Birthday Surprise!

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Birthday Surprise!

I’m so sorry I have not posted in a while, but so much has happened that I must share!

Roughly a month ago was my 21st birthday, and I know I shouldn’t share too much, but I’ll let you in on some details. My actually birthday was the morning I arrived in Lyon from Lisbon. Our flight was delayed over three hours, and instead of arriving at 11:30 PM 26 February, we arrived at 2:45AM 27 February. Needless to say we were exhausted. We split an uber from the airport to the train station, because it was equal for us and some other Sciences Po students we knew. From there at 4AM, I decided to take a quick bike ride home. It was a bit scary that early in the morning, but I got home safe at 4:20AM and went right to bed. The next morning, my first thought waking up at noon was to take a run…maybe it’s best not to listen to intuition, but I did it anyway. And hey who needs a phone!? so I didn’t bring it with me and somehow ended up in Caluire-et-Cuire, a suburb roughly a 10 minute ride from Lyon. Well then my intuition kicked in and aided me and I came home about a half hour before my class. After a quick shower, I was only 10 minutes late to class. I was quite proud of myself.

Okay I know this sounds crazy, but my life works in strange ways and I like it better that way.

That night after class, a lot of my friends either weren’t in Lyon, or were too tired or ill to go out after a week of traveling. Just three friends and I went to one of our favorite places, Ho36, which is a hostel that has a bar and restaurant. We had some nice drinks and enjoyed each other’s company, while we told stories of our trip. They went to Amsterdam, Brussels, Berlin, and Milan. I was quite jealous when I heard of their trips, but then again I had an amazing time in Paris, Barcelona, and Lisbon!

That night my host family decided we’d order Chinese food. We got it from my favorite Chinese restaurant in Lyon, which is just right by our apartment. Afterwards my host mom and sister went into the other room and I heard them start to sing happy birthday. They came in with cupcakes and sang happy birthday in French and English. I was overcome with emotion and got choked up. I feel as if I have another family in France. They gave me gifts as well – a Swiss army knife with my name inscribed on it, Spanish chocolates (they spent the week in Sevilla), and a keychain that read “I’m in the mood for a fiesta”.

That weekend I celebrated my birthday three nights in a row: the first two going out and the second, which I’ll describe, staying at a friend’s. So after two nights of celebrating, I just really wanted to stay at home but my friends were insistent that I go to my friend Staci’s house. I decided to go and when I knocked on the door, there was immediate silence and accidentally Staci stepped on a balloon. I walked in and everyone yelled…you guessed it:

surprise!

At that point I was so overwhelmed I teared up a bit. I have the best friends and the best adopted family anyone could ask for. Certainly a birthday to remember for a lifetime.

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Lisboa, um fim de semana de celebração de carnaval

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Lisboa, um fim de semana de celebração de carnaval

We escaped the rain of Catalonia, to arrive to bright and sunny days ahead in Lisbon (fr. Lisbonne, portugese Lisboa)! We arrived at our hostel four hours early (Anna was not too happy with me). In the meantime we stayed at the lounge of the hostel and had breakfast with the people that were getting up from the night before. It was a really chill atmosphere and everyone was really friendly.

After waiting until our 2pm check in time, we came to our room with an amazing view! Three steps from my bed, and we stepped out onto a terrace overlooking the Rio Tejo.

 

We then met up with our friend Chloe, an other Temple student and walked throughout the city. There were beautiful beaches on the river, grand monuments, large white cathedrals, and my favorite, the colorful buildings. We made our way to a small public area overlooking the city that offered amazing views and photo ops.

That night we had dinner at our hostel. It was an ABC party for Carnaval. I picked out the finest costumes from the hostel’s dress-up chest and decided to wear a cape and a green curly wig. I sat next to a guy that dressed up like Julius Caesar and had a great meal.

The next morning we decided to walk all the way to the other side of the city in Belem. We walked through what seemed a deserted town, until we reached Belem, where we saw the Belem Tower, the Praça do Império, and the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos (Jeronimos Monastery). The area seemed to be a small jewel far away from the bustling area of the city we were in.

