Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Cesky Krumlov: Tales of the Past

I feel like every entry has started with an "oops, should have talked about this sooner" statement. And this one does too. Oh well, soon I will learn to update more frequently. This entry will only detail my night in Cesky Krumlov, January 29-30, as nothing too extraordinary happened during the week. Tomorrow morning I plan to update you all on my weekend in Paris (a girl can only hope).

Cesky Krumlov is a popular tourist destination in the Czech Republic because it is very old (and allegedly haunted!). The town itself is very small, and after one night I had felt like I had enough of the cutesy sights. Here is a picture of the main square to give you an idea of what I mean:

I guess the gloominess of the day makes it seem less cute, but trust me. It was colorful.

Upon arrival, we had some free time to walk around and eat lunch before getting a private tour of the Cesky Krumlov Castle. I ate lunch with some friends at a place called Cafe Club. It was in no way a club, so maybe the name referred to club sandwiches. Though, they didn't have club sandwiches, either. Just regular sandwiches really. Maybe it turns into a club and I am unaware. Regardless, that was a nice place with a good atmosphere.

Then, onto the castle. Normally, these castle tours do not occur in January (probably because the temperature is frigid), but NYU set it up so we would have our own VIP tour guide show us around.

The insides were HUGE, of course, because it's a castle, but it is also very old, which made it much cooler. I cannot say exactly how old because different parts have been restored and added at different times, but it was all done between the 14th and 19th centuries.

A view from one part of the castle

From the wall of the Masquerade Hall

The ceiling, where a chandelier hangs

Masquerade Hall was an especially cool room. Every part of the wall and ceiling was painted with characters and designs similar to those above, and as you can see, the artwork was painted in 1748. Featured on these walls is a painting of a black phantom/ghost, representing the ghost that haunts the castle.

The adjacent room was the Hall of Mirrors. It was a little too dark for some good shots, but here is what I could get. I don't quite remember when these walls were painted, though I am pretty sure I recall the guide saying it was during the Renaissance period, when symmetry was very important to the art. This room featured lighter, more springy colors.

A little too dark, but you can see the enclaves by the windows.

This is a better view of the colors and details.

Next, we headed into the theatre, which dates to the 1700s I believe. The guide said to be careful not to all step in the same place so that we don't fall through the floor, so I didn't stand near the edge of the balcony for very long.

A view of the stage, with someone else's camera flash :(

This was actually a really cool place to see. These are original sets used in the theatre. There were also other sets preserved. We also got to see below the stage, which was especially awesome. The people who built this stage had an entire system figured out with ropes and columns that allowed for quick set changes, and even a trap door! A lot of manual labor was required to lift the weights and pull the sets, though. Here is a picture of the system underneath the stage:

I was really surprised at the ingenuity and enormous capabilities of a system with such simple materials! Though, since I don't know much (or anything) about theatre, perhaps I shouldn't have been so surprised? I'm not sure.

Then, we got to see some costumes that had been preserved.

I actually LOVE the flowered dress on the left, and noticed many similarities between today's fashion and the style of the costumes.

After this, we enjoyed a few different views from the castle. And here is an awkward picture of me with a BEAUTIFUL, fake-looking view of Cesky Krumlov behind me (but it's not fake--I swear!)

And that ended the castle tour.

After that, we had a small tour of the town (too cold to take pictures), then a break before dinner (during which I took a much-needed nap). Dinner was good. NYU paid which is always a plus, and the food was delicious. I ordered chicken with broccoli and cheese with french fries, and then our table split desserts, including crepes, cheesecake (not exactly what you are probably thinking when I say cheesecake, but close) and honey cake. The honey cake was apparently a huge treat and was so good. Oh yum, I wish I had more of that now.

After dinner we all went to some local bars. The first was called Gypsy Bar and was so fun! There were these men playing gypsy music and a little boy was "playing" his guitar! Here is a video:

After the Gypsy Bar, we went to the Horror Bar (haunted, see? Our tour guide swore she had a ghostly experience when she stayed at the attached hostel), then quickly to the Gorilla Bar. None were quite as cool as the Gypsy Bar. In fact, they were pretty much standard bars, I guess. Though Horror Bar did look as though it was decorated for Halloween. Whatevs.

