Saturday, November 30, 2013

TRAVEL | rome photo diary

To sum it up, Rome was warm, crowded, and noisy. After a month shivering in the cold in northern Europe--making sure I pack on several layers before leaving my hostel--Italy was a nice change of pace. Even in mid-October the weather was warm enough to walk outside in short sleeves and more importantly, warm enough to dine al fresco as the Romans do. 

My hostel was located right around the corner of the Roma Termini train station. It was an ideal location for backpackers since it is a little off the beaten path from all tourist locations, but still within a comfortable walking distance to the city center. My main mode of transportation was the metro, which I took from Castro Preteorio station all the way to Colosseo every day, and then from there I picked up on foot. 


I sort of stumbled upon Campo de' Fiori. It is a square just south of Piazza Navona and home to the oldest outdoor market in Europe. Walking around the market was an adventure in itself. Left and right, people were selling products ranging from olive oil to pasta, and regional candies to homemade liqueurs. Everything was so fresh and the atmosphere was so lively, I wanted to stay there all day.

I had my last lunch in the Jewish Ghetto. I was told by my roommate to try { Ba Ghetto }'s homemade ravioli. So I did, and she was right, it was completely out of this world good. I also ordered their Roman style fried artichoke as a starter. At first I wasn't entirely sure how to tackle the dish--the artichokes I'm used to at home were so stringy and tough only a little fleshy base were edible and the rest just gets tossed into the trash--so imagine my surprise when I saw the couple next to me devour the whole thing, leaves, heart and all. It wasn't long before mine vanished completely as well.

My one and only mission in Rome were to find the city's best Pistachio and Banana Gelato. I was told that if there were any flavor of gelato I needed to try, it would be those two. I stopped by Giolitti twice during my trip to try out some of their famous gelati. The first time I tried a combination of dark chocolate, pistachio and banana topped with a healthy serving of panna (cream). It was possibly the most stressful ice cream experience of my life--due to the warm weather I had gelato running down waffle cone then down my arm even before I stepped out of the store. I had forgotten to take napkins before I left but at that point the gelato had made such a mess I was too embarrassed to go back inside. Instead I found a secluded corner by the busy street to eat in private as fast as I can. Thank goodness I had a little bit of water left in my water bottle or else it would have been a very embarrassing, very sticky walk home.

I was a bit more prepared the second time though: two flavors, no whipped cream, a cup to go, and a handful of napkins. This made for a more comfortable eating experience. And I got to stand in street with all the other people enjoying their gelato, and as an added bonus, watch the newbies fail at conquering their 3+ flavor frozen treat in the 70 degree sunlight as I had done so the previous day. 

Live and learn.

To be completely honest, I did not love Rome. I tried falling in love with it, but I just couldn't. Perhaps it was the hordes of tourists that caught me off guard, but mostly it was because I felt incredibly pressured--pressured to soak up the cultural heritage, learn all the history and see all the arts as expected from most travelers who visit Rome. For example, I had no intention of paying 11 euros to enter the Colosseum to see something I've seen a million times in guidebooks or friend's photos--yet, a voice in my head kept screaming "what kind of tourist comes to Rome and doesn't tour Rome?". It was just a constant battle between just doing what I want to do, and what people say I should do. In a way it goes somewhat beyond sightseeing--but quoting Jesse Wallace from the film Before Sunrise: "I could never get very excited about other people's ambitions for my life." So it made more sense to ignore the nagging voice, and in the end had more fun doing things my own way.

And by "my own way" I mean eating my way through Rome, hanging out at my hostel's amazing lounge for hours on end, staying up all night with friends, and then...more eating, of course. 

And I'm leaving out the best part: I never had to wait in line. Not even once!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

ILLUSTRATION | brassica in bloom

My old moleskine has finally retired after my excursion across Europe. The pages have been filled, and it's time to start anew. I picked up this little pocket sized moleskine in white when I was in Amsterdam and have been waiting for the right moment to start drawing in it. 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

PERSONAL | hiatus

Vienna is where my trip came to a sort of a hiatus. I had caught a cold (which eventually developed into something more severe, but I'll spare you the gory details) the second day which had left me out of commission for about a week--and unfortunately this left me no photos of Munich & Venice. At that moment I had been so busy with all my plans and itineraries I had forgotten to take better care of my health. And as invincible as I had felt before, it was about time to give my body a break. Here, I managed to snap several photos of my beautiful room in the Wombats Hostel in Vienna before I dragged myself to bed. 

