Monday, March 29, 2010

March 13-Saturday in Switzerland

Woke up bright and early to peep out my window at the Swiss houses surrounding the one I was staying in, with their pointed rooftops with slopped bottoms. For breakfast. Cereal and fresh bed with honey that was thick and delicious!!! Also, I was made a latte..we had picked up fresh milk yesterday. It was in a little room behind a barn where u pay so much money, and (using a bottle or container brought with you) you fill up the bottle with milk from a sort of tap. Directly from the dairy! I swear it tasted better…

Anyways, foamed up the milk and added a bit of ground up Cardamon!!! This is a spice they use in the middle east! Because I recognized the flavor from our meals with them J it made the coffee late extra good! No lies.

Then they helped me with a map show how to get to the town Ermatingen on the lake Bodensee! Ursula dropped me off so I would just have to follow the winding road straight. It was an easy 45 min run/walk. Most of which was down a (never ending) hill. Went through a couple towns..which can be as small as a cluster of houses with a few barns and a place to eat.

The “road” I followed is for “wanderweg” walkers/pedestrians. With little signs for walkers, bikers and such. There are little, less than single lane sized, paved roads that cut across the land, connecting these little towns with their sharply angled roofs, and highways through forests and across farmer’s fields.

March 13-Saturday!

I paused a few times, to breathe in the cool, clear air with the smell of the land mixed in it. When the path went through the trees, the world was trapped between serenity and activity. Quiet because wind barely rustled the trees, and no sounds of the outside world interrupted the air. But bustling with the occasional squirrel that darted out of sight, and the birds that sang from the foliage to one another. While the snow (that still remained in the cooler shade) slid off of boughs, or dripped from branches.

Once in Ermatingen, I stayed straight for the lake, running on a gravel road that was just a house or yard away from the edge of the water. On the other side of the lake, the rest of the town continued, and behind the builders were rounded mountains. On the lake..which I was told is referred to as “river-lake” because the lake narrows into almost a river for a part, and the widens back into a full lake.. there were fishermen in little boats, with their lines cast out for fish. And even though it was 10:30..there was still a mist that hovered over the water and land. I wandered around the town for about an hour, sometimes jogging, sometimes walking. Found the public pier, a wooden set up, with a stony slope into the water on each side for the boats to launch from. I wandered around, looking at the houses (white concrete with heavy wooden beams outlining and crisscrossing on the walls; painted a bright red). The yards and little gardens. There was a festival recently for mardi gras (I think) so in a few places, strings with strips of different colored cloth tied to them were tied across the road or in front of a house.

I found a little bakery and purchased a “chocolate esse”…those meringue treats that are made of egg whites and sugar, and in this case…chocolate as well!!! Also bought a lady bug made of swiss lindt chocolate. The meringue (spelling?) thing was delicious! Which I nibbled on while walking around the streets that slowly began to be occupied with a people. It was crunchy on the outside, hollow on the inside, with the bottom crunchy as well as soft/chewy.

Back at the house we had lunch, espresso with milk and chocolate (as dessert) then with Ursula, her daughter Nora, and their friend Erika (the other lady visiting) we made sure we all had our passports and headed to Konstanz. Now, one would obviously ask why passports would be needed to visit a town a mere 10 minutes away?’s because Konstanz is IN GERMANY!!! Woohoo!!! I didn’t get to see any awesome castles there, nor did if feel particularly different because of how close the cities sat. It’s the principle of the thing, and rather exciting that I did make it to Germany to visit! There wasn’t a massive architectural gap or anything, non-the less, did contain re-markable features. Ie: the store that held markers like a fine pointed magic marker. This would be the only “souvineer” I bought besides chocolate. Because after using a few of the several million around the house… I was a changed woman. (also returning with a couple other boxes for Heidi hehe) we had a great time walking around. And went out to a little dessert place, where I got a giant glass bowl that had a long stem. Three gelato flavors (plain, chocolate, bacio) with eggnog liquor drizzled on top, with (lots) of chocolate shavings, topped with whip cream and a wafer in the shape of heart. Divinity.

Also checked out a sweet church with a gothic façade (the outside) some sweet designed doors. Underneath were the ruins of a roman century basilica.

Oh, and I was told (in fragmented English) that the road outside of the church, when one steps out and turns left…could look down a street that leads straight to Rome. (tho it may be in a direct line south, or if it was once a road..i don’t know)

That’s kind of historically awesome to think about while strolling down this street for real!!!

On the way home we picked up some hazelnut yogurt (for me! No kiwi unfortunantly) which was delicious!!!!!!!! There were chunks of hazelnuts ground up in it! And it tasted so good! Also some swiss cheese (with the holes in it) it tasted sort of similar…only infinitely better, like fresher I suppose..

Had dinner with Ursula’s son and his girlfriend. He had lived in America for awhile and spoke English well (as the whole family did) though every now and then they would break into swiss-german and I would just sit there trying to look cute and let the sounds of the words buzz meaninglessly in my ears (though did figure out dog=hound) I felt bad when after dinner, I ended up totally zonking out on their couch without saying goodbye. He seemed like a pretty great guy (as was the rest of the family). When we talked of America he had rather complimentary things to say about it, which was a very nice change from other frequent initial reactions J

Monday, March 22, 2010

friday march 12-first day of spring break (switzerland)

Departing from Rome a bit later then I wanted (but you got to take the cheap flights you can get). Turned out to be nearly a good thing..except for the fact that it gave me the extra time to get organized and oh, mildly freak out.

