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21 posts categorized "Czech Republic"

11/04/2015

The Czech Republic's Banksy

written by Graham Marema (Davidson College)

My parents decided to take advantage of my semester abroad and came to visit me last week. They’ve  always wanted to go to Prague but it’s not something they’ve ever been able to prioritize, so this trip was big for them. I’m sure seeing me was a perk.

 They came armed with Rick Steve’s Guide to Prague, where they read all about the sights - the Prague Castle, the Lennon Wall, the Charles Bridge, the astronomical clock. When they got here, I said, “Yeah, yeah, that stuff’s cool, but here’s the game plan: I’m going to take you around the city and show you all of David Cerny’s artwork.”

 

When I first got here, it took a manner of days before I heard David Cerny’s name. Now he seems to be everywhere. To me, this is something that defines the city just as much as the Prague Castle sitting perpetually in the background every time you look up at the skyline. His art represents a lot of what I think is cool about the Czech Republic. Cerny’s first big stunt was painting a huge Soviet tank - a memorial to the country’s liberation in 1945 - bright pink. Since then his stunts have gotten bigger, crazier, and, nowadays, a bit more legal. But no less shocking.

 The Czech Republic has a history that is dark at times, even darker at others, and constantly under change and reformation. While to some it may seem that David Cerny just takes every possible opportunity to thumb his nose at society, I see his art as a new way to commemorate the past, making it brighter and more noticeable, humorous and honest.

 I’m sure my parents raised their eyebrows at a few of the things I showed them. But it’s important, when visiting a new city, to embrace the strange, lesser-known parts of the culture - the giant babies with screens for faces clawing their way up the TV tower, the sculpture of a dead upside down horse ridden by St. Wenceslas, and a few others which the reader can Google on their own time. And afterwards my parents managed to see the castle and the John Lennon Wall as well.

 

10/30/2015

My Mini Homestay

written by Michelle Goodman (University of California-EAP)

Last weekend I had the privilege of visiting my Czech buddy, Ivana’s hometown. She lives in a small town (or village, she says) called Trebon. I was welcomed into her home by her mother, father, and 19-year old brother, Jakub. Before going into detail, I just want to stress the importance of this experience in my life in gaining perspective on an entirely different lifestyle. If you have the opportunity to stay with a Czech family, even if it’s only for the weekend, you won’t regret it. Although I described it as different, I still managed to find some similarities in Ivana’s home life in comparison to mine.

We started the weekend by taking about a two hour train ride from Prague to Trebon. Surprisingly, I’ve actually never taken a train that has separate compartments with around six seats each. If you can’t imagine it, just think Harry Potter and the Hogwarts Express. We entered through platform 9¾ of course. It was magical. Whenever someone approached their stop, they would exit our small “room,” but not without saying “Nascheldano!” It felt comfortable and friendly. A great start to the weekend!

We arrived around 9PM at Ivana’s village where I greeted her father and mother who spoke no English. The language barrier was quite difficult to approach but I went in with a positive attitude. Her brother on the other hand is proficient in English and I was able to discuss his interests and hobbies with him. I found out that that he is just starting school in Prague, following his older sister’s footsteps. That night I ate bread and butter with meat and cheese for dinner. Back at home, this would be a quite strange and honestly, a somewhat dry meal for me. Ivana, however, explained to me that in her family and typical Czech tradition values lunch over every meal. That gave me hope. Her sister, who also studies in Prague, decided not to come home, so I was able to sleep in her room. I almost felt like her fill-in for the weekend.

The next day, Ivana, Jakub and I went on a bike ride around the whole town. We rode past the largest lake in the Czech Republic, passed through the larger than life Oak trees, and explored the small city which happened to be throwing an Apple Festival at the time. I tried the locally grown apples, apple cider, and honey liquor. We biked back home to a delicious lunch with pork, vegetables and sliced, baked potatoes. It definitely exceeded my expectations and confirmed what Ivana had mentioned to me about lunch the night before.

That night, we went to dinner and drinks with Ivana’s girlfriends from home and they welcomed me into their conversations. Here was where I felt the most similar and comfortable because they all spoke English and of course they gossiped and talked about boys. Sometimes they would speak in Czech to one another, but I did not mind because I knew I was experiencing their way of life. They let me into their group and for me, it was as if I was welcomed into their culture.

