Friday, July 31, 2009

Discovering Egypt

We are in Egypt- I can’t believe I am in Africa. I have wanted to visit Africa since I became involved in Invisible Children back in high school. I took a really great SAS tour of Alexandria yesterday. Our tour guide was a young woman and she was the sweetest tour guide. She gave us so much information about the city and things to do. The tour took all day but was probably the best SAS tour I have taken. Alexandria was founded by Alexander the Great in 332 BCE. The city is 22km along the Mediterranean Sea and has a population of about 8 million. During our tour we drove past the statue of Mohammed Ali, the founder of modern Egypt. We also drove past the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Pompey’s Pillar, Qait Bey Fort, Abu El Abbas mosque, and the Montaza Gardens where the summer palace of ex- king Farouk is situated. We visited the Catacombs of Shawqafa which were really cool. It is a three- level underground funery. They had a pulley system for lowering the bodies into the catacomb and there was an area where dinners and receptions were held for the dead. Then we visited the National Museum of Alexandria where there are underwater pictures of the excavation of Cleopatra’s sunken palace. They are thinking about building an underwater museum as opposed to trying to actually excavate the palace and bring it to the surface.

We visited the Citadel located on the Mediterranean and had lunch at a local restaurant where we tried a mix of Greek, Middle Eastern, and Egyptian cuisine for lunch.

 Next we visited the Bibliotheca Alexandria which is built on the same site that the Library of Alexandria was once located. The previous library burned down centuries ago, in 48BCE. The only remaining manuscripts and books from the library are located in Austria. The current library can hold 8 million books, however there are only one half million there currently. The library consists of three buildings- the reading room, conference building and a planetarium. The main building which holds the reading room has 11 floors. The main source of light in the reading room is natural sunlight so the roof has windows that are meant to be an eye- the outside has a lip that is the eye lash and the inside has a dip that is the eye lid. The configuration whisks rain water away from the windows and provides as much sunlight as possible. From the outside, the roof is meant to be a sun rising out of the water. On the outer walls there are letters and symbols from multiple different languages to signify the convergence of languages and the learning that goes on inside the building.

Throughout the day we saw a lot of women who were completely covered in Muslim attire, and then we also saw many women who only had their heads covered or nothing at all. Our tour guide explained that women were allowed to wear whatever they wanted; no one was forcing them to dress traditionally and be completely covered. She explained that since Egypt did not have a Muslim government then there are no restrictions for anyone no matter gender or religion. Most of the shops do close on Friday in order for Muslims to observe their holy day and sometimes shops close on Saturday to make it a 2- day weekend.

After we got back to the ship Dan, Lucas, Amanda and I took a taxi to Carrefour, a local shopping mall. We found a taxi driver whom we named Jimmy, for no reason, and he took us both ways to and from Carrefour. He waited for us while we hung out in the mall. We wanted to see a movie but they were only showing movies in Arabic so we just walked around and hung out. We found a Fuddruckers and the boys had never been to one so we decided that we may as well go. It was just like at home, which was fun and funny at the same time. Evidently there are 22 Fuddruckers in the Middle East. After that we walked around and got ice cream from Baskin Robbins- we had a true Middle Eastern experience of course. Actually, most of the stores in the mall were either American or European.

So far Egypt has been a great experience. The country itself is very impoverished and that was what I was expecting. It is refreshing, yet eye opening, to finally visit a country that does not look like an older version of the United States. I am hoping to be able to visit an orphanage on Monday and get that service visit experience as well. I wanted the eye opening and cultural experiences during this trip and I think I have finally found it. Tomorrow I am traveling to Cairo on an SAS trip of a camel ride and jeep safari. We will see the pyramids and sphinx while in Cairo. It is about a 3-4 bus ride into Cairo and it will be a long, hot day.

