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The Ohio University volleyball team will embark on a training trip across the European continent from March 1 - March 10, with stops in Italy and Slovenia. Junior Kelly Colyar (Los Gatos, Calif.) and sophomore Liis Kullerkann (Keila, Estonia) will share their thoughts on the European excursion as well as photos from their experiences throughout the journey in this exclusive blog. Check back for regular updates throughout the trip!

Sunday, March 10, 2013: Coming Home

This trip was definitely long and tiring but totally worth it. Even though we all wish we could have gotten some days off from school after traveling to get used to the time difference and catch up on sleep, we are all so thankful we got to experience all this together. We met some great people, tried interesting foods and saw so many amazing places. It seemed like in general people loved being in Slovenia the most, but when it comes to specific cities, people seemed to like Vienna a lot.

Thanks again to everyone who helped us make this trip come true, it was truly a once in a lifetime experience!

Kelly, Liis and the rest of the team :)

Saturday, March 9, 2013: Vienna

After the few very relaxing and fun days in Slovenia, we headed to Austria for the last day of our trip. The drive from Maribor to Vienna was only 2.5 hours and it went by fast thanks to sleeping for some of us and thanks to chatting and listening to good European dance music for the others.

The weather in Vienna wasn’t great, but since we had been lucky enough with the weather in the previous days, none of us really complained. Once we dropped our bags off at our new hotel, we were split into three different groups. Each group had to have at least one person from each class to mix up the normal groups a little.

Mollie, Hannah, Karin and I ended up finding a cute café just off the main shopping street. It was called Café Cosmopolitan. Karin ordered a traditional Austrian chicken schnitzel, while I got a chicken sandwich and Mollie and Hannah got regular burgers. The burgers weren’t like your normal burgers, though. Look for the photos in the photo gallery (the link is posted in the beginning of the blog).

After lunch we started heading towards our meeting point, but we were 10 minutes late, because we didn’t realize how far it really was. We weren’t the only group that was confused, though. Kelly C., Mer, Carley and Chelsea never made it, because they thought we were meeting at the same place where we split up originally.

Ryan stayed behind to wait for them while we went sightseeing in the center. Vienna had a LOT of stores so it was easy to get distracted by them and not pay much attention to the actual historical landmarks. Our tour guides didn’t know much about Vienna either so we just ended up walking to the Stephansdom (St. Steven’s Cathedral) and split up from there to do whatever we wanted for three hours. Most girls just went to see the opera house and then shopped for clothes or souvenirs.

Afterwards we had dinner at a restaurant in the center. Everyone got the same thing: the traditional chicken schnitzel with potatoes and a side salad. I love spicy and flavorful foods, so I didn’t think it was that great, but it wasn’t bad either. I’m glad we got to try so many different kinds of dishes on this trip.

After the dinner we went back to the hotel and since we had been up for a long time then everyone just went to bed early.

Liis and Kelly

Friday, March 8, 2013: Slovenia Day Two

This time we had to get up a little earlier to have a short practice and then go sightsee in Maribor. Maribor is a cute little town, and to my (Liis) surprise, it was the European Capital of Culture last year. Usually it’s the bigger cities that get that honor, so it was impressive how this little town got selected to receive this title in 2012. It means that the town will hold all kinds of events throughout the year to attract more tourists. Obviously the city that is selected has to be rich in history to even be considered for the title.

After sightseeing and shopping for about an hour we went back to the hotel. There, we had a few hours to nap or pack or do whatever before leaving for Lake Bled.

The lake was surrounded by a cute small town. The view on the lake was great no matter where you looked at it, but once we got up on top of a cliff and the castle there, we were speechless. The view was something we will never forget. Just imagine a beautiful clear lake with the reflections of the mountains with snowy tops in the back and the red roofs of the small town that surrounds the lake. Another cool thing about Lake Bled is that there’s a tiny island in the middle of the lake and there is a beautiful church on it. Kellie Turner and Kelly C. were having fun with the beautiful swans surrounding the lake. They took a lot of pictures with them. It was quite funny being swarmed with the swans and ducks that weren’t afraid of people at all.