This weekend allowed me to peak into the authentic lives of Czech people. I noticed little things that allow me to grasp on to concepts of intercultural communication in terms of my relationships with the people I came across. With her parents, I understand the signs of respect and with her friends I caught onto the signs of peer to peer interaction. It was a great weekend and it really gave me insight on the world around me; exactly what I was seeking in my study abroad experience.   

  Trebon lake

Trebon sunset

Trebon!

10/28/2015

Ambitions

written by Brenna Cox (Drake University)

Czech Saying: Kdo hledá, najde.

Translation: He who looks, finds.

I want to take a moment to shed some light on why I chose Prague as my study abroad destination as it relates to my studies in sociology and economics at Drake University. I wrote this piece for the Honors Program at Drake to explain how I will pursue an interdisciplinary learning approach during my abroad experience. I am very passionate about my chosen fields of study and I hope this paper reveals these passions as well as my academic ambitions for this adventure:

The Mutually Constitutive Role of Economics and Sociology in Shaping a Nation

As a double major in economics and sociology, I am particularly interested in how societies design and interact with their economic systems. Human interactions are instrumental in how economists theorize about economies and discover new economic models. Cultural attitudes in tandem with political realities are greatly influential in the economic development of a country. Equally, economic systems born from certain historical and geographical contexts have tremendous influence in the development of certain socio-cultural attitudes. Individuals within a society are the architects, participants, and recipients of economic systems. Therefore, I believe that the study of economics can be greatly enriched when examined through the lens of sociology.

I specifically chose to study abroad in the Czech Republic because the country provides a unique case study for investigating how society and economics are mutually constitutive in shaping a nations past, present and future. Before it was the Czech Republic, Czechoslovakia was one of the first Eastern European countries to experiment with democratic government. While abroad, I would like to study how democratic policies implemented as early as the 1800s wielded new social norms as the economy became increasingly industrialized. By the early twentieth century, democratic ideas flourished in Czechoslovakia, with Prague acting as the cultural and political epicenter of the country. The shocks of the first, and more importantly, second World Wars interrupted the economic, social and political growth of the country. In the aftermath of World War II, communist economic philosophies and polices deeply altered the economic landscape. The democratic revolution of the late 1980s and the Czech Republic’s decision to join the European Union have again changed the economic and social landscape of the country. Examining these historical transitions will demonstrate how economics and sociology merge when influencing the overarching culture of a nation. I expect my CIEE courses to delve into these social and economic changes that occurred throughout the Czech Republic’s growth as a nation. I plan to do my own analysis of these classes to determine where the two disciplines intersect and reveal specific patterns between the development of social norms and changing economic systems. I believe that the experience of studying Czech economics and society first hand in Prague will provide me with a deeper understanding of how Czech society adapted amid changing economic realities.

I am also taking a course on art and architecture in Prague. The buildings in Prague hold a great deal of Czech history in their walls and design. Discovering how people interact with their built environment and the historical significance of these buildings will shed light on the social and economic forces that shape modern day Czech culture. Understanding historical and modern art will illuminate social attitudes that correspond with different economic periods. I am eager to see what unique insights this third area of study can add to my exploration of social and economic systems in Prague.

In addition to my coursework, I anticipate studying the Czech Republic’s economic and social systems directly through my daily interactions with the citizens of the Czech Republic. In sociology it is important to gather ethnographic data to understand the nuanced inner workings of a society. By talking with peers, professors, guides and other Czech citizens, I hope to enrich my understanding of how the Czech people perceive the influences of the economic shifts in their country on their social and cultural interactions. One of my Drake peers who studied abroad in Prague mentioned the feelings of shame that many older Czech citizens associate with the Czech Republic’s submission to communist rule. I would be interested to pursue this observation and analyze the different affects that economics has had on both the older and younger generations of the Czech Republic. I am optimistic that my extended stay in Prague will provide the opportunity to develop friendships with a variety of people so that I may ask these questions and build an understanding about how current attitudes in Czech society have been influenced by the country’s economic history to create a distinctive culture in the Czech Republic.

