Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Such a Trip

Our destination this week in school was a small town called Bagnaia.  This is the smallest Italian town I have been to yet, there was circa 15 shops in this one square and the rest of the town was housing.  The good thing about it was all the food was cheap and delicious.

We visited another villa, with formal topiary and sculptures.  But these classical gardens are getting somewhat repetitive.  After visiting modern parks that make me question and really think about whats going on, seeing these symmetric layouts just doesn't engage me as much.  I catch myself taking pictures of reflections in water or a hollow tree, instead of these historic examples of Landscape.  I just feel like they are too easy to figure out.  I just try and pick out what is good about them and recreate them in a modern way.

Our second site visit was right up my ally.  We went to Parco Dei Mostri for all you non Italians that means The Monster Park.  These huge sculptures were carved out of existing rock.  I think Landscapes are most successful when it uses existing elements to create the design.  To me its the same concept as carving a piece of wood, you have to work with every characteristic it has.

^I could live in there

^I caught the Blue Eyes White Dragon, Yugi will be stoked.

The Cal Poly Gang.  Happily standing together after finishing up an acorn war, it was like 3d grade recess.

"I'm in AmsterGreenLanLannn"- Crazy Drunk Uncle.

This place was built up so much in my head.  It is the only place that I circled on my huge European map before I left home.  It is the place that would be asked about first when I return home, "Did you go to Amsterdam?!"  It is an INSANE PLACE!  

This story started around a month ago when the wild group above me bought our plane tickets.  We decided we would all buy the tickets on Old Man Rivers credit card.  I finished booking our flights, with no cancellation insurance, we all cheered and ran around the room as if we were back at the Barcelona futbol match.  Our plan was to fly into Eindhoven then take a bus to Amsterdam to save money.  Fortunately after someone rechecked our flight time they noticed that I had accidentally booked the flight to Edinburgh Scotland.  It was such a buzz kill, I had ruined the trip, not just for me but for everyone.  Fortunately after some pleading to Ryan Air they let us change the flight free of cost.  I don't think that we were the first schmucks to have this problem.

When we arrived we first went to the Red Light District(featured above).  This was a bad idea.  I really disliked this area, I just felt like I was walking around in a living hell.  Drugged out people, creepy men, and prostitutes cat calling at you.  I started to think I wasted my money on Amsterdam, that I maybe should have just gone to Edinburgh Scottland, the second best place in Europe for Contemporary Design.  That is until I got out of that setting.  One strange thing about the Red Light District was the white swans that were floating in the water, they weren't in any other area of Amsterdam.  Also the amount of red neon lights made everything single thing in the area have this pinkish tint to it, the Red Light District was unique in the sense that it was beautiful and ugly at the same time.

I really enjoyed how every street in Amsterdam had water involved with it.  This city was extremely picturesque.  It is the only place I've been where I filled up all 5 of my memory cards on my camera, that is a huge statement.

This street performance was awesome.  Seeing these two guys busting out tail wips and 360's with glow sticks attached to their frame was stunning.  Best light show I have ever seen.

That morning we got up early to check out the Modern Architecture in Amsterdam.  Jonny Boy once again hooked us up with a great walk, he is basically Carmen San Diego because he guides us miles across the city, reads us a synopsis of the site, but he doesn't wear a red trench coat.

The Architecture in Amsterdam was the best example of Modern design I have ever seen.  Instead of each building competing with each other, they all seemed to work together with similar color hues and patterns.  It felt like they were all connected, it gave it this great sense of place.

After walking around for half the day.  I grabbed a loaf of Dutch Crunch bread, that was the best bread I have ever had.  I know what you are thinking, but I'm serious.  Then we went to to the Van Gogh museum.  After going to the Picasso museum in Barcelona, and the Van Gogh museum I have so much more respect for these artist.  I mean I know people disrespect them because they say "I can make those abstract paintings they don't even make sense."  But when you see these artist life work and see how talented these artist were and how their artistic style evolved, you really understand why they are considered Art Masters.  I was completely blown away by the Van Gogh museum, actually more so inspired. 

