Dublin: Busy First Day On The Emerald Isle!

Good evening from Dublin, Ireland! Today was a busy first day for me here in Dublin.

This morning, I had a meeting with the Asperger Syndrome Association of Ireland, otherwise known as ASPIRE. This meeting was the first of four days worth of meetings with different Aspergers/Autism organizations while I am here in Ireland. ASPIRE was started back in the early 1990’s by a man whose son has Aspergers and it helps people all over Ireland. It was nice to share my personal story with the people at ASPIRE, as well as to learn more about what they are doing.

After my meeting with ASPIRE, I walked back towards my hostel and when I got about a block away, I stumbled onto an outdoor street scene that was being filmed for a new HBO show. I guess I fit right in with the crew as I was able to have coffee and sandwiches that they were serving in the cast/crew catering area. I also was able to talk with some of the extras before filming. I don’t think anyone knew that I wasn’t actually part of the production, but it was still fun to be on the inside and see it take place.

Once my time on set was over, I headed over to Trinity College to go back to school, literally.

A quick history lesson: Trinity College/University of Dublin is the oldest university in Ireland and was founded in 1592.

The campus is beautiful and it’s home to over 16,000 students.

Once on campus I decided to take in a lecture in one of the lecture halls in the arts building. After asking a few students how to find the biggest lecture halls, I decided to attend an International Relations class. There were probably about 100 people in the class and none of them knew I wasn’t a student. When people asked me why I hadn’t been in class before, seeing as today was the start of the fourth week of lectures for the term, I told them that I was a new student and I had been skipping class the last few weeks.

It was a fun experience and I plan to attend one or two more lectures on Wednesday morning. If nothing else, I get to tell people that I went to college in Ireland.

Tonight I’ve kept it low key and grabbed some food at an Irish grocery store for dinner. I bought a pizza and some chips so it wasn’t really Irish. But hey, it was cheap so I was happy.

Tomorrow I will be taking the train to Belfast, Northern Ireland to meet with representatives from Autism Northern Ireland, as well as with politicians of the Northern Ireland parliament who helped to pass the NI Autism Bill a few years ago.

It will be a very exciting day and I’m looking forward to Belfast.

Until next time….

Best,

-ZEZ

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Arrivederci Roma

Buon pomeriggio da Roma! Today is my last day in Rome and tomorrow I head to Ireland! While I’m excited to go to Dublin, I’ve had a really good time here in Rome.

Yesterday I went to the Coliseum. If you pay like 10-12 Euros you can go inside, but I was content with walking around the outside of it and admiring it that way. There was some scaffolding on a part of the Coliseum when I arrived, which leads me to believe that they are doing restoration or repair work to a certain section, but otherwise, it looked great. It’s hard to believe that something from the days of the Roman gladiators is still standing today.

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After the Coliseum, I returned to the hostel where I spent the evening hanging out with some new friends that I have met while I’ve been here in Rome.

Today being my last day, I decided to go and check out a few churches close to the hostel and walk around for a few hours.

Aside from going to two regular churches, I also went to Palazzo del Quirinale which is home to the President of the Italian Republic. Before becoming home to the Italian President, Quirinale was home to several Popes and was the sight of a few Papal Conclaves in the 1800’s.

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My last stop of the day was Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore, which in english is the Basilica of St. Mary Major. This church is one of the four main basilicas in Rome. Aside from the great architecture within the church, below the high alter is the Crypt of the Nativity which contains what are believed to be pieces of the manger from the birth of Jesus. The church also is the final resting place for a few Popes and Italian artist Gian Bernini.

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Tonight I will be hanging around the hostel and might be grabbing dinner with one of the new friends that I made here in Rome.

Aside from London, I have to say that right now, Rome has been my second favorite city of the trip so far.

Until next time from Ireland….

Best,

-ZEZ

Rome Day 2

Buonasera. Oggi Roma era soleggiata e piacevole. Since it rained all day yesterday, the sun and blue sky today was a welcome change.

Today was spent going to some of the big sites in Rome including the Spanish Steps, the Piazza del Popolo, the Altare della Patria (Altar of the Fatherland) and the Trevi Fountain.

