Wednesday, October 7, 2015

IVHQ Naploli Italy

Nearest and dearest thing to my heart is volunteerism. I have always been drawn toward helping others. In college, I flew to Tanzania to volunteer with Cross Cultural Solutions in an Elementary School. Guatemala City swiftly followed and I worked in an orphanage for three months. This year I was able to volunteer for IVHQ in Cusco Peru, World Vets in Romania, and now I am volunteering for IVHQ in Naples Italy. 2016 is going to be an even better year for volunteerism. I am very excited.

Oh Italy - I am not sure what I expected. Napoli is an old, dusty, dirty city. The alleyways are grey from exhaust fumes from cars and garbage is tossed carelessly everywhere. The mob is still HUGE in Italy and for years they controlled the garbage collection in the city. Or they were *suppose* to control the garbage collection. Instead they just left it to pile up around the city.... eventually the army was called to remove all the waste.... In some ways, the city itself looks like it has not changed in centuries. In other ways...... the honking horns, the constant stream of humans on the sidewalk, the high-end fashion shops, the hustle and bustle reminds me of New York City.

Italians really do live off Pizza and Pasta. No lie. Carb-Capital of the World - I would say that Italy is going to add thirty pounds to my physique .....  But my volunteer-placement is on top of a very steep mountain. An ancient old farm that belonged to Certosa di San Martino, a Monastery that was built in 1368...... I cannot explain to you how lucky I am to be working on that patch of land. We are building a garden on the side of the mountain to teach children where their fruits and veggies come from. Basic agricultural education for children of Italy.

Walking around the acres and acres of land that surround the Monastery. Everything is overgrown but everything is edible..... Walnut trees. Fennel. Lettuce. Olive trees (the harvest is this weekend). Grapes. Hazelnuts. Apple trees. Oranges. Limes - They even have a mini-farm for the children to meet domesticated farm animals. Chickens, ducks, geese, donkeys, rabbits and sheep.... I am just in love with my placement. I am so excited to get dirty at work today. We are turning the soil to make way for the new garden.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Athens Greece

In college, I remember reading about the Parthenon. I remember reading how Lord Elgin stole a ton of marble sculptures and sent them to the British Museum in early 1800s. I remember reading the controversy as to whether or not those sculptures should be returned to Greece. I never really imagined that it would matter to me one way or another (as long as the sculptures are safe in a museum, who would care). But I know now, those sculptures belong to Greece. Seeing that Lord Elgin hammered out the Centaurs, the Giants, the Amazons, the birth of Athena and took them back to Britain with him. Thievery. Lord Elgin took a Caryatid from the temple and replaced it with a cement column! Those pieces should be returned to Greek soil ......

The Parthenon. What a place!..... I never realized that it watched over the entire city of Athens. The Parthenon sits on a mountain and acts as the center to a very large clock. You can walk around the base of the mountain, around and around, always knowing where the center is. I found that to be quite amazing. I never once got lost. I spent hours in tiny allyways shopping or exploring but I always knew which way my apartment was.
Originally when I said that I was visiting Greece, people worried me "The economy is bad. Crime is an issue. The gypsies will get you." - I am SO happy that I did not listen. Greece has been the highlight of my trip. It was incredibly cheap, safe enough to walk alone at night with tourists.... I never felt threatened. Greeks are so warm and welcoming. I walked into a store front to look for a new purse, ended up ballroom dancing and drinking all night with the owner.

And the food. For real - I could live off Greek Salad for a year and I would never get sick of eating it. Fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, basil, feta cheese, olives, olive oil, salt, pepper. Mmm. Spent the week trying to track down the best Salad on the Plaka. Decided that God's Restaurant near the Metro Station. So good.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Brasov and Dracula's Castle

Made a lot of great friends during the World Vet trip. But one volunteer really stuck out. Her name was Sue. A veterinarian from Boulder Colorado. She was the first person that I connected with at the airport. Late 50's, silver hair, clear blue eyes. Short with a genuine smile that really felt good to be in the presence of ..... Sue had also flown into Bucharest a few days early (just like I did) 

Half way through the week, Sue asked me if I would be interested in traveling to Brasov with her ..... "You and I are both flying out on Tuesday morning and there are all these castles and churches in the Transylvanian mountains...." .... She said "Transylvania and Mountains" in the same sentence. I was IN... 

Normally when I travel, I make all my own plans. I research and I plot out the locations that I want to see. But since it was her idea and her trip, I wanted her to see all the things that her heart desired. So I just planned on keeping her company and planned on splitting the costs.

Rasnov Fortress. A citadel built on the route of the invading armis which were passing through Râșnov. The only chance of survival for the inhabitants of the area, was the refuge inside the citadel. Compelled to stay there for decades, the people of Râșnov and the nearby villages turned the fortification into a dwelling......

Also went to visit, Bran Castle. Commonly known as "Dracula's Castle" (although it is one among several locations linked to the Dracula legend). The first documented mentioning of Bran Castle is the act issued by Louis the I of Hungary in 1377, giving the Saxons the privilege to build the stone citadel on their own expense and labor force. In 1438–1442, the castle was used in defense against the Ottoman EmpireIn 1920, the castle became a royal residence within the Kingdom of Romania. It became the favorite home and retreat of Queen Marie. The castle was inherited by her daughter who ran a hospital there in World War II: it was later seized by the communist regime with the expulsion of the royal family in 1948.

Last but not least, was Peles Castle ...... The foundation was laid for Peleș Castle in 1873. Several auxiliary buildings were built simultaneously with the castle: the guards' chambers, the royal stables, even a power plant. Peleș Castle became the world's first castle fully powered by locally produced electricity. The cost of the work on the castle undertaken between 1875 and 1914 was estimated to be 16,000,000 Romanian Lei in gold (approx. US$ 120 million today)