The reason I have waited so long to write a post about EuroTour is because I wanted to win the award for the exchange student who waited the longest to get it done.
Just kidding. The real reason is because I wanted to wait until I could upload my photos from my camera to my computer, but the cord I need to do so is currently being flown across the European continent and I am tired of waiting for it. Since my phone storage situation is a nightmare, I took most of the pictures on my camera, so we all have to deal with these repetitive and mediocre phone pictures until that stupid cord arrives some time in the next two weeks.
So, as you may have noticed, I went for a two-week tour around Europe with the rest of the Austrian exchange students, as well as the Croatian exchange students from April 30th to May 15th. We took up two buses and a lot of hotel rooms every night. Here's what went down:
April 30th: departed from Kaernten to Graz, got on the bus for the drive to Croatia to pick up the Croatian exchange students
Day 1, Zagreb: we visited the city center and observed a church, bakery, and a man picking coins out of the fountain.
"Idiots throw money away - it is up to the smart people to take it."
Day 2, Trieste/Jesolo: we visited the city center of Trieste, ate pizza, and strolled around. Our hotel was in Jesolo, right next to the beach, so we swam and hung around the beach in our free time. It was really nice, and swimming in saltwater was a unique and special experience for me.
Day 3, Venice: Rotary organized for a boat to take us from Jesolo to Venice, which was very cool despite the rainy weather in the morning. We wandered around the city and Claudia, Erica, Susan, Sarah, Chloe, and I took a gondola ride. Erica is from Italy, so if we had any questions she did a great job of translating them between us and our guide. We stopped in a restaurant to have some delicious pizza and pasta. Claudia also had to carry me across San Marco's or whatever it's called Square because of the lethal amount of pigeons that paralyzed my legs with fear.
Day 4, Florence: we arrived at around 1:30 from Jesolo, and took a walking tour around the city. We saw il Duomo, rubbed a nose on a pig statue, and wandered around some more to take in the city. I now understand why it was such an important city in the Renaissance.
Day 5, Rome: we drove from Florence to Rome and received immediate free time after our arrival in the afternoon until that evening. Giulia, Claudia, Kelsi, Jake, Olivia, and I stumbled upon an incredibly good and reasonably priced panini shop. All of the paninis were named after celebrities so our lack of Italian skills was not a problem. We quite literally stumbled onto the Colosseum, we took a left turn and there it was. It's massive - unexpectedly huge, and it's kind of strange to see it sitting in the middle of the city the way it was. We walked around it and then around the grounds nearby. After that, we met up with some others and trekked to the Trevi Fountain. After meeting at the hotel we went to dinner and had more free time to explore the city at night.
Day 6, Rome: that day we had a bus tour around Rome. We saw the Colosseum, the Spanish Steps, and the Pantheon. In our free time, Owen, Lachlan, Claudia, Jakob, and I spent some time looking for lunch and
Romed around some more.
Day 7, Vatican City: we visited St. Peter's Basilica and were given free time after. Claudia and Jakob and I used our savviness to find tickets that would get us into the Sistine Chapel cheaper and faster than if I hadn't done any previous research on line lengths. We toured the Vatican Museum on the way into the Chapel. It was an extremely long line - the Vatican Museum is essentially just a very large waiting room. Despite all of the time we spent on our feet, we saw a lot of old Roman statues and made our own classical art memes which made waiting a lot less boring. The Sistine Chapel was breathtaking - if you ignored the man yelling "silence" at you in twelve different languages through a megaphone every two minutes. We weren't allowed to take pictures either - but it was enough for me to just stand under the beautifully painted ceiling and look.
After we finished at the Vatican, the three of us went inside the Colosseum. As Claudia was using her selfie stick, we were approached by a man who asked us if we wanted "to take a picture with Captain Jack Sparrow". We shrugged and the guy pulled a pirate hat out of his backpack. Since we are so aware of tourist traps, we asked if it would cost us anything. The answer was no. The next five minutes was a photo shoot - not only did we get a picture with him on Claudia's camera, he had to take a bunch on his phone with his selfie stick. The dude knew his angles.
Day 8, Lucca and Pisa: so that morning was a bit of a disaster. Our bus got robbed the night before. So on our drive from Rome to Lucca, we had to make a stop at the police station. For three hours. All of the documents we needed (vouchers to pay for hotels, gas, and dinner) were snatched, along with Roland's (one of our chaperones) jacket. Our passports were okay, however, because they were luckily kept in a safe on the bus. After waiting for things to get sorted out (which it did, thanks to Giulia's three hours of translating between the
Italian police and our chaperones) we were on our way to Lucca. Upon arrival, we grabbed lunch and went for a walk around the town. Lachland, Claudia, Jakob, and I rented bikes and went 4 km along the city wall. We visited during the days of a music festival, so we ran into a few marching bands. We stopped at Pisa for an hour to get bombarded by poor African immigrants trying to sell cheap souvenirs with compliments and catcalls and to also take pictures with the leaning tower. (Mine turned out dumb so you can not see them unless you offer me money.)