My first stop of the day was at the Spanish Steps. Since it’s the offseason here in Rome, the steps weren’t too crowded and it was easy to walk up and down them. During the summer, they are usually full of people who are sitting on them and getting around can be a challenge.

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After the Spanish Steps I went to the Piazza del Popolo to see an Egyptian obelisk from the time of Rameses II that was brought to Rome several hundred years ago.

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When I was finished visiting Piazza del Popolo, I headed over to the Altare della Patria which is translated into Altar of the Fatherland. The site is also known as the National Monument to Victor Emmanuel II, which honors Victor Emmanuel II, the first king of unified Italy. Aside from housing a small museum within the monument, the Altare della Patria is home to the Italian Tomb of the Unknown Solider. Like the Tomb of the Unknowns in the United States, there are tomb guards and there is a changing of the guard. Video of the guard change and photos of the tomb are below. There is also a photo from the memorial roof which provides a distant view of the Coliseum on the right side of the photo.

http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=xrPPt5Uajrc&feature=c4-feed-u

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My final stop of the day was the Trevi Fountain. It’s regarded as the most famous fountain in the world and the legend says that if you throw one coin into the fountain, one day you will return to rome. If you throw two coins into the fountain, you will return to Rome and find love here. Being the bachelor that I am, I thought it would be appropriate to throw in two coins.

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In between my walks to all of the places I saw today, I encountered a few churches and went inside of them. They were all very nice and had some neat paintings and statues throughout.

Tomorrow and Saturday are when I plan to visit some of the more famous churches here in Rome, but I still got some pictures of the lesser known ones that I visited today.

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I hear that it is still cold back home, so to all of my Kansas family and friends, stay warm.

Until next time….

Best,

ZEZ

Roma- The Vatican – Sorprendente!

Good Evening from Rome! It’s been a busy first day here and the number four has seemed to have been the number of the day. This morning I woke up early to head over to the Vatican to see Pope Francis deliver his Wednesday message in St. Peter’s Square. It rained on and off before and during the morning general audience but an Italian woman sitting behind me offered me an extra umbrella that she had as I had not brought one with me to the speech. I did bring one to Europe but foolishly left it in the hostel this morning.

So why was the number four the number of the day today? Simple: For the Pope’s audience I was in the fourth row and for my Vatican tour, there were only four people in my group. It was basically like getting a private tour, which was really cool.

The Pope’s speech was nice and although it was in Italian, it was still so cool to say that I’ve seen the Pope.

After the Pope spoke, I went to the little souvenir shops around the Vatican before I headed over to the tour office to start the walking tour.

When I got to the walking tour place, there were only three other people in my group so I was very happy about having a small tour. It was like paying for a large tour and getting the small tour experience.

On the tour, we covered some of the Vatican museums, as well as the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica. Although you aren’t allowed to take photos in the Sistine Chapel, I used the front facing camera on my phone to take a quick picture of part of the ceiling. Zach – 1 Sistine Chapel – 0 I’m probably a rebel for that, I know.

Jokes about the Sistine Chapel photography policy aside, it was definitely cool to be in there. To actually be in the same room where the College of Cardinals has met to elect a new Pope for the last 500+ years was amazing. Oh and that Michelangelo guy wasn’t a bad artist either.

St. Peter’s Basilica was equally cool. There are many neat statues in the Basilica, as well as the tombs of many Popes. Below the Basilica, there is a grotto area with even more tombs of the Popes. You couldn’t take pictures in the Grotto, but you are allowed to take pictures in the Basilica, so the photos you see below that look like Popes in glass coffins are just that.

If you have any questions about specific pictures, feel free to leave me a comment on the blog and I can go into more detail. It’s easier than having to explain every picture on the blog because that would take too long.

Enjoy the video of Pope Francis as well.

Until next time…you stay classy readers.

Best,

-ZEZ

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Berlin: The Last Day

Good Evening from Berlin! I had a busy day today and I can’t believe that tomorrow, I head to Rome. This trip is going by fast.

