surprise.

Yep, I am far from done with this thing.  I have yet to upload all my photos from the trip, and have yet to write down the words I have already written in my sketchbook to put on here.  Eventually I will do so (meaning, I am forcing myself to tackle this task in the coming days).  I have already wrapped up (and will do so here) my time in Europe about a month ago.  Since then, I have: spent time home, hit a deer, driven too much, and started my summer thesis.

Tune in next time.

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a short story.

It’s been some time since I have updated the European Blitz Trip.  I wish I could say more of what we did in Prague, but it is all a blur even though it was a week ago.  I will give it a shot starting there.

Prague

Praha is an amazing city.  Out of all the places we were set to travel to, Prague may have been one of the top on my list.  The city was beautiful, and it certainly had a charm that Sienna did not.  I would argue to say that the city had more character, in that it wasn’t hyper clean and fixed up to sell tourists into visiting.  It had some of those elements, but to me, it was definitely more individual in a sense.  We arrived at the hostel at about 7 am, so we dropped our luggage off and went out to see the city before we could go back and check-in.  We went to the Charles Bridge and based the rest of our aimless wanderings around that location.  We took plenty of photos in and around the city the whole trip there, mainly because it offered some of the best picturesque views.  We also went to see one of Frank Gehry’s projects, Dancing House.  The project is decent compared to most of the crap he puts out there, but that is a whole different conversation in and of itself.

We also spent some time wandering around some of the smaller park islands on the river.  Overall, the trip was relaxing to just meander about.  Our last night there, I went to grab dinner with the other three [they went the night before] to this authentic Czech restaurant.  As soon as we sat down, we had beer in front of us without asking, a man trying to offer us shots, and menus full of some great food at really cheap prices.  This places was great.  They brewed all their own beer and had a man playing an accordion.  We soon found out that there were Italians in the restaurant, because as soon as he went to play some well known Italian tunes, they sang at the top of their lungs.  It was an awesome dinner experience, and it was cheap, which was a plus.

Berlin

The next morning, we woke up at 4:30 am to pack up and head over to the train station to catch a 6 am train to Berlin.  The train ride lasted about four or five hours I would guess, and we were put into Berlin a little after lunch.  Now, this is where things went downhill quickly.  First off, we got on the metro to ride out to our hostel.  The train was pulling into the station in two minutes and we walked up to the ticket machine.  Now, tickets were pretty pricey for a metro ticket, and we had just spent roughly 25 U.S. dollars on metro passes in Prague and Vienna that were never checked; not to mention the fact that our passes were never checked our whole time in Italy.  So, we didn’t know what tickets were what, which we should get, and by the time the train got there, we hopped on.  Literally two stops away, this man with blue spiky hair gets on the train and asks people for tickets in German.  We didn’t understand, so we just kept chatting until he speaks to us in English.  We proceed to tell him we don’t know how the ticket system works [which is not entirely a lie] and that we are tired confused people trying to get to our stop.  He then gets off at our stop with us, writes us tickets for roughly 50 U.S. dollars, and tells us we have two weeks to pay via money transfer.  Well, we can’t read anything on the ticket, and ask him what we need to do to pay so the international police don’t find us in the states a month from now.  He doesn’t understand, so he yells that he is only doing his job to us.  We try and explain that we want to pay, we just don’t know how.  Another metro guy comes over and tells us we can pay now with cash and we do so.  He takes our tickets away, takes our money, and we just walk away.  So, we are laughing with frustration at this point and go to our hostel.  Well, they overbooked and now we had no place to stay.  Rather than going to the train station and finding another place to stay, we start joking about how we should just leave Germany since the country hates us.  We keep throwing around the idea of leaving, and then Cassidy says, we should just take a train to Paris.  Out of no where, we went from making ridiculous jokes to actually getting serious about Paris, to the point where we payed four euros to reserve a seat on an overnight train in Paris that evening.

So, we are all riding high on the fact that we are taking a train to Paris, which is completely out of the way of our original plan.  The sudden spontaneous attitude had us running around to see the things we wanted to see in Berlin in a times span of roughly eight hours before our train would leave.  Between playing on a random playground, seeing Libeskind’s Jewish Museum, the Berlin Wall, and going on a grocery store snack run, we were exhausted by the time we got to our train heading for Paris.  We will have to save that story for next time, it’s time to go catch dinner here in Copenhagen.

Look back for pictures later.

on your way.

Buda, Pest, Vienna, etc.

