Bonjour, Paris & Versailles! (Spring Break: Part IV)

Spring Break in Northern Europe

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Paris

Bonjour from Paris!

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Paris felt very similar to NYC between the way it's laid out, the way the people spend their time, and the Westernization. The Eiffel Tower was certainly the main attraction for us. We spent very much of our day lounging on the green beneath it.

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rawr

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At sunset, we went up to this building where people congregate outside to watch the sun set over the city. The atmosphere was like a giant, relaxed party for the community. People brought their wine and baguettes, guitars, soccer balls, etc. It was like sitting among a bunch of friends you've never met.

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Although the sky was hazy, the view was quite nice. Check out the guy showing off his tricks with a soccer ball while he climbs up that lamp post!

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At night, we walked around the area of our hostel in search for a good, chill bar. Along the way, some French guys asked for a cigarette. While we couldn't provide their request, they were kind enough to provide us with a suggestion of a great bar near our hostel. There, we befriended a large group of Parisians. I had been warned before going to Paris that the French are not friendly to Americans at all. However, I found them to be very welcoming and friendly--whether it was a shopkeeper, restaurant waiter, random woman walking her dog, guys we were talking with at the bar, or people sitting next to us in a restaurant who helped us translate the menu. Most young Parisians speak English very well, too. So, this was all a nice surprise that added warmth to our experience in Paris.

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And of course, we saw the Eiffel Tower do its sparkle (happens every hour). It's hard to appreciate just through a picture, but the sparkling lights were very over-the-top.

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Versailles

We spent almost an entire day visiting the great palace of Versailles, which was absolutely incredible.

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"CARTWHEELS IN EVERY COUNTRY!"

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Every room of the building was unbelievably lavish. Here, we're standing in the Hall of Mirrors. I wanted to put on a ball gown and dance away to piano music!

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The outside was decorated with elaborate gardens that I've only ever seen in movies.

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...Impressive backyard.

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You could literally spend hours walking through the kilometers of roaming space behind the palace. Many people rent bicycles so that they can actually explore it all. We ventured out by foot though.

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It was like I was in a Jane Austen novel. All of a sudden, I was Elizabeth Bennet, rendezvousing through the simple, quaint woods beyond the extravagant palace.

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"Oh, Mr. Darcy! Come meet me at the gazebo!"

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Here, we enter the idyllic estate of Marie-Antoinette's cottage.

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It was almost surreal to be back in time like this...

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Well, that concludes my Spring Break series. Since then, I’ve also visited Fiesole, and will be visiting Siena tomorrow. I am very excited because my family is visiting me in Florence this weekend for Easter and my 21st birthday! Unfortunately, the weather is not ideal for this–it’s raining for the first time since I moved to Florence in January! But, hopefully it’ll clear up, and we’ll nonetheless have a great time. I’m excited to share this experience with my family, and to watch them relive my first reactions to the overwhelming buildings and atmosphere in Florence that I’ve grown accustomed to by this point. So, ciao for now!

Hey, Amsterdam! (Spring Break: Part III)

Spring Break in Northern Europe

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Hello from Amsterdam! ...The city that really did live up to its reputation!

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The city

The city of Amsterdam is a mix of many different cultural influences. The streets are full of diverse kinds of shops and restaurants, from Chinese food to McDonalds. The streets and buildings themselves are lovely.

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Amsterdam is full of beautiful canals. Legend has it that the water is full of bikes thrown into the canals by intoxicated Dutch.

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Between the canals and the old architecture maintained by the houses and buildings, the city as a whole kind of felt like a fairytale city.

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And of course, you can't describe Amsterdam without mentioning the bikes! Bicycles seem to be the main mode of transportation in the city. Around 5:00 was what I call "bike rush hour," when hundreds of bikes would be flocking the streets. I couldn't help notice that all the bikers seemed quite jolly, too 🙂

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As I've mentioned in some past posts, "Follow the music" has become a golden rule when visiting cities--always leading to good things. This time, the music lead us to this funky fellow playing some odd instrument in a canal.

