Spring Break Part 2: Vienna

We left for Vienna at 8 am on Monday morning and arrived around noon. We walked to our hostel, which was conveniently located directly across from the Naschmarkt, which has existed since the 16th century! There were tons of outdoor booths selling falafel, fresh smoothies, pastries, and more. I got a falafel sandwich at Dr. Falafel (best name ever) and sat down for lunch with Nicole and Cassie.

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After lunch I looked at the map provided by the hostel and saw that location number 23, Kunsthaus Wien, was pretty close to the hostel. I walked to where the museum was supposed to be and saw a different museum in its place. I walked back and forth around the area looking for the Kunsthaus Wien and couldn’t find it. I asked a German woman for help and showed her my map. As I held it out to her I noticed that there was a second number 23 on the map, and it was not at all close by. There weren’t really any good U-Bahn (metro) routes to take and the woman didn’t know the appropriate tram line. I had already made up my mind that I was going to this museum so I walked 40 more minutes to reach it…

Image^cool sign I saw outside a magic shop on my long walk

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^ready for Easter?

Since it was a Monday, I was able to get into the museum and get an audioguide for only nine euro. Kunsthaus Wien is a museum about Friedensreich Hundertwasser. I read on Trip Advisor that if you liked Gaudi in Barcelona, then you’d like Hundertwasser, but I don’t agree. Born Friedrich Stowasser, he changed his name for a few reasons, including so that it would be easier to translate into Japanese. He had three other nicknames he went by as well, including the German words for Rainy Day (Regentag), Dark Colors (Dunkelbunt, a hilarious word), and then something else I can’t remember. He didn’t want people to talk about the meaning of his paintings because he thought everyone brought their own individual meaning. He wanted to prove that one could live without money, but he did this by visiting a rotation of 14 friends for dinner. So he was just living off of other people’s money, which, to me, does not count as living without money. He made his own clothes, all out of striped fabric, and they were reversible. He also didn’t believe in ironing, since he thought the crumpled fabric somehow added to the way the eye perceived stripes? Basically, he was super weird.

Image^the outside of Kunsthaus Wien

He did have one quote that I really liked, from Paris 1953:

The line I trace with my feet

Walking to the museum

Is more important and more

Beautiful than the lines

I find there hung up

On the walls

 

On the third and fourth floors of the building, there was a temporary exhibition of Austrian photographer Andreas H. Bitesnich’s photography. There was a lot of nudity… I loved his portraits of people’s faces. I got the sense that some of them might have been of Austrian celebrities, but I have no idea. I think not knowing who the people were added to the beauty of the photos, since I was appreciating them just on their composition rather than any preconceived ideas I had about the people in them. The one subject of his that I recognized was Sir Christopher Lee.

 

For dinner I ate in the attached cafe, Tian Bistro. I paid 50 cents for tap water (to ensure that they could keep providing high quality tap water, obviously). I asked the waitress what I could order that would be authentic Austrian fare. She said that since the cafe served vegetarian food, she recommended one of the sweets. I ordered the Kaiserschmarrn. The menu warned that it took twenty minutes to prepare, which seemed like a good sign, since it would obviously be prepared fresh. What a great recommendation! She brought it out in a little cast iron pan. Kaiserschmarrn is a shredded pancake that is basically kind of like a cross between bread pudding and french toast. It was dusted with powdered sugar and came with a little dish of sweet plum jam. I ate all of it and left very satisfied!

Image^YUM!

I took the U-Bahn back to my hostel, and, not surprisingly, I got asked for directions. This time was different from most, though. An extremely handsome guy started speaking to me in German. I asked him if he spoke English and he seemed kind of relieved and then asked me the same question in English. Tragically, I didn’t know the answer, but I wished him luck. My friend Ellen pointed out that at least I got to talk to him in English…haha!

 

On Tuesday morning I went to Schonbrunn Palace. You could pay to take a tour of the luxurious buildings inside, but I decided to walk around the gardens instead. It was a beautiful day, and I spent a lot of time just sitting on benches and enjoying the view. I walked all the way to the top of a hill to a building called Gloriette, which is apparently a blanket term for a building in a garden that is elevated in regard to its surroundings. The one at Schonbrunn Palace appears to be the most famous gloriette. It used to be used as a dining room, festival hall, and breakfast hall, but it’s quite a walk from the main palace. It was destroyed in WWII but restored by 1947.

ImageImage^red squirrel – look at those fluffy ears!

ImageImage^the view of Vienna from Gloriette

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^you can see Gloriette at the top of the hill

I headed back towards the main palace around 12:30 and saw a sign for a Strudelshow. I paid 4,80 euro for a piece of a strudel and entrance into a kitchen area with plenty of tables and chairs. I watched an Austrian pastry chef make authentic Austrian apple strudel. He was funny and entertaining, and it was a great snack. The chef, Mario, told us what’s in the dough and filling. He rolled the dough out and then stretched it with his hands. This part was incredible. He was stretching it with his elbows at one point. I’m sure it takes a lot of practice to do that without making holes!

