Tuesday, March 24, 2009

2 More Weeks & South Bohemia

So I know I promised I would blog more often, I'm really trying to work on it, but I also realize that it's been two weeks since my last, and I have no idea how that happened. I mean I guess it's true what they say, time flies when you are having fun.

Well I left off at Moravia and the end of my first weekend.......Week 2 was definitely non eventful other than a few parties here and there, and the partying and staying out late finally caught up with me and I got really sick for a couple days. And then came the second weekend, and another trip with ISC, this time to South Bohemia. Only a two day trip this time, but visiting three cities. It was quite an amazing trip filled with some great memories and beautiful towns. And so the story begins.......

We departed from Prague and headed to the small town of Hluboká. Upon arrival to Hluboká we were let loose to find our own lunch, and were told to meet at the top of the hill at the castle later in the afternoon. So we wound our way around the town and found a small little restaurant that mainly served different kinds of game. Sarah had the duck, and it almost made me puke because they served it with the neck on it still. Disgusting. I stuck with fried cheese and fries, always a good choice. After lunch we walked around the cute little hillside town for awhile and finally made our way towards the castle, curving around and up the hill. It was quite a trek, but it was beautiful outside with blue skies and sun, so I couldn’t complain. Once arriving at the castle, it was pretty breathtaking so we walked around the grounds and took some photos of it, the white façade almost seemed to beam with energy in the sun. 

We then had a guided tour of the interior, although sadly we couldn’t take pictures. This particular castle was owned by the Schwarzenberg family, they own a lot of castles throughout the Czech Republic, including Prague Castle. This family was very into hunting and would have massive hunting parties gather at this castle in Hluboká. Almost every square inch of the castle was covered with antlers or other animals that had been preserved by taxidermy. The architecture of the interior was completely amazing. There was so much detailed woodwork and beautiful ceramic fireplaces. We only got to go into a few rooms, but it was definitely a very cool experience. After leaving the castle it was back to the bus and on to České Budějovice for the Budweiser (Budvar) tour.

All of you State side people know Budweiser as the great American brewery complete with Clydesdales and the largest brewery in America, well in all actuality the Budweiser name was coined to this Czech beer long before Budweiser in the States existed. We got to tour the brewery and see where they brew the beer, bottle it, label it, and wash the recycled bottles. It was very cool. And then of course the best part came at the end when we got to have a tasting! The beer was so cold and delicious because it had just came out of the refrigerated storage tanks. After the brewery we headed on a walking tour of the city of České Budějovice. This city was so quaint and adorable I quickly fell in love with it. 

We just spent a couple of hours strolling around. One of the trip leaders, Petra, had friends that lived in this city, two brothers that were amazingly nice enough to show us around the town a little bit. They told us a few little stories about the town, such as in the town square there is a stone and it’s called the lost stone, it is said if you step on it after 10p you will get lost and not make your way home that evening. So I stepped on it, but it was before 10p. J They then showed us a great place to get coffee and gelato and joined us for good conversation. It was a great afternoon spent with great people. Then again it was time to head back to the bus and on to our final destination of the trip, Český Krumlov.

By the time we arrived to Český Krumlov, it was dark, and we somehow had no idea where our hostel was. We wandered around the city for just a little while, on the way we crossed the Vltava and turned slightly on the bridge and were struck with the beautiful image of the castle built into the rock, it seemed to be all lit up just for us. 

We finally snaked up a couple more roads and discovered our hostel, and were glad to drop our bags and have promise of food in the near future. Once we got a little settled and paperwork was taken care of, we chose our roommates and went up to make our beds and put our bags in the room. This may have been the cutest hostel I have ever stayed at. You walked upstairs to get to the rooms and it was almost like a little dollhouse. I ended up sharing a room with Disa, Anna, Rachel, Sarah, Christoph, Daniel, and Torbjörn. We made our way back downstairs and it took forever to be served dinner, and it was cold and not good, so we quickly ordered big beers and started having a good time. After having a few beers at the hostel, our trip leaders took us to a little night club just a block or so away from our hostel. It was your typical small town Czech night club; we are coming to know them a little too well. Slightly creepy, filled with townies, and not fun until you have had a few. At this point I will mention our awesome bus driver who came to the club with us. She was probably 40 or so and hilarious, she kept dancing on everyone and buying everyone shots, and was completely wasted! So basically our group took over the club by dancing in a huge circle on the tiny dance floor and kept requesting ridiculous American music like Katy Perry and Lady GaGa. At some point us girls from my room decided to make our exit and head back to the hostel, we ended up staying up late and having girl talk while the boys were still at the club. At some point we all fell asleep and Christoph came back and woke us up by somehow breaking the door handle, and then we all fell asleep again, and then Tobbe and Daniel woke us up by the door handle falling again. Morning definitely came too early, but we were excited to walk around the beautiful little town. We had a guided tour that morning of Český Krumlov

It was so incredibly beautiful that it’s so hard for me to put into words! It is my new favorite city, second to Prague of course. The cobblestone streets just weave in and out as the Vltava beautifully curves back and forth carving the city into its little shape with the castle at the top of the hill looming over the city, but beautifully built into the hill. The walking tour took us all around the city, and then up to the castle and through the many courtyards there. The view from the castle was absolutely breathtaking, just looking down on all of the little red roofs, with the river curving around, and the mountains in the distance. It was definitely nothing short of amazing. 

