Saturday, 28 November 2009

Italy Pictures

5 days in Italy

I realize I am really behind on my blog and I have no other excuse except I´ve been doing other things. So here´s a quick update on my trip to Italy. We spent 2 and a half days in Rome. We saw the Colosseum (which was really awesome and so well preserved), the Roman Forum (more ruins), Trevi Fountain, Navarra Plaza, and Castle St. Angelo. Then we went to the apartment of one of DeeDee´s friends who is studying abroad in Rome and had dinner at her house and she showed us around the area where she lives. On the way there, we came across 2 guys spray painting a wall on one of the busiest streets and it wasn´t even dark out. Appearantly it´s not just Spain that´s covered in graffitti.
The next day we hit Vatican City-- St. Peterś Square, beautiful St. Peter´s Basilica, and the Vatican Museum with Da Vinci´s Sistine Chapel, which was my favorite part of Rome. Not only was it huge, but it was so well done that the figures looked 3-D and we had a hard time telling what was part of the architeture of the building and what was painted. After that, we took a walk around the river and made it to ¨cute town¨ (aka Travestere) that some girls in our group who had gone before us told us to go to and had nicknamed it this since they didn´t know its real name. It had a lot of cheap eats and was, well, cute. After that we hit the Roman Crime Museum (me and DeeDee are both Psych majors, what can we say?) where we saw exhibits about how crime was dealt with and carried out in Rome since way back when to present day. If you´re into that kind of thing, it´s pretty neat. The next morning we got up and hit Capuchin Crypts. Definitely really cool, as well as creepy. It´s 5 rooms decorated with bones of 4000 monks. We weren´t supposed to take pictures but we were rebels and took one so people could see just how amazingly weird it was. Also in my top things for Rome.
After the crypts we got on the train to go to Venice. After a 95 minute delay on the train, we finally made it to there, where we stayed for a day and a half. That was a lot more of a relaxing, wandering around place. We hit some pretty good restaurants thanks to recommendations from the owner of our hostel. We mostly just wandered around looking at all their glass and mask shops (which is what theyŕe famous for) and looking at their beautiful old architecture.
So thatś a really quick summary of my Italy trip.
The next weekend we took a bus back to southern Spain to see the Alhombra Castle in Granada, but we only stayed one night. We had a lot of catching up to do since we had skipped school to go to Italy. We also went to a Real Madrid soccer game the week we got back which was really cool. This weekend is our last trip. We´re headed to Barcelona. Then only 2 weeks left. Ahhh! It´s gone sooo fast!

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Sevilla and Cordoba

Last weekend was our Butler trip to Southern Spain. This might be my favorite part of Spain, but it's hard to say since every part of Spain is so vastly different. You can clearly see the Arabic influence in this area--the old buildings were decorated with ornate arabic writings and cercamic mosiacs. When we got to Sevilla, we hit the Cathedral (which was ridiculously huge) and then the palace, which was decorated by a Christian King but in an Arabic style, and all the gardens that went along with it. We also went to an art museum because one of the teachers with us is obsessed with Spanish art. No joke. After that, we walked around and the Butler professor that was with us showed us the apartment she had and the coffee shop she always went to when she studied abroad in Sevilla almost 20 years ago. The next morning, we just walked around the shopping area before getting on a bus and heading to Cordoba. It was more of a small town and I preferred it more than Sevilla, even though I also loved Sevilla. The main attraction there is an old mosque that a church was built inside of after the Christians recaptured the city. We also went to the palace and gardens there. That night, we went to a Flamenco show. Those dancers are extremely talented--I didn't know it was possible to move your feet that fast! The next day, we had time to explore all of Cordoba's winding streets and shop. I also went to mass with one of the girls in my group at the mosque/cathedral we saw the day before. So my first Catholic mass was in Spanish in a mosque. Quite the cultural experience. Now I'm off to Italy for the week and I'm skipping class for the first time in my college career. What a rebel I'm becoming.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

The Good Family in Spain and Prague

Hanging out in the Plaza de Cervantes. The Telefericas.


