Tuesday, June 3, 2008

21st, festa di mesiano & a visit from aims...

So the big 2-1 was good. I woke up in the morning and Joey and Sezen had decorated the apartment with balloons, a cake, presents, and a bottle of champagne. It was sooo cute, especially since I thought this would be the first year with no cake. That night we met up with some friends for aperitivi in town, then went to two bars on the way to this outdoor concert. After the concert we headed to our fave underground wine bar, vino e sensi. All-in-all it was a good birthday. Really cool that I can say I celebrated it in Italy. Definitely a different experience than the American 21st celebrations (not a single shot the entire night!!).


That Saturday the celebration continued at the once-a-year party at Mesiano (near the engineering faculty). We woke up early and stood in line for tickets the week before.. there are a limited number of tickets and only students can buy them. The party is gated-in and there are four or five stages with different types of live music. The day of the party we met up with some friends at a restaurant called Padevena to get some food in our systems before the partying began. From there we walked to the festa and got there around 3 in the afternoon, and stayed until it ended just after midnight. There were so many people there, and the weather was perfect.. it was a good time.

The next day was spent laying in the sun and recovering. Last weekend the weather was nice, but before then.. and still now its been really rainy. Monday was a national holiday.. not sure which one because they seem to have holidays on an almost regular basis. Either way classes were cancelled. Another day of dolce far niente. Went out for sushi in Pergine with some friends.

TUESDAY the big day. AIMS arrived. Definitely spent some time stressing about how on earth she was going to figure out the shuttle busses and multiple trains to get to Trento without knowing a single word of Italian, and not having a cell phone or way to get ahold of anyone if something went wrong. I woke up and went grocerying because that night we were having a going-away party for two of our friends. Really sad that people are leaving Trento, I wonder if I will ever see them again :( Anyways before the party we were having a pot luck dinner, and everyone was supposed to bring a regional dish from their country. I decided that I would make chicken quesidillas. I trekked out to this random Latino Food shop, only to find that they didnt sell cheese, tortillas, salsa or tabasco sauce. I ended up going to a normal grocery store and had to get these weird wraps instead of tortillas. And they dont have any type of yellow cheese (cheddar, montery jack, etc) anywhere. So I had to get mozzerella and this other white cheese instead. Also got some hot sauce, red pepper, onion and chicken. Then I went to the train station to find Aims... who didnt get off the first train. I was a little worried, having visions of her on the wrong train in some random European city.. luckily the next train arrived two hours later and THERE SHE WAS!!! It was soooo good seeing her.. it had been almost 4 months... the longest we have gone our entire lives without seeing each other. Apparently she had met some Italian guy who carried her bag for her and showed her exactly where her stop was. Definitely a miracle. Amy was a little delirious from the 24+ hour traveling without sleep and hardly any food. We went back to my apartment and caught up on life in general. The rest of the afternoon was spent preparing my quesidillas (which were a big hit by the way) and jello shots (which confused many foreign students who had never seen gelatin in their lives).

Yesterday I was up early for class, and let Aims catch up on some sleep. After class we went shopping in Trento (till we dropped). I introduced Amy to the local bev of choice, spritz, at Aquila d'Oro before meeting up with Joey for a really good dinner at this restaurant we had never been to before, called Olde. Ordered the cheese sampler plate as an appetizer and it was definitely not as good as the Villa Madruzzo cheese plate. My swordfish pasta on the other hand was delicious. Last night was another party at Vela for the English boys who are leaving tomorrow! It was fun.. and at our apartment again, which was nice that we didnt have to venture outside in the pouring rain. Its really sad that the weather has been so bad, because usually we have bonfires and bring the festa outside.

Today Amy and I went in town to see the market, which is every Thursday, and to get Pizza da Andrea. Bad luck though. The rain kinda ruined the market experience and the best pizza in Trento was closed until Friday for work. We ended up eating at Aquila d'Oro again instead, and it was good. We were maybe going to go to Venice today, but decided not to because of the weather. We are about to make a hike up to see a monument in the mountains, then to go my favorite little wine bar in town, and I think I will probably cook for dinner tonight.

found out some great news this morning. WINGS WON THE STANLEY CUP!!! wooooooooo

peace out america
xx

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

3 hours until my 21st

Just wanted to say a quick CIAO to everyone back home. Less than three hours until my 21st birthday!! I guess 9 hours if you are counting from the eastern standard time zone.. anyways just going to hop on the last bus into town to meet some friends by the duomo.

This is the last picture of me as a 20 year-old.. hahahhah



ciao ciao LOVE HALLE

Monday, May 26, 2008

PARIS

22-25.05.2008

Just got back yesterday from an extended weekend trip to the city of love (aka the city of lights apparently... although i thought that was vegas). Last thursday I met my friend Dani, who is studying in Rome, in Milan where we took our ryanair flight to Paris together. Got into the city a little after 11 pm via shuttle bus from the airport, at which time I got my first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower- and it was TWINKLING! Apparently it only twinkles a couples times every night, I mean its always lit up, but the lights only sparkle for a couple minutes. Pretty lucky. Kayla met up with us at the bus stop with a bottle of French champagne. It was really good seeing some familiar faces!!

The next day we did some shopping and saw Notre Dame (bottom picture) and the Pompidou (second to last picture)- the modern art museum in Paris. Dani and I had lunch at this little French restaurant and I had quiche, which was really good. It wasnt too expensive compared to all the other touristy restaurants in town. I think I ended up paying 4 euros for water though at least 3 times while I was in Paris though. The three of us went grocery shopping for dinner, and we made a picnic at the Eiffel Tower. French baguettes with cheese and jam are incredible. It was really nice weather, which is uncommon in Paris, and it was full of people picnic-ing. We saw the sun go down at the Eiffel Tower and stayed until it twinkled again.

Kayla had an exam the next morning, so Dani and I went to the Louvre to see the Mona Lisa, Aphrodite, a few Botticelli, and countless others. Not to bring up food again, but Dani and I got complimentary cookies with our sandwiches. I know the French people have a reputation for being really rude to foreigners, especially Americans, but everyone I came across was really nice considering the two of us didnt know any French. After the Louvre we hit up Starbucks, my first since London, and wrote a few postcards back to the homefront. We met back up with Kayla after her exam at the Pompidou and then got sushi with a couple of her other friends for dinner. Apparently that afternoon some of her friends met Mischa Barton (the model/actress from the OC) and took pictures with her, but I wasnt as lucky.

That night we ended up going to a club right on the river called Showtime which was really fun. Although we ended up going straight from the club to get our bags and a cab to the shuttle bus to the airport at about 4 am! After a one and a half hour plane ride, another hour long shuttle, two trains, and another bus later I was finally exhausted and back at my apartment. It seemed like I had been away from Trento much longer than 4 days. Very weird.

All-in-all it was a really good weekend, and Paris was beautiful.. it reminded me a lot of London and a little of Barcelona. It topped #4 on my list of top favorite destinations, behind London, Berlin, and Lisbon. Kayla and Dani definitely have different study abroad experiences than mine in Trento. They study and hang out with all American students, whereas I have only ever seen one American in Trento (aside from my dad and Kevin). I had started to forget what American accents sounded like.. haha.

So the countdown to my 21st birthday has hit 24 hours (maybe less by the time it gets posted!). Not sure how I will be celebrating it yet, differently than I would if I was back home.. thats for sure. Just found out that our Portuguese friend, Gina, will be visiting Trento at that time though, so thats exciting. We will probably all do dinner or something. BIG NEWS!! Today Joey and I booked our tickets to GLASTONBURY music festival in England. I am soooo excited. It is a long four-day weekend at the end of June with a bunch of artists (Jay-Z is headlining it, which may be the reason tickets did not sell out the first day they went on sale for a change). A few of the artists that will be performing there include: amy winehouse, james blunt, kt tunstall, ben folds, kate nash, neil diamond and john mayer to name a few. If you are interested check out the glastonbury line-up, as far as I know tickets are NOT sold out yet. Its a pretty hippy music fest, camping in tents for 4 days, nonstop music on tons of stages on this farm in England. Surrounded by multiple fences and wild horses to keep people from sneaking in. Its a big deal. My flight back to the US was supposed to be on July 2 from Venice, but it'd be easier to fly from London so I had that changed today. Which means that when I fly to London on the 25 of June I will be leaving Trento for good, or at least until I come back someday. So I have less than a month here!! I cant believe it.

