Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Of breweries, and castles, and things

Here's some wonderful pictures taken by yours truely (and of yours truely) over spring break. Traveling alone has forced me to become quite good and streching my arm out in front of me and taking a picture of myself with some famous monument in the background.


Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Queen is Home

My spring break was a nice tour of the United Kingdom: Dublin, Edinburgh, and London (again). I visited Dublin first, taking a bus tour of the city on the first day. I took a tour of the Guiness Factory, visited a few cathedrals, a castle...the next day I continued my doing of touristy things and visited Trinity College and St. Stephan's Green, in addition to souvenir shop hopping. Dublin is the home to many, MANY sheep souvenirs, and I had a hard time decided which sheep souvenir was the cutest and had to stop myself from buying too much. I then took an extremely early flight to Edinburgh. Beautiful city! I joined a walking tour my first day there and heard of the famous STONE OF DESTINY!! This amazing stone is kept in the collection of Crown Jewels of Scotland and it was interesting to see. Jeweled sword, decorated crown...large rock. Very ugly and unspecial hunk of rock. The specialness of this stone is based in history and lore: the Scottish kings for the past hundreds of years have been crowned sitting upon this rock. Funnily enough, the English decided it was a good idea to steal this rock and start crowning their kings and queens upon it. It was only within the past few years that Queen Elizabeth returned the Stone of Destiny back to the Scottish. My second day I went castle hopping and visited Edinburgh Castle and the Palace of Holyrood. I continued onto London by taking a train that offered free wifi internet within the cars--cool! I LOVE London and this was one of the main reasons I went back. There were a few touristy things that I did not have the time to do the last time I visited, so I made sure I visited Westminister Abbey, St. Paul's Cathedral, and the Changing of the Guard this time around. I spent a good deal of time in Camden Town. The majority of Camden Town is markets and the maze of stalls amused me for a long time. I took another early flight back to Italy on my last day of break, and then finished my break relaxing in my room, sorting my purchases and unpacking. I would love to go back to Britain again...what a country!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

If I Were a Roman Gladiator...

Rome, 2nd time. Because it was one of the program's scheduled trips, I ended up going to Rome again this semester. Most of the things I saw and tours I went on were the same, but we had a different and EXCELLENT tour guide this time around. I learned a lot of random things about Rome in addition to some interesting info about the ruins and city. I also had the chance to climb to the top of St. Peter's dome this time. Awesome view. The climb up was interesting though: there were about 5 different types of staircases, including one with long, spiraling steps and another that the walls slanted on. It was a fun climb though. I did a lot more wandering around the city this time...probably walked across the city 2 or 3 times a day. Loooong walk...feet hurt...The one walk across town was to make it to the Colosseum before it closed. The girl I was with and I almost ran the entire mile or so there, but got there just in time--they were closing the gate as we slipped in behind some people! The same girl (her name is Megan too) and I ate dinner together one night at this cool little restaurant a few blocks from the Pantheon. For 12 euro, we got a three course meal with some delicious lasagna and finishing with a huge bowl of kiwi! It was very yummy (I may take Mom and Dad here when we all go to Rome!).
But's some pictures, take two...

Friday, January 30, 2009

Wow, I didn't know I had a panorama setting on my camera...

A few things I forgot to mention:
Vienna is extremely expensive.
We didn't go into Mozart's House because the museum fares are pricy and we'd already been to two other museums that day. So, we found Mozart's House, took some picutres from the outside, visited the gift shop and called it good.
While wandering around, we came across this ice rink set up in one of the main squares. Actually, I should say ice rinks. There was one ice skating rink that was a path that wove around, and then several small square rinks. In the middle of everything were a bunch of food tents. It was a pretty cool set-up.

