North Carolina volleyball student-athletes will be writing blog entries over the next 13 days throughout the Tar Heels' third European Exhibition Tour in Italy and Turkey.
The team will spend time touring and playing in the following cities:
• Istanbul, Turkey
• Izmir, Turkey
• Milan, Italy
• Bolgna, Italy
• Verona, Italy
• Venice, Italy
Stay tuned to GoHeels.com for blog entries, photos and more updates throughout the trip.
WASHINGTON D.C. - Today is a day that I have been eagerly anticipating for many years! When I originally went on my recruiting visit to Carolina, Coach Sagula informed me that the team gets the incredible opportunity to travel and play in Europe approximately every four years. I was obviously ecstatic after hearing this news. Not only do I get the chance to play volleyball for this wonderful university, but I also get the chance to travel abroad? It is safe to say that I was SOLD. Fast forward a little over five years later and I am currently sitting on the bus with my teammates as we head for the airport to begin our journey. Words cannot describe how excited we all are. This trip is going to give us the chance to play against some of the best teams in Turkey and Italy. Going against such great competition is something that we know will help prepare our team for the upcoming season this fall. It is an opportunity that we are very appreciative of.
For many of us, this is our first trip outside of the United States. Getting that chance to experience European culture will be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Visiting places like Istanbul, which was just voted as one of the best places to visit in the world, along with many other cities throughout Italy will be an incredible experience. We are especially excited to be visiting Ece Taner's hometown, Izmir, and we are all looking forward to seeing what her life is like in Turkey. This is going to be a great bonding experience for us and we know that we will come back to the U.S. as a closer and better team, and with many wonderful memories that will last a lifetime. A special thank you to all of those who have donated towards this trip to make it possible! We are extremely grateful to have this opportunity! It's a great day to be a Tar Heel!
The Tar Heels flew from Washington D.C. to Istanbul, where they will spend about a day before heading on to Italy.
ISTANBUL, Turkey - Being that this was my first international flight, I had no idea what was I store for us on our 10 hour flight to Istanbul! Our flight left at 11 p.m. last night, and everyone was pretty exhausted from practice and a long day of traveling to Washington D.C. As soon at the plane took off, I was out and slept for eight hours. Pretty memorable first international plane ride, huh? We got out first taste of Turkish cuisine on the flight, and there were mixed reviews already! Unfortunately I slept through dinner and was not able to try it. Others were not so lucky and spent the 10 hours wandering up and down the aisles and attempting to sleep or watching movies.
We landed around 5 p.m. Turkish time and made it through customs. We then piled into these two vans and headed to the hotel. We immediately put our luggage in our rooms and had a buffet style dinner! There were some Turkish style desserts, meatballs, and potatoes, but they were kind enough to serve some chicken tenders and ketchup for us picky American eaters - haha!
We then headed to practice at Yesilyurt Spor Kulubu. It was cool getting to experience a new gym and different volleyballs. Erik Hernandez, our strength coach, spent a lot of time stretching us out and getting our jet- lagged limbs moving. It was tough practicing right after the long flight, but our bodies will thank us tonight when hopefully we won't wake up at 5 a.m.!
Tomorrow we're off to Milan, Italy - stay tuned for an update from there!
Carolina spent the morning in Istanbul, Turkey, before flying to Milan, Italy, where the team will stay until Sunday.
ISTANBUL, Turkey - Today we had the morning free to walk around and take in the area around our hotel in the suburbs of Istanbul. It was definitely interesting to see the cultural differences from the United States. One of the first things that all of us noticed was that there are stray cats all over the streets! Of course all of the locals do not pay a lick of attention to them, and all of us were freaking out about how cute they were and trying to take pictures with them. It was pretty funny. While walking around in our big groups, we got some interesting looks. Most of us were wearing our UNC Nike athletic shorts, and even though it was warm outside, none of the local Turkish people had shorts on. I don't think they were used to seeing people in them. There were a ton of prom dress and fancy dress shops, shoe shops, and fake brand name purses everywhere.
