Monday, September 27, 2010

"Though there are some disagreeable things in Venice, there is nothing so disagreeable as the visitors." - Henry James

. . . . except me of course, Henry James, except me! I'm getting ahead of myself because Venice is only half the story, getting there was an adventure - - -

It all starts with . . . .

. . . . this brave damsel

and these boots a made for walkin'! (technically shoes)

Here comes my train!!!

Ummm, well - I guess that was the express because it almost blew my camera out of my hands and funny, it didn't stop . . .
However, here is where it gets interesting - I'm talking an all day Saturday viewing of a Lifetime thriller, kind of interesting. I was going to have to transfer on two different trains, hit Venzia first and then Padova to make it to Venice. Well, I made it to Venezia, then all he$% broke loose! The Italian train system needs a makeover, they need more than just a paper departure map and angry ticket sellers to get people to where they are going - - - - lucky for me, however, there were some very kind locals who were happy to help a confused foreigner out. I was directed to Platform 2 and was happy to see that there were others on their way to the water city and I settled in (shouldn't have gotten so comfortable). I started writing in my journal until some boisterous Americans began to consult the departure map and I began to think maybe I wasn't that safe. They seemed to have the same ticket as me but they kept saying that the time was a lot sooner than I had been told. When I say sooner, I mean like two seconds after I doubted them a train showed up that said Santa Lucia Venezia on the side and they were getting on - - - - and so was I. I knew I had made a mistake as soon as I got on but by that time the train was moving. I was standing in a dining car and the Americans that I had followed had suddenly disappeared. I asked the bartender about Venice and he told me we still had one hour - ummm, it was suppose to take me an hour and a half, definitely the wrong train. Celeste had told me that if tickets aren't validated and you are on the wrong train a 100$ fine was often what happened. I began to think I had to move so off I went through cars, they turned out to be sleeper cars with a small little passage way and way too many people standing in the way. "Scusi," became all I said as I feared that around the next corner I would be asked for my ticket. There were NO seats, only sleeper compartments and odd stares in my direction as I peered into those compartments. I was getting dizzy and all the more nervous so I looked into one of the compartments and saw two men and an empty seat, I gulped and pointed at the seat and shrugged (code for asking if I could sit there), the recently roused Englishman looked up and nodded. I sat and got a "Hallo!" from the Frenchman, I "Hallo-ed" back and tried to disappear. Old Frenchie looked annoyed and more so when his wife showed up and I could tell asked him why this girl was sitting in a place that they had recently slept in. I tried to not make eye contact while my mind went wild with stories of the Frenchman calling "stowaway!" and me being thrown into dungeons. When he got up and started out of the compartment I knew my days on the lamb had come to an end, I got up and ran off in the opposite direction. I ran, looking into compartments as I went and knowing I would never make a good spy - finally an empty compartment and in I flew - blinds down and praying I knew when we stopped in Venice. After twenty minutes I knew I was getting close and so I made my way out of the compartment and in the direction I had come - I saw a train attendant and froze, "Bonjourno, Venzia?"
"10 minutes!" he called out and I was home free . . . until I saw the Frenchman. I could have sworn he was gonna rat me out and if I would have been starring alongside Matt Damon that probably would have happened but since I wasn't, it didn't - we landed in Venice and I almost kissed the ground for joy!

Yeah - that ground. This is what you see when exiting the train station - water and hundreds of people.

Right next to the station is one of the oldest of the 30 something churches that call Venice home . . .

. . . don't get why the arm is broken off but maybe it's because it's been there since 425 AD and there must have been some wear and tear during that time.

What Venice really seemed to be was a mecca for selling you anything that could constitute a souvenir - favorites being masks and glass, what they are often famous for.

Oh yeah - and some wonderful pastries!

View from one of the many, MANY bridges

Again - proof I was there and not in Wisconsin!

It's crazy to think you are walking on a city built on water - I was in awe all day.

The bells from one of the churches that was hosting this event - - - -

- - a wedding! How cool is that?! I stood off to the side of the door and reached my camera in to take the picture and that is why it is blurry - didn't want to be the annoying tourist they would see in their pictures forever, dad walking daughter down the aisle and Mia in the background . . .

Still couldn't get over houses on water!

The day was starting to clear up and the fun was just beginning.
One of the many beautiful museums -

By that time I was getting hungry and decided to dine at this posh, modern restaurant - -

yeah you guessed it - I was having it my way. McDonalds is the place to be in Europe but way too expensive, a value meal was the equivalent of ten dollars!

After that it was time to wander through some more of the Venetian streets with vendors on every inch of that island.

I wonder what it is like to in that very building, to have that very view?

Okay, there it is - the gondola shot - sooooo cool!

DO you know that it Italy you cannot gather your own produce, you tell the vendors what they want and they get it for you - - - don't even think about touching that fruit . . .
. . . . or that fresh fruit- yummy, no?

Another church - this one belongs to the Madonna -

such beautiful churches -

with paintings every where!

