Field Tour Day 5

The final day of the field tour was spent mostly driving. We left Budapest and headed to Bratislava. First, we got off the bus at the castle where we walked around for a little and then we walked down into the town.

Here, we had free time which I spent with a few people visiting souvenir shops. We also stumbled upon a free museum hidden in “Bratislava’s oldest souvenir shop.” The museum was a room filled with old cash registers and another filled with other items that had been in the shop at one point or another.

USAC then covered lunch at BARtislava where we had cheese perogies. From here we traveled to Devín Castle. It’s a ruin situated above where the Danube and Morava River intersect and from the castle you can look from Slovakia to Austria.

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So we hiked to the top of the castle which provided breath-taking views (and great photo ops).

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We spent the rest of our time down at the Morava River where a few people swam from our side of the river in Slovakia to the other in Austria. I didn’t swim because my suit was at the bottom of my duffle bag which was in the bottom of the bus. Also, I did not want to sit in the bus all wet for the remaining hours of our ride back to Prague.

Halfway into our ride Jan broke out a snack for us all: Hungarian cheese and meats. The chopped up four different types of cheese and five types of sausages (one of which was horse meat, I was told it was good just really greasy) and passed it around with slices of bread. Here is Jan with the bread before it was sliced:

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Our ride ended up being two hours longer than it should have been due to terrible traffic. We were at a standstill for an hour. Eventually we did get home though, and after enjoying my last meal at Pivovarsky Klub downstairs, I returned to the almost empty apartment (Brooke was still there but it still felt like a ghost town) and finished packing up before leaving for my flight at three am.

See the pictures from today here.

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Field Tour Day 3

Our second and final morning in Vienna was spent at the Kunsthistorisches Museum. It’s a fine art museum in the museum quarter and had pieces from Rudolf II’s Kunstkammer in an exhibit which was something I really wanted to see since I had written my essay on it.

My favorite part was when I saw the bust of Rudolf II that Adriaen de Vries sculpted because I had even included a picture of it in my paper!

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The fact that I learned so much about this subject and these important works of art and then all I had to do was travel a few hours to see it in person was amazing. It’s a unique experience that you don’t get much in the United States and I think it’s invaluable.

After spending about an hour in the museum, Megan and I went to get more chocolates from the store we went to yesterday (we may have eaten all the ones we had gotten for ourselves and I needed more for my family because I know they wouldn’t want to share). Then we went into another local cafe on our way back to Maria-Theresien-Platz. The waiter was super nice and helped me translate the German menu and I got a Greek salad. Megan got an apple strudel which she said wasn’t as good as yesterday’s.

Once back in the square we napped in the grass for about an hour before meeting the rest of USAC to leave for Budapest. Jan, Dáša, Lukáš, Geiger and his wife, Lenka, all showed up in traditional outfits which they then wore the rest of the day.

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Once outside the city, we stopped at a rest stop and Jan cracked open a box of Sacher, a Austrian dessert, that we all had before setting out. On our way to Budapest we stopped at Pannonhalma which is the oldest abbey in Hungary. We got a tour from one of the monks, Father Albin.

While we only got to see three rooms in the monastery: the dining room, the hallway, and the abbey (fun fact about the abbey: the furniture was recently replaced and the designer wanted it to be very straight and square so he put the seats at a 90 degree angle. The monks didn’t like this so they compromised and the seat backs are at a 92 degree angle instead). Father Albin totally made the entire tour worth it. He was so funny and answered any question we had about his life and life as a monk.

Someone asked him what would happen if he ever wanted to leave the monastery and he said that they have little bracelets on their ankles that would explode. He also asked us if we’d ever heard of Pope Francis and said he’s a great guy.

My favorite part about Father Albin was that he loved movies a lot and one of his favorite things to do is go to the theater and get a big thing of popcorn and watch his movies. He told us, after making us swear to not tell his class (he’s a history teacher at the boarding school at the monastery), that his favorite movie is Clueless.

After the tour we continued onto Budapest. We arrived around 8 and after checking in we jumped right into the city and did an Danube Promenade. Essentially a fancily named walk. Jan walked us along the Danube River (which was crazy because I remember learning about the Danube in like seventh grade and freshman year but never thought I’d see it) to dinner.

We had some wine which was very dry but also very good with some soup. While I didn’t sample the non-vegetarian soup, many people claimed that it was incredible. My soup was also really good, there was some type of Hungarian noodle in it which I loved. The same noodles came with my dinner which was some sort of mushroom dish. Lukáš and Alzbeta tried to convince us that the non-vegetarian dish was dog. I’m still not quite sure what the dish was but everyone liked it.

