Czeching Out

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , ,

Dear Prague,

The past four months you taught me a lot. I learned more than I thought I would. Through culture shock, language barriers, tough situations, traveling alone, different customs, and much more, I learned to challenge myself and truly grasp what it was like to live abroad.

When I was leaving to go to Prague, I received many curious questions or comments about my city of choice to study in because it wasn’t a well know city such as London, Paris, Barcelona, Rome, etc. I wanted to push myself further. I strategically chose Prague.  I wanted to see more of central Europe, and it was convenient for traveling. While I did travel to Rome and Barcelona, I am so happy with my decision not to study there. Prague became my home. I knew so much of it by the time I left. I don’t feel this would have happened in some of the larger cities. I would have still felt like a tourist, which I totally did not in Prague at the end of the semester. I found a café to study in, I had my restaurant that I frequented, and I knew the potraviny man downstairs by my apartment.

You go to Rome for the history: the coliseum, the Vatican, the forum. You go to Paris for the Eiffel Tower and the museums. You go to Prague for the city. While it does have some big interesting sites (Old Town Square, Prague Castle, Charles Bridge) the true beauty is found by wandering. You can’t have one photograph that defines Prague.  The entire city itself is the attraction. The experience makes it worthwhile.  The tourist attractions are nice for a while, but I miss the side streets, the basement bars and clubs, Žižkov, and crowded trams. I sometimes even miss waiting for the tram at four am as the wind makes it feel like it’s a few degrees above zero. It gives you a feeling. A feeling you can’t describe. It’s all around you and other people feel it too. You can’t describe it, but you can look at each other and know. That is my Prague.

Prague Pros: walking around in a real city, walking past beautiful architecture, historical and colorful buildings everyday, the public transportation, giving tourists directions, clubs, cheap food, cheap beer, food stands in the middle of the night, saying ne česky!, easy access to the rest of Europe, the concert in my neighborhood the first week here with free beer and sausages, hearing five different languages as you walk down the street, Spirit Bar, seeing the castle lit up at night, sunrise on Charles Bridge, beer gardens, but most of all are the people I met from all over the world this past semester. They made my experience a thousand times better.

Prague cons: the freezing I think I’m gonna die weather in February and March, walking on ice, paying for tap water, my Nokia Cezch cell phone, and the conversion rate (1USD=22CZK)

So here I am in Guntersville, Alabama. Two weeks back in the US. I have brought home a new perspective of the world. All I have been doing is replaying the past amazing semester over and over in my head wishing it could have lasted just a little bit longer. I have definitely grown from the time abroad.

As for now, I’m czeching out. Picking up where I left off in February. I have about four weeks at home then I’m heading to DC for a 6-week internship.  I will never forget this wonderful opportunity I had to live abroad in Prague or the people I shared it with.

So to my new friends that I will never forget and the nights we had together, na zdraví! Na shledanou moje kamarady. Na shledanou Praha!

Sunrise on Charles Bridge with Prague Castle in the background

Sunrise on Charles Bridge with Prague Castle in the background

Much love,

EM

Advertisements

George W. Bush

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , ,

I had a conversation in class a few days ago with some people on the topic of the Iraq War. It was me, two other Americans, one Canadian, one German, and a guy born in Israel but moved to New Jersey four years ago. We all were talking about how we didn’t realize what happend on 9/11 because we were so young. I said I still do not know as much about it as I should. What I do know has been straight from news articles. I haven’t researched on my own much at all. The news conglomerates own the information they give out so they can change it as much as they want to give the readers and viewers what they want on the network. Anyways, the girl from Canada said the same and another American agreed with me. We grew up with it so it was normal for us. Then the guy who was from Israel spoke. He said, “When I was in fifth grade, for over a month, I had to wear a gas mask at all times. When we were in school, we wore them like a necklace. It was because of the threats from Saddam Hussein of attacking us with nerve gas. We lived in fear of hearing the siren that meant the gas was coming. You know how all houses have a living room, dining room, and a kitchen? Well no house in Israel is built without a shelter room. We never knew if or when we would be attacked. They taught us in school in sit under the desks. My dad always told me never to do that; go sit under the entrance of the classroom. The doorframe is the most structured part of a room. So that is what I always planned on doing. And I know a lot of Americans do not like George Bush because he declared the war on Iraq. Do they know American soldiers were already in Afghanistan? The US didn’t have a good relationship with the Middle East anyways. People say it isn’t worth the fight because so many people died and I agree. You can’t tell the family of any of the soliders who died that the war was worth it but it was to us. It was to me. He saved our country. Israel. He saved me. That man is my hero.”

