Night at the Opera

On Friday night I had a chance to soak up some serious culture with a visit to the opera. The show our ISA program attended was Rusalka, a story very similar to The Little Mermaid but in Czech and with fewer seashell bikinis.

The National Theater of Prague, where the opera took place, is a very beautiful and ornately decorated building, with an interior and roof covered in more gold than anywhere I’ve been outside of the Vatican.The seats were very small and cramped, probably perfect for the midgets that must have inhabited Prague back in the 1800’s. Once we were in the theater and the doors were closed nobody was allowed in or out of the theater to make sure the audience was completely silent for the opera singers. With such strict rules on noise, I was terrified to realize my crappy $25 Vodafone had the sound turned up full volume. I was too afraid to turn it off in fear it would make a beeping noise. Even though only about five people in the world even know my new number, and I had not once received a call on this phone, I was still in fear my phone would ring and I would be thrown out of the theater by the 80-year usher standing nearby. Luckily, my phone never went off, and I was able to have an interesting cultural experience, even if the show ran about an hour longer than I would have liked.

On another note. I finalized some travel plans this week. From Thursday through Sunday I will be in Budapest with a large group of people from my program. I’m definitely excited to see the sights of Budapest and to experience a new city and country. I also have a clever pun planned for my next blog post that I can’t wait to unleash on all of you. There’s not a whole lot I know about Budapest, but I’ve heard it’s an awesome places from several reliable sources, including my sister Susan.

Also, I’ve booked a ticket to London with a smaller group from March 8-11. This is a city I’ve always wanted to see, and I’m hoping I’ll run into some British celebrities while I’m there (aka the cast of Harry Potter and maybe Susan Boyle). One thing I’m not looking forward to is London’s famously high prices, which should come as a shock after being in fairly cheap Prague for so long.

As far as my other travel plans, I plan on attending almost all of the ISA sponsored trips, such as Berlin, Vienna, and trips to several cool towns within the Czech Republic. I’d also like to see Paris, Florence, Barcelona, Istanbul, and Krakow, but we’ll see where I actually end up.

For the most part it’s been a pretty quiet week here. We (thankfully) finished up our two weeks of Czech lessons. I feel like I ended up doing alright in the class, though my knowledge of Czech is still minimal at best. Next Monday my regular classes start, and I’ll be taking Czech Film History, Kafka’s World, Communism and Religion, and Art and Architecture of Prague. Only 12 credits, so I should have plenty of time to explore Europe in my spare time.

Surprisingly, I feel like I blend in pretty well in this city. Whenever someone on the street approaches me they instantly speak to me in Czech, so it’s good that I don’t look too much like a tourist. I was nervous that my bright yellow coat straight from the 90’s (formerly owned by my sister Liz) might make me stick out like a sore thumb for pickpocketers and gypsies, but so far that hasn’t been too much of a problem.

I also am beginning to understand Prague and it’s metro system much better now, and I’m happy to say I haven’t gotten seriously lost in almost a week (key word=seriously). On the bright side, I’m sure there are much worse places to be lost in than Prague, and it’s always an adventure roaming the twisted, cobblestone covered streets of this city. Well, unless it’s dark, ten degrees, and you’re carrying an assortment of household items from IKEA. Speaking of IKEA, that place is crazy.

Well folks, that’s all for this post. Tune in next week where I’ll recap my first week of classes and my trip to Budapest.