Well, I am four days into the European blitz trip up to Stockholm and it has been go go go.  Wednesday we had studio reviews, so I had to pack the night before and have all my stuff ready to haul to the train station as soon as we were let out.  After presenting powerpoint slides to the whole studio of our work, I headed back to my apartment, grabbed my bags, and met Kristy at the bus stop to head to Termini.  My bag is pretty large, not full, and just a hassle to cart around.  Needless to say, I annoyed a lot of Italians.  Wednesday morning before studio, I went to the coffee bar I go to every morning for my last coffee and pastry of my trip.  Everyone there said goodbye to me and let me have my breakfast for free.  I will miss those people a lot.

We finally hopped on our train, stopping in Venice four hours away before hopping on the train to Budapest.  That train ride was 14 hours over night.  I was planning on getting some sleep, but the sleeping compartments were less than comfortable and the girls that were in our compartment as well smelled really bad.  We have our suspicions on the cause, but it is best not to think about that.  Mark, Cassidy, Kristy, and myself spent a good three hours or so playing cards in the dining car and planning things to do in Budapest when we got there.  We ordered a beer so they wouldnt get mad at us for sitting there and played until we were dead tired.  That way, we might get some sleep.  But between the passport people stopping in every twenty minutes around three in the morning to check our tickets and such, the very uncomfortable seats, and the lingering smells, I slept all of about two hours.  We finally got off the train in Budapest at 11 a.m. with four stamps in our passports and a great urge to eat, shower, grab coffee, and find some Communist statues.

Buda and Pest were fun and cheap, but we left the next morning on a train at 6am for Vienna, which is where we are now.  It took three hours to get there, putting us in Austria at around 9 am.  We couldnt get into the castle we were staying at for free until three, so we locked our luggage up at the airport and went out to find some sausages to eat.  Vienna is beautiful, it is clean, and its easy to walk around.  The transportation system is really efficient, and the city is littered with modern building all over the place.  Our lunch consisted of sausage, pretzel bread, a beer, and a smile.  The food is amazing here.  The highlight of the trip though has been where we were staying the night.  Cassidy found this Catholic seminary type place (they teach fifteen college students who live here) who likes to house travelers for free when they come through town at the discretion of the people who study there.  This place is all about community, getting to know people, and so on.  Katarina studies there, she is from Austria, and she let the girls sleep in her room while Mark and I got one of the many empty guest rooms in the place.  She said this was a castle, and she wasnt lying at all.  This place is huge, with a large courtyard, gardens, and air conditioning.  We cooked her some American style breakfast foods this morning, and now we are using the computer lab to get emails, traveling details and such figured out and done.  We are trying to plan out the day before we leave for Prague on an overnight train at 10 pm tonight.  Vienna has easily been the highlight of the trip so far, mainly because of Katarina and her insane hospitality.  She is big into art, so the five of us (Aimee is will us for today before heading back to Florence for class) are going to do some sketches for her to keep before we come back tonight to grab our stuff.

Its been a pretty long trip so far, and we have a lot of traveling left to do.  It has become apparent that all the countries on the Euro, like Austria, are way more expensive to travel through than places like Budapest.  Its times like these we wish the dollar wasnt so lame, because the exchange rate isnt so great.  But we are having fun traveling through Europe, and look forward to those plane trips back stateside, assuming another volcano fiasco doesnt happen.

Furthermore, this has taken forever to type.  Why?  Because I am typing on an Austrian keyboard.  Here is what that last sentence would look like if I werent.

Furthermore, this has taken forever to tzpe.  Whz_ Because I am tzping on an Austrian kezboard. It doesnt seem like much, but its pretty tough.  Pictures to come soon next time I can get internet on my computer.  We are running off to make the most of the day.

ciao, rome sweet rome.

I just finished packing, and it’s roughly 11:15pm.  Between throwing together my final presentation for studio tomorrow morning, packing, and reminding myself of all the things I shouldn’t have skipped out on during my time here in Rome, it is starting to dawn on me that I am leaving tomorrow and that is that.  This is the last night in my apartment, tomorrow will be my last time in Palazzo Taverna studio, and no more Forno pizza.  Lame.  The bright side? I have a whole lot of traveling to look forward to.  Tomorrow I hop on a train to Venice then Budapest [which is pretty far from Rome].  After that: Vienna, Prague, Berlin, Hamburg, Copenhagen, Oslo, Stockholm, Atlanta, Charleston, and last but not least Auburn.   Not too shabby of a trip to kick off a busy summer in Dudley Hall.  I have a great many thoughts to share, but I also have a presentation that needs music apparently?  Here are the drawings I did for my drawing class.  A couple of them are rushed, one of them isn’t finished to the level I want it to be at, and one of them could make me a lot of money apparently.  Here they are, try and guess which ones were chosen by our second professor here [acid drawing of feelings, preferably with pigeon poop and vegetables].

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wading through subjectivity.

