Saturday, February 28, 2009
Today I slept in for a while and then Joanna, Julia, Julie, Erin and I went to this town about 40 minutes outside of Prague called Melnik. When we got there we walked up to this old church and looked at the view. Then we actually went into the church and climbed all the way up to the top. To do this we had to go up extremely steep stairs that were more like ladders and then up a really twisty metal staircase. We climbed higher than the bells and it was cool to see how huge they were. Once we got to the top we got a 360 degree view of the town and the view was so pretty. The only bad thing was that today was not one of the 3 days the sun has been out ssince I've been in Prague. Luckily though it was the warmest day since we've been here, 45 degrees in Prague and then a little cooler in the countryside. After the church we went and did a tour of the castle. It was really pretty and had a concert hall and chapel in it. Then we went and did a tour of the wine cellar. In the cellar there was a giant griffin, so I guess Godric Gryffindor must have been there at some point. Once we left the cellar we did a wine tasting of Czech wine. We were a little disappointed because we thought that we were going to be able to actually learn about the wine but instead they just put us in a basement for 30 minutes with 10 bottles of wine and a description of each. It was fun to be able to try all the wines that were made there though. After the wine tasting we had dinner in Melnik and took the bus back to Prague.
Thursday, February 26, 2009
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Saturday: On Saturday night we went out to dinner at the Mexican place. It was really good and a fun place to go. After dinner we went to this pub called U Sudu. This was really fun, it was very crowded but full of Czechs and other Europeans, not all Americans. We met a few guys from North Carolina who are majoring in landscape architecture. One worked on a golf course...interesting. Then we met these British guys who were hilarious. They said that the prevailing stereotype about Americans is that southerners sleep with their sisters. So I had to explain that while Miami is southern it is not the deep south and we do not sleep with our relatives.
Sunday: During the day on Sunday we went and did laundry. This place was actually really nice and gave free coffee or tea. The only thing was that the dryers didn't actually dry that well. This was okay though, we just hang stuff around the room. It was a lot better than the last place we went because I think the washers worked better and they were a lot faster. Then at night we went to the Globe cafe because on Sunday nights they show old movies for free, so we went and saw a movie and got dessert. I got a chocolate milkshake and it was better than the movie, which I got bored during and couldn't follow, but it was still fun. The people at the table next to us got real food and it looked really good so we're probably going to go back.
Monday: Classes started. The first class I had is called Does Central Europe Exist? Creating and Crossing Borders. The teacher gave us a map without any countries or borders and asked us to think about and outline what we thought central Europe was. Then when no one raised their hands she called on me. I had no idea so I said the countries in the middle of the map. I don't think this was the correct answer, she expected a little more detail I think. But whatever, I wouldn't be taking the class if I knew everything. Actually, I wouldn't be taking the class if the UPrague program had offered more classes since every other program offers tons and if I had gotten the classes I had actually signed up for. I actually think this class will be ok though. After this class we went to Bohemia Bagel and just sat for about 2 hours until the next class. The next class was The World and Prague: Overcoming Smallness and is just for the UPrague people and then 3 European students. It was kind of boring but I think that was just because it was the first day and in basically every class they've been doing the history of the Czech Republic. Then Monday night we went to this club for a band's cd release party and they performed and it was really fun. They gave us a flyer when we were at dinner on Saturday and it looked fun so we decided to go. After the show we met the band and got autographs in case they get famous.
Tuesday: Tuesday I only had one class and it was a UPrague class. This one was Prague and the World: Overcoming Smallness. This was also boring because it was a three hour class and I had no idea what the teacher was talking about. Both of the UPrague classes are taught by three professors and they are only there once every three classes. I am interested to see how this works out because the only team taught class I've had was the teacher taught their entire subject then switched, they did not switch daily. Then last night there were supposed to be fire works for Mardi Gras so we went to the Charles Bridge to watch. Unfortunately the fire works never appeared. Its ok because there were a bunch of us there hanging out and it wasn't as cold as it usually is so I ended up having a good time.
Wednesday: Today I had the same two classes as Monday and they were both kind of boring. In between classes we went to the cafeteria for lunch. The food was not great but it only cost like $2, so it was fine. After lunch we went to get coffee before class since we had watched a movie during the central Europe class and had all been falling asleep. After the second class I had another two hours before my third class. Joanna and I walked around and went into this store where everything was made by the owner. It was really cool. Then we walked around Wenceslas Square and found a few other really cute stores that I want to go back to when I can actually try on and buy some stuff. Then we went to the farmer's market to get some fruit and dried fruit and Joanna took it back to the dorm for me while I went to class. The class was three hours long and we just went over the syllabus and watched a little bit of a movie on Havel today so it was kind of boring. But the reading for the class sounds interesting and we are going to go to some poetry readings and stuff so I am excited about it. After class I picked up a salad from Paneria (not to be confused with Panera) and just came back and hung out at the dorm.