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Then he put it back on a flour-covered cloth and tested for elasticity by seeing if he could raise it like a circus tent and then bounce it with his hand, and by seeing if he could read the recipe through it. He passed both tests! He joked that if we tried this at home, we could start out by reading big headlines through the dough and then gradually decreasing the font size. He added the filling, rolled up the dough, and finished by adding a buttery glaze. There were copies of the recipe available, complete with a hotline to call if you need help and an email address to send your strudel pictures to!

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After the Strudelshow, I went to MuseumsQuartier, a cool plaza full of museums, shops, and cafes. There were a lot of people hanging out on these weird geometric seats. I sat on one while I planned my next move. MuseumsQuartier used to be a structure of court stables, which is pretty cool.

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I saw a good restaurant recommendation on my map from the hostel, so I decided to go there for lunch. We stayed at the same chain, Wombats, that we were at in Budapest. The map provided by the hostel was great because it was current and it had recommendations from the employees, who are all young locals. My waitress at Cafe Rudigerhof didn’t speak English, and there weren’t any English menus, so I just said “water” and pointed to “Wiener schnitzel vom schwein mit salat.” I knew it was very Austrian but I was surprised that it was deep fried! It was good, though. I went back to the hostel and took a nap to prepare for the evening ahead!

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I had read on my hostel map that standing room tickets were available at the Vienna State Opera 90 minutes before every show. Tuesday night’s production was Schwanensee, which I later realized was Swan Lake! I left for the opera around 5:15 and got in a pretty long line of people waiting for tickets. When I was waiting in line, I saw a poster that said “Schwanensee” and Tchaikovsky’s name and realized that I might have had the great luck to be in Vienna to see Swan Lake! I bought my ticket around 6:30. I paid three euro for a “balkon” seat. My view was amazingly good for three euro. When there was action on the far right of the stage, I missed it, but I can’t complain for three euro! However, I do wish the choreographer and director could spend a night in the SRO area and see what those people miss!

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This was my first experience with professional ballet, and what a way to enter that world! The orchestra was amazing and the dancers were phenomenal. The costumes were stunning, and that was without my glasses! I think it’s so cool that I got to see such a famous ballet, too. There were parts in the score that I had heard before but didn’t realize belonged to Swan Lake. I loved whenever the swans danced together. There were 32 swans total, not including the queen, Odette. I didn’t know the full story of Swan Lake until I saw it at the ballet, and I didn’t know that it’s a tragedy!! But, I am so glad that I went to see it. It was a great end to my visit to Vienna, and an experience that I’ll remember for the rest of my life.

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We left for Prague at 6 am on Wednesday morning, and the sky was beautiful.

ImageImageThanks for reading! 🙂

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Spring Break Part 1: Budapest

For spring break, I signed up for a bus trip that would take me and 23 other CIMBA students directly from campus to Budapest, Vienna, Prague, and Munich. We left campus at 9 pm on Friday night, March 14th, and drove through the night, arriving in Budapest around 7 am. We took the metro to our hostel. I have never been on an escalator as fast as the ones in the Budapest metro! Their metro system is the second oldest in Europe, only to the London Underground! At the hostel, we put our bags away and I bought breakfast for 1000 Hungarian Forint (about 3.5 euro – I now convert to euros rather than dollars, how European!). Mackenzie and I decided to do a walking tour of the city. We met at Vörösmarty Square at 10:30 am. On the way there, we saw a huge parade, with a marching band and men on horses. We later learned that we were in Hungary for its biggest national holiday, Revolution Day! It commemorates the failed revolution in 1848. Everyone was wearing pins with the colors of the flag, and there was a special Google doodle for Hungarian Google!

Image^Hungarian money

ImageImage^Hungarian politician, haha!

There were four tour guides and they each took a small group of people, but first we learned how to pronounce Budapest correctly! “Budapesht!” You don’t want them to hear you saying “pest!” Our tour guide, Angie, first brought us to Jozsef Nador square. We learned about Hungary’s first king, Saint Stephen. There are relics of him across the world – apparently his pinky finger is as far away as Melbourne, Australia, because there is a large Hungarian population there.

Image^Joszef Nador Square

Then we walked to Erzsebet Square. There was a love lock gate around a tree. There are love lock gates, bridges, fences, etc. all over Europe and probably the world, and the idea is that you and your lover write your names on the lock, lock it to the structure, and then throw the key in the river. Angie said the Hungarians are smart because you have a five minute walk to the River Danube to change your mind!

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We got a view of Saint Stephen’s Basilica. It’s 96 m tall, the same height as Parliament (the third largest Parliament building in the world). This symbolizes the equality of church and state. During the Communist regime, the Soviets put a star on top of Parliament to show that it was more important than the church. We also saw a statue of a typical 1900s cop. His belly was shiny from people rubbing it – not for good luck, but for hope of a good meal that night!

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We saw the beautiful Four Seasons Hotel, the most expensive hotel in Budapest. You can spend 500-600 euro a night there, which is what the average Hungarian makes per month after taxes. The building was a beautiful Art Nouveau style. Next to the “beauty” was the “beast” – a Communist era building with outside AC units and paper thin walls.

