Can you believe that I have been in Germany for two years now? Seems like just yesterday I was breaking the news to my Grandma that I was going to be going far from home yet again. She wasn’t particularly pleased, but I think my family has all finally come around to the fact that I wasn’t meant to live the Missouri life.
Let’s review a bit what I’ve been up to. I stepped off the plane in Germany back in September 2015, and started my Master’s degree about this time two years ago. On top of my four semesters of study, I managed to visit Austria, the Czech Republic, Italy, France, and Switzerland – plus a lot of southern Germany. I also met some wonderful people in Konstanz from all over, and three of my closest friends are now pursuing PhDs because they’re super nerdy. Just kidding guys! Well, partially at least….
Studies themselves were quite a challenge for me here in Germany. The German language was obviously another source of frustration these past two years, although significantly less so now. Finances were also a struggle for me (I would strongly caution anyone considering graduate studies abroad if they have significant debt to be careful). Despite all of the difficulties, I was never deported and think that moving to Germany is the best choice I could have made!
I felt quite vindicated by my decision to move to Germany when I handed in my thesis last month. That same week I did a job interview in Munich at a start-up that I really wanted to work for. After nervously meeting the CEO and Head of Business Development there, I went back to Konstanz to do some exploring and discover the things I had not had the time to see in the past two years.
While rendezvousing around Konstanz, I got a job offer from the very same company. A few days later I signed the contract and was working on moving out of my student flat.
A little less than a month ago I started working there and things have been going great so far. I’ve been working on some challenging tasks and am really excited about where the company is heading.
Student life is officially over and “adulting” (AKA paying off my student loans) has begun. Meanwhile, the leaves have pretty much all changed colors despite the Indian Summer that we had here in Munich.
So what’s next? Adjust to my new work like, find an apartment, and a trip back to Missouri for Christmas!
I’ll keep this update short since my last post was already very reflective. I’m also planning to reduce the frequency of these Germany Thus Far posts to once every three months. My monthly life isn’t changing as quickly and there are not so many new things during my day to day which would warrant monthly updates.
With that, I leave you lovely readers to enjoy autumn (or spring for those of you in the Southern Hemisphere).
It may seem trivial, but I have long struggled to decide which season is my favorite.
When I was a child, I would have said summer. I didn’t have to go to school, so I would play in the backyard all day long. Summer also meant long trips to my grandparent’s place at the lake where I was free to roam the property.
When I turned 16 and got my first job, my love of summer turned to feelings of dread. I started to dislike summer almost as much as I dislike winter. Missouri typically has cold winters with a 5pm sunset. Since most of my winters have been spent in school during the day, there was very little time to enjoy the sun before it went down, especially after I started working.
It’s probably my loathing of winter which led me to appreciate spring so much. I always find it exciting when the days grow longer and I can spend more time outdoors.
But what about autumn? The coming of autumn meant going back to school, so I found this time of year very discouraging until I started university. And then everything changed.
It was during my university years that I started to be more confident in myself. I didn’t really notice it at first since I also struggled with self-awareness through most of my undergraduate studies.
During the changing of the seasons, from spring to summer of 2014, I left the country for the first time. Spanish, Oaxaca’s streets and markets, and the first inkling that I wanted to travel more accompanied a sense of self-awareness of the confidence that I had been cultivating through three years at university. Thus, my international experience and a sense of personal growth were marked by the changing of the seasons.
At the next changing of the seasons, summer to fall, I boarded my second international flight out of the States. The day that I landed in Northern Ireland, the air felt almost cold compared to the heat I had left behind in Missouri.
That semester turned out to be the most liberating and life-altering times of my life. Armed with my new sense of self-confidence and self-awareness, I forged enduring friendships and discovered and developed new parts of myself.
Two season changes later, as Virginia transitioned from spring to summer, I defended two Bachelor theses, applied to graduate schools, and earned my Bachelor degree.
As summer changed to fall, I found myself on another international flight. I watched the screen as the plane flew closer to the Emerald Isle, and I looked out the window somewhat in shock that I was seeing Europe again.
Only a few hours later my plane touched down in Germany, a country I had never set foot in before. This time I was transitioning into graduate school, another new country, and a plan to stay indefinitely.
