Tag Archives: wine

Check that one off the list.

On Sunday Damon and I took a train out to Frascati, a hilltop town just outside of Rome. Frascati is known for two things: white wine and its famous Villa Aldobrandini. It’s not a very touristy place in the winter and it’s a refreshing break from life in Rome.

We arrived pretty early in the day and the whole town was dead. Well, that’s not entirely true. Everyone was in church and none of the stores or restaurants were open yet. Damon and I wandered around the empty cobblestone streets and happened upon beautiful piazzas, a colorful tower and a large park.

Tower in Frascati

We just happened to walk into the main square in front of San Pietro Apostolo right as church was letting out. I had completely forgotten that it was the first day of Carnevale and children in costumes starting pouring out the church’s doors with handfuls of confetti, with the occasional kid wielding a can of silly string. Damon and I watched the confetti war for a good 15 minutes.

Confetti War in Piazza San Pietro Apostolo

I had a different mental image of Carnevale than what we actually saw. In Italian class we learned about all the traditional Carnevale characters and I guess I expected to see everyone dressed up as Pantalone or something. Instead it looked like the parents raided the Halloween aisle of a Walmart or something. Our favorite two-some was a little prince and your friendly neighborhood Spiderman.

A serious conversation between Spiderman and the Prince.

After the celebration, we wandered around trying to find a restaurant that was open at the normal American time to eat lunch. It proved slightly difficult, but meant that we scouted out nearly every restaurant Frascati has to offer and ended up at what I believe to be its best. It was a cute, hole-in-the-wall type rustic Italian trattoria with a hand-written menu and a welcome fireplace. Damon and I hung our coats in the glow of the fire and shared the best meal of our lives:

A bottle of the local red wine (even though Frascati is famous for white. Oops!)

A complimentary ginger grappa drink with an olive and a slice of orange

Four different kinds of bread

Porcini mushroom soup

Savory crepes filled with ricotta and spinach

Gnocchi with a pumpkin cream sauce (Well, actually that was Damon’s, but I tried it and it was delicious.)

Grilled vegetables

Pork filet with chestnut sauce

The best tiramisu ever because instead of soaking the sponge cake part in brandy, it had a few chestnuts on top which had been soaked in brandy. I had been craving tiramisu all week and now nothing will ever compare!

I wish I had taken some photos of the meal, but my stomach was more powerful than my brain at the time.

After lunch we had plans to go and visit the famous Villa, but alas, it was closed. I had been there once three years ago with my study abroad program. It was the end of spring and we wandered around the gardens in the sunshine. Villa Aldobrandini looks so different in the dead of winter. The fountains are dry, the labyrinth is overgrown and the gray skies and color of the mansion combine to create a eerie mood. I feel like this villa should be haunted or something. The tall gates locked with a rusty chain didn’t help.

Damon outside of Villa Aldobrandini

Anyway, Frascati was awesome and I hope to go back this summer to escape Rome’s heat and catch the breeze on top of this hill outside the city.

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Drum Sticks and Chicken Wings

This last week or two has been devoted to transitioning from the Early Fall programs to the Fall Quarter ones. It was hard to say goodbye to the friends I’ve made, but new programs mean free welcome dinners and that definitely softens the blow. Here’s hoping I make some new friends among the Fall Quarter students!

These weeks have also turned me into a culture sponge. On Sunday, St. Francis day, I was awoken by the sounds of trumpets and trombones in the Campo. Lying in bed, I opened one eye until I figured out that it must be a band playing near by. Then I mustered up enough strength to get out of bed and throw some clothes on to check it out. When I got outside, I found a military marching band playing in Campo de’ Fiori. I stood and listened to a few songs, including the National Anthem, of course. My favorite part was the band’s exit. It was so dramatic. They got into formation and placed their horns at their lips and the second they played the first note, they all starting running out of the piazza. It was so bizarre. They’re not a marching band, but a sprinting band. Oh, Italian quirks.

Later that same day Leisha and I met up with Sam, one of the art students, and a few of his friends for a cultural expedition. We took a train out to a small suburb of Rome called Marino for their annual grape festival. Marino is a beautiful, pedestrian-friendly, hill-top town a half an hour’s train ride outside of Rome.