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Fun fact which has nothing to do with this photo!: Dutch men are on average the tallest men of any nation! They are also beautiful and healthy, from my own observational research--maybe from all that bike riding?

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Alright, I'm just going to point this out despite any judgment I may receive because I KNOW I am not the only one who noticed this... But the street bars appeared like so, and with the nation's "XXX" symbol on it. Even our tour guide couldn't resist pointing out the uncanny resemblance to something regarding Amsterdam's reputation for sex, and challenged whether the "XXX" symbol is just a coincidence. HOW CURIOUS. On that note...

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The Red Light District

We've all heard about the Red Light District... Where prostitution is legal and embraced. Our tour guide explained the rational behind it -- that the Dutch are very pragmatic, business-driven people. This is a successful business, and it's operated in a safe and regulated way which gives more power to the female prostitutes. For example, pimping is not allowed. And if anyone tries to take a photo of these girls working their windows, they will come out and smash your camera or throw a bucket of pee on you. The more I learned about the business angle of the Red Light District from the female perspective, I almost started to feel ok with it.--that is, until my friends and I visited it at night...

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Our hostel was actually located right on the border of the Red Light District. When we turned a street, there was a church and this unique monument in the ground. There were also naked girls in the windows. ("Why a church?" you might ask. Quite a paradox, it seems. Well, the church does not operate with prostitutes--just the surrounding area. But back in the day, sailors who had been trapped at sea without women for many months would land in Amsterdam and want a woman very badly. So, the church saw a business opportunity here--let the men do that with the service of the Red Light District girls, but then have them attend church to repent their sins and pay for it. Apparently, the church would even allow them to pay in advance for however many sins they were probably about to commit with a prostitute that night and maybe even next morning too! So, that's why there's a church in the heart of the Red Light District!) Anyway, as interesting and perhaps even convincing it is to hear about and read about the pragmatism and positivity behind the Red Light District, experiencing it--particularly at night--is completely different. Walking through these streets lined with almost-naked young (and old) girls knocking on their windows and posing for the swarms of guys walking by....its dehumanization suddenly sinks in when you're actually there. These girls showcase themselves like animals in a petting zoo. I couldn't really look them in the eye because I didn't know how they really felt and I couldn't handle the chance of detecting it. I also wondered if they hated seeing females walking through, since we're less likely to be customers and more likely to just be curious onlookers. I didn't see a sex show, like many people my age do while in Amsterdam, because I honestly have no desire or curiosity to explore that. My quick but eye-opening (no pun intended) walk through the RLD was more than enough of an experience.

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Coffee shops / Drug use

(Credit: AmsterdamNightLife.net) Another infamous aspect of Amsterdam is the drug use, mainly with Marijuana. To be clear, pot is not legal in Amsterdam. However, the streets are full of coffee shops, where adults can enter to purchase, smoke or consume weed as they please. It is SO blatant, because "coffee shop" (as opposed to "cafe" or whatnot) is so clearly understood as a place to get high. But, there is a greater policy of not being an idiot about it: if you do it in the privacy of your own home or a coffee shop, and you are not harming anyone, then they let it fly. It's unbelievable, but something the world could maybe use more of. And it all comes back to that Dutch mentality of pragmatism that I mentioned before. They want to encourage prosperous businesses like this--or at least not interfere with them if they are doing no harm.

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Pancakes

On a much more innocent note, Amsterdam has some mighty delicious pancakes.

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Cheers!

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Van Gogh Museum

We visited the Van Gogh Museum, which was absolutely wonderful. If you appreciate art and are in the city, go there for sure.

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The Anne Frank Museum

There is this church in the city which plays the most hauntingly eerie music you could imagine. We heard it from afar, and didn't realize until we approached it that it was right next to the Anne Frank Museum. This is the church that she references in her diary.

