S: Europe Trip 2010
FC: Europe Trip 2010
1: Madrid, Spain Hello everyone! We made it! We flew into Madrid this morning, arriving around 9:30 am. It took us a good two hours to figure out how to get on the right metro and where to go. Fortunately, we had a nice couple help us out a little. I was a little naive thinking that I didn't need to know any Spanish to get around. I guess I figured most people spoke English as a second language. | I think I have frustrated a number of people today by not understanding them or asking them questions that they do not understand. We don't even have a translating dictionary - not smart. :-/ Anyway, once we got checked in to our hostel - which I was scared of at first because it is in a back alley on top of a diner - I felt much better. I was wrong about it being sketchy. Most hostels are located above restaurants or stores. It is actually pretty nice. We have our own room - I couldn't settle for a dorm style hostel. The room is extremely tiny, but cute none the less.
2: We slept for a good 4 hours and then walked around to find somewhere to eat dinner. It was seriously one of the most overwhelming things ever. There are so many restaurants and a good many of them have people standing outside begging you to come in. It is hard to make a decision because almost all of them serve the exact same thing (tapas and paellas). Oh I guess I did forget to mention the very few American restaurants that were empty. Anyway, we chose a place where we got a tapas platter to share and sangrias to drink. Our first day was a definite success. We are both still exhausted and trying to adjust to the time change (as well as the huge culture change). We are here all day tomorrow and tomorrow night and then we are off to Barcelona! We miss everyone and love everyone! | So once we dropped our huge, heavy backpacks off, we just walked around the city for a couple hours taking it all in. It's a pretty amazing feeling to be in Spain. We hung out for a bit in the Puerta del Sol (the central square pictured previous page and right) and then headed to the Parque de Retiro (top and bottom left of previous page). The park was absolutely beautiful. There were so many people just laying out and eating lunch. We had some cured ham and cheese sandwiches at a little deli on the pond. After we made our way around the city and felt like we knew where we were and what were doing (at least a little), we went back to the hotel for a much needed nap. We only slept for about 3 hours on the plane so we were both exhausted.
4: The past couple days have been amazing! Yesterday was Ryan's birthday, and there couldn't be a better way to celebrate than to tour Madrid. We started the morning with chocolate and churros for breakfast. It was so great! Then we went and saw the Palace, the Cathedral (bottom right of previous page and left), and the Prado Museum (next page). We have walked more than I ever thought we would, but we decided it was the easiest way to get around. Nothing is too far away once you get to the city center, and there is always cool things to see on the way from one place to another! Anyway, we had a great day exploring in Madrid.
6: Barcelona, Spain This morning, we woke up and headed to Barcelona. It was definitely an interesting experience to say the least. I forgot that is was necessary to make reservations for the train so we weren't able to get on the 10:30 am train we were hoping for. We had to wait until 12:30. I guess we learned our lesson there. We will now be making reservations for all future train rides. It was very difficult and frustrating trying to figure out how to make a reservation, where to go, and what to do. It is going to be such a relief to be back in the US where everyone speaks English. Finally, we got everything figured out and boarded our train for Barcelona. It was about a 3 hour train ride. We booked our hostel for the 3 nights in Barcelona last night, but, of course, forgot to write down how to get there. Once we got to Barcelona, we had no map and no idea where we were trying to go. I eventually went into a hotel and asked for a map. We found the street we thought we were looking for and headed that way. Keep in mind, we have huge backpacks this whole time so we are both irritable and tired. Once we get to the street we thought was correct, we found out it isn't. I did find a nice man to help me though, and he informed me that the hostel we were staying at is in a bad, sketchy area. GREAT! Needless to say, we already had reservations and couldn't cancel without paying a large fee so we decided to make do. After settling in, we found a way to get to and from our hostel without passing any prostitutes and/or drug dealers. They are definitely close by though :-/. We are safe though - no worries.
