Wednesday, May 29, 2013


Milan - fashion capital of the world by many accounts and the major hub of industry and business in Italy. 
 We rode the historic tram system, which started in 1862 with horse cars and in 1893 it was electrified.
 We got 2 day passes and so we (I especially) rode around on them to sightsee.
 The Milan Duomo or Cathedral. There is a roof area to walk on and inside this massive building we felt like the Fellowship entering Mines of Moria when they come to the pillared room. Many couples were getting wedding photos taken in front of the Duomo.
 This monument in the square near the Duomo. The plainclothes police make sure no one sits up by the lion for very long, they come and drag people off and also they were booting the bracelet sellers out of the square.
 The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is the world's oldest shopping mall. It is named after the first king of the Kingdom of Italy. It felt a bit like another Cathedral because of the domed roof. 
 Us posing in the underground train station.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Cinque Terre

We went to one of the most beautiful places in Italy, the Cinque Terre (Five Lands), five fishing villages on the coast of Italy. A train system connects the villages, but also hiking trails. 
 The three days that we were there, four of the village trails were closed, so we were taking the train to the villages. This is Riomaggiore village.
 In a wondrous beachy dream. :)
I and Hannah also in a sunshiny wonderland.
 Oh man, imagine getting to your house by ladder. Imagine fitting your new IKEA chair into your house, by LADDER! This is in the village of Monterosso.
 So we hiked the trail, winding between vineyards and lemon trees. The scent was amazing! The weather was moody but delightful when the sun decided to show.
 The village of Vernazza seen from the trail.
 Vernazza as we descended into it via alleys that barely fit a whole person at some points.
 An excellent lunch eaten by the ocean. A delightful halfway point in our day of hiking.
 I went off alone, and discovered this hidden beach that is reached through a tunnel! (okay so it probably isn't hidden, but it felt really special cuz no one was there but me.)
I was the only one who saw these particular waves crash into this particular piece of beach. I also sat on a rock near the ocean for a while until suddenly a massive wave came way up the beach and completely soaked me! Luckily I was wearing my backpack on my back and facing the ocean, so my stuff didn't get wet but wow... :)
 Coastline view of Vernazza as we headed back to Monterosso.
 This just seems so unreal, so beautiful and so unusual. This is also on the trail heading back.
 A delicious cone of fried calamari and shrimps.
 Yupe, unique signage.
 Ruthiey and Hannah in Riomaggiore.
 Nighttime view of Riomaggiore.

Down the coast, still in Riomaggiore. This was well worth the trip to see these villages and enjoy the natural wonders here. The Cinque Terre receives my full endorsement as an excellent place to relax and see amazing things. The ocean is worth a dip as well, even if it is accidental. >_<

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Messina to Napoli

 We took a train from Berlin to Frankfurt, spent the night in a train station because we had to catch a shuttle to the Frankfurt airport at 3:50am. We didn't sleep at all that night. Then after an early morning flight, we waited all day in the Milan airport for a 8pm flight to Sicily. So we were extremely exhausted by the time we reached Sicily. Gracious and beautiful Karise met us as the airport and took us to her home in Messina where she is working as a ministry assistant in a church there. It was night when we arrived, and after an amazing night sleep in her apartment, we woke to this paradise-like island to explore.
The view from the port. Karise took us to try all kinds of traditional and delicious Sician food.

 The view from on top of the city.
 We went to the ocean one day and I got stung by a jellyfish, while you do not need to see this visual of the sting, I personally have always wondered what that would look and feel like. It looks like this and feels a lot like being zapped by a electrical shock. It swelled up something crazy and Karise found out that we should have immediately scrapped the surface of the sting with a credit card, which would have removed the stingers and helped prevent swelling. Anyways that was fun. :)

 One of the ladies from the church Karise works at offered to take us to the nearby town of Taormina to see the sights, so we went there one day of our 6 day stay with Karise. This is me and Ruthiey overlooking the bay in Taormina.
 The sunset in Messina.
 Watching the ferries from the beach in Messina.
 Traditional and epic pizzas, I don't think pizzas back home will be able to compete anymore. Sician dining is a new experience in that they don't bother you about needing the seats, they seem to think you have come to spend the evening there. It is very conductive to good conversations. :)
 The day came to say goodbye to Karise. :'( We took the train in the morning to Palermo, which is on the coast of Sicily still but on the other side. From there we got on the overnight ferry towards Napoli.

