The End of Spring Break

Saturday morning, Brooke and I woke up early, got our included breakfast and then went to the train station to buy a ticket to Milan. We ran into my friend Nelson from IUSTV again (who we saw at the Budapest airport) at the train station which was funny. Him and his friends were going to Sienna and then Florence. We got our tickets, and we got on an 8:50AM train to Milan. We were sitting in our seats, and I ran into two other friends from school, Matt Lederman and Jon Khalili. I’m just running into people all around Europe, it’s nuts! They are studying in Barcelona and were also going to Milan.

So the train ride was about two and half hours. My parents’ friend Alberto Baccari kindly offered to meet Brooke and I at the train station and bring us to our hotel which is right by his apartment in Milano. He showed us some sights on the way, and then took us to our hotel. We checked in, and then met Alberto again and hopped on a tram to go to the city center. He showed us a place to get these really yummy things called panzerotti at this little place called Luini. They were delicious. They were like calzones, but they had a billion different flavors. Of course, it was POURING rain all day in Milan, which was kind of miserable. So we took the panzerotti to Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, an indoor-ish shopping center. There were a bunch of stores here, including the first Prada store in the world. So cool.

So then Alberto left us and we explored MIlan a little by ourselves. We went to the duomo first. It was HUGE. I couldn’t believe how tall it was inside. The pillars were so wide and so tall. After spending a decent time inside the duomo, we walked on the main drag with tons of stores to the main high end stores street called Montenapoleane. Seriously, it was down pouring the entire time, so it was kind of a buzz kill. Walking around wasn’t that good when there was weather like this, plus we can’t afford any of this stuff anyway….

So we turned back around, walked back to the duomo area where we caught a tram back to our hotel. The rain really did us in. So that night we met up with Alberto again and he took us to a great restaurant called Ristorante Rigolo. So delicious. Brooke and I split the veal cutlet and ossobucco. After dinner, Alberto drove us by the building where the Last Supper is. It was of course closed at night, but apparently it’s impossible to get to see it. You have to make reservations months in advance. So that wasn’t happening. We got dropped off and went back to our hotel for the night.

The next morning, Alberto and his son Otto were driving to Rome and offered to drop me off in Florence and drive through the coast of Italy on the way. I took up on the offer, and the plan was to leave at 7:00AM, but since it was inconveniently day light savings, our timing was off and we ended up leaving Milan at around 8:10. The drive was great. We drove past the Po River, which flows from the Alps into Venice and we passed through Genova, the town where Christopher Columbus is from. Focaccia was invented on the coast of Italy, so on our drive through Recco and Camogli, we stopped at delicious bakeries to try some authentic focaccia. Recco has a lot of olive trees and Camogli is a little fishing village. Our next two stops were Santa Margherita and Portofino. In Santa Margherita, we met up with Alberto’s friend and grabbed a coffee. Santa Margherita is a boating town. There are tons of big beautiful boats/yachts and lots of cute houses. Portofino is kind of the same, but has lots of beautiful villas belonging to very rich people like Dolce and Gabana and Burlusconi. The Italian coast was one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen in my life and I have to go back one day. Hopefully I can own a villa here one day….(dreaming big time).

We drove straight to Florence after the coast. We passed the marble mountains where Michelangelo would go to pick out the marble he wanted for his sculptures. It’s tough to imagine how they used to transport the huge slabs of marble back then, and even now! The mountains were completely covered in white marble, it looked like they were snow covered mountains. We drove past Cinqueterre, and finally got to Florence. I am so glad that Alberto took me along the coast, because I would have never seen it if he hadn’t shown me, and we got so lucky with the weather. It was absolutely beautiful weather and blue skies.

And that was the end of spring break! It was a solid week of traveling, and I don’t regret any of the destinations we went to. It’s too bad the weather wasn’t nicer, but it’s alright because I got to see such cool places!

Opera House in Milan

Opera House in Milan

Sculpture of Leonardo da Vinci

Sculpture of Leonardo da Vinci

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele

Alberto in front of the very first Prada store

Alberto in front of the very first Prada store

Alberto spinning on the good luck bull

Alberto spinning on the good luck bull

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The big duomo in Milano

The big duomo in Milano

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The entrance of the galleria

The entrance of the galleria

The plaza where the duomo is

The plaza where the duomo is

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Floors of the duomo

Floors of the duomo

Inside the duomo

Inside the duomo. The pillars are massive!

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Store window

Store window

Furry Celine shoes

Furry Celine shoes

Really delicious wine at dinner. It was sparkling red wine.

Really delicious wine at dinner. It was sparkling red wine.

