More than anything else, it was Bob Schneider's keen sense of humor, shrewd observations of human nature and even-keel temperament that made our trip so enjoyable through 1900 miles of urban and rural Ukraine. Under his subtle guidance, his "herd of cats" as he aptly named our group, as different politically and socially as any group could be, became a "band of brothers" by the end, realizing our common ancestral heritage was more meaningful than our differences. Throughout the country, we met many individuals, families and organizations who have been supported by the Schneiders over the years, creating opportunities for us to benefit those who live and work there today. At the end of the trip, our driver and guides commented how much we laughed and joked along the way...and that would have to be Bob's fault...our Master of Ceremonies, Master of Comedy, and Master of Good Will. Thanks Bob!
To anyone that may be even thinking about going on a tour to the Ukraine and the surrounding area, this is not a difficult decision to make. I was on the 2006 Fall Tour with Bob Schneider LLC Tours and could not have asked for a more pleasant experience. Bob and his wife Kathy were the most accommodating Host and Hostess. Bob does an excellent job of planning the trip so that everything goes off without a single glitch. I have been on four tours and this one cannot be compared to the others. If someone is considering this trip, I can assure you that you will not find a more personalized and well planned tour.I recently returned from my September 2006 trip to Odessa area and Crimea with Bob Schneider Tours. WOW! Unbelievable, stunning, jaw-dropper!
As I've never been a world traveler (or much of one in the states) some things were really out of sorts to what I have been accustomed. However, once I got used to things, my jaw and eyes relocated back into their normal positions on my head. :-)
Seeing the small villages was like taking a step back into time. The people we came in contact with were sooo friendly and outgoing. The landscape, ornate and massive old buildings, colorful homes and the people were so overwhelming that it was difficult to keep it orderly in my 'kopf!" Good thing I took lots of pictures and notes!
Everyone on the tour was so nice and tons of fun was had by all! We were thrilled to have Kathy, tour owner Bob Schneider's wife, make her first Ukrainian trip with us! Bob and Kathy's last anniversary was spent continents apart. She in South Dakota and he in the Ukraine! Nice belated anniversary gift, Kathy! :-)
We had three highly intelligent guides/interpreters that gave us much information about the places visited and - were "kick in the pants" fun to road-trip with! Victor, our amazing driver, could put TV commercial test-drivers (that whip around those traffic cones) to shame! At first I wondered why no one wanted to sit up front in the van. When I did - I wondered no more. It finally dawned on me that: everyone drove that way and you can't see much scenery with your eyes closed!
We did a lot of walking to shop the markets and see the sights close up. We visited our ancestral villages, museums, schools, orphanages, churches, cemeteries etc. Some lunches were roadside but other were at village homes. While sitting under the grape arbors, we stuffed ourselves to above the full mark with the many varieties of delicious food and drink. (I don't associate "toast" with just "bread" anymore!) Oh, and in Crimea, Inna found a shop that served Fleischküchle! Ohhh! Sooo good!! Some of you have made this trip several times already so you know how wonderful and full of fun Bob's tour family and tours are. Those of you who haven't, YA GOTTA!
Would I do it again? YES! YES! YES!
In June 2006, I traveled for the third time to Ukraine with Robert Schneider LLC Tours. The tour directors in Ukraine were again very organized, helpful, and concerned that each tour participant was able to spend enough time in specific villages of interest. Schneider Tours also allows a participant to customize his/her time in Ukraine by arranging separate day-long side trips with separate driver and private translator, to pursue and explore other areas, that would not interest the rest of the tour group. I did exactly this on two occasions on this trip. I cannot say enough about Robert and his team, in their efforts to allow each participant to maximize his/her time in Ukraine.
It was a very emotional time for me to see where my ancestors were born, lived and died....I felt the things that do not change---the fields of grain, the hills, the sun, the winds, the villages...I walked where they walked, I felt the same wind and sun, and I visited many homes and churches where they had also been when they were on this earth....Their spirit was with me on this journey!
I must remember those who made this "great" tour possible...First, THANK YOU BOB! Second, our wonderful translator, tour guides and driver! Third, our host families.....I have made lifelong friends with several people who are just "The Best!"
The Homeland experiences on this tour will be a time in my life I will never forget and I will cherish forever.