Get out of your comfort zone. Go away for a month. If you are expected to do something that you don’t want to do, don’t do it. Ask people from different areas their view on events. Something being abroad this semester has taught me is that not everyone has the same take on life. And thank goodness. Sometimes in class we talk about how different areas in the US have different opinions. Since I am the only one from the South, I talk about the general take people have on current topics. Sometimes it hits me how crazy things sound. Like I only understand how absurd the ideology is after I say it out loud sometimes. Or that it is different in other places and makes much more sense. So glad I have had this opportunity of studying abroad. To get out a experience a new way of life and meet other people has been exhilarating for me. I recommend it to everyone who has the opportunity.

In other news, I have been very bust this past month. I went to Italy for spring break. I went to Rome, Florence, Cinque Terre, and Venice. It was so much fun. I saw so many things. I also went to Croatia for four days. We laid on the beach in Split for a day, went island hopping, and visited the Krka Waterfall National Park. It was my favorite. I have six days left in Prague. It’s hard to believe it has gone by already. This is our finals weeks. I have already taken my finance exam, and passed the class), and I have three more. This week is flying by. Though I’m ready to sit outside drinking my sweet tea and do nothing, I will miss Prague. It has taught me so much about myself, my appreciation for Southern upbringing, views from other cultures, and what I want for my life. It’s going to be missed greatly.

Much love,

EM

Vienna – Billy Joel

Tags

, , , , , , ,

This past weekend, I went with my program to Vienna. We started with a five hour bus ride and a two hour guided tour of the city after we arrived.

Since our guided tour lasted a little bit longer than scheduled, we were hungry by the time we got to the hotel. Lesa, Carley, Kathleen, and I went out to find food. We walked down the main street by our hotel. We used McDonald’s wifi to check out trip advisor for close restaurants. We found one called Mill on Millergasse. When we got there, they told us there was no room because you have to make reservation, but there was room outside. It was a covered area so it was great. It was even decorated nicely.  The menu was only in German. This is a good sign when the menu is only in the local language because it means not many tourists go there. We figured out what most everything was between all four of us. We all four had a beer and the Weiner schnitzel. It is a piece of thinly sliced pork, breaded and cooked. I liked the beer better than the one Prague is famous for. It wasn’t as heavy. It came with potato salad. Or their version: cold potatoes with little onions in vinegar with lettuce sitting on top. It was surprisingly good. We stayed at the restaurant for a little bit just hanging out and chatting. We walked around a bit on that main street and found a place for dessert. I had a hot chocolate and a piece of pecan cake. Both were delicious. Papa Miller would have liked the cake I think.  The other girls had an apple strudel, a piece of cheesecake, and a slice of the famous Viennese chocolate cake with apricot jam. I tried all of them. The pecan was still my favorite. We went back to the hotel after dessert. We didn’t want to be tired for our day of sightseeing tomorrow. We all went back to my room and watched the updates of the bombing in Boston. The FBI had released pictures of the two suspects and were looking for them.

ImageImageImage

ImageImage

Lesa, Kathleen, Carley and I met for breakfast downstairs. Then the entire ISA group went to the Hofburg Palace, the winter residence of the Hapsburg family. Franz Josef I and Elisabeth were the primary residents. I learned so much during the audio tour. Initially, Franz Josef was going to marry Elisabeth’s older sister, but when he met Elisabeth, he fell in love with her. She was 15 at the time. So they got married. The first few years they were married, it was good. But soon the pressure of being in the spotlight and politics became hard for Elisabeth for handle. Her care free spirit slowing diminished and her daughter’s death at the age of two didn’t help. She was obsessed with her body image. Standing at 5’8’’, she only weighed 100 pounds, had a twenty-inch waist, and had ankle length hair. In the tour, it say it took almost three hours a day for the maids to fix her hair. While she was sitting and waiting, Elisabeth read books and learned other languages; she was fluent in German, Hungarian, Italian, and was learning Greek. She worked out for hours a day. They said she ate a big European breakfast most days, but also fasted for weeks at a time only eating oranges or drinking milk. They had life size replicas of her dresses and it was like a child. The wait was the width of my hand – wrist to tip of my middle finger. She had four children: the first one died at age 2 and one of her sons committed suicide at age 30. She frequently visited spas to relax and get away from the political life in Vienna. When she was getting on a boat after a four-week stay in France, an anarchist stabbed Elisabeth in the heart. She normally tried to keep her presence under wraps but a newspaper found out and printed a story about her stay. Originally the anarchist was on his way to kill someone else but that man’s plans had changed and was not longer in the town. He was going to find him when he heard Elisabeth was in town and since she was much more important that the first man, he went to kill her instead. With that, our tour ended. I loved getting to learn about the history of each city. I learned bits and pieces in school, but I learned it to pass the test. It had no meaning. When you are actually there, standing in their dining room, it becomes much more real. Everything in Europe is so intertwined. One of the balconies off the palace is where Hitler gave the speech that annexed Austria into the Third Reich. Our tour guide conveniently left that out of his facts. I tried to snap a few pictures on the tour.

