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.

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“Three weeks in Prague”

We had our last day of travel photography on Monday. It went really well, all we had to do was present our final PDF with all our assignments on it. This was mine:

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I then ate a lunch that I had packed the night before in the quick break between classes. Some of my other classmates got the Crocodille sandwiches and I’m pleased to report that I’m not the only one that doesn’t like them.

For our class we went to see a few buildings in Wenceslas Square before Professor Raimanová took us to the Municipal House. There was a little confusion with what exhibit we were seeing because she wanted to go to a certain exhibit but the security guard was arguing with her (in Czech of course so we had no clue what was happening). In the end, it was a funny error: she wanted to go to an exhibit that wasn’t yet open to the public.

Instead we went to a Blanka Matragi exhibit. She’s a Czech fashion designer and her dresses were interesting. Many were quite breathtaking but quite a few more were dated and very overdone.

After class we went back to K17 for a break before going souvenir shopping which is a chore in itself. I didn’t end up getting anything because I didn’t know what I wanted to get for everyone, but we did do some sightseeing and gelato eating.

We went to the public library which has a unique art installation before hitting up Creme de la Creme again.

On the way home we picked up some vegetables and spices from Billa because Jackie and I were craving vegetables/something healthy.

Okay, so maybe just Jackie was craving veggies but it kind of sounded good to me.

Anyway, I, for the first time in my life, successfully made a dinner of steamed veggies. It was delicious, for sure it’s something I’ll be making back home.

Due to the fact that I now know how to steam carrots and add packaged spice to a pot, I’d call today pretty successful.

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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Adventures in Relaxed Czech Culture

I got to wake up bright and early for class today. It’s funny because many of the USAC people have trouble because they wake up so early in the morning (the sun rises at 5 am) and then they can’t get back to sleep, but I do not have that problem.

We had our travel photography course which was enjoyable! I feel bad for our professor though because about two-thirds of the class dropped and now there are only nine students. Our next assignment is to take pictures of eggs, which I have mixed feelings about. On one hand, the project is inspired by Czech photographers, but on the other hand this is a TRAVEL photography course.

We got out from class early which was nice because that meant I got forty-five minutes to eat instead of thirty like I will normally have. Sadly, the Czech’s are not known for their speediness (which usually I do not mind) and I did not make it to class on time.

A group of people in the photo course and art course went to eat together at a great pub around the corner, but the food took forever. It was amazing food though, in massive portions! Czech culture is that eating out is the time for socializing (we don’t have a living room in our apartment, in fact I think Jackie and I’s bedroom used to be a living room, and the pubs and restaurants are for sitting with friends thus the waiters are in no rush to take your orders, bring you food, or bring the bill).

In the end, we were about ten minutes late to class. Our professor told us to start packing lunch.

For class we went to the Old City Hall and had a tour. It was really cool (both in the awe-inspiring way and because the basements were cold).

It was also Miranda’s 20th birthday, so we went out as a group. As far as drinks go, I keep (responsibly) narrowing down what I do and do not like. Sex on the Beach is a yes, while a Cosmopolitan and Aperol Spritz are both a no.

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Hey guys, I promise I am not an alcoholic.

See the pictures from today here.

Much(a) Love

The longer I spend here, the faster the time is flying by. Just today my dad told me I’d been gone eleven days but I’d been pretty certain I’d only been gone a week. It’s scary but it’s also motivating me to get out more.

So, naturally, as the days are flying by, my time between posts is becoming longer. I swear that yesterday I was caught up and then I find myself having to work to recollect exactly what I did do each day.

Sunday Emileigh and I visited the Mucha exhibit at the Gallery of Art Prague. It was a really nice exhibit and it was so interesting seeing how this artist struggled so much and then has made it so big now (especially since half the exhibit was postcards and biscuit ads). But hey, that’s every artist’s story, right?

