Tag Archives: Airplanes

Captured by Cameraphone

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From the days of the half-megapixel camera on my old middle school flip phone, cell phone cameras have come along way over the past several years. I’m constantly amazed that my iPhone can often capture a better photo than my Canon point-and-shoot can, without the fancy lens or mechanical zoom.

And so, over the past month or so, I’ve captured a good amount of photos using my phone. While I’m still using the indestructible Samsung phone that I bought in Turkey last semester––sans camera, a pain to text on, yet comes with a nifty Bejeweled knock-off––I tend to often have my iPhone on me as a portable way to connect to the internet or take photos on the go.

Here’s a selection from my January photo stream:

In the air

The tundra of Chicago on my layover from San Francisco to Frankfurt on the flight out.

The tundra of Chicago on my layover from San Francisco to Frankfurt on the flight out.

Apparently, this was enough snow in Chicago to delay transferring the aircraft from the hangar to the gate by two hours...

Apparently, this was enough snow in Chicago to delay transferring the aircraft from the hangar to the gate by two hours…

WHOOHOO! Look at this leg room! I think I could get used to this.

WHOOHOO! Look at this leg room! I think I could get used to this.

Chasing the sunrise.

Chasing the sunrise.

On my Lufthansa flight from Germany to Italy, the flight attendant handed me this. I guess I looked like I was/could speak Italian? (Score!)

On my Lufthansa flight from Germany to Italy, the flight attendant handed me this. I guess I looked like I was/could speak Italian? (Score!)

Now too shabby of a view: sunrise over the Alps.

Now too shabby of a view: sunrise over the Alps.

Strange chocolate/nougat dessert popsicle thing that Lufthansa gave me for dessert after breakfast.

Strange chocolate/nougat dessert popsicle thing that Lufthansa gave me for dessert after breakfast.

In Fiesole

The view from the lookout on my first day in Italy.

The view from the lookout on my first day in Italy.

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After every pranzo (lunch) during the week, we have espresso and dessert––my favorite part!

After every pranzo (lunch) during the week, we have espresso and dessert––my favorite part!

What my everyday walk to school from the bus stop looks like.

What my everyday walk to school from the bus stop looks like.

Sunset from the Villa. (I have a feeling this will be a theme this semester.)

Sunset from the Villa. (I have a feeling this will be a theme this semester.)

Not a bad view for a Monday morning.

Not a bad view for a Monday morning.

The best cappuccino I've had so far from my favorite bar in Fiesole, named Alcedo.

The best cappuccino I’ve had so far from my favorite bar in Fiesole, named Alcedo.

 

CAFFEINE.

SO GOOD.

The burning of the olive groves around this time of year make for some beautiful sunsets!

The burning of the olive groves around this time of year makes for some beautiful sunsets.

In Firenze

Poetry street art posted on some city walls.

Poetry street art posted on city walls.

During the first week, I tagged along with the Art History class on their field trip to the Bargello and Uffizi.

During the first week, I tagged along with the Art History class on their field trip to the Bargello and Uffizi.

Someone get her some clothes.

I think someone forgot to get dressed this morning.

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Awkward Medieval wooden statues.

Awkward Medieval wooden statue. (Almost as good as the many mannequins I photographed last semester in Turkey… maybe this should be my new theme.)

At home

Every morning, my host mother puts out a breakfast spread for us. We eat the traditional Italian way--with a light breakfast of tea, yogurt, cookies, or a pastry.

Every morning, my host mother puts out a breakfast spread for us. We eat the traditional Italian way–with a light breakfast of tea, yogurt, cookies, or a pastry.

Another view of the kitchen.

Another view of the kitchen.

The refrigerator and TV, which we usually have on in the background during dinner.

The refrigerator and TV, which we usually have on in the background during dinner.

Cabinet in the kitchen. So homey!

Cabinet in the kitchen. So homey!

Photos from when I first moved in... Here's my desk.

