Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Stumbling in a Foreign Language

We visited the Czech Parliament today for the Political Science class. As an International Studies Major, I thought it was going to be a spectacularly interesting tour of a beautiful building. However, it was perhaps the worst tour I’ve had of Prague.
I had a picture in my mind of a magnificent building, like the glorious parliament of Budapest, but it turned out that it was a small building hidden within Malá Strana. It wasn’t even separated, but connected to neighboring buildings. The first thing we did was watch a movie that was made for elementary students that explained political processes. Although it was hilarious, it was voiced over in monotone English, I did not learn much about the history of the building.
After the movie, we were led on a tour around the building. Although the original building had been the oldest parliament in Europe, there had been a fire since and things had been restored. As a result, the building was not very interesting architecturally. The only interesting section was the room in which the House resided while legislating. Full of gold leaf and Romanesque statues, the room was the only part that had survived the fire.
What particularly made the tour boring was that our guide was partly afraid to speak in English, so he had our teacher translate, which would have been fine, but we were with our professor who has problems speaking in English. The tour guide could have probably done a better job and, soon, realized he should have given the tour himself. Information that would have normally taken 2 minutes to get across took about 20 minutes. It was very difficult to pay attention.
After the tour, a couple of my classmates were complaining to themselves about how boring the tour was, which kind of bothered me. As English speakers, we expect to be catered to. It must be extremely difficult, however, to try an convey the complex information in a foreign language. The vocabulary was difficult, and having to translate for someone else adds another difficulty. I really wish that we could hear our professor in Czech. I’m sure he would immediately gain a lot of confidence and capture the attention of the class with more ease.
It takes a long time before you can become confident in a foreign language. It is difficult enough to be able to control your mother tongue. I cannot imagine how difficult it must be to teach a class in a language in which I am not completely familiar. When speaking other languages, I know I must sound very unsure of myself. Feeling insecure while speaking can make it sound like I am unsure of the subject matter itself. Without passion behind the words, I cannot express my desire fully. It seems that this can be fixed however. Whenever I have discussions with people in Spanish about education reform, which surprisingly happens quite often, I immediately feel like I have a stronger control of the language and can express what I desire. Passion can destroy the barrier that is created when speaking in a second language. Nevertheless, I sometimes come to a word that I do not know, and immediately become frustrated and get lost in the flow of the conversation. One day, I hope to have the capacity to speak in a foreign language with just as much confidence as I have in my mother tongue. Maybe, one day, I can give Czechs tours of the White House.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Arrogant "Americans"

On Wednesday, I heard a domestic disturbance outside of my window. Although I should have been studying for my Czech test the next day, I could not resist listening to what was happening. Apparently, an English speaking man was upset that there were construction workers outside doing their jobs. Perhaps it was too noisy or they were in his way, I’m not quite sure. He was getting in their faces, and, trying to do their jobs, they pushed him out of the way. Apparently, he fell into his wife, and, in the process, she was pushed as well. The man became quite upset and started to call the workers “animals”. Obviously, they had no idea what he was saying, but he continued to yell at them. He called the police, and when they arrived, there was obviously nothing they could do. The workers were only doing their jobs, and it was clearly not their fault. The English speaker would not have this. He yelled at the policemen, speaking single words like “man”, “push”, “punish”, “animals”, etc as if saying isolated nouns would be more comprehensible than complete sentences. Every once in a while, he would throw in a Czech word, but his method of trying to explain the situation was ridiculous. He kept yelling at the pusher “You, HUMAN!” apparently trying to tell him to act like a person and not push people. Looking at the scene from above, it was obvious who the real animal was.
Situations like this highlight the arrogance of us “Americans”. I use quotes because the term itself is arrogant. We use this word that applies to two continents, not just fifty states. The word itself describes the typical “American”. Our exaggerated sense of importance and belief that we are always right is what makes other people look at us in distaste. The man’s refusal to try to speak civilly with the police men in Czech and his continued behavior toward the construction makers gave me a bad taste in my mouth. I know that his behavior gives all citizens from the United States a bad name. Luckily, I knew enough Czech to tell the construction workers that I agreed with them, but can my small act toward solidarity make up for the behavior that I have frequently witnessed in my fellow countrymen?


Cemeteries fascinate me; every marker that I see represents an individual, and each of these individuals has a story. Walking through a cemetery, you feel peaceful; all these people have come to the end of their journey and are able to rest. At the same time, you want to mourn, especially at the site of gravestones that mark the bodies of those who were not able to live a full life. Childrens' graves are particularly hard to deal with. Whether from some illness or some accident, they’ve left this world for the next. Looking at these stones, it’s hard to not think about your place in the universe and God in general.
I have seen two amazing cemeteries in Prague. The first was in Vyšehrad, which lies on a hill in New Town overlooking the rest of the city. The cemetery is old, but it continues to be used. Among the gravestones there are statues of angels and monuments to historical figures. Both Mucha and Dvořak were buried here. As the hill is the second biggest hill in Prague, it seemed a beautiful place of rest. Like their souls, the tombstones were reaching towards the heavens.
However, I would much more prefer being buried in the Municipal Cemetery. This graveyard, located in Prague 3 next to, of all things, a gigantic shopping mall, is perhaps the biggest and oldest cemetery I have ever seen. It looks like something out of the movies. Ivy grows over the older stones and the trees that tower over the graves. Each marker is immense, and there are monuments and angels throughout the resting place. At one point, I heard a lone voice singing a simple tune and as I followed, I found myself near the center and discovered a statue of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion; I didn’t mind that I couldn’t find the source of the voice. Somewhere hidden within the cemetery is the grave of Franz Kafka. Although I could not find the stone, I am quite sure I will return. The place was hauntingly empty and beautiful. The sun filtered through the branches to create an almost holy atmosphere. I wanted to cry and laugh and play all in the same moment.
There is also a section of the cemetery for new graves. I saw one gravestone that had the pictures of a man and a woman who had died on the same day. I knew enough Czech to see that they were parents and that their children had lost their parents in some fatal accident. It was a beautiful grave and quite touching.
It made me wonder how I would want to be buried when I pass away. Although my thoughts were a bit morbid, they were appropriate at the time. What I really want is for people to look at my grave and smile. If there are tears, I would hope that they were tears of happiness, remembering all the great times we’ve shared here on earth.