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(Credit: ParanormalKnowledge.com) Visiting the Anne Frank Museum is another must-do while in Amsterdam. It guides you through the actual house that Anne Frank and her family stayed in while hiding. The experience is beautifully laid out, first informing you about the house, then immersing you in not only the context of the house but the stories behind their stay, and then the entire experience is capped with the family's continued experiences at the concentration camps. It's a very powerful and emotional experience that's definitely worth taking a break from the fun and carefree activities of Amsterdam.

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The Heineken Experience

Contrary to the Anne Frank Museum, the Heineken Experience is a hella fun museum experience for anyone who appreciates a good brew.

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Oh hai

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First, you experience the history behind Heineken, and then you're guided through the brewing experience!

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After the old photographs, artifacts and replications of old machinery, you're taken through very modern rooms. They're full of unique, interactive experiences using some really cool technology and visual effects.

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And for the finale, you are served a lovely Extra Cold Heineken! 😀

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Amsterdam...Certainly the most unique city I've experienced.

Ahoy, Prague! (Spring Break: Part I)

Spring Break in Northern Europe

  • Part I: Ahoy, Prague!
  • Part II: Hallo, Berlin!
  • Part III: Hey, Amsterdam!
  • Part IV: Bonjour, Paris & Versailles!

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Architecture / City

Prague is truly full of stunning architecture. Not only will the historic sites impress you, but also the residential & commercial buildings as well.

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The famous clock tower. We had an AWESOME walking tour leader, Filip, who is honestly my favorite European I've met yet. He is young, quirky, and really brought the city's history to life through his animated storytelling. It was very amusing to hear him mock the clock tower, though, because of its anticlimactic "show" that happens every hour, which people come from all over the world to see and are always just like "oh" when it's over.

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The Old Town Square

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"Frodo, watch out! NAAAAAZGUUUUUL!"

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Very possibly my favorite building I've seen in Europe.

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To the castle we go!

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City by day

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...And city by night

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Czech out the people & culture!

I wasn't sure if I was looking at a soldier or a LARPer...

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The classic old dude playing accordion-like instrument with monkey 🙂

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I have no idea what instrument this guy was playing, but it was awesome.

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I LOVED the people and culture of Prague. The Czechs are extremely friendly and communal. And they say "Ahoy!" as a greeting, which is badass. I would like America to adapt this pirate lingo.

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The Czech currency is crowns instead of euro, and will make you feel like an absolute 'baller. I only took out 40 Euro (~$52), which equated to 1000 crowns. It came in just one bill. Madness.
P.S. I did not mean to flip you off in this photograph -- I apologize.

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Marionettes were EVERYWHERE. This is one of the creepier ones I encountered...

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Absinthe is huge in Prague. If you've seen Eurotrip, you know all about "the green fairy" behind the craze of this bright green beverage. I had never seen it before, but it was a major component of every bar and liquor shop.

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Beer is by far the greatest drink of Prague, though. Apparently, Czechs drink more beer per capita than any other nation! Pilsner Urquell is one of their major beers, and all beers were generally cheaper than water where we went 😮

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Nightlife in Prague

Prague has excellent nightlife. Whether you're looking for a relaxed atmosphere, a jolly pub to drink some beers, or a crazy club with good dance music, the city is full of great locations to have a great time.
We happened to be there St. Patrick's Day weekend, so we kicked off Spring Break with some green beers!

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On our first night, we partook in a major Pub Crawl that brought us to four different locations. It felt really silly traveling in this giant mob of young people from place to place, but it was a fun experience to try.

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Cheers!

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I am on the hunt for the kind of Electronic/Techno/Dance music that I heard in Prague. It was unlike anything I've ever heard because it had a noticeable influence of polka beats under the music (which may sound weird/corny, but it was very well done, very unique, and very enjoyable!)

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The next night, we czeched out a five-story club -- the largest dance club in all of Europe!