The next day, we woke up for a hotel breakfast (okay...) and a tour at the Eggenberg brewery. The brewery was cool because it brews two types of beer. One is modern, machine-made beer (what our guide called "chemical beer") and the other is traditional, man-made yeast beer. The yeast beer has been made with the same process since 1560 and seemed like a lot of work. Here are a few pictures of the different tanks and things used:

And then we got to taste the yeast beer! It was very nice.

And here is a shot of the modern machinery used to brew the "chemical beer."

That's pretty much it for Cesky Krumlov. After the tour, we had free time, during which I walked around and looked in tourist shops, but did not purchase anything. Then we headed back on the 3-hour bus to Prague.

Goodbye, Cesky Krumlov!

Monday, February 1, 2010

The post you've all been waiting for...

I hope you are as excited as I am about this post. I'll try to keep it brief, Dad, and include the highlights of the past week and a half (oops).

So, January 21st was my last real post...

Some pictures that make me happy from orientation week, which continued very similarly to how it began:

Obama marionette! What a figure(ine).

Czechs pronounce 'w' like 'v' and 'e' like 'i', hence, "VALL-I"

Mold, my favorite subject :)

Beans in tomato sauce! AHHH I haven't seen these since South Africa. Yummo.

One cool thing from orientation week worth mentioning was the opera, Cosi Fan Tutte, in the Estates Theatre. This is the theatre Mozart had the world premiere of Don Giovanni. Here is a view:

And here are some close-up photos of details hard to see in the video:

The ceiling..

The balcony..

And again.

My opinion of the opera.. it was fine. I liked the ballet better and I had a hard time staying awake through parts of the opera. Also, I didn't really like that the storyline was based on the premise "you would be a fool to trust woman."

Other than all that, I started classes last week and I like all of mine. They are all humanities classes, I guess, which is kind of a change. But I think I will enjoy them regardless.

Also, I went back to the hostel with a few people for dinner and noticed something wonderful in the corner...


How nice. Okay that is pretty much it for this post. I'll do a separate one momentarily for my weekend trip since this one already has a lot of pictures and two videos.

Monday, January 25, 2010

More complete update to come soon

I am sitting in this place called Cafe Indigo, where Vendula recommended I go for coffee/study/non-Americanized experience and they just started playing "Touch Me" by the Doors!

Unexpected, that's pretty cool, right? Especially considering every other place I've been to here plays upbeat pop music like Black Eyed Peas and Flo Rida..

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Orientation Continues (and is as fun as ever!)

So I guess I must go back to Tuesday and Wednesday before talking about today. Hopefully when I am on a more regular schedule I'll be able to post more frequently.

Tuesday morning before Czech class I went to pick up a ticket for a cultural event this week. The options were: an opera, a ballet, an ice hockey match, another opera, another opera, or a symphony orchestra. I chose the ballet for Wednesday night. Then Czech class, where I learned some important things. After class, I went out to lunch at this Indian restaurant that was really big and pretty on the inside. There were a lot of NYU students there, so they made a buffet for us. It was a good lunch, especially because I get so hungry during/after Czech class. Here is a picture of the table settings, just a sample of the beautiful decor:

After lunch, I walked around a bit with some people and then went back to Osadni, where I took a beautiful 5.5 hour nap and relaxed for the rest of the day.

Going into Wednesday I knew it was going to be a long day with the film screening I had planned on going to in the afternoon and the ballet at night. I was tired during the day (especially after Czech class), but I powered through. After class we had lunch at this vegetarian place right near the NYU buildings. It was okay, but it didn't keep me full for too long.

Then around 2:00 it was time to head over and get ready to go to the film screening. It was a presentation of a few short films that they called "Catastrophes, revolutions, freedom: 20th century in the Czech Republic" and it took place in the Ponrepo Cinema, "a charming cinema space of the National Film Archive, built in the 1930s," says the NYU in Prague orientation schedule. It was a cool looking space and the films were interesting, but it was hard to get too into the films/atmosphere because I was so sleepy. Here are some pictures of the theatre, the first being an overall shot, the next the detail of the ceiling, and the final a photo of a balcony:

It is pretty, right? Apparently, that room is not open to the public, only to view films from the national archive.