Prosciutto

Prosciutto

Veal cutlet

Veal cutlet

Ossobuco with risotto

Ossobuco with risotto

Crema inglese

Crema inglese

The Last Supper is in there. There is a huge waiting list to get to see it, unfortunately.

The Last Supper is in there. There is a huge waiting list to get to see it, unfortunately.

A church having Easter-eve mass right next to where the Last Supper is

A church having Easter-eve mass right next to where the Last Supper is

This sculpture is in front of the MIlan stock exchange. The equivalent of "Wall Street"

This sculpture is in front of the MIlan stock exchange. The equivalent of “Wall Street”

Famous monastery on our drive

Famous monastery on our drive

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Focaccia

Focaccia

The first focaccia we tried

The first focaccia we tried

Focaccia number 2

Focaccia number 2

How beautiful?!

How beautiful?!

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Santa Margherita, Italy

Santa Margherita, Italy

The buildings' facades are painted on

The buildings’ facades are painted on

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Dogs in Santa Margherita

Dogs in Santa Margherita

Shaggy black dog

Shaggy black dog

Everyone was so preppy in Santa Margherita. I felt like I was in Nantucket

Everyone was so preppy in Santa Margherita. I felt like I was in Nantucket.

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The painted facades

The painted facades

Alberto and Otto

Alberto and Otto

Vespa basket on a Vespa

Vespa basket on a Vespa

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This is Dolce and Gabana's villa in Portofino

This is Dolce and Gabana’s villa in Portofino

Sooooo beautifullllll!!!!!!

Sooooo beautifullllll!!!!!!

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Portofino

Portofino

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The white marble mountains

The white marble mountains

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Tour d’Italia

Yesterday, Brooke and I wanted to beat the rain, so we woke up early, got our free breakfast that came with the hotel, and were on our way. Okay. Venice is SO confusing and almost impossible to navigate. Our first destination was walking through the Jewish Ghetto. Honestly, there wasn’t too much to see there. There was a holocaust memorial and we couldn’t even find the synagogue. After the Jewish section, we got on a water taxi all the way to Piazza San Marco. Gondolas are super expensive, so a water taxi was the next best option. The ride was so so so beautiful. I honestly can’t believe that a place looks like this in real life. You see Venice on postcards and in photos, and you don’t think the whole city can actually look like that, but I kid you not, it is exactly what you expect it to look like. Right out of a movie. On our way to San Marco, we got a view of Ponte Rialto, the Rialto bridge.

We got off at the San Marco stop, the very last stop. It was beautiful. The plaza was so big and the church was really nice. This is the plaza where all the pigeons were supposed to be, but the pigeons really weren’t that bad. After taking a bunch of photos at San Marco, Brooke and I wanted to walk around in the inner smaller streets of Venice, so we walked around and headed back to our hotel. Like I said before, Venice is so hard to navigate! You have to cross bridges to get to the other side but then have to cross back on a bridge to like the left to get back to the side you want to be on because streets don’t exist. It’s crazy.

So at this point Brooke and I were really hungry and we decided to go back to the hotel to check out my travel book for a place to eat. So the book said to go to this little sandwich shop right next to our hotel, but it was such a bust as sandwiches weren’t even out yet, so we decided to go to this pizza place called Cip Ciap instead which was supposed to have the best pizza in Venice. It was so hard to find and it was way further than we thought. We got there and we’re so underwhelmed…big disappointment. So we thought since we spent all this time looking for this place, we may as well go somewhere that actually looks good. On our way to Cip Ciap, we passed this other pizza place called Antico Forno which was also in the travel book. We didn’t have the address, but we knew we passed it, so we retraced our footsteps, which wasn’t an easy task, and we found it. It was worth it. Very good.

At this point, it was already late afternoon, so we went back to the hotel and got some wifi for a little bit. Social media is a pretty amazing tool. I was looking through Instagram and saw that my friend Allyson in AEPhi posted a photo in Venice and I also put a photo of Venice on Facebook. So now I knew Allyson was in Venice also, and then about 2 minutes later, my friend Jamie in AEPhi commented on my photo on Facebook that she was in Venice too with Allyson. So we made plans to meet up for dinner that night with Brooke and their other friends too. We went to this pizzeria which we didn’t really want since we had pizza for lunch, but it was good. Of course it was raining and my really crappy umbrella was really useless. On our walk over to the restaurant, Brooke and I heard sirens which we learned was a flood warning! This city is just a completely flooded city. It’s nuts! So Jamie, Allyson, and their 3 other friends met us at the restaurant. It was great to see them! They are going to Rome next and then coming to Florence, so I’ll see them in Flo!

