I have now been to four Italian cities. I travelled to Florence earlier in the semester, and this past weekend I travelled to three cities in Italy: Cinque Terre, Milan, and Venice. I am going to write about some of my experiences in Venice, and how they surprised me and frustrated me at the same time.
Two Sundays ago, I arrived back in Bath after two weeks of traveling for our Easter break. Almost all of the exchange students in Bath chose to travel around the UK or Europe during our break, and it was a fantastic opportunity to see places I’ve always dreamed of visiting! Our first stop was Venice, so my friends and I left Bath on a 4:40 am airport bus. After switching buses in London, a flight, another bus to Venice, a water taxi ride, and lots of wrong turns through dark streets in the pouring rain, we were standing outside of our building by about 7pm. Our hostel was so small that it was only a few rooms on the middle floor of an apartment building, so we buzzed the outside doorbell to let us in. And we buzzed again….and again…. Calling the hostel’s phone number just gave a voicemail message (completely in Italian of course!) Finally, someone in another apartment must have gotten sick of the incessant buzzing, and opened the door to let us in to the courtyard within the building. Up the flight of stairs, we arrived at a door that said it was our hostel, but again – completely locked, and no one answering our knocking. We had almost given up, and were about to return to a nearby hotel to ask them to translate the hostel’s voicemail message. But, a nearby window showed that there was a TV on inside – somebody must be there! At this point, we were soaked, exhausted, and frozen. Our polite knocking became wild pounding on the door and windows, until finally, another traveler heard the noise from within her room and opened the door for us. A few minutes later, the hostel owner returned, surprised to find us inside as he returned from the supermarket. I’ve never been so happy to have a bed and a place to peel off my soaked socks. Luckily the rest of our stay went uphill from there, and we woke up the next morning ready to explore!
This semester, I have officially been in 3 continents: North America, Europe and now Asia! This past weekend, I traveled to Istanbul, which lies over both Europe and Asia. Turkey. While technically my time was mostly spent in the European part, it is far different than any other country I’ve been to in Europe.
Turkey is not officially Islamic state, but the Islamic culture is visible in almost every facet of the city life. After wearing shorts and skirts that reflected the warm climate during our first day in the city, we decided that it would be best to not draw as much attention to ourselves, and wore long pants the rest of the trip. However, modern fashion is very visible when a person walks down Istkital Street to Taksim Square, with international stores including Mango and Bershka.
Schools in France are big on making sure that their students are well wrested and vacationed. As such the majority of French students received a week off from classes at the end of April. I took this opportunity to travel to Berlin, a city I have always wanted to see, and met up with a close friend of mine, Ed Chitwood, whom is a UVA student studying abroad at Humboldt University. It was finally time to see our master plan come to fruition, for the two of us had decided together to study abroad for the same semester in Europe, learn the languages of the land and travel as much as possible. Actually meeting up in Europe was the last piece of the puzzle.
This past weekend (Feb 17-19) was the first IS trip of the semester. At ten o’clock on a Friday morning, practically every exchange student crammed onto a big red touring bus and we headed off on a ten-hour drive to Normandy, in the North Eastern part of France. We were headed to Mont Saint Michel, the famous French castle that lies on an island part of the year. On the way there I sat back and took in France’s stunning countryside. Everywhere the eye could see was green; green grass, green trees, green plants. It reminded me so much of Southern Germany, where I often spend summers visiting family. I always try to appreciate the green when I can, because Cairo is so yellow.