We had to take an Uber back after that long walk, but when we almost reached our final destination, the traffic was bumper to bumper because of a Carnaval parade on the Avenida da Liberdade (the main boulevard). We got out and Anna headed back to the hostel, but Chloe and I stayed to see the large public park called Marquis of Pombal Square. It had panoramic views of the city and a lovely ambiance of relaxation. After that, I got lost trying to find the hostel. I saw the city better that way, but it was a little nerve wracking when my phone died. I made it back and we had dinner again. We were so tired we just stayed in and talked with the people at the hostel.

The next morning we took the train to Sintra, a beautiful suburb and hour northwest of the city. Round trip cost me 4.04 euros. When we got off the train, we saw massive castles tucked in forests and as we continued to walk, we realized we were on a bluff overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. I couldn’t believe it when I saw it. But as life goes, we only had an hour and a half to spend there. We had a flight to catch. We had to take the train back, pick up our stuff at the hostel, and then take the subway to the airport. When we arrived at the aeroporto, we had to then take a bus to our terminal, only to find out our flight had been delayed 1 hour and 50 minutes. Needless to say, I was pissed.

Well we boarded at 9:50PM and did not arrive to Lyon until 2:45 in the morning. We took an Uber with two other Sciences Po exchange students to the city. I took my velo (bike) from the station to my apartment and did not arrive at home until 3:30AM and didn’t fall asleep until 4:40AM.

The rest of my week was filled with relaxation and celebrations for my 21st, which was the day I arrived so early in the morning from the holidays.

 

Barcelona, la capital de la Cataluña

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Barcelona, la capital de la Cataluña

In continuing my previous blog post, I left the readers at a cliff hanger. Here’s the resolution. After my mom and Riley left, I packed my bags and took a shower. It was nice to have some serenity before traveling. Then I had to pick up a bus from the Eiffel Tower that drove me to Orly Airport. When I arrived, I was a bit nervous because this was my first international flight alone. As I passed through security, I worried my bags would be too heavy. After I passed through the metal detector and my bag went through the check, a security man asked to look through my bag. Suddenly a pang of uneasiness washed over me. He took out everything from my bag and put it back through the security check. He couldn’t find anything, but we talked for a while as he searched my items. It was relieving to know that even when you do international travel alone, there are still people so kind and helpful.

And my flight was great on the way there. I would highly recommend Vueling (Spanish budget airlines). They played some cool music on the flight, I got my first hearing of a language I wasn’t familiar with (and man could these Spanish speakers speak fast!).

I arrived in Barcelona on time and took a bus into the city. As I walked down the Rambla, there were cool restaurants and ice cream shops all around. I of course had to get an ice cream cone with mystery flavor electric blue coloring (I had no idea what I was ordering at that point). I met Anna down the Rambla near our hostel (Kabul Party Hostel) at the Placa Reial. We dropped our stuff off and then got dinner on the Rambla. It was so cool! The food was amazing, not to mention our massive Sangria glasses. We were so tired by the end, that we didn’t go out. But our hostel had other ideas. We were on the second floor and it was so loud and congested in our room (I would not recommend staying there).

The second day we went on a walking tour. There were two options, a Gaudi walking tour or a Gothic walking tour. Since we were staying in the Gothic quarter, we decided to venture out to see the works of the famous Catalonian artist Antoni Gaudi. What we saw was astounding. This man was absolutely crazy in his designs and artistic conceptions. A dark beauty, a colorful extraordinaire, a quirky design all in one.

