Monthly Archives: October 2012

Globetrottin’

Today marks the beginning of my fall break. While fall break normall consists of becoming one with the couch, catching up with my favorite delivery guys from my favorite restaurants (I’d kill for some Hunan Village fried rice right about now…), and marking arguments for why sweatpants are a suitable outfit choice for ten days, this year, I’ve got something a little bit more inspired cooked up! 3 friends and I are off to Croatia, Slovenia, and Serbia for the next ten days. We are taking an overnight bus to Zagreb, Croatia, spending a day there, and then we have rented a car, much to my mother’s horror, to head to Ljubljana, Slovenia, Bled, Slovenia, and then heading on to Trieste, Italy, parts of Istria (which is the coastal peninsula of Croatia) (Rovinj, Pula, and Rijeka) before heading back to Zagreb for one more night and then off to Belgrade, Serbia. This trip would be a lot less daunting if I had more than one good foot, but, I am hopeful that by Sunday or Monday it should be doing much better (and be a lot less purple, but that might just be wishful thinking.) Regardless, I am beyond excited!

Feel free to click on the links to get an idea of what these places look like, and when I get back, I will have a whole host of pictures taken by yours truly.

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Twisted Sister

I will say this once, and only once. I am totally eating my words right now. Today, I took my “all-or-nothing kind of girl” too far. But before I explain what exactly I mean by this, I think I will tell you about the beginning of my day first.

I woke up while it was still dark (ok, fine, so it was only 7 am, but that’s early for me!), but didn’t allow the dark or the cold to deter me from heading to Paradise. I packed my usual sandwich at breakfast and headed off to the bus like the nature-loving girl that I am. (This actually isn’t sarcastic. I may, for the most part, be a city girl, but I can play in the dirt provided that I know that a shower is definitely in my near future.)

Bohemian Paradise was beautiful. There were tall trees everywhere, light streaming in from everywhere, and changing leaves to spice up the color palette. A nature-loving, photographer’s dream. Seriously.

 

 

 

I’m not sure how much this climber enjoyed our applause, but we thought that it was pretty cool that he was there!

 

 

The hikers!
(from left: Gavin, Jill, Rosie, Maggie, Laura, me, Aaron, Taylor, Eddie, & Ian)

And then the sad part happened. The all-or-nothing side of me. We were hiking down a hill and all of a sudden my feet came out from underneath me, my ankle turned, and I heard a click. Instantly my stomach plummeted and I was convinced I had broken everything. After a quick deep breath, I realized it was only my ankle, but I could put weight on it, even though it hurt. I have never broken a bone before, so I was convinced that my ankle was going to set and I would be disfigured and crippled for life. Or something equally horrifying. But that was not the case – thank god.

After sitting in agony for a few hours (Bohemian Paradise is about 2 hours outside of Prague, plus our professor decided to take a one hour stop at some ruins while I sat on the bus convinced that more and more horrible things were happening to my ankle), I was finally taken to the hospital by both my Czech teacher and the director of the program. And even though I promised Libby that I would stay out of Czech hospitals, I have to say, this one was pretty efficient and not so bad!

Oh, and if you’re concerned about my ankle, I will be ok. I appear to have stretched a ligament, and even though it looks like I’ve tucked a little golfball in my ankle for safe-keeping, I haven’t. 1-2 weeks with my ace bandage and I should be good as new! So much for a quiet weekend…

