There are some days that I have in Prague that I am just overwhelmed with a sense of wholeness. It almost feels like my lungs can get full, deep, fulfilling breaths and I could just overflow with a bittersweet combination of laughter and tears. This weekend/tonight was one of those times. I really only believe that the people I have become so fond of will understand what I mean, and I hope that a few videos and pictures will help describe how I am feeling. I feel this intense pressure in my chest that can only be described as an overflowing sense of contentment, comfort, and happiness, paired with a dread in the pit of my stomach that reminds me how the dwindling days merely mean a lack of opportunity for more moments like these. Can’t we just get a few more weeks?
I’m Back!! March 22, 2010
You thought this day would never come. You gave up on me, didn’t you?
Well surprise Blogosphere!!! I am back!
I would like to take the time to sincerely apologize to my fiercely loyal readers that I have disappointed so egregiously. I have failed you, and to this I admit my faults. But, please take my absence of posting as a sign that I am having too much damn fun to sit and blog which is a good thing, right? Anyway, although I tempted you with the hopes of a new, fantastically long blog post as a result of my recent hiatus, I am unfortunately only going to leave you with a brief one as I am currently killing time between classes.
Classes! That’s a great place to start.
I will go back alllll the way to the beginning of February, a time when intensive Czech language was all I knew for 5 hours a day, 5 days a week. And let me tell you, it was as brutal as it sounds. This language is a confusing conglomeration of too many consonants and not enough vowels, mixed in with an ever-changing set of accents that alter the pronunciation of letters to create sounds that can only be described as completely counter-intuitive to a native English speaker. And after two weeks, I learned how to say these things (pronunciations are in the brackets):
Jsem [sem] studentka. Nemluvim česky [chesky]? Dam se pivo, prosim. Kolik de stoije [stoiye] pocitac [pochitach]? Neni faijn [fine].
These translate to: I am a student. I do not speak Czech. Beer please. How much does the computer cost. Not okay.
Clearly I am ready to face the people of Prague armed with zest, vigor, and an extensive vocabulary. False. They equipped us with key words for restaurants, and ways to pronounce words, however I learned a few things. If you ask for directions in Czech, people will generally respond in Czech. Because most of us are so clearly recognizable as American, when you begin to speak to someone in Czech, they do not understand what you are saying and do not process the language that is leaving your mouth, leaving you with a dumfounded expression of confusion, a diminished sense of confidence in your Czech speaking abilities, and a ham sandwich instead of a coffee.
That is all the time I have right now, but I promise some updates!
Love and miss everyone!
Oh Herro Praha February 5, 2010
(This blog title is for you Marcus. It will be a test to see if you are actually reading this blog. If you aren’t, we aren’t friends anymore.)
News Flash: Prague is cold. Like bone-chillingly-oh-crap-I-think-I-am-going-to-lose-my-right-pinkie-finger-even-though-I-am-wearing-gloves cold. Like you-can-still-see-your-breath-inside cold. Like too-cold-to-snow cold. And Tuesday was my wake up call. But I digress. I shall start from the beginning.
We arrived in Prague by bus on the 30th, whatever day that was, and I pretty much slept the WHOLE ride. As I mentioned in the previous post, 5:30 am is early. On our way, we stopped for lunch/dinner/linner at the Pilsner factory in Plzen where, ironically, we were not allowed to order beer. It is here that I tried my very first Czech dumpling which is essentially a very condensed piece of bread which tastes delicious when dipped in the sauce from a very nicely done goulash, washed down with some ice cold pivo – beer.We arrived at our dorm, and at first I was a little bit upset by the location, but I have learned to love it. We are in Prague 6 which is not in the heart of the city, but we are incredibly close to a metro station that will take you right into downtown in 4 stops. Navigating the city is insanely easy.
There are only four lines that run through out the city and they all overlap so all you have to do is find a metro stop in the city, hop on, and you can find your way back. Locally, there are a ton of restaurants and pubs (which this city does not seem to be short of) and we have gone out and test-run a few and none have disappointed yet. It is a really low key area and because it is local everything is really cheap so it is great for a casual night when people don’t feel like going downtown. There are even three (yes count them, three) pubs located IN our building. There is a grocery store right near by as well as some other essentials. So, although I am not getting the “heart of Prague” experience I was expecting, I have come to love our little niche of Dejvice.
