It’s felt like a full year since we last spoke, and I’m so excited to share all the adventures I’ve had since then. In the past few weeks, I’ve had the chance to get out of the city and explore a ton of new places in the Czech Republic. CET sponsors a ton of optional travel activities that students can sign up for, as well as the travel seminars built into the program that all students attend.
The Traveling Seminar isn’t for another two weeks, so I’ve been taking as much time as I can to explore the city and the country before we start our international travel and adventures throughout other parts of Europe. I knew that when I decided to study abroad, I wanted to be somewhere that I could travel to other countries if I wanted to, but I also knew that I didn’t want to leave in May without knowing anything about the city and the country I called “home” for five months.
There is so much to learn and see and experience all throughout the Czech Republic even in the gray winter months of January and February. This month I had the opportunity to go to Česky Krumlov and the Czech celebration of Masopust in Roztoky. Both of these excursions served to help me better understand the lives and culture of the people of the Czech Republic and were fun ways to explore the country.
Our first day views over the town of Český Krumlov from above.
Český Krumlov is the first trip that CET students go on through the program. It’s known as a “fairytale” city with attractions like its 13th century castle and museum, quaint and walkable streets, and well-preserved history. Our trip to Český Krumlov was overnight, and it was the perfect amount of time to get to know the town. We arrived just before lunch and had the chance to explore a bit on our own and try the local restaurants before our guided tour.
Some friends and I started the day in Český Krumlov by getting lunch in town and doing our own exploration. The whole town can be walked across in about 20 minutes, but there was so much to see in between.
The baroque Castle Theater. One of the best-preserved theaters of its time period.
After lunch we had the official tour of the town and the castle, where we walked throughout the city and got to know the history of the town. We hiked all the way up through the castle and had some pretty great views, before getting a guided tour of the castle theater. This theater is the older preserved baroque theater and still had so many functioning set, sound design, and costume pieces. Though the theater isn’t used anymore, it was so special to be in such a well-preserved place with such a rich history of entertainment and culture.
That evening we had a traditional Czech meal with everyone from CET and even got treated to a live musical performance. Český Krumlov has a limited nightlife scene, but we still found some fun places to hang out and grab a drink after dinner was over.
View of the tower while exploring Český Krumlov.
The following day we finally got to see the town in sunlight, which painted the red rooftops and baroque architecture in a brand-new light. My friends and I took the free time in the morning to go back and see the castle museum and climb to the top of the tower, where we got some more of the best views of the whole trip. We had time for a quick lunch and found an authentic Italian place in the middle of town—not something any of us were willing to pass up after a few days of hearty Czech cuisine. We finished the day stopping into a few boutiques and stores on our way to the bus to take us back to Prague.
Český Krumlov was a chance for me to experience life and culture outside of a major city and consider the Czech Republic in its greater historical context. It was such a great first trip out of the city and set the expectation for the kinds of adventures I’ll have for the rest of the semester.
Views of Český Krumlov with the sun from the top of the Castle tower.
Masopust is the traditional Czech Mardi Gras to celebrate the beginning of Lent. Since so much of the country is not religious, Masopust has turned into a big party, complete with music, dancing, food, drinks, and a massive parade through the town of Roztoky, just north of Prague.
Masopust was an excursion that I signed up for at the beginning of the semester without really knowing what it entailed, and I was really nervous to leave the city for something so uniquely cultural and so far removed from the way I’d been living in Prague. I couldn’t have been more wrong, and it’s been one of the best and most immersive cultural experiences I’ve had so far.
One of the amazing and intricate paper mache costumes from Masopust.
A small group of us took the train from Prague out to the town of Roztoky Saturday morning, and I immediately felt underdressed in my jeans and winter jacket. Even on the train platform, there were people all around with painted faces, elaborate outfits, and giant paper mache masks and costumes. We quickly discovered that this was a festival about eating, drinking, and having the best and most elaborate outfit possible.
We started the day out in a big field near the Vltava River, where there were tons of vendors selling traditional treats, and even a few booths renting out costumes to those of us without anything to show for their Masopust outfits. A few girls were hovering around the perimeter of the field to give newcomers little red circles or hearts on our cheeks. When I asked about the meaning of these marks, they just said it was to add some color to our faces. I asked for hearts because I thought they were the cutest.
My friend Eve and I enjoying everything Masopust had to offer. I got a paprika sausage which was about twice as long as any sausage I’d ever had, and delicious with mustard.
The rest of the day was filled with some really amazing traditional dances and music, and the food and drinks cannot be overstated. When I got to class on Monday, my professor asked me what kind of beer we’d had. He seemed disappointed by my “light beer?” response. “Always, ALWAYS ask about the beer.” was his only advice.
Later in the day, the Queen of Masopust was crowned by the mayor and rode off into the heart of the village on a massive papier mâché horse followed by a parade of people. In the town there is more dancing and music, and celebration of the queen and one another.
This was truly one of the most unique and special things I’ve gotten to experience, and I feel so lucky that I did. Over the next few days in Prague there were several smaller Masopust celebrations, and seeing the costumes and hearing the music made me feel so grateful for the experience I had that day.
I have loved getting to know Prague, and I’ve been even more grateful for the trips that take me out of it. There is so much to experience if you’re willing to step out of your bubble and say yes.
In my latest installment of advice for life abroad in Prague:
- Stepping out of your comfort zone is the only way to widen it.
- Always, always ask about the beer.
Na Shledanou (goodbye) for now!