Posts Tagged ‘graffiti’

Final Days in Berlin

Saturday, May 24th, 2014

My last few days in Berlin before I headed off to England where a mixture of wandering the streets, exploring neighborhoods, and trying to get a feel for slow life as it really is in Berlin. Maiya and I explored, she showed me a lot of things she hadn’t done before but also showing me things that were just everday components of life in Berlin.

We got a nice German breakfast at Mokka Bar, which was in an adorable little cafe with beautiful breakfast spreads of fruit, bread, meats, and cheeses. After a lot of luxurious relaxing we wandered about the streets taking in the sights.IMG_2358 IMG_2360 IMG_2361

We also wandered along the canal which had lots of beautiful buildings and green covered walkways below little tree canopies next to the river. IMG_2376 IMG_2371 IMG_2382

We also explored a beautifully green park that had an old bunker up on a hill. But first we enjoyed the outdoors and the wondrous greenery of the place. IMG_2386 IMG_2392 10333319_833581536656691_7993139673201255786_o

Frolicking around under the canopy of a willow tree, climbing hills, and wandering through pond areas with cute little bridges. 10321203_833581489990029_2921933749925878122_o

Awkwardly though, we climbed one hill to be directly faced with a couple very loudly having sex. Embarrassed and shocked at the public display and ran down the hill laughing in surprise. IMG_2401

After that and some cool graffiti we encountered we found a lovely little rose garden without any roses but lots of wisteria. We sat on the railing under the wisteria looking out through its branches onto the beautiful gardens just enjoying a quick moment of sunshine after several days of solid grey.

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Then we scaled upwards to the top of the bunker where we could see most of the city past the green tree tops of the gardens.IMG_2424 IMG_2418 IMG_2417 IMG_2430

The bunker area was very cool and the wind was blowing so strongly we could barely keep ourselves together. Through the mist of rain and the wind we explored the top of the bunker and then returned to where I had gotten coffee the previous day to get a Berlin tradition, curry wurst. 10321127_833581826656662_3951681140522276470_o

This funny tradition of sausage (maybe just a boiled hot dog?) with ketchup mixed with curry powder as well as a generous helping of french fries. IT is a funny dish that most Berliners affectionately say is something you really only get once but we went to one of the best places for it and it wasn’t too bad. Every city has its traditions I suppose, some more well loved than others. IMG_2438 IMG_2435 IMG_2442

The following day I began my day with an outing that was extremely relaxing but possibly  a bit morbid. Maiya told me about a wonderful little cafe, Cafe Strauss that is actually in an old cemetery. It was a lovely brick building with a porch lined with tables right inside of a cemetery. As strange of a setting as it was, it was very peaceful with the silence and stillness of it all only broken by the sound of birds singing. I sat there for a long time wrapped in a blanket, which is something cafes and restaurants in Berlin seems to do is put out blankets for every chair, writing while enjoying the peace.IMG_2445

After a relaxing morning of writing and drinking hot coffee we decided to go out and enjoy a food market extravaganza that was a huge market hall filled with food stands from all over the world. It was truly amazing, there were so many different types of food, so many smells wafting in the smoky air of the market halls high ceilings and after the semester in ITaly with only italian food in sight this was like my carnival. IMG_2448 IMG_2456

It was so hard to choose from all of the different types because everything looked so amazing but I decided to go for Thai food since it is my favorite and it did not disappoint. Also Maiya got some amazing wine mixed with wine saturated strawberries that was divine. I got to meet some of Maiya’s friends from her program and it was really great getting to know them even if it was just for a short little bit.


This night was my last night in Berlin and it did not disappoint whatsoever. After the food market we went for a walk in the park where we got to see some cool animals, a lot of people enjoying the sunshine and a fair deal of drug dealers trying to sell me some cocaine, besides that and Maiya nearly getting pushed into the street during a sudden street fight near the U-Bahn station our evening was nice.

We then had plans o meet some of Maiya’s other friends who were from California as well at a wine tasting place that was truly wonderful. But before we settled in Maiya and I decided to wait in a little children’s park right next door that was the most amazing park ever. We had so much fun jumping on little trampolines, sitting in swings that were too small for us, and just acting like kids despite both of us being technically seniors in college now. After out dearly beloved trip to the park we went into the wine place that sells you a glass and you can get as many refills of wine as you like and taste as many different types of wine as you please as well. It was quite the concept and I deeply loved it, it reminded me of the Italian aperitivo without the food. So sitting in a luxurious couch in the crowded place we sipped many different kinds of wine and I got to meet Maiya’s friends who were really just wonderful.

