Carnevale is Here!, Well, almost…

Ciao a Tutti

Do you love to dress up and pretend to be someone else? I do! I always have; dress up was my favorite game when I was a child, even more than playing with dolls I loved to pretend I was someone else.

Someone famous, someone that made things happen, someone beautiful and exciting. Well, I am not famous but I have spent my life making things happen (some good, some bad) and my husband tells me I am beautiful and I keep his life exciting so there you have it. Regardless of my life, which really is wonderful, I still like to play dress up. That’s what Renaissance fairs are about, and when we lived in Arizona we spent several months acting for a nonprofit on the streets of Tombstone.

It has always been a lot of fun to dress up and now we get to start a whole new kind of dressing up!

Carnevale!

The Venezia Carnevale happens once a year. Much like Mardis Gras in Louisana or Carnival in Rio de Janeiro. Yet in many ways Carnevale in Venezia is different.

All of them are precursors to Lent (the forty days before Easter, which is also a time in the church where the give up meat and other excesses). Usually, they are celebrated for two or three weeks culminating on Fat Tuesday the day before Ash Wednesday. Carnevale may come from the Latin ‘Farewell to meat’ but don’t try a google translation of this it only comes back as ‘flesh farewell’, which is a bit odd.

It is said that Carnevale in Venezia traditionally began in 1162 to celebrate a victory of the Republic of Venice against the Patriarch of Aquileia. It enjoyed many years of popularity and festivities.

Masks are popular in Carnevale but have been both banned and allowed depending on historical times and rulers. One of the things masks have allowed is anonymity that could not be achieved without them. For one day (or several) peasants could be nobles and nobles could be anybody. Masks have certain significance also, many of them date back to the theater such as the Arlecchino (Harlequin), the Colombina, Pantalone, and the Zanni. Others like Volta are the classic white porcelain mask, the Medico Della Peste (the plague doctor), and the Bauta with no mouth but a triangular projected chin so the wearer doesn’t have to take off the mask to eat or drink. In the 18th century, it was common to wear a black velvet mask over one’s faces when visiting a gambling hall or another location of ill repute. In 1797 Carnevale was forbidden and the use of masks became against the law.

Our masks come from a beautiful lady, Giuse, who hand paints and decorates all the masks she sells. She has been known to make them to order if you have a particular costume but she has so many extraordinary masks that finding a unique one is never a problem. She is an artist with color and flair bringing about the best of Venetian masks for her customers.

In 1979 there was a push by the governing body in Venetia to bring culture and history back to the city and so Carnevale was reinstated. Today millions visit Venezia during the Carnevale time and the streets become so crowded that it is almost impossible to move.

To this spectacular event Will and I, with friends will be going for two different Saturdays, one in February and one in March. It is not for the faint of heart or the claustrophobic. The crush of humanity is almost awe-inspiring.  

Our costumes will not be the overly elegant of some that have worked on theirs for a year or more (no, in my usual order of idiocy I gave myself roughly a month, pretty typical for most of my harebrained schemes).

However, I am pretty pleased with my creation for the short time period I had. A couple pictures of my costume work in progress but for more you will have to wait until I actually go to Carnevale in a little over 2 weeks. Between now and then, well, school is eating a large chunk of my time and Will and I have a weekend in London planned (kind of an anniversary/valentines day, get out of the country trip if that makes sense).

 

In March I will be planning for one of my best friends to visit me and we will be taking a whirlwind trip of Italy (plus school work) and daily life as I know it here in Vicenza.

Check the Instagram feed or Karyns Corner of Facebook to see the London and Carnevale pictures. And until we meet again

Ciao miei Amici

Austria, Munich, and Christmas Markets

Ciao,

It has been a busy weekend. Back in America I know everyone was gorging themselves on too much food followed by too much dessert, followed by days of leftovers and which way to eat turkey tonight! Will and I decided against the too much food route, partially because I am unsure if my European oven can fit a turkey and partially because we took time to travel. Hey, it’s what we do!

Where did we go you ask?

We grabbed a friend and headed up to Innsbruck Austria to visit the closest Weihnachtsmarkt (German for Christmas Market) that was already open. While in the German/Austria region we did eat a lot of good food.

