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The Grand Finale

This is it folks! This will be my last post on my blog about my adventures in Europe. On my last day in Dublin, I packed and walked around the city. I visited a park where I was able to relax for a few hours. It was a peaceful end to a wonderful trip.

I don’t think I could have asked for a better experience on this trip. There were the ups and the downs, but all were learning experiences that I wouldn’t have had any other way. It seems like an eternity ago that I arrived in Rome, knowing nothing of what was in front of me. I have spent the last 3 months touring, making friendships, and eating as much food as I possibly could. I don’t think I could have asked for much more, other than to have packed a little lighter. Through my journey I have seen centuries of history, witnessed life changing situations, and visited 10 cities in 6 countries. When people have asked me what has been my favorite place, I haven’t had a straight answer. I enjoyed every place I visited for different reasons. Venice was gorgeous and unique, Rome was full of history, Krakow/Auschwitz was an indescribable experience of a lifetime, Minturno was where part of my family emigrated from, Ireland was a blast, and the list goes on from there. I gained something of value from every place I travelled to. I can’t wait to come home and tell you all about my adventures and the many stories I have obtained while on my journey!

Thank you all for taking the time to read my blog and comment on it. I read and appreciated every comment you typed, and tried to answer questions as much as possible. I hope you enjoyed reading it! Leonardo and I had a lot of fun putting it together. I think Leonardo may be one of the most well travelled sloths around, he made such a great companion! He was with me through it all :). Now it’s time for me to come back home to the ‘land of the cowboy boots’.

Goodbye for now, see you all soon!

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Ireland

Yesterday was a crazy, fun, and busy day. We celebrated Saint Patrick’s Day in style with the many other people who came from around the world to the Land of Green. The streets were packed starting at 9 a.m., and the parade started at 12. The parade was on a street near our hostel, so we were able to get a good viewing spot. The city was festive all day long, streets were so packed cars could not drive through. Dublin was a sea of green. Saint Patrick’s Day in Dublin was an experience that I am so glad to have had, yet exhausting.

Today we went touring. We started with a tour of Malahide Castle, which was home to the Talbot family for 800 years. The Castle had beautiful rooms and expansive grounds. We learned that the Talbot family achieved their wealth by owning property and a nearby port. They continued adding onto their castle throughout the century’s, making it elaborate and modern. We then took a ride on the north coast of Ireland, visiting a quiet seaside town called Howth. The ride was very beautiful as we drove along the coast back to Dublin. Later in the day we toured the city of Dublin, taking a bus to some of the most important sites. We saw sites including the Guinness Factory, Phoenix Park, Trinity College, and the Dublin Castle. It was a great way to quickly see the city.

Tomorrow is my last full day in Europe. It feels so surreal that my journey is finally ending.

Goodbye for now!

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The Land of Shamrocks

On Friday my study abroad program officially ended. We all flew back to Rome, and from there we said our goodbyes. It was hard to say goodbye to people we have spent every day with for the last three months, but we are hopeful to have reunions in the Spring. A group of us stayed in Rome for the night, so we decided to bus into the city for the afternoon. It was a great experience to come full circle, back to the site where our program began. We saw our favorite gelato shops, where we lived, and walked the paths we walked nearly every day two months ago. We all noticed the changes to Rome since we were there. The city was more crowded, more shops are open, and it seemed more lively overall. 

Saturday twelve of us flew to Dublin, Ireland. We are staying in the heart of the city, immersed in all the action of Saint Patrick’s Day celebrations, which is a week long event. There is green everywhere, and lots of Americans! Today we took a break from the city and took an all day tour to the other side of the island.  Our tour took us through the city of Galway, to a family farm in the hills, and finally to the famous Cliffs of Moher. At the family farm, we were able to pet a goat named Billy, climb a ‘mountain’ (more like a hill) to see a beautiful view of the valley, and learn more about rural Ireland. This part of Ireland was exactly what I picture Ireland to be; rolling green hills filled with herds of sheep with the ocean in the background. At the Cliffs of Moher, the fog lifted just in time for pictures. These Cliffs are pictured in many movies including Harry Potter, Leap Year, and Princess Bride. Although it was very windy, this was one of the most beautiful spots I have visited in my entire time in Europe. The scenery reminded me a lot of New Zealand, or the scenery from Lord of the Rings. We drove back along the southern coast of Ireland, seeing different scenery, the common rocky coast of Ireland. We saw how truly beautiful this country is today. Tomorrow will be a different experience, Saint Patrick’s Day in the city of Dublin. It should be a fun and crazy day!

