Sunday, June 29, 2014

Supetar, Croatia: Paradise City #2 on the Adriatic

The next morning, Saturday, the 19th, the group decided that we wanted to explore one of the islands off of the coast of Split. It cost next to nothing to take the ferry to Brač so that is where we went. We picked up breakfast and walked around the city, and then around 10:00am, we walked to the dock. On the way there in the midst of a conversation, I wasn't paying attention to where I was walking, and I took a tumble over a small protruding boulder on the side of the roadway. I scraped up my left hand and right knee and blood streamed down my leg. I used the water bottle I had just purchased to clean myself off, and while the others went to get spots on the ferry, I sat down on a nearby bench and Jenn went to go find a band-aid. Of course none of the surrounding businesses had a first aid kit, and I left my kit in the hostel room. So, I used a bundle of paper towels to put pressure on my knee, and Jenn and I walked to the ferry. Luckily, a pack of cyclists had boarded the boat, so I went up to them and asked for a bandage. One of the men was incredibly nice and gave me alcohol wipes and a couple of band-aids. The ironic part of this story is that during our trip to Croatia many of us stumbled, fell, and gathered our fair share of battle wounds. As opposed to gaining my scratches by going down on the scooter or wiping out while hiking, I fell on the sidewalk pretty much by tripping over my own feet.

The ferry ride to Brač was gorgeous. The Adriatic Sea was the most magnificent blue, and the water was incredibly clear.

The group on the ferry going to Brač (taken from Michael's photos)
The view of Brač as we were approaching the dock
We were on the island of Brač and in the town of Supetar, Croatia

Once we arrived, we weren't sure what we wanted to do. Our original thoughts were to walk around the island for the day, but when the boys saw the scooters, that was all they wanted to do. I was terrified to get on a scooter. I don't do bikes very well, especially motorized bikes. But after some convincing, it was the best way to see the island in a short period of time. So, all of us chipped in and we rented four scooters for three hours. I insisted on riding with Chris because he had a scooter back in St. Louis, and I felt okay putting my life in his hands. Yes, I was being dramatic, but I was also an anxious wreck. I had never been on the back of a scooter or motorcycle before, and I have an immense fear of falling.

It was pretty fun. People did wipeout while on the road and bump into walls, but no serious injuries occurred. We all wore helmets and paid close attention to the road rules. Luckily, Chris and I never fell - thank goodness. Halfway through our ride, we hid the scooters on the side of the road and walked through an olive grove.

Emielia and Jenn walking in the olive grove on the outskirts of Supetar

Wild poppy!

After a while, we were nervous that we were going to get in trouble for trespassing, so we hopped back on the scooters and rode around some more.

A view of the sea while cruising (taken by Jenn)

Riding on the scooter was a first for me, and it was a great time! I was a ball of nerves the entire time I was on the back of that thing, but when it was over I was so happy I did it!

The scooter that Chris and I rode

When the three hours were up, I remember running for the next ferry back to Split. There was enough time to pick up a Supetar magnet, but we barely made it on. We soaked up the last moments in Split when we returned. Then, we boarded a bus to Zadar, Croatia to meet number eight in our Webster ensemble, Andrew. The ride north to Zadar was picturesque as we drove along the water. Next stop: Zadar, Croatia.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Split, Croatia: Paradise City #1 on the Adriatic

Thursday, 17 April 2014, 17:00. Vienna International Bus Terminal. Aboard a bus en route to Zagreb, Croatia. We had Easter Monday off from school, so myself and seven other Webster Study Abroad students decided to tour Croatia for four days (which actually turned into five ... more on that later). Our plan was to visit Split, Zadar, and Plitvice Lakes National Park. At that point, my EuRail pass had expired, so there I was cozied up in the back of a bus with three of my friends - Jenn, Chris, and Patrick. 

The bus promptly departed from the terminal heading towards the first border crossing between Austria and Slovenia. I guess it may be a European normality to sell more bus tickets than there are seats, because when we stopped in Graz, Austria, passengers ended up standing in the aisle bouncing along trying to maintain their balance. I ended up seated next to a sweet man who reeked of alcohol and who was chatty in German and Croatian, both of which I couldn't understand very much of. When the bus reached the second border, the Slovenia/ Croatia border, we had to disembark the bus and walk our passports through a small building on the side of the road. The police checked them once there, and then when everyone got back on the bus after it drove to the other side, they came on again. Even though I was sitting in the last row of the bus, the policeman came to examine my passport. He swiped it out of my hand and got off. Then, the bus started to drive away. Did my passport just get stolen by the border patrol in Eastern Europe? I had a slight panic attack, and Jenn and the man next to me started to holler to the front of the bus. A moment later, a man came back and handed me my passport. It was taken to be stamped and double-checked. It was not going to be sold on the black market. Phew.