Everything is on the water

Everything is on the water

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Venice is known for their carnivale masks

Venice is known for their carnivale masks

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The Jewish ghetto

The Jewish ghetto

WWII memorial in Venice in the Jewish ghetto

WWII memorial in Venice in the Jewish ghetto

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This guy is casually reading the paper on the water taxi ride

This guy is casually reading the paper on the water taxi ride

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Venetian architecture

Venetian architecture

Gondolas everywhere!

Gondolas everywhere!

Even the ambulances are on the water

Even the ambulances are on the water

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Riding on the water taxi

Riding on the water taxi

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San Marco

San Marco

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Looking good ladies

Looking good ladies

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Inside the church

Inside the church

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The floors were great

The floors were great

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Selfies on the Rialto Bridge

Selfies on the Rialto Bridge

On the Ponte Rialto

On the Ponte Rialto

I can't believe that this place is real!

I can’t believe that this place is real!

The Ponte Rialto is quite busy

The Ponte Rialto is quite busy

This city is just like a scene from a movie

This city is just like a scene from a movie

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The gondolas are even beautiful

The gondolas are even beautiful

Brooke and I met up with my friends Jamie Fischer and Allyson for dinner in Venice. They were with their other friends too. This is me and Jamie at dinner

Brooke and I met up with my friends Jamie Fischer and Allyson for dinner in Venice. They were with their other friends too. This is me and Jamie at dinner

Jamie and Allyson's friends. They are all in AEPhi, so we made the "Phi" symbol and said "sisters!!!" as we took the picture. We are making fun of ourselves

Jamie and Allyson’s friends. They are all in AEPhi, so we made the “Phi” symbol and said “sisters!!!” as we took the picture. We are making fun of ourselves

Jamie, me, and Allyson!

Jamie, me, and Allyson!

 

From Snow to Rain

So I had my first Ryan Air experience, and it wasn’t bad at all! Brooke and I took a cab to the airport, got our boarding passes stamped (Ryan Air policy) and got through security and chilled with some free wifi before getting on our flight. When we were waiting in line to get our boarding passes stamped, I ran into a kid who works for IUSTV which was funny. He is studying in Budapest and is traveling to Italy for the week.

The flight was easy. Brooke sat in the aisle, I sat at the window and no one sat in between us. Ryan Air doesn’t do assigned seats, so you choose your seats when you get on. We landed in rainy Venice and got on a bus that dropped us off at the Venice stop. We walked over to our hotel and found out that Brooke’s friend Christine missed her flight and will no longer be joining us in Venice or Milan. Brooke and I asked the hotel where to go to dinner and we walked to the restaurant in the pouring rain. We bought umbrellas from a guy on the street and mine broke within 7 minutes. I’m so annoyed that I lost my nice umbrella in Budapest!!!! We got so lost on the way to the restaurant. Venice is so confusing with ll the rivers and bridges. It’s so beautiful though, even in the rain.

We walked back to the hotel after dinner and this morning when we woke up, we found out that IU lost to Syracuse in the sweet 16 of March Madness. It’s a very sad day for all Hoosiers.

This is in Mosaic, a coffee shop in Budapest. We sat here for a couple hours using their wifi

This is in Mosaic, a coffee shop in Budapest. We sat here for a couple hours using their wifi

Waiting to leave for Venice. Brookie is tired!

Waiting to leave for Venice. Brookie is tired!

Ryan Air. So wonderfully decorated.

Ryan Air. So wonderfully decorated.

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I Spoke Too Soon…Budapest Isn’t So Cheap Anymore…

Well. Today something very annoying happened. Brooke and I got up and the plan was to go to the big central indoor market and then to the Gellert Baths for the day. So we went to the metro, we get on the train, and when we got off, metro system officials were randomly checking tickets, AS WE GOT OFF THE TRAIN. So of course I can’t find my most recent ticket and I got a ticket and got fined…8,000HUF, about $40. I was so pissed. Who checks tickets AFTER you get off the train?! So byeeeeee $40. I have to look on the bright side though and thank god if was only $40. If you don’t validate your ticket on the main trains, you can be fined like €300 or more. In Vienna, if you are caught without a ticket, you are fined something like €1,000. All the European transportation fines are ridiculous. So yeah. That sucked. Also, thank god it was only money and I didn’t get arrested or anything like that.

So then we walked over to the market, and ate some breakfast/lunch. We got this Hungarian bread/pizza/sandwich called a làngo. It was dough, sour cream, and cheese. Interesting. Then we also split a sweet cottage cheese strudel and a poppy seed strudel which is a traditional Hungarian pastry. The poppy seed was interesting also. The cottage cheese one kind of tasted like a blintz. In total, we spent like $3 each on everything.