Photos from when I first moved in. Here’s my desk.

Surfboard on the wall. (So I can pretend that I'm a surfer even in Italy.)

Surfboard on the wall. (So I can pretend that I’m a surfer even in Italy.)

Some of the CD collection in my room. Iron Maiden, Radiohead, Pearl Jam, etc.

Some of the CD collection in my room. Iron Maiden, Radiohead, Pearl Jam, etc.

My adopted dog for this semester! She's named Iside (EE-see-day), after the Egyptian goddess.

And lastly, my adopted dog for this semester! She’s named Iside (EE-see-day), after the Egyptian goddess.

Benvenuti a Firenze

I didn’t quite know what I was getting into when I signed up for this. And I mean that in the best way possible––I never imagined that on this Tuesday morning* I would be sitting in an high backed leather chair in a 100-year-old library, sipping my tea with a view of Florence and the Villa gardens. I savor these moments because they are accompanied with the scary realization that I don’t know when else I will be treated this well again. After you spend days wandering around the winding streets of Florence, is it only downhill from there?

Philosophical waxing aside, it’s been a whirlwind couple of days as I’ve settled in, adjusted to the effects of jet lag, and began classes for the semester. I’ll write more on that later, but first it’s time to recap how I got here.

I left San Francisco on an early 6 o’clock flight to Chicago on Wednesday morning, before connecting to my transatlantic flight to Frankfurt. Luckily, despite the weather woes that plagued most of the United States, I managed to make both of my connections. My flight in Chicago was delayed two hours––a nerve-wracking experience when your connection is only two hours to begin with––but we managed to make up enough time in the air so that I was able to reach my gate in Frankfurt with time to spare.

I finally arrived in Florence early on Thursday morning, after watching the sunrise over the peaks of the Alps. When the plane broke through the cloud cover to land in Florence, I was captivated by the rolling green hills and farmland of the Tuscany countryside. So this is it, I thought to myself.

I collected my luggage and got a taxi to Fiesole by myself, as the two others who were supposed to have been on my flight had been delayed elsewhere. The taxi driver raced up the winding road to Fiesole, which lies on a hill above the city of Florence. He’d repeatedly accelerate madly to try to make a green light, then laugh and look in the rearview mirror to see my reaction. “Vroom, vroom,” he laughed at me, as we sped through a narrow one-way alley. I nervously laughed and gripped the side of the car.

Finally, we arrived at Villa le Balze itself, whose name literally means “Villa of the Cliffs” after the cliffs it is situated on.

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Street view of Villa le Balze

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After arriving, I met the Villa staff, processed some paperwork for my permit to stay in Italy, and got a tour around the grounds themselves. Exhausted, I then promptly fell asleep as I waited for the others to arrive.

Around lunch time, I met Taylor, who will also be doing a home stay this semester. (There are only three of us out of the group of 14.) After having some lunch, we decided to explore the gardens. Of course, my camera was in tow:

Afterwards, we decided to walk further up the hill towards Fiesole, where we heard there was a fantastic lookout. And indeed, there was:

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At dinner, we had our first group meal in the dining hall as everyone struggled to stay awake after days of travel.

For me, it’s strange to be embarking on this whole experience of study abroad once again––thrown into a whole new group of people after I had been so accustomed to other eight with whom I lived, studied, and traveled in Turkey. Once more, I’m living amidst unfamiliarity, with a group, a country, and a language that I don’t quite know. But at the same time, it’s exciting to embrace this change one more time.

Ciao!

* At the time I’m posting this, it’s currently Thursday evening. Unfortunately (and fortunately), it can be hard to find time to figure out how to upload all the photos to WordPress when one’s days are filled with class and afternoons are filled with exploring Florence by foot.

On the Road (Airway?) Again: Countdown to Firenze

It’s strange to be leaving again.

