Vítejte v Praze!

So I made it. After months of anticipation, days of packing, and hours of traveling, I made it. I’m in Prague -in one piece even! But more importantly with both my checked bags. I realized as I was going through security once again with an impractically-packed carry-on that if my checked baggage was lost or delayed for any reason, I would have an assortment of shoes to choose from but no clothes, no tooth brush, no underwear. Man, am I good or what?

Also, now that I have seen the cobblestone streets of Prague, I’m quite happy I left my rollerblades home.

But let me say it one more time- I’M IN PRAGUE! It’s beautiful and amazing and gorgeous and did I mention beautiful? Every piece of architecture here would be considered a historic landmark in the states. Even the shabbiest looking establishments that house one of the gazillion Thai massage joints or pizza pubs here in Prague would be beautiful by American standards. Despite barely seeing the sun since I arrived, Prague is still the most beautiful city I have seen. I can’t imagine what it will look like come spring time- luckily I’ll be able to compare.

A typical cobblestone street in Prague.

Looking continually around me at the architecture and sights, I have sort of forgotten to look at street names or get my directional bearings. Thankfully, my program has organized a  “Czech buddy” for all the student flats. They live with us as well as take classes with us. My buddy, Danka, has so far led, and I have diligently followed.

It was really quite a good system.

At least it was until they let us off the leash yesterday and sent us on a eight hour scavenger hunt across the city- sans Czech buddies. We showed up to orientation at 10am and they promptly put us in 12 groups of six students, handed us a list of things we needed to locate or document, and gave us an address for us all to meet up at for dinner at 6pm. We were turned loose for the first time since we arrived and the sheer chaos that ensued quickly turned into an adventure.

Here are a few pictures from the hunt:

The Astronomical Clock in Old Town Square. On the hour every hour terrifying wooden figurines of the 12 Apostles dance in front of the two windows at the top of the clock.
We climbed to the top of the clock tower for a 360 degree view of Prague- orange shingles as far as the eye could see!
Old Town Square- back in the day half of the square was a chicken market, and the other half you may ask? An execution podium. Obviously.
Charles Bridge with the Prague Castle in the background.
Look, sunshine does exist in Prague!
My scavenger hunt-ing group on Charles Bridge.

I kind-of-sort-of-maybe-a-little-bit-might-sometimes know where I am going now that I traversed high and low across the cobblestoned city. And to prove it, after the scavenger hunt I led a group of about 15 of us students to an American bar on the other side of the city to watch the Packers game. I did my research the night before and emailed bars asking whether they would be screening the game, just like any good Packer fan would do. GO PACK GO!

Projected Packer game in Prague- no big deal. I met three fellow badgers and we bonded over everything Wisconsin including beer, cheese, and the cold.

While this weekend was an introduction to the city, history, and public transportation of Prague, today was my first introduction to the Czech language. We had our first of five days of intensive Czech and it was maybe one of the scarier and intimidating experiences of my life. I’m excited for the challenge of learning the language but intimidated by the Czech’s minimal use of vowels. It’s almost as if they’re optional. Take a look at this example my teacher, Zdenka, gave to the class:

Strč prst skrz krk.
Stick a finger through your throat.

Mmk, so obviously not a sentence I will be using regularly, but really?! Vowels seem to be sparse and for a girl that has three “a”s in her first name, I have a hard time comprehending how these words make sense.

Yikes! But despite being absolutely intimidated by the language I’m very excited to tackle its difficulty- at least that is the pep talk I have been giving myself. And hopefully I’ll soon be able take a few steps away from the American tourist stereotype…hopefully.

All in all, I’m in awe of Prague. Perhaps some of the awe can be attributed to jetlag or sheer terror of the Czech language but I foresee these next four months to be incredible. I have already learned so much about myself and this beautiful city and it’s only been four days. What will the next four months bring? I’m not quite sure yet, but I can’t wait to find out!

I leave you with a tongue twister that my Czech teacher began the class with. I could have sworn she was speaking gibberish and really for all of us Czech-newbies know, she could have been…

Třistatřicetři stříbrných stříkaček stříkalo přez třistatřicet tři stříbrných střech.
Three hundred and thirty three silver fire-engines were spraying over three hundred and thirty three silver roofs.

How they do it, I don’t know.

Cheers and Na Shledanou,

Maarja