Taking a Break

Ciao a tutti,

I am sad to say that I will be taking a hiatus from my blogging duties on Karyn’s Corner. My reasons? Well, I would have to say life is crazy busy but not always with things I would put on a blog. I mean, how many times can I tell you about school work, dinner, and laundry. I am pretty sure those are my three mainstays right now.  

It is true that Will and I still go adventuring when we can, and I will be working to maintain my Facebook page Karyns Corner and my Instagram page karyns_corner. In fact, I am hoping to get pictures of Carnevale up this weekend from last weekend. We also have some friends coming into town in March and then family visiting in May so please keep your eyes on the lookout for any shenanigans that I may have engaged in, and probably drug Will with me.

I hope that at some point in the future I will be able to return to blogging more often, until that day

Ciao i 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

Time Goes by so Fast

Ciao,

I know it has been a couple of weeks but I did warn you that with my daughter and her family in town I was going to be ultra busy.

And I was.

So busy I even neglected my house for two weeks, which, if you know me says a lot. I spent the last two weeks hanging out with my daughter (A), her other half (Z), Will, and the most adorable, and might I say, highly photogenic, grandson (Finnrito or F) anyone could ask for. It was a wonderful treat to have them here and it went by way too quickly.

We did so much I am just going to give you the highlight reel and it will still probably end up as a long post (Roll your eyes A!)

It took Finnrito about 2 days to shift his body clock to Italian time zone. It took A and Z a little longer. The first night after their flight we took them out for some excellent pizza with our local friends. Then we went for gelato at one of our favorite local places, Gelateria Rigoni. With that pizza and gelato as the ones to beat we began our adventures of sightseeing and lots of food.

On Saturday we took them to Malcesine Castle in Lake Garda. It was unfortunately hazy but we still had beautiful views and the kids enjoyed their first taste of Italian sightseeing. And F enjoyed dipping his toes in the lake!

I should have prefaced this with A has been to Italy before, in 2016 she came with Will and I on a 10 day whirlwind trip of sightseeing in Florence, Naples, and Rome. This was Z’s first time across the pond and also Finnrito (being only 9 months old) hasn’t made it over here before. Honestly, I am not sure how much F cares other than his new found love for gelato. However, I did try and take his picture in front of several notable places so he could say he has at least been there (even if he won’t remember it.)

We tried for several down days, as anyone who has done extensive traveling with a baby knows your time schedule is much different than when you are on a marathon “see all the sights, eat all the food, drink all the wine” trip. Your marathon days get pushed to nap time, which is okay. I also want to say that Finnrito is seriously the best, most laid back, easy going, happy baby I have ever dealt with. I have already told the kids not to have any more children as their next will most certainly been the devil’s spawn. Heck, even if he missed nap time his melt downs were nowhere near as bad as mine are when I am hangry.

I did try and make yummy treats on our down days, cinnamon rolls one day and fresh croissants another. Got to keep up that “I am a good mom” image!

Monday we went to Asiago, Z has an interest in WWI history and Asiago is home to a beautiful WWI memorial that is the final resting place for 50,000 soldiers. We managed to stop for some cheese but our plans to head up to Monte Zebio to walk the trenches was a bust because of road construction, then we tried to go to Fort Corbin but it was closed on Monday. (Totally my fault for not checking the open and closing times and dates) The same held true for the WWI memorial and I finally admitted defeat. The area of Asiago is beautiful and we did get to show them a little of the town so it wasn’t a total loss but I had made grandiose plans in my head of all the things I wanted to show Z, so my disappoint probably outweighed his.

Tuesday we went to Verona, I had promised A that we could go to Juliet’s wall. They have been doing some clean up of the area but it is still covered in colorful messages, bubblegum, and band-aids (which sounds much grosser than it really is.) I had Z & A rub Juliet’s breasts for luck, then while F slept they took a turn on Juliet’s balcony. They also explored the Verona Arena (much like the Coliseum but smaller, however, still used for performances. But not the gladiator or lion eating people type.)

Finnrito and I hung around outside and I got his picture in front of the Arena, just in case he had to prove his visit to Verona.

Thursday we took a trip up to Marostica and made the kids hike to the castle. It was a warm day but they made it to the top. (It is a pretty steep climb) This is the city with the giant chess board but Finnrito only hung out with chess pieces his own size.

On Friday we left for Cinque Terre. A drive to La Spezia to catch a train into Riomaggiore. We stayed at a great Airbnb in town (though a lot of stairs to get to it.) After a fantastic dinner we called it an early evening because we were going to try and go to a bunch of towns the next day.