After the screening, I went back to Osadni for a quick wardrobe change and some food before the ballet. I was expecting it to be very traditional and serious, but it was actually an exciting performance in a beautiful theatre. The show was called "Cause Carmen" and was made up of two unrelated acts. The first act was created by a man from the Netherlands and a man from Israel and it featured extremely modern dance moves and up-beat music. The second act was a more traditional performance, with a version of Carmen from a Swedish man. I liked the first act better than the second, because it was not what I was expecting at all and was fun to watch. The second act was more what you'd expect, so a lot of people liked that one better, and it was good, but I think it might have been too much for me. Or maybe I was just burnt out and tired by the time it started. Here is a view of National Theatre:

And I was able to sneak in a video of the first act:

I also have pictures of the theatre, but I won't post them here because I don't want to over-do it. Maybe I will post them another time.

After the ballet, I came back to Osadni and was so tired and thought I was just going to go to sleep, but instead Lauren and I decided to check out this club a block away called Mecca because EVERYONE was going. It was a pretty funny place. The upstairs featured popular dance music, while the downstairs was playing old Backstreet Boys and looked like a middle school dance. Also, some people were pretty crazy dancers, employing the use of all limbs at one point in their dance. After an hour/hour and a half we had had enough of Mecca and went home.

Finally, Thursday, today (it's after midnight, so even though my post is noted as Friday, I am still referring to Thursday when I say today). Just a disclaimer: I have no photos or videos from today, sorry. It was too cold outside to take pictures and I just didn't take pictures inside. I'll be brief with today because I didn't do anything too fancy.

I went to Czech class this morning. I was 15 minutes late because of some traveling adventures and I stopped at a bakery that Lauren revealed to me for coffee and breakfast. Yumm. It was fine that I was late though, because class hadn't started yet. Only six people showed up to class today, and my teacher was still waiting for more students to come before beginning. I was the last one to arrive and we started only a little bit after I got there. Apparently all of the Czech classes were small today. I guess Mecca took a lot out of people... I actually enjoyed Czech class today because we just did a lot of numbers and directions, so it was not difficult.

After class, I had signed up for this tour called "Mysteries of Prague's Old Town." I almost didn't go on it because it was sooo cold today, but ultimately I decided to go since I hadn't been on any tours yet. That decision was a mistake because it was so cold that I couldn't even enjoy the tour OR take any photos. I guess now I know where to go for some really nice architecture to revisit when the weather is nicer, in addition to some neat facts about a few places around the area.

After the tour, I spent a lot of time trying to print my resume before an info session on internships in Prague. Joke's on me- the internships I had gone to learn about did not have any representatives at the info session.

Thennnn I went back to Osadni where I finally got a roommate--Lauren moved in with me! No more lonely nights. Then, as Lauren and I were leaving with some other people to go to this hostel nearby that has a small restaurant downstairs with a band, we got a third roommate! Whoa! Big day.

This hostel was really cool. I think I will have to go back and take pictures next time, because I don't really know how to describe it. The food was good. I had beans and rice. The beans were really good, a little spicy (but I don't think 'spicy' is the correct word), and they had mushrooms in them! And the rice was really tasty. The music was cool too. It was a really nice hostel.

That's all for Thursday.

PS There were extra cultural event tickets and since I liked the ballet so much I got tickets for an opera on Saturday. I'm excited :)

Okay, byeeeeeeeeee.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Orientation Begins...

Yesterday (Sunday) we all had to get up early to go to a meeting at Charles University. I was not too happy about having to get up, plus I woke up super early because I wanted to eat before I left so I went across the street to a small shop and got bananas! Then we had this welcome meeting in a super cold room. I think a lot of people were jet-lagged because we had only gotten there the day before and a lot of people were falling asleep during the welcomes.

Then we had lunch and got to go on a tour of where the NYU buildings are and just the general area!

The blue building with the flag is one of the buildings that make up the NYU Center in Male namesti:

These are just other buildings around the area that I thought looked very Praguesque:

After this tour, I accomplished some good things.
1. I spent forever in Tesco making necessary purchases with some people doing the same thing. Actually, I think every NYU in Prague student was in Tesco at that same time.