I ran out of credit on my cell phone when I was talking to my mom this afternoon- so if you are reading this SORRY and I won't be able to call until i make a trip to the store to recharge.. maybe tomorrow. Maybe not. Hope everyone had a good Memorial day off work, Italy doesnt really have a Memorial Day, but their Labor Day was at the beginning of the month. Just had my last day of my Italian language course today, and found out that I passed my exam! This saturday is the huge party at the engineering faculty. It starts a little after noon and lasts until midnight. Its an outdoor festival with a bunch of local bands and DJs. Tickets sell out in a couple hours and each student can only buy two. Last week we were up really early to wait in line and we didnt have a problem getting them. Hopefully we have good weather, although there is a high chance of thunderstorms in the forecast. Other than that not too much is new in Trento.

I'll leave you with a list of things to be thankful for (aka. things i miss):
the food is incredible here and I am far from being sick of it but I have cravings for mountain dew (nowhere to be found in all of europe!) and frozen coke, peanut butter, ranch dressing and celery, homemade chocolate chip cookies, bbq ribs, no thai, pancheros, btb, americanized mexican food in general..
Ann Arbor (1523, 905, 216...)
RED WINGS ahhhhhhh cannot believe I am missing this season. Cant watch the games, even if I had a TV (the spanish girls took back their TV they left in our apartment a few months ago) or found a website to live broadcast I'd have to stay up until 4 am.
My family (although they will be here in just over a WEEK and I cant wait!!) and dogs
Dairy King
Reading the Michigan Daily in lecture.. not to mention the crossword with Bruna
Charlie
Driving. I havent driven a car since February. Scary. I really may have forgotten by now.

Thats all for now... and on a slightly less depressing note here are PARIS PICTURES!!! enjoy

ciao ciao baci

Friday, April 18, 2008

LISBON

12.04.2008-15.04.2008
LISBON, PORTUGAL

The flight was about two and a half hours from Barcelona to Lisbon, and we managed to sleep a bit. The night before we had some loud roommates in our hostel so we were pretty tired. Two of our Portuguese friends, Andre and Eduardo, were waiting for us at the airport when we got there. They took us to Andre's apartment, where we were staying, so we could drop off our things. He lives by himself in a really good location in Lisbon, it was really nice. Then we all went into town to see Lisbon!

The views were incredible everywhere we went. First we went to the ruins of a church that was destroyed by an earthquake in the 1700s. Apparently the earthquake killed almost 100,000 people and destroyed the city, but part of the church is still standing. After that we went up the elevator (taking the stairs actually so we didnt have to pay) and we got a really good view of the city (see top picture). All the rooftops are orange, and the streets are made out of these stones that make it seem like a mosaic of tiles. We walked around a bit... saw some cool monuments and of course graffiti, and then we went out for lunch. I ordered swordfish, and it came with scales, tiny bones, and what seems to have been the spinal cord. It was sooo good though. The best swordfish I've ever had! Then we got in the car and drove along the coast. Lisbon is right on the water and has two massive bridges that cross the rio tejo//tagus river (which comes from spain and empties into the atlantic at lisbon). We then went to Belém, right on the atlantic to try this custard pie thing called Pastéis (in the second picture). They are sold all over Portugal, but apparently the ones in Belém are the best. You are supposed to put cinnamon and powdered sugar on top, and it was soooo good. Something like 1000 calories each, but who's counting? We walked by the ocean and marina and then went back to Andre's apt to get ready. We went out to eat in the center of Lisbon and we met Eduardo's identical twin brother and a tableful of their Portuguese friends. Joey and I had bacalhau, which is white cod, but in Portugal its always salted and dried and used in different dishes. Ours had potato and onion and a cream sauce, and it was pretty good but really oily. We had sangria again and went out with the whole group. It was really warm outside and we went to this one street which had a small bar, but everyone stood outside. There were so many people, and it was a lot of fun.

The next day Andre took Joey and I to a nearby city called Sintra so we could see the castle. We hit some traffic on the way there because it was the day of the Lisbon marathon. We must be following the marathons around Europe, because the weekend before there was a marathon in Berlin! The views at Sintra were amazing once again, and everything was soo green. When we had left Trento the trees didn't have any green on them yet.. but in Portugal it was really warm and summery compared to northern Italy. After we walked around Sintra we headed back to Lisbon, but we took the road along the coast. videoWe stopped at a city called Cascais on the way for a smoothie and to have a look around... everything was so beautiful! On the way back from Cascais- out of the blue- Andre's car's power steering went out and the airbag lights started flashing. The highway wasn't busy at the time and we made it to a spot on the side, but when we tried to start his car again nothing happened. No sound of the ignition or anything, something must have jolted something in the battery because mostly everything that used the battery wasn't working, except the hazard lights and interior lights. Andre called their version of AAA and Gina, our other Portuguese friend who we knew from Trento, came to pick us up. We went back to Andre's and got ready for dinner with Gina and her friend. We ate at a restaurant in this shopping mall, and it was pretty good. It was kind of weird that we ate at a mall, but they must do it all the time.

The next day Gina came and picked up Joey and I from Andre's and we went back to Cascais to go to the beach there! On the way we stopped at a secret place where Gina led us through some trees and bushes and a little river to see the best view in Lisbon. I guess nobody knows about it. Gina led the way in her walking shoes and we had to walk in about 4 inches of water over what looked like rock, but we quickly found out it was clay or mud because Gina started sinking! Haha good thing I had on flip flops. The view was incredible (see the picture above)! After that we went to this little shop that sold Havaianas, these brazilian flip flops and I just had to get a pair. Then we spent some of the afternoon at the beach. It was a little windy, and there were a group of surfers. We all went for a late lunch at the mall again, and I got bacalhau and this soup, which translated means "stone soup." It was almost like a minestrone with vegetables and meat, but then I picked out this big flat thing that looked like a cross between a mushroom and meat. I asked what it was and Joey said it was a mushroom and I was about to eat it when Gina told me it was a pig's ear. Oh you know, no big deal. Just a standard pig's ear in my soup. Haha apparently its used for flavoring and you aren't supposed to eat it. We use bay leaves. They use pig's ears.

Gina had to go pick her boyfriend up from the airport, so she dropped Joey and I off in town for an afternoon of shopping. After we were done we met up with Andre, Eduardo, Gina, and her boyfriend and his two friends for our last dinner in Portugal. After dinner we went to see one last view of the city at night. We were up at 5 the next morning to catch our flight back to Italia. We flew into Bologna and took the train from there to Trento, which was about 3 hours. In the 5 days we were gone Trento had changed colors. Most of the snow had melted from the peaks of the mountains in the distance, and most of the trees now have green on them! It's still a little rainy though, but it's definitely warming up.

Portugal Pictures

I forgot to blog about the time between going to Berlin and Barcelona. We were only in Trento for 4 days, and one of those days my class was cancelled so I decided to go to the Museum of Modern Art- MART in Rovereto, which is only 15 minutes on the train. They have a really good Warhol exhibit, his original Marilyn Monroe among others, but the day I went the Warhol exhibit was closed! The rest of the museum was really cool though, its one of the best art museums in Italy. Other than that, not too much excitement in Trento. The water has been on in the main fountain for about a month now, some students have returned home, and we have some new ones. Our favorite Tuesday club "Superbinario" closed three nights ago. I guess in the summer most of the bars and clubs shut down, and all the ones in Riva (on Lake Garda) open... which isn't really good because none of us have cars to get there! A new class I am taking, analisi dei dati (a prob and stats class) started yesterday. The class itself is going to be a little challenging, especially because it's in Italian and the professor is a mumbler. Even the Italian students have a hard time understanding him. Between that class and my others I have 15 hours per week, just like back home! I finally feel like a student again.