After the market, we crossed a bridge, and went to the Gellert Hotel, a big natural hot spring bathhouse. It was interesting. It is considered to be the “nice” one, but I guess it’s all relative in Eastern Europe. We changed into our suits and sat in all the different temperature pools and went into the sauna and steam rooms. It was beautiful architecturally. The tile work was really nice. Unfortunately, I don’t have photos because you aren’t allowed to take pictures inside. The people that were there were strange, and this place didn’t seem like the cleanest place in the world. After a few hours in the pools, we got messages. Again, not the best message, but they were only $20, so I guess that explains it. Overall, awesome experience. So glad I saw it and did it all, but it was a little dirty and smelly hahaha.

We showered after our messages, then went to a cafe to grab coffees and some wifi. I got a Facebook message from Dylan Sklare asking about Budapest because him and his friends were coming to Budapest next on their spring break, and his location settings on his messages said that he was in Budapest. They told us that they were coming on Thursday, but they were wrong and they were in Budapest a day earlier than we thought! Great news. So the boys came and met Brooke and I at the Wombats hostel and we all went to dinner together at our favorite place, Hummus Bar. After dinner, we hung out at the hostel and then went back to the crazy bar Szimpla Kert, where we went the night before. After Szimpla, we just went home and said goodbye to our friends again.

The market

The market

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The lango that we tried

The lango that we tried

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Gellert Bathhouse

Gellert Bathhouse

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Inside the Gellert Bathhouse

Inside the Gellert Bathhouse

The baths

The baths

Our Hungarian chic outfits that we basically wore everyday...

Our Hungarian chic outfits that we basically wore everyday…

Me and Sklare

Me and Sklare

Group photo with some of the girls from Belgium that we met at the hostel

Group photo with some of the girls from Belgium that we met at the hostel

Making shadow puppets

Making shadow puppets

The shadow puppets of Szimplakert

The shadow puppets of Szimplakert

Buda and Pest

Brooke and I woke up early this morning, got some free breakfast in the hostel and then decided that it was very necessary to go buy a pair of super cheap shoes because our shoes were getting destroyed by the snow and rain. So we asked the front desk where to go and they told us to take the metro a couple stops and go to this area where these is a really cheap mall. In the meantime, I realized that I lost my umbrella at some point yesterday which I am so bummed about. It was a great umbrella! Anyway, we got on the metro, got off at the stop and can’t find the mall. We saw something that seemed like a mall, but I think it was closed. We went in this depressing department store and decided that the little stand in the actual subway station had a better selection of shoes for a cheaper price. We each ended up spending the equivalent of $12 on a pair of black high top, leather looking converse. Great purchase and I didn’t even plan on ever wearing these shoes again, but I’m really feeling these shoes. So we got the shoes, took the metro back to our hostel, dropped off our good shoes, changed into our new pair and then walked about 6 minutes to meet up with a group for a free walking your around Budapest.

Our tour guide was awesome. It was a completely free tour for 3 hours. We saw a cool little sculpture with colored blocks that exists because the creator of the Rubik’s cube is from Hungary. Then we walked over to the opera house again, which we did yesterday, then went to the big basilica and took some pics. The tour continued on to Vaci Utica, the famous shopping street and then to the Dabue river where we crossed the famous Chain Bridge. So Budapest is named Budapest because one side of the river is called Buda and the other side is Pest. We are staying on the Pest side and the Buda side is supposed to be super expensive. The main city is on the Pest side. We crossed the bridge, then walked up to Castle Hill where there is a big bird sculpture and the citadel. It was a bike hike up and still, freezing cold. We then walked over to the Mathias (spelling?) church. You could tell that the roof of the church was really cool and patterned, but unfortunately it was covered by the snow. The tour ended here and Brooke and I hopped on a bus to get back to the city center.

We quickly went back to the hostel to change our socks. I was convinced that I had frost bite and that one of my toes fell off. I was wrong thank god. We left the hostel, and went to get lunch at this place called the Hummus Bar in the Jewish Quarters. Really yummy cheap middle eastern/Mediterranean food. Then we left and walked down the block to the Synagogue which is the largest Synagogue in Europe. So huge bummer…the Synagogue is closed this week because it’s Passover. Woof. So we could only take pictures outside of it. Nonetheless, it was huge! There was a police officer that was there that said Passover services were at 5:00PM, and it was 4:00, so we though to walk around for a little and then come back and try to get in.

We then walked around Vaci Utica, the shopping street, then walked back to the Synagogue where services were definitely not taking place…language barrier just have gotten in the way. So then we came back to the hostel and just chilled and tonight we made plans to hang out with the girls from Belgium that only speak French hahaa. We were hungry, so we ran down the street to the grocery store and picked up dinner. I kid you not, we paid the equivalent of $2 American each for dinner. This place is so cheap I can’t even believe it.

