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Entries about canals

Itali(u), I Don't Want to Leave

In this post, I Tell U about my final trip through the beautiful Cinque Terra and Venice.

sunny 70 °F

This blog entry comes two weeks late, I'll admit. My two day trip (yes that short) to Italy to see the Cinque Terra and Venice was as last minute a trip as is possible. I had booked 3 flights (no not two, I didn't know which day I had to come back) about a month in advance but, besides that, I had still not made up my mind whether to go or to stay an hour before I had to leave for the airport. I had just barely gotten back from Barcelona, only had the opportunity to study for a few days for finals, and didn't know if I could afford to give up another two days by myself. I quickly figured out, though, that it was not a zero sum game after all: I did not sacrifice studying or doing well on finals for that one last trip. My finals went okay, and I am so thankful that I had the opportunity to go to such a beautiful place for my last trip in Europe.

Going on a trip by oneself does not seem like a fun thing to me, or at least it didn't until then. Who would want to be alone and not be able to enjoy the new experiences together with friends, family, or loved ones? This was one of the reasons I didn't want to go. I wasn't scared, per say; I knew I would be okay. I knew that, even though I was flying by the seat of my pants the entire time, booking one night in advance and finding out the ropes while I'm climbing them, I would survive. I just didn't want to be by myself! But something I realized as I hiked for 8 hours in between the 5 cities of the Cinque Terra is that you're never really alone. In these small, historic, and ultra-touristy cities on the steep western coast of Italy, you may one second be hiking all alone, walled off on one side by the huge wall of blue sea and on the other by a thick unforgiving mountain, and then the other meet 5 people from all over the world doing the same thing that you are. And that right there is why you are never alone. My amazing and memorable experiences were shared among so many other people simply by being there together.

It was a Monday night when I left and flew to Pisa. After taking the obligatory leaning against the Leaning Tower pictures, I headed up the coast on a train towards the Cinque Terra, having booked my Airbnb just 8 hours before. I made myself study on every train ride, to combat the other reason that I wouldn't have gone: I had 4 finals the following week. But hey, you only study abroad once right? The thing to do in the Cinque Terra is hike between the cities and enjoy the quaint fishing village culture and beautiful scenery. I did just that, and I am very thankful that I brought my hiking boots. This was probably the hardest day of hiking I'd ever done: I hiked somewhere in the region of 16 miles, almost always straight up and straight down. Most of the time it was me and my thoughts, drumming to the sounds of ferocious waves and a peaceful stirring breeze. After absorbing every ray of the sunset and watching the violent crash of waves for what felt like an hour, I retired to a small scale fish pasta dinner where I met and talked to a recently married couple from UT. It's a small world, and you're never alone. The next morning I hit the 6 hour train to Venice (read: studied the whole time), which is a city I've wanted to go to probably more than anywhere else in the world. It was idyllic and well-preserved, just how I imagined it. You could easily get lost in the labyrinth of canals and alleys barely wide enough for one. This was in fact just what I did for the whole afternoon, until I had to return to the real world via a delayed (due to the airport workers' strike) Eurowings flight Wednesday night (read again: studied the whole time). One of those realities was paying 75 euro for a taxi since my flight was so late, but oh well.

Both of these beautiful Italian jewels are places you'd typically visit with someone else. But I did them by myself, and I loved it. I was able go my own pace to soak in the scenery and was at peace with everything in my life at that time. If you're on the edge about whether to do something or not do something like I was, "go for it!" This was what my dad told me about this trip, and I'm so thankful. In fact, that's what he told me about a semester abroad as well.


Posted by jbolt 03:56 Archived in Italy Tagged sunsets_and_sunrises canals venice hiking italy sun cinque terra Comments (1)

Dam, I Love Europe

Weekend in Amsterdam, Netherlands

semi-overcast 40 °F

As promised, here is my second post, about my second journey. This post is titled "Dam, I Love Europe" because it is so incredibly true.

The fun started on the train to Amsterdam. After changing three times in Cologne, Venlo, and Eindhoven and finally aboard the final train into the city, it was pronounced "broken" and wouldn't be taking us all the way to its destination. It would be stopping halfway in a small city where we would be left to find our own way. Fortunately there were quite a lot of people heading to Amsterdam as well, and we were told by a helpful station worker to run towards platform 5 where we would catch a train to the next city, but have to switch again there. This new train was standing room only--there were so many people put out from our old train that we were packed in there like the West Campus bus on a Thursday afternoon. After having gone only two stops (technically only one, the train missed the first stop completely) the new train was pronounced defunct as well. After about 10 minutes of waiting in the train at the station hoping what was being said over the intercom wasn't important, a new train appeared out of nowhere that would take us to the next city. At this point, any movement in a forward direction was progress. This time we did not make the mistake of joining the first car we could. We ran all the way to the back of the train before anyone else got there, and were able to sit down for the first time in an hour. Thankfully this train did not break and we made it to the next city, Utrecht. From there we caught the final leg into the city, and only arrived about an hour and a half later than we were supposed to. All in all, not a huge disaster for being aboard two broken trains and missing one stop. What amazes me is how simple the whole process was: there was no ticket checking, rebooking, chaos, fees, wait time. They even conjured up a new train on command when the second one broke. Efficient mass transport is one reason why I love Europe.

Amsterdam was easily the coolest city I've ever been to. The fact that much of Western Netherlands was reclaimed from the sea with technology that is over 200 years old blows my mind. The city itself is beautiful, historical, and bustling. I've always loved cities where there's been a lot of large scale planning. With Amsterdam, the entire city is built around the still-functioning canals, with 3 prominent rings of waterways surrounding the city center. The Port of Amsterdam was the hub of the Dutch East India Trading Company during the 17th century, and the immense system of canals and locks no doubt built on the historical significance of the port. I definitely recommend taking a boat tour; they're cheap, in any language, and provided a good context for the city that I walked 35,000+ steps in. The Anne Frank house is as awing and eerie as I imagined, and the line was indeed huge. My squad of 10 made the trip together and this time slept in a 6 person bedroom rather than a 4 person--much more space! We toured the Heineken factory, which offered some amazing views (and beer) as one of the highest points in the city, and walked through the Red Light district. I also met up with my friend Mikki (a world-traveler this semester) and had some amazing Dutch Pancakes the size of a pizza. The city left a really good impression on me. It is a charming and historical city full of nice people, and I look forward to visiting again. Another reason why I love Europe.

And that's all I got.


Posted by jbolt 06:14 Archived in Netherlands Tagged canals beer amsterdam germany city Comments (0)

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