Another month, another blog post. Time moves all too fast nowadays, but I’ll chalk it up to how fun it is out here. Core classes for FAMU students end this month, and from then begins the production of the student short films. We’ve spent the past few months pitching our ideas, reworking our scripts, and making some short projects for classes like storyboarding. But this week is one due for lots of work and lots of stress, with the beginning of electives and the big dramaturgical pitch for the groups’ films. Luckily though, there is opportunity for respite.
Prague is a great city, but I spend a lot of my time in the same few places: class, home, the grocery store, the bus stop. When you have classes from 9-5, it’s tough to find free time or the will to use it well. Thankfully, I could go on a few trips with my fellow students right before the end of September. One trip to Český Krumlov, a beautifully preserved medieval town; and one trip to Berlin, which requires no introduction. Both were great experiences and a great look at what’s available just a few short hours away.
The entrance to the city, which unbeknownst to us, was a part of the castle. I didn’t realize this until I had left the castle, and was actually in the middle of doing something else.
This was one of the rare events where we were able to interact with our CET counterparts, which is always a great time. We get to talk about our respective classes and our experiences in the city, as well as explore the one we just found ourselves in. As for the town itself, Český Krumlov was fantastic. I talked a bit about the winding stone-paved streets in parts of Prague, and Český Krumlov is basically all stone-paved roads and beautiful buildings. Even ignoring the tours, I must’ve taken a hundred pictures just wandering alone.
It was also a very touristy town, so I saw more tourists than locals. At a creekside restaurant, I ate smoked meat and cabbage next to an old couple and in front of some CET students I encountered by coincidence. They were very nice, though I didn’t bother having a full conversation with them. There were actually many old married couples who were either here as a part of a greater tour of Europe or exploring what was in the Czech Republic, but it made me realize that that’s kind of what older people are supposed to do. Live out the rest of their lives in luxury and find fulfillment in the world before they die. I wondered if I was going to be around for that long and if I would come back here if I did. Let’s hope, anyway!
The students got to tour the Český Krumlov castle, which we had unknowingly walked past as soon as we had entered the city. The castle was made up of ornate rooms upon rooms of historical treasures, paintings, and a surprising amount of bear rugs. There was no photography allowed within the castle, but there was photography allowed outside of it— so I took many pictures of the bears beneath the bridge that led into the castle. The bears were apparently originally found in a plane, having been smuggled on. They live a life of relative comfort now, eating a vegetarian diet and being watched by people.
The statue .moon .mono .homo by Tets Ohnari. There’s nothing in this caption I can say that the art can’t already say on its own, but I should note that it’s even more fascinating in person.
I also got to see a few art museums, my favorite being the 3+ galerie and the Bestarium exhibition. It featured the work of Maurizio Olivotto, beautifully stylized depictions of animals and fantasy situations. Many other illustrators were on display, but his work was by far my favorite. Another museum was the Egon Schiele Art Centrum, where there were many pieces of modern art on display alongside Schiele’s. My personal favorite piece there was actually by a Japanese artist, Tets Ohnari. The piece is listed on his website as .moon .mono .homo, and it depicts a miniature town with a large, broken mirror looming over it. Seeing the piece in person and the light reflected through all the broken pieces of glass was an absolute highlight. The whole trip was immensely fun. There’s almost nothing as entertaining as exploring a place you’ve never been before.
The iconic Brandenberg Gate. As soon as the group walked through it, someone drove their car onto the sidewalk and got arrested. It almost made it even more iconic.
The FAMU trip to Berlin had us unfortunately separated from our CET counterparts, but it was still very enjoyable. The weekend seemed to fly by, with one free Saturday bookended by two greatly educational lectures. Before entering Berlin properly, we stopped by Potsdam. One of the UNESCO cities of film, and home to one of the oldest and largest film studios in Europe, we got to enjoy a fascinating lecture about the history of film from one of the countries most important to its development. That same day, after a short bus trip, we were able to see the Film Museum and, apparently, the oldest film projector. It was a packed day, where the class left at 6 am and got to Berlin at 6 pm, but everything in that space between felt worthwhile.
The second day had a short tour of the city, where the class got to see the Berlin Wall, Brandenburg Gate, and the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, amongst other things. I learned about Germany’s history in passing during high school classes, but I only understood once I was there just how recent these defining moments of history were. The Berlin Wall fell just before the start of the 90s. WWII ended in 1945. People who lived in that era of history are still alive today, and the city of Berlin seemed to bear the marks of that era all over itself.
The third day, we got to talk to Berlin-based filmmaker Maria Mohr, and see some of the films she had made. We also got to see the Deutsche Kinemathek. It was full of fascinating installments of mirrors and TV screens, as well as deeply informational text about the evolution of film in Germany. Between this and the Film Museum at Potsdam, I feel like I learned more about film history over that weekend than I had in class.
While I enjoyed having dinner and drinking with my friends during the free time we had, I made sure to set aside some time to explore the city on my own. I had some currywurst and fries while waiting to visit the Television Tower, the tallest building in Germany. I could see it from the street by the hostel I was staying at and the road probably leading back to that hostel from its observation deck. The whole time, I wished I could’ve stayed in Berlin longer. I didn’t get to experience the nightlife for fear of being hungover the next morning, and there seemed to be a hundred shops, museums, and cool restaurants I could’ve spent time in if I had any. But that’s how you know an experience is good— you leave it wanting more.
I took this picture out of the bus window as we left Berlin, hence the less than fantastic quality. Some things are just better seen with your eyes.
Both trips were great opportunities to have some fun outside of the FAMU classes and to get to know my fellow students better. I may not have time to travel with the start of film production looming over the horizon, but I treasure the time I’ve spent so far. I plan to treasure the rest of it, regardless of what I do with it.
See everyone in the next blog post! Na shledanou (Goodbye/see you later)!