From a broader perspective, I believe that traveling in general provides an interdisciplinary aspect to academics. Learning how to adapt to a new culture and learning how another culture studies certain disciplines like sociology and economics is necessary in order to succeed in our increasingly globalized world. The merging of sociology and economics can provide a multifaceted understanding of different nations and cultures across the globe. As economies across the world become more globalized and interdependent, it is essential that we understand the way in which societies make economic decisions. Studying economics from a different cultural perspective builds cultural empathy and fosters positive collaboration between states and societies. Studying in Prague will broaden the lens in which I view the world, better equipping me to cooperatively and empathetically tackle important sociological and economic questions as I continue my studies at Drake University.

Hopefully this provides a better sense of how I have come to perceive this wonderful opportunity and the goals I have set for my program.

 

09/24/2015

Prague Brunch Guide

written by Pauline Wizig (Emory University)

If traditional Czech gulas and dumplings do not sound like your ideal meal while in Prague, have no fear because Prague is home to many tasty brunch options. Each of these restaurants has been taste tested and is sure to be photogenic enough to rack up the likes on your social media outlets of choice. Happy brunching!

 Radost FX

While Radost is known for its club,  insiders know the club’s hidden gem is definitely its fabulous vegetarian weekend brunch.  Radost has a wide selection of omelets, waffles, egg sandwiches French toast and homemade muesli.  If you are a tea drinker, make sure to order either the Moroccan or ginger tea. Both come served in a large glass teacup filled with fresh ingredients. While you are at Radost, head downstairs to get a peak at the club where Rhianna filmed her music video for “Please Don’t Stop the Music”.

 Bakeshop

There are two bakeshop locations, one across the River in new town and one in Prague 1 near Old Town Square and the Jewish Quarter. Both offer fabulous breakfast and brunch every day until three p.m. Their pastries are absolutely incredible and they have everything from cakes and brownies to croissants and Danishes. The coffee is excellent and they have soy milk which is a rarity not found in many Czech coffee shops. This is not the place to take a large group because seating is limited, but you could always take your food to go and eat outside if the weather permits.

 Café Savoy

If you can only have one brunch in Prague this is the place to go. Make a reservation if you are coming on the weekend with a large group because they get very busy. Their apple strudel is light and flaky. Pair it with a hot chocolate for a sweet brunch or split it with your whole table as an appetizer. If you really have a sweet tooth, you must try the French toast, which is said to be one of the best in Europe. If you are looking for a protein based brunch, check out any of their omelets or poached eggs. All of their breakfasts come with a bread basket, which is a great way to sample the bakery’s creations without committing to one choice.

Globe

If you are traveling to Prague and feel the need for a traditional American brunch, this is the restaurant for you. Globe was opened by three NYU alumni and they brought all of their American brunch staples with them to Prague. Popular menu items include omelets, pancakes, and iced coffee. They even serve egg whites. While this is definitely not the most authentic Czech meal, it is a nice taste of home in Europe.

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02/26/2015

Living in the Czech Republic

written by Kara Caskey (DePauw University)

I have now been living in the Czech Republic for exactly one month.  It is hard to believe that it’s already been so long.  It’s also still surreal to me that I’m living in the Czech Republic.  Just wow.  It’s gone by with such speed and I feel as though I was just saying my goodbyes to family and friends before getting on the plane.  At the same time, though, it’s also hard to believe that I only have three months left in this city.  If the first month flew by as quickly as it did, I cannot even imagine how fast the next three are going to go.  I already don’t want to leave!

The two free weekends that we’ve had thus far I’ve stayed put in Prague.  I begin traveling this weekend, which is exciting, but it’s also been so helpful to get to know “my” city a little better before I take off and see the rest of Europe.  It’s amazing how a little exploration and a few wrong turns can lead you to a little hole in the wall restaurant that becomes your favorite.  In my opinion, wandering is the best way to learn about a new place.  I’ve never lived in a large city so it was definitely overwhelming at first but I honestly couldn’t imagine being anywhere else.  Prague is a truly amazing place with so much history and beauty.

I have already learned an incredible amount about being independent and living in a foreign city in the short month I’ve been here.  I’ve learned that Americans are possibly the loudest people on the planet and that it’s better to shut my mouth on public transportation.  I know a few survival words and phrases in Czech that can get me by in a pinch, especially when I’m hungry.  (The two weeks of intensive Czech class were definitely a must and I’m so glad they {forced} us through them.)  Finally, I’ve come to realize that I live in what I would biasedly classify as one of the prettiest parts of Prague.  Vyšehrad, previously a castle (hrad) on a hill (vyše) is a tremendously unique and historically relevant landmark in Prague and I just recently took a stroll around its beautiful fortress and gardens.  It’s safe to say that in the coming months as the weather warms up you will find me reading, picnicking, and enjoying the beautiful sunsets right around the corner from my dorm.

