Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Eurohotdog


This stand is found everywhere in Prague. It sells the Eurohotdog, which has made it to my list of the Top Ten Grossest Foods in the World. You may ask, "What is a Eurohotdog?" To calm your curiosity, a Eurohotdog is a hot dog inside of a bun that has been stuck on heating rods to make a hole. The operation ends up looking like a corn dog, except that the corn bun is actually a regular bun.
Of course, the boys in our group love the Eurohotdogs. They are about a dollar, unless you get the specialty, which includes five-day-old sauerkraut. Yum. I wonder if I will eventually break down and get one of these things to eat. They smell soooo good, but they are sooo gross. I usually don't enjoy getting food from a street vendor. I'll let you know if I actually ever eat one.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Saturday at Petriny

Today has been a great day so far. I woke up, ran, and came to school to do some research on upcoming trips. One of the best parts was while I was at the tram stop in my neighborhood. My neighborhood is called Petriny, and the O.D. is Czech for grocery store. My stop is across the street from a grocery store, so they called the stop O.D. Petriny. The blue building is the grocery store in the following picture:

There is apparently an election this year in the Czech Republic. There are signs on benches, bus stops, and billboards that urge voters to support candidates:I enjoy watching the people at the tram stop. Today two grandparents had their granddaughter in tow. It was funny because the grandma kept screeching about something in Czech, and I could tell by her motions that she was telling the granddaughter to stay away from the edge of the waiting area so she wouldn't get hit by the tram. Then the grandfather started to talk to the grandmother, apparently telling her to calm down and that the granddaughter would be fine, because the grandmother then went into a rage, showing him that one can get hit quite easily if they didn't stand far away from the edge. Meanwhile, the granddaughter had edged away from her grandparents, in an obvious attempt to act like she didn't know them.

If you look closely at this picture, you can see a woman standing behind the man with the grocery sack. She was talking on her cell phone from the time she and her husband walked to the tram station until I got off. The husband just calmly followed her around the entire time. He seemed like he was happy that she was on the phone and not talking to him. There are some apartment buildings around the tram. Last week, I got on the tram and saw an old man wave to his wife who was in one of the buildings looking out the window at him. It was so cute.

I love being in the city on a Saturday morning. Everybody is in a great mood. People were especially excited today because the Czechs won a gold medal in the Olympics for women's skiing.

The farmer's market was very fun yesterday. They sell fruits and veggies, but also have stands of souvenirs. We had a fun time exploring everything. Today the girls in my group are going shopping at a mall, which should be fun.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Cats don't ice skate

My friend Anna went to the store yesterday to buy regular tights to wear. To everybody's amusement, these are what came out of the package:

She loves them. They are really fun tights, but yet another example of our inability to actually read Czech. Next week I am giving a presentation on how to order food in Czech class. I'll let you know how it goes. I'm trying to type the handout for it right now. Since I am writing on this instead, you can probably surmise that there has not been much progress on the project.
I'm really excited about tomorrow because we are going to a farmer's market in Prague. There is one every day in New Town, and we are planning to go buy some yummy food. I was so excited today because I went to the grocery store to get my week's worth of groceries and ended up spending about $6 on the food. Prices here are so cheap for food. Prague spoils us, and when we went to Austria we couldn't imagine spending around $7 on a meal in a restaurant. It is going to be even worse when we come go back to America.
It is getting colder here. Apparently our little warm spell was some fluke. Today I ran and had to be really careful not to slip and fall. It usually helps to run on the snow, as it has more traction than the icy sidewalks. On Monday, I ran to a park in my neighborhood, and was excited about getting to run among trees. When I got there, I realized that the sidewalks were sheets of ice. I saw a man running ahead of me, so I decided to follow suit and try to run anyway. That was a horrible idea. I kept sliding and slipping and looking like a doofus in general. My reaction reminded me of my poor cats when I used to put them on sheets of ice to try to teach them how to ice skate. How can Czech people run on ice? It was so weird. That man wasn't even special. As I was sliding back to the entrance, I noticed an old man who walking briskly through the park and a women entered with her dog. The acted like it wasn't weird that they were walking on a glacier. The trip was worth it because the park was pretty. I will try to run there again in the spring.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

This is what coming to Europe will do for you...