One of the major difficulties walking and shopping around today was communicating. Not many people spoke English, so it was always a fun game of gestures and a few token phrases each party understood. We wandered to the end of one street where there was a protest happening for a mining accident that occurred a few days ago near Izmir, Turkey. Nearly 300 miners were killed in the accident. The protestors were wearing hard hats, and standing in a large group shouting in Turkish. It was a very sad incident, but it was very a cool experience to see the Turkish people coming together and mourning the losses of the miners and their fellow Turks.
After a short morning of exploring the small suburbs of Istanbul, we packed up and headed to the airport, again. Next stop: Milan. Bustling around the airport without our Ece Taner (who is a native of Izmir, Turkey) was definitely more challenging, but thankfully we were able to find our way through. After landing in Milan, we boarded a bus to our hotel and briefly got ready for a team dinner at the Olympic Training center. We had a delicious three-course meal that consisted of pasta with prosciutto, a pork chop, and fruit with gelato. We adventured home, trying our best to remember the path that we took to get to the training center and thankfully made it back! Tomorrow we get ready to explore the beautiful streets of Milan and prepare for our match against the Italian Junior National team at 5:30 p.m. We can hardly wait! It should be a very exciting match!
Day 4 - Friday, May 16
After a morning spent exploring Milan, Italy, UNC scrimmaged the Italian junior national team, winning the match 3-1 with a solid team effort from all players. The team will spend one more day in Milano, exploring more of the city and playing another match on Saturday, before leaving for Verona and Bologna.
MILAN, Italy - First thing this morning, our entire group boarded the tram and began our adventure in Milan, the fashion capital of the world! After arriving at our destination, the Duomo, we immediately were tourists and began snapping pictures of the beautiful architecture all around us. Some "lucky" individuals, including Paige and Abbey, were given bird food and were instantly surrounded by pigeons- some birds even ate the food directly out of their hands! Needless to say, I was not brave enough to provide my arm as a perch for the pigeons of Milan.
After snapping a few pictures, I headed to the Castello Sforzesco. Before exploring the castle, I enjoyed a local market that was outside the castle. Here I was able to find some neat souvenirs and taste some local food- including a delicious coconut macaroon! Heather, Abbey, Tati and I continued our adventure of Milan at a local café away from the Duomo. We were extremely proud of our discovery of this café because we spent around 5 euros (pretty inexpensive for lunch) each for a delicious panini and drink and were able to enjoy our meal while admiring the Arco della Pace. Lunch was topped off with my first taste of gelato. I went with the chocolate favor and was not disappointed at all! I will certainly be enjoying more gelato while in Italy; it was delicious!
By mid-afternoon, it was time to head back to the hotel and rest up for our match against the Italian junior national team. After a much needed rest, the team headed to the team's facility. Once we arrived, we were all a little uncertain as how things would go because Italians have slightly different match protocols. Luckily, this was a friendly match and things went great! We won the match in four sets (3-1) and had a great time competing against a different style of play than we are used to seeing in the States. After a quick cool down with Erik (our team strenghth coach), the team cleaned up for dinner. We had another great meal at the Italian team's facility, and were ready to head back to the hotel.
Although this was a full day, it would not be complete with getting lost, so Chaniel, Taylor, and I did just that. After dinner we went on another adventure in search of, you guessed it, GELATO! After walking for about fifteen minutes without any success in our search, we figured it would be best to ask directions. Unfortunately none of us speak any Italian, and we were not able to communicate very well. We did find one man who was helpful until he instructed us by saying to turn left. We were slightly concerned because he said this while pointing right. Luckily, with a little positive thought, we turned a corner (one that I could not find again if I tried) and came across GELATO! We devoured our dessert and made our way back to the hotel.
It was a jammed pack day of adventures and it is time to rest up for another exciting day. Like always, it was a great day to be a Tar Heel!
Day 5 - Saturday, May 17
The team spent its second full day in Milan, taking the morning to explore the city some more before playing a second match against the Italian junior national team. The Tar Heels' won Friday's match 4-1 but were swept 3-0 today. On Sunday, Carolina will bus to Bologna with a stop in Verona planned along the way.