Image^the beauty

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^and the beast

We crossed the Chain Bridge (the oldest bridge in Budapest) to the Buda side of Budapest. The city was previously split into two towns, Buda and Pest. We hiked up the hill to the Royal Palace, which was built when Austria was occupying Budapest. Budapest was occupied by the Austrian Hapsburgs and the Ottoman Turks. Angie told us that they are at peace with these occupations because they influenced their culture a lot. The Turks brought the baths and paprika, both huge parts of Budapest culture. Angie also told us that the Hungarians used to be a nomadic people, and their language is more similar to that of an Asian language. Apparently, to make Yoda’s voice sound more alien, his lines were translated into Hungarian and then directly back into English! I also learned that the other Europeans did not think highly of the Hungarians, and they invented the ogre as a way to make fun of the Hungarians. So, joining the list of famous Hungarians, including Houdini, the inventor of the Rubik’s Cube, and Franz Liszt, is Shrek!

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We saw a view of the residential side of Budapest. Budapest’s version of the White House is also on top of the hill. There were tons of people in the area because it was Revolution Day. You could get as close to the President’s building as you wanted. Angie told us that the guards are there purely to entertain tourists and visitors, that their guns are fake, and that if they have any problems, they call the police.

Image^residential Budapest

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^the “White House” – not sure what it’s actually called!

After the tour, Mackenzie and I went on to the Fisherman’s Bastion to get a great view of the city. We also looked at the beautiful Matthias Church. The roof was covered in colorful tiles that are used in other places all over the world, including Moscow and St. Petersburg.

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^Fisherman’s Bastion

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Mackenzie and I went back down the hill. I bought a yummy strawberry and cheese pastry. We also walked down a street full of souvenir stands and traditional Hungarian food. We went back to the hostel and both took a little nap since we were so tired from the long bus ride and our walking tour. For dinner I had some falafel! I love falafel and was excited to see that there was a place selling it right next to the hostel.

Image^Mackenzie and her giant pretzel

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On Sunday morning, I decided to go to the Hospital in the Rock. I walked across the Chain Bridge and took the funicular up to the area between the Royal Palace and the White House. It took me a while to find the Hospital in the Rock, but the whole area was beautiful and I did a little souvenir shopping while I was waiting. I did a guided tour of the hospital at noon. It used to be an emergency hospital during WWII. There was a cave system dating back hundreds of years ago and they connected them. It was a state of the art hospital for 60 patients but was soon expanded to 210. During times of serious need it housed 600 or 700 patients. After bombings, the water line to the hospital was broken, and people died because there wasn’t water to drink or sterilize with. The hospital treated civilians and soldiers alike.

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The hospital was a secret. To fill up the fuel tanks that the hospital used without making people suspicious, they “watered the flowers” and simultaneously filled up the fuel tanks. The museum was full of creepy wax figures set up in scenes with equipment to recreate what the hospital would’ve looked like. After the war, the Soviets classified the hospital as top secret. It opened up as a hospital again during the failed revolution in 1956. Some babies were delivered there, and there was a picture on the wall of an adult woman who was born there!

 

After I left the hospital, I walked around Buda and bought a chimney cake, which Angie said is a very typical Hungarian snack. It’s made by rotating a spit over a fire.

 

ImageImageImageImageImageI headed down the hill and back over the bridge, grabbed my suit and towel from the hostel, and walked all the way to the Szechenyi Baths. On the way there, I took some pictures of Heroes’ Square.

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There are different baths all over Budapest. I thought it would be a cool experience to visit the baths, and my feet were sore from walking all day, so it was a nice reprieve. I paid to enter and was very confused about where to go to change and leave my stuff, and the staff was not helpful. I had to exit the building and walk all the way around to an entrance on the exact opposite side. When I bought my ticket, I was given a little electronic watch that got me into the locker area and could be used to lock and open the locker. I went outside and got in the warm pool. The air was cold and the water was so warm. It was really nice, but I got bored pretty quickly…once I discovered that there was a whirlpool in the center of the pool, I had some more fun! Everyone else liked the whirlpool, too, and the concept of personal space in Europe is very different from the US in that it does not exist. I went inside and tried an indoor bath but it wasn’t anything special so I decided to leave.

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As I was leaving, I bumped into some CIMBA people. As luck would have it, my friend Caroline wasn’t going into the baths, so we decided to get dinner together. On the way to dinner, we tried the Hungarian Turo Rudi candy – a cold chocolate bar with some kind of cheese inside. Being the responsible and detailed blogger that I am, I decided to sample three different kinds: dark chocolate (original, I believe), milk chocolate, and dark chocolate with peanut butter. The peanut butter kind was definitely the best!

ImageImage^peanut butter, our favorite!

We got dinner at Noir et L’Or. We had Chardonnay, goulash, and a DELICIOUS hummus appetizer, probably the best hummus I’ve ever had. And of course, we couldn’t leave Hungary without having some goulash.

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After dinner, Caroline and I completely ignored our sore feet and walked to Parliament. The view wasn’t what we were looking for, so we crossed the Chain Bridge and walked all the way down the river to a place where we could see Parliament from directly across. The building looked so magnificent lit up at night, and walking those extra steps was definitely worth it.

