- 7th May
- 4th May
- 3rd May
For this post, I thought it would be fun to describe the 10 days my family spent in Rome… from my mom’s perspective. You’ve heard me babble on and on about my experiences so far, so why not hear about it from Linnet DeBenny’s perspective? Right? My thoughts exactly :).
I’ve divided it into two separate emails she sent me (you’ll understand why) and put everything she said in “quotes.” My own personal commentary will appear in (parentheses). Got it? Here we go…
“My time in Italy was spent with my daughter Aria, my 70 year old mother, my son Anthony who just graduated college and last but not least, Ani, who is about to graduate 8th grade. From the minute we left the airport our trip summed up in one word was: a WHIRLWIND.
We started our trip packing light in very large suitcases so we could bring home the many treasures Aria had acquired during her time there. Our trip began on the 23rd of March, with a stop in New York, Spain and finally arriving in Rome on the 24th. The weather was beautiful there 60’s to low 70’s and true to Mr. Steve’s travel guide there are plenty of taxi’s with the logo their car door to give you a ride anywhere in the city for the low low price of 40E. The part that I didn’t remember was the fee for loading each bag of luggage in the trunk 1E per bag.
We had rented an apartment only blocks from the coliseum and all we had to do now was call the rep because we had arrived earlier than our scheduled time. My son’s phone was not activated yet for Italy soooo I saw a young lady across the street and kindly asked her in English if she could call this number for us and let them know we had arrived (surprise, surprise). She confirmed that we were visiting Americans and yes in her broken English would call for us. I thanked her again and again for her kindness and off she went.
3 minutes later the front door of the apartment building opened and there was our apartment representative. Aria had not yet returned from Greece so we explored the Coliseum and forum that day on our own. We found 2 grocery stores that first day within walking distance of our apartment. Wait, let me rephrase that, everything is in “walking distance”, it just depends on how fast you want or need to get somewhere. I will explain more on this later…
Our plan was to eat breakfast at our apartment everyday, pack some kind of sandwich or snack and eat a wonderful dinner every night. That was my plan and we stuck to it pretty well. The next day we went to the Trevi fountain, walked along the cobblestone streets, stopping in shops all along the way, followed by a quick gelato (naturally).
By evening we met Aria at a bus stop with hundreds of other Romans and tourists before heading somewhere, anywhere for dinner. If I sound a little impatient regarding eating and food, it’s because I love eating my biggest meal earlier in the day; preferably no later than 5 or 6:00. In Italy, however, restaurants close around 3:00 and don’t reopen till 6 or 7:00 and the natives don’t usually show up to eat until 9:00. Our first dinner was jovial, informative and decisive on what we wanted to do for the next few days. We still hadn’t made arrangements on where we wanted to go the last 6 days of our trip. And I personally wanted to wait and see how things went but this weighed heavily on Nani and Anthonys’ mind. So we decided we had to make time to plan the end of our trip.
After dinner, Aria took Anthony to get minutes on his phone so we could always be in contact with her. Our final decision was to meet Rosa, a cousin to my husband who is about 80 some years old. We had met her 12 years earlier on our first trip to Rome and I was excited to see her again. The time was set for 10:00 am the next morning along the front street of the Coliseum. It was a little overcast that morning, so I went to meet her and was going to bring her to our apartment. I watched as 100’s of children were marched into the Coliseum for tours just as it began to rain ever so slightly. Needless to say after 2 1/2 hours and one trip back to the apartment to try and call Rosa, we never hooked up that day (welcome to the world of miscommunication and living in a foreign country, haha).
Our dinner that night was a cute little red-checkered tablecloth (she would describe the color of the table cloth because she insisted we eat at restaurants with only white table clothes) restaurant that Aria’s friend recommended. The prices outside of the restaurant looked quiet reasonable, but I was a little confused by the price of the sea bass since it only said 4E. A few weekends before a dinner with sea bass cost me $30.00. What I soon learned was that it was priced per pound. How wonderful to see fresh fish before me! I was starving and it was 9:00pm when they brought the whole fish to the table and placed it before me. As everyone else received their dishes, I realized I had been given the tools to do the cutting of the head, tail and removal of bones. YIKES. After just a short moment the waiter came by and asked if I would like him to do the honors - I think that’s what he said in Italian, and I ever so graciously nodded my head :).