Like the morning of leaving was serious panic mode. Complete with pacing and needing deep healing breaths. Also that scary rushing feeling (that mom says is common her hyper/hypo thyroid) that makes me feel like tearing off my jackets and running on top of the roof screaming out all the billion of thoughts worries and fears streaming Live in my head. (like finals with dr. sas)

Kristin prayed with me, which helped calm me down. It was really just the whole figuring out my way through the airport, then having to find out the bus ticket place, then get to the right gate in time. And make it to the right place for my bus transfer… then get in contact with Ursula in swtizerland. Which is rather daunting. Especially when it is a great comfort to have a Jilly-bean friend to check your decision making and spot you when you’re a little baffled of just confused…

Left for the airport an hour and a half earlier than intended (9:05) because of a strike of the bus workers union. It started at 9:30..and I had to get to termini/train station for the airport. Technically could have walked.. but with a big back pack and all that road space to panic..yeah, just peaced out early with a book in hand.

The airport included following the sign for practically the entire premises of the terminals (it seemed). But I made it! After conferring with a Frenchman on where to find the gate… Then I settled in for a 2 and a half hour wait. Boarded the plane at 1:20 (13:20). Settled into a window seat. Short hour flight later…I could see the alp mountains from the plane window. And yes, I plastered my face to that teeny window and looked at those snow capped mountains, and the little clusters of houses amidst those rocks, or perched on the ridges. The lake (Geneva??) that filled up the space between the mountains, and from up there it looked like a navy blue piece of glass.

Landed and struck out purposefully to find a bus ticket to Wienfelden. Talked to an (English speaking!) woman at a ticket booth..who pointed me in the direction of the bus. Confronted a ticket booth for the bus that would take me to the train station…I think? So I asked a nice looking gentleman in a grey suit. He helped me get the first ticket and told me he would take me to where I could get the train ticket. So I followed him to a booth where he helped me put in the information and print out the ticket.. he pointed out which board to read and how, then told me to go with him up an escalator and at the top pointed at the gate I needed to go down. This all sounds simplistic. And I could have figured it out…eventually. But it sure was wonderful for a nice someone to just help me get where I needed to be.

Safely on the train, sat across from a man originally from Germany who is a professor in Switzerland. And then I dozed off for a little bit (since I was transferring at the end of the line, it was safe) had a 20 min. wait at the station at Zurich. Finally arrived just after then sun set over the landscape that was rushing past my window. I was just a little green from the constant motion of the day. I bounced from the train with my stuff backpack and running shoes swinging from where I had tied them onto the side. Luckily Ursula found me (despite the text that did NOT go through) and she took me to her warm and cozy house, on the edge of a field in a little town called Engwilen

Met her awesome daughter, Nora. And a friend of hers, Erika, who was staying there as well.Dinner was good, and my room was even more good though! Top floor (with a surprising lack of heat rising…which was unfortunate).

Just in case I was feeling lonely..i had a room-mate. I met him as he came sprinting across the wooden floor. On all eight legs!

It was not a cute roomie. It was a rather large spider. and of course I couldn’t not kill him because all shoes were downstairs. And I needed a boot.

So OF COURSE I couldn’t sleep. So I watched some more Gilmore girls. Then realized I would have to close my eyes and sleep someday. Decided to give my room-mate (then location unknown) a name to make him less fearsome. YoodlEEK. (because in Switzerland we yoodle..and while doing so I was cut off with an “eek” of fear). Don’ t judge it was very late at night when we were acquainted.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

florence saturday and sunday (march 9th and 10th)


I know I am officially two weeks behind. But this is the last significant day I will blog about in Florence.

First of all: the morning. I woke up and went for a run, just sticking by the river..because as much fun as it is to get lost, it really can get exhausting. (and I promised people I would stay stafe)

In one direction, just outside the wall, I was leaning over the guardrail and saw fishermen all along the grassy area by the water! They had the serious boots, equipment, canvas chairs, and coolers with fish food or manly food. It was like someone let me pause by a window into Florence life. I wonder if it is an old tradition of fishing that just never faded away? Or if it is just once in a while thing?

Turned and ran in the other direction..and saw a tower. Ran to the tower and saw stairs going up. I followed those stairs. Which led to more (steeper) stairs in the hillside (across a road) clambered up those stairs and were met by MORE. With slightly less enthusiasm, made it up those. Then a another set of stairs and I dragged can to the top, where I suddenly found myself on Michaelangelo’s Piazza overlooking all of Florence. If I wasn’t breathless from the climb, then the view certainly finished the job of taking my breath away. The Duomo and Santa Croce dominated over the rest of the tightly packed city. With other churches rising from the other houses as well. The river glistened wayyy below, with the many bridges arching at intervals overtop. After meandering along the top, soaked the invisible sun’s rays, wandered to the side of the wall…just a few yards below the top ( I followed a trail) and it ended overlooking a (private) vineyard that was obscured partially in the mist. It gave the trees and hills soft edges. Then triumphantly walked down the heinous hill I had summited.

