Blogs and Updates!
So I have finally made it to Rome, my last stop on my 5 month Europe tour! And I have to say that Rome is a great finale city. My first day here I circled all of the famous sites on my map an walked to them! I went to see the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps. I stumbled upon the massive building that houses the tomb of the unknown soldier and I have to say that it was one of the most remarkable post roman sites. Seeing it must be what it was like to see the ancient roman buildings in their glory, just pure white marble stretching as far as the eye can see in beautiful and intricate architecture and statues. I also went to see al of the famous squares and plazas and of course the Pantheon. The Pantheon was beautiful but I wish they had never turned it into a church, and had just left it as a pagan temple. When I got to the Pantheon a university choir from Romania was singing accapella. It seems they were visiting Rome and just decided to start singing cause a few of them were still holding their cameras. They were excellent! And it was wonderful to hear them sing the well known classical accapella pieces in latin in front of the pantheon! That first day I marveled at all of the famous places in Rome from the Renaissance, but on the second day I spent the day in Ancient Rome! When I first stepped off of the metro in front of the Colosseum it was one of the most amazing experiences. It really is that magnificent! I took a tour around the Colosseum and it really is a beautiful unbelievable place. It is a little creepy though knowing how many people were killed for entertainment though in that space. After the Colosseum I took a tour through the rest of the Roman Forum. I had an excellent tour guide that knew more Roman history then anyone I have ever met and he was truly an inspiring speaker. I got to see where Caesar's body was burned, and the Temple to Saturn along with the ruins of many many other important ancient Roman buildings. Another creepy moment was seeing the monument celebrating the conquering of Jerusalem. I don't think I have ever before seen a monument still standing celebrating the destruction of my people and especially not of the destruction of our most sacred temple. That night I had dinner with one of the women I had met at my last hostel in Naples. We had a really great time. On my last day, day 154 of my travels I went to Vatican City to see the Vatican and the Sistine Chapel. The Vatican Museum was impressive, there is so much famous artwork there, and so much of the building feels like a palace. The Vatican church itself is one of the most magnificent churches I have ever been into, but the Sistine Chapel, was the real winner. Every inch of that building is painted with such significant and bright detail. It really is a master piece. I am now heading home for good. Tomorrow morning I get on a 3 plans and after 18 hours I will land in Raleigh, NC to try and start my real life! The next time I write to you, I will be home once again, where I started. I have had an unbelievable adventure touring Europe by myself, I have learned so much about the world and about me and I wouldn't have given this up for anything! I will see you at home!
I just spent the last three days In Naples. Now I think the best part of Naples is that this was the place where Pizza was invented. So there are pizza places about every 3rd store. Its great, now while they are all pretty awesome there are a few that rise above the rest, and I tried to eat at those places as much as possible. The original pizza was Margarita pizza, or what we call cheese pizza, and a similar pizza without any cheese. There is one place in Naples called Da Micael that is super famous and only serves those two types of pizza. They are supposed to have the best cheese pizza in the world, and yeah I think they do! It is the same pizza place that Julia Roberts ate at in “Eat, Pray, Love”. Anyways I did do a couple things other than eat awhile I was there, though not much. The first day I walked around the historical part of the city a bit, but there really isn’t that much to see in Naples besides the museum and the castles, and I am just so sick of museums, and castles that I decided to pass them up. But on one of the days I did have a very big and exciting day. I took a horseback ride up Mount Vesuvius. It was a really fun and rugged ride where the horses were practically rock climbing it felt like to get up and down the mountain. My horse’s name was Demon, but he was actually a pretty good horse. We even did some galloping, which was fun. After that I went to see the ruins of Pompeii, which was really neat! It really is just ruins of an old Roman city with the forum, the temples, the baths. the arena, and theatres, and of course many, many houses. There were some really beautifully preserved painting on some of the walls, and some mosaics. But of course the most amazing thing was seeing the casts of the people caught in death by the ash from the volcano. Its was pretty creepy because you could actually see their faces, but really neat. Unfortunately the cast of the dog was on exhibit somewhere and not in Pompeii at the moment. I am now off to my last city on my trip, Rome. I am spending three days in Rome and then flying for 18 hours back home to Raleigh, NC!