I think after these last few days of interaction with native Romans, I quickly realized my interaction of sign language and not trying to speak Italian, was embarrassing my children (just a little). I couldn’t help it, I took 1 year of Spanish in high school and “ola” (she meant, “hola) and “por favor” (that one’s right) kept coming out of my mouth instead of choai (she meant, “ciao” lol)
UUUUGHHH. This is toooo long Aria, I’m starting over……”
Well after receiving that email, I told her she could write as much or as little as she wanted. Now keep in mind, everything you just read all only gets you to day 3 of thier trip. We still have 7 more fun-filled, jam-packed days to describe to you! But I let her give you the spark notes version. I think she realized the intensive concentration and time commitment blogging is (thank you very much!). So here’s the story continued and with much less detail….
“Ok, I’m starting over. I don’t have time to write a story…
Once upon a time, a young lady by the name of Aria DeBenny decided she wanted to study abroad in Rome, Italy. Here Nani with much cajoling promised to visit her. Her Mom, younger sister Anielle, and big brother Anthony also decided to take this wonderful opportunity to share the adventure.
Italy, in 2 weeks, in one word, waaaaassssss a WHIRLWIND. We saw Pompeii, toured the Vatican for 3 ½ hours, spent 4 hours at a winery in Florence, and visited my husbands family one day for lunch and another for a homemade dinner (ooouuulalalalalala).
Then we spent 5 days along the Amalfi coast, found a small fishing village in Sorrento, sunbathed on their black sand beach for 4 hours and then enjoyed a wonderful fresh fish dinner. The isle of Capri was beautiful, we took 3 different buses to get to the other side of the island to shop, walk, spend 1E to use a bathroom (hahaha welcome to Italy), walked some more and found a little cove that had a rock beach. The weather was so warm that day I changed into my bathing suit standing in a corner of a building with my youngest daughter holding a towel around me (true story, that actually happened). But it was definitely worth it. The water was incredible! 3 shades of blue and the water felt likes pins and needles all over your body as you swam. Ani describes swimming under the water as, “the water was soo cold it took my breath away!”
Then it was back to Rome one night before returning to the United States. Have you caught your breath yet?! Even on the days we weren’t traveling, we were scrambling to figure out what we wanted to do next. Running (literally sprinting, ask Nani) to catch a train, bus, tram, trolley or ferry was an everyday event.
But, I must say, people outside of Rome seemed much happier than the locals in Rome – and I liked that. They just seemed to smile more and share a lighter spirit. Everyone says the Italians can tell by our gym shoes that we are Americans. But if our shoes didn’t give us away, it was the 5 of us running all over the streets of Rome that showed we had “Americana’s ” stamped all over us!
The best part of my trip happened during the 3rd day. There we were, casually walking behind my 3 children after dinner, and I turned to my mom, and said how awesome it was to share this quality time with them (I didn’t know that this happened). To see each of them show their independence and share their gifts of love with family, friends and total strangers (awwww, so precious!).
Anthony, was always jumping on the computer to find destinations and figuring out how we were to arrive at each. Aria, used her (incredible) foreign language skills and knowledge of Rome to maneuver through the streets of Italy. Ani helped by making sandwiches and keeping each of our backpacks stocked with edibles (or at least her backpack was always stocked with edibles, lol).
By the next day at dinner, however, it seemed like each of us had some sort of melt down because the dinner ended with all of us venting our frustrations. It must have been good though because it didn’t happen again. And I think we all realized we couldn’t keep up at the pace we were going.
I’m very blessed to have had this time and experience with my family. The weather, the gods, the total strangers, all seemed to be in our favor. This type of trip is not for the faint of heart, or people in poor physical condition (haha true statement). But I loved every minute of it and look forward to our next BIG adventure!”