Monday, July 23, 2007


Sometimes the immensity of this world boggles my mind. I know but a little part of this world, and yet I have seen so much already in my lifetime. If you look at a map, though, these things that I have seen cannot to begin to fill the entirety of this globe. All I have seen our little dots within little counties that our part of a bigger state. Within these cities, I know but a part and will never be able to truly know any place. (Even Lindstrom can sometimes surprise me with a new street or park that I have never seen) At the same time, the world is quite small, and the coincidences that occur in said small world are just as mind boggling.
For example, at the hostel in Budapest we met a guy whose parents lived in a small town in Maine. It just so happened that the grandparents of Liza, one of the other students in the CHP program and now my good friend, also live in that small town, and the two families were old friends. Furthermore, Liza was in the same swimming class with the guy’s little sister. How we all could end up at the same hotel in Budapest is beyond me.
Yesterday, another strange coincidence occurred. Although Robby knew that he was going to come to Prague for a couple of days, his brother did not have similar plans. Pete didn’t even know when Robby was going to be in Prague. But yesterday, when we were walking home from dinner, we ran into Pete. Neither knew the other was in Prague, and we were as far from Pete’s hostel as possible. But somehow, fate stepped in and we were in the same back street at the exact time. If we would have spent an extra minute on Charles’ Bridge or eating dinner, we would have never seen him. Somehow, we ran into each other on the streets of Prague. Is stuff like this pure chance? Or does our shared background have something to do with where we are walking and at what time or what we visit. Or is there some sort of outside force that creates these coincidences? With such a gigantic world, how can we run into people that we know?

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Museum of Communism and Harry Potter

Our Political Science class went to the Museum of Communism on Thursday, and it was interesting to look at Communism in a country that had suffered under an oppressive regime. This gave it a very personal aspect, but at the same time, it had a great bias against Communism in general. I could understand why they looked at their experiment with Communism as a failure, but it spoke of nothing about the positive social aspects of the political system. One of the least objective parts was the mini-biography about Marx. After describing his theories, it ended with “as a result of his work, 100,000 people have died”. They blamed his theory on the death of thousands, but such a link is not historical in the least. It is quite unfair to blame deaths on a theory that was corrupted; the regime was not Marxist, but Marxist-Leninist and definitely had its faults. It was a shock to look at this museum with its corrupted facts when compared to the amazing museums we saw in Terezin. It really made me desire a more objective view on the history of communism in the Czech Republic.
Besides the museum, my weekend wasn’t the most interesting. We did visit Vjsherad and climb Petrin Hill, but a lot of my weekend was focused on reading Harry Potter 7. What was especially weird was that Rob Monson was here visiting for the weekend, I wasn’t the greatest host what with not being able to put the book down. We did randomly ran into his brother in Prague (they didn’t know that they were both here at the same time, it was an amazing coincidence). It’s like I’m at home, and am just living a normal life, reading Harry Potter and hanging out with the Monsons, and now watching Ratattoie with my friends. At the same time, I look out my window and I have this great view of the famous Prague red roofs and my lifestyle already feels more European. Giving Rob a tour of the city also reinforced the fact that I’m not at home during this summer, but studying here in Prague and immersing myself in the Czech culture. Even though there are similarities, I'm not in Kansas anymore.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

A Soft Kind of Power

Sometimes, obviously, the United States can piss me off. It’s a great country, don’t get me wrong, but it makes mistakes. One of its biggest fallacies is its desire to transform states into democracies. The Democratic Peace Theory states that democracies do not go to war with each other. If every state was a liberal democracy, war could be abolished and, ideally, peace would reign. Of course, there are many factors that try to define if a state is a democracy, if other states perceive it as democratic, and what exactly the definition of war is. Nevertheless, empirical evidence has shown that liberal democracies tend to live peacefully. (Unless, of course, you count World War II, in which Hitler was elected democratically, but it can be argued that immediately afterwards, it’s liberal values were completely demolished)
That was a little off topic, but what I’m trying to get at is that in order to promote peace, the United States supports liberal values, especially free markets. In order to create such democracies in typically non-democratic regimes, however, the United States has had to use force at times. If you look at the War in Iraq (I’ll try to be objective) the US has used force to stop Saddam Hussein’s regime and establish a democracy within a previous dictatorship. Regardless of the horrors that Hussein committed, and the fact that we originally lied about our intent, it needs to be questioned whether or not it was a democratic to try and enforce democracy. The force that was used to establish a pseudo-democracy in Iraq was hard power, and though it had its benefits, mainly quick action, it also involves the death of US soldiers and innocent Iraqis. Furthermore, the war continues with no end in sight.
Soft power is a lot more appealing to me. It gives people the resources and the information to choose their own destiny. Rather than directly interfering with the affairs of a foreign state, you can provide information and education, which may end in peaceful regime changes from the bottom up. RadioFreeEurope RadioLiberty, or RFE/RL, is one such organization that uses soft power to give societies the ability to embrace liberal values. RFE originally was established during the Cold War to provide states within the Soviet Bloc objective information about not only domestic affairs, but also international news. Broadcasting from Germany, it acted as a way to allow individuals who would like to hear equal and fair news the ability to find information that they could trust was not being filtered by the government. Although success of such soft power is hard to determine, it could have had an effect on the dissolution of the Soviet Bloc.
After 1989 and the transition to democracy in the ex-Soviet countries, RFE needed to find a new purpose; funded by the United States, some Senators wanted to use tax dollars elsewhere while others looked to extend its purpose to other arenas. RadioLiberty was created, and it continues to be broadcast in states that suffer from totalitarian regimes. To save money, the station was moved to Prague, and we were lucky to tour the site on Tuesday. The organization completely fascinates me. I’ve always had somewhat distrust in enforcing one’s ideologies upon another, but providing factual information, particularly domestic news, can create a bottom up change in repressive institutions. Of course, it has its difficulties. It can be hard to get a radio signal into a country whose dictator does not necessarily want such information being broadcasted. It does seem to have some success. I know I sound kind of like a poster boy, but if you want to read more about the organization, its website is www.rferl.org. Maybe I can get an internship there...