Sunday, July 26, 2009


We have just finished our third day in Bulgaria. It is a gorgeous country and took most of us by surprise it seems. The people are very friendly and a fair amount of people speak English, or at least we are able to get by with motions and such. On the first day I took an SAS tour called Highlights of Varna. We visited the Archeology Museum, a church (the second largest in Bulgaria) and the Roman Baths. The tour left much to be desired, but it gave us a nice taste of the city and helped us to get our bearings. We tendered from the sea into port on the first day and that was quite an adventure. As my tender boat was going back to the ship the seas became very rough. At one point our boat was literally on its side and then back onto the other side from the motion of the waves. There was another boat in front of us that was trying to get onto the ship. Only 3 people got off the boat before they aborted and send the boat away from the ship because it was too dangerous to let people off. The gangway was on a platform and the seas were too rough for it to be safe for the crew or the students. We had to wait in the water for an hour while they switched the gangway to the port side in hopes that it was calmer on that side. The seas kept getting worse and a lot of people on both tender boats were sea sick. A few more minutes and I probably would have been as well. Finally we were able to get off the tender and they made an announcement on the loud speaker on the ship welcoming us back. A lot of people, including the captain, were watching us get tossed by the seas- even the crew seemed nervous. We decided that should we need to abandon ship we would rather take our lifejackets into the water than be in those boats again lol. That evening I went out with my crew and we found a strip of restaurant, bars and clubs. It was a lot of fun and everything is on the beach and pretty close to the ship.
On the second day I took an SAS trip to Nessebar, about 2 hours south of our port city of Varna. Nessebar is an old medieval town located on a peninsula. It was a very quaint fishing town with a lot of old family churches. There were a lot of tourist shopping and back streets that we walked around. We had about 3 hours of free time so I got lunch with Cory and Emma at a cute restaurant on a cliff that overlooked the water. Emma and I shared a local wine and we got pasta. We walked around and got gelato as well. We had a lot of extra time at the end of the day so we found a bench overlooking the water and I took a snooze for a little while and we all enjoyed the sunshine and a nice breeze. A local merchant told us that the temperature was 40 Celsius which is 104 Fahrenheit.
Today I walked around with Dan and Julie. We started off looking for a post office but we got distracted. There was a beach volleyball tournament a few blocks from the port so we stopped to watch. We saw Germany and Bulgaria play and then we watched Latvia and Brazil. It was a lot of fun and I’ve always wanted to watch Brazil play volleyball because they are one of the best teams in the world. We continued to walk around town later and we got lunch at a local restaurant. I think Julie and I have become obsessed with iced coffee, they are so good here. We found a strip of shops and I got a few shirts for Egypt and because I’m sick of the clothes that I brought- you can only wear things so many times lol.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


My original intention of this blog was to act as a journal for myself to look back upon, as well as a way to communicate my travels to friends and family. When I get home I hope to make it more into a journal and print it out with pictures and decorate it with other memories I have acquired on my trip such as tickets and such. I want to be able to look back on the blog and reread my stories, both personal and in general. This being said, I have some memories of my travels in Turkey that have not always been comfortable and fun. I do not mean to scare the readers of my blog, but when I look back on these blog posts I want to remember my real experiences in these countries. As much fun as the trip has been, and as comfortable and safe I have felt in most situations, not all have been. Italy was the first country that I did not feel perfectly safe, but knowing bits and pieces of the language seemed to lessen the shock of situations such as being approached by men and cat called. Turkey has been a different story.

Istanbul is a huge city and a relatively nice place. I arrived here with no expectations, which was nice for a change. Upon arrival in the city I found it to be old and dirty, like most of the cities we have visited, but I wasn’t immediately put off or surprised by that discovery. I have traveled around the city via walking, taxi, tram, bus and trolley and aside from the usual taxi driver ripping off the tourists, I have not found transportation nearly as scary as the taxis in Italy. The first few days in Turkey my friends and I (always with a few guys) have wandered around the city. We visited the Grand Bazaar and Spice Market, and Taxism Square where most of the restaurants and entertainment is. We also went to a soccer game, as I mentioned earlier, which was a lot of fun. However, at his soccer game is where most of my reservations about Turkey and the people here were proven true. At our Semester at Sea pre-port meeting we were cautioned about visiting places of high tourist volume and events with large crowds etc. We were also informed about terrorism and bombings that have happened in the last few years. As westerners, and females, we were cautioned continuously about being safe and mindful of where we were and what we were wearing/doing.

During the soccer game my friends and I were the first few Americans to arrive in the section we were sitting. Of course we chose to sit with the locals who were constantly cheering (mostly men) and we wanted to be a part of the action.  When the Turkish men saw the American girls they wanted us to sit up front with them and cheer. For some reason we decided this would be fun and we went to sit with them (the guys came too thank goodness). In the beginning, the few of us that were there had a good time and everyone was really nice, asking us about America and where we were from and things like that. Then a lot of drunk SAS girls showed up and things started to get out of hand. The girls started flirting with the Turkish men and all of a sudden everyone thought it was ok to basically start harassing us and trying to ask us out places etc. During all of this, some of my friends were intentionally fallen upon by guys that were sitting above them and hands started going places they shouldn’t be. It became very uncomfortable and towards the end of the game a few of us moved back to the upper section of the stadium.  I was very put off by the way these men changed from when all of us were sober, to the way they reacted when the other girls were drunk.