We ended up running into my friend Michael Kagan, from IU, so we hang out with him and his roommate for a while. We also met these kids from Toronto. One of the boys was wearing a “Vienna” sweatshirt so we asked if studied there and told him we were just there. After he said one sentence, I asked if he was Canadian because I could hear his accent (thanks to Tamakwa for tuning my ear to Canadian accents) so that was funny. I was spot on and it ends up that he went to Forest Hill High School and knows my friends from Tamakwa.

After hanging in the hostel for a little, Brooke and I went to this absolutely bizarre bar called Szimpla Kert. It was nuts. It looked like someone went through a thrift shop/dump/wasteland and just found tons of random things and put them all in this warehouse. It was really cool. Absolutely crazy looking inside. We decided that if this bar was in America, it would be an über hipster bar where if we walked in, we would get weird looks. Here, this place was completely normal.

Tomorrow we are going to the market and baths which should be great!

The escalator in the metro

The escalator in the metro

The matching shoes that Brooke and I bought...in the subway...

The matching shoes that Brooke and I bought…in the subway…

In front of the Budapest Opera House

In front of the Budapest Opera House

Inside the opera house again

Inside the opera house again

Beautiful ceiling

Beautiful ceiling

Andrassay street. This street was inspired by Parisian architecure

Andrassay street. This street was inspired by Parisian architecture

Basilica

Basilica

The Basilica during the day

The Basilica during the day

Supposedly, it's good luck to rub this police officer's belly and mustache

Supposedly, it’s good luck to rub this police officer’s belly and mustache

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A Michael Jackson tribute tree...

A Michael Jackson tribute tree

The Chain Bridge

The Chain Bridge

Selfies on the bridge

Selfies on the bridge

Hiking up to Castle Hill

Hiking up to Castle Hill

View of the bridge and Pest from the Buda side of Budapest

View of the bridge and Pest from the Buda side of Budapest

Obviously had to take another selfy

Obviously had to take another selfy

The eagle on Castle Hill

The eagle on Castle Hill

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Up on Castle Hill.

Up on Castle Hill

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Our cheap Mediterranean meal at Hummus Bar

Our cheap Mediterranean meal at Hummus Bar

In front of the largest Synagogue in Europe!

In front of the largest Synagogue in Europe on Passover!

Some funky russian dolls. They've got all the essentials.

Some funky russian dolls. They’ve got all the essentials.

Selfies in front of the Synagogue

Selfies in front of the Synagogue

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Szimplakert. The craziest looking bar ever

Szimplakert. The craziest looking bar ever

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Up on the second floor. What is this place?!

Up on the second floor. What is this place?!

It’s Definitely Still Winter In Eastern Europe

We have arrived safely in Budapest! The bus ride wasn’t bad at all. Brooke and I sat in the front row and there was free wifi the entire 3 hour ride, so that was awesome. Wifi is like gold abroad. So we got dropped off at the Budapest international bus station. Yeah, it was a little sketchy. The gypsies here are dressed like cowboys, it is so bizarre. Most people don’t speak English here so communicating is a little difficult at times. We asked for directions from the bus station to our hostel. We are staying at the Wombats in Budapest. The woman at the information desk told us how to get here by using the metro. So we went downstairs, and figured out which metro we needed. The metro here is not even half as nice as the metro in Vienna. This city is noticeably more poor. Oh, and the currency…forget it. It’s impossible to understand. 250HUF (Hungarian money) is equivalent to $1. So when you see something for like 5,000HUF it’s like $20. It’s just so confusing.

We got off the metro, and figured out the direction to Wombats. It started snowing really hard which was no good. We found our hostel, put our stuff in our room and then walked around and grabbed a bite to eat at this traditional Hungarian restaurant called Kantín. Brooke and I had some appetizers, and split Chicken paprika and Mushroom paprika and had dessert and coffee all for the equivalent of €10 each. This place is cheap. While eating, we devised our game plan for our stay in Budapest, we made an itinerary which you will hear more about in the coming blog posts. After our meal, we walked by the opera house which was beautiful. We got to go inside and warm up for a sec which was great.

We walked back to the hostel, got some wifi then hung out for a little then came down to the “Wombar” and socialized with some other hostel people. We met a group of Mexicans and Turkish people that are all studying abroad in Barcelona and a group of girls from Belgium that were here on a school trip and only spoke French. Brooke and I then made our way over to this wine bar called DiVino in the blizzard. It was right by the basilica which was so beautiful at night and in the snow!

We met some strange people from the Netherlands at DiVino and some students from Germany that were studying in Budapest. The Dutch people were showing us card magic tricks…it was just such a strange combination of events. Now we’re back at the hostel and about to go to sleep. We have a big day of touring for tomorrow!

