Spring Break Pt. I: Exploring Capri

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**Author’s Note: This is the longest post I have written to date (with good reason). You may want to grab a cup of coffee and make yourself comfortable before you embark.**

As I (edit: begin to) write this, I am sitting on a train from Naples to Rome, the first half of my two weeks of traveling completed. After being redirected to Sorrento from Marina Grande in Capri this morning due to high seas, an hour long train ride brought us back to Naples and I am now on my way to Florence, with a stop in Rome. But let’s start at the beginning.

The first week of travel began on Sunday morning at 6:45 am. My friend and classmate Lily (who also keeps a blog, much more interesting to read than mine) and I met our professor, Romolo, outside of our residence area and took a cab to Roma Termini, the main train station in Rome. From there we took a train to Naples, hopped on a cab to Molo Bevellero, the main port of Naples, and rode a hydrofoil to the island of Capri (pro tip: pronounced CAH-pri, not ca-PRI). We rode the bus to the center of the town of Capri, and took the short walk to our hotel, a nice, 4-star hotel not far from the Piazetta, the central square of the town. After unpacking, and lunch with our professors, we met Romolo for the first of what would become a plethora of hikes throughout the week.

The first hike we took was full of attractions. The first one we encountered was the Arco Naturale, an archway made of stone that was originally the entrance to a cave or grotto in the side of the mountain. As we traveled down the edge of the island, we made our way to Grotta Matermania. This grotta is a naturally formed cave that was formalized by the construction of walls along the edges in prehistoric times. The grotta was a sort of place of worship to “Matermania”, or, Mother Earth.

After exploring the grotta, we made our way back up along the edge of the island. Our next point of interest was Casa Malaparte, a house built in the 1930s for a journalist by the name of Malaparte. The house careened on the edge of a cliff, with straight drops to the ocean on three sides. Malaparte was able to acquire this magnificent piece of property through his connection with Facist leaders because of the way he wrote about the regime in his publications. Unfortunately the house is closed to visitors, but we were able to get a good view of it from the cliffs above.

The final attraction on this hike was a set of three enormous rock formations jutting out of the ocean, just of the coast. These three rocks are collectively known as the Faraglioni. As you will see in the photos, we viewed the Faraglioni from almost every angle imaginable throughout the course of the week.

We returned to the hotel around sunset, unwound and finished unpacking for awhile, That evening began the reason the trip to Capri existed in the first place. We were part of a group of European students, mostly from Italy but a few from Romania, taking part in a graduate student workshop, focused on the revitalization of archaeological sites. The island of Capri is home to a site known as Villa Jovis, a well preserved vacation home perched on high cliffs, belonging to the Emperor Tiberius around the time of Christ. The villa is well preserved, but has recently fallen into disrepair and closed, due to lack of interest and funds from admission fees to keep the site operating as a local attraction. Our project was to develop an idea that would revitalize the area and spark an interest among visitors to visit the site.

We met with all of the students in our hotel lobby, and after an introduction to the project, we were broken up into groups. Lily and I were paired with a group of 4 students from Romania and 1 from Milan. They all spoke pretty good English and we thought that it would be a good fit. More on that later. After meeting with our group and introducing ourselves, we left for dinner at a place recommended to us by Romolo, Il Bucco di Bacco. For dinner I had what seems to be a local favorite in Capri, pennette aumm aumm, small penne noodles in a red sauce with grilled eggplant.
On Monday morning we visited the archaeological site as a class with special admission from the Campania regional government in Naples. We were allowed three hours to explore the site, recording what we saw and experienced as we traveled through it. Lily and I came across a secluded area of the villa that was disconnected from the rest of the site, and decided that it would be an interesting area to develop. As we were exploring the site, we found what was to be the first of many unplanned hikes throughout the week. We found a trail that led from the area of the site that we were looking at, straight down the mountain in a tight switchback formation. The trail was seemingly well maintained for being so desolate, and we found at the bottom that it led to a much newer villa, Villa Lysis, and eventually led all the way down to the edge of the island. We did not have time to explore these areas this time, but made a point of returning later in the week.