My huge purple suitcase is once again stuffed with a semester’s worth of stuff. I’ve got my system down at this point. In fact, I hardly unpacked at all during the two weeks that I’ve been home. It only took several hours this afternoon to throw everything back in, replacing the shorts and dresses that were my staples in Alanya with clothing more suited for the rain and cold of a Firenze spring.

With my bags all packed, I’m now utilizing every outlet in my room as I charge up all the electronics for the travel marathon that commences tomorrow at 3:30 a.m., which is when I need to leave my house in order to make my early morning flight out of San Francisco. From there, I’ll stop in Chicago and Frankfurt before finally touching down in Florence on Thursday morning. (That is, if everything goes to plan!)

Over these past couple weeks, I’ve been so busy savoring my time with family and friends that I haven’t really had much time to reflect on all the wonderful experiences I had in Turkey last semester. And so, as I’m preparing to leave for Italy, it’s not California that I’m starting to feel homesick about, but Alanya.

I unpacked my duffel bag this afternoon to find the picture frame that my Turkish host family gave to me at our last dinner in December. Next to it, I found the beautiful blue, loopy scarf that my host mother had knitted for me. I am incredibly thankful for the charming people and culture that welcomed me to Turkey––encouraging my attempts to make conversation with my broken Turkish, cooking endless amounts of food and sweets, and inviting me into their homes and businesses. I hope that my experience this semester amounts to even just half of that.

I’ll be actually living with a host family this semester––something that both excites and terrifies me at the same time. While last semester I went to my host family’s flat for dinners and hung out with my host sister in town, now I will be living, sleeping, and eating with my new Italian host family. I’m excited to explore and have time away from the Villa in this sense, since that physical separation between home and school was absent in Turkey, where we did everything in the same building. I cannot wait to have my own Italian family, but I’m nervous about the logistics of living in a stranger’s home.

That being said, I cannot wait to explore the city of Florence itself and to touch and feel its centuries of influence as one of the great cultural capitals of the world. I cannot wait to rome its streets, capture its words on paper and its beauty in photographs. I splurged on a couple of the DK Eyewitness Travel Guides for Florence and Italy, and I’ve been pouring over the photographs and drawings. Though they take up several precious pounds in my suitcase, I hope to try out some of the self-guided walking tours for myself. And then, there’s some places that I’ve already bookmarked. I can’t wait to picture the Medicis at home in Fiesole, explore the bizarre taxidermied collection of the Museo Zoologico La Specola, or marvel at Renaissance art.

I’m truly thankful for the incredible opportunity that I have to continue my adventures abroad in Italy. I hope to build off my one semester of Italian to become somewhat conversational in this beautiful language. I hope to learn not only about what Italy meant in the past, but what it means today in global politics. But above all, I hope to have time to wander and savor the country and its people.

Czech It Out

After two packed days in Istanbul, my parents and I woke up early this morning to catch a flight to Prague, the largest city and capital of the Czech Republic. Our flight went smoothly, and we arrived in Prague just before noon with a new stamp in our passports.

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Immediately, you could feel the change from the chaos and bustle of Istanbul. While Prague is a large city in its own right, its population of 1.3 million people pale in comparison to Istanbul’s 13 million plus. Its narrow cobblestoned maze of one-way streets keeps most of the cars out of the city center.

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We had lunch at an Italian restaurant just off the Old Town Square—where I scarfed down an entire pizza more as a testament to my gratitude to eat something besides Turkish food than to the quality of the pizza—before meeting up with our guide, Pavel, for an afternoon walking tour of Old Town, New Town, and Josefov.

The four hours that followed took us through a leisurely stroll through the streets of Prague. Repeatedly, I was amazed at the beauty of the architecture of the buildings—a testament to the many centuries of immense wealth and power invested in Prague throughout the centuries. While today it serves as the capital of the Czech state, it has also been the seat of two Holy Roman Empires, the historical capital of Bohemia proper, the capital of Czechoslovakia, and an important city to the Habsburg Monarchy and its Austro-Hungarian Empire.

