A Travellerspoint blog

March 2016

We(talian)

Over the Alps and through the boot, to Italy we go.

sunny

After a friend's birthday weekend trip to Dusseldorf, Germany, we embarked on what I would consider the best trip yet. Of course, I say that about every trip I go on, but Italy is something special. I've always wanted to visit Italy ever since I can remember; I read a book when I was much younger about an orphan who lived in Venice. Unfortunately I didn't get the chance to visit Venice this trip, but no worries. I will definitely be making the trip back. It was 5 of us friends and 5 amazing days.

My long Easter weekend through the boot of Europe started with a beautiful early morning flight over the Alps to Milan. If I was a pilot, this would be where I would want to fly all the time. Visiting the Alps in person was breathtaking--seeing them from above was even more stunning. All of a sudden there were these huge snow covered mountains below, almost like a white blanket had been ruffled up. Even though they felt so close that our wing might clip a particularly high one, the behemoths were transformed into a wrinkled sheet no larger than my airplane window. It was awesome to see the mountain range from a different perspective, and I could easily see where these little valley towns like Kitzbuhel, Austria fit into the landscape. Complete with a fly-over of Lake Como before landing, we spent about 5 hours walking around Milan and exploring what it had to offer before heading on to Tuscany. On this high speed train ride I realized just how small the world is--we met and talked to some recently graduated students who knew one of my good high school friends really well.

When arriving in Florence we walked directly to the hostel, only to find out that it didn't seem to exist. There was no huge welcome sign or friendly lighted name; only a number and a plaque, as we found out after calling the hostel owner. Apparently we were lucky not to have our reservation canceled--we had arrived after check-in and he had to come back by scooter to let us in. It ended up being a quaint and cozy small-scale operation which was right in the center of town. The town of Florence, speaking of which, was exactly what you might imagine an Italian city to be: tight streets, bustling crowds, fresh air, gelato. There was so much to do, from shopping in genuine Italian-leather markets, to climbing the duomo (basilica/church), to watching the sunset and riding bikes through the hills. It was perfect. Oh, and you can't forget the free wine for students at dinner.

Rome, too, was as cool as anything. We averaged about 13 miles a day walking, and saw pretty much everything you can see. The first day we knocked out just about the whole city, criss-crossing from famous-cool-old thing to old-cool-famous thing. We arrived around noon, had a small lunch, hit the Coliseum, site of the Circus Maximus, Roman Forum, Trevi Fountain, Pantheon, Altare Della Patria, Spanish Steps (for the sunset, of course), and numerous churches and smaller things. There are literally so many historical things you get accustomed to seeing old buildings and taking them for granted. Day 1 in Rome complete. Day 2 we took a deeper dive into some things. Day 2 happened to be Easter Sunday, and we managed to squeeze into the Vatican City and attend the 10am mass with about 100,000 other people. I was not able to meet the Pope--maybe next time--but it was still an experience of a lifetime. For the afternoon and evening we reserved the Coliseum and Forum ruins, probably with the same 100,000 people. The Coliseum was huge and imposing, but the other ruins I think made a bigger impact on me. They are scattered over the entire city, with the most concentrated around the Forum and one of the 7 hills of the city. Circus Maximus (though only a portion "stands") supposedly held 250,000 people, which absolutely blows my mind. 2,000+ years of history stood before us in this open field of walkable ruin, and was bathed in a warm orange sunset that evening. Even after 2,000 years and being 99% crumbled, what they built is still impressive today. Day 3 was planned on being Pompeii and Naples, but the weather turned German and was rainy and gray all day. After a sub-par bus tour (don't take GLT tours), I appeased my classical roots and rode bikes on the Appian Way, a famous road that was depicted in a scene of Respighi's Pines of Rome (everyone should listen to this piece). It was used back in the Roman times and is still around today.

Wow this post was long, so I should end soon. I will remember this trip forever (just like I will every other trip here) for its beautiful history, pushy but kind people, warm weather, and good company. I learned that world is so much smaller than it seems, yet still so full of beauty.
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Posted by jbolt 12:05 Archived in Italy Tagged bikes the italy florence rome vatican coliseum milan alps forum boot easter Comments (0)

Welcome to Germany

And Paris as well

overcast 45 °F

Amber and I just spent the week together in Germany and France. She flew in early Saturday morning, at the start of her spring break and the end of mine. Together we did the weekend in Paris and then returned for a couple days to Vallendar.

First thing Saturday morning I packed my bags and took a train to meet her at Frankfurt. Our train to Paris was early afternoon so we got to explore Frankfurt a little bit, though I will say Paris has it beat, hands down. And so, one minute we were cruising at 300 km/hour, and the next we had arrived. There are certainly parts of Paris that are, let's say, "cultured" -- watch your back -- and our hotel was at the edge of one of these areas. While the walk from the train station was less than impressive, my views about Paris only got better from then on. On that first colorful and cool evening we walked the plaza around the Louvre, had a native dinner (only complete with escargot), and checked out the Eiffel tower. Every hour on the hour the entire thing erupts in an explosion of twinkling white lights, which you can see across the whole city. It really is spectacular.

