Sunday, July 25, 2010

Athens, Greece

Well helloooo! I’m a bit behind on my entries, so let me BEGIN at once ☺

 Day One: (July 14, Wednesday)

As soon as we ported in Piraeus, the port of Athens, Lee, Lindsey and I were on the go for the ferry station. We really wanted to check out times to catch a ferry to the island of Santorini. We walked down the streets of Piraeus and just followed the water, and found the ferry kiosk. The morning wasn’t too eventful, since all we did was go to the ferry station, but then we headed back to the ship (oh, we went to Starbucks. Yesss we did) for our field trip to go to the Archaeological Museum and the New Acropolis Museum in Athens. Athens is only 6 miles away from Piraeus (the port) so we just took a bus. Both museums were very interesting; the New Acropolis Museum was really sweet – it just re-opened this spring and was built on top of some Greek ruins. The lobby and outer “deck” area is made out of glass so you can see underneath; it’s like your walking on top of the ruins – so cool! Anyway, we were shown around the Acropolis Museum and our tour guide and the teacher in charge of the field trip getting into small fights along the way about different points of views on what the tour guide was telling us… it was pretty entertaining. The museum layout is built as if you were in the actual Acropolis. We wish they had left all the artifacts and statues on the real site, though – how cool would that be to see it as it really was?! But I guess they took out all the cool stuff so it wouldn’t get ruined even more by the weather. But you could see the actual Acropolis from inside the museum -on the hill above us. BUT our field trip didn’t actually take us to the real thing; we were slightly disappointed, but just decided to go on a different day! After the museums, we headed back to Piraeus and were on the mission to buy our ferry and plane tickets to Santorini. We had just looked up times earlier, but we knew for sure that we wanted to go to the island! Greece has TONS of islands along its coast, but Santorini is one of the larger ones and is supposed to be sooo beautiful and not as touristy as some of the others, more traditional feeling. The only slight problem with Santorini was that it was further away than Mykonos, Syfnos, etc. But we had to go to a Greek island, and Santorini it was! We bought an overnight ferry ticket that left at midnight two nights later (Friday)  and that got into Santorini at 8:45 AM the next morning! WOO, an almost 9 hour ferry ride! We also bought plane tickets (MUCH cheaper in Europe than they are in the US) for Saturday night at 11:10 PM- the latest flight back to Athens. I was pretty nervous about buying all these tickets, because Greece/Athens is having so many debt problems right now and TONS of spontaneous strikes with their ferry/airline companies. I was worried about missing the ship, since it was scheduled to leave on Sunday at 6 PM, and if we didn’t get a flight back the night we planned, we didn’t know what we would do! SO- basically, that first day in Athens, we planned for our trip to Santorini! We walked around Piraeus that night and had amazingly delicious chocolate pancakes (crepes) at a local restaurant. We had to be up in the morning and in a bus for our scheduled field trip to DELPHI and METEORA by 7 AM, so we called it a pretty early night.

Day Two: (Thursday, July 15, 2010)

Lee and I scrambled out of bed, had breakfast in 7 minutes flat, then ran to the Union to meet our group for our SAS field trip to Delphi and Meteora! The bus ride took about 4 hours to get to Delphi, but once we got there, it was awesome! We spent the day looking through their pretty small museum, then climbed up all the stairs to look around the Greek ruins. Delphi was a major major political and religious site for the ancient Greeks and you can still see the archaeological site and the ruins there. It’s known for having the Temple of Apollo and being the site of the important oracle of Apollo. The ancient Greeks viewed Delphi as being the center of the universe! ALSO, Delphi is a UNESCO World Heritage site…pretty sweet. The view from way up there was breathtaking too, of course (Delphi is way up in the mountains of northern Greece). Our tour guide was an older Greek man, and he said he hadn’t been to the very top of Delphi in years. But- he told us we could walk up all the steps (there were lots of them) to the top if we hurried – and met back down at the base in like 20 minutes or something crazy like that. So me and Lee did it! We trekked up the top, saw the very top temple and what looked like a chariot racing arena (we don’t know exactly what it was, haha, our guide wasn’t there to explain it to us and the rest of the SAS people!) and took some pictures, and then realized we had to meet our group to leave for dinner in 7 minutes! So we literally ran down to the end! Haha! It was fun and a nice little workout. Good thing we had our chacos on that day! So good times in Delphi. That night our trip went to this awesome little restaurant and had some traditional, authentic Greek food. Greek salad, bread, olive oil, and some chicken dish. We headed back to our hotel in the small town of Kalambaka, which is right at the bottom of Meteora. Kalambaka and Meteora (our destination for the next day) is also in Northern Greece, in the Thessaly area. YES, we did pass Thessalonica/Thessaloniki, like in the Bible! AND we passed Thermopolis; so, our tour guide recounted the story of the battle of Thermopolis (300, anyone?!) on the bus for us. I was glad that I’d seen the movie 300 after that, since now I can say I’ve seen Thermopolis! Anyway, we thought they had put us up in a ghost town when we got to Kalambaka, but after getting situated in our hotel rooms, Lee and I and a few other girls from our trip explored the town on foot. It turned out to be a pretty cute town, actually! (Once we walked far enough down some streets, that is.) There was a fun fountain in the middle of this square and tons of cafes and bars. We sat down at one and talked for a few hours and just people-watched. It was a good night!

Day Three: (July 16, 2010)

After spending the night in our barely-there air conditioned hotel room, our group got back on the bus and drove up the mountains that were looming over the town of Kalambaka: Meteora! Meteora is the site where there are a handful of monasteries (24 to be exact- only one is a nunnery) on top of these natural, tall “mountains” that they call rock pinnacles, or spires. – they were really tall and narrow and really smooth rock! And they weren’t connected to each other, either, they’re all standing individually, and there’s one monastery or nunnery on each one. We only went inside two monasteries on two different spires; we could drive to the first one and we had to walk up a bunch of stairs and trails to get to the second one. They were eastern orthodox Christian monasteries, and very beautiful. The monasteries were built in the early 1400s. Inside the chapel, the walls were covered with frescoes! They were awesome; all of them depicted heaven and hell, judgment day, different parts of Jesus’ life, crucifixion, and resurrection. Our tour guide was very interesting and knowledgeable, so it was great listening to him explain everything. On our tour of the first monastery, we all walked out onto the balcony to look around. They have this huge cross on the balcony, and behind it is this awesome view of the countryside of Greece and the small town of Kalambaka. Naturally, we had to take pictures in front of the cross ☺ I had a sweet little experience up there on the balcony, though. First, let me explain something: in order to look around the monasteries, girls have to wear long skirts covering their legs and they have to cover their shoulders. I forgot about this detail when packing for my trip, so the only shirt I brought that covered my shoulders was my pajamas shirt, which is my Vertical Ministries shirt from school! For those of you who don’t know what Vertical is, it’s aweeesome! It’s a ministry (but not a church) that students can go to (Baylor, MCC, whoever) on Monday nights in Waco, and we have an awesome speaker, Afshin, who talks about Jesus each week…anyway, it’s just a great way to plug in each week and worship for almost an hour (Jeff Johnson Band leads us each week – we are soo lucky! He’s awesome, look him up!) and listen to a good message. Anywayyyy, so I was wearing my Vertical shirt, which says, “I’d Rather Have Jesus” on the back of it…and this British/Scottish (I couldn’t tell which!) lady got all excited when she saw me and took a picture of the back of my shirt with the monastery’s cross in the background, haha! And then when she got her picture, she grabbed my arm and said, “I’d rather have Jesus, too!” hehe, it was just so sweet! It made me happy ☺ So that was my sweet moment of the day!