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At an AWESOME Irish pub we found on St. Patrick's Day, we asked for tequila shots. The bartender asked "silver or gold?" and I had no idea what that meant. He then explained that silver is taken with lemon, while gold is taken with cinnamon and orange. I said I wanted silver, but with salt and lime, and that I had never heard of the latter. "Aaaah, you are American, huh?" he replied. Apparently, tequila with salt and lime is a very American thing, and tequila with cinnamon and orange is something that most Americans don't know about. We eventually tried it...I didn't like it. But the Olmeca brand (also a tequila I've never heard of) was wonderful!

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After checking out the five-story dance club, Heather and I ended up going back to that Irish pub that we loved so much. It was late at this point, but it was still really energetic in there. We met some very friendly people from Dublin and conversed with them a bit. Then, the bartender who had served us the tequila earlier that night emerged next to us, now dressed in normal attire because his shift was done. He introduced himself as Jacob, joined us, and we were welcomed to stay until the wee hours of the morning. He introduced us to a shot of Absinthe lit on fire--which I guess is part of the Prague experience, but a pretty awful one! The alcohol literally burns down your body and leaves a terrible aftertaste. It's no wonder why he kept laughing to his friend, "I can't believe I'm having this!" One of the interesting parts of our conversation with Jacob was about Czech's attitudes towards Americans. We explained to him that we're constantly warned about Europeans' disdain for Americans. His instant response was, "What? We LOVE Americans!" And I must say, of everywhere I've been in Europe, Czech Republic is by far where I felt the most welcomed and accepted. What a great culture and great people.

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Our last night in Prague ended when the sun was rising...We truly made our short time there matter. Two hours after going to bed, Heather and I were woken up by the girls sharing our room in the hostel (who were also on this "Northern Loop of Europe" trip). "Wake up! We have to board the bus for Berlin in 10 minutes!" That was the quickest getting-ready/packing job I've ever done.

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John Lennon Wall

In my opinion, the John Lennon Wall is a must-see if you go to Prague...

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We all took a turn contributing something new to the wall... I put up lyrics from a Scranton, Pennsylvania-based indie band I love, Tigers Jaw, and sent them a picture of it on Facebook with a "Welcome to the John Lennon wall!" caption.

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"POW!"

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Sending lots of love from Prague! ❤

My prospective Italian husband made the big move

Let me begin this post clarifying two major points:

  1. The four-part Spring Break series about Prague, Berlin, Amsterdam and Paris is indeed on its way (better late than never, right?)–but I must delay it un po’ more because of the absolutely uncanny occurrence that fate bestowed upon me last night.
  2. Yes, I acknowledge that today is April 1st, but no, this is not an April Fools joke–contrary to what you may suspect. This actually happened.

Allora, it was about 1:30am and Heather and I were on the hunt for a kebab after a lovely evening with some friends at our beloved local pub on our street. The late-night food places in our area generally are closed at this hour, as we’ve unfortunately discovered. But I was fixated on this kebab. We ventured towards the Duomo–where nightlife is always still hoppin’–to seek any of those Mediterranean fast-food places that would hopefully still be open. We were on a mission.

One phone call instantly aborted this mission.

-“Ciao Chelsea, whatsup?” I answered to a call from my housemate.
-“Liz, where are you?” she asked in a dead-serious tone.
-“By the Duomo.”
-“Guess who I just ran into.”
-“Luca the First!” I jocularly exclaimed, and laughed at our inside joke.
-“Yes.”
-“WHAT?!”

(To fully appreciate this story, you’ll have to read the background story about Luca I in one of my first blog posts, “Day 4: Prospective husband? Si.” Back in January, on the first night that my housemates and I went out in Florence, we met an Italian who showered me with compliments and passionate declarations of love in the way you’d stereotypically expect an Italian guy to do. As American girls who had just arrived in Florence, it was hilarious to see the stereotype already come to life. That night was left to rest without any exchange of contact information, leaving us only with a good story and never-ending inside jokes about my prospective Italian husband. (Since then, I’ve also captured the eye of two more Lucas–Luca II who liked my red dress, and Luca III who said “I love you” at “Disegno video giorchi” (“I design video games”). But Luca I is the one who my friends and I continually reference in jokes).

