From Poprad to Prague ~ Two Worlds

I’m finally back on track!

Now that I’m past the halfway point of my exchange, it’s sort of crazy to look back on my past posts and see everything that has happened and all the things I’ve been fortunate enough to do. Even though it’s been only five months, it feels as though I’ve been able to live a lifetime through the opportunities I’ve had.

This post (in case you couldn’t tell by the title) will focus mainly on two of my favourite events on my exchange so far- our Rotary weekend trip to Poprad and the High Tatras in January, and my most recent solo trip to Prague.

Before I get into that though, I’ll go over a couple other cool experiences I had before and in between these two packed weekends.

~Skating in Zvolen. Me and the other exchange students have taken advantage of the open skating rink in BB many times before, but on this occasion we travelled to nearby Zvolen for outdoor skating in the evening. I know I’m living here, but for some reason skating in front of a church in an old square felt like an especially “European” moment on exchange.

~Hiking up Urpín. The small mountain of Urpín (510 m) looms over Banská Bystrica and the Hron river despite its unimposing height. Even still, it’s a really important symbol of Banská Bystrica and, unsurprisingly, is the inspiration behind one of Slovakia’s most famous beers/breweries, Urpíner. Throughout Banská’s history it has remained important, and now is home to a cute calvary church on the top, stations of the cross winding along its trails, and one of the best views of Banska. Considering it’s only a 20 minute hike I was pretty surprised I hadn’t ever been up yet. Nonetheless, it was as nice as I could’ve expected.

~Bardejov UNESCO city. On my self-declared goal to see all of the 7 UNESCO world heritage sites in Slovakia, this was a pleasantly surprising day trip from Prešov, where we were staying with my host grandparents. We were only in Bardejov for around an hour in the evening, but we got to see the famed Germanic city centre and medieval wall surrounding it. That makes 4/7 of the heritage sites- three more to go!

~Skiing on Tále and in Poland! After a long stretch of skiing solely on Chopok with my host family, later in January we decided to head to an easier hill (Tále) in order to teach Gabi how to ski ahead of our Rotary ski week in March. For it being her first time skiing (and my first time teaching how to ski) she did really well! We went a couple more times that week, before heading for one night into Poland, where there’s a really popular place to go night skiing. It was really cool to ski with only the glow of lamps to light the way, and even though it did get quite chilly (even for me) it was fun to go out for the night and have that experience.

Now for the first of the big two- Poprad! This was our fourth official meeting with Rotary for the exchange students in Slovakia, and probably my favourite so far. Whereas our Bratislava/Vienna meeting comprised of lots of sightseeing (don’t get me wrong, I still absolutely loved it), our Poprad meeting allowed for a lot more time just to hang out with the other exchange students. Since, for many of us, it was approaching our 5 month marks in Slovakia, it was nice to be able to spend the time in such a beautiful place with our closest friends.

The first day of the weekend we arrived in the afternoon, and much of the remaining time in the day was largely set aside for formalities- the opening of the weekend, picking and preparing songs for us to sing at our Rotary district conference in May, and writing/undergoing our last language tests of exchange. The tests were definitely a large step up from our previous ones at the Vienna meeting, but I felt I had done enough preparation over the Christmas break so that I felt pretty good about how I did. We had an early night to rest up before Saturday, which undoubtedly was the busiest.

Early in the morning, we took a mountain train from Poprad to Štrbské Pleso, the famous mountain lake I mentioned in one of my previous posts. This was our starting point for a day-long hike through the high Tatras. We really struck out with the weather, as it was sunny all day and only around 0-1°. Once we started walking I heated up quite a bit, and actually ended up taking off my coat and ski pants and walking with just with my tshirt and sweatpants. This led to plenty of Canadian jokes, as you may have expected.

We had plenty of fun on the hike, visiting with eachother, admiring the views of the Tatras, and at one point– as is to be expected– having a snowball fight.