Other highlight…

Got to see the Uffizi Museum! Side note: this is a serious museum. I contemplated bringing a sleeping bag and a cooler and staying for a while to drool appropriately over all the paintings. From the 1300’s through a few from the Baroque. I loved seeing the progression of art through the centuries. I can’t pick a highlight of one painting. There were so many greats there. The one I visited the longest was probably Botticelli…with his Primavera depicting the coming of spring. There was a Da vinci paintings there…and a Da VinciJ geeeyaaaa!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

If you have seen the cinderella movie with Everafter... my idea of da vinci is pretty much stuck on the way he is portrayed in that movie... and i like him more for it.

I asked Jill and Jason to hang on for like 20 minutes so I could walk through the rooms real quick again..on one floor at least. It was painful having to breeze past and not look at each one (with Dr. Szabo pointing out techniques and symbolisms in a few…I stuck close to try to hear as much as possible)

Walked around some in the evening was great…especially when we stumbled on the brand name, designer style version of chocolate. I had just one dark chocolate, nugget filled (with egg and a liquor the lady said in her bits of English) it was just a little square. But she put it in a little ceramic dish with a handle and slid it across the glass counter. I swear it made the chocolate better. As I held it (to take teeny nibbles) my body temp melted the chocolate (a sign of it being good!). I’m just describing it because expensive European chocolate is something to be savoured…

Sunday…last day in Florence.

Main thing we did was go to the Santa Croce Basilica!!! This name means nothing at first. Until we walk in..then it looks like a gothic cathedral (with high buttresses…and designed on each beam) and a somewhat plain interior. EXCEPT for the many sculptors, paintings, memorials all along the side. Some just commemorating somebody (like DANTE!) and it was the burial place for Machiavelli , Galileo, and Michelangelo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! *sighs* to think of what these people did to further science and art!!

*eyes brim up in tears of happiness* the presence of greatness! Seriously, Michelangelo and his human form is inspiring artistically and how he depicted it anatomically. (so he probably studied cadavors..hehe too bad I won’t develop my art skill that wonderfully from looking at dead dudes…would be cool though I think) okay sorry tangent.

Realization of the weekend… Da Vinci was a GREAT scientist, completely innovative and brilliant. AS WELL AS AN ARTIST.

(so I will not feel badly for being a biology major for physical therapy! This does not mean I picked science over music and English/literature…it simply means I am focusing on that for now. And if he can be a master of both then I can at least participate in both. There is no wall of separation). Sorry I needed to justify that for a moment. Mentality helps.

Open markets!

Crazy. Crazy crazy. All vendors are nice until you are no longer a prospective customer. Some are nice even after you are done being a customer. The stands start to look the same. I loaded up on scarves as gifts for the family. I liked walking around the crowded street and booths with all the people bustling about. Though only for a certain amount of time, the vendors being in your face and amount of booths crammed with stuff really starts to grate on the nerves. There was one salesman who didn’t speak any English at all, and his employee is the one who talked to me. Until I came back and the employee was busy, and when I tried to talk about price..he was suddenly was struck with the capability to communicate in English enough to flip out about how honest his work is to make a good product and got mad! I was grateful to be lead out by seth. I hate making people mad. Even if they probably use slave labor.

Got back on the train to head back where I was incredibly productive in dipping into some travel nutella jill wisely packed while reading some homework.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

FLorence!..CIty of Flowers...March 5th Friday…

Okay, lucky these next few posts HAVE TO be short. Because I’m on a time crunch here folks!!

Main highlights:

Traveling in a group! Adds a different dimension with everyone (good and bad..mostly good!)

Aaaaand all we have to do is stick together and follow Kirstin (the director) to get to our trains. She tells us the times…she booked the trains…we hop on the bus they say… really, it is not underappreciated anymore how fantastic this aspect is?!

First day…

To the gallery of acadamia to see Michelangelo’s David! In the museum, once u walk in, you round a bend and there is David standing in a large area under a dome, with natural light filtering in around him to expose the marble and all the details that were chiseled into the stone. I loved it. Walking around, mouth a little a-gap…because I just had to put into perspective how Michelangelo took a block of (imperfect) marble and created this form of man. His shoulder muscles, the toes, the curve of his spine, the veins in the arms.

I discovered that the right hand was created bigger not only so that when seen far below on the ground (as intended) it would be proportional looking. But also because it is the hand holding the sling..and the bigger hand is to represent God’s hand being involved in throwing the stone that killed Goliath.

Next to the Dumo…much like Siena’s on the outside with the different colored marble and gothic façade. But inside it was a good deal more plain and simple. Though still had that high ceiling and buttresses. Simple, though it facilitated an attitude of prayer and worship.

The Baptistery was ridiculously amazing! The whole entire Dome was mosaic!!!!!!! With the judgement day on one SIDE of the ceiling! (including satan’s three heads chewing on the three sinners of betrayal)..where Dante got his inspiration from!!!!

There were, in a circle different stories. on the top circle were archangels. Then the next circle down (circling along the u had to be looking up and slowly in a circle ) Jill and I, with growing aches and a serious “crick” in the neck… figured out the stories each image had. First the top with stories from genesis, then Jesus’ birth and death (v. little in between) and finally the story of John the Baptist… since it is, literally “St. John’s Baptistry” (he is the saint of Florence).

