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Wednesday, April 26, 2006

LOST addicted

So....Laura and I are so addicted to the show Lost. Laura downloaded the first season off of itunes and it is sooooo good. Those writers are smart people and they definitely know how to leave you hanging at the end of an episode. We've been pacing ourselves for the most part - no all night marathons or anything.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

So, it's definitely raining right now. There's even thunder and lightning-which is always exciting. I wouldn't mind a nice thunderstorm - in fact I would absolutely love a thunderstorm - except we still have a cardboard window! And rain could be very bad for that, especially since it has a total of 3 nails holding it to the window - two in the top corners and one in the middle of the bottom part of the window sill. Its not exactly water proof. So we'll have to see what happens. Right now the wind is not blowing towards our window, so hopefully that doesn't change.

Anyways, we've been working on finishing up plans for the Italy trip - booking hostels and such. That is definitely going to be where most of my money goes it seems. It's now high season in Italy, so prices are a little bit pricier. We've booked almost all the nights now in Rome, Florence, and Venice. I'm getting very excited!

Also, I made a trip to see the doctor here in Prague on Friday. Luckily, one of my friends had gone a few weeks ago, so I wasn't completely lost. I was still pretty confused, though. When he had gone he said he just knocked on the door and went in, but when I went there were definitely people waiting outside the door. So I took a seat with everyone and realized after a couple people went that it looked like people were going in the order they came in. The doctor would let someone out and say something in czech and a person would get up. So, pretty soon it looked like it would be my turn, so I hopped up and luckily no one said anything thinking it was their turn. This doctor speaks pretty good English, so they recommend her to us. She asked for my insurance card, so I handed it to her and she told me that it doesn't work here, so I would have to pay- which was fine because paying for medical care here is a lot different than in the U.S. She asked what was wrong and I told her my tonsils were swollen. She got a flashlight and looked in my throat and after a second or two she said "tonsilitis". It wasn't the most in-depth diagnosis ever, but she wrote a perscription out and sent me on my way. Yesterday, I couldn't take the swollen tonsils anymore, so I braved the scary Czech pharmacy and medicine. My friend that had gone earlier had tonsilitis too and didn't die from the medicine, so I figured it would be okay.
And today, only one day after taking the medicine - I feel so much better! It's awesome.

That's about it for now. Right now Laura and I are addicted to the first season of Lost, so I think that's what a rainy Sunday afternoon is calling for.

Some more pics - around Prague:

Wallenstein Palace in Prague.

I saw a Peacock there!

St. Nicholas Church in Lesser Town, Prague

Friday, April 21, 2006

cardboard window!

That is how our window in our room looks right now. There is definitely not supposed to be cardboard up there...there should be a window sitting in that spot.

Laura and I noticed on Monday, when we returned from Berlin, that our window was messed up. We are on the fifth floor and that is the top window, but it looked like someone had to have messed with it. The wood around the hinges on the window was busted out like the window had been pushed or something. We're not sure, but there was a piece of the busted off wood from the window lying on the floor. There had been window cleaners that came by the day or the day before we left for Berlin, so we don't know if it may have been them. Anyhow, we went downstairs yesterday and reported it to the front desk. The guy said he would tell the maintenance man. At home, "I'll tell the maintenance man" means he might get around to it this week or we would have to come back down to the front desk and ask again... Well not in the Czech Republic. "I'll tell the maintenance man" means "he'll be up to your room in literally one minute". So I went back up to the room and there was a knock one minute later. So the maintenance man came in and looked at the window then told me 'this is problem' (he didn't speak much english), and I was a bit confused not knowing if he'd be back or what. Well about 5 or 10 minutes later the front desk called and the guy told me they couldn't fix it today but they'd fix it tomorrow.
Well, 8 o'clock this morning another maintenance man came. He came and left about 3 times - each time Laura and I had hopped back into bed for more sleep - just to be woken up again by another knock. Eventually, he took the window out and replaced it with cardboard. And that's all we know for now. We have no idea when it will be replaced... good thing the weather is nicer now and not freezing cold.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

sum up of Berlin

So I got back from Berlin yesterday. It was a great city. I had never really thought much about the city before and it surprised me very much. The city is full of awesome architecture designed by famous architects from all over the world. I couldn't believe I was seeing, in person, some of the buildings I had studied and I hadn't realized they were in Berlin. So it seemed like with every turn of the corner I would be surprised with the building that lay in front of me.