7: After we put the rough morning past us, we walked around La Rambla street (the famous street in Barcelona). Then we walked down to the marina. It was so amazing to see the cruise ships and huge yachts. It really is a beautiful place. After walking around for a couple hours, we had tapas and sangria at a place right on the water. Now we are planning for our big day tomorrow! I am thinking the Barcelona beach and the Picasso Museum sounds fun ... :)
8: Wow! What a great two days in Barcelona. Yesterday started with a perfect trip to a Barcelona beach complete with students from UGA and pleasant scenes of old, saggy breasts. We spent a ton of time yesterday walking the city and seeing the many sights after the beach including the Picasso Museum, the Esglesia Cathedral de la Santa Creu (right of previous page), the Parc de la Ciutadella, and the port of Barcelona. The Picasso Museum (bottom, right) laid out Picasso's development into a world-class artist. It was very neat to see many of his works especially since it was free on Sundays after 3.
9: Although we did not go inside, the Cathedral was impressively beautiful. I have never seen such intricate architecture (until today). The Parc de la Ciutadella was absolutely beautiful and relaxing to stroll through. We also managed to walk to the Arc of Triumph from the park which was also awesome to see. I would have to say that our favorite spot of Barcelona was the port. Kristin and I enjoyed sitting on the boardwalk eating crepes, drinking strawberry slushies, and just relaxing. Our day also included strolls up and down La Rambla, watching the many street performers and human statues.
10: I think today was my favorite day. We decided to hike to Mountjuic. Mountjuic is a mountain that overlooks the harbor on one side and the city on the other. It was full of many breathtaking views. We did not initially plan on climbing the entire mountain, but after each stop, we wanted to just a little higher to see what else we could view. After many stops at gardens and parks, we made it to the top where a mighty fortress defended the port. The fortress itself was very cool, but the views it provided were absolutely amazing. I hope our pictures captures half the beauty of the scenery.
11: After walking back to our hostel, we decided to ride the metro to the most visited construction site in the world, La Sagrada Familia. This impressive structure will not be entirely complete until 2026, but it is the greatest architecture I have seen so far. The 8 of the planned 18 completed towers were so full of detail and beauty. After an exhausting day walking the streets and mountains of Barcelona, we headed to the port for a relaxing stroll that transformed into a much needed nap on the boardwalk. We finished the evening and our visit to Spain with a charming meal at Les Quinze Nits in the Plaza Reial. Tomorrow we catch an 8:45 train to Montpelier, France and hopefully a train to Nice from there.
13: Nice, France Well, it has been a while since we wrote because we haven't had Internet in the last two places. :-/ Since last time, we have been through the French Riviera and Paris!! The French Riviera was extremely beautiful and relaxing. Unlike most of the other places we have visited or plan to visit, we didn't have a long list of "must sees" in Nice. We stayed in a super nice hotel (compared to the other places we have stayed). We found a really good deal on this cute hotel so we only paid about 10 Euros over what we normally would pay for a hostel and we got a 3 star hotel. :) Anyway, we arrived late in the afternoon so we decided to go to the market and pick up some sandwiches and walk to the beach to eat. The beach is so pretty, except for the fact that instead of sand they have rocks. Those were not so fun to lay out on, but we made do.
15: The second day in the French Riviera we climbed the Mountain between the beach and the harbor, Le Chateau. Once we post pictures, you will be able to see how amazing that was. The views of the whole town and the harbor were incredible. It was a great work out too. That took us pretty much the whole morning. We used the afternoon to walk around Vieux Nice (Old Nice pictured on the next page) - got some food, visited the flower market, saw the palace, etc. Our last day in Nice was spent laying out on the beach. Like I said, the rocks were not so pleasant, but it was still really great to relax and people watch. We were again forced to see some old lady breasts, but surprisingly there were not as many here as in Barcelona (I was expecting the opposite).
18: Paris, France The next day we headed to Paris. The train ride was long. It was 3 hours on one train, a one hour lay over, and three hours on another train. We finally arrived and checked into our hostel. The hostel was about as we expected. Nothing too great, but nothing too scary either. The only down side to this place is the we have hall toilets and showers. It definitely reminds me of freshman year in the dorms. Anyway, this actually is one of my favorite places because the staff is so helpful and we get a yummy breakfast included. :) We spent our first evening at the Eiffel Tower. Again, it was amazing! We decided to climb the stairs rather than riding the escalator. That was definitely a good work out as well. We climbed to the second floor. We could have gotten on an escalator and ridden to the top from there, but the line was insanely long. We just enjoyed the view from the second floor. We stayed up there for about an hour just enjoying the views, taking pictures, and hanging out. I love being able to see the whole city from above.
