Sunday, September 27, 2009

Wien! (Vienna)

Guten tag!

This past weekend I traveled with my best friend, Emily to Vienna, Austria! We went to visit my high school Spanish teacher, Rene Frazee, and my high school soccer coach, Scott McFarland, and their two kids! They are currently living in Vienna and Scott is teaching first grade and coaching so I was super excited to be able to have
the chance to go see them!

Emily and I flew out of Rome Thursday evening and arrived in Vienna around 9 PM. When we arrived we realized...oh dang...we know absolutely NO German. This wasn't going to be like yeah yeah I can figure it out cause I know a little bit of Spanish or Italian or something like that. Sooo..we were excited! I actually thought it was the best language experience I have had yet because I just simply did not know anything!

We got to Scott and Rene's apartment and visited with them for a bit and then went to bed. I have not slept as well as I did that night the entire time I have been abroad! It was absolutely quiet and peaceful. I think also sleeping in the house of people I knew just gave me a lot of comforting feelings. :)
The next morning, Em and I got up and went to the Schonbrunn Palace with Rene, and her two adorable kids, Grace and Ethan! This palace is the former royal residence of successive Habsburg monarchs. This place was incredible! Em and I did a tour through the palace and then explored the grounds. They have beautiful gardens everywhere and statue
s and fountains. They have this area with small labyrinths and mazes and Emily and I had some fun getting "lost" in those. Then we walked up this hill facing the was where they were originally going to build the monarchy's "summer home" but decided not to. Anyways up on this hill you can look out over all of Vienna! It was beautiful! Emily and I made some 1-minute friends there too! We met Henning, from Germany and Rowan from Australia. They invited us to have coffee with them so we sat and visited for about an hour. They also invited us to a party on a ship that night but we didn't end up going. But they were good 1-minutes friends!

Later on Friday, Emily and I went to Stephensplatz and saw the Stephandsom Cathedral. This is in the 1st District (aka the high class area!) so we walked around and window shopped at Gucci, Prada, and other high end stores that I would never be able to afford! Scott and Rene met back up with us and we went out to dinner at a Thai place. Oh my gosh it was so great to eat something other than Italian food!

Scott left after dinner and took the kids home and Rene, Em, and I walked down to the Danube (it was really the canal for it but still cool!) and then decided to stay out for a drink. We ended up at this cafe (I'll remember the name somehow) that was supposedly Hitler's favorite restaurant! We had hot chocolate and rum and some applestrudal! It was so great to sit and visit, but it was crazy to be there sitting in the same place that not along ago, Hitler sat and ate and discussed...well..I don't even want to think about what he talked about!

The next day, Scott took Emily and I out on the town and was our personal tour guide. We went to Schloss Belvedere (The Habsburg's summer residence), we saw the opera house, and the building and courtyard where Hitler gave his infamous speech. Rene met up with us later in the day and we went to the Naschmarkt and did some shopping. Rene made us a homemade meal for dinner than night and we enjoyed a night of conversation. :)

On Sunday, Scott and Rene took us up to the vineyards because they were having a festival. We drank Sturm..which is essential wine that's not completely fermented. Not entirely sure..but it was good! It was hilarious though because there was definitely more alcohol content then we knew of in the drinks cause it went straight to our heads! But it was tasty! We couldn't leave Austria without having some wienal schnitzel so before we left for our flight, Scotty took us to lunch! It was yummmmmy!

So there's the rundown on my trip but here are some highlights! word:


Right when Emily and I got off the plane in Vienna there was a Starbucks welcoming us. I basically died of happiness. So the entire weekend (yes it was American of us but I couldn't help it) we drank Starbucks coffee. Oh it was heavenly

Second..the Austrians are so nice! And Vienna is so clean and organized! I absolutely loved my time in the city because I felt like people were friendly and helpful and it was just a very good vibe to the city. I thoroughly enjoyed it and definitely want to go back again! And I kind of want to learn Germa
n now!

Lastly, the Austrians are very..secretive..ashamed maybe..of their involvement with WWII and Hitler. It is very interested. They even have a memorial but it is located off the beaten path...away from the more visited areas. It's just interesting how they seem to try to hide it. The memorial by the way, was very interesting. It's a square made up entire of stone books. The books bindings are facing inward (ie opposite of how they would be in a library). The books each symbolize someone's life..someone's story..that we will never know because they were killed; hence why the bindings (where the title would be) is facing inward so you don't know who's story it is.

Well that's all for now!

Much love,

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Cinque Terre

Come stai? Sto molto bene! (See I'm learning some Italian!)