So that’s that. What did you think? Pretty cute, right? Now you got a glimpse of the 10 days spent with my family struggling to adapt to the Roman lifestyle as I had nearly 3 months prior. It was quite the adventure and full of laughs and love. I’m so grateful they were all able to come visit me in Italy. It was exactly what I needed to help me get through the last month and I wouldn’t trade those 10 days for the world.
Ti amo la mia familglia ♥
- 28th April
- 25th April
First off, Buona Pasqua! I hope you all had a nice Easter. Although I missed finding Easter eggs with my family and having a massive Easter brunch, Sunday mass in St. Peter’s square was truly awe-inspiring! (More on that later, I’m so behind in blogging haha).
Anyway, since I’m going to put up about 170 pictures from Spring Break this blog post won’t be as long as the rest. I’ll let the pictures tell the majority of the story and leave the rest up to your imagination!
Some background info: we chose Greece for Spring Break since we all had a strong desire to go there and wanted to spend more than a weekend in the beautiful Grecian lands. So, literally the first trip we booked upon arriving to Rome was Spring Break in Greece.
We booked it through the travel company, Bus2Alps, to save us the trouble of planning an entire week’s worth of transportation scheduling, hostel research, restaurant searching and tour bookings. And it was definitely worth it! In the words of one of our tour guides, it’s nice to do some “thoughtless traveling” for once.
We began the trip with a 5 hour bus ride to the Italian port, where we hopped on a “ferry” that was going to take us to the island of Corfu. Now, I put “ferry” in quotes because our ferry was more like a cruise ship than anything else. And I couldn’t help but feel like I was on the titanic (probably because I’ve never been a boat larger than our pontoon on Lauderdale Lakes). Thankfully, however, this ferry/cruise ship was well stocked with lifeboats and other amenities like restaurants, bars, a mini-casino and let’s not forget our “airline type sleeping accommodations.” Oh yes, that means another wonderful night sleeping in an upright, cramped space – my favorite! But it saved me 40 euro since I didn’t buy the “cabin upgrade” Oh the life of a poor college kid….. :).
Anyway, after our 16 hour ferry ride we arrived in Corfu, Greece and couldn’t be happier. The ride up the island was beautiful with lush green forest on the left and a bright blue ocean on the right. I was in paradise!
When we arrived at the Pink Palace (our weekend accommodations) it was a bit chiller than the flip-flop and shorts weather we had anticipated, but we made the most of it – as always.
As soon as our luggage was tucked away in our rooms, we decided to stretch our legs and go exploring! Probs one of my most favorite things to do, haha. We walked down by the beach and I encountered something unlike anything I’ve ever experienced… want to know what that was? Going to the beach with an umbrella. Happy Spring Break 2011…..?
I never thought I’d be on the beach with an umbrella, but on that wet Saturday I was, haha. One thing I learned very quickly is that island weather is extremely temperamental. Once minute it’s raining and storming, the next it’s sunny blue skies. Which I learned to quickly accept.
The best part of the Pink Palace was definitely the dinners. Every night we had traditional Greek food (Greek salad, pasta, meat, etc), 2 bars and a dance floor at our disposal. We never had to leave the palace! Which was also unusual compared to other trips we’ve taken. So that was kind of nice.
The next 2 days were spent both sun tanning on the beach and further exploring the island. By far the best part of my whole Spring Break (and definitely one of the best experiences of my time abroad) had to be ATVing through Corfu. We literally spent 6 hours, practically all day, on an ATV.
Now, those of you that know me are probably shocked that I took part in this. But what’ll shock you even further is that it was all my idea :). I guess I really am changing, because I absolutely loved it! There was no radio, no talking, just me, my ATV and the beautiful scenery passing by. It was truly breathtaking.
