Friends, More Friends, New Countries, and The End… (Soon)

First off- apologies. While most of you are probably glad I haven’t posted in awhile, I know that by taking such large breaks I am letting a handful of people down. I am so behind on this dang blog. With the way my memory works, if I don’t get this started now, I’ll forget all the good stuff (and then I’ll kick myself later). So in advance I’m very sorry that this is such a long post- I tried not to ramble too much 🙂

I have to go all the way back to January for this one guys- #tbt status. Early in January, I was extremely lucky, and my friend Courtney came all the way from Minnesota to visit me and go on an adventure! She flew in on January 4th, and we returned to Bolzano for the first couple days. I showed her the city, including the best cappuccino in Bolzano, at the Temple Bar. Yes, best cappuccino can be found at the Irish bar. The Christmas market was still on, and we spent an evening there, drinking Gluewein, and seeing all of the delicious treats and pretty gifts for sale. Courtney got to see a practice (how exciting!) and got lost in the rink. We ordered a pizza from my favorite pizza place, and basically explored the city. It was fun to see it through new eyes with a friend.

10400420_10153891992469749_6407223220280289042_n
Bolzano Christmas Markets

On our way to Munich, we had a couple hours layover in Innsbruck, Austria. I took Court up the nordkettenbahn, which I had done with Mac and her family a few weeks earlier. Since then, it had snowed in the mountains, and Court and I were rewarded with the most incredible snowy sunset view of the city possible.

734885_10153891996434749_393618374032489321_n

12439338_10153891996409749_3529242065362468179_n

After descending, we caught our bus to Munich and checked into our hostel. We made friends while taking free walking tours of the city and hanging out in the hostel bar, and explored the city along with them. One thing you’ll notice when travelling in Europe, no matter where you go or what hostel you stay in, you’re guaranteed to meet at least one Australian. It’s odd at first, but once you notice you won’t be able to ignore it. So, we toured the city with a couple of Australians and a couple of people from the US. We went to Haufbrauhaus, the famous beer hall, and tried to sing along to the live band playing. We went with the same group to dinner where we tried pork knuckle, and walked around the open air market. It was an awesome couple of days in the city.

1526284_10153900456929749_1212698664482300654_n5476_10153900457009749_1565420324492005751_nHaufbrauhaus in Munich

One of our days was spent taking a tour of Dachau, the concentration camp. It’s difficult to describe this experience. I’ve read so many books about the Holocaust, and as a kid I was morbidly fascinated with the history of World War II, but the horror of the event didn’t set in until I walked those grounds. I don’t claim to speak for everyone, as you’ll probably experience it differently if you visit, or even each time you visit. We were lucky to have a guide to teach us about the site, and to tell us stories. The audio guides are very good, but can overwhelm you with information. Seeing the site with a human guide is something I recommend. Visiting Dachau was a somber, humbling, and horrifying experience. It’s something I think is very important, and people should try to do someday. It’s not fun, I wouldn’t put it on your bucket list, but rather consider it something you owe to the people that died there. In my opinion, it’s our job as human beings to learn about the horrors, so we don’t stand by if we see them being repeated.

Dachau was obviously a deeply depressing experience, but a necessary one. After that, Court and I spent the rest of our time trying to explore Munich to the best of our abilities. We actually got to go to the Redbull Crashed Ice even in the city with Mac and Kayla, and had a couple more amazing nights out in the city. We drank good beer (even though she’s allergic to gluten…. oops) and ate good food and had an awesome time. It was sad to see her go back home, but it was awesome to show someone from home where I’ve been spending the last months. I’m sure we’ll continue the adventures this summer, and I cant wait.

After spending some time with Court, and getting my dose of home for the holidays, I returned to the “real” world of hockey and studying. In January, the Eagles returned to the regular season, and played Salzburg once, and Neuberg three times. We unfortunately lost to Salzburg 3-1, but the team showed that they were ready to play later in the month, and we beat Neuberg by a total of 26-1 in three games. The rest of January was spent in practice or studying. After a condensed time of so much travel and constant movement, it was nice to settle back into a routine. I spent my days reading, watching lectures, and going into the city to walk around or grab a coffee.

February started much the same way, but now the team was playing to keep our playoff dreams alive. We needed to win the next three games in order to assure ourselves a playoff spot. We succeeded on the 4th, beating the Aisulu team from Kazakhstan 5-3. In the next game, however, we failed to get enough points on the board, and despite a hard fought game we lost 3-1. These were some of the roughest hockey games I’ve ever played in, and the Italian refs were slightly unprepared to deal with the women’s team playing that way. There were a lot of penalties, and some serious hits being thrown around. Luckily, we pulled through with no injuries, and won the final game 4-1. Unfortunately, because we won only two of the three games, our playoff hopes were resting on another team- Vienna- to win in their game versus Budapest. Vienna did not end up winning, and so the Eagles’ EWHL season ended there. Vienna ended up winning the cup, and I know a lot of the Eagles’ players were disappointed that we didn’t make it to playoffs. The older girls on the team, myself included, made sure to mention that this season was a building year. New players, not having Chelsea for half the season, and other unforeseen circumstances all contributed to a bit of a wobbly year. Next year I’m sure the Eagles will come back better than ever, and I’m excited to see where the team goes from here.

12565532_10208461583480085_3247069192169958841_n12141791_521805967984587_458436863329306842_nEagles Hockey, 2015-2015

Outside of hockey, February was much the same as January as far as studying and spending my time in Bolzano. Valentine’s weekend was the exception, and I went on a long weekend trip with several other imports to London! I landed Thursday the 11th at noon, and left late Monday afternoon. It was an amazing trip, and with 6 girls we got to take an entire hostel room to ourselves with no weird strangers, win! Thursday most of the girls got in in the early afternoon. We took a walk to the Tower Bridge, took a bunch of pictures, and tried to get used to the underground transport system in the city. After we had the whole group together, we went back to the area around the hostel, got a pizza for dinner (because I don’t have enough of that in Italy, right?) and got some drinks to plan our couple days.

