Rotwand

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Rotwand, from the bottom of the hiking path.

After a year here, I finally had the chance to visit the actual dolomites and to do a via ferrata. Last weekend, during what seemed to be perhaps the last warm weekend of the season, we headed up to the Rosengarten range, to Rotwand (Roda di Vaèl), the peak of which lies at around 2790 meters.

A via ferrata (literally “iron path”) is a hiking path with additional metal rebar and metal cables running up it. You can use climbing gear to hook into the cables, and pull yourself along. It’s not as hard as mountain climbing, because you have the cable and often also rebar ladders cut into the cliff face, but it’s harder than normal hiking, where you’d just be walking. Actually, I wouldn’t say the climbing harness makes the via ferrata feel particularly safe. The thing is, you hook yourself to the cable, but the path beneath you is often steep and slanted over the rocks. If you were to fall, you will slip quite a ways along the cable. You wouldn’t die (especially with the helmet on), but you could injure yourself pretty badly anyways, and I certainly wouldn’t want to be climbing back down a mountain bruised and bloody. In any case, the Rotwand one wasn’t a particularly difficult one, so that was alright.

We started the trip from Rovereto around 8am. The drive to Bolzano, where we would rent the gear, was around an hour, and then it took another half an hour to get to our parking spot in the mountains. By the way, we rented the gear from Base Camp Dolomiti, which is actually located inside the train station in Bolzano, like basically off of platform 1. The place was open on Sunday, and the people there were very nice and understanding when we were unable to return the gear the same night, so although they were small and their gear selection was tiny, I can’t complain about the service.

Anyways, after picking up our gear, we headed up to Rifugio Paolina, in the Dolomites. From there, we rode a ski lift up to Rotwand, and hiked in a circle around the rock formation, until reaching the beginning of the via ferrata. The ride up the ski lift was only around 15 minutes, but it covered a wide stretch of ground, a little under 2km in length.

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View of the valley below, from near the start of the via ferrata.

The day started out chilly, and there was a mist in the air. I was afraid I’d freeze in only my Patagonia sweater, but thankfully, it warmed up quite a bit in the afternoon. The mist never quite dissipated, though, instead floating back and forth over the peak as we ascended, giving the excursion an ethereal feel. The hike around the peak was not too bad. It took just around 1.5 hours, and it was only moderately steep.

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This peak was behind us the whole time we climbed.

I was very excited to finally do a via ferrata. I’d heard of them all year, but had never gotten around to renting the gear and finding a way to go. It was fortunate that a big group decided to go this time around, so I was able to tag along. The Rotwand via ferrata wasn’t much more difficult than the hike up to it. There were many times that I felt the ferrata gear was hardly needed, and was just slowing me down– but then again, there were also times that I was happy to have the peace of mind. This via ferrata didn’t have a lot of exposed areas, which is one thing that I had hoped for, but once again, maybe it was all the better to cut my teeth on a simpler climb. In any case, the view from the top was absolutely spectacular.

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On the way back, we caught the setting sun, as we made our way down the mountain. It’s warm rays cast the mountain behind us in a ruddy bronze, which is where the name Rotwand (literally “red wall”) must come from, I suppose. Unfortunately, we were too late to catch the ski lift, meaning we had to walk an extra hour all the way down the ski slope. By the end, my knees were hurting, and my thighs burned the next two days, whenever I tried to walk down the stairs. Such is the hiking life I guess? I’m definitely going to miss these exquisitely breathtaking hikes when my stay in Italy is over (the end is very soon now), and I wish I had started on the via ferrate much sooner in the year!

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Weeks 98 through 111

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I submitted the thesis.

The work’s not done. I still have the defense and probably some annoying bureaucracy, and I hope I haven’t failed to account for anything, since other people have had some trouble graduating due to last minute realizations made by the university administration(s)… but one big milestone is completed.

Anyways, it’s been a lot of weeks since I did a post about what’s going on in general, though I’ve made a few smaller posts since then. The last two months have just been incredibly busy. Any time that I haven’t spent working on my thesis, I have spent traveling or exercising. Well, I exaggerate. There have been evenings of mindless video games, to blank out a little bit after all the hard work.