My second experience was when we were leaving the Grand Bazaar. On our way to the tram we walked through a very busy section of town with cars, taxis and people everywhere. From out of nowhere two men started running towards each other and attacking the other. All of a sudden men from everywhere were running towards these men (who were maybe 200 feet from us) and it became a huge fight with people trying to pull each other off. It only lasted a few minutes but after that everyone was still gathered and we had no idea why. We couldn’t go anywhere because we needed the train and we were very shaken and didn’t know what to do. There was no obvious reason to us as to why the fight started and that made it even more uncomfortable for us.

Last night I encountered by third and fourth occurrences with Turkish people- one was intentional, one was not. The first occurred as we were walking through Taxism Square after seeing Transformers. There were about 10 of us walking through this huge street of shops and the trolley came through on its tracks down the middle of the street. The group got split up as we tried to avoid the trolley, and all of the guys were on one side and me, Julie and Amanda were on the other. As the trolley drove by, Julie was standing a few feet away facing me and I was watching the trolley. There was a Turkish boy, about 11, on the back of the trolley and reached out to Julie and scared her. As I was watching this I was sure he was going to take her purse (which he might have had it not been across her body). It was like I was watching this in slow motion and I couldn’t even warn her he was reaching out to her because I didn’t have time. My heart started to race as I saw his hand reach out and my mind instantly brought an image of Slum Dog Millionaire when the India kids are stealing everything from the tourists. I had no idea what I was going to do had he taken her purse, but the trolley wasn’t moving too fast so I guess that would have had something to do with it. I don’t really know if I would have, or should have done anything, but it was a very scary thing to think about and then witness the boy reach out and scare her.

After that incident I guess I was on high alert. We walked a bit more and about an hour later a trash truck came up behind us ( I didn’t know it was a trash truck at the time). Again, we got split up and it was me, Julie and Amanda on one side. Julie was walking ahead of me again, not even 10 feet away. As the trash truck approached us and was next to me I saw the trash man jump off of the truck in my peripherals and ended up crossing paths with Julie. In that instant I had no idea what was going on and all I saw was this man jump off the back of the truck and it looked like he was going to grab her. I was so scared, and even though I had no reason to be, my heart would not stop pumping for a while. As soon as I saw him jump off I grabbed her and pulled her to the other side of the street. I know that this instance was probably intensified by my other experiences that day, but it was still frightening.

I like to think that we have been pretty safe and smart while traveling. We always go in groups, dress conservatively and I always wear my purse across my body with extra money and such in different places, but Turkey has been a different country than the rest. Spain and Italy were easier because we kind of knew the language and we looked more like the people there. Croatia and Greece were very friendly places and a lot of people spoke English, we also fit in more there with looks as well. I guess I have come to the realization that we are starting to enter a harsher part of the world, where women don’t have as many rights and things are more taboo. I know that much of this is probably a stereotype but it doesn’t stop us from thinking about it all. I have no idea what Bulgaria will be like, but I know Egypt and Morocco will probably be similar to Turkey. Both are also considered Muslim countries, which Turkey is not, and that will change things as well. They will be stricter about women and I think the men will be more aggressive towards women than even Turkey was because of the stricter rules they have for the women that live there.

I have enjoyed my time in Turkey and I am glad that I visited, but I have reached a point where I am ready to move on.  Istanbul is a grand city and there is much to be explored, but I feel as if I have done enough for now. I saw a lot of the downtown area of the city, the mosques, Haigia Sofya, the Jewish Quarter, Taxism Square, the Grand Bazaar and the Spice Market. We have also wandered around by the water front and walked a fair amount of the area close to the ship. I am thankful for this experience and I suppose it is eye opening as to things that may lie ahead. I promise to enjoy the next countries that we visit, but I know that I will have some reservations. Again, this is not meant to scare or make the readers of my blog uncomfortable- I don’t stay in situations where I am uncomfortable- but I wanted to be honest. I want to look back and remember everything about my voyage, not only the easy and fun experiences, of which there have been many.

