So, it’s been a crazy few days but I’ve traveled from Vienna to Český Krumlov, which is a small historical village in the Czech Republic, spent two days there and then traveled again to Prague. I have had some amazing experiences in both of these places but of course I have enjoyed Prague a little bit more because I’m a city girl at heart. Also, we were set up in a pretty cushy hotel in Prague so I was feeling a little spoiled by that and if you know me, you know I like being spoiled. I will be here in Prague until tomorrow (Saturday) morning, then we will be traveling by train to Krakow, Poland where we will stay in a hotel for two nights and then relocate to a camp called H2O. H2O is a camp retreat center through a missionary group called Josiah Venture. While staying here, my Bethel group will take 3 separate vans every day to either an elementary, middle or high school to teach English lessons. We will do this for two weeks and attend the same school every day and therefore become acquainted with the students. Then, one of the weekends we are in Poland we are privileged enough to get to go home with one of the students for a home stay! So with all of that said, I am really excited to see what happens within the next two to three weeks. Following our time in Poland is our free travel week. My free travel week so far consists of going to London with some girls for four days and then flying to meet my friend Brooke in Lisbon, Portugal. I am so excited for what this next month brings. But without further ado, to recap for you all what has happened since my last post, I will tell the stories through pictures as I tend to do.
Český Krumlov as explained by google is “a small city in the South Bohemian Region of the Czech Republic where Český Krumlov Castle is located. Old Český Krumlov is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and was given this status along with the historic Prague castle district.” The village is absolutely darling. When we stepped off the train and began walking down the narrow streets towards the small town, I could tell there was going to be a stark difference between the big cultural hub that is Vienna and the small historical village that is Český Krumlov.
My first sight off the train when arriving in the village.
Our view walking to the hotel.
A river goes around Český, and you can see the castle, the tall building spreading across the top of the photo.
The river is an important part of Český Krumlov because it surrounds the village which protected the castle.
The wooden chair above the door of our hotel was a helpful landmark to finding our home after a long day of roaming the small village.
The view from my window. I love seeing the Coca-Cola advertisements… Coca-Cola always reminds me of my dad.
The room I shared with my roomie Alyssa. Those were the hardest beds I have ever slept on, not even a mattress, more of a rock.
The room was cute and very old timey. Like, what are those glass boxes and why is there dirt inside them? Is it like ancient dirt? Just why?
We made it cozy though for the two days we were there.
We were in kind of an attic cave… You had to step up to get into the room and it was secluded from most all of the other rooms except our one neighbors.
As long as it has a normal bathroom, I’m alright staying anywhere. This bathroom though made me think of the 1980’s, or at least how I would envision them, all different shades of brown.
Once we settled into our hotel that first day (Sunday) Everyone from my group went to the only ATM in Český and got cash. Can you imagine my shock, as an American at talking a bill this large out of an ATM? 1000 Koruna, is only like 52 US dollars and 55 cents though.
We then wandered the city in search of food and stumbled upon some beautiful scenes like this statue.
And this flower.
These were the skinny cobblestone streets we wandered.
Such a cute town.
This is on the main bridge in Český, a statue of John of Nepomuk, he is the national Saint of the Czech Republic. He is known as the first martyr because legend tells that he was the confessor of the queen of Bohemia and refused to divulge the secrets of the confessional to her husband and therefore was thrown into the river. A statue of him is also located on the St. Charles Bridge in Prague.
This is part of the castle.
Another view of the river.
A band performing on the bridge. My dad would have loved this.
Then we finally found food… Pizza 🙂
I’ve been drinking Coca-Cola at most restaurants because it costs sometimes less than water here. Mostly because they drink water with bubbles in it, like mineral water or “gas” so asking for tap water or still water is very odd here. Therefore, I go for a little piece of home and drink Coke instead.
Anyways, after that first night of wandering Český, we were all exhausted from the full day of travel it took to get there from Vienna and so must of us called it an early night. The next day, we had a full day to explore Český and wander some more. So the next day, most of my group, about 21 out of the 25 of us ended up at this graphite mine in Český randomly. All of the random groupings just decided to do the same tour and so we all suited up as you can see below and headed into the mines.
Alyssa and I in our mining gear.
Ready for a hard days work.