-“You’re kidding.” I was overcome with disbelief. It was only a few hours ago when I had casually used the “that is danger” remark that we often jokingly use in reference to our initial conversation with Luca that first night. We have spent months joking about the unlikely idea of just happening to run into Luca I in the large city of Florence again. Not only did it happen, but he actually recognized my friends and remembered me.
-“Where are you?” Chelsea asked. She and our other housemates she was with apparently all took Luca and his friend to that local pub on our street, where they were expecting to find me. I told her where I was, and she told me they’d be there waiting. The pub was technically going to close soon, although, they always stay open later on weekend nights–especially for regulars.
-“I’ll be right there.”

“Abort mission!” I yelled to Heather, as we instantly turned around from our kebab hunt and headed back to the pub as I filled her in on this freak incident. I was so excited, but also a little nervous, and overall just completely flabbergasted. We were utterly in awe. I’m still amazed.

Walking into the pub was unreal. As soon as I entered, I saw him in the back sitting with the group of friends, and suddenly reached an even higher level of overwhelming disbelief. Usually I greet the bartenders and other regulars I know, but my mind couldn’t acknowledge anything else in the room. When I joined the group, I looked at Chelsea and the other girls, and we just burst into laughter.

Unlike when we first met, this time I could speak and understand a little Italian. So, we were able to communicate a little better–but still with a struggle. I tried to tell him that I was surprised he remembered me, and that I am glad we met again, and that we are still just friends though. When you only know a little vocabulary and a limited ability to form sentences in another language, the “conversations” can get really funny. In order to prevent the conversation from going dead, you either end up repeating the same content a lot, or you end up making random comments on anything you notice and are able to express a a comment on. For example, our conversation consistently came back to how surprised we both were, but with random interjections like “In America, il tuo orrechino significa che, uh, ti piace ragazzi–non ragazze” (In America, your earring signifies that you, uh, like guys–not girls.”) Again, when you’re desperate to form sentences about something relative to what’s present, some funny and random remarks will definitely be made.

A little later, my prospective Italian husband made the big Italian gesture: he bought me a flower from one of those damn flower guys. Mamma mia…

Daily Failtales: Week 5

Why did I eat that?

Today, I went to the annual gastronomy fair in Florence–a trade show of culinary delicacies that infuse the science, art and consumption of food and drinks. (I might go into detail about this in a near-future blog post). Anyway, the place was swarmed by food snobs and buyers in the food industry, but visitors could pay a 15 Euro entrance fee to also access all these fancy samplings of products. So, I skipped breakfast/lunch and made it my mission to make the most out of my ticket. I figured, why not try everything?

WRONG THINKING. Sure, some of the unfamiliar tasted fantastic! But when handed a fishy product on a toothpick, my instinct was “Do not eat this.” I ate it anyway. And then I suffered.

As soon as I put that fish in my mouth, I looked at Heather with this forewarning look of DON’T DO IT. I couldn’t bite into it again, and I could not tolerate the accumulation of horrible fishy taste sitting in my mouth. As I slid towards the wall and frantically searched my purse for a tissue, I noticed bystanders notice me holding back gags. I managed to somewhat subtly spit out the fish into a tissue and toss it away, but THE TASTE WAS STILL SO POTENT. AND SO HORRENDOUS. I couldn’t even tolerate to swallow the tainted saliva in my mouth. I looked at Heather very seriously and said, “We need vino.” So we quickly sought the nearest wine stand. Of course the vendor took her jolly time opening the wine and schmoozing with the wine snobs in front of us. I was dying.

My stomach has felt weird for the rest of the day. Non mi piace. 😦

LESSON LEARNED: Trying new things is part of traveling, but sometimes it’s ok to trust your instincts about not trying food that you suspect you may have a PHYSICAL AVERSION to.