We did a bit of orientation stuff our first few days, navigating our way through the city and figuring out where our home bases will be – the ECES office, the AIFS office, our school building. All of them are located in the heart of the city, which will definitely force me to get my bearings about the city, and teach me to find my way around. Prague is amazing in the sense that it seems to be made up of a collection of alleyways that all link up with each other and lead you to amazing open areas where there are gorgeous standing buildings. Each alleyway has its own pubs and shops and coffee shops and pizzerias (?? – rando, I know). Anyone who lived freshmen year of college with me knows that I take a little bit longer to know where I am going, so I really have to pay attention to the directions that people give me to understand where I am. Hence, my directions for getting to the AIFS office – Once you are in old town square, walk away from the Mustek metro station, turn right at the English bookstore, left at the McDonalds, and keep walking down that street. I am not even sure if that is right. First day of class is going to be interesting.
Tuesday and Wednesday were spent participating in day trips set up for us by ECES. Monday, I went back to the city of Plzen and our first stop w
as a t the second largest synagogue in Europe called the Great Synagogue. The architecture of the building is beautiful with tall stained glass windows and ornate scaffolding and Judaica that made up this incredibly tall worship house. The city of Plzen was theonly city to be liberated byAmerican soldiers during WWII, so there is a whole part of the shul dedicated to the soldiers that came in and prayed after the city was liberated. Of the 2000 Jews that were originally living in Plzen, only 120 remain – 40 of which were born to Jewish mothers. Because of thelack of support, the shul i s unable to retain an active congregation, so it has officially become a museum. We then walked to a church in the middle of the town square, made a brutal climb to the top of a bell tower and saw the landscape of the cit
y. The reason why I say it was cold is because in Prague during the winter, you do not walk on the sidewalk, you walk around the snow and the ice, and Tuesday was no exception. Everywhere we went, it was bone-chillingly cold. The cold penetrates the layers of jackets and sweaters and undershirts and is piercing. In cities like Plzen, most of the buildings we visited were made of stone, which meant there was absolutely NO insulation and it got to the point where it was warmer outside than in the buildings we were visiting. Climbing up the stairs was brutal because the cold air you are trying to breathe in stings your nose and your throat. While I had a really enjoyable day, the weather is still going to take some getting used to.
Our last stop of the day was the Pilsner-Urquel brewery in Plzen – the home of the brewing for the entire world. According to our tour guide, every person in the Czech Republic consumes 40 gallons of beer per year. INSANE. The brewery tour is awesome and definitely worth a visit. They took us through the underground caves of the brewery and gave us a step by step process of how beer is produced in a really well presented museum style tour. And the free beer tasting at the end wasn’t too shabby either. All-in-all a great day.
Wednesday, the snow began to fall pretty heavily before we even left our dorm, and continued during our hour long bus ride. We arrived at a Communist labor camp out in a town outside of Prague and the name is escaping me. Basically, from 1948-1961, the Communist Party in Czechoslovakia was illegally imprisoning citizens to provide them with free labor in order to mine Uranium to sell to Russia to allow them to create nuclear weapons. The conditions of this camp, and many others like it, were horrible, and very reminiscent of concentration camps constructed during the Holocaust. In fact, the government tried to keep the prisons secret because, among other reasons, of the moral and ethical implications for basically recreating concentration camps in their own country after fighting so hard to defeat the Germans. The camp was basically a brain washing, torturing, and re-socializing agent for citizens that did not believe in or support the Communist Party, which had been democratically elected at the time. We trudged through 2 feet of snow while walking around the camp, and it is unbearable to believe that people lived their in those conditions. Interestingly, the sign on the outside of the camp reads “work will set you free” in Czech. It is disgusting to believe that this government, that had previously lost its own people in a moral battle against the Germans, employed the same tactics that it spoke out against (granted this was in consortium with the Soviet Communists under Stalin).
After the camp, we were supposed to go to a glass factory, but roads were closed due to the snow. Instead, we climbed up a hill, and 1200 more steps (original stairmaster?) to the top of this GORGEOUS church in the town. Unfortunately, the tourist center there would not let our tour guide talk about the church because she was not one of their paid tour guides, so I have no good tidbits for you, but I do have some great pictures.
