December 19, 2009

na shledanou.

This post is long overdue, but go figure it took me the plane ride home to finally get it together and write something, so here goes:

As I write this on the plane with a mere 2 hours until I’ll be back in America, it’s kind of tough to exactly describe my feelings because I feel so ambivalent.

About 15 hours ago, I was back in Osadni, my home for the past 4 months, absolutely satiated from having eaten my last smazeny syr fried cheese sandwiches from Wenceslas Square (and yes, that’s plural, because I got greedy and ate 2) and still drunk from the numerous pivos consumed at Chapeau Rouge. It would be impossible to guess that I needed to make it onto the 6AM shuttle bus to the airport, as my suitcases remained, for the most part, empty. Fact is, 15 hours ago, you couldn’t get me to leave Prague, to leave the city that had just given me the best 4 months of probably my entire life. Even just writing that has begun to bring tears to my eyes, literally.

But now, with more like an hour and 50 minutes until I’ll once again see the New York City skyline, I really just can’t wait to be back. I’m exhausted from lack of sleep and traveling. I feel disgusting, as my drunk ass didn’t fit in the time to take a shower prior to boarding a plane so I probably still smell of beer and second-hand smoke, something I’m hoping my parents don’t catch onto. I’m hungry, and there’s Taco Bell, followed by sushi dinner, waiting for me upon my arrival. I mean food alone is probably one of the main reasons I’m anxious to get back, as much as that makes me look like a fatass (my “Food Checklist Upon Returning to NYC/NJ” on Facebook truly gives a full picture of this).

But really, I can’t even explain how much I’m looking forward to running through the arrivals gate to tackle my sister, to give my parents a hug, to see my dogs and hug them and be that ridiculous owner who holds and talks to them like they’re babies. I can’t wait to see all my friends and send them text messages at every hour of the day to go for a mega margarita or all-you-can-drink beer. Speaking of which, I can’t wait for unlimited texts and normal mobile service with voicemail instead of having Vodafone tell me “The number I’ve tried to call is being cheeky.”

There’s such a ridiculous amount of things I’m looking forward to, but I already know for a fact that I’m going to feel some major reverse culture shock. I mean, people actually responding to me? Holy shit – I’m not used to that. People who take showers?! Speaking in English instead of using hand motions all the time? There’s so much I could go into. The fact is, it will be so completely strange and weird to be back in America, and I can honestly say that I already foresee myself wanting to be back in Prague in, oh… I’ll give it 2 days but it will probably be sooner. Because as difficult as it may have been to deal with the reserved and cold people of the Czech Republic, and for as many times as I found myself saying “Oh, CZ…” in response to something that would only happen in Prague, there were so many other moments in that beautiful city that made me just feel lucky to even be able to experience them. Some of them, I’m glad to actually have managed to capture in this blog, but the unfortunate majority were the victim of my apparent ineptitude at maintaining a constant stream of posts. Maybe I’ll come back and try to give those moments the justice I feel they deserve and write about them so I won’t forget them, but I have a feeling they’ll have to settle for remaining in my sadly fading memory. The only silver lining in that is that I take a ridiculous amount of pictures, so there’s a good chance there’s photographic documentation of those times that remind me of how much I basically loved life the past semester.

In the end, all I can really say is thank you, Praha, and the amazing people you allowed me to meet, for giving me the best experience a girl could ever ask for. I can say with full honesty that I am going back home a changed person, perhaps more in debt, out of shape, unhealthy, and dehydrated from all the traveling and drinking 5 nights out of the week, but overall more independent, more open, and more cultured. The stories you have given me, both in Prague and in visiting places I could have never imagined I’d see, have truly added to my “life experience,” as cliché as that may sound, and those experiences are what I will take back with me, back to my homes of New Jersey and New York, and look back on and remember the four month vacation that was my semester abroad in Prague. I can now only look forward to the day when I can once again return and create new memories and experiences to remind me why I loved this place so much to begin with. Until then, Na Shledanou, Praha. It has truly been amazing.

November 18, 2009

October 26-28, 2009 - Marrakech, Morocco.

These 3 days made up what will probably be one of the most unforgettable experiences of my life. I had a lot of firsts: traveling to Africa, riding a camel, going to a Muslim country, seeing a real life snake charmer, even doing a double decker bus tour. Shit, I didn’t even drink during the entire time we were there! That says a lot, by my standards.

Seriously though, I think I achieved a new state of calm in Marrakech. There was this one moment during our first night in Marrakech that was so simple, but I don’t think I will ever forget it. I was lying down, just reading The Wild Things in the nook of the rooftop terrace after a day of going through the souks, eating delicious tagines and couscous, being pampered head to toe in a hammam, and experiencing a night in Plaza Djemma el Fna, and I just had this moment where I was completely and utterly content with life. Even with the constant calls from the men in the markets of “Konnichiwa!” and “Japanese?” (which I attributed to the likelihood that Japan is their only/most common conception of Asia) That moment was just perfect.