Halfway through the hike, we stopped at a cute chalet to take pictures with our flags and grab a snack, before heading out on the second half of the hike. As I said before, it was a really nice day, but that also came with an unexpected hazard– ice. In the second part of the hike specifically, the trails were glazed with rink-like sheets of ice. People were dropping like flies all over the place, and luckily I had my phone out to capture pictures of some of the best tumbles (dont worry, no one was hurt). Even myself- a long time curler back home- went down twice pretty hard. It made for a very treacherous, but very exciting hike. As you can see from the pictures, poor Gabi went down the most, and I think the tally we were all keeping was close to, or slightly above 10 by the end of the day.

During the weekend, we also had a photography competition going on, and I was lucky enough to snag the picture that got 2nd place in the competition- meaning it will be featured in the Rotary 2240 magazine along with my name:

Yup- Valerie hitting the ice. The picture was taken right at the moment of impact, so no one ahead of her has even noticed what happened. It’s kind of a hilarious picture, but I made sure to give Valerie half the chocolate bar I won as consolation for the mild bruising she probably sustained.

After the hike we arrived in another mountain village- Popradské Pleso, where we had a much needed lunch. Then, we headed out for a highlight of the weekend- sledding! We walked over one hour up a hill, dragging along sleds. By the end everyone was so tired that we were unsure if it would even be worth it. It was. I don’t have any substantial videos on my phone I can upload to my blog, but I got an absolutely amazing GoPro video of the whole thing, which includes a lot of screaming, and 3 sled wipeouts captured on camera. I was not expecting it to be as intense, or fun, as it ended up being!! One funny thing is they actually had to have speed limit signs of 20km/hr on the sledding hill (I doubt we were able to keep it below 30, we were tearing along the hill). We ended the night bumped and bruised, and thoroughly tuckered out, but it was a really awesome time. And boy did we ever sleep well.

Lunch! Canadians know- you don’t waste good soup!

And then of course, Sunday came, which marked the end of another great Rotary weekend. It was sad to part knowing we won’t be as a full group again until March, but judging by how fast these five months have gone already, I’m sure it will come quickly.

And now, the weekend I know my sisters have been dying waiting to hear about- Prague!!

Friday January 31st I embarked out from Banská completely by myself. Since it’s after Christmas we exchange students are officially allowed to travel alone with permission from the district, so this was my first time utilizing this privilege.

Since Prague is almost completely across the district from Banská, I made the trip in two legs. The first night (Friday), I stayed in Bratislava with Leo, the other Canadian, and we had a movie night with the other Bratislava students. Then the next morning, I was up at 4 am to head to the train station! The trip was fairly uneventful, but I spent the time marvelling at the landscape shifting as I entered Czech Republic. Though the western side of Slovakia isn’t in the mountains like Banská, you could really tell the difference once we entered the Moravian hills of Czechia. The land gets a lot smoother, and dotted all over the hills you can see vineyards. I’ll have to come back later in the spring, because I’m sure it’d be even more beautiful when they’re actually growing!

View from the Brno train station (passing through)

Once in the Bohemia region of Czechia further to the west, the land becomes noticeably more like Saskatchewan- farmland for almost as far as you can see with a few trees in between- but the difference here is there are villages and cities scattered all over the place; you can’t quite see your dog run away for 2 days like in Sask.

And then before I knew it- I was there! Stepping off the of the train and looking around the massive Prague train station really gave me a moment of pause- I was in a big city all by myself! Maybe that sounds childish, but it really was the truth for me. Even in just the few minutes before meeting up with my friend, it felt pretty cool and ‘adult-y’ to be alone in a completely unfamiliar place- and a massive one at that.

From the main station of Prague

Now- I have a lot to talk about from Prague, so rather than go chronologically, I’m going to divide it up into major sections that I think will make sense.