Image

ImageImageImage

After the tour ended, Lesa, Carley, Kathleen, and I went to a café in the palace our advisors had recommended. They have never steered us wrong so we went. I had a traditional cup of Viennese coffee called Malange and a piece of strawberry and cream cake. Super yummy.

ImageImage

Then we headed to tour the Vienna Opera House. It was very pretty, but not as pretty as Prague. A lot of things in Europe are subsidized by the government so for students, we get into many places for cheap. The opera tour was about $5. Our guide said that the opera has a yearly budget of about $90 million a year; they never make a profit. At the Vienna opera, no shows go on two nights in a row. They can have as many as 6 operas per week. That means there are over 200 people on the stage crew who work every day changing out backdrops and preparing props for that night. The hall holds over 2,000 people, but there are seats that sell for one euro because they have no view of the stage at all. Who would build something like that? I was thinking to myself. I definitely think the Prague National Theater is prettier. I saw the opera Carmen two weeks ago with my roommate. The music was my favorite part.

ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

After the opera house tour, we bought our metro tickets and headed to the Schonbrunn Palace, the summer residence of the Hapsburgs.  It was grander than the winter palace. We didn’t tour the inside because of time restraints. We went straight to the gardens in the back. We were there as the plants were starting to bloom; I can only imagine how gorgeous it would be in the summer. I was so happy to see green grass and colorful flowers! It made me so happy! The view from the back of the residence towards the fountain was incredible. I’m sure I stood there over a minute with my jaw wide open. My aunt Ruthie would have loved it. We took and few pictures and then wanted to go through a maze. We had to pay 2 euros to get into the part of the gardens with the maze. We almost didn’t do it but I am so glad we did. Not only did it take four college girls over twenty minutes to figure out how to get through this maze, we went the same way so many times I quit counting. There was a platform in the middle that overlooked the maze. So many people watched us struggle and you could see them laughing at us. When we finally made our way to the platform, we just laughed. The maze was SO SMALL! We couldn’t understand how it took us so long. Then we found a maze but we could see over the hedges in this one. It had some cool games in it though. It had a water fountain that spit water when you stepped on this beam, a xylophone in the ground, these boards mounted on springs to jump back and forth on, and an area of mirrors. It was so much fun. We kept finding more things like these in this area. It was so much fun. There was a seesaw with four seats. So of course, we played on it. It was so much fun pretending to be a kid again. I don’t feel like I am 21 about to stay my senior year of college in a few months. It has gone by so fast.

Image ImageImage

Image

ImageImage

ImageImage

Image

After an hour of playing in the park in the gardens, we hiked up the hill. While we had stopped to take some pictures, we met Dana, a girl from San Francisco who was in Vienna with her work. We talked to her for a while and ending up hanging out with her for the rest of the day. The view from the top of the hill was amazing. You could see the gardens, the palace, the city, the church in the main area of town, and so much more. We stood up there for a while then climbed back down to the gardens. The sun had finally started to peak through the clouds. We then headed to find dinner.

ImageImageImageImageImage

The area by our hotel was great. We didn’t want to eat on the main street so we wandered around until we found a restaurant that was open and sounded good. Most shops in Vienna closed at 6pm, especially the local stores and restaurants. We finally found a place that is typically local people. We all had the Weiner schnitzel. It again came with potatoes but not lettuce this time. It was yummy. The girls I met in Budapest recommended an ice cream place on the main road beside our hotel so we headed there next. They said it was the best gelato they ever had; even over the places in Rome. It was three scoops for three euros so I got coffee, nutella, and strawberry. It was so good. I thought I was eating an actual strawberry. Better than any ice cream back in the States. Except maybe my dad’s home made vanilla. It was around 10 pm at this time and we hadn’t been back to the hotel since we left at 10am. So walked back there and all collapsed on the bed. We had planned to go to a jazz club but didn’t make it. We were all tired and feet were hurting. We made plans for the next day and for Dana to meet us before we had to leave to return to Prague.

ImageImageImage

We watched BBC and found out the FBI had killed one of the suspects and were conducting a door-to-door search for the second one. They found him lying in a boat, wounded from the shootout with the police.

April 21, 2013

Lesa, Carley, Kathleen, and I all met downstairs for breakfast around 9:15am. A few minutes later, Dana arrived. We ate and headed to the Holocaust Memorial in Stephenplatz. It is a monument dedicated to the 65,000 Jews who died from Vienna. The monument is books turned around so you can’t see the spines. I’m not sure about the symbolism on this but I’m sure it’s something. We walked back to the church in the middle of the city. Since the souvenir stores had closed the previous day before we had a chance to go to them, we checked out a few places. We then got one last cone of gelato. I had lemon and strawberry again. At 11:30am, it was time to go back to the hotel to get on the bus back to Prague at noon.