That evening, after dinner and some thawing at the hotel…. A few of us went to a pub nearby to listen to some music. It was three players… two guitars and an upright base. One guitar did jazz style, the other a gypsy sort of higher pitched thing, with very unique chord progressions. It felt like we left early (we were falling asleep into our arms practically) but I absolutely loved that Gypsy jazz sound!!! I can’t even describe it. You wanted to dance a little, while at the same time part you wanted to take off your shoes and curl up in a blanket while listening. Part of you wanted to shout and cheer, when the other part wanted to think of things, and talk life over with friends.

I wish I could describe the sound better…it really was chill and awesome! slept great too!!!!

Tuesday, March 2 field trip

Tuesday, March 2

Went to St. Agnes with the group and Constanza’s (daughter of Constantine) Mausoleum… a chapel that would hold Constanza and her sister’s bodies when they died. Her sarcophagus is in the Vatican..a wooden replica was there in the small, but high domed chapel…

St. Agnes’ chapel was beautiful, and very serene. Sort of tucked away, but still beautiful with its paintings and such. St. Agnes became a martyr at 13 years old. It’s actually rather disturbing. She had been recently converted to Christianity…and was being forced to marry a non Christian. She refused. And the emperor commanded her. She still refused. And he wanted her executed. (but back then you couldn’t execute a virgin) so he sent her to a brothel. Apparently no man would have tried but he was struck blind. She put her hands on him and prayed for him and he was healed. Then the emperor ordered her to be burnt at the stake..but the torch wouldn’t light. (this is the part in the story where I wish the handsome prince came in). instead she was beheaded.

The Crypt was below her chapel. And we got to go into it!!! It was dark, creepy, claustrophobic. I kind of liked it. It was carved out of the sandstone from all the volcanic rock. And apparently beneath via Nomentana these catacombs spread. We followed a guide who explained certain areas and symbols carved on stone or (for the wealthy) marble plaques. I was so happy for my small-ness…because tall people were NOT meant to sidle through those narrow passages.

Back to the convent for lunch. Pasta from a little grocery I found while running. (with an older lady who spoke no English, and whose daughter handled “talking”with me. I suspect it being made there…because the bread sure was!

So the pasta, melted some cheese on it, then smeared a little pesto on as well and chopped tomatoes! Jill and I have skill when it comes to simple and delicious-ness…. And by this I mostly mean jill.. i just follow her lead.

prague pics

>The view where we ate lunch
>The municiple building where we saw the concert!
>also us downing that white chocolate and hazelnut delicious on crackers in Wenceslas square!

Found out (from resourceful Jill) those delicious bread spirals are called Trdelnik!!!! (yes, further proof that the Czech language is next to in- possible to the outsider. I don't think i even figured out how to say thank you..)

Monday, March 8, 2010

Prague, Saturday and Sunday 27th and 28th!

Okay, since (as of now I am rather behind on the blog…thanks to the last massive post being lost somewhere in cyberspace) I am going to do my best to keep to the point for the next few posts. Haha.

Woke up Saturday morning (in the middle of the night) to one of the fellow roomies for the night giving his buddy a big mac and fries to make him feel better, while apologizing for leaving him behind. I am only mentioning this because of how very very tempted I was to reach over and steal those fries (since no one else was claiming them) I didn’t. please admire that.

Woke up in the actually morning to the dorm room’s other 6 beds being occupied by sleeping, drooling, lightly snoring boys. Ran, showered, changed in the room (since there was no danger of anyone waking up…and when one did he was too far out of it to acknowledge anything.. thank God) Flicked on a light while apologizing to the one who was coherent enough to roll over since we had to collect our things. We packed one bag to take with us, and left the other (lighter) one in the locked luggage room.

Jill and I bought lunch supplies at a grocery store..dried fruit, baby carrots, cheese, water, nutella substitute prague knock off brand of white chocolate and hazelnut chocolate in a thicker sort of cream in a jar. Yes! It was good!

Wandered through New Town.. which is very modern actually. Managed to accidentally find an old monastery (rather deserted, so we wandered into a courtyard just to look) and a pretty church J as well as some botanical gardens …with quiet empty gardens waiting for spring. And it cost too much to go into the green house…

Back up the river..with Charles Bridge Tower ahead of us, and the many bridges decorating the space above the water. Jill and I settled on a bench with this view, and of course the castle/cathedral still on the sun washed hill. It was a beautiful day! Powder blue sky, light breeze, in the sunshine (which was everywhere) you could even shed the thick hat and maintain body temperature.

We decided to go on a walking tour..because we kept going past these fabulous buildings and looking at them saying “wow, that’s awesome.. what is it???” so we figured it would be educationally valuable to invest. Especially because the hostel offered half off discounts on certain walking tours. ($15 for a 4 hour tour…deemed worthy investment)

A blend of interesting people in the group…a couple from Australia who were living in London to travel around Europe easier. A man here for a conference from the U.K. A lady in for a different conference from Chicago! We got to talk, swap stories of where we were from, traveling suggestions and such.

