Field Tour Day 4

If you want the full experience I had in Budapest you’ll need to play the first five or so lines of “Budapest” by George Ezra on repeat. 

We started today with one of the things I was most excited for: the spas. Dang right.

We took the oldest metro in Europe there, which felt more like a train ride little kids would take at the zoo, and stopped to see the Heroes Monument on the way to the spas.

The spas consisted of three outdoor pools and a few dozen indoor pools and saunas. In the two hours we were there, Megan and I pretty much got into every pool. They are all different either in terms of temperature or water composition. Jan told us that in Hungary doctors will perceive their patients time in certain pools for their various ailments. I wish that there had been more explanations available for what each of the pools did but I didn’t see much beyond the temperature even in Magyar (the Hungarian language). Some were better than others. Our favorite was the Eucalyptus pool and sauna. It left our skin feeling really soft afterwards. I also liked the cooler outdoor pool which had more of a “pool day” vibe to it. I didn’t take any photos while at the spas because I didn’t want to worry about my phone getting wet but maybe I’ll steal some from Megan if she posts them.

We then went on a walk with Dáša and The Professor. We went to a market to get lunch. Dáša only gave us twenty minutes so it was a mad scramble to exchange money and find food. I ended up with a small chocolate cake, a berry pastry of some sort and six cheese straws (which were essentially bread sticks). While it was an unconventional lunch, it was tasty and left me wanting more cakes.

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We then took a ferry up the Danube River to parliament. As a group we walked from there to see several buildings in Budapest. We stopped at St. Stephen’s Basilica where St. Stephen’s severed hand is displayed. It was kind of a let down because you couldn’t see the hand as it was 1. Shriveled and super old and 2. Protected by an elaborate glass case.

There was a gelato place nearby that served the rose shaped ice cream which had wanted in Prague but never got so I finally checked that item off my bucket list. I got mango, vanilla, and grapefruit.

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Our last stop was the Dohány Street Synagogue. It was really pretty and there was a lot to explore but Megan and I were tired and also I was wearing a dress as a skirt with the sleeves flapping about at my waist (since I was wearing shorts that didn’t cover my knees they made me cover up) and feeling a bit ridiculous, so we left and returned to our hotel.

Megan was leaving for Belgrade at eleven so she finished packing and then we went to find the bus station and explore more (aka bought souvenirs).

My day ended with us getting dinner at Magyar Qtr. Originally we went to get Hungarian food but I ended up ordering ratatouille. It was good nonetheless.

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Upon return to the hotel I had to say goodbye to Megan which meant that this is really ending.

And I really don’t want it to.

See the pictures from today here.

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That time when I finally went to Prague Castle

Monday started with my Travel photography course. Our professor took us to her studio which was a ten minute walk from the USAC building and we played with professional lighting while taking portraits. It was really cool of her to show us her studio and let us play around, now I can’t wait to use the studio back home more!

Afterwards, I went with a girl in my class, Catherine, and we got sandwiches quickly before riding the bus back to class. This time we weren’t late for Art and Architecture so that’s a plus!

One of the big tourist attractions here is Prague Castle. It is something I had put off doing for these few weeks because I knew we’d go for class (and frankly I didn’t want to buy a ticket since our class covers the cost when we go). Well, today was finally the day I saw Prague Castle up close and personal. You can see the buildings from the Prague Skyline, but I’d be willing to bet most people (like me when I first got to Prague) mistake the cathedral for the palace. The cathedral is the most noticeable building because it is so large but Prague Castle actually refers to a castle complex which includes the cathedral, a basilica, an old royal palace, Golden Lane and many other notable buildings.

Due to it being so large and made up of so many buildings, there are different architectural styles present at Prague Castle. Thus, we walked around and admired everything from the sgraffito on Ball-Game Hall to the gothic style cathedral to the simple but solid basilica.

 

In the garden there were birds of prey on display and you could hold any of the birds for 100 korunas.

A few of the members of my class jumped at the chance. Here is my professor holding a five kilogram (six kilograms including the glove) golden eagle:

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NBD.

While everyone wanted to hold the eagle, Alex, I was really tempted to hold a very small owl. My want was only fueled more by the fact that we were told you could pet the baby owl all over its little body (you were only allowed to touch the eagle’s stomach).

I gave into temptation. Meet Bob:

 

From the pictures, you wouldn’t be able to tell who was more unimpressed me or Bob. In reality though, I loved it (I just have resting bitch face). He was pretty unimpressed though.

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Bob was only a year old. And he was so soft. While I may have asked Jackie if I was a wimp for wanting to hold him instead of the massive eagle, I definitely made the right choice!

Later in the night nine of us from K17 went out to eat. It’s hard to accommodate a group that big though and we haven’t yet learned that we should make reservations, so we spent probably an hour walking around before wandering into James Dean Restaurant which is an American themed diner. While I was seriously tempted by the promise of a nice big heap of ketchup (something which is hard to find here and usually costs extra) made by the bottle sitting on the table, I ended up going for the mac and cheese, which was delicious.

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While I do miss some american foods like mac and cheese or ketchup, I do love the Czech food and will be sad to leave it behind soon.

