Venice Blog

Only ONE transportation strike while in Venice?!! Crazy!

Just the other day I was telling a friend that I was shocked by the fact that I have been living in Italy for about a month and there has not been a transportation strike. I have dealt with many transportation strikes in my prior trips to Europe, and was pleasantly surprised there had not been one this time.  I spoke too soon. On Wednesday night the whole class got an e mail from our professor that there were planned transportation strikes for Friday, our last day of class. Being stuck on an island, the lot of us started to semi-freak out. We realized that Friday would be one of our last days in Italy and we really did not want to be stuck on San Servolo. I know I personally wanted to go out, shop, see the sights and have one last romp around Venice. Little by little we learned conflicting details about the strike(surprise surprise no one knew what was going on haha). First the strike was going to be Thursday. Then there were going to be vaparettos running to san servolo only during rush hours. Next it was that ‘what a strike?’. Then we found out the vaparetto strike was going to be for Friday. Finally we found out San servolo is an essential line and they cannot cut off access to it, so the lines between San Servolo and San Marco would still run, but at what times we did not know. Finally, after many e-mails and much effort from our wonderful professors and helpful people and VIU, that the vaparettos would run as normal to and from San Servolo. This was extremely joyful news. While I am familiar with transportation strikes in Europe (not the law behind them, but the fact that they are planned and only usually for 24 hours) many of my classmates had never experienced this and were confused by this phenomenon. Luckily, on our last day of our comparative and International Labor and Employment Law course, Professor Goldberg had arranged for an Italian labor law lawyer to come in and talk to us about labor law issues in Italy. While it took him two hours to go twenty kilometers because of the strikes, he did make it and gave a great talk on many of the aspects of international labor and employment law that we had discussed and how they applied in Italy. He was a great insight into how different legal systems, especially those with a different view of unions, deal with labor problems. He explained how the strikes have to be planned and are a major tool in the negotiation process. He also explained how every employee is bound to minimum standards for the genre of work they do and this is why there is lot of tension in negotiations. He also assured us that the strike would only be for Friday and that we would be able to use all vaparettos on Saturday to  fully enjoy our last day in Venice. This was valuable insight and I thank Professor Goldberg the opportunity to get a better understanding of how these laws work in practice.

~Megan

Finally…THIS American In Paris!

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I know my fellow blogger, CarryAnn, has blogged about a trip to Paris, but I also had my own Parisian adventure with friends. This trip was planned prior to the start of the program and my two friends and I have been looking forward to it ever since we booked the transportation. To spend the maximum amount of time in Paris we decided to do the overnight train from Thursday into Friday and fly home Sunday evening. This left us with 2 ½ days to explore the city of lights.

Getting there

We took an overnight train from Venice, San Lucia train station to Paris Bercy train station. Let me just say this was an interesting adventure in itself. We had to get on the train at 7:50pm, so we arrived early to the train station so we could settle and grab food and cool down in the immense heat.  Once our train arrive we decided to get on right away and find out cabin. Apparently three intelligent law students do not know how to read a reserved seat on a train ticket and found about 20 minutes into the ride that we were on the right train, just the wrong car. When the nice ticket man told us to move down 12 cars we picked up our bags and made our way to the correct cabin whilst being thrown side to side.

Once settled we realized we had this 6 person sleeper cabin to ourselves. This excitement did not last for long. Within three stops the other three members of our cabin joined us. There was a nice young Italian couple who were starting their three week backpacking adventure. And then there was an older Italian gentleman who we dubbed ‘Sir Chatty Pants’. He was a nice older man, but he did NOT SHUT UP. From the moment he got on the train until we all went to sleep and from the moment we woke up until we got off the train this man CONSTANTLY talked.

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Ohh la la Paris!

We finally arrived in Paris. After a quick metro ride we dropped our bags (but could not check in until 4pm), washed the ‘train smell’ off of us as best we could and set off to join a free three hour walking tour of Paris that the hostel staff told us about.