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Altering Truth

Terezin, a small fortress north of Prague, is a chilling place. It was converted from a 19th century prison into a Jewish ghetto in 1941, and houses museums that chronicle its history through the horrors of the holocaust. These museums are all spectacular, and put this historical scar in perspective.
Though not as deadly as the infamous Auschwitz, Terezin effectively destroyed the lives of both Jews and those, however remotely, of Jewish descent. There were no gas chambers at Terezin, but rather it acted as a half-way point between free life and extermination. At its peak, some 50,000 Jews were crammed into buildings that were supposed to house 3,000 soldiers. Thousands died from infectious diseases, while others died of sheer exhaustion and the great despair that was created in the concentration camp. The worst of it was the condition of the children; like the others, they were forced to work, had little food, and lived in cramped conditions. About 15,000 children passed through Terezin, but there are only 132 known survivors. In one of the museums, there is a section of art created by these young victims of the holocaust, and it is incredibly touching. Friedl Dicker-Brandeisova was able to create an atmosphere that gave these children an opportunity to embrace at least one aspect of childhood. One can see, however, that these paintings are hardly childish. Instead, themes of escape, their early life, and the desire to escape to a life of fantasy are prevalent: they have lost their childhood, and are no longer adults. The holocaust destroyed an integral part of their being. They never had a chance to experience all the joys of life, but only its sorrows. I think Michael Flack, a young artist who died before he could ever reach his potential, was able to best sum up the impact on the children in Terezin.
That bit of filth in dirty walls,
And all around barbed wire,
And thirty-thousand souls who sleep
Who once will wake
And once will see
Their own blood spilled.

I was once a little child,
Three years ago.
That child who longed for other worlds.
But now I am no more a child
For I have learned to hate.
I am a grown-up person now,
I have known fear.

Bloody words and a dead day then,
That's something different than boogie men!

But anyway, I still believe I only sleep today,
That I'll wake up, a child again,
and start to laugh and play.
I'll go back to childhood sweet like a briar rose,
Like a bell which wakes us from a dream,
Like a mother with an ailing child
Loves him with aching woman's love.
How tragic then, is youth which lives
With enemies, with gallows ropes,
How tragic, then, for children on your lap
To say: this for the good, that for the bad.

Somewhere, far away out there, childhood sweetly sleeps,
Along that path among the trees,
There o'er that house
Which was once my pride and joy.
There my mother gave me birth into this world
So I could weep...

In the flame of candles by my bed, I sleep
And once perhaps I'll understand
That I was such a little thing,
As little as this song.

These thirty-thousand souls who sleep
Among the trees will wake,
Open an eye
And because they see
A lot

They'll fall asleep again...
This was written in 1944, when Michael was still a young teenager, and had already suffered so much pain. Fortunately, this and many other works of art were saved, either smuggled out of the camp or found hidden within Terezin. Music, books, paintings, and diaries have been discovered, which were used to piece back together what exactly happened in Terezin. The horror of the site reduces most people to solemnity if not tears. It’s a warning light to the world that reminds us of the horrors of totalitarian regimes and the senselessness of genocides. It must not be forgotten.
But such a horror makes us ask questions. Why was it not stopped? How could the world have continued turning when such violations of human rights were being breached? The problem is truth. The world did not know what was truly occurring. In 1944, the Germans allowed the Red Cross to visit Terezin to dispel rumors that the Nazis were exterminating Jews on a mass scale. They used Terezin as a sort of model; they created a facade of a beautiful city with happy citizens living prosperous lives. It couldn’t have been farther from the truth, but the Nazis tricked the Red Cross into believing, through this process of ‘beautification’, that the concentration camps were a positive aspect of society. Children even performed the opera Brundibar. This propaganda distorted reality, and further destroyed the possibility to save the imprisoned Jews from liberation. It is understandable why the Jews could not fight back. They were physically weak from lack of nutrition and strenuous labor. Furthermore, their psyche had been greatly destroyed, and it seemed safer to collaborate with the Nazis rather than fight against oppression.
But their were a few who tried to escape, if only mentally, from the horrors of Terezin. Brundibar, for example, was performed since its composer, Hans Krasa, was also imprisoned in the camp. Countless paintings with common motifs against the Third Reich were created and distributed. The people were able to create a false reality for themselves to cope with the horrors they faced and fight against what the Nazi’s termed the “Final Solution”.
140,000 men, women and children were deported to Terezin from its establishment to 1945. A quarter of them died within the camp. The rest ended up in at either Auschwitz or other death camps. An estimated 4,000 survived these horrors. These numbers demonstrate the need to know the real truth. If the truth of the camps had been known, perhaps more people could have been saved. When people talk about the fabrication of the Holocaust and insist that it never occurred, it is imperative that there lie is countered with the truth, and that this stain on our history is not forgotten. Hopefully, it can be a lesson for future generations, including ours, as a warning against unchecked genocide.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Delays Throughout Moravia

Prague is made up of two former regions- Moravia and Bohemia. Last short trip, we visited southern Bohemia and we just got back from a trip to Southern Moravia. From the trip descriptions, it seemed that this trip was going to be incredibly more fun; we had wine tasting, touring various cities, a trip through a cave by boat on an underground river as well as tour the old capital Brno. Our actual journey differed greatly from what was expected.
We started out early in the morning, and at first we were worried that there would not be any breakfast. We were a little upset, because we did pay for our breakfast as part of tuition, and I think they noticed that we were being little snots and needed to eat, because right before we left at 8, they brought out our daily breakfast. Breakfast in Prague is pretty decent, although completely different than what you find in the States. I usually get houska, (a type of bread that is typical in the CR) cheese, ham, cereal, and lots of coffee. There never is any hot food, but it is filling and I would guess a little healthier than the usual fare in the US, and it is fun to try a new breakfast lifestyle.
Anyways, after we all tried to shove as much food in our mouths as possible before the bus left, we started to head out to our first destination, Telc. We drove, played some bus games, and chatted. But all of a sudden, something was wrong. The bus stopped on the side of the road, and our bus driver got out and was talking on the phone. I thought he had stopped to talk on his cell, and I thought it was a little rude, but we soon learned that the bus had broken down. Apparently, it had overheated, and it could no longer start. We managed to make it another 2 kilometers, before pulling over in a truck stop.
We were told that backups would arrive in 2 hours. We waited. We were told another 20 minutes. We waited. Finally, a backup bus arrived when we had been sitting at a rest stop, in the burning sun, in the middle of nowhere, without food, for a good 3 and a half hours. Needless to say, a lot of the people on the trip were in a pretty tired mood. But Cara, a new friend, and I decided to embrace it and before the bus came, we wandered around and discovered some interesting bill boards, met a guy with a flat tire (who couldn’t speak a word of English), and explored a beautiful field next to a forest with a brilliant blue sky. Maybe I can get a hold of that picture...
My point is as long as we continued to have a good attitude, we could enjoy other new experiences that we missed. The three and a half hour delay, however, really through off the rest of the schedule. We missed the wine-tasting that was scheduled, and had to sprint through Telc, just grabbing a bite to eat and listening to Petr Bilek, our tour guide, who described every building’s architecture. Obviously, we were all really disappointed; wine-tasting is always very fun. After Telc, we headed to Mikulov, which would have been a fun city to explore. But we could blame missing these sites that on the bus breaking down, and we realized it was noone’s fault and we could look forward to the caves in the morning. We enjoyed walking around the city for the rest of the night, and the view was great. Mikulov lies right next to Austria and Slovakia and from the top of the hill next to the Chateau we could see the two neighboring countries. Of course, it was great just to be with my new friends in this new place.
After a nice ending to the mix ups on Saturday, we started out fresh on Sunday. But once again, things did not quite line up. We were told to meet at the bus at 9, and we were all on the bus at 9:10, but for some reason the bus didn’t leave until 20 after. And then we got lost. It took forever, and Petr Bilek blamed it on us staying an extra 5 minutes at the gas station. I don’t quite understand his logic, but we once again missed one of the scheduled events. We were supposed to go on a boat on an underground river through a cave, but we were 20 minutes late, and we missed the launch. The culture here is completely different than in the United States. If there was group of thirty tourists in the United States, things would be changed if they were a little late. The boat would have waited for an extra five minutes before setting off, and the business would have preferred to make more money than launch the boat on time. In the Czech Republic, it seems like timeliness is more important, and the mind-set is less focused on making money. Perhaps this is a remnant left over from the Communist regime; it can be annoying. If we get off schedule, which seemed to happen a lot this weekend, we are screwed. In short, we missed our boat trip, and instead just toured one of the caves after taking a gondola and a little train. This was still a blast, but not quite the same.
After caves, we went to Brno, and once again had to sprint through, just grabbing food and listening to Petr rasp away. I wanted to explore the city, but we didn’t have enough time because the caves took longer than we thought and we had to leave right away. It seemed that we were in transit more often than sight seeing.
The trip to Moravia was scheduled to be amazing. Things changed around, and there were a lot of disappointments. But we still had a great time, and it is amazing that we had these opportunities to see a unique part of the Czech Republic. So, all in all, it was worth the eighty hours of bus ride.

