Cultural Differences: US Impressions

Before going into the serious topics on my list for posts, something lighthearted to conclude my US adventure.

Although I have visited the United States many times, last year was the first time I did so with someone who had never been there before. Previously, I simply tried to fit in with my family’s life, and didn’t take much time to compare and contrast it to my home life in Italy. It was as if I was simply a different person there, and I accepted the differences as just a new normal for the time that I was there.

This time, it was different, and I found myself not only noticing these differences, but pointing them out and smiling at his surprise and amazement.

So here it is, in no particular order, my first sort of listicle for FtB.

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Cultural Differences: American Weddings

Day three of our US adventure was my cousin’s wedding. This was the main reason we came, so we were excited and curious to see how this one differed from the Irish and Romanian ones we attended recently.

First big difference: all the guests are invited to the ceremony, not just the close family and friends, and it is very coordinated.

As my cousin is Catholic, the wedding ceremony was a full on mass, my first one in over 15 years. We were seated in the front and thus were very self conscious about the fact that we had no idea about what we were supposed to say, when we were supposed to sit and stand, and that we had no intention of taking communion and drinking from the same cup as everyone else. We also held up the exit considerably because we didn’t know that the people sitting behind us in the pews couldn’t leave until we did. Oh well.

The reception was immediately afterwards, and it was just like the weddings you see in American movies. There was a choreographed entrance of the bride and groom, a sit down dinner and speeches. By the time that we got to the partying, we had and hour and a half left until the end.

All in all, the party was fun but a lot tamer than the other weddings that we have attended. It all ended rather abruptly and we said our goodbyes as we were scheduled to leave the next day for our road trip.

And so, in a flash, my baby cousin is now a married woman, and my boyfriend and I got another taste of yet another very different kind of wedding. I was a little sad to leave so soon, but we had a road trip to get started.


Holidays With Crys: Natural Beauty

On day two of our American adventure, we decided to take in the natural beauty of the Pacific NW, and really this area has a lot to offer. With only one day, we had to pick just one place to see and explore. Pur first choice would have been to drive up to Anacortes and take a whale watching tour that also takes you around the San Juan Islands. I did it once as a kid and I’ll never forget that experience. Unfortunately the boats were all booked up, so we had to go to plan B.

Another possibility was to go to Mount Reiner, take a cable car up and have lunch in a resort with an excellent view, but in the end we decided to go to Snoqualmie Falls.

There is a trail that leads from Salish Lodge down to the river below. It’s a short and easy trail, not even 1km, and so it was worth it to really feel immersed in the natural setting.


After hanging out on the rocks and taking a very cautious wade in the river, we headed back up and had lunch in the Attic of Salish Lodge. The food is pricey but excellent, so totally worth it given the junk food we’re going to end up eating along the way.

Many people know the US gor it’s big cities and towering constructions, and so they don’t realize how much of the States is preserved for it’s natural beauty. It’s so different from the nature that you see on other continents that I think it is the most interesting and wonderful part of the States o visit, and so we are planning on doing a lot more of it on our meandering way down South.


Holidays With Crys: Guess Where I Am

Hello everyone,

In the final leg of my travelling madness, I am now in the United States!

We got in three days ago. As part of my ongoing stress and anxiety I didn’t advertise my arrival, partially for a complete lack of time, and partially because I was worried that it was all going to go terribly wrong. I’m here for my cousin’s wedding, but this time I was travelling with my boyfriend who, as a Romanian, needs a visa to get into the country.

Given the current political climate, I was very worried that despite having all of his documentation in order that they wouldn’t let him into the country. Luckily it all went relatively smoothly, they let me stand in line with him so that I could calmly answer all of the border agent’s extremely aggressive questions, and we picked up our car and drove into Seattle.

We’re staying in the suburbs, as that is where my family lives. But we decided that we’re taking the opportunity to turn this into a proper vacation. My boyfriend has never been to the States, so the plan is to get a taste of the West Coast, ending the holiday in Las Vegas.

