Tag Archives: couchsurfing

A Series of Friend-Making Events

This week Leisha met up with Mia in Milan for the Homeless World Cup and left me alone in Rome again. Only this time I chose not to sit on my bum! This is the story of me not sitting on my bum:

Friend-Making Event #1

On Tuesday I met up with a bunch of couchsurfers in Villa Borghese. I guess a few years ago someone decided to replicate Shakespeare’s Globe Theater in the Villa’s gardens and now you can see his comedies and tragedies all summer long as if you were in London. Roberta, who studies Theater, organized the event and there were three Italians and a Russian girl there. I thought, “Hey, it will be a great way for me to practice Italian.” Aside from speaking with the couchsurfers, I was wrong. Shakespearean Italian is not the kind of Italian that I am capable of understanding. Luckily for me, I am very familiar with the play. I read The Taming of the Shrew in high school and, really, who hasn’t seen 10 Things I Hate About You? Also, just to be sure, I read the cliff notes before hopping on the bus to the Villa. So, I was able to follow along for the most part. Afterwards, Roberta gave me a lift home on her motorino. It was my first romantic, night-time Vespa ride. She turned into a bit of a tour guide on the drive, telling me about all the sights. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that I already knew quite a bit about the city. When we said goodbye I almost walked away with her helmet. Oops. I hope to see her again soon!

Friend Making Event #2

Wednesday night was the first night of a course at the American University of Rome that I hope to audit. The course is on Art Crime (theft, vandalism, forgery, etc.) taught by Noah Charney. Please click on the link to his website. He’s absolutely amazing. He is the first academic art crime expert EVER to exist and he is currently working on two TV shows. One is a documentary series that he will host and the other is a CSI-type show with a character based on him. The show will be about Noah helping the authorities solve crimes against art. He also created a non-profit organization that helps churches protect their works of art… for free. Anyway, enough sausaging about Noah. Just check out his website. Back to the friend-making. So, during the class I sat next to an American girl named Sam. She is an art major from some school I have never heard of and she just arrived in Rome last week. We exchanged emails and may be meeting up in the future! Score! Two friends in less than 24 hours!

Friend-Making Event #3

After the class, I met up with the LSJ students who were having a goodbye party for one of their professors. Professor Walsh is leaving Rome early because his wife was just appointed to Obama’s council for something something. Yeah, you know, because that happens everyday. Anyway, it was a wonderful party and I ended up getting gelato with a few students afterwards. Apparently I made a joke that made me seem more human (less intern?) to the students. SUCCESS! If you can consider this Friend-Making Event #3, then the next one will graciously take the place of event #4.

Friend-Making Thing #4

This one is questionably considered an event. I guess all of Rain’s roommates were participating in other events that did not sound appealing to him. (The LSJ group is ridden with drama. Don’t get me started.) So, we decided to watch one of his favorite movies, Stardust. It is now quite possibly one of my favorites as well. While Rain slept through most of the movie, I was glued, wide-eyed, to the screen. It has a cheesy, but oh-so-good factor that is simply off the charts. Just check out the trailer and see for yourself.

Potential Friend-Making Event #5

Leisha and Mia returned to Rome on Friday. Mia is one of Leisha’s friends from the design program and she is here working for Cornelia. I can’t even begin to describe this woman, so I won’t try. Anyway, I foresee friendship in my and Mia’s collective future. Only time will tell!

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Is everyone else melting or is it just me?

Well, we quite nearly missed our plane to Greece. We forgot that the bus schedule is different on Saturdays, so Joey sprinted for a taxi at the last minute and we just barely made it to the check-in desk on time. We arrived in Athens and then proceeded to sweat immediately. We took the bus to Syntagma and then the metro to Monasiraki, the public market in Athens. We did a little shopping while a thunderstorm rolled in drenching us with rain drops, lighting up the city with lightening bolts and shaking our bones with thunder. It helped us cool down a bit before we headed out to Moschato, a district of Athens, to meet our friend Dimitris. He welcomed us with home cooked Greecian delicacies made by his mom. That night he took us out to Gazi, where he was DJing in a bar that night. Gazi has a little bit of Seattle flair because it is built up next to an old gas factory like Gasworks park in Seattle. Dimitris’s bar was a bit of a let down for him because Greece just passed a law that bans smoking indoors. It seems all the patrons were outside having a cigarette instead of inside dancing to his music. Considering Joey and I didn’t get much sleep, we headed home before Dimitris. It was a good thing too because Dimitris didn’t get home until 8:00 am. WHOA.