We began our tour in Old Town Square, slowly wandering over to Wenceslas Square. Wenceslas Square played a significant role as the site of many protests leading up to the Velvet Revolution and subsequent fall of communism in Czechoslovakia.

We then traveled over to one of the most recognizable panoramas in Prague—the view from Charles Bridge, which spans over the Vltava River. The construction of the bridge started in 1357, and served as the only means of crossing the river until 1841. As a result, this crossing helped make Prague important as a trade route between Eastern and Western Europe.

We finished our tour in Josefov, which historically served as the Jewish district of Prague. There still stands a remarkable vaulted gothic synagogue known as the Straronová Synagoga (literally “Old New Synagogue”) that dates back to 1270.

And sometimes, there’s truly no better way to explore a city than on your two feet.

Back in Old Square!

Back in Old Square!

Istanbul Part Iki

After a paper and presentation on Thursday for class, I know I’m not speaking for myself when I say that I was very ready to go on break. The shuttle picked us up at the apartment building at the ridiculously early time of 4:40 a.m. to take us on the 2-hour drive to Antalya, where the major airport is located.

At 7 a.m., the airport was packed—all sorts of tour groups were trying to make their way through the two-step security process and I was glad I had plenty of extra time. After getting to the terminal, Mara and I had some time to kill so we ordered breakfast at the café.

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Soon enough, I boarded my plane to Istanbul, excited to share with my parents the city with which I fell in love at the beginning of September. My flight was uneventful, though I was thrilled to get served a full meal (chicken sandwich, mint and yogurt sauce, and cherry cake) in the 80-minute flight. I only have good things to say about how marvelous it is that Turkish Airlines still gives you food on every flight. (And you get your first bag checked free! Take that, United.)

Once I got to Istanbul, I was determined to figure out how to take public transportation from the Ataturk Airport to Sultanahmet, the old part of the city where my parents were staying. I didn’t really have the chance to go out on my own while we were in Istanbul, and I also knew that it would save a lot of cash—6 TL versus 50-60 TL to hire a taksi. Armed with my printed map of the public transportation system, I struck out to follow the signs out of the airport to the metro.

I figured out how to buy these little plastic tokens from the jetonmatik, and easily boarded the train headed towards the center of the city. Then I had to transfer to the tram, squeezing into a crowded car packed with all sorts of people on their commute.

It was at that moment that I realized that, for the first time since I arrived in Turkey, I was truly surrounded by Turks. I was the only American around. There’s a certain amount of comfort and safety net that comes with a program like the one I’m on, where you take your classes with fellow American students and professors. But while this can be an excellent way to explore a country that might have otherwise been off limits for someone who doesn’t speak Turkish, it limits your opportunities to truly be immersed in a culture. Or to have uncomfortable moments where you have no idea what’s going on.

At some point on the tram ride, everyone got off the train and stood on the platform. I had no idea what was going on. I hadn’t heard any announcement, but everyone gave me strange looks when I was one of the last people staying in the car, so I also exited the tram. Some public transit employees walked through the car, and everyone boarded the next replacement train that came after 10 or so minutes. Luckily, since I was one of the last people to get off, I was one of the first back on. I was actually able to get a seat on the tram this time. Sometimes, ignorance pays off!

I got off the tram at Sultanahmet, and pulled out my Istanbul map to try finding out where my parents’ hotel was. It was then I realized that the map didn’t even have any street names on it. Yikes.

I wandered down the Hippodrome for a bit, lugging my duffel bag around as I tried to make sense of the landmarks around me. I knew that their hotel was somewhere near the Küçük Ayasofya, so I guessed which direction the water might be and headed through the maze of streets.

With a huge serving of luck, I was able to spot the minarets of the mosque, found the right road, and spotted the hotel. I got a key from the front desk and dropped off my stuff at my room. I didn’t have a way to contact my parents since they were on a tour, so I figured I would go back near the Hippodrome and Blue Mosque to pass some time.