We leave Turkey tonight and we will be in Bulgaria on Friday. I have started to read about Bulgaria in my travel books and have become a little more excited by the visit. I hope to be pleasantly surprised by the country.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Turkey: City Orientation and Turkish Bath

We arrived in Croatia yesterday morning, I got up at 6am to watch us pull into port. Istanbul is the largest city in Europe and is the only one to sit on two continents, Europe and Asia. Istanbul is on the Bosphorus Strait and is surrounded by many bodies of water. It has a population of around 14 million people and is the largest city in Turkey but is not the capital. My City Orientation took us around Istanbul yesterday. We saw the Golden Horn (body of water), Patriarch of Istanbul for the Greek Orthodox religion of Turkey (similar to the Vatican), Rome Aqueduct, Balat (Jewish Quarter), City Walls, Crown Prince Mosque, Blue Mosque, Haigia Sofya, Hippodrome and the Basilica Cistern. The mosques were gorgeous and huge. They were really strict about women covering themselves because the mosques are still in use. The Haigia Sofya is the 3rd to be built upon the land where the current one stands. It was first built as a church and was later converted into a mosque. The Blue Mosque is known for its 6 minarets and the blue- tiled interior. The minarets are built towards heaven and have a spiral staircase in them leading to heaven.

Last night we walked around Taxism square and had appetizers and drinks and then just walked around all night. The street with a ton of shops is miles long and there is a ton of stuff to do. We got ice cream from a man who twirled the ice cream and did tricks while he was putting it into cones- it was pretty cool.

Today, Tessa, Elissa, Mckinsie, Carly and Juliana and I decided we would find our own adventure. We started with a traditional breakfast in a local restaurant. Elissa and I shared a plate of assorted items including a rice patty, cheese sticks, potato sticks, salami, cheese and a few other things. It was very good and the waiters were very friendly. It was a deli where you pick your own items and then they had meats hanging from the meat counter. It was like a small market I suppose. After that we decided to try out a Turkish Bath- It was the coolest thing. It is separated men and women and you go in and everyone is naked (they give you underwear/bathing suit bottoms) and a towel and it is just a big sauna room. You can lay on the hot stone in the middle of the room and then a lady attendant takes you to the edge and she scrubs your body. She pours cold water on you and then a ton of soap bubbles and scrubs everything and anything off of you. Then you go into a hot and cold pool and just lounge until you are ready to get out. We also paid for a facial and oil massage. The lady took us into another room (still a sauna) and put white cream on our faces which we washed off when it was dry. Then I had the most amazing massage with warm oil and she also gave a face massage. All of this was pretty inexpensive compared to the States and it was a blast. We were there for about 3 hours just lounging around. The cool thing is that this wasn’t necessarily a tourist trap, there were locals there too and evidently the locals go to these baths all the time. It was the most tranquil and relaxing experience.

After we left we went to Taxism Square where all the shops and restaurants are. We found tickets for a soccer game tonight between Italy and Turkey (we think) and then got some munchies. We are very excited for the game, a lot of kids from the ship are going.

Tomorrow I am doing an SAS trip about Jewish Tradition in Istanbul and then maybe going to the Grand Bazaar either tomorrow or Tuesday.

Friday, July 17, 2009

On the coast of somewhere beautiful: Stories from Greece

We are departing Greece tonight. During this trip I did 2 days of SAS trips and 2 days of finding adventures on my own. On Monday I took an SAS trip to see Athens and the Acropolis. The Acropolis includes the Propylea, Pinakotheke, Parthenon, Erechtheion, and the temple of Athena Nike. The Parthenon is a temple dedicated to the goddess Athena, it was built in only 9 years which is amazing for how immense of a structure it is. It has 8 columns on the ends and 17 on the sides. Because of the optical illusion that the eye plays on our vision with distance, the columns are slightly skewed so that they look straight when we look at them, otherwise if they were truly straight our eyes would tell us that they were crooked. The Acropolis has an amazing view of the city of Athens as well as a view of the Temple of Zeus a few miles below. Monday night I went out into Piraeus, our port of call. A group of friends and I found a restaurant/bar near the harbor and we were able to enjoy the company of a few locals without any other Semester at Sea kids around which was a nice change.

