Welcome to my Blog!

Welcome to my blog! I hope that you all can track all of my travels in Spain, and live it with me (although sitting on your computer looking at the pictures won't be as cool as taking them myself) Let the journey begin!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

When in Rome...

Wow, what a trip! Looking back on this trip, it amazes me that in 4 days time we were able to travel over 900 miles, make it to 3 major Italian cities, on not much of a budget, not really have any travel problems and still make it home alive. God was definitely with us to help everything go well, and although we had a few problems in Venice, everything went smooth. One of my biggest concerns was that something would go wrong with booking our train tickets. As a matter of fact, we had no idea what to do, but we just need to somehow end up in Venice on Wednesday morning to fly home.

Tyler and I arrived right outside of Milan in the small city of Bergamo. We explored the cool city for an hour or so and then got a train to Milan. In Bergamo, there is this awesome part of town called Cittá Alta (Tall City), which used to be the Italian stronghold against its enemies. This part of town lies on the top of the hill with a huge wall surrounding it. Quite amazing. In Milan, we barely had enough time to see the Duomo Cathedral and the Sforzero Castle before it got dark. The cathedral is gorgeous, and is the 3rd biggest in the world. Apparently that same night had a huge carnival going on that night and there were people in the streets with masks, while silly string and confetti was flying everywhere, it was chaos. After a while more of walking around, we headed back to the train station to figure out our way to Rome. The last train to leave, left Milan at 11:20 pm, and arrived in Rome at 7:20.

At the time of planning this trip, I had thought that going by train in theory would be a good idea…but during each train ride, i was MISERABLE. The only negtive thing about this whole trip was the lack of sleep. That was due to the lack of comfort on the train. Being a college student, we weren’t going to pay $90 for a bed on the train, when we can grind it out in a seat for $60. Our cabin fit 6, and to our luck, we had 6 crammed in there. Language was a huge barrier and I’d like to see a video of me trying to have a simple conversation with some of those other passengers. At one point, not knowing how to express what I wanted to say, I simply said “pizza” and “pasta” in the most Italian accent I knew, which brought laughter. I’m pretty sure it was more of a ‘Dumb American’ laugh, but oh well. The only Italian I learn on this trip was “Parle Englese”…Do you speak English? I figured that was all I needed to know, because if they responded with ‘no’, then there was no chance of communication and I’d find someone else.

Once in Rome, we had lots to see. Everyone knows of the major sites: the Coliseum, St. Peter’s Basilica, the Vatican, and the Pantheon among others. But what amazed me is that everywhere I went, every corner we came about was full of rich history and architecture.  We went into every church possible (they are free) and we were constantly amazed at the amount of decoration and detail that is everywhere. Every arch, every window, every roof space has something decorating it. Of course we did get to see all of the major sites. I saw the Colosseum, The Pantheon, St. Angelo’s Castle, the Vatican Museum (The Sistine Chapel), St. Peter’s Basilica, and many more. My favorite building was St. Peter’s Basilica. I’m not exaggerating when I say this, but I’m pretty sure Rupp Arena could fit inside of St. Peter’s. The place is so huge that I didn’t really even bother to take picture. Pictures just don’t do it justice.

After a full 3rd day of exploring, we made it on our 2nd and last train headed to Venice. The train was exactly like the first train, except it was an hour shorter, thank goodness. One of the passengers on this ride actually was Peruvian, so I was able to communicate via Spanish to at least one of the others in our room. We arrived in Venice at 5 am. Of course nothing open up till 7 or 8, so we simply sat outside of the train station, freezing our butts off trying to get a few extra zzzzzzz in as we waited.

Once everything opened up, we were able to find the only McDonalds in town to use the free bathroom (oh how I miss free bathrooms) to change and brush our teeth. We got some snacks for the day and simply did what we do best, walked around for hours. Venice is such a bizarre city. Who was the retard that thought that using a system of canals and boats would be a good way for ALL transportation in the city?  I saw a ambulance boat, a police boat, a gas station boat…you name it. There is not a single car in that city, only long skinny boats, and gondolas.  There is a reason why old Venice is nothing but a tourist town, because it makes no sense what so ever to have a city that runs by boats. All it is are a bunch of shops and restaurants. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Venice, but man it had a different feeling to it. And also, everything is a lot more expensive in Venice.  The Paolo Cathedral in Venice is simply breathtaking though. Inside, the who top half of the cathedral is made up of a giant mosaic. Everything in that cathedral was a mosaic. Unfortunately they are really strict about not taking any pictures of it so I could only take mental pictures.

 The only hiccup in our trip was trying to figure out a place to stay the last night. We had plans to stay with a friend of mine, but when that fell through we needed to find somewhere to stay. I had no money left and was mentally exhausted but willing to sleep in the train station that night if need be. Tyler was not up for that. So eventually we found a hotel to stay at that was a little more expensive than we wanted, but it was all that was left for such late notice. At this point, the lack of sleep had caught up to us. Once in the hotel, around 5 pm, we were both in our beds and would fall asleep soon after. The flight home the next morning went smooth and well.

Now I can finally check off a lot of things from my bucket list. It has been such a good time, and was definitely worth it.

Sorry if this is a long blog… even as so I had to eliminate a lot of things because I didn’t want it to be extremely long.  I’m always thinking about my followers ha.

P.s Pictures are on facebook so check them out!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

It's been a while

Hey everyone, sorry for such a delay in writing a blog. I have been trying to write a blog after something major happens. Since you haven't seen any new blogs, that's simply because you guessed it, nothing major has happened.

