Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Brugges, Belgium

Friday 21.10.05 –

After sitting through another painful English class, this time with a presentation about Greece, we (John, Meredith, and I) headed to the train station. Our ride from Luxembourg to Bruxelles and from Bruxelles to Brugges was quite uneventful. We walked from the train station through the city center to our hostel. Our hostel was named Charlie Rocket’s. As you may guess from the name, it is a combination of a bar and a hostel. We walked in and saw a lot more bar than hostel. We eventually figured out how to check in, and were told we had a 4 person room and at the moment, we had it to ourselves. This was good news, since we had expected an eight person room with many roommates. We put our stuff down, and headed out for food.

We wandered through the city looking for food that wasn’t ridiculously expensive. We ended up at this pita place, and got some pretty good, though not all that Belgian, food. After eating, we perused our guide book for something to do that evening. We came across the entry for de Garre, a beer hall/bar that sounded cozy. We found it, with some difficulty, as it was down an alley that was barely wide enough to walk through, and sat ourselves down. It was a real cozy place that had been there for something like 150 years if I read the Flemish on the menu correctly. So its probably 15 months old, seeing as my Flemish is awesome. Meredith and I got Frambozen, Raspberry beer, and it was amazing. John had something that wasn't as good, but was still very good. Anyway, it was a real cozy place, but we didn’t stay long, since we were tired. We headed back to Charlie Rocket’s (still no roommate!) and crashed.

Saturday 22.10.05 –

We awoke quite late, nearing the 10 o’clock hour. We were very hungry, and we went to look for somewhere to get some waffles. (Us being in Belgium, waffles were the thing to eat for breakfast, natürlich.) As we wandered, we hit the edge of the city (it is not very large.) We found the original city gate, complete with drawbridge (motorized now). That was pretty cool; nearby there were also two windmills, built hundreds of years ago, and still grinding wheat to this day. We eventually found a cozy diner, and had waffles with whipped crème and strawberries. (As an aside, the word for whipped crème in Flemish is slagroom, a rather unappetizing name, don’t you think?) With our waffles, we had some hot chocolate (once again, Belgium=chocolate) and it was great. The meal was quite filling, and we headed to the museums.

We went first to the Belfort, a gigantic bell tower in the center Markt of the city. We climbed it, and the view from the top was terrific. It was a terrific view of the city that seems to have been frozen in the middle ages. (As it says in the guidebook, the city seems almost fake in that the buildings look too good to be true. The city has been restored countless times, and much of the buildings are made of 20th century materials in the style of the buildings that had been there for hundreds of years. Whether or not the city is fake looking, it is still quite fantastic.) Anyway, there was also a very cool mechanism for bells and such. It was gigantic, and it was able to play classical music. I heard Beethoven (a theme from Symphony 9, I believe) and I believe Vivaldi played by it at some point that weekend. That was real cool. To get in to the Belfort, we bought a museum pass for €15 that got us into 5 museums/sights around the city. We headed to the Groeningemuseum, where I proceeded to see Jesus get crucified about 100 times, then saw him as a baby, being held by the Virgin Mary about 100 more times. After that, I saw various other scenes of the Virgin Mary another 100 times. Some 90% of the paintings were portraits or other paintings of people, which tend to bore me. When I found a large (3mx1m) landscape type painting, I sat in front of it for a good 10-15 minutes, taking in everything, avoiding seeing more paintings of people.

It had a bunch of modern art at the end, including one piece that absolutely floored me. I have never seen art this incredible in my life. I don’t know how I could describe it, but I will try. It was kind of… well not really… it was rather like… not that particularily, but it was, yes, it was three… um, squares. Each one was about oh, a meter square. They were side by side, separated by a few centimeters. And get this, they were painted red, yellow, and blue. It was incredible. Even the name, “Squares in Red, Yellow, and Blue” was just incredible. I have no clue how people come up with this… but those who do should be shot. What bollocks. Quatsch mit Soße.

After that we hit the Gruuthuse, which was applied art and much more interesting than the Groeningemuseum. They had all kinds of cool stuff. Not really much to describe there. After that we went to grab lunch. We found a little restaurant that wasn’t outrageously expensive, and had some very good omelettes. (Omelettes were very popular in Belgium, for some reason.) After that we went and saw the Church of Our Lady, which was very cool, and was home of Michelangelo’s Madonna and Child. It had a couple cool alters, an awesome alter, and lots of very cool artwork. By this time, we were very tired and ready to nap. We headed back to Charlie Rocket’s and crashed. When we awoke, we had a roommate. She was a recently graduated law student from Michigan on a 2.5 month trip through Europe. We headed out to food after our short nap. We had some chicken and fungus or something and it was all right. I had a chocolate shake, and it was again great (Belgian chocolate!).

After dinner we headed to de Garre again, since it was such a wonderfully cozy little place. We hung out there for quite a long time drinking awesome beer, telling stories, playing cards, and just talking. I ended up having Peach beer (they had it on tap!), a couple different trappist beers, and the beer he brought me when I asked for "dark and malty". They were all just fantastic. Eventually we left, and headed back to the hostel. When we got there, we didn’t want to go back up to bed yet so we hung out in the bar downstairs for a while, bought a bottle of wine, telling more stories and talking some more. We eventually went upstairs, woke up our roommate to get in the room, and went to sleep around 330.

We were awoken by the aforementioned roommate far too early, and we headed out to check out and see a couple more museums. We first went to look for breakfast again, and on the way wandered into the “Burg” which means palace, and is aptly named, seeing as it is a palace. There was a very cool chapel, among other things, with the walls covered entirely in paintings. After this we were ridiculously hungry, and went to finally find breakfast. We ended up at the same place as the previous morning for waffles. They were equally good that morning. After that we went to this hospital museum, where I saw Jesus get crucified a dozen times more, and we saw some mildly interesting items. After that we headed to the train station and headed home.

Next week is Italy for a whole week. Rome, Florence, Venice, and possibly Pisa and Siena. Prepare for another doozy.


Monday, October 17, 2005

Luxembourg 14.10.05

Since this weekend was a designated rest weekend, we didn’t go anywhere strenuous. Friday Guy took us shopping for shoes and books. John spent forever looking for shoes but everything was too expensive, however, I got a pair of slip on dressy shoes that I can wear with my suit or with jeans and a dark shirt and look very European. We also hit an Italian grocery store that had lots of noodles, olive oil, wine, and meat. Guy bought some stuff there, and we headed toward Luxembourg. We went to Chapter 1, an English bookstore near Luxembourg, and I bought a Phillip Pullman book while Guy bought several hilarious greeting cards. My favorite that I saw there was one of a chicken and an egg laying in bed (the chicken with a cigarette) that says “Well I guess that solves THAT old question.”