See the pictures from today here.

3 AM: all in a day’s work

I somehow managed to wake up at 3:40 am on Saturday to experience and photograph the Charles Bridge at sunrise.

Frankly it is amazing I woke up considering how often I snooze my alarms.

Megan and I left our apartment at 4:10 because the sunrise was at 4:45 and it is a 30 minute walk there.

It was stunning, and totally worth getting up for. I’d do it again (maybe on a cloudy day for better photos).

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Plus, we met this drunk guy that wanted me to take his picture:

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I had made plans for the whole day and was going to spend the day in the Lesser Quarter, checking things off my bucket list. The hard part was how to occupy the hours between sunrise and when things opened. Czechs don’t eat breakfast, so almost nowhere was open. I had planned on this and we went to Kampa Park and the Hunger Wall. Kampa park was really pretty, but since we were there at six am, it was erie and almost abandoned. The Hunger Wall sits at the bottom of Petřín Hill and is the home of a set of statues that are a memorial to the victims of communism.

It didn’t take three hours to do these things though, so we also walked around the Lesser Quarter (we saw the Lennon Wall again) before eating breakfast at Bohemia Bagel. Lowkey, I led Megan to three other closed breakfast places before finding Bohemia Bagel… so I was off to a good start.

We then went to the Fürstenberg Gardens, which are part of the royal gardens. We spent just under an hour there walking around and admiring the view of the Lesser Quarter and looking at the flowers. We started at the top of the gardens and walked downhill, which was great at the end because we could exit without walking up the hill to Prague Castle again!

Then, we revisited the Wallenstein Palace Gardens and St. Nicolas Church (which I had seen on Thursday but wanted to go back and take pictures of). This time, at Wallenstein we got to tour the inside, which is where the Czech Senate meets!

After St. Nicolas we climbed the stairs of the Town Belfry.

And boy were there stairs.

I’m not quite sure exactly how many we climbed but we climbed high enough to get this view:

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Worth it.

Next, we walked up Nerudova Street which is just a bunch of cute shops and restaurants. Near the top there is a vegan restaurant that I had been planning to eat at before Megan decided to come, but I didn’t want to drag a non-vegan/vegetarian to a vegan place. Luckily, Megan was a great sport and went anyway! At Vegan’s Fresh Food Prague I got a great taste of a traditional Czech dish that is usually made with meat: Svíčková.

It was Traditional Czech sauce made of marinated root vegetable with vegetable cream, with tempeh, cranberries, and home made dumplings and it was delicious!

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At this point I was ready to go home and bail on my plans to go to Petřín Hill. Megan was still willing to go though, so we rode the tram over before taking the Funicular to the top. We then walked downhill a bit, got some great views and then were pretty much ready to get home and sleep (at this point we’d been awake for eleven hours). We just couldn’t manage to find the way out/down Petřín Hill (it is massive) but eventually ended up near the Beer Garden and the Funicular stop that’s about three-fourths of the way up the hill.

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We got back to K17 at 3:30 where I laid down to nap until 7, when Miranda came over. We had made plans to go to Hany Banny (a pulp-fiction themed bar) right at 7 and I slept through my alarm so I got ready real quick and we left.

The bar was… interesting. But this was only because of a particularly rowdy and friendly group of twenty drunk German men in the middle of a bachelor party. While we were drinking we met quite a few of the men who came over and joined us. Miranda and I then went to Burrito Loco (the Germans ate her hamburger and I didn’t get food because I was afraid they’d eat mine to) which was amazing. The put a bunch of pickled vegetables on my burrito which at first was scary but it ended up being tasty! The margarita wasn’t bad either.

We weren’t out too late since we were meeting Alzbeta at Florenc at 10 am Sunday to go to the zoo, so Miranda and I got home around 11 by which point I was properly exhausted and went straight to bed.

See the pictures from today here.

 

Bones

Our second and final field tour was Friday. We spent the day in Kutná Hora, a town that’s about an hour outside of Prague.

We started at the Bone Chapel, which was the part of the trip I was most excited for (especially since the tour of the silver mine had been cancelled so instead we were going to a deer game reserve). The Bone Chapel is an ossuary that contains the bones of 40,000 medieval plague victims. These bones are arranged into various shapes such as a chandelier, a coat-of-arms, and cups. They are also piled into geometric piles in each corner of the chapel.

It was an amazing place, I was stunned by the creative, yet respectful use of the bones to form so many different things. It was also an erie place that reminded me of how you can be reduced to being anonymous so easily when you die. There was so little information about these bones and who they belonged to.

Afterwards, we visited two churches. First, the simple Sedlec Cathedral which is the oldest Cistercian cathedral in Bohemia. It has gone to ruin several times but now is restored and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The second church, St. Barbara’s Cathedral is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

St. Barbara’s Cathedral is a gothic building and it was much more showy than the Sedlec Cathedral.

I had previously thought flying buttresses to be ugly, but St. Barbara’s Cathedral may have changed my mind.

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Next, we got lunch as a treat from Jan, the program director. We all got to choose from two soups and then a list of about six entrees.

