Volleyball Postcard From Europe
The Cal Volleyball team is on a two-week tour of Europe, playing matches against various pro and club teams while getting a cultural education in the process. Each day, a different member of the program is blogging about the team’s experiences.
To finish up this wonderful two-week Europe trip, we all went to visit one of the most beautiful national parks: Plitvicka Lakes. This was a full-day experience, so I am just going to start from the beginning. We started our day off with a big breakfast at the Sheraton Hotel in Zagreb. We all were very happy to also have pancakes, bacon, sausages, scrambled eggs, and grilled vegetables. Since we had a filling breakfast, we were prepared for the 2 1/2-hour bus ride to this national park in Croatia. The bus ride was long but nothing we were not used to, and because we left around 10 everyone was asleep on the bus.
Once we arrived I had to gather myself along with the rest of my teammates. It was like waking up all over again expect this time we woke up with an adventure ahead of us. Once we all got off of the bus we were bombarded with children. There were about 10 or more different children’s groups on a field trip to this national park at the same time as us. They were everywhere and they all looked at us in awe because we were so tall.
Once we found some space to meet, we discussed our game plan for the day. Our coaches told us that we would be walking for about three hours. When I heard that all I could think about was how much pain I would be in by the end of this hike. After hearing how long our day was going to be, our tour guide informed us that there was a place to go get food from, so a bunch of us went to go buy snacks for the hike. Now that we were all settled for the hike, we all endured the path together.
When we started off on this path I was pretty nervous because it seemed unstable. The path was made out of pieces of wood and nails. Every piece of wood was a different size and every nail seemed to be placed randomly with no order at all. As we walked along the path, we walked over clear blue water with fish that were very still. The waterfalls all looked different. Some were in layers, others were very tall, and some just flowed like a river that continued to the next drop-off.
Seeing all of these different formations of waterfalls and the nature on my side was jaw-dropping. As we walked along, there were certain places where the trees parted, creating the best photo opps that we all took advantage of! My team and I, especially me, love to take pictures so we had some frequent stops to try to capture them in a lifetime experience.
Since this was a three-hour walking tour, about halfway to the end we had to stop and take a boat to the other half of the park. At the loading dock there was a souvenir shop where I stopped to buy more gifts along with a few other people. We (Christina, Alyssa and I) were so distracted with the gifts that we almost missed the boat. As we were buying my gifts we heard that everyone was boarding the boat, so we had to sprint out of the shop to make it to the boat in time.
The boat ride was filled with children. They all spoke a different language and two of them practiced their English on my coach, Jenn, and took a selfie with her. Selfies are taken everywhere around the world! We got off of the boat and explored the rest of park, but as we were walking I got tired and thought it was time to go. My hips started to hurt along with my feet and legs.
As we finished the park we took the rest of our pictures and then walked up this long, windy path through the woods to catch the tram that would take us back to the bus. We finally made it and caught the tram and it was only about a 10-minute ride back to our bus. The only problem was once we got to the bus we had to wait for the rest of the group who were behind us. We were waiting for 30 minutes for the rest of the people but had no way of getting in contact with them. After finally getting in contact with Rich, we find out that they were waiting at a different drop-off spot so we got on the bus and picked them up from where they were.
We finally had everyone on the bus so we went to go get a late lunch around 3 p.m. and stuffed our faces. I had fried zucchini and a fried chicken dish with ham and cheese inside. To finish my meal I had an apple pie and others had chocolate crepes. Some had a meat platter, and soups and spit duck. It was all food Croatia is known for. By the time we were finished eating, it was about 4:30 so we loaded the bus and once again everyone slept for the two-hour bus ride back to the hotel. Once we arrived, our coach told us dinner was at 8. Everyone was so full from lunch that no one could even think about another meal.