Tomorrow I do not have class so I don't know what I'm going to do all day. Grocery shopping is definitely on the list. Joanna's sister and her friend are coming tomorrow so I am probably going to do some stuff with them this weekend.
Saturday, February 21, 2009
Last night we went to see Swan Lake. I loved this ballet, the costumes were so pretty and the dancers were great. Since I haven't been to many ballets, this is what I was picturing when I thought of ballet. It had a huge cast so there were a lot of really cool dances. After we went to Cafe Louvre which is a really famous cafe. It has a cafe, restaurant and billiards room where you can play pool and all sorts of board games. It is where tons of great thinkers used to hang out, such as Einstein and Kafka. To put the icing on the cake of coolness, the former president of the Czech Republic took Bill Clinton there. I had chocolate cake which was basically a chocolate mousse cake and was really good. Joanna had a raspberry cake which had tons of raspberries and then a some kind of cake on the bottom. Julie had hot chocolate which was basically a melted candy bar and a caramel sundae with nuts and whipped cream. Both of these were really good too. Julia and Erin split fish soup which was like Manhattan clam chowder and sacher cake which was kind of like grainy cake that tasted like there was some kind of fruit in it. The soup was really good but the cake was ok.
Today we went to the toy museum. It is right near the castle. There are tons of old toys there and the whole second floor is a Barbie exhibit. I took a ton of pictures of the toys. Some of them are kind of creepy, like the porcelain dolls...some people I know happen to think porcelain dolls are not creepy though. There were also some interesting barbies, such as drag queen Barbie (I don't think this was her actual name but its what she looked like) and pregnant Barbie. I took pictures of all of these but I can't figure out how to post descriptions of pictures.Also some of the Barbies I took pictures of are behind other ones so its kind of hard to see them.
Tonight we are going out to a Mexican restaurant. Its supposed to be really good and is always packed so you actually have to make reservations. Apparently the bartenders are actually Mexican so we're all excited because we may actually be able to speak Spanish and speak a language that we actually know a little of.
Thursday, February 19, 2009
Howard and Joe want to know more about the food. I make a lot of scrambled eggs and grilled cheese in my room. It is still college even though its in Prague. This country loves yogurt. There is always a full aisle of yogurt at the grocery store instead of just a little section. There is also a lot of muesli which is cereal and I like it in granola bar form covered in yogurt. Another Czech food is fried cheese. This is basically mozzarella sticks but in a triangle. It's really good. There are also bakeries everywhere. They are kind of different than at home and sell a lot of croissants and bread pastry breakfast type things. There is a little tiny bakery across from one of the classroom buildings that sells donuts that look really good. There is also one by one of the tram stops. I don't know how everyone in this country stays so skinny. In general though the food here is really good, especially baked goods. It is kind of hard for picky eaters because you can't always tell what is in everything. Czech food is pretty basic and is usually meat and potatoes. They also have salads, pasta and a lot of pizza places so there are tons of options.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
On Sunday I did nothing. It was great, I just slept in, read my book, studied very little Czech and relaxed. Yesterday we had Czech class and went to the Czech museum. This museum was really cool because it had the history of the Czech Republic on the first floor and had information on all different aspects of life. In each exhibit it also had clothes that people wore, things they used and the rooms were decorated as they would have been during that time period. It was like little bits of Plymouth Plantation moved inside (minus the pilgrims). Then last night we decided to go see the opera Cinderella. However, when we got there the opera was a ballet. I think it was probably more fun as a ballet. It was pretty good and I really enjoyed it, but there was one time where it looked like the prince dropped Cinderella but based on Joanna's professional opinion he just didn't lift her up. The stepsisters were really funny.
Today I had Czech class all day and we did not go anywhere fun so it was a very long day of learning this extremely difficult language. One of the words we learned today was chtel bych. ch does not make the same sound as in English so it kind of just sounds like a throat clearing sound combined with sh. This word means I would like. Also the word for ice cream is zmrzlina. The Czech language also uses the accusative which is when for words that end in a or e you change the ending to u or i. Then you also change the ending of the adjective to ou. This is extremely difficult, especially when you do it for 5 hours a day every day. But anyways, after Czech class today I went to Tesco and bought a bunch of stuff. Then Joanna and I made dinner on our lovely hot plate. We made tortellini with sauce that she enhanced with green pepper and then a salad. It was actually really good.
