I suppose I might be slightly over-due for a blog post. So, here I am.
I just am now getting back to classes after the Christmas holiday, and still, I am also recovering from my travels across Poland and the Czech Republic. PLUS: I actually have more pictures this time, but those will come a little later.
So, I had quite the trek through two beautiful countries during gorgeous weather. The only trade off to this wind of good fortune was the stark language barrier. Luckily, it wasn't always such a hurdle, and at times, I had people to translate for me.
I started my journey the days before Christmas, which I spent in a tiny Bavarian village called Schweinespoint. My hosts were a family of a former exchange student at MC. They were very gracious and generous. They made me feel very welcome, and they fed me very well. (No pics. Sorry, I forgot my camera for this stretch.)
On the 26th of December I was bound for my first stop, Warsaw, which is a 16-hour series of overnight train rides from Germany. (I found out that there is no easy way into Poland.) I arrived early in the morning of the 27th. At that time, I met my friend, Kamil, who lives just outside the city and with whom I was staying. Also, he acted as my translator in times of need.
(Important note before I continue: in Poland and the Czech Republic, it is taboo to speak German. Though a good number of people speak it, a foreigner should not speak it to someone else unless asked. Thus, I only spoke German once throughout this whole trek.)
So, Kamil and I saw most of the sights and monuments and museums that Warsaw had to offer for the two days I spent there. Now, I will let the pictures do the talking:
|Statue of Nicolaus Copernicus near Downtown Warsaw|
|Monument to the Jewish Uprising of April-May 1943. This is in front of the almost-completed Warsaw Judaism Museum|
Here is the Royal Palace Square complete with a Christmas tree and an elevated statue of Zygmunt III, who moved the capital from Krakow to Warsaw in 1596.
Here you can see Zygmunt from a different angle and from later that afternoon. As you can see, he is holding a very large cross. As you cannot see, he is also holding a very impressive curved saber in the other hand.
|This is another palace in Warsaw, the name of which is currently escaping me. AND, my Google searches for that information are also failing me.|
|Also from the same grounds from the currently-nameless palace above. This Angel, a symbol of Justice, is present in many of the royal sites throughout the city.|
So that is a brief overview of the highlights of my trip to Warsaw. Spending time with Kamil, who is working on his Masters in history, we naturally went to many history-oriented sites within the city. And trust me, there is no shortage of those. I learned so much about this Central European gem from it's early history, to its importance during the Middle Ages to the Renaissance and beyond. As is to be expected, there are so many museums and monuments devoted to the second World War. I now know so much more about Poland and its people's role in that unfortunate time in human history. Let me take this chance to implore you read more about that. I do not feel I can do it justice through this medium.
My next stop was Krakow. It was only a day trip, but it is also a beautiful and richly historical city:
|The architecture here caught my attention. This is near the main Market Square|
|To be honest, I never found out what exactly this building is. (Day trip = not a lot of time). It's beautiful, though.|
|The Cathedral on the Market Square|
|The Wawel Castle|
|The best kid's activity ever outside the castle. They got to put on armor and everything. I was jealous.|
|Another Cathedral in Krakow. The name escapes me.... again.|
|Old Synagogue Izaaka in the Jewish Quarter|
|Also from the Jewish Quarter|
From there, I left for Prague, Czech Republic, which was nowhere near as easy as I thought it would be. Getting out of Poland is even harder than getting in. At this moment, I realized that I am at the mercy of the kindnesses of strangers. Luckily, that kindness was found in a nice, young woman by the name of Barbara.
I met Barbara next to the third train track. I asked her in Polish if she spoke English, which luckily for me, she did, fluently. As fate would have it, we were both going the same direction: the polar opposite end of the Czech Republic from where I wanted go (I didn't know this at the time). Apparently, that is the only way to get to Prague from Oswiecim no matter what the internet or Polish National Railway has to say about it. So, Barbara and her dog, Yodna, were my guides through the last leg of Poland and the first of Czech. She translated what the train workers said for me, and she even drew me a map for after we would have to depart. I cannot express how glad I am that I met her. Random events such as do truly make for good stories and open the door for interesting learning experiences.