After seeing that, we walked around Old Town for a while. Emileigh has been to Prague before for a semester long study abroad, so she showed me some of her favorite souvenir shops. Then we stumbled upon a street market where I fell in love with the most delicious looking box of berries:

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At this point, it was half eaten and I had devoured the cherries, raspberries and blackberries…

I find two (probably closely related) things interesting about the fruit here:

  1. The fruits are bigger and longer
  2. You don’t need to wash the fruit and people just buy these little tubs with the small forks and eat them

But I’m not complaining.

That evening we had a small K17 dinner where the girls from downstairs made pasta and we all sat crammed in their kitchen and ate.IMG_5606.JPG

You can’t see me in this picture, but I am there! Like I said, it was crammed.

See the pictures from today here.

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.

Power

On Friday Geiger took us on a field tour of Lidice, Terezín and Litoměřice.

Lidice was a erie town that was burnt to the ground by Nazis after they (wrongly) believed the assasins of Reinhard Heydrich to be in the town. Over 300 people died as a result, with all the men being shot and women put in concentration camps. Children were either put in a concentration camp or put with SS families if they were suitable for “germanization.” The Nazis used Lidice as an example for other cities.

It was so unsettling because the area is so beautiful and absent of civilization. It is terrible that there is so much beauty in the hills and open land where a town should stand.

After visiting Lidice, we went to the medieval town of Litoměřice to have a quick lunch. We also got to walk around the beautiful area and see some amazing views!

We then toured Terezín. It is a former military fortress that served many different purposes during its time: most notably a ghetto and concentration camp.

It was incredibly powerful.


I have never seen a concentration camp or been allowed to learn about the Holocaust in such a way. Among many things, I am beyond grateful that I live in a society where it is seen as important to preserve history in so many shapes and forms so that we can learn about and from the past.

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See the pictures from today here.

Getting into the Groove

I spent much of Wednesday with no set plans which was a nice change of pace and also allowed me to get some shopping done. I started late (because I slept in) and went out for breakfast. I took the metro to Národní Třída which is where the Tesco is and then walked around looking for a place to eat before shopping. I ended up at Mama’s Bakery where I ended up eating a sandwich for breakfast (happens when you eat breakfast at noon) and a key-lime tart (which is what the cashier said was her favorite). I now know how to say “Dobrý den” which means “hello” and “děkujuwhich means “thank you!”

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Then I went back to Tesco and stocked up on some things! After having felt confident in my ability to be at least a bit friendly in my conversations and ability to eventually make sense of the Czech language, I was confronted with a massive, foreign store. I at first didn’t understand that I would have to check out each time I left a floor (Tesco is six stories tall!) but luckily I saw someone else try to and set off the alarms so I was saved from that embarrassment. When I went to check out, I struggled to know what the cashiers were saying to me (I found out later they were asking if I needed a bag, you’re supposed to bring your own (which I did) and they charge you for plastic ones) but about the third time I checked out I finally understood (after the cashier made the gesture as if opening a bag and said “bag”).

I also spent way longer than any normal person should trying to kind conditioner and lotion. I found the conditioner but I’m still not 100% sure if the lotion I got is actually lotion…

I spent the rest of the day wandering around Old Town by myself. I took a lot of pictures and discovered a love for photographing street performers. I finally tried a Trdelnik with fresh strawberries and whipped cream. While it was good, I wasn’t in love with it. I’ll have to try it again just to make sure though. On my way home, I got off the metro and there was a large crowd in the station doing a Bohemian Salsa class! It was quite fun to watch and photograph!

Finally, I ended the night eating at a vegetarian restaurant around the corner from my apartment. I’m learning real fast that Czechs like to pickle everything!

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Thursday I had class at 9 am. There are seven of us in the apartment building that have class at 9 so we all went together. For our second day, we had the lovely experience of having the metro we needed be not working so we had to take a different metro and a bus instead. We made it just a tad late but I was so relieved that I was with friends and wouldn’t be the only one late!

Our professor took us to the National Gallery to see the work of Gerhard Richter which was really cool!

Jackie and I then grabbed lunch and came back to the apartment and took naps before going to dinner at a delicious pub down the road! I went to bed early after that because I wanted to get rest before the field tour on Friday.

Having these two days to kind of relax but also get to know the city more was really nice! I feel more comfortable now and I am so excited for the next weeks!