After climbing back up the mountain, we met with our group at the entrance to the villa. They began doling out assignments to us, not realizing that we were not participating in the workshop in the same capacity as they were. After a mildly awkward dialogue, we issued our “statement of disengagement”, as it was phrased by the Romanian team’s alpha-female leader, and decided that we would be best off working more separately from the group.

We returned to Capri, and after lunch and some downtime, met in what was known as the Sala Azzurra, or Blue Room, a general meeting hall in the town’s city hall building. A lecture was given by one of the teaching assistants (in Italian) and was kindly translated to us quietly by Romolo. After the lecture, we attempted to go on another hike with Romolo, this time on a trail known as Via Krupp, which led from Capri down to the Marina Piccola. The trail, however, was closed due to falling rocks and remain so all week. We decided, instead, to wander around the city.

The streets in Capri are completely “people-sized”. The roads are virtually entirely pedestrian, save for a few electric carts delivering goods to local businesses, and are generally less than 20’ across. This makes the walking experience completely different from Rome, as you never know what’s around these tiny, white-washed corners of buildings. As we were wandering, we began to see signs for a place called “Belvedere Cannone”. The word “belvedere” literally means “beautiful view”, and was an indication of a look-out spot. We followed the signs up a hill and had a great panorama of the southern side of Capri, less than an hour after dusk.

After this walk, we returned to our hotel, and then went out to eat at a restaurant we had seen earlier called “Michelangelo’s”. We were the only people in the restaurant, and were greeted by a tall, tan Italian man named Edvino. Edvino told us that he had lived in England for awhile, and spoke very good English. We sat us down, and introduced us to the chef, “Poppa”, as he called him. Edvino recommended the salmon, so I ordered that with a plate of pasta in a cream sauce. It was hands down the best fish I have ever eaten.

As we sat eating, we noticed a photo on the wall, a view of Capri and Marina Grande framed by a pair of Doric columns. Our nerdy architectural curiosity sparked our interest and we asked Edvino where the photo was taken from. He insisted that it was taken from Villa Jovis, the site we had visited earlier that day. We told him we didn’t think it was, we hadn’t seen columns like that in the morning. He left to ask Mrs. Poppa if she new. First they decided that it was taken somewhere near the villa, and after telling them again that we hadn’t seen any columns in that condition around the site, they finally conceded that it must be a photo montage. We found the real truth later.

On Tuesday we started the day with a short walk down to the Certosa di San Giacomo. The certosa was a Benedictine monastery which now housed a local middle school. The church within the certosa was beautiful in its simplicity compared to the churches of Rome, and the courtyards provided beautiful views of the surrounding cliffs. Attached to the certosa was an area known as the Giardino di Augusto, the Gardens of Augustus. While it was sill early in the season for much of the garden to be in bloom, the area was an extremely peaceful one, shaded by trees leading to beautiful views to the ocean.
After we finished this visit, we attempted to walk Via Krupp, which was again, closed. We found another trail, however, which led to the base of the Faraglioni. We hike down was steep, and hike back up felt even steeped, but standing at the base of these huge towers and sheer cliffs with the crystal blue waves crashing on the shore made for a refreshing new perspective on the island.

After this hike, we went to the Sala Azzurra to work on our project. We spoke with Romolo for the last time for the week, as he was leaving to join the rest of our class on their trip to Florence and Venice. Not long after he left, the group of graduate students began a lecture. Since our translator was gone, we had nothing to gain, and left for another walk.

In the afternoon, we returned to Villa Lysis, where we had been the day before after climbing down the mountain. This time we arrived by an easier path, a fairly level road, which intersected our trail at the villa. Maps indicated that the trail led down the hill past the villa to a cove area known as La Fossa, as well as a small, skeletal lighthouse. We began our extremely steep decent down the hill, helped by questionably rotted wood railings and crumbling stone stairs.