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Takin’ It Easy

I’m an all-or-nothing kind of girl. Always have been, and probably always will be. What exactly does this mean? It means I either do nothing, like finding no real job for the summer after freshman year of college until it was the summer after freshman year, or I go all-in, like planning a trip for almost every single weekend while I am abroad. I love to travel and have really loved every single city that I have been to thus far – the food, the people, and the sights are unbeatable. In fact, I could make an excellent case for why I should have studied abroad in Budapest, or Vienna, or Amsterdam, or … But the truth is, I love Prague and I’ve been missing it a bit. During the week, I do the mundane – cook dinner, go to Tesco 100 times a week (seriously, the check-out people recognize me – yikes!), go to the laundromat, etc, but I miss truly being in Prague. Which is why I am really looking forward to a great weekend, here. With very little plans. And, to make it even more exciting, one of my best friends, Aaron, is coming to visit this weekend! He will be the perfect excuse to head to the touristy clubs this weekend, go back to the indian food place around the corner where I legitimately eat at least 2 times a week (after 8PM the food goes half priced. Can you blame me for getting my vegetables (because you know I’m not getting them with my goulash!) and a totally filling meal for $2? I know I can’t.), and to walk through Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square with the sole intention of looking at them, not to go about my errands or to run through them on the way to meet someone or find a class.

The other exciting thing on tap this weekend is that we have another one of our program trips. We are going to a place called Bohemian Paradise, which is somewhere in the Czech Republic (I will have another post for you all soon and by then I will have real information about this place!). But what I do know about it is that it is supposed to be a beautiful place to hike, to see different parts of the Czech Republic from up high, and will be a great way to get some fresh air.

You all didn’t think that I would actually sit still and do nothing this weekend, did you?

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Pilsner & Plzen

With my newfound love of beer, I love to learn about how beer is made, which means touring lots of beer factories! And by that, I mean, the Guinness Storehouse, The Jameson Whiskey Factory (ok, not beer, but it still has alcohol!), and now the Pilsner Urquell Factory.

My class this afternoon got cancelled and so 3 friends and I decided to take advantage of the empty afternoon and ventured off in search of beer. Pilsner Urqell is a pilsner beer (as opposed to a stout or a lager) and is created in the town of Plzen, which is about 1 hour to the west of Prague. Pilsner Urqell came into being in the 1800s – at one point, Plzen had 289 licensed beer-brewers! And none of them were making very good beer, so 260 of them banded together and decided to brew their beer together to help save the reputation of Plzen. And tadah! We now have a great beer! The tour was really interesting. Whereas Guinness sent you through on your own to look at cool videos, our guide in Plzen actually brought us inside of the factory. We also got to try malt, barley, and hops (if anyone offers you hops, trust me, pass on them. Super bitter and honestly pretty gross. But they make beer taste good!) which I thought added a nice dimension to the tour.

inside of the factory!

The factory is able to make 2,000 bottles of beer in one minute. Crazy, right?!

trying out the beer

We had no set bus tickets to come home, nor did we have any real homework to rush back to, so we decided to walk around the town and spend the afternoon in Plzen. We managed to find the town square, which was adorable, and it was having an open-air market! The smells were incredible: hot honey wine, tradelnik, sausages, and other baked goods, there were candles, candy, ceramics, and sheep’s skin items. Eventually we ended up back here for dinner!

Plzen, town square

After moseying around the market, we moved on in search of the Great Synagogue of Plzen. The synagogue is beautiful here. Unfortunately, the front is under reconstruction, but I led us on a stealth mission around the back, in search of at least one interesting picture! I would call this one a success. Inside of the synagogue, they have a large photography exhibition mounted, which I felt has brought my experiences in Prague full-circle. There were images of the photographer’s kids at Petřín Hill, where I was this morning, as well as in Wenceslas Square and on Narodni Trida, which are areas that I am in at least once a day. Additionally, all of the Jews in Plzen were sent to Terezin, where I was a few weeks ago. And so, with a few dozen breathtaking black and white photographs, my experiences here were beautifully mirrored and elaborated upon.

The Great Synagogue of Plzen

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Early mornings

Unfortunately, this whole early morning thing is becoming a regular thing. (Remember, this is the girl who never has class before 10 (at the earliest) and never on Fridays). But I am beginning to warm up to the idea. When you start your day at 8, you have so many hours in which to be productive. Who knew?