Two of my friends went to the Olympics in Italy this weekend to attend the Czech Republic/Italy hockey game. They came back today with great stories and James came back with the above hairdo. Today we took one look at him and started to laugh. My hair stylist told me to note the hair trends while I was in Europe, and I am sorry to say that the mohawk/mullet is coming in style. Apparently the men and women in Italy all sported this look. However, you should not worry, because I am not planning on donning this trend.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Salzburg, Austria

Hello everybody! We all got back from Salzburg safe and sound. My trip was amazing. Austria is such a beautiful country, and the people are really friendly. Six of the people from my group went. We left Prague on Friday morning. We were nervous that we would miss our train because one of the guys in our group forgot his passport in the hotel room and had to run back. Once we got on the train, we figured out that we had accidentally sat in first class, which was a mistake. First class has these really roomy seats, while in second class the options were to sit in less roomy seats or in a compartment. The conductor came in and tried to explain the situation, but we ended up thinking that second class was actually first class, and we were sitting in second class with first class tickets. So we all took our stuff and went to go find what we thought were better first class seats, but all of them were taken, so we just decided to go back to the second class (which was really first class). Eventually, the poor conductor came back and explained the situation again. We ended up somehow just paying extra for first-class tickets, which was fine because it was about $3 per person and we had a lot of room to sleep. I loved sitting on the train reading, sleeping, and looking at scenery. It was great!
We got to Salzburg and went straight to our hostel. A hostel is like a hotel, only geared toward young travelers, so it is cheap and people end up generally sharing rooms with other people. Our room was like a dorm with bunk beds, and it was really clean and nice. We decided to sign up for the Sound of Music tour and get something to eat. While we were at the lobby, I saw a girl from Truman! She was in my Roman History class and was student teaching in Germany. It was so weird. She was friendly and we all talked for a while. We started to walk and came across a restaurant on a side street and decided to eat there. Since we were in an established EU country, I wasn't as scared of the meat, so I decided to get a sirloin steak for lunch. It was soooo good. I didn't realize how much I was craving meat until I actually got some. We all gobbled our good and were in heaven. After eating, I wanted to see some Mozart stuff (he was born and lived in Salzburg), so we went to Mozart's birthplace and toured the house. I got to see the violin from his childhood, which was really cool. The house was nicely done into a museum of sorts, and was very interesting.
After that, we walked around some more and went back to the hostel to rest for a few minutes. That night we decided to walk around Salzburg. There is a river that runs through the middle of the city, and the lights reflecting on it were so beautiful. We walked along the river for the length of the main city. That night we ended up going to bed at about 9:00 because we were so tired. We felt like losers, but we couldn't help it. The next morning, we woke up and got to go on the Sound of Music tour!! Colleen and I were so excited because this was the number one thing we wanted to do in Europe. We got on the bus and our tour guide was very funny and informative. He liked to tell goofy jokes, all of which had a Sound of Music theme. Our first stop was the back of the Von Trapp house. The lake that was featured in the movie was frozen over, but we didn't go ice skating. We learned that at the end of the movie, the Von Trapps actually walked across the mountain into Germany. Switzerland is actually 500 km away from Salzburg! Our second stop was the gazebo. They didn't let us go in because some 80-year-old woman ruined it for the world and decided to do the "Sixteen going on Seventeen" dance and broke her hip in the process. The outside of the Von Trapp house is really a building where seminars are held, and the gazebo had to be moved from the grounds because people apparently kept hopping the fence and trying to do the dance. The boys abandoned us girls at this point because they were worried that we would want them to dance with us anyway, and I missed my own Rolf at this point. After that, we got to drive by the Nonneberg Abbey, which is where the nuns lived. We couldn't go in the building, but I took lots of pictures for my mom because her favorite part is when they sing "How do you Solve a Problem Like Maria?" The mountain on which Maria is frolicking is actually about 10 miles away from the Abbey, so at the beginning of the movie, Maria is a fast runner. We left Salzburg and our tour took us up to a little mountain town. The town was so quaint and beautiful. We were surrounded by mountains and there was a huge lake that was frozen. We went there because the scenery shots at the beginning of the movie included the town. After the town, we got to go to the church where Maria and the Captain were married! That was my favorite part. I walked down the aisle like Maria and got a good look at the altar. The boys also hid for this part by going to get strudel. Our tour kind of ended after that town. Music from the movie played while we were in the bus. It was so great because everybody was singing, and by everybody I mean Colleen and me. After returning to Salzburg, we went back to our hostel and picked up one of the boys on the trip (he didn't want to go on the tour) and went out to eat again. This time we ate at this little cafe, which was soooo yummy. I got this thing called a Baguette, which was a baguette cut in half length-wise toasted with salami, ham, tomatoes, and onions. I loved the meat. I'm still dreaming about it. In case you haven't figured out, Austrian food is amazing. We all pigged out this weekend and lamented when we had to return to Prague, where food is really cheap but not so great. After eating we wandered around for a while and got ready for the evening. My friend Kathryn and I went to a Mozart concert that night. It was located in a palace room where Mozart actually played, and the musicians were amazing. A string quartet played five pieces, and a flute was featured in one. A violinist had a solo, and she was so amazing. Everybody in the room was just dumbfounded by her ability. Since I play the violin, I enjoyed listening to the music, even though it was a far cry from my rendition of "Boil Them Cabbage Down". The rest of the people went to a play version of "Mein Kaumf", which apparently featured a naked woman on stage and was all in German. I'm think glad I opted for the concert, even though they were all laughing about how weird it was to see a woman stripping in a play. The next morning we woke up and checked out of the hostel. I decided to go to mass in a cathedral in Salzburg and it was amazing. The cathedral was decorated in white marble with lots of paintings. There was also a youth choir that happened to be performing, and their singing was so good that after mass everybody just sat and listened to them for about ten minutes. It was probably the most beautiful mass I've ever attended, so I was glad I went. After mass I met Colleen and one of the boys and we got salty Bavarian pretzels. The pretzel was so thick and chewy. Mmmmm...I loved it. We finished eating and decided to go back and try a sweet pretzel, which was yummy as well. They tasted about 1,000 times better than Auntie Anne's pretzels from the mall, to give you some perspective. Sadly, this was the end of our trip and we had to go back to Prague. The train ride home was again very relaxing. I got a lot of reading finished, and we didn't get first and second class mixed up again. Salzburg was such a glorious city, but we found ourselves missing Prague on the way home. It felt good to be back in our sweet Hotel Excel City.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