Friday morning started with a walking tour of the city. If you ever travel through Europe, I can’t recommend these tours enough. They’re an awesome (and cheap) way to learn about the city while actually seeing the places you’re learning about. After seeing everything from the TRUE city of London (which is only about a square mile) to an original Banksy, to Buckingham Palace, and learning about how much the Queen owns in the city, we ended the tour at a pub, and got some lunch while planning our next move. We asked the tour guide what he would recommend doing, and he gave us some great ideas for theatre performances to attend. Later that night, we got cheap tickets to a play called In The Heights, and it was actually pretty good! It was a small stage, with seats on both sides, so you were essentially on top of the set, and actors and dancers rushed past you all night. It was a great way to end the night for sure.

12745763_10208640398750355_5294112908463412198_nImports abroad

Saturday, Mac, Kayla, and a girl named Sarah and I all went on a bus tour to Stonehenge. It was a couple hours outside of the city, so we spent our time on the bus listening to music or sleeping (as usual). It was absolutely bizarre to see Stonehenge pop up alongside a busy road, and it was no less weird to see it in person. For such an old, unexplained landmark, it’s not nearly as isolated as I had always imagined. We spent a bit of time taking pictures and reading about the landmark, and spent some time warming up because it was so cold, and hopped back on the bus to head back to London. It was definitely something I had always wanted to see, but I should warn any of you that imagine going that it’s a very long trip for what you get to experience- if you’re short on time I would stay inside the city limits and explore there.

12745496_10208640397430322_7399525111554450120_n
12729383_10208640421630927_7707614205772669656_n
12715369_10208640397670328_6574323894155255150_n

After returning from Stonehenge, we met back up with the other girls and continued to explore London. We attempted to go out to bars several nights, but failed to find anywhere that wasn’t far away or smokey and sketchy, which was probably for the best. We played card games back in the hostel bar, laughed way too hard at stupid games, and got stared at by people who didn’t speak english. Not a bad evening.

Sunday morning, we went out to explore the markets in London. We found an awesome part of the city with food stands, antique stores, music, clothes, jewelry, and art, and spent the entire morning wandering through the stores there. Mac and Kayla had to catch a flight back to Munich, and left early, but the rest of the imports continued to wander around the city and find new views to take pictures of.

12743871_10208640427951085_4889233599468691652_n

12742583_10208640395750280_6303120765720026981_n

Later in the night we found ourselves back in the market square we had started our original tour from. There was a man playing live music, so we took a seat and listened, resting our feet for a moment. After his set was finished, a man performing a comedy routine (like a clown but not creepy) came out to perform. Our momentary rest turned into an hour or so, laughing hysterically at this great performer. Following his act, we wandered out of the building to see loads of limos and black cars lined up, and people exiting in evening gowns and tuxedos. Little did we know we had come across the exit for the BAFTA awards. We saw famous people like Cate Blancett, Eddie Redmayne, Matt Smith, Sascha Cohen and Stanley Tucci leaving. Matt Smith even waved at me! (…after I yelled “Doctor Who!,” unable to remember his actual name.) After everyone had left, we found ourselves in Chinatown, where the Chinese New Year was being celebrated, and asked some policemen for a good place to eat. We grabbed dinner, and wandered back to the hostel after a long day. It was a great way to end the night! Monday morning, everyone else had flights to catch, and left veeeery early to get to the airport. I was up as well, but my flight wasn’t until 8pm, and I had a day to kill by myself in London. I said goodbye to the girls as they left, and figured out what to do by myself for a day.

One of the stops I made that day by myself was actually pretty spontaneous. I was walking to where Shakespeare’s Globe theater is located, when I came across a museum. I had so much time to kill, I figured I might as well go exploring, and inside I found original works by Dali and Picasso! It was another great accidental find, and I spent an hour or so looking at all of the artwork and seeing the installations. One of the guards on duty told me that Guernica, Picasso’s famous piece on the bombing of, well, Guernica, had recently hung in that building (not sure if it was true, but very cool to hear). I was bummed I missed it, but so excited I had happened upon this incredible art by accident. (The museum’s name is Tate Modern, in London).

Following the museum stop, I managed to find my way to Shakespeare’s globe. As a book lover, and general word-nerd, I loved reading Shakespeare’s works in school. I knew a little bit about his history outside of the plays, and knew the Globe Theater was where he mostly performed, but to see the building (reconstructed) was definitely a fun experience. I took a guided tour, and saw the stage and the theater seats. The Globe continues to put on performances, and the season was just beginning, but unfortunately I had a plane to catch and couldn’t stay for a performance. I know that if I go back to London that will definitely be on my list of must-do things in the city.

12729130_10208640428311094_4000698330133726221_nShakespeare’s Globe

Following the Globe, I made my way to Harrods. Walking around the famous department store, I felt a little conscious about my clearly living-out-of-a-bag/hostel appearance, and didn’t bother to try on any Valentino or Balmain dresses. It was fun to visit the store because my mom had actually been there once, back when she and my dad were first married. I picked out a little bag tag for my luggage with the Harrods name on it, and got out of there before I spent too much money. Someday, when I become a millionaire, I’ll definitely return. After Harrods, I didn’t have much left of my day, so I grabbed a quick lunch (I caved on my “cultural” foods rule and got a pulled pork sandwich) and wandered back to the hostel to pick up my things. I took public transport to the airport, and made my flight to Munich successfully. I spent the night at Mac and Kayla’s, and went back to Bolzano the next day. It was a very successful weekend trip, and I was glad to see London, as well as the other imports 🙂

12718170_10208640396830307_5164940293927824002_n

12733439_10208640395670278_1360828796543259527_nHarrods and selfies, flying solo in London

The rest of February was spent studying and spending time in the city. It was a little colder, but nothing compared to a Minnesota/Connecticut winter, and I was grateful to have such mild weather as I’m without a car. Bolzano is beautiful, and if you’re ever in the region, it’s a great spot to relax in the Italian alps before hitting Austria or Germany 🙂

In early March, I was lucky enough to have another friend from home, Jillian, make her way to Europe to visit. When I asked her where she’d like to go, she mentioned Germany and Hungary, to see where both sides of her family had come from. I set a path, made hostel reservations, and on March 3rd set off to Munich to pick her up the next day. I spent the night at Mac and Kayla’s (again), and made it to the airport with no problems, picked up Jillian, and we made our way back to Bolzano that day. I had practice that night, and Jillian was jet-lagged, so she stayed in bed while I went to hockey. The next day we spent touring Bolzano and spending time in the city. I showed her all of my favorite spots, but it was actually raining and snowing in the city, which I hadn’t seen in a very long time! I’m convinced Jillian was jinxed. Despite the snow, the day was a good one, and I was happy to show another person why I love Bolzano.

