Tuesday, July 30, 2013

3 Countries in 1 day

Hello! I wish my ramblings could do justice to the amazing time I am having right now- they simply can't but as always, I shall do my best to share my amazing day with all of you. After an early start, (complete with a breakfast smoothie and some delicious bread) Carolyn and I began our day- on bicycles! After riding for quite sometime, we arrived at the border of Switzerland and France. Yes. Today I biked around France. Ahhh. Life is so incredible. Once we took the necessary cheesy photo, I followed Carolyn to her garden- it was absolutely amazing! They have everything you can imagine and more- we ate our fill of raspberries, blackberries, random flowers, seeds, and even weeds- everything was so yummy. After spending quite a bit of time here and thoroughly enjoying ourselves, we hopped back on our bikes and pedaled to Saint Louis, a border city in France. I honestly couldn't believe I was in France the entire bike ride so I simply stared open-mouthed at everything (allowing for a nice bug opening...yuck). Here, we stopped for a yummy little lunch consisting of a baguette straight from a bakery in France, Swiss cheese, olives, and dried mango. We soon ventured into a park that was filled with water buffalo and all kinds of birds and fish (it was a preserved marsh). After a while, we headed out of the city and crossed a bridge and, before I knew it, I was in Germany. Yes. I went to Germany today. Granted, I was there for about two minutes as I passed through a popular shopping center but it totally counts. We then began biking back toward Basel, stopping for a little ice cream/iced tea treat along the way. About 8 hours later, here I am. It has been such an incredible day. And more is still to come! We will be making home-made pizza tonight, followed up by some salsa dancing later in the evening. Just believe me when I say that I have a constant smile plastered to my (very exhausted) face. Love to all, until next time.
There's France!

We arrived at the garden!

mmm want some?!

We had to get the ridiculous nail polish in the photo. Duh.

More garden!

Thanks to my amazing big sister, this awesomeness happened.

We ate these seeds! They tasted a bit like perfume...they were so strange and yummy.

Echinacea! with its bee friend

A stop for lunch in a little French park

The amazing marsh!

Germany is on the left, Switzerland is behind me, and France is on the right.

Enjoying the sun on the Rhine

Our refreshing iced tea- needed after a day of biking!

Monday, July 29, 2013

An Amazing (and rainy) Day

Day two in Basel has been absolutely amazing- I love this city, I love being with Carolyn and Kurt, and I continue to love being abroad. Since Kurt went to work early this morning, Carolyn and I spent the day together- we lounged around a bit (which was amazing and so needed) doing some laundry, making breakfast and lunch, and a few other things around the house. We then went out and enjoyed each other's company at an amazing cafe right down the street. I ordered hot chocolate and we shared an amazing pastry that is well-known in Switzerland. We then continued our wonderful day by hopping on a train to Rheinfelden to enjoy their AMAZING spa. I cannot begin to explain how immense and fantastic this place was. I got into hot pools with bubbles, cool pools without bubbles, ice baths, really hot hot tubs, wet and dry saunas, and a pool so filled with salt that I floated with no effort at all- there was even music in the water! I fell in love with this place. Seriously. I wish you could all experience it for yourself. 3 amazing hours later, Carolyn and I headed back to Basel and grabbed falafel-  this is basically the burrito of Switzerland. Mmm was it good. We then met up with Kurt and a few friends and enjoyed a nice night out. Today was so wonderful- Carolyn and Kurt have been perfect hosts so far and simply spending time with my family in Europe is surreal. I am a happy little lady. I have sort of stopped taking as many pictures because I am enjoying everything so much in the moment that I end up forgetting to. Here are a few to share with you from today, though. Until next time, friends.
After it rained all day, there was a double rainbow in the sky!

mmm my tasty falafel

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Traveling Adventures and The Beauty of Basel