Anyway, after this, we told Guy we wanted to treat him to dinner, so we headed to the Gare Centrale/Hauptbahnoff to meet Meredith, then it was off to the Taj Mahal restaurant again. This time John didn’t get the meal that said ‘(HOT)’ next to it. A good time was had by all, and Guy really liked the nan and the chai. We wandered through the Petrusse Valley for a while afterwards, then headed home. Guy gave Meredith a ride home, and we finally realized that she really does live in the middle of nowhere, which is why it takes her like 2 hours to commute to the Chateau.

Strasbourg 15.10.05

I woke up early (8.00) and hopped on the 9.00 train to Luxembourg. Meredith and I had decided to go to Strasbourg (its in France) as a day trip. The main attraction was the Notre Dame Cathedral, although there was other stuff that sounded interesting as well. When we got there, we decided on a plan of action, or inaction. The cathedral was on the other side of the city, and we were hungry. Therefore the plan was to wander through the city without actually trying to get to the cathedral, just hopefully heading in the general direction. On the way we hoped to find food as well as see whatever other sights there were to see. Little did we know that Strasbourg could very well mean “City of Many Kickass Cathedrals.” It seemed that every other block or so was a ridiculously ornate church.

One of the cathedrals we went inside looked somewhat old and beat up on the outside, and was old and beat up on the inside as well. However, that couldn’t hide the splendor of the inside. (As we walked in, we saw 3 MUDECers, which was just a ridiculous coincidence.) It looked like it hadn’t been restored in a really long time, if ever, and was incredibly ornate, and it looked very original. It was sort of a hodgepodge of styles, and there was a small self-guided tour helped by a double sided sheet of paper that said what to look for. It had an alter toward the center of the church that was very ornate, with paintings and sculptures showing various scenes from the bible on it, and above it was the coolest looking organ I have ever seen. It was decorated very lavishly, and arranged in a way so as to make it look very majestic. Beyond that was almost another church within a church and it had what seemed to almost be a miniature version of the alter in St. Mary’s cathedral in Krakow, with folding wings. Every wall in the church had paintings or sculptures of scenes from the bible. Most had to do with the passion, but I also picked out Abraham being stopped from sacrificing Isaac. This was one of the best interiors of a cathedral I have seen. The authenticity gave it a cool feel that a perfectly restored place like St. Mary’s could not match.

After wandering around some more we decided that if we didn’t find food soon, we would die of hunger. However, finding food was not as easy as expected. We were hoping to find a cheap pizzeria, since they have the best bang for buck. We never found one, but we wandered past one restaurant that had picture menus (important, as our combined language talents didn’t include any French), and didn’t look too expensive, so we went there, after a long search. I had some surprisingly good pasta and ridiculously dark red Bordeaux wine (when in Rome…). We headed out, and wandered through more cathedrals. I won’t go in to as much detail for these, as they weren’t as impressive as the old one. We also went through an area called “Petite France”. In Lonely Planet, it is described as a fairy tale land of rivers and timbered houses, and it turned out to be an apt description. You felt like you were transported back 500+ years when you wandered into the district. To get there, we went through this tunnel that went over a sort of bridge, and it was a surreal experience, although in a completely different way from the Red Light District of last weekend. This seemed to be the place where architectural and artistic remnants went to die. It was filled with small chunks from Gothic spires, partial and whole statues, and all kinds of other remnants of culture. If anyone is familiar with the movie (or N64 game) Goldeneye, think Statue Park in St. Petersburg. Except that they aren’t statues of Lenin and Stalin.

Anyway, we eventually made it to the Notre Dame Cathedral. It was gothic, as expected, but not in the overly evil looking way that most other gothic cathedrals I had seen had been. It was somehow more elegant. It still had spikes and spires jutting out all over the place, but it didn’t seem as random, it seemed to be more elegantly designed. It took about 400 years for them to build this cathedral, so they definitely had time to make it look elegant. The inside was very cool as well, with two organs, one modernish one and one that was almost as cool as the one in the old cathedral. The stained glass was magnificent. The art inside wasn’t as ornate as some of the other cathedrals, but then, the highlight of this one was the outside, not the inside. When we were done with this cathedral, we wandered off. We decided to head in the direction of the train station, and maybe catch an earlier train, rather than the last direct one to Luxembourg that we had planned on taking. We ended up taking a detour to see yet another church, and didn’t come close to catching the earlier one. We headed up to the platform to sit in a waiting area and wait for our train. When we walked in, we saw the same 3 MUDECers from before. I gave a resigned laugh and sat down to finish my International Herald Tribune. The trip home was uneventful, and we grabbed some food when we got back, decided against seeing the Dandy Warhols with John, and headed to our respective homes.

Sunday 16.10.05 Oberkorn

Sunday I was able to sleep in until I felt like waking up. This was probably the first time since coming here that I have been able to do that. It was a glorious feeling. I woke up in time for lunch with Daryl and Guy, as John was still sleeping. He had reason to. After the Dandy Warhols the previous night, John took the wrong train, and in doing so, missed the last train from Luxembourg to Oberkorn. He wandered around Luxembourg city from midnight until 6am when the trains started up again. Anyway, lunch was good, and after lunch, Guy brought out a pumpkin to carve. John and I decided we wanted pumpkins too, so we went to the farm next door and bought pumpkins. We had a grand old time carving them, mine had 3 faces, and John’s looks vaguely like it got run over by a Mack Truck. That was fun. After the ordeal of pumpkin carving and related activities, we had dinner. Guy threw ham, potatoes and 10 eggs in a skillet and made the closest thing I have had to a meat lover’s skillet since leaving home. I busted out the ridiculously dark red Bordeaux wine that I bought in Strasbourg, and it was good. The meal was very good. We then watched Alexander, which was an absolutely terrible movie. Then we went to bed, after a very relaxing weekend.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Tuesday evening we had a makeup music class. Since our teacher has a performance in Berlin on Monday, we won't have class then. As a result, we made it up at 17.30 Tuesday evening. After class, our teacher, the illustrious George Backes told us that he wanted us to show him the sights of scenic Differdange and find him a Bagel and Deli, which he hates so much. When class ended, everyone just about ran out of the room, so it was left with Daryl, John, Meredith and I to go out with Backes. We went to a nice pizzeria on the main square and Backes conversed with the waiters in French, and ordered a bottle of Luxembourg Rivaner. As we were perusing the menus, Noam and Nate showed up, so it was a bit more of a party. We all ordered, and had a great time, since Backes is so cool. He teaches in Cuba over the summer, and learned Spanish fluently at age 51, just because he liked Cuba. He also told us that we should go to Cuba now that we are in Europe, since Cuba doesn't care if we come in, its the states that cares. He said they dont even stamp your passport. Anyway, we all ate, the meal probably cost over a hundred euros, and Backes picked up the check. Backes offered to drive Meredith and Noam home, since they live in Luxembourg City, and they accepted, since its a train and bus ride otherwise. All in all, a very fun evening with a very cool teacher.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Well, this past weekend was Amsterdam. We were traveling with Anna and LC this time. Daryl was looking forward to this way too much. I’ll leave you to guess why. Anyway, we went to Amsterdam, had an okay time, and now I’m home and real tired. Matt Klein, a friend of Daryl and John’s from this summers time in Germany came to Luxembourg Wednesday. He has been in Germany teaching English and painting his host family’s house. He slept on a mattress in John’s room and fun was had by all, as he is a fellow nerd.