Image^Royal Palace at night

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^Chain Bridge at night

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^Chain Bridge at night from far away

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^Parliament at night (third largest in the world, after Romania and Brazil, I think)

Budapest was beautiful and I’m so glad I got to spend some time there. I never really knew anything about the city, and I’ve discovered that the best places tend to be the ones I’ve prepared the least for. We left for Vienna Monday morning at 8 am, so stay tuned for my post about that!

Life in Paderno

After spending my first weekend in Paderno, I’ve traveled to a different city every weekend. But I’ve still gotten to do some fun things in the local area, so here’s a little rundown of some of the cool experiences I’ve had!

-Sunday morning market in Crespano. A few weeks ago, I spent Friday night and Saturday in Venice, and then I came home on Saturday night. That Sunday morning, I walked to the nearby town of Crespano to go to the market. The weather was so perfect and warm that I had to take off my fleece, leaving me in just a t-shirt. I’m sure the Italians were very shocked to see bare arms since it is still cold for them!! I bought some apples and a little basket of strawberries. I can’t wait to have some fruit salad when I get home!

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-volunteering at the elementary school. Our campus is a private Italian school for students from kindergarten all the way through high school. I gave a presentation to a class of 4th graders about Memorial Day – tying in history, food, music, marching bands and parades, clothing, and pool parties. At the beginning of the presentation, they all introduced themselves to me. I loved hearing them pronounce their names, since their accents are so different from ours! I actually saw one of the kids in the hallway by the cafeteria today and he excitedly said “ciao!” to me, which made my day!

-many visits to the tabacchi. A tabacchi is a place where you can get tobacco and cigarettes (hence the name), but also bus tickets, snacks, stamps, and more. We have two tabacchis right across the street (which we call Tabacchi 1 and Tabacchi 2) and everyone goes there to buy soda, sandwiches, cookies, candy, you name it. Tabacchi 2 has more food, so people go there more often, and it’s owned by Diego and Bruna, who both speak English. They’re really friendly and everyone has a soft spot for Diego! I made my first visit to Tabacchi 1 this week to buy Nutella and stamps and discovered that they have big tissue boxes, which I have been pining for ever since I finished the one I bought at the mall. If I get another cold (it would be my 4th), then I’ll go back and buy one.

Image^all the tabacchis have this sign outside

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^the Nutella area – recently restocked 🙂

-Event With a Professor. CIMBA organized several events that you can attend to learn more about Italian culture and hang out with a professor at the same time. I paid to participate in two different events. A few weeks ago I did a wine tour and wine tasting at nearby Dal Bello Winery. We saw the factory (though no wine was being produced at the time) and had some prosecco, and then walked down the street to Dal Bello’s wine bar and cafe. I liked the glass of white we had there but have still not found a red I like…

ImageImageImage^special Prosecco glasses – a little stream of bubbles was continuously floating upwards

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^their high-end bottles have a cover with Swarovski crystals on them!

I also did a pizza making event. You haven’t studied abroad in Italy if you haven’t eaten copious amounts of pizza, and now I’m even more immersed in Italian culture since I made my own! We took a bus to Asolo and learned how to make pizza from Saverio, an authentic Italian pizzaiolo. Saverio was very passionate about pizza making. Through Cristina’s translation, we learned about the most important ingredients of the dough – water and yeast. The amount of yeast needed and the temperature of the water depends on the season. To finish making the dough, you also need flour, salt, and extra virgin olive oil. Saverio taught us all about the art of pizza making by asking us questions and having us guess what we thought the answer was. Most of our guesses were usually wrong, but by the end of the night we learned that a good pizzaiolo can turn a pile of dough into a finished pizza in anywhere from three to five minutes. Saverio cooks his pizzas at 833 degrees Fahrenheit, and he knows the oven is hot enough when the stones turn a certain color.

After learning about how pizza is made, we got to do it for ourselves! Saverio had the dough ready for us, and he taught us how to flatten it out, or “open it up.” Then we added sauce, cheese, and whatever toppings we wanted. Cristina recommended the zucchini, and it was so delicious. Saverio formed the girls’ pizzas into heart shapes, and then he put them in the oven.

Image^Cristina (Associate Director of CIMBA) and Saverio

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^making it into a heart shape!

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^Cassie, Me, and Caroline with our finished creations!

-ex-pat panel. Four ex-pats came to talk to us about their experiences living outside of their home country. There were two women from the US, a man from Scotland, and another man from Canada. They were all really interesting and it was one of the better mandatory events I’ve attended this semester! I really enjoyed listening to Carla Picardi. She was on the team of people who helped build the Gherkin in London.

-cultural differences talk. Dr. Al talked to us about cultural differences between major countries of the world. We all loved this video highlighting some of the stereotypical differences between countries. We especially liked the bits about lines, crosswalks, and road signs in Italy – I have definitely noticed all of those things!

