Flight Home (b)Log

I kept a log of my time traveling home. I will post it, raw and unedited, as a blog as soon as I got the land of the 4G (that was a terrible pun on the word “free”)
1 PM: Landed at London Heathrow. Took the bus to terminal 5. Got in line for my boarding pass. Was disheartened by the length. There was a grumpy man in line behind me. Lots of swearing and grumbling. General lack of happiness from his direction. 

2 PM: took a chance, after an hour in line, and asked if I was, in fact, in line for a boarding pass. I was not. While I was a bit upset with myself for being the biggest idiot in the world and standing in that line for an hour, I was happy to get away from the grumpy man. 

3 PM: cleared security like a champ. Got a smoothie that looked like I threw grass in a blender. It was everything I could ask for in a drink, except for the lack of caffeine. I followed it up with Starbucks. 

4 PM: remembered that I had a few coins left from my last trip to London. Bought the most expensive chocolate bar I could in order to spend it. Boarded plane. 

5 PM: Decided to watch a movie solely because one of the main actors had a ridiculously Irish name. It’s about Melville and Moby Dick. Was incredibly interested until they killed a whale and showed all the gore. Was brutally reminded why I have remained a vegetarian for so many years. “Fish are friends, not food.” 

6 PM: Slowly transitioned to the live-interactive flight map to not show my weakness to the gentleman next to me. I need all the street cred I can get if we crash on a deserted island. They can’t know I am restricted to pacifism by my crippling blood phobia. Listened to a podcast about extinct creatures and now want an Irish Elk. They are extinct and I’m out of luck. 

7 PM: Had an existential crisis about what happens to the time I lost in this flight. I left at 4:50 and I will be arriving at 7:40, with a flight time of 7 hours and 10 minutes and a time difference of 5 hours. Do I age in that time? Am I existing in a void? Is this the key to eternal life? Had a really nice piece of bread with cheese. 

8 PM: The flight is long. I have picked up where I left off with the whale movie. Finished the whale movie. Checked the flight map, we are now 6 minutes ahead of schedule. 

9 PM: we have reached land. Well, 40,000 feet below. I filled out the customs form, getting confused by the switch back to month-day instead of day-month. 

10 PM: decided to give another movie a try. I picked Macbeth, one of my favorite Shakespeare plays, and a potential piece for my senior honors thesis next year. I have a half-eaten sleeve of cookies that I am incredibly tempted to dig out. Turns out movies are not my thing and I gave up and listened to a podcast about left handedness.

11 PM: I have been trying to win a game of solitaire for the past 30 minutes. I am losing hope. 

Midnight: I have literally been trying to win ONE game of solitaire for over an hour. Update: I have been thwarted as I must stow my screen for landing. I’d rather land than win solitaire though, so that’s fine.  

Slán Go Fóill

Slán go fóill (roughly: slawn go foil) is the Irish for “goodbye for now.” I feel like that’s the most appropriate way to phrase my departing words to this island I’ve called home for nearly a year.

I’ll miss the language, even if so few people speak it and it always has subtitles when it’s on signs. I’ll miss the people. I’ll miss walking everywhere (but I’ll be thankful to not rely on public transportation for longer journeys when I’m home). I’ll miss the cloudy weather.

But I’m also excited to head home. I miss the trees and the storms and (don’t hate me) the snow. I knew I was a northern US resident for life when I saw pictures of snow all winter and missed it terribly. I’ve got a bit of time before I see that, though. I am excited to see my family and friends at home, and to finish my BA at Juniata next year.

I’ve completed a Certificate in Irish Studies at UCC, I’ve been in seven countries in the past ten months (eight if you count the US), and I’ve made a few friends who I’ll be excited to see on any later trips back across the Atlantic. However, I have not yet completed packing and getting ready for my flight home tomorrow morning, so I’ll keep this post short and sweet.

I hope the experience of reading my blogs has been enlightening or humorous (ideally, both) for you, and I look forward to returning to the US and sharing my experiences. I’m not sure how many more posts there will be, but thanks for coming along for the adventure.

Slán go fóill!