That is what was exciting to me. Since Prague had been almost untouched by World War II, there isn't an overwhelming amount contemporary architecture. So Berlin was very different from the city I've been calling home. It is also a huge city! The subway map was ridiculous compared to the maps I've been looking at in Prague. There were lines going in every direction and all these different colors. In Prague our Metro map consists of a red line, a yellow line and a green line - and I like it that way.

Luckily, I didn't have to figure out much of the navigating...I left it up to others. Nine of us went on the trip. All of us are Architecture (or Interior Architecture) students from Kansas State that went. So most of us have been around eachother for the past 4 years now. Anyhow, the trip on the train took about 4 1/2 hours. It really wasn't too bad considering we took a 9 hour train to Poland awhile ago. Two of our Scottish friends from Prague also came on the trip, but they were staying with two of their friends that are studying in Berlin. They rode with us on the way to Berlin, though. We got in to Berlin at about 10 or 11 pm. It took us a long while to figure out where we go to get to the hostel because we had gotten off at the wrong train stop. With some of the trains in Europe, you have to be paying attention when you're approaching your destination because there aren't really announcements. It would be very easy to completely miss your stop. So, we knew we were in Berlin and got off at the stop we thought we were supposed to, but it wasn't, which really isn't a big deal. The friends of the scottish guys came and helped us out. We made it to our hostel, grabbed a snack, and crashed.

We woke up early the next day, wanting to beat some of the crowds to the popular tourist destinations. We went to the Reichstag first, which is the seat of the German Parliament, and barely had to wait in any line to get in. The building was renovated not too long ago and an incredible dome was added to it. They let people come in and tour it for free. We had studied this building, so it was pretty amazing to be there. It was designed to be very environmentally friendly, so its been talked about in our classes about sustainable (green) architecture. We walked around a bit that day looking at all the buildings in the downtown area. We went to an art museum, which I really enjoyed - there were Andy Warhol and Picasso pieces there. We also made it to the new holocaust memorial there. It is a huge area with these concrete blocks placed in rows along the whole field. It makes quite a statement when looking at it, especially when the sun is shining and the shadows are so strong.

The weather was a bit crazy the whole trip. The first day it would rain and be very dark outside and then clear up and be incredibly blue and sunny-it did this like 3 times while we were walking around. When it was about evening, we were all very tired and decided to stop with the site seeing for the day. Laura, Allison and I decided we'd go into a movie. We'd passed one big movie theater and looked at the selection, so now we were in a different part of town where there was another movie theater, so we decided to go in. We bought our tickets to The Inside Man and headed in. As we sat watching the previews we realized there hadn't been one thing in English yet. And we had intended on asking the ticket lady if it was in English, but had forgotten. In Prague, if the movie title is in English then the movie is in English. They change the names of the movies into Czech if its been dubbed. And we noticed that all the other movie posters in this cinema had been changed...i.e. Big Momma's House was Big Momma's Haus..

Well apparently those rules did not apply to this movie and when the movie finally started, we saw that it was indeed in German. So we, a little embarrassed, made our way out of the theater. We explained the situation at the front desk and ended up getting our money back... thank goodness! At the first theater we had come across it did actually have English movies, but I guess this one normally doesn't. So we went back to the hostel and crashed for awhile. We met up with our Scottish buddies later on in the evening.

The rest of the days we took our time and the group split up to go in different directions at some points. The second day we were there was a really, nice and sunny day. There were lots of people out and about in Berlin. There was a fair going on in one area. We took a break there in front of a museum, where tons of people were just hanging out in the lawn. So we joined in for awhile and relaxed in the sun. Then we decided to go to a soccer game we had heard about. The Scots had gotten tickets, so we wanted to attend our first European soccer game. It was two german teams - the Berliner team and another team. It was at the Olympic Stadium from the 1930's I think. It has been refurbished for the World Cup this summer, so it looked really awesome. I completely did not expect this many people to come to a soccer game between two German teams. I expected a lot, but they announced the attendance was over 65,000! The fans were crrrazy, like I have heard. The game ended in a tie, which may have been good for us since it was crazy enough leaving the game and getting on the subway. There were police officers dressed in their riot gear all around. When the subway arrived at the station people would go mad and push into the doors, so when we got up to the front our strong boys we were traveling with created a bit of a barrier so us girls could get on first.