I slowly wandered my way around the gardens of the Blue Mosque, circling around the monuments in the Hippodrome, and trying to seem like I was doing anything but wandering around by myself. After a half hour, I was ready to head back to the hotel to get out of the cold, but I just happened to spot my parents at the other end of the Hippodrome. At last!

I'm pretty sure my mom took this photo several minutes before I found them. Can you spot a lost looking 20-year-old in the distance?

I’m pretty sure my mom took this photo several minutes before I found them. Can you spot a lost looking 20-year-old in the distance?

It was fantastic to see them again, and I was so glad I was able to find them and join them for the end of their tour. We wandered around the Hippodrome, decided to hold off on the Blue Mosque since it had a ridiculous hour-long wait due to Friday prayers and cruise ships, and got lost once again in the Grand Bazaar.

After the end of the tour, we found a little traditional kahve next to this old Ottoman graveyard, where we had some tea as we had time to catch up on their time in Istanbul so far.

We then made it back to the hotel, where we arranged for dinner reservations at a fish restaurant under the Galata Bridge. Dinner was quite a treat!

We ordered a gigantic seabass for the three of us, and the restaurant cooked it in this mound of salt before bringing it to the table and setting it on fire in this elaborate show. It was so cool!

After dinner, we walked over to Taksim Square and Istiklal Street. The area was bustling on a Friday night—it seemed like half the city was out roaming down Istiklal. We even stopped for tea and Turkish coffee at a café.

And let’s be honest—after all the traveling and all the people I’ve met, nothing  beats spending time with your family.

Greetings from Istanbul!

With two flights, one crazy sprint through the Frankfurt International Airport, and 15 hours of travel, I finally made it to Istanbul. But first, my journey began with a long haul flight from San Francisco to Frankfurt on one of the gigantic new Airbus 380s.

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View from the window seat.

After 10 hours, two slightly peculiar meals of German food, and a couple of movies, my Lufthansa flight arrived in Frankfurt slightly ahead of schedule. However, I had to run from one end of a terminal to another and through security again in order to make it to my connecting gate within an hour. Luckily, my connection went off without a hitch and I was able to make my next flight.

For my flight to Istanbul, I soon discovered why it’s wonderful to fly foreign airlines: they still give you food! First, Turkish Airlines passes out Turkish Delights before you even take off. Then, even though the flight was just over three hours long, they served us an entire meal for lunch, with a choice of chicken medallions or beef kebab along with a small salad and dessert.

Once I arrived in Istanbul, however, the arrival terminal was pure chaos. I first bought my visa, then I snuck into the gigantic line that snaked way down the hallway. (I sincerely apologize to those whom I cut in line, but sometimes, a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do.) The line was ridiculously long—I waited 45 minutes before I got through passport control and headed over to baggage claim. With my tight connection and the huge wait at immigration, I was worried that my bag would be lost, but once I saw my purple behemoth suitcase circling around the conveyor belt, I wanted to dance and sing in honor of the lost luggage gods.

I exited the terminal, and after some searching, I was finally able to locate the other people in my pick-up group for a ride to the hotel, where we had dinner and finally got to meet everyone in the program this semester. Overall, there are nine students and three professors—hello, small class sizes!

We’re staying at the Fatih Hotel, which is located near Taksim Square in the heart of Istanbul’s textile district. The hotel itself is surrounded by numerous showrooms, ready to sell elaborate ballroom gowns, suits, and wholesale clothing to retailers. After dinner, we wandered around the streets near our hotel, stepping over the trash that was left for pick-up—huge bags of fabric scraps, cigarette buds, and discarded thread.

As we explored near the hotel, the streets were empty, save for the occasional trash pick-up or fast food delivery motorbike from Pizza Hut. It the kind of surreal quality that quite fits when you suddenly find yourself in a foreign country for four months. And so it begins.

A somewhat blurry look at an alleyway in Istanbul's textile district at night

A look at an alleyway in Istanbul’s textile district at night.