I would elaborate further, but there’s just too much and it’s getting too late that I’m just going to list out my experience in Marrakech:

  • Being stuck in passport control for an hour after our ONE EURO flight because we didn’t know the process and no one would explain it to us
  • Finally getting to our “hostel” aka riad aka beautiful Moroccan courtyard home
  • Not knowing what was going on for our first hour since we didn’t bring a guidebook, we didn’t have a map, and the only person in our riad was the cleaning lady who only spoke French (but turned out to be one of the sweetest women in the world)
  • Moroccan mint tea!
  • The friendly Canadians who showed us around
  • Bargaining in the souks
  • The best free breakfast ever
  • Getting scrubbed down and basically bathed in the hammam
  • Streetfighting, storytelling, henna artists, medicine men, and the outdoor food booths that fill the Plaza Djemma el Fna by night
  • Literally having the waiters at every food booth do everything possible to get you to eat at theirs, finally going back to the #26, the first one we saw, and being greeted by applause and handshakes, eating delicious food, and taking pictures with our super friendly waiter
  • The best fresh-squeezed orange juice of my entire life, and the smiling man in the stall who rewarded his loyal customers with extra OJ
  • Taking in the sun and the sights on top of the double decker tour bus
  • Driving through the Ourika Valley and being continually amazed by the simple beauty of nature
  • Having the most delicious tagine in the home of a traditional Berber family
  • Finally seeing a dog after coming across wayy more cats than I’d like
  • Crossing the sketchiest bridges and hiking up a really rocky path up a mountain, and being rewarded with the beautiful waterfalls at the top
  • Squeezing in a tanning session on our last morning there, sipping on some OJ, and truly loving life

October 24-25, 2009 - Seville, Spain.

Probably one my favorite places in the world. Seriously. Gorgeous weather, even in October (We were able to tan! Words can’t express how happy that made me), super friendly people, streets that just come alive at night, beautiful buildings and gardens, and such delicious food - pretty much everything you could ask for.

The first night, we did as the locals do and went tapas barhopping, which I would highly recommend to anyone who visits Seville. Luckily for us, our hostel was located right in an area full of really great tapas places. You get great food, a new experience at every place, as well as a nice buzz by the end of the night to get you going for a night out.

We went barhopping in Alfalfa, which is known for attracting mostly students and internationals. Most of the bars are small, though, so people literally just spill into the streets. Every bar even has someone handing out plastic cups for you to pour your drink in before you go outside. It really made me wish America would embrace public drinking already because it is quite possibly one of the best things ever.

In terms of the sights, Alcázares Reales is seriously a place that cannot be missed. I couldn’t get over the place - it was SO breathtaking. It also got me super pumped to go to Morocco since the palace was originally a Moorish fort.

The Giralda Bell Tower of the Seville Cathedral was also well worth the 34 flight climb up, as it gave great views of the city. And the cathedral itself is beautiful as well.

Drinks-wise, Agua de Sevilla may be my new favorite. It’s made of a sparkling white wine, 4 different kinds of liquor, pineapple juice, and topped off with whipped cream and cinnamon. Basically an adult pineapple sundae, so strong and soo good. We had it at La Carboneria, which is this awesome half-indoor half-outdoor place with free flamenco shows and of course, great drinks. We ended out trip to Seville there, and it was definitely the cherry on top of a fantastic weekend.

October 23, 2009 - Milan, Italy.

I have to be honest - out of all the places I’ve traveled to, Milan is probably at the bottom of my favorites list. Not that I didn’t like it - I definitely did. I just didn’t get that same character out of the city that I’ve gotten from every other place I’ve been to.

Unlike most other places in Italy, Milan really is a city and it mostly markets itself as that. And that’s exactly what I got out of it. I mean it definitely had a lot of great things to see, but it was kind of just another city. Perhaps it’s because we were only there for the day and didn’t get to go out, since Milan is supposed to be known for their nightlife. I suppose I’m just biased.

this is long overdue.

So once again, I’ve fallen massively behind in keeping this updated, but with weekend and day trips (Vienna, Ireland, Kutna Hora), midterms, my birthday week, and of course, fall break, I think I have a good enough excuse for it. But since I’m staying in for once since I’m not feeling very good, I figure it’s about time I update this.

Eventually I’ll get back to updating on the places I’ve been and the things I’ve been doing around Prague, but for now I need to take a brief intermission and write something down with regard to the places I’ve traveled to, especially over fall break, because to say that these places were amazing would be an understatement.

So Fall Break 2009: 11 Days. 5 cities. 3 countries. 2 continents.

And go.

October 5, 2009
October 1, 2009 - Vice Magazine Start Party for the Czech version of the magazine. The pub crawl people sponsored an hour of free beer at Bohemia Bagel as part of the event. It was actually pretty dead, which was surprising considering it’s freaking Vice Magazine, but all the better for us as it allowed us to stretch the hour of free beer into 2 and a half by continually going back for more and hoarding beers at our table.
Ended the night at Chapeau Rouge, with a pit stop in between for some smažený sýr (fried cheese sandwiches, aka amazingness in a bun). I spent all of 55 kc that night, which is around $3. God I love Prague.

October 1, 2009 - Vice Magazine Start Party for the Czech version of the magazine. The pub crawl people sponsored an hour of free beer at Bohemia Bagel as part of the event. It was actually pretty dead, which was surprising considering it’s freaking Vice Magazine, but all the better for us as it allowed us to stretch the hour of free beer into 2 and a half by continually going back for more and hoarding beers at our table.

Ended the night at Chapeau Rouge, with a pit stop in between for some smažený sýr (fried cheese sandwiches, aka amazingness in a bun). I spent all of 55 kc that night, which is around $3. God I love Prague.

September 27, 2009 - East Side Gallery. Amazing.

September 27, 2009 - We spent the majority of our Sunday in Berlin in Mauerpark, which is basically this huge open air space that a lot of young people and street musicians go to. They also have a flea market that sold everything from vintage Gucci shades (which was my purchase!) to antique furniture to calculators. They also had some great food stands (and beer!). By the hill, they also had an outdoor karaoke stage set up. It really was the perfect way to spend a sunny sunday afternoon.