Since that changing of the seasons, nothing has really changed as significantly. Until now.
Yet again, I find that the most pivotal changes in my life are coinciding with the changing of the seasons. As the weather changed from tank tops and unbearably hot to rainy and cold enough for sweaters in the span of a week, I was working on finishing my Master’s thesis.
Finish it, I did. Earlier this month, I handed in my thesis and breathed a sigh of relief. I’ve finished my second degree and only have to wait for a grade and my diploma in the mail. Everything is changing now. I’m saying goodbye to friends, went to a few job interviews, and accepted a job in Munich.
This changing of the seasons brings the end of my studies as well as the beginning of my professional work life. Finally, I see myself being able to start paying off those student loans, develop professionally in a non-academic environment, and have more financial resources to get lost in new places.
All this to say, I guess the reason I can’t pick a favorite season is that I prefer the changing of the seasons. To friends near and far, I hope to see you again as I come into some time and finances to travel. I already have a trip home to Missouri scheduled for Christmas.
Since things have been quite busy in terms of my study load, I decided to lump two months together when I realized that there was no way I’d write about June on time. To be clear, those two months are June and July. Oh wow, that’s most of the summer gone already…
Around Konstanz & Southern Germany
In the first part of June, I did quite a bit of cycling. It wasn’t unbearably hot, but still nice enough weather to summon you outdoors. On one Saturday, I went cycling along the coast of the Bodensee with A before we went for a swim in the cool lake water. After swimming, we realized it was getting closer to 8, so we cooked dinner and then took some wine and glasses back to the beach.
We had intended to just drink some of the wine while enjoying the sunset. It was certainly a surprise when, across the lake near Meersburg, a firework show started up.
This went on for about five to ten minutes. Near the end, I glanced to the right and noticed a light above the horizon. At first, I thought it was the sun for some reason, but then I realized that the sun had set to the left and had been below the horizon for some time already. It only took me a few seconds more to realize that it was the moon rising up from behind the Alps and scattered clouds there. We stayed a while longer and enjoyed the moonrise before finally deciding to cycle back home at a quarter to 11.
Several weeks later A and I went hiking at a place called Eistobel. The hike isn’t particularly strenuous, and there are several opportunities for taking a swim along the path (although the water is freezing!). However, what Eistobel is most known for is its waterfalls. I understand that the waterfalls are especially beautiful in winter when they freeze, so I may need to return during a colder part of the year to get the full experience.
Also that weekend, I saw my first ever hedgehogs during an evening cookout. A pair of the adorable little guys just decided to join us in the yard, probably drawn by the warmth of the fire and the abundance of slugs (a meal for them) in the nearby bushes.
At the end of the month, I spent some time at the annual Konstanz Flohmarkt (flea market). According to the local news, there were about a thousand stands at this market. It’s every year in June for a full twenty-four hours, along both sides of the Rhine and across the Swiss border into Kreutzlingen. I didn’t buy much, but I did pick up some antiques for one of my little sisters.
July has been much less exciting. The heat waves have ended with cold spells before igniting a new heat wave. As I write this, the past several days have been cold, rainy, and gray. I even had to get a pair of fuzzy socks out to keep my feet warm. Now the thing with these drastic weather changes, as any good Midwesterner would know, is that they bring strong storms. It’s been quite a month for a storm lover (meaning me!), and there were even multiple instances of small hail!
The few exciting things this month, apart from the weather, have been dinners. The first dinner was at the house of my professor, who is also my advisor and now former-employer. In case you didn’t know, I quit my student job to focus my last few months on my thesis and job search. The dinner was a relaxing break, and I got to put my experience of making fruit bowls to good use.
The second dinner was to say goodbye to a good friend and fellow student in the program. He moved to Mannheim this week to pursue a PhD. I wish him all the best in his continuing studies, and I know he will see us all again.
That dinner was the first time I really thought about my friend group here splitting up. I realized that he and I are the two who will be leaving Konstanz at the end of this semester. And for me, that means having to once again search for a new friend group in the city where I will live next. Or being a hermit, which is entirely possible although not the plan!
