Picture of the skyline of Graz

This is a copy of my study abroad blog, moved here as a backup. The original post can be viewed here.

Czech this out!

June 23, 2015

It’s been a while, hasn’t it! I imagine some of you are amazed that I’m still writing these, it’s the middle of summer after all. Well, not for me sadly, I have classes until the beginning of July! Things are beginning to wind down here, people are making plans for the summer and my classes are starting to come to a close (but they still get cancelled as frequently). However, things haven’t been all work and no play, and this past weekend I took the opportunity to go back to Prague for a few days. I have a friend from high school, Ryan, who participated in a one month-long study abroad program in Prague, and this weekend was a good time for me to go visit since his program was now ending.

So right after class on Thursday afternoon, I found myself back at the train station getting ready for another long journey to a foreign country! This time, I managed to book a train instead of a bus, and one without any connections at that! This is sort of a double edged sword, as I didn’t have to switch trains at all, but I was stuck on the same train for about 8 hours. By the time I made it to Prague, it was already nightfall, so I didn’t have many plans other than settling in for the night. Sadly, Ryan’s program was very specific on no guests, so I had to book a hostel for the weekend. The plan was to meet Ryan outside the train station, but the station ended up having multiple exits and no good landmarks. It took me about 30 minutes to track him down, thanks to some American tourists I ran into who told me that ‘another English speaker was looking for a guy over to the left’. We did manage to find each other however, and the two of us found my hostel without much trouble. By this point it was getting pretty late, so we decided to call it a night and meet up the next morning to see the city.

The next morning, Ryan picked me up at my hostel and we made our way to Charles Bridge, one of the main pedestrian bridges in the city (I mentioned it during my last trip to Prague, but I called it St. George’s Bridge for some reason… Whoops). Since this was the tail end of Ryan’s stay in Prague, his parents were also coming to town to see Prague and then travel with Ryan on a trip to Italy next week. We were to meet up with Ryan’s mother, Glenda on one side of the bridge, but after walking back and forth across the bridge past the rendezvous time, we decided to give up on trying to find her and walked around the city for ourselves. After making a quick lap of the surrounding neighborhoods, we went into a torture museum that interested us right next to Charles Bridge. Prague is weird man, they came up with all sorts of ways to kill people back in the day. When we had made it to the top floor of the museum, one of the windows was open, so I decided to look out at the view, where I noticed a woman who strongly resembled Ryan’s mother down below in the square. I called Ryan over who confirmed that it was indeed his mother, and we ran out of the museum to chase her down. Turns out she hadn’t set her alarm the night before, and slept through the meeting time, but everything worked out in the end.

After meeting up with her, Ryan took us around to some of the more noteworthy landmarks in Prague, including some places that he himself had yet to visit. We climbed up to the top of the Powder Tower to enjoy the view, the first of many towers we ended up climbing during our stay in Prague. By this point, it was getting into the afternoon, so we went and had lunch at a nice restaurant/cafe before going to the hotel Ryan’s parents were staying in to meet up with his father, who had just flown into the city hours earlier. After meeting up with him, we went up to Prague Castle and saw the cathedral located inside. I’d been here before on my Spring Break trip to Prague, but this time we also climbed up to the top of the cathedral tower, which I was unable to do last time. I got some pretty nice pictures of the view, so I was pleased with trip, even if the climb was rather arduous (287 steps!). The rest of the afternoon was spent looking at some of the other lesser known landmarks, such as the Lennon Wall, a wall near a Beatles-themed pub that people continuously graffiti with John Lennon and Beatles related imagery. We also went and saw the apartment where Ryan was staying, and explored some of the area around Prague Castle. After getting dinner, Ryan and I split from his parents, and we went over to the apartment of another exchange student who Ryan had met, where we watched the film The Departed. I say we, SOMEONE didn’t quite make it through the whole film, even though he was the one who hadn’t seen it before. After the movie, I made my way back to my hostel, with plans on meeting the group again the next day.