The metro

The metro

Very different than Vienna metro. And FREEZING!

Very different than Vienna metro. And FREEZING!

Mushroom paprika

Mushroom paprika

Chicken paprika

Chicken paprika

Snowing when we got to Budapest

It started to snow when we got to Budapest…

Inside the opera house. I took some better ones the next day when we went on a walking tour of Budapest!

Inside the opera house. I took some better ones the next day when we went on a walking tour of Budapest!

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Brooke and I in front of the Basilica

Brooke and I in front of the Basilica

The Basilica in the snowy night

The Basilica in the snowy night

Vienna…You’ve Been Cold

So yesterday was our touristy day. We went to all the main sites. Before we left the hostel in the morning, we went to the front desk and asked one of the receptionists how to get around. She gave us a map and directions and then we asked her how we should get to Budapest for the next day. She told us there was a cheap bus with tickets that are half the price of train tickets and it gets you there in the same amount of time. So she called up the bus company and we reserved two seats.

We left the hostel and made our way over to the metro and got on a train to Karlsplatz. Of course it was snowing. This is one wild and warm spring break we’re having! Keeedddinggggg. There was a big church in the square that Brooke and I took pics in front of. Then we walked up a main street called Opernring and passed some beautiful buildings along the way. The architecture in Vienna is pretty fantastic. Everything is so detailed and regal. It’s beautiful. We walked into this area with two big palaces before entering Museumsplatz, the Museum Quarter. The palaces were huge and of course beautiful and the museum quarter was cool too. There were two main museums there, the modern art museum and the classical art in the Leopold. We wanted to go to the modern art museum but we asked about the exhibits and there really wasn’t anything that seemed super special and a must-see. So we continued our walking tour. We were getting a little hungry so we went to this little stand by the Albertinasplatz called Bitzinger. My friend Catharine told me about it and said that we must get this sausage sandwich called a kaser-krainer. It was delish. Brooke got a cup of hot wine too that was very flavorful and also really good. Then we made our way over to the big place that belonged to Sisi’s husband, Francis who was the emperor. Sisi is the one who owned Schönbrunn palace that we saw the day before. We took lots of pictures then walked through downtown Vienna and passed all the nice stores on the way to St. Stephen’s Church. The church on the outside was so cool. There was this big zig-zag pattern on the roof and the inside was gothic style. Really nice.

It was freezing so we went home after the church and hung out for about an hour and a half before going to the opera house to see a Viennese opera! We were going to just buy really cheap standing tickets, for €4, but when we were in line a man was selling left over box tickets for €25 so we decided to splurge and get those instead. It was definitely worth it. When you’re in the standing section, you have to run and save a spot and you have to stand the entire time. Since we had seats, we were able to explore the opera house and go to our seats right before the show started. We got there early so we had time. The box seats were not so great, but still worth it. When you sit in a box seat, there are screens with subtitles so we were able to understand the play that was in German. It was so strange. The sets were pretty lame but it was still an awesome experience. Definitely worth it. The opera lasted about an hour and forty five minute then we just went back to the hostel.

Now we’re sitting in the hostel at breakfast and we are about to leave for Budapest!

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Streets of Vienna

Streets of Vienna

The state Opera House

The state Opera House

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Museum Quarter

Museum Quarter

The modern art museum

The modern art museum

The Leopold museum

The Leopold museum

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Bitzinger. The sausage stand in Albertinaplatz

Bitzinger. The sausage stand in Albertinaplatz

Kaiser Krainer sausage and hot wine

Kaiser Krainer sausage and hot wine

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I liked these bottles

I liked these bottles

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I thought these doors were really cool

I thought these doors were really cool

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St. Stephen's Cathedral

St. Stephen’s Cathedral

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Inside the church

Inside the church

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Inside the opera house

Inside the opera house

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Quals In Vienna

We successfully got to Vienna! The overnight train was kind of a drag, but definitely an experience. First of all, our train was delayed 35 minutes. So we didn’t end up leaving until around 11:00. The train was set up with small seating rooms of six seats. We got to our seats, and a bunch of Italian kids were sitting in there being obnoxious and we told them that they were sitting in our seats. They were really annoyed and a few of them moved out and then they all were definitely talking about me and Brooke. We couldn’t understand them though. After a little while we asked if they spoke English and they spoke a little so we started to be friendly with them. They were seniors in high school and they were in Florence for a school day trip from their town right outside of Venice. One of them spoke very good English. He was a foreign exchange student in a small town of Iowa last year. We told him how bad we felt that he was in the middle of nowhere in Iowa…

When we got to Bologna, the kids had to move out because those weren’t their seats and some new people came in. Four people joined our seating area, 2 couples (probably around 50 years old). They didn’t speak any English. I used some Italian skills and found out that they were from Rome and they were dancers and they were in Bologna for a dance competition and going to Vienna for another competition. One of the men sitting next to me showed me videos of them on his iPad. They were really good! It was like ballroom/Latin/samba dancing. We found out that one of the couples got first place and the other got third. So these people spread out big time in the train. The seats reclined and they basically made a giant bed for the four of them while me and Brooke were crammed up in our seats since we weren’t about to snuggle with them too. It was pretty hilarious. We didn’t even end up going to the bathroom once the entire journey since they were sleeping and blocking the door. It was also so annoying because every stop we had to wake up and show our tickets.

