Written by Starla Couso and Emily Baker
June 17th, 2016
Today the group had some free time in Venice, Italy before our late night departure to Vienna, Austria. With so many things to see, the group split up to explore the city. The twisting, narrow streets were getting somewhat easier to navigate after a few days, but, every once in awhile, it was easy to find yourself a little lost – but that was part of the experience! Each street was littered with a variety of stores. From mask shops to ceramic cups to ‘I heart Venice’ t-shirts, Venice is the perfect place to pick up a souvenir.
Many students went to the Biennale, a bi-annual international architecture exhibition (hence the name Biennale) showcasing architectural projects from 63 different countries. The exhibition was spread across the city, but one main location was the beautiful Giardini gardens at the tip of the island. Here we found 29 of the 63 countries represented, each with a unique pavilion and exhibit. The topics were widespread from urban planning to material studies to sustainable development to architectural theory, so everyone found something (or many things!) that fascinated them. The country of Switzerland housed a giant molded sculpture that you could climb into. Australia analyzed the social hierarchy of the country’s people using a public pool as both a physical example and metaphorical allusion. South Korea studied the floor to area ratio in Seoul and how to utilize space effectively. Many of the exhibits were interactive, which made visiting each country exciting.
Several members of the group were also excited to watch the Italy versus Sweden Euro Cup soccer match that afternoon, with all the local Italian fans! When in Rome… or Venice, I suppose. Other students toured several historic buildings including St Mark’s Basilica and the Doge’s Palace, got last minute souvenirs, and some just enjoyed their time wandering the city and eating gelato! One student even decided to get a classic gondola ride through the canals.
We left the beautiful city of Venice in style. A water taxi arrived at our doorstep and weaved up the Grand Canal to give us one last look at the Venetian island. The fleeting light made the buildings glow and the water sparkle.
Arriving to the train station, we made our way to our couchettes. The nighttime ride was surely an adventure for us all. Each cabin held six people with stacked bunks. We managed to squeeze our luggage and ourselves into the couchettes before settling in. When I say squeezed, I really mean squeezed! Night quickly spread over the countryside and the pleasantly quiet train ride lulled us to sleep. We arrived in Vienna, Austria around eight the next morning.
June 18th, 2016
We arrived early Saturday morning after the 11-hour train ride to find a sunny day in Vienna, Austria waiting for us. We were certainly ready to get off the cramped train by that point! After a few cups of coffee and sprays of dry shampoo to freshen up, we made our way into the old city. As we walked over to the Belvedere Palace, we noted the multi-modal transportation systems – tram, bus, car, bikes, and pedestrians filled the streets in a complex but organized way. It was certainly the largest city we had been to on the trip so far! The group toured the historic 18th c. Baroque-styled Belvedere Palace for the morning. The majestic palace had a large reflecting pool that glistened in the morning light, surrounded by orange and yellow flowers, to greet visitors at the entrance. The building not only held an impressive art collection ranging from Medieval to Impressionism, but also had vast geometrical garden terraces in the back. Most notably was a substantial collection of Gustav Klimt’s artwork, which was surely a favorite of many students.
We then went to lunch nearby at Salm Brau with authentic local cuisine and its own brewery. After a long morning of walking it was nice to sit down and chat. The rest of the afternoon was spent wandering around Vienna. With such a big city, it was impossible to see everything. Some groups went to shop, some went to the Parliament buildings, and others went to see the Opera Theatre and St Stephen’s Cathedral.
We then took a three hour train ride to Budapest, Hungary. Arriving around nine in the evening, we were greeted by excited Hungarian futbol fans who had just been watching the European Cup match. Some tired students settled into their apartments and went to bed, while others went out to explore the nightlife in Budapest.