On Wednesday we decided to have our “city” day, so we drove into Seattle. We had a stroll down the waterfront, ending in Pike’s Market where we stopped at Matt’s in the Market for some gorgeous oysters, then we walked back up to the Seattle center.

As a kid, going to the science museum was my favorite thing in the world. However, with not much time to linger we just walked around and, of course, took a ride up to the top of the Space Needle.


Unfortunately, smoke from forest fires in Canada made the horizon a lot more hazy than it normally is. Still, it was a pretty impressive view.

I also like how the Seattle center is designed to be seen from above.


Those are not 3D sculptures. They’re just painted on the roof of that building.

All in all, we enjoyed walking around Seattle. Downtown is dynamic and charming, despite the mass of tourists, and th Seattle center is relaxing and fun to lounge around in. However, it is also true that, unless you are particularly interested in tech or modern architecture, modern cities tend to not hold Europeans’ interest for long. So the next day was “nature day”, and natural beauty is something that the Pacific North West has to offer in spades.

To be continued.

Holidays With Crys: Road Trips and Weddings

Hello again

I have just got back from the first of my planned trips over the next few months. This year I have promised to attend two weddings and a birthday in three different countries, and the first of these was a wedding in Romania. After a 26 hour drive across 4 countries, I was planning to post about the whole experience before diving into bed, only to find out that I was completely cut off from internet access. Oh well.

The road trip itself was exhausting and uneventful. Although I was hoping that we could turn it into a similar road trip as the last time I went down to visit my boyfriend’s family, he had far too much to squeeze into his two week visit to afford to dawdle, so we simply drove straight through. We managed to catch a couple of hours of sleep, then got in the car and drove to Bucharest for a massive, no holds barred Romanian wedding.

Having only been to one Irish wedding as an adult, I was curious to see for myself how the Romanian one would differ both from it and from what little I have gathered from movies and television.

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Home Sweet Rome

Yesterday, I anxiously took a flight to come back to Rome for Xmas. I’m only staying one week, I’ll be back before New Years, and yet I had never wanted to go home less than I did this time around. I’m so busy, I said. I’ll have to work from home, I said. It’s just too stressful, I said.

And then I stepped off the plane into a balmy 18°C. One look at the cobble-stoned streets of my neighborhood and I sighed. There’s nothing for it, this place will always be home for me.

Sure, I have to work and squeeze an enormous number of things to do in the short time that I am here. But I can also take small breaks, amble around the streets of my childhood for a bit of shopping, buying clothes that are made in Italy sold in boutiques that are owned by Romans who are stubbornly and valiantly hanging on to their stores in a center which is being steadily overrun by massive chains and mafia run tourist trap restaurants. It is amazing how effortlessly I hit my 10,000 step fitbit goal, which I struggle with so much in Germany even when I bike my 10km to and from work.

Coming back is always stressful and wonderful and nostalgic and never enough time for me to get sick of it and ever want to leave. I think it will always be my home, no matter where I end up settling in life. And that thought always makes me so sad, so I’ll leave it at that.

Holidays With Crys: Hello Dublin Here I Come

Man I am properly spoiling myself this year, aren’t I? Despite the fact that I have not managed to visit anywhere new in almost 3 years, I am taking a couple days off to visit my old Irish stomping grounds for a wedding.

I’m going to be honest, I did not love living in Dublin. I was there for 5 years, and despite the fact that I was trading in an excellent chance for a good PhD position for a long shot hope of one in Italy, I left the country as soon as I was able. However, I also made some good friends there that I would love to see again. Given the fact that I have very limited holiday time, and not living in the same countries as my family means that 90% of that is taken up visiting them, going back to Dublin was nowhere near the top of my priority list. But one of my closest friends is getting married, so now I have the perfect excuse to go back.

