A Happy Farewell

Trevi Fountain 2

It’s been just over two months since my return from Italy and I can honestly say that I’ve missed it everyday. In fact, I’m already trying to plan my return.

I wanted to take a second and say thank you to the 60 of you that have come along with me during my journey. I’ve come a long way since the great Venice flood of 2014, and I’m so happy you could virtually join in on my adventure. Side note: if you ever are looking for some spiritual growth/personal transformation, go find yourself a flood. Floods change a person (also Frulala). The people in Detroit this past week know what I’m talking about.

To combat my post-Italian depression, (it’s a thing) I wanted to leave you with this list that Papa Francesco released a couple days ago on how you can find happiness in your everyday life. Whether you are Catholic, Jewish, Hindu, Atheist, etc., this list reminds us that whatever our background or situation in life, we all deserve respect and happiness. It’s especially important considering what is currently going on in our world. (I’ll get off my soapbox now)

Once again, thanks for sticking with me for the past couple of months. It’s been a joy to share my experience with you, and I hope that when I return to the Eternal City I can make many more memories to share with you all. =)

-La Fine-

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Poor but Sexy (week 13, Berlin)

I’m not gonna lie, Berlin is probably one of the least aesthetically pleasing cities I’ve ever been in. The architecture is split between eye-grimacing modern, and bland concrete buildings from the cold war. After all these years, Berlin is still trying to recover from its past. It also probably didn’t help that it was mostly overcast the whole weekend. However, underneath its ugly exterior lies a city that is full of interesting art, food, and people. I think Klaus Wowereit, the mayor of Berlin described it best when he said “Berlin ist arm, aber sexy” or, “Berlin is poor, but sexy.” Indeed, what the city lacks in overall beauty, it makes up for in its lively/fun atmosphere and unique culture. Berlin has a particular charm and vibe that I had not experienced in any other place I had visited in Europe. So when one of my friends from high school, who was also studying in Rome, invited me to join her and visit her cousins in Berlin, I’m happy I quickly said yes.

Our weekend started off with exploring Museum Island, which, as the name implies, is an island in the middle of the city where all the museums are located. Unfortunately, we couldn’t make it to all of the museums before it closed for the day.

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We then headed over to the Cathedral and were able to climb to the top and get a nice view of the city just before it started raining.

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That night, I had my first home cooked meal in ages. It included meat, potatoes, and onions. It’s like they knew I was coming.

The next day, we took a bike tour of Berlin. We stopped at notable tourist sights including Check Point Charlie, the Berlin Wall, the Holocaust Memorial, and Brandenburg Gate. Mid-tour, we stopped at a beer garden along the river. The name of the tour company we used is called Fat Tire Bike Tours. I highly recommend it!

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After the tour, we went back to Museum Island and visited the Pergamon Museum. The museum is most known for the Ishtar gate, one of the many gates surrounding the ancient city of Babylon.

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On our last day in Berlin, we visited the East Side Gallery and were able to walk it multiple times before it started raining, again.

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Overall, a lovely weekend was had with lovely people. I hope to visit Berlin again soon!

I ♥ Mazurka (week 12, Krakow )

After an amazing 4 1/2 months abroad, my school semester in Rome had finally come to a close. However, I got the exciting opportunity to travel with two of my friends to Krakow, Poland for a couple of days after classes ended.

Krakow was one of the places I never thought I would visit during my stay abroad. I am SO happy we ended up spending time there.

Our first night was spent walking throughout the center town. I love the layout of the city. A park surrounds the main center of Krakow and the streets are filled with beautiful architecture.

For dinner, we had a traditional polish street food dish called Zapiekanki, which is basically a sandwich and pizza rolled into one.

The following morning, we left Krakow and spent the day visiting Aushwitz and Birkenau. I won’t say much about my visit except that it is a profoundly deep, life –altering experience. I still think about it daily. By visiting, you see the holocaust in a whole new way and gain a deeper perspective of what happened, more than any book or movie can ever do.

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That night, we ended up finding a little hole in the wall 24-hour Pierogi place where we enjoyed some Pierogi. We also walked up to Wamer Castle. Unfortunately, it was closed for the day, but we ended up stumbling upon a church procession that seemed to be miles long.

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The next day, we decided to take a more light-hearted daytrip and visit the Wielicka salt mine. The mine reaches depths of up to 1,073 ft. and also contains a museum, various salt sculptures and a chapel completely carved out of salt.

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After leaving the mine, we still had a little bit more time to kill before we got on our plane so we ended up stopping at a small food stand nearby to get Mazurka, a type of Polish waffle.

