Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Interesting Things We've Learned


After dinner tonight, we brainstormed this list of things we've learned on this trip so far. We'll doubtless be adding to the list, but this is what we came up with so far!
  • Art and beauty is a big deal in Europe. People take time to make things look really good. Like in Bulgaria, the electric boxes all over the place are painted with pictures- some of them really beautiful. And in both Bulgaria and Italy - but especially Italy - people make their homes as beautiful as they can with flower boxes in the windows or pots of flowers on their doorsteps. Beauty really matters to Eurpopeans. (Eliza)
  • Good cucumbers and carrots are great to eat whole. We've sure had a lot of cucumbers and carrots along with bread and cheese for meals. You can find great crusty bread and yummy cheese almost everywhere then you  just break off a chunk of bread and rip off some cheese and squash the cheese into the breat and voila! a good little sandwich - and lot of crumbs all over the car and your lap. (Saren)
  • Oliver always has his shoes untied. Literally always. (Ashton)
  • There's a LOT of graffiti in Bulgaria and some in Italy - but just in the bigger cities in untrafficed areas. Some of the graffiti is really beautiful. (Eliza)
  • Safety is not a big priority in Bulgaria. You can sort of do whatever you want (like climb all over the walls of an ancient castle). (Isaac)
  • The sidewalks are really narrow or non-existant. (Ashton)
  • If you step off the sidewalk, there's a good chance you'll get hit by a car or bike or scooter since there's not even a gutter to divide the narrow sidewalk from the narrow road. (Oliver had a near miss...)
  • There are a lot of stray dogs in Bulgaria and I feel really bad for them. I wish I could take them home and take care of them. Some of them look really sick. (Oliver and Silas)
  • Oliver and Silas say "awwwwww" every time they see a dog. (Ashton)
  • Our mom really really really likes churches. It's been exactly 2 weeks that we've been traveling and we've seen 26 churches. That's an average of 1.8 churches a day. (Ashton)
  • People really cared about making their churches beautiful long ago. (Isaac)
  • Some churches look plain on the outside but are amazing on the inside and some are the opposite.
  • It's very cool and peaceful in churches. It feels good in all the churches we went in. (Oliver)
  • Baroque churches are out-of-control fancy - Isaac thinks it looks really cool, Eliza thinks it's a little too much.
  • It took 14 years to build the dome on the Florence cathedral - that's how long I've been alive (Isaac).
  • There are a lot of mosquitos that get you in the night when you have cool old windows with no screens in Florence. (Silas)
  • The side streets are usually the least crowded (Oliver).
  • Not a lot of people have dryers in Europe (used to say pretty much no one has dryers but we stand corrected by the comments at the end of this post). And it takes a long time to dry things with the humid air. You have to do a load of laundry about 24 hours in advance of when you'll need the clean laundry. (Saren)
  • Dishwashers are't very common in Italy and no one seems to have heard of them in Bulgaria. (Isaac)
  • Oliver pretty much always needs to go to the bathroom. Really bad. At not-so-great times. Because he sometimes forgets about the thing listed next. (Ashton)
  • You should always use the bathroom when there is one handy. Always. (Oliver)
  • Carry tissues with you. Public bathrooms don't often have toilet paper. (Eliza)
  • "Squatter" toilets aren't really that hard to use when you get used to them - and they do seem more hygenic than toilets where everyone shares the same seat. (Saren)
  • If you do a little potty dance in a restaurant that says "no public restrooms," they'll let you use the restrooms. (Isaac and Silas)
  • Bulgarian bathrooms often have just hand-held shower holder and fawset sticking out of the wall in the bathroom, no bathtub or shower eclosure. The whole bathroom is essentially the shower - the sink and toilet get all wet when you shower. (Isaac)
  • The road direction signs can be hard to find and pretty darn confusing. (Jared)
  • Cobblestones are hard on the feet after a while. (Everyone)
  • Lots of people in Italy have bidets in their bathrooms. (Oliver)
  • The closer you are to a major tourist site, the more expensive the food is. And the best food is usually not near major tourist sites. The best way to find good food is to ask a local. (Eliza)
  • Bulgarian yogurt and produce and bread is awesome. (Everyone)
  • Bulgarian chocolate is not so awesome. If you see a candy bar that only costs 15 cents, it's probably not a very good one. (Ashton)
  • Everything is cheap in Bulgaria (when you look at a price, it seems about what it would cost in dollars but the lev costs about 50 US cents so it's really half as much as the price for us). Everything is expensive in Italy (prices seem a little more than they would be if they were dollar prices but actually, the euro costs about $1.10 so everything is 10% more than the price says).