Anyway, Meteora was beautiful. They said that before the monasteries were built, monks would come to these huge pillars seeking isolation, and would just live in the caves/crevices of the pinnacles! And before they had roads paved up the mountains, they had these huge woven baskets that the monks would sit in and they would pull up via thick ropes. (They still had some old ones that you could see-I don’t know if I could EVER do that, they are so high!)

After we were done looking around Meteora, we ate lunch in another small town at the bottom of the mountains – Kastraki! We went to this old old woman’s little restaurant, who everyone called “momma” haha! She was your typical Greek woman/momma! She had been making ALL of the food in this restaurant for like, 50 years, or something crazy like that. Probably more. Who knows. But we all got in line and filed into her kitchen and got to point at what food we wanted –she cooked tons of different stuff in all these HUGE pots…and the food was amaaazing. I had this delicious lasagna, others had chicken dishes, beef, pork, other noodles, etc. SO GOOD.

The rest of the day was hazy for me. We took the bus back to the ship- it took about 5 hours, yikes. But that night, after showering and packing, Lee and I walked to our ferry that was scheduled to leave at midnight that night for the island of Santorini! It took us about 30 minutes to walk there, and then we were astounded by our “ferry”. It was huge- almost as big as the MV Explorer! HA! We boarded it and found our seats, which were just like an airplane, pretty much, except for more leg room ;) It was actually a pretty fun experience, looking back. Everyone was camped out on the floor, it was fun. Lee and I didn’t get very much sleep, just because it wasn’t comfortable and the lights never turned off- I got more than Lee, though! She was more worried (Rightly so) than I was about people stealing our backpacks and purses! I should probably be more cautious ;)

Day Four (July 16, 2010)

The ferry got to Santorini at about 9 in the morning. Lee and I got off the boat and got on a pretty cheap bus to go to Fira, the capital of Santorini. Once we got there, the trip was sooo worth every worry and every speck of planning! Fira is so cute and traditional and GREEK! We loved it! Santorini is every bit what you imagine when you think of a Greek isle; it has all the white houses and buildings on the coast. Santorini is individually known for its white buildings and blue doors, too, so we saw that everywhere. It was amazing. Santorini was one of my favorite days of the entire trip so far! Lee and I just walked up and down the small streets and alleyways, shopping. We ate lunch right on the water, looking out over the whole Aegan Sea! We were glad to sit down whenever we could, because we were backpacking it up that day; we had all our clothes/toiletries, money, swimsuits, etc, everything was in our backpacks on our backs. And it was flipping hot there too! Basically, we walked around all day looking at everything there was to see, and we took a couple buses to Kampari and Oia. Kampari was where there was a nice, black sand beach, and Oia is the best place on the island! It’s known for its traditional feel and best restaurants and the best place to see the sun set. So we spent the last half of the day there. We only had 14 hours in Santorini, but we made the best of it! Oia is also where the movie, “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” was filmed- we walked down A MILLLION steps to get to the bottom pier (where Alexis Bledel met Costos or whatever that Greek guy’s name was in the movie) and we had a glass of wine and salads and bread and olive oil right next to all these small fishing boats/the SEA! It was amazing!! After that, we walked around the rocks there for a little while, and then we were so hot and tired, we didn’t want to walk all the way back up those stairs that we had come down. Seriously yall, they were so steep and so many. We were just not having it. GOOD THING they had DONKEYS there to take us back up to Oia!!! Haha! This man who spoke no English pretty much threw us up on top of these donkeys and smacked their butts, and without a word, the donkeys were trotting up all these steps! It was hilarious and so much fun! They kept getting so close to the edge, and we were so high up, so it was a little thrilling, even though they weren’t even going fast! Sooo, that was a fun experience. Lee and I found this little house/cottage building thing, and sat on its roof and just talked and chilled there for awhile. It was such a good day. After having chicken and pork gyros (which were so delicious, by the way) for dinner, we watched the sun set over the sea. I haven’t watched the sun actually set like I did that day in such a long time; it was so beautiful and made me so thankful for this trip!
We had to take a taxi to the airport in Santorini, which was only about 10 minutes away. Our plane left on time at 11 that night, and we got back to Athens around 11:30. (9 hour ferry or a 30 minute plane….hmm..) But the airport in Athens is an hour and a half away from the port where our ship was, so…we took a public bus back that only cost 3 euros! Sweet! The bus ride was fun, though, because there were about 6 other SAS girls on it, so we all just talked and had fun. We also sat by a girl who was our age who had been traveling through Europe for 6 months ALREADY- she is from Australia, and was going home in about 2 weeks, she was so excited! Half the fun of traveling is just meeting the different people along the way, for real! On our plane, we had also met these 2 girls who were our age and who were friends from Montreal, and they had spent a few days in Santorini, and were going to Israel that very night! Isn’t that amazing?! They were just traveling just them two that summer! They were really interesting.
Needless to say, we crashed that night when we finally got back to the ship (around 2 am.). It felt good to take a cold shower after being so dirty and sweaty ALLL day! Haha.