MILAN, Italy - My second day in Milan consisted of some adventures and two lessons learned. Sleeping in this morning was great, but I couldn't even force myself to sleep any longer because I knew there was so much to see. I was a little nervous to take the tram into town without Tim (our tour guide) there to say "here is our stop," so I sat there staring out of the window anxiously waiting for our stop. Chaniel, Victoria and I went to the Duomo di Milano, which was one experience I will always remember. The biggest thing that stood out to me was the stainless glass that was on each wall. It had to be the most beautiful thing I have seen in my life. Also, I never knew they preserved the arch bishops, and we were able to view the body of three. I took a step back to observe the many people who walked in front of me and paid their respect by either praying or lighting a candle.
After viewing the duomo, we were on a mission to find, GELATO!! Yes, I have fallen in love with the Italian ice cream (sorry Coach!). The girls and I pushed our way through the crowd to find the cheapest gelato possible, and man, was it worth it! After my day was made with some wonderful lemon and strawberry gelato, we made our way back to the hotel to rest up for the game. Here is where I think we all learned two valuable lessons. We didn't win today, and dropping all three sets to a team we beat 4-1 yesterday was a bit heartbreaking.
Lesson number one, don't take beating a team once for granted because they will just want to beat you 10 times more. And lesson number two, no matter how tired you are or how bad your body hurts, it's never an excuse. Just like Coach Eve tells us during our regular season, every team is tired in October, but the team that is willing to fight through the pain and grind will succeed in the end. Today we faced some adversity, but I think during the season we will all look back at this game and never let it happen again.
Day 6 - Sunday, May 18
The team left Milan Sunday morning and stopped in Verona for a short visit before heading on to Bologna, where the Tar Heels will spend time touring on Monday morning before playing another match at night.
BOLOGNA, Italy - Milan, Verona and Bologna all in one day. Not bad, huh? We loaded the bus this morning in Milan after surviving the outlasting effects of the city's first "taxi strike" in over two years. What a perfect night for the team to be 45 minutes away from the hotel with the only words in our Italian repertoire being "toilette" and "gelato." (Both which we awkwardly find ourselves trying to throw an authentic accent on as if to disguise the fact that we are American tourists. It doesn't work.) The language barrier didn't quite alleviate the situation and made it pretty difficult for everyone to communicate with the locals with the exception of Berringer. The situation revealed not only that Kayla can find a way to talk to anyone, at anytime, but also a solution to the much-dreaded beep test. If Coach, Erik and Greg want us to improve on our running times, nothing brings a team closer or makes us move faster than trying to chase down disinterested cab drivers.
We made it to Verona by bus in about two hours. It didn't take long for the city to become nearly the whole team's favorite spot thus far in the trip. After lunch and a couple hours of exploring, we got back on the bus and headed for Bologna where we concluded the day with a five-course meal. To be painfully honest, before tonight, most of our bodies were running on purely gelato and carbohydrates. We have decided it is for the best that our nutritionist, Mary Ellen, didn't accompany us on the trip, as I doubt she'd be able to look at us the same again. But to be fair, we are merely just trying to uphold American stereotypes... Prego?
One last thing to note is Europe's neglect of ice (more upsetting for our joints than the drinks) and its disinterest in air conditioning in the gyms. The excessive sweat calls for us to take action immediately and while most have decided to hand wash their dry fit t-shirts in the sink, another option is Kaitlyn's approach. Kait showed the team a new way to do it when she gracefully chucked a dri fit in the trash can after deciding there was no chance for revival. The owner of the disposed shirt will remained unnamed for the sake of this blog.
On a serious note, we will continue to grow together as a team on the court and individually off the court as young women. My sister told me a couple days before we left that the lesson of humility is one of the most important you can learn, and I'd venture to say that traveling abroad has given me a taste of that lesson. The world extends far beyond the city limits of Chapel Hill and is much bigger than my narrow perception of reality. The process of that perception being broadened is rewarding and, above all, humbling.