But of course the creme de la creme was La Sagrada Familia, an imposing cathedral in its 135th year of construction. When completed it will be the largest and most elaborate cathedral in Europe, possibly the world. Here are some pictures:

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La Sangrada Familia

From there, Anna and I decided to walk all the way up to the top of Barcelona to get a better view of the city. We came upon the Park Guell, an expansive public park overlooking Barcelona. There are small houses there, massive and beautiful gardens, and also a large centerpiece of Gaudi’s Catalan modernism architecture style. We bought tickets to see his tile work, but were told by a friend who we randomly ran into that if we waited until 6:30 it was free. Anyway, it was going toward the city and for refurbishment of Gaudi’s architecture, so it was a good cause. The views from this park were simply breathtaking.

 

That night we had dinner at another restaurant and I ate seafood, which was quite good and very filling. We took a walk near the Mediterranean port area, which was beautiful at night. We couldn’t go out that night because the next morning we had a 7AM flight. We packed and went to sleep. We only had four hours of sleep when we woke up at 4AM. We checked out and then made our bus at 5AM when it began to rain. We made it on time and everything from there was smooth sailing (flying).

The flight was loud again (wow the Catalans can talk!), but I was too excited for what lied ahead…

Paris…and more

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Paris…and more

Hello, dear readers! I am sorry I have been incognito the past few weeks. Much has happened and now I can’t wait to share with you. I will be doing my blog this week in three posts, one for each city I visited last week.

Last week, my mom and brother Riley came to visit me in Lyon. They arrived Friday morning at the Part Dieu train station. They settled in their hotel and then we went straight to the Ferris Wheel to see the city. It was so cool to get to see the city from that vantage point, and to go on a structure I see everyday. From there we walked around Vieux Lyon, the “Old City” of Lyon. I was not very familiar of this part of the city, so it was informational for me as well. Then we went back to the area I lived in to have dinner — pizza! Okay, before you say anything, all other places were closed or full and we really needed to get something to eat.

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The next day, Riley and I biked to Parc de la Tete d’Or and ran in the park. Then we came back to my apartment, met with my host family, and then took a stroll back to the park. As it was the first day of the weather breaking, the park was packed! We walked through the zoo, the rose gardens, and we stopped for a rest at my favorite part of the park.

Sunday, I wan’t feeling too well, so we had to skip some other things. But we did go to the Basilisque Notre Dame de la Fouvriere for mass, afterwards seeing a beautiful view of the city. We then got dinner.

Monday morning we got up early for a 9am train to Paris. We got to Paris on time, but then had to take two metros to get to our hotel. It was a pretty nice hotel and we had two floors to our room! I thought that was the coolest thing. It was right by the Eiffel Tower, so we started our walk near there. Then we continued to the Louvre, where we saw the Mona Lisa. It was the second time I went to the Louvre and I wanted to see other sections of the museum, but for my mom and Riley, we had to see it. As Riley and my mom looked at souvenir shops, I sat outside in the Tuileries Garden posing as a crabby old man you find in many French gardens (I’ve seen them glare at me as I wear my tourist outfits). We finished the day walking to the Arc de Triumph and having dinner near our hotel.

Tuesday, we stayed on the Left Bank, Ile-de-la-Cite, and Ile-Saint-Louis. We walked past Hotel des Invalides (Napoleon’s final resting rotunda), Sciences Po Paris (not to be confused with Sciences Po Lyon), the Sorbonne, and finally the crown jewel—Notre Dame de Paris. We took pictures of us standing at the center mark of Paris, right in front of the Cathedrale. We walked inside and said a prayer, while marveling at the 854 year old architecture. The magic came when Riley and I took a trip to the top of the southern tower. The pictures of the view do not even give the full feeling of being in the presence of such a monumental structure, the pinnacle of French Gothic art and the setting of Victor Hugo’s famous Notre Dame de Paris. 1482, or the English version The Hunchback of Notre Dame. We then walked to the Luxembourg Gardens and next door Saint-Sulpice, where the prime meridian use to run.

We finished our time with a great dinner and even better conversations. The next morning as my mom and brother left, suddenly my Parisien romantic bubble burst as I realized my flight was later that afternoon. But not to worry, more adventure awaited…

Vegan In Paris

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As you probably know from previous posts, I’m vegan (and a bigtime foodie). I’ve included my experiences maintaining this lifestyle while abroad in these blog posts to help others who live with dietary restrictions make their own study abroad plans–but, mostly, to assure them that travel does not have to be inhibited by your dietary choices or mandates.