21: The next day, we were extremely busy. We literally saw the majority of Paris in a day. We walked many miles. Just like in Barcelona, once you start walking around it's hard to stop because you keep passing cool things, and then you realize once you get to one site, you are close to another. Anyway, we started at the Palace and Gardens of Luxembourg (Fontaine de Medicis is pictured bottom right). I really wish I had a huge park like this at home. There were all kinds of activities going on- painting classes, yoga classes, kids on the playground, people laying out, badminton, soccer... everything! This was definitely a great hang out. We didn't stay for long, but it was fun while it lasted.
22: Then we headed to the Pantheon (previous page and and top left), followed by Notre Dame (left, bottom, and next page). Both had incredible architecture. I have actually been to Paris once before, so a lot of memories came running back to me at each of these places. A service was actually taking place at Notre Dame while we were visiting. We got lucky because it was the free entry day, and we didn't even know it.
24: After Notre Dame, we saw some other sites including the Conciergerie, Hotel de Ville, Place de la Concorde, and the Chatelet. Oh yeah- all of these places are on or near on the Seine River which is always beautiful with little cruise boats and sail boats. We then took a nice little break at a Starbucks. I hadn't had a carmel frap in a long time - I miss those. We weren't planning on going to the Louvre Museum until today, but we ended up walking there anyway because we were close. We didn't go inside then, | but we walked all around the outside and through the gardens. There were so many people there. Once again, the gardens are filled with people just laying out, eating, and playing. THEN the gardens led us the the Hotel Des Invalides. There is a really pretty dome on top that was built by Napolean (right). That was pretty cool. Lastly, we went to see the Arc De Triomphe. We got there just before they started kicking people out for a service. We did get to see it close up though which was cool. All of these sites are in our pictures to come. So that was a very full, exciting day yesterday.
25: Today we went to the Louvre! We just got back to our hotel; it took us almost 5 hours to walk through all the rooms. We probably did it a lot faster than most people. We saw all the famous paintings including Leonardo Da Vinci's Mona Lisa and Frans Pourbus II's The Last Supper (bottom right). Tomorrow we are hoping to go to Versailles!!
27: We leave tomorrow night around 8 pm to head to Munich. Unfortunately, our itinerary changed because we either couldn't find a place to stay or there were not any trains. We have to ride the night train tomorrow night (which means we probably will only sleep a couple hours). We can make do though. We are going to have to miss Heidelberg sadly. :( Basically, we had to choose between Munich and Heidelberg. We bought train tickets to both so we had options. The dates we were originally planning to visit Munich, they are having a trade show and we could not find one place that had open rooms. With that said, we are skipping Heidelberg and going to Munich on those dates instead. The positive is that this means we get to add an extra day to almost every where else we are going. Oh yeah- one more positive- we just found out that they are doing construction in our current hostel. They have to move us so they are putting us up in a nice hotel for tonight! Yesss- we get our own bathroom and get to sleep in normal sheets instead of our travel sheets. We are excited. We love and miss everyone. Our last day in Paris was very laid back and relaxing. We had pretty much covered everything we wanted to see so we decided to walk north from our hostel since we had not been that way, and we are sure glad that we did. We stumbled upon a gorgeous church called Basilique Du Sacre'-Coeur (bottom right). The church had three large white domes that overlooked the city below, and the inside was magnificent. I personally think the inside was more impressive than Notre Dame, but Kristin was not able to see it because she was wearing shorts. After the church, we then came across a beaut- | -iful cobblestone neighborhood with lots of little shops and restaurants called Montmarte. We walked around and enjoyed the city while eating a chocolate crepe. Finally, we strolled along the St. Martin Canal, went to the place that became my favorite little deli ever for lunch, and then we caught our night train around 8 pm. The night train from Paris to Munich (12 hours) was miserable. We had a normal seat that would not recline one bit. We were in a little cabin with a nice couple from Seattle who we chatted with for a couple hours. Thankfully, although there were 6 seats, it was only the 4 of us in there. I don't even want to know what it would have been like with 6. I got hardly any sleep, but once we got to Munich it was amazing.