Friday, July 13, 2007

The Comfort of Repetition

Sometimes its hard to break out of a mold. Your life tends to follow patterns. Wake up, school, work, play, sleep. Obviously, some order is needed so you can, for example, become specialized in a certain area. Repetition is comfortable and needed in most jobs in the name of efficiency. Waking up and going to bed are also important for physical well being and mental health. Repetition within school as well as going to school every day is needed so that you can learn. But that other part of the pattern of your life doesn’t need to follow a pre-destined order. Playing in different ways is definitely healthy, and experiencing a broader part of life can increase your understanding of the world.
Sometimes, my play gets stuck in a rut. By play, I mean going out to restaurants, the path that I take my morning jog on, dishes I cook, books I read, parts of Prague I visit, etc. You find something that you really like, and you continue to do it because you like it so much. We originally wanted to go to a different restaurant every time in Prague. We failed pretty quickly and already tend to go to Friends. It’s a really fun place, with a great atmosphere and great food. Of course, there are tons of other places in Prague that I should visit, but I’ve found my comfort in Friends, and it tends to be a place we visit. The problem is it is hard to break out of this rut. It’s scary to try other places. You never know what you are going to like, and what it is going to be like. If I jog a different path, I won’t know where I’m going. But at the same time, I would be able to see more and learn more about the city. It’s good to break out of repetition.
Why do we like repetition so much? It creates the familiar and it reminds us of our home. We create a group of people that we like and an atmosphere that we enjoy. For example, right now I’m typing with my friends in room 305, the room we always chill in. I’ve created a little Lindstrom in Prague, but with its own little quirks. But Lindstrom is a small town, and I’m limiting my experiences by trying to create a new home within the city. I need to actively increase the size of my comfort bubble and increase my capacity to enjoy life. This can be scary; what if I don’t like what I’ve found? But do you know what’s worst? Not finding what’s better.

Blaming me on the Blanket

We have had it pretty easy in Jerome House so far. Our landlady is very pleasant, and the housekeeping staff is really nice as well. Mom would be disappointed that I don’t have to make my own bed. But, we had an incident the other day that kind of spoils our relationship with the staff here at the JH.
Yesterday, I came back from my poli-sci mid-term (which is a fun class and I feel like I’m learning a lot about transitions to democracy etc) and asked for my key. They gave me a really dirty look and said we had to talk. Apparently, they think I threw up in a blanket and threw it out a window. Which I didn’t do, obviously, but all signs point to my room. Why may you ask?
1) Three days ago, my roommate, Alex, threw up on the wall, which I didn’t even know about, but he had to pay today to get it cleaned up.
2) When Robby and Jori were staying, we had rented out two blankets, two pillows and two mattresses. I could have sworn that they took one of the blankets back, but they think that we are now one blanket short.
3) They found a lot of boxed wine in the trashes in the kitchenette.
4) Someone had thrown up in the communal shower two nights ago, and they had to clean that up too.
I understand that they are blaming me, but it still really is quite sad that I have to pay for the mistakes of some asshole that can’t hold his red wine. I actually have an idea of who it may be, but I’m not sure if I can prove it, because I don’t have evidence. Liza and I think it was the people down the hall that either stole our blanket or are now one short. Fortunately, we are going to split the cost between a bunch of us, but it is still kind of sad that we are being blamed for someone's stupidity. 75 bucks for a blanket. Crap.

Prepositions and Propositions

Yesterday, I was wondering around the city and I got kind of lost. I knew where I was going, but I thought that there was a faster way and I tried to take a shortcut. Unfortunately, I don’t know the city as well as I thought, and it wasn’t very long and I was very lost in Old Town. Luckily, I know enough to ask “Kde je Narodni Divadlo?” (Where is National Theater) and I asked multiple people where it was. However, I had no idea what they answered. I didn’t know enough Czech to understand their response, so I ended up just getting more and more lost.
I started noticing something interesting, however, and I was really excited to see that all the stores were using the preposition “u”, which means at, around, by, etc. When you use u, the following nouns and adjectives have to change to the genitive case (which is a complicated case within the Czech language, but kind of exciting for loser linguists like me). So, I was just wondering around, saying things like “oh, u Staromestke Kavy comes from Staromestka kava”. Well, that is a bad example, because I don’t think I ever found an Old-Town cup of coffee, but I think you get the point. So, I would alternate between exclaiming in joy when I saw another prepositional phrase and asking randoms on the street where Narodni Divadlo is. I finally found two Slovak men who had decent English, who were also lost, and we continued searching for Karluv Moct. I asked this older women if she knew where Charles’ Bridge was, and she told me to follow her and I did. Well, she brought me to a random door and said “joint” and obviously, I responded “ne”. She then made hand motions towards my crotch and obviously was implying that she would have sex with me. So, that is how my happy day full of prepositions changed into an encounter with a prostitute.
The guys and I finally found Karluv Moct, and they wanted to go to a club, but it was too expensive. I tried to convince them to go with me to Friends, but right before I got to Tingl Tangl, they left me, so I walked home alone.


