Friday, June 29, 2018

Freiburg: Last Days

Right now, I am sitting in my room on a late Thursday night, listening to someone play Viva La Vida by Coldplay on the guitar in the room below me. I usually find these late night guitar sessions annoying, but now, on a night when I cannot sleep, it’s pretty soothing. I can’t sleep for a number of reasons. First, I ate a big plate of herb-cream pasta about an hour ago at Schlappen (one of my favorite places to eat here in Freiburg), and I am still completely stuffed. Second, I have a presentation tomorrow that I have yet to prepare for. And third, I can’t stop thinking about the week that lies ahead. As of tonight, I have 9 days left in Freiburg, and there is so much to do in so little time. 

I started my final module last week, and not only do I have a presentation tomorrow, I also have a paper due on Monday. How can I balance schoolwork with my strong inclination to spend every day of this last week with the people in my program? Normally, when I’m back at Manhattan College, I would choose schoolwork over my social life because I know that I can hang out with my friends any other time. But here, it’s different. I don’t know if I will be able to see the friends that I have made abroad after my time here. There just may not be “any other time.” We’re all scattered across the United States, some in places that I know I would never have the motivation to visit. Maine? Minnesota? Ohio? I never really believed that I would be going to any of those states in my entire life. So what do I do? All I know is that I want to make the most out of my time here, and I also know that I can’t do that without my friends. I’m still going to finish my work, but it’s taken me a while to realize that sometimes, it’s okay not to stress about schoolwork. It’s okay to let loose and hang out with people that you like, especially if the chances of you ever seeing them again is slim or uncertain.

Furthermore, I also have to pack a semester’s worth of clothing, items, and souvenirs into one suitcase. One suitcase! I don’t know what I was thinking when I decided to bring just one suitcase with me to Freiburg, but I’m realizing a little too late that I cannot go shopping without ensuring that I have enough room in my luggage for my new purchases. Unfortunately, I have no self-control and bought way too many things that I will need to somehow stuff into my check-in and carry-on bags while simultaneously making sure that they stay within my airline’s weight limits. So far, I have avoided facing this inevitable challenge. But as my time here in Freiburg is limited, I will have to face it within the next few days.

Finally, I have to complete both of my lists. I have made a list for all of the places that I want to eat at and the activities that I want to do before I leave. Quite frankly, they are pretty short lists because Freiburg is a relatively small city. However, I have food in my fridge that needs to be used up, and I need friends willing to do the activities with me. The good news is that I was able to check one activity off of my list tonight. There’s a blue bridge right in front of the Hauptbahnhof (main train station) that people sit on, and I’ve always wanted to do the same and watch the sunset. After Schlappen today, my friends and I decided that we were in the mood to do exactly that. So we climbed up to the tallest curve of the bridge and sat there overlooking the mountains, the train station, and the people riding their bikes right underneath us while the sun went down. As I sat there, I reflected on my semester abroad, and I all I felt was happiness and a sense of fulfillment. Freiburg, I love you.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Lisbon, Portugal: The end

The last two days of our trip were nearing and no one was ready to leave. We all missed our families and the states but we knew we would miss the beautiful country more. The last two days we explored a little, ate a lot more and just took in the last of Lisboa as much as we could! We had our last class lunch and our last class dinner and our last gelato. It was a bittersweet time. Being able to have the opportunity to experience a once in a life time trip with some of my closest friends, and getting to blog about is something I am forever grateful for. I made the most amazing memories, learned so much more than I had anticipated over the course of 17 days and lived a lifestyle not many people will be able to. The country of Portugal will forever hold a place in my heart and I will most definitely be back one day to explore the other cities they have to offer. But for now, it's time to take my final exam, pack up all my things and head back to the states.

Ciao Lisbon, I will miss you!