Michael and I are tough miners, as you can see by our stern strong faces…
We all loaded up into these little itty bitty cars…
And headed deep into the mines…
We ended up here.
This graphite mine was closed about ten years ago but until then it was fully functional.
A drill or something cool…
Ohhhh, Ahhhhh, Graphite.
Apparently it is good luck to rub some graphite on your face so Brooke, Alyssa and I followed suit and smeared it on. You can never have too much good luck.
Then after the mine, we wandered along the river again in search of food.
The river is literally the most prevalent part of Český.
And then… WE FOUND FOOD. yay.
I got some soup, which was pretty good.
Then, we went in search of something sweet and boy did we find it… In the form of crepes! My favorite. I got a chocolate and coconut crepe which was amazing.
We branded the creperie with our Bethel University Europe Term 2013 tag. That was a must.
Then, after this full day of wandering and such, we spent our last night in Český. The next morning we did a historical tour of Český led by an awesome tour guide named “Fred”, his Czech name is something else but in English it is Fred. Fred took us around Český and then on a bus to other historical villages, one where we had lunch and then another where we attended a castle. These stops were on our way to Prague.
This is the small town we stopped in for lunch.
The lunch we had was prepared for us and ordered for us ahead of time.
This was bread with cheese on it and soup over it and it tasted like thanksgiving stuffing.. Which I loved.
This was the meal we ate multiple times… Our first was at this lunch and then every meal ordered for us after. Dumplings and gravy… So many dumplings.
Then, we went to this castle which I would love to live in. So beautiful.
I just want to own it.
Please, let me have it.
The view from the castle.
The doorknob of the castle. This is the symbol of the Schwarzenberg family, an aristocratic family in the Czech throughout history. This symbol represents the head of a turkish man that was cut off by a member of the Schwarzenberg family.
How beautiful is this? Can I just sit up there and read please?
Anyways, with all of these exciting adventures happening around me it seems as though I am just thrown from moment to moment, experiencing something new at every turn. This is both amazing and overwhelming. Not only am I finding new things out about myself everyday, I then want to reflect on them. But, with my 4 Bethel classes, that require me to analyze many things going on around me through forum posts and personal journals, and with my own personal daily journal and all of the intense conversations that happen between myself and some of my fellow comm majors (who love to analyze group dynamics and apply theories to our daily lives)… I am exhausted. There is so much self-discovery, analyzing, and reflecting that just leaves me in a tizzy sometimes.
Not only am I trying to understand what is happening within my own self growth, I am also trying to just make it through each day. Trying to find food that isn’t dumplings covered in gravy while maintaining an open mind and a positive attitude. All of that while also missing my friends and family and trying to find my place in this Bethel group. These are just challenges within challenges. I’m making it though, and I am so hopeful for the future.
I will be posting again on my adventures in Prague as soon as I can. I leave Prague tomorrow and head for an 8 hour train ride to Krakow, Poland. We will stay in a hotel for a few days before transferring to the camp (H2O). Monday will involve a tour of Auschwitz, the concentration camp. I am more anxious for this than anything ever before. For, those of you who know me, you know that I am intrigued by the holocaust because of what it means for humankind. The fact that a tragic event of this magnitude can happen in this world has always fascinated me. I have always been seeking the answers to the questions of how? and why? the holocaust occurred. I have an extensive collection of Jewish survivor stories and accounts from this time period that have built up my understanding of this historical event. I have only ever read about Auschwitz, the things that have happened there, I can’t even look at pictures of victims in their striped uniforms in fear of the nightmares I will have that following night of their sufferings.
The way that I have studied the holocaust is through that of text and words, and although words can be powerful, I don’t deny, I have not received a full understanding of these events. I can’t even look at visuals, my understanding is so limited and controlled because the way I have chosen to consume this information is in manageable sized pieces, the only way I know how to handle it. Going to Auschwitz is going to be such an intense immersion into this tragedy that I have eased myself into understanding that I am afraid of what my reaction will be.
I will post as soon as I can about Prague and then following that about Poland. Thank you all for reading my blog! It really means so much to me that you all care enough to read how I am doing over here in Europe. I’ve been here almost exactly a month and it has flown by. I still have three months left here traveling so stay tuned! More coming soon. Miss y’all.