We drove along the beach, up the island, through numerous little towns and had lunch at the peak of a mountain. Casey and I were truly in our glory. I only wish I could’ve video-recorded the entire thing! I could only snap some pictures when we stopped (since I was busy driving and watching the road) but Casey and I took lots of mental pictures. Every time we passed a gorgeous setting she’d yell, “ARIA, MENTAL PICTURESSS!” Hahaha, I know I’ll always remember that experience.
On our last night we went to my first ever, real life, Greek Toga Party. For our attire, we were given a bubblegum pink silk sheet for a toga. That. Was. Interesting. I’ve never wanted a few safety pins, double stick tape, or a needle and thread more in my life. All I had was this sheet and my imagination! After twisting it every which way, nearly choking myself with the fabric a few times, and utilizing my gold bracelet as an accent… I had done it! Pink Toga – accomplished.
Feeling a bit silly, we headed down to dinner. After dinner and dancing, we had a traditional Greek dance show. It started out innocent… with just 2 men dancing to a Greek song and all of us gathered around them in a circle…. Then, an assistant was brought out with a table full of plates and lighter fluid….
Yup, the plates were lit on fire and a man carried the table in. his. mouth. Can you believe it? You better, because it happened! And I saw it all right before my eyes (don’t worry, I snapped some pictures too). He carried this thing around, passing the crowd, and all within a separate flaming circle on the ground. I’ve never been so mesmerized by ceramic and fire in my life, haha.
After that show, they came around giving shots of Ouzo (a Greek liquor, which kind of tastes like black licorice) and smashing plates on our head. Of course, I let them smash one on my head! Are you kidding? I wouldn’t leave Greece until that happened. Little did I know it hurt more than it looked, haha. But when in Greece… do as the Greek do lol. With a lifetime of memories made at the Pink Palace, we moved onto our next destination… Athens.
Athens was much calmer, haha. It was a pretty modern city with a lot of history too. All the buildings had Greek letters on them, which I only wish I could read. I literally felt like I was walking through a sorority and frat town the entire time. It was strange to see all the Greek letters used for actual information and signs, but definitely cool. I was totally out of my element and immersed in this new, fascinating culture.
For the next 2 days we spent touring Athens and seeing all the mythological ruins. We saw the Olymic Stadium, the Temple of Zeus, the Acropolis, the Parthenon etc. Lots of Greek Mythology. On the last night in Athens we went to a Greek restaurant were I had, literally, the best meal of my life. We had Saganaki (fried cheese) and Tzatziki (cucumber sauce) as an appetizer, calamari and a Greek salad (which doesn’t have any lettuce btdubbs) as a snack, Moussaka (Greek lasagna) as a main dish and some sort of Baklava for dessert. Either way, one thing is for certain: my new favorite food to order out will be Greek food. Greek restaurants here I come!
Anyway, on our last full day we decided to take a ferry to the island of Aegina (known for their pistachio nuts). We thought it would be a nice way to get out of the city and just relax on an island that isn’t filled with tourists; and we were right. It was nice to walk through the streets of a quaint, quiet, traditional Greek town. Blue shutters and blue water surrounded the island and we literally had the day to explore.
After catching some rays for a little bit, we walked around most of the island and realized there wasn’t a whole lot to do, haha. Which was more than ok with me, but definitely not what we were used to!
We actually genuinely considered renting an automatic car for the day to go cruising around in (my idea). We didn’t have much else to do and we thought we might as well see the whole city from the seat of a car! After attempting to negotiate with the car salesman though, we decided against it. He wanted 20 euros each to rent the car for only an hour. Bummer, had he said 10 euros each I woulda been all over that! Haha, but oh well. We decided to explore on foot instead.
We ended up finding this little trail near the shore’s edge that supplied the most breathtaking view (check out the pictures). I thought it was really cool but I am oddly obsessed with oceans and mountains. Which might be a sign that I need to escape the Great Plains someday, haha. Just saying….
After exploring we tried to find a place for dinner before catching our ferry back to Athens. We ended up eating at this little, local restaurant hidden along a random side street that we just sort of stumbled upon. It looked like the living room of someone’s house but the food was really good. There is something oddly comforting about local, small restaurants – I love it! And wish there were more of them in the United States.