We came home from our trip to Ukraine, Crimea, and Moldova with so many memories of our ancestral villages that we cry when we tell about our experiences. Bob Schneider was an wonderful tour guide, and he hires guides/interpreters that are excellent. Bob tailored the itinerary to our needs, so we were able to visit our villages. We toured in a 1996 Mercedes, and the food was wonderful.
In Moldova we visited the Glueckstal villages. We were told that we were the first Americans to visit the Glueckstal Monument since it was erected in 2002 by GRHS. It was awesome to visit the villages where our ancestors lived. In Kassel we met Roland, the one remaining German there. He had been sent to Siberia, he had to fight in WWII and was wounded; later, he was allowed to come back to Kassel, but not to his original house. When we spoke German with him, he said he had almost forgotten the language, because no one there speaks German.
If you go on a tour, you will come back a changed person with many experiences of your own. You will also be grateful that our ancestors came to this great country. We highly recommend this tour with Schneider LLC Tours.
If you are interested in a personal tour of your ancestral villages in South Russia (today’s Ukraine), I would highly recommend Schneider Tours LLC of Spearfish, SD. I have been on two of these tours, and I can tell you that Robert Schneider and his assistants in Ukraine - Inna Stryukova, Valentina Fromm, and Karolina Fromm - make your trip a very personal experience, and one you will never forget. Each tour is custom-tailored to cater to the ancestral roots of each tour member. There is no pre-set agenda. Every effort is made in advance by Valentina and Inna to make contact with people in your village to let them know you are coming. Often, but not always, people in that village will organize a reception and a program to honor your visit. It is these receptions that make the trip so special for all the tour members. I would be pleased to field direct questions about Schneider Tours LLC. email@example.com
I was a member of Bob Schneider's September 2003 Ukraine tour and would highly recommend his tours to all!! Bob worked closely with all of us beforehand to make sure the itinerary covered all the villages we had an interest in and that we had adequate time to spend in each. The tours were very well planned and we were very comfortable in our accommodations, our meals were always very tasty and filling, and the tour guides and translators were the VERY BEST!!
By the time we left, we all felt like one big family! Bob and his associates in Ukraine went "above and beyond" in making all the arrangements for my sister, cousin and myself to go even further than the normal tour area so that we could finally meet our newly-found Ukrainian family that had been left behind in 1941, and arranged the tour itinerary so that we could leave the group and have 6 days with our family. Thank you Bob, and may God Bless you and your Ukrainian team members always!!!
In May-June 2002 we had the privilege of traveling to the Ukraine, and Moldova with Robert Schneider LLC Tours. With the information we gave Bob about the villages that our ancestors lived in, he was able to arrange visits to those villages and make the tour very personal. He arranged to have interpreters traveling with us through -out the tour which was most helpful. By traveling to two different countries, he had arranged an additional rented van, driver and interpreter in order to accommodate our request. It was amazing to us to find a person in the villages that could speak our German language and hear of their interesting stories.
By staying in the homes of some of the villagers, we were able to see how they lived their daily lives, visited their school and many of their churches and cemeteries. At the same time we had the privilege to do some sight seeing, visiting Yalta and the historical mansions. In Moldova we visited the Glueckstal Monument dedicated just one week earlier by GRHS.
When we returned from our trip, we were proud to know that our ancestors left there when they did and we are very happy to live in the good old USA. We would recommend traveling with Robert Schneider LLC Tours.
My wife and I were born in Landau and Kary leaving Ukraine, March 16, 1944 with our parents. 58 years later we had the opportunity to travel to Ukraine with Bob Schneider LLC Tours. When we landed in Odessa May 22, 2002 it felt unreal.
The day after our arrival we were able to visit the former German villages that our group had requested to see. We also stopped at a new German village with about 30 homes northeast of Odessa; it was financed by the German Government. Resettled families from Kazakhstan (former Soviet Union) lived there. As it turned out the mayor of the settlement and the Ukraine Village was a German from Kazakhstan.
In Crimea we were able to visit a German club called “Wiedergeburt”. They had also settled from Kazakhstan. We were welcomed with German folk songs, good food and drinks. It appeared to me that this was another new beginning for the German descendants settling in this region.
In Odessa, Nikolaev and Crimea the culture and history in these areas were enriched with the Opera House, Dancing, Alexander 3rd Palace, Past Wars and Old Ancient Greek Ruins.