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Lisbon, Portugal: Getting cultured

Brrr! Who knew that Portugal could be so cold this time of year! We had one day off and we’re we blessed with beautiful weather, so of course we day tripped to the beach! The beaches here are absolutely breath taking and we are all so happy we got to enjoy it! 
Back to reality for day 6... 
Our first day trip! Out of bed early and ready to explore a different city... Evora. As we a long journey we made it there and got to see more amazing sites and got to eat more amazing food. Our first stop was the São Paulo, the chapel of bones (which could be uneasy for some people that aren’t into that) but I found it exhilarating! And not to mention a beautiful chapel. Next we walked through the town and stumbled upon the (remains) of the Roman Palace of Diana. How blessed we were to get to see such a piece of history all these years later. We then walked some more, saw more amazing views and then headed over to the University of Evora. Manhattan College sure if beautiful but wow was this place magical! The tile and the stone work was incredible and it was something none of us will forget! After s long commute home we got rest because we knew we had another day trip the next day...
Tomar was smaller than Evora...peaceful but more touristy. However, if I had to choose, this was my favorite visit so far. We got to go to the Convent of Christ and I have never been more speechless than that day. The castle was the most amazing thing I have seen in all my life. From the art details, the stone, the rooms and ruins everything was just beautiful. I felt a sense of peace when we were there and the view from the top was one I will never forget. My roommate and I stopped for about two minutes in every room or every new thing we saw just to take it all in. 
So far I have not been disappointed in anything I have seen (or eaten) but my food blog is coming! I am very blessed to have this experience to visit such a beautiful city. 

..... Sintra is up next! Can’t wait to tell you about the colorful city we will soon experience!  

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Lisbon, Portugal: More adventures

The day has come! Sintra! All trip we have been waiting for this day trip! We woke up a little down because we did not have the greatest weather, it was cold, foggy even a little rainy..but we were not going to let that ruin what we have been waiting for! We got on a train over to Sintra and when we got there
we took a bus closer to the top (walking was not our specialty). From there we went to the Castelo dos Mouros and what a breath taking view that was! (I do not advise a trip there if you are afraid of height). I am afraid of heights, however I made it as far as I could before I got to nervous and the view was so worth the anxiety! We got to see the most colorful of houses, the greenest of hills and the castle itself was just amazing. Walking through it gave me the chills (not because of the rain) because we walked through a castle that has been standing for so many years.
From there we walked up a BIG hill to reach the Palace of Pena. Let me tell you, that was straight out of a story book! I actually felt like I was living in a fairytale! The colors, the castle doors, the room an d the views! Absolutely amazing, there was nothing like it.
As the days went on we saw more museums, more churches ate more lovely food and experienced the amazing city of Lisboa! We then traveled to Fatima, the holiest place in Portugal. We excited for each day and each site we got to visit.
Fatima gave you a different feeling than any other place we visited. I felt the presence of God more than I had and I felt a little more sentimental there; seeing the graves of the three children and lighting candles for my intentions. It made me look at things differently which was a whole different experience in itself.
We were coming to the end of our trip and there was nothing exciting about that....

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Lisbon, Portgual: The beginning

Hello from Lisbon, Portugal! Day 5 here in Lisbon and
there have been so many sights visited, food eaten and memories made already!
The day of arrival we all felt the jet lag- we were all anxious to get to our hotel (Hotel Dah Dom Alfonso Henriques) to leave our bags and explore the beautiful city we would call home for the next 16 days. Our first day we wondered around to get a feel of this city, found some great lunch spots and saw incredible buildings. We gathered for a class dinner- coming out of comfort zones trying new fish and dishes and of course,we found the gelato. After a long day of travels we planned our excursion for day 2 and went to sleep. 
Day 2: We found it rather hard leaving our beds because of the rain, but we were still eager to go and explore the city. We went to Praca do Comercio- an amazing museum that told us the story of Lisbon while getting a visual picture at the same time. After that we visited the Lisbon Cathedral- Sè. One of the most amazing places I have ever seen- After getting to experience that we were left on our own to adventure around the city some more. Obviously we found the shopping and the gelato (again). Later in the night we experienced more of the wonderful food Lisbon has to offer- however those who don’t like seafood might disagree! 