After Lake Bled we drove about 40 minutes away to a school in another small town to play our last match of the trip against another professional team in Slovenia. The girls in this team were anywhere between 16-21 years old, so it was quite a young team. This match was very intense and we ended up winning in five sets. They were the best passing team we had ever seen, so we got frustrated when they dimed our best serves and dug many of the hard hits.

We were all starving after the long match, so our tour guides took us to a local pizzeria. The pizza there was great! Probably even better than in Italy! The initial plan was to visit a local night club in Maribor after our match, but since we got back to our hotel past midnight, then no one felt like going out. Instead, we stayed at the hotel lobby for a little bit, observing the people who were at the prom in the hotel’s gym rooms. All the girls were surprised at how different the music was, how many older people were at the prom and how the girls’ dresses didn’t look anything like they would at the proms in America.

Slovenia has been a blast! From the beautiful mountains, enchanting castles, and welcoming people, both Liis and I can agree that Slovenia has been a wonderful place to visit. After seeing how peaceful and beautiful it is there, many girls said that Slovenia was definitely their favorite part of the whole trip.

Liis and Kelly

Thursday, March 7, 2013: Slovenia Day One

Our first day in Slovenia started with a good breakfast in the hotel restaurant. This was also one of the first days we got to sleep in, so many of us decided to sleep until 12 when we had our first thing of the day planned. I (Liis) went to breakfast around 9:30 and after that spent some time watching the coaches play badminton against our tour guide and his wife. Badminton sounds boring, but if it is played by four very competitive people then it can be very entertaining.

At 12 o’clock, we took a gondola on top of the high ski hill that was right next to our hotel. The view from the top of the hill was unbelievable. The landscape in Slovenia is very hilly and there are many small towns surrounding the area, contributing to the great view.

After admiring the view and taking some photos, we ate at a restaurant on top of that same hill. We had chicken skewers, chicken thighs, beans, sauerkraut, French fries, rice, pork, salad and a simple apple pie. Quite a contrast from the Italian food we had been enjoying for some days! We all liked this authentic Slovenian meal a lot! After lunch, we headed back down on the ski lift and prepared for our match against Nova KBM Branik! We were very excited to see this team because they had a few American players that used to play in some very well-known American universities.

We played at our hotel gym, which was very convenient for us. The Slovenian team had a lot of hard hitters but we were able to compete with them. However, we lost the match 1-3. We gave it our all, so everyone was in a relatively good mood after the match. We grew as a team and learned more about the European playing style. European players put a lot of emphasis on out of system hitting and serving. We definitely struggled with their serving a lot. This must have been the best serving team we had ever played against!

After the match, we all dressed up and drove to a winery about 30 minutes away from the hotel to have dinner with the team we just played. This might have been the best tasting food we had ever had. For appetizers they offered delicious cheese, fresh bread, dried fruit and strawberries. The main meal options were pork in mushroom sauce, chicken covered in pumpkin seeds, potatoes, macaroni salad and semolina balls. For dessert they had a cottage cheese/raisin strudel.

It is crazy to think of everything we have seen, experienced, and learned on this trip. As a college student, I am more aware of the people I meet every day and am always eager to meet new people. Traveling to Europe has given Liis, my teammates and I this once in a lifetime opportunity to make priceless connections all over the world. I could see myself coming back to Europe in the near future because of my love for the people, places, and food!

Adijo from Slovenia,

Kelly and Liis

Video: Shopping In Italy

Wednesday, March 6, 2013: Venice

Ciao! Today Ohio Volleyball toured Venice. It was stunning even though the weather was chilly and rainy. I feel blessed to have been able to tour Venice with my fellow teammates. The day started at 7 a.m. when we had to take a bus to the train station. As we got on the train, we were all excited to see what Venice has to offer.