A beautiful balcony in Marino, Italy

A beautiful balcony in Marino, Italy

I love small-town Italy. The beautiful colors, their vibrant festivals; a festival in a small town is the day that its residents wait for all year long. They go all-out. In this instance, Marino’s grape festival centers around wine, obviously. There was a fountain that poured sparkling white wine instead of water. Unfortunately, the town was so packed full of visitors and locals enjoying the festivities that we never found it! We did, however, watch the parade of B-list models and small-town Italian royalty dressed up in Renaissance garb. It was so fun to see the locals scream when a famous model would walk by. Coincidentally, we happened to be standing next to the guys that are coming to fix the hinges on my door next week! They were so nice and gave us their spots so we could see the parade better. After the parade, we had to rush back to the train station, but we managed to grab a glass of wine on our way out. It simply wouldn’t be a grape festival without it!

Sara, a B-list model in the parade

Sara, a B-list model in the parade

As of late, I have also (finally) been working on my research here in Rome. I commandeered a classroom to pin up photos of the sculptures I am investigating. Leisha and I visited the Column of Trajan to take some photos for study (and fun). Yesterday, I faxed the Louvre a letter requesting permission to study and photograph some sculptures and have access to documents regarding the artworks! Yes, I FAXED the LOUVRE. It makes me feel somewhat legit. I will be in Paris for a week later this month to do research. I am starting to get pretty excited because Elyse, a friend from high school, just arrived in Paris yesterday for a year abroad. It has been far too long since I’ve seen her and I will get to see her just two short weeks from now in Paris. In the mean time, I have another visitor to look forward to. Meghan Rowley and her friend Becca arrive in Rome tonight!

Researching at the Column of Trajan

Researching at the Column of Trajan

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Benvenuti a Italia

I’m not going to go into detail about getting from Tubingen to Rome because it’s something that I would like to forget. Bus, train, train, train, fine, plane, bus. I think you get the picture.

Anyway, I arrived in Rome in the evening and my friend Leisha met me at the bus stop near Termini train station. I met Leisha during my first quarter at UW and we worked together at the Henry Art Gallery. She has a design internship here in Rome this summer. She’s going to be my partner in crime (partner in debt may be more accurate). We took my luggage back to her place and then ate a panini on the Spanish Steps. Welcome to Rome!

New Coworkers: Valerie (ex-intern), Jennifer, Sheryl, Laura and Federica (Matthew not pictured here)

New Coworkers: Valerie (ex-intern), Jennifer, Sheryl, Laura and Federica (Matthew not pictured here)

The next morning I met Valerie, the old UWRC intern, in Piazza del Biscione and we had a coffee before heading up to the office for my first day of training. It was a long day filled with a lot of new information. In the evening we had the intern dinner to say goodbye to Valerie and to welcome me. We ate at a wonderful restaurant and shared appetizers and made a toast with prosecco. After dinner I rushed to the movie theater to meet Leisha. We had free tickets to see the new Harry Potter movie and we were so excited! I won’t ruin it for you, don’t worry.

The next day I got to sleep in and do training in the afternoon. On Saturday Leisha and I met in a park for lunch (whoa! Trees in Rome?!). In the evening Leisha and I wandered over to Castel Sant’Angelo and St. Peter’s. I had dinner with the old intern Valerie and she took Leisha and me to her favorite gelato place. Then we met up with some of her friends in Trastevere, wandered around and had smoothies.

Leisha and I in St. Peter's Square

Leisha and I in St. Peter's Square

On Sunday Leisha and I took it easy. I walked down to the Colosseum, but nothing too eventful. Leisha and I also started scheming about how to make some extra money. We’re thinking of offering tours by tips, but we’ll see. We didn’t end up at home until past midnight. It’s so warm at night here that it’s hard to imagine it being any later than 9:30 pm even in the wee hours of the morning.

Today was my final day of training. Valerie took me on a little tour of our neighborhood showing me all the locations where I will run errands in the future. Tomorrow is my first day on my own and I also get to move into my apartment!!! I’m getting so excited!