While checking my email and Google news before class Friday, I happened across the information that basically all of Belgium is on strike. For those geography buffs among you, going through Belgium is the quickest way to Amsterdam. They said the Brussels train station was boarded up. Anyway, that was a bad sign. John and Matt Klein left early Friday morning, before Daryl and I were awake. They did this for two reasons: first, they could get to Amsterdam earlier and have more time there, and second, and by far more importantly, John really didn’t want to go to English that day. Anyway, about half the English class asked to leave a few minutes early to catch a train to Lux City, so Kay just let us all out 15 minutes early.

When we (Daryl, Anna, LC, and I) got to Lux City, we found a route through Germany, with about an hour layover in Köln. We hopped on the train, and we were off to Köln. On the way we read fairy tales from the Brothers Grimm aloud. One of them was about a woman unbelievably stupid, it was hilarious and I recommend it, the name was Freidrich and Katharine. While we were on the train, Anna realized that she had forgotten both her Eurail Pass and her passport. The passport was not a problem unless she got into some kind of trouble, but the lack of Eurail meant she had to pay for the train ride. It ended up being €80 one way. The worst part is that she had the unlimited ride pass, so for a certain period of time, she can travel all she wants, unlike ours that only have 15 travel days of use. This meant that she basically had to flush €160 (round trip) down the toilet because of her mistake. Needless to say, she was not a very happy camper. She then went to put a sweatshirt on, and apparently her host mom, whom she pays to do her laundry, isn’t very good at it, because the sweatshirt absolutely reeks. She decides to hang it out the window of the train to air it out. That was amusing, but it didn’t work. The rest of the ride was pretty uneventful.

When we got to Köln, Anna and LC decided to find food or other things in the train station, whereas Daryl and I wanted to see the Dom, a gigantic gothic cathedral right by the train station. We were smarter. We walked outside, and right in front of the train station was the biggest and tallest cathedral I have ever seen. I took about 30 pictures of it in the space of about 15 minutes. I had thought that the St. Vitus Cathedral in Praha was the coolest building I had ever seen, but this one took over the top spot. I took some really awesome pictures, but they mostly got ruined by scaffolding. Anyway, that was really cool, and when we wandered back into the train station, and found that Anna and LC had managed to go clothes shopping inside a Hauptbahnoff. That is impressive. They had bought sweatshirts, which would have made sense if just Anna had bought one. However, LC bought one and Anna bought two. Women and their shopping… We forced them to go outside and look at the Dom, which they did, and then we had to get on our train. Also getting on the train were about 25 more MUDECers on their way to Amsterdam. This made me very unhappy.

This was an ICE train all the way from Köln to Amsterdam, so we made good time. When we got there, John sent me a text telling me he was out front of the train station. We walked out both doors of the train station and he and Matt Klein were nowhere to be found. It turns out they were in front of the building, which there is no door leading to from the inside. They had already indulged in the coffee shops, though that was long enough ago that they weren’t showing it. We found each other and took a look at a map. It was a long ways to our hostel. We looked at the shady as HELL cab drivers, and we looked at the map. We looked back at the shady taxi drivers, and started walking. It took us a good half hour to get there, and thankfully our hostel had signs pointing the way when we got close, cuz it was down an alley, and we never would have found it. We checked in, and it turns out we had a private room for the 6 of us, which was a pleasant surprise. The hostel was actually quite nice.

We then headed out for some food, since we were all hungry, but more importantly, we wanted Daryl to shut the hell up, since he had been complaining loudly for the past 45 minutes about how hungry he was. We went to the Pancake house, which was not exactly authentic Dutch food, but the pancakes were really good, and the food wasn’t too hideously expensive. Also, it was sort of a sports bar, and they had the Sox-Sox game playing, which made me very happy, and nobody else gave a damn. Daryl, John, and Matt then went to explore Amsterdam and get very stoned, and Anna, LC and myself went back to the hostel to sleep, as we were exhausted and not interested in smoking copious amounts of ganja. I told Anna and LC I would go running with them in the morning. It turns out that they did in fact smoke ridiculous amounts, getting higher than kites. How fun.

Anna and LC woke up the next morning, and got ready to go running. When they asked me if I still wanted to go, they got an emphatic NO, and I went back to sleep. We then woke up a while later and had the usual cold cuts breakfast, although it was a bit bigger this time, with a larger selection, none of which was eggs, bacon, and sausage. Anna and LC went to do their own thing, which consisted partly of going to all 3 United Colors of Benetton stores in Amsterdam. We manly men decided to hit up the Rijksmuseum first, since we knew we wanted to see that, and then we could wander without worrying about going back there to see it at some point, and leaving time for it. We paid our €9 (!) to get in, and began to work our way through. Now the Rijksmuseum normally has 150+ rooms of art. At this particular time, much of the museum was under renovation, leaving all of 14 (!) rooms open. We were not happy about this. That’s more than 50 eurocents per room, and that is very much a rip-off. Some of the art was awesome, but the quantity was severely lacking. Some of the highlights were the ridiculously well painted still lifes. They make a silver vase shine, somehow. As C-Unit said Monday when we were talking about this, I would have started with glitter-that shines right? Also there were some pen drawings of ship battles that were done by an Admiral who actually did sketches during the battles that the pen drawings were based off of.

When we finished the Rijksmuseum, we headed deeper into the city. We eventually found a place that rented 4 person paddleboats for €7/hour with a €50 deposit. We jumped all over that, and headed out onto the canals. It was probably the highlight of the trip, just spending an hour paddling around the city, seeing the sights from the water, and trying to avoid getting run down by larger, powered boats. Daryl was being rather obnoxious, yelling “AHOY!” to both other boats and any group of people that happened to be close to the water. Regardless, it was a good time, and I parked the boat well, backing into the slip at the dock when we were done.

We then headed off to the harbor, just to see what was there. On the way, we passed a couple hundred thousand bikes. Someone said that the city has 800,000 people and 600,000 bicycles, and I believe it. They were locked to anything that could possibly lock up a bike, it was ridiculous. Once we got to the harbor, we were somewhat disappointed, as it was almost all under construction, and not really a very nice looking area. The weather was nice, however, so we sat on the edge of the water for a while. We headed back into the city and just wandered for quite a while. We eventually made it back to the square where we ate the night before, and met up with Anna, LC, and Michelle (Anna’s roommate back in Lux). We went to an Italian place despite my efforts to get us to go to an Indian restaurant. The food was good, and we absolutely destroyed it. We all ate each others’ food, and it was all gone by the end. We went back to the square, and the girls headed back to the hostel to drop stuff off, so we watched this crazy English guy put on a street performance. He was somewhat talented, but he was absolutely hilarious, and was not afraid to offend anyone. His grand finale included having a 14 yr old girl from the audience drop a lit torch down his pants. He amused us until the girls came back, and we headed to the Red Light District.

