Friday, December 17, 2010

Schools Over...

Today was the last day of my language school. I had a great time here. Today we shared some champagne, and the two classes united for the second half of the day to play some fun italian learning games.

I have met so many interesting people from all over the world at this school, and had a lot of fun doing it.

Once again today, the weather is not so great, in fact it is snowing. This time it is sticking to the ground, and although it is not building up much, it is definatly snow.

I am leaving Verona on sunday, and going back up to the house in the mountains for christmas. It is very difficult to get to the internet from there, but I will write posts and then when I get the chance, I will put them online.

This is a nice short post, I have been getting a bit long winded lately with posts that go on forever. For now, basta.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Night Time in Verona

I was looking through the pictures I have taken thus far last night, and I came across one I took in the Minneapolis Airport. It is of a sign that was outside a bar near the gate my flight left from.

Now I have been know to be a litte picky, and overly precise at times, but this time I think it is justified.

Look at the picture. There is a map on it. Now look at where the lines are pointing to; nothing wrong so far. Now, take a gander at the place names at the ends of the lines. Nothing wrong with North America, though the choice of where the lines end is a little strange.

Move over to Europe. Expting France, none of the lines arrive anywhere near the country they say they are from!!! Even the french one, which is the closest, ends up somewhere in Switzerland! And it is not like this sign was in a little tiny town somewhere where nobody knows the difference. This was in one of the busiest airports in the country, in a place where thousands of people see it every day!


I guess the sign did it's job though, I have just writen at length about it, and posted a picture of it on the internet.


With that tirade out of the way, lets move on.

Today, another nice day by anyones standards, I took some time in the evening to take my camera for a walk. It definatly liked the exercise, and produced what I think are some fairly decent photos.

I will start where I started walking and post in the order that I took them.

The first picture is of one of the gates in the old city wall. As you can see it is quite the wall, and continues for a fair ways in very good condition.

The next picture is of Piazza Bra, this time with the market that was there yesterday all packed up and gone.

There are a bunch of these huge christmas trees all over the city, all sponsored by Bauli, one of the makers of the amazing and fairly magical dessert the Pandoro.

As you continue across the piazza, you encounter the most prominent shopping street in Verona, Via Mazzini. It is a pedestrian street with all the most prominent names in fashion present from Dolce & Gabbana to Gucci, to Ralph Lauren, and all sorts of others. Right above the street in the first picture, the tallest tower in the town can be seen lit up with blue lights. It is at the other end of the street in Piazza del Erbe.

I see these all the time, but this is the first time I have stopped to take a picture. They are based on scooters, and are so tiny.

Here is the afformentioned tower in all its glory, along with a little bit of Piazza del Erbe. This piazza is just about only for tourists, and filled with expensive resteraunts and shops.

This is the market that is in the center of the piazza.

From there, it is just a few meters to one of the most famous balconies in the world, that of Julliet. Even though the story is fictional, it is in fact set in Verona, and in fact on this very balcony.

The entrance to the street is covered in writing. On both sides there are phone things in all different languages that you put money in and I guess get talked to about love or something, I did not really read it carefully.

Here is some of the writing that covers the whole passageway.

From there, I walked to the library across the river, and on the way back, I took this picture looking back towards the city center. The tower with the green lights is the one in the previous photos.

Finally, on the way back to the apartment, I walked by the arena with its gigantic shooting star. It is really quite huge, and actually looks quite nice.

That concludes today's tour of Verona, I hope you enjoyed!

Monday, December 13, 2010

I Love This Country

Back to Brunek. It seems like I am always either going to or coming from Brunek. On friday, the word of the day was going to Brunek.

I had school in the morning, and afterwards went to the coffee bar with my classmates as usual. I was aiming to catch the 1.42pm train, as I had nothing else to do in Verona, and I thought it would be nice to get up there in time for supper.

Coming home and getting packed only took a few minutes, but I decided to head to the station anyways, as I like watching trains. I spent a good half hour watching trains come and go at the busy station. Unlike many main stations in cities, the station in Verona is not a terminus station, meaning the tracks go out on both sides of the station and don't simply end in the station like in Paris Gare de Nord.

Soon my train pulled up. It was about three minutes late. That does not seem like much, but on the busy Italian railways, any delay tends to compound itself. By the time we had reached Fortezza, the station I had to change trains in, the train was nearly a half hour late. It happens because the trains are so closely schedualed, that if you miss a signal, you get all messed up. We ended up having to wait for ten minutes on a siding for a freight train to pass that would have passed us in a station if we were on time.


The train was very full, having come from Venezia (Venice for those of you who don't know the real name of the city), and heading to Innsbruck. I had to stand in the little area between the cabin and the door to the next car. It was actually not that bad, although a little cold.