We leave for Moravia, another city in the Czech Republic, tomorrow morning, and I will update when I get back. Love and miss everyone!
Peiser Rediscovers her Roots in Munich January 31, 2010
Not really… but Munich is amazing!
Side note before I begin — My self referential blog titles have moved away from being funny, and more towards narcissistic, so unless there is some sort of amazingly epic alliteration that needs to happen, I am retiring my last name as the beginning of my blog posts. Everyone take a minute to mourn.
Now let’s move on.
Our 5:30 am wake up to get to Munich was as awful as expected. I got up at 4 because, of course, I hadn’t packed yet, so I needed to get ready to lug all my shit down stairs. Note to future study abroaders – if any are reading this blog which is doubtful – if you think having two bags that rolls is going to be annoying and inconvenient, it is no where near as laborious as trying to lug around one rolling one and one that slings over your shoulder when they are virtually the same height. My center of gravity has been way off during every move of hotels and it has resulted in me having to make two trips every time we went anywhere with our bags.
Anyway, we arrived in Munich (Alex lost his bag, but you can read his blog for that epic tale), hopped on a bus and got to the hotel in just enough time for me to take a quick nap. Alas, it was not enough, and during our hour bus tour, every single person on the bus fell asleep, so I have very few fun facts about Munich to divulge. I go up to our poor tour guide, Irena, and told her that all of us had to get up at the crack of dawn so she shouldn’t take our sleeping personally. I think she understood me. We set off on an hour walking tour of Munich and this city is GORGEOUS! Sorry London, but good ol’ Munich blew you out of the water.
The city is amazing for multiple reasons: Despite the fact that it was snowing and effing cold during our walking tour, the city has more charm then any other place I have been. The downtown area has amazing shops and markets and the street lamps mixed with the city blanketed in white snow made it timeless. Also, the architecture of the city is outrageous! The Gothic style buildings that dominate the downtown area were planned hundreds of years ago to always be able to frame the area of downtown, therefore, although there have been new buildings erected in the area, most of the stores are at the bottom of these amazing buildings! I have attached a picture which might be hard to see that has a Lacoste at the bottom of this spired (word? building with spires?) that was built in the 1600s (or so I would guess. The tour guide was walking crazy fast and it was super cold so I didn’t really catch many of the tidbits of info about the city). It is an amazing fusion of the city’s history that modernized, but refused to give up the authenticity of the beauty of the city. Also awesome – the beer gardens. On our walking tour, we passed by this place called the Hofbräuhaus which is a beer garden in downtown Munich.
After we ended our tour, we of course decided to hit this place up. It was crazy! The most rowdy bar/restaurant I have ever stepped foot in. There are long family style wooden tables that engulf this enormous space. There were so many people and so much activity that my glasses steamed up as I walked in the door (nerd alert). Six of us got a table and ordered the smallest beer on the menu: the liter. We spent the night drinking and playing Nelson (Avi, if Emily doesn’t read this, which she probably doesn’t, let her know that her game has gone international) and laughing. Alex made friends with some creepy Parisians that were hitting on everyone that night, and we had an awesome waitress that, despite our best efforts, unfortunately declined our offer to sit down and join us for a beer. We treked back to our hotel in some serious snow, got a little lost, but finally made it back tot he hotel.
All in all, I love Munich, and I can’t wait to get back to Germany. Yay Berlin!
We drove 6 hours from Munich to Prague and have basically been doing orientation stuff and trying to get to know the city. I still feel like a tourist, but it has only been a few days. I can’t wait to start class and really feel like I am living here. That hasn’t really hit me yet. One downer is that our dorms are far from the heart of the city. I was hoping to be able to look our the window and see the castles that make up the beauty of Prague, but unfortunately we are based in a pretty low key, relatively deserted residential area. Luckily, we are within a very close walking distance of a metro stop and we are only 5 stops from downtown.
Going out, but will update on Prague when I have time! Love and miss everyone!
P.S. I got a phone today, so sorry for not getting in touch with anyone.
Peiser does London January 28, 2010
I have made it to London! The flight over was not bad. Alex and I met Walt, a friend of buds from home and Alex’s future roommate in Prague. I didn’t sleep much, and due to my last minute packing, I hadn’t slept much the night before, so by the time last night rolled around I was going on 60 hours of VERY little sleep, so ya’ll know I was less than pleasant. We were picked up at the airport by an AIFS rep when we landed at around 7:30 am, and drove over with a kid named Ian, a fellow Texan from Corpus Christie. Upon arrival, we had a quick info session and were sent on our way to find our own adventures in the city.