Rome

The long-awaited day five of my five straight days of blogging brings us to Rome. Like I said, I studied Latin for four years in high school. The only medal I had hanging around my neck at graduation was a silver medal from the National Latin Exam. I was that kid that had a tiny pendant while the other “athletic” kids were clanging along like multi-district-championship-winning wind chimes. But that’s a bit off-topic. Needless to say, I was excited for Rome.

Our first stop was the Colosseum. We were in Rome for three days, so we purchased “Roma Passes” which gave unlimited use of public transportation like busses and the metro for the three days. You also get free/discounted entry to certain museums, like the Colosseum! There is a lot of information inside the corridors behind the arches, from bones found during excavation to the social hierarchy of the seating (the closer to the action, the better. Think “ancient equivalent of courtside seats at a Lakers game). The only part about it that disappointed was the fact that I couldn’t explore the whole thing, which is my problem with most historical sites that I visit.

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Unfortunately, what you're seeing is a tour group and not a group of social deviants who will be fighting for their lives.
Unfortunately, what you’re seeing is a tour group and not a group of social deviants who will be fighting for their lives.

Next, we ventured across the street to the Forum and Palatine Hill. The Forum was the hub of civilization for the ancient Romans, and it’s still a crowded destination for tourists today. My picture is from a higher street after the site closed for the day, so you can’t tell that it’s popular.

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We made our way across the city to the famous Trevi Fountain and the Pantheon. The Trevi Fountain is really beautiful, but so crowded. The tradition there is that you turn your back to the fountain, take a coin, make a wish, and throw the coin over your shoulder and into the water. Hopefully my 20 cents was enough payment for my wish. The Pantheon is an old temple that used to be dedicated to all the Pagan gods. Now it’s a Catholic chapel. I guess my brain is stuck in the past, because I was really surprised when I saw no statues for Zeus or Hera.

The statues of Trevi Fountain
The statues of Trevi Fountain
A panorama of the Pantheon.
A panorama of the Pantheon.

Our visit to Rome included multiple visits to Gelateria Della Palma, which had over 150 flavors of gelato. 10/10, would highly recommend. Especially the biscotto/biscuit/cookie flavor.

Irish coffee to the left and cookie to the right. What more could I ever ask for?
Irish coffee to the left and cookie to the right. What more could I ever ask for?
Oh, right, I could ask for something green. Also that lady behind me is looking for a fight in the Colosseum with that side eye.
Oh, right, I could ask for something green. Also that lady behind me is looking for a fight in the Colosseum with that side eye.

When you set two English literature students loose in a foreign city, you can bet they’ll try to find something literary. We went to the Keats-Shelley House Museum, which was actually really great. It was dedicated to the romantic poets and their little circle of friends. There was a lot of information about their lives, but a sad lack of emphasis on Mary Shelley (cough she wrote Frankenstein cough). Not only did this woman create science fiction through a gothic literary masterpiece, but she also wrote novels which are infinitely better than poetry. That’s a fact, you read it here, and I speak nothing but the truth.

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And, of course, how could we go to Rome and not go to the Vatican after 14 years of Catholic school?

The one thing that really bothered me about the Vatican was the excessive tourism. Not too many tourists, but the fact that they played on it so much. We were ambushed three times on the way to get in line for “skip the line” ticket deals. Didn’t Jesus flip a bunch of tables over people turning his space into a marketplace? … Moving on.

The Vatican Museum is really nice, and is also very extensive. You walk through rooms of statues, tapestries, maps, paintings, and all kinds of art on the way to the Sistine Chapel. If you’re a person who is really interested in art, this is a place for you. If you’re just casually interested, it’s still a pretty cool trip. Especially if you play the “what is that statue thinking” or “caption that statue” game.

St. Peter’s is huge. I have pictures, but I don’t know if they’ll do the place justice. I guess it’s the head church for a reason.

St. Peter's from the outside.
St. Peter’s from the outside.
And from the inside.
And from the inside. I used to have this weird thing where I wouldn’t take pictures in churches, but a combination of them feeling somewhat touristy and also me wanting to show my grandparents the inside of the church made me abandon that stance.

