Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Italia Adventures//Day 5// Roma

The next morning we woke up and cleaned the apartment for the boys since we hadn’t done any dishes or cleaned anything up from the night before. After we cleaned the apartment up, Ryan and Eric walked us to the funicular, and we got on our train to Roma. We arrived back in Roma at a decent time of around 1p, checked in to the same hostel we had stayed at on Friday night, and headed for the rest of our sightseeing in Roma. First on our agenda was the Pantheon, an architectural mystery to this day. This building has a completely concrete dome made out of a special mixture of concrete that to this day they can still not figure out the recipe to it. With a beautiful oculus in the middle of it that lets in the elements, this building should not still be standing, but it miraculously is, and is still as beautiful as ever. 

The Pantheon

After the Pantheon we strolled over to St. Peters Square, aka the Pope’s house. One of the things about studying these building forever in school is you just don’t realize how massive they are until you are there. St. Peters puts the Duomo to shame in size.

St. Peters Square

We walked around the interior of St. Peter’s and were so overwhelmed, all of the Divine Light coming in, and the Baldacchino, and the beautiful gilding, and the frescoes, everything hits you all at once, and it is so incredibly beautiful. Sadly enough, the Vatican Museums were closed when we got there, which meant we didn’t get to see the Sistine Chapel. We were pretty bummed about it, but that just means we will have to go back someday! 

The Divine Light inside St. Peters

The Baldacchino in St. Peter's

After that we were just really exhausted and ready to call it a day, but we spent the rest of the day walking around to the Piazza del Popolo and then climbing the hill to the Villa Medici. We got a beautiful view of the sunset at the Villa, and then climbed down the Spanish Steps for dinner. 

Our view from the Villa Medici

The Spanish Steps

Our dinner was not very good at all, and we were just ready to get back to Praha at that point. We went back to the hostel and crashed early so we could catch our 7:30a flight back home.

My gnocchi I had, it wasn't very good, but I liked the plate!

Italia Adventures//End of day 3 & Day 4// Castiglion Fiorentino & Orvieto

We were headed to Castiglion from Firenze to see some of our friends from KState. We arrived in Castiglion at about 5:30p and met two of our friends in a park that was about halfway to their school. They then led us to their study center of Santa Chiara, this adorable little building that houses everything they do, school, food, and sleep. They showed us around a bit, and I must admit it’s a little like Hogwarts. We then headed down to their studio to say hello to everyone, surprising a few people with my visit, it was so great to see my friends! We hung out with everyone in studio for a little bit, but they were on deadline so we decided to go get a couple bottles of wine and sit around and talk with the people that didn’t want to do their schoolwork. It was really nice to be in familiar company again with people that we hadn’t seen since December. Finally dinner was served around 7:30. Our first course was pasta; our second course was a salad, and then finally chicken and French fries. It was amazingly delicious. After dinner we just hung out in the dining room for awhile and then had to say arrividerci to our friends and head on our way to Orvieto to see even more friends. Our train to Orvieto took about 2 hours and we arrived there around 11:30p. We had to take a scary bus up the hill to where our friends live, and thankfully there were some other Americans on the bus that helped us on our way. We ended up in front of the Duomo in Orvieto and waited on Ryan and Eric to come find us. 

The Duomo

They eventually did, and they took us back to their apartment which was really close to where we were. We sat up talking with them until really late, and finally decided it was time for bed since we had to wake up early.

We all woke up early the next morning and headed to studio with the boys. They had a project due so they had to finish things up for it. We hung out in studio for a bit, and then Eric took us to breakfast at Café Couver where we had croissants and cappuccinos. Eric then took us walking around the hilltop part of the town, where they live, and then we grabbed a lunch of kebabs and perched up on a lookout.

Caitie, Sarah, and I decided to go climb the clock/bell tower to overlook the town. It was an absolutely beautiful view. 

We then decided just to wander around the city and get lost, finding all kinds of really adorable buildings and typical Italian streets. Then we took the funicular down the hill to buy train tickets back to Roma for the next morning. 

Cute little street

The old city walls

It was incredibly beautiful

The funicular

Once we got home we decided to start preparing our feast. We made spaghetti and meatballs, roasted potatoes with rosemary, pesto, and truffle oil, and bruschetta. It was insanely delicious and we were all stuffed. We also managed to drink about 6 bottles of wine and 2 bottles of Limoncello between the 5 of us. After our late Italian dinner we decided to go out to Vin Café and meet up with the rest of our friends. 

Limoncello with my favorites

Our feast

Roommate love

The next morning we had to wake up and say goodbye to Orvieto and continue on our journey back to Roma for one last day in Italia.

Italia Adventures//Days 2 & 3// Firenze

We took the 9a train from Roma to Firenze. It took us almost 4 hours to get there, but we got to go through the beautiful Italian countryside so it didn’t bother us so much. We arrived in Firenze at almost 1p. We checked into our hostel and grabbed some lunch because we were starving. After that we decided to head towards the Duomo (or Santa Maria del Fiore). 