12674859_10208893439156207_826896411_o

The next day, Jillian came with to an Eagles Italian Championship game. It was totally what she wanted to do, taking a bus a couple hours there and back, after such a long flight. She was an awesome sport, and we won the game, and got back to Bolzano around 11pm. Jillian and I spent the night packing and watching Netflix. The next day, we caught a bus to Munich, and checked into the hostel around noon. We met Mac and Kayla for lunch, before making our way into the city and exploring. I showed Jilly some of my favorite spots, and we hung out in the hostel bar that night, with the people I had met there in earlier stays.

**Edit: I was informed by my friends (Tom and Mariana) at the Wombat’s hostel in Munich that they didn’t get the shoutout they deserved. I agree, and apologize. I’ve stayed at the Wombat twice now, and these two have been amazing hosts/bartenders/friends both times. I’m sincerely sorry for my oversight, and hope that this solves the problem. PS: if you’re ever in Munich, the Wombat is the best hostel ever. End Edit**

The next day, after a beer too many, we had another lazy day of exploring the city and getting good food. We met back up with Mac and Kayla at Augustiner Keller, a famous beer hall. The restaurant is known for its outdoor beer garden in the summer, but in the winter it’s not generally advisable to try to eat outside. We were packed into a small cabin, with the heat on high, and got a great meal of typical Bavarian food. Afterwards, Mac and Kayla went back to their apartment, and Jillian and I went back to our hostel to close the night. It was fun to introduce friends from home and friends/teammates from college. It’s rare that those worlds cross for me!

12443392_10208893430515991_1843982668_o (1)

The next day saw Jillian and I leave for Salzburg. There, once we’d dropped our stuff at the hostel, we went into the city to meet some of the imports playing there for lunch. Julie and Hillary, both MN hockey players, took us to a mountaintop bar for lunch, with a great view of the city. We were lucky, and Salzburg had the clearest skies I’ve seen. We spent the afternoon hiking to the fort that overlooks the city, and the evening we spent walking through the quiet streets and talking. We got dinner in another bavarian restaurant, and ate far too much good food. (Side note- if anyone at home knows of any good bavarian places in MN, please let me know. I’m getting increasingly worried that I’ll have to attempt to cook this stuff on my own.)

12499222_10208893440516241_564305079_o12422339_10208893439876225_1516770532_o

12722221_10208893456876650_1284339236_o.jpg

Unfortunately, our stay in beautiful Salzburg was a quick one, and the next day we boarded a train to Budapest. Budapest is different from the previous cities we’d been to, as it’s relatively young. Hungary as a country is younger than I am, “born” in 1994 from the remains of the cold war. It’s got a great mix of old and new, and is famous for its Turkish bath culture. Our days in Budapest were spent exploring, taking another guided tour (can’t recommend these enough) and walking around the giant city. The mixture of communist-era and neoclassical buildings is difficult to explain until you see it for yourself! Through the tour we went to the highest spots in Budapest, and seeing the true expanse of the city was fascinating. Our tour guide told us about the turbulent history of Hungary, and it was very interesting to learn so much about a country I didn’t know much about to start. Jillian spent time finding gifts for her family, and we visited the riverfront and the cathedral in the city. The inside of the church was all red marble and gold, and it may have been one of the most beautiful churches I’ve seen in Europe (a big feat). My mom would’ve loved the colors 🙂 Our last afternoon, we decided to check out the bathhouses, and to see if they’re all they’re cracked up to be. Simple answer- yes, and sooooo much more. The bathhouse we went to was called the Szechenyi Bath. It had 18 hot pools, both indoor and outdoor, saunas and steam rooms, massage rooms, spa treatments, and locker rooms there for you to change. We immediately regretted not spending more time there. I have never wanted to stay somewhere so badly- it was a great way to end a long trip!

12528729_10208893457436664_783357105_o

hungarian breakfast

My trip with Jillian was awesome. We hit 4 countries in 9 days, and got enough souvenirs for every single member of her friends and family. It was fun to travel with someone I’ve known for so long, and I can imagine continuing the trend with friends and family in the future. Jillian caught her flight from Budapest back home, and I caught another train back to Munich to infringe on Mac and Kayla’s hospitality yet again. I had one last stop on this journey of craziness-Berlin.

Mac, Kayla and I took a flixbus in the morning to Berlin. I’ve gotten very, very good at long commutes, and this one flew by. The city of Berlin is (obviously) another that is steeped in history almost everywhere you look. The recentness of the events in Berlin is striking, and the tour we took on Tuesday was an amazing look into the city’s trials and more recent work to overcome a history of division and pain. Before learning about the history of the city, however, we went to a concert in the incredible Mercedes-Benz Arena. We went to see Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, who put on a great show. For 60 euros, we were front row (on the side of the stage by the bass, but hey, front row) and got to see all of his throwbacks performed live. For having 0 expectations going in, it was an awesome performance.

macklemore2
macklemore

The next day was our day to see Berlin. After the tour (seriously people- free tours, take them) where we learned all about East and West Berlin from a girl who was 2 years old when the wall fell, we went on our own to see a preserved portion of the wall. The graffiti and artwork covering the wall is striking. It’s an incredible city, and I am very glad that Mac Kay and I made it north before we left. We took a late train that night back to Munich, and I left the next morning for Bolzano again.

