New Digs

Hi everyone! It’s been a long time!

I meant to write this post weeks ago, just as a sort of update about what’s going on, but it’ll be short so hang tight. I’m back in Florence! This time, though, I’m working, so maybe not so many shenanigans as last time, but there will still be shenanigans. Mark me there.

However, since I’ve graduated and am now a working woman, I feel that this blog is somewhat behind the times. In collaboration with two fellow grads, we’ve started up a new one about our working, studying, and real-world experiences entitled “The Unfortunate Wallet.” Since we’re all ridiculously broke at the moment, we found the title appropriate. Nevertheless, I thought that if you were still interested in knowing what I’m up to, even though this has been a year-long hiatus, I’d provide the URL so you can sign up to follow our adventures in Italy, Japan, and New York. Thanks so much for your support two years ago and I hope to see your subscription pings soon! ;D

http://www.theunfortunatewallet.wordpress.com

Bosnian Excursion

I know it’s been a long time and my program is actually done now, but I’ll get to that later, promise. I’m spending all day today getting caught up with this blog so hopefully you’ll get two or three updates. Long updates, granted, but they’ll be here. Promise. Maybe. I’m not very good with deadlines as you might’ve noticed.

I’d like to preface this story with the fact that my sense of direction is horrendous. Please keep that in mind.

Anyway, about a month ago I managed to get out to Bosnia to visit a friend of mine studying there for the year. I’ve never been much interested in Bosnia, only knowing the scantest amount about the genocide atrocities committed there in recent history, and seeing as my friend Galen is very much a save-the-world type of guy, it’s not terribly surprising that he landed himself there for study abroad. The trip there was easy enough, minus the fact that I had to skip a day of classes to get down to Rome. From there I flew to Belgrade, Serbia. Being the country next door, for whatever reason the flight ended up being cheaper than a direct one into the capital of Bosnia, Sarajevo. Galen was there to meet me, thankfully, though he’d at first suggested figuring out my own transportation to Sarajevo from the Belgrade airport, ranging from train, international bus, and mini shuttle. This didn’t fly with me for reason stated above, so he made the eight-hour bus ride out to pick me up.

We spent the evening in Belgrade and sampled the local food with much relish. I was pleased to find that it was quite similar to the Eastern European food I’ve had experience with in the past, and I jumped on the prospect of having goulasch again. Unfortunately I don’t have a picture for you as I didn’t think to bring my camera out that night (fail), but I promise you it was delicious. The following day we spent on a bus to Bosnia, getting stopped at border control along the way, at which point my British passport received its first ever stamp. Apparently travelling among EU countries is somewhat like domestic travel. Bummer. We ended up arriving in Sarajevo around sunset, and Galen showed me around some of the city that evening before indulging in more local food and some rose-flavored Turkish delights.

Something I noticed about Serbia and Bosnia both right away was the sheer amount of smoking. Italians love their cigarettes, too, but I’m fairly certain that narrowly avoided lung cancer by the skin of my teeth, if that, during the course of my stay in the Balkan regions. Smoking wasn’t prohibited in restaurants from what I can tell, so there was an effervescent hovering of tabacco in most everything I ate and smelled. What was even more off putting was that the stink persisted for about a week after I returned home.

The following day Galen and I met up with a few of his friends to visit a tiny mountain town, Tuzla, a few hours north of Sarajevo. At this point the weekend is rapidly drawing to a close, and I’m starting to get worried about how I’d make it back to Belgrade for my flight home. I’m terrible with directions of any sort, even in places I’m familiar with, and not having any inkling of the language really bothered me. Luckily, after an seven-hour bus ride and a dubious taxi trip, I made it to the Belgrade airport intact, though not for lack of nerves and irritation.

However, this is where the problems started. My cell phone must’ve run out of money, and I was suddenly out of contact with my parents. I spent the better part of a few hours frantically trying to use both my Italian and Spanish phones trying to text/call the United States. I even bought a Serbian SIM card, to no avail. Suffice to say, I figured that my parents were not pleased at all. I managed to get on my flight and into Rome without any other problems, and since I received calls on my Italian phone for free, my mom managed to get a call through before the damn phone started dying! I only just managed to buy a charger from the airport electronics store before they closed, and by that time I’d missed the last train going out of Roma Termini. I spent the night in the airport before finally catching a train back to Florence, where I promptly collapsed into bed for about a half hour before heading to class.

Admittedly not the best ending of a trip. I wish it had gone more smoothly but I was ultimately glad to get back to Florence at the end of things. It was an interesting trip and fun to see Galen again, but I’m not sure I’d go back to Bosnia without any sort of incentive. Next post: Easter!