First we were at Wenceslas Square! With the Noble Wenceslas (aka: Good King that we sing about at Christmas!!!) on horseback in the center. Behind him the National Gallery museum (unfortunately with a special rock exhibition….*heavy sigh* geeky enough to want to see it, but adventurous enough to not create time lol)

In Wenceslas square were two plaques for “victims of communism”. They were two young men who committed suicide by setting themselves on fire in the square. I can’t really support that..but I do find it incredible how much dedication/conviction they must have had. Would anyone in the U.S. ever feel so driven? (would the media even cover it if it went against something they supported?)

Walked through Old Town (the towns are designated not only by age, but were also once separated by walls with gates and such (some of the towers are remnants of those gates) Astronomical Clock (again!) described in better’s still rather complex to forgive if description is scant)

We also went through the Jewish Quarter. Did not get to see inside any synagogues, or the jewish cemetery…but we did get to see the oldest Synagogue in… eastern Europe? This region? Something like that…this is because the Nazis destroyed all the others. But this section was kept preserved. Hitler mean it to be a humiliating museum of the” lost race”. Also the rest of Prague was kept intact because the soldiers were promised the town to be theirs.. so little damage was done.

Across the Charles Bridge…our guide pointed out St. John’s place where there is a cross on the side and you put your five fingers on each star and say a prayer that is supposed to come true. The stars symbolize innocence. St. John was thrown off the bridge by the king, for refusing to tell him the queen’s secrets at confession (since the king suspected the queen of cheating on him) St. John is now the patron saint of swimmer (even though the St. drowned.. I don’t think I fully understand this system…

Also on the bridge was a cross with Jesus on it, written in Hebrew, “ Holy is God the Father” (this was a direct snub to the Jews by the artists use of hebrew to write such words. Haha

Little Town!!!

With the John Lennon Wall! When he died, overnight this wall was covered with graffiti of love and peace symbols and words. Each night the police would paint over it until they finally gave up and just let it be *flashes peace symbol* (had no sharpee, but signed the wall with a pen!)

Caught a bus up to the castle (the actual palace…modern building forming a square with a fountain in the middle. There was, however, a cool gate! Watched the changing of the guards on the hour…. It was interesting seeing the routine of it. They aren’t supposed to smile, though we did catch on biting back a grin. (so it must not be as consequential) Another winked at the fellow he was exchanging with. I translated it as a “hey buddy, there’s a hot American chick behind you! Way to be lookin’ good in uniform!” Such are the things I deal with while traveling with Jill.. *sighs*

The tour gave us more information on the castle, and the gothic cathedral as well! Although we could not going in, we still got to hear about it’s history (built..but for 500 years remained unfinished before someone else commissioned its completion) My first glimpse of Gargoyles.. and those monstrous waterspouts seemed to decorate every 2 feet of the towers and many turrets!

We walked down the Golden Lane. Tiny, short homes that I would have had to bend to get into the doorway! It used to be the servants quarters who worked in the Palace. And got the name golden lane from…….???? Gold workers?? OH, though among the streets and roads, some houses are still marked by plauges or signs with an image on them that stands for the family who lived there..or their profession. For example, a wood carving of a rose painted blue (the Blue Rose) or a violin for instrument makers.. or statues of an animal or something by the door. It was a way to identify families/which house was whose.

The tour finished at an outlook for Prague, while standing in the cathedrals shadow. A full, pale, moon had risen over the city. And it hovered low in the still blue sky.

Jill and I made a small pilgrimage across the city of Prague (widthwise) stopping to get the second bag and then back to Hostel Elf for a third night. (A little cheaper, and more interesting to stay in!) Arrived, checked in, changed into dress pants (with hiking boots, nice shirt) re-applied the mascara and off we went! Back into town to go to the Municipal building for the evening’s performance!!!

The Municiple building is the second one we saw…though there were many options for ballet, concerts, opera in other old, decorated, fabulous halls and churches (some advertised as even having heating!) We picked this show because it had a concerto, opera, and ballet. A melody of experience J The building itself is an example of the Nouveau style!

Inside it was rather fabulous, and by this I mean big stair case (may I please wear a long sparkling dress and be led down the stairs on the arm of a handsome man?) the stairs split in either direction halfway up, with mirrors along the edges, opening up the already wide hallway. They were pouring champagne for those who wanted it in the area outside the doors. Walking in, the ceiling rose into its dome, with paintings of figures posing, lounging and reaching everywhere. Angel statues held up the balconies. A HUGE organ took up the entire wall behind the stage. My favorite was a little statue to the side of the stage, of a pair waltzing or dancing. The lady was bent backwards while her skirts swirled with motion and the man was bent over her for the dip.

Up on the second balcony, we had a good view of everything on the stage. The 8 musicians came out..strings except for a French horn and oboe. Their music was magic to the hall. Leaping off the stage and billowing out to fill every part of the vast room. (I don’t think they used microphones..) An opera singer came on stage, dressed in yellow and she sang soprano in a way I thought impossible for the human voice! There was such intensity on her face, we could see even from our perch. Her mouth opened wide, and her forehead scrunched up, while her stance allowed her whole body to be given into the note. ( I have never heard opera before. Apparently my great aunt was an opera star. She must have been a real piece of work..)