Our next two days of tourism passed quickly: Sunday morning we packed ourselves into the Louvre for a glimpse of the Mona Lisa, followed by a small but stylish wine cellar tour, complete with 3 glasses of wine each and 2 bottles to take home. After a quick stop at the great Notre Dame cathedral my hunger for cheap 3 course meals was satisfied in the Latin quarter. The streets were lined with small but surprisingly nice cafes and restaurants, all of whom staffed a front door person who's only job was to get you in their restaurant. We settled on a place that smelled of (stinky) cheese and once again had snails, among other things. Monday was by far my favorite day, progressively seeing more and more of the city as the day went on. We started at the Sacré-Cœur, which had some spectacular views of the sprawling city. After a crepe-filled brunch at the bottom, we proceeded to the top of the Arc de Triomphe, which offered an incredible 360 degree view at about twice the height of the first stop. All roads lead to the Arc, which is pretty neat. Finally, to fully complete a trip to Paris, we left the afternoon for the Eiffel Tower. The views were breathtaking and unending, and it was easily the best thing we did, in my opinion--I am a more of a check-out-the-views kind of person than she is. We of course got champagne at the top.

The next two days we spent back in Vallendar, Koblenz, and a couple surrounding cities. She finally saw my school, my city, my friends, and where I live, which means a lot to me. We toured two local castles, lazed around an appropriate amount, and cooked a nice dinner. Then, she left, Thursday morning at 4 am...really Amber, did you have to get such an early flight? Anyway, it was a much needed get together, and I love that it happened--almost as much as I love the girl.

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Posted by jbolt 04:43 Archived in France Tagged tower paris france eiffel wine louvre arc triomphe vallendar Comments (0)

Fresh Wow

Trips through Austrian + Swiss Alps

all seasons in one day 25 °F

I decided against the title "Fresh Pow" because I didn't think it did enough justice to my adventure through both Switzerland and Austria. I've combined both trips because they were literally back to back, on the same mountain range, and I mean, it's basically the same place right?

After staying just one night in my own bed once I got back from the US, we turned right around and took an overnight bus to Kitzbuhel, Austria for a short but intense ski trip. We heard this was one of the most famous places to ski in the Alps, and we weren't disappointed. To get to even the lowest ski area on the mountain you had to take a long gondola trip up; from there, which would generally be the top of the mountain for some US resorts, choices were up or up. This was the best snow I'd ever skied on (but that title didn't last long), with the best views, hands down. It was amazingly clear in every direction, and I felt like I was looking out hundreds of miles. The view at the top was 360 degrees of blissful snowcapped mountains and fluffy white-topped trees, mountain ranges extending in every direction. Our host city for two days and one night was beautiful and luxurious, filled with tons of brand name luxury boutique stores, and our host home was equally as nice, if it weren't for the 30 minute walk up a nearby mountain. After two solid days of shredding, it was back home on another overnight bus--complete with flat reclining chairs.

And three days after that, me and Chris were off to Switzerland. This was my biggest trip so far (and most expensive...how do people actually live there?). First to Zurich on an overnight train, which was a striking city. Though a little smaller than I first thought, the beautiful bowl-shaped city overlooking the tip of a crystal clear lake did not get old--mostly because we were off to Lucerne that afternoon. Lucerne, a city about which I've heard so many amazing things, has a very rich history. The famous Castle Bridge across its river is around 800 years old, and its surrounding mountains and lakes are the main attraction. Unfortunately we weren't able to see hardly any of it, as it rained everywhere we went. Our 5 hour boat cruse around Lake Lucerne turned into a 3 hour snowstorm that was both marvelous and blinding. The snow followed us to Andermatt, my second Alpine skiing destination, and it continued to blow my mind. It snowed almost 60 centimeters in one day. Apparently, they hadn't had winter yet. Again we skied two days; the first was spectacular and clear like in Kitzbuhel, yet the snow was so fresh and the mountain so empty that I've never skied better in my life. And then the second day happened. It was snowing too hard to see 10 feet in front of you, and when you could finally see, the snow was so thick it would swallow you up to your knees if you weren't prepared to shred at high speeds. It was quite the skiing experience to say the least. So much fresh pow(der). Oh, and I can't not mention Bellinda, our BnB host for two nights. She picked us up/dropped us off at the train station, made us breakfast each morning, spent hours giving us advice, and could speak 4 languages. Easily the nicest human being in the country.

Finally, after another night and a semi-clear morning in Lucerne, on to Geneva. It's almost an exact replica of Zurich and Lucerne; all three bowl-shaped on crystal clear lakes surrounded by Alpine mountains. However, my main focus was inside a huge warehouse-like expo center: the Geneva Motor Show. There were as many people packed in as there was horsepower in the building. It was so crammed you couldn't do anything but waddle like penguins huddling for warmth. But the cars were something else. They only fueled the excitement inside me for my imminent career in the auto industry. Hopefully I can be there on the other side of the fence, releasing some sexy tech-filled GT. The Jag F-Pace, Maserati Levante, Bugatti Chiron, Mercedes E-class, I could go on. Literally forever. And the cherry on top of the whole trip was seeing a Bugatti Veyron (the just-retired, 1000 horsepower, 12 year old predecessor to the Chiron) live in person, with a host of other mafiaesque badass rides. If it weren't 25 dollars to get a burger and fries I'd have probably retired then and there.

Until next time...which happens to be tomorrow, when Amber and I go to Paris!

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Posted by jbolt 09:56 Archived in Switzerland Tagged skiing cars austria show switzerland geneva zurich lucerne alps motor Comments (1)

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