Easter didn't seem to be a huge deal in Berlin, so that was a little disappointing. We took it easy on Sunday and most of us were pretty exhausted anyways. We went to another museum and then headed out to the death strip of the Berlin wall. There's an observation tower out there and a chapel that was rebuilt out there too. The original chapel had been knocked down and a new, very neat little chapel has been rebuilt with quite a bit of history attached to it.

All went well with the trip, although I'm starting to feel a bit run down now. I'll have to take it easy for the next week and half....and after that week and a half I will be leaving for a trip to Italy! We'll be visiting some of our colleagues that are studying in Italy as well as visiting as many cities as we can. Until then I will be doing some school work!

Have a good one!

Monday, April 17, 2006

BERlin - pictures first, post later

Annie, Allison, and I on the green green grass in front of a museum

The Reichstag Dome

Olympic Stadium - soccer game we attended

Helmut Jahn building

Fountain on Alexanderplatz - Allison and Dan

Holocaust memorial in the rain

Playing on the playground outside the Jewish Museum

*more pics on my flickr website.. click on "my photos" to the right

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

no water

So we've been having this problem in the dorms here where they shut off the water randomly. Today it was done at an incredibly inconvenient time..right now. Laura and I just went running and went to the gym in the basement and right when we came up the water was shut off. They made some kind of announcement, but it was in Czech, therefore we have no idea what it said. So, it looks like I'm stuck in my room until I can shower, because I need it! The last time it shut off it lasted most of the day - which is unusual - usually it is fixed within a couple hours. So we'll just have to see!

Anyways, the weekend was good. For the most part I didn't do anything too exciting. Sunday our photography teacher planned a trip to a town in the Czech Republic, Terezin. He wanted us to all go and take pictures. We were supposed to meet at 10:00 to all go, but my flatmate, Laura Torres, and I wanted to go to Palm Sunday mass and then go out to the town. A few of the guys from kstate were supposed to go with the class and we were going to call them when we got there. Well, of course the guys ended up not going because they had a late night out the night before, so Laura and I got to Terezin and really had no idea where the rest of the class was. It is a really small town, though so we just walked around. It really didn't matter if we found them as long we took some pictures.

The story of the town is that during World War II the whole town was turned into a concentration camp. The residents had to leave apparently and thousands and thousands of prisoners were brought through there. It was basically a transport camp that they brought Jews to while waiting to move them to the camps in the East, such as Auschwitz. The whole town is a fortress - there's a wall that goes all the way around it. Unlike the other towns I have been to in the Czech Republic, this one has not really had the renovation work done on it, so these buildings actually look their age and are well worn. Many of the trees in the town had all their limbs chopped off which gave the town even more of a dead look. Despite all of this, it actually seemed pretty lively out. There were people in all the park areas and a lot of kids out playing. It was all a little weird to see these people living their lives in a place where so many awful things had once happened.

Well, Laura and I were pretty proud of ourselves for making our way around on the trains to the town and then walking the almost 3 kilometers from the train station to the actual town. We communicated with many who spoke and understood no english at all. On the way there after finding the correct train to get on (which was a bit confusing for us - we've ridden trains but never by ourselves) we hopped in a cabin in the train. The guy who checks tickets came around, so we handed it to him and he started telling us something in Czech. Through pointing and hand gestures we figured out that we were in the 1 section of the train (which is kinda like first class or reserved I think), when we were supposed to be in section 2. So we quickly went to section 2 where all of the cabins had people in them. We found one where it was a mom and 2 little girls, so we asked without using words if we could share with them. She said it was fine. The girls were adorable and learning how to read on Czech workbooks - I really wanted to join in and learn with them. Well, we had to get off and switch trains which all went smoothly, thank goodness.