Hello from Basel! As I expected, today and yesterday have been FILLED with stories. I'll keep it short on here, but I have arrived safely in Basel after a 17 hour train ride that was supposed to be 13- that was interesting to say the least. I'll tell that story in a moment. The last hours I spent in Prague were filled with watching the sun rise from the roof with the amazing friends I have made this summer, followed by a tearful goodbye to Julia and a few others, making lunch with Marc and some other boys who were left, walking to a park in 92 degree heat, and leaving a beautiful city that has been my home for the past month. Getting to the train station was easy, finding where the heck to go was difficult. Once I did, though, I hopped on board the train that would take me to my sister and Kurt! I boarded at about 6:00 PM and got of at 11:15 AM. Check my math on that one, friends. It was long, occasionally extremely hot, but overall not bad! I made a few friends and I slept through the incident that apparently caused us to be four hours late- removing a fallen tree from the tracks. I only learned that was what had happened when I arrived in Basel. Crazy! Once in Basel, though, everything went smoothly. I found Kurt and Carolyn quickly and we headed to their apartment- it is wonderful! I am so pleased that I get to spend the next week and a half here. Kurt made us a delicious lunch that we enjoyed on their balcony that overlooks the city- you can even see mountains in Germany from it! Carolyn and I then took a nice walk around the city and she was able to show me quite a bit in a short amount of time. When we returned, Kurt made us a delicious avocado spaghetti for dinner (he is quite the man!) and we enjoyed more of each others' company. We then headed of to meet one off Carolyn's friends from school at a local bar by the river, and from there we went to see a movie that was being shown outside on a huge screen! The weather here (just today!) had been threatening to storm all day- and it let loose during the movie! The movie company provided some great orange ponchos that got us through. I have to say it was one of the most enjoyable experiences I have ever had- and the movie was quite good (and in English.) Overall, these last two days have been beyond memorable; I have had some tough times and I have had some absolutely amazing times. This adventure has been amazing, enlightening, and just so incredible- I believe it will only get better these next 9 days. Love to all, until next time.
The last sunrise in Prague

A beautiful day at a park in Prague

A little glimpse of my sleeping car on the train. Tight quarters...

I closed my eyes at some point and next thing I knew, I was in Dresden. Snapped a picture in my sleepy state of mind.

The Rhine River in Basel!

This city is so beautiful. I can't wait to see more of it.

Friday, July 26, 2013

The Last Day in Prague

Sadly, today was my last full day in this beautiful city that has been my home for the past month. It was, of course, bittersweet. I began the day with a nice brunch at The Globe- Julia, Marc, and Sara joined me. I ordered waffles and boy were they good- they came with ice cream! (For those of you who know me super well, breakfast was put off until about 10:30 and I had woken up at about 8...I was slowly turning into a monster so the waffles were a very welcome sight.) After this, Julia and I explored Old Town for a while, knowing full well it was to be our last time for quite some time. We then headed home where we packed for a while and then headed out for dinner around 5- we decided on pizza! Our adventurous sides came out here...we just walked around looking for a place until we liked what we saw and then ordered! Super fun. Next on the list...I bet you can guess...we went to get a Tradinkle- our LAST one. Oh boy. This was a really sad yet very tasty moment. We shared this delicious treat while sitting on the steps of a building in Old Town while watching some men try to sell a concert to every single person who passed. A little later, Julia, Marc, Este, and I went to the park behind our house with the large man-horse statue (one of my favorites) to watch the sunset. Our plan is to wake up and watch the sunrise, too, in celebration of our last day together. I'm excited. I'm about to head off to a disco party downstairs at the bar that is under our apartment! It should be lots of fun. That is all I have to share with you as far as Prague goes, my friends. I leave tomorrow at 6:30 PM and will be packing and spending some time with Marc before he leaves. Thank you for joining me on this journey- I hope you have enjoyed my ramblings this far. Next stop: Basel, Switzerland! Look out, Kurt and Carolyn; trouble in the form of a Janna is headed your way. Until next time, love to all.
My delicious breakfast

Our last sunset...

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Farewell Boat Cruise...and a little surprise

Hello all. Because today is everyone's last day of school and the program is ending tomorrow, today was the farewell boat cruise put on by USAC. It was absolutely wonderful. We all got together at about 4:00 right by the river and got on a boat reserved just for our group. The professors, our USAC leaders, and everyone from sessions 1 and 2 were there and we had a blast. The food and drinks were free and boy were they good- I got my fill of fruits AND vegetables. I was such a happy girl. We took photos upon photos (I only took a few so I will fill you in with the rest later). It was bittersweet, of course, as it was, in essence, our goodbye. But we were not done with our day yet! A bunch of us then headed to get on the paddle boats on the Vltava river. There were 8 of us so we rented two 4 people boats and had a blast, watching the sunset while floating around. So beautiful. We then went to a beer garden near the amazing and huge metronome- it was such a neat place! It was like the other beer garden I have been to except bigger and filled with even more people. I got a hot chocolate (it was sub-par and hot as LAVA) and we all enjoyed each other's company so much, filling the time with the game "Never Have I Ever" and telling really embarrassing stories. I laughed so hard it hurt. Wonderful. I couldn't have asked for a better day. Tomorrow is our very last day together so it is packed with plans, just like today was. Until then, love to all!