The bus arrived in Zagreb around 23:40 (or 11:40pm). From there, we hopped on the midnight bus to Split. About 10 minutes into the ride, the bus pulled over to the side of the road and the police pulled up behind it moments later. Uh oh. Turns out that the engine failed and that the police were there to help out. 45 minutes later, we boarded a new bus. Off to Split.

This long exposure photo describes my ride to Split perfectly. It was long, exhausting, and altogether blurry.
We arrived in Split around 06:10 the next morning. We were by the sea! I couldn't have been more thrilled.

Scenic Split at 6:15am.

First thing's first, I downed a black coffee after that 13 hour bus ride. Then, the four of us went to go see if we could check into our hostel. It was too early, so we went to go sit in the park nearby and we visited the marketplace. One of my favorite first moments in Split was seeing full-grown chickens being traded at 06:30 right on the edge of the marketplace. We ended up running into Michael, Wyatt, and Emielia, who traveled by train to meet us, in the park on their way to the hostel. We had time to kill before we could check in, so the seven of us grabbed breakfast on the water. After breakfast, we roamed through the crowded marketplace again, and walked through the city. We stumbled upon a beach behind a park and we spent a few hours there.

The streets of Split

They had to take a picture in front of this ...

The beautiful Adriatic Sea

Jenn and Emielia being happy

A picture of a picture

Jenn and the Sea

This is Max, a 7-month-old Labrador Retriever. I met him and his owner while walking along the beach. I snapped photos of them playing fetch.

Karate Max

These are only a select few of the Max pictures. I took over 75 pictures during my 10 minutes with them. There are more on my Facebook page if you want to see a short series.

Michael in the abandoned Pathfinder boat.
Mr. Bee doin' his thang.

The glistening sea in the sunlight

Ugh. I need to go back soon.
Following the beach, we checked into the hostel. We stayed at CroParadise Green Hostel, which I recommend. It is close to the center of town, inexpensive, has free WiFi, and they lent each of us a beach towel. They also have a seating area with couches on the roof of one of their buildings, which was a perfect sunbathing spot as we waited to check in. Once we had keys, we all stashed our belongings and ran for the beach again. We had to make the best of the gorgeous weather. This time, we went to one of the only sand beaches there. Wyatt, Chris, Michael, Patrick, and I dunked in the Adriatic. It was incredibly salty. After the beach, we did the evening stroll through the market and indulged in the fresh seafood for dinner. Gelato and wine topped off the wonderful first day along the Dalmatian Coast.

The bell tower of Saint Domnius

Old Split

Another angle of the bell tower
For our second day in Split, we decided to visit an island about 50 minutes away by ferry. Stay tuned for stories about being on the back of a scooter weaving through the roads of the island of Brac.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Gusen, Austria

The following Saturday after I returned from London, I decided to take a short train ride to Linz, Austria. I boarded the train with the intention of visiting Mauthausen Concentration Camp, which is about an hour bus ride outside of Linz. My grandfather, Jesse Entenberg, liberated the camp in 1945. Once I arrived at the train station, I waited for the next bus to Mauthausen. It was already near 2pm, and I was anxious that I would arrive after the last admittance time. I boarded the bus anyway.

The bus ride was accompanied by the most beautiful scenery I had seen in a while. Spring had sprung in Austria, so the hills were covered with the greenest grass and white and yellow wildflowers were sprinkled everywhere. There was not a cloud in the blue sky, and it was truly a gorgeous day. I kept eyeing my watch seeing time pass quickly. About 40 minutes into the bus ride, I knew I wouldn't make it in time to fully experience the camp, so I got off the bus. Yes, I got off of the bus in the middle of no where. As the bus drove away to it's final destination, it revealed a sign on the other side of the road: KZ GUSEN 1939-1945. I knew KZ stood for concentration camp. Then, my eyes were drawn to big block letters on a concrete building that read: MEMORIAL.

I was spooked. There I stood next to a road in the middle of the Austrian countryside. It was a picture perfect day, and all I could hear  were the birds above, car wheels against the gravel, and a couple of kids playing in the distance. Two other people disembarked the bus with me, but they walked the other direction. I was completely alone. A concentration camp was staring me in the face. I needed to go check it out.

I crossed the road and walked down the concrete path to the visitors' center. The door was unlocked, everything was running, but not a soul was there. Not even a receptionist at the front desk. Again, I was alone. I went through the exhibit, watched the videos, and read the material.  I was at the Gusen Concentration Camp in Gusen, Austria about 10-11km from Mauthausen. KZ Gusen was made up of stone-quarries and consisted of three camps. The history of Gusen was intense and terrifying. I recall being incredibly overwhelmed by the stories presented. And, since I was alone, I remember sobbing. No one was there to judge, so I cried.