Over the last few months, the seasons have changed again, as is typical on a planet whirling rapidly around a shining star in the void of space. Amongst the activities over the last few months, I met the new Trento LCT students, which was nice, though I haven’t had much opportunity to hang out with them so far. I also went to the doctors, and got a travel pass, both of which were a bit of a hassle.

On a lighter note, we had visitors non-stop for a while, which was a blast, as usual. We traveled with them, to hikes and lakes nearby, as well as farther out to Liguria. In sum, we visited Torino, Cinque Terre (twice), Lago di Garda (again) including Limone sul Garda, Lago di Caldonazzo, Lago di Lamar, Tre Cime del Bondone, and Monte Altissimo di Nago.

Lago di Caldonazzo was super easy to reach. We took a train from Trento in the direction of Bassano del Grappa (the same one that goes past San Bartolomeo, where the student housing is). That train brings you straight to the lake. It’s a lovely area, with a small resort town and plenty of nice swimming beaches. The day we went, a train of little old cars paraded through the center of the town, so that was nice to see, but otherwise, there’s not much to say. The lake was very pretty, and we had a relaxing time.

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Lago di Lamar was also not particularly difficult to reach. You take a bus from Trento to Terlaghi, and it also takes you right there, practically to the shores of the lake. This lake is much much smaller (you can swim across the whole of it), but it is so lovely. The water is clear and blue, and filled with fish that dart around you as you enter. On the opposite side, where you have to swim to, there is a cliff of around 10m in height that people jump off of. This is a bit too high for me to dare jumping off of; however, even better, there are three ropes around the edges of the lake that you can swim and jump from. This is basically the best thing ever.

The rope on the right bank of the river is pretty low, so I think it’s better for children, since the water beneath it looks a bit shallow. The two ropes on the left bank are better for adults. I’ve jumped off both the first one and the second one. The second one is maybe 2m in height, and the first one is maybe 3-4m in height. When I jumped off the first one, I sort of ended up twisting in the air, and basically landed right on my thigh. I ended up with the biggest bruise I’ve ever had, all the way down my entire leg. It was kind of nuts… but it was worth it.

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Finally, there are a number of beautiful hikes around the lake. The one that we chose to go on, though, was basically straight up. It was too intense for me, especially considering the heat of 30 degrees C. At some point, I turned back around, and went back to jump into the lake some more. The cool water felt so incredibly good after such a sweaty and tiresome hike.

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The other two hikes we did were exhilarating, as usual. The first went up the Tre Cime del Bondone (Three Peaks of Bondone). This was definitely an all day hike. I think it took us around 6 hours, although we did take some long breaks on my account. The hike up to the first peak is steep, and the view from the top is pretty nice, though not as nice as some of the other views we’ve seen (but now I am really splitting hairs). Then you hike down a bit, and head over to the second peak.

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On the second peak, there are some very light Via Ferrata sort of areas. These are basically rebar ladders stabbed into the rock, with cables alongside. In a typical Via Ferrata, you are meant to use a harness with two supporting ropes to hook onto the cables, and you can climb along the rock or cliff face this way. It’s sort of like mountain climbing lite. In the area we went to though, it wasn’t really Via Ferrata. That is, you didn’t really need any gear, and the rebar/cable was more as a nice handhold to get up to the next little rock. One day, I hope I will have a chance to do a real Via Ferrata, but unfortunately, the summer has gone by, and so I missed my chance this year.

After climbing through the second peak, you go up to the third peak. The view from here is really nice, with the mountain tops and valleys behind you. After this, you can wind your way down the mountain without too much difficulty, to return from where you started.

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Finally, the hike up Monte Altissimo di Nago was just lovely. I liked it because it was actually quite a bit shorter than the other hikes we have done, but the views were at least as stunning. The hike started steep, but then leveled out to a wide mountain biking road that wound up and around the entire mountain. It was longer this way, but quite easy to go up. From the top, we could see the a very large part of Lago di Garda. I had never seen so much of it in one glance before, and it really impresses upon you the immense size of this lake.