To shake things up a little, I am going to do something I have been wanting to do in one of these posts for a while now- tell you about all the little things here in Prague (and Europe in general) that I have noticed as strange, wonderful, amusing, or completely off the wall. I hope you enjoy!

1) Many (and by many I mean the majority of) men here wear something we as a group have taken to calling "manpris." What are these, you ask? Picture a pair of women's capri pants. Got it? Okay. Now put them on a man. Yes- this happens everywhere! I first noticed a pair on one of the professors who came on the 5-day tour with us and I sort of just thought his pants were too short- perhaps he was really ready for a flood. Nope! Not the case. Men here just do it. All the time. Everywhere. I would like to say I am used to the idea by now but I simply am not. It is so strange to my little American eyes.

2) Bathrooms. Cost. Money. I cannot get over this- the one and ONLY time I have paid for a bathroom here was an accident. I walked in to a bathroom in the mall and was abruptly stopped by a grumpy woman who shot her hand under my nose and looked at me like I was a thief. I then saw the sign on the bathroom door- 5 Crowns (25 cents). With a sigh, I knew it was too late to turn back so I gave in and used this bathroom that had no toilet paper and a sink that hardly worked. Ugh. Never again, my friends.

3) The showers here are very small. They have a sort of half moon shape to them and they close around you by pulling two doors toward each other in the half circle that is the shower and shutting them magnetically. I'll just tell you that shaving is no simple task.

4) The parks in Prague are something I will never fully get used to- they are all huge, filled with grass, flowers, benches, and endless paths that go anywhere you could image. Maybe even Narnia. I would not be surprised. I have loved every moment spent in a park- they are where I would spend my alone time just drinking in the city and the people around me. If magic is real, it is in these parks.

5) Dryers simply don't exist here- you use a washing machine to wash your clothes (one that takes about an hour and a half and is called a "timesaver") and then you air dry them. Smart, really!

6) Everywhere I have been in Europe has been the same when it comes to driving; people drive as if, how do I explain it, as if there is an emergency WHEREVER they are going. Crossing any crosswalk has been a terrifying experience. Every time.

7) Everyone here drives a manual car- even the bus drivers. I love it. In addition, they are all small and good on gas; it, too, is fantastic. I saw a hummer the other day and did a double take- it was so out of place.

8) Every single store, mini markets (or potraviny in Czech) included, have bread and pastries sitting out for sale. The smell is amazing- I want to buy everything there. The only problem is I have no idea what anything is. So adventurous Janna steps forth and says, "Hopefully this one will be a good choice" as she randomly grabs whatever looks most delicious. For the most part, that tactic has worked out well.

8) Overall, people here are very brusque and quick to scowl- the smile I tend to have constantly plastered to my face does not fit very well here. The most random people have surprised me, though, including the wonderful elderly lately who gave me a candy at the bus stop the other day when I gave her my seat. (Yep, taking candy from a stranger.)

9) Instead of mayonnaise, butter is put on sandwiches. I no longer know which is more gross while still being oddly delicious.

10) Anywhere that music is being played (which is pretty much everywhere) it is being sung in English or is just simply a well-known American song. While I walked through Ikea, I was almost tricked into being back home. (On the way to Ikea, I danced and sang on the bus because a song I know and love came on. Embarrassing? Ha. No way.)

I could go on like this forever. Hopefully I will make plans to see many of you when I get home and we can talk about even more if you are interested. I have absolutely loved living here- it has been filled with fun, the occasional challenge, and and a huge amount of growth on my part. (Emotionally, not physically!) I will be back here someday.
So here I am on the balcony that is only accessible via our window. Weird, yeah? I looked over and there was a spider. Clearly...my spider face.
The amazing dinner I had on the boat cruise. mmmm I want it again.

Taken while boating- I love this place.

The view from the beer garden

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Last Class

Hello all. Today was the last class (and last field trip) for my Jewish Studies Class. One final, two Jewish cemetery visits, and a lot of sweating later, I am all done with class for the summer! The final was very straightforward- I believe I did quite well. We took it near our apartment at a beautiful park right by a nice farmer's market- a little distracting, yes, but I wouldn't have wanted it any other way. Afterward, we all headed over to the Old Jewish cemetery (it is right by the creepy baby tower)- it was quite an interesting experience! From there, we went to the New Jewish cemetery. This one was in a different part of town and had both very new and very old graves. Franz Kafka, Ota Pavel, and a few other really well-known people are buried there so it was very neat to be able to see their graves. Once the field trip was over, I was BEAT. I am just so tired. However, Julia, Sara, and I went to grab some food, sitting together for a while in a little local sandwich shop. We all then headed home- it has been quite a long day. Later tonight, Julia and I will likely go out to either watch the sunset, get ice cream, or do something with Marc- most of our nights end like this and I love it. Last Wednesday in Prague and it was very nice. Love to all, until next time.
A collection of tombstones that were collected from the ruins of what used to be the rest of the Old Jewish Cemetery