Our last day in Rome was spent exploring the catacombs at the edge of the city. Unfortunately, you can’t take pictures there, so I’ve got nothing to say other than that they were very clean and dark and all the bodies were moved or sealed off. I was hoping for some skulls or something. They were still really cool, though.

Thus ends my 15 day journey to the continent of Europe. I am now back in Cork waiting to fly back to the United States. I hope the past five days of blogging have been informative and entertaining.

I’m going to try for one last post before I come home. Until then…

Slán!

Florence + Pompeii

This one is a two-for-one deal! Mostly because Pompeii was a day trip and Florence was a day-and-a-half trip.

Florence directly followed Cinque Terre. Which meant it was the place where the exhaustion began to set in. I’m essentially the first vegetarian vampire — the sun destroys my body. It burns me, drains me of all my energy, and often leaves me with nausea and migraines. If any of you are doctors, please don’t diagnose me with a deadly disease over the internet. Thanks.

The first thing we did after checking into our room was climb this hill to get a view of the city.
The first thing we did after checking into our room was climb this hill to get a view of the city.
This was not the smartest decision after hiking 15 miles of trails and mountains the day before. Our legs were begging us to skip leg day.
This was not the smartest decision after hiking 15 miles of trails and mountains the day before. Our legs were begging us to skip leg day.

So the beauty and the hiking of Cinque Terre took its toll and that was during Florence. We both heard that Florence was the city for food, shopping, and art. We’re not really interested in any of those. We go for the cheapest food we can find, we spent all our money on traveling, and we’re word people, so visual art is kind of lost on our limited brains. However, I did have a really good vegetable risotto in Florence so maybe people are right about that.

No, we didn't see the real David. This one is green, so I knew the real one couldn't compete and wasn't worth the trip.
No, we didn’t see the real David. This one is green, so I knew the real one couldn’t compete and wasn’t worth the trip.

The other main event for Florence was climbing the Duomo, a large domed church. This is a very popular thing to do, and if you are planning to do it I recommend going early to beat the line. We waited for two hours and we were there at opening time. However, the view from the top and climbing up to the top are pretty cool.

You can also climb the bell tower, but I had a tip (thanks, SD!) that the dome is taller, so we just went right for the better option.
You can also climb the bell tower, but I had a tip (thanks, SD!) that the dome is taller, so we just went right for the better option.

Having completed a quick tour of Florence, we began the journey to Pompeii. A string of trains (including a night train — think “hostel on wheels”) brought us to our destination.

Here’s a quick retelling of the basic story of Pompeii for anyone who may not know. There were some earthquakes in the range of the 30 years leading up to 79 AD. They didn’t have modern science or technology, so this was unsettling but not concerning in terms of the interrelation of the earthquakes to a giant volcano nearby. Mount Vesuvius.

It’s 79 AD. The people of Pompeii are going about their business. Chatting to neighbors, buying groceries, visiting the brothel — casual Roman things. Vesuvius got the news that her favorite character in the popular drama Game of Thrones had been killed, so she exploded and covered the entire city under fire and ash.

I’m not a historian.

What really surprised me about Pompeii was how green it was. I mean, look at this:

Apparently the curators of the site try to regrow all the vineyards where they used to be. Here's a cool courtyard one.
Apparently the curators of the site try to regrow all the vineyards where they used to be. Here’s a cool courtyard one.

I was expecting a lot of grey and brown. I guess at some point in the last 2000 years people moved in and cleaned the place up a bit. Sara and I spent five hours here, walking around, exploring the ruins, and being huge geeks. I studied Latin for four years and she almost has a Greek and Roman Civilization minor, it’s justified.

A lot of the art is still preserved from the ash fall.
A lot of the art is still preserved from the ash fall.
It just so happens that a lot of the bodies are preserved from the ash as well.
It just so happens that a lot of the bodies are preserved from the ash as well.
This is what people did before Netflix.
This is what people did before Netflix.
Ruins. Everywhere. The culmination of my visiting cemeteries was visiting a city of mummified people and buildings.
Ruins. Everywhere. The culmination of my visiting cemeteries was visiting a city of mummified people and buildings.