Hostels are crazy experiences. You never know who you are going to meet, and what the living conditions are going to be like. In Budapest, we stayed at this hostel in the middle of an island on the Danube between Buda and Pest. The island was surrounded by a park (with a perfect 5K running path) and it was covered with gardens; a sort of oasis from the city itself. The room, of course, was not nearly as luxurious, but the setting and the people made the hostel a blast.
We met a lot of cool people from around the world. Michael and Kevin (who we repeatedly called K-Fed) were two Scots that enjoyed drinking and playing some random Scottish card game. Michael was the more sociable of the two, and he went with us to the spa and walked around the city. K-fed would sleep all day, but would be hanging out at the patio during the night. It was interesting to talk to the two and to comprehend differences and similarities between our two cultures.
We also met two students from the States. Their names were Robby (with a y) and Jori (with an I). They were both from Harvard; Jori was legit, but Robbie oozed Harvard, like a newly formed pus-filled scab prodded by a curious four-year old pondering what may lie underneath the red abrasion and swollen membrane. Alright, it wasn’t that bad, but he was a sailor. Sailor=pretentious. They met up with us here in Prague, and we had to deal with them for some four days. We put up with their antics, but we are glad they are now on the way to Greece. (If you’re reading this Harvards, we still love you)
Of course, no hostel is complete without your share of crazies. There were some creepies that creeped around, but not as much as our little Chris Donahoe, as well as some anti-social kids. But we survived.
It was amazing how much we enjoyed the hostel. I thought that we would just sleep there, but the dynamic that was created with all of these fellow travelers really made our stay worthwhile (and we had just as much fun chatting on the porch with randoms as touring the city).

Monday, July 9, 2007

More About Budapest

Yesterday was the 650th anniversary of Karluv Moct (or Charles’ Bridge). All of us were really excited (how often do you see a 650th anniversary?), but we were kind of dissapointed. Although it was a huge festival and the bridge was completely packed, we didn’t really understand exactly what was going on. Today at 5:31 am was supposed to be the important time with fireworks etc, but we didn’t make it that long. We did see a bunch of horses though and a woman that was dressed like Xena warrior princess yelled something in Czech about how we needed to move and punched Robbie in the chest, but besides that, it was just too crowded. It seemed that everyone in Prague was in the city; it took a half hour to get across the bridge. So, instead of boring you about specifics on the bridge, I’ll tell another tale from our weekend trip to Budapest.
We decided we don’t like Budapest as much as we like Prague. The city is beautiful, but it is too spread out. Prague is great and big and it is very compact. We never take the metro. In Budapest, we would walk for an hour to find our next destination, and it got quite tiring. Nevertheless, we did see some beautiful and interesting things.
The Parliament in Budapest is amazing. It is probably one of the coolest structures I have ever seen in my life; we didn’t go inside, but the exterior was fulfilling enough. Gothic spires just amaze me and the color of the building is really unique.
We also visited, as mentioned before, St. Stephen’s Basilica. It not only had a great view, but also had an amazing interior. Everything was vaulted inside and there was a lot of gold and marble. The marble seemed to not be true marble; perhaps it was a marble coating over some other sort of material. Otherwise, this would have been a pretty pricey building to construct.
Of course, regardless of what the exact materials were, the Basilica had to have been a very expensive project. Although it was beautiful, and the great works of art inside and construction made one think of heaven, at the same time it made me a little upset. The amount of money that was needed could have helped those who were in true need; those who needed food and shelter or medical attention. I could imagine living in the 19th century and living on the streets when this huge building is being erected to spread the ideas of Christianity. It’s quite a dilemma; the beauty of the church and its spiritual benefits on one side against the material needs of the disinherited. Personally, I think the money could have been better used by helping those in need, but I understand the need to create such places of worship.
That’s enough criticism of the Catholic church for now... one of the most interesting aspects of the Basilica was its relic, which was the mummified hand of the first king of Hungary. It is so interesting to think that there is so much value and spiritual significance in the hand of a man that has been dead for almost a millennium.
As I’ve said before, Budapest is made out of Buda and Pest. On the Pest side, we visited a public garden that had a beautiful castle and some random modern art pillars. It was weird to look at an impressive structure and twenty feet away, some ugly 80's style artsy pillar thingies. We weren’t quite sure what they were, but they were awfully fun to climb.

There was also a carnival and a zoo, but since we have visited the zoo in Prague already and I still kind of feel sick from that carousel back at the shopping mall, we decided against it. There was also a beautiful spa in the public garden that is world renowned. It has huge ceilings and indoor and outdoor medicinal spas that are supposed to be great for your body. Unfortunately, we decided to go to a cheaper spa.
The spa we went to, Lukas, was on the Buda side. It was pretty close to our hostel, and at 1500 Florin, it was only about 8 bucks. We should have splurged at the nicer one. By far, we were the youngest people at the spa; it should have been called Geriatric Spa and Grill. Everyone seemed to be in their 60s and 70s. I didn’t mind, but it felt like we were out of place, and we seemed to be the only foreigners. Rather than a place to relax, it was the place to meet for the gray-haired Hungarians. It was definitely a unique experience to be surrounded by octogenarians in their speedos...
Speedos are very interesting. Obviously, they haven’t caught on much in the states, but they are the norm here in Europe. Social constructs in both regions have changed the idea of what is acceptable and what is not. Here, it is no surprise that a woman in her 90's can wear a two-piece or maybe even just a bottom. Swim trunks seem out of place with the men. Public nudity is also much more prevalent in Europe than in the United States. It makes you wonder why there are such huge differences and especially how breasts became so sexualized in the US. When men are allowed to walk around bare-chested, why do woman have to cover up even when going for a swim? Social constructs seemed to have grown to restrict the way people behave. It seems odd that they are so different between two parts of the “western” world. Both nations are predominately Christian, so it doesn’t follow that it has strong religious ties. I wonder if it is a result of advertising. Breasts are now used to sell things, and have become associated with sex. Eventually, this has resulted in covering up one’s body when it doesn’t naturally seem necessary. Wow, that was off topic, but back to social constructs. Body hair also seems to be something that was created in our heads as bad. It is 100% natural. And most women in Europe do shave their legs. But where does this come from? When was it decided that having smooth legs were beautiful? The way that society shapes mind-sets fascinates me, and I would love to know when the construct that body hair is unpleasant was created.
Traveling through Budapest was the first time I was in a foreign country without knowing a single word of the foreign language. I tried to learn a couple of phrases, but the language was too difficult, and I couldn’t even figure out how to pronounce thank-you. It is hard to be in a country and not have the ability to verbalize how you feel. Luckily, lots of things can be accomplished without words. It can be quite amusing to watch someone try to order food or buy something by pointing, grunting, shrugging, nodding, and smiling. It’s a lot of work, but most of these things are cross-cultural and can be used universally. Of course, this is not completely true; in some cultures, pointing can be quite rude, and I know in Bulgaria when you shake your head ‘no’ it means ‘yes’ and vice-versa. Luckily, this was not the case in Budapest and we were able to eat without offending people. However, we did discover one interesting difference in the counting system. When holding up 2 fingers, like if you wanted to waters or something, you are supposed to use your thumb as finger number one. Holding up your “peace” fingers is an insult in Hungary. So don’t wish Hungarians peace with your fingers. Instead, try to say this mouthful:
Öt török öt görögöt dögönyöz örökös örömök között.
“Five Turks are massaging [or beating up] five Greeks amid everlasting delights.”