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And with that, my time in Poland had come to an end. Poland was an absolute joy to visit! I hope someday I can return!

All the Sangria in the World Please (week 11, Barcelona)


Finally Easter weekend had come upon us. My friends and I decided to skip out on the millions of people who would descend upon Rome and use the long weekend to travel. Our excursion took us to Barcelona, which we felt was the best place to go after our amazing weekend in Taormina. It didn’t disappoint.

Our weekend started off with popular Barcelonan cuisine: Sangria and Paella.

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Both were unbelievable, as expected. The sangria had these freakishly long straws that made it so you could sip your drink no matter how far away it was from you.

On our way back from lunch, we also ran into these guys. I have absolutely no idea what is going here, but it looks fun.

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That night, we headed to the Font Màgica de Montjuïc, a grand fountain located just beneath the national Art Museum of Catalonia. Several times a night, the fountain puts on a spectacular water and light show accompanied by music.

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Saturday, we spent the day at the beach. Although street vendors trying to sell us things bombarded us, we had a relaxing afternoon complete with more sangria.

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That night we headed to Dow Jones, a bar in Barcelona known for its unique New York Stock Exchange atmosphere. Above the bar are screens showing all the different types of drinks and their prices. When you order a drink, its price goes up while the others go down. Every hour or so, the stock market will “crash” indicated by flashing lights and sirens above the bar, and all the drinks will be lowered down back to their original prices.

On Easter Sunday, we attended mass at a nearby church. I could kind of pick up what the priest was saying at the beginning, however, by the end I was struggling to understand. Nonetheless, it was a unique and cool experience.

After mass, we went to a restaurant called Marmalade for Easter Brunch. This was the first time I had had brunch since I left America, so I was very excited. I ended up getting French toast topped with Greek yogurt and fresh fruit. It was very good.

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We then headed to La Sagrada. Unfortunately, we did not go in but we were able to take some pictures outside. I’m hoping that I will get to visit again and see it when it is completely built. (Whenever that is.)

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Our final day was spent shopping and visiting the Barcelona Cathedral. The Cathedral is home to some unique residents. Thirteen geese are housed in the Cathedral’s cloister.

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And like that, our Easter weekend in Barcelona was over. Overall, it was a great way to spend our last official school year trip!

If You Love Something, Do It Again (week 10, Taormina)

Today’s post comes from the idea that if you love something, do it again. And I love Sicily. I returned to Taormina with some friends and this time, rented an Airbnb for the weekend that had wonderful views and a kitchen. Below are some pictures documenting our weekend. Enjoy!

We arrived in Taormina and were overwhelmed  by the wonderful views from our apartment.

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We cooked…

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 ….and frolicked on the beach.

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It was also very cold in our apartment.

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During the day, we traveled into town and grabbed some fresh-squeezed blood orange juice and arancini…

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….and of course we ate cannolis.

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All in all, a successful weekend!

 

 

Fart Number (week 9, Copenhagen)

Copenhagen was one of the places in Europe I never thought I’d end up visiting on this trip. My roommate is Danish, so when she decided to visit, I quickly asked if I could join.

Our accommodations were great! We took Norwegian Air over and received free Wi-Fi throughout flight. Our hostel, named Woodah Hostel, not only had a great name, but also had free breakfast complete with homemade bread they cooked the night before.

One of the things I noticed about Copenhagen the first night walking along the canals was the number of swans there. They were everywhere, and they only made the scenery that much better.

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While walking to get dinner, we stumbled upon a speedometer that measured how fast bikers were going.  Their speed, or rather, their fart number, was displayed on the meter above.

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Our dinner that night was a traditional Danish hot dog bought from a stand just outside an indoor market.

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We then went over to Coffee Collective, a café known for some of the best coffee in Copenhagen. You could see they were professionals with the amount of tools and techniques they used to brew their coffee. Outside of Italy, they had the best cappuccino.

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On our way back to the hostel I noticed something else surprising about Copenhagen, the number of 7-Eleven’s present. Yes, you heard me correctly, 7-Eleven, as in the, oh, the thank heaven convenience store 7-Eleven. I didn’t take a picture, but they look exactly the same, complete with the slurpee machines and various assortments of junk food.

The following morning we did our own walking tour of the city. We started by walking through Kongens Have, a lovely park complete with a castle called Rosenborg Slot.

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We then made our way over to the harbor to view the Little Mermaid Statue. The statue is in dedication to Hans Christian Anderson, the Danish author who wrote The Little Mermaid.

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Our next stop was Amalienborg Palace where we caught the end of the changing of the guard.

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There was also a magnificent sailboat docked nearby, so we decided to go get a closer look as well as buy a crepe. (I’m still not over my disappointing crepe experience in Paris.)

