Tuesday, February 15, 2011

...do take the time to travel! First trip: PRAGUE

Again another very eventful week! I did manage to pull of an A for the presentation so mom and dad, no worries, I am still keeping up with work regardless of what other shenanigans I partake in.

Last Wednesday was my roommate Melissa's 21st birthday. I won't go into much detail about the night, but it was fairly eventful. You will agree once I tell you about how Thursday morning (early afternoon) started off.

So I woke up on Thursday to head to school for this class by noon(it's not really a class but more of a weekly "connecting across cultures" session that all UMD students have to do). I leave my apartment at around 11:40am thinking I'll be okay if I can catch a bus soon. I had all of my stuff with me in a huge lacrosse back pack that I was taking to Prague. I get to the bus stop, wait around for a minute, get on my blackberry to check ATAC mobile (Rome transit system site that tells you when the next bus is coming), and I find out that the buses are not running. Italians decided to go on strike...again. Shocker. The day I REALLY need a bus, there isn't one. So I end up walking the uphill 30min walk to school. Finally, after quiet the work out carrying that huge back pack, I can see the school ahead of me. Almost there! Then I hear someone calling my name. I turn around and see my friend coming up from the school. He was walking fast and kind of in a panic and had a bandage over his head. The last time I had seen him was the night before, but he left the group early so I had no idea where he had gone. He tells me that he somehow cut open his head the night before and when he woke up this morning he had a huge gash in his forehead. When he went to the doctor at school they told him he needed to go to the hospital to go get stitches. So of course I couldn't just let him go to an Italian hospital by himself...

I don't know how many of you think universal health care is a great idea...but Italy is full proof that it is the worst thing ever. At least in their country. (I could only imagine how bad this would be in the US.) Anyway, it was...so weird. We walk into the hospital with our huge bags that we both have, no one stops us, we try asking where to go, they point us in the right direction, and finally after searching for probably 20min, we find the right place we need to go. Using as much body language and signing as possible, we tell them that he needs stitches. They sit us down and we wait for a while. In the hospital there are sick people all over the place it seems like. There aren't really that many regulators. I had no idea what was going on. But then a nurse came to get us and took my friend into a closed room with more patients and wouldn't let me go with him. He gave me a look like "Whelp...here's to knowing ya..." and I just kind of looked at him like "I really don't want to let them take you, but I guess I have to, please don't die!"

I waited about 30min. I filed my nails nervously wondering how long it could take to do two stitches like they originally told us. Then the doors open and out he came with a lot more stitches than we expected. And they were pretty bad, too. What was even more weird, or sketchy, was that we didn't pay a dime to the hospital. Craziness...

After going to our 2pm class, we headed to the train station to catch our bus to Prague! Going on the trip was me, Melissa, Blair, and Frankenstein Magee (aka Dom, in case you didn't figure that out earlier on in the story).

It was the LONGEST, most awful, terrible, painful bus ride ever. I was so uncomfortable. We spent 16 hours over night on this darn bus. The sleeping pill did not work. My back and butt were killing me. I thought I was going to die. Okay...it wasn't THAT bad...the bus was really nice. Couldn't have a nicer bus. But it was still so uncomfortable sitting for that long. But it all ended up being worth it. Prague was amazing.

We arrived on Friday morning at around 9:30am. Our hostel was really nice. They had the most comfortable beds. So much nicer than mine here in Rome. Blair was seriously contemplating stealing one of the feather down comforters and/or pillows. We all took a power nap before our first tour that afternoon. We met up in the downtown area of Prague and started the tour at Old Town Square where the famous astronomical clock is. Here is a picture of part of the square:

And here is the famous clock:

The clock shows three different parts: (copied from wikipedia) the astronomical dial, representing the position of the Sun and Moon in the sky and displaying various astronomical details; "The Walk of the Apostles", a clockwork hourly show of figures of the Apostles and other moving sculptures; and a calendar dial with medallions representing the months.

Every hour the clock chimes and it's a big celebration in the street. If you want to see the video of what happens, go to youtube and just type in Prague astronomical clock. It's a really cool little two minute show.

After that we headed throughout the city and saw a lot of cool buildings and headed into the Jewish district which is an area of Prague that used to the only places Jews were allowed to live. This part of the tour was pretty sad because they went over a lot about the holocaust and different events that happened during the war. However, our tour leader was so great and always found a way to turn his stories into positives ones. He was such an actor and did a great job telling us all about different fairy tales and stories about certain buildings. I wish I could remember how all of them went. One was about a church where a thief broke into in the middle of the night. He went through trying to find money and gold to steal, and he saw a beautiful necklace that a statue of the Virgin Mary was wearing. He decided to go and take the necklace. But, just as he was about to take the necklace, the Virgin Mary came to life and grabbed his wrist! The thief was stuck. He could not get his hand free. So the next day the church opened and people saw that the man was stuck being held by the statue. The priest decide that the only way to get the man lose was to cut the hand off. The thief replies, "oh yes, please, just cut her hand off!" And the priest responds, "no! Cut off your hand!" And so the thief's hand was cut of. And to this day, inside the church, hanging from the ceiling is the mummified hand that was cut of. It is kept there to remind people of the story and to not steal from the church.

Our tour guide had a ton of great stories just like that one and he acted each one out and did voices and was so into it; it was so entertaining.

Later that night we went on a pub crawl. It was one of the coolest things ever. The bars there are so different and everything is underground. Everything leads down into separate rooms, and the walls are like stones or brick and everything just seems like it's been there forever. It felt so cool.

On Saturday we got up and did another tour. This time we went straight to the Lennon Wall. Here are a few of pictures of that:

The Lennon Wall was so much fun to take pictures of. We ended at the Charles Bridge:

After that a group of us headed to go on a castle tour! Our tour guide, James, was from Ireland had the best accent ever and led another amazing tour. We saw all of the grounds throughout the castle and went into one of the churches. Most of the buildings now are being used by the government so you can't go inside them, but they were all so pretty. Here is the really big church in the middle of the castle grounds: (sorry it's a little dark)

We learned some really cool stuff, including the fact that Mick Jagger donated all of the lights from his tour to be used at the castle because for the longest time they did not have any to light the castle up at night. He's so awesome. So here is the castle at night:

So pretty! Prague was a fairytale city. :) Saturday night we went out to Lucerna (really popular club there) and it was 80s and 90s night. SO AWESOME! We had a great night.

Hopefully I can go back to Prague in the future. But for now I look forward to head to Barcelona this coming weekend! It'll be so nice to speak Spanish instead of struggling with Italian.

Vamos a España!


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