Boldog Karácsonyt (from Budapest!)

Last year, we were invited by some Olmsted Scholars from the class of 2012 to celebrate Christmas in the High Tatras Mountains of Slovakia.  We had such a good time that we decided to continue the tradition and organize a Christmas trip for 2013.  This year, Bobby and I traveled to Budapest, Hungary to meet up with five other scholars and their families.  We spent four nights in the gorgeous capital city, taking in the Christmas market, seeing the Chain Bridge and Holocaust Memorial, visiting the famous Szechenyi thermal baths, hiking up Gellért Hill, and gathering for nightly meals with our Olmsted friends.  Although we are always slightly bummed we can’t spend the holidays with our families (….until next year!), it was really nice to share Christmas with a fantastic group of people from our military family.

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Our 2nd Italian Anniversary

First night on the water

I know I’m a little late, but September 6th marked our 2nd Italian anniversary.  This means we have passed well over the halfway point of Bobby’s Olmsted experience.  Wow!  I’d like to highlight some of our favorite travel spots we were fortunate enough to see this year (see our first year favorites here). First though, we’d like to reiterate to the Olmsted Foundation how incredibly grateful we are for this amazing opportunity.  We never thought we’d get travel like this as a couple, nor have the chance to learn a second language while experiencing the culture first-hand.  We can’t express our gratitude enough – thank you, thank you, thank you!… [Read More]

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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Man Trip 2013 – The Balkans

Pimp my ride - Macedonia edition

Disclaimer: Bobby is writing this blog and blogging for the first (and probably last time) ever.

Brian Hensarling came up with the genius idea of getting revenge on the wives trip by planning a “man trip”.  Of course we wanted to go somewhere that sounded manly, but was still moderately safe.  Thus, we settled on the Balkans.  Our group consisted of six scholars from five countries – Germany (Neil Senkowski – OSC ’12), Italy (me), Belgium (Brian Hensarling – OSC ’11), Israel (Stew Welch – OSC ’11 and Garrett Moore – OSC ’13), and Bulgaria (Mark Anderson – OSC ’12).  The Balkans are home to thousands of years of fighting and few places can claim more bloodshed in their history.  Throughout the 1990s, ethnic strife and independence movements plunged the region into further conflicts culminating in Kosovo in 1999.  Eager to lay eyes on the battlefields where American forces waged not one, but two wars in recent history, we set off…. [Read More]

Olmsted Ladies Trip 2013 – Mallorca

Welcome to Soller!

Every year, the Olmsted ladies (wives and female scholars) from Europe and Africa travel to a different destination for a little girls-only fun.  Last year, the girls joined up in Edinburgh for some relaxation and site-seeing.  While absolutely beautiful, it was a wee (okay a little more than “wee”) bit cold.  Remembering all too well our frozen hands and toes, we opted for a warmer destination this year.  My friend and fellow Olmsted wife, Jen Hensarling, planned our trip this year.  After a few rounds of voting, seven Olmsted wives and one scholar decided on Mallorca.  The island is the largest of the Balearic archipelago and is practically a German colony in the summer, with most of the flights coming from either Spain or Germany.  In fact, my flight went from Florence to Frankfurt and then to Mallorca.  It is also a common vacation destination for the Irish and Polish, and I can’t say I blame them!… [Read More]

Flying South

Beautiful

After almost two weeks of some pretty darn cold weather, we were excited to be heading south to (hopefully) some warmer weather.  That didn’t actually work out, but we loved our last stops nevertheless.  We made a pit stop in Luxembourg and it actually snowed overnight, which made it pretty difficult to venture out and site-see.  We did head over to the American WWII Cemetery though and the snow made it even more beautiful.  After that, we made it to Strasbourg, France and got to spend some time with another Olmsted Scholar, Maureen Tanner (OSC ’12), her husband, and lovely little daughter.

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Belgium’s Finest: Brussels

Bobby as scale figure

French fries, chocolate, beer, and waffles: enough said.  I think that should be the motto of Belgium, the next stop on our four-country tour.  I, like many Americans, didn’t know that French fries actually originated in Belgium, not France.  Legend has it that the tasty potatoes got their name when American soldiers arrived in Belgium during World War I and consequently tasted the Belgian fries.  They supposedly called them “French” because it was the official language of the Belgian Army at the time.  Belgian chocolate has a storied history as well, with origins dating back to the 18th century.  However, the world came to know Belgium as one of the premier chocolate producers in the world when Jean Neuhaus, in 1912, created the praline.  Waffles are a little newer tradition.  Originally showcased in 1958 at the World Fair in Brussels, Belgian waffles had their American debut in a fair in Seattle in 1962.  There are actually two types of “Belgian” waffles, one from Brussels, and one called the Liege waffle.  The Liege is most popular, as its inside is laden with tiny sugar crystals.  I mean really, who could resist that?  With salty and sweet on Belgium’s side, I truly don’t think they can go wrong.

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Olmsted Ski Trip – Part 2

Looking towards the frozen part of the lake

After the first couple days of non-stop snow, the second half of our Olmsted ski trip has been blue skies and warmer weather.  Bobby and I ventured to Konigssee Lake, the clearest body of water in all of Germany, on Wednesday and then Bobby skied Flachau Ski Resort on Thursday.  Today, we tried a new winter sport – the biathlon!  This has been an absolutely wonderful trip and we’re pretty sad to leave tomorrow (although we are returning to 60 degree weather in Florence!)

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Olmsted Ski Trip – Part 1

Ski village below Obertauern

Last June, I started planning a ski trip for Bobby’s Olmsted class.  Finally, the time came to set out for beautiful St. Martin, Austria.  We were greeted with a couple of feet of fresh powder and it has been snowing on and off every day since.  Although our first day on the slopes wasn’t ideal (the visibility was pretty poor due to the snow storm), we have since made up for it.  We have had the pleasure of skiing the beautiful runs at Obertauern Ski resort and we took a group snowshoeing trip near our cabin.  Our chalet is a part of a 9-cabin eco-friendly resort and it is a perfect place to spend a winter vacation.  So far, we’ve had a great time spending time with 3 other Olmsteders and their families and we still have several more days to go!

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The City of a Hundred Spires: Prague

Prague skyline from the castle

Prague was once nicknamed “The City of a Hundred Spires” because of its spiked cityscape.  Today, historians estimate there are 500 spires within the city limits.  This was the first time visiting Prague for both Bobby and me, and I must say it’s now one of my favorite European destinations.  Although the weather wasn’t spectacular, we couldn’t help but feel the city’s charm.  We were very thankful that Prague’s famous Christmas market was still going strong, even though we visited after the 25th and it served as a perfect backdrop for our visit.

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