PADOVA + LEAVING

6/5/2016

My last day in Italy! What to do?

Well, spend it in Padova, of course! (Thanks to Sophia for the lovely photo! <3)

Well, spend it in Padova, of course! (Thanks to Sophia for another lovely photo! <3)

The most amazing part of the city—St. Anthony’s church—unfortunately didn’t allow photography, which was a bit disappointing, as there was some amazing art in there. Shrines large and small lined the walls, painted in all sorts of bright colors and decorated with statues and mosaics. The most beautiful, though, was the Tomb of St. Anthony—it’s a three-walled room built of white marble, with angels carved from black stone at the four corners of the coffin, holding up sparkling red candlesticks. What a beautiful juxtaposition of colors! Honestly, I found the whole church on par with the Kölner Dom.

That’s something to aspire to!

That’s something to aspire to!

We window-shopped, we ate some lunch…

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I’m sad they are no Montaditos branches in the U.S.!

…and then headed home so I could pack, and say my good-byes.

I had such a lovely weekend with Sophia’s family—it was not only good to get out of my dorm room, but also so important to see another part of the world, to do a short homestay, and to experience some true language-immersion. Everything I ate in Italy was Amazing; everything I saw was Beautiful. The cities are so old—so storied, yet so maintained. The history is respected, even when crumbling structures need to be repaired. The stonework, the Alpini, the umpteen bachelorette parties…and let’s not forget the elegant language! OR THE FOOD.

I’m sad to be leaving, but these memories will stay with me.

I’m sad to be leaving, but these memories will stay with me.

New life goal: learn Italian? (The current extent of my vocabulary is: Ciao, Italia!)

Xoxo,

Susan

PIZZAs

6/4/2016

Sometimes you just have to take a day off, you know? Take it easy, sleep in, and make plans to eat pizza later that evening. Today, for example, I slept until almost 11:30—something that’s happened maybe two other times in my life! Despite another amazing and very filling lunch (potatoes and cuttlefish in tomato sauce!), Sophia and I were ready to meet up with her friends for some pizza that evening. Thing is, this wasn’t just any pizza…

Before that, though, we had something else on the agenda: a visit to Camposampiero! It’s Sophia’s hometown, and a really lovely little town with a lot of history.

For example, who knew St. Anthony actually lived here most of his life? Who knew this city hall was almost a thousand years old?! (Photo Credits!)

We saw some historic buildings, ate some ice cream, and sat in the sun. It was a lovely afternoon.

After getting ready, we were off to meet Sophia’s friends in the nearby town of Bassano, where I enjoyed Spritz, an Italian early-evening, lightly alcoholic, fruity beverage.

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Pre-Spritz fun times! (Photo credit Sophia Marostica. <3)

It was delicious, and, aside from that, the view from the big town bridge was SO AMAZING.

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There are NO mountains anywhere near this beautiful back home! (No mountains at all, for that matter…)

I know what you’re thinking: pizza, pizza. Where is the pizza? That was my question, too, and made more pressing by the fact that I don’t speak any Italian, so it was basically impossible to follow people’s conversations and to understand the evening’s plans. After a leisurely stroll, some time spent chatting, and an early-evening drive through the countryside with those amazing mountains in the distance, we arrived at the pizza place, waited in line, and spent about an hour figuring out what we wanted.

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I got a two-person pizza and shared it three ways…the other six or so people in our group ate a pizza meant for SEVEN! My pizza featured fried zucchini blossoms, burrata and another amazing cheese, olives, tomatoes, more cheese, and SWORDFISH!

And of course, we couldn’t forget dessert—especially not with it being my first chance to try some sorbetto!

And of course, we couldn’t forget dessert—especially not with it being my first chance to try some sorbetto! I got lemon 😀

We stayed late into the night, chatting and laughing, and drinking after-dinner liquor (strong, tiny shots—I had lemon!) in a beautiful garden out back of the restaurant.

What did I do to deserve such a PERFECT weekend? To be surrounded by such beautiful things?

What did I do to deserve such a PERFECT weekend?

However, I don’t think I can ever eat American pizza again…or ice cream, for that matter! LE SIGH. (It was WORTH it!)

Xoxo,

Susan

VENICE

6/3/2016

The city of my childhood dreams, a city that my German friends told me was a Märchen, truly a fairy tale…

And I finally made it!

And I finally made it!

HELLO, VENICE!!!

HELLO, VENICE!!!

Sophia (who also took most of the pictures in this post) and I spent most of our day touring the Palazzo Ducale—now a museum, it was the former palace of Venice’s Doge, the city’s chief magistrate. It was beautiful, too lovely to be done justice by pictures and words. The art, the art, the ART…!

Trying to blend in with the other tourists...

