Friday, February 21, 2014

Výborný (Excellent)

So much has happened since my last post! I'm sorry I haven't been better at keeping regular with this thing, but I've just been so busy!

This past week I was thrown into school, full swing. Maybe I just decided to take on a lot of early assignments and projects, but it seems to me that the course load here is much more...strenuous than in the states. Another observation is that the education system here is much more conceptual, as opposed to concrete. Now, this could be due to the classes I'm taking, but I'm not used to my professors asking a deeply intellectual question at the start of a lecture, then staring at us with hopeful, enthusiastic eyes actually expecting a response. It's definitely forcing me to think outside my comfort zone!

Last weekend, my roommates and I took a three hour bus trip to the quaint, but beautiful town of Český Krumlov for Valentine's Day (about 5,686 miles from my actual Valentine). The drive, aside from the most repulsive cup of coffee I've ever tasted in my life, was exquisite. We left in the dark of morning, and watched as the sun came up over some of the most beautiful landscape I've ever seen. It was nice to be surrounded by nature again after all the time in the city.

We pulled into the bus station at exactly 10 am (Czech transport is notorious for its timeliness). The five of us, a little stiff and rusty from trying to sleep on the drive, gathered our things and made our way to the exit of the bus. All appeared to be going smoothly; we had made a little queue in front of the door, and I was next in line to descend the steps onto the platform. Well. Again that Czech timeliness. Imagine my surprise as I watched that heavy mechanical door swoosh to a close, successfully trapping me (and three of my other roommates) inside the yellow tin can that was our bus. Notice how I say three of my other roommates. Yep. That's right. That means while the four of us were stuck on the bus, one of my roommates (ahem, Abi) had managed to get off and was waiting for us. I will never forget the look in her eyes that was effectively equivalent to that of a dog that thinks his owner is leaving him forever. Or the guy sitting behind us who started laughing his ass off once he realized what had happened. I rushed to the front of the bus to tell them that, "Wait! We need to get off here! This is our stop! Our roommate is out there!" only to be met by a passive response that we would be able to get off at the next stop, five minutes away, and that it was impossible to stop the bus now. What kind of bus is impossible to stop?! After driving those five minutes, we all managed to get off the bus in one piece, and met up with our roommate on the side of the highway. In a triumphant, Breakfast Club-style ceremonious greeting. Reunited at last! Easily one of the most funny things that has happened on this trip. We have been joking (in a somewhat serious matter) that maybe it's time to get Abi one of those child-leash things so we can't lose her again. I wonder if you could find such a thing here...

Once we arrived in Český Krumlov, all the stress and worry of the morning immediately dissipated. The town is just like something you'd see in the background of a Rumplestiltskin fairytale.

At first it was somewhat shocking in the town because it was nearly deserted. We seemed to be the only people in the streets, and none of the shops we tried to go into were open. For a while we wondered if the town observed St. Valentine, or if we had come in the midst of some other holiday. Turns out the town is just full of late risers. So in the meantime, we managed to find an adorably sophisticated cafe, where I had the best quiche of my life for the equivalent of about $2. That just simply can't be beat.

After filling our bellies (which it seems like we never have trouble doing here...), we took a little jaunt up to the Castle. It's incredible to me how monuments like this have lasted the test of time. The architecture and artistic grandeur of places like this never cease to amaze me. Inside the Castle, much of the original stone work had been covered with concrete (something that was done during wars I guess), but artists had painted over the concrete to give viewers an idea of what the Castle looked like in the past. I can't even imagine going there during the medieval time and witnessing the castle at its finest. I could have stood out on the terrace of the Castle's tower for hours, just watching the little town go about its day.

But, naturally, my stomach got in the way, and once again the roommates and I were on the hunt for a place to eat. We found an amazing crêperie, where I attempted to consume a crêpe that was roughly the size of a tire. Boy, was it delicious.

Lemon Crêpe with Sugar and Lemon Crème

In between all this eating, we managed to fit in a lot of meandering and sight seeing. Aside from the Castle, we visited a museum that was full of things one might find in a corner shop in the 1900s, went to a shop that specialized in old-fashioned gingerbread (so yummy), found an adorable little book shop that actually sold English books. Oh! And not to mention I tried my first Trdelnik, which is a traditional Czech pastry you can find all over the place. Its basically just a cylindrical piece of doughy goodness covered with sugar, and sometimes even cinnamon or almonds if you're lucky. If you're doubting the delightfulness of this little treat, just don't. Because it's divine.

Towards the end of the day, as the sun was beginning to drop back into the fields, we made our way back to the the cafe that we had stopped off at for breakfast earlier in the day. We treated ourselves to $2 glasses of Prosecco and strawberries, and I had a light dinner of pea soup. While it was a beautiful day, filled with much laugher and memories, my only wish is that it could have been spent with my real Valentine. Maybe I'll just have to take him back here when he visits.

View from the top of the Castle

The rest of the week has been filled with the usual homework, eating, and trying to get enough sleep while still managing to be social (my daily life struggle). There are still times when I find myself thinking I wish I could go to some of my favorite places back home, or what I would be doing with the people I miss if they were with me right now. But then I think about this opportunity. And how much I've lived and learned already. And how the ability to live present is one of life's hardest lessons, but also one of life's greatest gifts. The truth is, I wouldn't want to be anywhere else.

Well, it looks like that it for now. Čau! 

Happiness is a warm trdelnik 

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