12674566_10208893589639969_653028798_n
12528489_10208893580839749_1092038691_o
12443076_10208893589079955_1184988965_n
12498734_10208893590679995_1424117824_n
One foot in East Berlin, one foot in West Berlin

All told, in about 12-13ish days of travel, I had spent something like 54 hours on trains, buses, and public transportation. Needless to say, I was tapped. I made it back to my bed, passed out, and have spent this week getting back into the groove of life here. It’s been an amazing trip, but I am very very glad to be back to “normal.” Tomorrow (the 19th) we have another Italian Championship game, and next weekend is the finals. I still have no flight date home yet, but I should be back in Minnesota the first week of April. Basically, I’m on my last three weeks here in Europe. What the heck!? I have no idea where this time went, and I’m kicking myself from the first two weeks, when I couldn’t wait to be home again.

My time here in Europe has been invaluable. I’ll write more about that in my next post, a sort of “finale” if you will. All I’ll say for now is that between the places, people, cultures, teams, foods, and experiences I’ve had/met/eaten here, I would never trade these six months for anything. Yes, it could have been more perfect, and yes, I struggled at times. But life is never perfect. There’s no such thing as a fairytale experience here in the real world, you have to write your own story. And with this blog and my time here, despite corny lines like that and horribly delayed blog posts, that’s what I’ve tried to do. So thank you again for continuing to read, or text, or send letters, or board a flight for the unknown to visit.

The last few months have been CRAZY. Wrapping up my travels, absorbing as much as I can, making connections here and from everywhere, and taking friends around the continent… all while attempting to finish this online class, play hockey and maintain sanity. It’s nice to be back in Bolzano. In that same time, my little sister won a gold medal, went to the state tournament, and generally just kicked ass (captain clutch is her nickname… it would be completely douchey if it wasn’t true). My little brother has continued to rock the Junior hockey world, playing far too much hockey in such a short time. I mean he’s stuck in Iowa.. there’s only so much trouble he can get into right? My mom and dad tried to get to everything, but unfortunately Italy is a bit longer of a roadtrip than Iowa or the Xcel Energy center, and they didn’t make it out here this year. I haven’t seen my family in 6 months, which is the longest I’ve ever gone without those losers. Needless to say I’m just a little excited to get home to them. If you see a Snodgrass lurking around Eagan or Apple Valley, give them a hug for me. Even better if they have no idea who you are 😉

Talk to you all soon! I promise I’ll be a little better on the next post, as it will likely be my last one about Europe. I love and miss you all back home and around the world. I’ll see you soon.

Love and hugs,
Snoodles

Advertisements

Oh yeah I have a blog..

Hello everyone! Happy New Year! I hope that you all enjoyed your time home/away with friends, family, loved ones, expat friends, teammates and dogs (shoutout to Charlie!) A couple weeks ago now ago I was sitting in an apartment in Munich, having just sent Kayla back to the states to watch UConn play in a bowl game and see her fam. Then, I was sitting in an Austrian ski resort, having spent an incredible three days in the alps climbing mountains, curling, and enjoying a real European vacation for the first time. After that I was back in Bolzano, breathing a bit before a final week of travel with a friend from home. Now I’m back in Bolzano attempting to motivate myself to actually do work and get back to “normal.” I’m so sorry, but this might be a long post. A LOT has happened lately (which I seem to constantly say). I also have to mention the fact that the MacDonnell clan was incredibly welcoming in adopting me for the holidays. It’s nice to have friends and families that so encapsulate the Christmas spirit, and I’m so thankful to have had some people to celebrate with 🙂 I received the best stocking ever (with peanut butter!!!) and enough surrogate family love to get me through this holiday away from home. The Macdegrass/Snodonnell Christmas was incredible.

Having said all that, the week before Christmas was probably the best week since I’ve been here in terms of travel and sightseeing. Mac, Kayla and I went on an immersive Italian experience, where we hit Venice, Florence, and Rome in 6 days! My feet were just a little sore, and I regretted my tendency to overpack, but the things we got to see in just 6 days made up for everything. I feel like I’ve finally seen Italy, after living here for close to three months.

On sunday a couple weeks ago, I took a bus to Munich after our game to meet up with Kayla and Mac. I went a little out of my way, as I live closer to Venice, but I wanted to drop some stuff off at their apartment and it’s always nice to travel together! Monday morning, we took a bus to Venice. When we arrived at the bus stop, we could see Venice, but weren’t exactly sure how to get across the water. After asking the bus driver (who didn’t understand English but seemed to gesture to the right, so we went right), a few missed turns, and dealing with the rudest tourist desk lady ever hired, we hopped on a waterbus to San Marco, Venice, where our hotel was. It’s hard to explain how immediately unique Venice was until you hop on a waterbus, passing gondolas parked next to beautiful ornate buildings, and actually see the bridges and canals. You can tell right away that your visions of Venice weren’t far off- it really is the City of Water!

IMG_4457
Canals in Venice- parts of the city were dark even during the day
IMG_4758
Men stood on the bridges asking if you’d like a gondola ride

After getting to San Marco, we attempted to find our hotel room to drop off our things before wandering around the city. I don’t know if you’ve ever walked through a corn maze, but take that experience, add street signs in Italian, canals and bridges, dark, narrow streets, luggage, and people attempting to get you to eat/buy things, and you’ll have a better understanding of Venetian streets. It was a very touristy city, and most storefronts had masks, Merano blown glass, magnets and keychains for sale. Eventually, we wandered through the city for long enough to find the hotel on a side street we had passed three times already. It was a serious relief to put down my overpacked duffel bag, and we quickly went back out into the city to explore.