Jewish Cemetary in the Jewish Ghetto.

The Lennon Wall.

Family visit and Prague

Alright, here´s an update on the last 2 and half weeks of my life.
The last weekend in October, my parents and Nikki came to visit. We spent most of our time here in Alcala, just hanging around in the Plaza and people watching or strolling around the streets--we were really lucky and the weather that week was in the 70´s and sunny. I showed them my school and my Spanish mom had us all over to our house for dinner one night, which was a lot of fun. I got to practice my Spanish skills since I was translating English to Spanish and Spanish to English the entire meal. My madre is a very energetic and social person and my family finally got to see what I mean when I say that she is constantly trying to feed everyone more (a cultural sign of generosity). She kept looking at my mom and dad and saying ¨Eat, eat!¨ and I of course got a whole piece of cake for dessert even though I told her I wanted half and everyone else got half. She also told Nikki that she should sleep in my bedroom because she couldn´t sleep well at their hotel, which she did the next night. Besides exploring Alcala, we spent a day in Madrid and went to the palace, the cathedral, El Rastro (the huge flea market), Plaza Mayor, and took a ride on the aerial cable cars to see a sky view of Madrid. And of course we ate Spanish food and desserts. A lot.

This past weekend, me and 2 other girls headed to Prague. Just a little history about it--Prague was a city built during the Communist occupation to show the supposed splender and richness of Communist states. And it was incredibly beautiful. Everything about this city was aesthetically pleasing--from the buildings to the cobble stoned streets to the many bridges to the parks with beautiful fall trees. We hit the main sights--the palace, cathedral, the old town square with their famous astronomical clock, and the St. Charles bridge. We also went to the old Jewish ghetto, where 118,000 Jews lived before being deported to concentration camps during WWII. We toured the jewish synogogues and saw an old jewish cemetary with some graves from the 1400s, but the most impactful part was the Pinka Synogogue. In this synogogue, they wrote the names of all the Jews from this ghetto that had perished during WWII, as well as their dates of birth and death (or more commonly the last time anyone had heard from this person). Just picture over 100,000 names and dates written in line after line after line all over the walls. And calculating the ages of these people--4 year olds, people the same age as me, people in their 80´s--just made the whole idea even more real. In the upper levels of the synogogue, they had pictures that some children from the ghetto had made. The adults had tried to keep the children´s schedules as busy and normal as possbile with school and activites, and one of the teachers had scrounged and searched for scraps of paper for the children to draw on. There were the normal drawings that children would do (flowers, school and friends, their family), but there were also some that were darker, with them behind walls and bars, dragons and monsters, etc., which shows that despite the efforts of the adults, these children obviously knew and were fearful of what was going on in their world. The worst was a display with pictures of the happy little children next to the drawings they had made.
In contrast with this exihibit, we also visited Prague´s John Lennon wall. During the Communist occupation, some young people had grafittied a wall with ¨Imagine¨ and a picture of John Lennon in addition to more quotes and sayings about peace. Although the Communists continually painted over it, the youths somehow managed to re-graffitti it every time until the Communists finally gave up. Today, the original ¨Imagine¨ is almost covered up with other grafitti from people all around the world who write messages of peace and hope in different languages. All 3 of us girls agreed that this wall that we had barely heard mentioned and wasn´t even marked on our map was one of our favorite things in Prague. Who would have guessed that amidst this beautiful old town one of our favorite things would be a graffitied wall?
We also attempted to see a classical music concert in one of the Cathedrals since Prague is famous for its music (Mozart played and composed there). But what we thought was a symphony concert turned out to be 1 person playing classical songs on an organ behind us in a church. After an hour, we couldn´t take it any longer and left. Well, it was a nice try at being cultured!

This coming weekend is our second Butler sponsored trip to Sevilla and Cordoba, 2 cities in Southern Spain. It´s exciting since we haven´t traveled all together in a group for about a month! And also because we don´t have to worry about flights, hostels, or food because it´s all taken care of. Definitely a plus. :)