The Red Light District was surreal. It didn’t seem possible for something like this to exist. Scantily clad women behind glass doors, selling themselves on ridiculously crowded streets. Some looked like they were about 14, some 50, and some looked like they were men in drag. It was quite strange. While we walked past a building that had Sex Shows, there was a long queue, and half the line was MUDECers. The other half looked like people in their 40s and 50s. They all looked stoned and/or drunk, and were all about to shell out €30 to €45 to see people have sex on stage. This was something that I figured I did not want to see, since once I did; I wouldn’t be able to unsee it. I don’t think I would want that memory to be around for the rest of my life. Our group declined, but the rest of the MUDECers went in. We wandered some more, then hit a coffee shop, where Anna and I had brownies, and John, Daryl and Matt put a gram of weed into a single joint and smoked about half of it. We wandered for a while more, the girls went back home, we wandered some more, got lost (Amsterdam made no sense, we never got a hang of it) and eventually got back, so tired that I could barely crawl into my bunk and fell asleep immediately, resting my aching feet. The brownies did absolutely nothing to me or Anna. They weren’t even good brownies, they were really dry.

We woke up Sunday, and after breakfast and checkout, the girls went directly to the train station, wanting to hang out in Köln for a couple hours on the way back. We decided to wander through Vondelpark for a while, which was really cool and really huge. We noticed that none of the dogs people were walking were on leashes, yet they followed the people better than dogs on leashes tend to do. We eventually went back to the hostel, where John and Matt played giant chess. The pieces were all about a third to a half meter tall, and the board’s squares were probably a half meter wide. Matt beat John, in front of a few spectators, who apparently had nothing better to do that day than watch strangers play giant chess. After that we headed to the train station.

We caught a train to Köln that had three stops, since Matt Klein had to get to Köln/Bonn airport. We ended up 10 minutes late into Nijmegen, where we had 4 minutes to make a connection, had we been on time. Needless to say, we missed that one. So we spent an hour in Nijmegen; that was a blast. Wine was bought to aid in making the trip more bearable and to act as a sleeping aid. We eventually made it to Köln, said bye to Matt, and continued to Koblenz, which had a train back to Luxembourg City that got in at 23.41. The last train from Lux City to Oberkorn is at 23.50, so we made it barely on time, and got home at 00.30, ate the soup Guy left out, and collapsed in bed. Throughout this, the omni prescient Meredith was telling us what trains we could take through text messages. Apparently she had some kind of timetable; that would probably be helpful to have.

All in all, I guess I would go, if I had to remake my choice, but I don’t think I would use a weekend on it if I were only here for a semester. It was my least favorite city that I have been to in Europe. It seems to be a tourist destination mainly because of the coffee shops and the sex-related activities, and there isn’t much else to do there. Also, it was ridiculously dirty and shady. I probably heard more English than Dutch while I was there. So for those of you who may be considering a trip-unless you’re a stoner, don’t bother. Or if you like kinky sex, I guess that would be a reason as well.

Next weekend will be spent in and near Luxembourg. Perhaps we/I will take a day trip or two but not only am I traveled out, I am going through money at a ridiculous rate, and would like to avoid hostels and expensive meals for a weekend.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Friday, Day 7 – Prague

This was to be the last day of the official field study tour. From here, people would spread out all over Europe. We, however, were staying in Prague. (We had discussed going to Dresden, but decided that we hadn’t really done all we could in Prague, so we would stay there. I woke up and headed to the bathroom, but when I got back, Daryl and John had gone downstairs to breakfast, and locked me out. So I went down the 3 flights of stairs and into the café area in my bare feet to get breakfast. Then I got the key, had to run upstairs, get shoes and my wallet, run back downstairs, and go to an ATM so I could pay for our final night in Prague. This morning was not starting out well.

After breakfast, we saw a Czech dissident writer speak about what it was like for writers then and how they have adapted. He had a strange way of speaking that made it really hard to concentrate on what he was saying, and I mostly ended up learning that C-Unit and Anna were staying til that night in Prague as well. After the speaker, I headed for the bus with everyone else since Daryl had left my lonely planet Europe book on the floor in there, and I wanted it back before the bus left. C-Unit had left something aboard as well, so the two of us jumped on and off quickly not wanting to get taken along for the 12 hour ride to Luxembourg.

When I got back, Daryl and John were laying in bed reading, so I took a shower, braving the foot herpes again, and headed out to wander. I wandered around the streets near our hostel, stopping in stores and staring at all the cool buildings. I eventually made it to Wencislas Square. This is not so much a square as a really long and wide street, lined with touristy stores. Eventually John and Daryl met me there, and we wandered through tourist traps. We hit a bookstore, and I bought the aforementioned Dictionary of Quotations, Daryl got Arabian Nights, and John bought another Pratchett book. We decided to head to the Communist Museum, paid our entry fee, took pictures with a gigantic Lenin, and went in. It was very interesting, talked all about communism in the Czech Republic, and had all kinds of remnants of Communist statues and other things left from the Soviet rule of the Czech Republic. I learned quite a bit about what happened in Prague, it was very interesting. One of the more amusing facts was about a gigantic statue of Stalin that they put up on a hill in the city. It was finished two years after Stalin died, then destroyed a couple years later when Khrushchev declared him a criminal. Now there stands a gigantic metronome on that spot. More on that later.

The next thing we did was climb a gigantic hill that had a wall going up it, and had some sort of buildings at the top. When we got to the top, there were some beautiful gardens and buildings. On the way up we saw a really cool monument to the people affected by KGB brutality under the Soviet regime. There will be a picture on webshots at some point. Also, we were near the Czech version of the Eiffel Tower. Just as high above sea level, but only a 5th the relative height. Daryl and I climbed it, while John went into the botanical gardens. (This is the norm, Daryl and I like towers, John likes gardens.) There were 3 or 400 steps to reach the top; it was painful. When we got there, though, the view was terrific. I took a number of pictures, and as soon as the stitch program allows me to stitch a picture without freezing, I think I have a couple good panoramas of the city. The way down was terrifying, since the stairs are open to the air, and you have to look down, since you are going down. Daryl and I are both afraid of heights, so we were relieved when we got to the bottom.

We ate some junk food from the little shop on the ground to regain energy, and John came over from the gardens to join us. John had found a museum of mirrors or something of the sort that he wanted to go into. Daryl and I reluctantly ponied up the 40 kc fee, and went inside. At first it was very boring, but then there was a mirror on the ceiling, and we had fun jumping while looking up, and feeling like we were jumping off of the ceiling. Then we went into a room with a bunch of the weirdly bent mirrors, and had fun looking at Daryl the midget, Daryl the conehead, John looking like Beevis, and many other strange looking versions of ourselves.

