Umbrian Race Weekend – Corsa delle Carrette

Bobby and I planned a weekend trip in Umbria around the Infiorate Festival (stay tuned for the next post!), but we ended up stumbling into another great festival of sorts.  La Corsa delle Carrette, a type of soap-box race for grown-ups, took place in both Narni and Spoleto last weekend.  On Saturday, the qualifying races were held, with men from all the different neighborhoods coming out to compete.  Those who qualified went on to compete in the finals on Sunday.  Because both are hilltop towns, it’s no surprise that the cities were perfect locations for the downhill races.  There were one-man and two-man competitions, just like bobsled.  In the two-man race, the second man (the guy in the back) pushed the small car and jumped in, where as the one-man competition started with just the help of gravity.  Narni’s competition has a 40-year history, while Spoleto’s version goes back a half-century.  Of course the cars have changed over the nears.  In Narni, the cars look like model Formula 1 cars and they are required to be buckled in.  (Apparently last year, two people ended up in the hospital after a nasty crash.) In Spoleto, we saw a lot more teenagers and twenty-somethings competing and the cars seemed to be a little more aerodynamic, kind of like the those in bobsled.  Hundreds of people flooded the city in each town to watch the racers zoom by on the straw-barrier lined streets.  You could follow the race anywhere in the city because a play-by-play was announced via loud speaker.  All-in-all, it was a very professional racing environment in Narni and Spoleto, even though the winners only gain local fame.

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Spanish Grand Prix

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Although this trip into Spain was dedicated to the Grand Prix of Spain, that didn’t stop us from seeing other sites in the area.  Our first stop was the tiny country of Andorra.  Leaving Florence, I mindlessly drove north towards Bologna instead of hugging the Ligurian coast.  Like Kumar in Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle, when I realized the error of my ways, I declared “we’ve come too far” and pressed on.  The mistake proved costly and tagged on an hour and a half of driving to an already long first leg.  By the time we pulled into the mountain town, I was destroyed (hence the lack of photos).

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The Fine Line Between Austria and Germany

Up close and personal

I’m pretty sure that Austrians and Germans would disagree with me on this one, but it’s a very fine line between their countries and their cultures, especially on the border.  Driving from one city to another on our week-long trip, we often (seamlessly) passed from Germany to Austria and back.  We don’t speak German, so of course, Austrian German sounded like German German.  The food is really similar, if not the same.  The Bavarian architecture runs rampant throughout the entire area and you can even ski from one country to the other without knowing it.  Anyway, you get the point; to us, these regions are really similar.  Oh, and did I mention it’s one of the prettiest, most spectacular areas we’ve been to?  (You can also take a look our previous trips to this area here and here.)  There are lush green valleys (when it’s not snowing), towering mountains, and lakes dotting the landscape.

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Touring Torino

River Po

We spent two days in Torino (Turin) and we could have stayed a few more because there is a lot to see.  In 1861, the town was named Italy’s first capital city and although most of its political importance has been lost since WWII, it still serves as one of Italy’s major industrial cities, along with Genova and Milano.  Because it is a principle European crossroad for trade and commerce, you would think that Torino lacks some of the finer cultural highlights.  This would be a false presumption.  The city has a rich culture and history and is known for its numerous art galleries, top restaurants, beautiful architecture (palaces, opera houses, castles), large piazzas and parks, world-renowned theaters, and many, many museums. With near one-million inhabitants in the city limits, Torino feels much larger than a lot of Italy’s other “cities.”