In the Books
On the study side of things, there is good news. Lectures have ended, and I only have one exam next week. Luckily, this exam isn’t required coursework, so the pressure isn’t so high. I also finished my colloquium presentations on my thesis, which is a huge load off of my shoulders.
What is left is to get moving on my thesis, write everything up, and hand in the final document at the beginning of September.
I also officially started my job search in this past month, which has meant writing lots of cover letters and getting frustrated with myself for not speaking better German. The jobs in my field usually prefer people with excellent German skills. The ones which don’t require German are often either too senior for me, or I am overqualified for the position. I’m trying to apply for all of the jobs that I can which are in my Goldilocks zone (and interesting to me), but that means that I may not end up going to the city which I am most hoping to live in. Let’s see.
I’ve been trying to push myself a bit more with German. I do have to say though, that doesn’t mean a whole lot considering learning improving my German has taken a backseat due to my thesis. Annoyingly, I keep stumbling across confusing things such as the strange forms of Junge which are part of an entire class of nouns previously unknown to me and the fact that Fladenbrot (flatbread) is not at all what I think of as flatbread. Sure makes it difficult to try cooking something new. But hey, finding ingredients has been a challenge since I arrived for many of my favorite dishes, ehem, Mexican and Southwestern cuisine.
So that’s my June and July here at the Bodensee. Hope you all have been enjoying summer! Oh, and by the way, happy Game of Thrones return!
Hey, friends. It’s been a while. Quite a while in fact. The last substantial post I wrote was a recap of my 16th month in Germany. You probably don’t even remember that. It was January. Crazy, right?
Before you ask, yes, I am still living in Germany. Yes, I am still working towards my Master’s degree. No, nothing bad happened to me. The reason for my silence in this space was simply an entanglement in life. I’ve had to work through some personal things over the past few months. I’m still working through them, but I’m back in this space despite that.
So, what brought me back? Well, over the past months while I have been very busy and needing to focus on my studies, personal well-being, and upcoming post-study life, I kept thinking about this space. I had every intention to come back when things were “stable.”
Turns out that “stable” is a complex state and I’m not sure when or if I’ll be getting there any time soon. On top of that, the entire time that I’ve been away I’ve been missing writing, missing sharing with friends and family, missing my primary outlet for stress-relief.
Finally, I’ve come to the point where I’m tired of telling myself to stop thinking about the blog and get back to work. In a way, this little blog is my safe haven, a place to restore my sanity when I feel like life is overwhelming. So, here I am again. And now that I’m back, I guess I owe you all a brief recap of months 17-20.
Month 17: February
February was a cold and snowy month here in Germany. I spent most of it indoors preparing for exams in my last semester of intensive coursework. Generally, my days consisted of bundling up before quickly running to the warmth of the university or my home, and then studying away.
At the end of the month, when my first round of exams were complete, A and I went down to Austria for a short over-night trip. In the village there were snow in drifts along the side of the road, but it wasn’t so plentiful and was even somewhat warm for the season.
Our reason in going there was a trip up the mountains. We took the ski lift up, and when I thought we were there, we queued up for another ski lift. On this second one, the trees started to disappear and thick layers of snow coated the ground. It was much colder at the top, but was a lovely place to walk around. From up there we could even see the Bodensee, although it was the opposite end from where Konstanz is located.
Month 18: March
March brought some warmer weather, and I mistakenly thought that winter was over. I took some walks through the woods surrounding the university and started cycling in unexplored areas a lot more.
Approximately a month after my trip up the Austrian Alps, I was cycling to Switzerland on a warm, sunny day. Nothing special was happening, but it was interesting to explore a nearby area where I almost never go.
Month 19: April
Finally, spring was in full swing. The first thunderstorm, complete with lightning, arrived early in the month. I journaled about it like a poor girl from Tornado Alley deprived of proper storms (because that’s exactly what I am).
I studied more and took one exam in the second round. Then, I waited patiently for the last result (which was good!).
A few days after the exam, I fed some members of a closely-related species: some monkeys! And not just any monkeys; I was chilling with cute little fuzzy ones. I could rant to you all about my deep discomfort with keeping wild animals in captivity… but I won’t today!