Last night Joey and I and our Italian friend Nicola went to this small underground bar to see someone from one of Joey's classes read an excerpt from a book that he wrote. He and a group of friends bought a car in Italy and drove it across Europe, Russia, and China, sold it in China and then went to Japan. He prepared a video that was on a projector and read from his book. It was pretty cool. All in Italian, so I couldn't tell if he was a good writer or not, but the slideshow was good.

I am currently enjoying a midday snack of coke and this cake that my Turkish roommate, Sezen, made. Its really good, white on the bottom and chocolate on top with espresso stuff on top. The coke on the other hand could be better. I dont know if it's a psychological thing or what, but the coke here is not that good. I think there is less sugar in Italian coke than back home. I did some laundry yesterday and I've gotten used to hang-drying everything and really stiff, starchy clothes.

The weather is dreary, but not cold. Tomorrow Joey and I are going to Verona to pick up her boyfriend and his friend from the airport. They are going to stay with us for a couple nights and then head back to London, and I really hope the weather clears up for their stay!

ciao a tutti.. video

Thursday, April 17, 2008

BARCELONA

10.04.2008-12.04.2008
BARCELONA, SPAIN

About a month ago Joey and I had decided to take a trip to Portugal to visit the students I had met my first week in Trento because they had returned home to Lisbon. We had a layover in Barcelona, and decided to extend the layover a couple nights and make a little side trip there. Last Thursday we were up early to catch the train to Milano, where we picked up our 2 hour flight to Barcelona. Realized on the 2.5 hour train to Milan that our flight was an hour and a half earlier than we thought, and the airport was an hour-long shuttle bus from the train station. We were basically panicked as we watched the clock, saw the time we were supposed to be checking in, and sitting helplessly on the bus miles away from the airport. We were also in the bus when we saw the time check-in closed. We were flying EasyJet... whose policy is "We don't wait for anybody"... which is always comforting. We sprinted into the airport and cut to the front of the check-in line and asked the lady if we could still check in for our flight to Barcelona and she said "We are flying to Barcelona?" Haha we were only about 10 minutes past time our check in closed but they are really strict about those things. We honestly thought we wouldnt be able to catch our flight to Barcelona and we would be stuck in the airport 24 hours till we had to buy a ticket for the next flight. Luckily our flight was delayed about an hour, due to the rain. I will never complain about delayed flights EVER again. ever.

Our flight got into Barcelona, Spain at about 10:30 or 11 pm and we went to check in to our hostel. It was in a great location, and the hostel was very nice (pictured above). Surprisingly we weren't terribly tired and we decided to go out and check out the nightlife. The next morning we were up and ready to see the sights. We didn't know exactly what we should see in Barcelona, but we knew Gaudí's Sagrada Famiglia and Parque Güell were main attractions. We ended up deciding to be touristy and hop on the double-decker bus to see it all. Before we did that we decided to get some food from a tiny little grocery store down a random street. I got an orange, a plum, some fruit juice and water. Joey got a plum and these two little things that looked like apricots. April 11, 2008 will forever be known as the day I had the best orange in my entire life. It was indescribely perfect. The plums were pretty good, and Joeys apricots were definitely not apricots. We still dont know what they were but they were bitter. And not apricots.

Barcelona is full of architecture by Gaudí, mostly built in the early 1900s... which must have been really different back then. His work looks like something that would come from a Dr Seuss book. Really twisty and unconventional.. but very cool. Our bus tour took us from Plaça Catalunya (a main square in town) past Gaudí's Casa Milà (aka 'la pedrera') and other monuments to the ocean and Port Vell. I took pictures of everything and the link to see them is at the end of this post. We got to see the location of the 1992 Olympic games (I was 5 at the time so I must have been too young to remember the song "Barcelona! Such a beautiful horizon" that everyone was singing).

Next we saw Gaudí's work in progress, La Sagrada Famiglia (pictured). Well technically Gaudí died decades ago in an unfortunate accident where he was hit by a train, but his architecture lives on. La Sagrada Famiglia has been under construction for years, with no completion date in sight. It is entirely funded by anonymous donations. It is really incredible how detailed the entire thing is, and how one single person could have ever designed it all.

We got off the bus near Gaudí's Parque Güell, and spent a couple hours walking around there. The weather was in the low 60s and overcast, but it was still really nice. After the park we walked back to the direction of our hostel, and did some shopping along the way. For all you online shoppers back home the good stores to shop in Europe are called Zara, Topshop, Mango, and Bershka. Maybe they even ship to the US! When we got back to the hostel it was already getting late and time to have dinner. They eat dinner around 10 pm there. We were maybe going to go out after, but when we saw that it was pouring outside we decided not to. We ended up eating at the first restaurant we came across, and I just had to order paella to say I had it in Spain! It was really good, but the shrimp freaked me out. They came with eyes, a head, tail, and legs. Luckily Joey peeled them for me. After I had eaten Joey told me there was rabbit in my paella. If I had known that before though I wouldn't have eaten it. After dinner we walked back in the pouring rain to our hostel and went to bed. We got up at 8 am, had a free continental breakfast, checked out of the hostel, and were on our way to LISBON!

Barcelona Pictures

Monday, April 7, 2008

BERLIN

04.04.2008-07.04.2008
BERLIN, GERMANY

So I have just returned from a weekend trip to Berlin.. Joey and I booked a cheap flight through ryanair from Verona to Bremen to visit the city and see her friend DJ at a club. Joey had lived in Berlin for two months after her senior year of high school so she knew her way around quite well. We flew into Bremen pretty early on Friday morning, and we would have flown into Berlin, but we got such a good deal on flight tickets it was a lot cheaper going to Bremen. We didn't do much thinking though, and when we got there we realized it was a good 3 to 4 hour trip into Berlin.. and a one way train ticket would cost almost 80 euro per person! We decided that we had the entire day and we wanted to save money so we rented a car. Joey was used to driving on the left side of the road, so I was planning on driving until we realized it was a manual transmission!! Joey ended up driving and we made it there safely. We didn't have directions but Germany's roads have really good signs and directions so we didn't have a problem.

The first day we were there we dropped off our rental car and checked into our hostel. Our hostel was in a good location, but we had a litttle adventure trying to find it. After walking up and down the same road for a couple hours we asked a cab driver for directions. We were just going to have him drive us there and we looked obviously lost, but the conversation went something along the lines of [in german.. the driver was really nice though]: "I will not drive you
girls 100 meters up the road.. where are you trying to go?" "Ziegel Straße" "Haha that is just 100 meters up the road!" Haha that driver saw right through us... we were so close the entire time!! Our hostel was really nice, we got a bunk bed in a huge 50 bed room! We had woken up at abuot 4 am to catch the train to the airport, so we were pretty tired at this point... but we still had all afternoon for exploring, so we dropped off our packs and hit the city.

We first went to the Reichstag (see first picture) which is a government building in Berlin, and then we walked down the street unter den Linden and saw the Brandenburg gate, Berliner dom, and a few other places. Then we went to this place called Potsdamer Platz (see second picture) and then we went out to dinner for Vietnamese food. By the time we got back to our hostel it was nearly 10 pm and we were exhausted. I think out of the 50 places to sleep in the room we were one of the first to go to sleep. I fell asleep right away, but it wasnt long before we were woken up by people talking. Then later, at about 5 am a group of guys were just getting in from the bars and they were so loud and obnoxious. Everyone in the room woke up because these guys were yelling and running around playing the guitar for a few hours.. eventually someone went upstairs to tell the staff about it and after a few threats to be kicked out they finally quieted down. Needless to say we hardly slept. The next morning we were up again to see the sights.