A seriously NOT OK miscommunication

I really enjoy mingling with locals and attempting to converse with them in Italienguish. It generates the most fun, interesting and cultural experiences, but it also lends itself to some of the most mortifying mistakes.

Last night, Heather and I were playing poker at our regular hangout, and had a couple different groups of Italians join us at different points. After a while of playing and talking with one of these groups, one of the guys pointed to my ring and asked if I am married. He then jokingly asked if I am hoping to get married while I am in Italy. (Well, I thought he was joking). So I jokingly replied, with exaggerated facial gestures soaking in sarcasm, “è possibile!” and laughed…except he didn’t catch on that I was joking.

I did not know the translation for “I am joking/kidding/playing,” but Heather tried to see if in English he’d understand “She’s just playing.” He and his friends understood “playing” not in the context of the tone of our conversation, but in the context of the subject of our conversation: they understood it as I am playing around with men in Italia.

That one took a moment to clear up. Good thing they weren’t creepy.

LESSON LEARNED: Either don’t be sarcastic while speaking Italian, or learn how to say “I am joking.” Better yet, if someone asks if you’re married, just say SI! 😀

I’m not crying…

I went for a glorious 7-mile run yesterday…but ran into an issue. The cool air was making me sniffle, and the pollen was making my eyes tear. These were especially affecting me during a part of my run when I was charging up a steep hill–“charging” as in using every ounce of might in me to slowly ascend up the hill like Wile E. Coyote failing at acceleration. As the tourists and Italians atop the hill looked down on me, I realized that I did not only look like I was struggling to run up the hill, but the sniffles and teary eyes additionally made it appear that I was crying. They were probably like, “Poor, fat American girl…too out of shape to run up the hill without crying.” 😦

LESSON LEARNED: Well, not much I can do about this one…

Ho biscotti per tu!

Maybe Monday’s cooking class inspired me to try baking Italian cookies on my own. Perhaps I’ve passed by too many bakeries pervading the smell of fresh pastries. Or maybe my mind feels like embracing International Women’s Day (“Festa della donna” in Italia) tomorrow. Whatever the cause may be, I am going through a baking frenzy.

I’ve been having the itch to bake ever since my Monday cooking class, when we made cantucci di prato (what we generally view as “biscotti” in America–and something my family often makes) from scratch. Then yesterday, Anna, the sweet elderly lady who lives in the apartment below us, came upstairs to bring us a jar of homemade meat sauce and a package of pasta. (Is she the cutest thing ever or what?!) Our “grazie” and smiles could barely do the “thank you” justice, though, because she doesn’t speak any English and we are still just learning Italian. That’s when I decided I have a good reason to bake!

So I gathered a few basic ingredients to make a simple almond butter cookie, because it’d be quick, easy and simple. Then I felt like getting fancy by adding in variations–chocolate in the center for some, a coating of beaten egg with sugar and vanilla extract for some, a topping of sugar for others, and I left a good amount plain. Overall, I was dissatisfied because they tasted too sweet and buttery in my opinion (probably because we don’t have measuring cups, so I was just eyeing everything). Luckily my housemates really liked them, so at least they’re being happily scarfed down 😀

But today, the baking frenzy only intensified. I decided to go all-out and recreate that biscotti we made in class. So I ventured out to gather everything I needed–from almonds to an orange to yeast. I had a blast jamming out to tunes in my apron as I handmade the dough on our kitchen table and infused my own variations to the recipe we learned in class based on my judgment–more orange grind, almond extract, more vanilla extract, and a couple other variations. They came out pretty damn good! (Still not as delicious as yours, Aunt Marianne). I decided to be fancy and top some with melted chocolate, too. I can’t wait for it to harden so I can go deliver a plate to Anna!

8 Distinctions between EU soccer vs US sports games

We’ve all heard the stereotypes about soccer fans: in a negative light, their aggression, violence and crazy antics; in a positive light, their energy, loudness, and undying loyalty. Well, I’ve witnessed the latter to be true.