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10/10/2014

Tranquility in the streets of Prague

written by Benjamin Adams (St. Lawrence University)

 

Tranquility, I believe that this is the appropriate word to begin this post with. It is the only word that comes to mind as I slowly sip on my espresso gazing across the Volta River, catching sights of red roof tops, seagulls gliding lazily around the tour boats that inhabit the river, and the gargantuan gothic architecture that is Prague castle, a behemoth of craftsmanship nestled in a baroque enclosure of Easter egg palaces. I sit and observe the scene before me, glancing occasionally at the many colorful tourists walking by with their gaping and gawking expressions. The waitress passes by, looks down at my nearly empty cup and asks if I would like another. I kindly say no, sending her on her way so as to return back to the scene which had captivated me before.

 

Reflecting on the past three weeks, it would be hard to explain every little detail that I have come across since my arrival into the city of Prague. I say this because there are so many details that by the time I was done explaining what I have seen, I would have most likely surpassed the original count and could probably publish a book on these moments. The buildings are lined with busts of Greek gods, statues of saints, and etched carvings women that most men would only meet in their dreams. Yet among all of this, the buildings themselves are seasoned with bits of street art and graffiti, giving the city a roughness around the edges but still maintaining the romanticist appeal, the very same that inspired Mozart, Kafka and the many others who have passed through its streets.

 

The rain falls harder; I lean back and watch the many tourists flock like birds to the safety of the café that I am in. The waitress passes, looks, gives a disapproving stare and moves on.

 

I turn and look down at the packet before me. The words “Modra Kniha” look back up at me. It is a work book for my Intensive Czech class. I have spent the past two weeks learning and reviewing the Czech language before the vibrant and enthusiastic Jano Cerna, a woman in her early 40s with lightly dyed red hair and a rickety movement about her. By far my favorite language teacher that I have had the pleasure to learn from, her skill has reflected on czech language skills, so I hope to keep working hard towards becoming somewhat fluent.  Though, after past two weeks of 5 hour lessons a day, it was pure bliss to allow my mind to rest for just a moment as I sipped my espresso with the waitress’s darting eyes  examining me from afar.

 

My phone beeps and buzzes and I answer. It is my Housemate Eddie. A kind and relaxed young man with the interests of philosophy, political science and literature, he has been living with me in the attic of our home-stay family. We both share a bathroom and have quaint white washed little rooms looking out onto the red tiled suburbs of Praha 4, a 20 minute metro ride from the city center. He is looking to catch the metro back at 5:30 in order to make it home for dinner at 7 with the family.  The family that I live with consists of two parents, Jirka and Lenka, and two children, Adrianno and Matiash.  Very kind and loving they are with an expressed in interest in our lives and in the progress of our Czech language skills.  I will be eagerly looking forward towards actually holding a conversation with them in Czech soon. I glance from the waitress to the streets. It seems clear enough. We agree to meet at the metro stop Muzeum, where both the A line and the C line meet. I get up, pay the waitress and walk away with two holes bored into the back of my head. I look up at the sky, analyzing the risk for precipitation.

 

The rain deceives me and I am soon standing at the street corner waiting to run underground to the safety of the metro station. Yet even while I am waiting, I still cannot help but look up at the decadent beauty of the architecture as city casts upon the unsuspecting spectator. With this, I am brought back to that state of tranquility and even as I am sitting on the metro, reading from my raindrop spotted paperback book, I can still feel that tranquility musing from inside of me.

 

This tranquility that I speak of is in a sense meditative.  The sense of confidence instilled in me while being lost in the twisting and bounding streets of Prague is comforting when acknowledging my past history of being lost.  When I was a child, my family and I went on a family vacation to Disney world, a very exciting moment in my childhood.  But as life would have it, I suddenly became that lost child in the ever flowing crowds of people looking to take pictures of the Disney Castle.  So I took my juice box and stood on a bench to get a better view of the castle, knowing in full confidence that my family would notice and come find me.