What I will tell you is that I went to Affenberg Salem which is home to about 200 Barbary macaques. They’re hanging out in the German forest just north of the Bodensee for research purposes and to be reintroduced into their natural habitats in groups (since their wild populations have dwindled quite a bit because of us humans). Visitors can walk through a small area of their forest home and even feed them small snacks of popcorn, which does not harm the monkeys in case you were wondering.
Also at Affenberg Salem were quite a few storks and their nests. Naturally, I was bumping around like a giddy schoolgirl. I’d never seen an actual stork, and here were real life storks that bring babies like in the stories! They were really big, so now I understand how they were able to carry Dumbo to his mama. All jokes aside, their populations have sadly dwindled, but it’s good that there are places trying to keep the species going.
Not long after that, classes started. Then, right at the end of the month, I went down to the German Alps and took a walk near a small village with A. We managed to get some quite nice photos in while we were at it. Oh, and it snowed again. What is with the German weather this year?
Month 20: May
May was more stressful as classes were going and my thesis work time officially started. To take the edge off, I did some more cycling along the lake. That’s becoming regular exercise for me these days, and I think I know my route quite intimately by now.
Also in the month of May, I went to Milan for a weekend. I won’t expand much on it here since I’d like to write a longer post on it. Let’s just say that it had some interesting bits, but in general I wasn’t the biggest fan. It was also fry-an-egg-on-the-sidewalk hot, and I managed to soak up enough sun for a nasty lobster-colored sunburn.
June is coming…
My plan is to resume my monthly recap posts starting with June. In the meantime, I’m going to cycle to the lake in order to cool off from this heatwave that we’ve been experiencing the past few days. I guess I better mention that I also will be going with two of my wonderful study mates who seem a bit miffed that I haven’t mentioned them more frequently in this space. You guys, consider the debt paid!
Ah, January. The month started off snowy and relaxed, with a post-holiday cheer in the air. I spent the New Year holiday with friends, and then had a weekend in Frankfurt (I’ll tell you more when I remember to get the pictures). Before long, it was back to Konstanz.
Snow greeted me in Konstanz, which is not entirely usual, because it stays relatively warm here due to the lake. I figured the snow would melt in a few days and the fog would return, but it didn’t! Instead, we had fairly decent weather of sun or clouds for a while, quite a bit more snow, and temperatures low enough that nothing melted.
In fact, the temperatures were so low that parts of the Bodensee (the local lake) froze thick enough for people to walk on. This never happens where I’m from at Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri since the water is always moving through to the dam.
So, I guess I got to walk on water for the first time in my life. And I became a beaver. Don’t ask.
In the Books
I’ve been prepping for exams and seminar papers. A lot more work to come in February. Thesis ideas are slow to come. January was too relaxed, and now it’s time for a furious study dash to the end of February and exams.
This month’s Denglish report is… sad. I haven’t actually been able to practice and learn much German, because basically all of my German sessions were cancelled by the professor. I guess we have a new replacement professor though who will be taking over tomorrow. I’m glad for this, because I really need to learn everything I can as soon as I can.
Keep your fingers crossed that I can still make it up to the B2 level in the summer semester. Less English and Denglish, more Deutsch is needed for a job in … eight (!) months. That’s a frightening thought, so I’ll end this segment here.
While I can obviously complain about the horrible weather and lack of snow in southern Germany in December, there’s also plenty to be happy about (like the fact that I have tons of snow now!).
I celebrated my birthday this month with some friends from the Uni. We made up five nationalities: Bosnia, China, Germany, Georgia (the country, not the US state), and of course the US. Thanks you guys for an entertaining night and the epic multi-lingual toasts / speeches that you gave me!
Christmas markets were also in full swing, and I got my fill of Glühwein. I certainly made sure to visit the Konstanz market as much as possible since I will be living elsewhere next year. I also made it back to the Ravensburg market and the very last day of the Ulm market.
My Christmas was celebrated with my adopted German family. No snow, but lots of food and singing carols (which I will forever hate). All in all, it was a relaxing holiday weekend.
In the Books
December was a busy study month. From midterms, to take-home exams, to a few papers, I didn’t have much downtime. I would have liked to have gone out more, but that’s life as a Master’s student.
