Sunday, March 22, 2009


This week in Florence was beautiful and sunny and I did my best to make the most of it!! Laura and I went to the Academia on Wednesday to have some quality time with the David and after we were done perusing the various statues and paintings, we decided to go and visit an art store (very dangerous idea...) and ended up coming out with some watercolors, paper, and brushes...and then we went to sit on Ponte Trinita and paint the Ponte Vecchio in the sunshine. :) It was something we had wanted to do for a while, but never quite got around to. It was perfect timing too, since the next day I walked by the bridge and there were shiny new gold plaques stating that anyone caught sitting on the buttresses was subject to a 16 Euro fine. :) oops?

In the afternoon our studio met on the steps of the Duomo, and took the bus to La Cascine. From there Stephano took us to visit the Aviation Academy in Florence. After touring the buildings there and confusing every single uniformed person inside, we started to walk back along the river towards studio.....but got side tracked by the park, and the grass, and managed to convince Stephano to play duck-duck-goose with us. Right in front of the Military school. Needless to say, it was a very amusing game. The picture above is of Stephano chasing someone around the circle. He didn't quite understand the fact that you had to run *one* direction around the circle...This game has evolved quite a lot from when we used to play it in elementary school...It now involves full body-tackles...participants beware!!! Thursday night was also family dinner night, which this week was Aperativo's! We ended up with TONS of food, but had a lot fun.

Friday morning I was up bright and early to catch the train to Venice with my Architecture in Italy class!!! While the most of the people in the class weren't exactly the group of people I would have *chosen* to travel with, the group of seven architects in the class stuck together and we ended up having a fantastic time. This is us on the Ponte Rialto! Once we arrived we had a quick lunch at the Venice Santa Lucia Train Station, while Carlo bought us all passes for the Ferry, and then we were off on the Ferry down the Grand Canal to San Marco, where we changed boats to get to our hostel. After dropping off our stuff and making our beds we were back on the ferry towards San Marco again. This time we were able to explore the Piazza and the duomo, and I got to see the Doge's Palace up close and personal!!! Carlo took us inside the Duomo, which was amazing...the whole church is covered in gold mosiac tiles. Probably my favorite church so far. Unfortunatley we weren't able to take pictures inside, but Nikul and I climbed to the terrace on top for 4 euro where we were able to see the entire piazza, and get an interesting view of the church from above! After we climbed back down the STEEPEST staircase I have ever been down, Carlo took off across the piazza in the general direction of the next church we were heading to visit...One thing I learned very quickly about Carlo is that he genuinely does not care if you get left behind -- some others did not learn this as quickly and so we ended up leaving about half the class (22ish in total) behind in Piazza San Marco waiting for Carlo...After wandering through a few backstreets -- and backtracking at various dead ends, we arrived at a ferry station and took the boat across the canal to Santa Maria della Salute where we met up with the rest of the class. From there we walked to the Peggy Guggenheim Museum and across the Academia bridge to the old Rialto bridge (the oldest bridge in Venice), and then across to the old fish market. Carlo then set us free and the group of 7 architects split off from the group and went in search of Campo San Lucca and cheap food. We sat inside for a few hours to warm up and then wandered across Venice for a few hours in the general direction of Campo San Margherita, where we met Carlo at 10ish for drinks. We quickly decided that wandering was way more fun, however, and decided to go and find the new Calatrava bridge. :) After walking across my first Calatrava (!) we intentionally got lost heading back towards Piazza San Marco, and then caught the ferry across the water to our Hostel.