Trying to blend in with the other tourists…

Across a canal from the Palace is a jail where, we imagined, many prisoners spent a lot of lonely, LONG long days. The two are connected by the Ponte dei Sospiri, or “Bridge of Sighs,” so named because that’s where the prisoners would catch their last glimpse of the water as they were led down.

And what a last glimpse...

And what a last glimpse…

 It’s called the Suefzerbrücke in German!

It’s called the Suefzerbrücke in German!

A lot of walking and most of the morning was involved in that museum tour, and while it was ABSOLUTELY worth it, we were both really hungry by the end!

Sounds like the right time for a late lunch!

Sounds like the right time for a late lunch!

Our next step was a quick trip to a beautiful bookstore, Alta Acqua Libreria, that Sophia had heard about from a friend. It’s so named (the phrase translates as “high water” or “high tide”) because the back of the store opens into a canal, and every morning the water rushes in!

There were books everywhere, yet I couldn't read any of them... :(

There were books everywhere, yet I couldn’t read any of them… 😦

Our final goal before heading home was to get to one of the islands, and also to buy me a necklace! How can you leave Venice without buying some glass, right? So, one REALLY long boat ride later,

…we stepped off and found ourselves in Burano!

…we stepped off and found ourselves in Burano!

It was evening, the streets were mostly empty of tourists, and the houses were all so bright and beautiful.

The German word would be bunt—colorful!

The German word would be bunt—colorful!

But the best part was the necklace I managed to find. 😀

For just 3€! Score.

For just 3€! Score.

We rode back as the sun set over Venice and rain began to fall, and we took a second boat through the city streets, passing under bridges while everything glowed, wet under the streetlights in the dark. So, I can officially say I’ve taken a boat through Venice, even if it wasn’t a gondola… 😉

Those cost like 80€ per hour, man! Not this time.

Those cost like 80€ per hour, man! Not this time.

It was a little chilly when we got back to the train station, but since when is that a reason to pass on ice cream?

It was a little chilly when we got back to the train station, but since when is that a reason to pass on ice cream?

So, the city of my dreams—did it fulfill? Yes, definitely. And what’s maybe best about the trip was just how much there STILL is to see.

Venice…one day, I’m coming back!

Venice…one day, I’m coming back!

Xoxo,

Susan

WELCOME TO ITALY

6/2/2016

One thing that I’ve always wanted to do is visit Venice. So when my friend in Camposampiero, a tiny town half an hour from the city of my dreams, invited me to come down for a weekend, there was no way I was going to turn that down.

Not even if it meant getting on a train at an ungodly hour of the morning!

Not even if it meant getting on a train at an ungodly hour of the morning!

I arrived in Campsampiero in good time, and Sophia picked me up and whisked me away to grab coffee and pastries. (Has anyone read Relish by Lucy Knisley? One thing I absolutely HAD to eat in Italy was a croissant filled with orange marmalade, something she described with such…er…relish? Anyway, by chance, that was exactly what I ordered!)

IT WAS DELICIOUS.

IT WAS DELICIOUS.

That was the general theme of the meals in Italy—too amazing not to enjoy utterly and completely. On the first afternoon, Sophia and I made our way to Citadella, a beautiful city with ancient walls that you can walk along.

Hi, Citadella! Hi, the corner of Sophia’s red umbrella!

Hi, Citadella! Hi, the corner of Sophia’s red umbrella!

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A little windblown, but having fun!! 🙂

After that, it was time for some exercises in language immersion…I succeeded in ordering my own drink in a bar, and fell in love with peach juice, something which I’m pretty sure exists only in Italy. I didn’t take any photos of it, but it was succulent and smooth as silk. This is the kind of juice you can live off of. I mean, I would come back here just to drink this stuff again.

We also visited Sophia’s friends, who spoke mostly Italian and little English. One guy spoke German, and while he wasn’t in the mood to do German with me just then, he was very impressed with my pronunciation of the 2-3 words I knew of Italian!

Can you say “pizza?”

Can you say “pizza?”

What a great first day!!

Xoxo,

Susan

Not Really the End of Anything

5/31/2016

Good-byes are one of my least favorite things. Often, I don’t know if or when I’ll see someone again, and…well, how are you supposed to part ways with friends who’ve grown to feel like family?

To celebrate the end of the semester and the end of a hard yet rewarding month, we went out to eat at our favorite place, Café Vienna.

The food was great...

The food was great…

But the fun we had taking selfies was even better!

But the fun we had taking selfies was even better!

One final game of Catan, one final night talking in English about anything and everything that seemed important enough to discuss. One final night with friends who’ve grown to feel like family. I’ll see them all again tomorrow morning, of course, but somehow it just won’t be the same. And Alex and Catherine aren’t the only ones leaving—on the morning of the 2nd, I depart to spend four days with a friend in Italy!! If I try, maybe I can even pick up a bit of Italian. ❤

I will miss Mannheim, though...