ImageImage

ImageImageImageImage

We had another five-hour bus ride back to Prague. I wasn’t ready to leave Vienna. It was sunny and beautiful. The city felt like a mix of Prague and Berlin. Old and new. It had the architecture of Prague but the grandiose feel of Berlin. It is by far my favorite city I have visited.

Vienna inspired Billy Joel to write a song that I have come to love in the past two years. I was hoping it would live up to it. It definitely does.

He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!

Tags

, , , , , , , , , ,

Yesterday morning I went to the International Church of Prague. The non-denominational church I have attended while in Prague. When I arrived, I started chatting with a couple in the lobby while grabbing some coffee. Their names were Tom and Christian, and they were from Washington state. They’ve been on a three week trip in Europe and Prague is their final stop. They were at a conference in Germany and someone told them they had to attend ICP for Easter while they were here. I was glad to meet them and talk to them for a while. They too commented on the weather. It was the coldest Easter in Prague in over 200 years. This winter also saw less than 100 hours of sunlight in Prague. People are saying it will get warmer in April, but I’m not getting my hopes up.

The children’s group spoke at the beginning of church about the importance of Easter and then passed out chocolates and a bookmark to the entire congregation.

IMG_7757

Pastor MacHarg preached on Luke 24 and John 20. He talked about how when Mary Magdalene looked in the tomb and saw Jesus was gone, the two men asked her, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?” He asked how we look for Jesus in others. Normally, this is through my family and friends and their love but being away from them has forced me to look for Him in other people. Prague is known to be a secular city with less than 10% of it’s population claiming a religion. A majority claim to be atheists, but they cannot prove there is no God so really they are agnostics. It is not a topic brought up in normal conversations and when you ask locals about it they give you a one sentence answer and move on. I will never take for granted my community in my hometown or in Tuscaloosa. Growing up in a city with at least one church on every block, sometimes two, access to religion in the States is almost limitless.

After church, I was invited over to a couple’s house from church for Easter lunch. Phil and Coleen Janzen have been living in Prague since August with their daughter Carter. Phil works in the army and his new assignment was stationed in Prague for the next three years. They have previously lived in DC, Germany, Italy, Washington, and a few other places. They have a daughter who is in college in North Carolina and she was going to a family’s house for Easter so they were happy to have two college girls with them.

It’s the little things you didn’t know you missed until you have it again. It was so nice to ride in a car. It’s a totally different view than going by trams. I also enjoyed just being in a house. Being there made me realize how small my apartment really is. They live about a 15 minute ride out from the center of Prague. With trees and grass and animals. I felt like I wasn’t even in Prague anymore. I’ve always said I wanted to live in the city but I’m slowing realizing, I like the way of life much better in a small, Alabama town. They even has two cats named Cookie and Bailey that I got to play with. Coleen made a wonderful Easter lunch. We had baked ham, mashed potatoes, carrots, cinnamon apples, rolls, SWEET TEA! and a bread pudding with bananas and strawberries. The week before, she asked Kathleen and I if we were missing anything from home and we both said sweet tea. Nothing beats it. She admitted to having to look up a recipe and check when to add the sugar because she had never made it. It tasted amazing. The best drink I’ve had in two months. We chatted for a while a little about everything: school, family, movies, future jobs, hometowns, Christianity, and much more. It was so nice to be taken in by such a caring family for the day. Coleen even sent Kathleen and I back with leftovers, including the sweet tea and homemade chocolate cookies!! She also gave us a hand painted Easter egg from the markets in town.

While I was at the Janzen’s house, they allowed me to use their phone that doesn’t cost anything to call internationally. I got to talk to my family for a little while that afternoon, their morning. I also got to call my grandmother, Memom. I hadn’t talked to her since I’ve been in Prague so it was nice to talk to her for a while. She’s having a tough time with her cancer but she is a strong woman and fighting it. I got to spend some time with her before I left. Something I wish I had more of was time with my grandparents. When you are young and growing up, you forget your parents and grandparents are growing up too. And sometimes, they are gone before you realize what are blessing they are to have. So don’t forget them.

IMG_7752 IMG_7762

IMG_7749 IMG_7769

That is the leftover sweet tea I will be rationing for the next week.

Easter is a really neat time in Prague. A lot of people in the surrounding countries come to Prague during this time because of the festivals and activities that happen all over town. Here is a link if you would like to read more about the Easter traditions in Prague: http://www.pragueexperience.com/events/easter.asp

Easter Market in Old Town Square:IMG_7622 IMG_7623 IMG_7627 IMG_7680 IMG_7681 IMG_7696

Today has been a lazy day. I should be studying for my Czech test and marketing presentation but it’s a lazy day. I will kick it in full gear on Tuesday. Hope everyone had a wonderful Easter. Miss you all.

