate about international travel.

Parke succeeded Beth Stapleton, professor in the Department of Modern Languages at MC, as director of the annual Mississippi College Spring Break Tour.

“Before I had ever served as one of the professors traveling with Beth, I had participated in MC’s Spring Semester Program traveling to London,” he said. “I had been to the Holy Land, my favorite place to go, twice before. In 2018, Beth invited me to be one of the MC professors for the Spring Break Tour. On that first visit to Greece and Amsterdam, I got to see firsthand what Beth did.

“It was such a great experience, and I had such a great time. I’ve been involved ever since.”

During the 2020 Spring Break Tour of the Holy Land, Stapleton took Parke aside in Nazareth and asked if he would be interested in succeeding her as director of the annual excursion abroad.

“That was not on my radar, but I was honored that she had been thinking about it for a while and had selected me for this role. She asked me to pray about it and to ask my wife, Mary Ann, who was probably more eager for me to serve as director than I was!”

Before their group could finish the tour that year, the COVID-19 pandemic forced them to abandon their sightseeing plans and find a way home. Stapleton scrambled to find a flight from Jerusalem to Warsaw, then from Warsaw to London.

“While we were flying across the Atlantic, countries were shutting down, and airports were closing,” Parke said. “People here in America were praying for us, and for a while, we thought we might get stuck. A lot happened on that trip, but thanks be to God, we made it back home.”

The hurried conclusion to the trip didn’t dampen Parke’s zest for travel. After a one-year hiatus, the MC Spring Break Tour resumed – this time to London, Normandy, and Paris. Parke accompanied Stapleton on her final trip as tour director.

“We had a great time, and I’m looking forward to the 2023 trip,” he said. “But I’m definitely following in Beth’s footsteps – there’s no way I could replace her.”

What he enjoys most about the annual Spring Break excursion – and traveling abroad – is the camaraderie of international travel.

“When you travel with people and you’re in the same coach together, or when you’re flying together, sharing meals, you really get to know one another,” he said. “You meet new people, befriend folks you may not have known, and share experiences with them. That’s half the fun.”

The group will fly from Jackson to Berlin, the capital of Germany, to begin the tour, then meander along the southwestern section of the country before entering Austria and concluding the trip in Salzburg. The party will fly home from Munich.

Parke said the 2023 tour will allow participants to travel back in time virtually.

“It’s the 21st century, but you will see what it’s like to live in a medieval city,” he said. “You’ll see small towns. You’ll see castles. We’ll see products of the Early Reformation in Bavaria, and connect to its advancement in Austria. We’ll go off the beaten path to see a castle built by King Ludwig II that inspired Disney’s Sleeping Beauty’s castle, and we’ll see sites connected to the von Trappe family that inspired the “Sound of Music.”

“We’ll follow the life of Martin Luther, seeing the places that mattered to him. We’ll see where Mozart was born. We’re trying to cover many bases, and give a sample of German and Austrian culture within 10 days.”

Parke said the tour will be hosted by Willie Flicker, a native Austrian who helped organize and guide a previous visit to the countries by the MC Spring Break travelers.

Leading up to the trip, participants will have an opportunity to learn more about the places they will be visiting during a series of six planning meetings in February and March. Parke said the information will be provided as a bonus learning component designed to enhance their experience.

“We have various speakers from MC and the community talk about different aspects of the trip,” he said. “Dr. Ben Williams, associate professor and chair of the Music Department at MC, will be my faculty assistant on the tour. He’ll talk about why where we’re going is significant to classical music. I will talk about the Reformation. Someone who taught German at MC will discuss German culture.

“The more prepared you are, the more you appreciate where you’re going.”

Parke said anyone is welcome to participate in the tour – no Mississippi College or Baptist affiliation is required.

“I wish everybody could travel abroad, just to expand his or her world,” he said. “At the very least, we take less for granted what we have here in the U.S. We get to appreciate our country more, and get to experience some amazing places, people, culture, and food.

“Students, faculty and staff, and alumni of Mississippi College have traveled with us in the past, and they’ve been joined by people from the Jackson area,” he said. “Some folks have formed a core group that travels every year. The relationships are great and make the trip fun.”

The cost is $3950 per double/twin reservation and an additional $400 for a single supplement. The deadline to register is Saturday, Oct. 1. A nonrefundable deposit of $500 is required. The tour will close at 25 participants.

For more information or to register for the tour, visit or email Parke at