My father will disagree with the next statement but I quickly get tired of Italian food. Which isn’t completely fair. I need to expand my Italian repertoire beyond pasta dishes and pizza and it would probably open up a new love for Italian. Then again, maybe not. German/Austrian food is so hearty, it sticks to your ribs in a warm you up on a fall/winter day kind of way that Italian just can’t match.

But on to the weekend…

Innsbruck is a beautiful town with history that dates back to pre-Roman, plus Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart also lived there for part of his childhood. But honestly we didn’t go for history we went for Gluhwein (mulled wine) chestnuts, street food, shopping, ambience and friends.

The Christmas market did not disappoint, as always, when I walk into a Christmas market be it big or small something just makes my mood lighter.

On the not light side of moods, Friday morning we made the drive into Germany and went to Dachau, it was the first and last concentration camp set up in Germany. It was around quite a while before World War II. It was created in 1933 to hold political prisoners as Hitler took control and the war began the camp was expanded into a forced labor camp. It eventually became a place to house prisoners from other religions and nationalities. Dachau was a training ground for the SS and the plans for Dachau were used in almost all other camps. Dachau was not a death camp per se but that didn’t stop tens of thousands of prisoners from dying there from starvation, disease, torment, and medical experiments. In fact, so many died there (over 32,000 documented and many more that were not) that they built additional ovens to burn the bodies of the dead. As with Auschwitz and Theresienstadt the prisoners entered through a gate with the saying “Arbeit macht frei” which translates into “Work will set you free”. Today visitors to the camp walk through an exact recreation of the gate, stepping onto the area used for roll call. From there one passes two monuments dedicated to the those that lost their lives and those that survived. The museum is housed in what was part of the prisoner intake area and the audio guide lets speakers tell their story in their own ways in their own languages. The museum leads you through the entire history of Dachau and then one can visit a recreation of the barracks as the evolved over the years for the prisoners of the camp.

Set towards the back are five different religious chapels or memorials, and next to them are the crematoriums. The place is a sobering reminder of the atrocities that can visited on another human being. It is hard to walk the grounds, one feels the darkness and despair that must have been part of daily life, the whispers of those that lost their lives and those that suffered because of another’s hatred. The visit to Dachau was not the best part of our trip but a reminder, a lesson in history so that we as a race will hopefully never repeat those atrocities.

Not to take away from the grimness that our morning held but to lighten the feeling in our hearts we headed into Munich to wander through town. We missed the Munich Christmas market (it started today) but we enjoyed the lively crowds as they set up their stalls and had a good lunch before heading back to Innsbruck. (Oh, and Will and D found a guitar store, of course they did!)

The next day we were joined by another friend and the four of us went up the mountain on the Hungerburg Funicular. A train that goes up but the cars are on pivots so the passengers stay level. At the top of the train in Hungerburg we got out and visited a small section of the Christmas market that had opened up that morning. We did not take the cable cars to the top of the mountain (it was roughly 35 euro per person). That will have to be another adventure. We (maybe me, maybe someone else, I am not saying) got the brilliant idea to walk down the mountain, you know instead of take the train.

It turned out to be a beautiful walk and took us on the back side of the Alpen Zoo, where we saw a buffalo and some boars hanging out enjoying the cool weather. A couple of covered bridges later we made it down and back into town for some late lunch.

Then we took a small siesta before heading back up the mountain, it was dark by this time and the view was as spectacular as before but all aglow with lights.

This time we took the train back down and headed into the main part of the Christmas market for some Gluhwein and just to be. Ending the evening with a Kiachln (which is a lot like fry bread but covered in sauerkraut or if you want it sweet preiselbeeren and powdered sugar). Then we walked our friend L to the train station and walked back to our Airbnb for some sleep. Sunday we ran back to the market to pick up the things I had decided I wanted. After that we took the long drive home (really it was not quite four hours). It was a great weekend, some sobering reminders, but friends and laughter too.

This next weekend I am going to set up Christmas, if you read last weeks blog you know how excited I am about that. I need to finish wrapping presents and get them shipped out too. So that is what is on my agenda, I hope you are all happily preparing for your holiday season in whatever way you celebrate the holidays.

Until we meet again

Ciao miei Amici

Reality can be a Real Downer

Ciao,

After the craziness of September I have had two weeks before Will and I leave to celebrate his birthday. We are headed to London and it is going to be a lot of fun. We have already made plans but not too many so we can sit back and enjoy just being in London. Don’t worry I will tell you all about it next week.