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Czeching Out a New Country

I realize making puns with the word “Czech” is way overdone, so I’ll try my best to stop. No promises though. Anyways, I have now been in the Czech Republic for well over a week now, and so far I’ve had an amazing time. The city is beautiful, and my apartment is in a great location near Old Town Square. Simply walking around the neighborhood, and around Prague, has been one of my favorite activities while I’ve been here. On every corner it seems there is a church or tower hundreds of years older than the United States. It’s really a miracle that everything here has been so well preserved, especially when you consider this city has survived both the Nazis and the Soviets in this century alone.
We started off our week with orientation and a tour of the city. Following that we had our first of two weeks of Czech language lessons. This is definitely a difficult language to learn, and although I’m not expecting to master it while I’m here, I would like to get by in a shop or restaurant as easily as possible by knowing a few key phrases.
We have also had several different excursions with ISA and Charles University, including a trip to Prague Castle, a trip to a traditional Czech restaurant, and a trip to the medieval village of Kutna Hora. If you’re Facebook friends with me, which I’m guessing you probably are, czech out (my bad!) some of my pics. There was a church we went to decorated entirely in the bones of hundreds of people dug up from a mass grave. It was a really fascinating yet very chilling experience to be among so many skeletons.
Speaking of chilling, it’s COLD here. Very cold, and to make matters worse I’m outside much more than I would be in America, making me notice the frigid weather even more. So far I’ve woken up twice to see Prague covered in snow, and although it’s very beautiful to see at first, by the end of the day the snow turns into black muck from the cars and pedestrians,and becomes more of a nuisance than anything else.
One thing that has taken some getting used to here is the customer service. I realize there is the language barrier and a difference in culture, so this is not really a complaint as much as it a general comment on life here. For the most part, store attendents and waiters are much more reserved and less likely to smile (along with most Czech people for that matter). They are also less likely to go out of their way to help you out. Although most people here have been relatively polite, (With exceptions: Seriously, if you’re ever in the Vodafone store by Wenceslaus Square avoid the blonde lady at all costs), it’s a far cry from the helpful smiles in every aisle back at HyVee.
A few more comments on life here: For the most part, food and other essentials (like beer) are pretty cheap, and you can buy a sandwich and a drink here for two dollars in some cases. However, in restaurants you almost always have to pay if you want water (the phrase that beer here is cheaper than water is actually true), and in grocery stores you have to buy your grocery bags, so I now have a bag from IKEA that I take with me to the grocery store, usually either Alberts or Tesco.
Also, I’m really getting used to taking the metro everyday and walking around everywhere, and I actually prefer this to driving (although I do miss the Batchmobile).
It’s been an amazing first week here in Prague. Hope everything is going well in America (or wherever you are) and I’ll do my best to keep you all updated on my European adventures.

Pragueward Bound

To be honest, I’m already in Prague. However, I had already started this post about me packing and getting ready for my semester abroad,and I just didn’t finish it in time.  So instead, we’re just gonna pretend like I haven’t gotten there yet and the next wall post will be my first impressions of the city. Alright, now with that out of the way, welcome to my blog, where I’ll be posting updates on my life, travels, classes, and adventures in and around Prague, hopefully on a weekly or biweekly basis.

For the past month and a half I have been lounging around Omaha awaiting my Prague departure. I promised you all I would develop a sweet talent, but I’m sorry to disappoint. Right now I am not a magician, piano player, pickpocket, knitter, or a bartender, and I did not further develop my already very impressive butchering talents. The best I can give you is that I ran a half marathon  in Austin, Texas, with a time that I was very pleased with.

My time in Austin was the perfect end to my last days in America, a trip that was filled with more crepes, running, and family karaoke than you can shake a stick at. Ever since then I’ve been packing and trying desperately to finish everything I had put off the past month (including writing this blog). But the time has finally arrived, and there is no turning back now. It is starting to really kick in that for the next four months, I will be living in Prague, Czech Republic (or Czechoslovakia as some of the older generation still calls it). Many people have asked why I choose Prague as my destination abroad. There are a few reasons for this. First of all, Prague is located in the center of Europe so there would be plenty of opportunity for weekend trips to visit friends and see cities such as Berlin, Krakow, Vienna, and Budapest, all within a few hours train ride. Second, I have  a fascination with Eastern Europe and from all the possible destinations in this part of the world Prague seemed like the best option. Third, after looking through several guide books of Prague this just seemed like a city I would definitely enjoy. So here I am, sitting in the Chicago airport waiting anxiously for my flight to Munich to board. I have no idea what the next four months have in store for me (okay, I have some idea), but I’m fully expecting to have an amazing time in my adventures overseas.