After our tour we were set free to walk around the city for a few hours. We found a great Italian restaurant to eat at, and then just moseyed around the town enjoying the wonderful sunshine and discovering little niches of the city. We hopped in and out of little shops finding some great things; my first find was a Czech cookbook that was actually in English! I was so excited. As we made our way back to the hostel, we had some time to kill and realized there was an art gallery right down the street. We wandered in and discovered they had some really small prints of local art all matted and ready to frame. We rifled through the stacks, finding some really great prints of Prague and Český Krumlov. I always love finding local art from the city I am in, and this made my trip ten times better. We then met back at the hostel to get our bags and headed back to the bus and back to our beloved Praha. It’s always nice to get back to Praha, I can’t believe how much it feels like home these days.

When I returned to Prague I was definitely excited to have a package from my mom! Of course the most important part of the package was the medicine she sent me, but let’s not forget the 2 boxes of Girl Scout cookies! And of course my favorites Thin Mints & Peanut Butter Patties! I love you MOM!

Here's more photos from the trip.

South Bohemia

Until next time.....I love you all, miss you more than you know, and am still having the time of my life.



Tuesday, March 10, 2009

26 Days, a Laundry Mat, and Moravia

So now I find myself 26 days into my adventure, and I haven’t blogged since the 5th day. I still feel like I just got here and almost can’t believe I have been here for nearly a month. So much has happened since my last blog, so I won’t make this one extremely long, I promise to post a new one every couple days. Let me just talk about the rest of my first week here and my first trip away from Prague.

I would not say that this day was my worst day since getting to Praha because I don’t think I can have a completely terrible day here, but it was on the top of my not so fun days. After being here for a week, and getting ready to go on a weekend trip, Caitie and I decided to venture out and find a Laundromat. Well it seemed easy enough. We loaded up our rolling suitcases because that seemed to be the smart thing to do. We then went one stop up on the metro….And proceeded through some crazy construction, to only find the laundry mat that we found online abandoned. So we hauled our stuff back to the metro to try Plan B. We got off the Metro at the right stop, but then got confused and went down the wrong street, then turned back…Finally found it in this really posh mall. Which confuses the hell out of me why a laundry mat would be in a mall, but anyway, at least we found it. We then waited on everything to get done, and it cost about $15 which isn’t too bad considering I actually got to dry all of my clothes. I was worried I wouldn’t be able to dry my jeans and that upset me greatly. After our laundry fiasco we decided to just get a snack. So we popped into McDonalds, with our luggage mind you, just to get a sandwich or something. Well the menu was in Czech and we couldn’t figure out how to order just a sandwich, or just fries, so we ended up ordering a value meal. Although I mistakenly ordered two number twos because I was gesturing that I wanted a number two and she thought I meant two of them. And then Caitie ordered another value meal, so we had 3 for 2 of us. We felt like fatties because the lady supersized our order, which means we got a large coke, a sandwich, a large fry, and an order of fried cheese. Needless to say we took most of the food home with us and decided to not go out the rest of the day because we decided we would just screw something else up. But by the way, McDonalds fried cheese is AMAZING.

The next day we left for Moravia, which as I mentioned before is in the eastern part of the Czech Republic. Quite a few people I already knew went on the trip, and I met so many more amazing people. On the trip we visited four towns and many different sites along the way as well. The first day we left campus at around 7:45a and headed to the town of Kutna Hora. Once arriving there we visited the Italian Court, which was the main silver mint back when they started making Czech money. It had some beautifully painted ceilings and wall frescoes and was interesting to see the different coins that each King put into circulation. They actually had a guy reenacting how they stamped the small pieces of metal. When we were done there we went to a small restaurant and ate lunch. I am still so in love with the food here, especially this red cabbage that they make and serve with meats and dumplings, it is delicious. After lunch we made it towards St. Barbara’s Cathedral. At this point I must mention there were about 4-5 inches of snow on the ground and it was still snowing. We had had a mini snowball fight when we got off of the bus, but walking to the cathedral became an all out war. Everyone was ambushing everyone else. Even another tour group of French students joined in. But they waved a white flag and called a truce. We finally made it inside of the cathedral and walked around looking at the absolute beauty of it. I still can’t believe how beautiful all of these old Cathedrals and churches are. After that, our trip leaders, Martin and Tomas, decided we should have a snowman building competition, so we split into teams, preferably into teams of people that didn’t know each other. So we spent about 45 minutes making snowmen…My groups sort of looked like ET. After that we headed back to the bus and on through the town to Kostnice. Which roughly translated means the Bone Museum. It is an old church that has all of these bones arranged in chandeliers and into interesting shrine like things. All of the bones were from people that died during the plague in the 14th century and there was a high demand to be buried in the cemetery the church rests on. So they were all piled in this church. In the 18th century a half blind monk was hired to assemble the bones of the 40,000 dead people into sculptures. And that is what you see today. Kind of eerie and morbid and ridiculously cool all at the same time. After Kostnice it was off to Olomouc.