On Saturday we had breakfast at the hostel and then walked to Rendentore Church by Palladio, and then around La Guidecca which is the southern island that makes up Venice. La Guidecca was interesting because it was made up of old low-income housing and warehouses, which have been turned into new, trendy modern housing. After that, we took another ferry to Fondazione Stampalia Querini Museum which was restored by Carlo Scarpa. It was another interesting project to walk around and see how he'd handled adding contemporary changes to an old Venician Palazzo. We also walked into a rehersal for a concert later in the night of a recorder quartet. :) Soprano all the way down to a giant Bass recorder! It was echoing throughout the museum as we walked through the rooms. Again, once we were finished at the Museum Carlo turned us loose to explore until we had to meet at the train station to go home. He suggested we walk to the park at the end of the island for lunch -- and we decided that it was sunny and that was a great idea! Let's just say it was a really good thing we had 3 hours, because we used every second!!! We found the park without problems and even found the site of the yearly art and architecture convention which was interesting to walk around. Each country had it's own building which we assumed they used to showcase whatever they subject matter of the convention was that year -- but it was all completely deserted...quite creepy really. Ashley and I went and sat by the water and sunbathed to eat lunch that we had brought with us, and the others went to a small cafe to eat. We took the ferry back to the train station and ended up pulling up exactly at 4:20 and running to get on the train, and find our seats before it left. 3 hours later, we were back in Florence!!!

...I slept until 1:15 Sunday afternoon. Venice was gorgeous but as per usual with Carlo's trips I was absolutely exhausted when I got back home!!! Pictures will be up as soon as I can find where the heck my camera cord walked off to............

Monday, March 16, 2009

When in Rome.....

This weekend was like a Barnstone study tour on steroids...Imagine a week's worth of touring -- in the space of two days. INSANE. However! I had a great time, and came home happy, but exhausted.

Since Karen and I didn't have studio on Thursday because of this trip, we decided to go and do studio work in the sun at the Boboli Gardens. Bliss!!!! Afterwards we went shopping at H&M, and then had Family Dinner at the girls.

Friday we met at 8:30 am at the train station and were on our way to Rome!!! Straight off the train we visited S. Maria degli Angeli (a converted Roman Bath by Michelangelo) and Santa Maria Della Vittoria (with Bernini's Ecstasy) on the way to our Hotel. After dropping off our bags we were off and walking again to see Palazzo Barderini with an amazing piazza and oval staircase, and then to San Carlo alle Quattro Fountane (the church with the oval dome that Phil taught us about. :). It was amazing to see these places all firsthand and rather overwhelming to see them all within a few hours. Then we walked down the Spanish steps on the way to catch the metro to an area where the Olympic stadium was, and the Auditorium by Renzo Piano. After eating lunch, and soaking up a little sun, we had a tour of the Auditorium, and then walked by a new Zaha Hadid building to Richard Meir's Museum for the Ara Pacis. (Nothing like a little Architectural name dropping.....!) We got to go inside the museum and get upclose and personal with the Ara Pacis, and then were free to do as we wished so Laura, Karen and I headed back to the Spanish steps where we sketched a little and bought a small watercolor painting each, before heading off in search of the Colosseum! After getting sidetracked by various buildings out of our history books, we stood in awe of the Colosseum for a while, before settling down to sketch and watch the sun set. After the sun was thoroughly down, we took the metro back to our hotel, put on some more layers, and then headed off to Campo dei Fiori to meet Carlo and Stephano for drinks. I wasn't feeling well, and Laura didn't want to drink so we stayed and chatted for a while before heading back early to the hostel -- Not, however, before we watched Carlo take his first ever Absinthe shot! Quite amusing....

Saturday we were up and out around 10am to visit San Pietro (Saint Peter's Basilica). The swiss guards were really funny in their crazy uniforms, and the Basilica is HUUUUUGE. We had just enough time to go down into the tombs, but not enough to go up into the cupola, or see any of the Vatican city....After zooming around St. Peter's we went down the road to Castel Sant' Angelo and to Piazza Navona for lunch. We had ENORMOUS gelatos (seriously....the thing was the size of my head...and only 2 euro!) and then went to Sant Eustachio for "the best coffee in the world" according to Carlo. Then, we were off to the Pantheon (definitely a "I'M IN ROME!!!" moment) and then off speeding across Rome again to the Trevi Fountain. Once we had all thrown coins in to assure us we were coming back, we headed to Capitoline Hill via Parliment, where we happened to get caught in the middle of the parade for the changing of the guard. Then we walked down, past the Roman Forum and the Colosseum again to the metro to catch the train back to the Hotel, and then back home to Florence! We got in around 7pm, and I then spent the evening with Laura waiting for friends to arrive from the US. After taking them out to the bar for a beer, I headed home and collapsed....Pretty sure I didn't even move all night.