The train ride lasted about two and half hours. Once we arrived in Venice, we all took off in smaller groups to see all the beautiful buildings, bridges, narrow streets and churches. At first, Meredith, Carley and I toured the streets and looked for the best buys all around Venice. Later I met up with Liis, Kelly Lamberti, Mollie and Kaylee and we continued to walk towards the San Marco Cathedral, which is a must-see in Venice. The church looked amazing and so different from the rest of the town that had small modest buildings and narrow streets. Only Liis and I went into the church, because the other girls had backpacks and they weren’t allowed to enter with them.

The church had gorgeous statues, paintings, golden mosaic ceilings, and beautiful floors. I was amazed by the church and I also sat in an aisle with some other people and prayed. Outside the church, I purchased a pearl cross bracelet for my sister Katie that I'm sure she will love. As a Catholic, I appreciate having the chance to see different historic churches in so many different places in Europe.

For lunch, I went to a small cafe called Café Campo where I had margarita pizza and the most delicious hot chocolate I have ever tasted. The waiter was so nice and good-looking so myself and few of the other girls took a picture with him. Liis went to this local pizzeria with Kaylee, Mollie and Kelly L. that had a very friendly atmosphere and amazing pasta and pizza for a great price compared to the cities we visited before.

After our four hours in Venice we took a train to the Slovenian border and then a 2,5 hour car ride to our hotel. I have never been in a car with such crazy drivers. I can tell you that the traffic wasn’t bad at all, but they were definitely going much faster than they should have. To keep all the parents from having heart attacks, I won’t mention the actual speeds here. ;)

Europe has so much to offer and my day spent with Liis and my teammates is something I will always cherish. Being all the way from California and never having been abroad makes me want to come back to Europe even more! It is a truly enchanting place full of friendly people, unbelievable food, and fantastic shopping!! Tomorrow we will be touring Slovenia!

Arrivederci for now!

Kells and Liis :)

Tuesday, March 5, 2013: On To Milan!

Milan had the most beautiful cathedral I have ever seen. The shopping in Milan is very luxurious with many name brand stores. Liis, Kaylee and I found luck at a clothing store called Bershka, which had two floors of clothes of the latest fashion. Liis and I also had a fashion show in the Bershka dressing room with Liis wearing jeans and a white shirt and me in a black and white dress. We had a lot of fun filming the fashion show and I think Kaylee did too. These two blondes sure know how to work the runway!! :)

After making our purchases on our new fun outfits at Bershka, we quickly hurried to the main area of Milan to meet with the rest of the group. Once we got to the main area, we were then given euros for lunch and instructed to continue to explore all Milan has to offer. For lunch, Liis, Kelly Lamberti, Mollie, Kaylee, Karin and I went to this cute little café. We all had pasta there, and it was delicious. The waiters and waitresses were extremely welcoming and friendly. I practiced my Italian when having normal conversation and ordering food with the servers.

After sightseeing, we left to a small town (Monza), about 40 minutes away from whe
re we stayed in Milan. The gym of Vero Volley, the team we played, was nice and when we got there we saw the end of the practice of their men’s team. The women’s team is undefeated in their division (B2) this year, and will probably move up to division A2 next season.

They were really good, and even though it was close, we didn’t win any sets against them. After playing we had dinner at a very nice restaurant on the way home. Once again, it was a three-course meal starting with a delicious vegetable lasagna, followed by potatoes and pork and finished off by fruit pizza. It was AMAZING.

I feel that after a few days spent in Italy I have a great appreciation for the language and am eager to learn more Italian words and phrases.

- Kelly

Monday, March 4, 2013: Gorgeous Florence and Club Italia

Hey everyone! This morning we left Rome to go visit Florence for a few hours and then head to Milan to play Club Italia. The train ride to Florence took us 1,5h. Interesting fact: the train’s wireless wasn’t free.. I had to use my debit card to buy the 24h access for the unbelievably high price of.. wait for it.. 1 Euro cent!!! I don’t really see why they wouldn’t offer it for free, but I guess I’m not really complaining either :)

In Florence we had about 2,5 hours to do whatever we wanted. We all broke into groups and some of us went sightseeing while some went directly to get lunch. Kelly, Kaylee and I spent a lot of our time at a street market. For the people who have never been to Europe, many bigger cities in here have street markets that sell clothes, bags, scarves, jewelry and other kinds of souvenirs for a relatively cheap price. The sellers in these markets are often overly aggressive, though, and try to take advantage of tourists who are often willing to pay a price that is higher than it should be. Despite my efforts to tell Kelly that, she still ended up buying many things from that market and a lot of the other girls love the markets as well, because they’re great for buying gifts for people back home.