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Prague Blogue

Prague Castle, Saint Vitus Cathedral and Charles Bridge

Prague Castle, Saint Vitus Cathedral and Charles Bridge

This weekend our class had a field trip to Prague. Sadly, Billy was in the hospital for his appendicitis and wasn’t able to go, but we were thinking of him the whole time! The rest of us woke up bright and early to catch the train on Friday morning. We arrived in Prague around lunch time and set out exploring. Andrew, Sarah, Rebecca and I found a cool market and then took a walk through Old Town. We were head bent on getting to the castle, so we made our way there pretty quickly. We paid to get into the castle and stood on the balcony where martyrs were thrown off, saw the dungeon where prisoners were held and tortured and visited one of the oldest churches in Prague. We also explored the most beautiful Gothic church I have ever been in, St. Vitus Cathedral. Sarah was very excited because Vitus is her mother’s maiden name. After visiting the castle, we went to an outdoor wine bar and shared some rose wine while enjoying the view of the city.

Looking through the grape vines toward the city center

Looking through the grape vines toward the city center

Then we were in a hurry to get back to the hotel so we wouldn’t miss dinner! We had a group dinner that night (paid for by the program, thank God!). Andrea and I couldn’t decide what to get, so we split two dishes. Being a bit courageous, I ordered the rabbit and Andrea got the veal. It was actually quite delicious, but Andrea had a hard time eating because she kept thinking about a cute little cotton ball bunny.

The next morning we had a walking tour of Prague with our whole class. Our tour guide’s name was Susanne and she was so knowledgable and funny. She took us through Old Town, Josefov (the Jewish district) and back up to the castle. We were a little bummed that there was so much overlap from our wanderings the day before, but it was nice to have someone explain what we were seeing. One of my favorite parts of the tour was watching the famous Prague Clock do the procession of the disciples when the clock struck 11:00. Apparently many tourists come expecting so much more, but it was still interesting. After the tour, we headed to the Art Nouveau cafe for a cup of coffee and a slice of cake. This is the first cup of coffee I have ever enjoyed! I ordered Argentinian coffee, which is coffee with eggnog in it. I also added a couple packets of sugar to make it delicious. Afterwards, Sarah, Rebecca and I dragged Joseph and Andrew into a little shopping. That night we went on the famous Prague Pub Crawl that ended at the largest dance club in central Europe. It is five floors and each floor has its own music. Rebecca and I ended up walking home after the sun rose with her high heels in hand.

The next day I headed out with Ethan and Bobby, who were both pretty exhausted from the night before. They were in “follow mode” so I led them around the city. I took them back to the market I went to on the first day and then across the famous Charles Bridge where we touched the cross for good luck. We went to a bagel shop for lunch and ate our bagels in a park with a live band playing in the background. Ethan tried to take us to the woods where they have a miniature version of the Eiffel tower, but we couldn’t figure out how to get there. So, we crossed the river again and headed to the Dancing House, a building designed by Frank Gehry, the same guy who designed the building for the Experimental Music Project (EMP) in Seattle.

Frank Gehry's Dancing House

Frank Gehry's Dancing House

Then Ethan, who is Jewish, wanted to head back to the Jewish district so he could buy his own Gollum figurine. We walked along the river the whole way there and then got caught in the rain. So, we decided it was time to head back to the hotel, get our stuff and head to the train station.

I decided that Prague is one of my favorite cities that I have ever been to. I love Gothic architecture and it is plentiful in Prague. The hills also make it more interesting. I hope to go back sometime.

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The Day of 1,000 Photos

Yesterday our school took us on a field trip to the Wachau region of Austria. I am sure glad they printed us out an itinerary or I would never remember all the things we did!

The Wachau region is the part of the Danube river valley stretching between the cities of Melk and Krems.

Wachau

Wachau

We started out our day early in the morning on the south side of the Danube, heading to Stift Göttweig. Stift means monastery or abbey in German. Stift Göttweig is a Benedictine monastery built in the 11th century. However, the abbey church was built much later during the Baroque period. This monastery is famous because the first known German language poet lived there. We only had a short time to explore here, but we were able to enjoy the mix of Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque architecture.