We had almost made it to the bottom when we noticed the lighthouse, tucked in overgrowth to the right of the trail. After venturing through some chest-high patches of weeds, we made it to the base of the lighthouse. It was clearly abandoned, and was much smaller than it looked in the photos. A quick excersive of my acrobatic abilities (though I’m sure it looked quite ungraceful), I made my way up the spiral metal ladder to the top. The top of the lighthouse only stood about 20; from the ground level, but provided enough clearance above the growth to see to the water’s edge, not far from where we were.

We returned to the trail and made our way to La Fossa. The beach was covered in huge boulders, many of them volcanic, which we could only assume to be from Mt. Vesuvius, looming across the Bay of Naples. We hopped across the rocks, and I found my way around the corner of La Fossa. While La Fossa was shaded by the cliffs we had just climbed down, but around the bend was a great view back to Marina Grande and the rest of the island, basked in sunlight. I grabbed a few photos, but as it was getting near dusk, we decided we should begin our ascent back up to Villa Lysis.

The villa was completely empty, and though the interior of the house was closed to, a break in the wall surrounding the property assured us that the grounds were open to visitors. As we wandered the overgrown gardens of the abandoned villa, I caught something out of the corner of my eye…the columns! A flight of stairs from the driveway to the villa led to a small rotonda, surrounded by Doric columns supporting a circular pediment. Here we found the exact image we had discussed with Edvino the night before. After getting over our amazement and luck at finding this site, we returned to the trail, and back to the hotel.

That night we ate at another restaurant recommended to us by Romolo, “Il Verginello”. The restaurant sat on the edge of the town of Capri, overlooking the Bay of Naples, and though it was dark by then, we could still see the Neopolitan skyline across the water. That night I ordered gnocchi with mozzarella and swordfish. The restaurant boasted fresh seafood, and this fish tasted like it had been swimming an hour before, another great meal.

Wednesday morning we decided to reinvestigate the first hike we had down with Romolo on Sunday. We took a few spurs off the trail, and found some interesting spots, such as an abandoned entrance pathway to the Casa Malaparte. After the hike, we worked on our project for awhile, then took lunch down to Marina Piccola, the small beach area on the south side of the island. I had every intention of going for a swim this week, even though the water temperature was slightly below 60 degrees. The day, however, was too cloudy and hazy, and the sun would not come out enough to cure me of what would be my eventual hypothermia on exiting the water. We wandered around the various beaches tucked away between rock outcroppings, and then made our way back to the hotel.

That evening, we noticed that the sunset was casting a nice, orange glow on the Faraglioni, and decided it would be the closest we would be to seeing a sunset that week, since the sunset behind the mountain of Anacapri, the opposite side of the island that we were staying on. We had originally planned to take the hike to the base of the Faraglioni that we had hiked on Tuesday morning, but a wrong turn, coupled with our eagerness to catch a few before the sun set, led us down the most…adventurous…path of the week. The trail began as a gentle slope along a stone wall, tucked away from the cliffside. As we neared the edge, however, we realized it was about to get much steeper. Very, very much steeper. A steep path led to old stone stairs that led to sections that you basically had to rappel down to the next landing. I made it to the bottom of the cliffs just in time to catch some residual glow on the Faraglioni before heading back up to the top.

We returned to “Il Verginello” for dinner that night, this time I ordered grilled shrimp, which were the biggest shrimp I had ever seen, and looked like they had just come out of the ocean, eyes, feelers, and all. It was an interesting experience trying to dissect them, but it was well worth it, another delicious meal.