Amanda ended up actually sitting on a freshly painted chair and didn’t realize it until we got up to leave. When the owner of the place saw, she apologized profusely and started running around like a chicken without her head looking for something. After finding a rag and what smelled like acetone, she (much to Amanda’s discomfort) stuck her hand down her leggings and cleared the spot of paint. Now where else in the world can you find that kind of treatment? Haha, it was awesome.
500 pistachio nuts later, we left Aegina happy to have explored a small town and take in the small town lifestyle for the day.
And with that, our trip came to an end! We woke up early for another 24 hours of traveling as we made our way back to Italian soil. After, of course, stopping at our favorite 2-euro Gyro stand for a snack on the bus. Oh, and we made a pit stop at the Corinth Canal – which I would love to return to someday and go bungee jumping!
So that was Greece! Definitely the best Spring Break of my life. There was sun, fun and self-reflection. Ciao Greece! Mi manchi già.
- 11th April
- 6th April
Guess who’s back? Back? Back? Back again-gan-gan? Aria’s back, back, back. Tell your friends… Eminem anyone? No? Ok :).
I, once again, find myself beginning this blog apologizing for the massive delay in updating you all on my life. I’ve gotten numerous emails and requests for an update, pictures, and just to verify my existence. Recently I returned from Greece, where I spent my Spring Break and the past 10 days have been spent exploring Italy with my family. Therefore, I’ve been busy traveling and enjoying my time with them. But, good news is: you can expect lots of updates within the next week – yahoo!
Throughout the month of February and into March I took some random day/weekend trips to Siena, Venice and Florence. So let’s start at the beginning…. Siena.
The Streets and Sweets of Siena
Casey and I ventured to Siena with the school, woke up at the crack of dawn, hopped on a bus and made our way to the oldest city in Rome. Walking through the streets of Siena reminded me of walking through an old 1940s romantic movie set (except I was seeing everything for the first time in color!). I really don’t know how else to describe it; just know that it was, in one word, very…. quaint. And it was nice to escape the hustle and bustle of Rome and wander the streets of Siena.
Along the way we came across Basilica Cateriniana Di San Domenico a very famous church near the center of town. Inside, I was able to snap a few pictures but in one particular spot pictures were strictly forbidden. Want to know why? Well, Caterina’s skull is proudly enclosed in a glass case for offering and worship purposes. Good thing pictures aren’t allowed, huh?
If you think that’s strange, get this: alongside her head (about 2 feet away in a separate glass case) is her…. finger. Yup, just a head and one finger. Don’t ask me which one it was, I could hardly look at it long (but if I had to guess I’d say it was her pointer finger, lol).
Where’s the rest of her body you might wonder? Well, I believe her legs are in Rome and some other extremity is in France. Apparently she wanted to be remembered all throughout Europe. But she was an important lady, so I hope all her pieces are resting in peace.
Moving on to more lively things… we continued our tour through Piazza Salimbeni, Palazzo Chigi Saracini, and Piazza del Campo. My favorite was probably Palazzo Chigi Saracini. It was this old, tiny courtyard with intricate artwork on the building, an old well and a nice place to sit in the sunshine. Apparently the school of music meets in the building next door and on summer days it’s the perfect place to sit in shade (or sun) and listen to music. Ah, life’s simple pleasures.
Anyway, after our tour of the city we got to eat lunch (obviously my favorite part). We ate at an old Siena restaurant with traditional homemade food. Siena is known for these long, skinny noodles – like spaghetti but thick like a pencil - and we ate them in a tomato based lamb sauce (the people of Siena like their meat). It probably doesn’t sound very appetizing, but, take my word for it, it was surprisingly tasty! Then, as a second course, we had chicken and potatoes (good thing I’m not a vegetarian). And to top it all off, we had a sweet but light traditional Siena dessert. All very good.