By the way, the hostel we stayed in was AMAZING. It was ‘Le Regent Hostel Montmarte”. It was located right across the street from the Anvers metro stop right near the Sacre Coeur (our view from the room window was the Sacre Coeur). The staff was amazing helpful and the facilities were just what we needed in a hostel. It had a great bright fun vibe and really helped make our Paris experience even more awesome. I would highly recommend this hostel if you are in Paris.

Anyways, we set on our way to what would be the most amazing walking tour I have been on. First of all it was free, but ofIMG_9083course we tipped our amazing tour guide, Tyler. We started at Saint Michael’s Square and wandered around by Notre Dame, the Arts Bridge, the Louvre and ended at the Grand Palace. There were history lessons and interesting stories and priceless pictures were taken along the way. After the tour there was a lovely lunch and my friend and I went back to check in to the hostel, clean up, and head out to actually see the Louvre.

On Friday nights it is student night at the Louvre, which means those under 26 get in free. While the entrance to the museum is only 10 Euro, free is much more affordable. The Louvre is AMAZING. I could spend months in there sitting in front of every painting in awwwww. We made a B line for the Mona Lisa and on the way we ran across the Winged Victory and other amazing pictures and sculptures. Next time i will devote at least an entire day to this museum. I also know the secret unknown entrance so that i do not have to wait in the huge line outside the pyramid.

The next day we just explored all of Paris and soaked up as much French culture as possible. We explores the tiny streets of Montmartre, shopped on the Champ Elysees, ate croissants, went into Notre Dame and just wandered all french like. We saw sights, we took picture and i even ate snails (which is not a surprise to those who know me because i love escargot!) We left sunday afternoon after some more Montmarrte exploration and made our way back to venice. Each of us loved paris in its own way. One friend loved that we did not have to travel on buses and rather could use slightly a more efficient transportation system. The other enjoyed the demeanor of the people better than those in venice(which i think is a little backwards, butIMG_9071

IMG_9282everyone in Paris was extremely helpful and the people in venice last week were very cranky because of the heat wave). Overall this was an extremely pleasant trip and makes me want to go back as soon as possible. I want to wander more and go to Versailles (the weather was not very good and would have made walking in the gardens miserable). While Paris was a fantastic trip i was very happy to be back in Venice and back to a “normal” schedule. It was a perfect way to start off my final week in europe.

~meg

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Last Week Abroad, Oh My!

Studying Abroad has been one of the best experiences I have had.  I have learned reayly interesting things in my classes about the international differences and similarities.  I have a better understanding and appreciation of how the US handles law and justice while forming my own ideas on aspects that could be better suited an international way.  Getting to learn and discuss topics with Justice Holland, Professors Goldberg and Meadows and our Italian professor has been really great, and the other students have contributed to great learnings as well.

While at our “nice dinner number two” meaning we are spending a little extra on this meal to eat at a recommended restaurant…we were discussing how we feel we have really gotten the most out of this trip.  We may be exhausted since we spend our days traveling, reading for class and walking everywhere!!  However, we have seen and done so much that it makes our exhaustion worth it.

This week we actually made a list of everything we want to do so that we don’t forget anything and really get the absolute most out of our last week.  This includes a trip to Harry’s Bar which is a famous bar in Venice that is owned and operated by the infamous Cipriani family.  This bar is where the Bellini was invented, yum!  And, as if that wasn’t enough incentive to make an appearance, our Italian professor recommended it as a place not to be missed, in fact, he goes every time he makes a trip to Venice (he was from Bolognia and made the trip in twice a week to teach our class of European Law).  So, even though the Bellinis are going to cost us about 15 Euro, we are going to head on over there and check it out and of course take tourist-y photos!