As I’ve mentioned in the past, Prague, although known for very meat and dairy heavy local food, is actually a very vegan (also gluten-free)-friendly city. Paris, on the other hand, I found to be more difficult. From what I could tell, there are a few reasons for this. First of all, the cafe culture is extremely strong. When you hear the “cafe-on-every-corner” stereotype, it’s actually not an exaggeration. Cafes are central to Parisian culture, and they’re kind of used for everything, whether it’s socializing, grabbing a quick meal, a coffee, a sit-down-and-relax meal, whatever, breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Furthermore, because this is such a “French” thing, most of the food is very French– which means most of the food is not vegan-friendly.

Most of these menus are heavy on things with meat, milk, cheese, etc. either foundational to the dish or cooked into it, so it’s hard to find things that you could even modify when you order. The most reliable things in cafes/french restaurants were usually vegetable soups, fries, or a side salad (most normal salads are laden with cheese, meat, or fish). As is very common in Europe, if they have a modified section of the menu, it is for vegetarians (AKA covered in cheese). These are often fine for lunch, however, if you’re either starving or looking for a larger meal, consider going to a restaurant of a different ethnicity.

My favorite food in the entire WORLD is Thai, and we easily found several options on that front. Italian restaurants are also easy to eat vegan at; pasta with tomato sauce, olive oil and chilies, vegetables, etc. are common, Mediterranean food is also a great option (hummus, falafel, etc.), Mexican food (often called “American Latino” in Paris, for whatever reason…) can be made vegan easily, Indian food is naturally very vegetarian and vegan friendly, etc., etc. Because Paris is a big, diverse city, there are tons of world-cuisine options that you can take advantage of.

Fortunately, the classic baguette and most bread-y products are vegan naturally, so you can get a taste for the stereotypical French food experience in that way. I’ve been told about several vegan restaurants that have veg-ified French food, which I’m excited to try on my next trip there in a few weeks.

And, as I always say, if you have the option (as in your dietary choices are not for strictly health or religious reasons), one very special and consciously chosen “cheat” (maybe a little Nutella crepe…?) won’t hurt anyone…;)

As I am returning to Paris in a few weeks, like I said before, I plan on visiting more vegan/vegan friendly restaurants and cafes. I’ll be able to give a more well-rounded assessment of the vegan scene in Paris, and hopefully have some delish typical French food while I’m at it. I’ll keep you posted.

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Travel: Paris

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This weekend, I traveled outside the Czech Republic for the second time while studying abroad. This time I traveled to Paris, where my twin sister is studying. (Again, it’s always a great idea to take advantage of people you know who are living abroad at the same time as you–even a good idea to try to schedule your studies for the same semester intentionally! You’re going to want to travel (and should while you can), and this is an excellent way to save money, time, and enjoy yourself even more while traveling abroad). I arrived in Paris early on Friday morning and left late Monday night (again, I don’t have class Friday or Monday), so I had four full days to explore and immerse myself. My best friend (who is also studying abroad) also came with two of her roommates–so the five of us got to explore together.

Paris has an incredibly unique energy to it–it actually does feel like the classiest, most glamorous place on Earth in real life. Even though, visually, Prague is much more ‘beautiful’ (more unique, specific architecture and more consistency in the niceness of areas), Paris has a very specific culture and energy to it that I absolutely loved. I also really felt like I was on a vacation being surrounded by a language I could understand.

My sister lives with a host family, so when I arrived I met them. They were so incredibly kind and welcoming and hospitable, and, even though my French is basic, it was wonderful actually being able to understand what they were saying to me. Before meeting up with our friends, we went to see the Eiffel Tower. The first time I saw it was from the metro window; we just rounded the bend and there it was. My sister was cracking up; my jaw was on the floor. It’s one of those moments I’ll never forget, it was just more than I could have imagined. It’s so much bigger in real life than a person can accurately picture. It’s stunning. After walking around and gaping for a while, we met our friends and set off for the Arc de Triomphe.