I just spent the last three days in Florence, Italy. It ever really occurred to me just how beautiful and cultural that Florence would be! I honestly don’t think that I have ever seen so many art museums in one place ever before. And what makes it even crazier is that most of the art in Florence was part of the Medici family collection. Almost all of the art was collected by one family, of course it was over hundreds of years but still. I learned a lot about Italian history which I had never learned before. From what I can tell Italy was a lot more violent then the average place in Europe was, probably because all the different families were fighting for power so much, sounds to me like they just went around killing each other. I saw so many different family palaces, including a few of the different Medici family palaces, and Pitti Palace which was the massive one that they lived in when they became dukes of Tuscany. There were a few truly impressive things in Florence, one of which was the Duormo. I was walking along in the city and all of the sudden I came upon the Cathedral…and Oh My God! It is truly unbelievable! Just out of no where rises this magnificent building, that is colorful and detailed and just beautiful! It was really quite amazing. Inside was so open and spacious too! Next to the cathedral was the baptistery which on the outside has the “Gates of Paradise” which is a golden door carved with stories. And yes the whole thing is made of gold! Another absolutely beautiful spot was the Golden Bridge. It is the oldest bridge (and the only bridge to survive WWII) in Florence and its quite amazing. It has goldsmith shops all along it as you walk across. In old time it used to butcher shops but one of the Dukes had it changed because he didn’t want to have to walk through the smell. The river is so pretty especially with all of the orange and yellow buildings along the riverside! Across the river on the first day I climbed up to Michelangelo’s Plaza, where you can see the entire city, and a bronze copy of “David” is on display. I happened to be there at sunset and it was quite amazing. Unfortunately I didn’t go into any of the art museums. I was going to go to the Academia where “David” is, but the line was sooooo long and it was starting to rain, so I gave up on the art museums. On the last day I was planning on going to Pisa to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa but the train station at Pisa was on strike and none of the trains where going, so I didn’t get to go unfortunately. On the other hand I spent the day looking at Italian Leather stores, and got my self an amazing pair of Italian Leather Boots! They look incredible and they were super cheap, so all in all it was a great day! I am now heading to Naples where I hope to eat amazing pizza, climb Mt. Vesuvius, and see Hurculiaum, which is supposedly a better version of Pompeii!
I just spent the last three days I Venice, and it really was amazing! The city really is exactly how you imagine it to be. Its beautiful, old buildings lined by tiny coble stone streets, and canals filled with boats, and littered with bridges. And the city is also very quite, because there are no cars. When I say no cars I really mean there are actually zero, I didn’t see a single one the entire time I was there because there are no streets! There aren’t even any bicycles, because all of the bridges have so many stairs everywhere! Everyone gets around by walking and by boat! While I didn’t ride in a gondola, because they were so expensive, (And honestly who wants to ride in a gondola by themselves), I did take the water bus around a few times. I took it along the grand canal to get to San Marco Piazza, where I got to see the famous Bridge of Sighs! I spent quite a lot of time wondering around the city, getting myself hopelessly lost, and then found again! One of the things that I loved to do while wondering, was the look into all of the venetian mask stores! The city was filed with them! And they really are quite beautiful! My family collects masks, so of course I had to get a couple! On one of the days it was raining, and so I walked around Cannareggio which is the island that my hostel was on, and found a University. I decided to hang out there for about an hour because it was raining, and I blend in very well with Italian University students! Actually I am so tan right now that I blend in everywhere in Italy! The only problem is that everyone speaks to me in Italian and I have no idea what they are saying to me! On the first night I was there I went to dinner with a bunch of the people in my hostel and we started drinking wine at dinner. Then outside our hostel was a wine bar, where you can get a small glass of wine for 1 Euro, and the next thing I know we are sitting outside with a lot more bottles of wine and drinking until late into the night. It always starts out so innocent with wine, and the next thing you know you are stumbling into bed. Such a sneaky drink. On the last day I was there I went over to the Islands of Murano, and Burano. Murano is known for its blown glass, and I walked around the Island for a few hours admiring all of the artists work. I even got to see some people working the glass in the back of their stores! I then went over to Burano, which is a small island known for painting their houses super bright colors! It seemed to me that the only rule to painting your house was that it had to be a different color from your neighbors house and it had to be bright! It was very pretty, and kinda reminded me of an extreme Miami, Beach. I had a really great time and I am now off to Florence! Hopefully it will warm up a bit for my last week and a half in Europe!
