When we arrived in Amsterdam, it was windy and around 5:30 so, I was somewhat disoriented. We walked to our hostel where each group of people was with 5 others per room. It was somewhat crowed but ended up fine. We slept for the half the day to catch up. They had a great lunch for us and than we headed out on a tour of the city.
Amsterdam was a more modern city except for the fact that most people rode bikes around everywhere. There were cars but, they were not the first choice for transportation. Our guide explained to us the different parts of town as well as the festival that was going on the weekend we were there. There were ferris wheels and rides in the main square which was a fun weekend for the children.
Midway through the tour, we took a break for dinner and then continued on a tour of the Red Light District as well as all the smaller shops around town. We were provided great commentary about the legal system in Holland and how their “laid back’ society came to be.
The next day, we were given a free day to explore. I visited the wind mills just outside the city which were just as I’d seen them in pictures. I also traveld to the Anne Franke House which was a meaningful experience for me. Lastly, we took a tour of the old Heineken factory which is now solely a museum. I was glad this was a stop on our trip as the people had a different lifestyle than I had seen other places.
After being in Prague for a few days, I thought it might get a little bit warmer in Berlin. As we got off the bus, there was snow on the ground. It was definitely time for me to buy a pair of gloves. I noticed a large difference between the two cities in that Berlin felt more urban like at home in the United States. There were train stations everywhere and there were more chain restaurants which was interesting. They have an obsession with Dunkin Donuts for someone reason which I had not seen anywhere else. After we got to our hostel, a few friends and I took a train to the East Side Gallery which is a wall about 5-6 blocks long where local artisans paint whatever they feel like expressing. The themes were everything from straightforward political to completely abstract paintings that I couldn’t quite understand. Here a few that interested me as well as pictures referred to later in the post.
After walking around for a while, we came upon a German fast food restaurant. For lunch we ate bratwurst with ketchup, mayo, and curry powder. It actually tasted good and gave me an idea of what people eat on the go. For dinner we had authentic German cuisine and of course they serve German beer with every meal.
The next day we did a walking tour of the city of Berlin. We passed by government buildings, the Brandenberg gate, the Berlin Wall, and several other significant landmarks. My favorite part was definitely the Berlin Wall because it related somewhat to American culture. I remembered watching the video in high school of President Reagen making the speech to tear down the wall. We also went to the Holocaust memorial which was an abstract piece of art. Our tour guide told su the artist left the whole memorial to each person’s own interpretation and that there was no official meaning behind it. If you look in the pictures, the memorial is the rocks separated at different heights.
New post soon!
I want to apologize for the crazy delay. I have had a lot of work the past few weeks working up to final projects and my final tests. I will have one post a day for the rest of the week to catch up and tell more about my travels. Anyways:
For Spring Break this semester, I didn’t travel the typical route. I wasn’t in Florida, California, or the Caribbean with a hot climate. I decided instead to travel to Prague, Berlin, Amsterdam, and Paris. I chose to to also travel by bus with a group trip as it was easier and more convenient. Each city had its own unique attributes about itself.
Starting with Prague, it was FREEZING. Coming from Chicago, I thought Europe would be somewhat warmer but, I was wrong. The city was a lot different than most that I’ve traveled through. It had a darker feeling as a town coming from control by the Soviet Union. There was actually a radio tower that remains as a reminder of the Soviet control. All the buildings were colored differently and there was a tram running through all the main streets.
My favorite place that I visited in Prague was definitely the John Lennon Wall. Seeing it in pictures is one thing but actually standing in front of the wall that was symbolized as an attempt to create “peace” throughout Europe was a great experience.
The people in Prague in a general sense did not speak as much English as I noticed in the other countries in which I had traveled to. When we got lost, it was not so easy to find our way back to where we needed to go.
It’s a little more than a week and I’ve been buzzing away fitting in traveling as well as beginning to study for midterms. When you are studying abroad, school just comes up out of nowhere at points as you come back from long weekends. This past weekend, I visited Barcelona as I had some friends studying there. Some of my friends from Indiana also were visiting for the week for their spring break.
Barcelona was such a different experience then Florence. Florence is a smaller, more traditional city where all the buildings are made out of certain materials for the most part and has a low-key feel. The moment I landed in Barcelona, I saw taller skyscrapers, a metro rail system, and a bustling city. I proceeded to take the metro rail to where I was staying near my friend’s apartment and we began to explore. I had the incredible opportunity to visit Parque Guelle which was design by famed Catalan architect Atoni Gaudi. It was an incredible view which you can see here looking out over the hill:
This was an incredible experience as you can see the whole city from this point. We spent a few hours up there relaxing and looking at different sites all over the city and the weather was incredible. After this, we went to dinner at a local restaurant which was a change from Italian food.
