Friday was probably the most fun day I've had here. We went to a little village two hours north of Prague, where glass-blowing is quite the viable industry. I felt like I was back visiting Dad at Wilson Mftg. when we walked in...lots of men in goggles, working with strange tools with huge ovens in the background. Except that most of these men were drinking on the job and I'm pretty sure that doesn't fly in America.
We watched them for a time, and then, because we have one of the smallest USAC groups ever, we all got to BLOW OUR OWN GLASS which was so fun. I blew the fattest bird ever and some kind of pot/vase/ashtray lumpy thing. I don't think I've missed my glass-blowing calling, that's for sure. Then we basically toured the whole factory and found out where the shot glasses and ugly vase in our apartment came from.
On our way from the glass-blowing to Melnik, in the wine-producing region, we stopped at a tiny place for lunch, where we found out that they can "spit pig and bird in advance". I love when things get lost in translation.
We traveled on to sample 5 different wines from Melnik. Incidentally, Melnik is one of the most northern places in Europe that actually produces quality wine. At the end, I got a free bottle of wine by chance from Jan, so that was exciting. More exciting than seeing the big metal vats where the wine is stored, which we also did.
So the next logical place to go after offering 20 students 5 half-glasses of wine is clearly to the top of the highest church tower I've been in yet, with ridiculously narrow stairs and amazing views. We saw the convergence of the Vltava and Elbe rivers, which is more interesting than it sounds. Then I went back to the ground and petted some precious dogs (including the fattest little sausage of a Daschund that I've ever seen) for awhile while waiting for the rest of the group. At some point along the way I attempted to convince Petr that Oklahoma is far superior to Texas, prompting a spontaneous "Oklahoma rules" shout-out over the intercom on the bus. 10 points for me.
We also toured some underground mine/well thing, which was notable mostly for the fact that we all wore bright yellow hard hats and accidentally/on purpose got clay all over our hands. It was just fun from start to finish, with Jan and Petr and Pani Novotny, who is the most precious gentleman in the entire world besides my own grandpa, and who kept offering us more wine and trying to insist to us all that we know Czech.
Saturday morning Emily and I went to Cesky Krumlov. This is something I cannot fully describe without the pictures I took, so here, for your enjoyment, is Cesky Krumlov in all it's quaint, adorable glory.
Emily in front of the town. That castle tower in the background looks like a sandcastle and a wedding cake in turn. I will have a wedding cake shaped like that tower.
We climbed a hill to watch the sunset.
Speaking of this weekend, I've finally decided on my spring break plans.
March 21-22 - Cesky Krumlov. Gloriousness ensues again.
Shuttle bus to Salzburg, Austria.
March 23 - couchsurfing (hopefully) with a family in Salzburg. Maybe do the Sound Of Music tour? Probably not...touristy things tend to scare me off a bit.
Train to Hallstatt, Austria (also a ferry ride!)
March 24 - Hallstatt, staying in a "Gasthaus" and touring Europe's oldest salt mine, complete with underground lake and mine chute-slide. Hiking. Gazing. Weeping for joy.
Train to Bad Gastein, Austria
March 25 - Bad Gastein, staying in a youth hostel where the price of the stay includes entrance to one of Austria's famous spas. I've never been to a spa before, it sounds terribly relaxing as long as no one tries to give me a massage (how do people find those relaxing?) Other possible activities include snowshoeing, snow jazz festival, snow torte, snow tea, and other snowy activities.
Maybe staying in Bad Gastein or going to Innsbruck by train for a night to see the Alpine Zoo, perched atop one of the Austrian Alps.
Train to Munich, Germany
March 27-28 - Munich, staying in a youth hostel. On Saturday night I intend to see Sweeney Todd in German. I'm really hoping that one works out. I'm also hoping to see many castles and go to a biergarten or three.
I think Sunday I'll jump over to Passau, Germany on my way back to Prague, since there's a 21 euro train ticket available for unlimited travel in Bavaria for one day.
And that's it. I'm pretty stoked, and even though it'll still be cold I'll be in the ALPS for part of the time, and Munich and Salzburg as well. PUMP IT UP!