Monthly Archives: March 2011

Zio.

Neighbors can be nosy, but in Italy, in Trastevere, they are the nosiest. I never thought I would appreciate the seemingly constant appraisal and surveillance of the Trasteverini until a few weeks ago when I was having a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad morning. Continue reading

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Trip Report: Sorrento, Capri & Pompeii

I spent the second weekend of my spring break in southern Italy with two of my roommates, Angela and Stephanie. We met up in Naples, ate some pizza, and hopped on the Circumvesuviana train to Sorrento, where we stayed for two nights. We took a day trip to Capri from Sorrento, and we did a side trip visit to Pompeii on our way back to Naples and Rome. Sorrento is one of a handful of towns in the Amalfi Coast region of Italy on the Tyrrhenian Sea.

Sorrento at sunset

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Trip Report: Naples

Dean Martin sings wistfully of amore in old Napoli, but everything I had been told about Naples had me prepared to be mugged the instant I stepped off the train. Current and former study abroad students advised me to get off the train, go directly to a pizzeria, and get back on the train immediately. Do not wander, do not explore, do not pass go, do not collect $200. Rick Steves warns travelers to guard against pickpockets, swindlers, and mafiosos; Napoli is the home of the Camorra crime organization. All of these doom and gloom warnings had me imagining Naples as some sort of post-apocalyptic wasteland where dark-haired men brawled and shouted in the streets, tossing pizzas and snatching wallets along the way. Continue reading

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Trip Report: Paris.

Paris feels like somebody took Rome and stretched it out. Paris has wide boulevards in place of Rome’s winding alleys, verdant parks instead of cobbled piazzas, and speedy subways rather than wheezing buses. I noticed a lot of similarities between the cities, but Paris felt distinctly more like a working city. It seems like everyone in Rome must work in service or tourism because the city’s industrial, commercial center is invisible. There are no skyscrapers in Rome. There are no skyscrapers in the heart of Paris either, but the tall buildings of the La Defense financial district pop up at the eastern end of the Champs Elysees. Continue reading

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Trip Report: Edinburgh.

“For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move; to feel the needs and hitches of our life more nearly; to come down off this feather bed of civilization, and find the globe granite underfoot and strewn with cutting flints.”

“To travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive, and the true success is to labour.”

In between writing The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson found time to travel far and frequently from his Edinburgh home. I discovered these two wonderful quotes of his during my all-too-short stay in Scotland’s capital city. Continue reading

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Trip Report: Cork & Galway.

Of course I went to Ireland for St. Patrick’s Day. I made the trek out to the Emerald Isle with four boys to kick off my spring break week to celebrate what the Irish call “Paddy’s” in Galway. After a rough (but cheap!) night of sleeping on the floor at the London-Stansted airport, we arrived in Cork, Ireland. There isn’t much to do in Cork besides a few whiskey factory tours, but the town of Blarney is just a 20-minute bus ride away. Blarney is home to the Blarney Castle, which is home to the legendary Blarney Stone. We figured we probably wouldn’t be back to the Cork/Blarney area any time soon, so we decided to head to the castle to see if we could get the gift of gab.

Blarney Castle

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Trip Report: Budapest.

This seems like a good space to lodge a not-so-formal complaint about history curriculum in the American education system. Although I’m an American Studies major, I’m not ashamed to admit that I know far less than I should about 20th century American and world history.

In the primary grades, my history classes usually made it through the Industrial Revolution. In a year, covering the Gilded Age was a stretch. We’d usually skip ahead to the Great Depression, and we’d talk about the Holocaust and World War II during the last weeks of May. I never had any sort of education about World War I until my junior year of high school. Even then, the Great War got maybe two days of attention in my AP U.S. History class. We crammed everything from Hiroshima onwards into a review day before the big standardized exam. I never learned about Korea or Vietnam, JFK or Reagan. I also never learned about the Cold War or Communism.

As it turns out, those would have been good things to know about before going to Hungary, a country which figured very prominently in those periods of history that were blatantly and unapologetically overlooked in my primary and secondary history curricula. Continue reading

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