This is also stunningly beautiful (I also got a little reminder of home; the memorial in Valley Forge national park, where I’m from, is modeled after it). We climbed to the top (surprisingly fewer stairs than I thought), and saw the most beautiful views of Paris. I’ve heard that the views are the best there, and I would recommend them as well–I’m sure the view from the Eiffel Tower are beautiful, but the Eiffel Tower itself makes the view.

That night, we went back to the Eiffel Tower to see it lit up, which was beautiful (especially when it sparkles…). The next day, we walked along the Seine all the way to Notre Dame, which was a beautiful walk (with an amazing conclusion). Notre Dame is imposing and beautiful, and although it is not the most beautiful or amazing cathedral I’ve ever seen (for that, visit Hungary), it’s energy, the energy that Paris just exudes, makes up for it.

Finally, the next day, we went to Shakespeare and Co., the famous English bookstore and hangout spot of the ex-pats. It was my actual happy place–I could spend my entire life there and never leave. It’s perfect.

Oh, we also saw the Mona Lisa. No big deal.

Paris was lovely, and in my next post, I’ll talk about being vegan there (not so lovely…but workable!)

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Documentation II: Written

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The second part of my discussion of documentation of study abroad/travel/life is written documentation. Keeping a journal (or even an agenda, scrapbook, book of lists, whatever!) is a great way to preserve memories in a more specific, detailed way. Actually writing out what you’ve done and how it makes you feel is a much different, more visceral way of approaching memory preservation than just taking pictures.

Yet again, I’m in the lucky camp here; I’m a writer. Aside from writing creative things, which I’ve loved working on while study abroad, actually–I also journal almost every single day, and have since I can remember. Here, I’m going to talk about some ways to encourage yourself to document your experiences, making it as easy and personal as possible.

I started journaling on my laptop a few years ago–I found that when tight on time, it just takes way too long to write things freehand. I would also cut things out or forget to include things in a pinch, and that kind of defeats the purpose of journaling at all. So, I just started a word document, which I’ve kept going for probably three years. It’s been the easiest, fastest way to keep up with documenting my life. I’m constantly on my laptop for school anyway, so I’ve found that right before bed, it’s super easy to just jot out my day before putting the computer away, or just doing it in between assignments or when I have a spare second. It’s also easier to add in things you forgot and fix mistakes– no crossing things out or drawing arrows. It’s also super easy to go back and read what you’ve written–you can even search keywords if you’re looking for something specific. It’s a great way to hold yourself accountable to documentation with total ease and flexibility. Plus, you can include pictures!

Another thing I’ve LOVED doing is journaling by hand. Lately, it’s kind of reversed the cycle and taken the place of laptop-journaling. I bought a small Moleskine journal a few weeks ago; it’s a hard cover 5″ by 8″ ish sized notebook, with dotted pages. This is great, too; you can write in it every which way you want, draw, tape stuff in, whatever, but still be organized. I carry it with me everywhere; it’s super durable and so easy to take out no matter where I am. (This is a great recommendation for writers in general–the easier you make it to write, the more you’ll write. Having a place to put an idea that popped in your head, something someone said that struck you, reminders, images, random thoughts, anything, is a great way to use all the potential in your head towards a creative project.)

Because this journal is so small (but still easy to write in) and durable, I can take it with me everywhere and use it whenever I’m called to. One of my absolute favorite things to do is go to a favorite cafe, have a coffee or some tea, and write. For me, this environment lends itself to total concentration and involvement in what I’m writing–I don’t have the distractions of being home, there’s no to do list, it’s just specific time I’ve set aside to write. I’ve come to look SO forward to it. Plus, having a physical object that you’ve filled up with your life just feels good.