Day Five (July 17, 2010)

We slept in a little longer than we meant to our last day in Greece! But we eventually woke up, put on running gear/slouchy clothes, and Lee and I took a taxi to the Acropolis. We climbed up to the top of the hill and walked around the Parthenon and took pictures. It was pretty cool. We were still kind of tired; we wished we had gone there with a tour guide so we could be learning more about it while seeing it, but hey, it was still awesome! ☺ We left Athens that night around 8 PM, headed for ISTANBUL, TURKEY!
-which will be my next post! Right now, It’s almost 8 PM, and I’m on the ship. We left Istanbul last night around 8, so yes, I am a little behind on this blog ☺ sorry! We had class today, have class tomorrow, and then the next day, we arrive in Alexandria, Egypt! I AM SO PUMPED!! Woohoo!
Anyway, thank ya mucho for reading: I miss everyone so much, can’t believe I only have two more countries to visit. Where has the summer gone?! ☺

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Dubrovnik, Croatia

Hi! I’m just hanging out on the ship now. We arrive to Piraeus, the port of Athens, Greece tomorrow morning. Greece has been much anticipated by me and Lee and everyone else; you can just tell everyone is really eager to get out there tomorrow! But I guess that’s the case every night before we arrive in a new port. No one really does homework for these nights – we just all make last-minute plans for the city we’re going to be traveling in.

I can’t believe how quickly Croatia flew by – I wish we had had just one more day in Dubrovnik. This trip is going by so much faster now that we’ve already been to three countries! Greece is the half-way point of the trip. But anyway – let’s get on with it! CROATIA is very very bewitching! Beautiful just wouldn’t cut it ;)

Day One: (Thursday, July 8)
Lee and I woke up and caught breakfast with a few friends and were off the ship as fast as lightning. Just the view from the windows on the ship was breathtaking; the port is in a really nice part of Dubrovnik, with tons of resorts around, and across the water on the hills were some nice houses and resorts. The famed, main part of Dubrovnik, the Old Town, was a barely 10 minute bus ride away from our ship, so we took that. But first, we had to all figure out the currency dealio. The currency of Croatia is the Kuna, and about 5 kunas equal one US dollar. So I had all of these “huge” kuna dollar bills on me…100 kuna bill, 200 kuna bill, even a 300 kuna bill! It looked scary, but they actually only equaled out to $20, $40, and $60. The bus was only 8 kuna, woohoo! So we went to the Old Town immediately.

        Old Town was so charming and beautiful. The entire town is on the coast, and is completely fortified; these ancient high walls surround the Old Town, and you can walk on the top of them and get an amazing view of the mountains behind you, the sea all around you, the island of Lokrum, and you can see everything below you, in the Old Town. All of the buildings inside have that reddish orange looking tiled roof and the walls are all gray stone. It’s just an amazing place! Also, the entire Old Town (and ALL of Dubrovnik, that I got to see) was so clean. They really take care of everything. Even though the walls date back several hundreds of years ago, they don’t look dirty or crumbling or anything. It’s awesome. When we were in Rome and especially Naples, you would constantly be running into some funky smells on several streets, but walking around in Dubrovnik, there’s none of that! The weather there was really great, too – warm but breezy! LOVE that sea breeze!!! ;) Anyway, anyway… so we immediately climbed the couple flights of stone outside steps to get to the top of the Old Town city walls. We walked around the entire city, and it only took us an hour and a half! And we did it leisurely, too. Obviously, the city isn’t humongous. The walls are built on cliffs that hang over the Adriatic Sea, so when we would kinda hang over the walls and look down into the water, you could see through it! Ah the water was so clear and blue and beautimous. After taking some pictures and just enjoying our surroundings, Lee and I had to get back to the ship; we both had separate field trips for our classes that we had to go on.

        My field trip was for my Anthropology class; my class and the world music class joined and took a bus to this very small village on the top mountains of Croatia, called Osojnik. The village is known for preserving its medieval appearance. It only took about an hour to get there, and as soon as we did, we all got off the bus and started walking down their dusty streets, peering through their overgrown yards and seeing chicken coops and donkeys! We had a guide (who I couldn’t really understand, he had a pretty thick accent) who took us into their church and let us sit down while he talked for a few minutes. The village only has about 400 people in it, and ONLY 100 families! I’m sure they all knew each other’s business like nothing else – that’s about the same size as my high school! The guide said that there are about 4 people in each family, so that’s where they got 400 from! After the church, we walked down their roads again and were welcomed into one of the “back porches” that belongs to one of the families. It had a wooden roof over it and all these wild flowers growing on the top of it. As soon as we got there, we had to file in a line, and they handed us each a shot glass full of what I thought was just vodka. I was pretty surprised – they practically forced us all to take shots of this mystery liquor, they were encouraging us so much! Haha! It was pretty funny. But anyway, we all took a shot of it, and guess WHAT?! It was definitely not just any old liquor, they told us that it was moonshine that they had made themselves! Haha! Let me tell ya, that was the strongest thing I’ve ever tasted. I couldn’t even get it all down in one shot! It burned so bad as it went down my throat, I almost started choking haha! But I IMMEDIATELY started sweating and my eyes teared up!! It was pretty funny. A handful of the people on the trip were so excited about the moonshine, they had a few* more shots than that first welcoming one. I don’t know how they could handle it! The couple who were hosting us had these little fires set up for us to roast BACON – from their own cows! They also gave us awesome bread and cheese, so we had ourselves tons of little bread, cheese, and bacon sandwiches. Then, the couple did a “folk dance” for us, but it was just dancing in circles and clapping, basically. I was expecting something a little cooler than that, with more people or something! Haha. But after the “folk show”, they served us white wine that they had made, once again. Haha So we basically paid for moonshine, wine, sandwiches, and dinner – that was all we did on the trip – drink and eat! I had a glass of the wine but that moonshine I swear was just crazy strong! We had dinner downstairs, in this room that was built into the stone. It was like a cool cave, pretty sweet! It was just meat and potatoes and bread, mmm!

That night, I was feeling pretty tired and worn out, so I just cooled it at an internet café for a little bit and talked to my momma on the phone! It was a good day but I had to call it an early night!:)

Day Two: (Friday)
Lee and I woke up around 8 and met Bryant, Lindsey, Matt and Erik at breakfast. We had plans to join another big group of people I didn’t know to go kayaking outside of the Old Town. We took the bus to the Old Town and met up with our Croatian kayak leaders! They were so much fun! It was 2 people to a kayak, and it was an all-afternoon deal. We kayaked near the coast and outside of the city walls over to this natural cave, and we all got out and snorkeled for about half an hour. The water was FREEZING – but it felt so good once your whole body was in the water! I loved it! Snorkeling didn’t really end up happening; we ended up climbing up on some slippery rocks and jumping off of them, and attempted to take some underwater pictures with Matt’s underwater camera. I don’t think any of them turned out, haha. We were given these really delicious sandwiches, too! Okay, so after we all ate and got back in our kayaks, (me and Lee switched places this time –she took the back seat, and our paddling and our kayak went a lot smoother. Apparently I suck at kayaking.) we paddled across the Adriatic Sea (not the whole thing) over to an island that is relatively close to the Old Town, and kayaked around the entire thing! We kayaked over 4 miles that day! Lee and I were exhausted when we were done. It was so funny, because we were always in the back of the group! Haha! We claim it’s because a lot of other people had a boy in their kayak and we didn’t! The main kayak leader and other kayakers would wait for us and a few other stragglers to catch up, and then they’d all paddle away again! It’s because they consistently had breaks, waiting for us, and we never had any breathers! That’s our theory on why we were so much slower than everyone else ☺ Oh, we caught an eyeful around one corner of the island of Lokrum! It was a nakey beach, and apparently an Old Man hangout, too. Let’s just say we had to hold back a few laughs while kayaking around that part!
After that, we all headed back to the ship to get cleaned up. We felt good after spending a day swimming and in the sun. The Adriatic is SO salty! My whole face was practically covered in dried salt when I got back to my room.