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Train Travels in Central Europe

Getting to Budapest, and the return trip, were both a lot of fun. Traveling by train is a very unique experience; it’s like the transition between driving in a car, and flying. In a car, you are usually pretty comfortable and have your own space, and go at your own pace. In a plane, you are crowded and get to the destination quickly. Planes are almost the best of both worlds; you can enjoy the scenery and have your own compartment, but you don’t get the inevitable tired feeling that driving for hours gives you. And trains can take shortcuts and help you reach your destination quicker. In short, they are a blast.
On the way to Hungary, we got a sleeper car. Our train left at 11:30, and I didn’t want to be late, so I kind of pushed the group to get there by 10, which was kind of stupid of me since trains are not planes. In fact, you cannot know which platform to even board until about 20 minutes before the train leaves. So, after forcing our group to get there early, we waited for a while, eating some zmrzlina and just chatting. There was a little song playing whenever a train left, so my friend Emily and I made a little diddle. You can watch it here: http://youtube.com/watch?v=54W6PItXGDQ
I’m not sure why it sounds like Inspector Gadget, but after waiting a while, it seemed that singing was the most exciting thing to do. When we finally got into our train, we were really excited to find out that it was a really old sleeper car. It seemed like a classic movie, and we immediately settled into our beds. We locked our cabin, and fell asleep pretty quickly. At 6 AM, we were woke up by Passport Control, and gave them our passports and fell back asleep. Unfortunately, Liza forgot to lock the cabin after they stamped our passports, and we had quite a scary experience. When we all woke up around 8, we realized that our things had been moved. Someone had come into our car while we were sleeping. Everyone immediately checked their belongings to see if anything was missing. I was fortunate- I had no cash on me and they didn’t steal my passport or credit cards. My friends didn’t fare as well. 3000 Kron were stolen from Emily, 1000 from Molly and Alex’s Game boy was stolen. The fact that there was a thief in our car was more disturbing than what was stolen though. Somehow, he was able to take things while we slept inches away...
The return trip was a little different. On the way home, it was day so we didn’t get a sleeper. Instead, we were able to enjoy the countryside from Budapest back to Prague. Sitting with friends, reading Primo Levi, and taking a train that parallels the Danube is one of the most relaxing things in the world.
Of course, there were also some very interesting people on the train. One lady would not stop staring at us. We had brought bread and bananas and were eating it when she came on and she wouldn’t stop giving us dirty looks. She was an older Czech woman, and obviously did not like the way we were acting. Maybe she was shocked at the way we held ourselves. Alex, for example, was sleeping across three seats. He can sleep anywhere, and was able to sleep with his head on one chair and his feet across the aisle on another; this meant that his back wasn’t supported at all. I think that it might be rude to put your feet up in the Czech Republic...
Or she might have been upset that we were enjoying life. For a good hour, the five of us were passing around my iPod and lip-syncing whatever song popped up while the others guessed what the song was. It was a great game, but a little loud. We videotaped parts of it...
As you can see, we may have been annoying foreigners, but the game was silent, so it seemed that the lady was just being nosy. I guess that is all I have to say about the railroad right now... I’m sure I’ll take it again!

Feeling Vertigo

I've never really had a fear of heights. Nevertheless, I get a weird feeling when I look over an edge, or see someone else getting close to a railing. Most people would describe this as vertigo, or a fear of heights. (Which I guess is medically wrong, but when I think "vertigo", I think fear of falling. So, I'll use it incorrectly throughout.) We climbed to the top of St. Stephan's Basilica in Budapest and I felt this sensation various times. In "The Unbearable Lightness of Being" by Kundera, a Czech writer, he describes vertigo as less of a fear of falling and more as the desire to fall. The Basilica helped me comprehend the feeling I get when I'm near the edge. The feeling you get when looking to the street below isn't fear; it's definitely a feeling of excitement. It's exactly the same as opening a letter of acceptance, or denial, from a college. Of course you are afraid, but the overwhelming emotion is a desire to know what's inside. Similarly, I wanted to know what it would be like to fall. Obviously, I'm not suicidal. Falling is not the same as death. Falling is more like freedom, getting away from the world, and experiencing something new. Of course, there is fear of the new, but I wanted to fall. That is exactly what I'm doing here in Europe. Falling into a new life-style, perceiving the world differently. Vertigo is change, and sometimes it's needed; it's life.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Losing Oneself

