Thank you for tuning in to read and view pictures about my spring break. Just as a reminder, we traveled to Amsterdam, Berlin, Prague, Lucerne (Switz), Florence, Pisa, Rome, and Barcelona. I had a great time, though I did catch a cold in the third city. After visiting most cities I wish we actually had more time—we only did two days in each place. Either way, the small tastes of each city were good, and in some cases I cannot wait to visit them again. We actually planned this trip really well, so if any one of you plans on traveling Europe I can help. I will say as one point of advice: if you buy a EUrail Pass, fill it out before you get on each train. Otherwise, you will end up with a €50 fine like me. It was totally my fault—I didn’t argue with the officer. Besides that, everything went smoothly; I even got the chance to ride in a sleeper car on an overnight train. Needless to say, I did not get much sleep as the train was shaky—it was still a nice experience. Enjoy the photos and the short excerpts on each place. I experienced and saw a lot more than I will post on here, but I will do my best to show you the highlights.
If you are viewing this page, you are on my blog that I plan to use to document my journey here in Europe, more specifically London. I borrow my blog title from Christian author, Rick Warren’s book, The Purpose Driven Life. In this book,Warren provides insights on how to seek your own purpose, authorized by God, by examining your life over 40 days. I go on to say all this to point to the fact that I do indeed believe that this entire journey, as well as what I have gone through in life thus far, is in fact part of the plan that God has for my life. I cannot easily say what my purpose in life is yet, but I do feel that I am called to do great things. To say the least, I hope you all enjoy reading as I continue to post. Feel free to comment and let me know you are thinking of me, as I am surely thinking of you. Keep myself and my cohort in your prayers; we greatly appreciate it.
Saturday, 21 April 2012
This was my favorite of all the stops. The first thing we did when we checked into our hostel was change and then we headed to the beach. The weather was so nice even though it rained the next day. Now Barcelona has nude beaches, which we did not go to. However, nudity is legal there, so even on the regular beach you will see nude people, and we did. A person can actually walk the streets nude as long as they are wearing the right shoes. Can you believe this? They can even ride bikes nude and they do. As long as you are not being disrespectful while you are unclothed, you will not be arrested. That night we went out and it was quite a good time. We also had some really good food in Barcelona. The next day we had our tour which gave us the history of the Gothic Architectural neighborhood. The second night we attended a flamenco show followed by a tapas dinner. The show was awesome—the video will be posted below. The tapas were also good. To tell the truth, these little appetizer foods they were giving us actually were filling. They were also accompanied by unlimited Sangria.
Fotos de nosotros en la playa (pictures of us on the beach):
Many of the buildings and complexes in Barcelona have these nice courtyards. They are cleaverly designed to provide shade and breezez during the summer months since it gets so hot:
I could not get the Flamenco Videos to upload either, so here are some photos, sorry.
Rome was the most moving of all the places to me. This was the place where I really had to say, “Am I really here.” There is nothing like being feet away from the Colosseum, that is, until you are inside of it. Rome itself is not really beautiful, but its sites sure are. That includes the Trevi Fountain. Of course, we made it to Vatican City, which again was quite moving. St. Peters Basilica is beautiful, and next was the Sistine Chapel. I cannot put into words how I felt here. I was literally trying to block out the crowd and marvel at what a wonder I was looking at. Once again, it was one of those beyond surreal moments. They have rules for visitors of the Sistine Chapel to be quite and not to take pictures. We get in there, the room is about as loud as a high school auditorium and people are flashing away with their cameras. Every now and again the guards would “shhh” the crowd, but the quiet only lasted seconds. I did my best to observe the rules—I didn’t talk much and on top of that I only took one picture. The method to my madness here is that I didn’t want my picture taking to take away from what I was there to experience. For me, it was more about making a moment, than capturing a moment.
All of us inside the Roman Colosseum:
Colosseum by Night:
Trevi Fountain by Night:
St. Peters Basilica:
The ceiling of one of the last cooridors leading to the Sistine Chapel. It was truly a maze getting to the actual thing.
The one blury photo I took while in the Sistine Chapel. However, it is of the most famous parts of the entire piece. And for some reason it wont upload the wide way, but this is God and Adam on one of the ceiling panels.
Friday, 20 April 2012
All I can tell you about Florence is that here I ate a lot of Italian food—some authentic, some more touristy. I didn’t learn much about this city, but I had a map and I saw most of what was supposed to be important, although I cannot tell you much about them without doing research on my own—which I will do when I have time. Gelato here is great, although I won’t say it’s any different from what you can get at Wegmans. However, Wegmans may be limited in the flavors they carry. In Florence, every place you went carried different flavors. Flrence is home to the statue of David and a replica. I didn’t make it to the original because we traveled to Pisa for half a day, and the line is usually long all day. By the time we were back, we had less than 30 minutes to get to the other side of town to see it—the replica did us just fine.
