Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Past 2 weekends

The past 2 weekends were a couple of my favorite trips of the semester... and also my 2 last ones : ( I have only a week and a half left! It's bittersweet - I am getting very excited to come home, despite being sad to leave. I'm definitely making a list of things I need to do one last time before I go. Hopefully, if I have enough money (it costs 60 euros) I might go on a bike tour of the countryside, see a winery in a castle, and get a free tasting and lunch there this weekend with my roommates. And then it's finals and projects and getting packed and getting gone! I have 4 finals, unfortunately, and a 10 pg paper on top of some other projects and papers.. so for once I'm getting really busy. But - my last 2 weekends! This past weekend I went to Switzerland with Carrie and Erin, and the weekend before I went to the Amalfi Coast with Bekah. 
Southern Italy was my favorite place I have been to, hands down. Cinque Terre comes in a close second (they were very similar.... small towns on the beach, rustic authentic Italian-ness, beautiful landscape, etc), but this was my favorite. It was like heaven. The weather was perfect all weekend, I swam in the Mediterranean (twice!), explored hidden sea caves, hung out in tiny resort towns. Our first day, we went to Sorrento with the program we were going through, where our hostel was. The hostel was REALLY NICE! Definitely the nicest one I've stayed in. It had a large restaurant/bar downstairs that was really cheap (4 euro cocktails and 6-7 euro dinner... the 2nd night, Saturday, they made an all-you-can-eat Mexican buffet which we had for 7 euros, and I was soooo happy. I miss Mexican food.) and a rooftop terrace with tables and a panoramic view of the ocean and stuff. So pretty. Bekah knew some girls on the trip from class, so they roomed with us, and they were really nice... we hung out with them all weekend. So, our first day, we visited Positano, which is a little tiny town on the coast. So cute, and small, and beautiful. All whitewashed buildings and palm trees.. and the smell of lemons everywhere. It felt very tropical. The beach was nice, but rocky, and when I went swimming the water was so crisp and clear with the rocks underneath that I was reminded of Tahoe (so excited to go this year... and finally for the whole week!) Eventually we rented a little speedboat with these other 3 girls (8 total so it was cheap) and cruised around (they let us drive!) and to a spot where a bunch of other kids were jumping off cliffs into the ocean. You know I did it! It was only about 30 feet. That night, we had a few drinks on the roof at sunset, walked to dinner in Sorrento, and to a local bar. Saturday, we took the ferry to Capri! On the way, we stopped at the Blue Grotto, which was this amazing little hidden cave that was discovered by the Romans and used to be the "King's swimming pool". You had to get on a little 4 person rowboat, and lay down completely flat to get through this little teeny opening above the water, while the guy rowing the boat pulled the boat through using a chain that was strung through the inside of the passage. Inside, I don;t know why, the water was illuminated this INSANE electric blue color... and it was clear so you could see all the fish swimming around underneath. It was really cool. I tried to take pictures but I dont know how well they turned out. Then, on to Capri... Capri was gorgeous! It was much more of a resort style town, and it was pretty packed, but we explored the island using the local bus and went to Augustus's Garden, a pretty catus garden with views of the coast, and then Anacapri (the top of the island) where we tasted limoncello and some of the girls got handmade sandals. Then we had lunch, walked around a bit more, and took the bus to Marina Piccola, the little beach area. There, I got a fruit smoothie, and laid out for a couple hours before we had to leave on the return ferry. There were all these cool rock formations and beautiful tiny houses climbing up the cliffs in all these pretty colors.. I took some neat pics! Then, that night we got the Mexican buffet and just hung out at the hostel (which was actually really fun). Sunday, we took our bus and went to Pompeii. We got a guided tour for around 3 hours, which stretched a little long, but it was really neat. It was less of seeing the volcanic remains and stuff than seeing just the remains of a well-preserved ancient city.. we saw all the inter-workings of society and the way things used to run, building by building... ie. this is the supermarket, these were the baths, this was where they ground flour to make bread, this was the laundry house, etc. I felt like Grandpa would have really enjoyed it... so I tried to take some cool pictures there as well. Then back to Florence!