-gourmet dinner. We had our second gourmet dinner at Ristorante Barbesin in Castelfranco Veneto. The food was delicious. We had a few different appetizers – a savory little pie with cheese and peppers, a puff pastry with cheese and radicchio, and a slice of eggplant with sauce and cheese. Next we had shrimp risotto, then bigoli (type of pasta) with meat and duck sauce (actual duck sauce, not the Chinese food kind). After that, we had steak and baked potatoes. The potatoes were buttery and so golden brown – the perfect amount of crispy. For dessert we had a little pastry bowl of rich vanilla ice cream. A waitress came around and drizzled hot fudge on it for us! It was so yummy. We also had wine – white, red, then a dessert one.

Image^pretty walk up to the restaurant

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^I still haven’t mastered the art of eating bread without making a complete mess

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-Italian field trips. My class is called “Italy Live” because there are some components where we actually go out and practice our Italian. On Valentine’s Day we went to Asolo and had to order lunch at the cafe in Italian. Yesterday we went to Bassano. We had a worksheet with a few different tasks to complete. We had to go to the tourist information office and ask for a map, find out how much strawberries, artichokes, and asiago cheese (Asiago, the home of Asiago cheese, is very close by!) cost at the market, and go to Nardini Grappa to find out how much an aperitivo would cost there. Antonio Nardini actually came to my marketing class to tell us about Nardini. They have been in business in Bassano since 1779! It was cool to see the place I had learned about in class, although I am definitely not brave enough to drink any Grappa. It smells like pure rubbing alcohol…

ImageImage^Blair and I love strawberries!!

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Ponte Vecchio, or Ponte degli Alpini. It was designed in 1569 and has been destroyed many times. The last time it was destroyed was during WWII.

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I leave for spring break today and then I only have two more weeks left in Paderno! We have one full week of classes and then the week after that we have class until Wednesday, finals Thursday-Saturday, and we have to be moved out by 2 pm on Saturday, April 5th! There are still some fun events left here – a wine tasting seminar hosted by Dr. Al, the Americans vs. Italians soccer match, and our last gourmet dinner. After classes end, I will be traveling Europe until April 30th, so the blogs aren’t done yet!

Sunshine and Shopping in Bologna

Last fall, when Italy was just a place on my list of study abroad options, my friend Alma told me about her friend Moorea’s study abroad blog. I read some of her posts and really liked the way she wrote. Fast forward to this semester. I was still checking up on Moorea’s blog, and I liked her post about Napoli and Amalfi so much (specifically her beautiful love poem about a doughnut) that I had to comment. We became Facebook friends and decided to meet up, so this past weekend I took a train to Bologna to meet her!

 

I got into Bologna around 5:30 and walked about fifteen minutes to my hostel, although the walk took a little longer than expected. My hostel was the Riva Reno B&B, but the sign didn’t say “Riva,” “Reno,” or “B&B” on it. The main office was located under a sign that said “Rooms available” in Italian and the curtains were completely drawn. After that bit of confusion, I got settled in and met Moorea outside. We walked towards Centro, which is the downtown area, and met up with her American friend, Siobhan. We got aperitivo – drinks and appetizers – at a cute place with beautifully painted walls. Then we went to Trattoria Serghei for a delicious and affordable meal. I got tortelloni di zucca – pumpkin tortellini. So yummy!

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On Saturday morning, I went to Moorea’s apartment, which was only about a ten minute walk from my hostel. She lives with eleven Italians, and they were really fun to talk to. Everyone spoke Italian for the most part, but I could usually catch the gist of what they were saying, and some of Moorea’s American friends were there for me to speak English with 🙂 We went to Siobhan’s apartment for a pancake breakfast!! How American! At breakfast I learned that it was International Women’s Day (Festa della Donna), which is apparently quite a holiday in Italy. International Women’s Day happens annually on March 8th, and men treat women to little bouquets of yellow mimosa flowers, which are available at stalls and booths all over the city.  

ImageMoorea and I headed to Centro after breakfast. First, we went to the Montagnola Market, which is a flea market that is held every weekend. I bought a new bag for ten euro, since my green one was ripping – and I wasn’t sure how much longer it would hold together for! We continued walking through the city and got some delicious fresh juice at a place called Zazie. I had juice with banana, orange, apple, and pineapple, and it was so refreshing.

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ImageWe walked to Piazza Nettuno, where there is a large fountain of Neptune. This is a really popular meeting place for people in the city. The fountain was surrounded by people, and as we continued walking through the city, we saw more people in the streets, enjoying the beautiful weather. The sun was shining and the air was the perfect temperature. There were barely any cars on the roads, and people walked on the sidewalks and on the streets.

ImageImage^the famous Due Torri in the background – more on that later

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^Bologna is famous for its porticoes

Moorea and I got some gelato at Cremateria Sette Chiese, and then we went to the antique market in the piazza in front of Santo Stefano. There were tons of tables, all covered with various treasures – jewelry, books, figurines, posters, etc. The antique market is held the second weekend of every month, except for January, July, and August, so I was lucky to get to go!