Berlin is such a cool city its a center of pop culture, there is so much art everywhere.. from amazing graffiti on the streets to little displays and galleries everywhere! It was incredible just walking around and seeing it all. We went to Checkpoint Charlie that afternoon and got our passports stamped for East and West Germany. That evening we got ready and went out to dinner before meeting up with Joey's friend, J-STAR who was DJing at a club. We went to this small Italian restuarant, where we met this really loud American guy. Haha he must have overheard us speaking english so he walked over to our table and struck up a conversation. He was a student from Purdue who was studying in Berlin, but this restaurant was pretty small and he was talking sooo loudly the whole restuarant was listening. It was really embarassing. After he left our waiter came over to us and he asked us if we needed an escape route and suggested taking a different way out. Haha it was pretty funny actually. After dinner we stopped for a drink at a bar on the way, where we met a group of NORTHERN irish people. Apparently people from northern ireland dont say they come from ireland, but northern ireland.

We then headed to the club where J-STAR would be performing. The nightlife in Berlin is non-stop and things usually dont pick up until 2 am. He wasn't meant to start performing until 1:30 am. If you want to check out his music go to www.myspace.com/jstarmusic. It was really good. The night flew by, and the club closed at around 5 am so the group of us then went to another club that was still open. It was so much fun! I must have gotten a second wind because I don't know how I stayed awake and danced for that long. When we got to the second club they wanted J-STAR to dj for them and it was so cool how much everything picked up when Joey's friend got behind the tables. I want a dj friend! We stayed at that club until it closed at about 7 am. Then we walked around outside and saw the Berlin wall. Not much is left standing, but we found a good stretch of it near the club. We went for kebabs before heading back to our hostel. By the time we got there it was almost 10 am and checkout was at 11. We decided to try and take a quick sleep for about an hour, but after I was still exhausted.

We checked out of our hostel and then walked around Berlin a little more. It was sunday and there were open markets everywhere. We went to a flea market, and walked around. There was a lot of worthless junk, but also some really cool stuff too. It was a pretty expensive flea market though. There were some pretty cool sunglasses at this one place, and another stall had all these rings made from old keyboard letters (see pic).

We decided that neither of us wanted to drive another rental car, so we forked over the cash and took the train back to Bremen. We had a lot of time to kill before our flight, and at this point neither of us could remember the last time we slept. It was a mix of exhaustion and delirium and we needed something to pass the time. It was pretty cold so we found a radiator under the stairs and set up camp. We had a magazine and nearby there were a bunch of pamphlets for tourists so we decided to make a little collage inspired by all the art in Berlin. It was a really good way to pass the time actually.

We finally made it back to Trento, and when I got back here to our apartment in Vela there was a package waiting for me!! My family had sent me a bunch of goodies for Easter... mmmmm! So nice!!!

Joey and I figured that our last normal night of sleep was Wednesday night, and since then we had only about 11 hours of sleep in 5 days... I am about to have the best sleep of my life. Oh and I took a lot of pictures in Berlin, definitely check them out: the BERLIN album

xx ciao

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

02.04.2008

Sorry its been a while since I've last updated. Things have been pretty eventful in Europe!

Since I've last posted I've taken a day trip to Innsbruck Austria, gone snowboarding 3 more times (twice at Monte Bondone and once at a resort called Plan de Corones or Kronplatz in German), went to Lago di Garda again, and took a nice Easter holiday in Germany and England. Ill try and recap..

Innsbruck is easily reached from Trento on a relatively inexpensive two-hour train. I went with my roommate for the afternoon and we ended up having one of the best meals to date. We walked around the old town and then up by the river. There were a lot of shops in the area, so we did some shopping too. We ate at a restaurant in the old town, and luckily Joey knows how to speak German because the waiter didnt understand English or Italian. She ordered a fish dish and I had spinach and cheese ravioli. I'd say most of the time I never know what I am going to get when I order because I never understand the menu, but its usually really good.. and this time I got really lucky! I cant describe in words exactly what it was and how good it was but I'll try.. It was three big ravioli filled with spinach and cheese in an olive oil and herb sauce, on top of saurkraut with tiny pieces of pork mixed in... and usually I'm not a big fan of saurkraut but this kind was amazing, my mouth is watering just thinking about it! On the side there was this rice ball thing which I have no idea what it actually was, but it was good too.. all washed down with some Austrian beer. Mmmmmm...

Snowboarding was great as usual. One of the days at Monte Bondone the snow was perfect.. unfortunately no deep powder, but the consistency of the snow was perfect for some tight turns and deep carves :) Another day we went with our Italian friend, Ale, to Plan de Korones.. a resort farther north. Ale drove us, and also gave us free passes he got from his father who is chief of police in Trento. It was so sunny and nice that day, the snow was beginning to melt in parts, but the resort was a lot bigger than Monte Bondone and there were about 4 gondola lifts. It was a gooood day. I had a beer and brat slopeside and apple strudel for dessert. And contrary to some rumors I've been hearing, no I did not jump from a helicopter.. maybe next time!

Andrew was in Germany with his high school German class for ten days around Easter, and I decided to meet up with their group for a few days. So last friday (good friday) morning i took a train to Leipzig, Germany to meet up with him. It was such a longgg train... almost 6 hours to Munich then i had an hour layover there and i got a 4 and a half hour train to Leipzig. by the time i got to the hotel (i had booked a single room in the same hotel Andrew was staying at) it was late. but i saw Andrew that night!! It was soooo good seeing a familiar face! We had a huge breakfast buffet at the hotel and hopped on the bus to go to this really pretty city called Dresden. I'm not going to give a rundown on historical info of the city, but if you wikipedia it you can get some good info. We were free to have lunch on our own time, which was after I had a really good street hot pretzel and Andrew had a street brat. So we got the grand tour of the city after lunch and came back to Leipzig around dinnertime and saw some of the sights in that city. The next day was Easter Sunday and the group and I went to mass at this old catholic church.. and what do you know? The mass was said in German. I had no idea what was going on.. like the our father, peace, songs, everything in German. It was definitely an experience. After the mass the group was meant to go to Wittenberg (where martin luther posted his 95 theses on a church door), so we all got on the bus and did that.. then they were going to Berlin and they were sooo nice they even dropped me off at the airport on their way, because my flight to Bristol departed from the Berlin Schoenfeld airport.. so we said our goodbyes and were on our separate ways.

They dropped me off at the airport around noon and my flight wasnt until 9:30 pm, and check-in wasnt until 7:30 pm.. so i spent easter sunday sitting, listening to my ipod, and eating candy. I must have gone into the little convenience store 3 times and i ended up eating a huge bag of gummy bears, a square of ritter sport dark chocolate, a toblerone chocolate bar, and a bag of this english candy called wine gums. It was definitely too much sugar for one day. So i flew into bristol airport and my flight was a little late so i got there around 11:30 at night and my roommate here in Trento, Joey, and her dad were waiting there for me to pick me up. We drove back (on the opposite side of the road) to her house which is just outside a city called Bath. When i got there her mom had made us each a little Easter basket with candy.. it was so cute!! Everywhere around their town seemed like it was out of a movie or magazine. It was gorgeous.

The next day they showed me around the city of Bath (named after the roman baths, which are these natural hot springs that the romans used) and we did a little shopping. I saw the Royal Crescent and the river Avon. That night her mom cooked dinner for us, which was roast lamb and it sounds kinda gross but it was soooooooo good! Joey and I and her younger sister went to see STEP UP 2 that night. It was pretty bad acting and story line, but the dancing was really good. The next day we had legit fish n' chips and English tea. I got the full experience. They took me around some small cities around their area but im sooo bad at remembering names of cities. Sirencester and Castle Combe were a couple of them. We drove by the estate and house of the royal family (prince charles, william, and harry!) Unfortunately i didnt see any of them, but their polo fields were HUGE. Then we went into the next town where Prince Charles had opened a shop last week.

