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Croatian Weekend
KUNA
During the first weekend of October I decided to take a trip to Croatia. I do not think as a person or even as a student traveling abroad I would have ever imagined myself going to this country. However, the only thing in my way of Croatia was an extremely long bus ride. The tour group left at around 5:30pm in Rome and arrived in Croatia at around 9:30am the next day.
As I write this post on the bus back, it was worth it!  I took sleeping pills for the first time on the way there and man are those things weird. I would be knocked out for three hours then awake for ten minutes then knocked out for another two hours. Due to the sleeping pills I missed the sunrise in Croatia. I was disappointed that I missed it but three hours later I woke up coming down the MTNS to the city of Split. Split, Croatia is the second largest city in Croatia, and Croatia itself has only been a country for twenty years. This relatively new country used to be apart of Yugoslavia. It has the equivalent population of Minnesota. In Croatia they have their own currency called the Kuna. For 1 us dollar you get about 5.75 Kuna.
I went to the beach all day in Split and for lunch I had Braised chicken for a total of 40 Kuna, this also included a giant bowl of mashed potatoes. Water on the other hand was 15 Kuna; so apparently just do not stay hydrated in Croatia.
On Saturday it was arranged that the tour group get on a boat and go island hopping. We went to on island off the coast of Croatia called Brac. On this island we made two stops, the tiny towns were amazing and left un touched by the tourism that plagues most of Europe. We got to swim at our own private beach as a group and I went for a long swim to catch the view at the end of the bay. That night I went out to dinner with a group of friends in a town just north of Split called Trogir. This was an amazing town surrounded completely by water. To enter the city you must cross a wood bridge. Once your foot leaves the bridge you step back into history into the age of the Diocletian. There was a grand Diocletian palace, with an amazing church in the center of the palace walls. We ate dinner outside on the sea, and in front of us were 5 story yachts with all of the crew hanging out outside of them.
Firenze – Florence
The weekend of the October 12th to October 14th I went to Florence, IT. It might just be my favorite place in Italy to this date. I finally was smart and consulted the books in the library to see if there was a travel book on Florence or on Italy. Lucky for me, there was 8 books specifically on Florence to choose from. The one I chose worked out perfectly as it guided me to neighborhoods, bakeries, and gelato places, cities that as a normal tourist would never have thought of to go. On Friday I explored Florence main central district. I went inside and outside the Duomo, which is a fascinating work of Architecture and human accomplishment. I also went to the top of the tower directly to the south of the Duomo and climbed the 424 stairs to the top. The view from the tower was breathtaking and I was able to see all of medieval Florence in it entirety. It was a 360-degree of Florence from the tower and I did not want go back down the 424 steps. For the rest of the day I spent it going to the small town of Fiesole in the hills of north Florence. From this vantage point the view was absolutely breathtaking, looking over olive groves down the hill to the beautiful city of Florence was amazing. Also in Fiesole are the ruins of an old Roman village built at the time of Augustus’s rule.
Saturday I explored Florence more and went to a great panino shop called Pino’s. This is the name of the owner and the shop, where on the menu you can order what is called the Fantasy. The fantasy is your choice of whatever ingredient you want on a panino. I got Tuscan Salami, Fennel Salami, Hot Salami, Parmesan Cheese cut straight of the wedge and fresh ball of mozzarella sliced up and it all comes together on the Panini press and served to you on a wood plate. I went to that same place three times. Also on Saturday I went to the Piazza Michelangelo that has the best view of Florence within the city walls of Florence. To cap the night off I met up with some friends and went to Gusta pizza which is wood fired pizza place, where you order and then get a takeaway box to eat on the steps of the piazza nearby. Finally we all finished the Italian way, I got Gelato and this time I watched an Italian women get gelato and she ordered what is called a Briesole. To explain this simply it is a sweet roll cut in half, and then you are allowed to pick three flavors of Gelato and all of this is only for 3 euro. Most of the time when you get gelato it is a very small portion meant to be consumed very slowly. However, when I received my Briesole it was massive and covered my whole face when held in front of it. I got the flavors of crema, stratictella – which is not simply vanilla and chocolate chips, it is actually more milk and sugar based, and on the bottom layer was chocolate mouse. My friends and I ate this on the ridge two bridges west of the Ponte Vecchio. The Ponte Vecchio is the only bridge I have ever seen in my life that has houses on it. Additionally it is the only bridge in Florence to survive the German retreat in World War II and within the first floor of the houses are the fanciest jewelry stores in Italy. When these stores are closed the storefronts look like the outside of treasure chest.
Sunday topped off with more exploration of the hills of Florence and also a band from the Netherlands entertaining whoever stopped by in the Piazza from the time of 4 to 5:30PM. Soon after I walked down the 100-shop street that most people who visit Florence do not even know is nearby. This is street is just outside the original city walls and is filled with shops, pastry shops, small pizzerias and on a Sunday night when normally everything is closed and it was even on this street, it was chuck full of Italians. One pastry shop had the biggest buffet I have ever seen and it was all fresh pastries and small appetizers. Also there were two huge posters taped to the ground and kids were allowed to draw with markers whatever they felt like meanwhile the parents chatted amongst each other and enjoyed a pleasant evening. I was the only person on the 10-block street that did not speak Italian or was not Italian. It was an amazing experience and I am now hoping to find this same kind of street within Rome.

That is all for now, off to study for a few midterms
Ciao!
Steve O

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