Recovering from our September house guests and preparing to leave didn’t leave a lot of time for fun activities and honestly, we were kind of tired. Plus the house needed so much work, which happens when you neglect it for two plus weeks while you have guests.

So after many days of cleaning and trying to re-normalize our schedules we feel good to leave again.

In between two things of semi noteworthiness happened.

First I had to go to the dentist for some, sort of, major mouth stuff; secondly we went to the Italian version of British Days with R & C.

First let’s talk about what it feels like to go to the dentist, or you could even apply some of this to going to the doctor, in a foreign country. I mean that’s really where my angst is so let me get it all out!

I think it is safe to say nobody, except maybe hypochondriacs, like going to any sort of medical professional. This is not to say that medical professionals are bad people. Nope, one of my favorite cycling friends is a fantastic dentist and if I still lived in Maryland I would be using his services. However, he is a little far away with a small thing like an ocean between us. And, let’s be frank, even though I enjoy cycling with my friend I still hate going to the dentist.

I take pretty good care of my mouth, brushing twice a day (mostly), flossing, using mouthwash, regular cleanings, blah, blah, blah. But I was gifted genetically with crappy teeth (thanks mom and dad!) So I have been visiting the dentist for dental work for most of my teenage into adult life and it doesn’t look like it is going to stop anytime soon.

I admit I get ridiculously nervous anytime I have to go to the dentist, it ranks right up there with other anxiety inducing fears, which I don’t have many of but the ones I do; Oofta! Seriously, one could just threaten to do dental work on me and I would give away any secrets I had (lucky for me I don’t have any and my life is pretty much an open book, you all know this since I write about it.)

So my crown has broken off at the gum line, and I have to get the tooth pulled and two implants put in.

Enter Italian dentist,

I sit as comfortable as I can manage in the chair, my heart rate has already begun to elevate. My eyes dart around the room taking in the “normal” looking dental equipment (I mean, I am in a foreign country for all I know they still use rusty pincer pliers to pull teeth.)

The dentist, a nice normal looking, older gentleman with a soft smile, starts conversing in Italian with his dental assistant. She hasn’t looked at me yet but she doesn’t have the same comforting smile, not a bad smile, just not as comforting. I realize that they are speaking too fast for me to make out any words with my limited, slow paced, elementary Italian. And honestly for all I know they are speaking words that I will never know because unless it is milk, cat, please and thank you it is way out of my realm. (Oh, I probably know how to say bread too.) They glance at me, converse some more, my palms start to sweat and he turns and says in heavily accented english, “we ready to start”

Gulp!

I have had an implant put in before and I understand the rudimentary process, you cut open the gum line, drill into the jaw, screw in a little metal post and then sort of sew the gum line around the post. Then you wait for it to heal before adding the crown. I just have never had it done when the dentist and I speak a different language (not that an english speaking dentist would have made me less anxiety ridden.)

All of the equipment comes out of the usual sterilized sealed packages and I am already covered in one of those weird paper cloth bib things that are supposed to catch your spit or…blood

Another assistant hands me a small plastic cup with pink liquid “rinse 10 seconds and spit” she tells me, I recognize her before as one of the better english speakers in the office and find comfort in having a language ally.

Then they clip a heart monitor on my finger – well I already know my heart is racing but it seems to still be at an acceptable level to them because they continue.

The dentist, who does speak english when he isn’t in a hurry (when he is distracted he only has a couple words, “open, close, relax”) pulls the most dreaded item ever off the tray in front of me. The hated syringe full of anesthesia. I swear to all that is holy fewer things inspire more terror than that long needle with the giant thumb depressor heading towards my already whimpering mouth.

“Relax and open”

I opened my mouth and worked on relaxing it while simultaneously my sphincter tightened, my hands shook and my saliva glands went into overdrive. So out comes the little mouth vacuum to get rid of the pooling, throat choking, extra liquid, produced by my own body, inspired by anxiety, spit. There seemed to be some annoyance about having to suck out my mouth so early in the game but the assistant was mostly capable, only letting me choke a little bit.

OMG! The pink mouth stuff worked. I never felt a thing, well, as far as the shots go.