Thursday was by far the most intense day of adventuring around the island that we had all week. We had originally planned on doing a boat tour in the morning, followed by a short hike or two in the afternoon, however, when we got down to Marina Grande, we found out that there were no tours running for the rest of the day. We decided to go on the mother of all hikes around the island, a ~13 mile hike with an elevation change of 1935’ in about 8 hours.

We started out from Marina Grande, elevation 0’, to the Scala Fenicia, a set of stairs that were the original connection from the port town of Capri to the hill town of Anacapri. The stairs switchback almost vertically up the side of the island, and level off right at the Villa San Michele. This villa was built and owned by Swedish doctor, Axel Munthe, who came to Capri in the late 1800s. He fell in love with the island, and not only made it his permanent residence, but also saved the island from many epidemics, and put his life’s work into making the island a better place. The villa is now a museum dedicated to his life and work on the island. After visiting the villa, we walked into Anacapri for a cup of coffee and a quick break before our next leg. We picked up lunch and began hiking again. We went from Anacapri to the Augustan villa of Damecuta. All that is left of this villa are 1’ high walls that mark the original ground floor plan of the villa. We found the site deserted, as many other places on the island. We took a break here for lunch and to admire the cliff side views offered by the villa.

After lunch, we hiked back down to the water’s edge, along what is known as the Sentiero dei Fortini, or, the Trail of the Forts. There are a handful of medieval forts positioned along the edge of the island, facing out into the sea, originally built by the British, and later added onto by the French, as control of the island changed, particularly during the Saracen raids. The trail winds in and out of the coves carved along the edge of the island and provided great views along the coastal cliffs.

After finishing the trail, it was time for the 1925’ climb to the top of Monte Solaro, the highest point on the island. We wandered up a street that led to a trail taking us up the mountain. Passing by the Torre Guardia, a guard tower for one of the forts, and providing stunning overhead views of the Faro lighthouse at Punta Carena, the trail emerged into the most scenic sections of the day.

We soon arrived at Belvedere Migliara, a site I had visited when I was last in Capri with Cait. Another awesome lookout leads to a trail that steadily climbs to the top of Monte Cozucco, and finally up to Monte Solaro. At Monte Cozucco, the trail teeters on the top of the ridge, with a sheer drop to the ocean below (I kept my distance (for the most part)). We made the final ascent to Monte Solaro, although we didn’t have much time to take in the views because it was getting close to dusk.

We made our way back down to Capri by way of “Il Passetiello”, a trail recommended to us by Romolo as well as our cartography professor back in Rome, Allan. Both advised high caution upon walking the trail, but after some of the trails we had walked earlier in the week, this section was a walk in the park.

So finally at around 6:00, we arrived back in Capri, having circumnavigated over half of the island in one day. With a feeling of accomplishment, we made our way back to the hotel before leaving for dinner.

At dinner on Tuesday, we were told that the restaurant was hosting a party of sorts on Thursday evening. Music, dancing, and good food were all promised, and they came though with a bang. The best part was that it was apparently a party to celebrate International Women’s Day. This meant that all of the old women came out to dance around, and it was hilarious to watch. That night we had two pasta dishes, one with the salmon we had had earlier in the week, and the other was a homemade gnocchi.

Friday, our last full day in Capri, was spent unwinding from the day before, and working on our project. There were presentations that afternoon, and we weren’t sure if we were expected to present or not, but we figured we were better safe than sorry. We got our project done and showed up for the presentations, and sure enough, after all of the grad students had finished, we were called up to present ours. The presentation went well. The professors did not speak very good English and their critique was very minimal, but I was glad we got to show our work.

That night we went to a group dinner with most of the grad students at a restaurant called “Scialapopolo”. The meal consisted of penette aumm aumm and a fried seafood mix with calamari, shrimp, and small sardines. The food wasn’t the best we had eaten all wekk, but it was our first opportunity to really interact with the graduate students, as they had been busy with their projects all week. We sat with a group of students from near Bologna who spoke very good English (they start learning it when they are 6) and they tried their best to have all of their conversations in English, so as to include us. It was a fun dinner and in true Italian fashion, we were there until around midnight. After saying our good-byes, we left for our last night in the hotel.