EM

In other news, the Jonas Brothers are back! http://telly.com/B3T7BX

Barcelona es muy bonita ciudad.

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , ,

Two weekends ago, I went to Barcelona and my friend Kathleen came also. I coordinated with my best friend from Tuscaloosa who would also be in Barcelona at the same time working on a travel magazine. I met up with her Saturday afternoon.

Friday night, Kathleen and I walked around the city and found an old bull arena that has been turned into a shopping mall. The top has a fantastic 360 view. Then we walked to see the magic fountain that lit up and danced to music. Next we had a delicious dinner filled with sangria, grilled vegetables with goat cheese, garlic and cheese bread, duck, and salmon. It was quite the spread. And quite yummy.

IMG_7448

Plaza Espanya, view form the old bull rink

IMG_7464 IMG_7465 IMG_7466 IMG_7467

Saturday morning, Kathleen and I went to Park Guell. It is filled with Gaudi architecture and mosaic tiled benches, columns, and statues. It is more of like a hiking venue. The higher you climb, the better view of the city you have. So we went all the way to the top. I’m glad we did bcause at the top was a cross that you had to climb about ten steps on a hill to reach it. It was one of those moments when you looked from behind the cross into the city that makes you stop and appreciate life.

DSC08364 DSC08365 DSC08369 DSC08383 DSC08392

DSC08395

Did I mention it was sunny?! And warm! I haven’t had much of these in Prague.

DSC08396

IMG_7476

205379_10151591768140757_829547414_n

IMG_7475

Then, we checked out St. Joseph La Boqueria market off Las Ramblas that one of my good friends who studied in Barcelona one semester told me I had to see. It was so unique; filled with pastries, chocolates, nuts, spices, ALL kinds of fresh seafood, Spanish tapas, fruit, smoothies, and so much more. It was so colorful and I wanted to sample everything! Kathleen and I had lunch there Saturday and again on Monday because it was that good!

320097_10151591776830757_482279644_n

IMG_7479

yall know I love smoothies

yall know I love smoothies

IMG_7484

I maybe or maybe not bought a $20 bag of chocolates

I possibly bought a $20 bag of chocolates

so many vendors

so many vendors

Thomas would have loved this

Thomas would have loved this

IMG_7543 IMG_7546

That afternoon, I finally met up with Jessie!!! I was so happy to see someone from home. I was glad it worked out to be Jessie. That girl can brighten anyone’s day. She has listen to me rant about Prague for hours over Skype and iMessages so I was thankful to talk to her in person for a weekend. We grabbed some coffee with some more girls from Alabama and sat in Plaza Catalunya for a while. The Spanish culture is not to eat until what we would consider late so we headed out for dinner around 8:30. We found a popular restaurant and ate outside. I was so glad to be hanging with my best friend. In Barcelona. Together.

getting coffee Saturday afternoon

getting coffee Saturday afternoon

at dinner Saturday night

at dinner Saturday night

576576_574131445944367_575532522_n

Sunday morning, Kathleen and I explored the Gothic Quarter of Barcelona. It is the oldest and most historic part of the city. We ran into a marathon first thing and then stumbled upon a band playing to pump up the runners!

IMG_7511 IMG_7515 IMG_7516 IMG_7517 IMG_7519

Since it was St. Patrick’s Day, we found an Irish Pub for lunch. After Kathleen and I ordered, the waiter turned back to me and said, “I’m sorry. I already forgot what you ordered. I was listening to your lovely accent.” As if I wasn’t loving Barcelona already.

IMG_7520

After lunch, we grabbed some ice cream, because it was over over 50 degrees and we haven’t seen that yet in Prague either, met up with Jessie and went to the Sangrada Familia. It was closed being a Sunday, but we walked around all four sides – they are all different. It is one of Barcelona’s most famous buildings designed by Gaudi. It started construction in 1882. When Gaudi died in 1926, it was only 20% finished. He was to have said, “My client is not in a hurry.” When it is completed, it will have 18 towers: 12 for the disciples, 4 for the evangelists, one for Mary, and one for Jesus. There is so much detail. I’m already planning on coming back after it is finished : )

DSC08416 DSC08418

DSC08421DSC08419 DSC08422 DSC08423

That night, we ate dinner at a traditional Spanish tapas restaurant. It was set up like a buffet where you put on a plate what you wanted except all the food was bite sized with a skewer in the middle to transfer it to your plate. When you ate the tapa, you placed the skewer in a holder on the table. When you were finished with the meal and ready to pay, the waiter counted how many skewers were in the holder to know how much you ate. Such geniuses, the Spaniards. Afterward, we headed to Camp Nou to watch FC Barcelona play Rayo Vallecono in fútbol! Barcelona won and we saw Messi, Barcelona’s best player score a goal! Barcelona won the World Cup in 2010 so they are kinda a big deal.