After the market we walked to the Arno river to Ponte Vecchio. It is a really cool-looking bridge. By the time we got there we only had an hour left and had to start heading back to our meeting point, the Duomo di Firenze that is one of the most beautiful churches that I have ever seen, at least from the outside. I doubt any other church can ever beat what we saw in Vatican, but I guess that’s the point. On the way to the Duomo we stopped to get lunch at a local bakery.

I am glad we wandered off to the smaller streets, because the food is never very good around the most touristic areas. I had a delicious Panini with mozzarella cheese and prosciutto and a tasty lemon-raisin pastry. Of course we had to get gelato again. My favorite was the chocolate-orange flavor.After meeting by the Duomo we all took the train to Milan.

Once we arrived in Milan, we had no time to look around, we had to leave for the Italian national training center to play our first match of the trip against Club Italia. This is also where we stay for the next two nights. After our match and winning to sets out of four, we had dinner with the Italian girls. They were so nice, and liked Walt (our assistant coach) a lot. “He is so-a-beautifulll,” is a direct quote from the girls, just add a strong Italian accent to the sentence. All these girls live here, in the center’s dorms, which reminds me of my high school in Estonia. The difference is that my school was located near the training center and all the athletes went there, but here the athletes go to different schools in the city of Milan.

The match and getting to know the girls was a lot of fun. Interesting fact: Their youngest player is 14 years old and the oldest is 18! They are so young, but still ended up winning two and losing two against us, which I think shows how good Italian volleyball really is.Tomorrow we will sightsee in Milan during the day and play a match against a professional volleyball team in the evening.

The weather has been sunny and warm (~60-65 degrees) every day and of course the food is great (I am sure we will regret eating so much bread once we’re back in Athens, though).

I hope you’re all enjoying your spring break!

Liis and Kelly :)

Sunday, March 3, 2013: Sightseeing In Rome

Our day started with an 8 a.m. breakfast in the hotel. The breakfast was nice. There were all kinds of pastries, ham and cheese sandwiches, croissants, at least 10 different kinds of coffee and of course cereal. Right after breakfast we took the metro to the “Colosseo” to have a 3-hour tour of the Coliseum and the Forum. The Coliseum was amazing! Our tour guide Antonio (because what other Italian names are there..) taught us some of the history, while we took a lot of videos and photos of our surroundings.

We also visited the Forum which is tied to the legends of Remus and Romulus. That’s also where the whole city of Rome and the whole modern civilization started, according to some historians. We visited the remaining living rooms of Emperor Augustus, who is known for living until the age of 79, which was an unusually long for an emperor at that time.

After the Forum we went to Piazza Navano, and after having lunch in the surrounding areas we walked to St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City. It looked amazing outside, but the inside is something we had never seen before. There are no words to describe how beautiful it was. The room was huge, and there were so many details to pay attention to. Chelsea, Hannah, Kaylee and Kelly L. went to the top of the Basilica for an amazing view of Rome, while Mollie, Kellie and I were interviewed in the front of the Basilica for a local radio show. They asked us when we think the new Pope will be chosen, what we think of the whole situation and how we like the Vatican.

After visiting Vatican City (which I am sure was everyone’s favorite place in the whole city), we went back to the hotel to get our things for our first volleyball practice in Italy. The gym we practiced in was very small, had low ceilings and a lot of echo. Not to mention the lighting which was less than ideal. There was a group of male volleyball players in the gym before us and we were shocked with their practice outfit choice to say the least. Men should not be wearing shorts this short (or tight) and I swear one of the guys was wearing spandex!! The volleyballs themselves were interesting, too. They were hybrids of the typical molten balls and the international (yellow/navy) balls.