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The hiking path up this side is populated by cow farms, so we saw many cows on the way up. On the way down, the cows took a special liking to us. One of them came to say hello. She licked at our legs and arms (I guess we were salty from the sweaty hike). She was a total cutie! I can’t decide which picture of her I like better. What do you think?

Costs:

I spent a lot of money these ~3 months (around 600 euro over my budget), since I took some extravagant trips, and went out a lot with friends (both during those trips and outside of that). I’m able to be frivolous like this because I have a paid internship.

  • 705 – rent
  • 1252 – trips
  • 389 – food
  • 231 – groceries
  • 377 – dining
  • 125 – sports
  • 156 – clothes
  • 151 – phone
  • 115 – internet
  • €35 – medical expenses
  • €69 – utilities
  • 46 – entertainment (games/drinks)
  • €156 – misc
  • Total: 3576

Cinque Terre

 

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View from the Church of St. Peter in Portovenere.

We went to Cinque Terre twice this month. The first time was over the Ferragosto holiday in the middle of August, and the second was with our friends, who came to visit from the US at the end of August. It wasn’t our intention to go twice, that is, we might have gone elsewhere the first time, had we realized we’d have a chance to go to Cinque Terre later in the month, but we didn’t regret the trips at all.

Cinque Terre, meaning “Five Lands,” is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a national park in Liguria, located on the Italian riviera, near Genova. It contains five coastal fishing villages, built up on the rocky Ligurian shoreline, strung together by a verdant hiking path winding its way through and above the villages. Each town has its own character, but they share certain themes, such as pastel-coloured houses, steep steps climbing through crooked alleyways, hole-in-the-wall fried fish joints, and lovely little beaches or swimming holes in the clear blue waters of the Mediterranean.

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The booming of a thunderstorm could be heard in the villages as it reflected off the cliffs.

From North to South, the villages are Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. Portovenere lies even further south, and might be considered the “sixth” Cinque Terre, though it is not officially part of the park. The larger towns of Levanto and La Spezia lie to the North and South, respectively, of the park. Both times we visited, we found that it was easiest to find accommodation in La Spezia, which is the largest town in the area. I can heartily recommend both of our La Spezia AirBnBs (Tina’s House, suitable for one couple, and Wiwi, suitable for two couples). The hosts were incredibly welcoming, incredibly accommodating, quick to answer inquiries, and the apartments were both well furnished and conveniently located, including all the necessities (even AC). The first host whisked over to our place in just 10 minutes when we had some trouble with the power, and the second host brought us the freshest figs I’ve ever had straight from their garden for no reason at all! We did also stay one night in Corniglia with my husband, but the AirBnB we stayed at was basically just a normal hotel room with a nice view, and did not compare to the amazingly warm welcome we received at the two La Spezia locations.

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La Spezia, near the docks.

La Spezia was a perfect base of operations. It is very walkable, has plenty of food/stores/gelato open at night, and provides connections via train to each of the Cinque Terre towns plus Levanto, via bus to Portovenere and Lerici, and via ferry to Portovenere, Lerici, Levanto, and each of the Cinque Terre except Corniglia. There are also bus connections to Portovenere and Lerici (the latter of which we unfortunately didn’t have time to visit). The ferry (provided by the company Consorzio Marittimo Turistico) costs around 35 euro for a day pass, that you can use any number of times, or around 6 euro for one trip. Since I get seasick on longer trips, I only did a single ride from Vernazza to Monterosso using the ferry, and it was definitely worth it.

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The ferry landing at Vernazza, headed to Monterosso.