The next day we decided to devote to the “biggies” as far as Athens sight seeing goes. We started out at the National Archeological Museum near Victoria station. This is a huge museum full of mostly Ancient Greek sculpture. We saw the famous bronze spear thrower that was lost in an ancient ship wreck and rediscovered in the early 20th century. It was here that I got in trouble for posing with the artwork. Apparently pretending like you are also throwing a spear is disrespectful to the ancient culture. My bad. I also saw the triangle posing soldier from Attalos II’s Pergamon Victory Monument that I wrote about in my thesis on images of suicide in Ancient Roman Imperial art. I had trouble finding a good photograph of this while I was writing, so I made sure to get at least 4 or 5 good ones.

Joey and I at the gate to the Acropolis

Joey and I at the gate to the Acropolis

After the museum, Joey and I, dying from heat made our way towards the Acropolis, making a few stops along the way to rest, get ice cream, water, etc. When we finally climbed up the hill, we were impressed by how huge Athens is and also by how similar the architecture all over the city is. Each house looks about the same: a tall white building with 4 or 5 floors, each floor with a balcony as long as the wall, every balcony with a cover with scalloped edges. The ancient architecture was a different story. It was all so beautiful, but unfortunately most was hidden under some scaffolding due to conservation. My favorite part was seeing the Karyatids, the columns in the shape of female figures. After the acropolis Joey and I splurged on dinner so that we could have the traditional Greek tavern experience. When we headed back to Dimitris’s place, we met another couchsurfer, Paul from Poland, who would be staying with us. That night Dimitris took us all out to a bar around the corner to meet up with his friends.

Relaxing in front of the Parthenon

Relaxing in front of the Parthenon

On our final day in Athens, we tried to visit as many sights on our 6 Euro student ticket as possible. This included the Roman Agora, the Ancient Agora complex and Kerameikos. I also stopped by the famous Poet Sandle Maker’s store to pick up some shoes for mom. This guy is so cool. Apparently the Beatles came to buy shoes from him in the 1960s and he didn’t ask for their autographs. Someone asked him why and he said, “Why should I? I’ll be around longer than the Beatles.” Guess what. He was right. In the afternoon we were so beat from the heat and sunshine that we simply had an ice cream after our late lunch and then headed home. Now we’re going to have a small nap before grabbing our bags and taking the metro down to Piraeus, the port of Athens. Tonight we have a over night ferry to Santorini, a beautiful island in the south of the Cyclades.

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Between Danes and Czechs

The day I got back from Denmark, Doris gave me a call and invited me to a couch surfing event. So, a few minutes later Billy and I met Doris and some other couchsurfers on the steps of the Opera House for a game of Twister. Yep, that’s what I said. Twister.

The next day Andrea, Billy and I planned on heading out to Mayerling and Heiligenkreuz for a day trip out of the city. Unfortunately, the bus doesn’t run on a holiday, so we went to the Augarten instead. It is a beautiful park where they have huge anti-aircraft towers left over from WWII.

Augarten

Augarten

On Tuesday we had a class field trip to the movie theater to see The Third Man. It’s an Orson Welles film from 1949 that takes place in occupied Vienna after WWII. It was wonderful to see at this point in our trip because each scene takes place somewhere I’ve been in the city. “Oh look! They’re near our school! “Oh! There’s a great ice cream shop there!” “Oh! We had a picnic there once!” Then on Thursday our teacher Verena took us on a tour of the famous cemetery in the movie. Ethan and I recreated the final scene for a photo that will hopefully be posted soon! We also saw the graves of famous musicians like Beethoven and Schubert.

Later that day we went back to the Belvedere for art history class and finally saw some Klimt and Schiele! I can’t believe I’ve been in Vienna this long without visiting Vienna’s most famous artworks. One of my favorite paintings from today was Egon Schiele’s Embrace. It apparently “grossed out” Andrea, but I think it is quite beautiful. Judge for yourself.

Egon Schiele, Embrace, 1917.

Egon Schiele, Embrace, 1917.

Wednesday was my first day on the job as a nanny. I will be babysitting Sasha, an 8 year old half-American half-Russian girl, for the entire month of June. I guess it’s been a while since I’ve worked with kids. I am a little worried because even day one was a bit frustrating. She kept hanging up when her dad would call and homework that should have taken 15 minutes ended up taking 2 hours. I have to keep reminding myself that I’m being paid for this…

Now, it’s off to Prague. Unfortunately, Billy won’t be joining us. He may have an appendicitis and is on his way to the hospital now. He will be missed!