DSC08424DSC08425

484146_574133375944174_1235246421_n485906_574133615944150_1482938720_n536448_574133299277515_699069817_n

Monday morning, Kathleen and I ate one last time at La Boqueria de St. Josep and bought some goodies to take back to Prague. I said goodbye to J and we headed to the airport. It was such a fun weekend, I didn’t want to go back to Prague.

Seeing one of my best friends made me realize how grateful I am for the friends I have back home. I have made some wonderful friends in Prague who I plan to keep in touch with after the semester, but nothing beats having friends who can look at you and know something is wrong or have a whole conversation without having to say anything. I love those kinds of people. I’ve got some real great ones back in Tuscaloosa.

Much love,

EM

One month down.

Tags

, , , , , , , , , ,

This past week was filled with many adventures! I also can’t believe I have been living in Prague for an entire month. So blessed with this opportunity.

Our ISA group visited Terezin. It served as a Jewish transit ghetto back during the Holocaust. It is about 50 miles out of Prague. It was first used as a prison during WW1. Gavrilo Princip, who assassinated Franz Ferdinand, the Archduke of Austria, and his wife was sent there. During WW2, over 150,000 people were sent there. Though it was not an extermination camp, over 30,000 people died there because the living conditions and overcrowding

IMG_7254

Graves at the front of Terezin

IMG_7255

“Work will set you free.”

IMG_7269

community rooms where over 800 people stayed

IMG_7267

Terezin

The next day, I went to the Prague Castle with some friends. There is no better place to appreciate the Gothic architecture and history than the Prague Castle. It is the worlds largest royal grounds. The castle looks out over the entire city of Prague.

Neele and I with a guard

Neele and I with a guard

Screen Shot 2013-03-06 at 9.28.55 PM

at the castle

changing of the guards

changing of the guards

changing of the guards

changing of the guards

DSC08242

St. Vitus Cathedral

DSC08246

Prague Castle

view from the castle

view from the castle

Kathleen and I went to the International Church of Prague two Sundays ago. It made me miss my church in Tuscaloosa. We met a lady who has been living in Prague for 16 years with her husband as missionaries. They own a library that she invited us to check out. It was really neat. There was people from the US, Germany, Poland, England, Slovakia, and so many other places. I’m definitely going to try to get involved with the church.

The past weekend, our ISA group went to Berlin together. This was my second time to visit Berlin. We left Prague Friday morning around 7:45 and it was almost 50 degrees and sunny. When we got off the bus in Berlin, it was about 30 degrees and cloudy.

Mural painted on the Berlin Wall

Mural painted on the Berlin Wall

Berlin Wall

Berlin Wall

When we arrived, we walked through the main party of the city, which is way more spread out than Prague. The city was badly bombed at the end of WW2 and is still rebuilding.

DSC08262

Brandenburg Gate

Berliner Dom, Evangelical Church

Berliner Dom, Evangelical Church

IMG_7367

Currywurst form a street vendor for lunch

Our advisor from ISA suggested us to try to currywurst, a typical German food. It was surprisingly delicious. It was a regular sausage with ketchup and curry powder on top. I wouldn’t have ate it on my own if Daniela had not told us to.

IMG_7355

Picture of the birth, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus at the Berliner Dom

DSC08307

the dome

DSC08324

view from the dome

DSC08293 DSC08328

I also introduced my roommates to Alabama athletics when I found out about the Trevor Releford buzzer beater over Georgia. They didn’t even know who Bear Bryant was. I have a big task ahead of me.

Roll Tide.

EM

21st Birthday

Tags

, , , , , , ,

I don’t feel older, but I turned 21 the other day! I slept in because I didn’t have class that morning. I went to the store to buy groceries and a mattress pad. When I got back, my roommate Claudia had bought me a fruit and creme cake, flowers, and a bottle of wine. I was so excited! This made it feel like it was truly my birthday.

from Claudia

from Claudia

I had Czech language class at 6pm that night. After it was over, some of my friends were going to eat dinner with me. We hopped on the tram stop close to the school and rode until we reached the river. The restaurant we ate at was School Restaurant and Lounge. It had a fantastic view of the castle, which was lit up and even more beautiful than in the day. There was even live music.

My friends that joined were Kathleen, Neele from Germany, Dasom from Korea, Phoebe from Virginia, and Betty from Germany. I don’t know if they understood how much it meant to me that they celebrated my birthday with me. I thought having my birthday abroad would make me homesick wishing for my family and friends back in the States. But celebrating with these girls made me feel as much at home as I could ask for.

Kathleen, me, Betty

Kathleen, me, Betty

Phoebe, Dasom, and Neele

Phoebe, Dasom, and Neele

I had the salmon with lemon sauce, mashed potatoes, and asparagus. It was delicious.

