Thursday, July 8, 2010

This time that's left is flying by...

Wow, I'm fast approaching the end to another week... Where is the time going? In two weeks, I'll be done with exams and heading back to the States- home. Or is it? I suppose I don't really know. It doesn't particularly matter, either. But I'll be heading back to family and friends, and I certainly am excited about that!
This week felt particularly short largely because I simply had two days of class, thanks to the fantastic Czech national holidays that allowed me to travel over the long weekend. It's not always a Monday-Tuesday holiday- it's designated as the fifth and sixth of July. This year, however, it worked out perfectly for travel!
Croatia was incredible. I think, out of all the places I have been, it has been the one with the most distinct culture. Almost immediately, I could feel that the atmosphere was different. Not that other places aren't different- I don't mean that at all. I just think that it was in Croatia that I was finally far enough away that the differences compounded into something a little more tangible. One thing that I noticed straight away? There were very few cobblestone streets. The main area of the town was paved with these square white tiles instead. It was a little strange to get used to! The architecture in Rijeka was beautiful. And it was old, just like countless other European cities. But it also felt more neglected. The buildings had a worn look, to the point where other buildings- those seen as the "gems" of the city I suppose, such as the Opera house, or St. Vitus' Cathedral- look out of place because they were so well cared for. It was the kind of culture where people would talk to each other across the street from the windows of their flats, or simply stand there and watch the world. Laundry was strung across narrow streets, and the bakeries on every corner gave the streets a wonderful smell. Cafes were everywhere. No matter the time of day, they were always filled with people- mostly locals, since Rijeka isn't exactly a big tourist city (it's more of a place to pass through than a place to stop at, for most people)- content to enjoy some casual conversation with friends or to watch people on the streets. It's not about the food or the drinks; it's about the people you're with and the atmosphere. It's a very comforting way to pass the time, and very relaxing too. Also, I greatly appreciated that everyone spoke beautiful English! English is by and large the second language of Europe, which is interesting to me. It is the de facto means of communication in an international crowd- and when it saves me having to muddle through Spanish, German, Czech (and heaven help the person trying to understand an attempt on my part to speak French!) or some other language I barely know, I quite appreciate it! Communication, even with a true language barrier where neither of the parties involved can say anything in the other language, is not so difficult if both people are patient and try (tell that to some of the ticket agents at train stations!). It's like a game of charades sometimes. On the whole, I've found that there's no reason to be afraid to try to communicate with someone. You'd be surprised how feasible it is. That being said, I still want to learn more languages. I don't want to be comfortable with English and sub-par Spanish and mere broken bits of other languages. I want to actually be able to carry on a conversation! So that will be another life goal of mine. Something to work towards.
After leaving Croatia, I spent a lovely afternoon and evening enjoying Ljubljana. I turned in fairly early, but I spent quite awhile enjoying the beautiful river, and the glorious weather. It's a wonderful little city. They call it Europe on a human scale. I thought it sounded strange, until I saw it for myself. It truly is that same ornate European style... just on a much smaller scale. It gives the city a quaint, almost cozy feel. I rather liked it. And early the next morning- after sneaking into the hostel's kitchen early so I could grab breakfast- I hopped over to a local bakery to grab food for the train, and then left for Prague. It was so good to finally make it back home to my apartment!
This week hasn't been too crazy. I've spent what felt like a lot of time in class, but that's really not so bad. I enjoy my classes quite a lot! This session, I'm taking Political Film and Novel of Europe, Czech Language II, and Gender and Post-socialist Transformation. They are all fascinating, and very different. I feel like through the combination of all of them, I have really gained a feel for Czech culture. I really do love it here. This place is wonderful.
I was able to share my love for Prague with a friend of mine, Claire, who came to visit Prague! As you may recall, we met a few weeks ago in Amsterdam. She's been traveling around Europe since then, and I was delighted to be able to meet up with her here! She's staying at our apartment for a few nights while she's here. We ate dinner at a cafe together the other night, and then went to watch the game in Old Town Square. Poor Deutschland. I was quite sad about Germany's loss (as were the hundreds of Germans in the square with us- but all of the Spain fans were ecstatic). It has been wonderful to hang out with her- my favorite part about traveling is the people you meet! I have met some incredible people on this journey.
I look forward to continuing that trend when I head to Brussels, Belgium this weekend! It should be a fantastic adventure- obviously, since I'm going with Maddie! We're going to have a great time, as we always seem to. Something will probably go dreadfully wrong (oh- it already did! we discovered that our bus tickets were entirely wrong and would have brought us back into Prague Saturday morning instead of Monday, because the bus doesn't run on Sunday nights! So we are flying instead- which will probably be far more pleasant anyway). I am ecstatic about the waffles and chocolate and mini-europe and the peeing statue and the festival and the flea market and parliament and parks and all the wonderfulness that constitutes Brussels. It should be glorious!
Yes. This weekend will be fantastic.


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