New on the horizon: a Master’s thesis. Right before the break, my study program (all five of us) had a meeting with our advisor to discuss the upcoming thesis registration. I need a topic, and a thesis advisor, plus a second grader. There are a lot of topics that I find interesting. Too many in fact. Now the game is to narrow it down from my list of twenty to just one and make a proposal.
Over Christmas, German had my head spinning. I spoke so much German that I had difficulty forming proper sentences in English by the end of the night.
I also noticed several times over the last month that I’ve been forgetting English words that I should know. For instance, I was at lunch a few weeks ago being quizzed on German words, and discussing trickier words which sound alike. We landed on the topic of the wood chip stuff that you put around trees and flowers. I used to work in a garden center, so I should know this word. Only a few days ago did I finally remember that it is “mulch” that I was searching for.
So that was my month. In other news, my mother sent me my little sister’s senior photos. I can’t help but show off how cute she is. She graduates from high school in May!
One year is a long time to be abroad; however, it does not feel like it has been so long. Thinking back over this past year, I’ve done a lot. I’ve climbed mountains, literally and figuratively, since I first arrived.
Let’s break down some of this year’s events:
I navigated German bureaucracy (eek!) and received my residence permit.
I traveled to Ulm, Kempten, and around other parts of southern Germany.
I explored Prague, Czech Republic and southern France.
I continually got to know my new home city of Konstanz. I have to admit it’s pretty cute for a German college town.
I celebrated holidays with traditions that baffled me. (See Christmas…).
I went sledding “for real.” Yes, there is a proper way to do it.
I attended the international wedding of two amazing friends I met in Belfast. *Insert warm fuzzies here.*
I started learning German and have made some considerable progress for someone who did not speak it upon arrival. Although, I have to say that my Denglish is much better.
I have become fairly used to life in Germany. That is, I’m not as awkward about Bretzeln, the Autobahn, interacting with Germans, or any of that other typical German stuff. Note that I said “not as awkward.”
Last but not least, I survived my first year of graduate school in Germany. Hurrah!
Somewhere in between residence permit paperwork and looking at the Alps across the Bodensee, I finally started to integrate. Going to the grocery store isn’t scary now. I watch some shows on ZDF alongside Netflix. I even got usedaddicted to the sparkling water that the Germans love so much. Seriously you guys, I cannot get enough of it.
I realize that as time goes on, most people I interact with are German, as opposed to my previous study abroad experiences where I mostly interacted with other international students. At the same time, I talk less and less to most friends in the States. To be honest, I’m okay with that.
You see, moving to Germany and making it so far was not just a transition from the States to Germany. It was a transition in lifestyles and goals. Therefore, it is natural that some friendships fade and others blossom. I never felt that American, and I especially felt increasingly disconnected after my two previous experiences abroad. I feel really disconnected from most American now, geographically and ideologically.
Don’t understand? I am from Missouri, a red state, yet I am extremely far-left. I’d say I’m further left than most Americans on most, but not all, issues. So not only am I half-way around the world, but I also find it hard to agree with my fellow citizens on policy. Most of these ideas have been shaped by what I have experienced during my travels to several countries, in addition to my studies. I think I speak for many millennial expats when I say that we simply don’t know why the US doesn’t learn from other countries. Still, I digress…
As time goes on, I wonder how I got certain ideas into my head. For instance, my career goals are entirely different now. I thought that I wanted to work for an organization like the World Bank or International Monetary Fund. I still support a lot of their development initiatives, but I know that working in that type of environment would leave me incredibly unhappy. The sticky bit is that I am still trying to figure out what exactly I will do after I get my degree, but that’s okay. One step at a time.
The funny thing is that since I have been here, my time horizon has shortened dramatically. I focus on one semester at a time, or the duration of one residence permit at most. There is no way to tell how long I will be here, although I hope it will be for much longer than my current residence permit.
Since I am not worrying about time so much, it has been easier to relax. I think a lot of stress in my undergrad career came from thinking about “life after college.” That is such a stressful way to think about a college career. Now my stress comes from “life through these end-of-semester exams.”
As I’ve stated several times before, this is my third study abroad experience. It’s also the longest time I have ever been away from Missouri and my family. Going home eventually will be nice, but it will only be for a visit. (Sorry, guys!)