The Sections will be (with a little Czech/Slovak terminology thrown in for fun 😉 :

-Praha Nové Město (New city)

-Praha Staré Město (Old City

-Prahský Hrad a Zvony (Prague Castle and the Bells)

-Výhľady (Viewpoints)

-Kostoly (Churches)

-Český Vtipy (Czech Jokes/humour)

-Ostatní (any others/extra things)

Before I get into the juicy stuff though, I will mention first and put here thanks to my good friend (and exchange student) Malachy and his host family for taking me in for the weekend for this trip of a lifetime. I felt extremely lucky to have had someone just as obsessed with history/sightseeing as I am to tour me all around Prague for 3 days– without any charge! This also meant that not only did I see and learn very thoroughly about all the main tourist attractions, but also got to see some pretty spectacular places that only locals (or temporary locals, such as himself) know of.

Now let’s get down to business- Nové Město!

The new city is centered around Wenceslas square, the busiest pedestrian area in all of Czech Republic, and named after the patron saint of the Bohemia region of Czech Republic. Other than the main square and surrounding area being gorgeous in its own right, a few standout buildings here were the state opera house, a massive synagogue, and the national museum (behind the statue of Wenceslas on the horse). Also, this area featured a couple examples of ‘cubist’ architecture, which Prague is apparently very famous for. Here we also saw one of my favourite non-famous buildings, which reminded me of some sort of Gothic villa an old millionaire would inhabit.

It’s worth noting here that we also struck out big time with the weather for the weekend, especially on Friday. For most of the day it was 15 degrees and sunny. Yes, you read that right, 15 degrees and sunny. In February. Mind. Blown. We did get some rain in the evenings, but even on Sunday and Monday the days were still between 5-10 degrees, so you’ll hear no complaints from me.

State Opera House

National museum in the back

Cubist building (and museum dedicated to the style)

A cubist lamp!
Wenceslas Square

My favourite building

Next up- Staré Město! This is by far the most photographed area in Prague, and it’s easy to see why. Sprawling around all sides of the square are gorgeous buildings and massive monuments. On the left, the famed astronomical clock, which was built in 1410 and is the oldest operating of its kind in the world. At the top of every hour, hundreds of people gather around to see the cuckoo go off and the little figures move- in the same way they did when the clock was first installed. In the side view of the clock tower (in the panoramic), you can see a row of trees directly beside the clock tower- this was once part of the clock tower also, but was one of the only major structures in the city damaged during WWII, whereas the rest of Prague is famous for being mostly untouched by bombings.

In the centre of the square is a massive monument to religious reformer Jan Hus, who was burned at the stake in 1415 for his beliefs (fun fact on the topic of religion- Czech Republic is the most unreligious country in the world to this day, with 75% of the population declaring as either agnostic or non-religious. This is in stark contrast to Slovakia, which remains largely Roman Catholic).

Aside from the several gorgeous buildings and tourist shops (include a Madame Tussaud’s) that now inhabit them in the square, the gothic style Church of Our Lady before Tyn also stands out over the surrounding buildings.

A short walk from the main square comes arguably the most famous site in Prague- Karlův Most (or, Charles Bridge). Now loaded with tourists year round, this ancient bridge began construction in 1357, and suffered a long a tumultuous history, with various floods, battles, and attacks forcing many portions of it to continually be repaired or replaced. Malachy told me a very dark but interesting folk tale Czechs sometimes tell about the bridge: Charles IV, who initiated construction of the bridge, supposedly made a deal with the devil after the bridge kept getting destroyed or falling into the Vltava River below. The deal was that the bridge would stay up and construction would finish, but the first person to cross would die soon afterwards. Upon completion of the bridge, Charles IV prevented anyone from crossing thinking if he waited long enough the prophecy wouldn’t follow through, but the devil disguised himself as a friend and went to Charles’ home, and proceeded to trick his wife into thinking Charles was in trouble on the bridge. So, she ran out on the bridge to find him- and very shortly after died -along with her baby- in childbirth. Yikes. As Malachy put it, this was one of many dark folk tales woven into Prague’s past. You can definitely feel the mysterious and gritty ‘old history’ atmosphere of the city permeating the streets when listening to stories like these.

