I am truly loving Prague. I love living here, I love learning my way around the city, and I love learning about the city. If I walk for 5 minutes, I can end up at our school building, or at the river, or at the base of a beautiful hill from which I can see the city. Or I can hop on a tram, bus, or metro and go anywhere. I’ll always be a girl who loves New York City and all that it has to offer, but there is something about living in a smaller, more open city that has so much history everywhere that somehow makes New York City look a little less glamorous.
A lot of the buildings here have these really beautiful paintings along the top of the sides, that look like black and white frescoes. I think they are characters from Prague’s history, and until I learn what they actually are, that is what I will pretend that they are. But they just add another level of life to the city.
Every day, we have both Czech and Czech culture class. Our first day of culture class, which is taught each day by a different one of our professors, we were taken to Prague Castle. It was also the first time that we were able to get a bird’s eye view of Prague, so we were finally able to see the real-life version of all of the Prague pictures that we’ve always seen.
We all have OpenCards, which are cards that you put money on and then you can ride the trams, metros, and buses unlimited. It’s a bizarre system though because you don’t scan the card. If you have a one-time paper ticket, then you put it into the ticket-reader on the bus, and it stamps it, but not the OpenCard. The only time that you need the card is when a ticket inspector comes around and asks to see your card. But, I have yet to see an inspector. I bet you’re all thinking, well then why put money on the card? Here’s why: I went with a few other kids right after class on the day that we got the cards to put money on them. We all spoke the woman behind the counter in our horrible broken Czech (we were told what to say in class), but I now have 90 days worth of transportation tickets! There were a few other kids on the tram who didn’t put money on the card and an inspector came around and scanned their empty cards. He then fined them 800 crowns each ($40!) and kicked them off the tram! The chances of this happening is so slim though. I think he must have gone up to them specifically because he heard them talking in English.
For our second culture class, we were supposed to go somewhere on the tram because we were supposed to all have filled our cards. But, since that wasn’t the case, the professor whipped this tour out of nowhere and took us to all of these different cathedrals to learn the difference between Baroque, Renaissance, and Gothic architecture. It was a really neat tour because he took us into all of these places that I would have just walked right past. There are all of these cathedrals which are set back from the street with a teeny tiny little door entrance from the street, but once you walk through the courtyard, you’re in front of these breathtaking buildings. He also knew about a baroque structure which is underneath a bar and now serves as a modern art gallery. There is no way that I would have ever known to look there!
My favorite trip thus far was yesterday. We went to Petřín, which is the biggest hill in Prague. I know that doesn’t sound that cool, but it’s a huge hill. We took a tram up to the top of it, and then we sat in a park and listened to some really fascinating facts about Prague. They would have been even more interesting if our professor wasn’t trying to cook us though…
Did you know?
– The ratio of dogs to children in the CR is 6:1 (Nuts, right?)
– The divorce rate is 67%
– 30% of couples with children are not married
– The average age is 41
– Women live to be 81, while men live to be about 77
– The CR’s population is on the decline because most people have dogs instead of kids
– Most Czechs will live in the same apartment their whole lives. The average change-over of apartments is 2 generations!
– Most Czechs will have only one employer in their lives
– The CR is one of the countries with the highest alcohol intake, but it is almost exclusively beer that is consumed
– The biggest minority population here is Vietnamese. But most Vietnamese speak almost no Czech
Also up on Petřín is a funhouse from the 1800s which had a mirror maze, funhouse mirrors, and an elevator which use to take 5-10 minutes to go up one story! I definitely plan on going back so I can try out the funhouse (although I think I can skip the elevator…) There is also a tower which is sort of a copy of the Eiffel Tower. The structure itself is smaller than the Eiffel Tower, but when you take into consideration that prague is higher than sea level, and this tower is on a hill, it is actually 3 meters taller than the Eiffel Tower! And yes, this was totally done on purpose. On my trip back, I will be climbing this tower as well (although I think I get to climb it with Reading Prague). Also throughout Petřín are little “churches” which are cement filled-in arches. I am having a hard time thinking of how to describe them, but think of 8 foot-tall filled-in arches that are about 1.5 feet thick. They have fresco scenes painted on the front of them and they are all over the hill. Within Prague, there is also a ton of graffiti. Interestingly enough, the frescos and the churches have been left entirely untouched, although sadly the same cannot be said for Prague Castle. I guess even graffiti artists find them sacred!
Last night, I discovered a great pub with a few friends. It’s the kind of place where you could go back and do some work with a beer once classes start. It also has a small outdoor space, so for the next week or so it would be great to sit outside in. The best part, the beer that I really like, Kozel, is 25 crowns (about $1.50)! Later, we went to the oldest pub in Prague. It was super overwhelming because as soon as we sat down, we were brought beer without ordering it. One of the guys with me kept asking to see a menu, but the waiter wouldn’t bring it to him because they only have one kind of beer! The beer that they make! It was 59 crowns (about $2.50) which is expensive for beer! (For those of you travelling to Prague, if the beer (not imported beer like Corona, but local stuff like Gambinos or Pilsner) is more than 35-40 crowns, you’re in a tourist trap and the food will be overpriced as well. But it was fun place to go to once and the atmosphere was fun.
We are off on another walk today, but as usual, I have no idea where we are going!