Some two hours ago, we finished up with the student work exhibition at the Ex Gil.  It was a huge dinner celebration to mark the end of studio reviews for the full semester group, and a chance for our split semester class to show off two drawings per person that we have been working on outside of our other studio work.  It was great food, and the exhibition was pretty awesome as well.  Why? Well, Professor Zorr told me that someone offered to pay 100 euros for one of my drawings.  Yep.  That is roughly $130.

He told the mystery person no because it was about work, not any students making money.  Then, someone else offered to buy it.  Then, five people asked me if I was hanging on to it.  Awesome to know people liked the work, even though it is simple to make.  So, I didn’t get to make some money off of it [though it would have been extremely nice to have], but it was great for my professor to see that other people really liked it; maybe that will help me out in the grade department at the end of all of this.

I have a long weekend of studio work and drawings ahead of me, on top of packing and getting ready for the blitz trip to Stockholm.

the other side.

I have to be at the Ex-Gil [one of the only modern buildings standing in Trastevere] in one hour to pin up two of my drawings from this semester.  I picked one I liked, and then one my professor liked.  It goes without saying that we think he is a little crazy sometimes.  He suggests [in all seriousness mind] that we paint with pigeon poop, sometimes vegetables if you can get the color right.  Oh, and to collect cigarette butts from our sites to use in these inspiring metaphysical drawings he wants us to do.  All of the clean, precise work we have worked on before he got here, he dislikes.  So, in order to keep in the running for good grades, we are all doing very random, “acid” drawings.  I’m not good at painting the feelings of myself in a space, let alone using poop to convey the idea of movement.  Neat lines? Psshhh, make it look sketched.  I have compromised with him in my drawings by not doing completely what he wants, and so far, he has liked it.

I think we are all about ready to go back stateside.  I can really only speak for myself when I say that, but it seems like that is the general consensus.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s awesome over here, but I appreciate bacon much more now.  I think the desire to get back is really only fueled by the workload we are facing in studio, that it is due soon, and that our professor is making us extremely angry.  Plus, it won’t be long that I will be home for a handful of days and then it’s back off to Auburn for the summer to do thesis work so I can get one degree out of the way.

In other, more exciting news: the 21st was marked by two birthdays.  The oldest of which being Rome.  We were required to show up at the Pantheon a little before 1pm to see the oculus shine its light on the door way perfectly.  This only happens once a year, each year being the birthday of Rome.  It is pretty clever, and was awesome to see.  The best part of the whole scenario was Charlie [Professor Finn’s partner] started clapping.  What happened? Everyone else started clapping inside.  Who doesn’t want to start one good mass clap in their lifetime?

The youngest however is Jaylyn Jean Spires.  My cousin Jamey has managed to usher in the new generation of our family with Savannah.  They have been together for seven years, so it was well known that they would be the ones to most likely get the job done.  Jamey is ten months younger than me, and has grown up with me my entire life.  He has always been like a brother to me, and to see him step into the shoes of being a father is pretty strange for me.  I am incredibly excited though, and I am very happy for both him and Savannah.  I know they will do a great job, and I am confident he will be an excellent father; if anything, he has great examples of what not to do.  I am excited, and ready to be the favorite uncle.  I know technically I am not an uncle, but that’s not important. I’m just a little disappointed I wasn’t there to give Jamey just a little bit of a hard time for being the nervous, excited wreck that I hear he was.  That’s my job of course.

I’ve got to mat these drawings and head over the Ex-Gil in the rain.  It’ll be a long day of reviews and then our exhibition will follow at 6pm during a huge dinner buffet courtesy of Davide.  That guy is the man.

We have less than one week left here in Rome.  However, I have another three weeks left until I get back to the states.  We are supposed to meet our interior architecture professors for our summer thesis there in Stockholm.  Our thesis group will be submitting our body of work into a late entry design competition for the Stockholm Public Library.  The trip to Sweden was arranged since we are all over here in Europe already, and so we can have some fun.  We will document our work, then start classes back up in Auburn the last week of May so we have time to be home and such.  You are probably thinking the same thing I thought at this point: “Wait, didn’t a volcano just erupt? Isn’t European travel close to impossible north of Rome, and didn’t they just shut the airports down again due to more volcanic ash?” The answer? Yep.  However, our professors still might make it over here, and if they don’t, that’s too bad.  I still have my train tickets bought and paid for.  The EUrail pass can’t be refunded, so I still plan on visiting those nine cities in thirteen days.  I’ll make it back when I do I guess.  I’m off to be a good architecture student.  Ciao.

On another note, this priest is a huge Packers fan.  We were a little disappointed he left his cheesehead back stateside.

land locked blues.

We had our last Wednesday trip this past week.  It was much more relaxed than all of our previous trips because we had a lot of free time to relax, explore, and not listen to lectures the entire time.  This isn’t to say the information we hear is not wanted at all, but when you are touring the ruins of a villa with this huge private grotto on the beach, you sort of want to wander around.  Lunch/soccer on the beach and the town was pretty awesome as well.