On Tuesday I took a trip to Delphi with SAS. It was a 3 hour bus ride and we hit traffic because of a strike that was going on. Strikes are pretty common in most of the countries we are visiting and they wreak havoc on the cities. Our first stop on the way to Delphi was at a Greek Orthodox Monastery. The Monastery was gorgeous and set on top of a hill overlook the valley of the mountain. Delphi was constructed as a place of worship and was known as the center of the world to the Greeks. People visited Delphi once a month, 9 months out of the year, in order to consult the gods on what course of action to take both in their public and private lives. We visited the Sacred Precinct which includes the Temple of Apollo, the theater, Archaic Treasures and the stadium. We saw the Oracle from a distance but unfortunately did not get a chance to see it up close.

On Wednesday, Julie, Elissa and I took the ferry to the island of Aegina. It was a gorgeous island and relatively small. We did some shopping along the main strip and then walked a little ways to the beach. It is a rocky beach, as is most of Europe it seems, and the water was very warm. We noticed a small restaurant around a bend of the island that we could see from the beach and we decided to find our way there for lunch. The restaurant was a perfect scene from a movie. It had white couches and comfy chairs and canopies everywhere. It was literally right on the water and there were only locals there when we had lunch. It was absolutely gorgeous and we all agreed that it was what we had been waiting for in terms of our expectations of Greece. After lunch we shopped around and wandered around the side streets. We found really friendly shop owners and everyone loved to talk to us about where we were from and our adventures in Greece. The people here are incredibly nice and most of our encounters with people all over Athens and the island were very pleasant. We stayed on the island until the late afternoon and then took the “Flying Dolphin” (hydrofoil ferry) back to Piraeus. While we were waiting for the ferry we ran into a group of high school students (probably 100 kids) and one of the counselors saw us and yelled to us asking if we were on Semester at Sea. She had gone on the Spring 2007 voyage and was now a camp counselor for American- Greek high school students. The counselors stay in Greece all summer and they get new campers every 3 weeks and take them around Greece. She had just given a presentation to her campers about SAS and then one of them told her they saw one of our students wearing a SAS shirt. She was so excited that the voyage had stopped in Greece and she wanted to go see the ship. We talked to her for quite a while about her voyage and compared it to ours. She told us what a life changing experience it had been for her and she said she hoped we had just as amazing a trip as she did. After we got back to the ship we met up with friends after everyone did their own thing during the day and we found a little restaurant on the water for a late dinner.

Today (Thursday) Julie and Elissa and I took the metro back to Athens and visited the Agora (bazaar) in downtown Athens. I bought a painting of the Greek islands and a sun catcher to hang in my window at school. We hung out downtown for a few hours and got gelato. While we were walking around we ran into one of Elissa’s professors from the ship. We were talking to him when a Greek shop owner approached us and asked if we were on Semester at Sea. We told him and we were and he pulled us into his shop to tell us how much he loved America. He had business cards from probably more than 50 Greeks who had gone to America and started their own businesses and restaurants. His father had immigrated to America when the shop owner was a boy and he started his own company there. He was very friendly and he knew all about our trip because he had met so many students from SAS over the past 4 days. He gave us a “lucky penny” and said it would bring us back to Greece

Overall, Greece has probably been my favorite port thus far. It was a very friendly place and we all felt very comfortable walking around town. The islands are amazing and I really hope to come back and visit them someday.  We have one day at sea and then we will arrive in Turkey on Saturday.

Here are pictures from all over Greece:

And here are random pictures that I keep accumulating. Some are from the bridge tour, Sea Olympics and a few leftovers from Spain.


Sunday, July 12, 2009

Sea Olympics Winner!!

We have been at sea for two days and we will arrive in Greece in the morning (Monday). Yesterday we just had class as usual and I finally took my bridge tour- my other two were postponed. The bridge was very cool. The Third Officer in command showed us all the gadgets up there and I got to sit in the Captains chair. We saw the GPS and sonar and all that fun stuff. Today we had the Sea Olympics. Each team is divided by Seas (halls) - I was the Yellow Sea. We competed in things like tug of war, lip synching, synchronized swimming etc. The winner of Sea Olympics gets the glory of being champion and gets to disembark the ship first in Norfolk. After many strenuous battles and long, hard fights- YELLOW SEA WON! We killed the other team in points and we had a lot of fun. The Sea Olympics took all day and then we had our pre port meeting for Greece. Tomorrow I am going to Athens and seeing the Acropolis; then on Tuesday I am going to Delphi. I have nothing planned so far for the last two days but we might try and go to an island or two. Supposedly Harry Potter is coming out while we are in Greece so we might try and go see that, otherwise we will see it in Turkey. I don’t care what language it is in, I just think it would be cool to say you saw it in another country. Otherwise not much is going on but I wanted to share my excitement of winning the Sea Olympics J