A quick side note – Not only is Finnrito a good baby, completely photogenic, and a great adventure/traveler but he is also a ridiculous flirt!! Seriously, I think he makes it a mission to seek out every woman in a 2 mile vicinity and turn them into grinning idiots! We used this shamelessly to our advantage in every restaurant we visited.

Early-ish the next day we jumped on the train at Riomaggiore and took it to the top of Cinque Terre. The farthest town on the Cinque Terre tour is Monterosso al Mare. As suggested by the name it is a beach town and even at the end of September tourists and locals alike were baking themselves in the sun. Brightly colored beach umbrellas and beautiful scenery prevailed and there was nowhere to look that wasn’t gorgeous.

It was supposed to be a town of shopping and beach laying and though the beached people were very much in evidence the shopping was not so much. After taking in the views we called it and headed back to the train station to hit the next town on the list, Vernazza. This is a much more narrow town, nestled into a valley and pushing its way down to the ocean. The beach area is very small (though F managed to dip his toes in the water) the little stores and shopping were much better than in Monterosso. With a patient Will, Z, and F my daughter and I wandered in and out of many shops looking for treasures. We found just a few but it was fun to look. The views of the ocean were great, the rocky shore adding a dynamic that wasn’t the same as Monterosso. We enjoyed our time there but all too quickly we were hopping the train to the next town, Corniglia.

Before I talk about Corniglia I should mention two things, first F weighs roughly 22 pounds and secondly Corniglia sits on top of the bluff. It is 365 steps up to the town. I was the one carrying F in the back pack carrier at this point. I huffed my way up all those steps, F just enjoyed the ride. Corniglia was also spectacular but different than the first two towns. It sat away from the water so you looked down into the ocean. Made up of narrow winding streets that were really meant more for pedestrians than cars. Little shops and trattorias are everywhere. We stopped at one of these places at the last moment to get some lunch and they very kindly served us even though it was 3 in the afternoon. Will and I had pesto pasta with beans and potatoes. It was out of this world tasty! 

After eating we wandered around a bit but decided it was getting late so we headed back to the train and Riomaggiore to spend the evening in. (At this point F had only taken two micro naps, less than a half hour each time so he was also done for.)

Saturday evening we ate what might have been the worst takeout I have ever had in Italy (or ever.) Greasy and not heated all the way through,  none of us made it through our food, opting for yogurt from the fridge instead.

The next morning (as if to make up for the previous evening) we got a great takeout cappuccino, some donuts and muffins and headed to the train for La Spezia.

We had decided to take a detour on the way home and show the kids Pisa (courtesy of Z pointing out how close we were and some Google calculations that said it wasn’t really too far out of our way.) They enjoyed the sites and we all had a good time rolling our eyes at the tourists angling for the perfect picture “pushing” the tower back up. I gave them the Campo Santo tour (it was one of the main research points on my last college paper and holds a place near and dear to my heart). We took F up to the top of the Basilica but wouldn’t let him climb over the railing. 

The next two days were down days but then, as must happen in all visits, we went to Venezia (Venice.)

Z and A really enjoyed Venezia. I assume F did too by the waitress he made goo goo eyes at while we had lunch. The only disappointment of the day was the loss of the hands. A sculpture titled Support  was put in place on the Grand Canal by artist Lorenzo Quinn. Will and I were lucky enough to witness the sculpture first hand (haha pun intended) in February but it was removed, to A’s great disappointment, in May 2018.

Despite that heartbreak it was a great day and we returned home to prepare for the kids leaving.

How did the time go so fast??

On Thursday we drove back to Milan and got one last hurrah in before the trip was finally over. We were able to experience The Last Supper, a painting by Leonardo Da Vinci in the late 15th century. It has suffered much damage, starting with Leonardo’s own decision to paint it as a dry fresco using experimental paint and pigments. It was also damaged by the humidity of the kitchen it abutted and the decay of the church due to wars, Napoleon’s sanction against the churches, and its use of as an armory and then a prison. In WWII it was almost destroyed when bombs caused the collapse of walls around it. Through all of this the painting remains but in such poor condition that they only allow so many visitors in a day for a fifteen minute peek at the famous work.

As with many other pieces of art and architecture that we have gazed or stood upon in our European adventures I was awestruck and admittedly a little teary eyed to be in the presence of something that was created almost 500 years before I was born. These moments speak to the historian in my soul and I continue to treasure them.

After that phenomenal experience we had to get some food and sleep so the kids could fly out the next morning.

It was with a heavy heart and tear filled eyes that I hugged Z one last time, gave Finnrito last minute snuggles and wrapped my arms around my daughter not wanting to let go. Too quickly they turned and headed for their gate and Will and I took our leave to drive home.

