While I’m stuck at home…

While I’m stuck at home, bored, with limited human interaction and talking ceaselessly to my dogs, I figured I’d reminisce about the time not so long ago when I was absentmindedly living in Florence without a care in the world. That is until the coronavirus hit Italy. It has now been over a month since my program decided to hastily cancel the semester. What was la dolce vita turned into a chaotic mess within 48 hours while we all tried to rapidly flee the country. At the time, it seemed like a major overreaction by the program. As it happened, that abroad program was the first American school to cancel in-person classes, a move that seemed drastic, yet now ironic, as practically every student from the US is currently completing their semesters from living room couches across the country. All of us abroad students, along with the rest of the world, are trying to grapple with what happened to “our time” abroad, “our time” to travel, explore and be free, “our time” to not be burdened with work for once and have nothing in our way. I know that there are many more severe problems that people are facing with this virus, and that is it truly a privilege to go abroad in the first place. Still, I think it necessary to accept and mourn everything we’ve lost, even the small things, to keep our sanity in this surreal situation. It has been an emotional blow for me since study abroad has been something I’ve dreamt of my entire life. Some days, I wake up, confused, and have to come to terms with everything that happened since I don’t usually live at home. Positively is key, however, and I can only hope to return to Italy as soon as possible and continue to explore and immerse myself in the beautiful country.

I’m very thankful for the time I got in Italy and Europe. If I have learned anything, it is to always take advantage of any opportunity because you never know when it could end or be taken away from you. I tried to make the absolute most of my time abroad, traveling when I could, and exploring Florence when I had the time. No, I didn’t get to see the entire city, regretfully saving many attractions for when my parents and friends came to visit. That’s ok, though; it gives me a reason to go back. There were many places I was dying to see this spring, yet, I can only look forward and still anticipate visiting them in the future.

After “fleeing” Florence, I luckily had the chance to spend some more time traveling in England and Scotland, as I had already planned a spring break trip in London and had friends I could visit there. I wanted to prolong returning home as best I could, and quite frankly, I stayed in Europe as long as I possibly could have. The two and a half weeks I spent on trains traveling around the UK were remarkable, and I’m thankful to have gotten the chance for more memories before the whole quarantine fiasco started. My travels in the UK felt as though there was a dark cloud over every excursion and conversation as the coronavirus was about to start affecting everyone else abroad. There was much uncertainty since it was only a matter of time until other programs got sent home. The virus was chasing after me, but there was nothing that anyone could have done. I had my adventures, often by myself, that I can look back on and cherish. I saw more of the country than I would have if my program didn’t get canceled, and I got to spend more time in London, one of my favorite cities in the world.

I’ve been reluctant to look back at all of my travels, and have put off writing about them while back at home since it seems as though it was a lifetime ago that I was carelessly moving throughout Europe. I have had a hard time thinking about my time abroad, choosing to focus on various crafts, family activities, and schoolwork to take my mind off of where I should be right now. Positive distractions are essential at a time like this. It’s been long enough, though, and I hope to share more about my journeys and experiences moving forward through posts and pictures to reminisce and celebrate the time I did spend in Europe. For now, arriverdverci

Austrian Adventures

Austria, home of strudel, snitzel and the Sound of Music, has a sense of regality that makes you feel momentarily like royalty.  History seeps into every grand avenue of Vienna, lined with enlightenment era white marble buildings and ornate cafes.  Two days in Vienna allowed me to appreciate the cultural richness of the city from the classical music to the turn of the century art movements that define the golden era of the Habsburg empire.  Across the country, lays Salzburg, in the mountains, where both Mozart and the Von Trap family originated.  I regrettably only spent one night in Salzburg, but that was enough for me to fall in love with the alpine charm and natural beauty of the area.  

Vienna appears surprisingly like a modern busy city from the outskirts in with plenty of energy and vibrance.  City center, however, old town charm is abundant.  The churches show the best of baroque architecture, marked by the massively elaborate St Stephans Cathedral with its intricately colorful mosaic roof and spires.  I happened to walk into a service at the church and got to hear the organ play while taking the elevator up to the rood which was quite an experience (imagine hearing the lords prayer sung in German).  The cathedral boosts wonderful views of the city, along with views of the unique roof.  The famous opera house, where Mozart, Strauss, Beethoven, among others, casually premiered much of their most well known work, is right across from the Sacher Hotel, home to the original Sacher Torte.  I enjoyed the famous chocolate and apricot cake at the Sacher Cafe which was magically upholstered in deep red velvet and magnificent chandlers.  The apple strudel from the cafe is also amazing and the atmosphere itself is worth it, even if you don’t like chocolate cake.  

Schoenbrunn palace is a quick 15 minute subway ride outside of the city center and holds so much history from Austria’s Habsburg glory days.  The giant palace sits on beautiful gardens and is well worth an inside tour since the rooms are perfectly preserved, including the grand ballroom and the big portrait rooms.  From a historical standpoint, the audioguide offered a lot of insight into the palace’s history and the lives of the people that lived there which was extremely fascinating.  

Belvedere palace is actually an art museum, yet looks extremely regal from the outside.  The palace hosts many of Austria’s most famous works such as Klimt’s The Kiss and other works, and the big Napoleon painting that is instantly recognizable.  The museum is really well done with a beautiful neoclassical marble interior and a great collection of art spanning many centuries.  

