26 May 2010

The End of an Era

My dear readers,

My time in Bologna has come to a close. But what a year it was! It wasn't always easy, but there was never pain without growth. I have been so blessed to have met friends I'll keep, visited places I'll remember, and learned recipes I'll continue to make.

Some of the things I will miss most about Europe:
1. The friends I have there.
2. The food: the quality, and how it changes from country to country, city to city.
3. Open-air markets for everything from food to clothing to antiques to artwork.
4. Public transportation. Ok, so long train rides aren't exactly fun, and Ryanair isn't the greatest, but it is so amazing how easily you can get from place to place!

I'd like to thank all of you who have followed my blog these past nine months, it was a joy to write it for you!

Ciaociao for now!

Signing off until next big adventure,
the Sengenblogger

23 May 2010

Last Walks around Bologna

Goodbyes are never easy. This is a tribute to some of my favorite parts of Bologna.

Santo Stefano
Piazza Maggiore
Piazza Nettuno
Via Farini
Via Farini
San Domenico
Santa Maria dei Servi

the Sengenblogger

15 May 2010

Under the Tuscan Sun

The end of the year BCSP trip: two days in Tuscany. Can I say I picked a good program?

We started out in Monteriggioni, a small fortified city on top of a hill. I said it was small: you can pretty much see all of it in this picture, taken from the top of the wall.
Stop #2 was Siena. One afternoon was not enough to see the city, and so it goes on my list of Must Return's. Siena is famous for hosting the palio, a horse race that takes place twice a year in the Piazza del Campo. Each contrada (quarter) of Siena, in addition to having its own flag, animal symbol, colors, and crest, supports a horse in these races. We stopped by the Contrada della Selva, or, of the forest. The colors are green and orange, and the animal is the rhinoceros, which was thought to be a mythical creature during the Middle Ages, when the palio first began.

We stayed overnight at a once-monastery, now-hotel, called Sant'Anna in Camprena, which is actually where some of The English Patient was filmed.

The next day we stopped by Pienza and Montalcino, both small and adorable Tuscan towns, before heading to San Gimignano, another fortified city, but on a much larger scale than Monteriggioni. It is known for its towers, which you can see below.

The best part of Tuscany, however, was the countryside. I brought homework to do on the bus, but it was hard to read when out the window you saw some of the most beautiful hills in the world!

the Sengenblogger

05 May 2010

It's All Greek to Me...

In order to thank Greece for...giving my dollars so much more breathing room, I headed down to Athens, where my friend Eric guided me through the slightly chaotic maze of ancient ruins and modern people.

Athens, while having a plethora of ancient temples, houses, and hills, looked much more modern than I anticipated. The buildings, seen from above, give the city a very white and boxy feel.

There are a ton of stray dogs in Athens. Apparently when people can no longer house their pet, they let it free to roam the streets. The government, to mitigate the multiplicative effect of these animals, rounds them up one by one, gives them all sorts of shots, spays them, and then returns them to the streets.

When the Olympics came to Athens a few years back, they needed to expand the subway system. Of course, it being Greece, they found a lot of cool stuff while they were digging. But the show must go on, and they kept on digging, putting up glass walls to show off their discoveries.

The traditionally-garbed Greek guard outside a government building across from Syntagma Square, where many of the protests take place.

The open markets were great for shopping, getting lost, and people watching.

At the top of the Acropolis.

Greek food is delicious! Now, if only I could remember what it's all called...

A two-hour bus ride from Athens, and you arrive at Sounio, site of an ancient temple to Poseidon, and an incredibly beautiful sunset over the Mediterranean Sea.

Greece was in all kinds of protests while I was there, and they almost kept me from leaving the country. Luckily, I was able to get one of the last metro services to the airport before they went on strike that Tuesday morning, and I flew out of the country before all the Greek airports closed on Wednesday.

the Sengenblogger

29 April 2010

Here Come the Irish, of Notre Dame!

Being part of the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame, I couldn't possibly miss the opportunity to go to Ireland. Several other Domers had the same thought, so we all headed up to Dublin the same weekend. Even better, we were meeting many of the students from the two ND-Dublin programs, so it was an explosion of all things Notre Dame, er, Irish.