I just spent the last two days in Milan, Italy. You always hear about Milan, but it had never really occurred to me that the only times I had ever heard people talk about Milan was when they were talking about fashion. There really isn’t all that much to see there. The cathedral is really pretty and supposedly one of the biggest in the world but unfortunately when I went to see it I was wearing shorts and they wouldn’t let me in. The Duormo was neat and the galleria, which holds all of the designer brand name stores such as Gucci and Prada, was also very pretty. I walked around the fashion district for a while but in all honestly I didn’t feel like I could appropriately go in. I was in shorts, a t-shirt, and flip flops and felt that if I tried to walk into the stores to look at the clothes that people would look down on me for dressing that way…so I just looked from the windows. I also did my last load of laundry here! I know that isn’t exacting to you, but if you had been wearing the same like 6 shirts for 5 months, you would be excited about realizing you get to wear your other clothes again soon! Its also a pain in the butt to do laundry and its nice to know I don’t have to deal with that again. On the second day I went to a park that used to be the land to one of the main families in Milan. Their castle or Castilon, is now a museum and I explored the outside, the gardens, and the courtyards of the castle and walked around the park for a few hours. I couldn’t bring myself to actually go into the museum though. I don’t know about you but after 5 months I am totally sick of museums, castles, and churches. And honestly, what else is there to do in Italy!? While I was here though I did eat some amazing food. I had excellent ravioli, and some superb pizza. I also had some sushi surprisingly! And it was pretty good! I am off to Venice now, a city that I have been dying to see for years! I can’t wait!
I just spent a week sailing the coast of Croatia on the Adriatic Sea from Dubrovnik to Split! It was really relaxing and really beautiful, and I made a lot of friends! This sailing trip was much more my style than the Turkey one was because it was so much calmer! Everyone didn’t try to do absolutely everything together and if I didn’t feel like being drunk 24/7 no one cared! So I got to work on my tan, (which I still think is an ironic statement because all you do is lie there), read some books, swim in the crystal clear blue ocean and chat with my fellow boat mates! We had a few excursions, which were great as well! On one of the first days a bunch of us went kayaking out to an island where we found sea urchins and ate them fresh out of the water! Well I didn’t because I can’t eat shellfish but a lot of other people did! We stopped a bunch of beautiful swimming points where we all took turns jumping from the upper levels of the boat! Somehow people convinced me to “try” to walk to rope connecting the boat to the shore about 30 feet away. We all knew that I wouldn’t make it more then one step on the sloping slack line with out falling quite far into the water, but of course I did it anyways! And guess what…surprise surprise I fell on the first step after I let go. But there are some great photos of me falling! We stopped in a bunch of tiny beautiful towns as well such as Hvar, and Stari Grad and a few others that I can’t spell and we got to walk around the old beautiful villages, where a lot of them still have private vineyards. On one of the excursions I went on a wine tasting and it was wonderful! We tried lots of different home grown and made wines and a port, and we had homemade goat cheese, homemade bread, homemade olive oil and olives! It was SO GOOD! We also got to pet a very contrary donkey that really didn’t like me too much J On our last day I went Rafting near Split an had a lot of fun even though the water level was too low for any real rapids! Over all it really was a beautiful wonderful relaxing week! I am now off to Milan, Italy! My last country! Only two weeks left now!