After practice we went to get dinner at the same place as the night before, so we were expecting another 7-course meal. For that reason, we tried to be more careful of our portions, but they “only” offered us five courses this time around (plus our daily extra portion of gelato). What a disappointment! Just kidding, I am pretty sure that one meal still contained the amount of carbs a normal person should have in a WEEK. By the time we got back to the hotel we were all very tired and our feet hurt from walking around the whole day. Nevertheless, this was another great day in Italy and we thank everyone who helped us make this trip a reality!!

Kuller and Kookie :)

Saturday, March 2, 2013: Arriving In Italy

Hello from warm and sunny Italy everyone! Kelly and I (Liis) will be keeping you updated on our trip here in Europe. This trip got interesting already in Columbus when our flight was delayed for about an hour. When we landed in Chicago we couldn’t get to our gate for another hour.

We ended up running to catch our flight to London. I have a lot of experience flying across the Atlantic, and I have taken American Airlines overseas before, so I knew that their bigger planes didn’t have TV screens for every seat, but at least the plane was relatively empty so almost everyone got two seats for themselves. That was nice for sleeping because it was an overnight flight.

The best part of today (Saturday), hands down, was when Kelly left her dear San Francisco pillow-pet on the plane and someone on the team grabbed it and passed it down to me just to see how long it would take her to realize that she had forgotten it. It took her a good 30-40 minutes after leaving the plane to realize that she was missing something plus another five minutes to even pay enough attention to me waving the bear right in front of her face.

“Pizzzzaaaaa! Gelatooo! Chocolate! Look how small the cars here are!” are just some of the examples of what you could hear our group yelling literally every time one of these items came into sight. And just in case you were wondering, the pick-up truck tally is currently at a solid number one. Yep, I thought it would be interesting to see how many of them we would spot here because the size of the cars in Italy is a huge contrast from what you see in the United Stats. P.S. We tried counting the Smart Cars, but that’s just not humanly possible here..

Once we made it to Rome, we went to our hotel, and then walked to go see the Spanish steps and the Trevi fountain. (Here’s a tip: when travelling in Europe and someone is trying to offer you flowers, bracelets, toys etc. on the street, NEVER accept them. Even though they make it seem like they are doing it for free they still expect money for it). We took a lot of photos and videos in these two locations, so I am sure you will see more of them in our blog later when we reach Milan, where we will actually have a steady and free Internet connection. By the Trevi fountain we also took a lot of photos with the locals and had our first Italian gelatos, which were of course AMAZING.

To end our day we went to a restaurant near our hotel to have a late (~9:30 p.m.) dinner. Little did we know that this was going to be a meal of about 7-8 courses. NO, I am not kidding or exaggerating by any means! The restaurant had a family feel and we could tell that our tour guide knew the restaurant owner who was also the only server for the night (keep in mind that we are traveling in a group of 18). To start out, he brought all three tables tons of bread, oil and huge trays of salad with mozzarella and lettuce, to be shared. Then, he came out with parmesan pasta, which we thought wasn’t enough because some people didn’t get any at first, but we were SO wrong to assume the pasta was going to be our last course.

After the pasta came pizza, then more pizza, then potatoes, then chicken thighs and last but not least, a huge tray of beef! I just wish someone had told us what to expect, because by the time we got chicken and beef I couldn’t fit another piece of food in my stomach! We heard that this is how the rest of our trip will be: eating little during the day, and feasting late at night. I think we might even have a competition to see who will gain the most weight by the end of this trip. :)

Now, we are all in our tiny hotel triples with single beds and getting ready to go to bed. Kookie (Kelly Colyar) and I will be keeping you updated every other day, so be sure to check back on the Ohiobobcats.com page or our Facebook page. If you have any questions, photo requests or interesting ideas for videos then just let us know and we will make it happen!

Sending lots of sun to you in Ohio, or wherever this spring break has taken you!

Kelly and Liis :)