What could possibly be next after we roamed all over Italy? If that wasn’t obvious enough, you’ll find out tomorrow!

Slán!

Cinque Terre

So this place is a bit off the beaten path for two 21-year-old explorers. Not that it’s not popular. It definitely is. It’s just not a big name attraction like Rome or Venice, but let me tell you that this stop on a trip around Italy is incredibly worth your time.

The Cinque Terre (“Five Lands”) are five towns along the western coast of Italy with a bunch of trails to walk, both along the coastline and through mountains. The five from north to south are: Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. They’re all interconnected through the walking paths, but also with a train. We stayed in Riomaggiore, which was… Well, see for yourselves:

Before sunset
Before sunset
Sunset
Sunset
After sunset
After sunset

We weren’t quite sure what to expect from Cinque Terre, so we only stayed for a day. The coastal trails from Riomaggiore to Manarola and from Manarola to Corniglia were closed because of a landslide, so we took the train from Riomaggiore to Corniglia and took the next two coastal trails north. The views really reminded me of the island in Lost, or maybe Jurassic Park?

If there weren't so many people walking on the trails, I'd be a bit wary of some black smoke or a tyrannosaurus. But there were a lot of elderly and more out-of shape people, so I could easily escape. I've been honing my savage calves all year. Every day is leg day.
If there weren’t so many people walking on the trails, I’d be a bit wary of some black smoke or a tyrannosaurus. But there were a lot of elderly and more out-of shape people, so I could easily escape. I’ve been honing my savage calves all year. Every day is leg day.
But we didn't get eaten by a smoke monster or a dinosaur. Although that survival story would make a great blog post. We just saw some beautiful sights, which is more calm and less thrilling.
But we didn’t get eaten by a smoke monster or a dinosaur. Although that survival story would make a great blog post. We just saw some beautiful sights, which is more calm and less thrilling.

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We started early in the morning because I hate the sun and the heat. We finished the coastal trails by noon, and we found a beach. I don’t really like the beach either since it kind of encapsulates both sun and heat, but Sara loves the beach and I am a good friend. However, I am not a good brother.

I took this smug selfie for my brother Ryan. Gelato, a beach, and Italy all in one picture is basically the perfect recipe for jealousy.
I took this smug selfie for my brother Ryan. Gelato, a beach, and Italy all in one picture is basically the perfect recipe for jealousy.

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The mountain trail back to Riomaggiore was much more arduous. The lady told us it was steep, but we thought it was just her overestimating in case we were less capable. It was steep, she wasn’t lying. It was fine though. Apparently my body is weirdly, and thankfully, overly capable of climbing and hiking. All these years saying I wasn’t athletic, and I just wasn’t trying the right things! The only downer was that it was the middle of the day and the sun was unkind to my pale skin.

Can I continue this streak tomorrow with a blog about my time in _______ and _______? Let’s hope!

Slán!

Venice!

After Warsaw, I went to Italy!

We flew from Warsaw to Rome, but we wanted to start in Venice and end in Rome. Thus began our journey on Italian trains.

I heard some horror stories from a German friend, and an Italian friend said she gave up on them, but they were fine, for the most part. The main issue was the first train, a fast train from Rome to Venice. Well, a string of events led us to be delayed by three hours. We were supposed to arrive at 8:54, but we didn’t arrive until 11:40. Our hostel check-in time ended at midnight (that’s what it said in the email, but they would’ve let us in after in hindsight). If you’ve been to Venice, you know it’s a maze of canals and streets that don’t necessarily make sense. If you know me personally, you know that I have no concept of direction or distance, so I’m useless at navigation. Armed with modern technology, Sara led us through the dark and empty streets of Venice, over bridges and canals, in fifteen minutes. We made it before midnight!

The view from the window after our midnight adventure through one of the coolest cities I've ever been in.
The view from the window after our midnight adventure through one of the coolest cities I’ve ever been in.