28: Munich, Germany Once we arrived to the train station in Munich, we were greeted by Lenny, the talkative bike tour guide. He showed us where our hostel was and gave us some great sights to see. We visited several breath taking churches. We climbed the 306 steps of the Peterskirche's tower (below) for an aerial view of Munich. You could see a long way because Munich is a very flat city. The other church that stood out in my mind was Asamkirche (right). The church is tiny, but its elaborate decorations rival the Vatican. It was by far the most strikingly beautiful church we have visited so far. At 11, we walked to Marienplatz (right, bottom) to watch the dancing clock. It was quite amusing for about 3 seconds and then it got old, but it was definitely something that you have to see.
29: At 11:30, we met up with Lenny for a bike tour. The tour began in Marienplatz and then went over to Hofbrauhaus (bottom right), the most famous beer hall in the world. From there we visited the Residenz and the area where Hitler grab for power. Then we rode up to the English Garden, the largest city park in the world which is home to the second largest beer garden in the world, the Chinese Tower (bottom left), where we stopped for brews and food. I had a wheat beer and Kristin was a trooper and drank a radler (beer mixed with lemonade). The English Garden also had a permanent wave in the river where surfers were riding the perfect wave. Finally, we rode along the Isar River to the place where Hitler was almost killed by a suitcase bomb (I wonder how that would have changed the world). At the end of the bike tour, Kristin and I were completely exhausted, but we wanted to sample some more authentic German food. We asked the staff at our hostel, Euro Youth Hostel, where we should go. For a side note, I highly recommend our hostel if you are ever in Munich. The place is clean and fun, and you cannot find a more helpful staff. Anyway, they told us to the Augustine Braustuben. I had the brewmaster special that included a dumpling, pork, some other meat, mushroom sauce, and a ravioli, and Kristin had breaded haddock with remoulade sauce. The food was great and the beer was phenomenal. We also met two guys at the the beer garden from Alabama who we chatted with for over an hour. Finally, we made it back to our hostel just in time to catch the end of Happy Hour for another drink, and then we went to bed after an exhausting day on no sleep.
30: The next morning we rode the train to Dachau to visit the concentration camp. The camp was pretty amazing and chilling at the same time. Just seeing the place where such atrocities took place was humbling. We saw the barracks where the prisoners were housed, the incinerators, the gas chamber (not used in masses at Dachau), the memorials, and much more. The camp also had a museum where you could follow the history of the camp and the world. It had detailed stories of prisoners including the guy who almost killed Hitler with the suitcase bomb in Munich. It was definitely a good reminder of just how evil man can be and a warning that we can never let something like that happen again. When we finished our Dachau tour, we boarded a train for Austria. Germany was awesome, and I really wish we had more than a day and a half to stay there. The people were very very nice, the beer was awesome, and the sights were cool, but Austria has quickly become our favorite place in just the few hours that we have been here. We will have much more on Austria soon.
31: Salzburg, Austria | The minute we stepped off the train in Salzburg, Austria it became our favorite place. Salzburg is set at the base of the Alps surrounded by three mountains (not the size of the Alps) with a river running through the middle of it. Atop one of the mountains, the fortress Festung Hohensalzburg has protected the city since 1077. The fortress is the largest completely preserved castle in all of Europe partly because it has never been successfully attacked. There will be more on this since we are touring it tomorrow. We arrived yesterday at around 5 and managed to find our hotel from the train station. We are staying at Hotel Belmondo. The hotel is nice and the staff are very friendly and helpful, but we are suffering from the heat since we do not have A/C. After settling into our hotel, we decided to go for a stroll through the city.
