A Recap of Vienna, Austria

A Recap of Vienna, Austria

Vienna is, in a word, charming. It doesn’t have the stunning cityscape of Prague, nor the young and funky culture of Berlin, but it has charm. Vienna begs you to step into one of its millions of coffeehouses and have a drink or two and spend an hour or two just contemplating life and dreams. One of the great things about Vienna is that a lot of the museums have days where they offer half price or cheap tickets, or sometimes have free exhibits.
We arrived in Vienna on Friday afternoon, dropped some things off at the hostel, and our professor took us on a quick tour. Afterwards, we grabbed some dinner, and then Jean and I made a mad dash back to the hostel to change, and were off to the Opera. We read in our copy of Rick Steve’s that for a mere 3 Euros, you can buy a “standing place” ticket for the Vienna Opera. The view isn’t very great and after 3 and a half hours of standing, I was beat. However, it was great to see an Opera in Vienna, especially for 3 Euros. After the opera we went out for some of the best gelato I’ve ever had, and then back to the hostel.
Saturday morning dawned bright and early. Jean and I headed over to the Naschmarkt, which is basically like Pike Place market combined with a flea market. And when I wandered past the stalls selling fish and seafood, I felt like I was back in Seattle. After spending about three hours there, eating falafel and hummus with fresh fruit and bread. After lunch, we split up for some museum wandering. I went to the Kunsthistorische Museam (The Art History Museum) and spent almost another three hours wandering the halls. it was great, and I only left when I got too hungry that I couldn’t focus on the art anymore. I decided to head to a cafe for a while, since that’s what Vienna is all about. And after a “short” 90 minute stop at a cafe near St Stephan’s Cathedral, I went to see some sights and another museum at Modern Art and Architecture. Then we all met up at the hostel for some dinner and just hung out.
Sunday morning I went to the History of Vienna museum (which is free on Sunday mornings), which had tons of cool artifacts from Vienna’s past. After that, I ran around to see some last sights and spent another hour in a cafe and ate way too much. With a quick, final jaunt to visit the Belvedare Palace, we went to the train station and left for Prague. All in all, I believe that Vienna is a beautiful and charming, but very expensive city. However, I felt proud of myself because I was able to speak German for most the time.
a white woman in a teal scarf and a black hat holding a slice of chocolate cake at an outdoor cafe in Vienna
Weeks 4 & 5: Castles, Food, & Fall

Weeks 4 & 5: Castles, Food, & Fall

The last week and a half have been times of fairytale castles, fog, and lots (and lots) of food.Last weekend, (Oct 3-5), we had a program trip to South Bohemia. We visited three castles in three days, along with 4 different towns. It was a great experience and actually a lot more fun that I had thought, due to the fact that is was supposed to pour all weekend, and only did so periodically.Our first stop was the Konopiste Castle in Benesov. It was the home of the last Hapsburg ruler, whose death started WW1. It’s near Prague, but out in the country on a beautiful little lake and with all the fall colors, even the rain couldn’t stop me from wishing I lived in that cute little village. Then, we hopped back on the train to travel to stop number two, which is where we stayed Friday night: Cesky Budejovice, the home of the “real” Budweiser. Needless to say, we tried it (sadly, no brewery tour!) and I think it’s better than the American brand. That was the general consensus too. Ceske Budejovice was quiet pretty and we found a great little cafe place to eat where I had a bread bowl full of Goulash. So amazing!

The next morning, we hopped on a bus for a quick trip to Hluboka, which is modeled after the British Castles. The story goes that one of the owners went to England, saw their castles, and fell in love with them. I wasn’t really a fan, because I think castles should look old – not have been remodeled in the 1960s or so. Lastly, we hopped back on the train that afternoon for another hour to Cesky Krumlov, which is probably the most fairytale like city in the Czech Republic. We spent the night there, and the next day we toured the city. It’s beautiful, and it’s probably the most romantic place I’ve been in the country. They also have a huge castle, which I loved, more than Hluboka, but not as much as Konopiste in Benesov. After we went to the castle, we had lunch at the greatest little Pizzeria (amazing hot chocolate and four cheese pizza!)
Sunday we took the train back to Prague (it was a 4+ hour journey) so we spent a lot of time either sleeping or doing homework, which has become a tradition for me on the train. Monday the weather got foggy. I actually like the fog, it’s so peaceful and quiet, but also a bit creepy when you live on the 6th floor and can’t see across the courtyard to the other rooftops. Monday was pretty uneventful, just running errands and getting things done in Prague.Tuesday I had my literature class, which I really love. I’m not sure if it’s supposed to be a lecture or a discussion yet, but the books sound great, and the one we’ve read already (The Joke, by Kundera) was a good read. Wednesday is probably my favorite – if most tiring – day. I have Contemporary Czech Politics and Czech & European History back to back. They are great classes. Thursdays I have a night film class, which is nice, because I (a) don’t have a reason to spend money and go to the theater and (b) get to feel nice and cultured because I’m watching little known (but so far, good) central European films. Although some of them have been a little depressing.

Friday I was back on the train, this time to Olomouc for more fog and food. I’ve been just relaxing this weekend, catching up on homework, with friends back home, and reading up on the elections (I got my ballot in the mail on Thursday!) and eating. A lot. I’ve decided that I aspire to one day be like my Czech Grandma because she always seems to know exactly what foods to cook, and does so amazingly and gracefully. I mean, she makes soup from scratch! Anyways, its Sunday, which means, more homework and visiting some friends for a bit, and then back on the train for another 3 hours.

Cesky Krumlov Castle in the fall surrounded by trees

Life Abroad: Visiting Berlin & Dresden

Life Abroad: Visiting Berlin & Dresden

September 30, 2008.

I spent last weekend in Germany. I wasn’t able to get my visa before I left for my study abroad in Prague, so I had to hop over to Dresden and get it. But, since I was already on my way over there, I decided to take a quick trip to Berlin as well, since it wasn’t that much more expensive. Berlin is AMAZING! The city is just breathtaking and completely layered in history. It might even be my favorite European city now.

My friend Pat went with me, and we hiked all over the city (next time, I really want to rent a bike). We saw the Reichstag (Parliament) Building at night, walked along the East Side Gallery (the largest remaining section of the wall), got (slightly) lost in the former East, and explored the bombed-out ruins of a church, along with the super-modern Alexanderplatz and ate enough Turkish food to last us maybe a week. I want more already.

My favorite thing in Berlin: all the bikes! 🙂 While I was in Berlin, the weather was warm, sunny, and beautiful. the leaves turned. I love that sight! The leaves are turning here in Prague too, it’s beautiful, and I need to take pictures of Prague in fall and of my apartment so you can see where I live.

Next weekend we’re going on a trip to Southern Czech Republic with our program, doing some hiking and adventuring and who knows what. Classes started for me today, which was exciting. I’m taking a Czech literature class, which I’m not sure if I’ll love or hate.

A woman stands in front of the eastside gallery in Berlin. The graffiti on the wall says The World's too small for walls.