Day 3: We woke up caught a train and a bus and made our way over to the Santa Maria Belèm museum. The archaeological museum in Portugal- which was fascinating but also very quick! So after that we head our separate ways to grab some lunch and do some more exploring! We found the “Time out” market- which I read all about before I got here- they have many different vendors with all types of food, desserts and drinks! We tried the famous pastry pastel de nata- to die for! After eating all the food and sweets we could for a day we headed back to our hotel, got some rest because day 4 was an exciting day…
Day 4: Castle of São Jorge- In central Lisbon it was the castle that was ’the ancient seat power’ for over 400 years- where military troops were housed. Going up on each elevator the view got more and more breathtaking. We got to the top and I was actually speechless. It overlooked the whole city and I honestly felt on top of the world. This was one of those moments where you can not even put into the words to beauty and the effect it has on you. The pictures I have attached don’t even do it justice for the magnificent view we got to see. Besides the view the actual castle itself was just extraordinary. We saw the actual ruins from the military sights- we got to see where they would crowd the people during battle. We even saw peacocks running around the castle too! 
The history and the beauty of the city of Lisbon is astounding and we still have so much more to see and experience! 
I will be sure to make a whole blog on the restaurants we went to and food and gelato we ate because its so good it deserves its own! 

Stay tuned for more on Lisbon coming very soon...

—Kara Della Vecchia 

Freiburg: Mixed Emotions

In my last post, I said that I would be discussing my birthday, Berlin, and my Vosges Mountains field trip in the next post. However, it’s now almost June, which means that in a little over one month, I will be leaving Freiburg. I have plenty of mixed emotions about this that I want to talk about instead of the things that I have done this past month. So, here I go. First, I do miss home. I miss my family and my best friend. I miss American comfort fast food chains like Chipotle and &pizza. I miss knowing that I can walk across the street and have bubble tea waiting for me. I miss my queen-sized bed and its fluffy blue comforter. I miss having day trips to Washington, D.C. and walking along the waterfront at Georgetown. I miss the Bronx and the rest of New York City, with its streets that smell like pee and dirty subway stations. I miss going downtown and people-watching at Washington Square Park. I miss the hustle and bustle and the crowded streets. I miss my roommates and our nights in eating sandwiches from Best Deli at 1AM and talking about whatever we had to do the next day. I miss a LOT of things from home.

The thing is, I have really come to love Freiburg. Its laid-back atmosphere, accessibility, parks, trams, döners, young demographic, and walkability are things that I cannot say I will be able to see and experience again when I’m back home. I love that the grocery store is less than a 5-minute walk away, or that the tram is right in front of my building. I love how Seepark and its lake are basically in my backyard, and that I can go there whenever I need to unwind or have a nice after-class hangout with friends. I love the square in front of the library, which is always filled with students lounging around and little kids playing in the fountains. I love the student bars, which don’t have cover fees and offer drinks for less than 5 euros. I love that I can easily rely on there being vegetarian and vegan options on every menu of any restaurant or fast food place. I love that I can get to France and Switzerland in less than two hours. I love that I am surrounded by the Black Forest. But most of all, I love the people that I have met. My roommates, especially Lala (the first one I met when I arrived) have been nothing but nice and accommodating. We get along well, share food, and clean together without any disagreements, which has been great. I can’t imagine what my time here would be like if I did not get along with them. At first, it was a bit awkward trying to talk to everyone, because I knew that they all spoke German and that it might be annoying to speak English to a non-native German speaker like me. But they never really complain, and that makes me feel better. Now, with only one month left to go, I can’t see myself living anywhere else.

