Archive for the 'By Car' Category

My oh My Marrakesh

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It was strange to be back in a city all of a sudden and that first day was a bit overwhelming.  After dropping off our bags we walked into the center, elated because there was so much to do (unlike the last two places) but a bit confused by seeing all the things we’d appreciated not having, i.e. McDonalds and the like.

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Really?!

We took a cheap cab back to the hotel and rested up for what would be a completely packed visit in Marrakesh.

Flying into Fes

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I fell in love with a stranger sitting in front of me on the flight over, turning courteous considerate gestures into a personality I admired.  He only carried a newspaper onto the plane which is something that always attracts me since I am the girl with the giant bag of two or so books, an iPod filled with podcasts, and some postcards to write in case.  We didn’t speak at all but in the course of the flight I imagined how we met, why I loved him, the troubles we faced together, and the happy conclusion of why it was better that we go our separate ways.  We were both better for having had the experience and would always reflect fondly on our time together.

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The colors of Morocco instantly awoke me and the giant back pack felt like nothing compared to the weightless excitement I was experiencing.  I hoped into a taxi and showed him the address and the hand drawn map I’d copied from google maps at 6am that, no wait, the morning of the day before.  I tried not to think about how little I’d slept in the past week. Too many good things were coming up.

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The taxi driver taught me the word for sunset in french as I clicked away with my camera, he kept looking at my grin and breaking into a smile himself, “you will love Morocco, you are welcome.”  This phrase would come back many times in the next two weeks but hearing it for the first time it felt like it was just for me.

After arriving to the landmark closest to the Riad where I was supposed to meet my Sister (which she had warned would be impossble to find) the driver apologized, he couldn’t drive into the medina.  He grabbed a shop owner nearby that seemed to be a close friend.  The driver pointed to a cart that looked like a backwards wheel barrow, “he can take you.”  I politely declined and started to walk when they insisted I let the shop owners son take me.  A shy boy about 6 or 7 lowered his head and stepped forward.  Soon we were walking throught the medina, a little wobbily in my state, attracting attention from each group of people in each narrow passage.dsc_0137

I made some friends, felt a bit helpless and overwhelmed, but an hour or so later my Sister and I were hugging and swapping travel stories.  We had some delicious dinner before heading to the Riad where we started our Rummy tournament, Morocco 2009.

290 x 290 x 500

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Four trucks at that size and one with an extra meter in length; all of them to be packed full with the contents of the installation we’d been working on for months.

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Moving days are always stressful and we knew some things would go wrong.  We had to be efficient with the space and make sure we weren’t forgetting anything.

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For all the elements and all the things that could’ve gone wrong, I think it went exceptionally well.  By the end we were all battered and bruised but it was satisfying to get the point we had talked about for so long.
Around 5am I caught the train home and took a shower in the light of dawn before grabbing my pack and heading back to HBF where I caught the train to Frankfurt.

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And here I want to mention a thank you to my Step Dad Andy.

Whenever we flew anywhere we had to get to the airport no later than two hours before our departure time and usually more like three.  I used to do a bit of eye rolling at this but nowadays I find myself doing the same.

In any case when I took the train from Berlin to Frankfurt Airport it’s a good thing I had that rule of leaving lots of extra time ingrained in my head.  As it turns out there are two Frankfurt airports and I needed to be at the very tiny one (Frankfurt Hahn) about a 45 minute bus ride from the one I anticipated leaving from (Frankfurt International Airport).  Thanks Andy!

From the Future

I come to you from my hostel in Amsterdam, 5 flights and almost a month since my last post and with more things to write about than I can process right now.

So, I urge you to be patient and come back soon (week or three).  Thanks for reading!

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Sickinger Hof

When I arrived late Saturday night to the Haupbanhauf Station in Berlin it was almost as I had remembered it but that was why it wasn’t the same as the first time I came, I already met this place, albeit briefly.