Is it possible to get lost on purpose? I set out, trying to get lost and, as a result, get to know the city better. What a fun objective. Map in my pocket, I hoped to see parts of the city I had never seen before. Of course, I didn’t want to get truly lost, so I started by heading to part of the city I knew, Praha 2, and on the trip back, took some routes that were different.
When losing yourself, you often discover things you never truly understood. One event demonstrated that foreign languages can add to the hilarity of a situation by adding extra confusion and nonsensicalness. For example, in a café, I was looking at my map to reorient myself and write on my map where the café was. A guy in the café yelled to me “Pane, Pane”. He was trying to get my attention, and when I finally noticed this, he tried to help me find my place. I could not explain that I didn’t need help; I was not yet lost. It seems that it is a lot easier to get help when it is not needed than when you are truly in need. It took a good minute before he realized that I didn’t need his help. It was also difficult to be allowed to look at the art at the gallery in the café and tell the proprietor that I enjoyed the paintings. Instead, it seemed that I wanted to buy some works; as a student, this was not possible. Still, people were helpful regardless of my purpose.
Afterwards, I headed back home down a different street. It is so weird how fate works. Had I instead walked back on my path, I wouldn’t have ended up in the right place at the right time. A couple of different turns, and I’m in a different place of history at a different time. Have you ever seen someone leave something on top of a car? It could be a scarf, a box, food, maybe even a baby. Had I not tried to get lost, I wouldn’t have found this car, driving along as if there wasn’t a care in the world. Striving to get their attention, I realized I didn’t have enough vocabulary to tell them they left their groceries on the roof of their car. All I could manage was “meloun a yogurty!”. Of course, the response was various Czech words shouted left and right. Gestures, however, are universal. I pointed to the roof, and tried to get them to notice. Finally, I grabbed their groceries (watermelons, puddings, fruits, and some yogurt) and handed it to them. This situation is universal. Crossing cultures, and languages, we all laughed that a potentially catastrophic accident was averted. Alright, it wasn’t catastrophic, but it could have been messy. The hilarity of a situation can be multiplied when no one can truly understand each other.
After leaving them to their picnic, I continued to try to get lost in the city. However, I wasn’t successful. It seems that it is not possible to get lost by force. It is too easy to know at least where you’ve been and what direction is the known. You can’t get too far into the unknown on purpose, or it slowly becomes part of the known. It has to be an accident. Its like accidently running into a car that has a basket of food on top and saving them before they go on the highway- a spontaneous action.
In the end, I ended up finding a shortcut to my home, the Jerome House. I didn’t get lost, but I had a blast just the same. Hopefully I can get lost. When saving that basket of food, I was in the right place at the right time. If I want to get lost, I have to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Both sound great.

Ugly and Beautiful

When one walks around Prague listening to Regina Spektor, it would be impossible not to have unique experiences; today almost seemed like a reflection of Soviet Kitsch. The music that I listened to seemed to correlate with the situation almost as if I was in the middle of a well directed music video.
It’s weird how memories work. The Czech Republic was a jumble of random images before I returned this summer. The metro, the theater, Cesky Krumlov, Milena’s summer house, our apartment, making spaghetti, Charles’ Bridge and souvenirs. Now, these images seem to connect with what I see today and the effect can be quite immense.
Absurdity seems to stick out in one’s mind. We remember the ‘horrible’ rather than the ‘beautiful’. At a carnival, the image of a three-legged man will stick in our mind for years while the image of an elephant joins our minds’ idea of the Elephant. We have seen elephants before, we will see them again. Their existence follows a pattern; they are a normal part of our conscience and, though impressive, they continue to be one of Plato’s forms. The three-legged man, however, what a sight. Our brain needs to stare to comprehend what sets this man apart. How can it fit into our idea of Man? Similarly, architecture seems to fit into the norm, or what is ‘beautiful’, and those things which can’t be categorized. Today, I ran into such an absurd building that was burned into my memory years before.
Why would babies crawl up towers? It seems like a dangerous situation. If they fall, they must fall to their death. Is their no mother to stop this dangerous profession? These questions, and more, are immediately asked when you come upon Mahlerovy Sady. This building can’t really be truly explained in words. Nor can it be summed up in pictures. But I will try a combination of both. It is a modern building, with huge pillars and almost a Radisson-like restaurant at the top. Up and down there are big black-colored babies crawling up and down. Their faces, however, are not baby faces, but rather flat, featureless sculptures. I rediscovered this building today. While listening to the climax of Regina’s “Ode to Divorce”, I turned the corner to discover this absurd architecture. It was quite an emotional experience; I felt a sense of familiarity and absurdity. I had been to this before and with my family. My sister and my mother for sure, and it is quite possible that I was with David, Sarah, Chris and John. But memory fails us, and the only truth I know is that Anna and my mother were there. Combined with this comforting feeling, I also couldn’t get over how alien and absurd this building was. Combined with a musical climax that occurred at the perfect time, I almost felt like crying. It was so ugly and so beautiful...

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Czech Zoo

Today, we went to the zoo. We took the metro (which has been updated since 2000) and a bus. It was far away, an extra activity, and I almost didn’t go. However, I’m so glad I did. It was a blast. I remembered that the zoo was horrible from our first trip to Prague. Compared to the Minnesota Zoo it was boring and small. However, this has all changed and I was shocked to find a zoo that was both fun and visited by many Czechs. I guess there was a flood in 2003, and they had to redo the entire zoo. It seems that this has transformed the zoo from boring to quite exciting. We saw many animals of course, but the craziest was in the Indonesian exhibit. Within the night part of the exhibit, there were bats flying around. Not just in containment, but on the walkways WE were walking. So the bats would fly right by your head. It was crazy; mom would have freaked. It reminded me of the time on Park Street when a bat got in the house and Sarah had to scare it away. I don’t think they would do something like that in the United States, but it was really cool/scary. I could have sworn one bat brushed my hair, but I know that they wouldn’t hit me. On the way out, I was wondering why they wouldn’t fly out. Right after we left, there was a bat trying to get back into the exhibit! Apparently, the light of the outside bugged him, and he wanted to return to captivity.
There were many animals (some that I haven’t seen in American zoos) but I don’t really need to go into detail. It was fun to just see these animals with my fellow students, and enjoy the great weather (and of course, some zmrlzina).
On the way home, we took a boat instead of the tram. It was only 70 krona ($3.50) and it brought us back to Karluv Most (Charle’s Bridge). It seems like boat rides are more common here in CR than they are in the states. It is nice to just relax on the boat and chat with others.
Well, I have a Czech test tomorrow, and need to get to work studying. Na shledanou!

Ceske Budejovice and Cesky Krumlov

The second part of the trip, Ceské Budějovice, was not nearly as interesting as Trebon. Although it was home to the Czech brewery “Budwar”, we didn’t see much of the city. I think we only stayed because the hotels were cheaper than our next destination. We did go up in a tower near the center and see a great view however. Afterward, we went to a Pizzeria for dinner, and once again we were able to use our Czech while ordering- it is so fun. After dinner, we went to a tea house and it was really relaxing to just sit back, drink some great tea, and pay about 4 bucks for all of us to enjoy said tea. We also watched some TV at the hotel and it was fun to see the differences in culture displayed through the media.
The next morning, we woke up early to head to Ceský Krumlov. I’ve visited this town early, and remember some details (such as being surrounded by the Vtlava on three sides and all the toy stores) but it was great to see the town from a historical perspective.