        After resting for a little while at the ship, Lee and I met up with the Texas girls, Meredith and Shea, and went out for a late dinner in the Old Town. The Old Town is so beautiful at night! You can tell it’s really safe, too. Every time I went inside the city walls, there are groups of children of all ages running around and playing with each other. We had dinner at a pescarria (I don’t know how to spell it, but a seafood/fish restaurant) that was all outside under these huge, towering umbrellas and that was right next to a smaller pier with all these cool boats in it. Dinner was… interesting. Lee and I both ordered “grilled shrimp”, and I was thinking of something along the lines of what my dad always makes when we’re in Florida – grilled shrimp, that’s already pealed and delicious…but NO! That ain’t what we got! Our waiter put down a huge black pot filled with little shrimp that looked like they had just been plucked from the ocean 5 minutes ago! They had all their antennae and EYES still on, everything! Call me unadventurous or whatever you like, but I didn’t like it at all. It took me 10 minutes to peal the darn little shrimp, and then there was barely enough meat in him once I finally got to the inside! I left the place still hungry. But the company was nice, and I loved the scenery of the restaurant! I’ll post pictures later ☺ After dinner, Lee and I got some gelato (that was my dinner) and walked around Old Town some more. At night, bats SWARM the city! It is actually really spooky, but in a good way. All you can hear are the bats screeching and you see them – there are HUNDREDS of them, at the top of the city walls right above you – flitting back and forth. We didn’t even know what they were doing up there, just having fun?!
Anyway, this was a great day. Love Dubrovnik. Love the Adriatic Sea. Love the Old Town. Love bats!

Day Three: (Saturday)
Early early in the morning, Lee and I headed out of the ship after catching a quick bite to eat in the Garden Lounge to catch our buses for our field trip to Montenegro. We were stupid and forgot to sign up for buses ahead of time, so we were assigned to different buses ☹ But, I was happy once I got on my bus, because I was on the same one as our sweet friend, Julianne! We sat together and talked and then drifted asleep ☺ It was early, and the bus ride was over two hours. Montenegro is a different country if you didn’t know, it is not part of Croatia. It shares the border with Croatia and Bosnia among others that I don’t want to mention (meaning I don’t know if there are any others –yes, I need to look at a map, OK!?) So it took awhile for us to get through customs and all that. But the bus ride itself was beautiful – we got to see the countryside of Croatia and Montenegro, and it’s amazing. The mountains are so tall and such a dark green, and then the sea is such a stark contrast of piercing blue! Love love loved it. Montenegro means “black mountains”, which is very fitting. The mountains are so high, and they just slope right down into the sea, it’s not even a gradual slope! When we got to Montenegro, we first went to the Coast of Kotor; it was built up against a mountain, just like Dubrovnik’s Old Town, and had palm trees and ancient city walls and old churches, too. It took us about 15 minutes to be guided by a tour guide throughout the main streets of the city of Kotor – it was that small! I was sad that we didn’t get to spend that much time there, because we had to get back on the bus and head over to another city called “Old Town”! It was sweet and had the awesome, narrow streets that are typical of Italy! We got separated from Lee (different groups/buses) so me and Julianne went exploring through the streets and went in a few shops, and made a pit stop at the sandy beach that was in the back of the Old Town! The whole day was really nice and everywhere we saw was beautiful and unique, I just wish we had more free time to explore on our own and really experience the towns. Ugh! Oh well. It was still a great day. On our way back to the ship, all of SAS’ buses (4 in total) drove onto this huge ferry that took us over to the other side – a short cut, so we wouldn’t have to drive all around Montenegro again, I guess. I slept the rest of the way back.

That night, what did we do?! We went to Old Town (again), of course! Dubrovnik was having a huge festival this summer, and the kickoff night of the whole festival was this night (our last night in Croatia)! It was called “Libertas”. We got there just in time to watch the fireworks! There were so many people there, and everyone was so dressed up, it was awesome. The ground of Old Town is this ancient white, pearly stone. It looks like marble but it’s not, but it’s super slippery and at night, it makes the place look even more neat! So we watched the fireworks go off right behind the high clocktower with all the people. The bats were present, once again! There was a live orchestra that started to play around 10 PM that night, and we could hear it from where we were! We were down a narrow little alley, eating chocolate pancakes (crepes!)! It was so much fun and the whole place had so much energy. It was a really fun atmosphere; I’m so glad we got to be there that night! Lee and I walked back to the ship that night, and it didn’t even take that long, about 25 minutes. It was a beautiful walk, right next to and above the sea. A great way to end the night!

Day Four: (Sunday)
Our last day in Croatia. Lee and I were pretty sad to leave such a pretty, carefree place. I think this was the safest, most low-key port we have been to so far, and probably will be out of the rest of the countries we will visit! We took our time waking up that morning ;) But as soon as we were up, we had our bathing suits on and took off for Old Town. We caught a ferry (less than 5 minutes, for real) to the small island of Lokrum. There’s a fortress in the middle of the island as well as an old monastery and a botanical garden. People usually go there and use it as a lounging beach place. It was so quiet on the island; people were all taking naps on the rocks around us and just taking it easy! There are all these dirt paths between the trees on the island, and they lead you to the rocks and cliffs and the sea. We decided to skip the nakey beach that day. We laid our towels out on these huge boulders that overlooked the sea, and you can see the Old Town city walls. It was sooo nice! There’s no sandy beaches on Lokrum, so a lot of the locals had these roll-up cushiony loungers, I was jealous. I spent the afternoon reading The Bacchae (for my Religion and Literature class) and even swam for a little while in the sea! It was such a gooood day. On our way back to catch the ferry to Old Town, we saw wild peacocks! Yep, they just roam the island. It was so cool. Oh, and I SWEAR that when you’re walking around inside the wooded paths on this island, it smells JUST LIKE Seaside/Watercolor smells, it’s unreal! I loved it! It reminded me of home!
        Anyway, we took the ferry back to Old Town and were starving, so we found a small pizzeria and split a pineapple and ham pizza. Lee and I were already missing the pizza in Italy, so we opted for the pizzeria instead of a fish place! It was delicious. We sadly made our way back to the ship around 5 PM, saying goodbye to Old Town, the birds, the bats, and the city walls. The rest of that night onboard I spent studying for my Anthropology test, wooohoo!

