Italy 2.0: Venice

Venice is exactly as I imagined it. The canals are really a sight to see. Honestly, I would have been happy to stay there forever.

We arrived Friday morning and immediately had a city tour. Honestly, the tour was awful. The day was extremely hot and sunny, we were all stir-crazy from the bus ride, nobody had eaten lunch, and the tour was three hours of nonstop walking. It was hard to appreciate the beauty around us when we were so miserable. We did get to go into the Cathedral of Saint Mark (Saint Mark of Gospel fame), which was gorgeous. Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to take pictures inside.

After that we had free time. A couple of my friends and I sat outside an Italian cafe and ate fried zucchini blossoms and mozzarella balls and I don’t think I have ever been more content in my life than in that moment. I was surrounded by good friends and eating good food in the most beautiful place I have ever been. Honestly, I could have sat there forever.

At dinner, I had hoped to try the risotto that is traditional in Venice, but for some reason all of the restaurants only offered risotto for two and I was never able to get anyone to share with me. I did get some great shrimp pasta, though, so I got the Venetian seafood.

Saturday was entirely free time, so most of the girls went to the island of Murano, which is known for its glass. I bought a beautiful wine bottle stopper. I learned that there are 47 true Venetian glass families and all others, while legitimate, are not the traditional Murano glass.

When we returned to the main island, my friend Emma and I split off from the group. We ended up walking from the northern coast nearly all the way to the southern coast. We walked through a residential neighborhood and the tourist shopping district. Although, really everywhere in Venice is a tourist area. I definitely heard more English than Italian and a significant amount of German as well.

Eventually, we met up with the entire IES group for dinner. I had high expectations for Italian food, but honestly it is a million times better than I could have imagined. I could really live in Italy, I could.

On Sunday, we mainly just had the bus trip home. We did make a two hour stop in Verona, though, but instead of seeing Juliet’s tower, I made friends with Kylo Ren at the Disney store.

Italy 1.0: Padua

I don’t know what the deal with this was, but I thought it was pretty funny.

Last Wednesday I went to Italy. This was a trip with my program and almost all of us went, which made it a truly great experience. We had a 10 hour bus ride and that was a fun bonding experience.

First, we went to Padua and right off the bat, we had free time to do some shopping and eating. Italian pizza is as delicious as you would expect.

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On Thursday, we had a city tour, which included a visit to the Scrovegni Chapel and the first anatomy theater at the University of Padua, where medical students would watch bodies be dissected to learn. It was eerie standing on the exact spot where countless corpses have been.

Here I am at the botanical gardens (notice my new Italian pants, which I had bought at the market that morning)

Afterwards, we had more free time, so my friends and I went to Saint Anthony’s Basilica, which is absolutely enormous. And the tourist there were terrible (not us, of course). I saw a woman fill up her water bottle with the holy water, and Ally said she saw a girl splash the water down her shirt. Everyone was taking pictures, even with flash, despite all of the signs telling them to respect the historical monument and art. I was pretty angry at how obnoxious these tourists were being.

We basically had a photo shoot at this spot. All the pictures turned out great!

We also went to the botanical gardens, which was so pretty. Since the area was so beautiful, we more or less just relaxed and took photos.

For a while, we sat by the river in a park full of statues, but then a guy started talking to us. His greeting was “hakuna matata” and so we pretended not to speak English, only German. Some people (not naming names) kept responding to what he was saying, though. It didn’t really work to speak in German when they were clearly understanding what he was saying.

I’m Basically a Model Now

A few weeks ago, I received an email that I found extremely exciting. Free breakfast and lunch for two whole days. All I had to do was let a photographer take some pictures of me for the IES catalog. It was a great experience; I got a ton of food out of the deal, including pretzels, schnitzel, the Freiburg long red wurst, strawberries, and ice cream. Like I said, very exciting.

I’m also going to receive some great pictures of me and my pretend friends (the other students who signed up for the free food). Right now, I don’t have any of the professional pictures, just some that I took, but rest assured, the pictures are great. We went all around Freiburg yesterday, and today we went into the Black Forest to pretend to go hiking and for a picnic.

Beer was included in the free lunch
Here I am pretending to casually hang out outside

Berlin Week

Last week, I went with IES to Berlin. I didn’t have a chance to upload my pictures from my camera, so I never wrote any posts. But here are the highlights of the trip:

We took a tour of the Bundeskanzleramt, where Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel works. I was in the same building as the leader of the free world. It was a pretty cool building, too. The floor plan was very open and modern, and there was art everywhere.

We also got to go across the street to the Reichstag, where we went up to the roof. The dome was closed for cleaning, but we got to look down on the Berlin skyline. the city is really beautiful.

Another thing I really enjoyed was seeing Checkpoint Charlie, the gate between the American and Russian sectors of Berlin. It was very cool to see the “you are now leaving the American sector” sign in person. And I found out that it says something different on the back.

The DDR Museum was definitely one of the coolest museums I’ve ever seen. It had a whole collection of rooms that were set up like an East German apartment with information on everything. I do think that the museum seemed biased, though; it was very clear that the museum curators looked down on the DDR.

A Beautiful Day

The past week, I’ve mostly been getting into a routine and working hard in my German class. I’ve been learning a lot, and my teacher told me that I could move up from the middle class to the top class, but I decided not to do so. I really like our group of people, and frankly, I think that the other class would be too challenging. Yesterday was the last day of OIL classes (intensive two-week German language) and the first beautiful day all week. After the test, my class went to get coffee and sit outside in the sun. For lunch, a couple of friends and I got chinese food and döner to go and climbed on top of the Blaue Brücke (blue bridge), which gave us a beautiful view of the city. It was also extremely terrifying because we were just chilling way above the concrete, but nobody fell and we had a great time.

Then a couple of us planned to cook dinner at my apartment, but by the time everyone showed up, there were 10 of us. Luckily, everybody brought whatever they had in their cupboards, so we had more than enough food.  We had a ton of different vegetables (including fried zucchini), fruit salad, salad, and wine. Since we had so much, we didn’t even notice we forgot to cook the chicken I had bought!

Day Trip to the Most Beautiful Place in the World

The IES group went hiking in the Swiss Alps today, and it was the most beautiful place I’ve even seen. I’d highly recommend Engelberg, Switzerland. There was snow on the ground (and lots of skiers), but the sun was shining, so it was very comfortable. I took lots of pictures because this town and the surrounding mountains are literal postcard pictures. But the photos can’t really capture the beauty of the Alps.