So, I’m on my way to the airport for a 48 hour, whirlwind flashback to my college years. Next stop Trinity College, Bray, Temple Bar, across the country to Clare, and then back again. Get the whiskey ready, this is going to be my first wedding as an adult, and what better way to pop my wedding party cherry than at an Irish one!

I have a feeling it’s going to get intense.

Holidays With Crys: Castles of Transylvania

I made it back to Germany! I actually got back Sunday night, and by Monday morning was thrown back into the deep end at work. I finally managed to carve out a couple of hours to dedicate to posting again, and so I wanted to start with the best part of my Romanian two-week holiday, which happened to be the trip home.

We decided that, from now on, we’re going to treat any future visits to Romania as mini road trips. For our first trip back we decided to stop in Transylvania, where there are two castles a mere 50km away from each other. One is Peleş, in Sinaia, and the other is the world famous Bran Castle, also known as Dracula’s Castle.

It was pretty cool to do this castle road trip, as both of these castles were very cool to see, and could not be more different from each other.

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Holiday Cooking With Crys: Never Mind

So, remember how I told you all that there was little to do here besides cook? Well, scratch that, it looks like my great plans for spending my days making complicated but delicious food things is yet another example of my getting on everyone’s nerves. Given the fact that this house has exactly three kitchens, I thought I could shut myself up in one of them, make food and clean up after myself without getting in anybody’s way and also contributing to the meals, thereby making myself somewhat useful. Turns out I was wrong, and I’m just being annoying. My boyfriend’s mother’s hints to the effect were none too subtle: after she squirreled through my suitcase when we were in the city, found the jars I brought to make preserves, decided she liked them and that they were hers now, took the olive oil I brought to marinate grilled eggplant and used it to cook with, threw away the whey I had put aside to make ricotta over my splutters of “nu! wait!” and three times “forgot” to put aside 3 liters of milk from the evening milking before dumping a cup of rennet in it, I decided to give up completely. Good thing there’s internet here!

It’s a pity, too. On my list was fresh mozzarella, ricotta, pizza made with that mozzarella and canoli made with that ricotta, grilled and marinated spicy eggplant, funghi trifolati, a new cake I’ve invented and made exactly once but that turned out to be pretty awesome breakfast fare, which I am now calling crostata di leche asada, strudel, fresh pasta, pomodori al riso, ice cream, and anything else anyone felt a fancy to. Oh well. If any of you want to know how to make any of the aforementioned things, I’ll be happy to indulge in a little food porn and make a post about it anyway. In the meantime, I’ll be doing a lot more netflix and internet surfing than I thought I would be for the rest of the week.

I suppose laying in bed with a laptop perched on my knees for a week was my teenager’s idea of a heavenly holiday. I’ll be fulfilling that dream at last!

Holiday Cooking With Crys: Alici Marinate

Not that I’m complaining, but while my boyfriend keeps working on his parent’s house, there really isn’t much to do here in the countryside in Romania. We’ve unfortunately arrived too late to pick the fruit and too early to pick the grapes for wine, and the last time I helped him do “manly things” like digging holes or mixing cement, I caused such a stir in the town that his father was teased for weeks afterwards. So, not wanting to be the cause for embarrassment, one of the only things I can do here is cook. So, time for some time consuming yet delicious recipes everyone! Today, I made an Italian favorite, alici marinate.

Alici marinate are marinated anchovies. Depending on how you prepare them, they can keep for several months, and make for a great on-the-go lunch. Anchovies are, in my opinion, a very odd sort of fish. I love them when they are fresh or marinated, I cannot stand them when they are preserved in salt, which happens to be their most famous form. In fact, salted anchovies are one of the two only kinds of fish that I hate and cannot eat even to be polite. In Italy, anchovies even have two names: when they are fresh or marinated they are alici, and when they are salted they are acciughe.

Aaanyway, if you want to know how to make some killer alici marinate, recipe and pictures below the fold.

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