I miss Croatia already! We were all talking about it, and we decided that we could totally move to Croatia; the only thing holding me back is the language barrier (even though most of them do speak English…it’s starting to not surprise me when Europeans can speak my language – America needs to jump on the multiple languages deal. Europe is way ahead of us!). BUT- I could definitely get used to Old Town and Dubrovnik. I could get a job as a kayak instructor! I could totally do that! If I got better at kayaking first, though. Alrightie. That’s all I have to say. Miss yall!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Naples, Italy

Howdy! Today is a CLASS day. So is tomorrow. Then the next day, we arrive in CROATIA! A country that I know basically nothing about. So, that should be interesting. Our ship left last night around 8 PM from the port of Naples. A lot happened and I saw a lot, so I’ll try to sum up my experiences sort of quickly and try not to get off task ;)

Okay, so last Thursday, on July 1st, me and Lee were still in Rome and our field trip had just ended. The week before getting to Italy, we had the option on the ship to either sign up to stay on the ship in order to get to Naples, or to find our own way to Naples and meet the ship in the port on that Saturday (July 3rd). Lee and I signed off and decided to find our own way. Now in hindsight, we know that it would have been much easier to just let the ship take us, but at the time we thought it’d be a fun experience traveling by ourselves. But the thing is, once we made our decision, the ship wouldn’t let us change our minds- so we weren’t allowed to come back to the ship if we had signed off already, because it messed up the list they had to give to Customs, or something like that. Sooo, Thursday night, me and Lee found our way to the Roma Termini – the main train station in Rome, and bought two tickets to Naples for the 9 PM train. We were stressing big time for a few minutes before the train left, because we could NOT find our train on the screen, and we were asking these two Italian guys (who we thought were security guards, but…I think we were just confused by their strange vests they were wearing) for direction to our train, but they were no help AT ALL. They kept laughing and they led us to a DIFFERENT train! We have no idea what was going on there! But in the end, we found our train and got on just in time. In each little train cubby, there are only 6 seats, and it’s very cramped and HOT. Even though we were a little stressed at the time, the train was SO much fun for us! We were sitting with 4 other people: a middle-aged Italian woman, two Italian 18 yr olds who were dating, and a 20 yr old Italian soldier! Haha. It was so much fun, because after just a few moments of all sitting quietly and keeping to ourselves, the 4 of them all started talking quite speedily in Italian while me and Lee listened in mystery. After a moment, the girl said to us, “Holiday in Naples?” and we tried explaining to her that we were studying and traveling in Italy for a week. She said that she couldn’t speak English, but she actually knew a LOT of words! For the rest of the two hour train ride, all of the Italians tried communicating with us, and it was sooo much fun getting to talk to them! The girl explained how she and her boyfriend were dating, and one of the first things they asked us is if we had boyfriends, haha! They gave us tips about Naples, hotels/hostels there, and the girl gave me a list of the best places and things to see in Naples. She even taught me the days of the week in Italian!! Haha! ::

They were so funny! Now, I just have to say one thing… Lee and I were in love that night with the Italian soldier – he was in his uniform, and was just so charming!!! He could speak very little English, but when everyone in the train started talking to us, he knew where we were from! He asked where we were from, and then answered for us, “Texas?” We were delighted haha. We asked how he knew we were from there, and after they all stumbled for the right word, he told us it was because we talked slow! “Slow, talk slow!” Isn’t that funny?! He taught me and Lee how to say “Gratzie” (thank you) the CORRECT way, since we were saying it wrong the whole time. When we finally got it right a few times, they all cheered for us! It was just so much fun. We were all all smiles the whole time, trying to figure each other out. I was sad when the two hours were up and we had to leave the nice Italians haha. As soon as we got off the train, it was about 10:45 (the train ended up leaving late) at night, and we were exhausted and smelly and gross. There was this man standing there right when we got off, and he asked if we needed a taxi. We needed one to get to a place to stay for the night, so we followed him. He ended up leading us out of the back of the train station, and I guess we weren’t too smart to follow him out there…it was deserted back there! No other taxis were there, and when we got to his “taxi”, it wasn’t even a taxi at all! It was just a plain white car, with no light on top or any marking on the car. We looked inside and there was no meter, either, which is  bad sign! We asked how much, and he said 20 euros, but Lee and I both had a weird feeling, so we told him no gratzie and started walking away. He was NOT happy with us! He ran after us yelling at us, and we kept saying that he didn’t have a meter and it wasn’t a real taxi! Haha! Anyway, the whole thing was just sketchy. We walked back into the train station and went outside to the front, with the fake taxi driver right behind us the whole time, whining. When we got out there, there were TONS of taxis out in front, real ones! That other guy left and we got into a real one. Naples is really dirty and sketcy and not well-lit, so we weren’t feeling super safe that night. We saw a Holiday Inn from the train earlier, so we asked to be driven there! We finally got there and finally felt safe and relieved. Lee and I split the room, and were so happy to find the guy at the front desk spoke English. He gave us one hour of internet free! I was happy to get on facebook again ☺ Needless to say, Lee and I slept like logs that night. We each had a double bed to ourselves, and lo and behold, the room was air conditioned!!! What a blessing! I think we were just so ready to be in bed and secure after our long day, and after seeing just a small bit of Naples. The city is just not what you would expect. It is so poverty-ridden and there are so many deserted, trashed streets, and lots of sirens going off in the distance!!

The next day was much brighter for us, however. We woke up around 9 and got our bags together and took a taxi to the ferry station. We bought tickets to the Isle of Capri for the 11:10 AM ferry, and after a delicious nutella-filled croissant, Lee and I were on our way to CAPRI!! It was only a 40 minute ferry ride, and it was totally worth it. The island is right off the coast of Naples and is a big resort/honeymoon area. I can totally see why! The island is beautiful. The dock where all the ferries and private boats come in is right next to this strip of cute, local gelato shops, pizzerias, and bars. The beach is on the right; we were thankful to find out that it was not a nude beach, like the ones in Spain. We headed for the beach as soon as we were off the ferry. It was so hot there, but the water felt sooo cool and refreshing. The water is SO blue and clear there, I love it! I am a huge beach/ocean person, so this day was one of my favorites.