On Sunday morning, we visited La Segrada Familia which is still not complete. The project began in 1882 and they ran out of money. It is now projected to be completed in the year 2030. The architecture shocked me as it was nothing like I had ever seen before:
In two weeks, I will travel to Prague, Berlin, Paris, and Amsterdam for spring break so, I will have a lot to share. To all Indiana students, have a great break!
This past weekend I was able to fly to Israel for a trip. It was an incredible experience and although I’ve been before, the culture always amazes me. From the great food to the beaches and hills, it was a short break from Florence. I actually have family living there so I was able to visit them which was a great experience. The following a picture from their backyard looking over the hills in the Golan Heights:
For the rest of the weekend, I was able to spend time with them. As this week began, school has picked up. I had my first Italian quiz and started reading some novels about the Mafia for another class. I have officially started figure out the school-life balance here in Italy.
I have started to cook my own Italian dinners from what I have learned in my food and wine pairing class which have actually come out somewhat successful. This week I cooked pasta carbanara and chicken parmesan. They ended tasting surprisingly well as I had only cooked them previously in my class. By cooking, it saves me money so I can go out for more meals on the weekends with my friends.
Most weekends, there is some group of people traveling whether it be via bus or airplane. There are weekend trips created by student travel organizations that allow for relatively cheap travel to european countries. I will actually be flying to Barcelona, Spain next week to explore and spend there which will give me a whole new variety of foods to try and a new culture to enjoy.
It’s been a busy week in Florence making sure I have all my books and coursepacks ready to go for all my current classes and beginning to budget for the semester. On another note, I had the fortunate and incredible opportunity to visit the city of Venice for carnival this past weekend. I went with an organized trip and it was approximately a three hour bus ride from Florence but was completely worthwhile. When we arrived, we encountered many small stand selling masks for the festivities. I walked around for a while in an attempt to find a masculine-looking one to wear around Venice. Once I found one I liked, we proceeded to the waterbus, which is the form of transportation Venicians use to get around the islands. We took this to San Marco island which is considered the “mainland” of Venice and where most of the carnival was taking place. Many people take costumes very seriously such as the following:
There were adults dressed up in every thing from Lion King costumes to different movie characters. After spending part of the day exploring these costumes throughout the square, my friends and I decided to take a gondola ride. Our “driver” told us the story of his gondola being passed down from generation to generation and how he went through two years of training to receive his license. It is somewhat of an honor in Venecian society.
The view from the Gondola was spectacular and we got to see the flood lines from when high tide occurs which was more often than I thought. Venice was an experience that I never want to take for granted and that hopefully I will at some point be able to explore once again.
Over the weekend, on Saturday, we had the fortunate opportunity to travel to the Chianti region to a winery within Tuscany. Italy is known not only for its fruits and vegetables but also its world-renowned wineries. We left early in the morning and drove for an hour ended up a the top a steep hilly area. We were given a tour of the wine cellar and than given a full four course lunch including luxurious cheeses and meats that tasted unbelievable. We sat for around three hours eating and tasting while taking in the Italian culture. Everything runs at a relaxed pace her as opposed to our society in the US. It gives me time to take a breath and think about the places I am at while traveling.
Yesterday, I started my first classes of the semester. I am taking intro to Italian, workplace psychology, food and wine pairing, and History of Italian Crime. All the professors I’ve had so far have been extremely enthusiastic and excited to meet us as foreign students. I cannot wait to learn more Italian and actually be able to order at restaurants and ask for items at the Market without being obtrusively American. My classes are only Monday-Wednesday as I had scheduled them so I can travel most weekends throughout Italy and other countries in Europe.
So far, I planned a trip to Barcelona and I will be heading to Venice this weekend to see the Carnivale which is supposed to be the best in all of Italy. This place is unlike any other and I can wait for traveling and learning in the months ahead!
As I make my travels through Europe as well as experience the incredible city of Florence, I will keep you updated with the sights and sounds. To get to Florence, I flew through New York and Frankfurt, Germany. When I arrived in Germany, I was able to have a great classic breakfast in the Frankurt airport with a waiter who didn’t speak a single word of english. So, we had to use hand motions to describe what we wanted to order and how we were going to pay. Once arriving in Florence, I met my room mate and we took a taxi to our apartment. At first sight, I thought I was living a dream. My kitchen and bedroom were a lot larger than I had imagined. After I unpacked, my room mate and I proceeded to an organic classic Italian restaurant for a meal of home-made ravioli and wine produced in a local winery. After this, we had a basic orientation and were allowed to go on our own. Today we went on a walking tour of Florence and saw the Duomo of Florence which literally translates as “Cathedral Church”.
There were several other incredible places we visited throughout this tour. On our lunch break, I was able to go to another Italian restaurant and I had my first authentic pizza. It was the best I’ve tasted which was thin and crispy.
Everyone is extremely friendly here and always helpful to us as new Americans to Florence. I am very excited to see what the months ahead have in store for me!