I will miss Mannheim, though…

Xoxo,

Susan

One Step Back in Time

5/28/2016

We tried something new today, adventuring outside of Mannheim to take part in a Renaissance Fair in the nearby town of Worms! I didn’t quite know what to expect, just that I was crossing my fingers for no rain. It turned out that Worms is about the most picturesque town you can find, like, anywhere.

I mean, look at this house! Does someone live there? Who knows??

I mean, look at this house! Does anyone live here? Who knows??

 

[We explored downtown for a bit, then continued on to...

We explored downtown for a bit, then continued on to…

The Fair!!!

The Fair!!!

It was big, beautiful, and something out of a different era, as most everyone was in costume…Everyone but us, of course.

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The day was perfect for this kind of event, and we spent a lot of time just wandering…

...and finding surprises over every hill!

…and finding surprises over every hill!

Naturally, we explored as many of the booths as we could...Don't worry, though, I didn't buy much ;)

Naturally, we explored as many of the booths as we could…Don’t worry, though, I didn’t buy much! 😉

Sometime after lunch, we took a break to sit in the shade and play some chess, with me Vs. my friend Alex.

I really should have won that game BEFORE the two-hour mark…

I really should have won that game, and definitely before the two-hour mark…

As clouds gathered on the horizon, we got ready to head out.

Hi, friends! Bye, Fair!

Hi, friends! Bye, Fair!

The storm broke just after we’d switched from the Regional Train to our neighborhood tram.

We got home drenched!

We got home drenched!

There was no time to feel sorry for ourselves, though—we’d all signed up to go to a ballet performance with other Goethe students that evening. The event was being organized by the Goethe Institut, so we didn’t want to be late!

Of course, that’s when it decided to pour…

Of course, that’s when it decided to pour…

We made it in the end, though, finding a break in the rain at just the right time.

Adventures in photobombing at Der kleine Prinz (The Little Prince) !!!

Adventures in photobombing at Der kleine Prinz (The Little Prince) !!!

I loved the show, but I’ve read the book… my friends weren’t as familiar with the story, and they decided to head out during the intermission. Being on my own for the second half wasn’t all bad, though…

it gave me a chance to take more pictures of me in the dress from Cologne!

it gave me a chance to take more pictures of me in the dress from Cologne!

So, it was a great day full of new adventures. The hard part now will be saying good-bye, in just a few days’ time…

Xoxo,

Susan

Going Castling

5/21/2016

One of the things everyone should really do while in Germany is spend a little time exploring castles. I got a small taste of that at Heidelberg, but even though we spent all day there, we really only saw one castle in the end. Going around with a big tour group also made for a somewhat different experience than if I’d been there on my own, or with only a couple of friends. So, today, that’s just what we decided to do—my friends and I packed some lunch and got on a bus heading south!

Destination: Dilsberg!

Destination: Dilsberg!

After a few transfers and some slow morning conversation, we were dropped off in Dilsberg, a tiny “Dorf” or village up in the Odenwald mountains. It’s about 15 Kilometers from Heidelberg, and was founded by Romans, like, before the 1200s.

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We spent the morning in the castle ruins, staring out over green country and red roofs under the blue skies.

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After a short hike, we also got to explore a tunnel leading through the mountain to the well under the castle, which was once a cistern, but was expanded when Dilsberg came under siege. According to a tour guide, Mark Twain was inspired by the well, and the story he told then inspired someone in his audience to come hide treasure in a gap in the wall. Not sure I caught every word, though, so don’t quote me on it.

Anyway, the well was definitely loved by Mark Twain!

Anyway, the well was definitely loved by Mark Twain!

A little further down the mountain, we found a door leading back the way we'd came...

A little further down the mountain, we found a door leading back the way we’d come…

And we got to stand INSIDE the well!!

And we got to stand INSIDE the well!!

In the town across the Rhine, we ate a lot of pizza and then resumed our hike.

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All in all, the day was gorgeous, and it was nice getting out to explore. We were all wiped out by the time we got home…

But everyone was really glad we went!!

But everyone was really glad we went!!

Xoxo,

Susan

HALLO, KÖLN!

5/14-15/2016

I tagged along with a friend and made it to Cologne this weekend! What a beautiful and amazing city—not to mention it’s the oldest city I’ve ever been in. Catherine, my fellow traveler, studies archaeology, so she was able to give me lots of important background about the city’s Roman roots and history in general. It’s crazy to think that it’s been here for so long!

Of course, being the kinds of travelers we are, we managed to get on the wrong train in the morning, but it ended up working out in our favor when we arrived in the city almost an hour earlier than planned. Thanks to the timing, we just so happened to be there when a big crowd of football fans was marching through the stadium!