Friday, July 10, 2009


We arrived in Croatia on Tuesday morning. I took a tour of the city that first morning and I saw the city walls that surround the Old Town. I also saw the martime museum and the aquarium. Neither was as impressive as I had hoped but the museum showed the history of this small port town. We saw the St. Lawrence Fort that protects the harbor- fun fact- Croatia has more than 1,000 islands. I also saw the synagogue- there are only 44 current members of the synagogue and there are only 2,000 Jews in all of Croatia. In the city walls is the Mayors House and the old Governors Mansion. Old Town is very quaint and has a lot of really cute shops, I am going back there this morning with Elissa and Julie and then we are going to find a beach and put our feet in the water.
On Wednesday I went to Mostar which is in Bosnia- Herzegonia (I am adding a country to my summer list). Mostar means "Keeper of the Bridge" because of the bridge that connects the town. In 1993 Mostar was caught in the war of and their bridge was destroyed. They decided to rebuild it exactly as it was in the past and even used stones from the old bridge as well as stones from the original quarry. After the rebuilding it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We were in Bosnia all day and had lunch at a local restaurant as well.
On Thursday I went to Montenegro which is a country next to Croatia (extra country #2). It was beautiful and the towns we went to were wedged between mountains and surrounded by water. We took a few hours to drive around the base of the mountain to go to different towns and then took the bys on a ferry (much quicker) back to the main road at the end of the day. We drove to Kotor first which was the old capital of Montenegro. It is surrounded by City Walls but is a very small town. Elissa and I did some shopping there before the bus left for the next town. We drove about an hour up a mountain on a very steep and winding road (especially in the charter bus) and we arrived at a small village where they gave us a local snack- ham and cheese sandwich. Then we drove back down the mountain and went to Budva. We had lunch there and then walked around a bit before the bus left. It was another very long day but much more beautiful than Mostar.
Last night we went out as our last night in Croatia and we met 4 really nice English girls that we hung out with most of the night. It was a fun night in Croatia and the town really livens up at night. Croatia has been one of my favorite places thus far. 
I am going to try and upload pictures today but worst case I will try and do it in Greece. We leave Croatia tonight and we will have 2 days at sea. We have class tomorrow and I have a midterm in Business Ethics, then on Sunday we have Sea Olympics with everyone on the ship so that should be fun.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Monday, July 6, 2009

When in Rome...

We left Italy last night and we will arrive in Croatia tomorrow morning for a 4 day adventure. We were in Italy for 5 days, 4 of which I was traveling around southern Italy. I did a long excursion that included Rome, Caserta, Pompeii, Sorrento, Capri and Naples.

ROME- Day 1 and 2

We arrived in Rome the morning of July 1 by motor coach from our ship that was docked in Civitavecchia, about an hour drive. We stayed in Rome for 2 days and we walked all over the city. Rome was a lot dirtier than I expected, but it amazed me how the people just live around all these historic monuments. When we arrived in Rome it was so crowded and there was graffiti everywhere, and then we turned a corner and the Colosseum was looming over us for hundreds of feet. It is amazing that something as grand as the Colosseum was built such a long time ago. In Rome we saw the Tigre River, Colosseum, Arch of Constantine, Roman Forum, Arch of Tigre, St. Paul’s Basilica, Sistine Chapel, The Vatican, Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, Piazza Navona and I am sure there was more.

First we walked all around and inside of the Colosseum and then we walked to the Roman Forum where there are a lot of churches. The Arch of Constantine is also right across from the Colosseum.  After we wandered around Rome with a tour guide for quite a few hours we had free time and lunch. Our hotel was on a busy street near the train station so there were a lot of shops and restaurants nearby. I met a few girls: Aubrey, Victoria, Sarah, Gloria, Violet and Amanda, and we all went to lunch at a small family restaurant basically in the basement of a shop we found on the street. We all split a few pizzas – our first Italian pizzas. We also got our first real gelato and did a little shopping before dinner. Our trip included dinner in a little Italian restaurant, again in the basement, and we had Manicotti and a potato dish. In Italy they usually have many courses with dinner, which we were not aware of, and therefore many of us could not eat the second course. The first course that they give you is plenty for lunch and dinner, let alone allowing for a second course after that. We also had tiramisu for dessert- we had that a lot in Italy. After dinner we took a walking tour of Rome at night and we saw the Trevi Fountain which was beautiful, the Pantheon, and Piazza Navona. At the Trevi Fountain there is a tradition of throwing pennies into the fountain for different things. The first penny we threw was for a safe return to Rome at some point, the second penny was for love and adventure in the future. Supposedly if you throw a third penny you will get divorced and the fourth penny will kill your mother in law- we only threw two pennies each. On the way back to the hotel we asked our tour guide what we should wear to the Vatican and she said we had to wear something to cover our shoulders and knees- “you are all too sexy, you can’t wear shorts or else you will excite the Pope and cause problems in the Vatican.”

