After a bus for a few hours, we arrived in Prague. Budapest and Vienna had both surprised us, and Prague was destined to do the same. We all knew very little about Prague. I had learned a little through a class about dictatorships, reading a biography in class that had an impact on me. (If you’re into history, it is called Under a Cruel Star by Heda Margolius Kovaly. Her story is extremely moving.)
Needless to say, I had no idea what to expect from Prague. It surprised me and quickly topped my list of favourite cities.
The first day, we got in to Prague in the afternoon. We checked into our amazing hostel. It was a 17th century palace that had been converted into a hostel, and is a UNESCO protected site. It was great – the bathroom was huge, and the room was comfortable! Zach wanted to rest, but Kirstin and I decided to explore.
We walked down close to the river and found the Lennon Wall. It was really interesting to see the artwork and graffiti that covers the wall, with most of it relating to the Beatles. There are quotes, song lyrics, drawings and more. It was fun to take pictures in front of! We then stopped at a little market area for some amazing local food. It was a fun area to wander!
After dropping off some food for Zach, we ventured up the large hill to get amazing views of the city. We then tried to find the castle – only to find a lot of construction across the entire front of it. We wandered the grounds, and got to see the outside of the beautiful cathedral. And of course, the views of Prague below were spectacular. We knew that this would be yet another city that we would love.
The next day, we got up to go on a walking tour of the city. We overheard some other people in our hostel discussing how they were all going on the tour as well. We all started talking and went to the tour together. Hector and Sofia were cousins from Mexico, and Denise was studying abroad from Hong Kong.
The walking tour was great – we saw so many different parts of the city! The astronomical clock, the Jewish museum and cemetery, the castle (from afar), statues and buildings. There is so much history within the city. It was made even better by our hilarious Czech guide. We also made another friend on the tour – Jamie from England. We now had a large group of us, and we all decided to hang out after the tour as well.
We all went to the Jewish museum and cemetery. It was extremely interesting. Within one of the buildings, there are all of the names of the Jews who were persecuted in the Holocaust, including their homes, families, and any dates known. Like the multitude of tombstones within the enormous cemetery, it was overwhelming, yet moving. I’m grateful that I had the opportunity to walk through and take in all of it.
Being hungry, we ended up at the market that Kirstin and I had eaten at the previous night. We all grabbed various foods, before walking to a park around the corner. We sat in the grass, relaxing and chatting. It was great fun to just hang out with new people, getting to know each other. We decided to keep hanging out.
We found a restaurant to eat at after a lot of indecision. The food was delicious, and the company was great. We had fun hanging out and chatting. After dinner, we decided to venture into a well-known club in Prague – Karlovy Lazne Club. Basically, it is a five-story club with each level being a different kind of music. It was definitely an adventure! We all had a great night, dancing and shouting out old and new songs at the top of our lungs.
We had a little bit of a late start the next morning. We all ended up meeting again to explore more of Prague together. Our first stop was the castle, to see the grounds and the amazing views. We took a ton of pictures and marvelled at the amazing cathedral. Kirstin and I led the others to the Lennon Wall, where we took some amazing pictures and goofed off for a while. We then crossed the river for gelato and exploration of the city. We found a cool candy shop, and stopped in multiple souvenir stores. We just had fun exploring.
Another site we found was the metronome on the edge of the river. It is a massive metronome. I’m not sure if there is really a point to it. But, from the top of the hill it stands on, there is also an amazing view of the city. We had so many great views and pictures in one day, so many memories and moments captured. It was such a great day.
After splitting up for a bit, we reconnected to find the “dancing building” that Kirstin had wanted to see. It is an abstract building that is supposed to look like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers dancing. I think we saw it? I’m not too great with the abstract – haha! It started to rain on us, so we decided to take the metro a little more than before. We were going to go out for dinner, but decided instead to make dinner at the hostel. It was fun to relax and hang out before saying goodbye to some great new friends.
The following day, we boarded a train to Berlin. I was very excited for Berlin! There are so many sights to see for someone who loves history. But, our very first day we arrived late. After checking into our hostel and having a short siesta, we had to do some laundry – last laundry stop for the final stretch home! We then turned in early that night.
For our first day in Berlin, I was somehow given the task of picking which sights would be our first stops in Berlin. I was so excited. I decided that we should head to the main area of history. So, we took the S-Bahn train to Brandenburg Gate, where we saw the gate and the Reichstag itself. I wish we could have gone into the Reichstag! But it was great to see it from the outside even, as I was able to see something I had studied and heard about for so long. If you do not know, the top of the Reichstag is a glass dome, symbolizing the openness of the past and current government – that there are no secrets, everything is out in the open. It basically represents the opposite of the past regimes of Germany.
Our next stop was the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. Personally, pictures had never done this monument justice, and I do not believe they can. The feeling of standing within these variously sized cement blocks is indescribable – to go from blocks that look like benches to being dwarfed by the height of your surroundings, feeling trapped. It is truly amazing and humbling.
We also found the memorial to the murdered homosexuals and gypsies. It is so important to remember that Jews were not the only people persecuted in the Holocaust, there were so many others who were singled out because of one aspect of who they were. We walked to the site of the Fuhrerbunker, and wandered Tiergarten to find the monument to the Russian soldiers. We found a mall and ended up in a square where a small section of the wall remains as a memory.
I then was able to visit the Topography of Terror, an outdoor museum that I had heard of from a history professor. Along a piece of the wall and remains of buildings used by the Gestapo and SS (secret police forces), history, pictures, and propaganda are displayed for people to learn the truth of the events which occurred with the city of Berlin and all of Germany itself. We also saw Checkpoint Charlie, one of the remaining checkpoints for crossing between East and West Berlin. Before turning in, after a long day of exploring, we stopped for “currywurst” and walked to the TV Tower.