The ballet was a little disappointing. Kind of like a ballet class was having a recital. However, I am inexperienced enough that I still enjoyed it (even though there were several dances that I was fairly certain Carolyn had taught me half the steps they used. And if I could have danced some, then Jill could have pwned them) My favorite was the Pas De Duex (step of two) with a girl and guy dancer. There were lifts and turns that had me so enthralled with the movement and balance; the absolute elegance of some of the spins and bends around each other.

Side note: did I give up this world of music and dance for the sake of science? I do not miss the idea of the stage, nor the anxiety of auditions, or the pressure of performance. But I miss working with peers with a single minded intent of music. I miss taking a line of notes and using them to reach out to others.. I miss giving my heart words to speak.

We Walked back to “home” Hostel Efl. Fell asleep before the rest of the room made it back in. Really missing out on the Pub Crawls here *sarcasm* They are a big deal.. apparently missing the boat on the catered entertainment for my college age. *rolls eyes*

SUNDAY, last day in Prague. (sorry for how long this is)

Short summary. Up and out on the road. Made it up to castle town again..through the artsy district. I bought a leather bracelet with a metal clasp of twisted steel and maybe copper or something on Charles bridge (from the artist). We picked up some more dried fruit from a stand on the way up a never ending hill. Still could not get into the cathedral (even though it was supposed to be open).

Meandered back through to pick up the luggage we left in the Hostel (on the other side of town..far side). We took it slow. Stopped next to the Town Square where there was a fair to buy a well, I don’t kjnow what they were called. It was bread that the dough was wrapped around a metal poll and it was cooked (rotisserie style) over some coals. Pulled off and rolled through a little sugar, and handed to one to nibble on happily (with some hot, spiced red wine).

After shouldering the bags, we ate lunch in Wenceslas Square.. . now, we still had the second half of the white and hazelnut chocolate Prague version of Nutella. We had no way to get the rest out of the jar though. So we threw it away. ..haha schezare! (joking) of course we didn’t throw it away!!!!!!! I think it was Jill who came up with the technique to simply dig in with our fingers to get to the bottom, then slather it on the crackers we had. To our credit, we made it all the way to the bottom of the jar before running out of crackers (and not being able to reach it either). So our hands had chocolate all over them, under the nails, and a little around our mouths too. (much to the amusement of a boy who sat on a bench nearby).

For the rest of the day we got on the metro, then a bus, then back on the bus (wrong terminal) then the plane (where we met a nice Italian guy who was excited to talk to us in English!) then another bus, and once back at termini..the last bus! How weird to feel home here in this big strange city…

Back Home in Rome J

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Prague..Friday the 26

Woke up to the sound of girls chattering in the hallway. It was only 8...went back to sleep. Finally woke up enough to pull on the clothes (un- twisting the passport and money pouch around my waist from the night curled around it). In the common area all sorts of people were clustered for the breakfast provided. I took it as an encouraging sign when i there were older guests at this hostel as well.
Jill and I staked out a small round table, chair, and edge of couch. over coffee (with sugar cubes!) some sort of sweet bread and corn flakes(non sweetened)..we got some (english!) maps and charted out our day!
checked out, took our bags (oof!) and headed into Old Town. After a great deal of wandering, a couple circles. and some serious oohs and ahhs.....
Towers from hundreds of years apart are built right next to each other. The architecture was not italian. nor was it German. It wasnt french. it was all of it in a hoge-poge of design.
freaking awesome.

For lunch: stumbled upon (when one of us pointed to a narrow(er) side street and wandered down it) a teeny place, with an attractive patio space with wicker furniture. Well. It twas a bit too chilly to eat outdoors. however, with a table by a small window..and the heater beneath it (guess who hugged the wall the ENTIRE meal!?)
speaking of meals. What a break from pasta!
Jill got a panini and Goulash soup (beef, vegetables..delicious)
moi...mi...potato dumplings and sourkraut (which i normally don't like, but were somehow better and slightly less pickley) in the potato dumplings (which were soft and goood) where chunks of ham and vegetables.

following that we hunted down an ATM...then off to Old Prague Hostel. Very clean and white walled. similar set up..dorm style rooms. locked door to that room. girls and guys bathrooms seperate..but shared through the hallway. ditto with showers.

Meandered much this evening. First to find the museum of art nouveau..which once discovered..the entrance fee was more than i cared to look at the art though. would it be beautiful? undoubtably! worth like $10ish dollars? not really...

After wandering to. and fro on a couple roads, finally found what we were looking for and meandered to the entrance of the museum of communism. Just 21 years ago prague was communist. hard to believe! being there was like somewhat dunking my head in cold water shouting "communism isnt in the history books you dolt, it's in the world! you can see the effects, and it's still around in some places"
the museum was pretty cool. with a brief historical overview (written in really hard to follow english) with some pictures. then through an exhibit sort of thing with posters, pictures, outfits, objects and such with captions of explanations. There was also a short clip on the revolutions, protests, and such. Significant to note: Velvet Revolution in 1989...velvet because it went so smoothly with peaceful protests. the result was the government they have today ? maybe? (i..think??)

