Thursday, April 21st:
I went to Berlin, Germany for the day with 2 of my roommates. Rather than taking a whole weekend to travel, we decided it would be better to take a day trip and spend the rest of the weekend in Prague. After a nearly 5 hour bus ride, we arrived in Berlin – just a few miles away from the city center. After taking the metro to the city center, we walked around the United Buddy Bears exhibition, a series of painted Bear sculptures that represent peace and international understanding and tolerance among nations. Next we had hot dogs and curry wurst for lunch from a street vendor. Since we had such a short amount of time, we tried to maximize the amount of sights we’d see by going on a free walking tour of Berlin. A great thing about Europe is that a lot of large cities offer free walking tours! I’ve done them in Budapest, Brugge, and Berlin now.
On the Berlin tour we saw:
Brandenburg Gate and Pariser Platz
The memorial to the murdered Jews of Europe
Where Hitler shot himself (the site of his bunker)
The Berlin Wall
After the tour, we walked around Pariser Platz some more. We took pictures of the gate, went souvenir shopping, and enjoyed the sunny day before heading back to our bus stop. While cramming Berlin into a day trip was difficult, I’m really glad I got the chance to visit the city. There’s so much history paved into the streets of Berlin. Fun fact: there is now an apartment complex and children’s playground above Hitler’s bunker. On the very grounds where he shot himself, the rest of Germany lives on – they park their cars directly above his hideout spot! Weird. Hearing stories about people’s attempted escapes over and under the Berlin Wall was really interesting, too. Some people successfully managed to make their own hot air balloon and ride toward freedom on the other side (on their second attempt). Another rammed a stolen car through the wall, used his body as a bullet shield, and used his car as a ladder to climb to freedom. Visiting the city for a few hours was a good taste test of Berlin, and now I want to go back! I really want to see the East Side Gallery and eat a Berliner doughnut (two of the things that were on my list but I didn’t get a chance to fulfill).
Friday, April 22nd:
After a long day in Berlin, we got a few hours of rest before heading to Kutná Hora with our study abroad program. Kutná Hora is a city in the Czech Republic, located in Central Bohemia. In Kutná Hora, we visited the famous bone church, formally called Sedlec Ossuary. The ossuary was really cool! It was filled with tons of bones from victims of the Plague. Skulls, skeletons, and inscriptions rimmed the church. Some chandeliers were even made out of their remains!
After the bone church, we visited Saint Barbara’s church, a Roman Catholic cathedral from Medieval times. Inside the church, there were beautiful stained glass windows and medieval frescos strewn upon the walls. The church is a UNESCO heritage site, and one of the most famous Gothic churches in Central Europe.
From Saint Barbara’s church, we headed to a Restaurant called Dačický for a traditional Czech lunch. It was delicious…and probably tasted even better because it was free! When we finished our lunch of chicken, vegetables, fried cheese, and apple strudel, we headed to the underground silver mines. Here we acted like real miners, suiting up in coats and hard hats to head down a narrow, dark trail. The narrowest part of the underground tour was only 40 cm wide and 120 cm tall – that’s less than 4 feet tall! It was definitely not suitable for claustrophics, but I somehow made it through without panicking! From the silver mines we went on a tour of the rest of the city, passing by the former Czech Mint, where coins were originally made. We took a break in a cute, café-filled part of the city where we got some drinks and gelato before heading back to Prague.
Two day trips back-to-back! I was exhausted after all of that, and I’m still recovering (aka writing this from my bed at 12:30pm on Sunday). I’m really glad I chose to spend my weekend in Prague, though. I have been traveling non-stop and haven’t had much time to actually enjoy the city I live in! Or be able to sleep late for that matter!
Seeing another part of the Czech Republic (Kutná Hora) made me appreciate the country I chose to study in even more. Aside from Prague, which seems to be a bustling place for tourists to come these days, the Czech Republic as a whole is really underrated. It’s full of quaint cities and beautiful greenery – and it feels like hardly anybody knows about it. Both my day trip to Kutná Hora and weekend at home inspired me to see more of the Czech Republic – Bohemian Paradise, Karlovy Vary, Cesky Krumlov…there’s so much to see and so little time! People often take for granted what’s right in front of them. And I’m making it my mission to appreciate what’ll be in front of me for the next four weeks. I’m done with my traveling spree to far off European destinations and I’m spending my last days abroad in the city I fell in love with originally.
Ahoj from Praha!