Man I have the adventures to share with you all! :) My friends, Emily, Gena, Madeleine, Corey, and Jeff went to Cinque Terre this weekend. We left Thursday evening and caught a train from Roma Termini to La Spezia. The ride was a little over three hours and it was fun to see mor
e of the Italian countryside and the coast! After arriving, we took a taxi to our hostel in Bassia. In terms of hostel was ok. Decently clean and quite, however we did see a mouse in the hallway when we left to grab dinner! Stayed there for one night.

We got up the next morning and took a bus into the first town, Riomaggiore, where we had a hostel booked for the next 2 nights. After dropping our luggage off we went exploring and found a beach to spend the afternoon at. Oh side good friend Andrew Smith met up with us because he is traveling around Europe before his year in Spain begins! A fun addition to the trip! :) Anyyyways...spent the afternoon on the bea
ch. Jeff tried desperately to get as tan as I am (it's hopeles
s) and we all swam in the Mediterranean! Yes, I, Kristen, who is deathly afraid of water, swam in the M. Sea! Be proud.

After the beach we went back to check into our hostel. Our hostel ended up being at the VERY top of the town in an adorable apartment style complex. The view, as Jeff informed me, was worth the 60 euro and I now redeemed myself for every moment we've been lost so far for this semester. ha Yeah another side note, our group tends to have difficulties deciding who will be the leader and make the decisions, so it usually ends up being me. But then I have no idea where I am ever going so we end up lost. But we always find out way eventually! Every moment's an adventure!

After checking in, we all cleaned up and then went out to dinner. We ate at this very nice place right in town. There was this old Italian man who went around the place serving the wine, folding napkins, and just visiting with people. For not really knowing any Italian, we were able to understand what he told us. He thought Corey and Andrew were brothers and that all us girls were very beautiful and he approved of the fact that the guys were with more girls! He was adorable! He pretty much made my whole trip!

The following day we woke up early and hiked the famous Cinque Terre Trail. It's a 9 km hike that connects all five of the towns. We started in Montorosso and ended
in Riomaggiore. The hike was incredible!! Soooo many stairs and a lot of up and down (which didn't go over well with my knees), but the views were amazing! It felt great to finally be in some nature and in small towns without any noise or pollution. We stopped in each of the towns when
we reached them and snacked. In Vernazza we had pesto pizza
because this town is known for their pesto.
In Corniglia we had gelato. One section of the trail was closed because of mudslides so that was kind of a bummer. The very last section of the trail is called the Via del Amore (Trail of Love) and people (lovers) hook padlocks on the fences and wires all along this section. It was very cool!

After our exhausting day we hiked the 300 stairs back to our hostel and cleaned up and then enjoyed a lovely dinner at a place right at the bottom of our place. The next morning we needed to catch a train back to La Spazie because we had a train back to Roma at noon. Well...we got to the station with plenty of time only to be announced that the train was delayed. And it kept being delayed..more..and more. I was praying the entire time that it would arrive or that our train to Roma would be delayed so we would not have to wait or pay more before we could get back to Roma. Finally the train came and arrived in La Spezia at 12:09 (our train to Roma was supposed to leave at 12:06). We got off the train and ran to our platform and what do you know! The train to Roma was delayed and arrived about 2 minutes after we got there! It was definitely a Hallelujah...come again...HALLELUJAH..moment!
It was a great weekend! I learned a lot about traveling with friends and how people have different traveling styles. There were definitely some tense moments on the trip but I think we all really had a great time. I thoroughly enjoyed the small town feel of Cinque Terre and I was able to spend some quality time walking and talking to Jesus when I was on the Trail. We had a lot of laughs..I almost lost my Nalgene water bottle...we tried n
ew food...practiced some Italian..oh, I almost forgot! One of the best moments on the trip...we were sitting on the wall down by the water and all of a sudden, I recognized someone! The DU Bologna group just HAPPENED to be in Cinque Terre the same weekend! Talk about a small world! But then after that...we kept running into DU was so funny! We didn't know any of them but we got some great laughs out of realizing that DU has infested Italy with study abroad students. I guess DU's whole 85% study abroad rate really rings true!

Well that's all for now! I hope ya'll are enjoying reading about my crazy adventures as much as I am enjoying having them!

Much love,

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Posso Avere Un Altro...

Well. This was quite the crazy weekend! :)

Friday, me and four of my friends spent the majority of the day visiting
the Vatican Museum. It was incredible! There was so much to see! I could spend the entire day just looking up and still not see like 2% of the artwork in the Vatican. We mazed in and out of little chapel rooms, corridors lined with tapestries done by Bernini, and sculptures of castrated men (poor guys). I was most excited about seeing the Sistine Chapel and truly it is as extraordinary as you think. It's not as big as I thought it was going to be. However, standing in that chapel and actually seeing Michelangelo's creation was beyond captivating. I felt moved to tears and exhaustion looking at his creation scene and the scene of judgement. It was confusing to decipher between what was painted versus what was actually part of the building. Breathtaking.