I was able to look out the widows on both sides, and took some pictures. It was the first time I had taken the train in the daylight up to Brunek, and it is quite a nice route, you can see a lot more than from the highway.

Here are the pictures I took.

In the last photo, all the little white specks at the bottom of the mountain are the buildings of a town. The mountains look small in the photos, but they are actually very abrupt and huge.

After that, when the valley starts to get narrow, it had gotten to dark to take any pictures.

There is a tunnel along that route that seems to go on forever. I timed it and it took us just over 7 minutes to pass through it. I figure it is about ten kilometers long. which for me is kinda cool.

Once I got to Fortezza, I got off, bought a ticket to Brunek, and looked at the schedual outside. As soon as I had determined that I had a 20 minute wait, a train pulled up. I asked where it was going and everyone said Brunek so I hopped on. It was an Austrian train again.

I got off at Brunek, and after a little wait in the bitter cold, Jake picked me up and we drove home. Nothing special happened that night, we had very tasty panini for as a quick supper.

In the morning, I just hung around for a while, then in the late morning helped Mathias with the recycling.

In the afternoon we went out, and as I described in the last post, had an epic sliding adventure. After that, I had the choice of going home with Jake, Mathias and Sophia, or staying with Poldi, Astrid and Lawrence and going to the theater. I chose the theater, not only to see the movie, but also because of the fact that it was in Austria.

We drove out past Toblach to the border. It is so cool that the only way to tell that we were in another country was a litte sign with the word Austria on it surrounded by the European Unions stars.

We stopped at a gas station, and I stepped out onto my eight country. I got a huge chocolate bar, and we continued to Lienz to the theater.

The film as Megamind, in German, and it was pretty good, even though I could not really understand the dialogue.

Heading back to the house, we again crossed into Italy, and again the only thing to mark the entrance was a little sign. There is not even a "Welcome to" sign. It is just a little blue sign with yellow stars and the word Italia.

In the morning I helped clear the snow off the trampoline, and a little later wrote the post before this one. We had a really good lunch with all sorts of different things you put on bread as well as a soup.

One of the things we put on the bread was this mixture of all sorts of herbs with raw beef all cut up into little tiny peices untill it resembles a spread. Very tasty.

Jake, Mathias and I had to head back to Verona that night so we went to the station to catch the train at 20 to 7. After a transfer in Fortezza, we ended up in a very cold train car all the way to Verona, finally arriving at a few minutes after ten.

One steak/pork chop later, I went to bed.

That brings me to today. It was sunny today for the first time in a while. I took my camera to school with me, and after school headed to the library, along the way taking many a picture.

The sunlight here casts such a beautiful light on the buildings. It is unfortunate that I do not have the skills as a photographer to capture the effect fully, but here is my best try.

The first three pictures are of Castle Vechia. It is a castle near my school. The next few pictures are from the bridge that spans the river from the back of the castle.

From there, I headed to Piazza Bra, the largest piazza in Verona, and the one with the roman arena. Right now there is a christmas market thing going on, so the whole piazza is stuffed with tents selling everything from traditional foods and cheeses to light-bulbs and wonder mops.

The star represents the star that the three kings followed to find the baby jesus and give him his gifts.

A narrow street.

Looking across the river towards the library I use.

Locks on a light post.

This week I am staying in Verona, and going up to Brunek again on friday or saturday. It is my last week of classes this week, so it is also probably my last week in Verona.

It is a Very nice place, and if the weather holds tommorow, I will walk around with my camera some more, and take in more of the wonderful sights and sounds of this ancient hub of humanity.

Wow, What a Week!

This past week was a little bit weird, any time I was able to get on the internet, I did not have my computer with with me, so that made it a bit difficult to write a post, and put pictures in it. Anyways, I am writing this on sunday at around noon, back up in the mountains again.

Last saterday, Astrid and I went out for a walk just after breakfast. We took Tobi with us, as well as Tillo the dog. We headed out into the beautiful morning light, and grabbed a pair of sleds from the barn. When I say sleds I mean legitamite sleds. The kind I had only seen in movies.

We went to the end of the driveway, then slid down the steep road a hundred meters or so to the bottom. The sleds are so awesome. They are very fast, and smooth.

Once at the bottom, we headed along a tiny tiny road that winds its way further up the valley. It was all uphill, and dragging both sleds with me made it a bit of an effort, and I soon was no longer the least bit cold, despite the negative temperature.

It is hard to describe how beautiful this place is. It is not just that there are amazing views, and there are, it is more that everywhere you look is a beautiful view. It is impossible to look anywhere and see anything but an amazing vista that people travel from all corners of the world to see.

We kept on going up the road for nearly an hour. When we finnaly reached where we would start from, by no means the top, we took a bit of a rest. There is a little resteraunt there, and it marks the start of many hiking trails. Just another hour or so away is Austria, and Astrid said that in the summer she walk with the dog there.