I was hooked on travel before I came, and now one might say that I am hooked on living abroad. Here’s to my first year in Germany and many more years of living abroad.
This is my final post on Prague. You can also read Part I and Part II if you haven’t yet. My final day in Prague was fairly relaxed as the weather was not quite as good as it was the previous days.
I wanted to visit the St. Vitus Cathedral before leaving, as several people had told me it was really lovely and worth it. I wanted to visit it even more after seeing it on the horizon from all over the city.
After grabbing some food, we made the hike up the hill towards the cathedral. It was a bit chilly and the clouds hung low, threatening rain. When we finally made it to the top, the opening of the cathedral was delayed. I felt quite annoyed because it had already been closed to visitors the day before. While we waited, we wandered around the outside of the cathedral.
The facade is gorgeous. Mosaics with golden tiles glowed even though it was cloudy. All of the architectural intricacies stood out dramatically against the clouds. The outside was so breathtaking and I could not wait to get inside.
Finally, it was time to que up and go inside. Once I got inside, I saw this:
The cathedral is massive. It looked like the windows and cloisters were interesting, but after getting inside I learned that it would cost money (more than I was willing to spend) in order to see more of the cathedral apart from the small, closed-off area immediately by the door. Needless to say, after all the hype I had heard about this cathedral, I was disappointed.
After visiting the cathedral, we wandered around the castle and the castle grounds. There were so many people by the castle, wanting to tour it. Going for a walk through the grounds was a much better idea because there were hardly any people. I would recommend a walk of the grounds to anyone who also feels overwhelmed by tourist crowds.
We finished off the day by trying to stay indoors as much as possible to avoid the rain that started coming down as we were leaving the castle grounds. That night we enjoyed some Mexican food before going back to our hostel and packing our things in preparation for the morning bus ride.
So that is the last bit of my time in Prague. It is one of my favorite cities that I have visited so far in Europe, and at the price it is totally worth it!
My eleventh month in Germany has come and gone… while I was in France. Oops! While I’ll get to France later, I still wanted to backtrack and write a little bit about August in Germany.
I finished up my exams in July, and August was the first month of the semester break. I spent a lot more time playing than reading, and I will just leave my study update at that.
I thought my German was getting better. Then, I went to Switzerland and understood absolutely nothing (though, that is more because of the Swiss accent than it is because of my German). The Germans still tell me that my German is getting much better. I suppose that is to be determined at the end of the break after several months without a German class…
Here is the real substance of this blog post! August was a whirlwind of a month in terms of getting out and about. I started August by heading to Switzerland to see an international couple, a Swiss and an American who met while we were all studying abroad in Northern Ireland, get married. I was so happy to have been able to share that day with two very special friends. I hope that I get to see them in Edinburgh, their new home, in the future.
The next big event was the Konstanz Seenachtsfest (night festival at the lake). The city center was closed to traffic and flooded with people. A village of food and beverage stands had popped up by the lake. People merrily drank their beer while listening to music and waiting for the fireworks. Finally, they started. I was really impressed by the fireworks over the water and the accompanying music that was perfectly aligned with the bursts of light.
When the Konstanz fireworks ended, another round of fireworks started on the Swiss side. They weren’t as good. After the Swiss fireworks ended, people started to get up to join the party or grab another beer. Suddenly, the Konstanz side shot off some more fireworks and dramatically triumphant music burst from the speakers. I think they made it clear who won that showdown.
About a week later, I grabbed my hiking boots and went to the mountains. It was a bit warm, but at least it was cloudy. A small mountain by Immenstadt was selected for the day. It did not take long before I found myself surrounded by cows. I have seen cow bells at Flohmärkte (flea markets), but this was the first time I saw a lot of cows wearing them. For the entire hike I could hear the sounds of cow bells, as they were in fields all the way up the mountain.
When we were about ready to head back down the mountain, we saw a sign for a Käserei (cheese maker). With all the cows, we figured why not get a bit of Bergkäse (mountain cheese). I knew that they made the cheese in the form of a cheese wheel. I was surprised to see the size of the giant boards on which cheesemakers set the cheese wheels.