Following that we were heading towards the river, took a turn and found ourselves outside an affordable restaurant with the strains of piano music floating out to us on the street...
all of two seconds later we were seated inside the softly lit room while the pianist played popular songs as well as the "well known" classics.
the food (which, rather ironically, we both got a form of pasta) was absolutely great. I got potato pasta with broccoli and cheese! (so much better then the stuff i have been buying at the store. ) *sigh of happiness and bliss* we split a cake for dessert. called Carpathian cake..that was layered with whip cream.

afterwards (night time), continued to the river while heading back to the hostel. Mamma Mia!!! Passed the National Theater. We hardly noticed we arrived at the river because had us walking so slowly, with our heads stretched back to see the paintings, designs, and on the roof, the sculptures of winged horses and people.
Then all of a sudden, there was Charles Bridge, and above that what was actually a gothic church..but with the lights making each steeple into a shadowy tower and the size of it, the only focal point on the hill high above Prague..we deemed it a castle! (it is AT the castle of prague. but the castle is really modern and well..not as cool as the my biased opinion).
it was one of the more awesome moments of the trip...walking along the river with Prague's lights reflecting on the river. walking for the very first time on Charles bridge! under the gate's high arch, with the saints lingering in the shadows on either side of the wide bridge. the whole time we were walking, the castle cathedral glinted on the hill above us.

After we went in search of a place for Jazz music. Despite my intentions for dancing, the allure of some jazz was much stronger then a crowded, smelly bar with incompetent men.
Most places had(high priced) cover fees. Finally at one, the person selling tickets at the door said we could go into the other room and have a drink, and still be able to hear the music. So we went into this basement..with a high ceiling of thick arches and music filling the extra space created.
we didnt stay long...talking quietly along with the other few people there. We realized how very tired we were..
made it back to the hostel, curled up and zonked by just a little after midnight. (only two in our dorm).

thoughts: Prague is big! but not so big that it can't be crossed several times in a day from different angles.
also, In europe, it is expensive to have a small bladder!!!!! Il Bagno (the toilet) costs money to use! if you find random side building/museum's is usually cheaper then "main location" ones. dehydration is rather debatable....

Wensceslace square at night. the astronomical clock!!! (24 hour clock with sunrise and moonrise, each name for day of the year, and horoscope signs. (etc) also On the hour a crowd watches as the rooster crows and while the bells toll, the twelve apostles "parade" past the two little doors that open above the clock face. folllowed by a random trumpet player from on top of the tower.

PRAGUE!!!! Thursday February 25

Monday afternoon (Feb22) Jill and I were talking after class about plans for when we would go where...and we realized there was no time in march or april for Prague (which was somewhere Jill had a really REALLY wanted to visit.) i won't lie...not opposed to the idea of Prague at all! Main dance/ballet scene, music galore...classics, concertos. probs some new stuff too. I would also hate to not be a good friend..
we realized that this weekend would be the only open, possible time to go.

after a week of flight searching, parental negotiating, hostel perusing, price checking..Jill and I were on our way!!!! departed home in Rome at 6:30...and off to the bus station. changed bus company from intended and hopped on a different one...
...along with a large group of Americans from Notre Dame who were also bound for Prague.
excitement to find people who spoke our language faded within, well, minutes.
halfway to the airport Jill and I looked at each other and realized that " culture shock" going back into the U.S. is going to be pretty intense. possibly awful. They were loud, they were rude and loud, they were annoying. How can students from one of the most prestigious colleges be so lacking in basic brain function?! The ENTIER time in the bus, in line for the plane, the drifted conversation we could hear IN the plane, and on the bus we got on once there..they main topic was drinking. How to get drunk the fastest. Where to get drunk. How long they would be drunk for. What they would (not) be able to do...while drunk. Single minded purpose. They were more concerned on going out the first night of arrival, then they were on finding their hotel.
May they remember their time in Prague oh so very fondly. blessings.
(sorry for the rant).

Anyways. in the airport..the gates to board the flights (ours was taking off at 9:50pm....21:50. landing two hours arrival just before 12 or 00) The terminal where we waited was basically a warehouse with benches and signs with flight information.
the cheap airlines (way Wizzair!) we got on a bus from the "gate" which drove us to the plane around the corner that we hurried to board (so to get two seats together)...kind of exciting, went up those steep stair things up to the doors in the plane.

Once we landed, we grabbed the last map avaliable, (which was in French) got some Kc out of the atm (about 18 kc per USD) then hurried out to try and catch the bus. A nice lady helped us figure out how to get the bus tickets. and after some shuffling of euros for kc with the other US kids (since u needed coins to get the ticket) we boarded the last bus from the airport for the night.
Got off at a sketch bus station, consulted map, and Jill and I strode away confidently. 15 minutes later...realized we had hiked in the opposite direction we needed to go. (it was then about 1am)
Following the main road (which was well lit, with cars, and an occasional taxi to reassure us that if all else failed there would be a route available) Back tracked, and kept on walking. and walking 45 plus minutes later, following what began to look like a freeway, and under a sketch bridge..we found the glowing, welcoming sign of Hostel Elf.
Went into the gate from the road, which led to a narrow passage with a concrete stairwell between a tall building on one side and a hill with a fence on the other. Graffiti decorated the building's wall in colorful shapes and designes. up the stairs, and behind the building, on the wooden porch; and into the hostel. Hostel Elf was pretty chill. Except for the whole 2am bit..which has us a bit on high alert.. we were greeted by a very nice guy who registered us (and from the corner a cloud of smoke with the sounds people talked quietly and the strains of a harmonica). Brightly lit halls, painted yellows and dessert colored oranges and dusty reds. We were the only two in the dormatory style room. With a flamingo painted on one wall, and a cool bird and design on the other...we tiredly locked the door and curled up under the clean sheets and blankets (that matched the walls and had funky african designs).
We debated about how many details we should tell parents *cough* dad or Dr. Szabo..who encouraged using a taxi (for the ridiculous price). But never did the little conscious in my brain start screaming and frantically fleeing the scene. Nor did i for one moment let down my guard or high level of being alert (which was impressive for the two hours of sleep i got the night before).