It was very bizarre being in a place that was completely dominated by bicycles.  And these bikers were no joke, if you got in their way while they were moving at top speed you would be in some serious trouble. What was confusing was these bike paths gave me no sense of a street block.  Imagine walking around 18 blocks of 20 foot wide streets with no cars or stop lights.  It was this huge plaza and all the curvilinear streets just made you loose any sense of direction.  Now I usually get lost once or twice in every new city I'm walking around in, but this was absurd.  I still don't know my way around that place.  Its almost as if Amsterdam is designed in every way to trip you out.  I mean on the last night I was walking around with my buddy J.R. and we were discussing how weird it is that we never know where we are, but how we both didn't care because this place is so lively and interesting, plus we always find our way home anyways.  Next thing you know we turn a corner and we are 20 feet away from our hostel...

That night I had a delicious Amsterdam meal.  We ate at a sports bar and it was great because I had everything Amsterdam has to offer with the Celtic game on.  I miss basketball...  Amsterdam was definitely a semi hostile environment with the most random collection of people.  This one English guy that looked like he was straight out of the movie Green Street Hooligans asked me, "What are you looking at you blond haired Hairy Potter Fuck?!"  I looked at him somewhat shocked and all I could think of to say back was "I'm from Gryffindor."  He looked at me confused and walked away.  I don't think he knows about Harry Potter much.

The next day we decided to go to the top contemporary Landscape park in Amsterdam.  It was located 20 minutes (walking) out side the heart of the city.

This park was it.  The best park I have ever been to.  Just thinking about it makes me excited.  It had sculpture pieces that tied in perfectly to the landscape.  Each space of the park had a completely different feeling to it.  Walking in it first felt like a classic park, then the scene moved into modern park, and then the last section felt like I was in the wilderness.  Wester Park even had a restaurant in the middle of it.  My favorite part about the park was the fact that there was this bike path that went through the entire site.  The constant element in this dynamic Landscape.  It was like a short cut that was constantly being used.  You can tell that this park was a huge part of the city by the amount of people that were constantly using it, a great success.

It was also nice to get out of the touristy part of a city.  To see normal people walking around and living a normal life.  Amsterdam has this negative reputation where everyone is running around drugged out, but it is not the case at all.  When I first arrived to Amsterdam I was concerned about what the world would be like with legalized drugs.  But each day my opinion changed.  The heart of that city was a scary place.  But in reality, it is only like that because of its reputation and reasons that people go there.  Similar to Vegas.  

There are rules in Amsterdam.  Not many, but there are rules.  Almost all drugs are illegal except alcohol and marijuana.  You can not smoke Marijuana on the street with a pipe, bong, or any instrument for that matter, but you can smoke a joint on the street.  When I asked a Cofee shop owner what the rules in the city were concerning Marijuana she told me, "Amsterdam is all about discrepancy, if your not making a scene and bothering people, then no one will bother you."

I truly fell in love with Amsterdam.  The art, architecture, landscape, water, culture outside the city, the maze like city.  My favorite city I have been to in Europe.  I tried my best to describe this place, but I really did not do it justice, it is a place you have to experience for yourself.  It gives me hope, seeing a city so successful, without judgment, it just works.  I would recommend any person to go there, no matter what moral values the person has, its a beautiful place.  We also decided if there was a sequel to the Hangover, the only place it could be filmed would be Amsterdam. 

This week for our field trip we headed to Florence to see Villa Gamberaia.  I was somewhat proven wrong with my original claim of how I don't like these classical gardens.  This one did have unique elements that were interesting and it was not so symmetric.  Or I could have been swayed by this dog.

This dog was ridiculous.  Every time I looked at him it was like he was posing for a picture.  He's the only dog I've kissed for the past three and half months, my dogs will understand.

My days are limited in this beautiful small town.  I'm not ready to leave Castiglion Fiorentino.