By this point in the trip I was really sick and hardly wanted to do anything the day we were in Lucerne. I wasn’t particularly interested in mountain climbing in the cold on my spring break, especially without a real coat and with a new cold. I left that to my travel mates, who enjoyed it while I enjoyed what was on the ground. I originally didn’t even want to go to Lucerne, but I am so happy I did. I t was the most expensive place of all our stops, but the city was remarkable. You will see what I mean in the pictures, but there is nothing like being there. If I were to ever return, I would like to go in the summer. Our time there was rainy, but you can tell it would be a nice summer spot. The water that flows through the city is the clearest water I have ever seen, it flows directly from the Alps. This was by far my favorite city to walk around, cold and all. There was no free tour here so I had a map and took myself around. It was a great city, point blank. Next to the Alps, the Lions monument is perhaps their biggest attraction, this one I was able to make it to. I also had Swiss chocolate there and a Swiss fondue lunch.
Everything I heard about Prague is true. It is truly beautiful there and I really just liked the feel of the city. It is also apparently know for its nightlife, but we didn’t experience that, outside of going to a pub. I believe I caught my cold here as we had to run to make sure we were on time for the tour, thus causing me to sweat and stand outside in cold air and rain right after. Moving on, Prague was the city that was occupied the longest during WWII; they are home to the second most disappointing site in Europe, the Astronomical Clock; and they drink the most beer in the world and beer is essentially cheaper that water and soft drinks. They also have a large Jewish history and are the location where many films have been recorded including XXX, starring Vin Diesel and Euro Trip. Also, one of the ironies that our tour guide pointed out is that Hugo Boss has a store located right in the heart of the Jewish District and he designed the Nazi uniform. My camera died when it was time to take photos of the Jewish cemetery, but it is packed with tombstones. There are somewhere around 12,000 grave plots, but the cemetery has five times that many bodies (they are stacked on top of one another.) Something else I never knew, until visiting The House of the Black Madonna is that they did not always have addresses. Instead, a person would give people directions to their house and then tell them what statue to look for out front. Prague Castle is really nice, too. I don’t have a good photo of it, but I will post it anyway. I also had an interesting fact about this castle complex, but I do not have it written down, sorry.
This is the Astronomical clock, which is only disappointing because at the hour, it does nothing but chime like every other clock. However, it does do a lot: tells the time, tells the amount of hours since the sun last set, tells something about the zodiacs, and also keeps track of people's name day. In Prague, you get to celebrate twice: once for your birthday, and once for your name day (with everyone else who has the same name.)
This is the Prague Castle--sorry the picture is so bad, but if I remember correctly, our guide siad the castel complex is the largest of all--not necessarily the castle, the complex.
View of the city from some hill-top park
Berlin was our second stop and is where I got the most history. Everything you have learned about the Holocaust and then some comes to life when you get a tour of this city. Not to mention there are still concentration camps that one can visit. I did not have time because it takes a whole day, but if I return, it’s at the top of my list. Ironically, they are very open about their past, more specifically about their involvement with the holocaust. The way the actual city looks is not at all what I expected. To say the least Berlin is very urbanized like most major cities. It does not have the aesthetic appeal you would expect of such an old city. I guess I expect everything to have some type of old feel to it like all the other cities we have visited. Below you will find pictures with captions about their relevance.
Hotel Adlon: Most famous for being the place where Michael Jackson hung blanket out the window. 1,500 Euros / week
Berlin Wall: The small section that still remains.
The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe: it cost 27 million to build and consists of 2,711 stellae. Beneath it, underground, is the Holocaust Museum.
Holocaust Museum inside:
I can say to you readers that I did not spend my time in Amsterdam as most people do. I did not get high or patronize a brothel. I learned a lot about this city being on the walking tour and it actually dispelled some myths as well. For example, weed is not legal; the government just simply turns a blind eye to it. Amsterdam has one rule, “You can break the law, but you never break the rules.” The rules under this one major one are: 1.) If you are breaking the law be discreet; 2.) Your actions cannot cause harm to anyone else; and 3.) If it brings in money it is alright. Therefore, you can see why weed is accepted. They sell it in “coffee shops” (discreet); it is not considered a hard drug (harmless in that it does not kill); it brings the country millions in revenues, in fact the sellers are not taxed totally for it because you cannot tax something that is illegal. Also, prostitution in their Red Light District is legal. This was done out of trying to protect the women who live this lifestyle. I have more little facts about Amsterdam, but I will not write them all here. Below you can find a few photos. Not pictured is the Anne Frank House. This was the first thing we did upon our arrival and it was really moving and the layout of their secret hideout was very intriguing. The next time you complain about your small house or apartment, think again.
Nemo science museum—just a few feet from the hostel we stayed in. Oh, did I mention that hostel was a boat? Yes, it was pretty sweet. And there are actually quite a few “botels” you can stay in while in Amsterdam.
The “I Amsterdam” sign
The smallest house in Amsterdam: Years back (I am not sure if this is still the case), the people of Amsterdam would be taxed based on how wide their houses were. Well, this is why this house is so narrow, and it is actually occupied to this day.
Canal View—there are many in Amsterdam, but this one was the nicest one I saw.