IMG_7234

After dinner, we walked through the Old Town Square. None of us had seen it at night because it has been too cold for exploring. It was gorgeous.

In front of the astronomical clock

In front of the astronomical clock

After walking around the city for a while, we all went our separate ways. My favorite thing of the night was the birthday card they gave me. Phoebe drew sites of Prague on the front and they filled the inside with sweet messages. I have only known them for less than a month, but I know I will be friends with them each for a long time. 

Birthday Card

Birthday Card

Some people will say I didn’t get to experience my 21st birthday the typical American way, and they will express their apologies to me. I will nod and smile, knowing I spent my 21st birthday a way not many people can say they did – with great food and great friends. In Prague.

21st

I’m 21!

 

 

 

“Be Careful”

Tags

, , , , , , , ,

This weekend my friend and I went to Istanbul, Turkey for the weekend. We arrived Friday afternoon to our super quaint hotel in the middle of Sultanahmet. We wondered around for an hour or so before stopping for dinner. Then we headed back to the hotel, tired from the flight.

Sultans Royal Hotel

Sultans Royal Hotel

The first morning in Istanbul, my friend and I started our day off meeting our tour guide at our hotel. Her name is Dilek Acikalin. I totally recommend going with a guide for at least a half day. She was so helpful and answered all of our questions. Our hotel was within walking distance to everything we wanted to see. We started at the Blue Mosque. To me, this was the most impressive stop during the day. It was built in the 17th century. On the inside, there are over 20,000 hand painted tiles. Most of them a beautiful blue color. There were many tulips also so we asked Dilek. She told us since there are over 99 names for god in the Muslim religion, one is very close to the word for tulip. So the people started to use it as a symbol for their god.

Me in front of the Blue Mosque

Me in front of the Blue Mosque

We then went to see the Hagia Sophia; translated it means Holy Wisdom. And you do learn a lot by seeing it. It was an Orthodox church but has been turned into a museum. It has been built three times. The last was in 732. It was completed in 735. It took two architects and 10,000 workers to build. At the emperor’s entrance, there is a mosaic of Jesus, with his blessing hand, Mary on the left, Gabriel is on the right, and the emperor is kneeling at Jesus’ feet asking for a child.

Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia

We then crossed the street to see the Basillica Cistern. It was built in the sixth century and provided water for the entire town of Istanbul. It has the capacity to hold over 100,000 tons of water but now there is only a few feet at the bottom.

Basilica Cistern

Basilica Cistern

Before we went to lunch, Dilek set us a meeting to learn about Turkish rugs and Turkish ceramics. It was neat to interact with locals for a bit and get a more understanding of their culture. We learned about wool rugs, cotton rugs, and silk rugs. We learned the difference in a single knot rug and a double not rug. The man who told us about the rugs lived in Los Angeles for eight years. He was one of few that has known where Alabama is located when they ask, “Where are you from in the States?” Dilek then took us to a store that sold all kinds of hand made pottery. We even got to watch a man mold what he called a “tear drop jar.” The place we visited is world renown. Princess Diana even bought a 22 inch plate for herself back in the day.

IMG_7076

Blue and white for Aunt Martha

IMG_7081

Hand made bowls

Then Dilek took us to an amazing, authentic Turkish restaurant. The waiters were friendly and the service was great. I had lamb. I could eat it everyday we were here. It was fantastic.

Diced Shish Kebab - lamb pieces with grilled tomatos and peppers, wheat rice, and pita bread

Diced Shish Kebab – lamb pieces with grilled tomatos and peppers, wheat rice, and pita bread

Dilek, me, and Kathleen

Dilek, me, and Kathleen at Khorasani

The last place we visited was the Topkapi Palace. The was the place the Ottoman Sultans lived in the 17th century until 1924 when it was turned into a museum. At times, over 4,000 people lived on the ground. A lot of it was under construction when we visited but it was still impressive. It looks over the Marmara Sea and into Asia. Kathleen and I then went to our hotel and took a nap. We were tired after the seven hour tour. That night, we went to a fish restaurant close to our hotel.

Topkapi Palace

Topkapi Palace

Sunday morning, we had breakfast at our hotel and were picked up by a bus and headed to our boat cruise. We went around the Golden Horn part of Istanbul and up to the Bosphorus area connecting Europe and Asia. We stopped at Kucuksu Palace on the way back. Located on the Asian side of Istanbul, it served as the summer palace for the Sultans until 1944.