The next morning we had planned on catching a ferry at 9:10, directly to Naples. The seas were too rough, however, and we wound up taking a ferry to Sorrento, then a train around Mt. Vesuvius back to Naples. The ferry was running a little late, and we missed the train back to Naples that would have met my connection in time by about 6 minutes. But so as to not end the story of this awesome week on a sour note (and to leave a cliffhanger to bring my readers back), I’ll spare you the details of the rest of the day until the next installment of my spring break trip!

**Published on the train from Florence to Venice, stay tuned for the next update!**

Arrivederci Roma…for now…

Today marks my last day in Rome for the next two weeks. I’ll be leaving tomorrow to spend a week on the Isle of Capri working on an the design of a visitor center and revitalization of an ancient archaeological site on the island. The design workshop is part of an international graduate student program and we will be joining students from around Europe, working in groups on the project. The professor accompanying us has reiterated over and over the fact that this will be an unforgettable trip, and I tend to believe him.

The program ends a week from today, next Saturday, and so begins the second leg of my Spring Break. I’ll be departing Capri for Rome, via Naples, stopping back at home for a quick luggage swap, and 2 hours later I’ll be on a train to Florence. I’m spending the remainder of Saturday, Sunday, and most of Monday in Florence. On Monday evening, I depart from Florence on a train to Venice. Venice, in Italian, is called Venezia, and it’s residents, Venetians. Being from the town of Venetia, PA, it’ll be just like home, right? Time will tell.

I’ll be spending Monday night, Tuesday, and Wednesday in Venice. I’ll then be making my way to the airport for the final part of my break, and my second trip out of Italy since being here: Barcelona. I arrive in Barcelona around noon on Thursday and have an early flight back to Rome on Monday morning, just in time to resume classes.

The second week of my break, Florence, Venice, and Barcelona, I’ll be traveling alone. I’ve never done it before, but I’m confident enough in my navigational abilities that I think I’ll be able to get around just fine. I’ve spent the past week making rough itineraries for each city, and with the help of the internet, Rick Steves, and a few others, I’ve come up with a pretty solid game plan.

I’ll try to update at least once or twice during break, depending on the internet situation. At the very least, I’ll be dumping photos on here as my memory card quickly fills up. Thanks for reading, stay tuned!

New Project: Time Lapse Videos

So recently I found that photography was becoming a bit stale for me over here (crazy, I know), so I decided to take a new angle on it. I’d seen many examples of time-lapse videos in both urban and natural settings, and they always caught my eye. I decided to make a second-half of the semester project dedicated to time-lapse videos around the city of Rome.

To make these time-lapses, I have to connect my camera to my computer in order to time the exposures at intervals. The two videos above are taken at 5 sec. intervals. The videos are 24 frames/sec. At around 15 and 30 seconds per video…that’s a lot of photos! The videos above are just test runs that I did yesterday and probably won’t be part of the final video, but I thought I’d share what I’ve been working on and what’s to come!

Ash Wednesday with Pope Benedict XVI

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Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. One of my classmates read that Pope Benedict XVI would be celebrating mass at an old, nondescript church on the Aventine hill directly across the Tiber River from our residence area. It is a tradition for the Pope to process from San’Anselmo to Santa Sabina, both churches on the Aventine Hill.

The service was scheduled to start at 5:00 p.m., but since we didn’t know what the crowds were going to be like, we arrived at around 3:45. When we got there, we found out that you needed a ticket to be inside for the mass, but fortunately they had set up a large seating area outside with a closed-circuit feed of the mass inside displayed on a large screen. I noticed a group of 6-8 photographers and videographers congregated in an area near the entrance to the church, so I decided to hang out around them, perhaps at least to find out where I could get a good angle for the Pope’s arrival.