The train, on the other hand, is cheaper, and it goes way more often, although it mostly goes through dark boring tunnels. The cost is 4 euro per ride, but it’s way more worthwhile to get the day pass (at the Cinque Terre Point stores) for 16 euro, so you can hop back and forth using the train. The day pass also lets you access the lovely hiking trains that wind through and above the five towns. If the weather isn’t blazingly hot, and if the trails are open, hiking is probably the best way to travel between the towns. Each section of the trail takes between 1.5 and 2.5 hours (depending on the section). Unfortunately, the days that we traveled there, two of the trails were closed due to mudslides, the rest of the trails were closed at some times due to thunderstorm warnings, and anyways, it was over 30 degrees C most of the time. Actually, I love weather over 30 degrees C, because it’s the perfect swimming weather, and swimming, particularly in the pleasant Mediterranean waters, is one of my favorite activities. We did wind our way through the staircases of each of the towns, and hiked a bit to see the main sights, but I have to admit, we spent most of our time in the water. I would love to return in the spring or fall, just to do all the hikes. I actually think there would probably be a few weeks in early September that could be perfect for both hiking and swimming, assuming the trails were open. You could hike to each town, and get a fish cone at each stop!

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Deep fried anchovies, mussels, calamari,veggies, and even a chicken wing somewhere in there.

The largest beach that we visited was in Levanto. Much of it was dedicated to rent-a-chair type places, which we have taken to calling “vacation factories,” since you are packed in literally side-by-side to all the other tourist-goers, and you get the same perfect sun/beach/food/lounge experience. If that’s your thing, Levanto has a good amount of it, though it does have a small section of public beach, were you can put down your own towel as well. The beach in Levanto is made up of small rocks, which get larger as you start heading into the water. The day we went, the waves were actually large enough, that there were surfers stationed at the wave line, riding them in as they formed. The waves weren’t as big as what I’m used to in SoCal, but there was definitely a very strong undercurrent, and they started out pretty far, so that I just didn’t feel comfortable swimming out there without a flotation device. I did see some swimmers out there, but for the most part, it was just surfers.

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Surfers and swimmers awaiting a wave on the pebbly beach of Levanto.

South of Levanto is the first of the Cinque Terre towns, Monterosso. This is the most vacation-factory style town out of all of them. The beach, which is right outside the train station, is smaller than the one in Levanto, but similar to Levanto, it is sandy-ish. There’s a bit of a bay created by a jutting out of the land to the North, which seems to lessen the waves to a gentle roll, and the water is clear and warm, making this a wonderful spot to go swimming… as long as you can stand having your towel propped up right against another person’s on the teeny tiny public portion of the beach. Once again, most of this beach is devoted to the vacation factory, where you can rent a chair-umbrella combo, but when we were there, all the chairs were rented out already anyway. There are some food stands up near the train station, where you can get cones of deep fried seafood (I didn’t know I liked anchovies until I had them fresh here), French fries, and chicken wings. If you walk a bit further from the train station, you reach the older part of Monterosso, where tourist souvenir shops and restaurants line cute little streets. In short, Monterosso is pleasant, and comfortable, and a great place to relax, but in a land of touristy towns, it is touristy to the very max.

The next town over is Vernazza, a small town with one main road. The hiking paths just above Vernazza on both the Monterosso and Corniglia sides provide stunning views of the entire village below. The large pier creates a sandy (but also a silty) little beach, providing a sheltered enclosure, where hesitant swimmers can safely splash around. The outside of the pier has a ladder down into the water, so braver swimmers can dive right in off the edge to swim amongst the waves, and climb back up via the ladder. It’s just like swimming in a swimming pool, except your pool is the entire Mediterranean Sea. Another beach is located at the other end of the town, underneath an archway of the distinctive layered rock found in this region. This beach was apparently created by a recent flood that unfortunately claimed some lives, so it is superficially tethered off, but there are as many swimmers here as anywhere else. More delicious cones of fried fish, focaccia pizza, and farinata (chickpea flour based flat bread from the region) is available at stands along the main road.

The next town to the South is Corniglia. This one is situated on top of a hill. The train station is near the bottom of the hill. Therefore, you either have to hike around 1km up some stairs, or you take a bus that comes approximately every 20 minutes during the day to the top. Since it’s a tad bit harder to reach, less tourists make it up here, giving the town a bit of a cozier vibe. There is a lovely viewpoint inside the town, above a small soccer court, where you can see Manarola down the coast, and a nice view of Corniglia itself just up the road from the main square, next to a vineyard. There are plenty of lovely sit-down restaurants inside this town, with local pastas (e.g. trofie) smothered in local pesto Genovese, and more delicious fresh anchovies, as well as local wines.