Day 9, Cinque Terre: we took the buses up the coast, which was a beautiful scenic drive. From our parking spot, we walked down into the town to take a boat to Vernazza. (Cinque Terre is made up of five villages.) For the whole day, we swam, sunbathed, and ate really good pizza, pasta, and gelato. Pesto was invented in the area, so I had some on my pizza.
Day 10, Monte Carlo: we drove the bus from Cavi di Lavagna (where we stayed the night before) to Monaco! I walked around with Delaney, and we explored the city. They were in the middle of building some Grand Prix track which made it difficult to navigate the streets, but we ended up going to the castle and getting some really pretty views of the coast. After, we drove to Eze Village in France for a perfume factory (Galimard, Parfumeur en 1747) tour. Our guide told us she gave a private tour one time to some guy who looked like Leonardo DiCaprio. Wasn't until after he left that she figured out it actually was Leonardo DiCaprio. Now the company makes bank on the cologne that he bought.
After spending all of our money on fancy smelling soaps and perfume, we walked around the village and then drove off to spend the night in Avignon.
Day 11, Avignon: our chaperones took us on a tour of the city walls and grounds, and then during free time Lachland, Claudia, Jakob, and I walked around and bought cheap crepes and gelato and tourist bracelets.
Day 12, Lyon: spent the morning in Lyon, but it was raining so much we had no motivation to do anything. So we spent a good part of our morning in McDonald's. And then we walked to a grocery store where I found Doritos (!!!!) and the boys bought 1 kg of rubber bands for €18.00. Then we drove to Straßburg.
Day 13, Straßburg: we had a quick bus tour, as well as a walking tour of the city before we were given six hours of free time. So what did we do? We wandered around, bought souvenirs, and ate kebaps.
Day 14, Vorarlberg: We took our bus from Straßburg to Dorbirn. It may have been one of the most beautiful drives I've ever done. It was so misty (because rain) and very green (because rain). When we stopped in Lindau im Bodensee (Lake Constance) for lunch and a quick self-guided tour. I went into a restaurant with Jake, Adam, and Tamara, and as soon as I open my mouth to ask for a table for four, in German, the waiter asks me in English if I'm from Poland.
"Poland? No, I'm from America."
"You're sure you're not Polish?"
"Nope, I'm from America."
This is when he yells "OBAMA!" to the waitstaff and cooks.
After that over-priced meal (I think I paid €7 for my water) we walked around in the rain and saw a church and a bakery. And then we went to Dornbirn to stay for our last night. But it was raining so badly we couldn't do much with our free time, so we all stayed in the hotel.
Day 15, going home: much to my distress, our trip to the "Sleeping Beauty Castle" in Bavaria, Neuschwanstein, was cancelled due to the rain. So we drove straight from Dornbirn to Salzburg, where the Croatians, Salzburgers, Steiermarkers and Kaernteners (me) got off. I took the train home with Owen and Adam and it was a lot of fun.
And that was EuroTour :-)
Since then, I have been trying to squeeze fun spontaneous cultural experiences into every second of my day because I have about a month and two weeks left and I'm panicking.
I went hiking with all of the Kaernteners (besides Lilli, but I am going to hang out with her tomorrow so it's okay) which was very fun.
Also, the presidential elections happened! Norbert Hofer lost! I think the Austrians made a good choice, not letting someone with the name of "Norbert" be the face of their country. In actuality, the Bundespräsident really isn't in charge of much, he just represents Austria. The Bundeskanzler is the one who does the things (and the vote for that is in 2018). If you're interested in hearing a bit more about it, just check out all of the articles I shared on Facebook because they explain it a bit better.
What was interesting for me, as an American observing what I assumed to be a very liberal country on a very liberal continent (because European socialism and sexual freedom and low drinking ages and Finnish kids don't have homework, etc. etc.) was actually divided between people voting for the far-right and the rest of them voting for their only option that wasn't far-right. And what really ticked me off is that almost whenever I talk to an adult here and they figure out I'm American they always have to bother me about Trump. Whose anti-refugee stances are shared by Hofer. Who(m?) half of the country voted for. Another striking resemblance between American and Austrian politics that I wasn't expecting was ignorant political Facebook posts and memes! Here are some of my favorites, translated by yours truly:
"we do not recognize Van Der Bellen as our Bundespräsident"
"Dad, what does 50-50 look like?"
"Look here, son."
cities voted for Van Der Bellen (green) which on the above map looks quite outnumbered by blue (Hofer) but it's a population vote, which is shown in this above map. Which is kind of a dumb thing for Austrian citizens to not know about, and make a meme out of it instead.
Today is some Catholic holiday hardly anyone knows the reason for, so I went with my host mom and two host brothers to Slovenia today. We visited Lake Bled, which was very beautiful. All three of them speak Slovenian too, which was rad. Here are some pictures:
And that's been my life in Austria since I last posted. I have a few things planned in the next coming weeks, such as going to Vienna for a concert this Sunday, and the 1920 District Conference in Kitzbühel in mid-June, and in the meantime I am going to try to jam-pack my schedule with fun. I'll let you guys know how that goes.
Thanks for reading!