My soup was a bit intimidating at first because it came with a quail egg: a giant, soft boiled quail egg right in the middle of my soup. Luckily I was convinced to eat it and it was a highlight dish from my time here so far! I also ate fried cauliflower and mashed potatoes which were also good!

Finally, we stopped at the game reserve. I’m going to be honest, I was not excited for this. I was under the impression that we’d just be looking at a field of white-tailed deer, which I could do at home.

Instead, it was more comparable to a small zoo made of a bunch of game animals. The coolest part were the birds, who were simply tied by their leg to a stand and set out really close to visitors, without cages. That’s something you’d never see in America. The other highlight were the goats which would walk right up to the fence to get fed and a pair of geese that followed you around the fence and tried to intimidate you into feeding them with their small, sharp looking teeth.

The white deer were also pretty cool, I guess.

See the pictures from today here.

Midterm

I’ve been in Prague for 12 days. I have had my Art and Architecture class a total of three times. Today we had our midterm.IMG_5617 2.JPG

That was a bit weird. It has opened my eyes to how fast my time here is going. It’s certainly lit a fire in me to stop taking so many naps and spending so much time in my room.

With class we got to go see St. Nicholas Church and Wallenstein Palace gardens. I left my camera at home today, so it gives me a great excuse to return on Saturday and really spend some time photographing and exploring these places!

Afterwards, I stopped and got a cheap sandwich at a place near the metro and then went to the Museum of Communism.

It was really interesting seeing the history of Prague in relation to communism and it was shocking to realize that democracy is still such a new concept to this country.

I then walked up Wenceslas Square to Paul, where I probably stood for five minutes deciding what to get, before boarding the metro home with my raspberry eclair.

Later, Megan and I went to a pub that was about ten minutes away for dinner. I tried potato pancakes (which were good) and a Pilsner (which was not good).

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I do not think I am a beer person.

On our way back to K17, we stopped in a church that was open. It was in stark contrast to St. Nicholas which I’d seen earlier but it was still so beautiful.

Then I returned home with the intention of going to bed.

So, of course, when someone mentioned going to a bar, I jumped on the chance.

We went to AnonymouS Bar, which is a V for Vendetta themed bar. It was so hipster, for lack of a better term. You had to read parts of the menu with a blacklight, and other parts were by smell only or with a pair of glasses. Each cocktail came with a delightful presentation. I drank a Scarlett Rose, which had gin, cream, and egg white among other things. We didn’t get the full experience of the bar, mainly because I was tired by this point and eager to head home.

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I should be dancing but it’s too hot

On Tuesday I didn’t get moving until the afternoon. I joined Jackie and other K17 people who were going to see the Dancing House and then get lunch. The second we stepped outside the building I started to sweat. I’m not going to lie: I debated turning around and going back into the apartment. I powered through, if only for the promise of food.

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The Dancing House was cool and all but it was so hot we were desperate to get inside. I plan to return and get coffee on the top.

We ate at a pizza restaurant before making my favorite stop of the day: Tesco. We were on a mission to buy fans. It is so hot in the city that I feel like I am always sticky from sweat. This abnormally hot day gave us the perfect excuse to get the fans, which we had to lug home on the metro.

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A few people walking by us did snicker but in the end, after a comfortable night’s rest (and by comfortable I mean about as comfortable as I’ll get with the stiff mattress), it was worth it.

Later Tuesday evening I went out with Miranda and Emileigh and met up with a local guy Miranda met through USAC, his girlfriend, and another friend. It was so cool and fun to spend a night with locals and be able to ask questions about their lives and bond over what we have in common.

For example, we all liked High School Musical.

Guess you could say we were connected by a feeling in our very souls.

Oh, that’s just my summer chateau

While there was a extended Prague walk today, I opted out and instead went out on my own itinerary. Emileigh and I ventured on our own so that we wouldn’t feel rushed by the group (and so I could take pictures). Originally we went to a park but there was a festival going on so we last minute decided to visit Troja Chateau.

It was so easy to get to, we just took the metro to Nádraží Holešovice and then hopped on the 112 bus. We accidentally got off a stop early but it was more than okay because there was a delicious (and cheap) gelato shop there!

Troja is either a chateau or a palace, I have seen it called both and cannot figure out which. It is an amazing building that sits in what is now the suburbs, surrounded by large gardens. It was built in the late 1600s for the Counts of Sternberg. Emileigh had always wanted to go, and I could certainly see why.

It was stunning. The architecture, gardens, and sculptures were amazing. I’m thinking about doing my paper for my Art and Architecture class on the building, the only thing is there is so much to write about it!

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We also paid 60 Czk (which was a discount with our Charles University student ID) to tour the inside. We got to see several rooms that had their ceilings decorated in beautiful, significant murals.

The best was the intricate Grand Hall; every surface except the floor is covered in the frescos.

I was so glad that I had decided to go with Emileigh today, even tough it was by far the hottest day that Prague has had since I’ve arrived. I for sure plan to return to Troja at a different time of day to get more photos of the gardens in different, less harsh light.

See the pictures from today here.