Here's some pictures of cool things:

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Mozart Among the Bones

The past weekend I traveled to Vienna with another girl in the Villa (whose name was coincidently Megan). Friday was taken up with traveling to Vienna. We had a train connection in Venice and had a couple of hours to wander the city before we had to get on our next train. I was very happy about this—Venice has to be my favourite Italian city so far. We finally got to Vienna at about 11:30 at night and had our first fun experience of trying to communicate and navigate without knowing the language of the country we were in. This didn’t become a problem until our cab driver dropped us off in front of a rather ritzy hotel instead of our hostel. Thankfully, the receptionist at the hotel spoke very good English and told us that our hostel was only a couple blocks down the road. When we finally got to our hostel and our room, we had a nice surprise of finding two other girls in our room who were from the University of Michigan, who were studying in Prague. The conversation went kind of like this: “So where are you guys from?” “The States.” “Oh cool, where?” “Michigan.” “No way, do you guys go to the University of Michigan?” “Yes.” “OMG, so do we! Are you studying through OIP?” Etc, etc. It was pretty cool to meet someone from back home in a totally different country on a totally different continent.
The next day we bundled up (it was cold in Vienna after being in Florence) and headed off to Stephansdom (St. Stephan’s Cathedral). The Gothic church was cool enough, but then we took a tour of the catacombs under the church. Not for the faint of heart. In the beginning of the tour we saw all the jars and containers that the hearts and other organs of the Habsburg rulers were put into (their bodies are underneath a different church) and the room smelled absolutely rancid. Yum, dead, decaying body parts. The next part of the tour became creepier as we plunged into dark tunnels and into rooms filled with human bones. The best rooms were one in which there used to be a well-like tube coming from the square above to the room below where the plague victims were just shoved down after they croaked (we looked down what remained of the tube and saw a massive pile of bones) and another room where there were bones neatly stacked up against the walls. Supposedly they ran out of rooms to put dead bodies, so they had all the prisoners of the city take the bodies, clean the bones, and neatly stack the bones in another room. Yummy. Makes you not want to get in trouble with the law. After this we walked down the main shopping street and then wandered through the HUGE open air market. After that we visited the Schonbrunn Palace and then wandered through the gardens. We climbed to the top of a hill there and got an awesome view of Vienna. We wrapped up the day by seeing Mozart’s Requiem performed in St. Stephan’s Cathedral, on top of all those bones. It was an amazing experience to be in that old church and hearing this music echo around.
On Sunday, we decided to go to the city palace of the Habsburg emperors. We visited the Imperial Treasury, and then I took a tour of the Spanish Riding Stables while Megan went into the apartments of the palace. We didn’t get a chance to see any performances by the Lipizzaner stallions because they were on break during the month of January. I did get to see the horses though, in my tour of the stables. We then decided to visit the crypt that actually holds the bodies of the Habsburg rulers. It was a nice crypt, not quite as creepy, but the coffins were amazing sculptures. We took the overnight train back to Florence and didn’t get in until 6:15am, but were thankfully woken up with a small breakfast on the train.
A word about the food: Of course we couldn’t leave Vienna without eating a sausage, so both Megan and I got “hot dogs” on the first day. Except these hot dogs weren’t like American hot dogs; they were foot-long sausages in a loaf of bread. Delicious. We also couldn’t leave Vienna without eating this famous cake: Sachertorte. This chocolate cake is covered in chocolate, with honey in the middle of the two layers. Yum, yum. I wish I could’ve found a way to bring some back with me.
Pictures will soon follow…

Friday, January 9, 2009

Manly Men in Tight Tights

The 6th was the feast of Epiphany and Florence celebrates with a huge parade that goes through the city and gathers at the Duomo of Florence. It was pretty awesome; there were a lot of really cool medieval costumes and armour. Here's some pics...with some pictures of my new room thrown in there (And my pet!)

Sunday, January 4, 2009

"Paging Gotham citizen Bruce Wayne"

Well, I'm back in Italy; in one piece, with all my luggage, and had no problems with the flights. Thank goodness. The flight over was really nice. AirFrance does know how to fly people with some style. I actually got metal silverware with my delicious (just kidding) air plane food. I'm all unpacked now in my single bedroom. I'm thankful for the desk to work at (I didn't have one last semester), but I definitely could use a dresser though.
Classes start on Wednesday. I'm taking a class on Shakespeare in Italy, an Italian film class, Italian 102, and a literature class of writers inspired by Italian culture. I'm in a happy position to already know the daily life at the villa, but unfortunately, I still have to go through all the same orientation things. Should be fun.