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Corniglia viewed from up the street.

Down the coast from Corniglia is Manarola, another pastel-coloured village with just one main street. There is a path here, which slopes upwards to a peak overlooking the entire little town. The wine bar at the top always has an incredibly long line. As lovely as the view is, the swimming is even better. It might be funny to see people setting up their towels on the long boat ramp, but you have to look further to see the real beauty of this swimming hole. The boat ramp leads down into a calm-watered pool, sandwiched between a rocky pier to the left, and a real treasure: a very climbable rock. The rock can be jumped from at various points, from varied heights, providing adventure for the more timid jumpers as well as the braver ones. The tallest point of the rock is around 4.5 or 5 person-heights high (I would guess around 10 meters or so), and juts out perfectly, to allow for a smooth and easy dive into a deep hole. I was too scared to jump off that height though, so the most I did was a jump from around 2.5 person-heights. For those who do not want to jump, there are ladders on both sides of the pier, the sheltered side, and the outside which faces the sea.

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Manarola viewed from the walk above it.

The Southernmost village of the Cinque Terre is Riomaggiore, which, like the others, has its own distinctive character. Here, I enjoyed walking around, and exploring the nooks and crannies of the hilly town, filled with steep and narrow staircases, winding up and down the cliffs. I didn’t get the chance to spend too much time here, though I believe there may be a beach off to one side that I did not visit. I suppose I will just have to come back another time!

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Riomaggiore.

Finally, South of all of the Cinque Terre, sits Portovenere. A bus connection from La Spezia (bus P) takes visitors to this small town, which follows the same architectural themes as the other five towns, though it is officially not part of the national park.  The day we visited, a thunderstorm had come through in the morning, leaving a half-cloudy sky in its wake, and some breathtaking views for us to enjoy. The sea was a deep blue, and the setting sun cast its golden rays over the lush cliff side, whenever it peaked its head through the clouds.

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Portovenere.

We explored the church of St. Peter laid with striped bricks on the very tip of the town, and a pathway up to a fort on top of the cliff. The fort was was closed by the time we got there, but on the way we saw an homage to Portovenere by sculpture Scorzelli, titled Mater Naturae. The statue is of a voluptuous middle-aged woman, wearing a simple undergarment, gazing out at the sea beyond the town. It seems to me, that, tired from a difficult life, she looks out longingly at what might have been, but, also with some pride for the work she has wrought.

Torino

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The lid to a huge sarcophagus of a high ranking vizier, painstakingly carved of a very hard, nearly black stone.

Last weekend we visited Turin/Torino, the capital of the Piemonte region, and the first, original capital of Italy. It took around 5 hours to reach it from Rovereto (by the cheaper regional trains), so we left on Friday night. The weather was lovely almost the whole time. The first day, we wandered around the town, enjoying the sights and delicious food, before eventually heading into the Egyptian Museum. The top couple floors of the museum were alright, but all the cool stuff was on the bottom.

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The Book of the Dead. Osiris presides over the afterlife ritual, in which Anubis weighs the heart of the deceased against the feather of Ma’at, while Thoth records the result. If the heart is heavier than the feather, it will be consumed by the hippo-lion-crocodile monster Ammut.

The second day, my husband had a Netrunner (card game) tourney, so I headed off on my own. I took my stuff with me so I could head back home in the evening. It was Sunday, so my plan was to take a tour bus out to Sacra di San Michele, an abbey at the top of a cliff overlooking Torino, around an hour away. From my research online, it seemed that this place was a little annoying to reach by public transport on most days, involving some confusing combination of bus/train connections and hiking, but on Sundays in summer they run a tour that goes straight there, leaving Torino at 8:30am, and going back from the Sacra at 13:00. This sounded way less confusing, so I booked that.