Anyhow, we walked around for a few hours, never finding the rest of the class. We couldn't find "the small fortress" which is in the town somewhere and where the class was most of the time I think. So after walking around most of the town and taking pictures we headed back to the train station and caught the train home - here we found many of the other foreign students. The train took us back to a different train station than the main one so I'm glad those students were there because we weren't quite sure where we were going. On the way back we passed a pretty park that had a fair going on in it... it looked awesome. It had rides and games and everything. It looked like a state fair. We figured out where we were on a map and hope to go visit it and we have no idea how long it is going to be there.

Well, we have water now - so no worries there. I better go

Friday, April 07, 2006

Beautiful Prague and a run in with the cops

This city gets prettier as the weather gets nicer.

Today has been a gorgeous day. We decided to go out to Petrin Hill. A hill in Prague that has an imitation Eiffel Tower at the top. On the way up the hill the views of the city just get better and better. Especially today, the skies were clear so we could see a lot farther than on all those cloudy, hazey days we get. Then we hiked up 299 stairs to the top of the tower. The tower itself isn't that tall, but since its on the hill the views of the city are great. There is also a mirror labrynth up on the hill. It was pretty cool and there was a section that had distorted mirrors that we had a laugh at - no matter how old I am, those mirrors seem to get me every time! They're hilarious. There's also a wall that runs up this hill. It's called the "Hunger Wall", because it was basically commissioned by Charles IV to be built to give the starving citizens work for food.

Then we meandered down the hill and made our way towars old town square. In old town square there is a lot going on for easter. There's a stage set up, but they weren't doing anything on it at the time. There are tons and tons of booths set up with gifts and yummy food. On the way to Old Town Square, we ran into the United States Embassy. I really had no idea where it was, so I guess it was a good thing to find (even though we've nearly been here 2 months now). Woops - I think that is one of the first things you are supposed to do when staying in a country for awhile - find the Embassy. Anyhow, we know where its at now.

These last few days, I've just been doing some school work, planning future trips, and hanging out. Since its been so much nicer here, I've been able to do some running outside, which is SO nice. It's fun to do here since you can explore as you run. The other day we went and bought our train tickets to Berlin. We're going next weekend -over Easter weekend. We get Monday after Easter off of school and we don't have classes on Fridays. Its only a 4 1/2 hour train ride - not too bad. The only other train ride I've been on is to Poland and that was almost 10 hours!

There has been one funny story lately... Tuesday night we all went out to a club. The international students from University of Economy were having their weekly presentation and we're always welcome to those. We went and ended up taking a taxi home because it was the most convenient. This was my first taxi ride in Prague. They tell people not to take them, because they like rip off tourists. We asked before hand what it would be, so there were no surprises there. He ended up dropping us a bit of a distance from the actual dorm, but it was easier to get out than try to explain. So we started walking back to the dorm, when we passed a street that had a trash can ablaze with fire down it. We were a little shocked - this definitely isn't a normal happening. So we laughed, saw some police officers racing down the street in their car, and walked on. The police car whipped onto the street with the fire and disappeared from our view, then we heard it coming back around the corner and drove up next to us and stopped. The cop got out and started speaking czech. We had to tell him we speak English, so he looked at our i.d.'s as we tried to explain we didn't know what the fire was all about. I have no idea if he understood us, but waved us off eventually.

Well, that's all for now!

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Take me back to Greece.

THERE IT IS -------^

WARNING: Only read this if you have a large amount of time, as it is a very, very long post.

Well. I've been putting off this post. I need to write all about my Greece trip and I don't even know where to start. It was an amazing trip. Everything went so smoothly and the weather was pretty close to perfect.

We kept reminding ourselves throughout the trip that "we're in Greece", "this is the mediteranean"... We all couldn't quite believe we were there.

One of my flatmates is from Athens, so before I left for the trip I chatted with her and she wrote out all these places to go and see. There are a lot of Greek students studying here in Prague and when I would tell them I was going to Greece, they would tell me it's too early to go and I should go when it is warmer. Well, with the weather the way it had been in Prague, we were pretty sure the weather in Greece would feel amazing... even if the Greeks don't consider it hot.

I went with a group of 8 - four boys and four girls - which worked out very nicely. We could be evenly split in the hostels and we could break apart during the trip so boys could do boy things and the girls could do girl things. We all met at 9:00 in the lobby of our dorm and took off towards the airport. We bought our tickets through Olympic Airlines, but flew on Czech Airlines - I still don't quite understand that whole deal.. but it worked out. It's about a 2 1/2 hour flight to Athens, but apparently Czech Airlines always gives meals on the plane. We were flying over lunch time, so that worked out really great even though we weren't expecting it.