Anyways- back to less unsettling fare- the bridge offered amazing views of the Vltava and the swans, boats, and cute wharf streets that inhabit and surround it. There is also a gold metalwork plaque on the bridge, which supposedly you can make a wish on by rubbing the gold and it will come true. (I wished for the exchange rate from the CAD to the Euro to be better 😉

For the last of the major architectural monuments in this part of the city, we saw the Powder Tower, one of the original city gates of Prague. During the 17th century and battle of Prague it stored the city’s supply of gunpowder, making it pretty much a miracle that it stayed intact during the battles, since it was literally a giant bomb. Right beside the powder tower you can see the municipal house, a wildly fancy restaurant and event venue.

Once on the other side of the bridge, we walked into narrowing streets and saw a couple of neat little streets and moats very reminiscent of Venice- there was even a gondola on one that we saw. We also saw Europe’s smallest/narrowest street, which only one person can fit through at a time- and requires a stoplight of its own to know if anyone is coming or not.

To finish off the tour of the old town, we saw the famous Lennon wall. This also has a very interesting history behind it, but I’ll let you google that one for yourself if you’d like, as I know this post is stretching long anyways.

Left- Clock tower (notice the trees!)
Astronomical Clock- can you figure out how it works?

Jan Hus Memorial

Prague school of art/architecture

Smallest street in Europe!
One of the 3 original guard towers

The Powder Tower
Municipal House

Continuing on your virtual tour is Prague Castle! You can see from the Charles Bridge pictures above that this place really stands out over the whole city. Interestingly, this is the largest ancient castle complex in the world, occupying over 70,000 square metres. It’s also the seat of the Czech government and President, and holds the famous Crown Jewels of Bohemia in a hidden vault somewhere in the castle complex.

It was here at Prague castle I had one of the luckiest and coolest singular experiences from my year here so far (in an entire weekend that holds a similar title).

Earlier in the year, the Prague students helped with an annual ‘burger-fest’ fundraiser within the city. One of the Prague rotarians also happens to be friends with one of the head managers (or whatever the title would be called) or the Prague Castle complex. So, as a reward for the Prague students helping, the Rotarian got special permission for the students to climb up into the bell rooms of the Prague Castle cathedral, and watch the ringing of the bells on Sunday morning. To my absolute shock, Malachy told me the day before that one of the Prague students had backed out of going, so he talked the Rotarian into letting me come along instead. WOW. So as a result, on Sunday morning I got to see the ringing of the Prague Cathedral bells, something literally one in a million people may get to see in a lifetime (you cannot pay or sign up to do this normally). I felt extremely grateful to have been allowed to come along, and made sure to profusely thank both Malachy and the Rotarian along with us for letting me come despite not having actually done the work the other students put in.

Once the ringing of the bells was finished, we also got a little bit of a tour and had the opportunity to see (and stand inside) the biggest bell in the Czech Republic. It takes 4-5 people to get it ringing, and is understandably only used on very special occasions. Then, we went even further up in the cathedral tower for a spectacular view of Prague (which you can see in the next section).

Heading up to the castle..

Entrance to the castle complex

The other Prague students!

The biggest bell around!

And now- výhľady- or views! Throughout the weekend, I jokingly called Malachy ‘viewfinder’ like some sort of retro superhero name, as he seems to have been hell-bent on finding every spectacular viewpoint in Prague during his time here. It was really great though, because even though it’s the same city, you get some truly amazing (and different!) views from several points. Each place also had a really different atmosphere, giving really interesting outlooks on the city.

So, in order of the pictures posted below-

1+2: View from the street leading up to Prague castle. Gives very quaint views of the thousands of red tiled buildings sprawling throughout Prague.

3: From the famous Dancing House of Prague (which I’ll talk about later). Luckily the rain held off for a few minutes so we could enjoy this spectacular night view of the Vltava and adjacent wharf street.

