Friday, October 24, 2008


You may wanna grab a snack, this is a loooong one!

October 17th-20th
I think Berlin is one of my new favorite cities. From Rome on Friday afternoon, my friend Amy and I flew easyJet into the city. We arrived around midnight and had to groggily make our way to the Pegasus Hostel so there wasn't much site seeing to be had. At the reception desk we had been told about a free 3.5 hr tour offered everyday by New Berlin Tours, so we went on that Saturday morning. Our first guide, Jaime, who lead us from the hostel to the start of the tour @ the Brandenburg Gate, turned out to be an architecture student too. He is also in his last year in architecture at a school in Germany and had many recommendations for great architecture to see. Our real guide, Paul, gave us a concise tour that lead us along where part of the Berlin Wall stood. From the Brandenburg Gate, in Pariser Platz, we could see the Reichstag and Siegessaule Statue, as well as the U.S. and French Embassies. The highlight of Pariser Platz was having my first Starbucks in about 2 months(It's got nothin' on Italian Espresso!) and seeing The Adlon Hotel, a.k.a. Michael Jackson Baby Dangling Hotel(yep, that's where it happened)!

Brandenburg Gate, Adlon Hotel, Holocaust Memorial

more Holocaust Memorial

From there we went to the Holocaust Memorial by Peter Eisenman. My impression of this space was much different from what I got from just seeing photographs. The architect hasn't said what his meaning behind the design is as a way to allow visitors to develop their own impressions based on their individual experiences. There is a small memorial exhibit underneath one corner of the field of stones. I really like this memorial and think it is such a powerful place evoking many different feelings from each person who walks throughout it.

The next stops were to Hitler's Bunker and the SS Headquarters. The site of the former bunker(it was completely distroyed and recovered with earth) and where Hitler ended his life is actually now surrounded by apartments where a few famous people such as Katerina Witt have lived. There is appropriately very little sign that it was ever there. This was in hopes that the site wouldn't become a shrine to the Neo-Nazi.

remaining Berlin Wall, marking on road of wall, Checkpoint Charlie @ night

Next to the SS Headquarters a large section of the west side of the Wall is still standing. It looks a lot shorter and less looming than I had imagined it would be, but I'm sure the armed guards that surrounded it for 28 years would certainly have kept me far away. One thing I hadn't realized about the Wall is that it was actually made up of 2 walls about 100 yards apart in certain areas, the space between them being called the death zone and the typical images seen of the wall covered in graffiti are only of the west wall, the east being unapproachable.

Jewish Museum

Checkpoint Charlie was the last stop we made on the tour before Amy and I decided to go on our own to see everything else we had on our checklist. Throughout the next 2 days we went to the Jewish Museum by Daniel Libeskind, the Berlin Philharmonic, New National Gallery, returned to the Holocaust Memorial and Brandenburg Gate and then explored 2 key neighborhoods; Mitte and Prenzlaur Berg. We had 2 amazing classic German dinners, both restaurants we stumbled upon(literally out of pure exhaustion and hunger from the many hours of walking) and would return to in a heartbeat. At the first I had "currywurst with homemade potato salad, a "small small salad"(named by the menu) and a Berliner Beer, "Berlin's Best!" The second was a fairly similar dish(why chance a good thing?) but I also had an apple strudel with whipped creme. Amy's meals were equally delicious! I think 2 reasons we enjoyed these restaurants so much were for the atmosphere and the for the complete meals you could order as compared to the separate single dishescourses in Italian restaurants. Here you either get a large plate of pasta or meat and order veggies separately and you end up paying for a lot more food than you should eat! At any rate, German food was a very welcomed change to our exclusive Italian of the past 2 months.

We stayed at Pegasus Hostel in an 8 bed(4 bunks) mixed room. It was decent; clean, quiet and in a good location for the price. When we arrived the first night after 1am all the other beds were full so we had the 2 next to the door. The next morning a couple people left and by that night those beds were full again. The last night there were just 5 of us in the room; 2 new guys, Amy, me and another guy who had been there the "entire" time. It wasn't until we were on our way to Praha that Amy and I realized we hadn't seen the one guy out of bed or his bed empty during our entire stay. It was so weird. We've been trying to figure out how this was possible and how he managed to see any of the city during the 2.5 days. We usually left the hostel by 10 and wouldn't return all day until between 22 + 24 each night and everytime we were in the room he was in his bunk above Amy. Thinking back, it was really weird that I never even saw him get up to use the bathroom! I hope he somehow had at least half as good a time in Berlin as we did!


October 13th - 17th
I spent last week in Rome with my class. We chartered a bus and had about a 10 hour drive ride from Vicenza with a couple stops along the way. Other than the necessary pitstops, we saw a few churches; one along the motorway in Florence and 2 others on the outskirts of Rome. The one in Florence was quite beautiful. I had seen it last time but finally got to see the interior last week. One of the churches in a remote area outside the main city of Rome was not well received by any of the 28 of us that visited it. Our professors had seen a magazine article praising it which gave reason for our trip there. As we approached the building on foot from the road, we became speechless. It was a big blue tiled box reminiscent of the ˝This is my house˝ drawings from kindergarten. Beyond the surprise of the exterior our overall impressions of the building dropped even more once we saw how pourly the interior was detailed.