[pictures are below]

Friday and Saturday I went on a trip to Pompeii, Sorrento, and Positano.  It was pretty awesome, aside from my camera lens being destroyed as I was checking my bag with the porter before entering the Pompeii archaeological park.  I set it on the counter behind me so I could get my lunch out of my bag as well, and as I was rummaging through my stuff on the floor for a little bit, I heard it hit the ground and the lady at the storage area yelped.  My heart dropped.  I didn’t see what happened, but the other person traveling with me at the time was the only one in there, and the woman taking our stuff was standing in front of me and kept pointing at her elbow and saying stuff in Italian.  Nothing much can be done at this point because the other guy says he didn’t knock it over, and I didn’t see it happen, but unless Casper is real, I don’t think I’ll stand corrected on this one.  I have a warranty on the lens, which is nice, so I’m not upset, the weekend was too great to stay mad for long.

After seeing some petrified bodies, we hopped on a train to Sorrento to check into our bed and breakfast.  We stayed at this amazing place overlooking Sorrento, and the man who ran the place with his family, Luigi, easily made the trip worth it.  We walked in, and there were postcards from people all around the world who stayed there and sent him stuff.  After two days, it was easy to see why people like that guy so much.

I woke up around 7am on Saturday morning and was sitting in the main room reading my book and checking emails and such.  Luigi came down around 7:15 to get breakfast prepared, and asked if I would like to join him to go buy some fresh bread for the morning.  We got to talking about his time in the U.S. and why he came back to Italy.  He said he left the country so late in life, and all the other Italians who worked with him in Jersey always talked about missing home.  He loved living in the States, loved traveling around the east coast, but didn’t want to always feel the longing to return home.  He says it would have been easier if he were younger, but he is glad he is back running a bead and breakfast.  This way, he meets people from all over the world who keep in touch, living his stories through the people who stay with him in Sorrento.  That man was really encouraging, and is genuinely content with his life.  He misses America and traveling in general, but he said it made coming home back to Italy something more amazing.  I think it’s because he appreciates Italy more than he would have if he had not left at all.  Donald Miller would be smiling right now, leaving can be a great decision.

The whole rest of Saturday comprised of bus trips to other parts of the coast, namely, Positano.  The bus ride there took about an hour, and the driver was all over the place.  There weren’t enough seats, so Alex and I had to sit on the floor.  The whole time the bus would swerve around, slam on breaks, and jolt forward, we thought we were going to be sick.  I have never been so happy to touch land.  Positano was beautiful, though the beach was less than impressive.  I think the amount of American college students acting like complete idiots helped contribute to this, and I am beginning to see why people don’t like Americans so much.  Anyways, we had some lunch at this place on the beach that Denzel Washington has been to, and then bummed it around before heading back to Pompeii to catch the last train to Roma.  It was a perfect day to be outside, and the trip was certainly a highlight of this semester.  These small Italian towns never cease to amaze me.

The train ride back was also pretty interesting.  These two guys thought I was Italian, and started talking about how they are glad no one could understand them in our cabin.  What did I do? Kept my mouth shut of course, it’s not so often these chances come around.  To start off, the conversation was hilarious.  They were the standard: “I can’t wait to get completely trashed, go find some hot Italian chicks to take advantage of, and then hopefully not feel like crap the next day.” Hilarious is a loose term here, but it’s pretty funny to me that this is the side Italians get of American students who travel. Italians love to drink their wine, and there are no open container laws, but they do it socially and responsibly.  So, it gets annoying to be grouped by national association, but it’s interesting to hear the conversation turn into who is the “manliest guy who can hold the most drinks and not get beat up by other people.

After a while though, the conversation got strange as one of the guys said he was marrying some girl to get her money.  She is apparently in a wealthy family and he has been leading her on to get back at the rich people in the world.  Then the conversation went to how many people they have beat up, and that one of them chipped a girl’s tooth playing pool and laughed the whole time.  From there, it went to talks about gangs, guns, and that’s when the headphones got turned up really loud.  Where the conversation was mildly funny to begin with, as it went on, it became pretty sad.  A lot of things aren’t right, that is becoming pretty evident.  Anyways, they got off the train and couldn’t figure out the bus system as I passed them later, so I told them which bus they needed to get on.  Their looks were pretty shocked, but I just nodded and told them to have a great rest of the trip and got on the H bus to Trastevere.

I have a little less than one month left in Europe.  We have almost two and a half weeks left here in Rome, and then the rest of that time will be spent traveling up to Stockholm.  I have a lot of drawing left to do, so I think it’s time I get up to the studio and do just that.  Ciao.