Tuesday Joey and I took a train to LONDON, my new favorite city! Our train got in pretty late at night, and I met Jo's boyfriend who was waiting at the station for us. The next day I saw Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, Hyde Park, and some other places. It was soo pretty. It was a little rainy but not too bad. The public transportation in London is great.. they have regular busses all over, and the subway which is called the Tube. I had bought an unlimited travel card for the day for about 6 pounds, which after the terrible conversion rate is about $12 american. Everything was so expensive after the exchange rate, I tried not to think about it I spent so much! Joey and I went shopping that afternoon, and then met up with her boyfriend and his roommate to go out and get a taste of London's nightlife. The next day I got another grand tour of the city and I saw the place where princess di used to live, went into the V&A museum, and saw Notting Hill and Portobello Road (my favorite place in London!!). We went for dinner at this Thai restaurant called Wagamamas and it was very good. I had a cold and couldnt taste or smell much, but what I could taste was excellent. The next morning we were up early to catch a bus, multiple tubes, and train to the airport, then we were back in Italia. We flew into Verona, and took an hour-long train back to Trento. It was nice to be back, but I cant wait for the day I can return to LONDON!

Yesterday Joey and I didnt have classes so we took a little day trip to Lago di Garda, the biggest lake in Italy. Its a really big vacation spot and has some great sailing and wind surfing. I am lucky to be so close to it.. to be able to go for an afternoon. By bus it takes a little over an hour, but by car its only about twenty minutes. It was a beautiful day, the temperature here is 22 degrees celsius... which is low 70s fahrenheit. The only downside was that when I got to the lake and took out my camera for a picture, I realized that I had left my battery charging back in Trento. oops!

Anyways here are some pictures of my excursions:
Dresden, Leipzig, and Wittenberg Germany
England
Innsbruck Austria and more from Trento

Classes have picked up a little, but I am still waiting for one more to start. This weekend I am going to Berlin with Joey to see one of her friends DJ at a club, and the following weekend we are going to Barcelona Spain and then Lisbon Portugal to visit our Portuguese friends. Ill try and update more often!!

I just want to pass on a little secret culinary tip that may change salads as you know them. Pesto. Put a spoonful of pesto on the side of any salad and it is sooo good. Just be sure your dressing is balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Changed my world.

Ciao!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

ROMA

I visited Rome from Feb 29 until March 2. I took a direct train and it took just over five hours to get there. I hadn’t booked a hotel or bed at a youth hostel prior to arriving, which was a mistake. My train got in late Friday night, and it was already dark outside. That first night I didn’t see much besides the quick walk to the nearest hotel. I didn’t have trouble booking a single room for that night, and since I was checking in so late they cut me a deal. The next morning I woke up pretty early to see the sights. I started with Capitoline Hill and the museums, and it was incredible. There is so much history there. I could have spent all morning there and walking around the ruins. It was pretty cloudy and rainy for most of the morning, but it cleared up a little later in the day. Some backpacker who was alone asked me to take his picture for him, and then he started talking to me in Italian. He was a student from a nearby city and just seeing the sights for the day. He was really nice and walked me to the Fountain of Trevi (pictured) and Spanish Steps, which was my next stop. I tossed in a coin over my shoulder (toss in one coin to ensure that one day you will return, two coins and you will fall in love with an Italian, three and you will marry that person). I just tossed in one.

I then headed to the Pantheon, which was really cool. The top of the dome is actually a hole to let in the sunlight, and when rainwater comes in it is drained out through tiny holes in the marble floor. It was really cool. Next I went to Piazza Navona, which is full of shops and restaurants and has three really historic fountains. I stopped at a stand-up bar and had a panino and gelato before heading to the Vatican City!

It was a pretty long walk, and I don’t think I took the most direct route, but walking through the gates into St Peter’s Square was an unreal. I walked around to the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel. There was so much to see in the museums, and it was all leading up to the Sistine Chapel. There were places around the side for people to sit and say prayers, and there was no talking allowed. Apparently pictures weren’t allowed either (see image), which I found out mid-shot. Luckily they didn’t confiscate my camera or kick me out! J

Daylight was running out on me so I decided to head back, where checked into a hostel and enjoyed a free dinner at the restaurant next door and went out for gelato with the girls I met in my room. They were really nice, from St. Luis and had just arrived from Stockholm, which they highly recommended. After dinner I met up with a friend from Michigan who was also in Rome, and I met his friends who are studying with him in London. They were all really nice, and we went out to a couple bars and got a taste of the Roman nightlife. The next morning was Sunday, and I went to the Colosseum in the morning and took a lot of pictures of that and the surrounding area. I then had a quick meal at the train station before catching my train back to Trento.

When I got back to via Borino, a girl had moved into my room! The previous week Joey and I had requested a room in Vela, which is where most exchange students live pretty close to town, but I didn’t think everything would happen so quickly. Luckily we had an extra bed. That night my roommate from Africa invited me upstairs for dinner with her other African friends. They made this really good sauce with spices and some sort of lentil and chicken, and you were supposed to dip this certain type of bread into it. It was very good! Also they made me braid their friend's hair. But thats another story.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

04.03.2008

Last night I moved into my new apartment in Vela, a really nice student apartment closer to town. Joey and I met our new roommate, Sezen, a girl from Turkey who seems pretty nice. I don't have much time to write at the moment, but the new apartment has wireless internet, which is nice because I won't always have to carry my computer with me. Anyways Rome was great, I will write more about it when I have more time, but until then these pictures will have to suffice:

Trento, Italy

Rome, Italy


also my new address is
Halle Doenitz
Via SS. Cosma e Damiano, 103
int. 16
38100- Vela TN
ITALY

26.02.2008

Today I slept in a little, then went into town to buy my train ticket to Rome. I was going to take a cheap flight there and back, but it was more expensive than just taking a train. I ended up getting direct tickets, leaving on Friday at 17,00 and returning Tuesday evening. It cost just over 100 euro, which is pretty expensive compared to the trains to Florence, Venice, etc. But I will be staying with a friend while I am there so that will be nice.

I went to the CIAL Language center to enroll for my Italian course, but when I got there I realized that my voucher for enrollment a free course had Luiz’s, the student from my orientation, name on it. The Welcome Office must have mixed ours up. So I either have to go find him somehow, or see if the Welcome Office will print me a new one.

Later in the afternoon I walked around the shops, and stopped in an ice cream parlor (gelateria) and had my first gelato- tiramisu flavored. Era squsitio!

I headed back up to my apartment and decided to walk to the grocery store to buy food for dinner. I got artichokes, tomatoes, eggplant, chicken, olives, and red peppers (pepperoni). The sun was just setting and the walk to and from the grocery store was really nice. Even though it’s February, while the sun is out it’s about 50 degrees Fahrenheit here. In the mountains at night it can get a little chilly though, but it’s usually really comfortable to walk around in. Also it’s almost always sunny here, sometimes foggy in the morning, but it clears up by noon.

Movies, music, and books and magazines in Italian are a really good way to pick up the language.. that and sitting by friendly people on the bus. Earlier in the morning when I was headed into town I sat next to an older man who was making small talk in Italian. Before his stop he got pretty quiet and I could tell he was thinking of something. When he left he said “Have a.. good day” in the cutest accent. Haha.. it was great.

25.02.2008

This morning I picked up my libretto and student name and password. I stopped by Aquila d’Oro and had an espresso and sandwich, my second espresso of the day. I wonder if having 2 or 3+ caffès per day is bad for you. I doubt my body responds to caffeine any more. I mailed the postcards my dad and I wrote last week, but I don’t think the stamps were pretty Italian ones. I had to get the postage at the post office, because I guess that’s the only place to find it.

I met an American on the bus today, the first one I have come across in Trento. I don’t know his name but he is from Philadelphia and is studying in Trento for 3 years. I have met a ton of people from Europe, and quite a few from Africa and South America, but nobody from the US. It’s weird that there are so few of us here.

I decided I am going to Rome this weekend to stay with my friend Jen who is studying there. When I was walking around town I bought a guidebook of Italy, so I don’t miss anything when I go visit. I went home and cooked fish and spaghetti for dinner, then met Nicola, Joey, and another student in town to see the Tim Burton movie “Sweeny Todd.” Before the movie we went to a wine bar a few doors down from the cinema. It was really nice, and all the wine options were thumb-tacked into the wall by each table. There were so many to choose from, and good thing they were organized by color, or else I would have just been choosing at random. I got a glass of Chianti, and I would describe it but I don’t exactly know how just yet… other than it was red.