The New Jewish cemetery

In the New Jewish cemetery, we were surrounded by trees with vines climbing all over- it was quite beautiful

Franz Kafka's grave

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Last Cooking Class, the Last Tuesday

Hello all. Today was another wonderful day to add to my ever-growing collection of wonderful days. Once I woke up and got ready, I headed off alone to go to the school in order to print my train ticket to Switzerland! Once that was done, I headed back out to go on another solo adventure. My one goal was to find a park in which I could put myself under a tree in order to write and collect my thoughts. Goal accomplished. After wandering around for a bit, I headed back over to my neighborhood and ended up at one of my favorite parks- this one involves quite a steep hike to get to it but the view is so worth it. I sat here for quite a while enjoying my alone time and beginning to feel much more at peace than I had earlier. Afterward, I headed home and began working on the study guide our Jewish Studies professor gave us for the final we will be taking tomorrow. After a while, the Czech language teacher showed up and another cooking class took place! On the menu tonight was meatloaf (pork) with an onion-potato salad (present at every meal we have had) and a nice cucumber salad- it was delicious! I'll be coming home with this recipe, too. I hope to be a cooking fool... After this, Julia and I headed off to our favorite cafe, the one by school that I have mentioned oh so many times! Every Tuesday they have live music and I was so excited! Unfortunately for us, we missed it by a hair! I was so very disappointed. However, both of us still ordered a little treat and thoroughly enjoyed our last visit there. (I am really very sad about this- it is one of the places I will miss the most.) Today is Este's birthday (she is the other girl here from Reno) so we all have a plan to go out tonight to celebrate. It is actually going to be very late by the time we leave- hopefully I make it out- but I am really looking forward to it. There are some really great people on this trip. That's all for now! Sending my love to all. Until next time.
The beautiful view I had at the park

My favorite cafe

My oh so wonderful little treat

What was left of it in the end... mmmmm

Monday, July 22, 2013

Another Day, Another Field Trip

Hello, friends. Today was (partially) filled with another field trip with my Jewish Studies class. We all met outside the metro at 9:45 AM and our professor led us on our way- we were going to visit the Kafka museum. Franz Kafka, a Jewish writer, is a man I knew little about before coming here. As he spent most of his life in Prague, however, I have come to learn much more about him, especially after today. The museum itself was pretty neat and, I must add, slightly creepy; if you have ever read Kafka, you might understand why. Once we walked through all of it, we met up back outside and headed to peacock park (not truly the name of this park, just the name I have given it, and I have mentioned it in a previous post). We made our way to a little pond surrounded by a willow tree and peacocks and began to discuss our readings and listen to presentations- sounds like a pretty amazing way to have class, yeah? It certainly was, and the most beautiful weather was given to us on top of it. After class, Julia and I headed off in search of the place she was told by a local that had the best Tradinkles (my made up name for my favorite dessert here, if you recall from the multiple times I have mentioned it...). Unfortunately, after a fruitless search, we came away empty handed. Instead, however, she and I reached a great compromise- we split a delicious lunch of a sausage followed up by an amazing chocolate and banana crepe- I was not too sad about missing the Tradinkle. We then wound our way home and have been here relaxing (reading) and enjoying each other's company. That's it for now! Sending lots of love, until next time.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

A City That Never Ceases to Amaze Me

Today was another wonderful day for the books- I sit here feeling enlightened and in love with the city of Prague. I began my day all alone with a plan to go exploring and finding a few things that have been on my to-do list. This list began with finding a HUGE statue of a man riding a horse that is located basically right in my back yard. In order to find it, I entered a park- let me tell you about the parks here. There are so many in this city that I would not be able to count them. And they are not like any park I have ever seen- these are the kind of parks that you can get lost in...they go on and on and are filled with luscious green grass, benches, trees, and paths that wind and curve anywhere you want to go. This park was no different, except that it was VERY steep. I knew I was getting close to the large man-horse statue as I began to get very out of breath. Suddenly, I looked up and I knew he was right there- straight in front of me were stairs (my trip wouldn't be complete without a set of stairs). Once at the top, I gasped- the statue was even bigger then I imagined. And then I turned around and gaped, likely with an open mouth- a beautiful view of Prague was lying before me. (Pictures are below!) I then set off just walking through the streets of Prague taking in everything, conscious that this was my last Sunday here. I listened to the bells gong for a very long time when the clock struck 12. I soon met up with Julia who had been finishing her research paper and we went in search of the metronome. This, my friends, is the biggest metronome I have ever seen- it is set up on a hill and I have wanted to go see it for quite sometime. Once there, Julia and I groaned inwardly at the number of stairs before us- I really got my exercise in for the day, let me tell you. Once at the top, my breath was, once again, taken away. The view I was rewarded with this time was even more stunning as I stood next to a gigantic metronome. (Pictures also below) We then wound our way home, I picked up a sandwich on the way, and we will see what tonight's plans are later. It was a wonderful last Sunday in this amazing city. Love to all, until next time.