32: We started in the Mirabell Gardens where scenes of the Sound of Music were filmed. The mazes of plants and flowers, statutes, and fountains were among the most beautiful I have seen. We then made our way down to old Salzburg (next page) where all the historic buildings are where we had a fabulous dinner at a little Italian restaurant on the main pedestrian street. After dinner, we walked home along the river and were able to catch the sun as it set behind the edge of a mountain. We also met two girls from Lee University in Tennessee.
34: This morning we did the Sound of Music tour. The tour began at the Leopoldskron Palace (bottom right of previous page) that was used as the outside of the Trapp family home and we then moved to Hellbrunn Palace (two top left photos) where the gazebo used in the film is and the Nonnberg Abbey where the real Maria tried to be a nun. My favorite spot was the scenery of the Austrian lake country where we visited Lake Fuschl among other lakes. Our tour stopped at Mondsee to check out the church where Maria was married to the Captain (left two photos and right). We had the most wonderful apple strudel and cheese strudel at a cafe in Mondsee (top right of next page). Our final stop was in the Mirabell Gardens where the children sand "Do-re-mi." Although I did not remember most of the movie, it was pretty neat to see all the spots and all of the spots were breath taking.
36: After the tour, we went to the old part of town and toured many of the churches including Stiftskirche St. Peter (left), Salzburg Cathedral (top right and right), the catacombs, Franziskaner (top left), and many others. We also stopped by Mozart's birthplace (top middle of next page), but we did not pay the money to go in. Finally, we climbed part of the Monchsberg (Monk's) Mountain to a church and found the beer garden, Augustiner Brau, Kloster Mulln where monks used to make beer. The monks are gone, but the beer is still flowing by the barrel. A great way to end a wonderful day.
37: As I write this, Kristin and I are traveling on a night train from Vienna, Austria to Venice, Italy. Unlike the last night train we took, we are actually quite comfortable. We booked a 6 bed couchette, but we ended up being the only 2 people in the cabin. Hopefully, we should be able to get some sleep on the train this time. Just a few days ago, Kristin and I climbed up Monchsberg (Monk’s Mountain) to visit the castle I talked about in the last blog, Festung Hohensalzburg.
38: The castle was very impressive in size and beauty. We were able to climb to the top of one of the watch towers for an unmatched panorama of the city below and the Alps in the distance. Our pictures do not give the views justice. The castle also boasted an audio tour that detailed its history as well as a museum that contained several centuries of war equipment from medieval swords and armor to bolt action rifles to WWI artillery shells. After spending the rest of the day relaxing in gardens and parks, we caught a train to Vienna the next morning.
39: Vienna, Austria Our arrival to Vienna was non-eventful. We found our hotel easily and settled in quickly. I think we are now used to traveling and figuring out where we need to be. Our hotel was very nice especially since it had air conditioning. Vienna was definitely a large city, and we thought that we would need to use the public transportation. We once again proved to ourselves how far we could walk. The first day we made the walk to center city. We enjoyed walking through admiring the architecture of the buildings and the many statues. Our favorite spot was Sephansdom (St. Stephens Cathedral). The church had a beautiful mosaic roof. We were able to view the roof and the rest of Vienna after climbing the 343 steps of Stephansdom’s South Tower.
40: We also admired Hofburg Palace, Hoher Market, Am Hof square, Freyoung street, and many other places. The next day we made the long walk down to Schloss Schonbrunn (top right), the Imperial family’s summer home. We toured 40 of the rooms including the room where Mozart performed at 6 years old, but we were, unfortunately, not allowed to take any photographs. Behind the palace were some magnificent gardens and woods that were full of beauty (middle right). We then took the subway to center city to see more of the sights that we had missed the first day. Today, our last day in Vienna and Austria was very laid back. We strolled through the streets of Vienna admiring other buildings that were more like works of art including Rathaus (bottom left) and a glorious gothic church, Votivkirche. We walked through the University of Vienna and by Sigmund Freud’s home and then grabbed some lunch at McDonalds. This was the weirdest McDonalds I have ever been in, mainly because you had to pay for ketchup (0,30 Euro). We then watched the end of the Netherlands, Denmark World Cup match over some coffee. Vienna is known for their coffee, and it was very tasty. After that we made our way to the train station. We also visited all three H & M’s in Vienna. It is sad to say good bye to Austria for good now, but we could not be more excited to end our trip in Italy.