Yesterday’s Fiorentina vs Cesena soccer game is one of the most cultural experiences I’ve encountered while in Florence. Sure, there are plenty of similarities between professional American sports fans and these European soccer fans: wearing the team’s gear, tailgating before the game, cheering and heckling. But these soccer fans are just so much cooler!

Anyway, here are some of the overall key distinctions I found between this pro Italian soccer game I attended versus pro football and baseball games I’ve attended in the United States (Note: This is only based on my impressions of this one game I’ve attended! So some observations might not be a great representation):

Credit: zimbio.com

  1. More affordable entry. I don’t know if prices skyrocket towards the end of the season, but the soccer ticket prices I saw here seemed really affordable to me. Mine was 7 Euro, not for a bad spot either. I suppose some prices of the best seats can be somewhat comparable to baseball price tickets, but they still seemed mostly cheaper overall.
  2. More hardcore entry process. There were several steps to enter the stadium. Along with the typical procedure of entering at your gate and having purses checked, we had to get our tickets stamped and enter through a barred gate one by one then show identification to match our ticket (passport, license, etc). I was a little nervous when my bag was being checked, because I got pulled over to the side thanks to my little bag with make-up and feminine products. Apparently that security guard found lipstick and tampons to be suspicious? The female guard was called over and helped me out, though.
  3. Lack of cameras. Fans are not allowed to bring cameras into the stadium. I don’t know if it was this Firenze stadium in particular, or if this is a standard, but I was intrigued. At first, I found it kind of disappointing, unnecessary and fascist. But in the end, it was kind of nice. The crowd was all about experiencing the game rather than documenting it. Also, there were barely any TV/broadcasting cameras recording the game, which is also very different from what you’d see at pro (and even college) games in the US.
  4. No one cares about your seat number. At least in our section, the only people who bothered to seek out their row and seat number were the American students who had clearly never been to a game like this before. People just sat anywhere in the section, and a substantial amount of people preferred to just stand behind or sit up on the railings. I ended up standing up there for a bit too…it was a very casual atmosphere.
  5. Eat/drink before the game. Like at American sports games, tons of people were outside drinking beers and eating outside the stadium before the game (except replace grilling burgers with buying gelato and panini). Then during the game, I observed very few people buying food or drinks inside. At the start of the game, there were some men I saw drinking beer, but then that was it. It was very different from American games, which constantly have people getting up and down to grab food and drinks. Only one drink vendor came around only one time, too.
  6. Undying energy of the crowd. Going along with the notion of no eating/drinking during the game, the Fiorentina fans were just so incredibly energetic. At US sports games, sure we cheer, we heckle, we chant now and then…but we often wait for the queue of a song or a digital banner to tell us to do so, and still it isn’t always loud and clear. Too many people are just quietly sitting and eating their hotdogs. But this crowd was AWESOME. There was a nonstop energy of flag-waving, cheering, ridiculously unified chanting instigated by one section of a crowd and carried out throughout the stadium, and even unified motions like jumping to them. I’ll admit that I have sometimes seen this at some sections of NFL or college basketball games, and that maybe those pro American sports games just have so many more people that you could never except such a massive energy…but man, was that cool!
  7. Ghetto bathrooms. When I entered the stall, I wondered if I accidentally entered the guys’ room, because I swear there was basically a urinal below me. A low, sink-like thing with no toilet seat. Not sure if this is relatively standard or just a Firenze stadium thing, but I felt compelled to include this nonetheless.
  8. Noticeably unbalanced gender ratio. There seemed to be a significantly greater number of males at the game than females. Lots of groups of guys–both young and old–and lots of fathers/uncles with sons/nephews. The nice thing is, they are all so ridiculously focused on the game and their bro experience that they didn’t seem to hit on the girls like you’d expect at least a few creepy Italian men to do! 😛