Though I am always and eternally grateful for the adventures and experiences provided by the choices Will and I have made in our lives my heart breaks to be 5,000 miles away from my family and no matter how long we spend together it will never be enough time.

On the bright side, the kids have seen where we live and can picture our lives as we describe them and I will continue to taunt them with pictures of my gelato every time we have the tasty treat.

Until next time

Ciao miei Amici

C & A Adeventure part Deux

Ciao,

Last week I left you with the knowledge that two of us like heights just fine and two of us don’t. I am sure it is not surprising that I like heights just fine, mostly I worry about things much crazier than falling from great heights.

Like what, you ask?

You know silly stuff, like what happens if a tunnel collapses while our car is driving through or the idea that the top of the Duomo is really only a foot or two of concrete on the top. I am not claustrophobic and I don’t hate heights, I hate the idea of catastrophic failure.

Why would I worry about catastrophic failure at the Duomo?

Quick history lesson, the Duomo is the dome that finishes the Florence Cathedral, formerly known as the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore. The Cathedral was begun in 1296 but couldn’t be consecrated or considered complete until the dome was in place. Construction on the dome didn’t being until 1420. That is over 100 years later. The Duomo was also the first dome constructed in the Renaissance without creating a scaffolding system for the concrete to sit on while it cured. This was an impossibility since the Duomo’s great height (374 feet or 114 meters). Filippo Brunelleschi was the main architect in the domes construction. He had spent many years in Rome studying the architecture of the ancient Romans. With those ideas in his mind he constructed a dome held together by the angle of its incline and bound by four sets of chains that encircled the entire dome like barrel hoops. These were then also enclosed in concrete. There is an inner and outer dome and the outer one is only 2 feet thick with concrete at the bottom, narrowing out to 1 foot of concrete at the top. Honestly, that’s not a lot of concrete to have withstood almost 600 years and millions of visitors. Do you see the potential for catastrophic failure?

When you are climbing the Duomo, which has 463 stairs, you actually climb between the outer dome and the inner dome and then make your way up the side of the final stretch of dome to peak out of a narrow hatch. From there you can take in panoramic views of all of Florence.

I am going to add some pictures of the four of us. You already know I don’t care about how high it is. See if you can pick out the two who do.

 

 

 

On Thursday we headed back towards Vicenza and our home. We stopped briefly in Bologne to see the leaning tower there. After having seen Pisa it was rather anticlimactic. The town didn’t seem to take care of their city very well and after the majesty of Florence we were all a little disappointed. One plus was we found an excellent vegetarian restaurant, which made A very happy. We finally made our way home and our cats were happy to see us.

Settled in we made Hugo’s and Aperol Spritz and then ventured downtown Vicenza for some gelato. I didn’t say more gelato because there is no such thing as too much gelato.

Friday we took A & C to Venezia (Venice) we walked and hit all the major highlights but as I have said before Venezia is a big place and you can walk a long time without covering the same tracks twice. Not Will and I, we have covered most of it at least once but we still have a bunch of outlying islands to get to. We ate, had gelato, ate more and then when it was dark out called it a night.

 

We went to Soave Castle the next day to see the castle and get some lunch. Will and I had been here before for a wine festival. I must say some of the best wines in the region come from this little area (in my opinion, of course). The construction of the castle was begun in the 10th century and from then until 19th century it changed hands many times. Since 1830 it has remained in the same family and they take care of the castle and the grounds. It is not a functioning castle, other than tourism but the ruins are still neat to wander through and it does maintain some of its frescoes and furnishings. It is a neat way to spend an hour or two exploring the rooms and turrets.  We stopped at our super market on the way home and bought cheese, olives, bread, etc for a light dinner meal which we ate out on (as Will likes to call it) the lanai.

All to quickly the next day it was time to say goodbye to C & A. We are already making plans with them for next year, maybe somewhere new!

This last week we had to recover from the adventure and some bug that I managed to pick up along the way.

The weekend was spent getting ready for my daughter, Z, and the Finnrito to visit us. (We pick them up at the airport Thursday!) You have no idea how un-baby proof your house is until you start looking at all the knick knacks that are at baby level. Yikes!!

Our next couple of weeks are going to be packed with family and adventures and if I don’t make it to the blogging table don’t despair, I will be back before you know it.

Until we talk again

Ciao miei Amici

“Live, travel, adventure, bless, and don’t be sorry.” ― Jack Kerouac

Ciao,

Wow, I can’t believe it has been two weeks since I last wrote to everyone. Time flies and craziness ensues when I don’t keep up. Truthfully, only the last week or so has been crazy. The week before was the calm before the storm. My feet hurt, I haven’t been on my bike in 10 days, and I gained at least five pounds. I totally blame C & A for these problems but it was worth every second for a wonderful week with fantastic friends.