Other highlights of this week include having a tour guide take us through St. Mark’s Basillica (where we had attended Mass last Sunday) and through the Doge’s palace and attached prison cells.  Get this:  St. Mark’s Basillica is called this because the actual remains of St. Mark are located in the crypt of the church.  But the really cool part is that these remains were STOLEN by Venetian merchants!  And, thanks to Professor Goldberg I know how….  They hid the remains in meat on the way out of Augustina because the enforcement officers in Augustina where Muslim and wouldn’t touch pork.  Pretty crafty!  The Doge’s palace was astounding in its height, beauty and history.  The ceilings are incredible and tell the tales and legends of the city of Venice.  Our tour guide was very knowledgeable and really provided you with the details of each room.  Then we went onto the prison!  Where we got to cross over the “Bridge of Sighs”, arguably Venice’s most famous bridge and got to see what it looked and felt like from the inside.  It was pretty cool to be looking out the windows on covered bridge and see all of the tourists taking pictures.

Tonight we are going to have dinner with the professors as Professor Meadow’s home, which should be lovely!

Venice Biennales: A picture is a poem without words~~Horace

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I seriously choose the right year and place to study abroad. Venice is the host to the Biennale contemporary art exhibition that goes on during the summer every other year. There are artists from countries all over the world

Zimbabwe Pavilion located off of San Marco

Zimbabwe Pavilion located off of San Marco

that are chosen to display a piece or collection of contemporary art. The major pavillion and many of the country pavillions are located down from San Marco at the gardens at the GIradini. There are also pavillions at the Arsenale and many individual country pavillions located throughout the city.

It has been around for 116 years. The first Biennale was held in 1895 and was more of a show for decorative art. In 1907 some countries started to install pavillions. The exhibition grew over the years and gained international popularity. It became a place for modern art to be showcased and was important through many of the art world’s major movements, for example avante-garde, abstract expressionism, pop art and post modernism. There were times that the Biennales were suspended due to war or crisis, but this tradition has survived and the exhibition still brings amazing pieces of art to Venice bianually.

Art the visitors got to create

Art the visitors got to create

I went to the Giaridini exhibition with a friend. We only had about 3 or 4 hours before it closed and we realized that we could spend days in there exploring the pavilions, watching the documentaries and playing with the one piece of art where you got to make things out of clay and stick them on the wall. There was everything from grand pieces to beautiful pictures to an atm machine built into a pipe organ, that when cash was withdrawn played a lovely tune. There was truly something for everyone. We walked through the grand pavilion, looked up and saw there were stuffed pigeons all throughout the rafters. I do not know why they thought i needed to see more pigeons in venice, but at least these ones were not flying directly at me or trying to kill me.Each country

british pavilion

british pavilion

pavilion had interesting displays of one artist or multiple artists. Some of the works i understood and some i thought i was looking at them upside down. The ones i liked the most out of the main pavilions were the British, Dutch and Czechoslovak(still just one pavilion even though it is two countries). The british pavilion was the recreation of a building in its pre-restoration stage that is located in Istanbul. I was explained what the work was, otherwise it just looked like a dirty old building. The work was called “I, Impostor”. Mike Nealson, the artist, had refurbished an old building in istanbul, but took pictures of its state before he started the work. From those pictures he recreated the original building and used items from both Venice and Istanbul throughout the different rooms. You walked through the whole house with its low ceilings and dusty floors and could actually see the important interplay between Venice and Istanbul in the time of the Ottoman Empire through the different objects and symbols in the building. The cities have a long history of trade and conflict and it was really cool to see this play out through such a unique work of art that you actually walked through and explore.

The dutch pavilion was set up like a giant skeleton of a stage and had really cool things to look at. You could walk up the stairs and look at the mirrored floor

part of the Czechoslovak pavilion. It was in the floor and scared me when i looked down.

part of the Czechoslovak pavilion. It was in the floor and scared me when i looked down.

that reflected a picture that was handing above your head. There was also a self playing piano and other cool things to look at. Finally the Czechoslovak

pavilion was a sculptural collection of the artist Dominik Lang. In the pamphlet he explained that this was a collection to create an intergenerational dialogue between his father (who was a sculptor but stopped before his son was born) that had never happened in real life. It was an interesting story and the sculptures were pretty cool. I have to admit by themselves, each sculpture was strange and kind of creepy, but together as a whole they were quite cool.