I went to my room with my roommate Laura and we both showered and got ready for dinner and relaxed as much as we could before we had to leave again. We all walked to a restaurant that Lara’s mom, who is from Zagreb, recommended and set up dinner for us there. They brought out three different appetizers - a salad, a meat dish and then bread to finish everything off. We were all so full from lunch that we could barely eat anything after the appetizers. The appetizers contained a baked cottage cheese dish, a shrimp dish and pasta with mushroom sauce dish. The meat dish was a platter with veal, potatoes, grilled chicken, and mixed grilled vegetables. It was all very delicious, but because of the big and late lunch I had just a bite of everything.
After all of the fun adventures, our Europe trip has come to an end. We experienced every type of food, living arrangements, wi-fi struggles and team bonding. This trip was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I could not imagine doing it with anybody else. This has been a trip that most people do not get to do and these last two weeks could not have been spent better. I love my team and GO BEARS!
Hey there Cal Fans!Today, we have finally reached our final destination, my hometown Zagreb. We left Maribor early in the morning and set off for Zagreb. I was really excited to go home and see my friends and family after a whole semester, but I was even more excited to show my teammates where I come from.
After settling down at the Sheraton hotel (one of the best hotels in the city), we had an hour break to grab lunch and explore the city. We ended up at McDonalds, of course! After a nice American lunch, we met Hana Ćutura (a former Cal volleyball player, also from Zagreb) and her dad Zoran, who gave us a magnificent historical tour of Zagreb.
Halfway through the tour, I met up with my dad and my dog, Neo. It felt so good to see them after five long months of being a Bear at Cal. My dad and Neo joined us for the rest of the tour. As I was walking with our group, I felt more as a tourist than a local. I guess I need a few more days to become full Croatian again.
My teammates were able to see Zagreb’s main square with the big statue of ban Josip Jelačić in the middle, the old city (which is placed on a hill and is a pedestrian zone only) with the famous church of Saint Marko, the cathedral, and many other monuments. Also, we chose the perfect time to visit Zagreb as it is in the middle of a street festival called “Cest is d’Best” and there are concerts or some other kinds of performances all over downtown.
The next stop was dinner. We ate at a cute little restaurant inside the Archeological Museum of Zagreb. I was so happy to eat delicious Croatian food, and so were my teammates as I could tell by the perfectly clean plates after our meal. We also had a surprise cake for Olivia’s (Lillian sister’s) 19th biirthday.
After dinner, we enjoyed a little more of the fun street concerts on the main squares.
By Marlee Davis
Hey Cal Fans! Today we spent another amazing day in Slovenia! After breakfast, the team loaded a bus headed to the city center of Maribor. There, we were led on a walking tour of the city, led by a local Slovenian. It was interesting to experience a local Slovenian town, instead of some of the more crowded tourist destinations we have seen thus far.
After the tour, our group split up, free to explore the city on our own. Some people went to a museum that housed the oldest grapevine in the world, while others, like myself, sat at the numerous cafes throughout the city and enjoyed an Espresso. Mary, Lillian, Marlee, Maddy and I sat along the river for over an hour, drinking coffee and chatting about our trip and plans for the future. Once we had all finished our drinks, we continued walking through the city, stopping in local jewelry and clothing stores. At noon, we all headed back to the hotel where another delicious meal was waiting for us.
At 3 p.m., the team reconvened at the gym, where we played the Chinese Junior National Team. It was a great experience to play such a talented international team, and although we lost, we improved in each set and had a great time playing with each other. After the game, all the girls got dressed up for our team dinner on top of a beautiful mountain in Maribor. Once everyone was ready, we all loaded a bus, headed to the restaurant that had spectacular views of the Slovenia countryside. Sitting with our whole group around a table while enjoying delicious food and conversation, the night was a highlight of the trip.
Now, all the girls are settled back into our apartments at the base of the ski run in Maribor. Some of us are reading, while others are talking and taking advantage of the fast Wi-Fi.
Tomorrow, we have a team breakfast and play the French Junior National Team. I can’t wait to spend another day with great people in an awesome place. Go Bears!