fooled

Apparently my efforts to look like a local have been beneficial. Today, some tourists stopped me and asked me directions. They spoke really slowly and said, "heeellllooooo, dooo youuu knnnoowww whhheeerreee thhhiiisss ccchhhuuurrrccchhhh iiiiisssss????" I was like, "Um, I'm not from Prague. I'm just visiting as well." Colleen said that today a Czech person just started to talk to her in Czech on the tram, like in conversation. We're excited that we are able to act Czech.

dang tourists

Today I found myself walking to school (which is in the center of one of the biggest tourist strips here) and thinking, "Jeez, these dang tourists are so annoying." I like how I think I am a local and I've only been here for two weeks. I do feel like my group has kind of figured out some little things about living in Prague. First, never run across a street unless the light is green for pedestrians. Even if there are no cars in sight, the people who actually live here wait for the light to change. Secondly, everything is faster here. Don't walk slowly. If you are not walking as fast as an Olympic speed walker, you are not a Prague native.
After checking out at the grocery store, you would feel like you need a nap. It is almost like the Soup Nazi on Seinfeld. You have to put your stuff on the little conveyer belt thing (what are those called?) very quickly, because it is about five inches long and the lady will not wait for you to put them on slowly. Then the lady shoves some plastic bags at you as she pelts the groceries over the scanner and into a little bin at the end. If an item doesn't happen to scan, forget it. She is rampaging and swiping the item like there is no tomorrow. When it finally swipes, she throws it with the rest of the stuff. At this point, you are trying to bag your items of groceries into the two bags you are given and she finishes and yells the price at you. It is at this point that you say, "Pardon? I don't understand Czech." Man, at this point, she is beyond patience, because she figures out that you are an American from your accent and finally understands why you have been five times slower than then ninety-year-old Czech women going through her line. She points to the price, and if you don't have the exact change, she yells at you in Czech. You just have to shrug your shoulders and then she sighs and gives you change out of her drawer. After this is accomplished, you better scoot out of that line, or else the next person will run over you and your fingers will be squished by the new items being thrown in the bin. You have to gather all your stuff and transfer it to a little table that is put there especially for the stupid foreigners so that you can bag your groceries properly. After all this work, it is inevitable that you fall on the way home and spill a lot of stuff. However, you do have food for a pretty cheap price! It is actually a lot of fun to go to the grocery store, because somebody ends up doing something stupid and we get a good laugh.

