Vienna Waits for You

Since starting college, a few people have told me that the “grass doesn’t grow under my feet.” This phrase has definitely proven to be true over the past three months considering I have been to 12 countries since the end of January. One trip I have yet to discuss on my blog is my trip to Vienna the weekend after spring break. Here it is:

Grüß Gott! Even though Austria is a German-speaking country, people often use
grüß Gott as greeting instead of guten Tag. The phrase translates to God bless you because the country is traditionally Catholic. A couple of weeks ago, I had fun exploring the city of Vienna with my roommate Megan.

Here are the main highlights:

  • GORGEOUS Baroque palaces
The Hofburg Palace
Schönbrunn Palace
Schönbrunn Gardens
  • Österreichischen Nationalbibliothek (basically the Beauty and the Beast Library)
  • delicious food – wiener schnitzel, cake, Mozartkugel, and Manner’s wafers
Famous Viennese Cake
  • well-preserved culture – everything is so gorgeous! The city is a music-lover’s dream 🙂

We were only in Vienna for two short days, but the city was very clean and livable–I will definitely be back to the stunning capital of Austria. Tschüss!

Spring Break pt. 2 – Poland

Dzień Dobry! After spending one night in Prague, Kiera and I woke up early on Thursday morning to catch a train to Krakow, Poland. The trip ended up being around 8 hours with a short layover which involved us sprinting through a train station and large parking lot in order to find the correct bus. Throughout the journey, I noticed how much the Czech Republic and Poland resemble the Midwest, so it makes sense that so many people from Central/Eastern Europe migrated to the center of the U.S. In Krakow, we found our hostel and met some U.S. students studying abroad in London this semester; they recommended a restaurant with traditional Polish food for dinner, so we ventured to the city center and checked it out. Krakow’s central square or “Stare Miasto” is the largest medieval square in Europe and reminded me a lot of Prague.

After checking out the major attractions in the center, including a campanile-like structure, a gorgeous cathedral, and a marketplace, we went to an amazing pierogi dumpling restaurant. I had never had pierogies before coming to Poland, and I am now in love with them. Check out the photo of them below 🙂 mine had bacon, barley, and onion.

We spent the rest of the night walking around the city and enjoying the weather. In contrast to Prague where the center is full of tourists, Krakow had a great combination of both tourists and residents hanging out downtown and by the river.

On Friday morning, my roommate and I took a bus to Oświęcim, Poland, where Auschwitz and Auschwitz II-Birkenau Concentration Camps are located. We missed the opportunity to sign up for a tour, so we bought a guidebook and then walked around by ourselves. I don’t really have words to describe what it felt like to visit a place where such awful abuse and horrendous murders took place.

About eight years ago, I visited the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum on my 7th grade Washington D.C. trip. Since then, I have read numerous memoirs of survivors and visited both Dachau in Germany and Terezín in the Czech Republic. Nothing, however, could prepare me for a trip to Auschwitz, the death camp at which 1.1 million people were murdered during WWII.

I barely took any photos because it felt disrespectful to the victims of the holocaust. The photos below, however, depict the “Arbeit Macht Frei” (German for work sets you free) gate, he memorial plaques, and the fences around the camp.

I will never forget the eeriness of this place and pray for all of those who endured imprisonment or lost their lives at this hellish site.

Even though it was a sad addition to spring break, I am glad that we were able to see such a historical place and plan to use the information I learned to educate my peers back in Iowa.

“Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” – George Santayana

Spring Break Pt. 1 Belgium, France, and Monaco

Hallo! Bonjour! After spending countless hours studying for midterms, I was ready for spring break so that we could travel for more than three short days at a time. To begin our trip, my roommate Kiera and I left the apartment at 4:00am on Friday morning and headed to the airport for a 6:30am flight. The whole morning is one big blur because we got little sleep, but I do vaguely remember “The Greatest Show” playing on the radio while our uber drove through the outskirts of my favorite city.

Fast forward a few hours, Kiera and I arrived to Brussels, Belgium, where we had a five hour layover. We did exactly what one must do when you have a layover in Brussels and took a bus into the city center. Unfortunately, the bus took longer than expected because it was rush hour, so we had to walk from the stop to the square and eat waffles in a limited amount of time.