I left the building in a hurry after I finished going over the material. As I went through the glass doors and down the concrete path, I stopped at the corner of a building next to the path. I knew something was there that I needed to see, but I wasn't sure what it was. I was afraid to step off of the sidewalk. I was sure some alarms were going to go off or something. But I did it anyway.

The only thing I could hear were my footsteps on the stones. I walked through the narrow pathway, and when I got to an open yard full of gravel, I turned my head. The crematorium stood to my right. Sure, I was startled. There were cutouts in the building, so I peeked inside. There were memorials and plaques lining the walls, and I'm pretty sure the oven machinery was there too. The doors to the crematorium were taped off. Thank goodness, because if they were open, I probably would have gone inside and scared myself half to death.

I stood in the yard for a while. I tried to soak in everything surrounding me. I thought of the thousands of prisoners that once stood where I had planted my feet. The pain they had suffered and the horrors they had witnessed. I knew I had gotten off of the bus for a reason, and that reason was to experience this intense moment. After becoming sufficiently depressed, I made my way to the bus stop. On my way out, I encountered a plaque commemorating the 11th Armored Division of the US Third Army - the division my grandfather was a part of. That was special.

From there, I waited at the bus stop, boarded the bus and took it to the train station, got on the train, and went home to Vienna. I recall having trouble sleeping that night. Too many thoughts were running through my mind. While my trip to Gusen was unsettling and scary, it is something I will never forget. It provided a unique link to my ancestry that will remain with me always.

Birthday Weekend in London Town

On Wednesday, April 2nd, after a lovely photography class, I packed my bag for the long weekend and made my way to the Vienna International Airport. I was on my way to London, England to celebrate my 21st birthday! I flew EasyJet to Heathrow. I was a little nervous to be flying the discount airline because there are many rules, and they try to charge you extra for anything and everything. Luckily, I made it in plenty on time and my bag was the perfect size. Phew! The flight was a breeze, and Emielia and I arrived around 10:30pm. I figured that I had plenty of time to get to Regent's College, where I was staying with another Webster student studying abroad in London. Although, after getting through customs, taking the commuter train to the London Bridge tube station, and taking a very long time to buy my Oyster card, I ended up catching the last train to Baker Street. The campus was a short walk from the station, and I learned it is on one of the darkest streets in London. That being said, I felt very safe.

The next morning, I grabbed a coffee and a pastry in the tube station and took the underground to the British Library. I loved the tube. It was clean, efficient, and going very far underground on very steep escalators was kind of fun.

I only visited the first floor of the British Library because that place is huge and I could have spent all day there. The Treasures of the British Library Gallery was phenomenal! Some of what I saw were the original sheet music for Handel's Messiah, Laurence Olivier's script for Macbeth, and original Beatles lyrics scribbled on a napkin.

Outside of the British Library
After the British Library, I ventured over to the Tate Modern because it was free, so why not? I got my fix of Picasso, Giacometti, and more. It was a pleasure to walk through the winding galleries. I enjoyed the architecture and the setup of the museum more so than I did the actual art. I was exposed to a lot of classical art while in Europe, and I began to appreciate the masters much more than many present-day artists.

Free art at the Tate Modern
Jannis Kounellis - Untitled, 1979
Picasso - Weeping Woman, 1937
A sculpture by Giacometti
Playing with reflections in 'The Bigger Picture'
I had a lot of fun people watching through the mirror 
The view from the Tate Modern
After the Tate Modern, I took the underground to Westminster Station and saw Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, and the London Eye. I also made a couple of friends while I was waiting at a crosswalk. They ended up being two boys from the south (Alabama, I think) and they were traveling around the UK and Europe. We talked for a while and I ended up snapping a couple of pictures of them.

Big Ben
Reflection at a red light 
Munich in London?
The Big Ben again 
Details on the bridge
The London Eye
No rubbish, eh?
Westminster Abbey
The new friends I made while waiting for the light to change 
This is one of my favorite pictures from all of my study abroad photos!
That night, I had chicken curry for dinner and then headed to the West End to see War Horse. Wow. That show was incredible. The puppets came to life! At one point, a character has to end a horse's life and stabs it in the neck. I actually started crying because you could see the life drain out of this character, even though it was just a puppet. Obviously War Horse takes place during war, and the Germans spoke German and the French spoke French. That was a huge credit to the wonderful acting. A German solider gave a lengthy monologue in German, and though I could actually pick up a word or two here and there, his expressions, body language, and speech patterns communicated the context of his monologue extremely clearly. War Horse is a must-see wherever it is playing around the world. It is a magnificent production filled with joy, sadness, amazing puppetry, historic links, and phenomenal spectacle. After the show, Emielia and I met up with Wyatt and another Webster Study Abroad London student and we went to O'Neill's, an Irish pub in Chinatown. That was how I rang in my 21st birthday.

