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The Time of my Life June 24, 2013

Posted by karayogi in Travel Log.
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Munich and a whirlwind tour of Italy- gosh, it’s hard to put these experiences into words!

First, Munich.

Let me just say that Munich is one of the friendliest cities I’ve ever been to.  It’s so refreshing to be able to ask someone passing by for directions and have them help you get where you’re going.  Everyone is smiley, friendly, and just all around happy (for the most part of course.)  Also, the food is amazing—I have never enjoyed sausage so much as in Munich.  We went to an amazing restaurant Jack Altman (a travel writer), suggested for their amazing sausage.  Oh my goodness.  It was delicious.  I even ate it with a little bit of sauerkraut and some really nice honey mustard sauce- the flavors were so perfect.  I never thought I would ever like ‘kraut.  But I do.  Strange what you learn living abroad!

We also went to the Deutches Museum, (which is a museum showing the evolution of and the expanses of technology), and that was incredible.  We probably made it through only a sixteenth of the whole museum in 4 hours—rooms and rooms of huge ships and planes and different engines and water wheels and machine shop tools and pharmaceuticals and musical instruments and genetics and all sorts of things to make an engineer giddy.  To say it was amazing would be an understatement.  We also wandered around Munich a bit and found a festival that was going on, complete with lederhosen and live German music.  Farmers markets lined the streets and people were everywhere.  The town square was packed tight with people enjoying themselves.  We also got to head to the BMW Museum and the Olympia Park- both of which were pretty awesome.  Seeing a whole bunch of amazing vehicles was pretty neat- especially when you can sit on the motorcycles!  Unfortunately, my feet don’t reach the ground on a motorcycle, so it doesn’t look like I will be driving one of those.

 

Now, onto the best trip I’ve been on so far—Italy.  We went to Pisa, Rome, Florence (Firenze), and Venice.

Flying into Pisa, we were able to explore the city for a few hours- just long enough to take that “I’m pushing over the leaning tower!” picture.  (Which we did!)  And to get our first taste of amazing Italian cuisine.  It is very very hard to not eat well in Italy, even on a student’s budget.  The best tortellini I’ve ever had in my life was cheaper than McDonald’s.  It was also from Pisa!  I had never thought I would ever see the leaning tower in person.  It was a dream-come-true moment; to look up and see a tower looming over you and know that it was the site of many a scientific discovery, and the fact that it’s famous for being crooked.  Although, there are many crooked buildings in Italy- but that’s really the only famous one.

Rome was next- and boy was it amazing!  On our first night there we chose to go exploring a little bit- we headed over to the Spanish Steps as well as to the Trevy Fountain, and saw many a Roman ruin along the way.  The Spanish Steps were gorgeous- overlooking a beautiful little side street and alleyway,  and along a fountain, it was the perfect place to relax and sit!  Sitting there, we soaked up the Italy and then headed to one of our many gelato stops.

Gelato.

Oh boy do I have a lot to say about that.  It is the most amazing, addicting substance on the planet, and one that I will sorely miss.  Our first taste was at a small, family owned shop the first night in Rome- I had lemon.  It was amazing- smooth, but not as milky as ice cream, and much lighter.  The perfect summer treat.  After some gelato, we decided to walk around for a bit, and eventually made our way to dinner- another family owned restaurant, where we had some amazing pizza—(best I’ve ever had.  And it was only cheese pizza!) And at the end of the dinner, the owner of the restaurant came out and talked to us and gave all of the ladies a rose!  It was so sweet!  Perfect timing, too, because then we made our way to the Trevy fountain.  It was so gorgeous lit up at night—incredibly impressive and filled with beautiful marble sculptures, it was a great place to admire the beauty of the city.  Rome is one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

After a night of exploring, we woke early the next day to head to the Vatican as well as to see the Coliseum, Forum, and Palatine Hill, as well as to get the best gelato/desert/sweet something on the planet.   The Vatican was gorgeous.  It was incredibly wonderful to see the art, history, and majesty of the place.  Apparently, the public has only recently been allowed to go inside.  I understand why- the collection of art by the old masters is simply phenomenal.  I could write pages about how amazing the Caravaggio painting was or how beautiful the frescoes on every ceiling were, but I will save some reading and add some pictures.  My neck hurt after the visit from looking everywhere, trying to absorb all of the details.  We did get to see the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, painted by Michelangelo.  Wow.  It was, just, wow.  No art has ever made a greater impression on me.  The detail in each panel of the ceiling tells the story of the Old Testament, with the especially famous scene of God extending is finger to Adam in the center of the room.  It was amazing.  I don’t think I have words to describe how beautiful the whole room was.  Among the amazingly beautiful artworks that we saw, we also got to see some of the Papal vehicles- from beautiful coaches to incredibly impressive Ferraris.  The coaches were incredible to see, with all of the gold detailing and even the detail of the horses’ harnesses.  Incredible!