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ImageWe met up with Siobhan and one of her friends at Piazza Nettuno and then headed to a butcher shop for a late lunch of meat and cheese! They had different platters of meats and cheeses named after Italian regions. We got the Emilia-Romagna (where Bologna is located) and the Toscana. I continued to cultivate my love affair with salami, and I discovered a new cheese – Fontina. It’s a soft cheese and totally not impressive at all to like, but I was smitten. It’s made with Italian cow’s milk.

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We did a little more shopping at H&M. I bought some snakeskin flats that I just couldn’t resist – and they were only ten euro. I went to Moorea’s around 8 pm for dinner. She told me that she aspires to be an Italian grandmother, and she already has two very important characteristics down: she is a fantastic chef, and she is good at convincing you to eat more of her food! She made a great dinner of potatoes and peppers and pasta with tomato sauce, spinach, and chicken. There were a lot of people at dinner with us – three of Moorea’s American classmates, an Italian classmate, an Italian friend, and an American friend! Moorea’s roommate Ciccio was cracking me up, because he chose certain American phrases to pick up/make fun of, like “so good!” (about food) and “nuh-uh!”

 

On Sunday, I did some solo sightseeing. I started the morning with breakfast at Gamberini, the oldest bakery in Bologna. I got a Nutella croissant and freshly-squeezed blood-orange juice. I didn’t realize that I would be getting one of the best drinks of my life when I ordered a simple glass of orange juice! The juice was amazing and I will never forget my brief moments with it…

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^another cool portico

i walked down the road to Palazzo d’Accursio – also confusingly called Palazzo Comunale. This is one of the buildings surrounding Piazza Maggiore. The Palazzo is the seat of the City government. I visited the Hercules Hall and the City Council Hall. I also went into the Red Room – after I waited for a wedding to finish up! The room was full of people, and as I walked towards the entrance, many were streaming out. Once enough people had walked away, I saw a woman in a white dress! This is the third bride I’ve seen this semester! One in Florence, one in Barcelona, and now one in Bologna. There was also an orchestra playing in one of the rooms on the upper floor, which was fun to listen to for a while.

ImageImageImage^Hercules in the Hercules Room

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^the bride and groom were taking photos with guests in the courtyard

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^Palazzo d’Accursio

Sala Borsa is another building near Piazza Maggiore. It used to be the stock exchange, and now it’s a library. The outer walls are notable because there are hundreds of photos of Resistance members who were murdered during WWII. The photos are a touching and haunting tribute.

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I also went inside San Petronio Basilica, which is another building surrounding Piazza Maggiore. San Petronio was originally supposed to be bigger than St. Peter’s in Rome, but Pope Pius IV halted its construction, I believe by diverting construction funds to the University of Bologna. The church is still unfinished, and it is noticeable on the side, where there are half finished arches and brickwork. I also enjoyed listening to a great jazz band in the piazza.

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I walked to San Domenico Church and then to Santo Stefano. Santo Stefano is a beautiful complex of parts of seven churches. There were courtyards and cloisters hidden inside the complex.

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Image^San Domenico Church

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^man and his dog in Piazza CavourImage

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^antique market happening in the piazza

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After that, I went to the Due Torri. Bologna used to be a city full of towers (possibly up to 180), but many of them were demolished or collapsed in the 13th century. Although, some were destroyed as late as 1917. There are fewer than twenty remaining towers today. I paid three euro to climb all 498 steps to the top of Torre Asinelli. There was only one narrow staircase, so it took a while to get up just because there were always people in the way coming down. The view from the top of the tower, of the blue skies, red roofs, and hills in the background, was really refreshing.

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I went to Moorea’s for lunch – more delicious pasta, this time with cherry tomatoes and pesto, and some tiramisu for dessert – and then went to the train station. I had a really relaxing, enjoyable weekend in Bologna, and Moorea was a great host! I’m glad I decided to comment on her blog that one day!

Image^street artist I saw on the way back to Moorea’s

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^Piazza dei Marini 1943-1945

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^view of the Italian countryside on the regional train from Padova to Bassano

This weekend I leave for spring break – to Budapest, Vienna, Prague, and Munich – but first, I hope to write a post about some of the fun things I’ve done in Paderno lately! Thanks for reading!

Four Days in Roma

Halfway through week 7 of my study abroad experience, I handed in my marketing exam, rushed upstairs to shower and pack, and then headed off to Rome! A huge group of CIMBA people traveled to Rome for the long weekend (we were gone Weds 2/26 to Sun 3/2). Most of us got in around 10:30 pm. On Thursday morning, Liz, Michelle, Alaina, and I decided to take advantage of the beautiful weather and visit the Forum. I asked the receptionist the best way to get there, and she drew out a route on a map that took us past some other cool places. We walked right down the street to Santa Maria degli Angeli. We entered through a tiny back entrance. The first thing we saw was an exhibit on Diocletian baths. When I left the exhibit room, I was stunned by the beauty of the church! I didn’t realize that I was walking into the huge main area. This is by far my favorite church in Europe. It has soaring ceilings and is ornately designed, but it still has a clean and airy look about it. It has a circular stained glass window more colorful and beautiful than any other one I’ve seen.

