A Semester in Prague: Week 14

I think its safe to say that Spring has officially arrived in Prague. The weather has been amazing and I haven’t had to wear my winter jacket this entire week. It is incredible what the sunshine can do to these people. Its like the entirety of Prague came out of hibernation and along with the start of tourist season, the city is crowded! The tree outside my window has been growing greener and greener by the day, and the sunset has become noticeably later than in the beginning of the semester. On Tuesday my cooking class made quite a feast! We made lentil soup, potato salad, and garlic chicken which were all super tasty (as usual), and for dessert we made Babovka cake which is like a marble bundt cake that was delicious.

On Wednesday I decided to bite the bullet and try Trdelník which is a typical dessert from this region of Europe and scattered all over Prague. It is made from rolled dough that is wrapped around a stick, then grilled and topped with sugar and walnut mix. Good Food seems to be the place to go to get one because of their many variations on the traditional dessert, so I went for the chocolate pistachio trdelník. I walked quickly to the Charles Bridge and enjoyed the ice cream filled cone with a beautiful view of the Prague Castle.

 

On Thursday, Jack, Marcie, Matt and I all skipped class and hopped on a train to Krakow. I had heard great things about Krakow from my dad, and going to Auschwitz was something I really wanted to do while I was in Prague. The night we got there was absolutely beautiful. The main square was practically empty and it was warm with clear skies. We got some Polish food, walked around the main square, took lots of photos, and ended the night with a decadent dessert on the square.

 

The next morning we dedicated the day to exploring Krakow. Krakow isn’t the biggest city in the world, and it was pretty manageable to see everything in a few hours. We started with a walk around the park that surrounds the old town square which was full of green and blooming pansies. We then meandered into the Old Town Square again to see it in the daylight. It was just as beautiful in the day and the blue skies made the most wonderful backdrop to the architecture. We went inside St. Mary’s Basilica which was unlike any church I had been in. I light a candle for my Opa, and stood in awe of the detail within the church for a bit. We then walked along their main street to get to the castle. Along the way we spotted the Church of Saints Peter and Paul and decided to look inside. Again, this church was beautiful, but completely different than St. Mary’s Basilica. It was interesting to be in Poland coming from the Czech Republic because involvement with religion is so much stronger in Poland. Many of the churches in Prague are mainly used for historical purposes or tourism but in Poland, all the churches were still in use and held mass every Sunday.

 

After we left the Church of Saints Peter and Paul we headed for the castle. The Wawel castle has some interesting architecture and many of its “towers” look like they were built in completely different time periods and then mushed together. We went inside the church there as well, but couldn’t quite figure out how to get into the actual castle, so we went looking for the dragon instead.

 

We made it down to the dragon just in time for it to spit fire. We weren’t expecting this to happen so it took us all by surprise, and we didn’t have our cameras out to document. We waited a bit for the next fire show and eventually saw it spit lots of fire. We then found these blooming trees that were absolutely beautiful. As the wind blew, some of the petals blew away in the wind and left a beautiful snow in spring effect. We stood there for quite a while taking photos and having a full on photoshoot in front of the trees. Before we knew it, a whole crowd had taken our idea and the trees got pretty crowded so we left to find ice cream and a refreshing drink.

 

Next on our list was pierogis. Jack found the go-to place for pierogis so we started walking there on our way to the Botanical Gardens. As we were walking big, dark clouds rumbled in and by the time that we had our food it, the sky had opened up and the rain came down hard. We were pretty far away from our AirBnB at this point, so we decided to take an Uber back to the apartment to chill for a bit and rest up to go out again later. That night we walked around the park again, and found the Kraków Barbican, an old defense gateway from 1490s, once linked to the city walls. Then we went back into the Old Town Square to get some photos of the horse drawn carriages that were everywhere, and then headed back to our apartment for an early night to work on some homework.

 

Saturday we planned a trip to visit Auschwitz. This was something that I had wanted to do for a long time, but I was nervous to go. For my entire life I’ve been taught about the Holocaust and the horrible, inhumane things that happened at Auschwitz, but visiting the place where it actually happened made it all seem so much more real. We went on a guided tour that started at Auschwitz I and ended in Auschwitz Birkenau. I don’t have many words to explain my experience here other than impactful. The tour did a great job of explaining the living situation and the sheer volume of horrible acts that occurred there. I suggest that everyone go and experience this for themselves. There is really no way to describe it.

 

On Sunday we got a train back to Prague and prepared ourselves for the last week of class. With three projects, an oral exam, and a mini test standing between us and summer we had a lot to do. It was such a fantastic weekend in Krakow and I am so glad I managed to make it there.

This semester has flew by crazy fast and as much as I want to go home, I am not at all ready to leave Prague. I’ve had such an amazing time here and the city will always hold a really special place in my heart. But I’ll leave the sappy post until next week. As always thank you for reading!

I’m updating this blog weekly, but you can follow my day-to-day adventures on Instagram: @aninavdv

 

A Semester in Prague: Spring Break

Despite the weather taking a major dip into the single digits, on Friday I jetted off to Holland to meet up with my parents and begin spring break! The freezing temperatures weren’t my ideal weather choice for spring break, but we made the most of it and headed up into the mountains to find some snow.