IMG_4441I have no idea how they got a tree to San Marco, but it was enormous and beautiful

IMG_4414
It gets dark quickly these days- this was probably 7pm, and the sun had set at 4:30ish
IMG_4410
Piazza San Marco- the main city center in Venice
IMG_4409
Saint Mark’s Basilica- under construction as most buildings seem to be 

After wandering for awhile, we stopped at a restaurant that offered a tourist deal of a good meal, dessert, and a free peach bellini as a welcome gift. Most restaurants in the cities we visited had waiters standing outside asking if you’d like to eat, handing you menus, and pressuring you to come inside. It’s definitely different. Venice was gorgeous, and one day was a perfect amount of time to be there. The next day, we woke up to breakfast brought to our room, drank some coffee and ate a quick meal, and hit the road for stop number two- Florence!

Florence was probably the stop I was looking forward to the most. As some of you know, I’m a slight art nerd, and the prospect of seeing Michelangelo’s David in person had me more than a little excited to reach the city. We actually took a train from Venice to Florence, which was the first long-distance journey I’d done via train. The ride went smoothly, and we made it to Florence in the early afternoon. After the trek to the hotel, we got a map of the city from the front desk, asked about the major sightseeing stops and where to find them, and planned our two days. It worked out that we were able to see David the first night, and we left the hotel to venture back into the city. Florence didn’t have the same closed-in atmosphere as Venice, and had wider streets and no canals. The tourist items for sale were also different. While Venice focused on blown glass items and masks, Florence was filled with leather goods for sale. It was interesting to see that even the tourist shops differed in the two cities.

When we reached the museum where David is located, we sort of did a double take. For a building housing one of the most famous statues in the world, the Accademia gallery was far more average looking than we anticipated. We also expected a longer line, but after waiting for about 10 minutes, we were in the building and had purchased tickets. Now, I hope I’m not spoiling anything by writing this, but one of the most incredible things about the David statue is the moment you see it. One second, you’re walking through a room with some paintings on the wall that you don’t recognize (and honestly, aren’t looking at very carefully because DAVID IS HERE SOMEWHERE), and when you turn the corner, you’re met by a long hallway, and through the arch at the end the statue is framed and is just suddenly there. It’s incredible that a marble statue can jump out at you like that. The hall to reach the statue is lined with unfinished works of Michelangelo, and the rough forms of men seem to reach through the marble as if struggling to get out of the stone. Even in their unfinished forms, the humanness of the statues is a little unnerving. You don’t even really see them to begin with, because David just draws you down the hallway. We were lucky to be there during a quieter hour, and there weren’t many people there. A couple of classes of students sat on the floor, being forced to sketch the statue by teachers, and their disinterest was obvious. The statue is on a pedestal, surrounded by a barrier to prevent you from getting too close. There are no benches in front of the statue, probably due to the massive crowds that I’m sure form there during rush hours. The ceiling forms a dome above the statue, and you can completely circle the room to see every angle of the work. I couldn’t believe how large David was. It’s easy to read that the statue is 30 something feet tall, but until you’re standing there attempting to stare without looking too creepy, I don’t think you can fully absorb that fact.

IMG_4494
Unfinished Michelangelo Work

IMG_4495

Unfinished Michelangelo Work

IMG_4488

The Man of the Hour

IMG_4492

The Accademia

There’s not much I can say about the statue that hasn’t already been said, and my pictures are far worse than the ones you can find on google images. Needless to say I crossed off a major bucket list item, and seriously recommend seeing David in person someday. You don’t have to be an art nerd to appreciate that room.

After several attempts to drag ourselves away, we left the museum and went into the city to grab something to eat. We went to a couple bars, and stayed out late. We made it back to the hotel and woke up a little bit later than anticipated the next morning. The next day was filled with more art, more wandering, and me attempting to shake a slight hangover (oops). Another art-nerd moment happened when we went to the Uffizi Gallery, and saw Boticelli’s Birth of Venus and Primavera (Allegory of Spring). These are some of the most famous artworks ever created. The Uffizi gallery also has works by da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Raphael. It’s a beautiful museum, and I seriously recommend you see it at some point.

Our day in Florence ended at one of the highest points in the city. Our hotel concierge recommended a hilltop to watch the sunset. We were joined by many students who had spent a semester abroad in the city, and the as sun went down many champagne bottles popped and students cheered to a great semester. It was a happy coincidence that we were there, but we got to see a wonderful sunset that made the climb up the hill worth it.

IMG_4560IMG_4564.JPGGoodnight Florence

On Thursday, we took a bus from Florence to Rome in the late morning. I fell asleep on the bus, and woke up to a concerned Italian man in the seat in front of me offering me his jacket as a pillow… I’m pretty sure my contorted neck and loud snores worried him. We arrived safely in Rome, and checked into our hostel. This time, we shared a room for 6, and attempted to claim bunkbeds close to each other. We asked the concierge for a map and some good sightseeing locations. We quickly figured out the metro, and managed to make our way to the Colosseum before sunset. That was another “woah” moment. Stepping out of a modern metro tunnel and looking up to see the colosseum across the street is a definite experience. The mixture of old and new is disconcerting in Rome, especially when you’ve seen pictures of the historic monuments since you were a kid. You never picture them as existing in a busy city, but they’re not exactly isolated places. Unfortunately, the Colosseum wasn’t open, so we took a lap, and promised to make it back in the morning.

We continued walking as the sun set, and passed a large monument we later found out is called the “Alter of the Fatherland.” It was beautifully lit up at night, and guards stood outside on the steps. It was also massive! It’s much more impressive than many American monuments I’ve seen. Italy knows how to honor the fatherland.

IMG_4603.JPG
Alter of the Fatherland

After walking around, we made our way to another big stop, the Trevi Fountain. We were extremely lucky with timing on this one, as the fountain just underwent a 2.2 million dollar renovation, including cleaning and new lighting, and reopened in November. After seeing it in person, I can safely say that the fountain looks incredible. We sat by the fountain for a little bit, we each made a couple wishes (making sure to toss the pennies in the right way) and took some pictures, before going to a restaurant nearby for dinner. Once again, dinner didn’t disappoint.