I arrived at the bus stop a few minutes early. I found a large Pullman/Greyhound type of bus, and asked the driver if he knew which bus I should take to the Sacra di San Michele. He said it was his bus. I showed him my phone ticket, which he glanced at, and waved me through. We headed in the direction of the Sacra, gathering a few more people along the way, and I tried to rest a little since I hadn’t slept that well the night before. We reached the town of Sant’Ambrogio di Torino, when the bus driver alerted me that this was my stop. I could see the Sacra way up on the top of the hill nearby.

This was confusing, since I had been under the impression that this bus went straight to the church, not to the town nearby. But from doing my research earlier, I knew that there should be a path to get to the church from here. As I was getting off the bus, the driver told me he was returning around 17:40, I think, from the stop across the street. Again, I had been under the impression that the return bus was at 13:00. When I asked him about this, he said yes, I should wait at that stop at 13:00. Okaaay.

It was only once I got off the bus that I noticed a missed call on my phone, and some text messages. Apparently, the driver of my original tour bus had been unable to reach me, and had left without me. But if the driver of the tour had been unable to reach me, then what bus had I ended up taking? And why had the driver of this bus let me on with a ticket for a different bus?

I was looking at my phone, pondering these questions, when an old lady, who had been on the bus with me, started talking to me. She had heard my conversation with the driver, and she really seemed to want to help me. She described to me how to reach my destination, which was the same way I expected. I would have to hike up the Antica Mulattiera (Old Mule Path), 600 meters straight up. The path was well maintained, laid with stones, and though I was carrying a bit too much on my back, and the weather was a bit too warm for hiking, it was still a nice walk. It took me about 1.5 hours to make the hike, and the views at the top were definitely worth it.

For the way back, I was no longer very confident that the Pullman which I had taken here originally would actually come at 13:00, since the old lady that had helped me earlier, who was from the area, said it only comes in the evening. I had a plan to hike back down and then keep walking until I reached a train station to go back to Torino. However, I also texted the tour operators from the morning again, asking them how to reach their actual return bus. They were helpful, but not very good at explaining it. Anyways, long story short, the road up to the abbey stops at Colle della Croce Nera. That’s where I finally found my bus (which, by the way, was meant to leave at 12:30, not at 13:00 as I was originally given to understand). The driver realized that I was his missing passenger, and seemed annoyed at the situation from the morning, but I think he understood that something had gone wrong on their end (and I made plenty of apologies to assuage him). In any case, he was happy to take me back, and this was much faster.

When I first arrived in Italy, before I could speak some basic Italian, I would not have felt comfortable making a multiple train/bus connection journey like this one for fear of exactly this happening. But now, I know that if something goes wrong, I can probably find someone who is willing to suffer my poor accent to help me find a way back. Additionally, having hiked a ton over the last year, I feel comfortable walking longer distances now as well. I was nervous about this trip from the start, since I knew the destination was a bit harder to reach without a car, but in the end, the skills I’ve gained over the last year helped me feel more comfortable traveling around.

Weeks 84 through 93

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How long has it been since I’ve posted one of these types of updates? There’s been a lot going on. Spring and summer, for one! Everything is green and beautiful now, and there are flowers everywhere, although it has also been raining a lot. I wish I had more time to enjoy this season, but things have been more than a little busy. A massive family vacation took a chunk of time, but was, of course, very worth it. Then, as soon as I got back, I learned that I had many deadlines, and all of them were due around the same time:

  • a poster presentation for the LCT meeting
  • a master’s thesis proposal for the “master seminar” course at Uni Saarland
  • a presentation on the thesis proposal for my adviser at Saarland
  • a report of the work done at my internship plus a ton of documents for Uni Trento
  • a master’s thesis outline for my adviser at Trento
  • edits on a paper for a conference that my group at FBK wants to submit to

This all, by the way, in addition to normal work, which should theoretically continue as usual. In practice I had been focusing almost exclusively on the reports and presentations, and very little on actual work, which is a problem because I really  need to make progress on my master’s thesis research if I want to actually be able to write the thesis.