It was a great night, full of good conversations and great wine. We took our friends back to the park but this time in the dark and really just had the best time. It was probably my favorite moment in Berlin, sitting under the stars, spinning around on the children’s play ground, singing songs together loudly in the park, and just enjoying life. I deeply loved it, never have I enjoyed a park that much and it made me very sad when I realized it was my final night in Berlin. I wish I had met them sooner because they were so much fun and I was going to miss my Roomie. Six days wasn’t enough. I wanted more but sadly the night had to end and we all piled in a taxi and headed home. I said goodbye to my new friends and went to sleep in Berlin for the last time.

My final morning in Berlin was a blur of packing, panicking, and then some good clean fun in an abandoned airport. Typical travel day.  This old abandoned airport has been transformed into a wonderful free space for everyone to enjoy the sun, the tall grasses, a space to run or bike, or fly kites. It really is a nice space for everyone to share. Maiya and I wandered around enjoying my last morning here and our last morning together for some time to come.IMG_2462 IMG_2464 IMG_2468 IMG_2470

There were even people skateboarding with attached kites and sails to drag them along down the long airport runways.

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It was a good end to my time  in Berlin and I was very pleased overall with the first leg of my journey. I had a new appreciation for Berlin and had enjoyed my time with an old friend. It was a perfect blend of the old and the new, historically and experientially. I was sad to leave but with England next on my list and the Netherlands after that, it was the end of one experience and the beginning of many more.



Grit and Graffiti

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014

Rome is a city of layers, you never know what it is you will find as you find yourself negotiating between one level and another. There is the historic city center, the amazing monuments and the tourism layered with the periferia of the countryside and rural suburban outer layers of the city. But within those two there are thousands of different layers of being, each one given a home on some street, some intersecting grid of life within the confines of a city that is so full of surprises, both good and bad.

I have been trying to learn the many facets of a city with limitless faces. The only way I know to go about doing this is by talking with Roman natives and exploring the different neighborhoods or rione of Rome to see the many faces myself, eye to eye.

Today after my typical weekly market visit to Trionfale, a friend and I headed to a new rione I had never been to before, the San Lorenzo area that is the home of La Sapienza, the main university of Rome near the main train station in Rome, Termini.


The rain had gone, and the sun was warm on our backs as we ducked into the dark underground metro station that would take us to Termini where we would then adventure out into the San Lorenzo area. When we emerged into the light again in an entirely different section of Rome, it was truly disorienting. It has often felt that way for me when I take the metro places because you emerge from darkness into a totally new, unknown area with a sense of overwhelming mystery washing over you. Even though it is the same city, it doesn’t feel like it. Everything is so different and varies so greatly from one metro stop to another. The air, the people, the buildings, and everything there is to a rione, it is strange to suddenly emerge into a world unknown when you had just started to understand the world you were currently inhabiting. It is like having the earth pulled from beneath your feet and replaced with shifting sand that fills your shoes with the weight of mystery, that simultaneously weighs you down but spurs you forward to discover and unveil what the mystery attempts to hide.

Walking through what I could only describe as a Roman Chinatown, my friend Natalie showed me to the Acquario Romano, a strange building full of different works of art. But we didn’t come for the exhibits; we actually came for the bathroom. Yes, you heard me right, the bathroom. Underneath the building where the bathrooms for the building are, there is a tunnel that is used to get to the bathrooms, is itself a fantastic work of art. Today was actually the last day to look at it before the slate was painted over and wiped clean for the next artists to come and work their magic. The walls of the tunnel had been fully painted in the combined efforts of two fantastic artists with a contrasting style of almost childlike monsters and the grotesque realism of the other that made for a disturbing, but also deeply fascinating artistic experience.

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To try and get a feel of what San Lorenzo was like we just wandered around the streets of the city looking at street art, graffiti and trying to absorb the feel of a part of the city that was not the overly touristy yet fantastic historic city center of Rome. The art was fun, and great and it seemed like every single wall was covered in a variety of different graffiti tags and other works of street art. It gave San Lorenzo a gritty feeling that while beautiful was a strong reminder of the real nature of Rome as a city of turmoil, struggle, and real life not like the idealized and romanticized pictures of Rome that all the tour books and postcards paint.


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But it isn’t all political protest and turmoil, we also had a fantastic time at the old chocolate factory S.A.I.D and got some really amazing hot chocolate that was more like pudding than a drink. It truly is a place of contrasts; to turn a street corner away from graffiti to an adorable little chocolate factory with a cafe inside full of beautiful chocolates and drinks.It was an intriguing transitional experience to see these two things co-existing in one space. That is the epitome of Rome I think, the co-existing of extremes. It was this that we glimpsed in San Lorenzo.

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We stepped out of Termini into the real Rome. A Rome of gritty contrast, both beautiful and terrifying, eternally magnificent yet stricken with problems that run directly to the core of a city that was once the throne of almost the entire known world. Political slogans and words of grave protest splashed across every building, pictures of turmoil, hurt, and injustice screaming out of the cracks in the walls like the voice of the Roman people crying to be heard. The real Rome.