I can honestly say that I have walked neither that far nor that aggressively for a waffle in my life. It was good, but I am sure the ones not sold at a tourist stand are much better.

Once we got back to the Brussels Airport, we had a few hours to kill before flying to Nice, so we watched Netflix for a little bit. One thing I like to do in each country we go to is see what movies are available on Netflix; each place has different licenses for different titles. Sometimes it is fun to watch a new movie when we are resting in a hostel, at an airport, or on a train/bus with wifi.

On our flight to Nice, we flew over the French Alps. Check out the wonderful view below!

After we arrived in Nice, we had a chill evening which involved finding our Airbnb and grocery shopping.

The next morning, Kiera and I explored the beautiful downtown.

We spent the rest of the day lying on the beach and enjoying the 70 degree weather.

On Sunday morning, I went to a French Baroque-style church for mass and then we grabbed a traditional French brunch and went for a hike in a small town outside of Nice named Èze.

We started by the sea in the town of modern-day Èze and hiked up to the medieval village of Èze.

Monday was another beach day, and we rented bikes and rode a few miles along the promenade.

On Tuesday, we took a short trip to Monaco. For being such a small country, Monaco is impressively wealthy. The photo on the right below is the Monte Carlo Opera House and Casino. We also saw many fancy cars and yachts, and all of the restaurants were very high priced. Kiera and I decided to go to McDonald’s and grab McFlurrys instead.

We left the following day and flew back to Prague. Overall, I had an amazing time in France because the French were so friendly, the views were gorgeous, and the food was fantastic.

Stay tuned for a Part 2 blog of my break.

Swiss Bliss

Two weeks ago, I left after my corporate finance class and took a train right to the Prague Airport. A few hours later, I arrived in the Zurich Airport and was greeted by my friend Alyssa, who goes to Iowa State and is studying in Greece this semester! I hadn’t seen anyone from home in awhile, so it was comforting to spend three whole days with Alyssa in the land of alps and watches and chocolate. We got in late Thursday night, so after we figured out the train system, we finally made it to our hostel! We woke up early on Friday, grabbed breakfast, and went downtown Zurich to explore.

Zurich isn’t really known for tourism; it is a central business location for a lot of European companies. Seeing everyone in suits on Friday afternoon reminded me of Iowa State’s Career Fair Week.

Later in the day, we bought some delicious Swiss chocolate from a little chocolatier. I got blackberry dark chocolate, and it was the best chocolate I have ever had. If I go back to Zurich someday, I’m definitely going to buy more of that. 🙂

That evening we took a train to a small village named Unteriberg, which is in the mountains. The population of this town is only 700 people, so it reminded me a lot of Britt, Iowa. We checked into our sweet Airbnb right next to the mountains (the pic below shows the view), and the family that owns the Airbnb invited Alyssa and I to roast food over the campfire with them. It was so kind of them to make a meal and chat with us about it European experiences thus far.

They even told us that they started the Airbnb to practice English more often because not many people in the town speak it. I told them that I was learning German, and it became useful several times when experiencing the Swiss-German language barrier.

On Saturday, Alyssa and I headed up to Hoch-Ybrig, a popular skiing location for locals. It is also the place where Wendy Holdener, an Olympic Gold medalist in alpine skiing, trained when she grew up.

It was a long process to get ready to ski because neither of us had much equipment (except our Airbnb people let us borrow some skis and poles – how nice). Once we got everything we needed, we figured out how to get to the bunny hills and then stayed there most of the time. You see, this was my first time skiing. Ever. In Switzerland.

Luckily, I didn’t get injured – just a little rope burn on my hand. I also learned that I need to practice skiing (or maybe try snowboarding) because I am currently absolute trash at it.

After a few times down the hill (and me just falling the whole time lol), Alyssa wanted to go up to the top of the mountain to try to ski down. I went without skis and planned to walk down the mountain with poles.

The views from the top were incredible!!