Speaking of the thesis, I had a bit of a heart attack last month, when I found out from a friend, who found out from a friend, that I had to fill out a “Title Registration” form for University of Trento. This was a simple form with some basic information, but we needed the signature of our thesis adviser on it. The problem is that my intended adviser was gone at a conference that week. He had told me he would be hard to reach, and he had warned me ahead of time to check deadlines and get signatures from him. I had checked the deadlines I knew to check, but not this one, because this was a situation of “I don’t know what I don’t know.” I got lucky and was able to contact my adviser after all, but I if my friend hadn’t told me about this requirement, I would have gotten all the way to September, and wondered why I couldn’t graduate on time for no apparent reason.

It’s hard being a foreign student, but I get the feeling that this is a difficulty even local students have to deal with. No one sends any emails about these deadlines. We have coordinators here at UniTN who should theoretically be involved with us, but they don’t seem to care that much about us. They don’t know our detailed situation, they forget some basic details about us as well, and they seem more concerned with their own work than anything else. It doesn’t feel like there’s anyone who is actually there for the students, in particular the LCT students, who are on the outskirts of the program at UniTN.

I’m also a bit upset because now that summer is here, my aerial classes have been cut down to just once a week, so I need to find an alternate form of exercise to avoid losing too much muscle. I’ve worked too hard so far to let myself atrophy.

On the plus side, the weather has warmed up, and we managed to get three hikes in, all with beautiful wildflowers, breathtaking views, and lovely company. These have certainly been the highlight of the season.

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Costs:

Ok so I’m going to cheat, and lump everything into one big pool over the last few months. I’m sorry I fell behind keeping track of this here by month.

  • 705 – rent
  • 165 – internet
  • 100 – phone
  • 600 – travel
  • 300 – dining (also during travel)
  • 300 – groceries
  • 160 – sports
  • 40 – fixing glasses
  • 120 – clothes (for hiking)
  • Total: 2,490

 

Spring Hikes

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The weather has gotten warmer, and we’ve been able to go hiking. I’ve done three hikes in the last couple months. The first was a wine walk organized by a few of the PhD students from CIMeC. This was a hike including four wineries along the way, one of them in an old castle. It was a nice ~7km walk down the hill, with great wine and food (parmiggiano reggiano, salami, and other small bites) along the way, although it turns out that a steep downhill hike through narrow forested paths and twisty city alleyways is a bit challenging when you’re with a group of fairly drunk people. Still, the views were lovely and it was a great way to spend an afternoon. My favorite white wine from the walk was the Gewürtztraminer from Cantina d’Isera, and my favorite red was the Lagrein from Castel Noarna.

The next hike went up to Cima della Marzòla. We did this one with a friend we made in the last year at Saarland who was visiting, and the hike was much longer than we expected. It totaled in around 18-20km, with approximately 1000 meters elevation difference, first up through forest and fields of wildflowers, and then down around the side of the mountain. It took around 6 hours to complete it, I think. Needless to say, my calves and thighs were hurting on the way up, and my knees on the way down, but we survived, and the views were well worth it. The whole way up was covered in these beautiful trees, whose yellow flowers hung down like willow branches. And just as we were at the peak, a rainbow shone over a smaller hilltop below. How lucky! Most of all, I enjoyed spending time with friends. I miss that wonderful community we had at Saarland, as well as the relatively decent education/organization there as well, for that matter (which is not something I expected to say at the end of last year).

The last hike went up Monte Stivo. This one was the longest. We left from the base somewhere near Passo Bordala around 10:00 in the morning, and returned, I think, around 19:30. I’m not sure how many kilometers we walked, but it was a hell of a lot. The way up was winding through some forest at first, but after the first peak, it became rather steep. Amazingly, at one of our stops, we saw a group of 30 horse riders taking a break before continuing their climb to the top. I wouldn’t have expected horses to be able to make it up there, but I guess they are more nimble than I thought.  The path up to the first overlook wound its way through wooded underbrush, and grassy cliff sides, dotted with lovely yellow, white, and violet flowers, where bees and butterflies buzzed and fluttered around us– and it only got better from there.