Some interesting things about Prague and the Czech Republic:
There are very few handicapped people here. I haven't seen one person here in a wheel chair. Most people use arm braces or canes.
There are also more blind people than I thought I would live in a big city, and they don't have seeing eye dogs they use canes.
Babies and children here wear full on snowsuits since it is so cold. Most parents have their babies in giant strollers where they are wearing hats, snowsuits and then put in a sleeping bag and blanket. A lot of young children walk around in snow suits and older kids are also still pretty bundled up.
People on the trams are silent. Very few people talk on the tram and the ones who do are usually under the age of 14 or are obnoxious American tourists (fun fact, the Czech word for American is pronounced americhunky). Anyone who was alive during communism does not talk at all on the tram or metro while younger people will speak a little but very quietly. Also, people are extremely polite and respectful. Whenever an older person, pregnant woman or mother and young child get on the tram people jump out of their seats to let them sit. I don't think that this happens in the US but I also do not take public transportation that often so I will give people the benefit of the doubt. One thing I don't think would be possible in the US is that all of the public transportation is run on the honor system. Senior citizens ride for free and then students and children get discounted fares. Everyone is supposed to buy a pass for a certain period of time and always have it on them. You can also buy tickets at every tram stop and those daily tickets you are supposed to stamp once you get on the tram. To enforce the fact that people must actually buy the passes, police will randomly ask people to show their passes and if you don't have it you get fined, usually more than it would cost to buy a 90 day pass like I did. They come up to you show you a badge and then you have to show it. They usually have a whole tram show them their passes and the men look completely normal so you can't identify them and get off the tram. This system seems to work pretty well because the three times I've had to show my pass the tram has been full but I've only seen one person get fined.
Thursday, February 12, 2009
Today my Czech class ended at 12 again and this time we went to see the Dancing House. This was designed by Frank Gehry and was named after Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers because the building looks like its dancing. After seeing this we went to a church that was the National Memorial of the Heydrich Terror in Prague. Heydrich was Hitler's top aide and was assassinated by two Czechoslovak parachuters. After his assassination Hitler and the Nazis searched all of Prague for the assassins, anyone helping them or for information and about 13000 people were arrested, deported or killed. They also killed all men in the towns of Lidice and Lezaky and sent the women and children to concentration camps and bombed the towns. Eventually the parachuters hid in the crypt of a church. One of them did not hide with the rest and stayed at his mother's house. He then revealedto the Nazis the people who had helped them and began to work with them. Some of these people commited suicide and others were tortured into revealing information as to where they were hiding. Then the Nazis surrounded the church and started shooting, throwing in tear gas and trying to find the men who had assassinated Heydrich. These men fought back but ended up killing themselves so that the Nazis would not be able to. This is a very short summary of what happened but you can look it up on wikipedia. Jan also wrote a book about it. But anyways, we went and saw where the parachuters hid, where the Nazis shot into, the hole in the wall that the men made as a last ditch effort to escape the crypt into the sewage system and where the Nazis stormed into. It was really sad but also really interesting to learn about.
Tonight we are going out to dinner for Julie's 21st birthday. We are going to a Mexican place that is supposed to be the only good Mexican restaurant in Prague. We also got her a cake at Tesco, which was probably equivalent to the Shaw's bakery, at least in looks. Erin and I were looking for a place to get a selection of cookies since there are tons of bakeries and pastry ships around here but apparently they don't sell cookies. The cake looks really good though.
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Yesterday we started our Czech intensive language course. This class is from 9:30 until 2 Monday-Friday for two weeks. Czech is a really difficult language so this course is kind of intimidating but luckily my teacher is really nice and enthusiastic about it. The class is also really tiring because it takes about 40 minutes to get to the class from the dorm and I have to wake up early to also get free breakfast. Yesterday after class I met up with Joanna and we went back to Bohemia Bagel. We decided that even though its good we're not going back soon because its a little expensive for Prague, we want to try other places and we felt like we were transplanted back to a jappy Miami bagel place because of all the Americans that were there. So today we met up again and tried one of the Bio-Fit cafes that they have a bunch of places here. They had just pre made and take away sandwiches there, soups and salads so it was kind of like Panera but not as good. It was definitely a good place to get something quick though. Tonight we are going to the opera, I've never been before so I'm excited to see if I like it. I'm also excited because we get to dress up.