So, if you are ever in venice on an odd numbered year in the summer and fall, go to the Biennales. For me this was a once in a lifetime experiene, and was not to be missed.

~megan

Hola Barcelona

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In a truly spur of the moment decision I decided to go to Barcelona the weekend before last(the 8th through the 10th). A friend in the program was going and asked if I wanted to go on Tuesday evening, I said yes Wednesday morning and booked my whole trip Wednesday evening. I found a flight on RyanAir for Friday, coming back Sunday and a decently priced hostel in a what I thought was a relatively convenient location and packed a small bag for what I thought would be a smooth journey. I was wrong, very very wrong. It was not my worst travel experience, but it had a lot more hiccups than expected. I got on the vaparetto from san servolo, and as soon as I got on the mainland, while waiting for the other vaparetto to the bus station, I opened my bag and the zipper broke. There was no fixing it and no going back to San Servolo. I made it to the airport safely, but with a careful eye on my bag the whole time. I searched the Venice airport for an affordable small duffel bag. If you have ever been in the Venice airport, you know that this is an impossible task. While the 250 Euro Burberry rolling cabin luggage was beautiful and the perfect size and shape, I would not be able to eat for 4 months after to balance out that purchase. The cheapest bag I could find was a 53 euro duffel that, while is nice and strong and better last forever, was not on my list of predicted purchases from Europe. At that point I did not care how much it cost as long as there was no chance of people stealing things out of my bag on the plane, trains, subway and while walking through Spain.

With my new bag all packed up and the old on in some trash can I started fresh and got excited for my trip to Barcelona. I met a helpful Croatian girl who lived in Barcelona. She told me everywhere to go, food recommendations and some tips for traveling on their metro and buses. She was so helpful and we were heading in the same direction so she helped me get a metro card, on the train safely and I jumped off the subway and said goodbye to her one stop before hers. I thought I was in the clear. I was wrong. Due to the spontaneity of my trip I was not able to completely pin down how to get to my hostel. I was relying on some small maps I had and directions from the hostel itself. I got completely lost, wandering around a very residential (and to find out beautiful and nice and safe) part of Barcelona in the mid day sun and heat. After a lot of walking and a lot of asking people in a combination of forgotten Spanish (which is not helpful with people who mainly speak Catalan), English and a whole lot of pointing I found my hostel. I waited outside the door for a while and lucked out that other people were arriving too because there was no reception and I would soon find out, no one that spoke English. The guys who were checking in actually had the wrong hostel (and had waited for this girl for about 2 hours), so that was an interesting conversation to listen to. I just sat back and waited my turn because I knew I was in the right place. Somehow in two completely different languages I managed to check in and figure out what the girl was telling me about the hostel’s door code and where everything was and what each key meant. Again, this was a lot of broken Spanish, English and pointing. I got settled, changed and tried to contact the friend that invited me, but was not staying in the same hostel. Little did I know that she left Italy without any minutes on her phone. I figured I would be able to find a internet café to contact her. Again, I was wrong. Apparently Barcelona does not believe in them as well. She did eventually call me the next day from her computer and we met up and explored Barcelona. And in that mean time, I ventured out on my own. I was just happy to finally make it to Barcelona.

amazing tapas resturaunt

amazing tapas resturaunt

Even with all of those troubles, Barcelona itself was AMAZING! There is such a bright and vibrant vibe and energy.   The people are amazing and there was public transportation that did not involve boats. Therefore

Gaudi's Cathedral

Gaudi's Cathedral

there was no chance of me falling into an lagoon, which was a comforting feeling. I wandered along Las Ramblas, listened to street performers and kept a tight grip on my purse. I stumbled across Gaudi’s Cathedral. It was closed for the evening, but I stood in the courtyard and looked on in awwww of this masterpiece.Little did I know that the next day my jaw would remain on the floor as I looked on at the rest of the Gaudi buildings. I had a lovely dinner which included the most amazing paella ever in a quaint little restaurant down a windy street.