 View as we departed the harbor, watching the sun set over Palermo.

 This is the next morning - 5:30 as we watched the sun rise over Mount Vesuvius in Napoli. We didn't sleep much on the ferry but it was worth the view!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Munich and Berlin

So we finally went to Munich the city after being in the Munich train station several times on the way to other places.
 I went walking to the River Isar and took pictures of art beside the river.
 Under a bridge facing towards the city.
 View from a bridge heading back into the city. A German guy told me that the Isar is fed by the Alps melting and so is very cold and clean. That also seems to account for the interesting color the water is here.

 Then the sad day came when Grace's 10 days of travel was over and we all got on the train to take her to the airport. Hannah was pretending it wasn't happening and she would wake from this terrible dream in a moment. We all felt a bit homesick after we waved goodbye to her through security, and looked forward to our own flights home.

  We decided to go to Berlin the day after Grace left. With the cheap regional trains, it takes about 12 hours to get there, so we spend a lot of time in train stations and train stops that day.
 I love the wide open plane-hanger-like-feel of this station.
 Me looking out the window. Train travel has never gotten old, it is really relaxing and so freeing to be able to get up and walk around when ever you want to.
 We got to my favorite train stop ever, in the middle of nowhere and I woke from a nap as we arrived and felt a little disoriented and like I had been dropped onto another planet. :) Our next train was delayed about an hour so we got a vending machine dinner.
 You know we are tired when we start making jokes about the kind of cookies we are eating. These guys are called Hits, so we were joking that we'd take another Hit for the team while we ate them.
 Pretending to be homeless vagabonds. Still at the train stop.
 Finally we got to Berlin and after a nights sleep the whole place looked much better. Ruthiey and I went on a free walking tour and saw the Holocaust memorial. it is 2,711 concrete slabs all on this sloping field and very interesting and thought provoking memorial.
 A view from down in the middle of the memorial.
 Underneath this very ground is the bunker where Hitler died, it was crazy to think it looked so normal but so much crazy wickedness has gone on in this city.
 The Berlin Wall, one of the remaining sections. We watched a documentary about the Wall and the people who escaped East Berlin during the Cold War. It was so interesting being here and learning about that, suddenly it is all so much more real than reading the history books about it.
 Hannah and I rented bikes to explore the city as it is huge, it felt great to be back on a bike after so many months of walking! :)
 Couple more shots of the wall.
 This food stand is under the railway, it sold the most amazing Currywurst, which is extremely popular in Berlin.

 We got it with the fries and shared this amazing plate of food amongst the 3 of us.
 Okay, what sold me on Berlin and made it my current and I think forever favorite city was the street art. Simply incredible and so rich and varied.
 This is the Fernsehturm (Telecommunications Tower) in the background of this shot.

 I love the contrast between the old buildings, the boats, the flowering tree and the graffiti. Awesome.
 What an image to walk by on the street!
 I think I've seen this before...
 I love that this art incorporates the surroundings.
 Life isn't over just yet you know. :)
 Dock 11. I love this image of the silhouetted people on bikes. This city has had the most bikers of any city I've been to so far, and the best bike lanes and traffic light signals. (sorry Minneapolis)
 Me in front of the Berlin Cathedral - apparently build to rival St. Paul's in London, but a tour guide told us that, so it might not be true. :P It is a cool Cathedral regardless.

We discussed that maybe we all loved Berlin so much because we had heard almost nothing about it and had no expectations for how awesome it was going to be.
Berlin, I am in love with you. You could not be a better mixture of people, places, food and art.  Thanks for the warm welcome. :)