This weekend will be exciting for everybody in my group. Two of my friends are going to the Olympics to watch the Czech Republic beat Italy. They asked our Czech teacher how to say "Go team!" in Czech, and she went on a thirty minute tangent about ice hockey. Hockey is serious business here. Apparently everybody takes off work to watch the hockey games, and you have to make a reservation a month in advance if you want to watch it at a restaurant with a TV.

The rest of us are heading to Salzburg, Austria. We are going there to go on The Sound of Music tour, and I am so excited! Our hostel is a Sound of Music hostel and it apparently plays The Sound of Music two times a day. While we are there, I want to look at some Mozart stuff as well. We're leaving at 5 a.m. tomorrow morning and coming back on Sunday afternoon. It should be a lot of fun. I will try to post some pictures when I get back!

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Hotel vs. Apartments

In case you were not aware, I am living in a hotel for the semester. Yes, a hotel, complete with a front desk and maid service. The housekeeper comes once a week and cleans our rooms, and takes the trash out once a day. She also offers to do laundry for about $10. It seems to be the coolest living arrangement ever, except that our hotel is pretty hilarious. It is called Hotel Excel City and they tried to decorate it like 1940s Hollywood. However, this decorating scheme didn't really extend beyond the words "Hotel Excel City" on the yellow outside and the old looking travel suitcase on the website. There is only one computer with internet access in the building, the hotel is about a 25-30 minute tram ride from the center of Prague, and the rooms are kind of small, so we all make fun of it. We have become known around school as the hotel kids. People are always like, "oh, so you're a hotel kid, right?"
Our rivals are the apartment kids. The apartment kids have a place that came straight out of the Communist era, complete with airplane-like bathrooms and stunning decorating schemes that consist mostly of white walls. They are at a better location but pay a lot more and don't have a housekeeping service, so we are still glad that we live in Hotel Excel City. Today our Czech class was split into two separate classes: the hotel kids and the apartment kids, so I'm sure the rivalry will increase.
We always make jokes if something breaks or if we use the last of our three forks we've been given like, "We live in the best hotel ever!! It is Hotel Excel City!" The brochure brags about being a two-star hotel, and says "Welcome at Hotel Excel City" on the cover.
Even though the beds are hard as rocks, we still love our hotel. The people are nice and know our names. It is so cheap compared to the apartments, and located in a better neighborhood. It is actually not worse than the dorms at school, and I'm glad to live there for just three months. I feel like Eloise (isn't that the girl who wanted to live in a hotel in New York City?).

Monday, February 13, 2006

Church

Last night we all went to church together, and it was absolutely beautiful. We went to the Tyn Church, which is located in Old Town Square and is huge. The inside was very ornate with mostly black and gold decorations. We walked in about fifteen minutes early and were worried because it was just us and two older ladies in all fur outfits, but eventually more people came. The mass was in Czech, but it was still cool to know exactly what was being said anyway. A lot of kids in my group are Catholic, so there were about seven of us who went.
We received communion in a different way as well. The priest dipped the host into wine that was held by the server and gave it to us in our mouths. Another server held a plate under the host so none of it would drop on the ground.
The church was soooo cold because it is made of stone and there was no heating. The pews were also very hard because they were wooden, but I didn't really care that much because the church was so pretty.
We want to try to find an English mass somewhere. We found a mass schedule for Prague at the church, and there are some English masses listed.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Saturday, February 11, 2006

even more pictures

This is a view of Prague from the astronomical clock tower.
This is the church at which we are attending mass tomorrow.
Here is a view of Prague from the Charles Bridge.