Sunday Laura and I met on Ponte Trinita to climb out onto the buttresses and sketch the Ponte Vecchio in the sunshine. We went to the Boboli Gardens, and then met Christine, Karen and their two friends at the Duomo for lunch. After eating we headed to Santa Croce to walk around the market, and then to Torre San Niccolo to sketch for AIC. There....I met some crazy, stoned Brit who was actually really funny, and relatively harmless. He told me all about his travel companion, Anna (his bike) and about his trips through Asia and Austrailia. I think he's been homeless and wandering since he was my age, and apparently this was his first time in Florence. He was very interested with why I was sketching the tower, and told me all about "seeing soldiers climbing the tower" while he was stoned, which he thought was hilarious...He even wrote me a poem. It reads: "Katia (...he couldn't spell my name): Thinks about buildings How the time came to make one only you will know." He actually looked a lot like Golleum from the LOTR movies?....Anyway after that action packed day Karen and I came home and i proceeded to laze around for the rest of the day - before calling it an early night to try and get better, and recover from the craziness!
Next weekend: Venice!!! With Carlo...oh help.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Spring Break: Carnivale, Athens and Berlin!

After Midterms ended, I was very much ready for a break! I didn't leave until Sunday, so I had Friday and Saturday to myself in Florence to have fun. Margaret wasn't leaving until Sunday either, so we got together on Friday and had ourselves a picnic in the Boboli Gardens. They had mock gardens from Pompeii, which was fun to go around after seeing the ruins just a week or so before. I bought myself an Uffizi Pass, so now I can go back there as often as I want! After being kicked out of the gardens as they were closing, we went back to Margaret's apartment, where I had dinner with her and Carolyn.

On Saturday Margaret and I got together again and decided that since it was such fabulous weather again, we were going to climb the Duomo. After exploring the inside, and standing in a huge line, we finally got to climb the 463 steps to the top of the dome! It was so much fun to be climbing something we had studied so much about, and we were complete architecture students the whole time....We stayed up and watched the beginning of the sunset, before again being kicked out of the Duomo. We were literally the last ones out of the cathedral. hahaha. Side note: Has anyone ever noticed how creepy the illustrations are on the dome?!?!?! See the pictures....Margaret and I went our separate ways to pack and get ready for the next day, and then met up later that night for dinner.

Sunday I went with Laelle to Viareggio for the end of Carnivale! It was a lot of fun, despite the rain, and full of loud colors, music, and LOTS of people! We were there early enough to walk around all the floats before the parade began, and then I went with Laelle and her brother to see a museum exhibit of artwork done by the 'masters' of carnivale. The parade started at 4:30 so we headed back, and bought ourselves a mask! I got absolutely COVERED in confetti, silly string, and shaving cream. This picture is of my favorite float. You can begin to see how HUGE they were! Most were 3 to 4 stories tall -- and all out of paper mache! One of the floats that went by had a ton of dancing people on it, and when I mistakenly made eye contact with one of the people on it, he dumped a bucketful of confetti and flowers directly on me. I've never seen so many little old men running around silly stringing random strangers....Really though, it was a really fun experience, and if you are ever in Europe for Carnivale, you have to go!!! Fireworks were scheduled for 7:30 but I had to run back to the train station to catch the last train to Milan, so I could get to the airport. I saw the top of the fireworks display over the top of the station as I waited on the platform. It took 4 hours to get to Milan, where I met up with Margaret and ran for the last bus to the Milan Malpensa airport at 12:30 am. JUST made it, and 'slept' in the airport on the floor.