After that we decided to try to get to the castle. We wandered down through these close, walled in streets, lost and making good time. As we were wandering, hoping we would eventually hit the castle, we got a text from C-Unit, asking if we wanted to grab food with him and Anna before they got on their train. We abandoned our quest for the castle, and met them in the Old Town Square for food. (It was easier to get back to familiar Prague, since we just went downhill until we hit the river.) We went to a restaurant that Anna and LC had gone to before, and it was good. On the way back from the restaurant, Anna (possessing excessive energy, as I mentioned) decided that she wanted to run to the hostel then run back and meet us again. She ran off, and we kept walking. We eventually made a detour to a shady looking shop that had a bunch of bottles of absinth in the window. Daryl and John were hell bent on trying this stuff, so they had an incredibly painful conversation with a storeowner who spoke neither English or German, and ended up pooling all their cash to buy a 20cl bottle for far too much. With me rolling my eyes in exasperation, we set back out for the hostel, hoping C-Unit and Anna would get to their train on time.

When we got back, we headed to the bar to use the computers again, then went up to the room where Daryl and John failed to hallucinate (there’s a waste of $16). We fell asleep for our last night in Prague.

Saturday, Day 8 (Sunday, Day 9) – Prague, Travel

We woke up about 9, having to pack up and check out before 10. Checkout consisted of turning in our key and saying “We’re checking out,” and the clerk saying “OK.” We had another terrible breakfast, put our bags in the storage at the hotel, and left for the castle. We decided to wander up to the aforementioned metronome on our way to the castle. The view from there was pretty good, and we passed a sort of fair beign set up that looked like it would be pretty cool. We eventually (with the help of a map) made it most of the way to the castle. The map eventually disappeared; either John dropped it or was preyed upon by the worst pickpocket ever. We made it into the castle, which is really a small city within walls, with many cool buildings. The most magnificent by far was St. Vitus Cathedral, a gigantic gothic building. This was probably the coolest looking building I have ever seen. It looked ridiculously evil, with black spires everywhere, dozens of gargoyles, and huge towers with ornate windows. Words cannot describe how awesome the building was. There will be pictures of it, but even those do not do it justice. We snuck inside without paying with a gigantic German tour group. The inside is immense and has some cool stained glass, but it was not as magnificent as the outside. Frankly, the Cathedral of St. Mary and even the unknown one we saw in Munich were much more ornate inside. This is not to say its nothing at all, as it is far more ornate and beautiful than almost any church in the US is.

We made our way out of the castle via the castle gardens, which were cool, though we had to pay to get out this way. It was now nearing midday Saturday, and you could tell. The amount of tourists was absolutely staggering. Over the next few hours I would grow to increasingly hate tour groups with a passion. We went to a small café that was empty, which made us very happy, and I had a good lunch of this ham and chicken kabob thing and some pineapple juice. Daryl had some sort of meat that was mediocre with his banana juice, and John got duck and Budwar, the original Czech Budweiser. He really attacked his duck, tearing every last bit of meat out of it. It was vaguely frightening. We spent the rest of the afternoon wandering and buying souvenirs and such.

We then headed back to the hotel for our bags, and went to the train station. However, there are like 4 train stations in Prague, and we went to the wrong one. Then we found the right one. The people there were incredibly unhelpful. We were trying to get to the border so we could use our Eurail passes, so we asked to get to the closest German city. They all seemed to have issues with this, and we eventually got incredibly cheap tickets to a place called Cheb, which is still in the Czech Republic. While we were waiting to leave, Daryl and john blew the rest of their crowns on food, and put the change that was left (5 crowns) on the stairs to see who would pick it up. A lot of people walked by without noticing, then a couple penny-pinching old men picked up all the coins. We got on the train (really dingy, Eastern European train) to Cheb. We got to Cheb, and went to the information window asking if we could get to Luxembourg. The woman sort of laughed, which made us very nervous. She eventually got us an itinerary with a bunch of switches that would go Cheb-Frankfurt-Koblenz-Trier-Luxembourg. Unofortunately, the next train to Frankfurt was at 1.12, and it was only 22.00.

We settled in for a 3 hour wait in the Cheb train station. We eventually got kicked out of the station proper and had to go outside and wait there. As we were reading out loud from Arabian nights, a couple prostitutes came up offering sex and crystal meth. We declined both, but not before Daryl had been rather inappropriately touched by one of the prostitutes. We eventually got on our train (another dingy one) and settled down in a compartment for the trip. Before we got the lights turned off and the curtains closed, an old German woman came in and sat down in our compartment. For the rest of the trip, she wouldn’t let us turn off the lights. This was a 5 hour train ride that began at 1am. Needless to say, by the end, we were all ready to kill the crazy German insomniac. We made it to Frankfurt, got on a nicer IC train, and the rest of the trip was pretty uneventful. When we were nearing Luxembourg, I sent Guy a text message to tell him when he would be back, and he said he would make a reservation and take us out to lunch. We arrived in Oberkorn at 12.00 noon Sunday. Guy was waiting for us, and once we stuck our bags in our rooms and had a glass of welcome back Framboise, we headed for the restaurant. We had some good Italian food, and were all ready to collapse. We got back, took showers, and all went to sleep.

The trip from Prague to Oberkorn took 17 hours, 40 minutes, and 6 trains. We were exhausted, grimy beyond belief, and exhausted. Did I mention exhausted?

Well that was my trip, any questions? I just wrote over 10 pages, you better all read it. And comment on it so I feel loved. Check webshots, I will slowly be adding pictures. As Samuel Palmer said, “A picture is something between a thing and a thought.”


Well, I have about 10 days to write about, so this is probably going to have to be in installments. This past week was field study, aka MUDEC sponsored travel. The plan was to leave Saturday morning, spend that night in Weimar, then drive to Krakow on Sunday. Monday and Tuesday were to be spent in Krakow, and we would leave Wednesday morning to go to Prague. We would stay in Prague until Friday morning, when the bus would leave for Luxembourg for those who wanted to go back. It also made a stop in Nurnburg for those who wanted to go to Munchen or other places in Germany. We also had the option of staying in Prague and finding our own way back. This last was the option that John, Daryl and I exercised. However, I’m getting ahead of myself.

I employed a tactic stolen from my brother, carrying around a piece of paper and writing down everything that happens, so hopefully I will not have forgotten much, since so much happened.

Also, I took 195 pictures. Not all will be online, but there should be a good amount eventually. It takes forever to upload, so the number wont be huge.