Looking up I saw a little brown speck way up on the mountain above, and it turned out that it is another resteraunt way up the trail.

We soon got ourselves oriented on the sleds. Astrid pushed off first, and made it look easy. It is actually really hard to get used to. It seems that if you follow your instinct, and lean into corners, you actually turn the other way. I tended to use my feet as differential brakes, and that seemed to work, as well as slow me down, which was good, because it was actually quite a slope we were going down.

When we got to the bottom, and I caught up with Astrid, we started walking back up to their house. I really like sledding.

Those are pictures out the kitchen window of the house. Just absolutely stunning.

Just yesterday, we all piled into two cars, and headed out to go sledding in another valley at a longer track. We got to the place at the bottom, and rented sleds, then, so we did not have to take both cars to the top, we tied the sleds to the back of the jeep, and got pulled up.

Now one would think that towing 4 people on sleds would make one drive a bit slower. Nope. Totally wrong. Poldi, Jakes dad, was drifting around corners, and there are a lot of corners when the road is switchbacking, and it was really crazy, because it was very difficult to look forwards because of all the snow and ice shooting out of the tires, so you had to close your eyes or look sideways, which I must say is somewhat disconcerting.

Everyone survived all the way to the top, and we untied the sleds. It was a really nice trail, nicely groomed, and just the right steepness. Some of the corners were a bit hairy, but I made it all the way down to the bottom.

It was really fun.

Back to last weekend.

We were supposed to have gone skiing that day, but everyone chose sleeping in instead, all of them having gone out the night before. Jakes birthday party was that night, so he, and a few of the others headed out to Antermoia to prepare.

Evening light from the bedroom window.

I stayed at here, and in the afternoon, we headed out to a nearby town called Toblach. We were there to see the Krampus (not sure on the spelling). They are people dressed in these costumes of devils, and other crazy, and totally evil creatures.

They all have big bells attached to them, and when they run and jump around, they make quite the sound. There must have been at least two or three hundred of them in the parade, along with a few decked out tractors with evil colored lights, and fires burning in trailers. It is one of those undescribable experiences.

The Krampus come over and pick people out of the crows to hit with their whips made of sticks. I got hit a few times. here is a video of one of them coming over to get me, as well as one of the tractors.

There were many different kinds of creatures, and here are a few of them.

My favorite is the last one. with the big horns.

Here is another little video.

We left about half way through, because one, we had to get to Antermoia, about an hour and a bit away, and two, it was really cold. When we got back to the car, the temperature gauge said -14.5 C. Cold, but not as cold as Antermoia.

We left Toblach, about ten kilometers from Austria, and headed through Brunek to Antermoia, picking up one of Jakes friends on the way.

Winding up along the crazy road at night in the snow is another undiscibable experience.

We got to the house, and I glanced at the temperature, and it was around 10 degrees colder than in Tobach.

Astrid dropped Sophia, Myself, and the friend we had picked up in Brunek off at the house. When we got inside, we found out that only one of the rooms had heat, and the rest were just as cold as outside.

We had a lot of fun.

We Woke up fairly early, all piling into the one warm room from the freezing bedrooms, and headed next door to the resteraunt to have breakfast. After cleaning up, we all piled into the cars and drove back to Bruneck. Once there, as there was not nearly enough room in the one car that was going all the way out to the house, we split in half, and some took the train, and the rest of us drove.

Once everyone had arrived by their various methods, we started an epic culinary adventure that lasted for at least 5 or 6 courses over almost 4 hours. Different pastas, fish dishes,  salads and deserts were brought forth from the kitchen at a startling rate. It was soooo good.

Just after lunch, at around 4.30pm, it became apparant that the others were not heading back to Verona that day, and in-fact, were seriously considering not going back down at all that week, due to there being no school on wed.

I am not going to go into it, but the logic was, as far as I could tell, completly flawed, but I didnot point that out, and insted decided to head back down myself.

I got on the train at 6.37. It was an Austrian train doing the loop from Lienz to Innsbruck.

Travelling with me was Jake and Mathias' friend Samuele. We talked, him in english, me in italian for most of the journy, reverting to our natural languages when we could not find the words.

We changed trains after an hour or so in Fortezza, and after only five minutes, were on our way again.

We got into Verona at about ten, and headed our respective ways. I got to the aparment, and as I was unlocking the door into the building thought, haha wouldn't it be funny if they had locked the bolt that I don't have the key for, hahaha.

I got to the apartment, unlocked the door, and it did not pop open like it usually does, instead it did not move at all. I tried again, and again, and it turns out that it wasnt so funny after all that they had locked the bolt that I don't have the key for.

I kinda just stood there trying with the keys I had for almost an hour, and then decided I was not going to be getting in that night, and sized up my options.