4,5+6: From the top of Prague castle. This is one of the most spectacular views just in sheer scope of what you can see, made cooler by the fact that not many are able to get this view (as mentioned earlier).

7: On top of an inner-city restaurant. Prague is known as ‘the city of a hundred spires’ and in this picture- despite only showing the main section of the old city- it’s not hard to see why.

8: My favourite view of Prague. Located right beside Prague observatory and nestled within a hilltop park (where we stopped and listened to the sounds of the birds chirping- a pleasant change from the hustle and bustle of tourist crowds). It was raining this day, and though the furthest horizon is a bit obscured because of this, I thought it added to the mysticism of Prague quite a bit.

9: The bridge view. We walked through Prague’s biggest city park to get here, only an hour before I left for home, and I’m glad we did. This view really gave me nostalgia thinking about a certain bridge city back home in Saskatchewan, and was a good last look at Prague before heading home.

10: Vyššie Hrad. This was another great night view in a part of the city most people never get to. Despite being a literal castle complex, most tourists only ever make their way to Prague castle, the more famous counterpart to Vyššie. Unfortunately the pictures I took from this cool viewpoint were blurry, so you have to look past my weird flash-lighted face to get an idea of what this view was like.

11+12:Now, I tried my best to crop it out of the skyline pictures I posted below, but this beast of a building is worth mentioning just for interests’ sake. This is the Žižkov television tower, also known officially as the second ugliest building in the entire world. Why? Well, for one, it sticks out of the gorgeous Prague city skyline sort of like an unwanted growth. Two, it’s unconventional architecture makes it looks like some sort of strange, blocky, rocket ship launch type building. And finally, do you see those black specks dotting the surface of the building? Try and guess what they are for a second before reading on-

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Ok, are you ready? Giant, crawling bronze babies. You read that correctly. As if the building couldn’t get any more weirder, they installed a bunch of giant babies crawling up the sides of the tower in the early 2000’s. So it’s not really surprising why it earned the title of second ugliest building in the world. But, nevertheless, Praguians (?) have still somewhat accepted its enigmatic vibe within the city. As Malachy put it- It may be second ugliest building in the world, but they’ll be damned if it’s not their ugly building. So I guess in a way they’re embracing it– sort of like you would a big bronze baby.

Now for another of my favourite segments of Prague- churches! Even though I’ve been in approximately 50 different churches/cathedrals since coming to Europe, they still never cease to amaze me with their ornate (or simple!) architecture and massive altars and organs. Much like with the viewpoints, Malachy has also made it his mission to get inside every church in Prague before his time here is done. You’d be surprised how difficult it is to see inside of some of them- many are closed to the public most of the time.

1+2: The most simple church we saw in terms of design, but still beautiful notwithstanding. This is one tourists almost never see as it’s tucked away through a couple back streets, so seeing it completely empty made it even more impressive and serene.

3+4: This is the smaller church on the side of the Old Town square (unfortunately the cathedral was closed). We could only walk a little ways into this one as there were people packed inside, but specifically in this one the massive chandelier was impressive, as well as the gorgeous domed ceiling.

5,6+7: I don’t actually remember the specific location of this church, but we went inside for a very specific reason. Hundreds of years ago, after this church was built, a thief tried to break into the church and steal artifacts from it. However, he got caught, and as punishment the church cut off his hand and hanged it from the ceiling in the back of the church. That exact same hand (though a tad unrecognizable) is still hanging to this day for all to see.

8,9+10: This church is also famous for a very specific reason. Along with having some of the most ornate gold work on the altars out of all the churches we went in, we were able to catch a glimpse at the ‘toddler-Jesus.’ This statue gained recognition for strangely depicting Jesus as a young child with a luscious head full of hair and decked out in a fancy robe, rather than simply a baby or adult version as was most common in churches. Neat.