We visited the Vatican City on our second day in Rome. As most know, Vatican City is its own country, but you do not need a passport to enter the country. We took a tour through the Museum and then through the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica. The Sistine Chapel was recently refurbished to show the original color of the paintings. You cannot take pictures of the Sistine Chapel but the colors that were used in the paintings were amazing. It was a lot smaller than I expected but at the same time I had never seen a picture of it. St. Peter’s Basilica was huge and immensely decorated.

After our visit to the Vatican the girls and I spent the day walking all around Rome. We walked from the Vatican back to our hotel near the Colosseum (we think about 5 miles) and shopped along the way. During our adventures we wound up in front of the Parliament building. There was a protest going on, we tried to ask the policemen what was going on but they didn’t understand English. The next day in the paper there was an article about it- if only we spoke Italian. That night there was a huge thunderstorm, the power at the hotel flickered quite a few times. We made it inside right before the storm and then waited to go out to dinner until after. I took a video of the storm, it reminded me of a hurricane because the winds were very strong and there was hail and torrential rain.

For dinner we went to a restaurant that looked like a castle. One of the girls had been there the day before so the waiters knew her, which was fun. I got really good homemade lasagna and we shared a bottle of White Sparkling Wine. After dinner we walked to the Colosseum and took pictures at night. We had a lot of fun and couldn’t stop laughing all night- we even started to write down funny things that happened, most of which will be shared at a later time J


Caserta is where the summer royal palace of Italy is located. It is built by the Bourbons of Napoli and was modeled after Versailles in France. It was 1,200 rooms, 1,790 windows and 34 staircases. We only saw a handful of the rooms, thank goodness, but the rooms were spectacular. We saw rooms decorated for each season and there were different rooms for visitors to wait in, depending on the level of importance they held with the royal family.

NAPOLI- Day 3 and 5

After Caserta we drove through Napoli (as our tour guide stated- we are in Napoli, Naples is in Florida). We only had a panoramic tour of the city on this day because we ended up in Naples later on in the trip. Naples is a lot dirtier than anyone expected and is mainly used as a port city. It is not a very safe city either, I only went out for dinner in Naples during our last night in Italy.


We spent most of day 3 exploring the ruins of Pompeii at the foot of Mount Vesuvius. When we first arrived we had lunch at a local restaurant. After that we took a tour of the excavation and saw the ruins of what was left behind during the volcanic explosion of Mount Vesuvius in 79 CE. I was told that the ruins were first discovered when a farmer was trying to dig a well on his property. Pompeii was buried many meters below the earth from volcanic ash. Mount Vesuvius erupted twice, the first eruption did not affect Pompeii so the villages decided to stay put. The second eruption devastated the entire town. Some people tried to escape but many were left ill fated. Throughout the ruins there is evidence of life. When they were excavating the area they started to find bodies. Instead of unburying the bones, they started to fill the holes where people were lying with concrete and essentially created a statue of the people. Some of my pictures can show this better than I can explain it, but they had two bodies in cases that we could view. You could see the body was arched up as if gasping for air- proof that they died of suffocation. Pompeii had 200 restaurants and 400 shops throughout the city, some of which were “fast food” places. There was also a brothel that we walked through. It was a large hallway with rooms and rock beds. On top of each doorway was a picture of a sexual position, the men simply picked which position they wanted and went into that room. Women were simply seen as sexual slaves at the time.


After Pompeii we headed to our hotel in Sorrento. Sorrento is along the Almafi Coast and is absolutely gorgeous. Only pictures can explain the beauty but even they do not pay enough tribute to the beauty of this area. Sorrento is built upon cliffs overlooking the bluest water and all the houses are white and stacked upon the cliffs. The drive into town was very hard to make in the bus because the roads are so curvy and steep. The hotel that we stayed in was on the Sea side. There were only two hotel rooms for our group that had balconies and I got one of them. My roommate for the trip- Victoria- and I had a corner room on the 4th floor with 2 balconies, one on either side, and white tile floors. Our room looked over the pool and the sea. We slept with one of the glass doors open because it was so hot and in the morning it was like a scene out of a movie. Our sheets were white and the white shades were being blown by the wind, the sun had just come up when we woke up and we could see the water from our beds. It was absolutely gorgeous.