Lee and I stayed on the beach for awhile, and then we went on a boat tour. We had so much fun! The tour was on this small boat with only about 15 people on it, and it took us around the entire island of Capri, and made a stop at the famed Blue Grotto. It surprised me that there was really NO beach on the island, except for the small strip of one we were on at the beginning of the day. Bluffs make up the entire island for the most part, and there were places here and there that had big, outdoor restaurants/bars on the tops of the bluffs, and a couple of really nice hotels, as well. It was awesome to see all the caves that the island had. The Blue Grotto was SO AMAZING! Back a long time ago, fishermen thought that the Blue Grotto was where the mythological Sirens lived! It is a natural cave that’s underneath the island, and once you’re inside, it is completely lit by this deep, beautiful blue color. It’s blue because the little sunlight that comes in plays off of the walls of the cave, the water, and the sand at the bottom! Once our tour boat got to the spot next to the Blue Grotto, we had to pay another man in a small rowing boat to take us under the island to the cave. Ugh. They totally milk you for all you’re worth, since it’s such an amazing spot! But whatever, we paid it, and climbed into the rowing boat. Only 4 people plus the rower can fit. Our guy was this loud Italian man. He made us all lie down on our backs in the boat, so that we can get under. From the outside of the Blue Grotto, it’s only this small opening in the rock, so you have to be as flat as possible to get inside. He rowed inside with one big push and we all popped up; we were transported into this surreal, blue, cool CAVE! Ahhh! It was just too cool. There are probably about 3 or 4 other row boats in there at a time – the cave is actually pretty big. ALL of the rower men were SINGING really loud in Italian, and they actually all had good voices. Their song was echoing off the walls and made for an even better experience. Mine and Lee’s rower was making fun of us for awhile, by yelling, “Oh my god!” –I guess he was teasing us Americans. Then he made us climb up on his little seat and take pictures with him. I think he just wanted a reason to kiss us; that’s probably why he even wanted the job: so he could kiss all the hundreds of tourists who go to the Blue Grotto! HA! He ended up kissing my neck in a random spot because I kept turning my head, haha, but he got Lee dead-on on the cheek! Yummmm. Anyway, he was funny. If you ever go to Capri, you MUST go to the Blue Grotto! You can walk there from the other side of the island, which is called Anacapri, which is higher up, as well.

After the boat tour was over, we were both pretty starving. We took a bus to Anacapri (other side of the island, higher up, great view of the island at the bottom and the ocean) and ended up meeting two other girls who were on Semester at Sea and who were traveling independently, too! We ended up all having dinner together at a great outdoor restaurant and walking around Anacapri a bit. We had to get back down to the town of Capri to catch our 10:30 PM ferry back to Naples (We didn’t want to stay the night in Capri, because all the places are supposedly pretty expensive). The two girls, Kayli and Lindsey, decided to come back with us and split the hotel room at the Holiday Inn for our second night- that way it was even cheaper than it was before!! We all had fun together and had enough time to get MORE gelato (my 3rd for the day!!) before getting on the ferry. I know, it’s a good thing I’m leaving Italy. I’m pretty sure I gained 20 pounds from all their amazing food.

The next morning, Saturday, us 4 gals split a cab to get back to our ship, since it had finally arrived to Naples. We spent the day catching up on some sleep and uploading our pictures, taking it easy. We were pretty exhausted.
On Sunday morning, me and Lee had signed up for a day trip to Mount Vesuvius, which was so much fun! Mount Vesuvius is the only active volcano still on the mainland of Italy, and we got to “hike” it! We were expecting something like a 4 hour hike up to the top of the volcano, but it was much less hardcore than that. We took a bus to this “rest stop” area, and walked up about a little over a half mile to the top of the crater haha. They gave us pretty sweet walking sticks, though! We had fun taking karate pictures with those. It was SO hot out, but it was worth it to look into the inside of the crater. Me and Lee were laughing once we got there, because we don’t know what we were expecting, but I guess I expected to see lava. Yeah, I know, that was a stupid expectation, but there was nothing of the sort! There was, however, some smoke/steam still coming out of that thing! It was just really cool. You could walk almost all the way around the mouth of the crater, and the view of Naples was amazing from that high up. There were also tons of beautiful flowers up there, surprisingly. We were higher than the clouds, too! Isn’t that cool?! I thought we would be able to see the ancient remains of Pompeii from the top, but we couldn’t since it was too hazy out. BUT – the crater that we were on was not the same one that erupted and was the end of Pompeii- it was actually the collapsed neighboring crater, Montesuma (sp?). You could see it from where we were, though. Pretty sweet! So, that was a fun day. I bought a postcard. ☺ It was also a fun trip because we got to hang out with another girl named Mallory, who also goes to Baylor!

The rest of that day, Lee and I spent cleaning ourselves up and getting some studying done. That night, we ventured into Naples with our group: Megan, Matt, Erik, Lindsey, Bryant, Tiffany, and Sarah. Our destination: Pizzeria da Michele. Supposedly, it is one of the only restaurants mentioned in the book, “Eat, Pray, Love” ? I haven’t read it, but Lee and Lindsey have, so they really wanted to go there! The pizza was DELICIOUS, of course. Not surprising. It was funny, though, because the place was just a small little hole in the wall pizzeria. AND: it was super cheap. Only a 1.50 euro for a big bottle of water, and the same for a beer and a coke! That is basically UNHEARD of, at least it was in Rome. We had to pay almost 3 euro every time we wanted a coke or water. It got old FAST. So we all loved that. Also, one big pizza was only 4 to 5 euros. The pizzas in Rome were at the very least 7.50 euro, so we were ecstatic. We had 2 tables and each table split 2 pizzas each, so we ended up only having to pay about 3.50 euro EACH person for our entire meal; it was a great deal and such a fun night! After dinner, we walked around Naples some and got gelato, of course. The streets were, once again, dark, dirty, and really wet. We were glad we had a couple tall boys with us, otherwise we might have been a little more nervous about walking around in the late evening.

Last day in Italy: On July 5th, Lee and I woke up early, once again, boarded a bus and traveled about 45 minutes to Pompeii! Pompeii was once a thriving city (second largest only to ancient Rome) whose people were all killed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. It was so awesome because we walked the streets of this completely preserved city (for the most part!) and it looked as if it couldn’t be THAT old, because of how well-preserved everything was. The city was much bigger than I thought before going. Except the roofs, everything was there…rooms, frescoes, all the stone streets. The first settlement there was in the 8th century BC- is that not crazy?! It was first a Greek civilization and then the Romans took over. Anyway, it was really interesting. One of the things that stuck out was the prevalence of brothels in the city – we walked through one, and it was so weird to think that all that I was seeing was once real! You knew a building was a brothel if it had a *phallic symbol * on the front of it. Haha so that was fun to see. ☺ Near the end of our tour, after seeing ancient temples and the homes of wealthy citizens, we even saw body casts of real people from back then! When they were excavating, they somehow could excavate the shape that real people had formed in the solidified volcanic ash. We saw one person who was sort of tucking their knees and hiding their face; it was really sad, because that was their last position they took as they were dying from all the poisonous gas/ volcanic ash that killed them!!! (since it wasn’t lava that killed them or poured onto the city at all; it was gas and ash.) We also saw the cast of dog that was trying to bite off his chain to run away. Those really made Pompeii come even more alive. It was fascinating! If you ever go to Italy, you HAVE to go see Pompeii.