Friday, Day 0 – Luxembourg City

Since this was one of the few Fridays we would be around Luxembourg City, and not traveling, we decided to go to a restaurant that was somewhat nice, and have a good meal. I convinced everyone (myself, Justin, John, Daryl, and Meredith) that an Indian restaurant would be in our best interests. We went to the Taj Mahal restaurant in Luxembourg City, right near the train station. (If you’re familiar with Lux City, which you aren’t, you would realize that’s not really a ringing endorsement; the train station district is the shady district.) Anyway, in keeping with the Lewis travel tradition, I found it in Lonely Planet, and it said good things. It was actually really nice. They seated us and the menus had the usual Indian Curry-food. All of us other than John got some sort of Curry Chicken, he got some lamb dish that said “hot” next to it. It came with rice, so I ordered nan, telling them I would pay for it since they weren’t too enthused, however, when it came, they all ate it and wanted more. I’m always right. The food was great, and I haven’t had Chai that good since I was in Delhi. However, it was 3 euros instead of 3 rupees. Ouch. Anyway, Johns food was so hot he was soaked in sweat when he was done eating, which was rather hilarious. John had a Kingfisher, Daryl just had wine, (Please purchase me immediately!) and the rest of us had Chai. All who had the Chai loved it, since Chai is awesome.

After our Indian food we wandered down to the Petrusse Valley to sit and digest. After a while, we decided since we were close, we would stop by Scott’s Pub, which is the Miami hangout in Lux City, and we had never been. It had a bunch of MUDECers who weren’t especially interesting, Daryl and Justin spent a ton of money on beer that tasted like crap, and we left. End day 0.

Satuday, Day 1 – Travel and Weimar

We woke up bright and early, John and myself already packed, and Daryl scrambling to get packed, using my small duffel, which he subsequently broke the zipper of. We ended up traveling very much not light. Both big duffels and a backpack for the three of us, tho the big duffels weren’t stuffed. Anyway, Daryl was lagging, so me and John ran to catch the train so we wouldn’t have to lug our bigass duffel all the way to the Chateau. We missed the train. Now we had a 20 minute walk with a gigantor duffel and a backpack, that wasn’t fun. We got to the Chateau and proceeded to Hurry up and wait. The bus showed up and we got on and loaded our duffels in the bottom. I managed to wangle myself two seats, no seat partner, so that was good. We watched Boondock Saints and started to watch Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels when an uprising in the rear of the bus (the useless people) caused it to be turned off and Jerry McGuire on. I proceeded to put on my headphones and ignore the movie. I later noticed that nobody who complained and got their wish were actually watching the movie.

Anyway, after a long and uneventful trip we got to Weimar, however it wasn’t that easy to get to our hostel. It turns out we were in the middle of the woods. It took our bus driver a while to find the place and when we did, we realized we would have to cab it into the city itself. That sucked, first negative point for Kay Sloan. (Kay Sloan is our English base course teacher, and therefore, the one in charge of planning and heading up the trip. Also along was Erin Schoen, the activities coordinator. More on Erin later.) We cabbed it into the city, which was cheap, but still a pain, and got food. We wandered the city and got thuringers, which were awesome, best I’ve had yet. We met some other people at a restaurant and sat there while they ate. Wiemar was really boring. It is a place iwht a lot of history and nothing to do. Goethe and Schiller are Gods there, and Nietzsche and others spent time there, but that doesn’t give you anything to do. We got some ice cream, my randomly picked flavor was coconut, which was unfortunate, but I survived. We headed back to the hostel and decided to not go to bed for a while, so as to make it easier to sleep on the bus, and played some poker. The girls we were playing had never played before, so of course they got some awesome cards and were winning. I was the second one out and started dealing, and somehow Daryl got an Ace or King every hand. Don’t ask me how. I wouldn’t know how to deal from the bottom or anything. Anyway, no money was involved, and John soon went out, and Daryl started (without my help) to take all their chips. We sat around talking for a while, and eventually went to bed. Meredith slept on our floor since her roommates locked her out and didn’t hear her pounding on the door.

Sunday, Day 2 – Travel and Krakow

We woke up nice and early and headed for Krakow. I was already sick of the bus, which didn’t bode well for the rest of the trip. Our passports got stamped at the border and we crossed into Poland and Eastern Europe. You could tell. Things got a lot more shady looking, and more run down. As we neared Krakow, we were starting to get a little scared. The outskirts of Krakow, where we were staying looked like we had jumped into Soviet Russia circa 1960. Our hostel’s previous life looked to have been a KGB prison. Thankfully it looked nicer inside than out. Soon after arriving we headed out with the whole group for a dinner. Andrew, a Bulgarian dude that worked at the hostel, served as our guide, and showed us how to get there and sat with us, tho he refused to have a free meal on us. He was a real cool guy, told us the Polish version of Hooters was called Rooster and had some funny stories to tell. When he mentioned how he liked American History X, I pointed to Daryl down the table, and asked if he reminded Andrew of Edward Norton in that movie and Andrew cracked up. The restaurant was real nice, and we had a big meal of soup and pirogues. Andrew took a few people out with him afterwards, but we were so exhausted we just went home and slept.

Monday, Day 3 – Krakow

This morning we had a tour of Old Krakow, so we left Soviet Russia and headed for the city center. We went from 1960 to 1760 in a 20 minute walk. The old town was really cool, the highlight by far being St. Mary’s cathedral which was cool on the outside and beyond incredible on the inside. It was full of bold and bright paintings, sculptures and all kinds of crazy religious art. The alter is a world famous piece with something like 18 parts, all illustrating parts of the Bible. In the tower of the cathedral, a trumpeter plays every hour, and stops in mid-note each time. This is in memory of a trumpeter who was sounding the alarm from the same tower and was hit by an arrow in mid-note. All through the old town were really cool buildings that were older than our country. Also, it had mostly escaped being bombed in the Second World War, so it was very much intact.

When we stopped for lunch, Daryl wandered off and was nowhere to be found, and since he has no cell phone, he was lost forever, so Meredith, John and I went on a mission for steak. We failed, the restaurant was closed. So we went to a pizzeria on the main square and had really bad pizza that tasted like the sauce was tomato soup. We met up with the group again and went on a tour of the Jewish quarter of the city. The Jewish population in Krakow went from 65.000 in 1930 to about 100 currently. We went inside a synagogue, one of the last functioning ones in Krakow, and also to a Jewish graveyard. A lot of what we saw was in the movie Schindler’s List. (I haven’t seen it, but I am told that a lot of it was filmed in that section of Krakow, even the specific scenes where some spots could be seen.) There were a lot of buildings that were in ruins because the ownership could not be cleared up. The families had been killed in the Holochaust and no clear line of succession could be found, so they just stood there, in ruins. We also took a tour of a photographic Holocaust museum. All of the pictures were taken by one Briton over a period of about 4 years, and he was the one who gave us the tour. With Auschwitz tomorrow, this was something of background information. The guide didn’t really have nice things to say about Auschwitz, mainly because it was so touristy, and it overshadowed the same number of people that were rounded up and shot in small villages all across Europe.

