Neither of us had ever been to Europe before. Pre-grad school, pre-kids, family in Germany, we knew there would never be a better time to go. So we went! After an excruciatingly long flight which was made oh so much better by some nice sleeping pills, courtesy of Dr. Bankhead, we arrived in Heidelberg Germany where Emily, Brandon and Claire live. They were WONDERFUL hosts and showed us around the area like true locals. Emily is even picking up quite a bit of German! Heidelberg is a fairy tale town, with a cathedral in the middle of a red-roof village, a castle on a hill, and a river running through it all. It's truly magical. The Browns also showed us around several surrounding villages. We happenned to visit Germany during the annual asparagus (spargel) harvest, which in Germany means a FEST! So during our short time in Germany we got to enjoy the delicious, if not strange looking (it's fat and white) fresh-harvested asparagus at Swetzingen's Spargelfest! What an experience!
After a few magial days in Germany, we hopped a short flight to Venice, Italy. Now, being in venice is like being in a time warp to the 1800's. The city is completely quiet since there are no cars, only boats on the canals. We stayed in a beautiful 3-bedroom Bed & Breakfast run by a nice lady named Claudette. Aside from a few mosquito's, the room was absolutely perfect. Since Venice is so small, you can pretty much see the whole thing in a couple of days. We were there for 2 and loved every minute of it. My favorite was checking out the ceiling of St. Mark's Basilica which is completely covered with 24k gold mosaics so the whole thing just sparkles! It's amazing. It was also an incredible experience sitting in a square that's featured in so many text books and movies. No gondola ride for us, due to the outrageous $150 charge, we were perfectly happy riding the public water bus along the Grand Canal at night. I know I've used this word before, but Venice was also magical.
From Venice, we took the Trenitalia to Florence. Training to Florence was an incredible experience in itself. All the vineyards, villages and windmills: very European. In Florence we completely fell in love with Renaissance Sculpture, more specifically with Michelangelo. Sitting in front of the massive, perfect scuplture of Michelangelo's David was a truly powerful and humbling experience. It doesn't matter how many pictures or replica's you've seen, the real thing is SO MUCH BETTER. We also enjoyed touring the Uffizi Gallery and seeing some incredible original paitings. Who knew the two of us could end up so cultured? We loved it. Oh, and outside the Uffizi Gallery there is a big raised porch that's just open to the public with tons of famous original sculptures - just out in the open! Gotta love Florence! And maybe the best part of Florence was the ridiculously huge and beautiful Duomo Church. It's decorated in our wedding colors (pink, green and yellow) and is more a shrine to art and science than to religion. It's beautiful, to say the least. Here's a picture!
After Florence, it was off to Rome - the big city. I was the most excited about visiting Rome and the city did not disappoint. We were in Rome for 4 days and ran ourselves ragged seeing just about everything we wanted to see. Here are some highlights from our time in the Eternal City: Touring the Pantheon - which is 2500 years old and in nearly perfect condition! Stumbling across Castel St. Angelo's - key historical site in Angels & Demons. Getting lost on the ancient cobblestone streets of Rome. Eating gelato EVERY DAY! Eating delicious pasta at Trevi Fountain 2 days in a row, not buying roses from the street vendors - no matter how much they asked. Falling in love with Canova and Bernini at the Borghese Gallery - definitely the best museum in all of Rome. Washing clothes in the bathroom of our B&B. Siesta. Touring the ancient Christian Catacombs on the Ancient Appian way - over 500,000 Christions were buried there between 100 and 500 AD. Meeting some new friends from Indiana and driving around Rome and eating dinner with them. Eating the best pizza ever! (Alan's had an entire whole hard-boiled egg on it.) Standing in awe in the Colosseum, which earns it's name even 2500 years after it was built. Exploring the ancient ruins of the Roman Forum and getting horribly sunburned in the process. Meeting some incredible artists and entertainers at Piazza Navona. Being completely disappointed with the Spanish steps - we didn't get what all the fuss was about. Being completely blown away by St. Peter's and The Vatican. Getting crick's in our necks from staring so long at the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Studying Raphael's School of Athens - it's huge! Eating lots of fresh cheese. Climbing the dome of St. Peters. Attending Mass in St. Peters - choir and all! Visiting the Colosseum at night - a completely different experience than during the day. Mastering the Roman Metro system. Having the time of my life with my very best friend. Experiencing history and culture like never before. Growing up, learning about ourselves and eachother and our world. It was truly an unforgettable experience.