Goodbye for now! (No more foreign language sign offs, just imagine it in an Irish accent!)

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Last Days in Prague

Yesterday we went paddle boating on the Vltava River. It was so much fun! A big group of us rented three boats, paddled to the middle of the river, and spent an hour on the water in the 60 degree sun. The view of the city from the water is different, as we were looking at it from a different perspective. It was a great thing to do as one of the last events of the trip. Leonardo got his tan on at the front of our boat as we cruised along :). Last night a few of us celebrated the end of a journey by going out to a nice dinner and having French infused Czech food. It was so yummy!

Today we walked around the city one last time, mostly walking along the water. Prague is definitely a beautiful city to visit. The sun shimmers off the water onto the buildings lining the shore. The islands in the middle of the river house parks where people can go and relax on a nice day. The people are warm, welcoming, and actually like Americans! Tonight is the last night we have together as a program, consequently we are having dinner as a group at a local place our professors found. I’m sure it will be fun, lively, and full of emotion.

This trip has been an amazing experience. I have learned so much about history and people in general. I am so excited to come home and share all of it with you guys! Tomorrow we are getting up at 7 a.m to take a flight to Rome, where we will spend a day, then a few of us are traveling to Dublin for a few days. It will be a great way to finish off the program!

Sbohem prozatim!

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The Loreta

Today we visited the Loreta across the river. The Loreta is
a pilgrimage site that was built in the 17th century. It is an
exact replica of the Holy House of Virgin Mary in Northern Italy, a
very important symbol in the Catholic religion. An interesting fact
that our professor told us is that if a religious structure is
faithful to the design of the original, it is considered just as
holy and important as the original. Therefore, the Loreta in Prague
is a very important symbol for the city! I really enjoyed our
visit, there was a courtyard in the middle of the structure with
many fountain statues that looked beautiful in the 60 degree sun.
Leonardo even got a picture on one, looking very regal! The Loreta
included a beautiful church, the church of the Lord’s Birth. I
thought the inside of this church was one of the most gorgeous
interiors I had seen on my trip. I love the combination of black
and gold. Our visit also included a small museum, with a few
artifacts from the 17th century. Our tour ended with a visit to a
nearby library, the Strahov library, which is very famous for it’s
beauty. The picture is a little blurry, but the beauty of the main
room is still apparent. The library contains many publications
important to Czech history, some dating back to the 12th century. I
can’t believe I only have two more official days of our program. My
trip has gone by so fast! The weather here will be around 60
degrees and sunny, so I will be sure to soak in my last couple
days! Sbohem prozatim!

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Sunny and 50

The weather in Prague has been impeccable since we arrived here. It is currently 50 degrees and sunny, not what I would have expected for Northern Europe in March. Even when I don’t have anything specific I want to see, the weather makes me want to simply get out and walk around the city. Saturday this is exactly what I did. A group of us spent the afternoon walking along the river, enjoying the weather. The sun seems to light up the city and the reflection off the river amplifies it’s beauty. Yesterday I spent most of the day working on my final paper for the program at a local Starbucks. I was glad I was able to still be out in the Czech culture while doing my academic work. It was also nice to have my Starbucks coffee, a little taste of home :).

Prague is an interesting city. From my observations, it is the most culturally diverse city we have visited, and perhaps the most commercial as well. There are famous chain shops lining most major streets, and the squares are always bustling with all kinds of performers. The architecture and color of the city reminds me a lot of San Francisco. The buildings come in all colors; blue, green, yellow, etc., which look like “little boxes” (or big boxes) lining the street. Another note about Prague and Europe in general: they don’t have daylight savings until the end of March. The United States and Europe used to be synced, however recently the U.S. has been moving daylight savings back and Europe has stayed the same. Therefore, I am only 8 hours ahead of people on the west coast now.

Sbohem prozatim!

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Pilsner

Yesterday a friend and I walked around Prague and found a cute park near our apartments. It was a beautiful day, so we relaxed on a bench well into the early afternoon. After class, a group of us walked around the city. Although we didn’t see any new sites, it was nice to walk around and build on our impressions of the city. Yesterday afternoon I had dinner with a friend from my sorority who is studying abroad in Spain. It was really nice to see someone from home and share our respective adventures.