Monday morning I caught my flight to Athens!!! I made it there just fine, and managed to catch the correct bus to Syntagma Square where I could then take the metro to my hostel, Athens Backpackers. Buying a metro ticket was an interesting experience and "It's all Greek to me" took on a WHOLE new meaning....Thankfully I ran into two students from Minnesota who were studying in Greece, and they helped me buy a ticket! The weather, incidentally was absolutely gorgeous....I think it was mid 70's until the last day I was there! Amazing.....I dropped off my stuff at the hostel, and decided to go for a walk. I had my first Acropolis sighting (!) And decided to find the entrance for tomorrow. Got followed down from the acropolis, lost them, got harassed again, and decided that staying in the hostel that night and catching up on sleep was a wonderful idea.

On Tuesday I was up early, and had breakfast at the hostel. I had decided the night before to beat the crowds, and see the Acropolis first so I headed there first. It was amazing, -- the views, the marble!!! I couldn't actually go IN any of the temples, but I got a lot of sketching in and soaked up the sun, and the fantastic views of the city before I got inundated by students and decided to head out. From there I headed to the two theaters on the hill, and off towards Hadrian’s Gate and the Temple of Olympian Zeus which was ENORMOUS. These columns were insane....Really -- look at the pictures!! I met a girl called Sarah from London there who I recognized from the Hostel, and we made plans to meet later that night for dinner. Then I went to the Patheatic stadium which was also HUGE (are you seeing a pattern here?). I decided to have lunch in the National Gardens with a turtle I met, were I was quickly joined by a rather strange, but relatively harmless Greek man...After seeing EVERY picture he had on his cell phone I managed to escape and see the Parliament buildings, and the Changing of the Guard in front of the Tomb of the Lost Soldier. I walked down to the Roman Agora and then decided to head back to the Hostel and get ready for dinner. Sarah was craving seafood so we ended up taking the metro to Piraeus, the port, and then a taxi to Zea Marina. By the time we got there we were so hungry we didn't care where we ate so we ended up having Italian. (oh the irony....) When we got back to the Hostel, one of my roommates was manning the bar, so we got a free Sangria, and a shot of Ouzo (...yuk.) and then I headed to bed.

Wednesday started even earlier when I met Sarah for Breakfast and we headed out the National Archeological Museum. Overnight Sarah had managed get eaten by bedbugs, so we first had to find a Pharmacy where we could find something for the bites....Trying to act it out to the Greek shopkeeper was quite amusing, but we eventually got what we came for and then walked to the museum. I've decided that being an EU citizen is absolutely amazing for Museums! I got in free!!!! :) We spent a few hours there, saw the Mask of Agamemnon, and then headed back to the hostel. Sarah and I went from there to the Flea Market where we tried a coconut stick. It was really good, but rather a strange consistency...Sarah had to leave then to catch her flight back to London, so I headed to the Agora, Kerameikos, and climbed up Filloppou Hill, where I met another turtle. The picture above is of the Temple of Hephaestus in the Ancient Agora. I went back to the hostel around 4, and took a nap, before meeting Sarah and Gunn from Manchester treated me to drinks and dinner at a Taverna! We had yummy bread with various spreads, a delicious Greek Salad with a HUGE piece of Feta, Souvalki, and then Gelato to finish off the night!

Thursday I got up and checked out, and stashed my bag before trying to visit the new Acropolis Museum. It wasn't open unfortunately, so I went and grabbed a few groceries and then walked to Syntagma Square to a bookshop. It was POURING it down, but I still wanted to climb Lycabettus Hill -- so I did.....aaaaand got SOAKED. It was foggy, but I still managed to get a pretty good view. I then decided to go back to the hostel, and try and dry off a bit before heading out to the Airport around 4:30. I flew to Berlin at 8:30, and got in around 11:00 Berlin time. I found the hostel and navigated the train system without too much trouble and met up with Laura, Margaret, Karen and Christine at the Lette 'm Sleep 7 Hostel.