We then headed over to the Pantheon and to the most amazing gelato in the world, from Giolitti’s.  Three big giant paddle-fulls of gelato (I got raspberry, grapefruit, and cantaloupe,) and a hearty dollop of sweet whipped cream were all it took to win my heart.  I love gelato.  No desert could ever beat Giolitti’s gelato.  Each of the flavors tasted exactly like the fruit (with the exception of grapefruit—that one was much sweeter!) and had fresh fruit bits in it.  Amazing.  Also, the Pantheon was really really neat.  It was kind of interesting to see the changes the Christians made to the traditional Roman art and architecture of the city—the adding of olive leaves on sculptures as well as the conversion of buildings like the Pantheon into churches.  It was very interesting to see how Christianity changed the traditional art- literally- through the addition of crucifixes and other items.

Then—the most incredible moments of the day—seeing Palatine Hill, the Forum, and the Coliseum.  Excuse the cap lock for the moment, but IT WAS AMAZING.  Palatine Hill and the Forum were just gorgeous. I had never understood the magnitude of, or the impressiveness of the Roman empire until I saw these places.  The whole thing was intricate and beautiful—you could still see evidence where entire plazas were covered in marble, and the beautiful Arcs commemorating military leaders still stood.  The magnitude of the area is just amazing—to think the Romans were able to build such truly amazing structures—Pantheon included—is simply amazing.  Their mastery of combining the arts with engineering is still apparent to this day.  And the Coliseum.  SO AMAZING.  It was HUGE!  I had no idea the Coliseum was that, well, colossal!  In person, it certainly is much more impressive than any post card or picture.  Just to think that thousands of people once stood there, cheering on their protagonists and watching violent punishments was very surreal.  Looking around, the whole place was surreal; as though I was standing in the spirit of another empire- another era.  I never wanted to leave.  This was one place I never thought I’d see, and seeing it for the first time was one of the most incredible moments of my life.  You simply walk out of the subway station, (named Colisseo,) and there it is.  Also, on a more interesting note, the numbers on the entry gates are still visible- and the numbering is off!  Instead of writing a 4 as IV, all fours were IIII, 9 was VIIII, and so on.  This was pretty neat.  Such an amazing structure breaking “the rules”.  That was neat.

After a little siesta, we headed out again for another amazing dinner—this time, lasagna.  I have never been a huge fan… Until I had it in Italy.  It was so rich and cheesy and delicious, oh my goodness.  But moving on, we went and explored some more, and saw the Piazza del Populo, as well as some of the obelisks the Romans took from Egypt.  They actually saved the obelisks from destruction by basically looting them.  Funny how that works.  Anyways, we saw the city at night, and enjoyed a lovely stroll back to the hotel, enjoying the last bits of Roma.

In the morning we headed to Florence- the city of art.  In the morning we strolled around, and saw the Duomo and the Leonardo da Vinci museum, which held models of his designs that you could move and play with and some of his manuscripts.  That was pretty neat.  We also went to the Monastery where St. Beato Angelico painted frescos.  At confirmation, the saint I chose was St. Beato Angelico, the patron saint of the arts.  It was amazing to see some of his work.  He was phenomenal—the whole edifice glowed with beautiful frescoes.  We then went and wandered the market and tasted all different dried fruits- kiwi, star fruit, pineapple, coconut, banana, peach, and melon.  They were all so good- so amazingly fresh that they were basically candy.  The kiwi was a definite favorite.  Afterwards, we went and saw Michelangelo’s David- in person.  That was pretty much the most incredible  sculpture on the Earth.  So flawless; like he could come alive any minute.  We also got to see some unfinished sculptures by Michelangelo, which were pretty awesome- you could see the figure just seeing to burst through the marble.  Amazing, incredible, and just awesome.  Continuing to explore, we stumbled on a jousting tournament, a marathon, and many, many other amazing statues and beautiful things.  Firenze was alive.  We went to the Berdini gardens and walked through the most beautiful park on Earth- with glowing fountains and lush shrubbery and beautiful views of the city, it was awe-inspiring.  Then, dinner.  The best Italian dinner I’ve ever had- gnocci in asparagus and crème sauce with zucchini flowers.  It was simply the best.  (I’m getting hungry just writing about it!!)  Walking back to the hotel, we watched the race end, and the winners announced, and enjoyed the festive place.

In the morning, we took a quick train to Venice, which is now, easily, my favorite city in the world.  There are no cars- all transportation is by boat, even the “bus” system is a boat-bus. The garbage is collected on a garbage boat, and goods are delivered on huge drink or food boats.  Everywhere in Venice looked like it came out of a postcard.  Getting ourselves lost all day, every inch of Venice was amazing.  Even when it was ugly, it was actually beautiful.  But the most breathtaking part about Venice is the nighttime.  We went to the Piazza Saint Marco around 10 at night, and watched the square slowly flood as four of the most amazing quintets played “What a Wonderful World” and “My Heart Will Go On” and other amazing songs.  It was easily the most beautiful and amazing night of my life, listening to the bands and just enjoying the beauty of the city.  No place on earth is more peaceful or wonderful.  The square slowly filled with water, and the lights reflected in the pools.  This is because Venice is basically on stilts- the sluice gates aren’t finished, so the low parts flood in high tide.  While only temporary, being there to see the beauty was out of this world.

I am so happy to have gone to those cities- this is the trip of a lifetime.

 

Pictures to follow a bit later- once I get internet back.

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