Tag Archives: Outdoors

Getting Acquainted

It’s been a busy couple of weeks, so I thought I’d take the time to quickly update what’s been going on.

On our first weekend here, we ventured out into Florence to acquaint ourselves with the city. From the Villa (and from my apartment), it’s pretty easy to get into the city center via bus.

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Alan, our director, gives the story behind Ospedale degli Innocenti, which was originally a children’s orphanage.

We also found the public library in Florence, where many Italian students go to study and hang out with friends. (It looks quite different from the libraries that I know!)

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First up-close view of the Duomo!

First up-close view of the Duomo!

And, of course, this isn’t Florence without stumbling upon a statue or two.

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Sorry for the nudity, Grandma! It’s in the name of art!

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I also got my first gelato of the semester at a place near Piazza della Signoria.

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Over the weekend, I also moved into my host family’s apartment. More photos of that later, but it’s been a wonderful experience so far!

The outside of the apartment building

The outside of the apartment building

During orientation, Alan took us on a “walking tour” of Fiesole. Turns out, it was more of a hike than a walking tour, but that’s just semantics. We hiked up to Piazzale Leonardo, where Leonardo Da Vinci famously tested out his flying machines.

On Sunday, we had some time to get lost in the city, armed with a map in hand. One of the highlights was crossing the Arno right at sunset, when the sun casts a beautiful golden glow over the buildings.

Last week, we began our first week of classes, a fairly condensed schedule since we only have class four days a week. After my Italian class every morning, I have some combination of the other three courses that I’m taking this semester: a government course on EU Identity and Globalization, a history course on the Late Renaissance, and another government course on Italian Politics since 1796. In between, I get some reading done in the library or music room at the Villa.

On Wednesday, I tagged along with the Art History class to visit the Bargello and Uffizi––two of the great art museums located here in Florence. Last Friday, we took a group field trip to meet local artists and paint our own scarves for our City of Florence class, a 1-credit course that encourages us to get out and explore an aspect of the city.

Over the weekend, Julia and I decided to jump right into sightseeing, pulling off an exhausting 12-hour day at Museo dell Piedre Dure, Museo di San Marco and the church, and several more hours at the Uffizi. I also bought a student annual pass, which will hopefully allow for many more museum visits over the next several months. We put it to use on Sunday, by going to visit Michelangelo’s iconic David at the Accademia.

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Snapshots from Sapadere Canyon

Last weekend, we spent a Saturday morning exploring Sapadere Canyon, a natural park about an hour outside of Alanya. We explored some caves, climbed the trail, and went for a swim. The water was beautiful, but freezing––the kind of temperature that completely takes your breath away and stops your heartbeat.

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Toilet Talk

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I don’t know about you, but when someone comes back from a vacation in a foreign place and shows me pictures of picturesque landscapes and historical buildings, I think, “Well, that’s nice. BUT WHAT DID THE TOILETS LOOK LIKE?”

And so, my dear friends, take a look at a lovely example of an Ottoman toilet:

As strange as I find these toilets to be, I'm sure it's even stranger than I took my camera with me to document it.

As strange as I find these toilets to be, I’m sure it’s even stranger than I took my camera with me to document it.

There are plenty of your regular Western-style toilets in Turkey, but once in a while, you’ll have to figure a way to work with this gem. It ain’t too pretty, yet somehow you manage to make it work.

I realized that I’ve quickly digressed into discussion of circumcision and toilets on this blog, but I think it is important to discuss the different aspects of culture shock coming from the United States to Turkey. For the most part, it hasn’t been too severe—I was relatively prepared for the foreign language and the different customs and culture. However, there are certain things that make you almost immediately want to write off as weird—but they’re not. They’re just different. An appreciation of these differences is essential when you’re immersed in a different culture than your own.

PC: Lindsay

PC: Lindsay

But back to today’s recap!

Once again we awoke to a wonderful breakfast buffet (Turks know how to do breakfast), but this time with a spectacular terrace view.

After checking out of the hotel, we drove up into the mountains above Bursa to get away from the city and explore the woods.

One of the families who were picnicking nearby even offered us some çay, or tea, to accompany the grand assortment of fruits that Nese had bought from the market.

The park had this sign posted, warning people of how long it takes items to decompose.

The park had this sign posted, warning people of how long it takes items to decompose.

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Afterwards, we stopped again at the silk market in Bursa—this time I caved into buying a silk scarf—and ate at Melike Döner, a restaurant that’s famous for its kebab. It holds the Guinness World Record for the largest skewer of kebab meat (5948 pounds!).

It was then back in the bus for a scenic drive to Eskişehir. Its name literally means “Old City,” eluding to its long history since being founded by the Phrygians around 1000 BCE. It’s most famous for its production of meerschaum stone, a soft white mineral that is often used to make elaborately carved smoking pikes.

We looked around the various workshops for glassblowing and meerschaum carving, and spent some time poking around their accompanying shops.

We then checked in and ate a lovely dinner at our hotel, where I finally was able to connect to the Internet to upload photos. We get to sleep in a bit tomorrow, but we’ve got a long drive ahead of us as we turn back around to head back out to the coast at Izmir.