Our next stop was Stift Melk, the largest monastery in Austria. The surviving Baroque monastery was built in the early 18th century. (The Baroque stuck around longer in Austria than in other countries.) Here we visited their unique museum. My favorite part was the library; there were old books lining the walls floor to ceiling. Apparently there are 85,000 books in the collection with 2,000 of them handwritten between 800-1400 CE. We also went inside the Klosterkirche or cloister church; it was the most gaudy church I have ever seen. The walls were covered in decoration with tons of gold-plated figures!

After visiting Stift Melk we crossed the river to the north side of the Danube. We had a picnic here on the banks of the river in a village called Aggsbach. We enjoyed the sunshine while playing on the playground and skipping rocks in the river.

After lunch we hopped back on the bus and went to Willendorf, a small non-touristy village. We walked up to the discovery site of the Venus of Willendorf, the oldest figural sculpture ever found (approx. 25,000 to 30,000 years old). Although the sculpture is actually on display in the Natural History Museum in Vienna, they have erected a large-scale replica of her at the discovery site.Venus of Willendorf

Next we headed to Dürnstein for a small hike up a mountain. At the top of the mountain are the ruins of the castle where Leopold V held King Richard the Lionhearted for ransom after the crusades in the late 12th century. Apparently the English paid the ransom and Leopold V used the money to build the entire city of Wiener Neustadt south of Vienna. When we got up to the top of the mountain, we climbed all over the ruins and looked out over the whole region of Wachau. It was a great way to end our whirlwind tour of Wachau. Before heading back to the bus, Andrea and I went wine tasting at the little shops in Dürnstein. Wachau is well known for its Grüner Veltliner wine and I ended up buying a dry white wine for only 7 Euro. It’s delicious!

It was a wonderful way to spend a Saturday and now I hope today will be a bit lazy to make up for it. Because I can’t upload any more photos to Flickr, look at my pictures by clicking here.

The Ruins at Dürnstein

The Ruins at Dürnstein

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There are no kangaroos in Austria.

It is now the end of my first week in Vienna. I arrived last Saturday afternoon when the sun was shining. That night I stayed with my friend Doris. She also had three guys from the east coast visiting her. Doris took us all to a 1920s themed party at a museum. Apparently it was the Technical Museum’s 100th anniversary. Doris dressed up in true 1920s style and I did my best with what I had in my suitcase. At the door they handed out TanzKarte or dance cards. In the 1920s women would carry these cards around and men would ask them to dance. If the women wanted to dance then they would write the man’s name down. For example: Waltz Benjamin There we met an old couple who teach dance lessons. I learned the charlston and the foxtrot. It was so much fun! Afterwards Doris, a bunch of her friends and I went out to Ost Klub to listen to Balkan music. So interesting! The next morning Doris had made a huge breakfast for us with scrambled eggs, fruit and semmeln (bread rolls). After breakfast Doris, her friend and I went to the Wien Museum to see an exhibition about imagining travel in 19th-century Vienna. It reminded me of the many things I learned in my “Representations of Others in the 19th Century” course I took last quarter.

Later that day I met up with the other students in my program and we stayed at a hostel for a couple nights.

On Monday I had my oral placement test at school so they could put me in the right German class. After the tests our teachers led us on a hike around the Nußdorfer wine country where we stopped at a place in the woods that inspired Beethoven’s music and we sang a bit of his Ninth Symphony. Here is our group photo by the Beethoven monument:

Vienna Spring 2009 Students Singing Beethoven

Vienna Spring 2009 Students Singing Beethoven

We ended the night at a Heurige or wine garden where I ate schnitzl and drank Almdudler.

The next day we had a historical tour around the inner city to orient us. At night we were able to move into our dorms. The room is so nice, but also very bland. All my sheets, walls and furniture are white. My roommate Diana is from Romania and she is in Vienna studying classical music. The first night she made me a Romanian dessert soup which tasted like a cinnamon roll in cold, liquid form.

Classes started on Wednesday. I love my teacher and Rebecca from my program is in my class. IKI offers classes to people from all over the world; USA, France, Philipines, Taiwan, Japan, Ukraine, Croatia, and Korea are all represented by the ten people in my level. On Thursday we had our first Art History class, which I am looking forward to.

Today we are planning on visiting Schönbrunn for the annual Easter market and getting together to make plans for a weekend trip to Croatia for some sun and fun. (Not that it isn’t 75 and sunny here in Vienna.)

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