03 August, 2011

Firenze and the Final Post

Once again, I'm blogging from my comfy green chair in my bedroom, instead of from Europe. This last blog post will bring everything full circle! Before I talk about leaving Berlin, I have one last leg of my trip with Barb and Kye to cover: Firenze!

We decided to head to Florence on Wednesday, the 27th, in the afternoon. We arrived around 1pm, checked into our B & B which happened to be right around the corner from the Cappelle Medicee (Medici Chapel) and jumped right in. We walked through the San Lorenzo and had to use all our willpower not to get suck into shopping. Without any trouble we found the huge, looming Duomo. It is amazing how you can easily you find yourself at the Duomo when you're walking through Florence.

The Duomo

The cathedral church of Florence is called the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, and once inside we were able to admire the egg-shaped Duomo with its frescos as well as a large clock that was made with the sunset hour as the O hour. The church was large and very impressive. After spending some time in the church we walked to the Gallerie dell'Accademia which is most famous for housing the original David by Michelangelo. I had no idea just how huge the David was! We also looked at some unfinished scultuptures by Michaelangelo and many statues by Lorenzo Bartolini. Personally, seeing Michelangelo's David completely lived up to expectations, because I could see just how amazingly accurate and precise the sculpture was.We tried to climb up to the top of the Duomo that evening, but we were just a few minutes too late, so we continued soaking up Florence by heading down to the Ponte Vecchio, an awesome bridge with houses and jewelry shops built onto it, in such a fashion that as you walk down the bridge it just feels like you're walking down a narrow street. In the early evening light it was beautiful.

Ponte Vecchio bridge is behind me

Since we had missed the hike at the dome earlier, we made up for it by taking the long, steep path up to the Piazzale Michelangelo. The sun had set behind some clouds, the blue of the sky was just beginning to darken, and the lights of the city were starting to turn on, so it was a beautiful time to look down on the city.

At night. The Duomo is on the right

Thursday was our full day in Florence, though it was light on picture taking because of the activities we chose.  started the day by picking up the tickets we'd reserved for the Uffizi Gallery. We had time to visit the Cappelle Medicee and San Lorenzo before our time slot. We found more Michelangelo in the Cappelle Medicee, and Kye and I tried sitting on the floor of the chapel to get a good view of the dome, but we were chastised and had to study the scenes on the dome while craning our necks. We managed to figure out what Bible stories were being portrayed, and it was a lot of fun discussing the paintings. (Jenna, unfortunately I never managed to sneak my way into the room with the sketches!) Around 11:30 we were back at the Uffizi. It was crowded, as expected, but thankfully that didn't really detract from our ability to appreciate the art. Not only are there some amazingly famous works in there, but I was impressed by how long many of those pieces had been in the museum. The Uffizi Gallery was started by the Medici Family, like so many things in Florence, and some of those pieces had been in the gallery long before many "new" classic pieces had been made. Some of the higlights we found included a piece by Caraveggio, Dürer, Botticelli and more. Also, I chatted with a German woman for a few minutes when we took a snack break!

We decided we needed to give our minds a rest after all the culture, so after leaving the gallery Barb took a nap while Kye and I did some shopping along the San Lorenzo markets. We were quite successful and may or may not have picked out a few Christmas presents, though sadly the fireproof double leather purse was a little out of our budget. We had decided to stay one more night in Florence, so we had time to see San Marco, a church close to the Gallerie dell'Accademia. It started to rain on us during the walk but by the time we exited the church it had let up. We ate dinner near the Duomo (more delicious pasta), and after it had gotten dark Kye and I wandered out to get some gelato, a tasty waffle treat, and see Ponte Vecchio and the bank of the Arno again at night.

Kye's dream apartment building is the tall white one in the middle left

Friday was our last morning in Florence, so I started early. I wanted to climb the Duomo, and tried to beat the lines by arriving around 9am. It worked, and I spent the short time in line chatting with a friendly family from Chicago. It was a tough climb, very narrow at times, but very worth it--the view was amazing! I loved looking around and recognizing all the places I'd been. What a gorgeous start to the day!
Looking down

Made it to the top!

We also visited Basilica di Santa Croce that morning, where Galileo, Machiavelli and Michelangelo are buried. It was a really cool church, very old, with a high wooden ceiling. On our way back to the hotel to pick up our bags we did a last bit of shopping, then we hopped on a train and we were back in Rome before we knew it. We were staying in Rome that night so that we could catch our flights the next morning. Kye used some Marriott points to get us into the pamerpering Marriott Grand Hotel, and we decided it was a good thing the hotel had been booked earlier in the week or we never would have wanted to leave Rome!

We spent our last afternoon in Rome checking out the Pantheon, the Piazza Navona, and enjoying one last meal and two last gelatos. We spent over an hour sitting together on the Spanish Steps, watching the crowds and especially discussing the behavior of the fake purse hawkers once a policeman and an undercover cop entered the scene.

Outside the Pantheon

The view from our breakfast table on the rooftop garden

Saturday I flew back to Berlin, where I had really the best last day I could have asked for. I spent the afternoon with my host family, enjoying Kaffee, Kuchen, and good company. I left for a few hours to run the City-Nacht 10k, and I received another very cool T-shirt for this race as well. Sadly it was pouring rain, and my legs were quite tired from all the walking we'd been doing, but I loved running down one of Berlin's biggest streets (Kurfürstendamm) and seeing so many people out in the rain cheering us on. It was really a great way to say goodbye to the city.

On Sunday morning the Tischers were gracious enough to take me to the airport, which saved me so much time and made transporting my suitcases so much easier. There were significant delays on both legs of my flight, but shortly before 3am Monday morning I was finally walking into my house and dropping my bags in my room.

Since then I've been seeing friends and family and attempting to unpack. There's a lot to do before school, but I'm not too worried. I'm interested in learning how this semester has affected me and how I've changed, and I think those changes will come out in bits and pieces throughout the semester. I already miss seeing German ads, newspapers and books everywhere! However it's also interesting to see what about me hasn't changed--I hadn't driven in five months but as soon as I put my hand on the stick of our manual transmission Saturn it all came back like I'd never left. I still wouldn't say that either the US or Germany is better, but I'm so thankful for the opportunity to truly learn and experience their differences. I certainly think both countries and cultures could learn a few things from the other.



Finally, thank you, my wonderful readers, for taking the time to check in on my adventures now and then! This blog was fun for me to write, but knowing there were a couple of people interested in what was going on in my life made the writing even easier. I am so glad I could share my stories with you, and I am so thankful I was able to keep in touch with friends and family with relative ease over the past five months, thanks to the wonders of the internet, Google calling, and skype. Even though it was frustrating at times, so much is possible with technology!

Tschüs, liebe Leute!

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