Alyssa started skiing and then realized it was a little too advanced, so we both walked down the mountain together. In the moment, the situation was absolutely hilarious. We had a lot of fun despite the circumstances. Luckily there was a professional skiing competition going on on the other part of the mountain, so most people were distracted watching that.

We had to leave early the next morning to get to the airport, but my time in Switzerland was very memorable. One thing that really stands out to me about Swiss people is how genuinely happy they are. The language barrier was not humiliating or awkward; both of us had fun trying to figure out what the other person was saying. People also said hello to us a lot on the street, which never happens in Prague.

Overall, I am a big fan of the country known for chocolate and mountains

Brief Czech History

Since moving to Prague in January, I have attended many museums, cathedrals, and historic places with my architecture class and study abroad program. Each of these experiences has been a great hands-on opportunity to learn the history of the Czech Republic and the city of Prague. Today I want to share some of that information with you.

Have you ever heard the Christmas carol “Good King Wenceslaus”? It is based off of Wenceslaus I, Duke of Bohemia who lived in the early 900s. I was very suprised that 1) Wenceslaus (later canonized a Saint) was never actually a king and that 2) his life ended over 600 years before America was even discovered. Saint Wenceslaus was murdered by a group of his brothers friends, and his brother drove the last stab through his body. They killed him due to a political disagreement about paying money to other monarchies in the region. Today, St. Wencelsaus is still a popular figure of Czech culture and has “Wenceslaus Square” named after him in the New Town of Prague. In addition, he is buried in St. Vitus Cathedral, the same location where he founded a Romanesque Rotunda during his rule.

By fast-forwarding 400 years, we are brought to the time of Charles IV, King of Bohemia and Holy Roman Emperor. During his time as King, Charles IV founded New Town in Prague, decorated the main bridge (now called Charles Bridge) with beautiful statues, created Charles University, and funded the construction of multiple churches and monasteries. When he sponsored a project, he often requested that his face be incorporated into the piece of art.

If we skip on to the late 1800s and early 1900s, we can talk about Franz Kafka, a German-speaking, Czech-born, and Jewish lawyer/writer. You may have read some of Kafka’s famous works, such as The Metamorphosis, The Judgement, Before the Law, etc. My study abroad program offered a “Walk with Kafka” in which we learned about his life, read some of his works, and visited places he grew up in Prague, as well as his two monuments in the city. I am fascinated by Kafka’s life and even learned that Kafka requested from his deathbed that his unpublished works be burned. His publisher did not listen to him and published them anyway. After a few decades and some translations into English, Kafka became famous in the world of literature.

Last week, my study abroad program also offered a trip to a Czech concentration camp in Terezín, Czech Republic. It was sombering to learn of the atrocities committed towards people during the second world war. The experience was very educational, and we got to see a couple of memorials to those murdered at the camp.

The last part of major history I will touch on today is the communist era of the Czech Republic, which lasted from 1948 to 1989. I attended the Museum of Communism in Prague about a month ago, where I learned about the supressed life under Soviet rule. As a student studying supply chain management, it was crazy for me to think of the mass production of goods that took place under communism. It is also insane to think about how little freedom people had to make decisions or to travel outside of the country. At the end of the museum, we watched footage from the Velvet Revolution, which was started by student protests in 1989 and led to the Czechoslovakia’s freedom from the Soviets. In 1993, Czechoslovakia split and the Czech Republic became the country that it is today.

Nearly Halfway!!

Wow! I can’t believe it has been almost 8 weeks in Prague already. While the weather has been getting worse in the Midwest, it has been getting better here; last week, we reached 65 degrees Fahrenheit on the warmest day. With weather improving, classes picking up, and traveling here and there, I have basically lost track of time. The past couple of weeks in Prague have involved attending a film festival, going to the National Technical Museum, the Convent of St. Agnes, and the Museum of Communism.

I have also enjoyed rock climbing, doing yoga, and walking all over this city. Here are some photos I have captured of Prague recently:

I have also been eating some great food in Prague in addition to Czech food.

For example, there are kebab stands all over the city, so my roommates and I made good friends with our local kebab man. Whenever we stop by, he turns up the music and gets really excited.