Once we got to Athens, we figured out how to get on the Metro (subway) and headed into the middle of the city, where our hostel was. As we approached our hostel, the street we were on looked straight towards the acropolis and there it was - high up in the middle of the city, so you can see it from many parts of city. It was awesome how close we were to it. With the time change (1 hour ahead of Prague), I think it was after 5 when we arrived at the hostel. So we took off exploring through the district, Plaka, which is a very cute, authentic Greek area kind of geared towards the tourists when its summer time. There were a lot of restaurants right by the hostel and we got a 10% discount at the one right next door. The experience of walking past the outdoor seating areas to the restaurants was a first for me. These men, who looked like the owners, would be standing out there and see you walk by and just come up to you. Basically, they would not let you pass them until you either gave in and ate there, told them you might come back (then they'd get out their card and hand it to you), or give them some kind of firm no. Of course, the last option - the firm no- is not my style, so usually I would have to say "okay, we might come back". Then they would offer free wine for the group. So we walked around a bit and decided to head back to that restaurant, where I had lamb.

And before I forget to mention this - I also wanted to say that I now understand the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding a little bit better. I heard the name or met so many Greeks with the name Nick or a variation of the name. I met a couple, but I feel like every time I walked past a group someone was yelling out to a Nick. I also saw a girl with the name Nikoleta on the back of her jacket. I met a guy named Nikos. (i'm not sure if that's spelled write)

Okay, moving on

Wednesday morning, Liz (one of the other girls on the trip) and I got up and went on a run around Athens. We had no idea where we would go, but we just took off. We ended up heading towards what we thought was the acropolis, because all we could see was a big hill between buildings. It turned out, it was one of the other major hills in the city. So we hiked around that. They had many paths around it that led to many other ruins.. the one I can remember at the moment is the Prison of Socrates. When we got to the top we could see the city of Athens all the way around us. It was amazing, to say the least. We went back and we talked to the travel agent that has an office at our hostel and she helped us set up our trip to the island Santorini. So after we got that all sorted, we kind of broke off into two groups. Myself and two other girls, Liz and Abby, walked around to find one of the fruit stands we had seen, tried on and bought floppy hats that we wanted to wear to the beach, and headed to the acropolis. Although the hill of the acropolis is basically at the end of the street we were on, the entrance was on the other side of the hill. We got in free and hiked up the hill. On the way up there are a whole bunch of ruins to see. There were a lot of school kids around the acropolis - it looked like maybe they were on school field trips. So it was a bit hectic on the way up because many of them were coming down. Also, that day there was a total eclipse, so people were out with those "eclipse glasses" looking at the sun. The weather was awesome that day as we were up on the acropolis and as we walked around we took a lot of time to just sit, look around and take it all in.
On the way down the acropolis there is a park/garden area with more ruins and buildings. This area was so green - I couldn't get over it. We walked down the Panathenaic way.
We were walking by an area with a lot of outdoor cafes and ran into the rest of the group, so we sat down for a meal. After that we all decided to head towards the Mediteranean. We just got off at the nearest metro stop and walked towards the water. The area we were in was not kept up very much at all and looked a bit sad. We walked around there, looked at the boats, and found a much nicer, swanky looking area.

The next morning we had to get up early to head for the ferry, which left at 7:40 am, so I don't think we did a whole lot the rest of the night. We watched TV (something we have not done at all in prague) and watched a movie they were showing in the courtyard of the hostel.

The next morning we were all up and ready to go at 5:30. We went to go check out, but somehow completely misplaced the key to our room.. woops! We still aren't sure if they ever found it.. we're guessing it had to have been somewhere in our room. We told them we would be gone for 2 nights, but would be back for one more night.
We made our way to the ferry, which we were surprised to see was a really large, nice boat. This was good because we weren't quite sure what to think of this 8 hour ferry ride that awaited us. We had seats inside, but there are decks all around the ferry and eating areas where people can hang out. We found a large table on the deck that we went back and forth on. It got a bit cold out on the deck, because it was windy out there.
The ride wasn't too bad. We docked in Santorini and we were picked up by the owner of the hostel. We jammed into his van and headed up the cliff and then back down to our hostel.

