Czech-in it out
Trip Start Aug 2008
44Trip End Jul 2009
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Last Wednesday the girls and I went to the Belvedere. It is the former palace of Prince Eugene that now serves as a museum (talk about a down grade). The Belvedere itself is quite a piece of work. Many of the ceilings were covered in amazing frescoes and the architecture wasn't half bad either. Not to mention that the Belvedere houses one of Austria's most famous pieces, The Kiss by Klimt. The security guards were a little intense, so there are no illegal pictures. Here is the link to the wikipedia page, though, so you can see what I'm talking about: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Kiss_(Klimt_painting).
Blah blah blah ... classes are still ok. Everyone is getting really sick of our Globalization class, but it is still no where near as bad as either of our classes last term! Still, lots of reading and learning going on ...
Now onto the good stuff ...
This weekend we went on a(nother) road trip, this time to Plzen and Prague, in the Czech Republic. Friday morning we got up decently early for us. Erin and I were in charge of procuring snacks and booze, while Annie and Chris went to get the car. Missions complete. Our first stop was the Budweiser Budvar brewery in České Budějovice, Czech Republic. You may be thinking, "Becca, why would you go to such a place?! We have a perfectly good Budweiser Brewery here in the St. Louis area."
Well friends and family, let me tell you a little story about a far superior product, the REAL Budweiser! The town of České Budějovice is historically known for producing delicious adult beverages since the 13th century. Anheuser-Busch used the name of the town b/c of it was well known for its exceptional beer. However, they are now in an ongoing battle over the name. You will find the real Budweiser sold as Czechvar in the US, and the 2nd rate American beer is sold (if it is sold) in Europe as "Bud." I'll just say that they shouldn't have messed w/ the original, it is one of the best beers I've ever had!
The brewery tour was quite nice, and b/c it was a smaller brewery we got to see a lot more. My favorite part was the beer tasting (of course), which was not held in a hospitality room ... instead they pour the beer directly out of the tanks!
After quite some time in the gift shop, we headed to the town of Plzen. I know you're an above-average readership, so you might be saying to yourself, "Plzen? That sure sounds like Pilsner." Coincidence? I think not. That's right, people, the pilsner style of beer was created in Plzen in the 19th century! How sweet is that! We got into town pretty late in the day, so once we found our hotel, we strolled about town trying to find somewhere to eat. We randomly stumbled upon the Pilsner Urquell restaurant, which had some scrumptious eats and a nice preview of the next day's beer tasting.
Saturday morning we headed to the Pilsner Urquell Brewery for another tour. Theirs was much more commercialized, since they are part of SAB Miller. It included a lot of the same information ... hops, barley, yeast, water, malt, but was still fun to see. The city of Plzen has a lot of underground tunnels, and the Brewery has some of their own where they store/age the beer. They took us through some of the tunnels, and they poured us a nice beer out of the casks for our tasting.
After some perusing of the gift shop, we went to see some of the sites in Plzen. Mainly, the giant church in the city center and the 3rd largest Synagogue in the world. We got a little distracted by the Easter market that was going on (most towns/cities seem to have at least one). There was quite the array of crap there, and it was fun to look around.
Afterward, we hopped back in the car, and I drove us to Prague.
Prague is a windy city w/ a TON of construction going on right now. A little stressful (especially w/ a stick shift), but nothing horrible! That night we made dinner in our tiny little hostel kitchen, did some pregaming, and went out on the town. Chris had been to Prague a little over a year ago, and he remembered a fun bar to go to. It was divided into 2 rooms w/ slightly different atmospheres. All I know is the beer was cheap, and we had plenty of fun.
Sunday, we went sight seeing in Prague. Our first real stop was Powder Gate, followed by the Astronomical Clock on the old city hall. Every hour huge hoards of people gather around it and watch a parade of carved figures march past little windows. Not much to see, but the clock itself was pretty cool.
After all that work, we decided we needed a beer break. We sat at an outdoor restaurant and enjoyed the beautiful weather. EVERYONE around us was wearing blue t-shirts and team memorabilia and chanting. I assumed they were a band of futbol hooligans (Eurotrip reference). So, I asked our waiter what futbol event was going on this weekend. He looked at me kind of weird and said that the world champion volleyball tournament finals were being held this weekend. I didn't know there was such a following for volleyball! Grown, beer-bellied men were singing the fight song ... it was bizarre.