New tradition: At the beginning of the trip..and before sleeping Jill and I snagged the others hand and gave a quick shout out to Jesus. It was rad. We'd just send a prayer-out-loud for protection, strength, safety and blessings. With molto grazie (much thanks) for taking us so far.
Digging it. Living it.

Monday, March 1, 2010

February 24..Colosseum, Palatine Hill, and the Forum!

So for class today, we visited the Colosseum...the first and grandest amphitheater in Rome!
Construction began in about 72 A.D. ...and when it was finished there were 100 days ( i believe)
of Gladiatorial fights and games. something like 2000 animals died? and people as well. That is
what they did...fight people against people, man against man, man against animal. (let me
specify on animal..nothing cute, fuzzy, or declawed. Lions, tigers, alligators, rhinos, on special
occasions elephants...etc The more rare the animal, the more powerful the emperor's image.
After the animal was killed..they cooked the meat and sold it to the crowd. nothing like fresh
meat supply for the demand). It was really sad though, to think of how much killing happened
in the place. Thrilling fights of men against men, but ultimately ending in death. Gladiators
were lowest on the social hierarchy. Just slaves to die for entertainment. (and we say we are
desensitized now?!)
It was not until Christianity started to take root in the Roman culture that people started to
become less enthused by the Gladiator fights. (this is because Christianity was a religion that
valued all people, and found worth in everyone. Radical dude. whatever happened to ancient
hard core rocking xians?)
I had a really hard time imagining what the colosseum would have looked like..with seats for
all the people to fill, and overhangs of cloth for shade. It is hard to imagine the large, stone,
stadium covered in white marble and filled with cheering people, riveted on the display of man's
strength and skill in a fight below. Hard to believe those passageways at the bottom being
covered in a floor, and under the gladiators preparing, or the animals being released onto the

Palatine Hill..where Caesar Augustus lived! We could visit the still colored frescas in his house
(though most is broken down from the years)
It was the prime real estate. The Beverly Hills. The Manhattan.. It was on a steep Hill that
was next to and part of the center of Rome....The Forum!
The forum served as a place for worship (the massive temples that we only see the ruins of...
yet suggest buildings of impressive height.) All along the roads markets once were. The
where the senate met still stands, the place where Rome's politics took place and
discussions/debates were held!!
Saw the Umbilicus Urbis...which is a stone monument of bricks (becky and me are posing
..heighlighting it) This marker is supposedly at the very center of Rome. And, since all roads
lead to Rome, and it is the Center of the world. This stone is, therefore, the center of the world!
*insert evil, world conquering laugh here*
Also saw Julius Caesar's tomb.. in a little arch behind a big stone..and some people had fresh
flowers on his grave...

We walked on the same streets that Paul walked, the same steps that Caesar Augustus
stood upon!!!! Saw the remains of a society from 2000 years ago that changed the direction
of history to where we are as a culture and structure today
and their structures and memorials still stand today.
It is taking some time for me to realize, deep down; I was there, I stood there, I got to
experience these sites!
lucky duck!!
(it is not under appreciated, i assure you!)

a few pictures from Siena...just a few though

This pic with the people in white is inside that little rice ball, fritelle stand. Notice the big cauldrons inthe back? that's where they fry it..just a few minutes so the outside is a little crunchy..but not greasy tasting. If you can see the man with the hand on his hip is holding a flat looking plate in his other hand? thats where they would scoop off the batter, while spinning it to get a sphere. then taken from the rack and sprinkled with just alittle sugar before paper folded into a type of bag for you! the inside was a hot, thick, rice pudding. with that crunchy sweet outside... and they were so very good!

Inside of the duomo with the blackand white marble..the dome itself didn't make it into the camera. the other is piazza campo..from the top of that tower.

The Duomo is the black and white building...this was taken from across the street..I am the little person close to the door...
and the other is St. Catherine's cathedral.... the one that was freeeezing inside..
The flags are from inside a contrade!
the pic of me is next to a statue of a unicorn for that contrade.

This tall tower is at Il campo..the other is the half of the piazza that I could fit into the picture. Imaging horse races around this!!!

Me with the outlook from that fortress we found! See that church in the far off distance on the left? that's the Duomo!!. The three of us (becky, Jill and me) in the hotel charting out what we wanted to see...and what was open..and how to get there! the last pic is us in front of the hotel sign. Don't be fooled by the glowing light and shady was a good place. clean. spacious, very nice!