And the people in my program. I think I’ll miss them most of all. There are 21 of us in the Environmental Studies program, and all of us have become really good friends. Despite living in different neighborhoods of Freiburg, we always find time to hang out with each other whether it’s going to Mudom, the student bar, at Engelbergerstraße or having a picnic at Seepark in Betzenhausen, which is where I live. Being in the same classes for four months has made us a tight-knit group.There are no cliques. There’s no drama. We all get along without any problems. We are experiencing Freiburg together, and I think that’s what keeps us all so close. Whenever we’re together, there’s no pressure. We’re all American college kids with similar interests in environmental protection, and while we have differences, they are easy to push aside. I think that is my favorite thing about us — that we all manage to be friends despite these differences. There are some people in this group who I know I never would have befriended if I were back home, which is why I am so thankful that I have the opportunity to befriend them here, now. They’re all so funny, nice, comfortable to be around, and great people. I love them all so much, man.

I know that I still have quite a bit of time left here, but it’s going by so fast that I can’t help but already reflect on my experience here and the people that I have met. I’ve slowly begun to prepare myself for how I’ll be feeling come July 7 — the day that I leave. Right now, I know that I will be extremely sad to go back to the U.S. But when I arrive home and get to lay in my own real bed, maybe my sadness will gradually turn into acceptance and bittersweet happiness. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Freiburg: Classes and Trips

Where has the time gone? I’ve been in Freiburg for over one month now, and it’s hard to believe. I guess time really does go by faster when you’re having fun. Since my last post, I have finished my German class. My grade was “sehr gut” or “very good,” which made me laugh but I’ll take it over the passive-aggressive “ausreichend” (“sufficient”) any day. I really am proud of how much of the language I have learned and picked up. I now know how to order food, say time, and read signs. Most of all, though, I’m relieved that I don’t have to worry about buying milk rice instead of white rice because I don’t know what “milchreis” means on the package at the grocery store (this is a true thing that happened to me). I knew absolutely NO German before coming here, but look at me now! 

We also had a week-long break for Easter, which was exciting. My friends and I decided to go on a trip through Italy and visited Venice, Florence, and Rome. Venice was all water, canals, and cute little streets that led to beautiful empty squares away from the crowds. Florence had vegan gelato, an exploding cart show for Easter, and an amazing lookout spot where we had a view of the city during sunset. Rome was crowded and hot but filled with pizza, paninis, and wine that we never tired of. Now, I know you’re probably wondering what my favorite city was, and I don’t have to hesitate when I say that it was Venice. It’s funny because I never really cared for Venice before going there. I had always pictured myself in Rome or Sorrento. Venice was just another city that was popular enough for me to agree to go to. What I didn’t expect was how much I would come to love it. No matter how deep into the city I went, it never got dull. Every street and square was just as beautiful as the last, so I was able to avoid the crowds easily without sacrificing the views that the city had to offer. I had my first authentic gelato, cannoli, and pizza in this city too, and that makes me love it even more. Overall, though, my Italian escapade was sehr gut, or should I say molto bene? Either way, it was very good!

I also began my environmental courses last week. In fact, I just had a presentation today about urban social problems (fingers crossed that I did well). It’s been interesting so far. The class that I am currently taking is about Freiburg and the ways in which it became a green city. It’s amazing to be able to be in a place that I’m learning about. We get to go around the city and see parts of it that we talk about in class. Today, for example, we went to Haslach, which is a neighborhood that was built to be a Garden City. Last week, we walked around the city center to look at the ways Freiburg has implemented the concept of “mixed-use” into the city. Tomorrow, we’re going to tour the city by bike! Freiburg is a huge cycling city, so not only will I be learning about a sustainable mode of transportation, I will also get to feel like a true Freiburg resident.

Up next on my adventure abroad, I’ll be celebrating  my birthday, going to Berlin, and taking a hiking trip to the Vosges Mountains. I’ll make sure to write about these experiences in my next post, but for now, tschüss!