The program and tours were greatly appreciated. Thank you, Bob and your staff, for a great job. It was truly a memorable experience to see the home land again.
God Bless You
I was a member of Bob Schneider’s fall 2003 tour. Bob did a wonderful job in setting up our tour to accommodate all my needs as a tourist and a researcher. I was able to visit all my ancestral villages and even get photos of the homes where my forefathers' lived. His tour uses professional guides and interpreters making what would seem a difficult journey a truly wonderful experience.
Bob has built a solid reputation in Ukraine, and his tours are welcomed guests at museums and cultural organizations. You will indeed return home with a special appreciation for the Ukrainian people. Our accommodations were comfortable and every effort was made to meet my special needs for food and drink.
Robert does his best to keep the tour affordable. I have communicated with many people who have journeyed to the land of our ancestors and compared experiences; surely there is no better option when considering a tour to the Ukraine.
My sister and I traveled with Schneider LLC, in the September 2003. My goal was to visit the area and village where my father grew up. I wanted to walk the paths and streets, and see the sights that he walked and saw as a young man growing up in Russia.
I was able to accomplish all of these things due to the excellent staff of people Mr. Schneider has working for him in Ukraine. I sincerely enjoyed visiting with these people, as well as meeting many other Ukrainian people whom I found to be very friendly.
Our meals included a variety of foods, which for the most part, were very good. Of course, I liked the home made bread, the many different kinds of fresh vegetables, and wine, with my meals, that was purchased at the winery that we visited.
The tour was well planned so we could visit and see as many interesting things as time would allow. We enjoyed visiting 3 or 4 large cities, many small ancestral villages, and museums. We especially enjoyed visiting the Crimean area with its beautiful Black Sea, the cliff vistas, and royal palaces!!
My trip to Ukraine in Sept. & Oct of 2003 was with mixed emotions and much pleasure. It was hard to believe how poor the village people are but how very friendly and willing to help us find our ancestral homes. My brother and I, through the interpreters, found a lady in our Grandfather Adam Hepperle's village of Neu Fruedental who remembered where Grandfather’s house stood and while there we also found a tombstone with Grandmother Elizabeth's name on it with a biblical inscription on it. "As a seed is planted, grows, withers and dies so is life." This was the high light of my trip.
I also enjoyed visiting the German Society group and the German WW11 Cemetery. The Crimean War Panorama was outstanding as were all other sights visited. Everything was very informative. Visiting the orphanage was also enlightening. It is a beautiful country.
The food was all very good and the interpreters and organizers did a marvelous job, especially Bob.
We had the wonderful opportunity to be a part of the German-Russian ancestral tour in September, 2000. Our capable tour guide was Bob Schneider who did a fantastic job for us. We decided to be a part of the tour a bit late in the summer and he was so accommodating at helping us get through all the “red tape” that was required such as Visa’s etc.
We boarded our flight in Rapid City and arrived, safe and sound, but very exhausted in Vienna. There we enjoyed a couple days of rest and touring the culture and history of that beautiful city. Then we boarded our flight for Odessa, Ukraine and were greeted by a very hospitable tour guide who began the process of getting us settled into our hotel. The rest of the busy days were almost indescribable. The hospitality of the people in the villages and cities we visited was so special and sincere. We were welcomed with open arms and they were so anxious to hear about the heritage of our families. Customs and traditions were shared and remembered. It was, for us, a life changing experience to stand on the soil where Great Grandfather Christian Diede lived in Johannestal. We were able to share the stories, experiences and pictures with my 88 year old mother who just wept when we gave her a small jar of soil from the village.
We would highly recommend anyone interested in visiting the land of our ancestors to be a part of this tour — Bob does an excellent job of organizing everything and makes the trip most enjoyable with facts, humor and a great variety of experiences.
In my effort to visit my ancestor's villages in Ukraine I became aware that the best way to do this was to join an organized tour which had connections in country and knew the locations of the villages. I finally decided on joining the September, 2003 tour of Schneider LLC and for a change I found that I was happy with a decision that I had made.
Mr. Schneider and the people that work with him run a very personalized tour that assures all of the members equal time to visit their ancestral villages. Both he and the tour guides/drivers accompany the members of the tour into the villages and create a dialog with the local people that open many doors into the homes and lives of the villagers. Added to this were numerous contacts with local cultural clubs and institutions.