11,12+13: Prague Castle Cathedral. By far the largest, this is the cathedral you can see an outside view of in the previous section. Other than being massive and impressive size-wise, the stained glass windows here are specifically wondrous. After our bell ringing on the Sunday morning, we were able to quietly stand on one of the side galleries during a portion of the Sunday mass, and listen to the sound of the choir echo all through the silent cathedral. Absolutely breathtaking

14-17: Saved the best for last. This is actually one church that Malachy hadn’t been in yet, and was shocked to find open when we walked past. At first we decided not to go in, as they were charging around 4€ for entrance, and being the cheap exchange students we are we wanted to save money. But we ended up changing our minds at the last second, which was probably the best decision we made the whole weekend. It was probably the most amazing church I’ve ever been in in all my years. From outside, the church doesn’t actually seem all that big, because there are buildings of similar height surrounding it closely on all sides. However once you get inside you realize the absolute enormity of it. We actually spent over an hour in this church, and were even able to climb up to one of the galleries for a better view of the paintings and murals on the roof and walls. In this massive behemoth of pink and teal marble, endless sculptures, and unique altars/paintings, the standout was definitely the center dome. It stretched up so high that we couldn’t even imagine how they were able to build it, let alone paint it and transport the statues up to be fixed along its perimeter. With three smaller half-domes surrounding it, we spent probably most of the time standing there like idiots, with our necks craned back at 90° angles looking straight up. Looking at them now, pictures don’t really capture the full scope of how amazing this place was, but I can definitely say I would pay a lot more than just 4€ to come in here again.

18,19+20: Three other churches that were still beautiful from the outside, but unfortunately were locked. I’m putting them here anyways, if nothing else so I can remember them for next time I go to Prague.

The thief’s hand

The famed toddler Jesus

Less of an architectural feature of Prague (although it shows up there too), but moreso a reoccurring cultural theme throughout the weekend, was the prominence of ‘Czech Humor.’ Czechs are apparently known for having very dry, strange humor that is often meant to poke fun at themselves, others, and in many cases authority. This apparently stems largely from Czech Republic’s mistrust of authority, not only during Communism but even before, as Czechs were subjected to Germans, Soviets, and Austro-Hungarians all wrestling for parts of their territory at some point in history. As a result, a very specific form of humor has emerged, which I’ll give some examples of below.

1+2: A hanging statue of St.Wenceslas riding a dead horse. Why make the patron saint of Bohemia ride a dead horse? Your guess is as good as mine, but it does make a funny picture.

3+4: Wenceslas again. Here in front of Charles bridge, this statue was designed very specifically so that, from the main road/view leading to Charles bridge, it looks as though St. Wenceslas in peeing onto the side of the gate tower.

5+6: This is Petrin tower, which looks out over Prague (near the observatory) and is charmingly similar to the Eiffel tower’s design. However, almost any Czech who takes you here will tell you that it’s actually taller than the Eiffel Tower, it’s just not as popular so people don’t know this. This is mostly just to get a ruse out of you (as it did from me- although skeptically), as the tower in fact isn’t taller in and of itself than its Parisian counterpart. That being said, if you include the hill it’s standing on, it is higher, so in a warped way the joke has some sense behind it.

7+8: What you’re looking at here is the world’s largest metronome, which looks over one of Prague’s bridges leading directly to the old town square. The funny thing is, is that this metronome replaced an absolutely massive monument of Stalin that towered over the city for a long time (which Stalin himself ordered to be built, in order to sort of stake his claim on the city). Afterwards, the monument was blown up by the city of Prague, and in the 90’s- in not so subtle mockery of the people who continually tried to rule over Prague and Czechs in general (including communism, which came shortly after Stalin), they erected the massive metronome which still stands today.