We also found a great Mexican restaurant which felt like home.

Sometimes my roommates and I will also eat the touristy dessert called Trdelník, which isn’t even historically Czech. They are pretty delicious though.

After being in Prague for a bit, my friends and I decided to travel over to the capital of Slovakia, Bratislava, which is a lot smaller than Prague. Just four hours east, Bratislava has two beautiful castles and a lot of cool little shops, making it a relaxed weekend. First, we hiked up the Devín Castle–the massive ruins of an 11th Century construction. The Devín is located right on the Danube River, separating Austria and Slovakia. It was nice to take a break from the city and be with nature.

We spent a lot of time enjoying the views and then went back to the city to see this gorgeous art nouveau style church.

Even the pews inside this church were pale blue!

On Sunday, we attended Latin Mass with 3 Priests and 20 Seminarians, so that was a fun surprise! Then we visited Bratislava Castle and saw some great views from the top of the hill.

Overall, I have been really enjoying myself in Central Europe but need to study a lot in the next few weeks with midterms approaching!

Ciao,

Emma

The Castle Ball

Last weekend, my roommates and I had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to attend a ball in the largest castle complex in the world: Prague Castle.

Each year, our school — Anglo-American University — holds an annual ball. This year it was held in a palace at Prague Castle. We knew it was a special event, similar to a sorority/fraternity formal or prom, so we all found fancy dresses a couple weeks before, searched for what seemed like the whole city of Prague for a pair of heels, and got ready for the ball. After doing our hair and makeup, our group of 7 hopped on the metro to go to the ball.

It was fun to see the reactions of people we came across while looking our absolute best. When we finally arrived to the castle and made our way to the palace, everything looked amazing. Students were dressed in their classiest clothes, and the venue was very historic.

There was even a band playing classical covers of pop songs throughout the night. Overall, it was an awesome night with my roommates and friends.

Coincidentally, at the same time as the ball, my youngest sister was playing in the Iowa Girls High School Class 1A Semi-Final? So I spent the last part of the ball watching her game while dancing.

They won the game, so all of my girls at the ball celebrated with me. I will always remember this Gossip-Girl-like experience!

xoxo,

Emma

emmabroad: Special Edition

A couple of weeks ago, my roommates and I were trying to decide where we wanted to travel for the weekend. My friend Iva said Let’s take a Chance on Stockholm, and I replied okay, Chiquitita–let’s do it. One of Us booked the tickets, and we were on our way.

When we arrived in Stockholm, the weather was noticeably chillier than Prague. Megan, Iva, and I are all from the Midwest, so it wasn’t that big of a deal. Another main difference from the Czech Republic is that Sweden uses the Swedish Krona. The money, money, money was slipping through our fingers because Scandinavian cities tend to be a little more expensive.

Over the weekend, we went on two cities tours of Stockholm: one historical and one modern. It was a great way to explore the city and understand the nation’s history.

Since I was younger, I had a Dream to be in the movie Mamma Mia, so the next stop on the trip was to go to the ABBA Museum and fulfill my destiny.

To get there, we road a ferry boat to the museum island. It was awesome to see Stockholm from the water.

And then it finally happened: we went to the museum. My initial thoughts while entering were I’ve been waiting for you.

We learned all about Agnetha, Björn, Benny, and Anni-Frid. In addition, we were able to belt out the band’s songs in our own sound booth.

I could go On and on and on about the ABBA Museum, but we saw other cool attractions as well.

For example, the Vasa Museum holds an almost completely in-tact 17th century Swedish ship.

This massive vessel was four stories high and sank in the 1600s twenty minutes after it set sail. After it was discovered in the 1950s, scientists began the preservation process. 97% of the ship is original.

The rest of our time in Sweden was spent trying new food (like reindeer meat), exploring the city, and learning about Stockholm Syndrome.

It was fun to be the visitors, but come Sunday, we had to say so long to Scandinavia because that’s just the name of the game.

When all is said and done, it was a great opportunity to experience a new culture up north.