Much to Chris' chagrin, we spent quite a bit of time in the Prague Easter Market (which was significantly cooler than Plzen's). Erin and I bought a collection of painted Easter eggs - they are hollowed out and painted beautifully. Chances of them making it back to America w/o getting broken = 0.
We passed the opera house on our way to Charle's Bridge. The bridge connects the old town w/ Prague Castle. Apparently the bridge is known to be exceptionally crowded. There were quite a few people, but nothing as bad as we had been warned about. The bridge is lined w/ religious statues and offers a pretty view of the Vltava River.
Then, we hauled it up the hill to Prague Castle (the biggest ancient castle in the world). As we entered the palace gates, we saw the remains of the stands for President Obama's visit. There were American flags everywhere. We were a little disappointed that we didn't get to see him, but I'm pretty sure he was well on his way to Turkey by the time we got there.
The Castle contains St. Vitus Cathedral. It is an amazingly ornate church (at least from the outside). All of these European churches are kinda funny b/c they are ENORMOUS, yet have like 20 rows of pews. This one was especially weird too, b/c the entrance to the crypt was above ground but directly in people's view of the altar.
This church had some of the most amazing stain glass windows I have ever seen, though. Too bad communism totally destroyed Catholicism in the Czech Republic, now only tourists get to see them.
Sunday night we went to the needle house for dinner. Erin and I shared a giant kabob (on a "needle"). It was quite delicious! We decided we should take our easter eggs back to the car so that they wouldn't get destroyed in the room. We headed down the street where we parked it ... and kept walking ... and kept walking ... oh wait, the car WAS GONE! My immediate thought was, "I hope it wasn't stolen. I left all of my souvenirs from the breweries in the trunk!" We looked around for some sign that we weren't allowed to park there, but to no avail ... mainly b/c everything was written in Czech.
So, we headed inside to discuss our little problem w/ the front desk at the hostel. We explained to the guy where we had parked and that our car was now missing. He explained that that was neighborhood parking and we weren't allowed to park there. He then proceeded to point out on the map all the places we COULD park. We explained to him once again that our car was gone and asked him if he knew how we could find it. This cycle went on for quite some time. Eventually we figured out that we need to call the police in the morning to see where it had been towed (or at least we hoped it had been towed).
We hung out in the hostel and played cards all night (ie drank to forget our problem). Monday morning, Chris and the hostel people tracked down the car and figured out where we needed to go. After a few stops in some incredibly sketchy neighborhoods, we finally found him ... but we still had to bust him out of jail! We went into the office and tried to communicate w/ the nice man behind the window ... too bad he didn't speak English! Chris tried German as well, but it did no good. Every word that we said, we said at least 3 languages hoping the guy would understand. Somehow we finally got across which car was ours and how much needed to be paid. I don't think anyone has ever laughed as much as we did at the impound yard!!
We safely parked Marco (our car) in a parking garage and commenced sight seeing once more. We stopped by St. Nicholas Church and Tyn Church, did another (couple) passes through the Easter market, and went to the communism museum, before we finally needed to head for home.
I'll save you all the ridiculousness about how we scraped together the last of our money for a bucket of KFC on the drive home, but will instead provide you with another list of funny details:
1. I'm sure the Czech language was really great at one point in time, but since the invention of new electronic devices and the globalization of foods, they really just stick "ni" or "ski" on the end of their words.
2. The above made for some pretty funny translations. Mainly, when our car was gone and the receptionist couldn't understand us. When we got down to our room, we decided we should have told him that our car "disappearski."
3. It also led to some pretty great nick names: Erinovna Glabeski, Christovski Osmanova, Annienova Scottski, and Becherovka (or Becski) Boyer makes no cool names.
4. Speaking of Becherovka, I got named after one of the crappiest alcohols in the entire world. One of Chris' friends told him that Becherovka is the Czech equivalent to Jaegermeister ... his friend is a dirty liar! It tastes like a combination of pine sol and cinnamon. Too bad we bought the biggest bottle in the store ... that made for a long night!
That's it for now ... We're staying in Vienna this weekend, so I'll try to put up some pictures of where we live, our school, and our Easter feast.
Happy Easter everyone!!!!!!