The movie theatre was small and only had one screen. The seats were really nice and comfy though. The movie was dubbed over in Italian, which made it hard to understand, but I was lucky that “Sweeny Todd” is a musical and they don’t dub over the singing parts, they leave them in English and put Italian subtitles below. The movie itself was pretty good, a typical weird Tim Burton film though.. reminded me of “Edward Scissorhands” with all the barber razors!

24.02.2008

Today I discovered the difference between a head of lettuce and a head of cabbage. I made myself a sandwich for lunch and when I was washing the lettuce I thought it looked different than normal, but I just figured it was Italian lettuce or something. When I bit into my sandwich I thought it tasted a little strange and after I translated the produce label on the bag I realized that I had bought a head of lettuce.. oops! The sandwich was still pretty good though.

I went into town to use the internet at hotel Aquila d’Oro again, and then met up with Joey and our Italian friend Nicola. We decided to go to lago di garda, which is about 30 minutes away by car. Do a google image search for pictures, mine wouldn’t have turned out because when we got there it was really foggy and misty. It was still fun though. We ordered hot chocolate from a bar, and it was very different than the hot chocolate we have back home. It was very sweet and almost as thick as pudding!

On the way home we stopped at a shopping center in Pergine, one of the only ones that are open on Sundays. We got some groceries and Jo made dinner Nicola and I, penne pasta with eggplant and red pepper sauce.. it was so good! When I got home I took my laundry out and realized that either my jeans or new towel had gotten blue dye all over my white socks, towels, and shirt.. ohh well, live and learn.

23.02.2008

I went grocery shopping in the morning, then to the shopping center to return the empty hair dryer box. I was a little worried they wouldn’t believe me, but the people that worked at the store were laughing about it because they thought it was funny. They gave me a new one no problem.

I met Joey for dinner in town, and I ordered fettuccini con funghi del bosco (wild mushrooms). We ordered limoncello after dinner, and then they gave us a complimentary shot of it after that. Limoncello is a sweet lemon-flavored liqueur. After dinner we met up with the other Erasmus exchange students and went to a club. It was the Portuguese students last night in Trento, so we said our goodbyes.. Jo and I are already planning a trip to Lisbon.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

22.02.2008


Friday- the one week anniversary of my arrival in Trento! I woke up after having a really weird dream in which I was speaking Spanish. About an hour after I woke up there was someone at the door, and it was a student who used to live in the apartment, and he was stopping by to get his mail. As he was leaving he said “grazie!” (thanks) and I said “de nada!” hahha which is Spanish for “thank you” instead of the Italian word “prego.” It was so odd because I haven’t spoken Spanish since high school!!

I met Joey and Gina in the centre for lunch at the cafeteria (mensa). With your student card lunch is pretty cheap, only about 2.50 euro for a plate of pasta, vegetables, a roll, and drinks. After lunch we walked around for a little while and then I went to Aquila d’Oro to use their wireless internet. The people who work there are very nice. The owner came to say hello and take my order (a caffe and water again). This time my caffe came with a little piece of something that looked like coffee cake, and my water had a slice of red orange in it. Haha.. maybe I’m becoming a regular.

I received an email that said my bus card (tessera) was ready to be picked up at the bus station, so I walked there to pick it up. The lady at the window did not speak English, and I hadn’t planned what I was going to say, so I made up a word.. “applicatzione.” I told her that I had filled out an application for a bus card, but she was a little confused because the word I was looking for was actually “richiesta.” The bus pass is 20 euro a month, which saves money because I take the bus 2-4 times a day at 0,80 euro each time I get on.

I headed back home for dinner and realized that in the five days I had been living in my apartment I had already gone through 1/3 of a good sized bottle of olive oil, 4 big tomatoes, and a huge brick of fresh mozarrella cheese. I really hope I don’t get sick of this food anytime soon! The apartment came with a few dishes, utensils, and pots and pans, and it also came with a small metal thing that makes espresso on the stovetop and I really want to figure out how it works.

21.02.2008

Thursday I was up pretty early, and went to a couple offices to try and get my student number, password and libretto. A libretto is a little book in which you write all of your courses, and when the date of the exam comes you write the date, and your professor signs it and records your grade. Grades here are on a scale from 1-30, where 18 is the lowest passing grade. Exams are also different; instead of being written many of them are oral, in which you have a conversation with the professor about the material you learned to prove that you understand it. Hopefully mine are written, because I can’t imagine having to do that in Italian. Anyways, after a lot of waiting and going to the wrong offices, I found out that my libretto and password wouldn’t be ready until Monday.

On Thursdays there is an open market in the centre. Many little stalls fill the piazza and streets with vendors selling fruit, vegetables, fish, flowers, clothes, and shoes. It was so cute!! I finally found free internet in the centre at this hotel called Aquila d’Oro right off the main piazza. I went in and had to give them my passport so they could make me a free card to have internet access. The main floor of the hotel has a pretty big bar and an area with tables and booths to sit down. It was very nice and modern. When I sat down a waiter came up and asked if I wanted anything, I figured I should probably be polite and get something since I am using their internet so I got a caffè and aqua minerale senza gas.

After a little while Eduardo (one of the Portuguese students who lives at Roncafort) and Joey and some of the others found me. Joey, Gina (from Portugal), Marie (from France), and I went shopping. All of the shops were open again, after being closed from noon till 15,00. After shopping Gina’s boyfriend, Alè who is from Italy, met up with us and insisted on taking us to have the best coffee drink in town. We went to a small bar right in town and ordered Nociolatto, a drink that originated in Naples. It was served in small glasses with a small spoon and small glass of water. It was a little foamy on top and dark on the bottom. To drink it you have to stir it really quickly to blend everything. Alè said you are supposed to drink the water first to cleanse your palate or something, but someone else said that you wash down the drink with water. The drink was excellent. It was pretty sweet and tasted a tiny bit like hazelnut. I asked what was in it and they said caffè and “pure nuts.” I have no idea what pure nuts were, and I asked peanuts? Pine nuts? Hazelnuts? Plain nuts? Hahah, but they kept saying pure nuts so I guess I’ll never know what it really was.

We all went out to dinner for Eduardo’s friend’s 22nd birthday again at Padevena, the restaurant with the glass floor. I had a pizza with artichokes, mushrooms, and ham (prosciutto). I cant remember what it was called but a few of the guys ordered a dish that is very typical of the region. It was some sort of meat served on the bone and it was huge! It looked like it came straight off the animal out back or something. I tried it and it was really good though, a little salty but very flavorful. I could never eat the whole thing, but maybe I’ll get it sometime.. my dad would have loved it!! After dinner we stopped by a wine bar, and I tasted a local drink called spritz. The bar was underground and the walls were rocky like we were in a cave. At the bar you can buy little cards for 5 euros I think, and then you walk around and stop at little machines along the way that dispense tastes of a bunch of different wines. I didn’t get to try that though because we only had about 20 minutes there if I wanted to catch the last bus home. The busses stop running at 23:30 every night, so if I want to save money and avoid taxis I have to call it an early night.

20.02.2008

Wednesday I walked around town, and then went grocery shopping. I was headed to the Roncafort apartments later that evening to hang out with Joey and her friends again, and I wanted to bring a bottle of wine for the people that lived there. At the grocery store there were a lot of different types to choose from and I had no idea which were good wines, so I grabbed a bottle of red that had a cool label and was made in this region “Trentino.” That was my first legal alcohol purchase!

I learned a new word from my roommate.. “scorciatoia” (pronounced scorch-a-toya). It means shortcut, ie.. if you miss the bus you can take a scorciatoia and meet it at the next stop. It’s my favorite Italian word thus far.

From 16,00-17,00 I had Italian conversation hour with four other international students at the welcome office. Two of the students were from the Czech Republic, and another was the girl from Singapore who was in my orientation. Later that night I headed out to Roncafort. It was dark out and I wasn’t exactly sure which stop to get off at. I wasn’t really paying attention to where I was going because I was on the phone with Amy, and when I looked up I realized that everyone was getting off the bus. I panicked a little and got off the bus with everyone, and by some miracle it was the stop I wanted.