Following food we were led on a walk to and around the castle. The Professor said that they consider tonight a highlight of he tour and I would agree. Seeing the castle and it’s structures lit up over the Danube River where I could look out upon both the Buda side and the Pest side was something I’ll never forget.

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See the pictures from today here.

Field Tour Day 2

I woke up this morning in Vienna, Austria. Since we had gotten into our hotel at midnight and Europe has strict laws regarding that bus drivers rest a certain amount of time, we didn’t leave the hotel until 11:30. So until then we woke up, went to the free (and delicious) breakfast at the hotel and returned to take a nap.

At 11:30 we left for Schönbrunn Palace Gardens. Two things Vienna does better than Prague are their gardens and their palaces. They were so big and grand, complete with massive fountains and entire forests.

We walked around Schönbrunn for about an hour before getting back on the bus and driving to lunch. We ate at Schimanko which is a vineyard as well. It was no surprise the wine was really good. They served us soup and potato salad before bringing out massive pieces of Wiener schnitzel. As a vegetarian, I had mac and cheese instead which was fine by me.

After finishing we hopped on the bus (it’s a trend of this trip) and it dropped us off in the Central of Vienna where The Professor gave us a tour. The Professor is a teacher (shocking, huh?) that is on the field tour and gives small lectures everywhere we go. He does have a real name but no one can remember what it is so we call him The Professor.

We walked through Vienna and saw many grand and beautiful buildings, many of which I do not recall their purpose, before ending outside a cathedral. At this point a group of us, including Megan and I, did some shopping before walking to the castle. I bought some chocolate for myself and my family which was perfect because they ended up asking for some chocolate later.

As a group we saw the castle and surrounding area before ending up laying in a park outside this building:

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It was the first time all day any of us had WiFi so we laid in the grass for probably a good hour on our phones and chatting. We then split up and Megan and I went to get some Apple Strudel. I googled where to get the best apple strudel and there was a cafe just six minutes away, Cafe Elias, and the two of us headed there. It was a very historic feeling Cafe and their apple strudel was indeed really, really good. I also had an Aperol Spritz which is a drink many of the USAC girls like.

We then wandered around, originally intending to return to our hotel, and were sidetracked while trying to find souvenirs. Outside the Opera they were live-broadcasting Claude Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande so we stopped for a little to listen even though we didn’t have a clue what was happening. We made it back to our hotel around 11 after I navigated us there using only my paper map! That was a proud moment; maybe I’m not so directionally challenged.

See the pictures from today here.

Field Tour Day 1

We left on our bus at 7 am to Dívčí Kámen, which is the ruins of a medieval castle. This was still in the Czech Republic, and was on the way to Česky Krumlov. It was a three hour drive there and then we hiked to the ruins which was about a half hour. When we got to the bottom of the small hill the ruins sat upon some of us broke off to use the restrooms (read “porta-potty”… singular). By the time I had gotten up to the ruins with the rest of the group we were going to leave in ten minutes therefore I didn’t get to explore much. It was still beautiful though and the hike wasn’t too hard so it was worth going to.

We then rode the bus another ten minutes or so to Česky Krumlov which is a medieval town. There was a festival going on: the Celebration of the Five Petaled Rose. The five petaled rose is the symbol of the Rosenberg family and the festival was celebrating their reign in Bohemia.

The festival which took over the whole small city was much like a renaissance festival back home. We had about three free hours so Megan and I walked around exploring before meeting at the Bear Moat (which is named so because there is literally a bear in the moat) for a castle tour.

There were no pictures allowed in the castle but it was quite possibly my favorite castle tour because much of the furnishings were the same ones that were left in the mid-1900s when the Schwarzenberg family fled from the Germans. Seeing the way that an important family would decorate their castle and what were the purposes of many of the objects was fascinating.

After the tour we had another three hours free in the city so we grabbed dinner and then went and laid in the grass near a stage for an hour and a half. While there, a boy who was probably just over a year old came over and played with us by handing us rocks and such. It was such a cute moment because we were from such different cultures and he didn’t even speak yet but we could still play with him.

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We ended with a four hour bus ride to Vienna (where Jan was waiting, he had left us at Dívčí Kámen, RODE HIS BIKE TO VIENNA, and checked us into the hotel because he needed to be there at a certain time). The hotel was three to a room so Megan and I paired with a girl named Sarah. Pretty much once we got into the room and changed we were all out cold asleep.

See the pictures from today here.