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Finally, we made it to Nyhavn, the last stop on our tour. Nyhavn is known for its outdoor restaurants and bars as well as the lovely view of one of the canals.

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We walked along canal listening to the live music and bought on of these.

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It took me the whole walk back to finish it and frankly, I don’t think it was that good. However, it was the only one we could afford and it was local so I thought, ‘why not?’

On our last day we went to The David Collection, a Danish museum where we saw beautiful Islamic and Danish art, as well as what I believe to be the first physical documentation of a person wearing a snuggie.

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After a nice weekend, we hopped on a plane back home to Rome, thankful for a fun and relaxing few days.

Hang Ten (week 8, part 3, Munich)

Our trip to Munich started out rather early. We could not get a train directly to Munich, so we were required to have a two-hour overlay at a small train station in west Germany. We arrived at the first train station around midnight, tired and hungry. The only thing that was open, however, was an Asian fast-food restaurant that was actually not that bad. I was expecting my first meal in Germany to be some form of meat, potatoes, and beer. Instead, I got teriyaki chicken in a Chinese take-out box.

Around 2am, our next train finally came. We found our seats and fell asleep immediately. I woke up to my friend shaking me awake saying that we had made it to Munich.

Across from our train platform there was a small café. To this day, I have no idea what pastry I ate, just that it was one of the best things I had ever tasted.

As soon as I sat down, however, I realized I had made a grave mistake and left my iPhone charger plugged into the outlet on the train. Immediately I ran back to the platform, hopped on the train and searched for charger. It could not be found. I went up to the information booth to ask if someone had turned one in. They said no and also said that my charger couldn’t possibly be on that train since it had been there all morning. I asked her where the other train we had just taken 10 minutes ago could be. She said she had no idea.

After checking into our hostel, we decided to take another free walking tour. We really enjoyed the tour we took in London and so we thought it would be fun to do another one in Munich.

Our tour started in Marienplatz, the main square in the center of Munich. Marienplatz is most notable for the giant glockenspiel that looms overhead. Every day at 11am, 12pm, and 5pm, the figures on the glockenspiel move while a song is chimed.

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We saw the local beer garden, farmers market, and a giant maypole, as well as the opera house, Hofbräuhaus, and St Peter’s Church.

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After the tour, we hung out at the beer garden with some of the others who were on the tour with us. It was nice to relax after a long day that started around six in the morning.

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The following morning, we shopped around Marienplatz and then headed to the farmers’ market to pick up lunch and take it to the English garden, one of the biggest parks in Munich.

On our way back to the hostel, we passed by a river running through the park where we saw surfers riding what seemed to be a man-made wave. We stood there for at least 20 minutes just watching the surfers ride the river.

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That night, we went to the Augustiner Braustuben, a beer hall near our hostel. In the beer hall you sit at long tables next to complete strangers and with all the beer you drink, you make friends fast.

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We ended up meeting two brothers and their wives. One of the brothers was deaf. We were able to communicate, however, through hand gestures, and writing a mixture of German and English on a small notepad that my friend had with her. It was unique and memorable experience, to say the least. If you ever have a chance to go to a German beer hall, go. You never know what kind of people you will meet.

Our final day in Munich was spent walking around the Marienplatz and going tourist shopping. The other part of our day was making sure I could get on the train back home.

Before leaving for spring break, we ordered our train tickets from Munich back to Rome through what I now know to be a terrible train site known as Rail Europe. The site would not let us print out our tickets at home. Instead, they mailed them to you. Of course, my ticket did not arrive before we left for spring break. The lady at the front desk at school was kind enough to scan my ticket and email it to me. I had printed out the ticket during the week but wanted to be sure that I would not run into any problems on the train.

The lady at the train station said that the ticket would be considered invalid and that I should buy a new one. The only problem was that the train was completely full. After arguing with her that my ticket was completely valid, I just decided to get on the train with my ticket to see what would happen.

As soon as I got on the train, the conductor took my ticket, looked at it, and asked if I wanted coffee the following morning. Cue my sigh of relief.

And thus ended my spring break. I learned a lot over the week, namely the following:

• There is a vegan movement.
• The vegan movement is trying to make its presence known to the world.
• Coldplay ♥’s Vegans.
• The Harry Potter Studio tour is one of the most magical things ever.
• Paris is easily one of the most beautiful places in the world.
• Munich has good Asian food.
• Germany doesn’t keep track of their trains very well.
• The daily life of a German always consists of food, friends, and beer.
• You can surf in Munich.
• With a little effort and a pen and paper, you can communicate with anyone.