Ou

Our tour boat

After the cruise, we went to the Galata bridge and ate at one of the fish restaurants underneath it. Two people from our cruise ate with us, Hamilton and Tieu. They both work for NATO. Hamilton is from Charleston, SC but is currently living in Europe. Tieu is from Southern California but lives in Cambridge, England. They both gave us tips for traveling around Europe; where to go, where to stay, what to see. I enjoyed getting to know them. Then after lunch, we went to the Spice Bazzar with Hamilton and Tieu. We tried some pine nuts, corns, taffy, and doughnuts from local vendors.

doughnuts and taffy

doughnuts and taffy

Spice Bazaar

Spice Bazaar

Kathleen and I at the Spice Bazaar, Hamilton is on the right

Kathleen and I at the Spice Bazaar, Hamilton is on the right

Our last morning in Istanbul was SUNNY!! Kathleen and I both wore sunglasses and took our jackets off within ten minutes of being outside. It was the first day since I left Alabama that I had not worn a jacket. I cannot wait for warmer weather in Prague!

Last day in Istanbul

Last day in Istanbul

We had to go buy stamps for Kathleen to send some post cards home. Then we wandered around the city and bought some souvenirs. Kathleen had a chicken gyro for lunch and I had a lamb gyro. They were very good but we couldn’t finish them because we were still full from breakfast. We then went to Denezin coffee. We tried to find it the first night but our directions took us to the wrong location. Then we tried the second night. We found it, but it was closed. Third time’s the charm so we had to go our last morning. It is a cute little coffee shop run by two expats from San Francisco. We both enjoyed our drinks. After that, it was time for us to head to the airport. We were bummed because it was so beautiful in Istanbul and we didn’t want to face the cold waiting for us back in Prague.

Referring to the title of this post, when I told people I was going to Istanbul, they all said the same thing: “Be careful.” In the four days I was in Istanbul, I did not feel scared at all. If I could sum the city up in one word it would be comfort. Each place we visited, the hosts wanted to make sure we both felt welcomed. We did not leave the hotel or restaurant without being offered Turkish coffee or apple tea. We politely declined some times but they insisted. The manager at our hotel did everything possibly to make us feel at home including helping us book our tours and giving us information about the city. So to the people who told me be careful, I say it back. Be careful not to let your fear keep you from going and seeing what you want.

“I’m locked IN the apartment.”

Tags

, , , , , , , ,

This is a text I had to send my roommate after we discovered my key will not open the door from the inside after being locked from the outside; and this is only one of the adventures that has transpired in Prague this past week

Classes finally started this past Tuesday. After being in Prague for ten days without a schedule, I was ready for classes to start. I am taking four: Czech language, International Finance, International Relations, and International Marketing Communications. They are scheduled as ninety minutes of lecture, a fifteen-minute break, then another ninety minutes of seminar. My Czech language class is composed of only the 17 students enrolled in the ISA program. My finance class is going to be hard because of the material, and my international relations class is going to be hard because of the teacher. I am super excited for the marketing class though. The teacher owns his own consulting company dealing with contracts between the Czech Republic and Germany. In only the first class I could tell I am going to learn a lot from him. The long classes make for an even longer day. I was glad when Thursday was over.

My friend and I are off to Istanbul for the weekend! Will post an update with pictures when we return!

EM

Ahoj Praha!

Tags

, , ,

That means “Hello Prague” in Czech!

I have now been in Prague for ten days! It has gone by so fast! From the first moment I saw Prague, I knew I was going to love it. My roommate has best described it as a fairy tale; red roofs and steeples everywhere you look. It’s absolutely beautiful.  We had a three hour tour of the city on Thursday. Old Town Square and Charles Bridge are absolutely magnificent. I can’t even begin to justify them with words. One of the guys in my program on the fourth night kept saying, “I know I sound like a broken record, but I love Prague.” I couldn’t agree more.

I am just beginning to know my way around the city on the trams. It’s been so nice to ride ten minutes to the grocery store without having to get into your own car and drive. I can definitely get used to this. I haven’t gotten used to not having a dryer and the weather. Our washer is super tiny, like everything here compared to America, so my roommates and I wash clothes a lot. I thought I was prepared for the cold but I totally wasn’t. I put on layer after layer and still froze the first week here. I have seen more snow from one glance outside my window than I have in my entire life. A lot of the students in the ISA program go to school in Boulder so they are familiar with this weather. They can go out without three shirts on and no gloves. I bundle up every time I leave our apartment. This was how I was feeling the first week.  Screen Shot 2013-02-18 at 11.59.27 PM

I thought I was going to have a tough time adjusting to the Prague culture and making new friends but once we all got here and realized we were in the same boat, it hasn’t been difficult. We have a really good group from ISA going to the University of Economics.

I start classes tomorrow. I am super excited. I’m also excited to be own my own in a foreign city for the first time. I’m excited to get lost and stumble upon a neat little cafe I wouldn’t have found otherwise. I’m excited to be challenged and to grow. I’m excited for the Lord to use me while I am here in Prague. Prayers are welcome and appreciated.

Much love,

EM