Thursday, August 28, 2008

More pictures!

Here is Berlin for now.  I will be putting up Amsterdam, Brussels, and some Vienna stuff in a couple of days.


Monday, August 25, 2008

Of Italian Palaces...

I'm in Vienna!   I know, I know.  I'm finally here.   I got back from Mariazell yesterday.  My roommates and I moved into our apartment yesterday afternoon. It is absolutely incredible!  I am living in the 9th district, which is a residential area in the middle of the city. The apartment itself is huge and very, very nice.  Definitely the nicest apartment I will be in for a LONG time! We have a nice kitchen, a big living room, bathroom, two bedrooms, and tons of storage space.  If anyone wants to visit Vienna, I have two couches that turn into beds!  The area around our apartment is full of food, bars, stores, etc.  It's about a 5-7 minutes to the U-Bahn and about 10 minutes on the U-Bahn to the IES Center.

The IES Center is in a palace built a few hundred years ago by an Italian member of the Hapsburg Empire.  Yeah.  It really is a freaking palace. There is gold EVERYWHERE and even more marble.  There are statues and art all over.  I am learning in classrooms that used to be ballrooms.  I will put up pictures later.  It's in the 1st district, which is within walking distance of all of these incredible markets, opera houses, and theaters.  As you can tell, I am very excited about all of this.

I got to see Stephen yesterday for a few hours.  It was sooooo nice!

I'm going to Bratislava this weekend with a few girls.  Fun!  (For those of you who haven't taken Geography in a while, Bratislava is the capital or Slovakia.) Should be pretty interesting.

I had my first German class today.  I am in advanced German (5th level).  I will be having German 3 hours a day for the next 3 weeks, which sucks. But I feel like I am already getting so much better at my German.  My teacher is a late-20s woman who seems really cool.

Update me, people.  Seriously.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The moutains are outside my window...

Hello all!

Sorry I haven't had a chance to update in so long! I will update on Brussels later, as I don't have much time here.

I arrived in Vienna at 6 AM a couple of days ago. I slept in the train station and got woken up by an angry Austrian cop. Irritating. Anyway, I met up with all the IES people, checked my big bags, and got on a bus to go to orientation.

We are currently in Mariazell, which is a town in the Alps about 3 hours south of Vienna. It is an absolutely GORGEOUS place! It looks exactly like a small Swiss town should look. It has little cottages tucked in the mountains and ski slopes everywhere. I've basically been going to a bunch of lectures on Austrian culture, safety, etc. Apparently, if you smile at someone here, it's a romantic invitation. Eeks!

Yesterday, we went to an Alpen lake. It was way to cold to swim, but a few of the girls and I rented a boat and went around the lake. Words cannot describe the beauty! Though there were a lot of old men in speedy and old topless ladies. It's Europe, folks!

Today I get my rooming assignment and German class assignment. Should be good!

I am missing people, places, and food back home. I'm going a little crazy without Stephen, but I think I may see him tomorrow night. Yay! I hope that all my other study abroad people are having a good time as they are spread out all over the world!

I miss you all. Update me!

Sunday, August 17, 2008


I put up pictures on Facebook.

For those of you without a Facebook, you can view them by clicking on the links below.






I will be putting up the rest soon!

Friday, August 15, 2008

The city of pot, prostitutes....and cats?

We were just in Amsterdam. We were there for 2 nights, which is honesty all you really need in that city. We went on a tour and learned some very interesting things. There is so much more to Amsterdam than what you normally hear about! It was quite odd that there were "coffee shops" and places selling other types of drugs everywhere. On our tour, we saw so many prostitutes! Our hostel was right on the edge of the red light district, which made for an interesting view of things at night. Overall, an interesting city. There were bicycles EVERYWHERE. And they run pedestrians over without a second thought. There are also cats EVERYWHERE, apparently because there are mice everywhere.

Anyway, I am now in Brussels. We decided that this would be a relaxing place to spend the last few days. Veronica, Stephen, and I are here, Erin and Andrew are in Frankfurt, Jan is on a military base with her cousin, Ally is in Cali, and Em is in England. Crazy!

In four days I go to Paris for a night to pick up my luggage. Then it's off to Vienna!

I hope everyone is having a good end to their summers!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Ich bin ein Berliner...

So we have made it to Berlin and have been here for the last couple of days. This city plays the fascinating role of being a truly international city while still maintaining its German charm.

We arrived from Prague late at night to a bus station, only to discover that the S bahn was not working in that area. So using Erin and I's German and Jan's excellent navigation skills we managed to get to our hostel an hour or so later. Let me tell you, wandering around Berlin with a 30 pound pack on your back is not a bunch of fun. We got to our hostel, found Veronica, and pretty promptly crashed. There were a couple of drunken Italian girls sharing our room, which is the first time we've shared a room this whole trip.

The next day, Erin, Andrew, Stephen, Jan, Veronica, Emily, and I went to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, which is right outside of Berlin. Certainly a somber trip, but really interesting nonetheless. Appropriately, it started to drizzle about halfway through our audio tour. Through a series of events (no bus, broken U bahn, broken S bahn, etc.) it took us 4 hours to get back to the hostel. That evening we went to a biergarten, where I managed to choke down a Berliner Pilsner. At least my sausage and potato soup was good!