As if that was not satisfying enough, Casey and I hit up the bakery afterwards. Siena is known for their sweets; specifically panforte margherita and ricciarelli cookies. The panforte margherita comes in a dark, brownish/black color (which is the spicier, more traditional recipe) or a lighter tan/beige color (which is sweeter). I bought a slice of the spicy, traditional one… and ate the entire thing! It was very flavorful but definitely more sweet than spicy and, overall, a very dense dessert. But when in Siena…. I figured I’d at least try it!
I also bought a ricciarelli cookie that our tour guide described as a “cloud melting in your mouth.” Well, she was right! It was the softest, lightest and sweetest cookie I’ve ever tasted. Needless to say, I definitely like Siena – especially the desserts. I’m such a goloso :).
Carnevale Celebrations in Venice
Towards the end of February and into the beginning of March there is an annual celebration called, Carnevale that occurs throughout Europe. With a name like “carnival” my friends and I decided this would be an excellent time to travel to Venice, so off we went!
Imagine walking down the infamous water streets and romantic city of Venice…. pretty, right? Now imagine all of that and about 10,000 people dressed head to toe in costumes…. Welcome to Carnevale, friends!
It’s basically equivalent to our Halloween but 10x better. These are real costumes. I saw everything from a life size deck of cards to Baywatch cross dressers. It was quite the experience, haha.
Unfortunately, we couldn’t match the local competition but we did buy pretty extravagant masks and walk around the city in complete and utter amazement. I definitely had a “Cinderella Story” moment all night (minus the fact that I was wearing a leather jacket and a scarf, lol). Regardless, I felt disguised and fit right in!
We pretty much spent the entire day exploring the streets and heading to the main square, Piazza San Marco. There we threw around some celebratory confetti and admired all the costumes around us. That night we spent in the main square dancing to live music and watching the costume show. I will never look at Halloween the same, lol.
Other than that, there isn’t much to describe! My pictures are worth 10,000 words, haha. But one thing’s for sure, I’m definitely going back to Venice and riding a Gondola with my significant other someday :).
Florence: the Land of Leather
Casey, Meredith, Kiri and I took another day trip with the school to the land of leather… aka Florence. We were dressed to impress and ready to shop! But before burning through all the euros in my bank account we, of course, did some sightseeing and eating.
First up on our list was the statue of David and Piazza di Santa Croce to see some more of Michelangelo’s infamous sculptures. Next, we got tickets to go intoSanta Croce Church where both Michelangelo and Galileo are buried. We got an extended tour with a woman who told us all about Michelangelo’s life and how proud Florence was to be his final resting place.
Next, we saw the duomo(similar to Siena’s) with white, black and red tinted marble – all very breathtaking. The colors and elaborate architecture are truly commendable.
Then we had lunch (my second favorite part this trip), which consisted of a very light spaghetti with fresh tomatoes and a delicious roasted chicken. I’ve never seen meat fall off the bone so easily. It was no KFC chicken that’s for sure!
After being stunned by the city’s beauty and filling our bellies with good food, we ventured across Ponte Vecchio and went… shopping! (Shopping will literally be the death of me while I’m in Europe… and Florence isn’t helping).
I don’t know if it’s because I still compare euros to monopoly money or if it was the intoxicating smell of fresh leather…. whatever the case, it caused me to spend way more than I should have. I can’t help it though, I like everything I see! I’m quickly realizing I’m becoming a shopaholic, which is a problem with my current financial situation. But admitting you have a problem is the first step!
Anyway, one of my purchases included a real Italian leather jacket. There’s actually a really good story that goes along with the jacket but you can ask me about it when I get back :).
I will tell you, however, that I wear my leather goods loudly and proudly in the streets of Rome. I’m quickly becoming a true Italian. I wear scarfs when it’s 55 degrees outside (because I consider that cold) and I get quickly agitated with tourists crowding the streets. I should probably come home soon before I pick up smoking and soccer (I won’t though, don’t worry). How I’m going to survive Milwaukee’s winter next year is beyond me. But at least I have my leather jacket to get me through the fall :).
Aright that pretty much sums up Siena, Venezia and Firenze! You can expect an album of pictures within the next day or so. Ciao for now!