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It is a strange thing to study abroad because you are neither a tourist nor a local and everyone can somehow see this. You try to fit in as a local, but you are treated as a tourist, which in many respects you still are even though you try very hard not to be. We are temporary residents, which often means we as study abroad students only have time, or only want to make time, to recognize the monumental beauty of a place by seeing the “Top 101 Things To Do in _________” instead of taking the time to get to know the city as it really is, turmoil, gritty truth and all. It is probably the most frustrating part of studying abroad, being neither native nor naïve tourist, while not being able to access the comforts of either. There is no security of a native, that is the comfort of the known and familiarity, while also being denied the peaceful naivety of a tourist who can come and go in a few days with only seeing the highlights, the best and greatest and nothing more or less. As a study abroad student, we have access to neither, but still we strive and try as hard as we can to fit in as a local even though I think it may very well be stamped across my forehead that I am an Americana and I don’t belong or don’t understand. It is a complicated and multifaceted experience to study abroad that serves to open the eyes of students like myself to that very fact, that life everywhere is complicated and more than just a few amazing monuments, or more than just history, it is a living, breathing work of art, intricately woven together. The complex intertwining of the multifaceted aspects of a city are never easy to comprehend, all we can do is try to understand instead of putting on blinders to the pain, misfortune, and struggle of those around us. Four months is not enough time to understand the political rifts or impoverished struggle of the everyday person. Nor is it enough time to comprehend the vast beauty that a place like Rome has to offer. Four months is not enough time for anything to be honest, but all I can do is try to see what it is the Roman’s see. What I saw in San Lorenzo was just one of the many layers of Rome that is the beginning of Rome revealed, the Rome that the locals know and the tourists try to ignore. I am beginning to understand the complexity of the living breathing Rome as the creature that it really is, one layer of its being at a time.



Utah Road Trip Day 1

Monday, June 13th, 2011

Today was a driving day. With each days goal in mind we have set out again on another road trip to try to grasp just one corner of nature’s beauty and try to hold onto it. AS always, our beautiful country has so many wonders it is near impossible to see them all. But that will never deter my attempts. The following week my mother and I will be doing a road trip around all of southern Utah, seeing national parks, hiking, running, photographing, and having a generally awesome time together in the desert sun.

Utah is one of my favorite places to visit because it has such astounding beauty that is unlike any beauty i can seen near me. Red rocks, canyons, desert expanses that stretch for miles, and of course the bluest skies you will ever see. Our trip began today hours before dawn heading out to St. George, UT, right past Las Vegas. This means that our day was entirely full of about thirteen hours of driving without any planned stops along the way. However any good road tripper can find amazing little adventures and detours to occupy time and make the day seem less daunting and more fun. Our first stop was to take pictures of dilapidation.

One thing about desert is that there is no end to the amazingly broken down and graffitied houses on the side of the road. It just so happens these are some of my favorite things to photograph. So we pulled off down a tiny road and found three old homes that had long since pasted their prime days.

Shells of their former self, gutted, empty and abandoned, left only for the sun and time to slowly peel away the paint off the walls, these houses are the definition of desolation. Here they are simply forgotten remnants of a life no one seems to care to remember. They have a sadness and a mystery that hangs from the broken ceiling beams that I find extremely alluring.

Speaking of forgotten desolate places, our next stop was a tiny ghost town that could hardly be called that. Just a few miles from Mojave Desert National Park is Silver Lake, or what little is left of it. An old Talc mining town, today there are only a few scarce building foundations buried in sand and a cemetery with a few solitary head stones.

On a happier note we then made our way to the Devil’s Playground in Sin City, yes Las Vegas. We stopped to gorge ourselves on the Bellagio’s glorious buffet and do a little shopping in 100 degree weather. Look I even have proof

As usual the food was glorious and we had to sample all sorts of delectable treats that elsewhere we would never find.

We also explored the gardens in the Bellagio which were beautiful and with some sort of American patriot theme.

So here we are after the first of many days to come of adventure. Tomorrow the fun really begins with our first national parks including Zion, Cedar Breaks, and Bryce Canyon. I can’t wait but for now we can only wait for dawn to come and watch the sun slip away behind a veil of red.



Thursday, December 3rd, 2009


I love this photo, it was in Pismo Beach when I took my brother back down to Cal Poly. It is an interesting concept one I think  about a lot, the evolution of humans or de-evolution as this graffiti seems to express. Progress in humanity is a strange thing because it seems as if people are striving not for one thing but everything because they do not truly understand or know what they want from life so instead they take everything thinking that it will fill the ever widening gap in their hearts or pockets. Which ever is more present in their lives.