Making Swiss Chocolate

The day after we got back from our trip to Istanbul, a bunch of us headed down to a little chocolate shop in town called Durig. And they taught us how to make chocolate truffles and chocolate molds! We each made our own chocolate animals by painting the details of the mold in white chocolate and then filling the mold with dark or milk chocolate. I chose a scrunny – a mix between a squirrel and a bunny! It was pretty cute. And incredibly delicious.  I’ll never ever get sick of Swiss chocolate. I really don’t know how they do it. It’s amazing. And I don’t know how I will live without it when I go back to America in a month!

*The song is Without You by David Guetta and Usher because…who can live without chocolate!


istanbulLast week, our entire school packed up our bags and headed off to Istanbul, Turkey for our educational field trip! (Remember last semester’s field trip to the South of France – 1,2,3,4,5) I really had no idea what to expect…I heard so many things about Istanbul like it is the crossroads of many different cultures coming together, it can sometimes be sketchy and I should travel in groups of three or more, it has the most beautiful sunsets, it is a secular state but it’s religion is very prominent, and my assistant director would pick Istanbul if he could live in any city in the whole entire world. I have been to many places all over Europe, but this city was by far the most different place and culture I have yet to experience. There is so much history there; it’s almost unbelievable. I couldn’t help but picture my 10th grade World History teacher, Mrs. Alexander, singing “Istanbul was Constantinople,” and little did I know then that 4 years later I would be walking the same streets that Mehmet II invaded and took over, transforming Constantinople into Istanbul. There is a huge mix of cultures, especially because the city lies on two continents – Europe and Asia. The mosques we visited were absolutely beautiful. The call to prayer that echoed over the entire city five times a day was…interesting. I felt like I was in a completely different world. I found that by around 5pm when I was walking back to the hotel with a couple other girls after shopping for traditional Turkish scarves and evil eye bracelets, that we were just about the only girls on the street. I had never felt like such a minority. It was a strange experience. The weather was unfortunately pretty bad for us and so I’m afraid we didn’t get to see the true Istanbul, where there are vibrant colored sunrises and sunsets and the Bosphorus River is the same color as the Mediterranean Sea. Instead, we got a pretty grey and gloomy Istanbul. But, we learned so much and I’m glad we went as a school field trip because I’m not sure I ever would have made it over there on my own terms. It was an experience I won’t ever forget.


^^The Blue Mosque



 ^^Girls had to cover their hair before entering the mosque, and everyone had to take off their shoes. It was so cold outside though that most of the girls kept the scarves on their heads even outside the mosques. Also, according to one of the boys, I won 2nd place for most believable Muslim! I’ll take it as a compliment.


^^Haiga Sophia. This building used to be a church during the time of Constantinople. But, when Mehmet II conquered Constantinople and transformed the city into Istanbul, he decided to convert this church into a mosque. Today, it is a museum.



^^When Haiga Sophia was a church, angels were painted on the walls. But, when it was converted into a mosque, gold plaques were placed over the faces of the angels. Two years ago, renovations were taking place and a face was discovered underneath one of the gold plaques. The plaque remains off of that one angel in order to show what it used to be. It’s amazing to think that if we came two years ago, we wouldn’t have known that.


 ^^Also, due to humidity, the original paintings of the church are beginning to show through what was used to cover up these paintings. Here you can see a cross coming back through.


^^We went to see how Turkish rugs were made. I have a new appreciation for rugs because it is incredibly tedious and takes an amazing amount of patience to make. For a small rug, like bath mat size, it takes one person an entire year to complete. Picture making a friendship bracelet but the size of a rug. I decided that as soon as I have enough money and a home that I will purchase a Turkish rug. They are just so beautiful.


^^This one was one of my favorites.


^^We visited the Dolmabahce Palace, where the sultans used to live. Unfortunately, we could not take pictures inside. But, just imagine a ton of gold, red carpets, and gigantic chandeliers. One chandelier weighed 4.5 tons and was a gift from Queen Victoria.


^^We also visited the Topkapi Palace, which had 4 courtyards and amazing jewels and relics. It was the main palace of the sultans before the Dolmabahce Palace was built.



^^Most of the planning and major decisions of the Ottoman Empire took place in this very room. Oh and see that little gold screen? Through there you can see a staircase that is in the sultan’s home and he would sit there and eavesdrop on all the meetings.


^^We went shopping near Taxim Square during one of the days. Taxim Square is considered by many to be the heart of Istanbul. Unfortunately, that means that many of the protests are held there. Protests had broken out in Turkey while we were there. But, luckily it hadn’t spread to Istanbul yet. So, we were safe. Thank goodness.


^^We visited the tippy top of the Galata Tower, which offered a beautiful view of the city from above.



^^Rustem Pasha Mosque is a much smaller mosque than The Blue Mosque and Haiga Sophia. But, the tile work is outstanding.




^^The famous Spice Market. The employees of the shops are pretty aggressive in their selling tactics. I guess they kind of have to be because there are about a 100 of the same 5 types of shops. And they all look exactly the same, so they have to come up with a way to distinguish themselves. They will do anything to get your attention and get you to come look at their shop. Despite it being aggressive and relentless, some of the things they said were too funny that you couldn’t help but laugh. “I have everything in my store except angels. So, why don’t you angels come in and take a look around?” “Hey, Spice Girls! Do you want some Turkish scarves?” After saying no to entering one shop, the shop owner yelled after me, “Hey, short girl! (I’ve never been called short before, but there’s a first time for everything.) Come back, I think you dropped something! It was my heart.”




^^I bought a ton of Turkish Delights. Those treats are delicious.


^^We visited the Greek Orthodox Patriarch, which is like the Vatican but for the Greek Orthodox. It was pretty deserted, which is because many of the Greeks were driven out of Turkey. We were told that only about 4,000 still live in Istanbul, which is not that many at all. But, it was incredibly beautiful.




Lucca, Italy


Hannah and I finished off midterms last week with a weekend spent under the Tuscan sun. Both of us had been to many of the major cities in Italy like Rome, Florence, and Venice. So, we decided that we wanted to explore one of the smaller towns with not a whole bunch of tourist attractions so that our weekend could be more on the relaxing side. I got to researching a destination and found out about this little bitty town called Lucca in Tuscany. It is a city built in a circle with high walls surrounding it. We stayed in the cutest Bed and Breakfast, called Locanda Sant’Agostino, run by a mother daughter duo. They could not have been nicer and more accommodating. They offered to pick us up and drop us off at the train station free of charge. And the breakfast was so outstanding. Plenty of different granolas and cereals to choose from, soft boiled eggs in the cute little stands, juice, croissants, bread, traditional pastries from Lucca, homemade jam, prosciutto, cheese, coffee, and tea. If you ever find yourself in Lucca, you must stay with them.

We decided to rent bikes on our first day and ride around the entire city on top of the walls. We spent the next day wandering every single street on the inside. It was great because you didn’t really have to pay attention to a map because as soon as you hit the wall, you just turned around and started walking in the other direction. We ate more than our fair share of gelato (Fifi and Gigi did too!), we wandered markets and bought a couple trinkets, we went in and out of all the cute little shops and several churches, we climbed to the top of a tower for a birds eye view of Lucca, ate the most delicious Tiramisu that we had ever tasted, and we just fell in love with the cute little town.