Of course, I couldn't really just relax in Florence. In the mornings while she was in class, I went to a bunch of museums, and then each day when she finished we would either visit a couple more or do something like going to shop at the Leather Market. I enjoyed going back to the most well-known museums, like the Uffizi and the Accademia, but I also really enjoyed seeing some of the less prominent places, like the Salvatore Ferragamo shoe museum and the Museum of San Marco. There is nothing quite like seeing all of this incredible art in person.
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
I spent last week in Firenze with Mary Love. It was so hot that we were basically melting, but it was nice to have a few days to spend with her and relax a little bit before heading off to start classes in Grenoble. I enjoyed getting to meet her friends, cooking in her little apartment that is only two blocks from the Duomo, and going out to get gelato everyday.
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
The next stop in my whirlwind of cities was Copenhagen. My dad and I took a walking tour on Rick Steves' recommendation with a guy who leads his tours as Hans Christian Anderson, complete with a purple jacket and a top-hat. He remained in character the entire time, which made for an unforgettably unique tour. Apparently, Danes were just voted to be the happiest people, so our guide took every opportunity to stop Danish people and ask them why they thought they were happy, despite having the highest taxes. The most common answer was that they are fine with paying taxes because they get so much for free, such as medical expenses as retirement homes. As a whole, the Danish people seem to think in similar patterns, but their thought processes make it hard for them to deal with changes in society such as immigration.
Another highlight of Copenhagen for me was seeing the statue of the Little Mermaid, which stands in the harbor as a tribute to Hans Christian Anderson. Maybe it's touristy, but I loved seeing it, if only because Ariel is my favorite Disney princess.
Monday, June 15, 2009
Alright, it has been a busy week, so I'm trying to catch up.
I met my dad in Stockholm for a couple of days last week after I left Zurich. He had a business meeting, so I went sightseeing while he was working and then tagged along for dinner (and lots of drinks) with all of his associates. Stockholm is known for museums, but my favorite one was probably the Vasa Museum. The Vasa was a ship that was supposed to become the flagship of the Swedish navy in the seventeenth century, but it sank only twenty five minutes into its maiden voyage. After sitting in the bottom of Stockholm's harbor for about three centuries, it was salvaged and made into a fascinating museum. I spent about three hours there, taking a tour, watching a film, and walking through the exhibits.
Our hotel was right next to Skansen, which is an area that is reminiscent of Williamsburg. It contains houses from all over Sweden, including manors, windmills, belfries, and schoolhouses. Dad and I went to walk around at night, so none of the houses were open, but we enjoyed seeing the different styles of houses and the vegetable gardens, and we even got to see a folk dancing performance.
Since it is only a few days until the summer solstice, the days in Stockholm are about eighteen hours from sunrise to sunset right now. It was a strange experience for it to still be light when we went to bed after eleven and then to be woken by the light around three in the morning.
I spent the beginning of last week with my friends Doug and Audrey and their son Abe in Zurich. I was excited to meet Abe, who is a year and a half and cute as he could be. They welcomed me into their beautiful little apartment and let me crash on the couch for a few days. It was wonderful to have some time to relax in the midst of my busy travels. After going slow for these few days, I was geared up and ready to meet my Dad in Scandinavia.
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
Mary Love and I spent this last weekend high in the Swiss Alps in a tiny village called Gimmelwald. As Rick Steves says, "If heaven isn't what it's cracked up to be, send me back to Gimmelwald." It truly is the most breathtakingly beautiful place I have ever been. Little wooden cabins are nestled amongst hills of wildflowers, which are overshadowed by looming snow-capped mountains. Every way you look, you see something new and uniquely beautiful. We spent the weekend compulsively taking way too many pictures.
For our first day in the Berner Oberland, we took four cable cars to reach the peak of the Schilthorn. From this vantage point, we enjoyed an impressive view of the Jungfrau, which is the tallest mountain in Europe. "Jungfrau" means young girl, and she is protected from the Eiger (Ogre) by the Monch (Monk). We spent the entire afternoon walking around and around the observation deck, watching the blue skies turn cloudy as the afternoon wore on.
The next morning, the weather was dubious, so instead of following our original plan to take more cable cars up to the Jungfraujoch, we hiked up into the mountains above Gimmelwald. We walked in and out of clouds and fog, and several times we got rained on, but we thoroughly enjoyed our misty walk. The setting reminded us of The Sound of Music, so we walked around singing Edelweiss.
Monday, June 8, 2009
Towards the end of my time in Bucharest, I had the chance to visit an orphanage and a baby hospital. It was so sad to see the kids who are stuck in these places. They have been abandoned by their parents, either because the family is too poor, the child has a medical condition, or the family thinks that the state can do a better job at raising the child. At the baby hospital, I held a little boy named Andrei for about an hour, and it broke my heart to lay him down and leave him there.
On my last day in Bucharest, the Kays took me to a couple of beautiful parks. This is a picture of me with Elizabeth and Krystina Kay. I had so much fun spending time with the lovely Kay family.
Monday, June 1, 2009
Buna Ziua from Romania!
I have spent the last week in Bucharest visiting my friends, the Kay family. Today we drove through the mountains to the Transylvania area to see a glass factory and two castles. The first castle was Bran castle, which is also known as Dracula's castle. It was so refreshing to get out of the dusty, bustling city and drive into the green mountains with snow-capped mountains hovering in the distance.
In Romania, June 1st is Kid's Day, which meant that there was a little fair set up at the base of the castle and tons of children were exploring Dracula's castle. In addition, the castle has just been reopened after being closed for renovations, so the current owner of the castle was actually there to celebrate. All in all, it was a busy day at the castle. Thomas has been an excellent tourguide all week, and today was no exception. Although Bran Castle is famous because of the rumor that Vlad Tepes (Dracula) lived there, it was also the home to several well-known Romanian monarchs, so Thomas explained some of the history of the area to me as we walked through the castle.
The inside of the castle is not as creepy as one would imagine. The walls are all white-washed, because one of the Romanian queens turned the castle into a sort of summer home. Out every window and off of every balcony is a spectacular view out over the mountains, complete with tiny villages nestled into the valleys.
I have a couple more days here in Bucharest and then I'm headed to Switzerland!