Last night we had a meeting about all the weekend trips that we can go on. Since they're all planned for us the prices are actually pretty good. I am going to Linz and Salzburg in Austria, Berlin, Vienna and Istanbul. I am going to go visit my friend Nadine in the Netherlands and I am working on finding a way to visit Courtney in Paris without spending a ridiculous amount of money. When my parents come I am also going to go to Budapest with them and when Amy and hopefully Miaster come were going to do some other traveling.
Since the national galleries were free this weekend we went to another two museums. The first that we went to was a dance and festivities exhibition. It was cool, there were paintings of dances and parties and then there were old musical instruments and dance clothing. The next museum we went to was a huge and I can’t remember the name. We originally went because there is a temporary Picasso exhibit that leaves March 1. However, once we got there it turned out that the rest of the museum had a lot of great art, that was much more modern and recent than the museum I went to yesterday. The best exhibit was where the Picasso works were because there a ton of other great artists there too. At first I only saw some really small Picasso drawings that were boring and was disappointed because I had take two trams to get to them. But then I walked further and realized there were a ton more of his paintings in the gallery. They were really good and showed paintings from all the different styles that he used. I was also really excited because there were a few and other (I think) artists. I do not know very much about art but I think that this is one of my favorite styles of painting.
After we went to the museum we were all exhausted and decided to get some lunch. We went to Bohemia Bagel which is basically an American place. It had bagels, sandwiches, burgers, salads and al day American breakfasts. It also had American coffee, which was very exciting. This is the place to go if you are homesick. The one thing that was different was its advertising of Irish coffee, Bailey’s and other alcohol spiked coffees to go with your breakfast. We will definitely be going back there (not for the alcohol, but for the food, which was not only American but cheap and delicious).
Tomorrow we are supposed to start our Czech language intensive course. However, I am in the morning group and tomorrow morning we are meeting first to watch the movie about Jan, which is called Fighter (google it). He is going to talk about it and introduce it so I’m not sure if we are actually going to have our class. He is also going to do a lecture series in our dorm about history and his life. It is not for credit but his life and experiences are fascinating so I think I will definitely be going.
Our other classes do not start until February 23. I got really lucky because it ended up that I am only taking four classes, as I had wanted to do from the beginning but was intimidated and bullied into signing up for five even though they ended up only putting me in four. I did not want to take four classes out of laziness, it was because I wanted to be able to make the most out of this experience by really living in Prague. I planned for this by taking six classes and doing research credit. This amounted to 20 credits but extra hours because of the research. Keep in mind 15 is normal. Another great thing is that I only have class Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. This is great because then I’ll have Thursdays and Fridays to travel. Unfortunately the classes that I’m in I don’t know if I signed up for but its fine. I wish we could take Czech class in addition to the intensive class, which we don’t even get credit for. Also, the internet here is not working so I haven’t been able to get online. Supposedly it is going to be fixed tomorrow.
Saturday, February 7, 2009
This morning we talked with Jan Wiener, who is Zuzana's husband and lives in our suite. He told us about his life, what he did before the war and communism, how he got to America, what he did while he was there and when he came back to the Czech Republic. It was really interesting to hear about his life. On Monday all of the ECES students are watching the movie about his life so it was cool to talk to hime and find out more before seeing it.
This afternoon Colleen and I went to the National Gallery at the castle. The art was really good but not my favorite because a lot of it was really old, like 1600s and 1700s and of Biblical scenes. We went through the museum pretty quickly and then sat in the cafe and had coffee for a while.
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
Tonight we are going out in Prague. I think we are going to a club, which should be fun. I am a great dancer so I can show off my skillz. For the next four days we do not have anything planned for us so we will just be exploring and getting to know the city more.
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
Monday, February 2, 2009
Today we went to an orientation for all of the students in the Eastern and Central European Studies program. It was held in a beautiful old church. After the orientation we walked around Prague for a while, had lunch at a little cafe, got our student IDs and went to Tesco (Czech Walmart). The towels here are ridiculously small so we wanted to get some decently sized ones so as not to risk indecent exposure every time we want to shower. I also got a pillow since the ones here are almost completely flat. We were very proud that we were able to find our way to Tesco and back because the streets in Prague go every which way and change names frequently. I was obviously very helpful in figuring out the directions.
A few interesting things happened to me today. One, I sat down in my chair and it immediately broke and fell to the ground. This was quite the self esteem boost. Two, we have been trying a little to say some words in Czech at stores and to people around us. In one of the shops we were in the shopkeeper told us not to even try to speak Czech because it was too difficult to wait for us to just mess it up and then start speaking English. This was after pretending that he didn't understand what we were saying in English just to give us a difficult time. Lastly I was resourceful and used my swiss army knife to cut my orange when I couldn't peel it.
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