By Sarah Cole
After our relaxing beach day in beautiful Bibione, the Bears all collected in one of the bungalows for a night filled with card games, laughter, and team bonding. You would think that after spending nearly every day of the year together, there wouldn’t be much left to learn about each other. But somehow these past several days have managed to bring us closer than ever.e
The next morning we rose early to enjoy a buffet breakfast, which had to be replenished by the chef about as many times as the number of players on the team. We then headed out to the beach to get a few more hours of sunshine in before the long travel day ahead of us. The bus drove up, we loaded it up, and we were off to Slovenia.
Not sure what to expect, most of us assumed this leg of the trip would be the least exciting. Switzerland had its famous cheese and Italy had Espresso on every corner, but what would Slovenia have? Meat - something most of us Division I athletes from America have been sorely missing thus far. We finally arrived at our first stop in Bled, Slovenia, and rushed off the bus.
Sabrina, Laura, and I walked in one direction until we appeared to be on the edge of civilization. Then we strolled back along the water of Lake Bled, which reminded me of Lake Geneva in Montreux. Several of the restaurants we passed had pictures of a cream cake that seemed to be a traditional Slovenian dessert. We found a place with an outdoor patio overlooking the lake and ordered a chocolate cream cake with cappuccinos to finish off our time in Bled. We returned to the bus for our short bus ride to Maribor.
Well, closed tunnels turned that short ride into a great deal of suspense as we waited ever so patiently for the upcoming dinner. Hungry, tired, and a little cranky, the team finally arrived at our hotel. Or should I say resort. Any complaints we could have possibly dreamt up all vanished as we explored the luxurious apartment-like rooms we are currently in. Everything is sleek and spacious; the elevator even has touchscreen floor buttons! As if this wasn’t enough, we then walked over to the playing facility, which is inside of our coaches’ hotel, and entered the most delicious looking buffet dinner I’ve ever laid my eyes on. Three different kinds of meat, salad, potatoes, and rice made for a very happy Cal volleyball team. More satisfied than ever, and raving about the best accommodations we could imagine, the team returned to our resort and slept the night away, anxious for the next day's ropes course.
A very good night from the Bears!
I have the pleasure of letting you all in on the exciting details of my favorite day of the trip thus far. Bibione, Italy is a beautiful little beach town an hour or so outside of Venice. The weather is warm and cools off significantly at night. The town isn’t very big, which made it easy to get around and explore a little bit. After our long travel day, everyone was in agreement that a day at the beach was just what we needed.
The hotel in Bibione was not your average hotel. We stayed at a huge resort, which housed us all in individual cabins spread across a campground. The bungalows had living rooms, kitchens and multiple bedrooms, so we all had fun running from house to house all across the property. The walk to the beach was only a couple minutes through the grounds, in which we passed tennis courts, two pools, and restaurants. Once you reached the sand the activities were neverending. Twenty sand volleyball courts set up as well as sand soccer, a bike path extending the whole length of the beach, and rows and rows of lounge chairs to sit at the beach to lay and enjoy the weather.
Rich made everyone’s day by not setting a breakfast time. No alarms or an early morning makes for 13 happy girls! We all started our days at different times (I slept till 1 p.m.)! Some of the girls walked into town and explored the shops and got gelato. Some went for a bike ride, riding for thirty minutes in one direction and never even reaching the end of the beach. The group came back together for lunch at the beachside restaurant. After fueling up, the majority of us headed out to the beach.
The coaches didn’t expect any of us to play any volleyball on our day off but as soon as they started a game, we couldn’t resist. The competition was fierce and everyone including parents and coaches were diving all over the sand. After an intense game we adjourned to the lounge chairs to read and nap in the sunshine. The water was quite cold but many brave souls (not including myself) went for a swim in the gorgeous blue water.
Preferring the heated pools to the cold ocean water, a few of us made our way back to the swimming pools. One of the two pools had a four-story high water slide, and let me tell you, it was the best thing ever. Both Sabrina and I have GoPro cameras that are in waterproof cases so of course we utilized them. We talked to the guy working the slide and he said you go the fastest if you lay on your stomach head first. He was not kidding. Marlee and I thought it would be a good idea to lay one on top of the other so that with more weight we would hopefully go even faster. Faster doesn’t even begin to cover it. Almost flying out of the slide on every turn we made it safely into the pool at the bottom, all caught on camera. The video we took can be found on the Cal Volleyball Instagram page and if you’re in the mood for a good laugh it’s worth checking out. After many laughs along with a few bumps and bruises, we wrapped up our swim when the afternoon tropical storms came rolling through.