After 15 or 20 minutes of standing there and acting like I was supposed to be there, I was herded with the official (AP, Italian and US media outlets) photographers to the area in which we were allowed to stand when the Papal procession arrived. “Cool”, I thought, “they think I’m supposed to be here.” And sure enough, about 25 minutes after that, the procession began to make its way down the street, directly towards us.

After a large group of clergymen processed into the church, the Pope arrived on a small golf cart of sorts, within about 20′ of where I was standing. Normally the Pope makes the procession on foot, but because of his health, he was driven on the cart. We was quickly ushered into the church to complete the procession and I found my way to a seat with the rest of my classmates for mass.

The mass was the first Latin mass I had ever attended, although half of it was in Italian. Fortunately, they passed out booklets with the English translations and all of the proper responses. We received ashes, however, instead of being black they were white, and instead of being applied to the forehead, they were applied to the top of your head, in your hair. I’m not saying that churches in the U.S. are wrong, but if that is how the Pope does it, they might want to double check with someone.

After mass, the Pope exited directly into a black Mercedes-Benz, and rushed off with a large police escort. We thought about trying to find a fish fry, but decided that that’s probably not a thing in Rome. Maybe spaghetti dinners though…

Isle of Capri

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Cait comes to visit…and brings snow

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The week after our Switzerland trip marked the last full week before our competition project for studio was due. The project consists of revitalizing the waterfront on the Tiber River, which runs through Rome, in order to increase the urban density in the historical center of the city. The international competition is based in France, and reception of any acknowledgement of achievement warrants an invitation to the awards ceremony in France, held in May.

Most of my time during the week was spent working on the project, but on Thursday I found the time to play at an open mic at an Irish pub called Abbey Theatre. The bar was comprised of a number of small rooms, and the room I played in certainly wasn’t a “theatre”, but it was definitely a fun experience. Below is a clip of one of the songs I played there.

 

On Friday morning, my girlfriend, Cait, arrived. And she brought the snow with her. We had a unique weekend in Rome, exploring the city as it was covered in a blanket of white. While we didn’t get more than an inch or two, it was entertaining to watch the Romans react to this “catastrophe”. Other than getting wet feet, we survived the snow and the weather had cleared up by Monday.

We spent the week wandering around the city, making our way from monument to church to piazza, with stops for panini, coffee, and pizza in between. I surprised myself with the amount I had learned about the city in this short month as I pointed things out to her on our walks. I hope she didn’t get bored with my tour guide antics.

Two highlights of the week were both centered at St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican. On Monday, we climbed the cupola, or the dome, of St. Peter’s Basilica. This was something I had wanted to do since I got here but hadn’t gotten around to it. After waiting in line to enter the basilica, we walked around the outside to the side where the entrance to the cupola stairs was located. We had the option of either taking the elevator 3/4 of the way, or taking the stairs the entire way. After seeing the huge crowd waiting to cram into the tiny elevator, we elected to take the stairs.

The stairs to the base of the cupola spiraled around the elevator shaft, and we actually beat the lazy elevator riders by a few minutes. After walking around the inside of the base of the cupola, looking down into St. Peter’s, we ascended the narrow winding staircases that led to the top of the dome. To say that the stairs were “tight” would be an understatement. Indescribable in words, and even unjustified by photos, the only thing I will point out is that the staircase winds up the dome between the out and inner walls. That means that, yes, the staircase walls curve with the curvature of the dome.

After a few unparalleled moments of claustrophobia, we made our way onto the terrace at the top of the dome. The fresh air, sunlight, and open space, coupled with the incredible panoramic view of Rome made it an unforgettable experience.

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Wednesday, we had the once in a lifetime opportunity to be a part of the Papal Audience, held by Pope Benedict XVI. The event began at 10:30, but we were advised to arrive by 8:00. We got to St. Peter’s around 7:40 and we were only about 20 people back in line. After being ushered through security around 8:30, we made our way into the audience hall. Unfortunately, a large tour group had made its way in front of us, but we still managed to secure center seats in about the 6th row.