  • In Bugaria, a nod means "no" and shaking your head means "yes." It's super confusing. (Isaac)
  • The orphans we met in Bulgaria had decent, pretty clean places to stay and we ate lunch at a couple orphanages and found that their food was quite good (partly thanks to donations from One Heart Bulgaria). The 8-18 year old kids we spent a lot of time with were really sweet and friendly and smart. But without parents to cheer or nag them along, it seems most of them weren't doing very well in school, weren't having chances to develop talents, and were smoking and doing other not-so-good things at young ages. The 3-4 year olds that we brought books to didn't know what to do with a book - tried to grab them and rip them, didn't understand the concept of turning pages, didn't know how to sit through one quick picture book without grabbing for another one after a page or two. Parents matter. A lot. (everyone)
  • When you rent a "van" in Bulgaria or Italy, it may well be a car with a fold-down seat in the back that can accommodate 7 people but no luggage. We made do with this sort of "van" in Bulgaria. But in Italy, we were excited when they offered us a big Fiat Scudo 9-passenger van with tons of luggage room at the same price as the little car they were going to give us. It was crazy driving that big thing through tiny narrow streets but Jared's skills were awesome and we actually had great luck with parking that thing. We loved the Scudo. (everyone)
  • There are lots of communist block buildings in Bulgaria and the elevators are scary. It's cool that you can pretty easily get into the buildings and try out the elevators and you just might find an open trap door to the roof where you'll get a really great view. (Ashton)
  • You can make friends with kids even if you can't really talk to each other because you don't know each other's language. You can just use gestures and play games everyone knows and by the end, you'll be friends on Facebook. (all the kids)
  • Gypsy kids crawl around under the stalls in food markets in Bulgaria, looking for cigarrettes that aren't completely used up. (Isaac)
  • Fresh strawberries are amazing (Eliza)
  • Gelato is the best desert ever and you just can't get it in America. (Ashton)
  • A gelatto a day keeps the yumminess a-stay (Isaac)
  • Nocciolla is the best flavor of gelato (Isaac)
  • Cherry, pear and ricotta, and cremeno (nutella/vanilla) are the best flavors (Silas and Ashton)
  • Pizza in Italy in always amazing - street pizza, pizza in a restaurant, you name it. (Ashton)
  • Pesto is super good (Oliver)
  • At all the grocery stores in Italy, there are packages of yummy little butter cookies - we loved having those on hand for a snack most of the time. We tried lots of different ones. The hazelnut ones were the best.(Eliza)
  • There are awesome street musicians all over in Italy - and a few in Bulgaria (Eliza)
  • I really want to learn to play the accordion (Silas)
  • You walk a LOT and climb a LOT of stairs when you're touring Europe but you're seeing so many cool things that you don't get tired. (everyone)
  • At every tourist site in Italy about 100 guys come up to you and try to sell you selfie sticks. And at night, they try to sell you these little light-up things that spin up into the air, some laser pointer things, a flashlight thing that makes green speckled light on everything you shine it on, When it rains, the guys offer you rain ponchos and umbrellas. It's interesting that everyone is selling the exact same stuff everywhere and it's hard to carry on a conversation while they keep offering you things - again and again and again. We felt for them - trying so hard to earn money by selling things that hardly anyone seemed interested in buying (other than the ponchos and umbrellas - those seemed to sell really well when it started pouring several times!)
  • Jet lag is hard to get over. (everyone)
  • Never trust a hard drive (Ashton - he's done tons of GoPro videos and now the hard drive he brought is acting up so he's very worried)
  • You are supposed to "air kiss" people on both cheeks in Italy. At church in Genova it was hilarious watching all the kids - especially Ashton and Isaac figure out how to do this as we said goodbye to everyone - nearly kissed some ladies on their lips...
  • Europe should consider embracing larger shower curtain encosures so that you don't have to shower with a cold shower curtain constantly trying to stick to your body. (Jared)
  • There are a LOT of tolls on all the freeways in Italy. (Isaac)
  • There are a LOT of bridges and tunnels on roads along the northwest coast of Itally (we counted 75 tunnels, then we stopped counting...) (Silas was in charge of counting tunnels)
  • There are a LOT of hilltowns in Tuscany and the surrounding areas - we counted 35 that we could see from the freeway. (Oliver was in charge of counting hill towns)