The Bears had an amazing day of fun and relaxation at the beach. We are well rested and ready for the second half of our trip. Stay tuned and Go Bears!
By Maddy Kerr
On Friday, we spent the day exploring Venice, Italy. That statement in itself explains that we had an eventful and fun-filled day. However, I will attest that it was the busiest day of our trip so far, and personally, maybe in my entire life. In one day, we went from Milan to Venice to Bibione and traveled on buses, trains, and boats. It was the Cal volleyball version of Planes, Trains, and Automobiles.
We started off the morning with an 8 a.m. bus leaving Milan. If you know anything about our team, you know that is not a good start. We have a lot of late sleepers and grumpy risers. So when I tell you the three-hour bus ride was dead silent, I am not exaggerating at all. Everybody, including Ben, passed out for the first two hours. The last hour was spent in worry, as our Italian bus driver had no idea where we were going and we were convinced we would be stuck in the middle of nowhere in Italy, with nothing but each other. Sounds like a horror story!
Anyway, he got us to the train station as our train was pulling up, and we literally sprinted from the bus to the train. Once we weary travelers made it on the train, half of us needed to use the restroom. We learned, to our dismay, that there was only one bathroom for all six train cars. It was simply delightful, and you can imagine how joyous and glad we all were at this point. We also learned that the locals make a habit of standing in line in the place of two or three people, so when we thought we were third in line, it meant we were about 10 people back. It was an enlightening experience, really.
We got off the train in Venice and everybody was starving. Some people wandered toward San Marco Square, the center of the town to sit down for lunch. But I would’ve eaten my (or anybody else’s) left hand at that point, so I, along with a few others, sprinted to the first pizza shop I saw and got a slice of pepperoni pizza and a gelato. Most satisfying meal of the entire trip.
From then, we headed toward San Marco Square – a walk that Rich assured us would be 20-30 minutes long. So after an hour and a half of wandering through the crowded, maze-like streets of Venice, I decided that despite what everybody has ever told me about the magic and beauty of Venice, I would never return or even think about it for as long as I lived. However, once we got to San Marco Square, I changed my mind. It was beautiful. After paying two Euros to use the restroom, I, along with Alyssa, Jenelle, Christina, Lara, and Laura, found a place to sit looking out over the water and the beautiful architecture on the canals of Venice. It might be the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen. The weather was perfect and the water was clear and turquoise. We walked over to the Rialto, a huge, beautifully constructed bridge with the best view of all time, looking out over a busy canal surrounded by incredible architecture.
We headed back to our meeting spot to leave to go to Bibione, and on the way, we came across a peculiar pedicure shop. Apparently it’s the next big thing. You stick your feet in a tub of fresh water full of tiny fish that nibble on your feet, “eating off the dead skin” and leaving your feet incredibly smooth. It was pretty disgusting, but it tickled and was kinda funny, so it was a good experience.
After that, we left and bussed to Bibione, ate dinner, and, exhausted, went to sleep.
That’s all for now! Go Bears!
By Nikki Gombar
Today we were given a lot of free time to visit Milan before our game at 6:30 p.m., which everyone completely used. I was very excited to see my parents yesterday after being away from them since winter break. They arrived in Milan yesterday and will stay with us for the whole week.
We all woke up early and took the tram into the center of the city. Once there we divided into a few groups: some went straight for coffee, some went to the castle (my parents and me included) and the coaches rented bikes. We did not visit the castle rooms but we saw the inside, the moat, the courtyard and the amazing park behind it. After leaving the castle I ran into one of my high school friends that now goes to University in Milan. My friend, Francesco, took Mary, Adrienne, Maddy and me for coffee in this pretty shop across from the Oprah House. I then reached my parents for some fashionable shopping and bought two pairs of sandals for the summer. Subsequently I went to a late lunch with my mom and dad to enjoy some seafood starters and pizza; food is always good in Italy. Before heading back to the hotel we took some pictures at the fabulous Duomo and neat Galleria.