We had dinner at the hotel and afterwards we all walked into town and got gelato at a famous gelaterria where a lot of celebrities go. Sorrento is said to have the best gelato, and this place is supposed to have the best gelato in Sorrento- therefore we had the best gelato in the world I guess? We did some window shopping and listened to a band at a restaurant and then headed back to the hotel. That night while Victoria and I were sleeping we were woken up by fireworks on the coast. They started right before midnight on July 3rd, although we have no idea why there were fireworks, we decided to make them 4th of July fireworks J


In the morning we walked to the ferry that would take us to the island of Capri. Capri is a very expensive and elite island. Many celebrities have villas on the island, including Keanu Reeves. Capri is also a mountainous island with many cliffs and white villas. We walked around downtown and went to the beach. We put our feet in the sea (I have now been to a beach in Spain and Italy). The beach was a rocky beach and was hard to walk on but people were still laying on the ground. Me, Victoria, Gloria and Violet got pizza after we walked on the beach, it was the best pizza I had in Italy. We then walked around town some more and took the tram up the side of the mountain. At the top there was more expensive shopping and you could tell that difference in the shops below and above. We saw many jewelry shops and expensive clothing boutiques. Then we walked to a garden and an overlook of the island. The water was so blue and there were white villas and boats everywhere. We saw the big rocks where the grottos (caves) are. It was a picturesque sight.

Capri was my favorite place in Italy, it was what I had envisioned for Italy. Rome was big and crowded, yet still impressive with the Colosseum and Vatican, but Capri and Sorrento were the Italy that I was looking for. Pompeii was also very much what I expected “old” Italy to look like with the ruins and historical meaning. I can’t wait to come back and see Florence, Venice, Milan and Tuscany.


We arrived back in Naples that evening after Capri for the 4th of July. I went out into Naples with Elissa, Julie, Emma, Carrie and some other people I met that night. We took a taxi into Naples which was the scariest thing of my life. The drivers in Italy don’t pay attention to red lights, pedestrians never have the right of way, and it is basically bumper cars to see who can get somewhere the fastest. There were 15 of us to begin with and we made sure each taxi car had a guy in it. The taxi drivers try to get you where you are going fast so he went backwards on the road to get to an opening where he could cut across to go the other direction. I do not think I will take a taxi in any of these countries haha. We went and got dinner at a family restaurant- pizza again- and then we went walking around town. Seven of us decided to walk back to the ship and we meandered through downtown and stopped at a few bars- one of them being an “American Bar”. I had a lot of fun with the new people that I met and we made it back safely to the ship.

The last day in Italy I had a field trip for one of my classes. We visited a family winery outside of Caserta. It took about an hour to get to the town, the winery was called Mustilli Wine Cellars. They used to make the wine in their house which has been in their family since the 16th century. The woman that is now the wine maker moved the winery to a farm outside of town because they recently increased their production. They used to make the wine in the courtyard inside of their home. We went into the cellar- about 45 feet underground- and saw the barrels and wine bank. There was about a half an inch of dust on the bottles of wine in the cellar. They also had barrels that were so big they had to be made inside of the cellar because they would have been too big and heavy to transport down there. The woman answered a lot of our questions for class and assured us that the Italian government has a lot of regulation when it comes to wine production. She also said that she used to export to the US but since the value of the dollar is so slow right now it is too expensive for her to export at the moment. She plans to export her wines again soon. After the tour of the cellar we had a wine tasting with two whites and a red wine. It was a lot of fun and since wine is such a huge industry in Italy it was one of my favorite parts of the trip to Italy. A lot of friends that I met on the Spain and Rome/Pompeii/Sorrento trip went on this trip with me so it made it even better. It is fun to see people on the ship that I have traveled with, it has definitely made being on the ship more enjoyable now that I know more people.

Those are all my adventures in Italy. We will arrive in Croatia tomorrow morning. I am doing a city orientation tomorrow, visiting Mostar in Bosnia-Herzegonvina on Wednesday and I am visiting Montenegro on Thursday, and I think some friends and I are going to find a beach or something relaxing on Friday before we ship off to Greece.