41: Venezia, Italy I cannot believe that we are now in our final country. We arrived in Venezia, Italy (Venice), the sinking city, this past Tuesday. Venice was a beautiful, quaint town that is built on a series of 118 islands. There are no cars, and the streets in Venice wind along canals and are very hard to navigate. We enjoyed being able to stroll through the city without having to worry about cars, but we did find ourselves a little lost more than once. Our hostel was OK, but it was the best deal that we could find in the area. The weather in Venice was not the best. It rained on and off pretty much the whole time we were there, but we were definitely able to still enjoy the sun when it came out. Our first day there we walked to the famous Piazza San Marco (middle left photo). During the visit, we toured the Basilica di San Marco (top left). The style of the church was definitely different from the churches we have visited before mainly because the building seemed more open. The church was started in the 9th Century, and it now boasts 13th Century Byzantine and 16th century Renaissance mosaics. Like all the churches in Europe, the inside was even more impressive, but we, unfortunately, were not allowed to take photos (as was the case in many of the churches in Venice). We then took an elevator up 96 meters to the top of the campanile (top right) for aerial views of the city. It was quite beautiful even though the weather was not.
42: We also visited the Ponte Rialto (above), San Stefano, Chiesa Di Santa Maria Della Salute (left), and many other sights. We were planning on visiting the islands Murano (famous for its glass), Burano (famous for its bright fishing huts), and Torcello, but the weather was bad all day. Instead, we wondered the streets of Venice stopping at whatever looked interesting. During our walk, we visited my favorite church in Venice, the Basilica Di Santa Maria Gloriosa Dei Frari. It was begun by Franciscans in 1340. The church contains Donatello's wooden sculpture, St. John the Baptist. The church also serves as the resting place of the famous Italian painter, Titian, along with two of his paintings. To top it all off, a boy's choir was also having a free performance at the church during our visit. Our last day in Venice was spent window shopping. We also finally gave in and took a gondola ride through the city's canals. The ride was very romantic, and it will always be cool to be able say that we got to ride in one through the canals of Venice.
44: Firenze, Italy We are now in Firenze, Italy (Florence) and love it. I am convinced that Florence is going to be one of my favorite places. The city is beautiful, and it contains some of the world's best art from artists from Botticelli, Donatello, and Michelangelo to name a few. When we arrived in Florence, it was raining heavily, and we did not know where our hostel was. Luckily, we had ponchos that fit over our bags. Once we found our hostel, we then wandered the streets of Florence for a few hours passing the Duomo (top right, and bottom), Dante's home, the Uffizi, and many other sights. We had dinner at a little pizzeria on a side street. We then had some gelato from a place called Grom; It was amazing. The texture was perfect and the flavor was indescribable. The extra dark chocolate was to die for. Finally, we made it back to our hotel to catch most of the Mexico France World Cup match. I cannot wait to see the city tomorrow.
45: Our time in Firenze has flown by. Yesterday, we visited many of the famous sites in the city, and we were blessed with a rainless day. We started our day at the Cathedral Di Santa Maria Del Fiore, also called the Duomo (top photos)) Construction started in 1296 and was not completed until 1418 because the technology to complete the massive dome did not exist at the start. The Duomo has the third longest nave in the world, trailing St. Peter's in Rome and St Paul's in London. The inside of the church was impressive mainly because of its size, but the outside, in my opinion, was the most impressive part. After seeing the inside of the church, we decided to climb the 82 meters up the campanile for an aerial view of the city and the Duomo (photos in 2 pages). We also glanced in the baptistery (bottom two photos) next to the Duomo where Dante was christened. The bronze doors to the baptistery, designed by Ghiberti, were beautifully carved scenes of the sacrifice of Isaac among others. We then visited the Chiesa di Santa Croce (next page). This church was rich with history and art. The church housed Donatello's Crucifix and Annunciciation. The church also serves as the final resting place for Galileo, Machiavelli, Michelangelo, Leonardo Bruni, and Dante. Each of their tombs were impressive.
