Katie Albert Travelogue - Republic-Times | News

Katie Albert Travelogue

By on April 24, 2018 at 1:57 pm

My name is Katie Albert. I am a Waterloo High School graduate, resident of Waterloo, and full-time student at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville majoring in psychology with a minor in studio art. This is the fourth of a six-part series of describing my study abroad experience in Florence, Italy.

Ciao. The second half of the semester is underway, and the last month has been extremely busy.

Italian class is picking up as we are learning more vocabulary. I can now order anything I want in the local restaurants in Italian, and sometimes eavesdrop on conversations to see if I can follow. I mostly cannot, but I’m trying. Italian food and cultures are not my favorite subjects, but understanding the culture of the slow food philosophy is an interesting take on the Italian way of life. I still love my painting and drawing classes. With the weather finally turning warmer and drier, we have been visiting the nearby gardens, churches and bridges to paint and draw on site.

I have completed five paintings, including an abstract piece that focused on studying color theory, a pointillism styled Tuscan landscape, a surreal play on the sculpture Venus, a Florentine street view, and the famous Ponte Vecchio bridge. My favorites by far are the landscape and the Venus, as it was easier to add my personal artistic style within them.

In drawing, we have used various mediums to create pieces from the Boboli and Bardini gardens and the Piazza di Santo Spirito.  My work includes a watercolor of Santo Spirito, a charcoal drawing of local sculptures, a graphite pencil recreation of Michelangelo’s Aurora, a conte crayon drawing focusing on street view perspectives, countless nude model poses in various mediums, and many other drawings that focus on improving different techniques. I thoroughly enjoyed the charcoal recreation of local statues in the Piazza della Repubblica as it was our first outside expedition.

The university continues to offer cultural activities. I participated in a cooking class and prepared zucchini risotto, torta salta (spinach and ricotta pasta cake) and white chocolate mousse. The meals are eaten family style and we leave with full bellies and a recipe book. Next week I will be attending a pastry class.

School-sponsored day trips included Siena, Pisa and Lucca. A highlight in Siena was a visit to the Church of San Domenico, which contains the relic of the Holy Head of St. Catherine of Siena. Pisa obviously included an opportunity to view the famous Leaning Tower. Lucca was a beautiful little city that I thoroughly enjoyed. In all three locations we toured churches, the squares and had free time to wander and discover hidden gems and sample the local foods.

Spring break. With much research, planning, and Europe’s massive public transportation system, I was able to visit seven countries in 10 days. My trip began with a flight to Copenhagen, Denmark. I spent two days touring the lovely neighborhoods and museums. The Louisiana Museum of Modern Art is by far my favorite art museum I’ve visited. I then flew to Amsterdam, Netherlands.

Amsterdam is filled with amazing architecture, canals and many parks to explore, as well as the famous Red Light District. I met my roommate there and together we wandered the city for two days. A highlight was the Van Gogh Museum, home of the largest Van Gogh collection in the world, including letters and sketches as well as paintings. Next up was a day in Brussels, Belgium. I was able to tour the basics and have some delicious Belgian Waffles. The next day was hectic: a train to Luxembourg City, Luxembourg with a tour of the Grund (the 10th century historical district), a train to Metz, France with a visit to the Centre Pompidou-Metz (a contemporary art museum), and a train to Kaiserslautern, Germany.

While in Kaiserslautern I visited with a friend from home that is attending University there and was pleased to meet some of her German friends. A highlight of my trip was a taxi ride into the German countryside to the village of Becherbach. My fourth-great-grandfather, Abraham Maurer, was born in Becherbach. In the early 1800s he emigrated with his wife and two small children and settled just outside of Waterloo, in the New Hanover area. While I learned that grave sites dating back that far no longer exist, the church is still there. I met some locals who were very nice and were familiar with the family name. The last of my Becherbach cousins passed in the late 1960s, but I was able to see the home in which he lived. The people I met talked to me about the history of the village. It was much more emotional that I had imagined, exploring the town where my ancestors lived. The area looked so much like home that if I closed my eyes, I could easily imagine I was in Waterloo and Monroe County.

The last two days were spent in Switzerland. One day in Adelboden, the location of the first international trip I had taken. It was amazing to see it again on a cold, snowy day and it was wonderful to see the Swiss Alps covered in snow.  The second day was spent in Geneva, where I took a leap of faith, and went tandem paragliding between the border of France and Switzerland. Simply beautiful and a perfect ending to an amazing trip.

Upon my return to Florence, I was surprised to see that the tourist season had begun. The main streets are packed with people, and we’ve learned to take side streets to get where we need to be on time. I spent the week getting laundry done, restocking groceries and getting back into the swing of classes.

The following weekend, I took a trip to Split, Croatia, for white water rafting and cliff diving. We cruised the Adriatic Sea to the island of Braĉ, for some relaxing beach time. A stop at Krka National Park provided an opportunity to view some of the most beautiful scenery, complete with waterfall. On this trip, I reached an interesting milestone: 20 countries by 20 years old.

Three weeks left. There is still much to do:  final exams, apartment inspections, souvenir shopping. It is strange to start the process of thinking, “How am I going to get my artwork home? How am I going to fit my souvenirs in my suitcase? How do I leave this apartment and my friends?” It is bittersweet, one of the strangest feelings I have ever felt. I am so not ready to leave Firenze, yet at the same time it will be nice to be home. Until next month, ciao.

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