 

Thus, I find my time in Prague to be a reflection of that particular family vacation.  Being lost with no worries is a comforting notion.  Yet the city of Prague is very new and different to me and so I will be sure to make myself lost at certain points so that not only can I discover more of the city, but I will be able to enjoy that conscious feeling of meditative tranquility.  So as I reflect during my time in the chapel of bones in Kutna Hora, hiking in the bohemian paradise or spending the day examining the display of Mucha pieces at the Art Noveau Gallery in the Municipal Building, what I have gathered within my 3 weeks in the Czech Republic has been the stillness of smoke floating within the underground brick pits of local pubs, the calm sip of a Pilsner after it was poured on tap and the soft exchanging of words with a friend over a brisk walk to the next sight. Some go to nature to find the serenity of peace, but I have found it in the city of Prague.

 

10/02/2014

Fall 2014, Issue I

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The Importance of Being … Well Housed

Housing is an essential factor for a rewarding study abroad experience. Before coming to Prague, students fill out a housing survey which is crucial for their housing placement. Based on their profile and preferences, CES and CNMJ students are placed in one of the following housing options: homestay, dorm, or apartments. FS and GAD students’ housing is a little bit different in the sense that they have only the option to live in CIEE-administered apartments with other CIEE FS/GAD participants. This is due to the fact that they study outside of the CIEE Study Center (at FAMU/ARCHIP) and very often work on school projects together.

When placing students, we do our best not to place students from the same home university in the same apartment/homestay (dorm might be an exception) to make students get to know new people and not just hang out with their friends from home.

Czech Homestay

This housing option offers a truly immersive experience. Our families live in residential areas of Prague and most of them have been in the program for several semesters or even years. Homestay students have a great opportunity to get out of their comfort zone. Apart from an enriching study abroad experience, homestay students get two meals per day and a single room! They are also assigned a “homestay buddy”, local university student, who helps them during orientation and shows them around during semester.

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What do students say about their homestay?

What´s the coolest thing about your housing?

 “Home cooked meals.” (CES student)

“Amazing food and the feeling of being part of a Czech family.” (CNMJ student)

 What do you think about the buddy program?

 “I think it's a great thing.” (CES student)

“Buddies are great for showing us around the city and introducing us to the real lives of the Czech.” (CNMJ student)

 What you like about your neighborhood?

 “I like that it's quiet.” (CES student)

“It is close to the metro and very safe.” (CNMJ student)

 What advantages do you see from living with a host family?

 “A house to really call home.” (CES student)“I’m getting much more assimilated into the culture, and get great food everyday!” (CNMJ student)

Available to the following programs: Central European Studies; Communications, New Media + Journalism

Apartments

Our apartments arelocated either by the river close to the both the Study Center and the city center, or in Vinohrady, a neighborhood popular with locals as well as expats (approx. 20 minute commute to the Study Center by tram/metro). Each apartment houses two to six CIEE students (in most cases three) as well as a flat buddy. The flat buddy is a Charles University students who, in exchange for free housing, helps students during orientation, with practical issues as well as cultural immersion throughout the semester.

Students living in apartments are responsible for their own meals as well as cleaning. This housing option is perfect for independent students. Around 75% of CIEE students live in apartments.

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What do students say about their apartments?

What´s the coolest thing about your housing?

 “I love my apartment and its location.” (CES student)

 “Living in an apartment gives me the independence and responsibility of really living in the city and all with the benefit of having awesome American roommates.” (CNMJ student)

“I have thoroughly enjoyed living with a Czech student. She has been so helpful in terms of adjusting to a new city and knowing a lot about the local culture.” (CNMJ student)

”Everything. I couldn't have asked for a better flat buddy and living situation. ” (FS student)

”The apartment and the people!” (FS student)

”I have a balcony in my room, that's great.” ( FS student)

Its roomy and has great qualities of light. Also it's nice that all gear has been provided (kitchen supplies, sheets, etc.)“(GAD student)

„The apartment itself/location has been great“ (GAD student)

 What do you think about the buddy program?

 “I LOVE my Czech buddy!“ (CES student)

„It's helpful having someone available who knows the city and the language to help if I need anything.“ (CES student)

“Love having my Czech buddy around.“ (CES student)

“Having a Czech buddy is a great way to avoid touristy destinations and discover local bars and restaurants.” (CNMJ student)

“I think the buddy program is great. It provides students with the opportunity to branch out and get to know some of the locals which otherwise might be more challenging.” (CNMJ student)

“I love my Czech buddy! They all make it so easy when you have questions and they are able to show you a "real" part of the city instead of just the parts where foreigners go.“ (FS student)

“My Czech buddy is awesome.“ (FS student)

 „I think it's great! They are so helpful and it's really nice having locals to spend time with. they make it much more authentic than other abroad programs.“(GAD student)

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What you like about your neighborhood?