Yesterday, we went on a walking tour of Berlin. Totally worth my 10 Euros! It took four hours, but it would have taken us 2 days to do it on our own. We got to see Museum Island, the Brandenburg Gate, Checkpoint Charlie, Reichstag, the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, and the longest portion of standing Berlin Wall. We also stood in the parking lot above Hitler's bunker where he killed himself at the end of the war. If you haven't seen "Downfall", you need to.

Last night, we went out to a Mexican food place for Ally's birthday. It was fantastic to have some good Mexican food!

Today we are going back to Reichstag to go in the glass dome and we're also going to Potsdamer Platz. Tomorrow we head to Amsterdam. After that, I think we've decided we're going to go to Brussels for a few days. My program starts in 8 days! :)

Thought on Berlin and Germany as a whole: I discovered as soon as I arrived that Germany feels soooo familiar to me. The buildings look normal to me, the food isn't weird to me, even the packaging on the chocolate seems so right. I think my 6th grade self is remembering this place. Interesting!

Friday, August 8, 2008

I've got two tickets to Iron Maiden, baby....

So. Prague!

We arrived two days ago to our first and only Eastern European city. It's really an incredible, relatively cheap place. It's also been very interesting because it doesn't use a 'normal' alphabet, so communicating and reading stuff has been quite difficult. Yesterday, we had a traditional Czech meal (fried potato pockets filled with cheese and rice. Yum!) We also walked around old town Prague, which was beautiful. Today, we visited the Prague Palace, which had an incredible view of Prague. We also visited the Charles Bridge, the Astronomical Clock, and Wenceslas Square, location of the Velvet Revolution. Tonight we will be testing out the night life, which involves a techno club of sorts. Tomorrow, we'll be seeing the TV Tower, which is apparently a Communist relic that allows your to have a great view of the city. We will then be eating at the Subway we found in Old Town Prague. Yay American food!

In reference to the title of this post, I have seen 21 Iron Maiden T-shirts. In one day. It most be an Eastern European thing.

Tomorrow we take a 6 hour bus to Berlin, where we stay for 4 nights. Ich liebe Deutschland! It will be refreshing to be able to communicate with they locals in their native language.

Things I miss about America:

2) Air Conditioning
3) Driving
4) No service charges
5) TV
6) Cats
7) And of course the people

That is all for now. I'll try to update again in Berlin sometime!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

A Cat Named Amoré

I am writing this post from an internet cafe in Milan. We had a miscommunication on hostels, so we ended up having to book a night here in Milan. Crazy, huh? Since it is a very unexpected night and you have to get tickets 3 months in advance to see 'The Last Supper', we decided to spend today relaxing and recharging our batteries. Since we're about mid trip, we definitely can use it! We arrived around 11, ate Tex Mex for lunch (Yum!!), took a nap, and ate dinner at McDonald's. I am soooo sick of Italian food that I have certainly appreciated the break. Tomorrow afternoon, we are off to Prague!

Anyway, I still need to update you on our 3 days in Venice. Our room ended up being this little apartment in a small Italian village right outside of Venice. So quaint! There was a little pizzeria next door with the best pizza we've had yet! The owner was an incredible lady with a cat named Amoré (hence the title). The apartment was about 20 minutes away from Venice on a commuter train. Venice is GORGEOUS. You know that image in your head of cute little buildings with exposed brick and fading paint? They are actually there! The canals were also really cool. There are no cars or metro in Venice, so to get around you take water buses, which are so cool. We also went to Murano and Burano, the two islands off the coast of Venice that are known for their glass blowing and lace making respectively. Very neat.

As for overall thoughts, I've discovered that sunglasses and water bottles are absolutely vital for a trip like this. It has been boiling hot in all of Italy. Hopefully, it will get much cooler as we move farther north.

I've also made an important self-discovery. After this trip, I feel like you could drop me off in any major city in the world and I could figure out my way around. I've had to navigate countless metros, buses, water buses, walking routes, etc. I hope this skill sticks with me when I finally get to drive again!

The closer I get to study abroad, the more excited I get about it. I can't wait to be in a single location for more than 3 or 4 days.

So Prague is next. Then comes Berlin, where Veronica will be meeting us up. Then comes Amsterdam. After that, we have about 5 days that have yet to be planned. I think we may end up in southern Germany or Switzerland or something. We'll see!

Happy birthday, dad!

Friday, August 1, 2008

Et tu, Brute?

Alright. So. Rome.

I'm not sure where I can even start with this city. I believe I have developed a love hate relationship with this city. I love the ancient ruins (we've visited the Colleseum, Palentine Hill, the Roman Forum, etc.), the food is decent, and the architecture is incredible (Trevi Fountain, anyone?). However, Rome is third in my book out of the three cities we have visited thus far. I just have not liked the vibe of the city as much as I thought I would.

So far, I've had pizza once (gross), lasagna twice (yum), and gelato (yummy strawberry and mint chocolate chip) twice. The food, however, is interfering with my budget.

Our 'hotel' here has been an experience and a half. All 7 of us are in a room that would be small for two people. There is no air conditioning. There is a small fan. However, our window opens onto a loud street, which means we can either try to sleep to the sound of trams and vespas, or we can roast. Our bathroom (7 people with 1 bathroom is bad enough), is tiny, has a beday (sp?) which is odd, and has a shower that sprays everywhere but the shower basin. It is testing all of our patience.

So tonight we are going to see the Spanish Steps and that district of Rome. Tomorrow we are hitting up the Pantheon and the fountain of the four rivers. The next morning, we leave for Venice on a train.

Thanks for the comments! I like being kept in the loop. Keep it up!