I took a cab to my hotel since I hadn’t been feeling so great.  It could have been the Ritz and I wouldn’t have noticed all I cared, I was in such need of rest that I sleepwalked through the first impressions.  When I woke in the morning and went down for breakfast I pushed past it then too.  But after my jam and bread, coffee and orange juice, and out of place hard boiled egg I finally met the Sickinger Hof Hotel where I would be staying until I found an apartment.

A friend once told me he and his family had to live in a hotel for a while when he was a kid; he talked about it with this sort of unfinished face about it like even after all these years he still didn’t know how that had made him feel.  Seeing that face had made me instantly regret envying him.

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At the Sickinger Hof my room had three bed like pads, a window, a sink with a mirror, a tv above the sink, and a rather sad empty closet with nothing in it.   There was a bathroom down the hall as well as a public shower that was either scalding or freezing.  I didn’t see many people while I was there; a british couple that were always rolling their eyes and yelling at each other, a group of Germans, and an older Italian couple that I instantly felt obligated to help.  At breakfast a few other people were sitting solo but it’s harder to spy on people that are also spying on you.

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Most of my days were spent out, it felt like I visited all the train stations in Berlin.  Without knowing the city I ended up making appointments throughout the day in all different places and usually took the less than direct routes to get there.  Other than that it was coffee shops with wireless, keeping to myself, and calmly sipping while panicking about my future.*

I wonder when you stop being a tourist in a place?  With trying to find an apartment and a job being my main priorities I stopped seeing the city as the places I had to see before I left.  Now that I had no immediate plans of leaving I wondered in areas picturing myself walking home everyday.  Adopting landmarks instead of taking I was there photos.  It doesn’t surprise me that every person I know that was born and raised in new york has never been to the empire state building.

* it sounds bad but believe me if I have the time to write a blog post reflecting about it, I am certainly well enough.  I’m sorry if my previous posted caused concern (Mom).

Slovenia by the Sea

My last day in Slovenia Aneja and I went to the coast to visit some small towns, unfortunately the rain was still coming but we enjoyed ourselves none the less.  We stopped for a wonderful breakfast in the first town where we people/rain watched for a bit.

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The Adriatic Sea was gorgeous and despite the weather we could still see Croatia in the distance.

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Just as we climbed to the church on the hill of the second town the weather got better.  We saw yet another rainbow and enjoyed the rich colors drying in the sun.

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Then we stopped to have lunch in the third little town of the day which was the biggest.  I promise to add the names later but for now I don’t have my notes with me.  I didn’t take many photos there but I did like this statue.

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Then we drove up a very windy road to visit a gorgeous castle with a view.  I felt the need to spread my arms as wide as I could just to take in the enormity of it. At a safer distance from the cliff I spun around and skipped, new places get me all excited.

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The fourth and final little town was not on the coast but had a beautiful view of the rolling hills.  The dark clouds returned but by then we had seen weathered worse.  We strolled around the empty town and enjoyed the park.

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That night the whole family went out for an amazing Slovenian dinner, everyone ordered something different and we each tried the others plates.  My favorite were the mushrooms, native to Slovenia and especially fresh, all of the food was delicious not over complicated with too many flavors but made with careful choosing of the perfect ingredients.

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The whole weekend was really wonderful, Aneja and her family were such wonderful hosts and in a time when I really needed it.  I think every traveler will tell you the best thing about traveling is the people, you and your interaction with them determines your experience.  We had horrible weather the whole time but I will always fondly remember this trip because I really felt so welcomed and cared for by them.

While Aneja and I were packing Vlada came into the room with two beautiful glasses of Slovenian strawberry wine and a smile on her face.

Bled, Posojna Caves, and More First Time Experiences.

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In the car, early that morning on our way to Bled.

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Bled is gorgeous, even in less than perfect weather.  There is a castle in the top right and on an Island in the middle of the lake there is another beautiful smaller castle like building.  There’s also a Spa on the other side of the lake which Aneja told me is much cheaper than Spas in the states.

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It all reminded me of a place families go for summer trips. It made me want to be 13 and with my parents, pretending it was awful to be forced into a vacation with them but in the end really enjoying myself.