ImageImageImageImage^cool details in the door

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Next, we walked past the Teatro dell’Opera and the Piazza della Reppublica, and ended up at the Roman Forum. I took the advice of my friend Katelyn and bought tickets at the Forum entrance. The ticket got me in to the Roman Forum, the Palatine Hill ruins, and the Colosseum. I didn’t have to wait in line, and when we went to the Colosseum, the line snaked around the queue rails several times, so starting at the Forum was a great decision! The Forum was beautiful. There were huge columns that I can’t even imagine being part of a bigger temple. We saw the ruins of an old arena and a mosaic floor from AD 64. We also explored the Palatine Hill ruins.

Image^Plaza della Reppublica

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^mosaic floor from AD 64

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Then we went across the street to the Colosseum. I regret not getting an audio or guided tour, but it was nice to just enjoy the beauty of the scenery. Outside the Colosseum there were several vendors aggressively hawking their wares. Everywhere we went in the city, we were pestered by people selling tacky scarves, weird glass cubes with the Colosseum on them, and annoying squish toys. There were also a lot of people handing out flyers for various parties in bars and clubs, and “no” was not something they were happy to hear.

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In the afternoon, we walked to the Pantheon. On the way there we walked past some old ruins full of cats! The ruins were layered, with four different structures from four different time periods, as far as I could tell. I think there is a cat shelter located within or nearby the square. I visited again on Saturday…just happened to walk by. I had no idea that I was going to see the cats again…a complete accident…

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The Pantheon was beautiful. The building itself and the nearby square were packed with people. The Pantheon is one of the best preserved Roman buildings, and its measurements are such that a perfect sphere could fit under the dome. At the top of the dome, where there would normally be a stained glass window, is an open space, which is a source of natural light.

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We got some gelato at Della Palma, which was recommended to us by some other CIMBA students because of its 150 flavors! I got raspberry, kit kat, and peanut butter. The peanut butter gelato had actual bits of peanut butter in it, and it was delicious. We ran into some friends of ours, so we all walked to the Trevi Fountain together. My mom had warned me that the Trevi Fountain was just in the middle of the city, surrounded by buildings, and I think it wasn’t as cool as she was expecting it to be. Perhaps because of this, I liked it even more than I was expecting! I like the idea that if I didn’t have a map and was walking down some side streets, I could just happen upon the Trevi Fountain. It was really crowded, but we made our way down to the water and threw some coins in for good luck!

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Our last sight of the day was the Spanish Steps. They were really crowded as well, but we sat down and took pictures and chatted longer than I think any of us were expecting. So we can say we truly experienced the Spanish Steps. There is usually a Bernini fountain in the square at the foot of the steps, but it is currently being cleaned and restored.

ImageWe went back to our hostels and met up for dinner at Pizzeria Al Forno della Soffitta. I had a glass of chardonnay and a white pizza with pumpkin flowers. Both were really good! Emily decided to be brave and try some grappa. She didn’t like it, and the waiter wanted her to finish it, so when he wasn’t looking, we poured it in Liz’s empty teapot…On the way home we got gelato again at Gelateria La Romana. I got the best stracciatella I’ve ever had there!

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On Friday morning, I headed out on my own. I was planning on starting with the Vatican, but the receptionist told me it would be less busy in the afternoon, so I started with Castel Sant’Angelo. Castel Sant’ Angelo was originally a mausoleum built by the emperor Hadrian. Hadrian was interested in art, culture, and philosophy, and he was one of the best Roman emperors. The structure was also used as a prison and a castle/safehouse for the Pope. There were many ornately decorated rooms that the Pope used to live in.

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I walked along the wall connecting Vatican City to Castel Sant’ Angelo. It was built to allow the Pope to escape to safety in times of trouble. Pope Clement VII used it to survive the Sack of Rome in 1527.

Image^the Pope would travel along the top of that wall

I bumped into some people from CIMBA and joined their guided tour of the Vatican Museums, the Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter’s Basilica. Our tour guide, Rafaella, was born and raised in Rome, and she was funny and knowledgeable. The Vatican is the smallest and wealthiest country in the world, and the Museums are the fifth largest in the world. I learned a lot about Michelangelo – he hated painting but the Pope made him paint the Sistine Chapel. He painted the ceiling when he was 33. It took him four years to finish. He had to lay on his back and reach up to paint. The paint dripped into his eyes, and when he died at age 89, he was almost blind. At age 61, he had to paint again. He painted The Last Judgment on the altar wall of the Chapel. This took him five years to complete. More random facts: all of the penises in the Vatican museums are covered with fig leaves (made out of the same material as the statue). The Pope ordered this a few hundred years ago. So there are some very old sculptures with very new fig leaves attached to them. We went in a room with tapestries and a ceiling painted to look like it was 3D. One of the tapestries was made to look like Jesus was watching you no matter which direction you walked past it. We also walked through the Pope’s old private rooms, which were painted by Raphael. He died at age 37 from loving too much – aka syphilis. He and Michelangelo hated each other.