After a long wait until 10:30, the Pope made his way onto the “stage” to roars of applause. The nun who we picked the tickets up from advised us that the event was more of a “pep rally” for the Pope than anything else. Other than a short scripture reading, homily, and reading of the “Our Father”, there were few somber moments during the 1 1/12 hour event. Each language spoken by groups in attendance was represented by a bishop who read of the names of the visiting groups. When their name was called, some simply cheered, while others had choreographed songs or chants for His Holiness. The event was definitely one that I will never forget.

Switzerland: Land of Chocolate and Watches…and some awesome skiing.

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So, its been over two weeks since I’ve posted on here, and I’m sure you’ve missed me, BUT, I have good reason. The past two weeks have been completely full of trips, work, and other things and I hadn’t found the time to sit down and write a proper post. But that is all about to change now.

Let’s start from the beginning of my blog hiatus. Two weekends ago, (Feb. 2-5) a group of 7 of us traveled to Interlaken, Switzerland for a ski trip in the Swiss Alps. We left Thursday afternoon, flew into Geneva, and got a bus from Geneva to Interlaken, where we spent the weekend in Balmer’s Hostel. The trip was organized by a group called Bus2Alps, who coordinated our transportation to and from the airport, our accommodations at the hostel, our ski rentals, our bus/train passes, and our lift tickets. Normally I wouldn’t have gotten pulled into one of these “all-inclusive” packages since I’m more of a DIY’er, but with all of the logistics of this trip, we definitely saved time and money booking though them.

After a short night’s sleep at the hostel on Thursday, we awoke early to a breakfast of toast, cereal, Swiss cheese, and plenty of coffee at the hostel. From there we left for the rental store to gear up for the day. We caught a bus before 10:00 and made our way up the mountain. The entire trip from Interlaken to the top of the mountain took about an hour and a half, and consisted of a bus ride, a train ride, a cog-wheel ride, and a gondola ride. The train ride up the mountain was cool and the scenery was beautiful, but the most amazing part of the trip up was riding the gondola through the cloud level to arrive at the top of a sunny mountain above the clouds. Even though the temperature hovered around the 0 deg. F mark, the sun and plenty of layers kept us warm throughout the day. I snowboarded until about 3:00 both days, which was more than enough time to wear out my legs, but it was well worth it.

One of the interesting things about Switzerland is the mixture of cultures from city to city. Many of the cities adopt the language/culture of the nearest border country which makes for an interesting mix of experiences with the locals. Interlaken is a primarily German influenced city, expressed though the language, cuisine, and much of the architecture of the city. While it still maintained a Swiss identity, the German culture was still very prevalent. For lunch on Friday, we enjoyed a lunch of freshly cooked bratwurst, rosti (a potato pancake-like dish), and sauerkraut, and for dinner on Saturday, I ordered a plate of schnitzel with fries. While I plan on traveling to Germany later in the semester, it was interesting to get a taste (literally) of the German culture.

After 2 days of skiing, we left Interlaken Sunday afternoon. Our group was leaving early Monday morning, so we spent the night in Geneva in a hostel much nicer than our accommodations in Interlaken. While the Swiss Franc (CHF) is only slightly more valuable than the USD, the prices in Switzerland are significantly higher than those in the US (or in Rome, for that matter). This prompted us to buy our own food to cook for dinner in the hostel kitchen. A bag of frozen shrimp, a bottle of sweet and sour sauce, and a kilogram of spaghetti later, I had just eaten one of the most…interesting meals I’d ever had. After a brief walk around the neighborhood in subzero winds, we turned in early before our early morning flight.

I have a lot more to catch up one, but I’ll keep the posts separate as to not overwhelm my captive audience. Stay tuned for another post in a few hours!