Let’s plan on staying in tonight?

Let’s maybe plan on staying in tonight?

From there, of course, the next thing that caught our attention was…

The Dom!

The Dom!!!

Amazing, magnificent, weathered, and partially bombed during WWII, this was probably the biggest and most beautiful building I’ve ever been in. We wandered around inside, then climbed a total of 532 stairs to the top of the right tower!

We were in the one without the scaffolding.

We were in the one without the scaffolding.

Our legs were definitely feeling it, and those tiny spiral staircases are no joke, but there were railings, closed windows, and fencing at the top, so we were in no danger of falling off. 😉

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After posing in front of the cathedral…

Thanks to Catherine for the awesome snapshot!

Thanks to Catherine for the awesome snapshot!

It was time for some lunch!

…It was time for some lunch!

We went to Café Reichard, a restaurant that’s been across from the cathedral for over 150 years (first opening in November of 1855!). The trip was made extra-special, though, by the knowledge that an aunt of mine had worked here for a summer, 22 years ago!

This one’s for you, Danielle!

This one’s for you, Danielle!

The food was delicious, of course—what else would you expect from a business that’s been around for so long? 😉

And, yes, obviously we ate dessert…

And, yes, obviously we ate dessert…

After eating, we continued our walking tour of the city, finally making it to…

The Chocolate Museum!

The Chocolate Museum!

There was…

A LOT of chocolate. :D

A LOT of chocolate. 😀

I bought a bar from a Schokoladautomat (chocolate vending machine) for 1€, but at first the machine just ate my Euro, without dispensing chocolate!

Fortunately, we were able to get it all figured out in the end. Yum!

Fortunately, we were able to get it all figured out in the end. Yum!

Some more walking later, we decided it was time to shop

I’ve wanted to buy a dress since arriving in Europe. Scored at H & M, and for just 15, too!

I’ve wanted to buy a dress since arriving in Europe. Scored at H & M, and for just 15€, too!

This game. Now that it’s being released in the U.S., I don’t NEED to buy it in Europe, but I got to hold it. Euphoria.

This game. Now that it’s being released in the U.S., I don’t NEED to buy it in Europe, but I got to hold it. Euphoria!!

Has anyone out there tried a Butter Laugenstange? Because they are my absolute new favorite things!

Has anyone out there tried a Butter Laugenstange? Because they are my absolute new favorite things!

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My pal Catherine stayed the night with a friend, and I crashed at a cozy little hostel on the outskirts of town.

It was great, but so nondescript that it was hard to spot from the outside!

It was great, but so nondescript that it was hard to spot from the outside!

We’d planned to meet up the following afternoon, so I spent the morning in Museum Ludwig, which the hostel owner had highly recommended. It wasn’t quite what I was in the mood for, but I still got to see some cool things!

Like this—my new favorite out of anything, anywhere. (I stared at it for over ten minutes...)

Like this—my new favorite out of anything, anywhere. (I stared at it for over ten minutes…)

I got to see a Pollack, too!!

I got to see a Pollack, too!!

The rest of the morning was spent strolling the city…

...and staring at its beautiful buildings, like the old Rathaus (city hall)!

…and staring at its beautiful buildings, like the old Rathaus (city hall)!

Some snacks, a late lunch, and a salad-bar stop later, we were on our bus and headed home. Bye to my new favorite city! And thanks for the great times. ❤

Did you miss us, Mannheim?

Did you miss us, Mannheim?

xoxo,

Susan

In Search of Adventure…

5/8/2016

Happy Birthday to my dad today, and happy Mother’s Day to my mom! I’m sad to not be spending this doubly-special day with both of you, but also still enjoying myself so much. I tried to have an adventure today by going to dance NIA in Bensheim, a town about an hour from Mannheim by train.

The first bus/train of many…

The first bus/train of many…

However, because I’d never taken the trains around by myself before, I wasn’t sure what to expect, what I was looking for, what the signs in the station meant, and…

I let it go right by!

I let it go right by!

I then got on another train, to a transfer in a little station in Bürstadt, where there are two levels of tracks: elevated and ground-level. Naturally, I waited at the elevated tracks. Naturally, the train I’d intended to take went by just below me while I sat wondering why it hadn’t come.

At least there was some cool graffiti?

At least there was some cool graffiti?

After a ride back to Mannheim, I passed some pleasant hours in a coffeeshop, walked in the neighborhood, and just enjoyed the day. It was nice having a reason to get up in the morning, but maybe not a terrible thing to not go all the way to Bensheim and back.

If I’d made the round-trip, I wouldn’t have been home ‘til 1pm!

If I’d made the round trip, I wouldn’t have been home ‘til 1pm!