We spent the weekend in Holland visiting my grandmother and just having a bit of a relax before a solid week of roadtripping. We spent most of our time in Boxtel, where my family lives, but managed to drive north to Wassanar and Scheveningen for a day to enjoy the North Sea and visit my great aunt. We walked along the sandy shore, made our way up to the pier, and got caught in stand-still traffic trying to leave the beach.

After developing a lose plan on Sunday night, we jumped into the car on Monday and headed for Heidelburg, Germany. On the way we stopped in some smaller towns where the rivers intersected with the autobahn. Our first stop was Kobern on the Mosel River. Situated in a steep gorge lined with rows and rows of grapes, Kobern wasn’t much of a town, but had a castle, like every good European town should have. It has been transformed into a wedding venue and office spaces and was quaint and beautiful. Our next stop was Bingen on Rhine. Here we found yet another castle, and also stopped for a bit of German fast food: hamburgers, currywurst, and schnitzel. We explored the city for a bit, walked along the Rhine, and later trekked on to Heidelburg.

The next morning we drove into the town of Heidelburg after spending the night in the quiet countryside. We had a quick breakfast of pastries and coffee, then walked along the river in search of the schloss (castle) and the beautiful arched bridge at the foot of the castle. It was a bit hazy, but it only added to the fairytale-like effect of the older part of the city. After stretching our legs for quite a bit, we climbed back in the car and went even further south to Switzerland.

After about two hours of driving we made it to the Swiss boarder! We handed over our passports, got a highway pass and set off to St. Gallen. St Gallen is known as a university town, but also contains one of the most beautiful cathedrals I have ever witnessed. It was so ornately decorated in a way I had never seen before with rich purples, greens, and golds. The murals on the ceilings were stunning and really added to the overall effect of the interior. We lit a candle in honor of my grandfather and then headed across the street to the Chocolaterie am Klosterplatz to kill some time and grab a real Swiss hot chocolate. We headed back to the car and made our way up the mountain towards Trogen where we visited an old friend of my dad’s who he worked with at a camp in the US when he was my age. We spent the night gathered around their kitchen table as they all reminisced and shared old memories of camp and their travels afterward. It was fun to hear all of their stories and reminded me that all of these memories that I’m making on this study abroad trip will be memories that I’ll keep forever.

We made plans the morning to take a short walk up to see the mountains. At this point in our trip I was really itching to see some mountains, and seeing a snow covered landscape really tickled my soul. There really is just something about being up in the open air, surrounded by peaks that heals my heart. After a quick photo session on the mountain, we made our way back down and packed up to get on the road again. Our plans were taking us to the Neuschwanstein Castle back in Germany and I was oh so excited to fulfill a childhood dream. On our way to our next AirBnb we left Switzerland, drove through Austria and stopped in the small town of Lindenberg im Allgäu in Germany. We noticed as we were exploring the small town that my dad left his wallet back in Trogen, so we hopped back in the car and made a quick trip back through Austria, back into Switzerland to pick up his wallet. After a quick cup of coffee we finally headed off towards Fussen, Germany.

We arrived in Pfronten late at night in the snow, and after a bit of trouble finding our AirBnb, we finally made it into the warmth. We finished the night with a few card games and got ready to see the Neuschwanstein castle in the morning. When we woke up we were greeted by the most beautiful scenery of snow covered mountains. We then headed into Fussen to find breakfast and walk around the town for a bit. There was a large fortress in Fussen up on the hill, but we didn’t manage to get up there in order to save time. I was itching to see the castle at this point and all I could think about was the Disney-like castle only a few miles away.

I’ve seen a few castles in my time, but nothing has ever compared to the beauty of the Neuschwanstein castle. Granted, it may not be as old as other castles, but the restoration of the castle was beautiful and it was like stepping into a fairytale book. We got our tickets, and walked up to the castle, stopping along the way to grab a few pictures. I wasn’t able to take photos of the interior, but imagine the most lavish, decorative interior you can possibly think up and then add some more gold covered furniture, and bedazzled lamp posts. It was absolutely gorgeous although way to extravagant for my tastes. But still, there is something about being in a real-life castle that makes everything seem more magical. I found it hard not to imagine extravagant balls, large feasts, and lavish tea parties happening in all of the rooms. Plus, the view from the front of the castle was gorgeous, gazing onto Lake Alpsee surrounded by snow covered mountains: pure bliss.

Our last stop on our Spring Break road trip was Prague. It was such a fun experience to show my parents around the city that I’ve been exploring for the past two months especially since neither of them had been there before. We walked to the castle, went inside the church, had a mid-afternoon dessert on a floating restaurant, visited the Jewish Museum, saw the Old Town Square amongst all the tourists, and ate dinner on top of the Dancing House building. Having them here really lifted my spirits and gave me the energy to finish out the last six weeks. Being so far away from home for such a long time is very different emotionally than I thought it would be. While I’m having the time of my life here and making so many amazing memories, I can’t help but long for some comforts of being back in the U.S. I’m sure that as soon as I’m back I’ll want to be traveling Europe again. I guess we always want what we can’t have.

Thank you Mom and Dad for such an amazing spring break. It was so fun touring Europe with you, seeing things I never would have by myself. Thank you for passing this travel bug gene onto me and encouraging me to go where ever my heart desires. I love you two to the moon and back.

I’m updating this blog weekly (somewhat), but you can follow my day-to-day adventures on Instagram: @aninavdv