Three Cheers for Prague

Today, March 31, Maria and I were up early to head to the airport for we were headed to Prague! After hearing such great things about the city, we knew we had to Czech check it out. Upon our afternoon arrival, we stepped out of the metro station to find ourselves on the sidelines of a marathon! With people cheering and crowds congregating, it was a great way to be welcomed to Prague. If only we had gotten there a day earlier…we could have ran it!

After catching the last two people cross the finish line, we followed the masses as they all headed to Old Town Square. Surrounded by sites such as the Tyn Church, St. Nicholas Church, and the Astronomical clock, it was a great place to start our Prague adventure! The square had such a good atmosphere as it was filled with small shops and stands like an outdoor market (which we later found out were part of an Easter festival). Maria and I had the greatest time walking around and perusing the stands.

Having not had lunch, we soon got struck by hunger! As it was already late afternoon, so we decided to get some “linner” and stopped in the nearest eatery that looked good. Not to keen on the traditional Czech food on the menu, we decided to at least have some Czech beers. I mean, it’s hard to say no when a beer is cheaper than water! I enjoyed a Pilsner Urquell (for one Euro!), with smoked salmon on toast.

After walking around a bit more and finding our hostel, we decided to head out for another round of beers – experiencing the best of Prague right? We both tried two different types of beer: Gambrinus and Branik. I have never been too keen on beer but am beginning to branch out and try different kinds. I must say the Czech Republic knows how to do it right!

P.S. Shout out to my Dad on his birthday!

Just Me and My Host Dad

Tonight it was just me and my host father for dinner as my host mom was visiting her daughter and Ali was in Sicily for the weekend. My host dad is a character. We joked that with everyone away we would just eat gelato and chocolate for dinner – his favorites. At times like these he can seem like a little kid, joking around with us and yet at other times he can be protective – like the time he made me take a taxi to the train station at 3am because he didn’t want me walking alone. There was also the night where he spent the entire length of dinner telling Ali and me how much he loves his wife, Cristina. “I am so lucky” he told us patting Christina’s shoulder, and Cristina replied jokingly, “Yes, he is so lucky” returning the pat.

Now that Marco is retired he claims his occupation is grandfather. When I come home from school, I usually find him watching the soccer game sporting his bright purple Florentine sweat suit cheering on his team. He is always helping Cristina out in the kitchen and telling us a new animated story over dinner. I know he cares for Ali and me as he pinches our cheeks or touches our hair and smiles in complete happiness – his way of showing his affection. So with all these great things being said, I had a lovely dinner…just me and my host dad.

New Skills, New Foods

With my Italian class canceled, I was able to fit in a delightfully refreshing morning run before heading to school to cook for Sharing Thursday. I love running in the morning, but with early class, I don’t get out in the morning often. Most of my afternoon runs this week have been terrible. With the hot sun and exhaustion from my day I have been feeling as if I am running through sand! But this morning, with that cool crisp morning air I love so much, I felt as if I were light as air!

 Workout behind me, it was time to get in the kitchen. Today, March 29, an Italian host mother, Teresa, led the cooking for Sharing Thursday! She showed me how to prepare “Riso con Carciofe” or rice with artichokes. Do you know how hard it is to prepare fresh artichokes? Teresa spent a good hour peeling and cutting the artichokes for the dish. There’s really only a small percentage of the vegetable that is used. However, I loved learning how to prepare them for my host mom cooks with them often and I absolutely love them!

Another skill I learned in the kitchen today was how to prepare Italian coffee. Italians make their coffee on the stove in a little metal machine. I have seen my host mom do it a thousand times but never knew where to put the grounds (B), where to put the water (A), and where the coffee collects (C). Now I know!

With another successful Sharing Thursday completed, and another Italian recipe to add to my collection, I was not done trying new foods today! After dinner this evening, my host mom pointed to a box on the counter and asked me if I wanted some. It was the same box I had seen in all the grocery stores lately containing a traditional Easter sweet called “Columba”. “Isn’t that for Easter?” I asked in answer to her question. She said yes but that it was already open because Marco couldn’t wait! “So impatient!” she exclaimed. The sweet was very similar to Easter Bread being sweet dough with candied orange peel throughout. The Columba, however, had a sugary coating and was sprinkled with large sugar sprinkles and almonds. Gets me excited for Easter!

