Written by Kylie Fuller (Johns Hopkins University)
Central European Studies in Prague, Student Correspondent, Spring 2013
I am now approaching my last weekend and week in Prague. It is amazing how fast this semester has gone. I still remember getting off the plane, and stepping out into the cold strange city. It was snowing, and I could barley see out the window of the bus as we drove away from the airport. Little did I know that the weather would not improve much from then, even though it is now May. It is true that it isn’t snowing still, but there definitely seems to be no sunshine to spare. I still had an incredible experience, and I believe that is a true testament to how great of a city this is. Despite the weather being more than a little depressing, I still had the time of my life. Maybe the greatness would have been too much for any one person to handle if the weather was good! As my culminating blog, I wish to reflect on the good and bad things about studying abroad in the Czech Republic.
Since I want my semester to end on a good note, I think it would be good if my blog did as well, so I will start with the negatives of studying abroad in Prague. I have already mentioned the biggest one, the weather. Winter lasted until mid-April, and I celebrated my first snowy Easter here this year. It was a wild experience to be walking around the Easter markets in a winter coat and gloves. I also felt bad for the hoards of tourists, who definitely were not expecting the weather to be like this when they booked the trip. It is now mid-May, and the weather has changed to cold and rainy. It is incredible to not have to wear my winter jacket any longer, but my raincoat is only a slight improvement. My second biggest complaint is how hard the language is. Czech is a phonetic language, so it was easy to learn the alphabet and how to pronounce everything. That was the only easy part about it. The grammar rules are so difficult, and even if you learn how to speak, understanding Czech is ten times as challenging. There is also a big discrepancy between the Czech we were taught, and the Czech that is actually spoken in Prague. The endings and words are slightly different, which meant I couldn’t understand Czech people, and they definitely could not understand me (Luckily, most everyone here speaks at least some English!). My third complaint is the nightlife. There is none. The bars and clubs are really cool, but they are spread out all over the city instead of in a central district. Also, the young people in Prague don’t go to these places. My Czech buddy says either students don’t go out at all, or they go to bars for a drink and then go home. That means the only people at clubs are tourists or older, wealthier Czech people. There are only 20 people in my program, so I felt starved for interactions with other young people. The level of smoke in a lot of these places was also a radical change form the U.S., where smoking in enclosed public spaces is forbidden. And lastly, it is impossible to find a good bagel here. That will be one of the first things I eat when I return home.
That sums up all of the negatives, so now it is time for all the fantastic things about Prague. Although I could not tell this at first, I soon came to realize how beautiful the city is. You can walk pretty much anywhere you need to go, and the decoration and architecture of the buildings lining all of the streets never ceases to amaze me. Prague also has many squares and parks that people can sit in and enjoy the scenery. Now that everything is finally green, it adds a whole new beauty to the city. The second best thing about Prague is the public transportation. Public transportation in the United States is so pathetic that I actually feel embarrassed when foreigners ask me about it. It is impossible to get around the U.S. without a car, so it was a nice break to be able to easily get from place to place quickly and without much stress. Thirdly, the food and drink in Prague are amazing and cheap! I don’t know how I will be able to cope when I can’t get dinner and a drink for under 4 dollars. There are some ingredients that are very difficult to get here, but the fun of not only going shopping, but also seeing that the bill was less than $20, undermined it! I also appreciated Prague’s central location in Europe was a huge plus. The location of Prague gave me the ability to travel to otherwise.
Although these are obviously not the complete lists, they are the highlights of both. As I said before, the good greatly outweighed the bad, and I would highly recommend studying here to anyone who is looking for an adventurous and wonderful abroad semester!
Written by Kylie Fuller (Johns Hopkins University)
Central European Studies in Prague, Student Correspondent, Spring 2013
Last weekend, spring finally came to Prague. Although it took until mid-April, it is better that it came late than never. As I was walking around Charles Bridge in multiple layers, a winter jacket, boots and gloves over Easter, I was beginning to wonder if it would stay winter forever! But on this past Saturday, the cold spell finally broke and the sun came out! Even though I had a few essays to write and some studying to do for my classes that coming week, I made any excuse I could to be outside. I walked a bit around the park outside my apartment, which had magically come to life this weekend after it had been mostly vacant for the previous three months. Even as the evening came around, I still had not had enough of this new, wonderful weather. So when it came time to go to the gym, I decided I would go for a run outside instead!
I put on my shorts and running shoes, but still wore a long sleeve shirt. Although the temperature was substantially warmer that it had been, it had become cooler as the sun began to go down. I took off from my apartment and headed towards the Vltava River. Everyone in Prague seemed to have had the same idea! The path along the river was overwhelming packed with strollers, walkers, runners, bikers and dogs! The atmosphere was exhilarating. After running for ten minutes, my path was blocked by construction, so I decided to head back along the river in the other direction towards the castle.
The path in the other direction is broken up a bit by parks and bridges, so I was forced to go back up on the sidewalk that looks over the path by the water. I say forced but really the view was just as amazing from there.
After running a little longer, I decided to cross one of the many bridges over to the castle side of the river and explore over there. This side of the river was equally as busy as the other side. I ran down to the water and paid the giant metal babies a visit, and then had the brilliant idea to run up the hill/mountain to the Petrin Tower. This still sounded like a good idea until I was halfway up this giant, steep hill. I decided to give myself a little break and sat down on the grass to gaze down at the beautiful city of Prague. The sun was still in the process of setting, and it casted a beautiful golden glow on the red rooftops of the area surrounding the castle. I tried to take a picture with my iPhone, but it just could not do it justice.