I just spent the week at Oktoberfest, well I only actually spent three days at the festival but it sure felt like a week! The first thing I did when I got there was buy myself a Dirndl. Mine is black with white flowers with blue embroidery and a blue checkered apron! I love it! Each day I wore my hair braided differently and had a lot of fun with that too! Oktoberfest is truly an experience. It is really more like a state fair then I expected though, but with a lot more beer, and everyone is a lot drunker. I managed to go on a few rides which was fun and eat some of the great food they have there. The thing that I noticed the most about Bavaria is that everything is BIG! The beer comes in steins which are liters of beer, if you food they give you a half chicken, and the pretzels are twice the size of my head! Even the boobs are big! The bar maids were certainly impressive carrying around a minimum of 6 full steins at a time! Man thats heavy! I never managed to get through more then 2 and a half steins in a day, but then again I'm not the biggest drinker in the world. The first day I was there for 15 hours! I got there at 10am and we got our first beers at 11am. It really felt wrong! I was hanging with a bunch of Americans. Around 4pm I decided to leave but on my way out I ran into two friends that I had made in Bosnia! What are the chances! There are over a million people at Oktoberfest! So I spent the rest of the day until 10:30 when it ended and then until 2:00am at the after party with them! It was a total blast! They are australian and we met up with two others australians who were at our table and they were totally awesome people! It gets so much fun at night with everyone all dressed up in Dirndls and Laderhosen and everyone is holding massive beers and standing on benches and tables and singing and dancing. And the best part is that everyone is just SO HAPPY! The next day I didn't even go over to the fair grounds until around 4pm. I had made friends with a guy from America staying at my hostel who is 7 feet tall!!! Yes I am not exaggerating! We made a very funny pair! We went on a few rides together before we started drinking and when we tried to get on the roller coaster they kicked him off because he was too big! It was pretty funny, he totally didn't fit. We met up with one of his friends and went to a different tent and had just as good a night! We made friends with a group of Germans from Munich and had a blast with them all night till it ended at 10:30 again. The next day I had a headache...surprise, surprise. So I didn't head over till around 4 again, It was raining and I only stayed for about 4 hours before heading back to my hostel. Luckily there were lots of people there to hang out with before heading off to bed! Overall it was a great experience! I think one of the funniest things though was just seeing the number of people all dressed up just walking around the city! It was great! I am on my way back to Croatia now to sail up the coast!!
On the last two days with my parents in Greece we went to Delphi where the Oracle of Delphi resided in the temple to Apollo many many years ago! People used to go to the Oracle and ask a question and the oracle who was a women breathing in the steams of a hot spring beneath her spoke words of “wisdom” back to the person telling them what to do. Supposedly the women was possessed with the spirit of the oracle. Kings, and leaders used to come and ask the oracle what they should do for many different things. Every four years their was a festival that was held somewhat like the Olympics where people competed in sports and there was plays and music for opening and closing ceremony type things. So the ruins included a very well maintained theater and another stadium track slightly smaller then the Olympia one. On the way up the sacred path to Apollo’s temple were many treasuries or small houses (only one has been reconstructed, the one from Athens) that were put there by city states as gifts to the oracle. So as we walked up the path to the oracle, beautiful ruins surrounded us, until we finally reached the massive temple. Around the whole area were towering cliffs, and beautiful mountains that you could see in the background, it really was quite impressive. It is too bad that spring that was once their no longer exists. What was really neat was seeing a spot where their used to be a towering pillar entwined by snakes. It was stolen about a thousand years ago by the people who are now the Turks and brought to what was at the time Constantinople and what is now Istanbul, and put into their hippodrome, which is their major horse race track. I saw the pillar when I was in Istanbul but didn’t totally catch the jist what just what it was, also the description listed below the pillar in Istanbul lists it as a gift from Greece, but in Greece they say that it was stolen…really depends on who tells the tale huh!? Bellow the area was another mostly fallen down temple to Athena. On our last day heading back towards Athens we stopped off at one last Monastery that is 1000 years old and still in use. It was really beautiful and made of stone and brick and all sorts of different materials and has some stunning mosaics that are from the 1200s. Unfortunately while we were their my mom and I either drank some bad water or ate some bad food because we both were really sick for the next two days. Unfortunate that I got food poisoning right before Oktoberfest…I wonder how that is going to work? Anyways my parents are flying home right now and I am off to Munich to Oktoberfest! I am sure I can still have fun even if I have to just pretend to drink my stein thanks to my upset stomach! See you in Germany!