Finally, at 9:15ish in the morning, we arrived in Vienna. We were in the metro and asked this woman who didn’t speak any English to help us get to our hostel. It was hilarious. She was coincidentally going to the same stop so he was helpful. I asked her to teach us how to count to 10 in German so we learned that.

We are staying at Wombats City Hostel at the Naschmarkt which is this big out door flea market. The hostel is really nice. Wombats is a chain, and we are actually staying at another Wombats in Budapest. We happened to be overlapping with our friends Sklare and Giggles and all their roommates for a day, so we got to hang out with them all day which was really fun!

Yesterday was Quals (qualification) for the Little 500 race at IU. It’s one of the most fun days of the year, so we had to make sure we paid homage to the special day. Sklare wore his Phi Psi Cycling TShirt and we took some photos for Instagram to root our teams on. So Sklare, Giggles, Brooke and I started our day in Vienna walking through the Naschmarkt flea market. There were tons of crazy knick knacks. Sklare ended up buying a ridiculous purple Puma zip up sweatshirt for 5 euro. After the Naschmarkt, we went to the Schönbrunn Palace. We took the metro and had to walk through this park to get there. We played on the jungle gym of the park for a little before going to the palace. The palace was really beautiful and was apparently just a summer home for this royal family. It was huge. And the grounds were beautiful and enormous. We walked around the grounds for a couple hours and took lots of pictures.

We then walked around the Naschmarkt some more and around Vienna and then went back to the hostel. We all just hung out at the hostel last night, nothing exciting.

The boys all left this morning for Prague, and then they are going to Budapest too, but we are missing them. So it’s me and Brooke from here on out! We are doing some sight seeing in Vienna. It is freezing here and it’s snowing today, woohoo! Gotta layer up.

The competitive Roman dancers

The competitive Roman dancers

The architecture in Vienna is really great

The architecture in Vienna is really great

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The Naschmarkt and Flohmarkt

The Naschmarkt and Flohmarkt

The park we passed on the way to the Schönbrunn Palace

The park we passed on the way to the Schönbrunn Palace

We were ready for quals!

We were ready for quals!

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Chillin' in the Schönbrunn gardens

Chillin’ in the Schönbrunn gardens

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The greenhouse at Schönbrunn

The greenhouse at Schönbrunn

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The 10 Day Euro Trip Is About to Begin

It’s finally here! Spring break is upon us. Last night at around 8:00, Brooke got to Florence. She met me at my apartment and we decided to go to La Giostra for dinner. La Giostra is known to be a favorite in Florence amongst celebs and everyone who goes says it’s so good. Our reservation was for 9:30 and this place was so cute and trendy. The only source of light inside the restaurant were small white Christmas lights and candle light from the tables. The waiter brought us over a cup of complimentary prosecco and then we had an appetizer on the house. So delicious. There was a small tasting of a bunch of little things. Brooke and I ordered their famous handmade pear ravioli and truffle sauce carbonara pasta and split the two. So good. The owner of the restaurant came up to our table and made sure we were enjoying our meal. He was great. He was wearing maybe 80 silver bangles that went up both of his entire arms. There were photos of celebrities hung up on every single wall. Right next to our table was Geri Halloway with the owner, Ginger Spice from the Spice Girls. Brooke and I shared cheese cake for dessert which was amazing.

After dinner, we went to Kikuya and met up with Eva Goldfarb and her roommate and their Italian friends. They were funny. We went back home to go to sleep and today had a jam packed day in Florence. I took Brooke through the leather market (literally outside my door) and then we went to Massimo where she bought 3 leather purses in a matter of 5 minutes. She got a good deal for them. Gotta love Massimo (he’s the leather guy that I bought my jacket from)! After the leather market, we walked through Mercato Centrale and then we made our way over to Ponte Vecchio and walked around the other side of the river for a little. For lunch, we went to Antico Vinaio. Okay. So it’s so funny because every person you ask has a different favorite panini or gelato place and claims that it is the best. It’s the running joke of Florence. But I kid you not this was the BEST panini. They have to little sandwich shops right across the street from one another and both lines were hugeeee. Obviously we waited and when it was our turn, we asked the guy to make “the best sandwich they have.” He made some crazy combo and it was definitely delicious. This place takes the medal for the best paninis in Florence. We sat in Plazza Signoria by the fake David to eat them while the pigeons harassed us.