How can such a beautiful city house such historic churches but also try and sell you a wooden motorcycle with a pinochio at the wheel - priceless.
Here is where the day gets hot and crowded - this is the view off of the most famous bridge that actually has stores throughout (Chards: think the Ligori's painting, I finally have proof that what I had rallied against is real - there are stores on the bridge!)

see? Stores -

- and ridiculous amounts of people

yet, more people

and water - - - -
and then even more people!!!

Along a passageway to a -

- courtyard. Beautiful right? It had rained so much the previous day that the city was starting to flood.
When that happens, kids will always be kids, playing in the water.

Even a crazy local or two will sit out among the water to get away from all those people:)

But - I think that the real Venice is to be found in the side streets, where you come to know that there are normal people that live there, normal people who do their laundry . . .

That was the end of my day because I still had miles to go and trains to catch!

Trains that made me make this face -

- and that luckily for me, was a place finally free of people - they were still out enjoying the fun:)

And I, well I - was glad it was done and happy for what I had seen -

but also . . . . had never been happier to see this gate!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

What do you fear? . . .

The first time that I ever left home to venture out on my own was way past that magical number eighteen that most of my teenage counterparts had used as their fast track to freedom. My parents had never been the type that said we had to be out of the house at eighteen; in fact, I think that if they had their way all of their children would still be at home today along with their spouses and childrenJ.

In my mother's culture children usually don't leave the home until college or marriage and if you aren't married after college most will usually end up coming home for a time. I was twenty-one when I left for a semester at BYU Nauvoo and I was petrified. Most people would see that as weak and me being way too old to be scared to leave home at twenty-one but my life, like all lives up until that point, had been filled with many ups and downs – an up being a genuine love for my family who were more my friends than anyone else and a down that weighed heavy on me being what had happened to me the last time I had left home as a child. I didn't know who I was without my family around and I didn't want to find out.

I laid my head in my mother's lap and cried with fear and pain and told her that I knew I couldn't do it, that I wouldn't be able to make friends, that I would become the failure I always thought I would end up as. My mother did what most mothers do at a time like that: she soothed my every fear. She reminded me of a clenched fist and how that had been a safety net for both me and my brothers all our growing up years – we only had to clench our fist and we would remember the love of our mother and father and know that in those moments of true loneliness and fear we are never truly alone.

That long night turned into many over the following months as I adjusted to life on my own and learned who I could be. Those four months became a turning point in my life – the blessings that have come from that choice are innumerable. I had the courage to serve a mission only because of that preparatory point in my life, my testimony of Jesus Christ and his restored gospel was fortified there and that has kept me off of the brink of inactivity many a time; I also finally began to give myself permission to find worth in myself, only because of that decision.

I thought about all of this last night, as I once again began to fear venturing out on my own. I was planning my first solo outing on a train trip to Venice, a preparatory trip to the twenty-one days in November that I will spend alone, and fear overcame me. It became the only thing I could see and the only voice that I could hear, until, from somewhere deep inside, I remembered a clenched fist and a mother calming her frightened adult daughter and I knew that what had been accomplished before could be accomplished again . . .

(pictures to come of that SOLO adventure and, by the way - - - what are you afraid of?)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Just call me Liesl, Louisa, Brigitta, Marta or Gretl . . .

Third from the left - - - yeah, you guessed it - that's me! I didn't really know how to reveal this without mass declarations of jealousy from the public but I'm all about telling the truth these days so . . . yes, I was in the Sound of Music with Christopher Plummer and Julie Andrews. Just stating the facts these days.
I talked about Germany last time but I couldn't leave you hanging without talking about Austria - it was amazing! Such beautiful country and such kind people. We stopped by chance on the way home in Innsbruck for lunch. Who knew that we had stumbled across a city that had hosted the Olympics 2 times and that is rich with history.

Just leaving the car a man from a museum came over and gave the girls some heart balloons - they loved them and then we set up the camera to take a picture and some folks really wanted to be part of that.

Loved this shot - a walk through the streets of the old country . . .

Seeing this made me realize how fortunate I am to be where I am - it was perfect that in Austria, the country of music, we had the chance to listen to a violinist . . .

An intricately decorated building in the heart of the old part of town - next to the world famous Golden Roof Building . . .
We felt blessed to have just come across a town where so much history and beauty are all around - it was full of tourists!
There is the Golden Roof, it was built in the 1500's for Emperor Maximilian - I wonder if I asked really nice they would give me a small piece of the tile?
We ate at such a classic and wonderful restaurant, all of the outside tables were taken so we got to have the inside all to our self:)

I had always thought that Wiener Schnitzel was sausage with sauerkraut - actually it's more a breaded turkey steak. It is the most traditional Austrian meal served with fries and a salad that had no dressing

A view towards the mountains with the Golden Roof in site . . .

They are serious about their ice cream - they make it look like a rose . . .

One of the oldest churches in Innsbruck - Saint Jacob's Cathedral

This is somewhere at the bottom of the alps between Austria and Italy, it was such a wonderful day!

A small town on the Italian side - of course there is a church . . .

A perfect end to such a great weekend - I got to reminisce about my days in the Sound of Music, we explored an Olympic town and i got a rose shaped ice cream cone - nothing could be better!