Upon my birthday morning, I picked up a cup of coffee and a pastry, hopped on the tube, and got off around South Bank to go visit the Globe Theatre. The visit to the Globe was a lot of fun. Our tour guide was the most adorable older British woman who knew everything there was to know about the theatre. We had the pleasure of watching a sword demonstration in the lobby and a short onstage rehearsal of Julius Caesar with two American actors, in addition to a nice walk-through of the space.

Shakespeare's Globe
The stage at the Globe
Look at that detail!
The galleries
View of the stage from the galleries
Delicious burritos from Wahaka (a food truck in the middle of South Bank) followed the Globe tour. Emiela, Wyatt, and their friend ran off to go do the Harry Potter Studio tour and I was left on my own to explore. Being on my own in a new city was one of my favorite things about traveling! I didn't have to abide to anyone's agenda except my own. I chose to walk along South Bank for the afternoon. I purchased a ticket to tour the National Theatre in the early evening, and inbetween I searched for textures, admired cute couples, and enjoyed the artsy environment that is South Bank.

No busking, sir!
Love in London Town
Details at South Bank
Gabriel's Wharf
This couple was too cute!
This man reminds me of the old man from Up
Oxo Tower Wharf is made up of a bunch of artsy stores on South Bank. Lots of amazing textures and colors everywhere. 

The Queen's Walk
The tour of the National Theater was a treat. It was a small group of myself, a father and daughter, and the tour guide. We visited each of the performance spaces, a few of the shops, and one of the rehearsal halls. I learned a lot about UK theatre and the company. I was so impressed, that I sent my resume to HR after the tour. Maybe one day I'll be working at the NT in London! I decided to stay at the National Theatre that evening, and I picked up a £12 student ticket to Shelagh Delaney's A Taste of Honey in the Lyttelton Theatre. It was an enjoyable play set in 1950's post-war Salford about a riveting mother-daughter relationship. I sat next to a British TV and film actor with whom I had a great intermission conversation with. Unfortunately, I forgot to grab his name. After the play, I took the underground home. There were signal problems occurring at the stations, so I ended my 21st birthday stuck many miles underground trying to ignore the teenage couple making out across the aisle from me. Overall, it was a wonderful birthday filled with theatre in a foreign city - the best kind of birthday.

On Saturday, Emielia and I took an early-morning train from London to Liverpool. Little did we know, the biggest horse race of the year was happening in Liverpool that day. So, the train was filled with buzzed businessmen and ladies in their finest hats. Emielia is Beatles-obsessed, so we spent the day seeing as much as we could related to them. The museum called The Beatles Story was actually pretty cool, and being in a another part of England was interesting. Liverpool was a different world than London. When we arrived back in London late that evening, we ate Chipotle and crashed in our beds.

Sunday was my final full day in London. I visited the British Museum in the morning. That place was enormous! I walked around for a while and saw an exhibit on German artists called "Germany Divided - Baselitz and his generation". It focused on six key post-war artists who redefined art in Germany on both sides of the Iron Curtain. The artists were Baselitz, Lüpertz, Palermo, Penck, Polke, and Richter. The drawings, paintings, and prints were interesting, and provided great insight on the artists' view of divided Germany. 

On my way to my next stop, the National Gallery, I was approached by two American girls with a plate of brownies. They were two students at NYU London who needed participants for a psychological study. I took a brownie hoping it wasn't laced with something and helped them out. The study was based on the Asch Experiment and it was a fun little side trip.

The National Gallery was lovely. I saw Van Gogh's Sunflowers (for free! I could've paid 15 euros in Amsterdam to see them ... but I saw them for free in London!), Degas, Seurat, Renoir, Monet, Manet, Picasso, and Klimt. I could have spent all day admiring the beautiful paintings. In addition to Art Nouveau, French Impressionism became my second favorite style. It's just so pretty! London was such a gift with all of the free museums.

The outside of the National Gallery
I took the bus back to South Bank after the museum for dinner. I had a solo meal at Wagamama and had the most delicious chicken curry. Following that, I went over to Soho and sat in a cafe and wrote a few letters to friends. The next morning, I woke up at the crack of dawn to get to Heathrow to fly back to Vienna. My trip to London was incredibly memorable, and I hope to visit again in the next few years.