  • Be sure to know the local parking regulations (we got a boot on our car when we left it just 30 mintues beyond the free parking time in Bulgaria. But you call a number an they come take off the boot in about 10 minutes and only charge you $15 so it's not so bad - but surely it costs them more than it's worth to regulate parking this way!). (Jared)
  • In Italy, parking is a lot more lax. At one place we stayed, the guy who owned the apartment said it would be fine to park all day in an area that said it was just for residents (he'd forgotten his pass but said no one ever checked). We parked there for 4 days and never got a ticket - even when one day turned out to be street cleaning day and the street cleaner truck had to go around our van which was the only car parked on the street (there were tons of cars parked there the night before but I guess everyone else knew to move their cars by early the next morning... so grateful we didn't get towed!)
  • Everyone is amazed that we have 5 children. They are very complimentary and talk about how beautiful the kids are. Then they say that there is NO WAY you could have five children in Italy or Bulgaria. (Silas)
  • Roads are really narrow and sometimes you have to back up a bit to let someone pass you since two-way roads are narrower than 1-way roads in the US. And dad is really good at driving a big huge fan in really hard spots. (Ashton and Silas)
  • If you get stuck in a tiny elevator, it gets really hot really quicky. But a nice old guy will come and save you and you'll have to climb up and get out the door that is 4 feet up. (Silas)
  • The elevators look and seem scarier in Bulgaria but we actually got stuck in an elevator in Italy - an elevator that looked like a good nice safe one. (Ashton)
  • It can take over an hour to get through the line to rent a car at the Rome airport. (Jared)
  • VW bugs actually look really big in Europe since most of the cars are really really small. (Oliver)
  • People are really really nice, especially to kids. They let you use their bathroom when they're not really supposed to (Oliver). They give you a delicious peach juice when you're sad because you don't like the food at the street cart that everyone else wanted to eat at (Silas). They smile at you a lot (Oliver).
  • The world is so full of good people who are kind to strangers and are willing to go the extra mile. Many people gave us helpful directions when needed. Everyone was so patient and complimentary about our best attempts at Bulgarian and Italian. Old friends had us to their home for a lovely dessert in Bulgaria and took us to their favorite place for gelatto in Genova and absolutely insisted on paying after we all ordered our ice cream. One lady whose apartment we stayed at gave us really nice fruit and breakfast stuff when we arrived. One host was so kind to come meet us at the apartment at 4am when our flight was delayed.
  • Don't accidentally throw your apricot pits off your balcony or the old lady who lives on the ground floor will come up five flights of stairs to pound on your door and when you open it, she'll throw your apricot pits at you and yell at you in Italian. (Isaac)
  • Chess is the best game in the world (Silas - one of the apartments we rented had a chess set an the kids got totally into it)
  • Cars are really fuel efficient in Europe (Ashton)
  • On Mondays, almost NOTHING is open in small towns in Italy (at least the areas where we were). No shops or restaurants. No museums. And in small towns, everything closes from 12:30 to 3:30 for siesta/lunch break.



6 comments:

Matilda Blanche said...

Many Europeans do have dishwashers, and dryers, but having a dryer is not as common as it is in the US. We often use a laundry rack to dry our clothes; I love putting mine on the terrace so my clothes will smell really fresh and good. :-)

schweigen.ist.silber said...

Hilarious. Especially the cold & damp shower curtain that sticks to your back.
Here's the trick: Before starting to shower, wet the curtain from the inside. Then it will not stick (or so I seem to remember from my childhood days).

Vera said...

Great post! I agree with comment # 1 about the dryer. I use mine for towels + bedding. Couldn't live without the dishwasher though ;-)

JLH said...

Loved this. Seeing that I've never met you (i enjoy pom website) it's probably a little strange that some of these made me laugh out loud. We lived (and traveled around a lot) in Europe for 5 years. We've been gone 1.5 years and we still miss it. Our oldest is only 6 and he still tells us all about some of our crazy/fun adventures. How fortunate you all are to have this experience together. What a great list to help you remember!

richard said...

Absolutely love this post! And you and the kids will love it even more when they are taking their kids on wild adventures! It's gets in the blood you know! :)

richard said...

That was actually your mom. Left my computer home! However, dad agrees I'm sure!

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