 “Super close to a major public transportation spot. (CES student)

“It's charming and accessible to public transportation. (CES student)

“I love living in a neighborhood where I’ve gotten to know the local shopkeepers and I can used the Czech I’ve learned on daily errands.” (CNMJ student)

“I love how quiet my neighborhood is and how I can hear someone practicing clarinet every Tuesday. The woman from the minimart recognizes me and always makes an effort to communicate and smile at me.” (CNMJ student)

“I love the location! It is so easy to get anywhere in the city. Also, we are so close to the supermarket, tram stop, and metro.“ (FS student)

“Close to both tram and metro and parks.“ (FS student)

“Everything! “ (FS student)

It's a great location to get around the city by public transit or just walking about.“(GAD student)

„You can walk everywhere, and there's so much to do.“ (GAD student)

 Available to the following programs: Central European Studies; Communications, New Media + Journalism; Global Architecture & Design; Film Studies; all summer programs

Dorm

The dorm, located within a 10-minute walk up hill to the study center, accommodates usually around 32 CIEE students. Some of the most significant advantages of living in the dorm, apart from the location, are breakfast and cleaning service Monday to Friday. Students who choose this housing option do this mostly because of location and the comfort and safety of being surrounded by other CIEE students. Five dorm buddies are placed in the dorm to, once again, help students with practical issues, share Czech culture with them and help them not get trapped in the „American bubble“. The dorm is located in a neighborhood with many nice restaurants, cafes, and shops.

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 What do students say about the dorm?

What´s the coolest thing about your housing?

 “Close to school.” (CES student)

“Free breakfast.” (CES student)

“The dorm is very nice, and is centrally located.“(CES student)

“Having my own room and bathroom.“ (CNMJ student)

 What do you think about the buddy program?

 “It was nice having a student from the Czech Republic to help us get settled and show us around.“ (CES student)

“It's helpful having someone available who knows the city and the language to help if I need anything.“ (CES student)

 “Love it!“ (CNMJ student)

 What you like about your neighborhood?

  “Nice, safe, close to school.” (CES student)

“Safe, quiet, residential. Good food options around.” (CES student)

“There are endless things to see, I could wander for days on end and still find new things.” (CNMJ student)

 Available to the following programs: Central European Studies; Communications, New Media + Journalism

10/01/2014

Karlovy Vary

written by Summer Si (University of California)

Karlovy Vary is a spa town located about 2 hours away from Prague. "Spa" immediately conjures up feelings of relaxation and soaking in a hot tub until my mind melts and washes away all my worries. Two friends and I decided to go in high aims to experience a massage or some kind of spa treatment. And so we used the Student Agency bus and booked a one night stay in a hostel. By the way, I highly recommend using Student Agency to travel. Our bus had little personal screens so you can watch a film and they serve you hot drinks (tea, coffee, hot chocolate). I ended up sleeping the whole way, but next time I'll watch a film. 

 

We arrived at around 4 PM and found a traditional Czech restaurant to eat dinner because we were famished. Afterwards, we walked around Karlovy Vary as the day turned into the evening. The night time turned Karlovy Vary into an image that will be difficult to forget because it did not look like the picturesque views we found on Google images. I grew up going to Disneyland with my family in California, and I must say, Karlovy Vary at night feels like an eery version of Disneyland at night when the amusement park is soon about to close.

 

Disneyland evokes a playfulness that the colorful buildings of Karlovy Vary also present ... but in the sunny day time. Once it hit dusk, these colors were not as vibrant and become muted. It's a similar process of turning from color to black and white, the transition between the two. The gloomy weather and cloudiness also helped with this effect. Compared to Disneyland as you exit when it gets close to midnight the Disney song "A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes" leads you out, Karlovy Vary did not have the music, just the fairy tale buildings. (look at pictures 1 and 2)

 

Nonetheless, Karlovy Vary was beautiful walking around at night. Even more beautiful in the daytime! Luckily, the sun was shining and the clouds dissipated. We woke up and went to a nearby spa and waited about 45 minutes to schedule an appointment for a classic massage. We should have called the day before, because the whole day was booked. We should have known since this is THE SPA town of Czech Republic. Looking up the numbers, 76,000 visitors come to this town each year just for the spa. We ended up walking to the Grand Pupp Hotel and enjoyed the beautiful scenario and the town where Casino Royale and The Last Holiday were filmed. (picture 3) We went to this building called Císařské lázně where it used to be a bath house but now it is being used as a place for meetings and ceremonies and is getting renovated. We sat in the metal bath tub and that was our "bath." The last picture is me and my new friend. The end!

