Wednesday, February 23, 2011

After a wonderful month in Frankfurt, Caroline joined me from her pig farm in the Netherlands and we headed for Italy on the 1st of February. My good friend Stina met us at the Milan airport with two fast talking, fast smoking Italian boys and brought us back to Cremona, where she is living with a host family for a year through Rotary. We stayed with her for 4 days and a bit. Our time was lovely! Her host family's home was a gorgeous mix of modern glass and stone architecture with ancient wooden beam ceilings – fabulous! We spent most of our time talking, eating, and walking around Cremona. After 2 days in Cremona we all went to Venice for a day trip. We took an early train and spent all day wandering the streets and seeing the sights. We lucked out with an absolutely gorgeous day, too!

Caroline and I then traveled over to and down Italy's Western coast with our backpacks in tow. We spent the first night out of Cremona in Genoa, mostly in order to easily visit Cinque Terre the next day. Genoa had an interesting Coastal feel, similar to areas of Mexico – big open palaces and palm trees everywhere. Cinque Terre was the next day and it was the highlight of Italy for me. We lucked out with another spectacular day (Italian winters are normally a constant gray sky). I was nearly too hot in only a t-shirt! The cities were adorable and the ocean picturesque. The next day we traveled to Lucca, an ancient walled city in Tuscany. Then on to Florence. Florence was spent seeing the wonders of the Italian Renaissance – the Duomo (the 4th largest Basilica in the world), The Medici Chapel (Thanks for the hint, Dad!), and works by Bernini, Michaelangelo, and other renowned artists. Our time in Italy was incredibly fun, but near the end of it I was looking forward to settling down and working and learning on a farm.

On the 12th of February, we flew to Granada, Spain and met my friend Thomas and his traveling partner and friend Grace. We stayed in a very stereotypical, dirty hostel high on a hill overlooking all of Granada - a good experience to have, I suppose.  Granada is in far southern Spain, quite near the coast and in the foothills of Spain's highest mountains, the Sierra Nevada. Our hostel was across the street from the touristy site of Granada, which we spent half of our 1 full day at – the Alhambra, a Moorish palace from the days when Granada was the last Muslim stronghold in Spain. The palace was absolutely massive and filled with smaller, personal palaces, bath houses, and gardens. The architecture was astounding, almost all of the walls were made out of stone or wood and carved with the most intricate designs I've ever seen. There were also tiny canals flowing with water that lined most all of the walkways, quite an engineering feat for the 14th century!

My antsyness to begin work peaked in Granada, but luckily I didn't have to wait long. We took a bus to Orgiva, a small town of 6,000 in a valley between the Sierra Nevadas and the Sierra de Lujar mountains. Our hosts for our first farm, Catherine and Anthony, a charming middle-aged British couple, met us at the bus station. They live on a small finca 25 minutes walking distance from the city. A dirt track must be traveled, across a river, to get to the farm. The land has hundreds of olive and orange trees. Lucky for us, the oranges are ripe and absolutely delicious! They have a small, traditional Spanish house – white, rectangular, with a flat roof – and we live in a nearby caravan. Our first days here have been wonderful; we work from 9 – 2 with a tea break at about 11. It rained occasionally the first week, so when we could get outside we cleared branches pruned recently from the numerous olive trees. We trimmed them down with machetes and saws to chunks that will later be sawed down for firewood. The smaller branches that were macheted off were sent through a chipper to make wood chips. We also de-stickered beer and wine bottles which will be used to make raised bed gardens and filled bottles with olive oil that was freshly pressed from the farm's trees.

I'm thrilled to be here and excited to work and learn more!