- 7th March
I apologize for the massive delay. I know it’s been awhile.
In case you were worried, yes I am still alive and breathing with all of my limbs still attached :). And although my body is in good physical state, my brain isn’t.
We had midterms last week, which were ruff. There is so much more to studying abroad than traveling and living in a foreign city for 4 months. There’s this little itty-bitty thing called “school” that actually takes up a lot of my time. Sucky, I know.
But, don’t worry, that didn’t stop us from traveling the weekend before midterms! For better or worse we headed to Prague Thursday night and didn’t arrive back in Rome until 5:30 a.m. Monday morning. It. Was. Ruff. But, obviously, totally worth it!
Ok, let’s start at the beginning…
We decided to bus our way to Prague instead of fly, which was…. interesting.
For starters, we almost missed the bus (surprise, surprise). I’m always running late and studying abroad hasn’t changed that. I’m commonly chasing planes, trains and now busses. So while we had a minor panic attack when we realized we were going to be late, our Bus2 Alps leader thankfully eased our worry when he called us and said he’d wait a bit longer for us – phew! (I really need to become more time sensitive).
Anyway, when we arrived at Termini we were kinda surprised to only see a few other Romans waiting for us. And we were even more surprised to see a double decker bus for the 8 or 9 of us - we were thrilled! Having a full bus to stretch out on, fully equipped with a TV and American movie pending, would be noooo problem… or so we thought. But we started counting our blessings a little too early.
We shortly found out that the bus would eventually be filled seat to seat when we stopped in Florence to pick up the other students. Sweet. A 16 hour bus ride to Prague in a 5-by-5 ft bubble of personal space – GREAT.
Since I’ve been on numerous mission trips you’d think this would be a piece of cake, right? Wrong. I’d much prefer St. Mark’s maroon vans filled with dirty teenagers than 70 some dirty adolescent strangers all crammed on one level – much worse. I didn’t get more than 2 hours of sleep at a time and tossed and turned all night. And by “tossed and turned” I really mean “tossed my head left to right” all night. There really wasn’t much moving, haha. Anyway, it wasn’t sooo bad. Getting there was definitely easier than coming back (more on this later). And we finally arrived safe and sound in Prague at about 10:30 a.m., woot woot!
Happy to finally stretch our legs and breathe in some fresh air, we walked to our hostel. Which was by far the nicest hostel I’ve ever stayed in. It really was more of a hotel than a hostel and kind of reminded me of Anthony’s loft right freshman year. Granted we shared a room with a total of 8 girls and the bathroom was down the hall, but the powerful hanging showerhead (Italian portable showerheads aren’t doing it for me) and breakfast (I dream about American breakfast on a weekly basis, kid you not) made up for it!
So first thing we did was drop our bags off and head downstairs for breakfast. And although they didn’t provide pancakes, french toast, crepes, and waffles (like my dreams have predicted) they did have fresh fruit, granola, and cheesy scrambled eggs. I was in heaven. I didn’t even have to see Prague, I liked it that much already.
After eating like we were starved barbarians, we headed out to the city. We got a tour of Prague by this quirky Australian-born Prague fanatic. I’m telling you, the tour guides make all the difference. And while she was really entertaining at first, I quickly got annoyed. Not with her, necessarily, but more the fact that I was overtired, cold, and just wanting a hot shower. So, needless to say, my listening skills weren’t exactly 100% in tune with my surroundings, but I gathered what I could about the city of Prague and realized how young of a city it is.
From what I remember…. during the Cold War Prague was a city in the territory of military and political control of the Soviet Union. Then the Soviet Union and its allies reacted with the invasion of Czechoslovakia and the capital on August 21, 1968. In 1989 students of the Velvet Revolution crowded the streets of Prague. And in 1993, after the split of Czechoslovakia, Prague became the capital city of the new Czech Republic and is now an important cultural center of Europe…. Give or take a few dates.