This morning, we had to meet our professor at 9, which I guess is neither super early nor ridiculous, as that is when class actually begins, so that we could go back to Petřín Hill to climb the “Eiffel Tower.” I believe I mentioned this in an earlier post, but the Czechs built a tower which looks just like the Eiffel Tower, and even though the structure itself is smaller than the original, when you factor in the fact that Prague is higher above sea level than Paris is and that it’s on a hill, the tower in Prague is actually eight meters taller than Paris. And yes, this was most certainly done on purpose. Czech mate! (I should be getting way more sleep if this is what my jokes are coming to.) Regardless of my lack of sleep, we hiked up the hill because the trams aren’t running again until November (ahh, post-communist world, you never cease to amaze me), and then climbed up the 300 stairs to the top of the tower. But boy, was it worth it!

The leaves are beginning to change!

Malá Strana and the Castle area

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Cheese, Clogs, & Tulips

Apologies for the delay in posting – I have been busy globe-trotting!

The past two weeks have been a bit crazy. I spent 5 days in Vienna with my grandparents, which was wonderful. I loved seeing them, eating food that wasn’t gulash, and seeing wonderful artwork. I got back on Tuesday night at 10:30, exhausted, only to be told that I had class the next morning at 7 am (I brilliant set my alarm for 6:15 PM and missed class, oops) and a Czech test immediately following (I could have studied hard and blanked on the test. double oops). And then on Friday I headed off to Amsterdam. Needless to say, I am looking forward to a weekend in Prague with a little bit more time to sleep. Please don’t misunderstand me and think I am not aware of how wonderful it is to be studying abroad and how lucky I am. Because the enormity of it all is with me all of the time. I am just looking forward to some time in Prague and a slightly slower pace. For a weekend.

I normally like to think of myself as a decently creative person, and thought that the titles of my blog posts were going to be witty and charming. Alas, that is so not the case. So as my tourist-influenced title alludes to (and the above paragraph), I was in Amsterdam this weekend! And while I normally write long posts about all of the fun things that I did during the weekend, I thought I might just tell about my adventure on Sunday and include a bunch of the great pictures of Amsterdam that I took. Between all of the raindrops, of course.

I have accidentally started a wonderful trend. In every city that I go, I immediately raid the rack of pamphlets in the hostel and look for something fun and exciting to do. Ireland, I found really neat tours to areas that I would not have found on my own. Český Krumlov I went rafting down the Vltava River. Budapest I went caving. And in Amsterdam, I went biking to the countryside to go and see a cheese farm and a wooden clog making workshop. The pouring rain was an added bonus.

Jonathan, Rosie, and I (our friend Gavin also came to Amsterdam with us but decided that he didn’t want to bike) managed to find a bike shop called Mike’s Bike Shop which was still running countryside tours even though it is October. They got us, and the 10 other morons who decided that biking in the rain was a good idea, outfitted with bikes and massive red ponchos and a (female) guide named Mike. I should take a moment to describe Mike for you all just so that you fully understand the scenario. Mike is Dutch, about 5’4″, 100 pounds, and had on 4 in black leather boots. Which she biked in. She also had on a massive white, furry, totally impractical for the rain, hat which also covered her ears and made it so that she couldn’t hear us. Oh, and electric blue eyeshadow, fake lashes above her real lashes so that she had two sets of eyelashes, and tons of eyeliner on. And with our slightly nuts guide, we were ready.

Because it was raining so hard, we were told to take the front of our ponchos and put it over our handlebars to also keep our legs dry. We then had to sit on the back of the poncho or it flew up behind us. I only wish that I had a chance to stand by the side of the road and photograph as 15 drenched cyclists went by in puffed-up, bright red ponchos rode by.

From left, me, Rosie, and Jonathan. Soaked.*
*I asked Mike to take a picture of us, and this is what we got. She kept mentioning something about “loving the square” – whatever that means.

We stopped at a windmill, which you can see in the background of the above picture.