For the last two days we have been in Olympia (YES AS IN THE PLACE WHERE THE OLYMPICS STARTED)! I know, cool right!? Of course though on our way there we stopped a few times to see some cool sights along the way. The first place we stopped was at an old Mycenae Castle. (At least it wasn’t a fortress lol) This was over 3000 years old! And the stones were so huge that were used to build it that the type of building was called the Cyclopean style. These were the people were the ones who destroyed Troy! And captured Helen of Troy! Yeah, totally awesome! Surprisingly there was still quite a bit there considering how old it was. There were some really impressive tombs there too. One was so huge (used for their kings) that it was almost scary going inside, it really did feel like a Cyclopes home. They think that they built these castles the same way the Egyptians built the pyramids. We also went into their cistern, which was so dark that we had to feel our way along the stairs! The next section of driving was pretty scary for me, we got into the mountains at this point and were driving on these tiny windy roads. I just kept my eyes closed so I wouldn’t drive my dad insane by freaking out, not sure I was successful with that! Sorry Daddy! We stopped when we got to a huge gorge called Lousious Gorge, where we stopped to hike down into it to find a monastery that was built into the wall. We hiked for about 45 mins till we got to the bottom of the gorge and we couldn’t figure out where the monastery was. When we got to an open area at the bottom we looked up and found the monastery at the very top of the gorge, about 10 mins from where we started at the top. Needless to say we weren’t too happy but at least there was a neat waterfall at the bottom to look at. The monastery was pretty cool because it was actually built into the cliff side, and it was like 800 years old! Really neat! And we found their donkey wondering around near the church. Unfortunately we couldn’t go in because they didn’t allowed women in without skirts and since we had been hiking….we obviously weren’t wearing skirts. We then drove the rest of the way to Olympia. The next day we spent entirely in ancient Olympia. It was really neat to see the ruins of the gymnasium and different temples in Olympia that were used for training and praying for the Ancient Olympics. The area was really cool and we saw where the huge Zeus statue used to stand, and we saw the temple and sacrificial table to Hera where the torch is lit for the Olympics even today! On our way to the ancient Olympic stadium track we saw the cheaters pedestals and walked through the archway that the Olympians ran through as the stadium entrance, but the coolest thing by far was the stadium track itself! The actual track was a rectangular section of bare clay ground 192 meter long and wide enough for 20 starting blocks, with the original starting and finishing stones still as lines across it on either ends! It was surrounded by grassy slopes that people sat on and a stone enclosure for the judges and a stone pedestal for the priestess. The grounds held 45,000 spectators. My dad and I raced the track and for the first 100 meters or so I was beating him, but for the 2nd 100 meters he pulled ahead a bit to win the race. I’m going to blame my snapped ACL as the excuse to why I lost. At least I didn’t lose by much. Though when my mom and I raced the end bit together I creamed her ;) It was really neat to see where people used to hold the Olympics thousands of years ago, especially since it just happened in London a few weeks ago! We are now off to Delphi to see the Oracle and Apollo’s Temple!!!
For the last two days my parents and I have been booking it around Greece, and we have seen quite a lot! On our way to Nafplio we stopped in Corinth and Acrocorinth. Corinth itself had some nice ruins including a temple to Apollo (my favorite god) but overall it was really just ruins, and not much was left. I did make friends with a nice doggy though. (Greece is just covered with cats and dogs just wandering around). We also met some nice sheep that were grazing on the side of the street. We had to wait for them to meander across the road to continue on. Not quite as cool as when I saw sheep grazing on the soccer field in Montenegro though! We then continued onto Acrocornith which was the fortress on the mountain that stood jus above Corinth. Apparently every power that had controlled Greece had also concurred and controlled Acrocorinth. It was really beautiful and we were there during the sunset which made it quite incredible. That night we went to Nafplio and stayed in a really cute bed and breakfast in the old town. The next day we looked up and saw yet another fortress looming over the town. So we looked at each other and decided to climb the mountain. This fortress was only built in the 1600s but was really neat because it was almost still intact. We climbed the 912 steps (yes we counted!) and then when we got to the top realized that there was soooo much more climbing to do to see everything. We ended up spending about 3 hours looking through everything. At one point my dad and I were both sure that we knew how to get to the highest bastion in the fortress and went different ways. When we got there it turns out we were both on opposite sides of a huge moat and couldn’t get to each other. So I guess we were both right? When we got back down we had lunch and jumped into the car to go see an ancient theatre. This theater is still complete and has the most amazing acoustics! I was able to sing a song in the middle of the stage and my parents could hear me perfectly all the way at the top of the stadium seating as if I was standing right next to them. It was totally incredible! Unfortunately it started to rain pretty hard on us, and when I started to sing again after the rain had stopped some women started blowing her whistle at me saying that singing wasn’t allowed in the theater. WTF?! That is what the theatre was BUILT for?! Anyways we grumbled and then left to go collapse at home after yet another exhausting day! The next day we were off again towards Olympia!