As we climbed over the last rocks along the steep path, we saw a wide grassy hilltop covered in beautiful wildflowers. The top was breathtaking. I think this was my favorite hike out of all the ones we’ve done here in Trentino (or maybe ever).  In each direction we turned, we saw a landscape of valleys and mountain tops, many of them lower than Stivo, though some in the distance were much higher and snow-capped. The sun was hot, but the breeze was cool, and it brought with it wispy clouds that occasionally obscured the view of Lago di Garda in the West, far, far below us.

We had climbed around 900m in elevation to get up Monte Stivo, and so we had to go the same distance down, this time around the back of the mountain. As we walked along the ridge of the mountain, over a path flanked by wildflowers, we encountered a small farm with cows, sheep, goats, turkeys, and a dog guarding the little house. The farm was literally just on the side of this giant mountain, barely even fenced off.  As we made our way through the farm (that’s the way the path went), a curious baby goat bounded up to us, getting so close that we could pet it, and feed it a bit of grass. What kind of a life must it be to lead a farmstead in such a remote, and beautiful place? I bet it’s really cold in the winter, when the snows cover Monte Stivo, along with all the mountains and valleys surrounding it. We continued our descent back into the forest.

The way back, was much longer than the way there, since it didn’t cut straight down the mountain, but looped all the way around back. Much of it took us through the somewhat wild underbrush. We had to hike through deep mud, clay, and leaves, and some parts of it were actually fairly tick-infested as well. One of our party members ended up finding 9 ticks on her that day! Somehow, the others of us didn’t get any biting into us at all, just a few that we managed to brush off before they took hold.

The whole thing was pretty crazy, but I can’t deny that it was breathtaking (both metaphorically, and literally)

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Weeks 61 through 65

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This month has been all about hunkering down. My husband had to go back to the States for a bit while waiting on the stay permit process, but got to come back sooner than expected. In the meantime, school got busy, with tons of presentations and reports to do.

We both had a lot of good news in terms of work-related things, as well. For one, my husband’s gig is becoming salaried at the start of January. This is something he’s been working towards for a very long time, so we are both super excited. In addition, I have already started preliminary work on my internship (and hopefully master’s thesis) with FBK, a local research institute. This also becomes paid starting in January.

All of this is fantastic news, but it does mean I am about to become much busier than I have been. I may not have time to hike or loaf around as much as I have been. In the next two weeks, I also have to finish the last things left for my courses to get the last few credits I need. I have 3 presentations and 4 short reports to write up, and I have to study for a hard final in machine learning that will take place in January. I’m also headed back to the US for three weeks over the winter holidays, which I am really excited about. I can’t wait to see my family and hopefully many friends too!

In terms of exciting activities this month, I only went on one hike, but it was a breathtaking one. We went to Strada delle 52 Gallerie, just after the first snow. It was the longest hike I’ve done so far (6.5 hours and 12km I think), but it didn’t feel as difficult as some previous ones.  The hike snaked through some old tunnels built during WWI, up to the very top of the mountain. The views were spectacular, perhaps even more so with the snow. (I’m afraid these phone pics do it no justice though.) I look forward to returning another time, maybe in the spring.

By the way, the Christmas markets have also started up here. Rovereto has gone on some sort of fanatic Christmas spree: they spent over a week building wooden houses for the stalls, they brought in the most giant real tree I have ever seen, they put up projectors to light up the buildings with Christmas decor, they put up speakers playing Christmas music, they have live bands walking through the city on the weekends, and they have a red fucking carpet spread out through like half the city center. It feels really over-the-top for such a tiny town. In terms of the Christmas market itself, though, they don’t serve nearly as much hot spiced wine as they should, and they don’t pass out adorable mugs the way they did in Germany, which is a shame; however, the fried dough treats don’t disappoint.

Costs:

Splitting costs (and cooking duty) with a second person really helps.

  • €225 – rent
  • €22 – internet
  • €136 – utilities (electric/gas) including installation costs and stupid TV tax
  • €234 – groceries
  • €135 – dining out/ snacks at markets
  • €90 – last health insurance payment to AOK back in Germany (ugh)
  • €47 – phone
  • €16 – extra aerial silks days
  • €30 – fancy bike tire pump
  • €8 – misc for the apartment
  • Total: €943