Friday, November 22, 2013

TRAVEL | vienna travel diary

Vienna is possibly the grandest city I have ever visited. Just about every street or boulevard is lined with picturesque buildings—my camera was basically glued to my hand—and the rest of the city was littered with warlike statuary. It was truly beautiful. And to my delight I was checked into a dorm on the top floor of my hostel. It was probably the best room I had stayed in throughout the trip, and what’s more, it had a killer view. The first thing I did, even before washing or changing out of my awful bus clothes, was climb up to the rooftop for a stunning 360 degree view of downtown Vienna. My hostel was located by { The Naschmarkt }, an outdoor culinary experience where you can find various delicacies from every country from dawn till dusk. By the time I made it up to the rooftop it was nearly sunset and most of the people have gone home. But not all was lost as I got to watch all the merchants pack up their daily wares and I even managed to take a few photos before the had sun set completely.
The rest of the afternoon/early evening was spent wandering downtown. I started off at { St. Stephen’s Cathedral }, a monumental Gothic structure right in the center of town. The area was buzzing with businessmen and tourists, it was hard not to get excited for all the exploring I had ahead of me. The one thing I learned that day was that the Danube is entirely incidental to the city. From the maps I had completely underestimated how far it was from downtown and the furthest I got was to the Donaukanal before I decided to turn around to walk home.
On the way back I passed several important buildings but the one that blew me away was the famous  { Vienna State Opera House }. Vienna is known for it’s incredible history of music. The Wiener Staatsoper is one of the busiest opera houses in the world producing up to 60 operas per year and ten ballet productions in approximately 300 performances. It is quite common to find a different performance being produced each day of the week. My friend was able to catch a ballet before we left, I was supposed to join her but due to an unfortunate event I had to cancel. Anyways, I ended the night with another trip to the rooftops, this time with new friends Mish and James, and it was even more incredible to see the city lit up at night. While the city looks deceivingly similar to Paris during the day, it had an entirely different vibe at night. It was louder, grittier, and more exciting than Paris’s silent streets.
Unfortunately, the rest of my stay in Vienna wasn’t as magical as the first. It was all thanks to the cold I had caught the first night that left me bed-ridden for the rest of the week (into Munich). I did manage to muster the mental and physical strength to hit the streets for several hours each day to visit all the places I had on my itinerary (and even several that weren’t), but mostly I was completely drained of all energy. There were several pick-me-ups I did manage to stumble across that did make me forget about my aching muscles for a brief moment. The first was this one friendly little café, { Hawelka }, tucked away in a small alleyway around the corner of Stephansplatz U-bahn. Hawelka is a very traditional Viennese café; inside it was cramped, musty and quite dark. It was a miracle I didn’t knock anyone over in my clumsy state. The rest of my last afternoon was spent searching for all the shooting locations of one of my favorite films: Before Sunrise. The whole film was shot entirely in beautiful Vienna and thanks to several websites I had the pleasure of visiting all the places I’d seen in the movie including the Kleines café, the record store, and the amusement park and ferris wheel, to name a few. 

Monday, November 18, 2013

TRAVEL | vienna street art

Vienna has some of the most impressive street art I've ever seen. I was told that many graffiti artists had moved from Berlin to Vienna in recent years to make their mark on the city. If you ever plan on visiting Vienna, I suggest you take a moment to check it all out!

{ Urban Guide Vienna } via INOPERAbLe

Sunday, November 10, 2013

TRAVEL | cesky krumlov photo diary


I have such a difficult time selecting the photos that go up on the blog. This is only a small portion of what I took in Cesky Krumlov. Ironically most of the photos I took of the city all look incredibly similar--and I knew that! Even as I was clicking away I knew I had about 50 other files exactly like the one I had just taken.

I had a problem, ok?

Walking around Cesky Krumlov felt a little like stepping into Disneyland. I had only two days in Cesky, but it quickly became one of my favorite stops on this trip. First of all, the town itself is tiny compared to the other cities I had previously visited--it only took about 15 minutes maximum to get from one side of town to the other--can you say, cute!!!! Secondly, the food was especially delicious (I tried mead for the first time), and just like Prague, super affordable as well. And third--just look at those rooftops--its just about the most charming little town I've ever seen! I couldn't help get all artsy-fartsy during my stay. It was a combination of the city's compactness, elevated slopes, and Baroque architectural style that made Cesky so fun to photograph (as previously stated) and even more fun to draw. (Will be scanned soon)