Here is a picture of me on the Charles Bridge.

More pictures!





Friday, February 10, 2006

I ganked Colleen's computer, so here are more pictures

This is a picture of me at night in front of the Vltava River. The reason a it is at night is because we still had not gotten used to getting up at a reasonable hour in the morning, so we left our hotel for the day at about 4:30 p.m.
This is me at the Charles DeGaulle airport in Paris. I am wondering where our terminal is located. We almost missed our flight to Prague because they kept sending us on trams that were not headed for our terminal. Luckily, our flight was delayed and we got on safely.
This is a picture of our room. It is pretty messy. We figured out how to turn on the TV today, just in time to watch the Olympics.

Pictures, finally!




Here are some pics of Prague. The first one is of the girls in my group (it is of Kathryn, Anna, Colleen, and me), the second is me in front of St. Vitus Cathedral, and the third is me in Old Town.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Getting to school

Since I started school this week, I thought I would write a post about how we commute to our classes. Almost everybody in my group has class at 9:00 a.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday, because we take Elementary Czech. We have to leave by 8:10 or so to catch tram number 18 at a station that is about two blocks away from our hotel. We usually get on the 8:13 tram, which is almost a straight shot to school. It makes around 15 stops, and we then get off at Malostranska, which is a big hub in the public transportation system. At this point, we have two options: we can walk about a half a mile to school or take another tram for one stop and walk about a fourth of a mile. I walk the half mile becasue I enjoy walking, but usually our group splits up half and half. After that, we get to class! I feel like I'm getting better and better at taking public transportaion. This is a big step for a girl from Farber!
The classes here seem pretty long because they are almost 3 hours (due to our only having class once a week), but the teachers are pretty good about giving breaks.
Today I'm going to get some books and then go grocery shopping. I'm trying to find really cheap food that will do a good job of filling my stomach.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

roadstomes


Dobri den?

I just finished my first day of classes in Prague. My first was Elementary Czech, which, as you can probably ascertain from the title, is a foreign language. If you are aware of my ability to learn languages, you can also probably imagine that it was a disaster. The teacher is Czech, which is something most people would say is an advantage in the class. I think I was secretly hoping for someone who would be old and not very good with the language and who would go slow and struggle as much as me. Nope...my teacher is young, perky, and had pigtails, which also means that she wants us to be alert and challenged. Today she started calling on people to pronounce some Czech words, and of course she said, "Abbeay? Abebay?" first. The only good thing about my pronunciation was that it was so bad that I doubt she will call on me again. At any rate, I am very excited to finally learn some words in Czech, and there are a lot of study abroad students in the class so that I can meet a lot of new people.
After that class, I had Central European Literature. The professor looked like the model college professor dressed in all black and rambled on about Kant the entire class period, which is someone I actually find interesting. I think I will learn a lot about the philosophy of central Europe, so that is exciting.
Now it is raining here in Prague, which is significant because it means that it is hot enough to produce rain rather than some sort of freezing precipitation. We are all hoping that it warms up soon, although the snow is absolutely beautiful. Today we are going to try to find Tesco (Prague's version of Target) and buy notebooks. After that, a group of us study abroad students may go for a run. We all have another day of classes tomorrow.

