Wednesday, September 30, 2009

happy anniversary jana!

On August 28, something magical happened. On my flight from the U.S. to Prague, I sat next to a lovely lady named Jana, and we became instant friends. She told me all about how fun and beautiful Prague was, and last weekend, I visited her hometown Karlovy Vary. I tasted the famous hot springs water, got tipsy from Becherovka liquor, and took pictures of beautiful architecture. It was a blast. We still keep in touch through email.

So today's post is dedicated to her. Jana, I'm so glad I met you and am able to bring you bits of the Czech Republic via this blog and its pictures! I hope you're happy and well in Florida. And a Happy 7th Anniversary to you and Alan!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

karlovy vary and loket castle

Beautiful Karlovy Vary, with its hot springs, spas, and celebrity visitors! (Also, Casino Royale was filmed there!)

Recognize this from Casino Royale?

And Loket Castle is gorgeous, like a scene right out of Lord of the Rings!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

fall break!

My girlfriends and I are flipping out (from sheer excitement, of course!): Barcelona, South of France, Paris, and London, here we come! Just a month away!

We're listening to lots of Celine Dion's french songs to prep. :)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

carpe diem!

inside a column of books in the city library!

And today, it hit me: I really love it here. Just last week, I felt a little uncomfortable with living abroad for so long, like I'm on extended vacation in Central Europe while life passes by in New York without so much as a glance in my direction. I was afraid of losing my place. But now I realize you can plant roots in lots of places and feel right at home without losing your past. I still have a lot of New York and Philly in me, and that'll never change!

But I am loving my Prague home: the thrilling balance between independence and new friendships, incredible Czech histories I'm not just learning, but touching and seeing, every weekend booked for an exciting adventure, eating pastries and gelato whenever I want, taking classes on Kafka, art, and architecture...

Thinking back on the past 3 weeks makes me smile and melt with happiness and feel so grateful for my luck! I'm reminded again, carpe diem! Seize the day! Making little or big decisions, trying new things, spontaneously getting lost in new neighborhoods, eating goulash and dumplings until I want to barf, grocery shopping random items -- I'm so grateful for the thousands of opportunities and choices I can make, for how precious and generous life is. Certainly, I've had my share of unfortunate situations, but that only makes me feel even more fearless! So... carpe diem! Seize the day! :)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

oh, and two videos from today!

A 360 view inside St. Vitus Cathedral

A fiddler on the walk down from Prague Castle!

st. vitus cathedral

One of Prague's major tourist attractions, and my classroom for the day! Yep, another field trip for my Czech Art & Architecture class. Somehow, I managed to follow and listen to my professor, take notes, and take pictures simultaneously!

Black and White:


More pictures here!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

all for some pilsner

Today, some friends and I woke early and took a bus to Plzeň to visit the Pilsner beer factory. I actually have no great passion for beer, and Pilsner is my least favorite (because it's so strong and bitter!) -- but we're all here to try new things, right? I've never been to a beer factory before, so at least I can check that off my list. :)

A Pilsner motorcycle?

Drinking fresh Pilsner in the cellar

Bottles lining the restaurant where we ate

Super tall Kaitlin and super short (sans heels) me :(

After lunch, we had a tiny siesta on a bench (we were so sleep-deprived); the view up

The Pilsner tour was fantastic and very museum-y. We watched videos, touched the ingredients, walked through the packaging plant, brewing building, and fermentation cellar, and had fresh beer! (I couldn't finish my cup though. It was still early! I know...weak.)

But I have to admit, the trip was pretty aggravating. We missed our first bus over to Plzeň, had to purchase new (and more expensive!) tickets for the next bus because the bus company was sketchy and inhospitable, and were blatantly ogled at in the 90% male-occupied restaurant at the factory (although the food was delicious!). After our tour, we slept through the entire hour on the bus back and returned to our dorm in a total daze. Traveling can be exhausting sometimes!

Friday, September 18, 2009

gothic & romanesque art and architecture

My Czech art and architecture class is incredibly interactive, and I love it! Two days ago, we went on our first "field study" to the St. Agnes Convent (now a museum) to learn firsthand the differences between Gothic and Romanesque art/architecture. I'm trying to memorize all the names and characteristics of each part of the building (for example: flying buttresses. Doesn't that sound so funny?!). Some pictures:

The exterior is still beautiful...

St. Wenceslas was buried there!

My shadowy figure in front of all the Gothic arches! (Gothic, because they're pointy. 10 points for me!)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

towers and castles, oh my!

This weekend, we hiked up Petrin Hill and climbed to the top of Observation Tower, which looks like a mini-Eiffel Tower! The view was breathtaking. We also checked out the memorial for victims of communism (some info here), which are sculptures that depict a deteriorating man. And finally, we spent a day touring Karlstejn Castle, only a 45 minute train ride away from Prague.

Petrin tower; Victims of Communism Memorial

view from Petrin Tower

Karlstejn castle!

me and friends on the train

Czech souvenirs are weird. Crazy wigs everywhere!

We couldn't take pictures inside, so here's a 360 view video of the area before we embarked on our castle tour!

Monday, September 14, 2009

when life throws lemons

Eating Prague's sweet bread (bought by a friend), hours after being robbed

I had possibly the worst morning today. Sickness, 3-hour classes, no money or cards -- and then my only spare debit card was eaten up by an ATM machine. I spent the rest of the afternoon suppressing tears and emailing bank representatives.

But when life throws lemons, what else can you do but make lots of lemonade? If I continue tormenting myself about my terrible luck, I'd drive myself crazy! I can't keep examining these damn lemons, that's for sure. Sometimes, the hardest thing to deal with in every bad situation is my own psyche, replaying scenarios over and over, exaggerating the consequences, dreaming about the "what if I held my bag just a little closer???". Excuse my language, but it's all just a total mind-fuck.

So I can't change the past, but I can stop myself from creating a future full of past regrets. That's no way to live, continuously choosing sour moments over the sweet. I'm thankful to have bounced right back to being the happy person I will always be, because I love my "lemonade": my wonderful, generous, supportive friends (old and new), my family, and the places that I've visited and will visit.

I will never, ever let myself be the guest of honor at my own pity party. Which is why, yesterday, mere hours after being robbed, I ate the largest piece of sweet bread I could get my hands on and continued exploring Prague with all my "lemonade" in tow. It was a great day. Bring on those lemons!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

I got robbed!

I feel like a complete idiot for getting pick pocketed in only one stop on the metro. Some of these pick pockets have the sneakiest tactics! I was stuck between two very smelly, fat men who kept bumping into me, eventually forcing my bag to slide down my arm, farther from my body. (NEVER a smart move!) Literally in less than 2 minutes, the second I get off the metro, I see that my bag is half open and my wallet is missing! Probably the quickest pick pocket experience ever. I am so lame.

Moral of the story: Don't be such a woman. If the smelly fat man leaning on your arm is cutting off circulation, force him off and move elsewhere. Don't be so polite, because he is not-so-politely stealing your cash and credit cards! :(

Saturday, September 12, 2009

peace, democracy, and human rights in asia conference

Package and translator; His Holiness the Dalai Lama

List of delegates

The conference was held in Prague Crossroads, a gorgeous building

Every speaker was interesting, passionate, and inspiring. And the Dalai Lama was surprisingly lively and eloquent. I'm so grateful and honored to have been allowed to attend!