Beyond desserts, Austrian food is hearty and comforting.  I tried both pork and veal weiner snitzel served traditionally with potato salad, lemon and cranberry sauce.  The breaded and fried meat pairs perfectly with the sweeter garnishes.  It’s disgustingly delicious and definitely a must-try.  Austrian beef-broth soup is also very tasty, served with a big singular dumpling (think matzo-ball soup with beef instead of chicken).  Bratwurst stands can be found all over Vienna and they might seem sketchy, but they serve up the best hot dogs in soft baguettes.  I tried a cheese filled one with mustard and I’ve been dreaming about it ever since.  Cafe Central is a famous belle époque era cafe that mimics a gothic cathedral and has had many famous intellectuals as regulars over the years.  I had apple strudel for breakfast there and have no shame about it.  

Cafe Central in all its glory

Traditional Austrian dinner

Salzburg, at the foot of the alps, is a mountain city, full of both regal and charm.  The Sound of Music tour was the perfect way to see the city and the surrounding area in a short time with unmatched panoramic vistas.  You get to visit all of the filming locations and sing along to the music on the bus.  The town makes Mozart’s presence know, with monuments and squares all over dedicated to him.  Walking around Salzburg at night was surreal, as the hill top castle and other landmarks are lit up, along with the incredible rock face that the town is built into.  

Restaurants:

Cafe Sacher: famous and beautiful

Cafe Central: also famous and beautiful with good breakfast

Weibel’s Wirtshaus: great classic Austrian food in a nice setting

Zum Zirkelwirt: Fun atmosphere and casual Austrian food in Salzburg

København Kool

Copenhagen, or as the Danish say “København” with the emphasis on the vowels, oozes with cool and style. I’m hard thought to think of a trendier city that I’ve visited. The “hipness” finds itself in everything from the fashion (think Ganni and ACNE Studios) and street art to the food and fresh juices. Compared to the cramped streets of Florence, the quaint Copenhagen streets feel reminiscent of fairy tales. The contrast between the old and the modern is very distinct in art and architecture.

Amalienborg Palace with Frederik’s Church in the background, representing the best of regal Denmark

The castles and palaces of Copenhagen are all beautiful and offer insight into the history of the country. Rosenborg Castle looks as if it could easily be out of Disney’s Frozen with its spires and picture perfect carp filled mote. The interior is full of rococo era art and decor and the basement holds the crown jewels of Denmark which are just as majestic as they are fascinating. Amalienborg Palace is more modern and it serves as the current home of the Danish royal family. The square, along with Frederik’s Church, is beautiful.

The ornate and fascinating Rosenborg Castle
Tivoli is the second oldest amusement park in the world and served as inspiration for the Disneyland

Walking through the city is quite honestly like walking through a fairy tale and Tivoli Amusement Park embodies the epitome of the Disney mystic. The park is found in the middle of the city, yet feels removed and magical with pristine rides and attractions that puts Disneyland to shame, visually. The winter lights at night are beautiful and the international food hall is a great and delicious way to save money on dinner. I felt like a giddy little child walking through the park and seriously could not stop smiling of happiness.

Funky modern design can be seen throughout the harbor tour

Taking a boat tour through the canals and harbor helped me grasp the layout of the city and see all of the interestingly designed buildings from the water. The opera house and library (both on the water) contrast the quaint colorful buildings that line the canals with state of the art unique modern architecture. The tour also goes to the famous Little Mermaid statue which is out of the way by foot and a bit underwhelming. It’s one of those things that you have to do as a tourist and the tour made it worth it.

Altalier September has one of the most trendiest brunch’s in the city

Copenhagen has mastered the instagram-era art of brunch with trendy cafes and ascetically perfect food. Not only does the food look amazing, but it also tastes amazing. The Danes are known for their open-faced sandwiches, so you know the avocado toast will be superb. I had two of the best avocado toasts I’ve ever had and that’s coming from someone who religiously eats avocado at every opportunity.

Union Kitchen’s popular brunch

Copenhagen’s food scene is consistently named one of the best in the world, thanks to an emphasize on creativity and healthy natural foods. The now international juice chain, Joe and the Juice, started in Copenhagen and they are about as easy to find as a Dunkin’ Donuts in New York. Superfoods are abundant and they love fresh seafood. The smoke salmon and pickled herring were amazing for dinner and the baked goods for breakfast were unique and always flavorful.

Light display at the Museum of Design

I’ve never been to a museum quite like the Museum of Design, a museum dedicated to the tradition of cutting edge design in Denmark with displays from the 18th century to today. They had a special exhibit about the evolution of disco and nightclubs which was super interesting and well done. The permanent exhibits were a visual treat with a wide range of art, both modern and traditional, on display.

Contemporary furniture display at the Design Museum
Reminiscent of NYC’s Soho campaigns, this Pepsi ad is one of many murals found around Copenhagen

Places I ate:

• Restaurant Puk (Traditional Danish in a fun environment)

• Union Kitchen (Trendy brunch and coffee)

• Joe and the Juice

• Tivoli International Food Court (very good cheaper food and lots of options)

• Atelier September (great coffee shop with small plates)

• The Market (trendy contemporary Asian)

• Kompa 9 (small local coffee shop and bakery)

Shopping: 

• Stroget street (longest pedestrian street filled with both danish and international clothing chains)

• Normal and Message (two trendy Danish stores with decent prices)

• Magasin (Big nice department store full of Scandinavian brands)

• Ganni (Danish “It” brand of the moment around the world thanks to Instagram influencers)