Seafood Paella

Seafood Paella

The next day, after getting a hold of my travel companion, we set off on one of those tourist buses that takes you all over barcelona. They came highly recommended for seeing the city and i must say it was an extremely informative tour. It went along 3 routes (we only did 2 because we were told the third was not that great) and the audio guide told us what each building or park was and the history behind it. Because of our time constraints we decided only to “hop on/ hop off” at La Sagrada Familia and the castle on Montjuic. We had great seats on the top of the bus and could see everything, and luckily we got stopped at traffic lights in front of some of the Gaudi’s so i could get some snapshots.

I am so pleased that we hopped off at La Sagrada Familia. It was one of the most amazing masterpieces i have ever seen. Gaudi’s vision started in 1883 and he worked on it continiously over his life until 1923. Since then patrons and donations have supported the construction of this masterpiece going off of Gaudi’s plans. This means that over time when there was no money to support the project, construction stopped. This is why it is estimated to take until at least 2030 to finish. While scaffolding and cranes are always annoying as they obstruct views and look ugly in pictures, these ones are understandable. We did not have time to go inside, but i hear it is just as amazing inside as it is out. I guess i will have to come back in 2030 to see the finished masterpiece with all 13 towers completed. Though, i hope to come back to barcelona before that.

La Sagrada Familia

La Sagrada Familia

The only other place we hopped off was the castle on Montjuic. This also was a worthwhile adventure. We took a cable car all the way up to the top and had the most spectacular view of barcelona. At the top you could see not only the ocean, but the entire city and the towers of La Sagrada Familia rose above it all.

We rested a bit and headed off to an amazing dinner of tapas and sangaria. Then off to the fountain show, which we kind of missed because there was a harley davidson rally and fair going on. We rode on rides and pretended to be on motorcycles and had a great time. I had to go back before it got too late to get on an early flight, but i certainly had a packed and fun filled day.

cable car ride

cable car ride

So while The trip itself to Barcelona had some hiccups, my experience there was amazing. I really hope to go back there soon so that i can eat tapas, walk along Las Ramblas and stand in awww at the Gaudi’s. And maybe next time i will have enough time to make it to the beach :)

fair rides

fair rides

Festivus Weekend: Venice is for Vaparettos, Florence is for Footwalking, and Tuscany is for Total bike riding!

This weekend is our last full weekend studying abroad and we’ve got big plans!  While in Florence during the pre-study abroad classes, we learned from a lovely woman whose hotel we were staying out (Hotel Elite in Florence, I highly recommend it if for nothing else for the wonderful owner named Nadia) that the Redentore Festival in Venice (which happened to be her hometown) was something that couldn’t be missed.  And so, we planned accordingly.

For our last weekend, we left for Florence right after class where we planned on hitting up the infamous flea markets, participating in a bike wine tour and enjoy being back into what has become one of my favorite Italian cities.  Friday morning at 9:30 am commenced our bike tour.  Jenny “map girl profeshy traveler” and Dannylynn “my legs have turned into a mosquitoes super buffet” and I dressed accordingly for a photo op bike tour:  dresses and sneakers.  We were ready, or so we thought.

The tour guide walked our small group to pick up our bikes, AND helmets and off we went.  Now, I hadn’t been on a bike in quite some time but was very excited about going on this tour of beautiful Tuscany.  I wasn’t on that bike more than 7 minutes before I sustained my first injury:  the foot pedal scraped my shin.  I obtained a few other injuries throughout the day but it was so worth it.  Three miles outside of the valley of Florence is the beautiful Tuscan region.  We got to see gorgeous sights of the region, including the convent where Galileo’s illegitimate daughters lived, the house where Galilee himself was placed on house arrest by the Catholic Church because he wouldn’t stop sharing his beliefs, the house where Michelangelo hid when he thought he was going to be persecuted for his beliefs and the garden where Michelangelo spent much of his time and got inspiration for his works.  I also learned that one olive tree only produces 3 bottles of extra virgin olive oil!  It was a great event and I am so glad we did it.  It was fun, some hard work and lots of learnings and great sights.  Although exhausted from our bike tour, we immediately went to the Florence flea market and walked through all of the streets and bargained our way to some great souvenirs!