We had to be onboard our ship by 6 PM that night in order to leave for Croatia, so I had a little free time. I went with 2 friends to try to find the Archaeological Museum of Naples after lunch. It took us an hour in the sweltering heat, walking around, to find it, but once we got there, it was worth it! We saw tons more artifacts and frescoes from Pompeii and lots of statues of Greek gods and goddesses and allll that, dating back from the 1st and 2nd century AD and even older! We had a 30 minute walk back to the ship, and then our ship threw a BBQ dinner on the 7th deck outside for us, to celebrate the 4th of July! It was muy bien. Ribs, burgers, mac and cheese (my fav), corn on the cob, chocolate chake. YUM. That concludes my trip to ITALY. I do wish I could someday go back to Italy and see: Venice, Sorrento, Verona, Sicily, and Tuscany! AND spend more time in Rome. Italy is just such a great country with so much history and almost everywhere you go (except Naples ☺) is beautiful!

Man, well this was a really long post. I applaud you if you actually read all that! It’s about 10 AM back in Little Rock and Texas, but it’s about 5 PM where I am. Our ship past Sicily a couple hours ago, and we were really close to the coast. I like thinking about what time it is back home, and wondering what you all are doing at that moment! I hope yall are all doing great, once again! Thanks for being my fwends and faaamily!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Rome, Italy

Bonjourno! I am currently in my room back on the ship in Naples, Italy! Me and Lee just got in a little over an hour ago from spending the night in a Holiday Inn in Naples. It has been a very non-stop action, very busy past 5 days. I hope yall are all doing just splendidly; me and Lee have been a little homesick the past couple of days, so just know that we miss everyone!!

ALSO: This picture is of me in front of the ancient Roman ruins, if you click on it I think it can become bigger! Let me know if it didn't upload though!

Day 1: On June 29 (Tuesday), the MV Explorer pulled into port in Civitavecchia, Italy, which is pronounced Chivita-veckya. It’s a small town on the coast of Italy, about an hour and a half train away from Rome. We were in this little fishing town by 9 AM, so we just walked to the train station there and bought our tickets to Rome! I stupidly bought two 24-hour train tickets because I couldn’t understand the Italian lady working the ticket booth and obviously she couldn’t understand me either, since I ended up with two tickets! But it was fine. We got on the train with our group of eight: Lee, Matt, Erik, Bryant, Julianne, and two girls whose names have escaped me! The train didn’t have air conditioning and half of us were on the top part of the train so it was getting a little steamy in there. Me and Lee sat across from these two Italian people, a guy and a girl, and we were practically listening in to their foreign conversation the whole time. It was fun. After 1.5 hours, we were in Rome! It was about 11 or so, and we were starving, so we were instantly on the lookout for a place to eat. We found one pretty soon down a side street about 15 min. away from the train station. It was a pizzeria – a “Trattoria” pizzeria! We were told by a guy from Italy on the ship to look out for restaurants that had “Trattoria” by them, because that means that the place is family-owned, and thus, BETTER ☺ THE FOOD WAS AMAZZZING! We were all so famished and thirsty, and he brought us the best bread and olive oil/balsamic vinaigrette. I ordered my own margherita pizza, and let me tell ya, you can’t go wrong with ANY pizza over here in Italy. I ate the entire thing. It equals out to about 6 or 7 pieces, at LEAST. Their pizza is so so so different than the pizza in America; for one thing, it was much thinner in Rome than at home. Also, none of that grease is present! They also go easy on the sauce. On the second day, Lee ordered a 4-cheese pizza (formaggio (sp?), mmm!) and it had NO sauce on it at all. Also, I haven’t seen any pepperoni pizzas here. On the second day in Rome, I had another individual pizza, and the owner of the place called it the “Hawaii” pizza: it had really thinly sliced ham and pineapple on it, my favorite! Oh my gosh, I hope the Lord lets us eat that in heaven haha ☺ It was sooo good. Ate the whole thing, once again. Okay, I’m getting off track talking about their delicious food. Back to what we did on our first day in Rome!

        After getting away from the awesome trattoria, me, Lee, Bryant, Erik, and Julianne ventured to this beautiful park called Villa Borghese. All of us 5 were signed up for different field trips through SAS that were going to take us on a tour to all the major sites in Rome, so we wanted to explore the city more on our own terms, and see the places that we knew we wouldn’t have time to see the next two days. So to the park we went! It was HUMONGOUS. And super old. We had to climb a ton of steps up to get into the park, and once you were up there, you had a great view of part of the city. We saw so much on the way to the park, including a few stolen obelisks from Egypt, which was pretty sweet! We just walked through the park leisurely. There were tons of gelato stands and drink stands, and so many families with strollers and little kids running around. We were definitely not in a touristy place anymore, which was awesome! After walking for awhile, we came upon this man-made pond. We sat on the edge and stuck our feet in and just enjoyed being in the middle of a park in Rome with our feet in the most refreshing (and random) pond. Did I mention yet how hot it is there?! STINKIN HOT. I thought it couldn’t get any worse than Waco in August, but it can. Anyway, after that, we kept walking the small paths and found an amazingly large statue of a man on a horse. I’m sure it had a very significant meaning, but I don’t know what it was. It was an awesome statue though. On the other side was a SCARY woman in a long cloak, and when you sit right under it, she is staring down at you (as is the horse). It was pretty cool. Bryant and Erik fell asleep for a few minutes while me and Julianne and Lee just rested and listened to a distant band playing a Jimmy Buffett song somewhere further away! It was a very pleasant afternoon! Later on in the day, we took the metro to the area where the Trevi Fountain is– which is very very large and deserves to be as famous as it is. It was really crowded, so after getting closer to it and taking a few pictures, AND throwing a coin in (the wrong way), we got our first gelato in Italy! It was a shop right next to the Fountain, and I had Chocolate Nutella gelato…  scrumptious!!!! The rest of the day was a blur; we went shopping down the side streets for postcards and small souvenirs, and we also walked along the Tiber River, no big deal. ☺

        That night, our group of 5 met up with Matt and his gal pals and Lindsey and her new friends- it was so much fun! We had dinner at another pizzeria near the Trevi Fountain, called Gli Sfizi di Pizza Roma! It was amazing; I had some great pasta with tomato sauce…I know talking about the food is probably getting old already but it really is so different than it is back home. We could totally eat this food forever. The only thing I don’t like is that they only serve still water from the bottle, so it’s pretty expensive, instead of being FREE like back in the states. So, in a nutshell, Day one in Rome was GREAT. The city is awesome – busy, hot, but so much to see. Every street has a story behind it.