Monday, February 06, 2006

The weekend

This weekend has been a lot of fun. On Saturday everybody woke up really late (we are all still on American time, not Czech time), and Colleen and I decided to explore the area around our school. We got on the tram, and noticed that an American soldier had come on the tram. We both wanted to talk to him and see why he was in Prague, but we didn't know how to get his attention. I kept whispering to Colleen, "should I call him 'sir'?" and she kept shrugging. Eventually I got the nerve to say "Sir?" and he just looked at me. So then I said, "Ummm, why are you here? Why are you in the Czech Republic?" He started to laugh and began to speak with a Czech accent. He told us that he was actually an actor from Prague and was filming a movie, in which he acted like an American soldier. That day he was raiding a house. We all laughed and he said that many people confused him with an actual soldier and tried to talk to him.
After that, Colleen and I just started to wander around Prague. We ended up at the Prague Castle, but at the time, we were actually unsure about our whereabouts. It was so beautiful because the castle is actually on a hill that overlooks the city. We could see all the pretty buildings and the Charles River, and it was snowing, which added to the effect. We kept walking and eventually ended up at St. Vitus's Cathedral. It was so beautiful because it was nighttime and the church is black, so the lights shining and the snow made it very pretty.
Yesterday we went to Old Town Square, where we saw the astronomical clock. The clock is this huge structure and has an elaborate chiming system, which was fun to see. We also tried some ice cream, which was exciting for me since that is my favorite food!
On Friday night we tried some authentic Czech cuisine. I tried some pork, potato dumplings, and red cabbage. The red cabbage was good, but I could have left the rest. Today we are going to the American embassy and to the post office. After that, we are planning on resting for our classes tomorrow.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Tuna and Corn

One of the biggest problems with not knowing the language here is reading menus. Some restaurants have waiters who can help, but yesterday we went to a Pizza place, and everything was in Czech. One guy in my group ended up ordering a tuna and corn pizza, which was so funny. He kept trying to get bites from everybody else and trade. We were all like, "yeah right!"
Tonight we are going to an authentic Czech restaurant. This should be interesting, because I'm not really loving all the food here. They actually have fried cheese here, which looks like little balls of fried dough, but I suppose there is cheese in the middle. We went to a grocery store yesterday, and that was a lot of fun. I got some staple foods, like rice and noodles and even tea, so now I won't starve (you all can quit worrying).
Today we went to our school for the first time, and it is pretty nice but way small. There are a lot of American students here. I'll have to let you know how my classes go next week. Today we also got a tram pass, which was about $25 for 3 months of unlimited subway, bus, and tram rides. The prices here are so amazingly cheap. I love it!

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Feb. 2 (again)

Today we went to a shopping mall for the first time. It was pretty funny, because they play American music from the loudspeakers! I will write more tomorrow, but here is a funny story.
Colleen and I rode on a tram last night, and the doors of the tram made a buzzing noise to warn people when they closed. Colleen, who has been a pretty good traveler so far, said, "Abbie, why do you think the cars keep honking here? I mean, whenever the doors open, the cars are honking!" We laughed so hard after I explained the buzzing noise to her.
Today we tried to buy a hair dryer, and were asking a lady where we could find them in the store. She said she didn't know much English, and when I said, "hair dryer" she didn't know what I meant. Then I said, "when my hair is wet, to make it dry?" and Colleen and I kept acting like we had a hair dryer with our hair, and the lady said, "oh, you mean like, pfffffffftttttttttt?" and she made the hair drying motions. It was so funny, because we all knew the language barrier pretty big, but we did what we could to communicate.

Feb. 2

Hi everybody! Thanks for all your comments and stuff. It really makes my day brighter. Today we are meeting a lady from our school, so that should be helpful because she will answer some of our questions. Colleen and I are also going to try to find a way to get cell phones here, because apparently it is really easy and our rooms have no phones in them. We also have to get groceries (there is a grocery store up the street) and get our visas validated at a police station somewhere.
Last night we went out to eat, which was funny because we had to figure out the subway/tram system in Prague. Colleen was really good at figuring out everything. We went to eat at a restaurant and I had rice and chicken soup, which I didn't eat because it had about a pound of chicken grease on the top and the chicken was brown. We tried some beer here, which was good (they drink beer with their dinners here), but I would not want to drink a bunch of it because it is strong. Today we are going to get water, which will be yummy for me.
The language barrier is more than I thought. Not everybody knows English, but it is doable, so that is good.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

I'm here!

Hi everybody! I made it to Praha. The city is very beautiful, and I am excited. My flights were pretty good coming here. I slept big time on the one from Atlanta to Paris, which was handy. Our flight ended up having to circle around Paris for a while so Colleen and I had to hurry to our next flight. Then we ended up getting on the wrong tram to our gate, but luckily our flight to Prague was delayed so we did not miss it.
Our room is pretty small but will be cozy. I am so glad that Colleen is here with me!
I will tell you more later. Right now I am going to unpack and hopefully get stuff to eat!