Walt, Alex, Ian and I grabbed a quick bite, hopped on the tube and got off at Westminster. I was so out of it, it took me a good 3 or 4 minutes to realize we were standing right in front of Big Ben. Whoops. We walked around and made it to the Tate Museum of Modern Art which was awesome, as well as partly disturbing due to an incredibly graphic piece of “visual-video art” in which the artist sat on the ground, naked, wearing a clown mask hitting himself in the head with boxing gloves while is wife was naked in the tub next to him being plain weird. Exhaustion mixed with this “art” really was a strange experience. We looked at the recreation of Shakespeare’s Globe Theater from the outside because it was 10 pounds to go inside. I was so tired on the way back that I fell asleep on the tube, not even my 4 pound latte could keep my eyes open.
I passed out at around 3:30 pm, only to get up for our welcome drink at 6, and was passed out by 7:30, and did not wake up again until 7 this morning. We took a bus tour of the city and were dropped off in a cool little shopping area. There is SO MUCH TO SEE in this city! It would have been awesome to study abroad here if it were not so crazy expensive. I only went to museums that started with the word “national” because those were all free. We stopped at a few major sites in London like Buckingham Palace, St. Paul’s Cathedral and the London Bridge. We passed by a court where judges were standing outside in their long robes and gray wigs and we all got a big kick out of that. London is strange because it is so similar to American culture – I guess only because everything is in English – but it is SO different. I almost feel like it would be harder to get used to life here than in Prague because I at least know that almost nothing will be the same there.
Afterwords, we got an authentic English “pasty” – pretty much an Australian meat pie, just eaten vertically. Alex and I grabbed a few friends and went over to the British museum which was AMAZING! I took a class on Ancient Egypt my sophomore year, and the British museum has the most extensive collection of Egyptian artifacts and my inner nerd made a grand showing. It is amazes me how old these artifacts are, and the civilizations that existed at those times. What blows my mind more is how many of these relics are still perfectly preserved.
Anyway, we followed that up with a walk in Kensington Park which is right outside of our hotel, and saw the Peter Pan Statue. It is such a beautifully serene park. Crazy that all day we were surrounded by the stark concrete color pallet of the city, but there are all of these havens of green spattered in between the busy areas.
Sitting in my hotel room now updating and a bunch of us are going to see Wicked tonight. They got us really cheap tickets, so that will be exciting. We leave for Munich tomorrow morning at 5:30 (UGH) so I will update again after my adventures there.
Until next time! Cheerio!
Peiser Procrastination – Typical. January 26, 2010
So instead of packing, I have decided to create this blog! Yay for me! (I can already tell that during the progression of this blog, I will severely overuse the exclamation point… I am sorry if this will bother you, but deal with it.) Clothes are clean, yet strewn across the floor. Bags are in front of me, but the for the most part empty. I think this has some subconscious pseudo-meta-denial I am going through about actually being abroad this semester.
Surprisingly, I have not been nervous, scared, or apprehensive at ALL about going. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I worked all break and just haven’t really thought about it. But I think it has more to do with the fact that I am so ready for this trip. I am ready for a break from College Park. I am ready to just explore a new city and learn from new people. I am ready to learn about myself, and what I am able to handle. I am ready for an adventure.
I can’t wait to be sitting on the plane tomorrow, knowing that I won’t see the states for months. Me, Alex, and my new friend-to-be Walt will take off tomorrow at 4:50 and land in London. I am really, really hoping that I get to meet up with Lindsay and Ilana, two friends from Maryland that are studying in London for the semester. What a great way to start my adventure, gallivanting around a new city with good friends!! We will be in London with all the students on AIFS for three days, then we go to Munich for two days and then we drive to Prague where we will have a few days of orientation and then dive right into intensive Czech for 2 weeks.
Let’s pray that my traveling curse stays farrrr away tomorrow! I’ve got my tephilat haderech all ready for the plane.
TOMORROW 4:50PM CAN’T COME SOONER!
See ya’ll in the bloggesfere.