For our second day in Berlin, we ended up splitting up. Zach and I headed out of the center of Berlin to a surrounding area while Kirstin stayed in the city. Zach and I wanted to have the full history experience, so we left the main city center to visit the concentration camp of Sachsenhausen. It was a moving experience that I am grateful for. We saw the barracks where the people were held, the memorial to those who died, the remains of the buildings, and the pit where many were executed. This camp was also used during the Communist regime, as a ‘special camp’ for prisoners of the SS. It was an incredible experience for someone who has studied these events and places for so long.
For our final day, we walked the entirety of the East Side Gallery – the longest section of the Berlin Wall that remains. The artwork was amazing. I wondered how old some of it was, and I was sad to see that others had put graffiti overtop of it. The history was amazing. We also wandered across a bridge to see the Molecule Man. I’m still not entirely sure what it is or what the point was, but apparently it was on a list of things we should see in Berlin.
We basically just wandered the city after that before doing a little shopping and meeting some friends for drinks. We had made some friends in Prague – two French girls and Josue from the USA. We had a night out at the Hard Rock Cafe, after finding it in so many cities for Zach to collect souvenirs. We had a great night!
The next morning was the start of a long day. I think I will leave that for the next post though, as it will probably be a long story.
Ich ben ein Berliner! 😉
My body is rebelling against me.
At least that’s how it felt Tuesday night when we arrived in Waterford. The 48 hours of travel and the 8 hour time difference wreaks havoc on you.
But then you get 12 hours of sleep in a freezing cold apartment and the world looks slightly better.
Our journey began pretty easily. I was excited and the apprehension hadn’t set in yet as to what I was actually doing. With a simple flight to Seattle on Monday, Brittany and I were on our way.
A two hour layover in Seattle doesn’t leave much to do after going through US Customs. And that’s when my problems began…
The airline wanted us to check in for our flight. When I went to check in, I was told I would have to check my one backpack because it was too large. It was going to be $95. I was angry and upset. But then the machine didn’t work so the lady waived the fee. Good thing she did…
Our flight to London was 9 hours and 30 minutes, not including the time change. It was red eye, but flying out at 6 didn’t leave much time for sleep when you normally fall asleep at about 10 or 11pm. So, I watched a movie (The Book of Life), ate some half decent airplane food, watched some episodes of Friends, and tried to fall asleep.
Travelling is already hard when you can’t fall asleep on moving objects, but when you’re sick, I would argue it’s even harder. So I was on quite a bit of medicine to get me through these various flights. And something to help me sleep was one of them. But it didn’t work. So I actually got no sleep… just rest.
Well, then we had one more flight to catch to Ireland…if we could get to it on time. We were supposed to have a 2 hour layover, but with the UK customs and security, we made it to our gate with only 10 minutes to spare! It was a really stressful venture. We vowed that we are going to go back to London so we can see more than the miniscule sections of the airport that we saw.
Fast forward through a boring 1 hour flight to us FINALLY arriving in Dublin. Exhausted and lost, we found our way through the airport. Only to find out that the bag I had checked in Seattle had gotten left behind. The last place it had been was London. I was so tired and stressed that I almost broke down in tears. But the two guys at the airport were really nice, assuring me I would get my bag as soon as possible. [It came 2 days later…]
We found a bus to take us to Waterford. It was a 3 hour bus ride. It probably would have been amazing had we not been so tired and had it not been dark. I couldn’t see very much out the windows in between my further attempts to catch some sleep. But I did see some of the things I had been hoping for: rolling green hills, quaint little towns, Guinness signs on every pub, and so much more.
Making it to Waterford, we hopped in a cab and got to Riverwalk. By now, it was about 8 o’clock Ireland time, and about noon back at home.
Our night then consisted of many layers, as we couldn’t figure out the “foreign” heating system. The room was so cold. I wore 4 sweaters and wool socks to bed with my airplane blanket on top. But I finally got the hours of sleep that I had so needed. 12 hours of sleep was the bliss I needed after so many things happening and going on: 3 flights, time change, my lost backpack, and the apartment room being slightly disappointing.
But the morning made it all look better. On Wednesday, Brittany and I went grocery shopping for the food we needed to stock up on. We learned where things are in Waterford, too. That night our roommate arrived. His name is Vivien, and he is from Paris. He is very nice!
Thursday we went for orientation at the school. It is a pretty large school. My building on campus sticks out against the green lawns and white buildings with it’s bright red face. I also have another building across the road with the sketchy crossing.
Thursday night we had a group of our new friends over. It was so cool to get to know everyone! I have met people from Hungary, Spain, Poland, USA, Brazil, Netherlands, Germany, France, Mexico, CANADA (Newfoundland), and possibly more… it’s hard to remember when there are so many people. Friday morning we went on a bike ride with the international students. It was a tour, and the guy leading really knew his history. He took us to a lot of interesting places that I want to go back to.
We went out again last night (Saturday), to a local Irish pub with this group, after spending the day wandering two museums. We went through Bishop’s Palace, and the Medieval Museum. And I realized after that I had taken no pictures… Thankfully I have 5 more months to be able to.
I think I am going to miss this place very much when it comes time to leave. And all the people that I am getting to meet.
Tomorrow – first day of school! It feels like the first day of university all over again. A new place with new people, having no idea what is going on nor where to go. It’s overwhelming. But for some reason, the Irish mentality has taken over me and I feel no stress. Things are looking good.
May the road rise up to meet ya.
P.S. – I have finally sorted out my internet problems, so I will now be able to upload posts on approximately a weekly basis. With my technology all fixed, I will be able to update all internet mediums!