Venice was every bit as magical in the daylight. There are no cars, only land for legs and canals for boats. This gives the city a cool atmosphere, like something out of a fantasy novel. Words can’t really do the city justice, so have a bunch of pictures and see for yourselves:

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There’s a ton of shopping to do in Venice. There’s the typical and culturally relevant masks for Venetian Carnival, the day before Ash Wednesday and Lent. There’s Murano glass, from the Venetian island of Murano that has been known for glass working for centuries. Then there’s a bunch of art. Like this piece of beauty:

A button butt? A BUTTon? I don't even know. But for 460 euro, it's yours!
A button butt? A BUTTon? I don’t even know. But However for 480 euro, it’s yours!

If you’re interested in books (like me!), there’s a really cool shop called Libreria Acqua Alta. The books were all in Italian, but the store is right up against the canal and they also have these book stairs:

Forget bookshelves, I'm making a book throne when I get home.
Forget bookshelves, I’m making a book throne when I get home.

Two blogs in two days? I’m on a roll! However, Venice only accounts for a few more days of my trip. There’s more to come! Until then, enjoy a picture that Sara took of me without me knowing.

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Warsaw

I went to Warsaw two weeks ago! After years of Polish food at summer festivals in Northeast Pennsylvania, I visited Poland.

Well, just Warsaw. Not all of Poland.

However, Warsaw was probably the greenest city I’ve ever seen. Trees, grass, flowers, and fields all over the city. I loved it. Seriously, if you looked through my pictures you would say something like, “Cody, you were in an entirely new and exciting country and 90% of your pictures are of fields and trees.” That’s just the way it is.

I stayed with my good pal Sara’s family for three days. My grandfather speaks Polish, and he taught me… not much. I could say hello. So that wasn’t helpful. Her family, obviously, spoke Polish. It was a really cool experience to be in a situation where I couldn’t use my language skills. I could talk about that more, but you probably don’t want to hear about me lamenting the lack of language instruction in the American education system or me musing about language as a cultural and social tool.

They were a bit confused and concerned about my vegetarianism, since apparently that’s not really a thing in Poland. Even though they weren’t quite sure how to feed me or if I’d wilt like a flower and fall over at any minute, I don’t know if I ever will experience such amazing hospitality ever again in my life.

Her cousin drove us around the city and showed us a bunch of cool spots, from beautiful parks to historical monuments to a beach alongside the river. We also visited a museum about the Warsaw Uprising, which is a really cool historical event that I had no idea about.* The museum was great because it painted the people of the rebellion as people. It wasn’t just a museum of artifacts and such, it was a collection of stories about real people. A lot of the people fighting were young people who were willing to give everything for a cause they believed in, which is a noble ideal that most people support and enjoy. It was kind of like a real dystopian novel, where the Polish people fought back against an oppressive force. We read that plotline so often in contemporary young adult fiction, and we have this recent example where it truly happened.

I’m sorry if this post is a bit short and disjointed. Táim marbh le tuirse (“I’m dead with tiredness”) because my gallivanting was a whole 15 days long, and only 3 of those 15 were in Warsaw. I’m spending this week recovering from a whole semester of school, travel, and the past two weeks. What was next in my journey? Tune in tomorrow for more!

Slán!

*I know nothing about most historical events after the signing of the Declaration of Independence since I managed to somehow skip a bunch of history in high school because of AP classes.


Wilanów Palace. The palace survived both World Wars and remains standing. It also has a beautiful garden. The style is reminiscent of French palaces.
Wilanów Palace. The palace survived both World Wars and remains standing. It also has a beautiful garden. The style is reminiscent of French palaces.
The University of Warsaw's library has a rooftop garden, which is amazing to me. Greenery AND books? What more could I want?
The University of Warsaw’s library has a rooftop garden, which is amazing to me. Greenery AND books? What more could I want?
The buildings in this part of the city were rebuilt to mimic older architecture since Warsaw had to be entirely rebuilt following World War II.
The buildings in this part of the city were rebuilt to mimic older architecture since Warsaw had to be entirely rebuilt following World War II.
Sunset on the beach!
Sunset on the beach!