Barbara and I made it to the border town of Cesky Tesin, where Barbara lives and teaches. We wished each other the best until the next life and parted ways a block away from the first train station. I then followed the map she made for me to the other train station, where I could catch a train to Prague. I found out what time my train was going to leave, and I determined that I had about an hour to find something to eat. It was dinner time, after all. So, I went to a little café across the street.
I walk into the café, bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, and ready for some chow. I then looked up at the menu board, which, naturally, was in Czech. That in itself was not a problem. I know some basic vocabulary words in Czech, enough to survive a vacation. But this was no ordinary Czech. Oh no, dear Internet Reader, this was in cursive, but not just any cursive. This was the most affectatious and decorative cursive I have ever seen used on Latin script, complete with decorative accent marks.
I study Hebrew, which uses an ancient alphabet system, AND I can read Rashi script. But looking at this menu made me feel not only illiterate, but also made me question slightly what time period I was in. (Those of you who know what Rashi script is are laughing hilariously right now. Those of you who aren't, Google it.)
I ended up playing Numbered Menu Item Roulette. Since I had no idea what any of the menu items were, I just held up six fingers and said, "this" in Czech. That's right, I was so disoriented at that moment that I forgot how to say "six." (It's "šest," by the way. Pretty much the same word, really.)
After a few intense moments of waiting, my food, which looked like schnitzel and fries as it approached, arrived. Turns out I ordered a brick of fried cheese and fries, which was AWESOME! And the beer I had along with it was also scrumptious. So, I was a happy camper, and I then skedaddled onto the station in order to skiddly-bop on to Prague.
I got on the train, and 5 hours I was in Prague. I learned that night that I was A LOT farther from Prague than originally estimated. I'll show you the map:
|---------x = Daniel's Initial Geographical Approximation|
---------x = Daniel's Discovery 2 Days Later Upon Examining A Map
I finally got to my hotel outside of Prague around midnight, and I then promptly went to bed. The next day, I started my 5-day adventure by myself through the city. I was supposed to meet up with my friend Šarka, but she got sick. So here are another set of photos that express what I did better than my poorly executed attempts at humor:
Probably my favorite single spot in Prague. It is decorated with a bunch of statues like these. Musicians line up along the bridge and play, artists and artisans sell their work, and one can see both Old and New Towns from here.
|It also bolsters a beautiful view at night.|
Museum of Communism:
|I couldn't take any pictures inside the museum, but I sure took a picture of the poster!|
Jewish Quarter- Josefov: My favorite part of Prague. I went to the Jewish Museum, which consists of artifacts and memorials distributed throughout all the historic synagogues in the city.
|The Spanish Synagogue. It is absolutely gorgeous.|
|Jewish Town Hall, complete with Hebrew Clock|
|Hebrew inscription on the Old-New Synagogue|
|Maisel Synagogue, which is also super-beautiful.|
|Prague's Famous Astronomical Clock... it's pretty much just an ornamental timepiece.|
|I didn't tour the Prague TV Tower, but the manager of my hotel told me that this was built by the communist regime to protect Czechoslovakia from "Imperialism." In other words, it's an old spy tower.|
And one final shot from my last night in town:
Well, that's about the extent of my holiday. I took a bus from Prague to Nürnberg on my last day, and then I went back to Eichstätt. Nothing too exciting to report about that.
So, now I am wrapping up my semester abroad. It's a strange feeling. I know I've been here a few months, but it just feels like a few ago, I was dealing with massive amounts of bureaucracy and paperwork to get into classes and be able to legally stay in my apartment here. Now, I'm doing the exact same thing, but for exit, not entrance. That's right, kids: The German government and its satellite components need paperwork for EVERYTHING. Thus, I have that to do on top of final projects, papers, and test. Fun stuff!
I will keep you updated on my progress with such things, Internet Reader. So, until next time, don't do anything I wouldn't do, and do some good reading.