After the Sistine Chapel, we decided to wait on going into St. Peter's because the line was long and we were all tired. We met up with my friend Jeremiah that I met at the hostel I was staying in before I moved into my apartment. Hung out with him for the afternoon and then we all got together to go to a beach party! We were supposed to meet up with a friend of Jeremiah's at the Yellow Hostel/Bar.
Well...we left around 7:30ish and needed to catch the 75 bus. We waited at the bus stop for ab
out 30 minutes, saw about 40 bus 3's go by, and no 75's. Welcome to Italian public transportation (this is one thing DU orientation people got right!). Well we finally got a 75 and were able to make it to the hostel in time. Th
e drive to the beach took about 45 minutes. When we finally got there, we all got some drinks (I made friends with the bartender. ha) and then sat in the sand and listened to a live band. It was great! We had a great night laughing, drinking a little vino, wading in the Mediterranean, and....losing my AUR student id card, my monthly bus pass, and getting sand in my camera. Yeah it was bad. But it was a fun night! I successfully learned how to order a drink in Italian and how to pro
perly greet people with the cheek kiss and I had a very elementary conversation with an Italian!

Saturday I slept for a good portion of they day. In the afternoon, my roommates Emily, Gena, and I went to the Villa Borghese, a beautiful park in Roma. It was very relaxing to wander around, get some gelato, sit and read, and people watch.

Today (Sunday) I wasn't feeling well again (still pretty sick) and Emily, Corey, Jeff, and Madeleine had plans to go to the beach. However, it was raining so that plan was scratched. Instead we all decided to get some lunch near the Tiber River. It was a great little place! We had a yummy lunch and then found an english bookstore and I found a toy shop with all handmade toys! Afterwards we went to the Basilica di Santa Maria. Apparently this church is the first church where they had Catholic mass. It was beautiful and I'm definitely going back to do some drawing!

Well it was an eventful weekend and I'm looking forward to a relaxing week of classes!

I hope everyone is doing well! Miss you all!

Much love,

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

What shall we do today? Get gelato by the Pantheon? Sure!


Well it's been a looooong week in Roma! After my sister left, I was finally able to move into my apartment! I live with 5 girls (Emily and 4 girls all from the east coast. ha). Our apartment is on Viale Trastevere, right along the street, which unfortunately means traffic All. Night. Long. I'm talking trash collectors, ambulances, police cars, etc, etc. It's awful. Sleeping is definitely difficult. But other than t
hat, our apartment is nice! 3 bedrooms, 1.5 bathrooms, a cute living area, and a kitchen.

All last week we had various orientation activities and such. It wasn't all that exciting. We did do a tour of the Colliseum and the Roman Forum which was wicked sweet! My friends and I have enjoyed many days of simply exploring..going to the Pantheon, Trevi Fo
untain, the Spanish Steps, Piazza di Navona etc. It's great!

School started this past Monday. It's been interesting! I am taking a Renaissance and Baroque art history class. The majority of the class is on site so we will be going to actually see the art we will be studying! So cool. I am also taking an archeology of Rome class, which is going to be super interesting. Again, this class is mostly on site and I will actually get to vi
sit excavation sites in and around Rome. My third class is Italian. It's very beginner Italian and the professoressa is great! She's extremely nice and easy going but language has never been my strong point. My last class is a sketchbook class. I haven't been to this one yet so I don't know how it will be. Hopefully amazing though!

I am going to get plugged in to a Bible study tomorrow. I met a pastor from the Bible Baptist Church and he leads a Bible study every
Thursday. They also have it arranged so they will pick us up and take us to church on Sundays! I'm going to check it out this coming week. I am also going to try to go to the church that the Halls recommended to me. Right now I am simply craving fellowship with other Christians. However, I do feel like I am spending more time with Jesus since He is the only one I have to fellowship with right now.

I feel a lot more comfortable. And now that I am getting over my sickness, I am feeling a lot better about things. I am glad to be in a routine of sorts with classes started and I think I like having free time to be able to be by myself, leisurely read, and REALLY dedicate time to getting to know Jesus more and see what he has to teach me.

So I do want to point out the things that certain people (cough cough..) told us d
uring our orientations at DU about what to expect in Rome that have been utter LIES (ha)

List of Lies Told by Not to Be Named DU Students:
1) Romans don't wear flip flops.
2) Romans don't wear jeans.
3) Romans don't wear rain boots
4) Romans don't wear shorts
5) Roman apartments are cold
6) You can't buy peanut butter here

That's all for now! I'll update when I have more exciting adventures to talk about!

Much love,