On Saturday morning, we cam back to Venice for the festival and saw that preparations for the festivities were fully underway!  The man-made bridge that connects the Zattare side of the Grand Canal with the Redentore side of the Grand Canal of the island had been completed, and many pedestrians were marveling at it and snapping pictures, store fronts and homes had been decorated and tables and chairs were set up all over the city for people to have dinner and drinks and enjoy music outside.  Restaurants and family homes alike were serving dinner and little kids were running around squirting water guns and snapping pop rocks.  The excitement in the air was felt by all of us!  I couldn’t believe how many boats were in the water!  People were hopping from boat to boat to celebrate and hang out with one another.  We grabbed a late dinner and finished just in time to get a great spot for viewing the 40-minute firework display.

Sunday morning, we went to mass at St. Mark’s Basillica and it was absolutely amazing.  The church is so gorgeous, and enormous and the mass was something really special.  We then enjoyed lunch at our favorite restaurant “3 Chickens” and went to check out the Redentore Church, which is the historic church where the celebration (reason for the festival) of the end of the plague in the 1500s commenced.  We also got ourselves a great spot to watch the gondola races, which was a great sporting event to be viewed!

In the evening we planned our final week in Venice L and got ourselves ready for the final week of classes!

j’taime paris….if only for the weekend.

The first session of classes flew by like the whirlwind that it was.  I had such a great experience discussing the difference between America way of law compared to the rest of the country.  Learning the civil procedure side was very interesting; there several differences that I anticipated however, there were a few similarities that I wasn’t aware existed.  Additionally, I felt proud and privileged to learn from Justice Holland and to realize and understand that American corporate law is pretty advanced, so much so that other countries look to our system as a guide for setting up theirs; pretty impressive since we are such a young country comparatively speaking.

For the break in between sessions, my roommates and I (Jenny and Dannyelly) planned a fun-filled trip to Paris!  I have been looking forward to this weekend since I knew I was studying abroad this summer and it did not disappoint.  We flew into the outer-city airport of Paris late Firday night and after taking abus into the city, had a taxi take us to the hotel where we were staying.  Our hotel was a 15 minute walk from the Eiffel Tower and our taxi drove right by it on the way to the hotel.  The first glimpse of the tower took my breath away.  I think it is safe to say that there was a collective gasp from our car as we saw this gorgeous monument all lit up on a clear, starry night.  It was magical.

The weekend was a whirlwind of boat tours around the city to the major sights, stopping at a Starbucks to get our coffee fix, eating delicious French food and crepes, shopping in the designer stores, training it out to Versailles to see the more than impressive chateau (castle/home place of King Louis XIV and the infamous Marie Antoinette) and having a late night French style picnic (bread, cheese, wine and champagne) on the park by the Eiffel Tower and taking cheesy touristy photos while wearing purchased berets!  We squeezed the most out of every minute of our time in Paris.  We flew back Monday morning, just in time to start second session classes for the study abroad classes.

This session I am taking 2 classes:  European Union law, which is taught, by an Italian professor and Employment Law and Unions taught by Professor Goldberg.  The European Union class is proving to be quite interesting and an eye opener.  It is cool to learn about the struggles and successes the countries of Europe have experienced in setting up one over-arching system that allows the countries to work together as a larger collective group which allows someone to work in London and live in Germany for example.