The people that work with him are very informative and they provided me with a very carefree and enjoyable time during my tour of Ukraine. I had the feeling that they went out of their way to make sure that I saw all that I came to see and more.
Robert Schneider and his tour staff do a superb job of putting their tour members in touch with the people and the culture of Ukraine. When you leave Ukraine, you have experienced the culture. The tour keeps you busy, but the tour agenda is well balanced, interesting, and always focused on the history and culture of the area. The trip is very diverse, so you see the many sides of Ukraine, from life as it was and is now in the villages to attending an opera in Odessa and visiting Viladia Palace in Yalta, Crimea, where the WWII Yalta Agreement was signed.
Our Ukrainian interpreters and tour guides were friendly, professional and were always attentive to our requests and needs. Extra effort was made to get to the ancestral villages of every tour member. We had many pleasant meals at the homes of German families in Ukraine and spent one night in a former German colony. Our meals were well balanced, delicious and abundant, featuring a variety of Ukrainian and German Russian menus. The Ukrainian and German social organizations in Ukraine & Crimea were hospitable, entertaining, authentic, informative and fun. They went all out to make our time with them enjoyable and memorable.
With the skillful assistance of our tour guides and interpreters, we were able to find and visit the homes of Vera’s Hoerner and Sattler great grandparents and found the gravestone of another great grandfather, Peter Stein. This stone now has a place of honor at the Karlsruhe Museum, which is dedicated to the memory of the German colonists who settled the Beresan area of Ukraine.
When I joined Bob Schneider and ten others in late May, 2002, on a journey to Ukraine it fulfilled one of my childhood dreams. I never tired of my grandmother's tales of life in "the old country" I recall saying that I would some day go to see it. She dismissed that with a mere wave of the hand signifying "Ach, geh doch" ["Aw, go on"]. Brutal dictator Stalin oppressed not only the surviving Germans but all Ukrainian and Russian people. Travel from here to there was out of the question.
With the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Iron Curtain is no more and travel to the Black Sea region, from whence the ancestors of so many Dakota Germans emigrated, is becoming common and is safe as anywhere.
Our journey by air in hours re-traced our forefathers'/mothers' treks from Germany to south Russia to North America . For them it meant months or years of difficult, perilous travel by wagons, boats, rails, ships.
On our way over there our plane stopped in Frankfurt, Germany. This is near where my German ancestors once lived. From there to Vienna on the Danube. Many or most of the Germans who migrated to the Black Sea region also came through Vienna or near there. Our next stop was Odessa, as it was for most of them two hundred years ago.
Visiting the village and then finding the very home of my mother's family was for me the emotional highlight of our two and one-half week excursion. With a copy of a 1906 photo of the house we finally found it. Some of the old homes there still have residents but the "Niedan" house is vacant and deteriorating. I knew it was old but did not realize it dated back to the founding of the village [whose name is "Freudental"] in 1805. In its present state of decay, the thick walls of adobe and the original roof thatch material are exposed. Those were the common building materials of that steppe country which was nearly treeless 200 years ago. I could not resist grabbing a handful of that ancient thatch and bringing it back.
The original church of Freudental is no longer there. Sadly, the old German cemetery is barely recognizable as such. Headstones have been plundered with only a few nameless ones still standing. Beside it, though, the current residents have a well-kept Eastern Orthodox cemetery. Nice!
The hospitality and friendliness of the ethnic Ukrainians is most note-worthy. One can sense an unspoken relief and thankfulness [mutual] that the "Cold War" is history and that we now have common goals of inter-national peace and advancement of freedom.
Without Bob Schneider's well-planned itinerary such a trip would have been impossible or extremely difficult. Besides accommodating our individual wishes to visit our ancestral villages, we visited points of interest in Odessa and Nikolaev--opera house, museums, etc. Several days touring the picturesque Crimean peninsula was an added bonus. Besides the natural scenery there were the historic palaces dating back to Czarist times and historic sites of Sevastopol and Yalta. Our guides/interpreters [and driver "Nikolai"] were the best. "Never a dull moment", which is what one should hope for when traveling so far. Yes, I would even like to go back another time, though I have more than enough priceless memories to last the lifetime still left for me.