That evening we once again failed to find a steak place so we sat down at an outdoor café and got food there. However, it took an hour for them to get us our food, so we sat and talked, and stared every time our gorgeous waitress came by. We then made an attempt to go to a Jazz club but the one we went into was empty as a tomb. So we went down the street to a place called “Pub [something Polish]”. When we walked down 3 flights of stairs, we arrived in the bottom level of this bar. Heavy metal was blaring from the sound system, and it had the atmosphere of a cave. This was my kind of place. We hung out there for a while, and met some Americans who were studying in Berlin, and were in Krakow, seeing Auschwitz and such. We made it an early night, as we were tired and our companions were not being very fun. When we got back to the hostel, we went down to the common area and played some pool, and hung out with some other MUDECers, as well as used the free internet. While down there John spotted (and stole) a small (9”x12”ish) poster that had a small kid playing with letters, and the letters were ZSRR; all consonants, a microcosm of the Polish and Czech languages. “ZSRR!!” (pronounced zizzurrrr) became the rallying cry for the trip. We then hit the sack, in anticipation of Auschwitz the next day.

Tuesday, Day 4 – Auschwitz, Birkenau, and Iron Maiden?

The day dawned bright and clear and we boarded our bus to go to Auschwitz. The trip was mercifully only about an hour and a half, despite getting lost. Once there, we watched an old film about the place, then got ready for the tour.

I would first like to say that what I write will not properly convey what I felt when touring this place. I was not as hard hit as some, mainly because I’m a cold-hearted bastard, but you would have to be made of stone not to be affected. However, you cannot out in words how the place makes you feel, and any attempt will not do it justice. The only way to find out is to go there yourself. Onwards

The first part of the tour was in Auschwitz I, which is a former Polish Army barracks complex. To enter, you pass through a gate reading “Arbeit Macht Frei”, literally, “Work makes you free”. This gate is somewhat well known, so you may have heard of it. Just the look of it and walking through it is quite an experience; the gate has a sinister look to it. Inside, it almost looks like a college campus surrounded by barbed wire. The buildings are all solid brick, built before the war for the polish army, and there are trees and grass outside the buildings. Inside the buildings is a different story. This part of the camp has been made into a kind of museum, so the insides of most of the buildings have been rebuilt. The barracks we went into were filled with the massive amounts of items stolen from the Jews who were taken there. There was a room with a gigantic mound of shoes, another with combs and brushes, one with human hair, and so forth. This was staggering, but the way the tour guide acted, almost as if she were trying to prove something, was quite disconcerting. The whole first part of the tour seemed like the guide was almost on the defensive, trying real hard to show us how bad it was, and not really allowing us our own reactions to it.

After the mounds of stuff, we entered the one block that had been left as it originally was. This was the prison/torture/execution block. Prisoners who committed any infraction of the rules were put here. There were cells, interrogation rooms, and an execution wall outside. Some of the cells resembled “the box” of Cool Hand Luke – the size of a telephone booth, so as to keep you from being able to lie down and sleep. Outside was the wall where prisoners were shot for violating rules. They were originally shot in front of the brick wall, but the SS realized this was asking to get hit by a ricochet, so they built a wood and rubber barrier to catch the bullets. This was taken down when Birkenau was built and executions were done there instead, but a replica had been built, and people had left flowers and candles in front of it. As John pointed out, this building, even after 60 years, had a smell of death to it. It may have just been in our heads, but you could sense the death that had happened in this building.

After this we entered the experimental gas chamber and crematorium at Auschwitz I. This was all done in Birkenau (Auschwitz II) when it was built, but the first trials and killings were done in the former armory for the Polish army. We walked through both the first room where they tested gassing the prisoners, and also through the crematorium in the next room over. This just felt vaguely wrong, as if I was trespassing on something that was not meant for tourists. I had the same aversion to taking pictures that I tend to get in working churches and mosques.

After this we stopped for a food break. (Auschwitz is very touristy and has a little café and all the usual souvenir shops and such.) Following the break Kay Sloan said that we were not going to have a guided tour of Birkenau, however, the bus would go there, and those who wanted to see it were welcome to get out and wander. This was better than a guided tour, most of us thought afterward. Where Auschwitz I had been made into a museum and a tourist attraction, Birkenau was left largely as it had been 60 years ago. Many of the buildings had been burned down and all that was left was a field of chimneys in one area. Some buildings were intact, even to the bunks inside. In a way, this gave us a much better idea of the camp than the tour did. The sheer scale was incredible, the buildings stretching as far as the eye could see.

With that part over, we headed back for Krakow. We were all exhausted, so we collapsed for a nap until dinnertime. We headed out to the Sioux Steak Ranches (that’s not even good grammar) this ridiculously over the top Western style restaurant on the town square. Meredith, John, and I were all able to get the steak we had been craving, and the others got some Mexican/Western US food as well. The food was good, though there wasn’t enough of it. The waitresses (all of them) however, were gorgeous, every single one of them. Between that and the good food, we were able to overlook the small portions. I headed to a souvenir shop and found a CCCP t-shirt with a hammer and sickle on the back of it.

We tried to go to a different Jazz club this time and we were ridiculously underdressed for this one, so we ended up in the cave Heavy Metal bar this time. As I walked in, I heard “Man of Sorrows” by Bruce Dickinson playing, and I knew I was home. It came to the attention of two big scary looking Polish guys at the bar that I knew the songs, and was an Iron Maiden fan, and I was immediately greeted as a friend. A grand old time was had by all as we spent our last zlotys and sang along to Fear of the Dark, Tears of the Dragon, and Hallowed be thy Name. At one point, when John went to take a picture with the biggest scariest looking guy in front of the drinks poster, the guy lifted john off the ground with one arm. This picture is on webshots. Both are standing, and the guy is taller than John. He was nuts. His English was horrible, but since my Polish is nonexistent (and he could easily kill me) I didn’t complain. We had some good conversation about how bad System of a Down was and how awesome Iron Maiden was. At least that’s what I think he said. Anyway, he bought me a beer, we all sang loudly to Iron Maiden, and had a great time, as good a time as I have had in a good long time.

On the way home we ended up in pairs, with Meredith and me farthest along, then John and Daryl, then Justin and Jessica. Meredith and I made it home all right, maybe because she was yelling in Russian how much she loved Poland. Justin and Jessica were fine as well. John and Daryl, however, were stopped by the Polish police. They were asked for ID, and eventually let go, thankfully. A night in a Polish jail probably would not have been fun. I went to bed, as did Daryl, but Josh had some zlotys left (he hadn’t gone out yet that night) and he and John decided to go out again. After John stopped in and was told in no uncertain terms that a) Daryl and I didn’t want to go with and b) that if he valued his life, he should leave our room, the two went out and proceeded to blow 200 zlotys (~$65) on gigantic döner kabobs and whatever else.

