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A Short Recap of My Summer August 3, 2012

Posted by sidsinha in Travel Log.
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For this blog post, I am going to post a video that I entered into the video contest hosted by Georgia Tech Lorraine. Somehow, it won second place! The video is a SHORT recap of my summer and shows some of my favorite moments.

Prague, Buda, and Pest August 3, 2012

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The last two weekends prior to finals consisted of Prague and Budapest, which is actually two cities separated by the  Danube River. Both cities were phenomenal. Located in central-eastern Europe, the cities had a completely different feel than the previous cities I had visited. 

Prague, the Golden City, had been on my list for about three years (since I saw Casino Royale). I had always thought of Prague as a city with a special aura behind it. As I came out of the train station, I immediately felt that aura. The atmosphere was almost stoic if you will. From the Prague Castle (the largest coherent castle complex in the world) to the Charles Bridge, the architecture puts you back through the different periods in the history of Prague. 

We had decided to stay in an apartment in Prague, and kudos to Hunter Wojohn for picking one right on the river. The view was phenomenal. The apartment honestly might have been one of the highlights of my time in Prague. Later that day, we decided to check out the famous Charles Bridge and the Strathov Monastery. The Charles Bridge was very nice; it was filled live music and artists at work. The view of the river and the surrounding cityscape was definitely worth the visit. The next day, we spent most of our day in the Old Town district, a historic section of the city. One of the highlights of Old Town is the Astronomical Clock, the oldest functioning astronomical clock, built in 1410! Image

That night, we had a traditional Czech dinner, consisting of a variety of meats fried mercilessly. Apparently that is how the Czech like it.

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Budapest is probably the most diverse city I have ever visited. I could understand why. During a walking tour, I received my answer. Although it is an Eastern European city, the reason for its diversity is its long history. Throughout the ages, Hungary has been ruled by many regimes. Interestingly, Hungarians descended from Asia! 

During my time in Budapest, I can say that I thoroughly explored the city. I spent much of my day walking around and trying to get a feel for the city. The people were genuine, the buildings were varied (reflecting both the Communist era and its period of freedom), and the food was delicious. Unfortunately, similar to Prague’s, the food here was lathered in fat–because it is actually cooked in lard. One of my highlights was the bath house, one of the largest in the world. It had 16 different pools, both warm and cold. Budapest is actually know for these bath houses because of the thermal springs. I definitely enjoyed my evening there. My other highlight was one of our dinners. Accompanying the delicious Hungarian food was live ballroom music. Seeing the Americans, the band also threw in a few classic American songs. 

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Prague and Budapest were both very different from any other cities in Europe, but they were fantastic in their own rights. 

Italia. casa di gelato July 27, 2012

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Following my short stint in Madrid to meet a good friend of mine, I hopped on to one of the finest airlines in the world, Ryan Air, and found myself in Rome. [At this point if you are not familiar with Ryan Air I suggest you look it up.] Once in Rome, I grabbed some Chinese food (If you haven’t had Chinese food in Italy, I don’t recommend it) and met up with my group. It was nighttime so we decided to grab gelato and head to the Coliseum. It is definitely a sight worth seeing at night as well as in the day. Fine Italian gelato only enhances your experience. The next day we decided to cover much of the major tourist attractions of Rome: Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Basilica, Trevi Fountain, and the Spanish Steps.

The following day, before setting off for Florence, we saw the Coliseum and the ruins in the morning. I can understand now why people rave about this Eternal City. From the earliest centuries to present-day, its rich history is very evident through the architecture, the food, the language, and the overall culture. I considered Rome a good city but one of the best cities (second only to Madrid) I have visited this summer has to be Firenze, or Florence as we know it. It was a fantastic mix of the past and present. Phenomenal, in fact. There weren’t too many major sites to see, but I think that’s what made Florence more special. My idea of a great experience is finding myself in a completely unknown city and roaming it to learn something that I never could have otherwise. Florence consisted of me doing just that. The Piazza Michelangelo, a spot offering a view of the entire city, was marvelous. The city of Florence, at the foot of the Apennines and outlined in red, boasted itself under the hazy weather that evening. Our time in Florence was rounded out with a fantastic Tuscan dinner followed by delicious gelato (Florence also had the best gelato in Europe…or the world for that matter) and live music. One of my favorite parts of a city is its market. Going to the market gives you feel for the city, I believe. Walking around, chatting [bargaining] with the vendors, and eating the market food gives me a sense of that culture.

The next morning was a bit rushed. On that day, we were to travel to, and hike, the five villages of Cinque Terre. But before that, we had to stop by the Leaning Tower, in Pisa. From Florence, Pisa was only an hour away. After taking the infamous picture with the Leaning Tower, we set off for Cinque Terre….

Cinque terre was simply breathtaking. from Riomaggiore to Monterosso, every village was unique. I had never been to such a place. It seemed as if everyone there were locals. Parts of the hiking trails literally meandered through the streets of town and in front of residents’ homes. I would liken Cinque Terre to an Italian paradise, and nothing less.

I had not thought that Italy would be one of my more memorable trips. I was completely mistaken. Italy, the people, the culture, the language, the food, and the gelato…Italy continually impressed me. I have become a fan. Below are links to my Italy albums. Feel free to enjoy them.

 

http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150919874397713.401885.727097712&type=3&l=d29ef9a961
 
 

European Euphoria July 2, 2012

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Hola de Madrid. Es día bonita! Madrid is the number one city I have been to, I am convinced. From the inordinate amount of Plazas (pronounced Plathas due to the Spanish lisp) to the delectable tapas, Madrid epitomized my idea of Spain. Of course I enjoyed Barcelona and its almost fantasized life, but Madrid gave me a true sense of Spain, I felt. I am slightly biased towards Madrid, because on of my friends gave me a personal tour of much of city. He knew his facts, and best of all, he enjoyed showing us around.

            I am currently at Madrid-Barajas, waiting to board my flight to Rome. Yesterday marked the beginning of our mid-summer break, five days. Some friends and I are going to Italy (within Italy, most likely to Rome, Florence, Pisa, and Cinque Terre).  Before Italy, however, I wanted to take a trip of my own. So two nights ago, I came to Paris and met up with some Oxford friends. Then the next day, I took a flight to Madrid to meet a good friend of mine. Finally, I am about to head out to Rome to meet the rest of the gang.

The craziness is a small reflection on my summer. In the last 5 weeks, I have been to 11 cities, taken more than 40 trains, and eaten over 20 kebabs—sometimes what I would define as my cause of sustenance. The kebabs are a delicious conglomeration of vegetables, tzaziki, red pepper, and meat (usually chicken) in a thick piece of pita bread. They are phenomenal AND cheap (not necessarily a combination representative of Europe).

My next few weeks consist of canyoning in Switzerland, Running [with the Bulls] in Pamplona, running around in Prague, relaxing in Budapest, and fulfilling my aspirations in Istanbul—the top city on my list of places to visit for much time. Stay tuned.

 

GTL Post–Test 2 May 24, 2012

Posted by sidsinha in Travel Log.
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