Today we all took a train to Pilsen to tour the Pilsner Urquell Beer Brewery. It was interesting to see how the beer is made and learn more about the process. Leonardo learned a new trade! At the end of the tour we got to sample beer straight from the barrel, a unique experience. We ate lunch and walked around the town in the afternoon.

The Czech Republic is a beautiful country. Not only is the city of Prague breathtaking, but I learned that the countryside is beautiful as well. We saw rolling hills and cute little towns on our way to Pilsen today. We even saw a few farms, it reminded me of home :)

Sbohem prozatim!

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Tiny Town

Yesterday we visited the Jewish district of Prague. We saw multiple synagogues, a cemetery, and a museum of Jewish history. The synagogues seemed to serve two purposes; a religious site and a memorial site. The top level of the synagogues had small exhibits showing pictures of Jewish ghettos or describing the plight of the Jews during WW2. The cemetery was interesting because there was only a small space in which the dead were allowed to be buried. Therefore, the cemetery is very crowded, with tombstones piled on top of each other. It was interesting to see the evolution of tombstones through time. There are tombstones dating back to the 1200’s next to tombstones from the 1940’s. An interesting contrast.

Today we went to the top of Hradcany hill as a class. Most of the sights were not new to me since I explored the hill on our first full day here. One sight that was new was a little street called Golden Lane. This tiny street depicts life as it was hundreds of years ago in the Prague Castle. The houses that line the street housed servants and other workers, such as goldsmiths, that worked around the Castle. Everything was so small, it all seemed my size! :) Leonardo enjoyed this part of the day, he got a picture looking down Golden Lane.

Sbohem prozatim!

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Aerial Views

Sunday we had a very relaxing day in Prague. A group of us
had lunch at a local bistro, then travelled to Petrin Hill. Halfway
up the hill we decided to take a break and relax in the grass for a
bit. A few of us found a nearby tree to climb, and we relaxed as a
group here for a few hours. The view was beautiful and the people
watching was interesting. The sun bounced off the buildings of the
city, making it look majestic. There were dancers in the grass
nearby whom we found interesting to watch from our perch in the
tree. Leonardo was even brave enough to climb the tree with me! We
decided that this was one of our favorite moments of the trip: 7 of
us looking over the city without having to say any words, just
simply enjoying the view and each other’s company. After it started
getting chilly we climbed the rest of the hill, (boy am I out of
shape,) to a tower at the top known as the ‘Eiffel Tower of
Prague’. We climbed the 360 steps to the viewpoint in order to take
in the aerial view of Prague. What a beautiful sight! On our way
back we ate street food at a local marketplace, yum! Yesterday one
of our professors took us to a University here to listen to a talk
about activist art against Roma discrimination. It was interesting
to hear the artist speak about his work and show us videos of the
projects he has done. Segregation is a big problem here in the
Czech Republic, even Roma dwellings are separated from the general
public by walls to keep them separate. These situations are hard
for me to imagine because they do not exist in America today. The
next 10 days will be filled with sight seeing as much as possible
as well as finalizing my term paper. I can’t believe the trip is
almost over! I am going to soak as much of it in as I can with the
time remaining.
Sbohem prozatim!

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Prague

Yesterday evening we arrived in Prague after the long 8 hour bus ride. We settled into our apartments and had a relaxing night. Today was full of sightseeing. We first took a tram to the top of Hradcany hill, which looks over the city and is home to the Prague Castle and St. Vitus’s Cathedral. We couldn’t explore the grounds of the Castle as much as we would have liked, as it is home to the president of the Czech Republic. This being said, we were able to explore St. Vitus’s Cathedral, which is technically part of the Castle. This is an enormous Cathedral that was constructed starting in 1344, with giant spires that make it impossible to miss. As we walked down the hill, we explored the street vendors and markets that we past. We passed over the famous Charles Bridge, which crosses over the Vltava river. There were many vendors and tourist trinkets lining the bridge, so consequently it was pretty crowded. After crossing the bridge we went to a nearby island park that is in the middle of the river. It was a peaceful location with many children playing and swans swimming in the nearby water. What a beautiful spot.

After walking around Prague for many hours today, I feel like I have a flavor of the city. The architecture is very ‘Middle Ages’ with huge spires lining the skyline. The people are warm, friendly, and love their sausage! The weather is chilly and dry, but when the sun does peak through the city lights up beautifully. I can’t wait to explore it even more!

Sbohem prozatim!

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