Our first sight of the Duomo

Once we got to the Duomo it started to rain, and we had to wait in line outside, but thankfully not for very long. Once we got inside we paid for our tickets and started the long climb up the 414 stairs. The stairs start to wind you up and up, and then you land at the interior of the dome to be able to relish in the beautiful frescoes from almost eye level, and then you are led around the dome, and then up and up again, this time getting a closer up look at the frescoes before making the final climb between the interior and exterior shells of the dome and to the outside to overlook Firenze.

The beautiful interior of the dome.

Once we were at the top, we were struck with this breathtaking view of Firenze, and the rain had miraculously stopped, and the clouds had started to clear. I like to think it was just so we could get a beautiful view of the city. 

View from the top.

Looking down the dome, I'm surprised I didn't fall!

Ecstatic to be there!

After spending a really long time looking out from the top of the dome we started wandering around the city and ended up at the Palazzo Vecchio. At the Palazzo there is a copy of Michelangelo’s most famous sculpture the David, which is where the original used to reside. 

We just kept wondering around the city and ended up walking across the Ponte Vecchio, the most famous bridge in Florence. It is lined with vendors and little shops that were added on to the bridge. You can get a beautiful view of the river from this bridge. 

Ponte Vecchio

Locks we found on the Ponte Vecchio-It's said if you and your lover put a lock on the bridge and throw the key in the river, than you will never leave each other.

We continued walking around the city and ended up at Santa Croce, another famous church in Firenze, that was designed by the same architect as Santa Maria del Fiore, the facades are very similar.

Santa Croce

Front door to Santa Croce

That night for dinner we wanted to find a nice place to eat at, but also a small non touristy, really authentic Italian restaurant. We ended up finding both at this cute place, when translated called the Talking Cricket. It was named the Talking Cricket because it was right around the corner from where Pinocchio was written. We found it quite ironic because Sarah always finds something to do with Pinocchio any city she is travelling in.

Best pasta I have ever had. We also had the best tiramisu EVER.

Our second and last day in Firenze we woke up pretty early and headed to the Academia, where the original David by Michelangelo now resides. We had to wait in line for a little bit outside, but the day was nice, and we got into the museum for free because it was culture week! We mainly wanted to see the David, but they had a lot of religious art and a lot of other sculptures that were nice to peruse for awhile. I couldn’t take pictures of the real David, but it is even bigger than I ever could have imagined. It is definitely a beautiful piece of work. That was the last thing that we wanted to see in Florence, so we just spent the rest of the day walking around the beautiful city of Florence until our train to Castiglion Fiorentino left.

Italia Adventures//Day 1// Roma

Sarah, Caitie, and I set out on our Italian adventure at around 9a from Praha. It turned out that most of us Americans were headed to Roma the same day so we all had the same flight with Wizz Air. After we arrived to the Fiumicino airport we had to take a train to the city. The train we took takes you to the Roma Termini, which is the main train station, and also just happened to be a few blocks from our hostel. We walked to the hostel after getting a little lost and checked in. We then found food because we were starving. We found a cute little place and promptly ordered a bottle of wine and bruschetta. And then we had calzones for lunch. It was delicious. After lunch we took the metro to the Colosseum. We were walking out of the metro stop and could see the Colosseum, we were all in complete shock and couldn’t even seem to make it out of the metro station, but we finally did, and started taking photos galore. It was so amazing to finally see it in person.

The Colosseum

The Arch of Constantine

Later that night we decided to go see the Trevi Fountain, and couldn’t resist the gelato we found on the way there, so we got some gelato to go and headed towards fountain. We got to the Trevi and it is so big, I didn’t realize how big! There were so many people everywhere, but we finally made our way to the front and got our picture taken. It didn’t take long for us to get really sick of all of the people at the fountain so we headed to the Spanish Steps. There were also a lot of people there, and a lot of people trying to sell things, mainly roses and these annoying things that lit up and flew in the air. After having enough of that, we headed to find a nice place to get dinner. 

The traveling trio

We ended up at a nice little restaurant pretty close to the Spanish Steps that had amazing food. We were there for quite awhile eating and enjoying our wine. After dinner we decided to head back to the hostel and got a bottle of wine at the bar, we drank it and then headed to bed so we could wake up early to head to Firenze.

My delicious ravioli I had at dinner.

Team America

At my school, CTU, the International Student Club is a really big deal for all of us students, international or not. Every Wednesday night ISC throws a party at a bar called PM Bar or at my dorm in the club. At the parties there are designated nights for each country that is represented within our club. The American presentation was scheduled with Spain and South Korea at PM Bar, which is a pretty big bar a few metro stops away from our dorm.

In preparation for our presentation we had to contact all of the American students, most of them are our friends, so that wasn’t hard, but there are about 25 of us in all. We started brainstorming and deciding what kind of food we were going to make, what information we were going to share about our country, and of course what drinking games we were going to teach our other international friends. We decided that peanut butter and jelly sandwiches were the easiest and cheapest food to make, and also something uniquely American. We also decided to make Jello shots because we knew that everyone would love them. We decided in the drinking game category we would teach flippy cup because it’s a fast game and is easy to pick up. We also decided to make a beer bong that we lovingly name Tank.