We hung out at the apartments for a little while, and I met two Romanian girls and a German one. One of the Romanian girls told Joey and I a funny animated story in broken English about her ex-boyfriend.. “I make it graffiti as revenge.” Something about how if you go to her city you will see graffiti on the theatre that says something like “I and You three meters in the sky.” I don’t think I completely understood the story.

After a little while we went to a bar and then a really fun club called Momá. It didnt close until 4,00 am! We didn’t stay until it closed though. When we left we stopped for kebabs at a little street vendor. They weren’t shish kebabs though, it was a pita stuffed with lettuce, tomato, onions, some sort of meat, and a white sauce. It was VERY good!!! :) Joey let me stay at her apartment so I wouldn’t have to take a cab home alone, which would have been about 12 euro.

19.02.2008

Tuesday I was up early to meet with Luiz, the Brazilian student from my orientation the day before. We went to go meet some professors and try and figure out which classes we were taking. After we were done I stuck around to try and find internet access to email my family, but there was no open or free internet anywhere. I won’t get my student ID and password until next Monday, which gives students access to the university and library computers. I was able to pick up one wireless network from my apartment but the signal was weak and required a password.

I went from the engineering faculty (in the picture), which is pretty close to my apartment, down to the center to meet with a professor in the economics faculty. Unfortunately his class had already started, because the engineering courses operate on a slightly different schedule, and I will not be able to take his statistics class. He was a really nice guy though, and dug out a book from his bookshelf for me “Statistics: Made Simple” published in 1968, and told me that the book contained everything I needed to know about probability and statistics. He let me keep it, and I will give it a look, but unfortunately I cannot return to Michigan and explain to the department “I read this statistics book, will it suffice for the four credit course- IOE 265?” I don’t think that will work.

I headed back to my apartment for dinner (spaghetti with tomato sauce and fresh tomatoes, and salad.. see picture). After I ate, I met my roommate. She is a first year student in civil engineering from Africa. She is here for the entire 3-year program. Her high school’s language of instruction was Italian, so she doesn’t have any trouble with the language, and she also speaks English very well! I have met so many people who speak Italian, English, and their native language. She explained to me that there will only be two of us living in the apartment, unless another student shows up. Here its common to come home to a new person living in your apartment without warning. I went with my roommate up to the second floor (which is actually the third floor because the main level is considered the ground floor, the next one above is the first, the following the second, and so on) to meet her friend from back home. They made tea for me and cookies (which everyone calls biscuits) and we talked in English and Italian.

Friday, February 22, 2008

18.02.2008

Monday we were up early to pack the rest of my stuff up, as my dad was leaving that afternoon. We made a run to my apartment to drop everything off, and then to the welcome office where I had to fill out some more papers. I said bye to my dad because I wasn’t sure if I would be done with my orientation when he had to leave. At the welcome office I met two other students who were in the engineering program, and also living in my apartment complex. The girl was from Singapore and the guy was from Brazil. The three of us had lunch at a bar in the centre. I still couldn’t find any international stamps, the people kept telling me to come back early in the morning everywhere I went though. I went grocery shopping at the small market by my apartment and got some groceries (the staples: olive oil, tomatoes, tortellini, spaghetti, cheese//formaggio, etc). When I went to check out the lady said something about a shopping bag. I thought she said “Do you have a shopping bag” so I said no, and she looked at me kind of funny but then rang me up. She moved onto the next customer and I was just standing at the end of the conveyer belt looking at all my groceries and without bags. Apparently she asked if I wanted bags (because you have to pay 15 cents for a plastic bag). So that was confusing; I kind of held up the line for a little while.

I got back to my apartment to unpack everything and move in, and I discovered that when we went to the shopping center and I got my hair dryer I must have bought the display box, either that or someone had stolen the hair dryer from the inside, because it was empty aside from the free shampoo that it came with. So now I have to go back and try to explain to them what happened in Italian.

Still had not met my roommates, or found anywhere that had internet access. In order to use the university computers or wireless networks you need a username and password, which I will not have until Monday. For dinner I cooked my first meal in Italy- spinach and cheese tortellini. I hopped on the bus a little before 21,00 and because the routes switched or something I had to wait on the bus by myself for 15 minutes with only me and the driver.. That was a pretty awkward conversation.. the only thing I really understood was that he wants to take me snowboarding. I met up with my friend Jo from the UK, who introduced me to some of her friends and then we all went to dinner. I had already eaten though. The restaurant was nice, we sat at a round table in the middle of the whole thing and it was on a glass floor and underneath the floor you could see all the pipes that brewed the beer. The conversation was interesting, people from Africa, France, Portugal, Italy and other places. Everyone spoke English pretty well, but a lot of them spoke Portuguese and French in addition to Italian. I talked to a student from Africa who will be in Trento for 2 more years to finish his program. He wanted to talk about Britney Spears and Obama. He also said that his favorite artists were Mary J. Blige and Alicia Keys. The two students from Portugal talked up Lisbon, so I might have to give that a visit while I am here. We went back to their apartment in a part of Trento called Roncafort to hang out. Haha the French girl was pretty funny “I would drink a little bit juice and a lot a bit vodka.” It was a fun time but most of them are leaving this weekend because they were here last semester and are going home.

17.02.2008


We woke up early on Sunday to go skiing at the nearest resort, Monte Bondone, situated nicely in the Italian alps- The Dolomites. We took a shuttle bus from the station and it was only 1 euro each way, which took about a half hour. Renting skis for my dad proved to be a little difficult because neither of us knew which size shoe he wore (in the European units) or how much he weighed in kilos. We had pretty good weather, it was cold in the mountains but not windy, and it was very sunny. The snowboarding was great and the views were breathtaking. We skied for four hours and had lunch on the mountain. Italians have wine with almost every meal it seems, but not on the ski slopes. The beverage of choice there is definitely beer. The restaurant was ski-in ski-out and very crowded. My dad and I each ordered a bruschetta (flat bread with sauce and toppings, similar to pizza) and mine had gorgonzola cheese and speck (a local type of hard cured meat, a little like bacon or beef jerky). We went back to the hotel when we were done and got ready for dinner. Almost everything is closed on Sundays, but we found a restaurant called the Green Tower that was open. The waiter was really nice and my dad wanted to buy some of their wine to bring back to the US. We were a little confused because the waiter told us something along the lines of “you can’t bring the wine outside,” and brought us one bottle wrapped in aluminum foil, and then he had my dad hide it under his coat.

16.02.2008

Our objective for Saturday was take the bus to the shopping center and find sheets and towels and things I would need in my new apartment. Good thing I brought along my pocket dictionary because I never would have been able to say hair dryer (asciugacapelli). We tried to find stamps (francobolli) for our postcards in the centre, but none of the tobacco shops (which are everywhere, and sell stamps, newspapers, etc) had any. Stamps for letters going anywhere in Europe are easy to come by, but not international ones. We returned to Villa Madruzzo for dinner. I had grilled vegetables and cheese for my appetizer, and my dad ordered a plate of typical cheeses and meats of the region. They were all excellent and they brought out honey to go with the cheeses. I guess honey is a big deal here and there were 5 different kinds. Some were syrupy like the ones I was used to, but a couple were harder and crystallized and had to be scooped out with a small spoon. Apparently you were supposed to put the honey on the different cheeses, and it was really good. For desert we had caffe as usual but this time we ordered it with grappa (a spirit that accompanies the caffe after dinner). Grappa is made from the leftover grapes after the wine has been made, and my dad and I decided we had to try it “when in Trento.” They brought us out an entire bottle of grappa and two small glasses similar to wine glasses but only maybe 4 ounces. I expected grappa to be mixed in with the caffe, but apparently you are supposed to drink your caffe and follow it with the grappa. It was pretty bad, and was like taking a shot of vodka. Good thing my dad had ordered a dessert so I could get the terrible taste out of my mouth.