IMG_4631IMG_4635

Post dinner, we decided to wander back to the Trevi fountain. We grabbed some gelato and sat to watch the fountain. About ten minutes later, all of the lights shut off, and the crowd started booing. In another one of our weirdly good luck moments, we had actually come back just in time to see a new light installation. The campaign to get the 2020 Olympics in Rome had created a projection display that played on the Trevi Fountain to promote their work. It was really cool to see firsthand, and Rome officially has my vote for the Olympics, if only so I can go back someday.

IMG_4616

Before

IMG_4638

After

IMG_4630

Lots and LOTS of people

IMG_4641Goodnight Roma!

Our final day in Italy was a full one. We started the morning by revisiting the Colosseum. From the outside, it’s very impressive, but it’s the inside where you can see just how large the structure is. It was incredible to walk around and imagine the events that would have been held there. It’s pretty cool that human beings invented and built arenas for sports all the way back to the gladiators! After walking through the Colosseum, we crossed the piazza to walk through the Roman Forum. This is a large area of ruins, and it’s open to the public with a ticket to the Colosseum. We took some pictures from a hill over the forum, but didn’t stay too long. We had a lot to accomplish 🙂

IMG_4682
Cheesin
IMG_4676
No Russell Crowe to be found, unfortunatelyIMG_4689
The Roman Forum

The next stop was the Vatican city. If you’re not Catholic, or even particularly religious at all, this place is still a must see simply because so many people in this world ARE. It’s the center of one of the biggest religions in the world, and I would argue it’s worth seeing simply for the history there. Vatican City is actually its own country within Italy, and has strict rules for how to behave and dress. (No problems for us at this time of year, but no inappropriate clothing, shoulders and knees can’t be visible) It’s the smallest recognized independent state in the world. We first visited the Vatican Museum, and then went around the wall to see St. Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel.

I was largely unaware that the Vatican has one of the largest, most impressive art collections in the world (which was kind of a “duh” moment for me.. oops). I could have spent hours in the art galleries alone, and seeing the frescos on the walls. The Vatican includes pieces by Salvador Dali, Boticelli, Bernini, Michelangelo, and Raphael in their massive collection, and you could spend days looking at the separate rooms and ceilings alone. We didn’t have that time, so I took in as much as I could while we were there.

IMG_4704
Stairs in the museum- look how artsy I am! 😉
IMG_4699IMG_4700IMG_4698IMG_4701
Various frescos in the Vatican

The “big two” of the Vatican are St. Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel. We saw the Chapel first. Back in high school, I was required to read a book titled Michelangelo and the Pope’s Ceiling. It described the process of creating the chapel, from selecting Michelangelo to descriptions of the artwork itself and what it represented. As a self-proclaimed “art kid” I was fascinated by the methods and work that the Sistine Chapel required- can you imagine painting an entire ceiling laying on your back?! The real thing lived up to and exceeded every expectation I could have had. I have no pictures from this part of the tour, as they were forbidden. I wasn’t disappointed by that rule, however, because any picture I could take on my iPhone would never do that room justice. I spent my time there with a sore neck, trying to take in the magnitude of that ceiling.

After the Sistine Chapel, we visited St. Peter’s Basilica. This building was designed in part by Michelangelo, Bernini and Bramante, and is one of the most intricate Renaissance buildings ever built. When we visited, the Holy Door, which is only opened on very special religious occasions such as Jubilee Years, was open. Entering the church through this door has historically represented crossing the threshold into the presence of God, and the forgiveness of the pilgrim’s sins. We entered the Basilica through this door, and were immediately struck by the interior of the church. The ceiling, walls, and floor were decorated with gilded designs, angels, and great statues lined the aisles within the building. The canopy over the alter was designed by Bernini, and is a massive wooden sculpture lying directly beneath a dome lit by windows. To give you a sense of the scale, the letters around the top of the walls are 2 meters high- 6.6 feet – but they look small in all photos. This is a place where the atmosphere sort of speaks for itself. Although it was full of tourists and people who had traveled great distances to see this holy site, it was nearly silent. There was an area where visitors could pray privately, but the majority of the church was open to pictures and exploration. This is also the site of Michelangelo’s Pieta statue. The statue depicts Jesus lying in Mary’s lap following the crucifixion. It is the only artwork that Michelangelo ever signed. It was an incredibly moving site, and well worth visiting.

IMG_4714

IMG_4718.jpg
A terrible picture of the PietaIMG_4716
Those letters up top are 6 feet tall… this place is enormousIMG_4713Trying to get the full size of St. Peters- vertical panorama doesn’t do it justice

When we left St. Peter’s, the sun was setting. We decided to go to one more historical site, and walked across Rome to the Pantheon. The Pantheon was built in ancient rome, and has stayed very well preserved. Today, 2,000 years after it was built, it still has the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome. While not as extravagant as St. Peter’s, it is an incredible glimpse into history. The Pantheon was thought to be finished in ~126 A.D. Standing in that dome and realizing how much older that it was than my home country was awe inspiring. It would probably be much more impressive in the daylight, when the light streams through the oculus, but it was something that we wanted to see before we left.

IMG_4740

After our busy day, we wanted to sit down and eat a nice dinner. We chose a restaurant in the piazza near the Pantheon, and sat outside. (Which was incredible itself- December, and eating outside? Yes, please) As we watched the sun go down and ordered our food, entertainers including guitar players and bands, and even an opera singer, performed in the piazza. It was the perfect end to such an amazing week with my best friends. Our dinner was excellent, the site was beautiful, and as we sat there and talked about our week it hit us just how many incredible things we had seen. It was a little humbling to realize that we had only been in one country for that week, and I still felt as though we hadn’t hit everything. I’ve always had “travel” in broad terms on my bucket list, but being here has made me realize that it’s not enough to just put that off as “someday,” and that it’s more of a priority than I had previously thought. “Someday” is too passive, and if I can spend a whole week going to the “big sites” Italy and still feel rushed, I’m going to be dedicating a lot of time going to the places on my list during my life. It’s also made me excited to see more of the world. The travel bug is real people!

