It has now been 2 weeks since my last blog post and so much has happened since then. I am not sure how I will be able to sum up everything that I have experienced within those two weeks, but I’ll make sure to give you the highlights!
Our week long “field trip” started on Monday, April 10th on a bus ride towards Vienna, Austria. I had an interesting start to my day because I decided to wake up early to buy a suitcase instead of using a dufflebag. Why I didn’t think of it sooner is beyond me! The supermarket opened at 8 am, and there I was, shuffling in with the first crowd to find a suitcase. I picked one out, paid for it, ran clear back to my dorm, packed my stuff, and was on the bus by the time it was ready to leave at 9 am. Even though it was stressful, I call that a success! Words of wisdom: make sure you have the appropriate luggage before embarking on a 2-week-long trip!
When we arrived in Vienna, Martin, our professor, led us to the old part of the city where many museums and other important buildings were located. By this point after such a long bus ride, we were all wanting to grab a bite to eat. So naturally, as Martin tends to do, he let us roam free from the city center and told us “good luck getting back to the hostel!” (Vienna was easy to navigate, but just wait until you hear about Venice!) After a hefty plate of wiener-schnitzel, a traditional Viennese dish, my friends and I enjoyed a nice stroll through the parks, admiring the flowers and greenery.
On our way back to the hostel, we talked about how cool it would be to see an opera since a lot of famous composers performed in Vienna – including Amadeus Mozart and Johann Strauss. Ironically, a man dressed in traditional clothing from the 18th century approached us with a flyer for an opera. He told us the prices for admission and we turned him down since it was quite expensive. But then he went on to say, “but for students, I have a special price!” That’s when I started to think, okay this must be a scam. Seeing the cheaper price, we walked away to converse. We decided it wasn’t worth it, so we turned him down once again. Right as we were about to say goodbye, he lowered the price even further and gave us better seats! In my mind I knew it was too good to be true, but since we were only in Vienna for one more night and the tickets were cheap, we decided to do it. After talking with Martin, we figured it was probably a scam so we kept our expectations super low. At the entrance to the opera, they made us check our coats for 3 euros – obviously another way for this tourist trap to make more money. We entered the room, hoping for a concert hall but instead we were seated in a small room with chairs lined up in rows. Finally the performance began with a grand total of 7 musicians, 2 ballet dancers, and 1 opera singer. They played 6 songs from Mozart and 6 songs from Strauss. In the end, I concluded that the performance was very well done but the venue could have been better. My next words of wisdom: if you suspect a tourist trap, it probably is one. If you get suckered in, at least bargain with the guy to lower the price!
On Wednesday, we said goodbye to Vienna and took a long 6-hour bus ride to Venice, Italy. It might sound awful to be on a bus for that long, but the views of the mountains made it all worth it! When we arrived, one of the first things I did was I got my hands on some good Italian gelato. I think the food, in general, was what I most excited for about Italy, and it didn’t disappoint!
For our first full day in Venice, Martin led us across many bridges and alleyways to San Marco square. While we were there, we were granted entrance to Doge’s Palace and St. Mark’s Basilica. After that, Martin once again let us roam free to explore the city. Oh my, is it easy to get lost in Venice! There are so many bridges, canals, and alleyways that if you stray away from the main landmarks and streets, it can be difficult to find your way around. Fortunately however, Venice is one great big island, so if you find yourself swimming in the sea, you know you’ve gone too far. Even though my parents didn’t like the fact that I got lost (sorry mom and dad!), it was actually one of the coolest things about Venice. With every turn, I was in awe of the scenery: bridges arching over the sea-green canals, surrounded by tall pastel-colored buildings with flowers hanging from the balconies. It’s all so simple, yet completely breathtaking. While most of Venice felt like sunshine and rainbows, I could have done it without the huge crowds of tourists and street vendors. That was another reason why getting off the beaten path was fun.
For the next day, we went way off the beaten path to the nearby island of Burano. I would have to describe it as a “little Venice,” but with a small-town feel. We had a lot of fun taking pictures by the brightly colored buildings and exploring the shops that lined the canals. We ate some more gelato, found a park on the edge of the island, and sat in the grass to admire the serenity of this little town.
Words of wisdom for Venice: don’t be afraid to get lost or even go to a completely different island. It’s easy to get caught up in the rush of the busy streets, but finding time to slow down and enjoy the hidden treasures is definitely worth it!
So there you have it – the coolest field trip I have ever been on. I hope you enjoyed my little “words of wisdom” and will find them helpful if you ever decide to visit these two beautiful cities – which I highly recommend!
Be on the lookout for Part II of this blog where I’ll talk more about my spring break excursions!