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Then we walked up to the castle and admired the view.  I really prefer walking up to these beautiful vistas, when you’ve worked for it it’s sweeter.  Also I really liked walking amidst the tall tall trees, reminded me of home.

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Beauties!

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A detail from the castle church above and below a photo of some mushrooms we noticed on the walk back down to the lake.

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After the castle we had some delicious desserts and coffee, so delicious, in fact that the distracted me from taking a photo of them.  Then I took a nap in the car while we drove to Postojna where we bought tickets to see the caves.  Then we drove to a nearby castle IN A CAVE.  It was so amazingly crazy that I made this face:

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Miss Amanda this castle reminded me a lot of you, I felt myself experiencing the Amanda type of excitement, where you smile and bounce with awe like you’re five and don’t care who’s watching.

Below, a garden of a house nearby the cave castle, that I liked a lot.

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Unfortunately photos are not allowed inside the caves because it’s bad for them but I snuck this one senza flash.  I must say the Postojna Caves are unlike anything I’ve ever seen, if you ever get the chance I highly reccomend visiting them, they’ll take your breath away.

First we took a train down into the caves and then we went on a guided walk (in English, I wasn’t quite up to Italian) with this older guy who kept making corny jokes (Amanda, you would’ve loved him).  It was so gigantic inside, it’s hard to describe without a lot of hand gestures.  You see that little figure in the left corner of the photo; that’s a tall guy.  And this was one of the smaller parts of the cave.  Grandissima!

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Later after driving back and having another wonderful dinner at the house we went to see Aneja’s grandparents (Vlada’s parents) in their house in a small hill town nearby.  They speak Italian fluently and had an Italian friend over at the house; it was amazing for me to watch them all joke and laugh in Italian.  And I found myself laughing at the right times even though if asked in English to explain I wouldn’t have known how.  A lot of the time you know before you know how to explain why you know, I’m starting to trust this more and more.

After cookies and laughs I was shown the hunting room, Aneja’s grandfather is an amazing hunter and is rather famous for having killed a giant bear among other things.  It was fun to point to the different animals and learn their names in Italian.  Also it’s not every day you get to see a hobbiests personal collection of favorite things, I felt privilaged to be shown.

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Then back to the house where I tried a few firsts.  The jug is home made apple juice from Aneja’s neighbors, they had just dropped it off for them and I of course had to try it.  It was really good.

Then the Slovenian wine that Vlada had told me about earlier, very good, and a rather strange first Watermelon Chocolate with pop rocks which was better than I expected but mostly just strange.  I had to take a photo because really when am I going to see that again.

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Then we went to bed early, exausted and satisfied.

At Least Six Rainbows in One Day


We woke up early with coffee and foamy milk, perfectly browned toast, and home made jam from banana and strawberries.  While driving into Ljubljana, the capitol, we saw at least six rainbows.  When we arrived at Aneja’s apartment I took this photo from her back yard.

Aneja was off to her University, where she is studying constantly to become a doctor, and her Mom, Vlada and I were off to see the sights.  This was in the main square.

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Church Doors

The Market

I came the same weekend of their day of mourning the dead, when Slovenian families usually go to the cemetary to pay respect to loved ones.

The Park

New friends, the squirrels look different here.

Dragon on the bridge, the Dragon is the symbol of Ljubljana

Aneja and her Mom Vlada looking lovely.

It may not look delicious but it most certainly was; buckwheat perogi like raviolis filled with a mix of ricotta and local herbs with a cranberry scauce.  All with fresh ingridients from the market, yum.

And Vlada had polenta made of three different types of flours and corn topped with prociutto and grilled mushroms.  She was kind enough to offer me a taste, Aneja told me they were the type of family that tried each others dishes, it made me happy.

Then we rode up to the castle, you know, totally normal.

After the castle Aneja had to head back to school for another class but Vlada continued to show me around the city and we went back to speaking Italian which made me very happy.