We had a crazy early flight from Rome to Munich in the morning, and left the hostel around 5:30am. The flight went smoothly, and we arrived back to Munich on Saturday morning. We somehow dragged our way from the airport, onto the train, back to the city and to Mac and Kayla’s apartment. I laid on the couch for the rest of the day, and seriously considered icing my feet because they were so sore. Over the next couple days, I did some homework, watched a lot of netflix, and recovered from our in-depth Italy tour.

6

Mac’s family arrived early in the week, and it was fun to spend time in Munich with them. We toured all of the best spots (Haufbrauhaus for extra large beers 🙂 ) and they were able to take some tours to learn more about the city. On Wednesday that week, Kayla left for Florida to see UConn play in a bowl game (lucky duck, Christmas on the beach) and Mac, her family, and I left for Austria to stay in a ski resort for the holiday. I was very #blessed to be able to spend the holidays with them, and realized it as soon as we took the train into Seefeld. What an amazing town! Surrounded by mountains, it was the sight of some events in the 1964 and 1976 Olympics, and has a great ski culture…. when there’s snow. The owner of the hotel we stayed in expressed his regrets that there was no snow, but we told him we didn’t ski and didn’t mind so much. Each night the hotel served a different 4-5 course meal, and breakfast was available with eggs cooked just how you liked. Needless to say, we were very happy with the food. We stopped the first day to grab a bottle of wine and spent the afternoon on the back balcony of our room, looking out at the mountains near the town. It was a great start to the first few real relaxing vacation days I’ve had since I’ve been in Europe.

IMG_4780IMG_4795
Seefeld

We spent the next few days exploring. One day, we spent the afternoon hiking around the hills and lakes. Another was spent at the Christmas market in town. We spent Christmas Eve listening to a church service in German, and walked out of the church to music in the piazza and the champagne we had bought earlier in the town. Christmas morning, we took the train back into Innsbruck, and went up the Nordkettenbahn. This combination ski lift/train system takes you to the top of the mountains that surround Innsbruck, Austria. At each stage of the trek up, we were amazed at how high up we were. The next step would be even more impressive, until finally we climbed to the very peak of the mountain. At the top there was a large wooden cross, and a site that looked over the valley on one side, and the alps extending to the horizon on the other. It was the perfect way to remind yourself just how beautiful it is out here, how lucky we are to be here, and was the perfect start to Christmas. Christmas dinner was incredible. A full 8 courses full of beautiful dishes that I would never be able to make myself. One course actually included pigeon! I’m not sure it’s something I’ll be requesting again any time soon, but it was very cool to try new things.

IMG_4847
The alps went on forever
IMG_4846.JPG
The other side of the mountain- that’s Innsbruck belowIMG_4830Where I was at the moment

After the holidays, and spending several days in the Austrian Alps, it was time for the vacation to end, and we packed up and returned to Munich. I spent a couple more days with Mac and her family, and returned to Bolzano for a week. I did a lot of homework, a lot of laying in bed resting my still-sore feet, and a lot of laundry after two weeks away from home. It was an incredible way to end 2015, and I can’t complain about a single part! I’ll end this post on New Years, which I spent with teammates. We had a group of girls over to our apartment for the night, and we made a big dinner of zucchini soup, veggies, and beef. We popped several champagne bottles, and cabbed into the city to celebrate the end of the year. The piazza near Temple Bar (my true home in Bolzano) held a big party with live music. We had a blast listening to the music, dancing, and counting down to 2016. I wouldn’t have spent it anywhere else!

I know I’m very, very behind on all of this. I’m sorry for the long post! I have some more fun stories to tell about the start of 2016, including a visit from my friend Courtney from home, but I don’t think I can type anymore and I’m sure you don’t want to read anymore. The semi-scary thing is that I feel like I’m brushing over details here. It’s hard to put into words some of the things I’ve seen and done in the last month. I hope you can forgive my poor descriptions of some pretty life changing moments. My best solution- come see them for yourselves! I swear you won’t regret it (or if you do, by that time I’ll probably be across the ocean where you can’t get me).

I’m excited to get back to “normal” here for a bit. Hockey starts up again this week, as does homework and school. I can’t wait to get back on the ice with the Eagles. The other American, Chelsea, finally arrived and I can’t wait to meet in person! She helped me a lot when preparing for Italy.

12274240_535564029942114_8140742961941033588_nBack on the ice this week for the second half of the season!

Here’s where I log off, and go to watch my little sister and the U18 women’s national team beat up on Canada. It’s 1:30 am here, so I’m claiming the title of best fan/most supportive big sister ever. Sending all my love, and my hopes for a great 2016 across the ocean. I miss you all, and can’t wait to see you. Ciao everyone!

Snoodles

 

IMG_4888The Christmas I missed- Love from (and for) the Snodgrass Family

 

 

It’s the little things..

IMG_4207I love coffee, and drink far too much of it here.