To our donors, thank you.
To our loved ones, we love you.
And to those of you who we are lucky enough to have that are both, a note of gratitude and touristy souvenir will never be enough to repay you, but it's a start.
Italy is amazing, but I may be a little biased -as always... Go Heels, Go America!
Day 7 - Monday, May 19
Carolina volleyball spent the day touring Bologna before playing the San Lazzaro VIP team. Although San Lazzaro won the hard-fought match 3-2, the Tar Heels made many new friends and had a great experience with the welcoming and hospitable host team.
BOLOGNA, Italy - We started the day off with a delicious breakfast in our hotel and then headed to the center of the city to meet our tour guide at the beautiful Neptune statue. We followed our guide through the city and listened to the history and stories associated with many different buildings. My favorite was being taken into a little hidden church and seeing the many powerful paintings and statues.
After leaving our guide we took the bus to the other side of the city. Then our journey up 504 steps began. We had some brave Tar Heels that decided to sprint up the steps and wait for the rest of us at the top. After going up what felt like a thousand steps, we turned a corner and to our delight found another "thousand" waiting for us. After climbing the remainder of the steps, we made it to the top. The burning quads and calves were definitely forgotten when we caught a glimpse of what seemed like heaven. Over the edge of one side of the Sanctuary of the Madonna di San Luca we admired the entire city of Bologna. On the other was a view of hills covered in beautiful trees and other foliage.
Once we were done snapping pictures we had lunch at a cute restaurant near the basilica. We then were given a few hours to shop and explore the city before heading to play San Lazzaro VIP. We received a big welcome with many "ciaos" by the team when we arrived. The first set was a little bit of a wake up call for us, but the next four sets we showed up to compete. Once we were done playing, we had enjoyed a dinner with the team. We met a lot of new friends, took some pictures, and exchanged our North Carolina volleyball shirts with their San Lazzaro VIP volleyball shirts. One of the coaches knew the way to our hearts when he brought out the desserts. Our faces lit up as we tasted each of the treats they placed in front of us.
But that wasn't the last surprise of the night. It didn't take us long to notice one of the Italian players walking around with a bag of ice. We immediately jumped up off the ground and tracked down the ice. After placing the ice on our sore body parts, we all had expressions of relief on our faces. Ice has never felt so good.
We thanked the Italians and began waiting for the bus back to our hotel. We were given extra ham sandwiches from the dinner to take with us, and Coach Eve decided to turn the sandwiches into a team bonding experience. Each person had to hold the sandwiches for one minute with the option of attempting to eat an entire sandwich in one minute. On the bus ride back to the hotel, Professor Navalinsky was the only one up for the challenge. He bit into the six-inch sub while we all chanted "BIG NAV! BIG NAV!" Unfortunately, he wasn't able to successfully complete the challenge, and our team bonding was brought to a hilarous end.
We are now on our way back to the hotel and are definitely ready for a good night's rest. But we can't go to sleep with out a little gelato! Despite already having had dessert, this gelato is necessary to celebrate Sheila Doyle's 19th birthday today. :)
As always, today was a great day to be a Tar Heel!
Day 8 - Tuesday, May 20
The Tar Heels spent their last day of the Italy leg of this trip in Venice on Tuesday. The team will fly out to Istanbul, Turkey, Tuesday evening and spend two days there before leaving for Izmir.
VENICE, Italy - Today we started off by taking a train two hours to Venice. During the ride we could see the Sanctuary of the Madonna di San Luca, which we climbed 504 stairs to get to yesterday afternoon. The view was just as beautiful from the train as it was 504 steps up!
When we got to Venice, we had about three hours to get explore the city before we met on the water to take a few team pictures. My group, Hayley, Chaniel, Tatiana, Abbey, Shelia, and Heather, took that time to shop for ourselves and our friends and families. We saw so many cute hole-in-the-wall shops with trinkets and glass jewlery - it was hard not to stop every few seconds to explore what was inside. Masks are big in Venice, and we saw plenty of them in almost every store along the way (team masquerade ball soon?!).