Hum Drum

While other people hit up the school bar, or grab a Panini for lunch, I bring mine from home. I usually pack a piece of fruit, a yogurt, some bran cereal, and maybe a granola bar or sometimes I’ll make oatmeal in the microwave at school – exciting right? While it doesn’t sound that great to most it keeps me going, and happy. Lunch is the one meal I have full control over, meaning I can resume my usual eating habits and eat light and healthy.

Today, however, March 28, I was about to break out my super-cool Syracuse lunch bag when I got a call from Maria: “Meet me in the center for lunch!” I happily put my yogurt aside to head to the center.

A smoothie from “Love Life” consumed next to the Duomo while soaking up the sun with Maria was a lovely change to my hum drum lunchtime routine J

Deprived Coffee Connoisseur

Today my Italian professor asked our class what the first thing we were going to do when we got home. I replied almost immediately, “Bevo un bicchiere di caffe Americano grande!” (I am going to drink a big cup of American coffee)

 Although Italian coffee is suppose to be great, I am not a fan. Coffee here is very strong and thick and served in a little shot glass – how am I supposed to savor that? I tried drinking it plain a couple times but its strength is too much for my stomach and literally makes me sick!

Cappuccinos (equal parts coffee, milk, and foam) were great for a while, but in opinion they have flaws. First of all they are so small. Two sips and there’s only foam left in my cup. Second, they are not hot enough. I like my coffee piping hot. I have been known to burn my tongue multiple times a day back at school. But here, the coffee is served luke-warm. And third, they are not fat-free, low-cal, or healthy. I now have to think of a cappuccino as a “snack” as opposed to my less than 50 calorie cup of coffee at home.

That being said, my host mother does make a mean cappuccino, and I drink one every morning. It is the best cappuccino I’ve had in Italy, served fresh every morning in the largest cup I’ve seen here (but that’s not saying much). When I asked her if we could have nonfat milk in our cappuccinos she replied, “That stuff is like water” – I guess that’s a no?

Oh dear large mug of American coffee with sugar-free hazelnut creamer, wait for me. I will come back for you. With love and adoration, a deprived coffee connoisseur.

Balli Italiani

Happy Healthy Monday! With apples, bananas, pears, and oranges, fruit was in abundance this morning as always – but gone by afternoon!

And in the evening, some students got their bodies moving with Zumba! Although we have been doing Zumba quite a bit for our Move-it-Monday class (taking advantage of Alex, our student Zumba instructor), this one was a little different, for it was instructed by an Italian Zumba instructor! The class was very different from the “hip-hoppy” version of Zumba Alex teaches, and was more of Italian dancing than a true workout. However, it was fun to learn dances to some popular songs in Italy like “Ai Se Eu Te Pego” – which is playing everywhere here right now!

The Girl Behind the Blog

In college, Sundays are “work days”. At school, this means spending hours at the Library doing homework before classes begin on Monday, and time goes out the window. In Florence, however, I don’t find myself having an overwhelming amount of schoolwork. Instead Sunday “work days” have become “blog days” – my independent study project if you will.

As many other abroad students do, I started this blog when I came abroad not only as a way to share my experiences with family and friends but as a way to document my time abroad. My blog is more for me than for anyone else for I can look back on each post and read about details of my trips I can no longer recall from memory.

Although I know I will be thankful I documented my semester from years to come, I must say it is a lot if work! The commitment to posting everyday is definitely a large undertaking, and I often find myself spending more time blogging than doing school work. (Don’t worry my grades are not suffering). Although I know I do not NEED to post everyday, there are small details of my everyday life here in Italy that I want to remember and cherish forever – like the three course dinners every night, the afternoon runs along the river, or the time spent with new friends.

No matter how much work it takes, I am happy to be blogging my way through Europe