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We stopped in one shop with specialty items from the salt marshes in Slovenia and I bought this lovely aloe salt scrub and some interesting salt chocolate for my sister and I to try when she arrives.

This is the public library and a really beautiful building.

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The doors of the library:

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This is one of the University buildings and Miss Katie this is the building that reminded me so much of you:

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After a long day of sight seeing we left Ljubljana and headed to the mall.  It was really strange to be in such an American idea that was executed in such a European way, nonetheless I stopped at a photo booth and did my thing; for those of you who don’t know I will always stop at a photo booth to make a photo of myself with or without company. Then Aneja showed up and we all went for coffee and dessert before heading back to the house where Vlada made shrimp scampi and fettucine, it was delicious.

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In Treno da Slovenia

Allora, il Mercoledi scorso sono andata in Slovenia per vistare Aneja e sua famiglia.  Sua Madre, Vlada, e suo fratello, Blaz hanno incontrato io nella stazione a Trieste.  Abbiamo visto la citta e prendo caffe primo andiamo a casa di loro.  Trieste e bella ma preferisco la compagna di Slovenia dove Aneja e sua famiglia abitanno.  Vlada ha fatto una cena buona per io e Blaz.  Sono stata contenta perche abbiamo parlato tutto in l’Italiano senza molte problemi.  Era buona per me perche di solito ho una persona a parlare con in l’Inglese ma, senza l’Inglese e’ meglio.  Quando Aneja e’ arrivata abbiamo chiacchierato e dopo siamo andate i letti a dormire.

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Last Wednesday I went to Slovenia, I took the train to Trieste by way of a train change in Venice.  I was able to work on my computer during the train ride, and by work I mean listen to This American Life and take photobooth pictures of myself.  When I arrived in Trieste Aneja’s Mom Vlada and her brother Blaz picked me up from the station.  After dropping off my bag they showed me around the center of the city and treated me to a coffee. Later we headed to their house in Slovenia where Vlada made Blaz and I the first of many wonderful dinners.  Aneja arrived later after her class and we of course squeeled with delight at the sight of one another.  It was great to be reunited, she wanted to know all about il Sillabo and the new students and was quick to let me know my Italian was much better.  Thanks Aneja. We headed to bed to catch some Zzzs.

It felt good to get out of Italy and be in a warm house.

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Aneja’s house at 6am the next day.

San Gimignano

To lift my spirits I decided to go with school to San Gimangnano on Wednesday, I had been there once before in 2003 and remembered it being a great little hill town.

I walked across the same old streets and marveled at all the towers, 12 in total.

First we had some lunch, then a walk around the town and lots of photos, and some famous gelato.  This particular gelatoria is famous for inventing a flavor called  “Santa Fina,” which is a cream base with roasted pine nuts and saffron.  It was unlike anything I’ve ever had, and very delicious, certo.

Then there were some great views, a group photo, and window-shopping.  There was one shop in particular that I remembered from my last visit, it was still there and looked the same, filled with gorgeous kitchen gadgets carved from olive wood.

Orazio led us through the town and up to a yet another wonderful spot for photos.   On the way out of San Gimagnano we stopped to pet a local dog in the square and do our best to chat with some of the locals.  In every town in Tuscany there is a group of two or more people, usually elderly, who have a spot they sit and chat.  The verb in Italian is one of my favorites: ‘Chiacchierare’ (to gossip, to chat).  This is also one of my favorite pictures yet:


Next we drove to a little town nearby called Monteriggioni, which was also on a hill with a tall old city wall surrounding it.  It was tiny, a few charming restaurants, a shoe/leather factory, and a giant water chestnut tree.  Taka saw me starring at it and was kind enough to grab me one, although I had no idea what to do with it.

Then it was back home to SGV to finish homework and rest up.  That night I had one of those fabulous dinners; when you have all the right ingredients for what your craving and the time and patience to make something great.  I made steak with asparagus tips with big chunks of roasted garlic and enjoyed a glass of chianti and an episode of the Tudors along with it.


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