We started our tour of the city, which is beautiful by the way, at the town’s theater, which is connected to the castle through three tunnels. One above (for the royalty) one in the middle (for the common folk) and one underground (for the servants). Well, something to that effect. The theater was amazing! It is one of two Baroque theaters that is still in original conditions, and that hasn’t been renovated to fit newer periods. I couldn’t get over it. We learned about all the theatrical devices that were used in Baroque times, and it amazed me how they were able to put on these shows without electricity! They don’t use the theater as a theater anymore, the humidity created by breath can destroy some of the preserved items, but they have a couple of shows that recreate the time period followed by a Baroque dinner. There is one at the end of July and one in September, and I am pretty tempted to attend and see a period of history through the lens of theater.
After this tour, we started to descend into the city center. One the way, we saw some brown bears in captivity. I guess the crest of the crown or some legend about a bear had started a tradition to have bears in captivity, and though it was completely random, we saw some bears in Ceský Krumlov. After this spectacle, we walked through the city and our tour guide talked about the interesting buildings and the history of the city. Most of our group was very tired, but I enjoyed looking at the architecture. Afterwards, we had lunch next to the riverbank. I had shopska salat (a salad with tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, etc) and polevka (soup, in this case, garlic soup, which is really good). I think it would be a lot of fun to study in this city, but the old University is no longer open. It seems like all the Universities are in Prague.
After our short visit to Ceský Krumlov, we began the return trip. Most of us were completely wiped out, it had been a huge day, so I decided to read a book on the bus. I’ve started Kundera’s “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” which is by a Czech author. The book is amazing; I’m only 100 pages in, and I can’t wait to start reading it again. I want to enjoy it and read it throughout my stays here in Prague, but I’m sure I will probably finish it rather quickly because it is incredibly interesting. I want to take a class on Czech literature during the fall semester...
Halfway home, we stopped at a castle that was typical of early Gothic architecture. It wasn’t the most impressive castle, but it had a lot of historical background and I could admire the fact that it was so incredibly old. After a quick tour, we got on a boat and traveled down the Vlatava toward another castle. The boat ride was a lot of fun, and Julia and I were trying to call the Loch Ness monster from the depths of the river (surely she was on vacation from Scotland and was able to visit a landlocked country, right?). Although we failed, our group enjoyed blowing bubble-gum bubbles and enjoying the nice weather. Unfortunately, the boat-ride took to long and we weren’t able to make it to tour the second castle. We headed back (most of us drained to the max). I’ve noticed that my friendships are becoming much stronger. I had such a good time on the bus just chatting about random things. Families, books, politics, religion. When you can talk about religion and theology and discuss politics without yelling at each other you know that you have made friends. It is great that I can enjoy Prague with people who I like. When we returned to Prague, I realized that this city now feels like home; I felt like I was on vacation and only now returning home to Prague. It is so interesting how a place can become your new home so quickly.


It’s been a while since an entry, but that is because I have been traveling throughout Southern Bohemia. This weekend, we took a bus-trip to various cities and saw some places in the Czech Republic outside of the city. The bus ride itself was fun. I was with all my friends, and we chatted the whole time and watched the Czech countryside pass by. It was a good way to learn more about my friends, and see more of this interesting country. I loved looking at all the signs and billboards and comparing them to advertisements we see in the United States and trying to figure out what the ad was trying to sell. The ride didn’t take too long to our first destination, and it wasn’t long before we were stretching our legs in the small(er) town of Trebon. Our guide showed us various buildings and talked about both architecture and the history of the town. Sometimes, I find it hard to follow the history professor. I’m not in the class, so the information is not as needed for me, and sometimes his lectures get a little dry. At the same time, I want to learn about these places. It gets hard, however, when he focuses on architecture, which definitely is not my strongest subject. After looking around the town, we were left to have lunch on our own. A couple of my friends and I went off and found a smaller
restaurant. In smaller towns like Trebon, the servers don’t know English and we were forced to order our meals in Czech. Of course, I was very excited about this and ordered fried carp. In this town, they have many man-made lakes and our known for their carp; in fact, carp would be served at the royal palace if the king was entertaining guests. It seemed weird to order carp at a restaurant, but it was decent. I didn’t like the bones, but the fish itself was tasty. After lunch, we all got some zmrzlina (ice-cream). Zmrzlina is perhaps my favorite Czech word (I’m not sure why it doesn’t have many vowels, but it is fun to say) and I love to both order it and of course eat it. I think their ice-cream is better than the ice-cream we have in the States.
After lunch, we went to a brewery that brews Regent beer. It was very interesting to see the process and taste some of the beers. We also learned some more about Czech culture; Czechs consume a greater amount of beer per capita than any other country. It seems to be an integral part of their life. After the brewery, we got back on the bus and headed toward Ĉeské Budějovice.


It’s been a while since an entry, but that is because I have been traveling throughout Southern Bohemia. This weekend, we took a bus-trip to various cities and saw some places in the Czech Republic outside of the city. The bus ride itself was fun. I was with all my friends, and we chatted the whole time and watched the Czech countryside pass by. It was a good way to learn more about my friends, and see more of this interesting country. I loved looking at all the signs and billboards and comparing them to advertisements we see in the United States and trying to figure out what the ad was trying to sell. The ride didn’t take too long to our first destination, and it wasn’t long before we were stretching our legs in the small(er) town of Trebon. Our guide showed us various buildings and talked about both architecture and the history of the town. Sometimes, I find it hard to follow the history professor. I’m not in the class, so the information is not as needed for me, and sometimes his lectures get a little dry. At the same time, I want to learn about these places. It gets hard, however, when he focuses on architecture, which definitely is not my strongest subject. After looking around the town, we were left to have lunch on our own. A couple of my friends and I went off and found a smaller
restaurant. In smaller towns like Trebon, the servers don’t know English and we were forced to order our meals in Czech. Of course, I was very excited about this and ordered fried carp. In this town, they have many man-made lakes and our known for their carp; in fact, carp would be served at the royal palace if the king was entertaining guests. It seemed weird to order carp at a restaurant, but it was decent. I didn’t like the bones, but the fish itself was tasty. After lunch, we all got some zmrzlina (ice-cream). Zmrzlina is perhaps my favorite Czech word (I’m not sure why it doesn’t have many vowels, but it is fun to say) and I love to both order it and of course eat it. I think their ice-cream is better than the ice-cream we have in the States.
After lunch, we went to a brewery that brews Regent beer. It was very interesting to see the process and taste some of the beers. We also learned some more about Czech culture; Czechs consume a greater amount of beer per capita than any other country. It seems to be an integral part of their life. After the brewery, we got back on the bus and headed toward Ĉeské Budějovice.