After lunch we walked around a bunch more and then went back to the apartment to chill. I am taking Brooke to Gusta Pizza tonight. This is probably everyone’s favorite pizza place. Then we are on an over night train to Vienna at around 10:00PM! I’ll be blogging throughout the week. We are staying at the Wombats Hostel in Vienna and our friends Sklare and Giggles just so happen to be there too for a couple of days which is a fun coincidence. Can’t wait!

Brooke and our meal at La Giostra

Brooke and our meal at La Giostra

Brooke, me, our new friend Rywando Jones and Eva at Kikuya

Brooke, me, our new friend Rywando Jones and Eva at Kikuya

Stopped by the duomo last night for a photo opp

Stopped by the duomo last night for a photo opp

Brooke and I stopped to rub the hog's nose for good luck!

Brooke and I stopped to rub the hog’s nose for good luck!

The huge sandwiches from Antico Vinaio

The huge sandwiches from Antico Vinaio

Midterms…Check!

I am doneeeee!!! Woohooo! This afternoon I finished up all my midterms. Such a relief. This week has been super busy. Monday I didn’t have a midterm but I still had so much studying to do. I had Italian class on Monday (but our midterm was today, Wednesday) and our teacher brought us this traditional Italian Easter bread/dessert for us to try. After class I met up with Sari at Anna’s Snack Bar and capped up and studied for our Art History exam. There was sooo much to memorize! I don’t understand how Michelangelo was so damn productive in his lifetime…we stayed at Anna’s until 7:15 then I went home, had some dinner and then had to study for my food and wine class. Okay people, this class is NOT A JOKE. Studying was not an easy task. I had to do reading about the process of wine making and history of Italian cuisine. Very boring and dry material.

So on Tuesday I had my Art HIstory and food and wine class and to be honest, I think they both went a lot better than I expected them to, so that’s good news. When I was done with those tests it was time to go on to the next…Italian and history of Italian TV broadcasting (easily one of the worst classes I’ve ever taken in my student career).

In the midst of all my studying, I made a new cover photo for the Hello Dolly! Facebook page. It’s “spring break” themed in honor of it being spring break season.

Today I had my Italian and TV broadcasting tests. I think they also went well. Midterms were way better than I thought but there was a lot of studying necessary. It’s tough to study with all the traveling and lifestyle adjusting that we do. Obviously school is important, but it’s definitely harder to focus here than at IU because our lives are so different here and we don’t really have a set “routine.”

But now the good news! It’s officially spring break! No more class or exams until April 2nd. Here’s the plan:

So tomorrow evening, my friend Brooke Maher from Indiana (who I stayed with in Barcelona) is coming to Florence. I’m going to give her a nice tour of Florence during the day on Friday and then Friday night, we have tickets for an overnight train to Vienna!!! We leave at around 10:00PM I think and we get to Vienna at around 8:30AM on Saturday morning. We are in Vienna until Monday (March 25) afternoon and then we are going to take a train to Budapest. We don’t have a ticket for that yet, but it should be easy to get and I think it’s about 2 hours. Then on Thursday (March 28), we have a flight to Venice. This will be my first Ryan Air flight experience…wish me luck. In Venice, Brooke’s roommate, Christine, is meeting up with us. We’ll be in Venice until Saturday (March 30), then we leave on a train for our last destination, Milan. We’ll only be in Milan for a day and a half and then it’s time to train back to Florence on Sunday (March 31) and Brooke and Christine are flying back to Barcelona. Sunday, March 30th is Easter and then Monday is Easter Monday. I’m actually excited to be in Italy for Easter.

It’s going to be nuts! There are a lot of very religious Catholics here. I want to go to the duomo and see what’s going on! I think there are a lot of festivities taking place, but I’m not 100%. We’ll seeeee!

Well that’s the plan. Of course nothing abroad goes according to plan, so we’ll see what really happens with spring break. I can’t wait! I’m so excited.

The traditional Italian Easter dessert bread that our teacher brought us

The traditional Italian Easter dessert bread that our teacher brought us

Here's the new cover photo for the Hello Dolly! Facebook page. If you haven't "liked" the page yet, check it out at: www.facebook.com/HelloDollyTV

Here’s the new cover photo for the Hello Dolly! Facebook page. If you haven’t “liked” the page yet, check it out at: http://www.facebook.com/HelloDollyTV