Last night a group of us went out for an adventure in dinner.  I highly recommend reading “Let’s Go Europe” to prepare for any European travels you might be undertaking.  I have found in extremely helpful in all preparations:  accommodations, restaurants, quick snacks, shopping and of course major sights!  It also provides you with helpful information such as whether a place is cash only, its hour of operations and basic directions on how to get to the place.  Anyway, I looked up this place in “Let’s Go” and the description said…”It’s tough to find better food in Venice, let alone at comparable prices” and I couldn’t agree more.  The place is called Ristorante Ribot and was completely delicious.  Our waiter was terrific and even joked around with us, the chef gave us free food and we had music entertainment featuring a 14 year old boy on the violin!  It was a late night but totally worth it for the fun, food and friends!

working it out in a law firm half way around the world

June 5th:

Today we had just the one class with Justice Holland and then Professor Meadows and Goldberg organized a tour and information session with an Italian law firm!

The lawyer we met with has been practicing law for about 5 years and works under well-respected Professor and his law firm.  She walked us through the law firm so we could get a feel for what it was like to work there.  The rooms were so open and airy.  This particular law firm focuses also on research for an understanding of the ever-changing law in particular the code system that was re-vamped 8 years ago.  This law firm is a corporate, managerial focused law firm.  It was very refreshing and encouraging to hear of a firm that focuses on growing its younger associates and future lawyers of its country.  While there we spoke with 3 students who were getting ready to take the equivalent of the bar and were interning at the law firm.  These students were in charge of studying and learning about the changes that had occurred after the review of the code in 2003 and informing the practicing lawyers what these changes were; what they meant; and how they affected the firm’s work.

She explained the legal system in Italy and how they worked on a day-to-day basis.  She also explained the Italian nuisances on getting things through the system.  It was interesting to learn that even though the Italian system in a Civil system whereas the American system is a Common law system, there where still some parallel grievances about how things were run.  However, the Italian law system takes MUCH longer than the US system.  For example, a case that would get decided in the US in about 90 days, can take up to 10 years in Italy!  We learned that often times a case takes to long to be decided on and reaches a limitation on time and gets dismissed.  She was very helpful as well as eager to answer any and all questions the students had about Italian law and a typical say as a lawyer in Italy.  IT was cool to see the similarities and learn of differences between the systems and how law offices work.

Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful trip that started from this [Venetian] port aboard this tiny ship.

Yesterday, the whole lot of us took off on the much anticipated boat tour of the islands of Murano, Burano and Torcello. We set sail from San Marco and cruised on to the three islands and on the way we listened to the multilingual tour guide talk about the history of the monuments and churches  on the way. When we neared closer to each island we were given a little history about each.

Murano

The island of murano is about a mile north of venice. It was first settled by Romans and became a major fishing port and was known for the production of salt. What it is known for today is its amazing glass blowing. In 1291 all the glass blowers were forced to move from the main island of Venice to Murano because of the risk of fires. As trade and commerce expanded the island became famous for its glass beads and mirrors. For some time it was the main glass producer of Europe. Today the tradition holds strong as the island is full of glass blowing factories and stores packed from floor to ceiling with jewelry, vases, figurines and remarkable chandeliers.

We saw a mesmerizing glass blowing demonstration. The glass blowing artist worked quickly and sculpted a lava hot ball of glowing glass into an amazingly beautiful vase and a horse figurine. I sadly cannot get the video to properly upload, but i do have a picture of the before and after.

hot ball of glass that will soon turn into a figurine

hot ball of glass that will soon turn into a figurine

It took under 5 minutes to make this

It took under 5 minutes to make this

After the demonstration we were shoved into the showroom where there were shelves upon shelves of vases, figurines and racks on rack of necklaces, bracelets. It was way too crowded to be able to see how beautiful the work really was. I escaped the hoard of people and walked down the street to explore all of the smaller shops and other glass blowing facroties. There was a lot of the same types of things, and same type of jewelry, but in each shop there was something unique. Unfortunately we only had 45 minutes to explore the island before we had to be back on the boat. It was barely enough time walk down the street and into a few shops, let alone explore the island. However, there are constant vparettos to this island, so one afternoon I will go out and completely explore the island, maybe take in another free glass blowing demonstration, and possibly do a little shopping.