I knew the man and his horse were right up these stairs!


My house is in there somewhere...

The view that the man and his horse get to look at forever

Julia and I were not so pleased about the plethora of stairs

The giant metronome!

This beautiful city has stolen my heart.

Reason #234 as to why I love Prague: oh, another park? with a lovely bench that overlooks this city? yes. yes please.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

A Sigh of Relief

Hello all! After a long day spent at a coffee shop in Prague, I finished my 8 page research paper and am officially done with ALL of my homework for my 20th Century Jewish Studies class! *deep, happy sigh* Julia and I spent quite a few hours in a place called Costa Coffee- it is a chain here- this is where I wrote my paper! Once we both felt we were done for the day, we went to grab lunch- I ate at a place called Bageterie Boulevard (this is also a chain found commonly around here) and ordered a DELICIOUS sandwich! Julia and I also managed to get in a little exploring and adventuring time. We then came back and I have done lots of reading and some writing. It has been so nice. She and I have a date to watch a movie tonight- a nice Saturday overall. Officially one week left in Prague! I can't believe how fast time has gone. Love to all, until next time.
I didn't take any pictures today, but my friend Sunny took this of me yesterday while we were exploring the city of Tabor so I thought I would share it with you.

Friday, July 19, 2013

A Field Trip

Hello! Today, the majority of us in the program went on a field trip put on by USAC; we remained in the Czech Republic and saw many neat and beautiful things. The day started out at 7:45- a bit early for me with how tired I have been- and we all met outside the apartment. Once on the bus, we drove about 20 miles south of Prague to Konopiste. Here, we visited the castle that was last owned by Archduke Franz Ferdinand! (Yes, the one whose assassination ignited the first World War!) Just a side note, this man was an avid hunter- he killed 300,000 animals in his lifetime! Many many many trophies were on display in his castle. We were taken on an incredible tour through the private spaces of the house- his bedroom, his children's bedroom and playroom, the dining room, etc. It was breathtaking. The grounds were equally as impressive- the castle was surrounded by luscious forest on all sides and statues were placed everywhere. Afterward, we hopped back on the bus and headed for the city of Tabor- a city located about 55 miles south of Prague. I really enjoyed it here- even though it is the second largest city in the country, it felt very small; all of my favorite cities so far have been the quaint, small ones. Once we reached the city center, we were given about 2 hours of free time for lunch and looking around- everyone set off in search of a restaurant. I had packed my lunch for the day, so I set off alone, munching on my sandwich as I walked along beautiful winding cobble street roads. I entered a few cute shops, people-watched, and bought myself an ice cream for 20 crowns (~$1.00). I then met back up with friends, explored a little more, and the whole group soon met in the center square again. From there, we went to the top of a tall tower that overlooked the city, offering us a spectacular view. (As always, I earned the view after having climbed MANY stairs that my feet just don't fit on!) We then hiked about a mile to the shrine of Klokoty- people from all around used to make a pilgrimage here to refresh and renew their religious fervor. After a little time here, we got back on the bus and then stopped for a bit in the smallest city in all of the Czech Republic, Nove Dvory. It has a population of 53 people! The city cannot afford to keep a bartender so the one bar in town offers drinks that you serve yourself. You then write your own receipt, put the money in a box, and clean your glass. Very interesting. It was a lovely and long day- I am now pooped and plan on finishing up some more homework tonight. Love to everyone, until next time.
Konopiste Castle

The amazing forest surrounding the castle

Some statues on the property of Franz Ferdinand

The first view we had of Tabor- apparently they are reconstructing the lake. Yikes!

Taken during my solo adventure- great little roads 

The city of Tabor

The shrine just outside of Tabor

Inside the shrine was an amazing collection of roses- quite lovely

The bar in the smallest city!