I knew I'd want to get some pictures today, so I brought out my good camera and decided to be the photographer of the group. Two thousand pictures and a lot of "Vic! Get this!" later, and I think today was a success.
After shopping, I got a fish pedicure. Yes, fish. They're called Garra Rufa fish, and they waited for me in a tub of cool water to basically make my feet smoother. They tickled me a little bit, but it was actually really relaxing and yes, my feet are, in fact, smoother. I would say it was a well spent 10€. I highly recommend it!
Overall, Italy was good to us. I'm officially done shopping for gifts. On the other hand, the rest of my money has gone toward gelato. I'm coming in at a grand total of five so far. Or maybe six!
Day 9 - Wednesday, May 21
After six days in Italy, the Carolina volleyball team returned to Istanbul, Turkey, Tuesday night. The Tar Heels scrimmaged the Yesilyurt Spor Kulubu team Wednesday evening and won the match 3-1. The team will head to Izmir, hometown of senior Ece Taner, on Thursday and will stay there for the remainder of the trip.
ISTANBUL, Turkey - Today started off with a change in pace with a new type of breakfast food at the hotel to which we needed to adjust. There are no more labels to help us identify what our options are, and the breakfast items in Turkey are a bit more foreign and harder to identify. Needless to say, we don't know what everything we ate this morning, but it was good.
After breakfast, we loaded up the charter bus to visit the Blue Mosque. We all had head coverings and thought we were dressed appropriately to respectfully enter a mosque, but as Paige and Jojo learned in line, we were wrong. The majority of us donned yoga pants. Apparently some were tighter than others, so coverings had to be worn as skirts in order to look more conservative. We found out that T-shirts aren't typical mosque attire as some of us had to wear another covering over our arms, so as we entered, some ended up being covered head to toe with coverings given to us by the mosque staff. The inside of the mosque was absolutely beautiful, however, going barefoot on the carpet inside the mosque with a large amount of other tourists wasn't exactly everyone's cup of tea.
After visiting the Blue Mosque, we were able to view the Hagia Sofia across the way. Going inside this famous mosque cost a little north of some of our price ranges, so we settled for pictures outside. We did find enough money to spend at the Great Bazar, which is essentially a large market that sells things ranging from tiny string bracelets to high-end bags and other expensive name brand products - the debate over the authenticity of the latter is still ongoing within the team.
After we shopped till we dropped, a group of eight of us decided to take a break and enjoy fine Turkish cuisine... in Turkey they call it "Burger King." After our meal, it was time to head back to our hotel. We found we had taken a bit more detours than we thought, so we had to flag down a cab to see if they could take us back to our hotel. We ended up finding ourselves in a real-life game of Crazy Cabbie as the driver bobbed, weaved and sped his way through the city. He got us back to our hotel in one piece, though, and we all indulged in a much-needed nap to get ready for our match tonight.
After a short rest, we drove back into Instanbul to meet our opponent, Yesilyurt Spor Kubulu, for the first time. We arrived there a few minutes early and were watching some younger volleyball players, about the age of high school, practicing and playing. Ece then informed us that the team we are playing are the same girls we were watching. What! We are playing teenagers? The talent that the young ladies had amazed us. We we ended up winning the match in four sets. Go Heels! The girls on the other team were kind and were very appreciative to play us. We traded t-shirts and were able to take some pictures with them before returning to the hotel for dinner and a night in to rest after another eventful day in Europe!
Day 10 - Thursday, May 22
The Tar Heels spent the morning in Istanbul, taking a boat tour out of the Golden Horn into the Bosphorous River, before heading to Izmir, which is the hometown of senior Ece Taner. The team will spend the remainder of their trip here in Izmir.