This weekend, we didn't use a student travel company, we just went on our own! We booked tickets on overnight trains, which we felt like we had to experience at least once in Europe. They turned out to be really crap. I mean, it was a cool experience, but I got very little sleep. Highlights included screaming babies, drunk Italian teenagers in the hall outside our compartment all night, me not getting a blanket because they "ran out", and getting woken at 2 am at the crossings of the border to have our bags searched by the Swiss Border Patrol. Yay. We arrived in Bern, the capital, at around 6 am on Friday, and we walked from the train station to our hostel. The hostel apparently didn't open til 8, so we stumbled around half-giddy from lack of sleep for around an hour before eventually finding coffee and pastries. That's how we saw one side of the river... haha. After check-in and a short nap, we walked around the rest of the old town, across the river to the botanical gardens and Einstein's house, and back. The town was very very small. But sooo cute! Every house looked like a Swiss cottage, and the town made a kind of peninsula with the river running around it. The bridges were super high wood trestle bridges and with the trees and the cute little houses it was very picturesque. We ate lunch in this main square in front of the Parliament building, where they were setting up for some kind of event. Then we walked around, to the "bear pits" (where they keep 3 brown bears in these pits in the center of town, since they are Bern's mascot animal... apparently not when it is under construction though. dang.) and to the top of this hill where there is a rose garden and a pretty view of the town. Erin went to go meet her friend at the train station because she had a hour long layover there randomly so Carrie and I walked up the hill with some wine and sat for a bit. Then we met up with Erin again and decided to check out this concert that was now playing in the main square... we got in with our wine and got some delicious bratwurst with mustard and these big hunks of brown bread for only 7 francs (this was a very good price... except we had to eat with our hands. the lady looked at me like i was crazy when I asked for a fork. That or she didnt speak english) and sat down and listened to this very interesting German music... kind of like Johnny Cash, but in German, and a little more eccentric. Cool, though. Bear in mind that in Switzerland more than anywhere else NO ONE speaks good English. They know a few words, but not enough to speak it. No one could explain to us what event was going on, but there were all these booths set up with stuff in German and French. As we looked around, though, we realized that everyone was wearing some sort of red, on a scarf or t-shirt or something, and there were red balloons set up somewhere, and people were wearing pins and stuff and carrying banners... we were at a socialist rally! Sweet! it was definitely interesting to see even though we didnt understand anything. German has nooo cognates... So we pretty much hung out there, and then walked to a square where they were playing the world hockey championships (in Zurich that weekend) on a big screen. We cheered for the US. : ) On Saturday we got up and took a train to Lucerne, another very small town, where we did more walking around in the old town, and on their famous wooden bridge built in the 1600s, and around the lake, which had swans everywhere, and sailboats, and was framed by the alps all around. Very pretty. We got lunch near the "Lion of Lucerne", a kind of monument, and people watched for a while, where we managed to see some sort of Swiss scavenger hunt... we witnessed 4 separate groups of our-age people wearing nurses' and paramedics' outfits carrying someone pretending to be injured on a stretcher through the plaza... when we asked them what they were doing they said "having fun!" and went on their way. Haha. Then we headed back to our hostel for a nap cause it started raining, and went out that night for fondue, which we ate in a restaurant on a yacht. Very fancy. And RICH! wow. Lots of swiss cheese... who wouldve thought. On Sunday, since it was nice out, we decided to rent a paddleboat before we left Lucerne, and went around the lake for an hour on that. That was fun. Then we hopped a train to Zurich, and spent the day getting lunch there, and walking around. We left that night at around 9, and got back in the morning! 

So that's the story of my last 2 weekends! I'll put pics up soon - for some reason it takes a couple days from the time I upload them online until the blogger thing registers that they are there and allows me to make a slideshow. So maybe next week... and then I can see you in person not long after that! Yay! oxoxxox - Charlotte