Meeting up with everybody was much easier this day, and we made our way without much trouble to some of the next sights that we had wanted to see. From our meeting point, we found a lift that would take us to the top of one of the higher parts of Prague, complete with Eiffel Tower-esque structure. Again, we found ourselves climbing up several hundred steps to come to the observation platform of the tower, but the view was worth it. The area around the tower had some other attractions (tourist traps) that we went and saw including a ‘Mirror Maze’ which also had several funhouse mirrors that I quite enjoyed. It was beginning to lightly sprinkle at this point, so we decided to walk over to Ryan’s campus to see where he had studied, but since it was a Saturday and there was a wedding at the cathedral, we weren’t able to look around very much. We had a quick lunch, and made our way back to Old Town Square, where Ryan and I separated from his parents in order to see a Salvador Dali/Andy Warhol museum that Ryan was interested in visiting. Dali is weird, man. I did like some of the works that he did, and I wished elephants really did have legs like that in real life. After the museum, I was about ready to collapse, but there was still plenty to see before meeting up with Ryan’s parents for dinner. We looked around for a good sweets shop to spend some of our hard earned Czech crowns on, but we didn’t find anything to our liking, so we mainly just wandered around the city looking at stuff, chatting and killing time. Ryan’s parents had made a reservation at a fancy restaurant right down by the river, and I had what might have been the fanciest meal of my life, definitely a step up from kebab. I even had creme brlée for the first time! If you ask me, taking a blow torch to a dessert is pretty hardcore and doesn’t fit in with the other dishes, but it was tasty so I’ll give it a pass. After dinner, we ran back over to Old Town Square in order to sign up for a ghost tour of Prague, to hear all of the gory stories of people long dead. I went on a ‘Jack the Ripper Tour’ when I visited London, and this was sort of the same idea, where our guide would take us around after night to see allegedly haunted places in the area. The woman running the tour was very animated and fun to listen to, although we didn’t get to see any authentic ghosts. Shame. After the tour, we went back over to the same exchange student’s place, where The Fugitive was playing. I had never seen it before, and I quite enjoyed it. Ryan fell asleep again.

The last day, Ryan’s parents decided to go off and do their own thing, so it was just Ryan and I on our own. There was some museum that Ryan was interested in seeing, but before we quite made it there, we found a different, free museum and decided to go look around there instead. This museum showed the history of Czechoslovakia during the two World Wars, and it was quite interesting. Nearby was a large building with the largest equestrian statue in all of Europe (maybe the whole world, I forget), and I can vouch, it was quite large. We went and had lunch at some pub, then went back to Ryan’s place so that he could pack and officially move out. The rest of the afternoon was spent going to some park Ryan hadn’t made it to yet and wanted to see, and trying to spend the rest of our Czech money, as it’s useless once we cross the border. Ryan and his family were going to take a trip to Venice, and then onto the rest of Italy, which means that by complete coincidence we happened to be on the same train, as they needed to make a connection in Vienna. We met up with his parents at the train station without any problem, and were quickly on our way back to Austria. I parted ways with the three of them in Vienna, and I continued to ride the train for 3 more hours before it finally arrived back in Graz. By the time I made it back to my place, it was nearly midnight, so all I did that night was unpack and go to bed.

So here we are, back at the present! I had a German exam the afternoon after returning to Austria, so I spent most of Monday morning cramming for that, but I feel like it went well. I feel like I’m finally getting somewhere with German, but still not enough to be holding any lengthy conversations. So what’s next? Well, in exactly 2 weeks I will be on a plane back to the United States! I think I’ll actually be in Chicago by this point in the afternoon. This does not mean the end of my travels though, no sir. I have classes and finals until a week from Thursday (and some even after I leave, but that’s another story), and I’m booted from my apartment a week from Friday. That means I’ll have the better part of 4 days before I need to be back in Vienna to catch my flight. I haven’t booked anything officially yet, but the tentative plan is to travel to Budapest, as I haven’t been to Hungary yet, then travel back to Vienna to come back to the US. That means that the next time I update this, I’ll probably be back home! I could write a new edition, called ‘Austin in Nebraska’. I less catchy name for a less catchy blog, I like it. See you then!

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