We returned to the hotel and had an hour to relax and then were downstairs ready to go to our second match against Club Italia. Unfortunately we lost by the same amount we had won the previous night, 3-1. They were really kind to offer us dinner again with a delicious final fruit and ice cream dessert.
When we all got back to the hotel we showered and hung out all together in one room. After deciding to go for our last gelato in Milan, we explored our hotel area a little more and then headed back to sleep to be ready for Venezia tomorrow!
By Laura Leap
We left beautiful Montreux, Switzerland at 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday and began our four-hour bus journey to Milano, Italy. Along the ride, we viewed the most breathtaking scenery that Switzerland has to offer. We drove through the Swiss Alps, which were topped with snow and waterfalls even flowing down some of the slopes. We made our way through small towns that had the cutest houses.
We stopped at a small grocery store to spend the last of our Swiss francs and we stocked up on goodies and snacks: Everything from bread, candy, and chocolate to cheese, ham and strawberries.
The next stop was lunch. We stopped at this Italian cafeteria-styled diner/market where we enjoyed delicious pasta, lasagna, and traditional Italian paninis. It was Nikki’s first time back in Italy for awhile, but instead of eating Italian food, she got a sandwich and Pringles…we still love our Nikki, though.
Finally, we arrived in the center of Milano where the bus driver dropped us off and we walked around for about one hour to get acquainted with the town. We saw the beautiful Piazza del Duomo and it took my breath away! The architecture was detailed and just absolutely stunning! There were also a lot of different high-end shops like Prada and Gucci! We are going back tomorrow to do some shopping and ride around on bikes in the city!
After walking around the streets of Milano, the bus driver took us to our hotel where we relaxed and got ready for our match against Club Italia. This was by far one of the most exciting and fun games I have played in. Everyone on the team made a large contribution on the court! We were all cheering and screaming for one another on the court and on the bench. Every set was a close one but we ended up beating them in four! After the game, they served us gnocchi, which is a traditional Italian pasta dish. It was delicious!
Thursday will be spent shopping and riding bikes before our next match at 6 p.m.! Can’t wait to see more of Milano!!
Hey Cal fans!
Today was our final day in Montreux, Switzerland. We woke up to another somewhat rainy day, but didn't let that put a damper on our plans. To start the day off, we had breakfast at our hotel and then headed to the Chateaun de Chillon castle.
Adventuring through the castle, we had the chance to see many different things, such as the dungeon/prison, dining room and armor room. We also had the opportunity to go up in the towers and admire the beauty of the Alps, hills, and from some sides, the highway (needless to say, the majority of angles were picture perfect)!
A few hours later, after eating lunch at the local cafeteria, we headed to the gym where VolleyMasters was taking place. Here, we watched USA hold its ground and come out with the "W" against Germany a four-set match. Also at the game, we had the honor of meeting Cal's first volleyball All-American, Sylvie Monnet, who lives in Switzerland and is currently the director of volleyball for the Swiss National Team!
Though it's been a great time here in Montreux, we have reached the end of our stay. We head to Milan on Wednesday!
That's all for now! Go Bears!!
Hey Cal fans!
Monday was our first full day in Montreux, Switzerland after a long day or travel! A lot us weren't able to sleep through the night because we weren't fully adjusted to the time here. For example, Nikki and I were up at 5:30 a.m.! We were finally able to fall back asleep two hours later, then had two more hours to sleep before breakfast. To be honest, I was a little bit drowsy before breakfast. But I was greeted with the smell of fresh croissants as I made my way to the hotel lobby, and that sure did wake me up! Along with croissants, we all enjoyed fresh fruit, cereal and yogurt.