Wednesday, Day 5 - Travel, Brno, and Prague

Day 5 dawned far too bright, far too early, and we were back on the bus. Everyone had very obviously rolled right out of bed onto the bus. Charlie, Thomas, Anna, and LC apparently didn’t get the memo on what time to be on the bus, so when Kay Sloan paid a visit, Charlie and Thomas said some unrepeatable words, and Anna and LC came running. By now we were all absolutely sick of the damn bus, and we had like a 10 hour drive to Prague ahead of us. Needless to say, it sucked. Erin (remember Erin? This is a song about Erin.) was her normal useless self, yelling about movies, never helping Kay Sloan with anything, and lying around like a beached whale. She was quickly making enemies of everyone on the trip. More on that later. We stopped in Brno, in the Ceska Republiky, for lunch and bathrooms. Unfortunately, it was a national holiday, and it took forever just to find somewhere open. Our hour long stop turned into close to two hours. We had some mediocre pizza and headed off to find a bathroom. The one next to the restaurant was closed, since apparently people don’t need to poop when a saint is born. We found a mall and paid for the bathroom there. On the way back we hit a bookstore, since we were running low on reading material. John bought a Terry Pratchett book, I bought a Ludlum book, and Daryl bought the Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales. We then realized we were ridiculously late for the bus. Having told Anna not to let it leave without us, we were sure it wouldn’t, but we didn’t want to piss off all 40 students on the trip. We booked it back to the bus and got there last, but only by a few minutes. It was back on the road.

When we finally pulled into Prague, we were so glad to be off the bus we literally flew into our hotel. We stopped suddenly, realizing that this was actually a pretty nice place, unlike our KGB prison of the last few days. There was a nice Café and a nice bar in the bottom floor, and our rooms were very spacious. We didn’t have time for much more than throwing our bags down, then it was time to head to U Fleku for a group dinner. After Kay Sloan led us in circles for a while, we got there. U Fleku is the most famous beer hall in Prague, and you could tell it was a beer hall. Before we were even seated waiters were putting beer down on the tables. It was dark and tasted like water. We ordered, I had some sort of chicken, it was good; I won the food battle. The goulash looked good too, but I would have that when I was paying for it, not MUDEC. There was a lot of singing and revelry in other rooms; we were pretty quiet, all tired from the ride. Charley (aka C-Unit) got up to make a toast toward the end of dinner and it went something like this:

“I would like to propose a toast. First, to Andrea, our bus driver, the best damn driver I’ve ever seen. [He really was, he fit that bus in spots I wouldn’t try to put a civic in.] Second to Kay Sloan, she has tried her best, and done a great job putting this together. And I would also like to toast Erin. [Remember Erin? This is a song about Erin] She’s done a lot of hanging out, and uh, hanging out, and really doing a great job of hanging out.”

Like I said, Erin made some enemies. However, Frank, one of the dumber of our group butted in with something like “Erin has really done a lot, good job” destroying the backhanded toast C-Unit had done such a good job of. It was funny anyway. Anyway, we walked back, and got sort of a mini tour of Prague at night, and I was very impressed in my half-awake state. Daryl gave me a ride on his shoulders for a while, which was fun. The polar opposite of my exhausted state was Anna, the human version of a hummingbird, flitting in and out of groups of people jumping around and talking a mile a minute the whole time. And she is always like this. I have never seen so much energy in a human being in my life. Anyway, we got back to our hotel and fell asleep immediately.

I’m only halfway done. I feel sorry for you people. This is really long. Who knew I could write 6 pages on 5 days of travel? Ah well, deal with it, I’m having a great time, live vicariously through me. As Shakespeare says:

“Perseverance, dear my lord
Keeps honour bright: to have done, is to hang
Quite out of fashion, like a rusty mail
In monumental mockery”

That makes no sense at all to me, but it includes the word perseverance, and I gotta get some use out of this book of quotations I bought.

Thursday, Day 6 – Prague

We didn’t have anything to do with the group until the afternoon today, so we got to sleep in until the grand time of 9.30, when we had to get up or miss out on the continental breakfast. By this point, I was extremely sick of the plate of cold cuts and cheese and a roll that is the universal continental breakfast. I WANT EGGS! AND BACON! AND PANCAKES! End rant. I then decide to try the showers out at this place (this is not the first shower I have taken, just the one that I deigned to mention). Bathrooms were communal here, we didn’t have private ones, which was unfortunate. The showers were disgusting. I didn’t have sandals, mistakenly thinking that we would be in somewhat nice hostels and hotels, so I just went barefoot and ended up feeling just as dirty when I got out as when I got in. (Slight exaggeration, but they were gross.) Luckily I didn’t get foot herpes, unless it’s a type that lays dormant for a while. After the shower, John and I went wandering, since Daryl wanted to read. This wandering reinforced our opinion from the night before that Prague is a really cool city. All the buildings look really cool, with all different kinds of architecture. There are buildings that date from the middle ages, to buildings that are very modern, built after the tourist boom that has made Prague pretty rich.

After some ridiculously cheesy pizza for lunch (We eat a lot of pizza because it is generally both cheap and readable on the menu, important when the menu is in polish or Czech.) we headed to our tour of the city. Our guide’s name was Vaclav, which is the Czech version of John, as every other person is named that, including their first president Vaclav Havel, and their current one, Vaclav something. Anyway, he was a good guide, knowledgeable and funny. He addressed the usual complaint about the lack of vowels in their language by saying an entire sentence without using a single vowel. He tried to teach us Czech, which we all promptly forgot, since it has no similarity with a language any of us know. (With the exception of Meredith, since Russian is similar.) He said that Czech people consume the most beer per capita in the world: 165L per person per year. That includes all people all ages. That’s a European .5L beer a day, but since most babies aren’t drinking, it’s actually more. We saw sights like the Charles Bridge (.5km long and ancient), the Estates Theater (Mozart’s Don Giovanni premiered there), the church where Tycho Brahe is buried, and various other cathedrals and towers from all different periods. One of the more interesting things I saw was an obviously Soviet built building in the middle of the city, surrounded by ornate buildings hundreds of years older. (I have a picture of it on webshots.) Daryl, John, and Justin thought we were walking across Charles Bridge, so they walked across, and we didn’t follow them. They missed the end of the tour, but by that time it was raining so we cut it short, thankfully. I was wearing a polo and no jacket, I was cold.

That night we went to the black light theater. My notes call it the black light LSD theater which might be more accurate. The whole thing was very weird, with midgets, spiders, people and other things cavorting around on stage in bright colors. I imagine it’s what an acid trip would be like. After that weird experience that guaranteed dreams of brightly colored spiders for everyone that night, we headed back to the hotel. We went down to the bar in the bottom of the hotel, where if you buy a drink, you can use computers with internet for free. There were a bunch of us, so a couple bottles of champagne were bought, and we invited Kay Sloan to come hang out. She eventually bought another bottle and taught Lane how to pop the cork out (think Hetal size, I’m surprised Lane didn’t fly away when it popped). Kay wanted to hear our thoughts on the trip and how to make it better, as this was the last night of the tour. (Don’t worry, its not the last night of MY trip…muahahaha.) Most of the comments revolved around more time in Prague, and possibly less in Krakow. Thus ended the trips final night. Daryl, John, and I had decided to stay in Prague Friday night and take an overnight train Saturday night to get home. This gave us two more full days.

End part 1.