We got to the hostel and it was sooo nice! We were so surprised. They gave us two quad rooms. Each of the rooms had its own bathroom and kitchen area. There was even a refrigerator. They guys' room had a little balcony, too. We were on the second floor, so we had some really pretty views out to the cliff and the Mediteranean.

It was late afternoon and it was pretty hazey out, so it wasn't too warm. We walked around the small town for awhile. We went to the beach and walked along the road that went all the way down it. The street had tons of restaurants and bars with nice outdoor eating areas, but almost all of them were closed. They hadn't opened yet since it wasn't "high season". There were so many people out working on restaurants, stores, and their houses/rooms for rent. It was really cute to see them all preparing for the tourists. There were a few restaurants open, so after awhile we picked one. I really enjoyed how they treated tourists here, because basically all of their businesses depend on them, so they look forward to tourists and enjoy them... we're not quite used to that mentality in Prague. Later that night we went down to the beach, which was empty and the 8 of us hung out down there and listened to the sea.

The next day we headed up the cliff that backed up to our hostel, practically. We had seen a trail people were walking up the day before. So we took off, thinking it would be a nice little hike and then we'd come back down and lay on the beach. Well, the trail just kept going... all the way to the top of the cliff - it led us to the ruins of this ancient city. It was really cool - we'd been down below and had no idea there was an ancient city sitting at the top of the cliff. It was quite a hike, but we finally made it back down. Us girls decided to lay on the beach the rest of the afternoon, while the guys decided to rent 4-wheelers and drive around the island.

(Above: our hostel and the view of the church and Mediteranean in the background)

We went into the biggest city on the island, Fira, up on the cliff where they have good spots to watch the sunset. The other city on the end of the island is actually supposed to be "the spot" to watch the sunset, but Fira definitely put on a show. It was beautiful. We then decided on place to eat, which had to be away from the edge of the cliff because of prices, and we received more free wine with our meal. We headed back to Peresa (the city we stayed in) because one of the bars was having its opening night where we'd been invited multiple times to come. We had told the guys we'd meet them there. So we went back there for the rest of the night. They played some awesome American music that we definitely danced to. Our waitress was actually from Canada and her and her Canadian boyfriend just moved to Santorini.. pretty crazy. So we had a good time chatting with her and the other Greeks in the bar. I think they all enjoyed watching us sing and dance to the music.

Our last day in Santorini was very sad.. we did not want to leave.. and the weather was getting warmer and warmer. we didn't have to leave until about 2 pm, so we spent most of the day on the beach again and attempted to get into the really cold water. We then decided to head back to the restaurant we had gone to on the first day and get waffles because we had seen them making them last time. I got a waffle with fresh fruit.. it was very fancy and tasted soooo good. Then we thanked our hosts at the hostels and told them how awesome the place was. Its a husband and wife that own it and they built it themselves. The wife was really cute and was a little bit like a mom.. telling us to be careful and everything. She had cooked us breakfast in the morning, too.

Back on the ferry. This time we didn't get back to Athens until almost midnight, but enough before midnight that we caught the subway back to our hostel.

Our last day in Athens, Liz and I went on another run and we decided to head up the other hill in the city that had a church at the top. We made our way towards it and hiked up to the church, where we discovered they still hold services there - which was really cool. There was also a restaurant and a big amphitheater out there. On the way back we wanted to go to this Gardens area, I don't have the name right now, and it contained a lot of ruins as well, such as the Temple of the Olympian Zeus and Hadrian's Arch. Before we made it to that though, we got good and lost in Athens. We ended up probably running a lot that morning trying to figure out where we were going. We finally figured it out. After the run we headed back to check out of the hostel and then headed to the flea market. The big day is Sundays and it was Sunday. It was really cool and there were so many people out. It was a real-time flea market. People just spread out there stuff in this square area on the ground and it was just tons of old, old, cool items.

That's basically the whole trip! It was an awesome trip - no complaints except I wish we could have stayed longer. I really hope to go back someday!

Sorry this is a novel! I could go on... but congratulations on getting through it! Check out more of my pictures if you click on "my photos" on the right side, or on the flickr badge to the right that is showing my pictures.