Burano

Colorful houses on Burano

Colorful houses on Burano

Burano is about a 40 minute boat ride from Venice, but since we left from Murano, it did not take that long. Burano is an old vencian fishing island. It has about 2,800 people living on the island and it is covered with rows upon rows of colorful houses. As i did a little research about this island i found out that the colours of the houses follow a specific system originating from the golden age of its development; if someone wishes to paint their home, one must send a request to the government, who will respond by making notice of the certain colours permitted for that lot. It is also known well for its beautiful handmade lace that at one point was exported all over Europe, and is still done in the traditional way on the island. There were many elderly women sitting doing needle point and it was quite a sight to see.

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Again, we only had about 45 minutes to explore this smaller island. There are vaparettos that go to this island and some afternoon I will go out and explore the winding canals that

Torcello

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Torcello is a tiny island  with a lush green landscape(well lush compared to the main islands of Venice). This island is where the first group of mainland venecians escaped into the lagoon when they were fleeing the barbarians. And at one time it held the largest population of Venecians. This was hard to believe since there semeed to be no one one the island and i heard there were only 14 actual residence of the island. But apparently there is an amazing resturaunt on the island that is only open for lunch. I will have to go back next week so i can actually spend some time exploring this beautiful little island. I would like to go back and see the mosaics in the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, as i hear they are beautiful. Again, we had only a short visit, but it certainly worth going back to.

It did take a while to get back since we left from Torcello, the furthest island, but it was an enjoyable boat ride back to San Marco. I am very happy the program allowed us the opportunity for this (little over) three hour tour. If anyone is in venice for a few days either this tour or just exploring the three islands yourself is a must do!

Now that the first session is done and the weekend is here i am ready to go on a new adventure. I am heading off to Barcelona in the morning, and hope to have a short, but fun filled stay. And when i come back, i will be greeted by new classes and another 2 weeks in venice.

~Meg

“Go to the end of the road, turn left, ask directions at the church”

These directions are given by the wonderfully friendly Maltese whenever you ask to be guided anywhere in Malta.   In eastern Malta, we asked for directions to the Tarxien Temples (stone temples older than Stonehenge), we are told “go to the end of the road, turn left, ask for directions at the church.”  We asked directions to the fort in central Malta,  ”go to the end of the road, turn left, ask for directions at the church.”  We asked for directions to the Mdina experience in western Malta, “go to the end of the road,  . . .  ” You get the point.  Despite the fact that the Maltese highways have no signs indicating what road you are on and every direction apparently heads toward Valetta (the capital) and Gozo (another island the opposite direction generally from the capital), we stumbled our way around the beautiful island of Malta during our first long weekend of the program.  A real benefit of participating in the programs for students and professors is the opportunity to explore other places in addition to magnificent Venice.

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Festa of St. Andrew, Luqa, Malta – Ground fireworks

The highlight of the trip was the local “festa” for which Maltese villages are known.  These yearly festivals are held in honor of the patron saint of the village.  The village streets are bedecked with lights, banners, and statues of the saint.   The local church (to which we had to return and turn left, of course) was decorated with glorious red damask cloth, shiny chandeliers and gilded statues.   Local social clubs open their doors selling local food and beer cheap.   The village’s two marching bands roam through the streets, competing to “outplay” their rivals.  Street vendors sell food, ice cream, candy, toys and souvenirs.  There even was a Hawaiin Ice cart!  The best, however, were the fireworks, both aerial and ground.  I’d never seen ground fireworks before.  They are fireworks attached to 15-20 foot mechnical frames that spin and twirl when the fireworks go off.   They were spectacular.  The best part of the festa was that it was truly for locals and only of a few of us tourists intruded.  Fortunately, the Maltese were welcoming and gracious throughout.