IZMIR, Turkey - Today was a very special day for me. We started our day off with an awesome private boat ride across the Bosphorous River in Istanbul. The yali's and the Ciragan Palace seemed to take everyone's breath away. After our short boat trip, we took a stroll around the streets of Sultan Ahmet, and some of the pushy vendors would refer to some of us as Lady Gaga and Michelle Obama to catch our attention. Some of the girls ended up eating at a very small and traditional restaurant that served Turkish cuisine, but I thought it was interesting how everyone at the table ordered a chicken skewer. Overall, our time in Istanbul was well spent. In just a short amount of time, we covered a lot of ground and found some interesting things to take back to America.
After our boat ride, we headed to the airport and departed for my hometown, Izmir. I've been waiting for this day for a very long time and was so excited to have the team in my home. My mom prepared a special dinner for us, which included traditional Turkish dishes. Her cheesecakes were definitely the most popular course!
Following our dinner, we took a walk down Kordon, which is located near the water. I was so happy when everyone came up to me and said how beautiful they thought the city was. Since I became a Tar Heel, I've felt so welcomed and accepted by my team, and today I had a chance to show them the same hospitality. For the past three years, I have had the opportunity to experience their perspective, and now for the first time, I was lucky enough to show them mine. I'm so grateful for this opportunity.
Right now, were on the way to Cesme. Tomorrow will be a very busy but exciting day ahead of us!
Day 11 - Friday, May 23
The Tar Heels had the opportunity to visit the Basilica of St. John and the ruins of Ephesus on Friday before playing a match against Ece Taner's former club team, Issikent, at her high school in Izmir. UNC closed out its spring season and tour play with a 3-1 win.
CESME, Turkey - Last night upon arriving in Cesme and settling into our hotel, we were unable to see the ocean and all of the town's beauty. However, this morning we awoke to the sound of the waves crashing on the shore, birds chirping, a fresh sea breeze, and a remarkable view. We started off our day by eating a traditional Turkish breakfast on the hotel's patio overlooking the waves. Just as every other day in our travels, we experienced new foods and encountered different methods of preparation. For example, this morning we ate something called a three minute egg. It looked like a hard boiled egg that you might find in America, however it was quite different than what we expected. While eating, we were greeted by a couple of cute stray kittens; some sweet, some not so sweet. They took a liking to the many cat lovers on the team.
After breakfast, we started our trip to Ephesus, the fourth biggest and oldest civilization in the world. The bus ride was much longer than expected; therefore, it was a constant struggle for each of us to keep our eyes open and give our undivided attention to our very outgoing Turkish tour guide. In order to not be disrespectful, the sleeping tactic of choice was to avoid direct eye contact with the use of sunglasses. During the battle with our eyelids, we were able to gather lots of good information about the long history of Turkey.
After our two hour bus trip, we arrived in Ephesus. We can speak for everyone when we say it was an incredible site to see. As we walked through, we saw the beautiful architecture and were able to appreciate the intricate details that it included. We snapped a few team pictures along the way which included one in front of the city's library. The library, amazingly, was still in fair condition as well as the coliseum, where gladiators and wild animals would fight and kill Christians. Some interesting things that we encountered were intelligence games, similar to chess, that were engraved into various marble passageways around the city. In addition, we saw symbols that were secretly engraved by Christians into marbles to let their presence in the city be known by other Christians. We were also able to see the traditional "wash room" used by citizens and were intrigued when we heard that many people had their slaves sit on the "toilets," otherwise known as holes, in the cold winters before they needed to use them so they would be warm. Lastly, we were able to see the Virgin Mary's house from a distance and the location of one of the seven wonders of the world.
After wandering through several shopping areas, we made our way to a beautiful restaurant tucked away in the hills. The meal was home cooked and buffet style. We were served traditional Turkish dishes and everyone seemed to really enjoy their meal. Although the meal was delicious, Ece's mother's meal on Friday night takes the cake, literally.
After eating, we traveled to Ece's high school and were welcomed by her old teachers and classmates. We exchanged our jerseys for their t-shirts and enjoyed a wonderful dinner in the school's courtyard following the match. Most importantly, we won 3-1. Go Heels!