Due to the lack of trips, I'll update you all on the craziness that will be happening for the remainder of the semester. A friend told me today as we were leaving school that out of the remaining 80 days of the semester that is left, only 38 of those are school days. That leaves 42 (I'm good with math) of holidays, weekends and breaks.  From this weekend on, I only have 1 or 2 open weekends in which I do not have a.) a school planned trip or b.) a Jonathan planned trip.

Here is what the remainder of my semester looks like:

1. Milan/Rome/Venice (4 day weekend)
2. Toledo (school planned) *stay tuned Glen
3. Taylor visits!
4. Ronda (school planned)
5. Granada (being planned)
6. Santander/Paris/Madrid [Holy Week]
7. Italica (school planned) & possibly Barcelona
8. London/Portugal (Feria)
9. Free Weekend
10. USA bound

Now with all of that planned, and it costing a little of money, my hostel stays will most likely be the cheapest I can find. I may be starving myself (Emily and Daniel, remember CR??) while in Paris or sleeping next to the Vatican due to lack of funds, but hey I made it right??! That's all the matters, memories.

As for school, all is well. Grammar isn't to fun. It sucks learning spanish one way, and then having to change what you learned because they use 'vosotros' here. 'Usted' and 'Ustedes' is perfectly fine, but not according to Carmen (grammar prof).  It kills me! Other than that, first round of tests came and went smoothly. I spend countless hours every night being studious and reviewing everything from class that day, psych. But seriously, I'm alive over here and still starving as usual from all the weird meal time hours. For example it is 9:30 right now, and my senora just got home to start cooking. I"MMMMM STARVING!!!!!!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Acción Solidaria

I want to start off by thanking Emily for thoroughly explaining how to use the accent marks (notice the title and its appropriate tilde).

You may be asking yourself what 'acción solidaria' is, well I was asking myself that same thing up until about yesterday afternoon when I was able to see first hand what exactly it is. Acción Solidaria is a community outreach. A chance for us to reach out into our community and help out with whatever we can.

This is done in many different ways. Some classmates are working closely with a nursing home, others are tutoring young children, others are mentoring troubled teenagers, and then there is the ONCE, which is my outreach. Organizacion National de Ciegos de España. Again in english Organization National of Blinds of Spain (perfect translation sounds funky but you get the picture). This is going to be where I will be helping out once a week on Mondays for the next few months with whatever I can. One of the men in charge gave me and the other person helping from our group a little synopsis of what we might encounter while helping out. It varies between simply going to the blind person's house and taking them to a doctors appointment, simply accompanying them to the park, taking them to listen to concerts, or even to play soccer! We are the eyes. Now I need to explain the last activity about playing soccer with blind people. Completely foreign to me on all cylinders. The only difference is that blind soccer consists of a ball that has a siren or beeping noise and on a smaller field. He told us that as the guides, we may be involved by either being blindfolded to level the playing field, or we may be the designated ones to direct the blinds to where the goal is. Either one of those sounds like a blast to do. 

I'm looking forward to seeing what lies a head of me with this ministry.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Cordoba trip

Today, I went on a 'field trip' with my whole school to Cordoba (accent mark on the first 'o' but I don't know how to do that on my Mac). We left pretty early (8am) and the bus ride was 2 hours long. We drove though some beautiful mountainous farm lands. Whatever I didn't see on the way there due to sleep I was able to see on the ride home. The main thing we were going to see was the Cordoba cathedral/mosque.

To give you a little background on the history of Cordoba. Cordoba was first a Roman city back a long time ago. After the Romans, the visigoths lived in Cordoba where they built a cathedral on top of the Roman sanctuary. Around the 8th century, the muslims came from Morocco and conquered the southern parts of Spain and set Cordoba as their capital. The muslims at first shared the visigoths cathedral, but then eventually just turned it in to their mosque. Over the next 3-4 centuries, the mosque would be expanded into what was the biggest muslims mosque in the world at one point. Once the christians came to conquer southern Spain, they built a cathedral inside of the mosque as a sign of christianity triumphing over islam. There is a lot more detail that goes in to the history, but those are the basic points about the Cathedral/mosque of cordoba. The cathedral is still used today for christian purposes and services, but the muslims are not allow to practice their beliefs there.

Before we went in, we were given a little radio and headphones. The professor would talk into her microphone and we could all hear her. Apparently they are very strict about making as little noise as possible while in the mosque. It's kind of hard to not look touristy when you got a radio hanging from your neck, ear plugs in, a map in one hand, and your camera in the other but oh well.

Inside, you can see how both christian and islamic art are mixed together to form a beautiful building.

The classic 'take a picture of yourself while walking
and trying to stay with the group'

This is still the original bridge that the romans built and left. It leads straight to the cathedral. You can see the cathedral on the left side of the picture. 
There are over 1000 arches in this mosque.
The columns consist of rich material such
as marble. It is quite a site to see

This is one of catholic shrines that is stored in the cathedral. It is made of  silver and gold. There is so much detail in this shrine but i couldn't get the whole thing is i zoomed in. This is a very important piece of art for their Holy Week celebrations
Inside you can see how both christian art and islamic art are mixed together. This is the
entrance to the christian cathedral that's inside the mosque. The arches on the left with
 the red stripes are muslim, while the bigger columns and ceiling were both built centuries
later by christians.

After viewing the cathedral, we were given a bout 2 hours or so to explore the city. This is when we came upon this awesome castle. We were able to walk everywhere in the castle, including going up on the walls which was pretty sweet. I don't know much about the castle, but I believe it was most likely built by medieval kings...but my guess is as good as yours.

A view of the gardens from on top of the lookout tower of the 'Alcazar castle' in Cordoba. 

A closer look at the gardens. The statues most be of some king of Spain, I'm not quite sure, but i felt like i was walking through a scene of Harry Potter of something when walking through this garden.

PS- Toledo trip is next in a few weeks, so stay tuned!!!!1