I need to now mention that America is all about the patient comforts, this applies to doctors and dentists. Somewhere along the line American professionals have begun treating patients with kid gloves. Don’t make them uncomfortable by accidentally touching their face while actually poking around in their mouth doing a dental procedure is the one that comes to mind. (I have other opinions about doctors visits but that is for another day.) I can safely say that dentists in Italy, at least mine, don’t worry too much about the kid gloves; they worry about getting the job done. At one point the assistant was leaning her whole hand on my cheek and the dentists elbow was in my eye while he tried to screw in the metal implant. I realized that despite the anxiety I felt while having my mouth worked on, which was not really a symptom of being in a foreign country but more a symptom of not liking the dentist, I actually had no problem with the fact that they felt they had to touch my face and even use my head for leverage to get the job done.

Hmmmm, score a point for the Italian dentist.

“Open, close, relax…” and on it went but finally we were done and I was mostly not in bad shape.   I mean, other than having metal posts sticking out of my jaw and watching him stitch up my gums.

Ick, having your skin stitched is bad enough but watching that little curved needle with the thread attached going in and out of your mouth is just painful. Even if you can’t really feel it.

It took way less time than I thought it would and my sphincter finally relaxed though I am not sure my gut did. When he was finished he said he didn’t want to give me antibiotics unless it was necessary; to call him if my mouth became inflamed or I had a fever. Thank goodness because I had no idea how to tell him which antibiotics I can take, none of them would have to be my answer. FYI, most antibiotics give me a bad reactions and I try to never take them. Another thing that Europeans seem to do differently than Americans is pain pills, he didn’t offer me any, and I didn’t expect him too. I remember having a conversation with a lady in Germany where she told me that 800 ibuprofen was too much medicine for her.

Wow, most of us can’t live without our tylenol or advil.

Anyway, I am not any fonder of dentistry than I was before and having your dental staff speak in a foreign language does nothing to alleviate those fears. However, they seem to have done a great job, six days after the fact I have been eating whatever I wanted since the procedure. Using salt water rinses regularly and my mouth gets tired and sore from eating or having food poke into the gum line but it could be worse. I was actually hoping to have a painful mouth as an excuse for not eating fish and chips while I am in London this week but I will just skip the fish, yuck, and eat the chips like I always do.

A quick note about Italian British Days (it is almost like a theme), it was what I would call steampunk days more than British Days. Though maybe my UK friends can drop me a note and let me know if the whole Steampunk thing is really a big deal there. I like steampunk, I have steampunk costumes but it was not what I was expecting. They also had a tightrope walker, a car show, a dog show, and a lot of food that was not British. Barely any fish and chips. And no tea! What the heck Italy, you can’t have a British days without tea, what would the Queen say?!

Regardless we had a nice afternoon and evening with R & C.

I will work to get some more authentic “British” pictures this weekend!

Until next week, I hope your adventures are as glorious as mine,

Ciao miei Amici

Nove, Venezia, and Caprino Veronese & Chickens, Gondola’s, and Italian 4’th of July

Ciao,

I did it again! Booked us beyond adventure full! Will and I have been so busy I am unsure of how to fit our lives into a blog. I mean, ya’all shouldn’t worry too much, next spring I go back to school and then my posts will become much more boring. So, I guess that means we should soak up all this craziness while we can!

I think I can (somewhat) safely say that we are in a lull until September, but I have thought that before and it has come back to bite me.

Let’s start with where we left off, for it certainly seems like our lives blend one week into another, never stopping.

Will’s high school friend (B) and her partner (M) came back to stay a couple of days. (I have to start identifying our friends by initials because we actually have a bunch of them. Seriously, how did that happen?) They had a whirlwind trip through Cinque Terre, Florence, and Sorrento before we picked them back up at the airport Monday night. In between good food and lots of drinks we managed to make it to Bassano del Grappa, Marostica, Venezia, and Nove to grab a ceramic chicken pitcher.

What?! you ask, why would anyone (apart from those who decorate with chickens) want a chicken pitcher. The short answer…so assassins don’t sneak in and kill you and your family.

Sounds confusing right? Who has to worry about assassins?