On Friday Margaret and I decided to go on a free walking tour while the other three took a bike tour. We found a bakery with fantastic chocolate croissants for Breakfast and then just wandered until 1:00. We met at the Circus Hostel were we randomly ran into 6 other architecture students from Palazzo Rucellai. The tour guide was hilarious, and the tour was a lot of fun! It went on for about 4 hours, and we saw a LOT of Berlin. We saw:
Berliner Dome
New and Old Museum
The Site of the book burning, and the memorial
St. Hedwigs Cathedral
The victims of War and Tyranny Memorial
AMAZING Chocolate shop with giant chocolate sculptures...
Calvinist and Hungarian Cathedrals
Berlin Wall
Nazi Office Building -- HUGE building
Checkpoint Charlie
The Needle (Television Tower)
Site of Hitler’s bunker, and eventual suicide
Jewish Memorial
Academy of Art Building
Gehry's Bank Building
US Embassy
Brandenburg Gate
The Sony Center -- My favorite!!!! The picture above is of the roof of the Sony Center. It is lit up at night and changes from a bright blue to a magenta color.

It rained the entire time, and was absolutely FREEZING especially after Greece! The Architecture is much more contemporary, and fresh. I LOVED the Sony center and Margaret and I ended up finding our way into one of the buildings and riding the elevator up to the top to take pictures. Karen, Laura and Christine ended up deciding to watch a movie at the Sony Center so we joined them to watch "He's Just Not that Into You" which was really funny -- and gave us enough time to thaw out! We went back to the Hostel and made dinner, before collapsing.

Saturday all 5 of us decided to go on an Architecture tour. We were up and got groceries and another chocolate croissant before catching the metro to the Olympic Stadium. Then we went to another chunk of what is left of the Berlin Wall. We took the three girls back to the chocolate shop to show them the amazing sculptures, where I bought myself a little chocolate egg. :) We walked back to St. Hedwigs Cathedral and toured the inside. When it was bombed back in the war, the bomb dropped directly through the roof and blew the building from the inside out, causing a giant crater. They used that crater in the new design as a crypt. We also took the girls to the War and Tyranny memorial, and then went to Humboldt University where 29 Nobel Peace Price winners went to school, including Albert Einstein?!!! Hopefully some of that greatness rubbed off on me! We went to the GSW building, and then Margaret and I split off to see Daniel Libeskind's Jewish Museum. !!!!! It was so exciting to go inside a building I had learned so much about in school!! The exhibits were really well done as well, and I really liked how it was set up. Laura, Christine and Karen decided to go and see the Blue Man Group that night, but Margaret and I decided it was too expensive, and went and made amazing risotto at the hostel and watched Bridget Jones, while drinking RIDICULOUSLY cheap German beer.

Sunday Karen and Christine headed back to Florence in the early morning, and Laura, Margaret and I day tripped out to Potsdam where we toured the royal Palaces and gardens. After spending most of the day there, we rode the metro back into Berlin where we rode the U back and forth between a few stops (...don't ask...) and then got really cheap tickets to see a ballet at the opera house!!! We ended up seeing Tchaikovsky: The Mysteries of Life and Death which was a modern opera written by Boris Eifman about Tchaikovsky’s life, set to his Symphony No. 5, Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, String Serenade Op. 48, and the finale of his Pathétique, as well as references to some of his ballets. It was interesting to be able to pick out parts of ballets and stories that I knew like the Nutcraker. We went back to the hostel afterwards, picked up our bags, and then caught the last train out to the Airport. Margaret knew of some couches in a cafe, since she had spent a crazy amount of time sleeping in various airports this week, and we went and collapsed on them for a few hours before catching our 6:35am flight back to Milan, and then the bus to the train station, and then the rain back to Florence. We got back, and I managed to grab a quick shower, (where I had an argument with the shower curtain, and it ended up pulling completely out of the wall....fabulous....), and eat some food before heading out to class at 4!

Quite the week, and I had a fantastic time, but I’m glad to be back in Florence and in some semblance of a normal schedule. :)