I could have headed back to Brunek, but I nixed that right away. There was always a hotel, but I did not want to spend any money. Breaking in was an option, but I did not really want to do that. The last option that I could think of was to just sleep there, and wait for Thomas to come down the next day. I chose that option.

It was not the most pleasnt place to sleep. The floor was cold marble, the air was not heated, the lights were bright, all I had was a travel towel as a blanket, my sleeping bag being about 20 feet away inside the apartment.

I toughed it out though, and made it though the night.

I got up early, and headed outside. I knew that the coffee shops opened at 7, and they are warm, and there is coffee there, so I headed to one of those, and stayed there until eight. I then went to my school because I knew it was open, and I could relax there more than in a caffe.

After school, it was not until 5 that Thomas finnaly showed up with the keys. Making myself the cup of tea that I had so dearly wanted the night before, I settled in and got cozy and warm finally.

I slept very well, not having had a good sleep in the past two nights, and was ready for school in the morning.

Everything was closed on wed, due to a big festival, so school was cancelled, and I stayed in and just hung around the apartment. I made myself a gourmet curry for dinner.

Very tasty I must say, and the presentation makes it taste so much better for some reason, and does not take any real effort.

The week continued as normal, well, normal minus all the other in the apartment, Thomas only having stayed one night, until friday, when I came back up here.

I will leave that for another post, as I have been writing for a while now, and you have been reading for a while now, and I just think that the world would be a better place if this post ended now.

Until next time, Ciao!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Back to Brunek

It has been a little while since I have written, and since I don't have internet here, I don't really know where I left off. I am going to start on thursday of last week.

It was Jakob's birthday this weekend, and I knew we had plans to go to Brunek. I though we were going up there on friday, but it turns out that was not the plan at all. Thursday morning I learned that we were heading out at noon that day.

I left school a litte early and got back to the apartment at around noon. We left shortly after, Jakob's mother driving down to pick us up. Once in the car, we picked up a friend of theirs in Verona, and headed to the highway.

Once on the highway, I knew that last time we had changed highways where the signs pointed to the airport. As we approached the exit, still three lanes over, we were making no motions to get into the correct lane.
I asked Jake if we were taking the same way as we had before, and he said yes. I asked why we had not taken the exit, and he said it was still up ahead.

About 45 minutes later, still on the same highway, it finally became apparent that I was right, and in fact, instead of heading north, we were heading west, a good chunck of the distance to Milano already behind us.

We got off the highway, made a bunch of circles and finally ended up back on the highway, retracing our steps. Instead of going all the way back to Verona, we took the exit to go to Lago di Garda, and joined up with the correct highway there, after circling a round about a few times trying to figure out which was the correct path.

As soon as we got into the mountains, there was snow on the ground. A couple hours of driving later, we arrived in Brunek.

While we waited for Jakes mom to get some groceries, we all had hot wine, a local tradition. It is very tasty. Red wine with orange, and cinnamon, all steaming hot.

The town had put up all the lights and it looked truly wonderful.

Eventually, we ended up a the house, 35 minutes outside the Brunek. There was almost half a meter of snow on the ground.

Dinner was prepared, and eventually we went to sleep. A very nice and quiet sleep.

In the morning, after breakfast, we piled into the car and headed off to town. The two cars we took both need to go to the shop, so Jake and I dropped ours off at one of the mechanics and walked to the town center.

I only had running shoes, not very good for snow, so We went to the Timberland store and got some real boots. In Brunek, they are the shoe that everyone wears. When I say everyone, I actually mean everyone. At one point this weekend, there were twelve of us and every single person was wearing the same kind of shoes. They are so comfortable, warm, waterproof, and indestructable that they are definatly worth the cost.

From there, after a coffee, we got picked up and were on the road to Antermoia. They have another little house there, and the next night were were going to be having the birthday party there, so we wanted to make sure everything was in order.

Now, I have seen a lot of roads in my time, and some of them have been pretty hairy, especially in Mexico, but the road we took to Antermoia tops them all and then some. At less than a lane and a half wide with the snow, the road goes up up up with switchback after switcback. It is so steep, and the corners so sharp that it is necessary to take up the whole road to get around them.

It was crazy, but also amazingly beautiful.

Before the climbing starts, there are a series of tunnels that over a distance of 6 kilometers add up to 4.8 kilometers.

Then the road goes up.

The speed at which they drive along it is frightening.

There are little towns all along it, perched in unexpected places amidst the steep slopes.

We finally arrived in Antermoia, and made our way to the house. The deck looks out over a ski area, and the town, then the beautiful mountains.

Ping Pong anyone???

After a hearty lunch of traditional food, we headed home for a relaxing second half of the day. I decided to stay in when the others went out that night, and I had another amazing sleep in the alps.