Let me give you some highlights of the first couple days and hopefully next week I can catch you up on the rest of it.

First let me remind you that Italian holidays are not American holidays and vice versa. I know that seems obvious but sometimes it is easy to forget, even when you live here. What that means is some days Will has to work when our neighbors stay home and sometimes we have a holiday that isn’t celebrated by the Italians. Labor Day is one of those days. As an American worker celebrating the day of American workers Will and I headed down to Firenze (Florence) to pick up our friends C & A for a week of adventures!

We grabbed the two of them from the Santa Maria Novella train station and then took a scenic drive up to Castellina in the Chianti region. You might think for wine but you would be wrong.

Nope, we went up there because they have the best gelato in Italy. Hands Down!! Yes, I am making that claim. It is just pure heaven. Please if you have a car and you are in Tuscany make the drive to Gelateria di Castellina. You won’t be disappointed. And if you are, then you obviously don’t understand good gelato.

We headed back to Firenze after walking around Castellina; where Will and A bought new cycling kits with large black roosters. It started a theme for the week and we looked for roosters everywhere we went. (Full disclosure, we had many themes for the week but that’s what happens when you are hanging out with good friends).

Our Air BnB was wonderful, a little outside of the inner circle of Firenze’s old city. Honestly, it was a small walk to and from but the neighborhood was quaint and believe me when I say that we needed all the walking we could get. (We ate a lot of food, drank a lot of wine, and finished it all off with gelato).

Firenze has a vibe to it that reminds you that it is the Renaissance. If Roma (Rome) incorporates the technologies well beyond its own time then Firenze reminds you that beauty and art were meant to have a part in the world. From Michelangelo, to Donatello, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Duomo designed by Filippo Brunelleschi.

To view the Duomo is to view beauty in itself. If you aren’t moved by the site of the Duomo, I am not sure that we can still be friends.

The people also takes great pride in their city and despite the millions of tourists (10.2 million in 2017) that pass through Firenze each year the people remain helpful, kind, and gregarious. (The tourists don’t seem to possess as many of these good qualities)

We took in the city and C & A’s first view of the Duomo in the evening after a fantastic meal at, wait for it…

Rooster Cafe!! Their food was exceptional and if you are in Firenze I suggest you hit them up. They are close to the Church of Santa Trinita. (That would be the church I got in trouble in a couple of years ago because my flash was on auto and made bright lights while I was taking a picture. A BIG No No in museums and churches!)

The Church of Santa Trinita is known for the frescoes created by Domenico Ghirlandaio, a Renaissance painter of the third generation and a contemporary of Sandro Botticelli (he painted the Primavera  and The Birth of Venus two of my favorites.) Ghirlandaio is not as well known, unless you are into Italian Renaissance art, but he was also quite talented. He ran a large workshop that Michelangelo passed through to learn and work. Ghirlandaio was known for putting contemporary people into religious narratives.

We did a quick run in to the church to see some of Ghirlandaio’s famous frescoes before our Rooster meal, then a quick tour around town and some gelato at Perche, No?, which, while not as good as Castellina is still pretty tasty.

Tuesday we drove up to the Piazzale Michelangelo for breathtaking views of the city. Then we did a grocery store run, which if you haven’t shopped it an Italian grocery store is a treat (Remember! Don’t touch the produce without a plastic glove!). After dropping the groceries back at our BnB we walked to town, wandered through a couple of leather markets, found some lunch and a bunch of street art. Then we dropped of C & A to take in the Accademia Gallery to see Michelangelo’s David. Truly another don’t miss ticket item in Florence. Michelangelo was a mediocre painter, in my opinion, but his sculpture was bellissimo. And David is one of the finest sculptures, in my opinion, to exist (and to think Will had to talk me into seeing it the first time).

While they were viewing the David, Will and I found a music store and a store called Fiori del Tempo (Flowers of Time) that makes beautiful artistic jewelry. I bought two pairs of earrings, Will did not buy a guitar or an amp. He, obviously, has better self control than I do.

We found C & A, went and ate more food, headed home and took a leisurely morning before we went to climb the Duomo the next morning.

I’ll talk about that next week but just a quick note, two of us on this trip are not concerned with heights, two of us are. Next week when you look at the pictures see if you can figure out who is who!

Until then, have a fabulous week and I will begin to clean my house in preparation for my daughter, son-in-law, and grandson’s visit in 10 days!!!

Ciao miei Amici