15.02.2008

On Friday we got up pretty early to make it to the welcome office by 10 am. I filled out paperwork and a student from Brazil walked my dad and I around the city. After that my dad and I walked around and went to a restaurant for lunch. It was a cafeteria-style restaurant, but because it was Friday it was hard finding something without meat in it. We ended up getting pizza and salads. I couldn’t figure out where the salad dressing was, but when we got to our table there was olive oil and vinegar bottles right there.

I had gotten the keys to my apartment earlier that day, so after lunch we took bus #5 about 10 minutes from the centre up the side of a mountain to my new residence. The keys are very strange, big skeleton keys that require five turns to lock or unlock the door. We took a cab and the luggage wasn’t too hard to manage, especially because I am living on the ground floor. The apartment is nice; one single bedroom and one double bedroom. No one was home when I got there, and the double bedroom was locked so I moved everything into the single. We went back into town later that night for dinner around 18,45 and the restaurant was pretty empty because people don’t eat dinner here until around 20,00 or later. Since it was still Friday and we couldn’t completely understand the menu, I had pizza again and it was very good.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

14.02.2008

The ICE train was great.. I didn’t bother converting km/hr to mph, but it was really fast. At this point in the day it was still dark out so there wasn’t much of a view, and our cabin was really empty. By the time we got to Köln the sun was starting to come up a little and the train station was starting to get busy. It was hazy outside but right when we got out of the station the Dome Cathedral was right there in front of us. It was breathtaking! I couldn’t see to the top through the mist. It was a little before 7,00 and my dad and I had to catch the 9,15 train back to Frankfurt so we were a little pressed for time. We went into the cathedral, which is a huge tourist attraction, but luckily because we were so early there was no one else there, besides a few people lighting candles or saying prayers. My dad and I said a few prayers and started to walk around. We saw the tomb of St. Christopher, the miraculous portrait of Mary, a ton of stained glass windows, and the statues of the three Magi and their gifts. Then an older woman came up to my dad and I and told us that mass started in the chapel off to the side at 8, but she obviously mistook us for natives because she spoke to us in German. We had no idea what she said but we just nodded politely and said dankhe (thank you). We would have stayed for mass but we had to have an authentic German meal before we caught our train back to the airport. We went to a restaurant called the Früh and were seated by a waiter who spoke very little English. It was a good thing the breakfast menu had pictures. We soon found out that they did not serve bier//beer until 10,00 so we didn’t get to try their famous local beverage- Kölsh. But my breakfast was excellent: two sunny-side-up eggs over potatoes and some sort of sauce and vegetables mixed in. We weren’t sure if we were supposed to tip the waiter so we left him 10%.. we later found out that tips aren’t expected, but it was worth it. And little did I know but I would need a good meal in my body for the long day ahead.

We made it back to the airport in Frankfurt, and found out that our flight to Venice (Venezia) was delayed 3 hours.. so we could have stayed in Köln and had our Kölsh after all! I was completely exhausted by the time our flight finally took off. We flew Lufthansa, which is operated by United Airlines in the US, and it was pretty funny to see seat-belt-oxygen-mask-emergency-exit in German and Italian. Nearly everyone on the flight was speaking Italian, and some German. English was definitely the minority. This was a smaller plane, and on my left was a seven or eight year-old little German girl and on my other side was an 80 or 90 year-old Italian woman and neither of them spoke a word of English. I just wanted to sleep, but I guess it’s a good thing that I didn’t, because the scenery of this flight was gorgeous. The Italian woman was very talkative, we conversed for the entire hour and a half flight- in Italian! I found out that she has lived in a city in Italy called Treviso her entire life. She stopped working 40 years ago and has been traveling ever since. She was on her way back from a two-week-long trip to India, and in a month she is going to Dubai. She was telling me about her travels to Africa, South America, a ton of US cities, in addition to every country in Europe. I’ve got to believe it must be hard for her to get around in all those foreign places not knowing the language and being alone (she was never married). She gave me some good advice about visiting cities in Italy. It was almost like having a tour guide on the flight because as we were flying over the Alps she was pointing out the major cities and lakes as we passed. I got a picture with her after we got off the flight and got her address to send her postcards or to stop and say “ciao!” if I ever happen to be in Treviso.

My dad and I got our luggage without too much hassle, we thought my huge snowboard bag was lost, but just as we were in line to file a report- it turned up. It probably would have been better if it actually was lost and later mailed to us though, because our bags were already so heavy. I had two huge rolling duffle bags (filled with winter and summer clothes for 5 months) and my backpack.. which totaled over 100 pounds I think. My dad had my snowboard bag, his carry-on, and his rolling luggage. It was hard getting around Venice, luckily the Marco Polo Airport is on the main land because I cant imagine navigating the canals with all that luggage. We had to take a 20 minute bus from the airport to the train station. The bus we needed didn’t show up on time so we ended up waiting a while, as the line for the bus got longer. When it finally showed up we piled on with everyone else, and by the time we got to the train station it was almost dark. The train station was a lot dirtier than those in Germany, and a lot more shady characters. We bought train tickets to Trento, but unfortunately we were too late to get a direct train so we would have to switch trains in Verona. In order to cross the tracks to pick up our train we had to go down two flights of stairs and back up another two flights. There was no elevator and I was wondering how people in wheelchairs managed. It was really crowded and nearly impossible to drag everything up the stairs. I couldn’t leave one bag and come back for it or else it definitely would have been stolen. I was exhausted and almost didn’t make it.

It was dark for the trip to Verona and there were a couple homeless guys that kept walking back and forth so we couldn’t take our eyes off our luggage. In Verona we had to go down and up the stairs all over again, and we found out that we just missed our train to Trento. My dad decided to stay with the luggage while I went to change our tickets for the train that left in 10 minutes. Of course there was a line at the ticket office, and when I got to the front I found out (in Italian) that it was 34 euro, and I only had 30.. so the man explained if I wanted to get on the train that left an hour later it would only be 8 euros, so I agreed on paying that. I then ran to the platform and the early train to trento was already waiting so my dad and I threw all of our bags on the train literally just as the doors were closing.

Not long after, the conductor came around to validate tickets, and we were in a little trouble because we paid for the late train but got on the early one. But I did my best to play dumb and explain to the conductor in Italian that we were confused, so we avoided being fined. At about 22,30 on Valentines day my dad and I finally made it to TRENTO!! The train station was really nice compared to the one in Venice, and I was so glad we finally made it. We had to wait a little while for a cab from the station to our hotel, but when we got there the people at our hotel, Villa Madruzzo, were very nice and told us that they would keep the kitchen open for us if we wanted a hot meal.

I only had eaten a nutrigrain bar since our German breakfast, so my dad and I decided to put off sleep a little longer and have dinner. It was a really fancy hotel and restaurant so we had to put on some nice clothes, but dinner was worth it. The menu was completely in Italian, and I didn’t understand most of it. I knew salmone was salmon so I had that as an appetizer, and I ordered homemade potato gnocchi for my main course. Its basically expected that you are going to have a red wine with your dinner, or in some cases white, so we followed suit and got the red house wine. Each region is very proud of their wine, so its polite to try it, and it was very good. I’m no wine connoisseur yet, but maybe I will be after a few months :) I thought it would be less expensive to have water with dinner but in Italy they don’t automatically bring out ice water. You have to order it, and its usually mineral water in a .5 liter glass bottle, and you also have to specify non-carbonated (acqua senza gas) or you might get sparkling water. I found it interesting that mineral water is about 2,50 euro, and you can get a glass of wine for about 1,10 euro. Dinner was delicious and I could not finish it all. We ordered caffé after we ate, which is not your typical American after-dinner bev. Its "ristretto" which means that it is espresso and produced using the least amount of water possible. It is very strong, and addicting. And it is very easy to come by, there are caffés on every corner, and vending machines that sell little 3 ounce plastic cups of the caffé for 30 cents. It's great. Anyways after dinner, we were exhausted and found our way to our room in the hotel (through a long winding narrow corridor with very tall ceilings) and fell right asleep.