Life in a Touristy City

Since the Velvet Revolution and fall of communism in 1989, the beautiful city of Prague has become a tourist destination for many people traveling in Europe. The city is just over 1.2 million in population (which is smaller than a lot of European cities) and over 7 million people visit each year to wall across the iconic Charles Bridge, view the historic Astronomical Clock, or ascend the steps to the the Prague Castle. While living here three weeks, I have had the opportunity to do several “touristy” things, but it is nice that I can space them throughout the duration of the semester. For example, last week I went to the Prague Castle for one of my classes, walked through St. Vitus Cathedral, and viewed St. Wenceslaus’ tomb.

Another “touristy” opportunity I had was to travel to Pilsen, Czech Republic. This is where several famous Czech Beers are brewed but most importantly, Pilsner Urquell. It was very cool to learn the brewing process and try unpasteurized, unfiltered, straight-from-the-barrel beer. The best part is that the smaller city was only an hour or so train ride from Prague. We were also able to climb to the top of the Cathedral tower and have a traditional Czech meal at the Pilsner Restaurant.

One thing that many people don’t know about Prague is that the city is all around just a cool place to live. Here are some reasons why:

  • Public Transportation – I know I’ve mentioned this a few times, but commuting to and from school and downtown could not be more simple. My transport pass works for trains, busses, trams, and night trams.

  • Markets – you can basically always find a market selling fruits, vegetables, flowers, etc.
  • Cafes – there are cute cafes everywhere selling reasonably priced coffee
  • Museums/Galleries – Prague is home to soooo many museums and art galleries. With constantly changing exhibits, you will never get bored.
  • Something for everyone – do you like history, sports, music, art, or food? Any person with any interests can find something to do here. Last week, for instance, I rock climbed at a huge complex.

The only thing that would make living here all the time a little difficult for me is the friendliness of the locals. Coming from Iowa, I am so used to friendly interactions with strangers. I smile at almost everyone and make small talk everyday. Here, however, people are more private and keep to themselves, so small talk is not common and eye contact is actually kind of rude. I respect their culture and understand that there are reasons why they do this, but it took awhile for me to control how/where I express my emotions.

I hope you enjoyed learning about my daily life in Prague!!

Thanks,

Emma

Bus 2 Berlin

Museums, tours, and schnitzel — these 3 words pretty much describe my trip to Berlin, Germany last weekend. A few of my roommates and I left Prague last Friday morning for a four-hour bus ride north. When we arrived in the city, the first thing I noticed is how modern it is. Because a lot of buildings were destroyed during the war, Berlin resembled a younger city, similar to the U.S.

We started off by going to the Berliner Dom, a 15th century cathedral. Instead of paying for a tour of the church, my roommate noticed that there was an evening prayer service offered at 6pm, so we just came back to the Dom a few hours later for that.

After that, we took a train over to the East Side Gallery. It was so cool to see creative murals offering messages of peace and love on an old part of the Berlin Wall.

Later in the evening, we visited the iconic Brandenburg Gate, which was built in the 1700s. It was incredible to see at night!

We finished the evening by trying currywurst, which is a sausage covered in curry powder and ketchup. It sounds strange, but the concoction was pretty good (I could’ve gone with less ketchup). This one was served with fries & garlic mayo, making it a perfect late night snack.

We spent the majority of Saturday morning on a walking tour of the city. The main places we visited included: The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, communist propaganda, remnants of the wall, the site of Hitler’s former bunker (not pictured) and the square in the city where book burnings took place. It was equally interesting and unsettling to learn about the history of this city.

We spent the afternoon going through two museums–The Memorial to the German Resistance and The Topography of Terror.

To finish up the evening, we ate delicious schnitzel and drank Berliner Kindl Raddlers, which is my favorite beer ever (I had it when visiting Munich and Garmisch in Summer ’17).

On Sunday, we had the opportunity to check out Olympiastadion – home of the 1936 Olympics and 2006 World Cup. I really enjoyed being in a place with so much history and where world records were set.

Overall, I had a great time in Deutschland but was relieved to be back home in Prague on Sunday night.

Thanks for reading about my travels 🙂

Next week I will be discussing more about life in Prague–stay tuned!

Best,

Emma