Munich: Balanced between Past and Present

Posted: December 10th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: ATW Updates | No Comments »

After Italy, we embarked on this large roundabout path through the rest of  Europe, with Munich as our first stop. When Rick asked his German coworkers which city in Germany to visit, the consensus was always Munich, so we knew we had experience the home of Oktoberfest. Unfortunately (or fortunately for our finances), we couldn’t wait until then. Instead, we arrived just in time to take part in Mardi Grad celebrations.



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Reflections on Italy: Conversations with a Local

Posted: November 25th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: ATW Updates | No Comments »


I spent a couple days on the tail end of our unexpected month-long jaunt into Italy in Verona with an email-pal friend of mine, Michele. We’d been corresponding for over a decade, and he always wanted me to visit him in Italy. When we changed our plans at the last moment, I emailed him to let him know we were swinging by. He welcomed us with a home-cooked meal, a delicious powdered-sugar cake, a warm bed down beside the kitchen, and a lot of great conversation.

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5 Offbeat Things to Visit in Italy

Posted: November 11th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: ATW Updates | No Comments »

Once we’ve been to the Parthenon and the Colosseum, visited the Uffizi, and looked up at Juliet’s balcony, it was time to find the hidden sights and sounds of Italy that others don’t quite talk about as much. Most of these were churches we wandered in and out of, because Italy (and Rome especially) are packed with churches full of gorgeous religious art. Here are a few things we did that were certainly unexpected but super interesting:

Dome of St. Ignatius, Rome


Built in the 17th century, The Church of St. Ignatius was over-budget. So, instead of building a grandiose dome, Andrea Pozzo, a Jesuit lay brother, painted a dome with a tromp-l‘oeil effect. When we looked up from any angle, it looked like a dome stretched up above us. Our brains just couldn’t seem to understand that we were actually looking at a flat surface. If you go visit it, there’s a small box  on the side where you can enter 1 Euro, and the dome is lit up for a short period of time. The rest of the church (free to enter) is beautiful also, full of art and another tromp-l‘oeil mosaic by Pozzo.

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Italian Art

Posted: October 6th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: ATW Updates | No Comments »

When many people think about classic art and art history, one of the first places they think about is Italy. And why not? Leonardo Da Vinci, Raphael, Donatello, Michaelangelo, and many others the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles aren’t named after. Today, art still plays a large part in Italian culture. So, I thought I’d take you on a quick spin through some of the art we saw in Italy, and the roles they played and still play today.

Art is, and will always be, a form of earning money for the artists. Whether they’re spray-painting the Coliseum for passing tourists:


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Vatican City

Posted: October 1st, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: ATW Updates | No Comments »

The initial reason we detoured to Italy (and then ended up staying a whole month) was to visit Vatican City, the smallest internationally recognized independent state in the world by both area & population. Our tour guide said it’s also the only absolute monarchy left in Europe. Technically, everything (including tourists’ belongings) belongs to Pope Francis as soon as it enters the area. Good thing he seems to be a benevolent dictator. We arrived (a bit late) on Sunday where the Pope gave a papal blessing. You should check it out, on Sundays at 12pm, when he’s in town. He also has audiences on Wednesdays, but you have to get (free!) tickets to it, and the line was sort-of reaching ridiculous proportions by the time we tried.


St. Peters Square was crowded, the rhythms of various languages weaving in and out, interspersed with intermittent strains of singing. There was a certain energy lurking in the air. Perhaps, it’s the palpable energy of faith. Perhaps, just excitement.

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Italian Food

Posted: September 29th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: ATW Updates | No Comments »

I love Italian food. It’s my favorite food, and I could probably eat Italian food every day of my life and be ok. Fat, but ok. So, I’m dedicating a post to Italian food, authentic from Italy. There won’t be as much writing, just a lot of food pictures, which you probably prefer anyways.

Pizza is synonymous with Italy. Here in Italy, you’ll either go fancy and order a whole pizza for yourself or you go fast-food style. The fancy pizzas come laden with yummy toppings and delicious sauce. As you’ll notice, unless you order a cheese pizza, you won’t get much gooey cheese. Also, it’ll arrive unsliced, and you’ll be expected to eat with a knife and fork. Don’t go all barbarian on your pizza as I did (yes, I even dared lick my fingers). Also, since pizzas get cold quickly, it’s actually polite NOT to wait for everyone to get their food before chowing down on yours. Eat whenever you get your food.


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Colosseum Culture

Posted: September 16th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: ATW Updates | No Comments »


The Colosseum of Rome, also called the Flavian Amphitheater for the dynasty of emperors that oversaw its build, is one of the must-see spots of this ancient city. Construction began in 70 AD under the Emperor Vespasian. It’s an iconic symbol of Ancient Rome, proclaiming its might & power. In fact, there’s a map painted inside of the entire Roman empire, with key cities highlighted (you may recognize a few of them from our previous posts).

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Literary Influences in Italy

Posted: September 10th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: ATW Updates | No Comments »

As someone who actively enjoys both reading and writing, I find a particular delight in visiting literary spaces whenever I can. Italy offers many places for a book nerd like me to enjoy, ranging from Dante in the 13th century to Keats in the early 19th century.

Rome: The Romantic Poets

Many writers, through the years, have made their home in Rome. During the Romantic era, the Percy and Mary Shelley spent the mornings wandering around the streets and exploring the nearby countryside before withdrawing in the evenings to write (which sounds like bliss to me). They became good friends with John Keats and Lord Byron, along with a large number of other creatives working at that time.

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Observations of Split, Croatia

Posted: April 27th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: ATW Updates | No Comments »


To be truthful, Split was an afterthought to its more famous counterpart of Dubrovnik.  The name had popped up over and over again in my research of Croatia, and so we decided that we should check it out.  Our host in Dubrovnik, Luka, said that it would be an easy walk to the bus station, so we decided to go that route.  What he failed to mention was that it was entirely uphill and at one point, the sidewalk completely disappears.  We finally made it to the main bus station and boarded the next bus to Split.  We passed briefly through Bosnia where officials boarded the bus to check everyone’s identification.  They took our passports with them, and when returned, they bore new passport stamps.  We arrived late at night, and our new host waxed enthusiastic when he came to pick us up, pointing out a grocery store there, the best pizza restaurant there, and the 24-hour bakery. 

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Observations of Dubrovnik

Posted: April 8th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: ATW Updates | No Comments »


In winter, unless your vacation intention is for some peace and quiet, Dubrovnik (and Croatia in general) is not a prime place for tourists.  I mean, there’s low season in places like Istanbul when the prices are cheaper and the crowds less, and then there’s low season in Croatia which is basically as dead as it gets.  The nightclubs are closed, most of the restaurants are closed, half the museums are closed, and many day trips and tours don’t get going again until April.  In fact, the manager of the property we rented actually spent a good majority of his time with us alternately apologizing for the deadness of Croatia around this time of year and asking us why we were here in Croatia at this time of the year anyways. 

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