Prague . Vienna . Rome . Riomaggiore . Milan
Prague, Czech Republic
There is a STRONG drinking culture in Prague. Their national anthem, “Where is my Home” actually came from a drinking song. Back when food was scarce, beer was brewed as everything (as the drink, food, and medicine). There were no coffee machines. It was surprisingly more common to get a beer before work, for break, and after work at the pub.
Our beer tour guide insisted that beer is so rich in Vitamin B that it was given to pregnant women...whether we chose to believe it or not, this woman gave us the funnest stories. She was very stern and intimidating at first, but I think we managed to soften her up a bit. :)
On one of our walking tours, I was shocked to hear that 70-80% of Czech population is atheist. When the Soviets were in power, religion was frowned upon. If you had a religious belief or any kind, you were less likely to get time off of work, good housing, education, etc. It was basically just inconvenient for their future. There are not too many churches in Prague, but by far the most impressive view of the city is from the Prague Castle.
Austria was nothing like what I had expected! Setting aside the fact that it is almost twice as expensive as Czech Republic, Austria is incredible! We were lucky enough to arrive the weekend that Vienna’s famous Film Festival was going on.
The first night, we saw the Parisian Ballet perform the Sleeping Beauty…I honestly don’t know what was more striking, the performance, or the breath-taking façade of the City Hall that it was being projected on.
Let’s not forget to mention that surrounding the open-air theatre, there were gourmet culinary specialties from every corner of the world…in other words, BOMB ass food left and right!!!! I got Indian curry, French wine, and strange scrambled pancakes with Nutella for desert!
Just as Prague has a strong drinking culture, Vienna is known for its music, beautiful concert halls, and legendary composers. Someone we met in Prague though, made it clear that Mozart moved from Vienna to Prague because Czech people were cooler and more appreciative of his music, and were basically the reason he came to fame...Of course that MAYBE just could have been a biased opinion.
I couldn’t leave Vienna without visiting the Leopold Museum that has permanent exhibits of Egon Schiele and Gustav Klimt. I had first heard of Egon Schiele from my Drawing 1 professor, Wanda Ortiz. I never thought I’d be standing in front his original drawings right in his very own hometown!
Reading through his biography, I had no idea he spent some time in jail because of his erotic artwork. He moved to a house in the countryside and hired a bunch of models to live there so he could draw non-stop (smart guy?)
Schiele’s love triangle stories were spicy to say the least… but even though he was made out to be a big ladies man, through his letters and journals, it was clear that his one true love had always been Wally (the protagonist of his most successful works).
Anyways, the toughest part of our trip is now over! It is finally time for two weeks in Italy. We will be settling down in Verona with some family friends and using up our last days of the Interrail train pass before it expires.
Buon giorno Roma!
We’ve left our heavy backpacks in Verona, and packed light for a weekend in Rome! Elena, a family friend, will soon be moving out of her beautiful rooftop apartment right by the Coliseum, so we couldn’t miss the opportunity to pay her a visit!
Elena has been an actress, writer and director in the heart of Rome for the past few years. She is the definition of a person that “lights up a room.” She took us to dinner in Trastevere (a neighborhood on the other side of the river). We ended up with the best pasta I’ve had in my life, bottle after bottle of wine, and some interesting conversation with the waiters of the restaurant (all thanks to Elena).
My favorite part of Rome is how alive the streets are at night, especially in summer. We strolled through the neighborhood until we hit Elena’s favorite bookstore (which was conveniently open at 1am). Having the owner pick out a book for me while we were all a bit tipsy was the funniest experience. Of course I was speaking and understanding the most fluent Italian in that state of mind.
I love Italy…I don’t ever want to leave.
Riomaggiore, Cinque Terre, Italy
Little villages like these give you the closest experience with locals. There are no museums, not much art or historical monuments…just raw culture. Not many people speak English, but that’s all part of the fun. I’ve gotten so much more fluent in Italian already. I don’t want to ever leave!
We rented a small wooden rowing boat and convinced the boy who was working there to take a break and come along with us. His name was Marco.
Marco is 17 years old and is working here for the summer to make some extra money. His parents are from Sicily but he is staying with his grandmother here in Riomaggiore. Marco took us to a nearby cave, and some natural salt-water pools surrounding it. It was nice getting to know this kid.
These past few days have been so peaceful. After so many days of non-stop traveling through the biggest cities in Europe, Riomaggiore has been just what I needed. We’ve been climbing rocks, laying in the sun, exploring such clear waters, watching sunsets, and catching shooting stars every night…man, those stars. I have never seen a sky so full or so bright. I swear, I could see every single one of them. They really got me thinking how insignificant we actually are…how teeny tiny we are and how little control we have. We become so consumed with our day-to-day thoughts, but the world just keeps spinning.
Laying on that rock beach brought me so much peace…I can’t even describe it. Moments like these remind me why I travel so much. You don’t even need money, or a schedule (or anything else that makes you feel secure) to be happy.
Milan: EXPO 2015
After missing train after train, we ended up in Milan sort of on accident. We just gave up trying to get back to Verona, and decided to spend the night in Milan.
This year, Milan is holding the EXPO. I had been to Barcelona’s EXPO many years back, but was too young to actually appreciate it.
If you’ve never been to an expo, it’s like a global showcase where more than 140 countries show the best of what their country has to offer. This year’s theme was “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life.”
Each country basically reflected on our world’s biggest contradiction: there are millions of people who are dying of either malnutrition or diseases related to obesity. Billions of tons of foods are wasted every year. This year’s EXPO is making it clear that we should be citizens of the world. We need to make conscious political choices, develop sustainable lifestyles, and use each country’s best assets to bring balance and harmony between the availability and the consumption of resources.
Yeah, every pavilion tried to showcase how their country is individually contributing to our planet (agriculturally, its wildlife, crops, architecture, culture, etc.). What I liked the most though was how it wasn’t presented in an egotistical, competitive way. It felt like everyone was UNITED to feed the planet.