The trip is coming to a close and we are all so grateful that we have has this wonderful opportunity to see some amazing things. We concluded our last match of the spring season today, and we are all looking forward to our last day lounging on the beach and enjoying each other's company. The good times and laughs continue.
Day 12 - Saturday, May 24
After a very busy 11 days of travel, playing and sightseeing, the Tar Heels had a day to relax at the beach and explore Cesme before the Taner family hosted the team for a wonderful and delicious farewell dinner at their beach home in Cesme.
CESME, Turkey - Today, for the most part, we spent the day relaxing on the beach in the back of our hotel. It was also our first day on our trip to sleep in, which made everyone very happy. We had perfect weather today with not a cloud in the sky. The hotel was perfect for us. There was a beautiful pool and sandy beach with chairs looking over the Aegean Sea. Some of us also took a walk down the shore, where there were cafes, shops, and other hotels. Some people decided to go into downtown Cesme to eat lunch and shop around for couple hours and others decided to stay on the beach and relax. After such a long trip of site seeing and walking, this day was much needed! We all really enjoyed ourselves today as a team. We took many pictures, went swimming, and sun tanned, listened to the techno music playing from the hotel and Abby and Kayla rode jet skies, which looked like a blast. It was great team bonding time for us.
Some of us who decided not to go into Cesme for lunch walked down Yildiz Burnu and had kumru (a special sandwich that has excellent sesame bread. The bread originated from Cesme, which makes it so special). The sandwich has meat that tastes somewhat like a hot dog, tomato, and fried cheese. With our sandwiches we had fresh lemonade (the waiters told us we had to have it), and it was some of the best lemonade I have ever tasted. We had a beautiful view at lunch looking over the Aegean Sea. Cesme is awesome - wherever you go the scenery is always breathtaking, and you cannot help but to take a picture every time.
To finish up a great day, we all went to Ece's beach house for a barbeque. Her house is beautiful! It looks over the sea with mountains and other houses in the background. Ece and her family have been so kind and welcoming to us, and I would like to say thank you so much from all of us! They have made our Turkish experience more than we could ask for. Her mom has had each one of us practically in food comas every time we ate. Tonight for dinner, Ece's dad wanted to surprise us with some American food so he made hamburgers. Before the hamburgers we had traditional Turkish appetizers and stuffed mussels, which everyone LOVED! And of course for dessert, we had Mrs. Taner's famous lemon cheesecake and baklava. Today was truly the best way to end such an extraordinary trip!
WASHINGTON D.C. - We are officially back in the U.S. and tired from all of our wonderful adventures and the 10-hour plane ride! Overall, the trip to Italy and Turkey was a huge success! It was an amazing experience and something none of us will ever forget. The purpose of this trip was not just to prepare the team for the upcoming season, but also to give the players and staff the opportunity to experience new culture and to bond on a whole new level. It's safe to say that all of these goals were accomplished over the course of these past two weeks.
Through the duration of the trip, we were able to visit some amazing cities, try new foods, play international volleyball, and manage to grow the already tight knit Carolina volleyball family even closer. Just a few of the top highlights from the trip were the Duomo di Milano and shopping in Milan, the wonderful day spent in Verona, climbing 504 steps in Bologna, the gondola ride through the canals of Venice, the boat ride around the Bosphorus Straight in Istanbul, getting to go to the home of Ece Taner, and we can't forget the most important part of the trip, playing volleyball against some new competition! It was nice to know that after a busy two weeks with so much travel, we've grown even closer as a team now.
This trip has been an experience of a lifetime, and we are so fortunate to have had this opportunity. We are so appreciative of the staff, athletic department, and donors for making this trip possible. We have looked forward to this trip for so long, and with all expectations surpassed, it's sad that it's all over! This trip is something that we all heard about during our recruiting visits and something that you look forward to right from the start of coming into the volleyball program. This whole year, especially this spring, we were all constantly talking about this trip and building up the anticipation. In the end, this trip surpassed my expectations. This trip has been so wonderful, and I know for me, it has just been the icing on the cake from my amazing four years of being a part of the Carolina volleyball family!