Day Two: Lee and I signed up for a field trip through SAS called, “Rome, The Eternal City”…it was an overnight trip in Rome. On the first day, me and Lee met the bus down at the gangplank and it was about an hour and fifteen minute bus ride to Rome. We walked down a few streets until we got to the Roman Coliseum. I absolutely LOVED touring the Coliseum, it was mind-blowing trying to imagine how old it was and that the Romans were really there and thrived there in Rome. The floor where the gladiators fought and people were killed, etc, didn’t last, but you can see underneath it completely where they kept all the lions and other animals/ their cages! It was so cool! You can walk around the whole thing and imagine all the seats and all the people who used to fit inside of the Coliseum. After a couple of hours there, our group walked to the Roman Forum – amazinggg! This is a really large segment of Roman Ruins that have been excavated, you can walk all around and through it. You walk the same streets that the ancient Romans walked, and you see parts of all these buildings they built (that their slaves built). Tons of the columns and statues that used to be there were taken to the Vatican for decoration! I think that the Roman Forum and the Coliseum were my favorite parts of Rome… I loved trying to imagine how ancient it all was, and trying to imagine the city how they saw it. Also, there were several Roman walls STILL STANDING around the city in all these random places – that was coool! It’s amazing how their buildings have lasted so long. But aaanyway, our tour guide gave us all five hours of free time after that, so we left in search of some lunch. This is when I had that Hawaii pizza that I raved about earlier. During our free time, we roamed the streets and spent time in the Piazza Navona and visited the PANTHEON! In the Piazza Navona, me and Lee both bought a piece of art from a street vendor – there were so many art vendors selling their work around this square. My painting is of one of the streets we walked down, and it’s just a classic portrayal of the Italian alleyways with all the flowers and cafes. Lee’s is three smaller pictures of the Trevi Fountain, Coliseum, and something else I don’t know. Haha. Both are pretty and only cost 20 euro each! That night, we ate at a really charming restaurant that had live music and was outside (just like ever place to eat here). We had dinner with our new friends from the trip, Shea and Meredith, who are both from TEXAS! It is so nice to meet people from the South here. ☺ Shea goes to UT and Meredith goes to Texas Tech, so we had lots to talk about! After dinner, our tour guide took us all on a night tour of Rome – we walked to the Trevi Fountain (beautiful at night; me and Lee threw one coin in the CORRECT way: in right hand, over left shoulder. Backwards for me but whatever, it’s supposedly for good luck! Two coins = come back to Rome with the love of your life ;) I didn’t want to waste two coins just for that though! Haha) We also visited the Spanish Steps and took lots of pictures. We were exhausted by the time we got back to our hotel – a Best Western (with no air conditioning, once again.)

Day 3: This day was a little crazy! After waking up in the hotel and getting breakfast there (sliced pineapple and an abundance of bread/croissants and some chocolate cereal) the group headed straight for the Vatican. We didn’t have to wait in the LOOONG line, thank goodness! We had to go through security and everything – just like if you were entering any other city! The Vatican was the most overwhelming thing ever. Our tour guide took us out first onto this deck that overlooks the private grounds that only the Pope can walk – he has all these nice, private gardens all to himself. From the deck, you could see the top of St. Peter’s Basilica. We walked through several rooms of Roman sculptures, tons of Raphael’s paintings, Pope “stuff”. ;) I don’t even remember all that I saw, it was so enormously overwhelming. Our tour guide told us to stay close, because where we were, the Vatican Museums, there are thousands (THOUSANDS!) of other rooms where it is easy to get lost in! Yikes. So I stayed close. Our guide led us right to the Sistine Chapel – which, if you somehow haven’t ever heard of, is this beautiful chapel that Michelangelo painted – it was sooo cool! He had tons of frescos (sp?) of Jesus’ life and Moses’ life, and the famous painting, “The Creation of Man” where God’s finger is reaching out to touch man’s finger. We spent time in there just being quiet and trying to see everything. The wall you enter into is covered with the scene of judgment day, which was cool, too! Ok, I am trying to remember everything to tell you, but this day was so overwhelming, because we saw SO MUCH SO FAST. Immediately after the Sistine Chapel, we went to St. Peter’s Basilica, which was sooo awesome. The biggest church in the world. It was beautiful. Right in the middle is the apostle Peter’s tomb. You have to take a few steps to see it, and it was blocked off, but they have a huge marble monument over it. It was very elaborate…as was the entire church. So many monuments dedicated to all the popes and religious figures…me and Julianne and Lee were talking about this earlier: we think it was so overwhelming because we can’t imagine how honoring all these religious figures is very “Christian”, or right. I can’t really explain it, but it was like making these popes equivalent to mini-gods! I didn’t like that too much. The Jesus that we know isn’t that way! So, yeah – that was overwhelming. (That’s the only word I can think of to express how I felt!)
The rest of the day was at our leisure – until 5:30 PM. Me, Lee, Shea, Meredith, Julianne, and Alison spent the day walking around and revisiting the Pantheon, eating lunch, shopping, getting gelato again, etc. Lee and I and my roommate for the trip, Kelsey, had to all get our bags from the bus at 5:30 because we weren’t going back to Civitavecchia that night – we had decided to find our own way to Naples and meet our ship in Naples! Now, THIS was an experience, let me tell ya! Actually, I’m not going to tell you right now because I am utterly exhausted, and Lee is sleeping on her bed, and it’s making me really jealous, so I’m going to join her. (On my own bed, NOT in hers, just to clarify!) But I can’t wait to ‘blog’ about our journey to Naples later!

Gratzie for reading and keeping in touch, it means so much to me!!! I have been with Semester at Sea for 18 days, but I feel like I’ve been gone for a month or more! It’s crazy. We have 48 days left until we get back to Virginia! Please keep praying for me and Lee, and also pray for the protection of the other students in SAS – I forgot to tell you after Barcelona, but 3 students have already gone home. One was sent home for conduct reasons and the other two for personal health problems….61 people were pick-pocketed/purse snatched in Spain! They say that Rome is known to be more dangerous than Barcelona with things like that, too, so God has really been protecting me and Lee!!! Ciao!