The next morning one of my professors came to me about his ˝nightmare˝ from the night before. He said he had dreamt that the awful blue church had grown arms, picked up the white structure next to it and began beating him on the head with it! I think that best explains everyone's feelings!

Throughout the rest of the week we met as a class each morning @ 9 to tour various areas of the city on foot. A few of my favorite sites are still the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, The Vatican and Piazza Navona. Friday, our last day in Rome, my group of friends and I headed on the long trek from our hotel to The Vatican. About halfway there it started raining, something none of us were equiped for so we were dripping wet. I joked on the walk that ˝This better be worth it!˝ I, of course, knew it was having already been to St. Peter's and the Sistine Chapel before. By that evening Amy and I were more than ready for our fall break and headed to one of the Rome airports for our flight to Berlin.

Check back early next week for pictures!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

fall break

Dark and early tomorrow morning I am headed to Rome for a week. Our entire class is going and I'm sure our days will be pretty jam packed with all the sights to see. The week after Rome is our fall break and I am very excited about the trip that I have planned. My friend Amy and I will be flying from Rome to Berlin next Friday and staying there until Monday morning. Then going to Prague, Vienna and Ljubljana for 2 days each. Matt and Cheech will be meeting up with us in Vienna after they go to Dublin for most of the week. My brother helped me plan the trip because I had very little time to plan myself with all the school work I have, plus he and my parents went to many cities in Eastern Europe for 3 weeks this summer so he is already familiar with some of the best things to do.

Well, I still have some packing to finish up but, I'll try to update/share pictures from internet cafes while I am gone!


Saturday, October 11, 2008

Piazza del Signori

Thursday was my midterm review. It went pretty well and I think we all received good feedback to help us continue working on the project for the rest of the semester. Sadly, since we are at the middle of the semester, Professor Tanzer(taught grad studio and undergrad theory) will be leaving to go back to Gainesville and another will be coming for the second half. We all have truly enjoyed having her here and will miss her.

Last night all the grads invited her and her husband to a going away dinner. We went to a great little restaurant next to Hotel Due Mori that we had gone to our first night in town. I had a wonderful pumpkin soup and Spaghetti alle Vongole e Zucca(with clams and zucchini). Several bottles of wine and 2 hrs and 45 min later we went out to the Piazza del Signori to see a video concert we had heard about the night before. I think it is the 500th anniversary of Andrea Palladio, a very influential architect and the city projected a video accompanied by live music on the facade of the Basilica that is currently being restored. The film in total was about 30 minutes long and this first night there were live performers providing the music, other nights you heard a recording.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

my travel journal

One thing I regreted from when I studied abroad before was not documenting my experience beyond the copious photos, brochures and ticket stubs. This summer I was on the hunt for a travel journal for the semester that would fit my style well. I scowered(is this a real word?) Barnes and Noble and the internet and couldn't find one that was close enough to what I imagined would be best for my trip. So, as I do about most anything I can't find to buy or even afford someone else to hand-make, I decided to create my own version! The week or so before I left home for the semester I sat down to sketch out a few pages that would be the basis for the whole journal and then made a mini version about 1.5" x 2.5" out of scrap paper. I wish I had a picture of this to share too because it is just so cute! A few standard pages include: daily journal entries (one for weekdays typically in Vicenza and another for weekends or trip days where I usually would be seeing and doing more), program info sheets, address pages(for postcard sending) semi-transparent pockets for keepsakes and pictures from my previous time here. The daily journal pages have writing prompts: Date, City, Companions, Sleeping, Eating and Sights.

Once I decided on the format I wanted (I designed it to be the same size as my sketchbook) and had all the types of pages created in Photoshop, I began organizing them all based on what I would be doing week by week. Then I had to search for a cover material and ended up finding a 3-ring binder at the Dollar Store and cut it down. Finally, because there weren't any companies in Jacksonville with the same binding, I had it bound at Renaissance Printing in Gainesville. The total cost came to about $14 which was pretty reasonable and still a little less than any I had seen that had half as much detail.

I had a lot of fun making this journal and I have been pretty good at filling it out every couple days. I'm sure it will be a great thing to treasure and look back through many years from now.

Click on image to enlarge.

Monday, October 6, 2008


I am clearly way behind on my posts...

During my 2nd week here my entire class went to Barcelona, Spain. I had been there for a long weekend 4 years ago and LOVED it, but it was so much better to have a professor show us around this time. We met and walked around together from about 9:00-13:00 (like my use of the 24-hour clock?) every day and then pretty much had the afternoons to ourselves to continue exploring. The following images give just a small taste of what I saw during this week.

MACBA_Museu d'Art Contemporani
(a building that Professor Perez was project manager for while working for Richard Meier)

La Padrera(a.k.a. Casa Milo, an Antoni Gaudi apartment building)

the office of architecture firm Enric Miralles + Benedetta Tagliabue

Sagrada Familia

St. Caterina Market

Parc Quell