We didn’t arrive to Olomouc until around 7p. We arrived and dropped our bags at the dorms we were staying at, which were a lot like ours, but a lot nicer. After that we ate dinner at the Olomouc Town hall and enjoyed a few beers. It was nice to sit and chat and get to know people a little better. Around 10 we made our way to a small club in town. The walk through town was quite beautiful after dark and we found a very beautiful spot in the middle of town. Almost every town in the Czech Republic has a Plague Column, they are tributes to the many people that died in the Czech Republic from the Black Plague. We turned a corner and were greeted with this beautiful column that was lit just right and also from behind, so it just became this beacon of light. We took it as a photo op and came out with a great shot from Diana’s camera. We finally made it to the club and it was a little sketchy, but we weren’t too worried so we started to enjoy ourselves. Like most clubs here it was completed with techno music and a stripper pole. But we realized that upstairs there was more of a lounge type setting and we went up there and waited on everyone else to show up while enjoying Heineken and the conversation. When everyone else showed up we hit the dance floor and got a little crazy as usual. Somehow by the time we left me and Caitie remembered how to get back to our dorm and realized that we had some interesting roommates. Our roommates happened to be the trip leaders, Martin and Tomas. And when we got back from the club they decided to run around our flat in their boxer briefs and boxers respectively. Needless to say we made it to sleep by 4a and woke up at 7a.

The next morning, day two of the trip, we awoke and had a walking tour of the city of Olomouc.  The town was very pretty, but I enjoyed walking around it more at night. After the tour we all piled on the bus and drove forever to a cave called Macocha in the middle of nowhere in the mountains. It had continued to snow so there was probably about 6 inches or more of snow on the ground. On the way to the cave there was a car stuck in the ditch so our bus driver stopped and we pulled the car out. I will take the time now to say our bus driver was amazing. He didn’t speak English but he just smiled at all of us really precious like. At Macocha there is an underground river called the Punkev that runs through part of the cave. There were these really fabulous rock formations within, all kinds of stalactites and stalagmites. Once we got to the river we got into a boat and road it through the rest of the cave, nearly missing many low hanging formations. The reflections from the top of the cave to the water were absolutely breathtaking. After we were finished at the cave we made our way to Mikulov.

Once arriving in Mikulov we dropped our bags at the hostel and got ready for the evening. We went to a wine cellar on top of the hill in Mikulov. It was in this old little house that was built into the side of the hill so there was rock on the inside of it that met with the man made walls, it was pretty amazing. They then served us a delicious dinner of pork and potatoes, and a red and a white wine. After the main course they brought out potato pancakes that were absolutely delicious. During this time we were testing many different wines. I think we tasted around 6 or so, most of them were pretty good. After the potato pancakes and during the wine tasting they brought us some smoked ham and cheese. I swear we ate so much that night. We left kicked the winery at around midnight. Diana, Lauri, Tobbe, and I decided not to go with the group back to the hostel, so we wandered around and found a little hole in the wall pub to get a few beers at. We stayed there for a couple hours enjoying ourselves and our conversation. We then were walking back to the hostel and found a dance club. We ran into a few people from our trip and stayed there until they kicked us out at 5a.

The next morning we didn’t have anything scheduled so we slept in and took our time getting ready because we weren’t leaving for Brno until 11:30 or so. So we finally left for Brno and it was only about a 45 minute drive. We got to Brno and ate lunch and walked around the city a bit. After that we made our way to the top of the city to Spilberk Castle. We toured the dungeon there and it was pretty cool. And it was still snowing so we were examining all of the snowflakes and they were so perfect it was unreal. After the tour we made the short trip back to our bus, and got ready for our return to Praha. All of us exhausted and ready to be back in our dorms.

I know this is incredibly long, but I hope you made it through it. I will hopefully fill you in on more of my adventure very soon, there are many other things to catch you up on! So stay tuned for another installment. Until then…..Here are some picture from the city of Prague, and from Moravia, and some of my incredible friends. And don't worry, I'm really not drinking all that much! :)




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