Thursday, March 19, 2009

Hloupy...or BLBY?

EDIT: Now with pictures!

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.
This is the castle that grew from the ground.

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.

THIS sunset.

Suffice it to say that I'm going back this weekend because I loved it so much. (If you'd like to see more where those came from, check out facebook.)

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!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Falling in (and out) of love with you...

So, as you can see from the editing of my last blog, I learned how to add PICTURES! Hooray for me :-)

So. I have been in Prague for 6 weeks and 2 days. It's actually pretty ridiculous to think that I've been here that long, and that I have almost 14 weeks to go. I'm a little over a fourth done with my semester in Europe...and I'm not sure how I feel about it. I feel the need for some lists. So here you go.

There are some great things here, for sure. My favorite things so far:

1. Petřin Hill - Just a gorgeous, quiet place; good for rambling, clambering, and pondering. Reminds me a bit of the way I feel about Turkey Mountain...though Turkey Mountain is more secluded. There's a mini-Eiffel tower and a mirror maze and all kinds of stuff that makes me realize that I am basically still a kid.

2. Vyšehrad - the area around my school, also the oldest area in Prague.

Again, a relatively quiet place. Maybe that's the thing I like most. There's a sweet cemetary, where Dvořak and Smetana (composers) are buried, along with Alfons Mucha (artist) and lots of other famous Czechs. According to Petr, if you want to be buried here, all you have to do is become more famous in CZ than some other person who's buried there.

Also according to Petr and our Modern History text, a lot of Czech legends originated in Vyšehrad, including the legend of Libuše, the Přemysl princess/prophetess who took lovers to her baths then killed them, praying mantis style. But then she married a ploughman and ruled the Czechs for awhile, so you know, whatever. No big deal.

3. My apartment when no one else is home. I NEED MY SPACE PEOPLE!! Sor. I really do though.

4. My teacher was asking us in Czech class the other day, "Co rada v Praze?" (What do you like in Prague?) My response was "Mam rada tramvaj! Mam rada Metro!" (I like the trams! I like the metro!) She was confused, but I seriously mean it: Public transpotation rules. It rules so much. Don't know how I'll get used to cars again when I get back.

5. General awesome things: Going to bars and clubs here is really fun, mostly because that's the only place I get to meet actual Czech people. I love Czech people. They are precious. A lot of the people on my program seem to think that Czechs are grouchy and rude, but I really think it's because they don't get enough sun, so they don't smile very often. But when you actually talk to them, they're awesome. I talked to a Czech guy last weekend who really loved his country, because "It's not East, it's not West, it's not North, it's not South, it's central, and it is unique." Which comes pretty close to how I feel about it.

Always awesome: grocery shopping, fried cheese, castles, cheap beer, learning about Communism, having real free time, learning Czech, red roofed houses, being a "regular" at the Italian place below our apartment and having the waiters wink at you every time you say something to them in Czech, incredibly well-behaved dogs, adorable Czech children so bundled up that they can't move their arms, H&M, playing guitar everyday, and lots more.

Not so awesome things are definitely here though. Namely:

1. Dog crap. EVERYWHERE. You really have to watch where you step. So many Czechs have dogs that the word for "pet" is the same as the word for "dog". (Peš, if you were wondering.) But these dogs, while being freaking ADORABLE and unbelievably obedient, do poop everywhere, and their owners don't usually clean up after them.

2. The terrible weather. I feel like the USAC-student mantra is "This will be SO AWESOME when the weather gets nice!" Because seriously. The weather sucks. It has been sunny approximately three days since I've been here. And I never thought I'd rejoice over a high of 45, but seriously. I'm in dire straits right now. I told Ariel the other night that my requirements for a spring break location are simply "no rain, a beach, and 60s or 70s." I don't care if the only thing that this hyopthetical place has going for it is said beach. I need a beach. I need the sun, and I need it now. I mean, seriously, just look at this:

3. Missing people. Pete, if you read this, I miss you a lot. I could go for a nice long chat on the porch with you right now (in the sun. In about 75 degree weather, please.) I could also go for some QT drinks and SNL in bad way, Rachel. I see what you mean now about missing QT drinks. And I know I usually get Diet Coke, but I NEED A DR. PEPPER F'REALZ. Then can we go on a midnight safari and then go to Pops? And Schultz. Rock Band would basically make my week. Or month. Along with some FreshBerry...Mom, you're invited to the FreshBerry party too. And then you can all give me some really big hugs. I could go for about a thousand hugs right now.

4. I've already mentioned how I hate not having a dryer. I still hate it, in case you were wondering.

It's so strange when things I do here remind me of things I do at home. We have a lot of stairway conversations here in our apartment building, because none of us have living rooms or anything like that. Sometimes I just get reminded of sitting in Rachel's backyard, or on her front porch, or being at Pete and I's house on Lewis Place, or Pete's porch on Florence, or my awesome duplex porch with a bunch of awesome RUF-ers. Porch conversations are the best kind. Here, stair conversations are okay, but they're no porch. Anyway, now I'm just rambling. I love it here, and I love it at home, what can I say. Seriously, being here makes me love home AND love Prague more. It's kind of sweet actually.