Try a few different approaches and see which sticks for you. Again, you will never regret writing down your experiences. Just taking a few minutes a day or every few days could make a huge difference in your memory. IMG_6822.JPG

Documentation: Visual

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As you may know from my bio, or the photos I attach to my blog posts here on Temple U Abroad, I’m a photographer. I study film cinematography at home, and my passion for visuals and life documentation translates itself into photography naturally. For me, traveling presents the perfect opportunity for me to just go crazy with my camera; everything is so new and beautiful that I just never want to put it down (and rarely do).

Having this as a hobby/artistic passion isn’t just fun for me–it’s really convenient. I get to spend time in a beautiful place doing what I love, while at the same time capturing moments and memories that I can keep forever, and share with friends and family (and you!). I thought I’d take these next two posts to discuss documentation of travel and life, both if you naturally enjoy the process and if you don’t (but still want to make sure you’re documenting)–starting with visual documentation.

If you do enjoy taking photos (I don’t mean just fancy, artistic photos–phone photos are fine!), a great way to make sure you’re both living in the present moment and documenting is to pace yourself. If you’ve just arrived and are exploring for the first time, especially if you’re with friends, take pictures sparingly, and only of things you know you’ll care to look at later. There’s no need to take up every ounce of phone/camera memory and totally overwhelm your future self with pictures of every little detail; plus, this takes your attention away from the experience in the moment, and puts it on the picture.

When you get home, go through your pictures, see what you like and what you don’t, and use the pictures to help you decide what your favorite areas of the city are. After you’ve organized your preferences mentally, you can make a point to return to those places alone, with the specific intention of taking photos.

One of my favorite things to do is take a weekend day to purposely get lost, giving myself the challenge to only photograph things from a unique, deliberate perspective. This forces me to really see and appreciate my surroundings and the nuances of the city; it’s also really fun and creative. It’s a great way to force yourself to go out and deliberately appreciate where you are. Plus, the photos you get will be so much better than the ones you arbitrarily snap as you’re walking with friends or distracted by conversations.

If you don’t like taking pictures, but still don’t want to come out of the experience with no records, a great way to make sure you’re preserving memories is to just rely on your phone. So many people invest in a new camera before they travel, and for some people, this is great. But, if you know you’re uninterested, or if you feel like it will just weigh you down and be another thing you have to worry about, don’t bother. There’s nothing wrong with slightly less artistic pictures–whatever helps you remember your experience in the most convenient way possible is what you should do.

When you’re out and about, just try to be aware of your thought processes. Whenever you gasp, gape, or swoon over something, that’s your cue to take a picture. I know how common it is for people to return from a trip and only then realize they have no pictures–if you just try to consciously be more aware of your thought processes, associating awe with preservation, it will be easier to remember to just whip out your phone and snap a photo every once in a while.

Also, use social media to your advantage. Many people are quick to snapchat their days to share with their friends–if you take a snapchat, save it. It’s a perfectly fine way to help yourself remember your experiences later.

Make your documentation process as fun and doable for yourself as you can–don’t underestimate how much you’ll value the memories captured for the rest of your life!

First Traveling Experience

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Since I wrote about my plans to travel last week, I thought I’d give a round up post about my experiences this past weekend. This was my first trip out of the Czech Republic, and only my second out of Prague since I arrived, and, for me, the timing was perfect; I’ve been in Prague for long enough that it’s become comfortable and feels like a secure home base, and I feel comfortable coming and going from it logistically. I’m so glad I took the opportunity to travel– I had an absolutely amazing time, and I’m so thankful for the ability to take advantage of the easy access I have different parts of Europe while I’m here.

My flight to Scotland was less smooth than I would have hoped; I had a connecting flight, and although I theoretically had plenty of time to make my next flight after going through immigration and security again, the airport was extremely slow moving and took forever, even though it wasn’t crowded. I literally sprinted through the airport to make my flight after getting through security, and only made it by the skin of my teeth, the point is that I made it, and arrived in Scotland safe (and stressed) and sound.