After several minutes, I pulled myself together and continued the trek. After what seemed like hours (more like 25 minutes), I finally made it to the top and gazed over what I had just accomplished. I walked around a bit by the tower and through the gardens, but the sun had now almost set. I headed home a little chilled but with a big smile on my face and a feeling of accomplishment.
I cannot wait to explore the previously snow-covered city in this new way in the upcoming weeks!
The sunlight shining into CET today during my day of multiple classes was enough to make me want to jump out the window just to get some of that good ‘ole Vitamin D. In the morning on my walk to class it was warm, but still a bit overcast but by this afternoon, the sun was shining here more than it has since we all arrived and it was incredible. In every class I had the professors opened the windows and I made sure I sat with the sunlight directly hitting my face.
By the end of our last class, my friend Sommer and I just needed to be outside. It was 5pm and it was still so warm and beautiful out. We decided to take the metro a few stops to Jiriho z podedbrad because Sommer had the glorious idea of getting food for dinner and sitting outside in the park to eat. While walking to the park we came across a Pho Vietnamese restaurant and how can you say no to Pho? I will tell you. You can’t.
I’ve actually never had Pho before in my life, and looking back on it now that I have devoured every last bit of it, it is kind of odd that I tried Pho for the first time in the Czech Republic. Before I came here, I was under the very wrong impression that you could only get heavy meats and thick soups in the Czech Republic. While you can find meat and hearty soup at almost every restaurant you go to here, there is also such an ethnically diverse restaurant scene here. Last night my roommate and I got delicious Mexican food with fresh guacamole and homemade salsa, and a few days before that we went to an Italian restaurant and had thin crust pizza with spinach and fresh mozzarella cheese. Don’t get me wrong though, beef goulash has definitely found its way into my heart and I don’t see it leaving anytime soon. But back to my Pho adventure…
Sommer and I walked into the Pho restaurant and were so amazed by all of the options in front of us. She ended up ordering tofu and vegetables and I got a mix of vegetables with chicken, rice, and a delicious spring role with fresh basil and vermicelli noodles and then we took a short walk to the park nearby. The sun was still out and we found ourselves a perfect patch of grass on a huge hill overlooking most of the city. Our food was still hot and there were puppies running and playing all around us and it was just so picturesque and perfect.
There is one thing I will say about Prague, besides its diverse food opportunities. If you do not like dogs, I would tell you to re-access your choice on studying in Prague. Some days it seems as if everyone in the city has a dog and no one believes in leashes. For me personally though, I love dogs and couldn’t help but smile at every dog that ran by me with a huge tennis ball in its mouth. I think the best part of the evening is when a huge dog was chasing a toy its’ owner threw and ended up running into a man’s plastic cup of beer he got at the beer garden close by. The dog must have smelt the spilled beer and immediately went for the empty cup, sticking his tongue in it to get any last drops. The man whose beer it was, or used to be, literally had to pry the cup away from this dog. It was so funny! Now that is a real Czech dog.
After the lovely dinner date Sommer and I had on the hill with our Vietnamese feast, we walked back to her apartment and I took a tram across town to my apartment. Now that the weather is nice I enjoy taking trams so much more than the metro, because I can see so many different areas and feel the warm, fresh air as we travel through the city. Now I am home, stuffed, and ready to spend a relaxing Thursday night at home in Prague with my roommates!
Slunce sviti! is the expression meaning “There is sunlight!” I asked my Czech professor how to say that earlier during the semester when for the first time in the winter of Prague the sun cracked through the clouds. Now that spring has finally caught up, the summer sun has been shining upon this city, casting a new ambience, feel, and look on its residents.
Letna Park is a 10 minute walk from Veverkova, and since the sun began to smile it’s been filled with people from all over. The park features an area called the Beer Gardens where you can buy zmrzlina (ice cream), pivo (beer), and klobása (sausages) for cheap. The place is huge — there are playgrounds, tennis courts, basketball courts, multiple grassy areas to play, and further down towards the giant metronome you can find skateboarders and a break dancer here or there. Oh, and lots of dogs. Dogs everywhere!
The Czech people really lightened up with the change in weather – more smiles, louder conversations, laughter, sunglasses and skin. The other day I took to napping outside to tan with the friends… but really we just napped from our exhaustion since we are on the verge of going from pre-production into filming this coming week.
Days like this also provide us opportunities to hang out with the 35mm kids. The film program is set up into two film groups — 16mm students and 35mm students which means that we have separate classes and don’t often get to hang out other than elective classes. It was a spontaneous but unsurprising event when we coordinated with some of the 35mm kids to come out and play some sports at Letna. We played rugby, football, soccer, and threw a frisbee around.
By night we hit St. Matthew’s fair, a visiting carnival situated 2 stops after Strossmayerovo Náměstí (the square you get off if you live in Veverkova) at Výstaviště Holešovice where you can breeze through with your friends and grab some beers. The amusement park didn’t impress me too much since I am all about extreme roller coaster thrills, but the one thing that I hadn’t done in a while was ride bumper cars with my friends. And boy, did we go at it. It was the most I’d laughed and screamed in a long time. I immediately went back the night after for another round. The weekend in the carnival found itself a bit empty, and there are several copies of the same ride throughout the area so we found a bumper car arena for ourselves.
Honestly, as a Californian I can’t get enough sun. But the winter snow was a trying experience for myself. It’s not my favorite but now I am better prepared to deal with the biting cold. Now that the sun’s out — the park or the carnival are great options for a quick getaway for you and your friends. Whether you choose to go read, write, sleep or play some catch, being around people has been energizing and refreshing. This is the power of the sun. Enjoy your sunny days and your indoor hours. The city has its balance. Čau!