As I mentioned in my morning blog entry, I was headed to a pharmacy to get some medication for whatever I have come down with. After visiting the pharmacy and getting some German cough medicine, hopefully this will start to do the trick. I’ve decided to self diagnose myself with what I am going to call the SEC aka Stupid European Cough. At this point I am going to continue taking European cough medicines and ride this thing out like a boss.

My cough aside, today was a nice last day here in Berlin. This morning I made my way first to Brandenburger Tor, or as you may know it, The Brandenburg Gate. The gate was put up in the 18th century as one of the big gates into the city and it was also a spot that the wall passed right by. So, the gate has seen a lot over the years.

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After the gate, I walked down the block to Reichstag, the home of German parliament. People are allowed to go up in the Reichstag dome for free but you still need to make a reservation. I could have made a reservation for late afternoon, but decided that looking from the outside was just fine.

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The Holocaust Memorial followed the Reichstag but unfortunately the museum below the memorial is closed on Monday’s so I only got the see the outside of the memorial. The memorial contains 2,711 stone slabs to help memorialize the Jews that were murdered in Europe.

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My final stop within the city limits was the Berlin Dom and the TV Tower. The Dom is one of the largest cathedrals in Berlin and is supposed to be beautiful inside. Like some of the other cathedrals I have been to, there is a fee, so I once again took only outside pictures.

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The TV Tower also costs a few Euros to go up in, and yet again, I figured a view from the ground was nicer since it was free. The church pictured in front of the TV Tower is the same church with the chapel pictures below. Note the angel holding the skull in the photo of the gravestone, I thought that was interesting.

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My very last stop of the day was just outside of downtown at Olympic Stadium. The stadium was built between 1934-36 by the Nazi’s for the 1936 Summer Olympics that Berlin was host to. In 2006 the stadium also hosted some of the Men’s World Cup for soccer that year.

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I’ve enjoyed my few days here in Berlin and was vastly more happy with this city than I was with Paris. Here is a picture of me with a hoodie wearing bear for you to enjoy. Apparently the bear is the mascot of Berlin.

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Until next time, which will be from Rome…

Best,

-ZEZ

Berlin After Day One

Good Monday Morning from Germany! I heard that the Broncos got rocked in last nights game, so clearly I didn’t miss much.

I’m still battling my cold and will be going to a German pharmacy today to get some antibiotics to start getting rid of this bug once and for all. I’ll let you all know tonight once I have a diagnosis.

Yesterday was a busy day for me here in Germany’s capital city. I started the day at the East Side Gallery which is a 1.3 kilometer section of the wall that is the largest outdoor art park in the world. It’s an art park since once side of the wall is painted in brilliant murals done by local artists. After the wall I walked across the Oberbaumbruckle Bridge which served as one of the checkpoints between East and West Germany when the wall was up.

After the bridge walk, I hopped on the train and headed over to Checkpoint Charlie, the crossing made famous during the wall since it was the crossing point for American military.

My final activity of the day was a visit to the Topography of Terror which was a free museum on the former land where the SS and Secret Police had their headquarters from 1933 to 1945. Definitely an interesting look into the history of the site where all of the administrative operations for Nazi terror including the concentration camps were carried out. There was even a basement jail. While the site was completely distorted after WW2, now the land contains only the ruins of a Nazi mess hall and the foundation to the main building. The mess hall ruins are included in one of the pictures below.

My meal last night was a German meat and cheese plate with a dark German beer at a small local German brewery. You’ll find a picture of that meal below.

Well, I’ve got to get to that German pharmacy but I’ll be back tonight with a blog on today’s activities.

Today will include a visit to the famous Brandenburg Gate, the Holocaust Memorial and finally, the Reichstag. The Reichstag is the parliament building for Germany and includes a glass dome on top with a viewing platform. Tonight will include a recap and photos from all of those places.

Until later, best.

-ZEZ

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Last Day in Paris Photos!

So, I managed to get a good wifi connection so I’m going to do a short post with pictures from my last day in Paris.

My last day consisted of three things:

1. Pere Lachaise Cemetery.

2. Sacre-Coeur Church

3. The Louvre

To save space and do a quicker post for my readers, the photos below are in reverse order of what I saw.

In short, all three attractions were great, but I really liked the Louvre.

Until next time…

-ZEZ

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