Dublin was smaller than I pictured a national capital, but it was very clean and well organized (at least, from my Italian point of view). One of the quirks of walking around Ireland is, however, getting used to cars on the wrong (left) side of the road. All the intersections have painted instructions on the street, telling you whether to look right or left. Very helpful.
It seems so cliche, but so much of Ireland looks like the postcards. At least in springtime, when the fields are that rich Emerald green and the flowers in St. Stephen's Green are in full bloom and the sun is shining on the blue-grey waters of the Atlantic.

I stayed with my friend Anna at Trinity College, which was complete with both a rugby and cricket pitch. (Pitch = field, for those of you who, like me, are not up on your northern European sports.) Trinity also houses the Book of Kells, an illuminated copy of the four gospels dating back to the early Middle Ages. I give it two thumbs up!

Chelsea, Anna, Isaac, me, and Coleen hanging out with none other than Molly Malone on Grafton Street.

With flowers like these, no wonder Irish eyes are smiling!

After a few days in the Dub, I bused over to Western Ireland, to Galway, with Julie and her friend Dani. Galway is Ireland's fourth-largest city, but I believe we saw all of it within our first hour or two in the city. That is not to demean it in any way, however, because it is an absolutely lovely seaside city. Galway is known for having lots of traditional Irish music, which we were able to hear that night.

The next day we made the excellent decision to go on a day tour of the Burren Hills and the Cliffs of Moher. Driving through the Irish countryside on a sunny Spring day is the stuff of dreams. My favorite stop on the tour was, of course, the Cliffs of Moher. There is this sign (seen two photos below) that tells you not to walk beyond this certain point, but I promise you that if you stay behind the fences, you'll miss out. That being said, be careful! because there is nothing between you and falling.

Galway is where the Claddagh tradition started, and you can see the symbol all over the city, especially in the section bearing the name of the ring.

Julie and I, at the EDGE OF THE WORLD!

Back in Dublin for a bit longer, I took a half-hour DART ride to Howth, and spent a few hours walking along the cliffs covered with flowers and fog.

Ireland was a grand success, even if I never did find that leprechaun. Or that pot of gold...

the Sengenblogger

23 April 2010

Doing as the Italians Do

The saying stands that when you're in Rome, you act like the locals. I have come to realize that I am not the American I once was. I'll let you in on some of the ways I've been Italianated.

1. When I have to choose between rushing or being late, I choose being late.*
*Note: Fifteen minutes after scheduled meeting time is still on time.

2. When in doubt, wear black.

3. I consider rushing a meal standing up less than half an hour after we've finished eating.

4. Showering... slightly less of a priority. Especially if it means rushing.

5. I now own at least one scarf for Fall, for Winter, for Spring, and for Summer, and I have at least three different ways to wear each of them.


the Sengenblogger

19 April 2010

Christiana + Bologna = :D

My little sister Christiana came to see me, and also to have wildly crazy European adventures, mostly in the form of eating gelato every day (and taking a picture each time). Being a most excellent big sister, and an experienced traveler of the Italian peninsula, I managed to get us to Florence, Venice, Padua, and Verona in five days. Then we stayed in Bologna and hung out, and then hung out a little longer when the poor girl was stranded by Iceland's volcano.

I sum Verona up in one word: lovely. Beyond being Shakespeare's inspiration for Romeo and Juliet, the charming city has the most intact Roman arena in the world (think the Colosseum, but shorter and complete). We made our way to that arena and were lucky enough to find an open-air market, complete with medieval crafts, local food, and plenty of Austrians. Christiana and I found the most joy in walking around the city itself, as it has several perfectly delightful piazzas and a fantastic assortment of interesting buildings. Sadly, Juliet's house was a bit of a letdown. Maybe if there had been a few people in costumes or a less tourist shops or if everyone taking a picture with Juliet's statue didn't grab her bronze breast... something in the atmosphere was missing. However, I really appreciated the beauty of Verona, from the Ponte Pietra stretching across the River Adige, to the green parks, from the classical Roman architecture to the masterful way in which the guy at Cremeria di Valentina sculpted our gelati.

"But soft, what light from yonder window breaks?
It is the East, and Juliet is the sun!"

Even Venetian gondoliers get lunch breaks.

Locks = Love on Florence's Ponte Vecchio.

That's all for now, folks!

the Sengenblogger