We then rode on to the cheese farm which was great! The guy who makes the cheese was really friendly and gave us all tea and cheese! He had all sorts of interesting types of gouda (that’s the only kind of cheese that his farm makes), including gouda with herbs, with green and red peppers, and my favorite, with mustard seeds. I had never had that kind of cheese before, but the mustard seeds added such an interesting spin on what I sometimes think is a boring cheese.

Cheese!

As I mentioned, the farm also made wooden clogs. We actually got to see one be made which was really neat – they have a machine in which you clip in an already-made clog to one side and a block of wood to the other, and the machine copies the shape of the clog. Unfortunately, all of my pictures turned out not so great (I think my fingers were still numb from biking in the cold!).

BUT, I do have a bunch of other really beautiful pictures of Amsterdam:

a few fun facts:

  • It rains in Amsterdam about 200 days per year
  • Amsterdam has over 1 million bikes but on 700,000 residents
  • The Dutch people are the tallest in Europe (and pretty cute, too!)
  • 75% of the world’s flower bulbs come from the Netherlands
  • Holland and the Netherlands are the same country
  • Amsterdam has 165 canals and 1,281 bridges!

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Eat your HART out

Hallo aus Wien! My grandparents are here in Vienna and because Vienna is so close to Prague and my classes were cancelled on Tuesday, I decided it would be fun to tag along on their whirl-wind trip to Vienna.

My grandfather, Opa, has lots of interviews and talks to prepare and give, which means that Gumnise and I are free to do as we please during the day. Which so far has been visiting all of the beautiful museums that the city has to offer. And of course, in between visits, approaching every tram driver along the way demanding to know whether or not they speak English so that they can confirm that we are in fact going to correct direction. As a History of Art (HART) major, this has been great fun (well, not the verbal assault of the drivers, but the art). I wanted to share some of the works that we have seen because they are just too fabulous to not share.

Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

Inside of the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna
(I absolutely love the floor in here)

The Kunsthistorisches Museum is housed in a truly breathtaking building. No expense was spared by the Hapsburg monarchy when building it, which explains the elaborately carved ceilings, the lush marble columns and that tiling! It’s amazing that my grandparents ever got me to leave the building! The Kunsthistorisches Museum also has a twin across the square from it (an actual twin – the buildings are identical) called the Kunstkammer houses natural history items.

 

The Tower of Babel, Bruegel, 1563
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

*This may be my new favorite work of art

 

Helena Fourment in a Fur Wrap, Rubens, 1636-38
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

 

Susanna and the Elders, Tintoretto, 1560-62
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

 

The Art of Painting, Vermeer, 1666
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

 

The Seccession Museum, Vienna

Gustav Klimt, as well as other artists, succeeded from the Artist Union and commissioned this building to display their artwork. And while some originally called it “the bastard of a temple and a warehouse,” I think it is a great work of neo-classical architecture and the gold-leaf dome is beautiful, even on a rainy Sunday like today.

It’s basement houses one of Klimt’s most interesting works (I guess that’s subjective, but I thought it was fascinating), called the Beethoven Frieze. It has 3 different panels, two long and one short, which are meant to depict Beethoven’s 9th symphony. It also used to have a statue of Beethoven in the room, but I am not sure what happened to the statue. Currently in Vienna, it is the year of Klimt, so there are all sorts of really neat exhibits celebrating the artist all over the city. As a result, the Secession Museum has built a platform in the room with the Beethoven Frieze so that you can view the frieze at eye-level as opposed to from the ground staring up pretty close to the ceiling. I have never had to stare at it from the ground, but I can tell you, it would not even come close to how impressive the frieze was at eye-level. Klimt used mixed-mediums for this frieze and painted it fresco-style (meaning right onto the plaster) and he embedded mother-of-pearl and other gems into the work. Here are a few close-ups of some of my favorite parts of the frieze. 

 

 

 

 

If you want are looking for a little bit more about the Beethoven Frieze, here is a link to the museum’s page about the exhibit.

 

 

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