At the end of the week my parents and brother arrived in Prague, and I had never been so happy to see them. I couldn’t wait to show them Prague and all the places I had been over the semester. This was my brother’s first time out of the country, although he likes to think he’s been to Canada even though flying over a country obviously doesn’t count, and this was my mom’s first time to Europe. I was glad to be staying in a hotel after spending so much time in a hostel. On the first night my parents were in town I gave them a very long walking tour to introduce them to Prague and took them through Old Town Square, across the Charles Bridge, and up to eat at a restaurant near the Strahov Monastery, and anyone familiar with Prague knows that its a very long walk to make, but luckily they found Prague just as beautiful as I thought they would.
For the rest of the time in Prague I went to my first mass in Czech, ate and drank at many delicious restaurants and pubs around town, toured the Jewish quarter and Prague castle, and also took a family Segway tour around the city, which was even more fun than I expected (Also more difficult).
I asked them if anything about me had changed while I had been gone, and my mom remarked that after being in Europe I speedwalked wherever I went. I guess this is just a result of having walked everywhere I went for four months.
They were amazed at how old the buildings are in Prague, as well as the unique customer service experiences. For example, at our hotel restaurant I believe my dad ordered a hamburger and the waitress came out with a plate of fish. When he told her they had made a mistake, the waitress responded with “No, you ordered fish,” and walked away. Unlike them I was of course used to this sort of thing, but fortunately I think he found the fish to be very delicious. My mom was also surprised with how many people smoked in Europe and how smoky the restaurants were, something I hadn’t even notice anymore.
After almost a week in Prague we took the train to Vienna. Being back in the Hlavni Nadrazi train station I was very wary of thieves and watched our bags like a hawk. This was officially my last time leaving Prague, my home for four months, for who nows how long. I can say without a doubt that it’s my favorite city in the world, and I can’t wait to return.
Me with a golden Eagle near the castle
My parents and I at Prague Castle
St. Vitus Cathedral
This was my second trip to Vienna this semester, but the first time I had only been there for a day so it was nice to really get a feel for the city. We saw many of the famous Vienna attractions: the Schomburg Palace, St. Stephen’s Cathedral, saw a Lippizan horse show, and ate plenty of wienerschnitzel. Funnily enough, my parents ran into a couple they knew from Omaha in the middle of Stephansplatz, a square in Vienna. Just goes to show what a small world it is, as they say.
I’m pretty sure all four of us enjoyed Vienna as well. It seems similar to Prague in a few ways, but much more formal and regal, with all the palaces and gardens and museums. Mozart is still pretty big here and you see men wearing those famous Mozart wigs all around town trying to get you to attend classical concerts. The cafes are also really cool, especially the ones that sell Sachertorte, a Vienna delicacy that I would love to one day eat again.
Our third destination was also my favorite (other than Prague):Lucerne, Switzerland, and getting there was half the fun. Our train went through the Alps, and on the way we could see mountain lakes, picturesque villages, and snowcapped peaks, basically what you’d expect to see in Switzerland. It really was breathtaking.
The town of Lucerne, only about an hour away from Zurich on the train, is situated on Lake Lucerne, and the restaurant at our hotel hung just over the lake on a balcony. As we ate here we enjoyed watching the swans swim by and threw food out to them. After coming from Prague, where prices are fairly reasonable, I was shocked to see how expensive Switzerland is, and every meal seemed to be over $30 dollars converted from Swiss Francs. At our hotel, a hamburger was almost $40.
Lion carved into the rocks in Lucerne
(View from the hotel restaurant)
We spent plenty of time touring Lucerne, went on a boat cruise, and took a gondola up to the top of the mountain, which seemed to be in the middle of a blizzard despite the fact that it was June. I was shocked to see that the vast majority of tourists who went up to the top of the mountain were either Chinese or Indian, and they even had a curry stand at the top of the mountain to accommodate these tourists. As a lover of Indian food, I had no problem with this.
To me, Switzerland seems almost perfect. A clean, safe, and beautiful country of Alpine villages, mountains, and lakes. I guess that’s the reason everything here is so expensive. Also, I have no idea what the nightlife is like there, but I’m guessing it’s not quite as fun as Prague’s. But perhaps one of the reasons I liked it so much is that I had spent so much of my time in Europe in bustling cities, and Lucerne was nothing like this. Although they did have amazing public transportation for a town of less than 100,000.
Peter and I also got a kick out of how the German word for exit is “Ausfahrt.”
The last and final leg of our voyage was in Munich, where it became clear that my days in Europe were numbered. We spent our time in Munich touring the town, going to Dachau, and going to Neuschwanstein Castle, the fairytale castle built by Mad King Ludwig which is surprisingly only like 150 years old, aka really new for Europe.
I remember my last few days in Munich, after eating heavy German food for so long, I was really just craving a Subway sandwich. Right now this seems hilarious to me because I don’t even like Subway that much, and all I really want to eat now is ghoulash and dumplings. Thinking about those German beer halls at places like the Hofbrahaus, where everyone drinks out of a giant liter mug, are really making me miss the good times of Europe.
Apparently people in Munich actually wear these clothes.
Neuschwanstein Castle (I was the only one in the family that could pronounce it)
This was after a whole lot of family time
My dad wanted to see Dachau, the first concentration camp, so we had a tour guide take us there our second to last day in Europe. Obviously it was a somber experience being there, and it was my second visit to a concentration camp that semester. I think its good to visit at least once if you’re in Germany simply to be more aware of the sometimes dark and horrible history of the country. It’s obviously not something Germans are proud of, but it seems they have learned from their history and are open and honest about their past instead of sweeping it under the rug. What I found strange is that there are houses lined up literally right next door to the camp. I assumed they had been there since before World War II, but apparently they had been built afterwards. I can’t understand why someone would want to live next to a place like that, considering seeing Dachau once is enough for most people.
On the last day we went with our tour guide Tricia to see Neuschwanstein Castle. When people think of castles, they probably envision Neuschwanstein, and I’ve heard it’s also the basis for the castle at DisneyWorld. The Alps were also very impressive and there was a wooden bridge overlooking a waterfall that had a great view of the castle.
At this point I think all of us had experienced a lot of traveling in the past two weeks. We had all had a great trip but I had been living between hostels and hotels for over a month, and had been away from America for over four months, so I was relatively excited to get back to Omaha. However, this had been the time of my life, and I would never forget it.
The next day we went home. I was glad to be back in my own bed and see my friends again, but within a few weeks I realized that Omaha just isn’t as exciting as Prague. I missed the food, the bars, the cities, but most of all the people in my program.
I’ve already visited several ISA friends in El Paso just a few weeks ago, and I’m looking forward to visiting many more in the future.
It was almost a year ago that I published my first blog post, and almost a year ago since I left for Europe. While I had hoped that I would have finished this blog months ago, procrastination got the best of me, but at least I finished. In a way, I think I might have purposely procrastinated so I could keep reliving my study abroad experience for as long as possible.
I’m very thankful that I had this opportunity, and I would encourage anyone else who’s considering studying abroad to take a leap and just do it. I can almost promise you it will be worth it in the end. Thanks to everyone who kept reading my blog on a regular basis, even if it might have just been my parents and my aunts. I hope I kept you entertained. Perhaps the next time I go somewhere crazy or do something adventurous I’ll blog about it, but I’ll at least try to be more prompt. Anyways, it’s been real. Adios.