This week has been an interesting one.
I find myself in an Airbnb in Prague right now. It’s Friday night, 10:30 pm, and I’m lying on the couch I’ll soon fall asleep on. We’ve got some music on and there’s a light snow coming down outside that can be seen from the light of the streetlights.
I came to Prague by train with Chris and Thomas, two of my study abroad friends. We started the day with a short bus ride to the train station and got on a railjet to Linz. In the Linz train station we had some time before the train to Prague, so we walked around, and Chris went into a Spar grocery store to buy some food for the train.
Thomas and I were standing out in the train station’s waiting area when this man walked up to us and asked us if we wanted to buy a cigarette for 25 cents. He even mentioned that there wasn’t anything illegal or bad in it… We said no thanks, and when he heard our English, he asked, “are you from USA?” We said that we were to which he promptly responded, “we can’t all be perfect,” and he walked away.
Last week’s election in America is big news here in Europe, and I haven’t met too many Donald Trump fans. Wherever I go for the next few weeks, I can be quite sure that if someone finds out I’m American, they will bring up the election. I’m not sure if people in the United States realize how closely our politics are followed by other countries. The day before the election, The Salzburger Nachtrichten (newspaper) covered the election in the first four pages of their six-page cover section.
Prague was wonderful! On Saturday morning, we ate breakfast at a small café a block down the road from our apartment. Then the Lennon wall was the first place we visited. It’s a wall dedicated to the Beatle’s legend, John Lennon, and it’s completely covered in paint and graffiti. I found out that is was originally a symbol of youth resistance against the Gustáv Husák communist regime. One of the many things that was banned back then was pop music. It’s not covered with many political slogans anymore, and it’s always changing with the times and the people. Someone had already painted a big Chicago Cubs logo there! Most people just sign their name on the wall, but many paint quotes or messages, most of them positive ones. There were a couple ones we spotted that that said things like f*** Trump, and it was kind of sad to see those hateful messages on a wall that was made in memory of a peace activist. I’m not against people expressing their thoughts, but the Lennon wall doesn’t seem like the place to spread hateful messages.
There was another group of study abroad students from Salzburg in Prague this weekend that had gone on an organized trip with the program. I met up with a couple of my other friends, Emily and Spencer, and we explored the city a bit. We went up the Prague castle and saw St. Vitus’ Cathedral, a massive gothic church. Later, we went to an island in the river. There wasn’t too much there, but it was just a nice place to walk around, and it has some nice views of the city.
Just hanging out on a tree
Back in the old town, we went into the museum of torture, which was interesting, but I learned a lot of things that I would have been happy not knowing. To cheer ourselves up a bit afterwards, we went to the chocolate museum! There were unlimited chocolate samples, and we watched a demonstration where a chocolatier made nougat filled chocolates. The museum was really interesting because it showed how important cocoa beans were in the Aztec civilization. It was used as a sort of currency.
Overall, though, Prague is just a very beautiful city. When my family and I lived in Dresden, Germany for half a year in 2006, we spent a weekend in Prague. It was ten years ago (kind of hard to believe it was so long ago), and I wish I remembered more from my first trip. There are a few details that I can recall, but they mainly involve us barely making it to the train station on time when we were leaving.
The one thing that stuck with me this time around is just how big Prague is. The whole metro area of Prague has over two million inhabitants, and there were so many people in the old town. Most of the people in the old town were probably tourists, but it was overwhelming at times.
It’s Monday evening now, and I arrived back in Salzburg last night. It seems crazy but there are just three weekends left of this semester. I might be traveling for one of them, but I need to spend the rest of my time enjoying the city of Salzburg! There is time, but there is still so much to do!
When we walking back from the bus stop yesterday evening, Thomas and I somehow got on the topic of climbing mountains and marathons (things in life that people do because they can, not because they need to) and I said that I felt like I could probably wake up and run a half-marathon tomorrow (Monday). Thomas said that it would cool if I actually tried, and I also thought it’d be interesting to try. I haven’t been exercising as much as I normally do… I’ve only gone running twice in the last two weeks and I’ve been playing ultimate Frisbee just once a week since the semester began, but I thought, why not try? I went online and mapped out a route for 6.65 miles out and 6.65 miles back to make 13.1 miles.
And believe it or not, I actually did it! I woke up at 7 am this morning and got on my running gear. It was pretty cold out there (30 degrees Fahrenheit), but I just tried to pace myself and not burn out too early.It took me 1 hour and 57 minutes. My turn-around point was a few hundred meters into Germany, which made it an international run (something I can’t exactly do from Iowa)!
It wasn’t easy, but sometimes you just have to try something and see if it works out. You might surprise yourself. I’m not sure my legs have ever been as sore as they are right now though, but it was completely worth it. Maybe someday, I’ll actually run a half-marathon race!
It was a great start to the week, so hopefully it’ll only get better.