Carnivale in Venice

This past weekend I finally got the opportunity to attend Venetian Carnival, an event that blows “Phantom of the Opera’s” masquerade scene out of the water with the number  of people, costumes, and frivolity that occurs in the span of a few weeks. Supposedly put into place upon the victory of the “Repubblica della Serenissima”, the festival became official during the Renaissance and, after a long absence, the Italian government reinstated the celebration of Carnival as a way to pay homage to the history and culture of Venice. Apparently, nearly 3,000,000 tourists visit Venice EACH DAY for Carnival. I definitely didn’t see that many people when I was there, though Piazza San Marco was always packed despite the cold and snow.

I decided to stay overnight, though most of the kids I knew only planned a day trip through some of the travel agencies catering to students in Florence. I wanted to experience as much as possible from Carnivale, and my friend Nick and I took a train at 4:35AM to get into the city before the rush of people arrived later in the morning. Unfortunately, Nick and a few of our other friends left early the following morning for a soccer match in Milan, and I ended up heading out to the islands with a few girls from UConn. I didn’t know them terribly well, but apparently we liked each other enough to plan a trip to Amsterdam together in April! I’m really excited for that trip. Hopefully the cold will have worn off by then and we get to see all the tulips that Holland’s so famous for. Oh, and the windmills. I really want to see the windmills.

 

The most famous event of the Carnival season takes place this weekend: the contest for the best mask (La Maschera piu bella). Since I went last weekend, I forwent attending today and tomorrow, so I’m sure that I’m missing out on some awesome photos, but I collected quite a few while I was there. Enjoy!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

My Café

I know I never finished up talking about my fall break, but honestly I can’t be bothered right this instant to get it all together again. I’d love to show you pictures but I recently cleaned out my harddrive (because it fills up ridiculously fast), and in the purging, I got rid of most of my photos. I saved them all onto an external so they aren’t lost forever, and they’re also on Facebook so I’m sure some of you have seen them already. In any case, I’ll try to get around to talking about the rest of my break but I thought I’d pick up on something a little more recent.

My café. Yeah, I’ve got one. The barrista knows my name and what I want, even has it waiting for me when I come ’round (hot chocolate with whipped cream and a sugar doughnut). It’s not an every day thing. My fellow Fresco students and I started going to the place around the corner from our studio on Mondays and Wednesdays at the beginning of the semester, and it’s pretty easy to remember four American girls that rarely deviate from their orders. We’re pretty predictable.

I’m hoping that next semester I’ll be able to go more often than just two days a week. We have the time in Fresco because we need to let the plaster dry, but I’m not sure if that’ll be the case during Drawing and Oil Painting class. I mean, it’s not like we have much to wait for, unless our model wants a cappuccino for some reason… We’ll see.

Updates Soon?

Um, I swear I can explain. Traveling takes up a lot of time, you know. I meant to get an update to you guys tonight but I got caught up reading “A Game of Thrones” by George R. R. Martin. Actually, I finished it and am currently getting started on the sequel, “A Clash of Kings.” Now who can pass up a title like that? I’ll talk to you soon. I’m sure you want to hear all about where I’ve been and see the pictures I’ve taken. Ciao!

Eurochocolate International Chocolate Festival

I’m pretty sure that I’ve never seen so much chocolate in one place in my entire life. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory come to life, I kid you not. There’s really no way to explain this sort of thing so I’m putting a montage of photos down at the bottom. The Chocofest (shorten that title up) is currently taking place in Perugia, the home of the Baci candy factory (though we didn’t visit), and two days ago about 28 of us students took a bus out there to eat ourselves sick. Mission successful. I never want to see another chocolate bar again.

Among the many chocolate stands and chocolate liquor samples and CHOCOLATE KEBABS, merchandise stands were thrown up as well, and I bought myself a chocolate-bar iPod, iPad, and MacBook Pro case, just because they looked awesome. No, they aren’t made of chocolate. They look like chocolate though and have iChoc written on them. So cool. I definitely had a great time, and if I didn’t have my papers to write, I’d probably be there again today. I know I said I never want to see another chocolate bar, but . . . please. It’s the Chocolate Festival.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Some Favorite Photos (thus far)

As you know, I’m currently enrolled in an introductory photography course, partly to learn how to use this ridiculously multi-faceted camera of mine and partly to just enjoy myself. Now that it’s been almost a month here in Florence, I thought it’d be nice to show you a few of my favorite photos that I’ve taken since being here, though I’ll include a few from when my parents were with me, too. Can never have too many photos!

San Lorenzo Market Stand: Venetian Masks

Papparadelle with Wild Boar at ZaZa's

Pepperonicini

Bellini, Beinget, aperitifs

Duomo at night

Roasted Nuts at the Rificolona Festival

Grapes on the vine

Vineyard

Milan and I

Brave Pigeons in Milan

Cathedral of Milan Center

Offering Candles with oil painting of Madonna and Child