2. I bought a cellphone from Vodafone. It was sort of a hassle because everyone was getting the same phone from the same place, so they sold out before I was able to buy one. Then, while trying to find our way home, we came across another Vodafone shop that was not sold out of the cellphone so I got it and it was better than you are thinking.

3. I had my first Prague metro experience. The metro here is much nicer (cleaner and trendier) than subways in NYC.

4. Once I got back to my room, I vid chatted via Skype with my mom and dad.

Hehe! Hi, Mom and Dad!

5. Finally, before dinner I went grocery shopping at Billa near my building. It was difficult to find things and I caused a major pile-up at the cash register, but I made it out alive.

Okay, that's all for Sunday I think.

Unfortunately, they don't celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. day in the Czech Republic (weird, right? It is such a good holiday), so I had orientation things to do. As you know from my previous post, it was snowing overnight. When I woke up for real the snow had stopped coming down and the day's weather was sort of weird.. The ground was all slushy and melting snow/ice was dripping from buildings as well as non-melting snow/ice. (You will learn more about the non-melting snow/ice in my special surprise later on in the post.)

So, I had to be up even earlier today than yesterday to leave here at 8:45 (eeeek!) to arrive to the NYU Center on time for my first intensive Czech lesson. I can now introduce myself and say where I am from, but did not learn how to say 'thank you' or 'excuse me' or any other polite and useful phrases. I hope I learn that tomorrow, otherwise I will have to start using my translation book in public (but maybe I should do that anyway because Czechs really don't like when I speak in English EVEN THOUGH many of them speak it too).

Here is a view from the ground up into the other NYU building, Richtruv dum. At least, I think it is. This is the opposite of the view I saw when looking out a window from inside, so I'm just assuming that I speak the truth:

Then I walked around a bit with a group of people until it was the second half of the alphabet's turn to attend an information session and a lecture on Czech history. I wish that I hadn't felt so tired during that lecture, because if I was able to pay better attention I would have probably really enjoyed it. I did like what I heard, though.

The best thing I did today was get a metro pass. It is so liberating to be able to ride unlimited trams and metros for the next 90 days! It has my picture on it and everything. They use the honor system here for having tickets and allegedly only check periodically whether people have tickets, so I really hope someday my pass is checked! This is my first metro pass ever since I never had an unlimited card in New York. BIG NEWS!

Another really great part of my day was dinner. We had floor dinners tonight where the RAs took people to local restaurants. My floor went to this really good Hungarian restaurant that was run by two brothers: one brother does all the cooking while the other does all the waiting. It was so delicious! I had chicken paprika with gnocchi for dinner:


And dessert was split among us all because the dinner was so filling. I am not sure what this is called, but it was homemade by the mother of the brothers.

That's enough excitement for one post. Goodbye!

Just kidding! Here is the special surprise I promised. (It's a video!)

Monday, January 18, 2010

Nighttime Snow

I know I didn't post earlier and you were probably so sad, but I just was too tired. Now I am awake, and here is something special I have to share:

Sunday, January 17, 2010

My Arrival

Today was a long day, made longer by the fact that it was actually two. After a very hectic morning, my family took me to Newark, where I left for Prague.

My first stop was Amsterdam.

Goodbye, United States!

This flight was not the greatest because I couldn't get myself to sleep much. Lucky for me though, there was a mini Jennifer Aniston marathon with Love Happens and He's Just Not That Into You. Also, I saw part of Harry Potter 6 which was the bomb. So the flight was not unbearable.

Once I landed in Amsterdam, I had about an hour and a half until my plane to Prague took off. I felt a little lost and spent too long in the passport check line, but I made it to the plane. This one was supposed to be about an hour and a half, but a little after take-off the plane had to turn around a go back to Amsterdam because of some technical problem! It was a small adventure because then we had to switch planes and take-off again, but soon enough I was landing in snowy Prague.

For the rest of the day, I got to my super nice room, unpacked, went on a quick walking tour of my new hood, napped, and went out to dinner with my residence hall. We had dinner at a pizza place and it was surprisingly good food. I still haven't met my roommate and hope she comes soon, but tonight it looks like it is just me in this room :( I also share an apartment with one of the RAs named Vendula :)

Okay, that is all I have for now. Soon, I will try to post a video of my room! Get excited...