Finally, as I stated above, I closed out the month with a trip to France to visit some friends (also who I met while in Northern Ireland), which I will write more about all in good time. We spent about half of the time on the countryside of southern France. On the first day we visited Avignon. Near the end of the trip, we spent two days each in Marseille and Lyon.
So this is how I spent my eleventh month in Europe. Not too shabby.
In my last post I shared a little something about my arrival in Prague. I spent a long weekend there exploring the streets, food, and culture of Prague. Today, I continue with my Prague story.
My weekend in Prague was spent almost exclusively in the district of Prague simply named “Prague 1.” You can easily find it on any map. It is the heart of the city and the most historic, as far as I am aware.
The most popular place there, and I think in most of Prague, for tourists is Staroměstské náměstí (Old Town Square). Aside from the Astronomical Clock, which I mentioned in my last post, my other favorite bit of architecture there was the Church of Our Lady before Týn, or Chrám Matky Boží před Týnem. There’s something regal about the turrets, and I absolutely love the golden balls at the tops of them.
You can spend a lot of time wandering around the Old Town Square and nearby streets. I’d recommend popping into a chocolate museum called Choco-Story. While I didn’t actually see the museum, it was fun to look around the shop. Their ice cream is also perfect for a hot day.
While I’m talking food again, here’s a recommendation for Americans living in Europe. If you, like me, miss Mexican-American and Southwestern cuisine, then there is a place in Prague you should not miss! Just down the way from the Astronomical Clock is Las Adelitas, which calls itself a Mexican restaurant. While it’s not exactly traditional Mexican cuisine, it is the best “Mexican food” that I’ve had since coming to Europe. Their margaritas aren’t half-bad either.
Okay, enough food talk. Heading north from Old Town, you end up in Josefov, the old Jewish quarter. I don’t really have any good photos of that part of town, although it’s very relaxing and beautiful on Saturdays if you need to get away from the tourist crowds. You’ll find a number of historic synagogues here as well.
Historical evidence shows that Jews have been living in Prague since before the year 1,000 C.E., and have been experiencing persecution for just as long. As a result, although the synagogues may be old, a lot of the architecture is from the early 1900s. This is because the city demolished most of the quarter from 1893 to 1913 in accordance with their initiative to model the city like Paris. Didn’t feel like Paris to me.
Crossing the river, you find yourself in the district of Malá Strana. While I wasn’t up for standing in a museum on such a nice day, we made a stop outside the Franz Kafka Museum anyway to see the hilarious, although crude, artwork in front of the main entrance. The work features two men standing in a pool of water. The pool’s outline is the border of the Czech Republic. What makes this so crude is that the two men in the pool are each holding their members and rotating their hips back and forth while relieving themselves. Need a visual? Here’s another traveler’s Youtube video. It is quite a funny fountain, true to Franz Kafka himself.
Heading north from there, we then walked down to the river. I was unprepared for how many swans there were. It was slightly alarming since swans aren’t exactly the nicest of creatures, but there were no injuries this day!
I think we probably sat by the swans, taking in the view and enjoying the day for at least half an hour. Eventually, we wandered south again in search of the Lennon Wall. It took us a little time to find because I kept leading us down the wrong street, but we made it in the end.
The Lennon Wall was swamped with people taking every manner of picture, attempting to read every bit of graffiti and listening to the street musician playing the Beatles. Like everyone else, I was looking for the right place on the wall to have my photo taken. After a while, I found this:
When I saw it, I laughed. Since it is my third time studying abroad, I guess I’m a bit of a contradiction.
I know other American students who studied abroad say, “Yeah, I got the travel bug and will be traveling a lot in the future.” In actuality, most don’t travel much after that. Instead, I see Facebook posts about how they hate being stuck in the same town/state/area that they’re from. They say they do not have the money to go where they want, do not know anyone where they want to go and do not want to be too far from their families.
I’m familiar with these excuses, but they are not legitimate. If you want it bad enough, you will work three jobs, make new friends, and Skype or write your family members. People like to make it seem that millennials like me have to choose between career and travel; we absolutely do not. I might not be the brightest in my classes, but I certainly don’t lack a sense of adventure.
That’s a wrap! Life lessons and travel stories for today are over. Part III, the final installment about my weekend in Prague, will be coming up next.