Well, apparently Giuliano Medici, though I am guessing thanks to their wealth most Medici’s had to keep a vigilant eye. The problem was that in 1478 Giuliano wasn’t as interested in keeping a vigilant eye as he was in throwing a lavish party. The Medici’s strongest rivals, the Pazzi’s used Giuliano’s playboy ways to their advantage and waited until he threw an epic party. So much wine was imbibed at this hoedown that everyone passed out drunk. The Pazzi’s knew this was the time to send in their assassins. Too bad they had hired themselves some discount assassins. The fools made so much noise sneaking up on the partiers that they roused the suspicions of every chicken in the courtyard. Now, anyone who has had chickens as pets, egg layers, or future stew knows that chickens are a bunch of busy bodies that can’t keep their mouth shut. (I mean, who hasn’t read the story of Chicken Little?) So, these suspicious chickens took to making a racket, like a bunch of old biddies woken from their slumber while they waited up with their shotgun for their daughter on prom night. The racket caused by the chickens was enough to wake the previously passed out guards. Giuliano’s guards were still better at their jobs drunk and hungover then the cheap assassins the Pazzi’s had hired and they killed all the would be killers’.

Giuliano’s was so pleased with the chickens that he threw another epic shindig. For this frolic he had the local artisans make wine pitchers that looked like chickens. He then handed them out to the local populace stating that the chickens were a sign of good luck when warding off assassins. I notice none of the credit was given to the guards, that still managed to save Giuliano’s butt while still intoxicated. It was probably this exact lack of favor shown to the guards that allowed the Pazzi’s to make good on their assassination attempt in April of 1478. Nowadays, chicken pitchers are given to friends and family to ward of danger and trespassers. (FYI there are some major problems with the story as a whole, because of the timeline and the city where this was all purported to have taken place no longer existing, but all in all in makes a charming reason to buy a pitcher that looks like a chicken.)

Chicken pitchers purchased we also took our M & B to Bassano del Grappa and Marostica but I told you about those places last week so I will skim ahead to the next day (which happened to be July 4th). The four of us went to Venezia (Venice) for the day. We started the whole day with a gondola ride. All four of us were gondola newbies, so it was a new adventure for all. Our guide, Cristiano, explained all about the history and construction of Venezia. I learned some really neat things about how to date the age of the buildings and how some canal passages are only accessible at low tide. It was a fun tour.

We spent the rest of the day milling around, looking for masks (it is what Venice is known for), eating and drinking (I don’t know if my liver will ever recover from their visit but I plan to flush it with good old fashion water for the next month or so just to be safe). We ended the evening  back at our place on the front patio eating typical Italian fare. Mozzarella, tomatoes, salami, fresh bread, olives, and more wine. We said a fond farewell to our friends Thursday, and prepared for the weekend.

Another set of friends (E & W) were hosting a Fourth of July party Italian style. What does that mean you might ask? It means BBQ with copious amounts of Prosecco, guitars played by locals (and Will) featuring music we knew and music we didn’t. Tongue twisters in two different languages, lots of laughter, more food, dessert, food, and did I mention Prosecco. (I’ll tell you a secret, I just kept filling my wine glass up with water so I didn’t have to worry about anyone adding Prosecco to it). There were only about 7 of us that spoke English, we were definitely outnumbered by the Italian speakers (who mostly only spoke Italian) but we made it all work and had a wonderful time.

We stayed the night in a charming b&b with a gorgeous view of a church on hill. Our hostess served us breakfast that included her husbands first place winning salami. Now, you all know how I feel about salami but I must have eaten close to a dozen slices of this homemade wonder. After breakfast we headed back down the hill to W & E’s place and then went on a hike with them through the woods close to their place.

 

There was an art in the woods event where local artists (I am assuming local) have created displays for one to happen upon as they hike along. Some we liked, some we didn’t but overall, it was really a neat display.

Finally we headed back home to try and get some sleep to mentally prepare for the coming work week. Honestly, I don’t know how Will balances the adventures I keep dragging him on with being so good at his job but he does manage and for that I am grateful.

It’s thanks to him that we get to have these wonderful adventures!

This week promises to be a little quieter (I think/hope) as I try and figure out how to harvest lavender seeds and try and decide on what kind of composter I want to build. Not as exciting as Italian Fourth of July but I do need some recovery time before our next guests arrive!

Until next week

Ciao miei Amici