After meeting my sister at the airport and taking a train from Glasgow to my friend’s university, we got a little night-tour of her town and had dinner in a favorite place of hers. Another great part of studying abroad at the same time as friends, is that you get to meet their new friends as well–my best friend got SO lucky with her new roommates and friends. We had a great time together, and I’m thankful to have more friends scattered around the world.

We traveled to St. Andrew’s University (where Prince William and Kate went…bucket list item checked off for me) and bopped around the town, enjoyed the coast and sea, and admired ruins and graveyards in the area. It was absolutely stunning, and felt like a real Scottish experience.

The next day we went to a soccer (sorry, football) game, which, although we were told it was “not that big a big deal” because it wasn’t a close game, was SO much fun. The U.K. soccer craze is real.

We also met most of my friends family, who live in Scotland, and got to explore Glasgow and Edinburgh and their respective universities, as well. Both cities, though very different in feeling, architecture, and even personality, are gorgeous. I already have plans to return.

Although the scenery and history was amazing, the best part of this trip, and honestly every one I’ve ever taken, is the people. Both getting to see my best friend and meeting new faces were the best parts of the trip, and it’s reaffirmed my commitment to living a life that prioritizes loved ones, experiences, and travel rather than material.

My flight home was smooth sailing (but intensely bittersweet), and I can’t wait to jet off to my next destination (after enjoying some down time in my beautiful new home, Praha.)

Prague Legends

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I’m taking a class here in the Czech Republic called “Images of Prague”, which is a literature based class that discusses Czech art: a mixture of (mostly) literature, art, and history. It’s been so interesting so far, and it’s a great way to learn about the culture of the Czech republic and Prague by familiarizing myself with their history and cultural identity.

We’ll be reading Kafka (obviously), Capek, and other famous Czech writers and works of literature, and, as a sort of introduction to the class and city, we’ve started by reading Czech legends that detail the conception of the Czech Republic and Prague. I thought I would share them because I found them so interesting–I would recommend anyone studying abroad to read into those of their own cities, even if they aren’t required by a class. They’re a great, fun, entertaining way to learn more about your new home.

Legend has it that Pagans settled in the land of the Czech Republic in ancient times, and those who came to prosper built themselves castles and lived happily among their growing population. When the most well-respected leader, “Father Czech” died, disorder began to spread, and the people yearned for a new leader. Pace, who was another wealthy citizen, took the position and reigned for many years. He founded schools where magic, religion, prophecy, and hymns were taught, and found a suitable spot on the river to build a new castle, as the Gods guided him to do, and called it Vyšehrad.

Upon his death, his three daughters, Kazi, Teta, and Libuše, survived him–they were all well loved and talented: Kazi in medicine and herbs, Teta, as a priestess, and Libuše in prophetizing. Libuše was chosen as the new leader. It was she who prophesied the creation of a new city, on a cliff by a river, where they would find a man building a house, and instead build a castle and call it Praha (Prague). She also premonised the existence of her future husband.

This is a brief summary of the basic legend, which exists inside a maze of a whole slew of other legends. The existence of Prague is legendarily attributed to Libuše’s ability to prophecise it’s future existance.

After reading these stories, my class took a field trip to Vyšehrad, which is just one metro stop away from my school. The views are absolutely beautiful, as the castle is situated on top of a cliff over the river, as the legend details. We visited statues and large wooden figurines that tell the story of the legends we’d read, and discussed the origins of the legends and what they reveal about the times in which they were written or in which the statues were built. Oftentimes, legends were either created or dramatized in the 19th century, when the Czech Republic was trying to “catch up” to, or legitimize/dramatize itself and it’s history next to Germany, which is interesting and culturally telling.

We also passed through a graveyard in which many famous Czechs are buried, and a beautiful church (where a movie was being filmed!).

Both reading about and visiting the sites where legends supposedly took place has been so interesting and valuable for me. I look forward to reading more Czech literature during my time here, I know it’s going to increase my appreciation for this city. IMG_6570.JPG