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Rounding-out August – Hannover, Kassel & Ingolstadt, Germany

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This post is a little late, but Bobby and I rounded out our big August Scandinavian trip by stopping in northern/central Germany.  Unfortunately, we haven’t had a lot of opportunity to travel in Germany, so we were excited to see more of the area.  First stop – Hannover.  Although the city has medieval origins, most of Hannover was destroyed by Allied bombing during WWII.  In fact, more than 90% of the city center was destroyed in 88 bombing raids.  We took a walking tour and indulged in some tasty pretzels before heading down to Kassel, Germany to spend the night.  We rounded out our trip by taking in the Audi Museum in Ingolstadt.  … [Read More]

Denmark – Venturing into Scandinavia

Castle and sculpted hedges

This may sound incredibly inane, but the two things that I took away from Denmark were 1) Danish people are really blond (blonder than Swedes!) and 2) every person in Copenhagen must own a bike (I think there were more bikes than Amsterdam!)  On this leg of our trip, we continued on our journey from Germany to Denmark, stopping in Odense and then Copenhagen.  This was our first time in Scandinavia, and we were really excited to see the area, since we’d heard such high praises from multiple sources.  Luckily, Denmark didn’t let us down (….well, other than everything being really expensive, but that’s a given in the Nordic countries)!  :)… [Read More]

Hamburg’s Miniatur Wunderland

Double-decker bridge

After seeing Minimundus last year in Klagenfurt, Austria, I officially knew my husband was a little kid in a big(ger) kid’s body.  He loved seeing the miniature models of popular tourist landmarks around the globe and for the entire week that followed, he went around muttering “Minimundus” to anyone that would listen.  So, needless to say, I wasn’t surprised that he was incredibly enthusiastic to hear that Hamburg, Germany had a miniature train museum.  I do have to give him a little credit though.  This isn’t some ordinary train museum.  There are over 13,000 meters (42,650 ft or over 8 miles) of track in the largest miniature train museum in the world and the lines travel through cities in Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Scandinavia and the US.  The museum also has future “construction sites” for Italy and France.

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A Weekend in Berlin

Old Eastern Bloc car breaking through the wall

Berlin has been on my “top places to visit” list ever since we moved to Europe.  We had the opportunity to spend a weekend in Berlin with our friends the Senkowskis (OSC ’12) and it exceeded all our expectations.  At first glance, we were impressed by its size, its large public transportation network, and the accessibility to international food. (Chinese, Middle Eastern, Indian food anyone?)  Although it is a very trendy city with its modern art and architecture and hipster-clad 30-somethings, it is also deeply rooted in history.  There may well be a WWII museum on every corner.  I found the juxtaposition between new and old refreshing; it seemed as though the city embraced its past, but aimed to make a splash in the future.

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Toytown: A Day in Munich

Canopy

Next stop: Munich!  I read that Munich’s nickname was Toytown, which I immediately associated with cars (I’m not sure why, other than the fact that we visited the BMW museum).  Apparently, ex-pats gave Munich the name because of the large number of children in the city.  I can’t say I saw an exorbitant number of kids running around, but I’ll take their word for it. We didn’t have much time in this beautiful city, but we did get to see lots of cars (Bobby is somewhat of a car-nut), visit the 1972 Olympic Park, and take the short trip to Dachau to tour the Nazi concentration camp (this will be in my next blog).  Munich did prove to be beautiful, even though we didn’t see a lot of the actual city center.  We were very thankful for the first sunny weather of the entire Christmas trip!… [Read More]

Veselé Vianoce from the High Tatras, Slovakia!

DeDe, Jenn, and me

This year, we spent Christmas in the High Tatras Mountains in a small town called Strbske Pleso, Slovakia.  (Don’t ask me how to pronounce this city; there are no vowels!) The Grahams, fellow Olmsted-ers in Poland, suggested a Christmas get together, an offer we couldn’t refuse!  We’d never been to Slovakia before either, so we were really excited to see what it was all about.  Along with the Grahams, who live in Krakow, we met the Hensarlings (Brussels, Belgium), the Musas (Rabat, Morocco), the Johnsons (Ljubljana, Slovenia), the Shores (Gdansk, Poland), and the Bushes (Budapest, Hungary) at the beautiful lakeside Kempinski Hotel.  Three out of four branches of the Armed Forces were represented (I’m not sure what happened to the Army folks!)

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