46: Galileo Galilei's Tomb | We then made our way to Ponte Vecchio (turn page), Florence's oldest bridge which was built in 1345. The bridge was full of little boutiques. Across the bridge resided the Piazzo Pitti, which was originally built by the 15th Century banker, Luca Pitti. The Medici family eventually bought the palace and expanded it in every way possible. Orsanmichele was the next site we visited. This church housed Ghiberti's St. John the Baptist and St. Stephen as well as Donatello's St. Mark and St. Peter and Giamnologna's St. Luke. We also toured Chiesa Di Santa Trinita' and the Badia, which is home to Fillipino Lippi's Apparition of the Virgin to St. Bernard, one of the most famous paintings of the 15th century. Our night ended with a wonderful, cheap dinner at our hostel. We chatted with three girls from Australia for a while and ironically met two other girls from North Carolina. One just graduated from Chapel Hill and is attending law school at Campbell in the fall. We spent almost all day today at the Uffizi Gallery which holds one of the world's greatest collections of art. We had to wait almost 2 hours to get into the museum, but we were protected from the rain. After getting into the museum, we spent over three hours gazing at priceless works of art from artists such as Boticelli, Caravagio, Cimabue, Duccio, Fra Angelico, della Francesca, Giotto, Michelangelo, Raphael, del Sarto, Titian, da Vinci, Druer, Rembrandt, and Rubens. It was unbelievable. After the Uffizi, we mainly just tried to stay dry from the rain. We had a nice Italian dinner and then relaxed the rest of the night. We were going to try to climb up to the Piazalle Michelangelo after dinner to watch the sunset, but the weather did not clear. Tomorrow, we are going to try to hit one or two other places before our 12:40 train to Rome, our last city in the magnificent journey.
50: Roma, Italy We arrived in Rome Sunday around 2 pm, and once again fell in love with the city. All I can say is wow. After we settled into our hostel, Kristin and I did our usual first meander through the city. We decided to head to Trastevere. Our hostel reception recommended that we take a bus, but we wanted to stick to our tradition of walking the city. One our way to Trastevere, which was about a 45 minute walk, we stopped by the Repubblica in the Piazzo della Repubblica, and we also got our first glimpse of Ancient City including the Colossum in all its might. We crossed the river at the Ponte Fabricio (bottom left) and Ponte Cestio and entered Trastevere. Once there, we visited the Chiesa di Santa Maria (botom right) in Trastevere that had the most beautiful gold roof (bottom middle). We also walked up Gianicolo Hill to Chiesa di San Pietro in Montorio, which is thought to be built on the spot where Peter was crucified. Unfortunately, we could not go inside because a wedding ceremony was taking place. We also saw Bramante's Tempietto, which commemorates Peter's martyrdom, Galleria Corsini, and Villa Farnesina, the former home of the wealthiest man in Europe. On the way home, we stopped at the disappointing Campo de Fiori and the wonderful Chiesa de Gesu (top right). One of the great things about walking is that you often unexpectedly find a cool place. The Chiesa del Gesu was our surprise. My favorite part about the church was the paintings on the ceiling because they looked so real. The picture below does not give it justice, but I wanted to try to show something from it. Our last stop on the walk was the Monumento a Vittorio Emanuele II (top right of next page).
52: The next morning we met Jon Paul and Holly at the Rome train station. Upon seeing us, Jon Paul raised his arms in victory; It was a glorious meeting. After stopping by the the Basilica Santa Maria degil Angeli (bottom right and left of previous page), our first main stop for the day was the Colosseum. It is just unbelievable to see such a large structure that is 2000 years old. It was opened in AD 80, and it once held over 50,000 spectators.