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A Couchsurfing Weekend

Friday night my friend Doris invited me to her house Saturday morning for homemade pancakes. When Andrea and I showed up the next morning, it was a bit of a couchsurfing get-together! My friend Meghan was there and Doris had a couple friends over as well as three couchsurfers staying with her at the time. Doris and friends made amazing chocolate chip pancakes from scratch and everyone that came brought different toppings. We had all kinds of fruit and jam and sweets, including real Canadian maple syrup from the two couchsurfers from Canada.

After our late breakfast we all headed to Brunnenmarkt, the Turkish vegetable market in the 16th district. I was especially excited about this because we are each assigned a different district to present for our Cultural Studies class coming up in June and I was assigned to the 16th! I was able to take quite a few pictures and start my project.

Couchsurfers bike through Wachau

Couchsurfers bike through Wachau

That day Doris, Meghan and the couch surfer from Virginia, Hannah Love, convinced me to come on a bike ride with them the next day. I was a little apprehensive because I have never been very good on a bike, but I said yes anyway. I woke up early Sunday morning to meet the group of twenty or so couchsurfers at Florisdorf station. We were all from different backgrounds; there were people from Australia, Austria, Germany, Hungary, Sweden, Turkey and the USA. We then took the train to the Wachau region and got our rental bikes. Dominik, who grew up in Krems, led our bike tour. We biked down one side of the river and then back up the other, visiting the towns of Dürnstein, St. Michael, Spitz, Mautern, Stein and the city of Krems. One of my favorite parts was riding along the river directly across from Dürnstein. The picture above shows all of us posing in front of Dürnstein and you can see the ruins that I hiked to on our class’s field trip to the Wachau last month. It was tough getting back on a bike, but I’m glad I did it. Now I feel comfortable enough to rent the city bikes in Vienna (as long as I stay away from cars).

Biking through Wachau

Biking through Wachau

After we returned our bikes, Dominik led us on a walking tour of Krems. First we rested our bike-weary legs in the park and then filled our bellies with some ice cream. Then Dominik took us up a hill in Krems to overlook the Wachau valley. It was beautiful. After the train ride home, Doris, Hannah, Jai the Australian and I went to Vienna’s famous ice cream shop on Reumannplatz called Tichy. There we tried a wonderful dessert called Eismarillenknödl. It is apricot mousse made from the apricots grown in the Wachau region surrounded by vanilla ice cream and rolled in cookie crumbs. OH MY GOD. I have been back to try the raspberry and snowball flavors as well.

It was a wonderful weekend where I met a lot of people and I can’t wait for more couchsurfing events!

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Parks and Pools

On Thursday we made our way to the Stadtpark (one of our favorite places) for Genussfest, which roughly translates to “enjoy party”. I don’t exactly know what kind of mental image you’ll get from that. Anyway, it’s a bunch of booths set up selling Austrian food, beer and wine. If there’s one thing I have learned about Austrians, it’s that they enjoy their festivals almost as much as they enjoy excuses to eat and drink Austrian specialties. So, Andrea and I went in on some Topfen cheese and olive bread to accompany the wine we bought in Dürnstein on our Wachau field trip.

This weekend was a fairly lazy one. I woke up late on Saturday and decided at the last minute to head to the small Austrian village of Baden bei Wien. Baden is famous for its many pools and natural hot springs. We decided to go to the cheaper of the three pool options, the Strandbad. It has a sandy beach, two hot tubs, a lazy river and two water slides. We spent the whole day enjoying the sun and playing in the water. In the evening we leisurely strolled through the park on our way back to the Straßenbahn station. We found out that there are some old ruins just outside of the town. So, we are hoping to go back to Baden very soon to go hiking out to the ruins and to try out the other pools there.

That night Billy, Andrea, Joseph and I went to the monthly couchsurfing event called the Stammtisch hoping to meet some Viennese. Unfortunately there were so many couchsurfers and it was so loud that I only had time to introduce them to the few people I already knew, namely Meghan, Matthias and Doris. Oh well! There’s always next month.

On Sunday I spent some time catching up on emails and wishing Mom a Happy Mother’s Day. In the afternoon Andrea and I took the U-Bahn to Alte Donau on the other side of the Danube river. There was a large park there filled with families riding bikes, having picnics and all around celebrating Mother’s Day. It made me miss my own family. It also made me consider buying rollerblades. It’s been so long, but I remember it being so much fun! After I got home Mom had sent me an email about Aunt Pat. She hurt her back recently and I guess there were some complications with her medicine. Aunt Louise found her and she went to the hospital. Right now Aunt Pat is staying with cousin Rick and has a doctor’s appointment tomorrow.

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