9+10: Giant bronze babies and penguins on the Vltava. Much like the babies on the tv tower, there’s not really any definable reason for these art installations, other than to sort of confound and confuse tourists (maybe so that Czechs can laugh at them as they try and figure out their purpose). Prague really is a funny place

Lastly, a side note on my gullibility to these Czech jokes. When we were back at Malachy’s house the first night, I was talking to his host parents, who- wanting to help me learn some Czech words- taught me the word for squirrel, which was very different from Slovak. Then they happily went along with their own conversation, as I sat there sort of proud for learning this really strange word. It wasn’t until the next day that their son told me the truth- the word they taught me was actually gibberish, and translated to something like ‘forest wood cat’ in English. Apparently whenever Czechs meet a young or impressionable Slovak, they will teach them this word solely in hopes that they will go back to Slovakia and make a fool of themselves. I thought this was so funny, and if he hadn’t have told me, I definitely would’ve done this without ever knowing how wrong I would’ve been. It was really great to be subject to this sort of funny aspect of the Czech culture, and definitely made for an entertaining time as we laughed both at myself and each other as we talked with his host parents for the rest of the night.

Now, quickly, a few additional places/things that added even more to an already amazing trip.

Seeing so many of the other Prague students was such a blast, as we haven’t seen eachother since our first district meeting in September. After being so generously invited to see the bells with them, we also were able to hang out for much of the day, getting lunch at an amazing burger restaurant (I miss Canadian beef so much, I just want to make this known, haha), and exploring a bit more of the city. Thanks again to all of you for making me feel so welcome in your city.

The next few pictures, aside from a Game of Thrones themed advertisement which I found particularly funny, are mostly just other cool buildings we saw around different places in Prague, including an old market building now converted into a funky, modern café, a small ornate hut/restaurant on the side of the Vltava in the city park, and the inside of the new national theatre, built with dark green marble.

You can also see the Prague Dancing House (which I mentioned earlier on), arguably the most famous modern building in the city. It is meant to resemble a pair of dancers- and was first named ‘Fred and Ginger’ after Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Many people don’t try to get up to the top of the house because it’s home to an extremely fancy restaurant. However, many also don’t know that you only have to make a purchase on the top floor in order to gain access to the roof. Meaning Malachy and I were able to spend approximately 1.5€ each on a couple of vegan cookies (they tasted how you would expect) and sit out on the roof, taking in the spectacular evening view you could see above.

Finally, in Prague I experienced riding a metro for the first time in my life. Maybe this isn’t as cool as I thought it was, but as a small-town farm kid, walking deep underground and taking a lightning speed train to emerge halfway across Prague in approximately 5 minutes sort of blew my mind. It still is sort of blowing my mind. But maybe that’s just me.

The riverside hut

Outside of the market building
…and the inside

Inside the new national theatre

The Dancing House!

‘Na Plavka’ wharf street on the Vltava

And that brings me to the end of this long in-the-making post. My blog editor has been sort of buggy these past few days, so please let me know in the comments if any of the pictures/videos or formatting seems strange or isn’t showing up correctly.

Being in Prague was better in so many ways than I could’ve expected. I guess since I’ve only been in Vienna before (in terms of big cities) part of me wasn’t really expecting another big city to be all that different. But I was sooo wrong, which made for such a great experience. I’ve been asked- did you like Vienna or Prague better? But they’re really not comparable at all. Vienna is a crystal city; rich and gorgeous and basically perfect in every way possible. And its history is one of poise, progress, and art. Since I’ve been there four times already, and I align so much with the musical/art history in the city, it almost feels like a second home within Europe to me. Prague, on the other hand, is a completely different animal. It’s darker, grittier, and more mystifying than you can explain without actually seeing it. You can feel a sort of old world history in every cobble, winding street, and looming spire. It feels like an entirely separate world from Vienna, but is just as breathtaking in its own ways.

It really felt like being within a dream, and I think the same can be said for almost every experience I’ve had on exchange to date. It truly has been a life in a (half) year so far.

Bye for now, Prague!

Where have these five months gone?? Time is going too fast!

As always, thanks for reading, and I’ll talk to you soon!

~Graydon