Practice was scheduled for 10:30 a.m. at a local school, so immediately after breakfast we made our way to the gym for serve and pass. Practice was much needed today to get all of our "travel bugs" out and get our limbs moving to prepare for our match. After practice, we walked to a local cafeteria for lunch. Lunch was a traditional "meat and potatoes" meal. We had the choice of chicken, beef, pork, and even duck. Side dishes included scalloped potatoes, rice, and vegetables
After practice, most of us took the city bus back to the hotel because it was raining, but others chose to walk around the streets of Montreux, visit the local shops, and observe the beautiful scenery that this city has to offer. After lunch, we had free time until 5 p.m. I had planned to use some of this free time to walk around the city, but I was so tired that I ended up sleeping throughout most of my free time. Others either slept like me or walked around the city.
After my nap, it was time to head to our first match in Europe. Our match was at a sports facility in the city of Cheseaux, which was about 20 miles from our hotel. When we arrived the first thing that we saw was a field of cows in a field adjacent to the gym. We all took pictures of the cows and Laura Leap even fed one of them grass.
After warming up, we were finally ready to play our first match, and ended up winning in five sets! The fifth set was a nailbiter, as we were down 12-6 and came back to win 15-13! During the entire match, there was a group of local spectators that cheered during the game nonstop. They were chanting loudly and banging their drums the entire game.
After our win, we got a chance to mingle with the team we played and the rowdy spectators over a spaghetti dinner. The boys that were cheering loudly actually turned out to be very nice; They were local high school boys that we got to know during dinner. After dinner, we took a picture with the team we played. Then it was time to head back to Montreux. We were sure to thank those that provided dinner for us and the team that we played for great hospitality.
We are excited to get rest and gear up for our off day on Tuesday, which will mostly be spent exploring Montreux and watching national teams compete at Volleymasters. Au Revoir for now!
I am writing this blog entry on a rooftop overlooking Lake Geneva with the Swiss Alps right behind it. This couldn’t be any more perfect.
The night before the trip the excitement was high and the time couldn’t go by any slower. Sarah, Laura, and I talked about our upcoming adventures in Europe until 1 a.m. We were talking about all the café bars were going to sit at, all the shopping we are going to do in Milan, and of course all the European men we were going to be friends with :).
The next morning, the locker room was as crazy as rush hour in New York. Everyone was last minute rushing to make sure they had all their necessities for the two weeks ahead. The main concern was how to fit the enormous amount of snacks everybody bought. Christina, for example, was panicking over whether or not her chips were going to explode during the flight. After figuring out the snack situation, we headed over for the most exciting bus ride we have been on.
Once at the San Francisco Airport, it finally hit me that we were going to be halfway across the world soon. AND OFF TO EUROPE WE GO! The 10-hour plane ride went by surprisingly fast. It also included two delicious meals that were gone within five minutes of getting them. When we landed in Amsterdam for our layover, Lara got a chance to see her mom after a whole semester of not seeing her. She just happened to be there for a business meeting.
The Amsterdam Schiphol Airport is one of the largest ones in Europe. It took us 20 minutes to walk to our gate. Being from America, of course we had to go on a Starbucks run before our flight. We were then shuttled on a bus to our plane. Next stop: Geneva, Switzerland.
When we landed we met our tour guide, Tim, who arranged for a bus to drive us to our hotel in Montreux, Switzerland. We got to the hotel, showered, and then hit the streets for some free time before dinner. From our hotel, Lake Geneva is only a five-minute walk.
Switzerland is easily the most beautiful place that I have ever seen. Our view consisted of the gorgeous Lake Geneva with the enormous Swiss Alps in the background. Who gets to see that everyday? After taking at least a hundred pictures with the Alps behind us, we decided to sit at a café, order coffee, and try to be European. I still think we stuck out like a sore thumb, but at least we tried.
After a long day of travel and exploring the town of Montreux, the whole group had dinner at a small Italian restaurant in celebration of Jonathan’s birthday (our media guy). Happy Birthday, Jonathan! We were all so tired at dinner that everything any one said was hilarious. After dinner we went back to the hotel and laughed ourselves to sleep at 8:30 p.m. What a day!