I know that I recently posted about November, but I’ve been thinking about this post for awhile now. I’ve mentioned it before, but coming to Italy from the Twin Cities was a huge culture shock for me. I went from the Mall of America, 24-hour-stores and dinners on St. Paul rooftops to quiet cafes and a bus line that stops at 8pm..not to mention this is all in another language! I’ve had some big experiences here, and been to many new countries, but it’s the little things that really stand out as being different. I’ve obviously been noticing the differences here, so I thought I would share a few that make me smile every time I pick up on them. Here’s a few things I’ve noticed/experienced/laughed at:

  1. Cars are so small! It makes sense in such a tiny country with small roads, but I swear I’ve only seen 3 pickup trucks in my two months. I have also seen 2 PT Cruisers… they stick out even more here than in the US.
  2. Small also applies to the coffee. I’ve had many coffee dates, but there’s no slow sipping giant starbucks creations here- it’s mostly macchiatos, cappuccinos, or espresso, in teeny-tiny cups. I LOVE Italian coffee, but I get weird looks when I order more than one. So instead I cafe-hop like the crazed caffeine addict I am.
  3. McDonald’s and Burger King are rare in Bolzano. It’s a big deal that there is going to be a second McDonald’s in the area soon… instead of burgers, fast food places consist of pizza places. Also, if you dip french fries in your ice cream you will get the STRANGEST looks.
  4. Speaking of food, I’ve had multiple Italians tease me about “American” food being all burgers and fries. I’ve had trouble explaining that BBQ and burgers are American, but we’re just as likely to get tacos or pasta or thai food or sushi… It’s difficult to describe typical “American” food- try it yourself! I struggle with explaining this still.
  5. Italians have issues with spicy food. They would hate Chipotle, which breaks my heart just a little bit.
  6. My roommate Mia speaks English, but it’s a bit limited. Some of our idioms and common phrases had her giving me a blank stare. I took it upon myself to teach Mia some new stuff.. The first word I taught her was “hooker” (I swear it was an accident- I mentioned the multiple women on street corners on our way to practice one night and the vocab lesson just sort of happened…) and followed that up by teaching her what “going commando” meant. The best part was Mia couldn’t quite get the “oo” sound right in the word hooker, and instead pronounces it with the “oo” sound in “who.” It makes me laugh every time.
  7. Mia taught me how to say “how much for the night” in anticipation of asking one of these nice ladies on a streetcorner to satisfy our curiosity on salary, before we speed off in Mia’s miniscule car. I’m not sure how well this plan will work, but I’m sure it will be hilarious. (I’ve also started naming ladies on streetcorners and giving them backstories. This usually happens when I’m overly tired on the way home from practice. For reference, Treasure is usually by the roundabout, and she hangs out with Cinnamon and Kandi. They’re friends.)
  8. The scene in the movie Eurotrip of the Italian man getting more and more friendly/creepy on the train while saying “mi scusi” has never been funnier than when I watched it with actual Italians.
  9. I try my best to order here in Italian. Sometimes, it works better than others. After one of my stumbling attempts to pay for my cappuccino and water, the cashier (who spoke perfect English) congratulated me on tripping through the words. I get laughed at by waiters a lot here.
  10. I got chastised by an older Irish gentleman at Temple Bar (where I basically live) when he caught me on my phone with my biochemistry book open. It didn’t help my studying habits much because the bartender proceeded to yell “why don’t you keep your nose out of other people’s business, Jeffery!” and the tongue-in-cheek argument in Irish accents that sprung up was much better than reading.
  11. I will never dress as cool as older Italian women do. Biking while smoking should never be something to aspire to, but crap do they look smooth.
  12. Italians think chicken on pizza is the grossest thing they can imagine. On the other hand, I’ve seen tuna and corn on pizza here. My teammates play the trump card of “Italy invented pizza so we know what’s normal” often when I bring this up.
  13. There is no premade salad dressing here. I have a couple teammates who studied in America and they mentioned this too. Oil and vinegar here, no fat-free ranch or Italian dressing to be found.
  14. Italians also classify pasta differently. When I mentioned that I was eating a lot of pasta, and was worried about the carbo-loading I was inadvertently doing, they asked if I had tried other foods…..like lasagna or tortellini. I had to break it to them that in America we still count those as pasta. They laughed and said “yeah I guess so, but it’s different!” I love my teammates.
  15. A lot of these observations are about food. Oops.
  16. Italian university students dress nicer to go to the library than any student athlete I know dresses for a class presentation. Loving the American Slob vibes.
  17. I’ve started singing along to Italian commercials. I have no idea what I’m singing. This could end badly.
  18. I may not hear Adele on the radio, but my team is obsessed with that damn song. You haven’t really experienced “Hello” until it’s sung every time someone enters the locker room, in a thick Italian/German Italian accent. Ridiculous.
  19. I LOVE the Christmas Market. It’s beautiful. There’s lights and a giant tree and stalls with vendors selling everything from slippers to chocolate to specialty ornaments. A couple of the stalls sell Gluewein, which is mulled wine with cinnamon, and other spices, and it’s delicious. It should just always be Christmas time here.
  20. I was looking for cards to make flashcards here, and there’s nothing similar in stores. Italy is really green conscious, and takes recycling very seriously. You also have to bring your own bags to the grocery store, or pay for biodegradable ones, as plastic bags are banned.
  21. The Italian mail system is hilarious. I  recently received a package from home, and put the actual value of the clothes inside on the tax form. I got a call from the mail center saying I should just put 30-40 euros (aka lie), or the taxes would be annoyingly high. Imagine getting that call in the US? Never, pay your overly high taxes, dummy!
  22. Seriously, the food is really good.

That’s all I can think of for now. I hope some of these make you laugh a little bit, like they did/do for me! The holidays are coming up, and I will be super busy for the next two weeks. I have some classwork to finish up this week, packages to mail by friday, and games this weekend. After that I’m spending a week with Mac and Kay going on a tour of Italy 🙂 I’ll spend Christmas with Mac’s family (who I can’t wait to see) and then come back to Bolzano for the second half of the season.

I also have more good news to throw in at the end of this blog post! It’s becoming a bit of a tradition, so please keep the good news coming! I’ve received news that some important people from UConn are expecting some new faces (one set of twins on the way!). I’m not sure who’s comfortable/wants me sharing what news, so I’ll keep it vague, but I CANNOT WAIT to get back to Connecticut to say hi and give them the giant hugs that I’m stifling at the moment. It is physically painful not to be home to celebrate with these wonderful people, but I know I have some great husky ambassadors somewhat filling my spot. AH! Babies!!

I most likely won’t write again until after December, and I hope everyone has a happy holiday season! Enjoy your time with loved ones and friends, and know that I miss you all, my dog, and my home(s) very much! Love from Italy!

Ciao,
Snoodles