I’m totally kidding, I copied that from Wikipedia. Sounded smart though, didn’t I? We did get a very similar, long history lesson of Prague and I (and my handy dandy friend Wikipedia) condensed it for you into one paragraph. Anyway, from that paragraph you can see that it is a fairly new city. So I was kind of surprised by that.
The first 30 pictures of my album sums up that historical tour nicely. I have about 100 other pictures just from that afternoon but I tried to pick my favorites for you all. I’ll show you the rest when I return back home.
Well… that brings us to our first night in Prague. We signed up for a pub-crawl with the massive group of students we were with and it turned out to be a lot of fun. It was nice meeting other people our age and they took us to all the hot spots in Prague without the fear of getting lost. My favorite part of the night was teaching Chile people how to play flip cup. They had never heard of it, caught on fast, and even had a chant for their half of the table. Overall, it was a fun night!
The next day we were up bright and early for the beloved breakfast and were out by 11 for another day of roaming through the city. We saw the Charles Bridge, John Lennon wall and Prague Castle – it def beat the day before. I am OBSESSED with the John Lennon wall and the tiny bridge in between Charles Bridge and the JL Wall.
In between both you’ll find “locks of love” where couples come, lock their names on the fence and throw the key in the river – so precious. Apparently there are spots like that all over Europe!
My new life goal: visit each one someday with my significant other. Don’t hold your breath waiting though, it might take awhile ;).
Anyway, back to the John Lennon wall… it’s awesome. To many people it just looks like a wall filled with spray paint and graffiti. But to me, it’s pure art. The wall was dedicated to JL after he was killed and signifies free speech. So every week people come and spray paint a message, a quote, a name etc. on the wall and you can’t get in trouble for it.
If I had a spray can, I’d be all over that wall – literally. You’d see “ARIA” in big bubble letters. I’m kidding. As an avid doodler and song lyric junkie, I’d probably put up a million meaning(less)ful quotes and random song lyrics. It is any doodlers, daydreamers and analytical person’s ideal outlet for self-expression. I want one in Bloomingdale. Too bad it’s illegal in the states.
But since it isn’t in Prague, I did decide to write my name on the peace sign (naturally) and take a picture next to it all. So my name will forever (more like temporarily) be tattooed on the John Lennon wall peace sign – my life is complete!
After that, we hiked to the very tipy top of the city to see the famous Prague Castle and Cathedral. The hike itself was exhausting but the view was incredible. There are so many places in Europe that you can just randomly climb up and see the entire city. I only wish Chicago was as hilly and rolled with the land instead of plowing through it. But I’ll just keep enjoying it while I’m here :).
To end the trip we went out to a 80s/90s club in downtown Prague and danced and sang to Michael Jackson, Spice Girls, and countless other one hit wonders all night. They need to open one of those in Milwaukee. It would make a fortune, no doubt. Besides everyone loves the 90s!
And while that was all fun and games, the bus ride home was a nightmare. We didn’t leave Sunday morning until 11 a.m. and on the way there not only were we anxious with anticipation but we were also asleep for 75% of the ride. On the way home, however, we had alllll day.
By the time we reached Germany, I was ready to hitch hike all the way back to Rome. I was so antsy. Between the guy hacking every minute (he literally would go into a coughing fit every 5 min – no exaggeration and I have him to thank for my sickness this week) and the man’s head literally the width of the entire TV made me claustrophobic, irritated and restless for Rome.
After 2 pit stops and 16 hours of riding, watching, talking and “napping” we arrived in Rome at 4:30 a.m., spent 15 min waiting for the night bus, and another half hour booking it back home. I couldn’t have been happier to stretch out in my tiny twin bed at 5:30 a.m.
But, unfortunately, 5 hours later, I was up to do homework and go to class. Needless to say I was EXHAUSTED and it was midterm week. Hence the lack of blogging, I told you I was busy! But now you’re a little bit more informed of my crazy, adventure to Prague.
As always, no regrets. Prague was a really cool city and I’d go back again in a heartbeat. Although, next time I’ll probably just fly :).
- 7th March
- 20th February