55: Next, we visited the Pantheon (right) over some gelato, which was consecrated the Chiesa di Santa Maria ad Martyres in AD 606. The structure was absolutely amazing. Architects still wonder exactly how the 2000 year old temple was constructed. The half-sphere dome of poured concrete is the largest unsupported dome in the world. The light that enters the roof was a sundial and indicates the dates of equinoxes and solstices. The tomb of Raphael is also at the Pantheon. Next, Kristin, JP, Holly, and I walked north to the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps. I was actually surprised how cool and large the fountain was, but I did not see why the steps were so special. Kristin threw a coin into the fountain so we should be returning to Rome soon. The steps were designed by an Italian, paid for by the French, names for the Spaniards, and occupied by the British. Next we climbed Palantine Hill and visited the Casa Augusto (Augustus House), Casa di Livia (Augustus's wife's house), the Casa di Romulo (alleged home of Romulus), and the Domus Augustana (emperor's private space) among other ruins on the hill. We also had a great view of the ruins of the Roman Forum and Colosseum below. Our last stop in Ancient City was the Roman Forum (previous page). The forum was originally used by the Etruscans and Greeks as a marketplace before the Romans founded a thatched-hut shanty town here in 753 BC. It was neat just walking through the ruins knowing that they had been there for so long.
56: Finally, we ended the day at the Piazza del Popolo (bottom left). The plazza contains the 3200 year old Obelisk of Pharaoh Ramses II (bottom right), which was stolen by Augustus from Egypt in AD 10. We also visited the Church of Santa Maria del Popolo (bottom middle) which is home to Carvaggios' The Conversion of St. Paul and Crucifixion of St. Peter. After showering and resting, we all went to dinner at a restaurant our hostel recommended. The food was excellent, especially for the price. My pizza was honestly one of the best I have ever had. Our waiter also taught us some Italian and gave us a shot of lemon chello to cap the night off. We also met a nice group of Spaniards who we walked around the city with for a while chatting.
57: Today, we visited Vatican City. We had to wait about an hour to enter the Vatican Museum. We walked quickly through most of the museum in order to beat the crowds to the Sistine Chapel. The museum is among the world's greatest art collections. We walked quickly through the statues of the Museo Pio-Clementino (world's greatest collection of antique sculptures including the Apollo Belvedere and Hercules), the Tuscan artifacts of Museo Etrusco, the tapestries of the Galleria degil Arazzi, the maps of the Galleria delle Mappe, the Apartmento di Pio V, the Stanze di Rafaele (rooms decorated and painted by Raphael), and the frescoes of the Museum of Modern Religious Art. Finally, we made it to the Sistine Chapel, where the cardinals elect the pope. It was absolutely beautiful. Michelangelo painted the ceiling to depict the main themes of the Bible including creation, fall, Christ's death, and resurrection. At the altar, Michelangelo's The Last Judgment almost made me cry. It is considered one of the greatest paintings ever. The left depicts those going to heaven and the right shows the souls condemned to hell with Christ as judge in the center surrounded by the saints. I was in complete awe of the painting. It isn't very good because we were not allowed to take pictures, but Kristin managed to sneak one in (left). We ended our visit to the Vatican Museum browsing the sculptures in more detail, walking through the Egyptian artifacts, and going to the piancoteca where we saw Peugino's Madonna and Child, Titian's Madonna of San Nicoletta dei Frari, and Raphael's Transfiguration (top right). The Transfiguration was Rafael's last painting of his life with Christ's face being the last thing that he painted. It was absolutely beautiful.
59: After Vatican City and lunch, we visited Basilica di San Pietro (St. Peter's). The church is absolutely huge with the world's largest nave and is built on St. Peter's tomb. Michelangelo's Pieta' is right inside the church to the right. The Piazzo San Pietro outside the church was designed by Bernini and contains 140 statutes of the saints. The whole church and its shrines were breath-taking. We also climbed the 551 steps to the top of the dome for an aerial view of Rome. I cannot describe the views. | gadfgdfgdf
60: We ended our long, exhausting day with gelato. After saying our goodbyes to Holly and Jon Paul, Kristin and I have just been resting for our flight tomorrow at 12:30. We will be arriving in Atlanta at 5:50 pm. This trip has been absolutely amazing, and we are so thankful for everyone who helped us make it possible. Kristin and I have learned a lot, and we will forever look back on these four weeks as some of our best so far. With that said, we are also excited to come back to Atlanta.