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06/10/2014

Brno

written by Danielle Corcione

I spent this weekend in Brno, the second largest city in the Czech Republic, with my classmates and professor. Interestingly enough, while Prague is historically a Bohemian city, Brno is Moravian. Before the area became known as the Czech Republic, and even before it was combined with Slovak lands as Czechoslovakia, the region was divided into three: Bohemia, Moravia, and Silesia.

There was no better way to gain an intercultural understanding than traveling to another area within the country. Since I am taking an anthropology course, this was especially important to my academic experience abroad. Instead of a guided tour of typical tourist attractions of the city, Brno residents showed us places where locals frequent. It was refreshing to explore a new place without feeling like a generic tourist. Stops of the tour included different cafés that specialized in Turkish coffee, soup, and fair trade food. Needless to say, I was impressed.

On Saturday afternoon, we walked over to Brno’s Romany district for the third annual Ghettofest, a street festival to celebrate Romany music, theater, film, dance, and discussions. This year, one of the objectives of the festival was to attract and engage people outside of Brno to the city. Our class listened to an entire set of a singer/songwriter, followed by a performance of traditional Romany dance.

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06/05/2014

Ahoj from Prague!

written by Ashley Schulte

Exploring a new city exemplifies living in a state of exhilaration.  The city becomes your playground, your place to experience a culture other than your own. 

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Old Town Hall Tower  

 

You can get to know its essence by sitting quietly and observing the residents passing by, or you can try your hand at speaking the language and interacting with the locals.  Both of these are a form of immersion, and though sitting back while the city is full of life around you may seem at first glance to be a static activity, it is actually quite dynamic.

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Wenceslas Square 

By definition, “dynamic” refers to a person or process characterized by progress, energy, and/or new ideas, and an activity that may be passive in other contexts is engaging when in a previously unfamiliar land.

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You must be present in the moment while traveling as you observe your surroundings and take note of the differences between your home and this new area.  There are differences related to the senses, such as the scent of the air, the aesthetic layout of the blocks, the architectural style of the buildings, and the native tongue being used by the locals.
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St. Vitus Cathedral at Prague Castle

 

On top of these variations, there are differences that do not stand out as quickly as the fragrance of a local market may.  How did history unfold on the very ground you’re standing on that led to the current moment? How did the groups of people inhabiting this area change over time, and what are the traditions and norms of the current population?

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Crosses marking where 27 Protestants were executed after the Battle of White Mountain in the 17th century

 

It is this requirement for constant engagement that has me viewing travel as a remedy. Experiencing a new culture softens a closed mind and expands an already open one.  Walking down the street in a foreign city brings with it a sense of magic whereas doing the same at home may seem like just another part of your routine. Traveling reminds you that the world is much bigger than the little bubble that you occupy on a daily basis, which brings with it a sense of comfort.  Travel is a remedy for a closed mind, for a routine, for the mundane.

 

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View of the city from Prague Castle 

 

I personally find myself feeling antsy if I stay in one place for too long, needing new experiences to nurture my mind. Though I’ve only been in Prague for a week, I feel accomplished knowing that I’ve made the most of each day. Here’s a rough outline of what I’ve been up to the last seven days:

 

5/26/14: Arrived in Prague after a 3-leg fight.  The airport is small, and I was easily able to find the CIEE staff who then had a cab take me to my flat. I have 3 other roommates- two ladies in the program with me, and one flat buddy who is a student at Charles University. After meeting the other girls, I put away some of my luggage and rested in the flat for a little bit. Our apartment is in a great location, and is beautifully designed.  I wasn’t expecting such a renovated apartment, and I can say with full confidence that this is a more than comfortable place to stay for the next few weeks. Once we were all feeling rejuvenated enough to walk around and fight our jet leg, our flat buddy took us around the city to explore. We became acquainted with the area around our apartment, walked through Old Town, and ended up at the John Lennon Wall.  This piece of ever-changing art is particularly interesting because people began tagging it during the Communist regime here in Prague. The graffiti covering its surface started as a resistance against the order, and people have been writing on it since the 1980’s.