ImageImage^ceiling of one of Raphael’s rooms

We walked through the Sistine Chapel. We were not allowed to take pictures or talk inside. Of course, people were breaking this rule anyway, so you had to try to focus on the artwork while people whispered around you and the guards yelled “Silenzio!” The tour ended at St. Peter’s Basilica. Peter was the first Pope, at Jesus’ request. Peter died by being crucified upside down, AS HE REQUESTED, because he didn’t think he was worthy of dying in the same way as Jesus. The Basilica was full of people. The Vatican has 20,000 visitors every day and 7 million annually. Not sure why they still don’t take credit cards at every place there then…

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^Swiss Guard

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^St. Peter’s Basilica

For dinner, five of us went to a place called Tony’s. We didn’t make a reservation, so we had to wait outside for about twenty minutes before going in. We weren’t given a menu. We just said “yes” to what Tony said he would bring us! Here’s the rundown of what we ate:

1 – antipasti – cheese pizza, cheese and mushroom pizza (so good), delicious salami, prosciutto, fried olives, fried potatoes, cheese and spinach thing, cheese thing

2 – pasta – first a bowl of carbonera and then red sauce. The red sauce was a little spicy and so good. Tony wouldn’t take it away until we finished it, but his beautiful daughter Roxy took pity on us and cleared our plates away when he wasn’t looking!

3 – pork with potatoes, a huge platter of meatballs, and what I think were two full cooked artichokes – still not sure what it was! This course was hard for us to finish. Tony put the meatballs directly on our plates once he saw that we weren’t eating all of them. We were actually kind of scared of him. We ate some more and then called Roxy over. She completely charmed us by pretending to sneak our food away under her apron. She distracted her dad in Italian and then swept away our plates!

4 – Tiramisu with tons of cinnamon on top – delicious. We didn’t need any help finishing this one!

5 – Limoncello and grappa. I didn’t touch the grappa but I had some limoncello. It was homemade and way too sweet for me! We left Tony’s super full and didn’t dare get any gelato!

ImageImage^Liz and me

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^our table was right by the kitchen

On Saturday morning I did a grand walking tour of the city. I basically made my way from sight to sight. I started (again) at Santa Maria degli Angeli. Then I went in Santa Maria Maggiore. It had about 20 different confessional booths. I thought they were cool because each one had a sign with the hours and languages of the priest who usually occupied it.

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Next I walked down the road and up the hill to San Pietro in Vincoli. It was huge and very airy inside. Then I headed down via Claudia, walked down a pedestrian walkway, and went in Santi Giovanni e Paolo. There was barely anyone there, and it was a pretty walk.

ImageImage^San Pietro in Vincoli

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^Santi Giovanni e Paolo

I walked to Circo Massimo, which used to be a huge entertainment complex, where people would gather to watch races. After that, I walked to the ruins of Teatro Marcello and then wove through the Jewish Ghetto until I got to the river. Saw the cats again and then headed to Piazza Navona. The piazza was full of artists selling their paintings. I talked to this really fun guy named Marcel. He said he has art all over the world, including in Vietnam. I bought a little painting from him. I loved the colors he used and his simple style. I almost wish I would’ve bought a bigger one. As I was leaving the square, I decided to stop at Grom Gelato. I got Grom’s signature flavor and stracciatella. Their signature flavor is “Crema di Grom – con paste di meliga e granella di cioccolato Columbia ‘Teyuna.’” It was delicious.

Image^Teatro Marcello

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^Piazza Navona

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^Marcel

I crossed the Ponte Umberto I and walked along the river until I got to Ponte Margherita. I crossed back over and went to Piazza del Popolo. The piazza is flanked by two symmetrical (?) churches. There are fountains on both ends of the piazza and an obelisk in the center. There’s a huge gate across from the churches. Apparently, visitors from the north used to go through the gate. What an entrance to Rome!

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Saturday evening we went to Trimani Wine Bar, which was conveniently located right next door to our hostel! I got a glass of Reichsgraf Von Kesselstatt T Mosel Riesling 2012. Had to take a picture of the name so I would remember…it was delicious! To continue with our classy evening, we headed to a nearby Chinese restaurant…I’m not even a huge fan of Chinese food in the US, but I think it really hit the spot for everyone else, and it was inexpensive and filling, so it worked out fine. Liz and I went back to the hostel after that and spent the rest of the night relaxing and chatting. We were exhausted and fell asleep by midnight!

Image^the wine bar

On Sunday I did some exploring before my train left. I walked to Piazza Barberini and saw the Fontana del Tritone. I walked down Via Sistina, which led me to the top of the Spanish Steps. I got some gelato at San Crispino. I accidentally got sorbet, but it was still really good. Somehow ended up at the Trevi Fountain, but found my way back and walked down the super long Via del Quirinale. The Quirinal Palace takes up the length of the road, and it’s home to the President of Rome. I had ample opportunity to take pictures of the Italian police uniform! I made it to the metro and to the train station with a perfect cushion of time for my train. Overall, I had a great weekend in Rome, and saw a lot of beautiful places!

Image^Fontana del Tritone in Piazza Barberini

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^view from the very top of the Spanish Steps

Thanks for reading this extremely lengthy post, or if you’re my sister, thanks for reading the captions!