The week of the presentation we started putting a slide show together and broke the US up by region: East, South, West, & Midwest. We presented a different topic for each and started in the East with the history of our country, then moved to the South and talked about festivals like Mardi Gras, and of course cows. After the South we talked about the Midwest and tornadoes because Europe does not have tornadoes, they all think it is crazy! In the Midwest we also talked about sports, like American football! We finished up in the West with pop culture and decided our finale would be the boys dancing to the YMCA acting like the Village People.

The Tuesday night before the presentation Caitie, Patricia, and I made over 200 Jello shots in our friends room because their refrigerator was empty. It was a feat to fit so many in such a small space, but we did it!!

The Wednesday of the presentation we made about 5 loaves of bread worth of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. We put them back in the bread bags without slicing them so we could transport them to the bar.

That night we all met in the lobby of our dorm at around 6:30p to head to PM Bar. Some of the boys were sent on the mission to buy a few cases of beer for our drinking games, and they brought the cart back with them from the grocery store. We took it as a sign we should transport all of the food and Jello shots and beer in that to PM Bar. 

Which meant we had to take it on the metro, up and down escalators, switch metro lines, and finally to the bar. We still think it’s a miracle we didn’t get yelled at in Czech or fined by the metro police. We finally got to the bar with all of our things and cut up the PB & J’s and stacked them pyramid style with an American flag in the middle.

Our presentation didn’t end up going so well because of the sound, but we all enjoyed ourselves, and everyone enjoyed our PB & J’s and Jello shots!


Sunday, May 17, 2009


Our first morning in Berlin we woke up pretty early so we could see as much as possible. We ate a small breakfast at the hostel and then headed on our way for the day. We took the Bus 100 from Alexanderplatz, the bus 100 is a double decker bus that goes by most of the major sights in Berlin. We took the bus to the Reichstag, which is the German Parliament building. It was heavily destroyed during WW II and has been renovated by Norman Foster, so I definitely wanted to see it because it is one of my favorites of his. After we walked around the Reichstag we made our way to the Bradenburg gate just across the street. After we spent some time wandering around the gate and taking photos, we headed towards Peter Eisenman’s Holocaust Memorial. Another must see on my list. This memorial is insanely powerful and overwhelming all at once. It is a square block of concrete rectangles that vary in size and height. As your walking through it the ground begins to slope and the boxes start to get taller, it creates a really disorienting feeling and you kind of don’t know how to get out. 

After wandering through there we walked to Potsdamer Platz, which is an area of Berlin that was completely destroyed during WWII. It is now made up of all modern buildings and skyscrapers, and I’m really not a fan of any of them. They also had an exhibit in the plaza about the 20 year anniversary of the Berlin Wall coming down. After spending some time here we made our way to Checkpoint Charlie, which was the area where you crossed between the American and Soviet occupation of Berlin. After grabbing a quick lunch of kebabs, we then headed to the Jewish Museum designed by Daniel Libeskind. This was something that I have wanted to see for a really long time, mainly just because the building is so completely amazing and Libeskind is one of my favorite architects. The building did not disappoint, although the information in the museum wasn’t the best exhibit. 

After the museum we headed back to hang out at the hostel for a little while and get ready for dinner. That night we were set on eating German food, so we asked the hostel and set out for a really cool part of town, this little art district. We found a small little pub called The Bottom and drank some hefeweizen. I ordered wiener schnitzel, and it was delicious. After a few beers and dinner, me and Patricia split an apfel streudel that was to die for. We were at dinner until almost 11, so I was tired and headed back to the hostel to rest up for our next day of adventures.

The next morning we found a really adorable coffee shop to eat breakfast at and get a coffee. This day was really sunny and pretty warm, we were all in such good spirits because of it also. After breakfast we headed towards the East Side Gallery, which is the largest existing piece of the Berlin Wall. After the wall fell, they left this part up and invited artists to paint on it, since that has faded everyone adds their own graffiti or quotes to it.

After we walked along the gallery we all split up. Me and Patricia headed to Museuminsel to go to the Altes  and Pergamon Museums. The Altes Museum is the museum that the Nelson Atkins is modeled after, so I had to see it with my own two eyes, and the Pergamon Museum housed the Ishtar Gate from ancient Babylon, another thing I had to see for myself. Both of these are things we studied forever in History of Architecture, so it was very cool to see them in person. For lunch me and Patricia decided to get a typical German dish of curry wurst, although it wasn’t very good, at all. It was probably just the restaurant we were at. After lunch we decided to walk all over Berlin, literally. We walked so much, but it was a beautiful day so I didn’t really mind. After we got tired of walking we went back to our hostel to get our luggage, check our e-mail, and just hang out for a little bit before leaving. 

After we recharged a bit at the hostel we headed to the Reichstag again so we could go up on the roof terrace at night. It was absolutely amazing, although I was sad we couldn’t get inside the dome, it was still really cool to be able to see the city from the top of the building at night. After our trip to the Reichstag we caught our midnight bus back to Praha and arrived back home at around 5:30a. I then proceeded to sleep, all day!