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John Lennon Wall

 

5/27: During our first day of orientation, CIEE staff taught us about Czech customs and helped us understand the layout of the program. They have so many activities planned for us, including cooking lessons, trips to museums, cultural events such as seeing a ballet at the National Theater, and more. We went on a walk around the city after orientation with one of the flat buddies, and met at Petřínské Terasy, a restaurant, for a buffet-style dinner.

 

5/28: This was our last day of orientation, and we learned more about Czech history after going on a three-hour walk around Prague.  We were guided by one of the professors, and her knowledge really helped us picture historical events that usually seem to be too distant to understand. 

 

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Astronomical Clock Tower with my roommates, Casey and Emily

5/29:  Thursday was our first day of classes. I’m taking Psychoanalysis and Art and Survival Czech, both of which are extremely interesting. It’s remarkable how much more “at home” I feel in the city after taking just a few classes on the language! After our day at school, my roommates and I went to a department store to shop before getting dinner at The Louvre.  We originally chose this restaurant based on a dessert recommendation, but ended up enjoying food + drinks on top of a raspberry sundae.

5/30: After classes, the Psychoanalysis and Art students stayed in the student lounge to watch a screening of “The Witches Hammer,” a Czech film based on a book of the same title. This is preparing us for our trip to Moravia this weekend, where we will see Freud’s childhood home and the site of the 17th century witch trials. We went to a club called Lucerna later in the evening, and much to our delight, danced to 80’s and 90’s music until the early morning. I obviously had to get the traditional Czech treat of fried cheese on the way back to our flat.  I would try to put into words how delicious smažený sýr is, but will refrain from doing so because I will not be able to do it justice.

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Lucerna with my classmates and new friends Nikole and Anna :)

5/30: My roommates and I slept in to fight the never-ending jet lag battle, and went to the Communist Museum in the afternoon.  The pieces in the exhibit tie together the past with modern day Czech Republic, culminating in the film room.  The TV was playing a movie with powerful footage from protestors and cops during the communist regime up until 1989.  The film showed fighting on Wenceslas Square, and it was crazy to see how different the dynamic of this area was just a little over 20 years ago. This added to the balcony exhibit on communism in present-day North Korea to make for an overall heart-wrenching museum trip.  I feel like I learned a great deal on how communism affects a community, and the many parts of the museum helped put a real-life context to a subject that I’ve only read about in text books up until now. On our way out of the museum, we saw a brochure for an underground tour of Prague starting in 15 minutes, so we rushed over to the ticket sales booth to join in.  I love how it’s easy to be spontaneous here in the city- there is so much culture to experience, and there’s always something going on. The tour turned out to be fascinating, and we learned that the Old Town Hall used to house a prison in the cellar. Apparently people have weddings in the hall now, and the tour guide said that someone in one of his previous tours assured him that marriage was essentially the same as prison anyways.  Coincidentally, my dad made the same joke when I told him of the tour. I would say “great minds think alike,” but I don’t think that phrase really fits this situation :D We had planned on going home after the tour, but got caught up in the street entertainment in Old Town Square. There has been some form of art-whether it be music or some performance-every time I’ve been through the square so far!

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Postcard from Muzeum komunismu

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Musician performing on Old Town Square

6/1: On Sunday, I went with my roommates and flat buddy to Costa Coffee to study and do readings for our classes. It was a nice and relaxing, but still mentally stimulating, day :)

6/2: Woohoo- one whole week! On our way to lunch between classes, we discovered an entire wall of flowers going down one side of the park by our school.  What a gem to find! This stands in contrast to the cemetery that my roommates and I walk through every morning on the way to class (which, for the record, I find equally as interesting as the flower wall.) After classes, my roommates and I got Vietnamese takeout.  We have been super tired, and have needed a rest day after all of the walking and exploring we’ve been doing.

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Vyšehrad Cemetery

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Part of the flower wall

Well, that’s all for now. I apologize for the length of this blog- I shouldn’t have waited a whole week to make an update! I plan on posting every couple of days from now on. 

Na shledanou, friends :)