I would like to call my first week in Prague my “Week of Firsts.” Not to say I’ve done everything I possibly could do in Prague and am an absolute seasoned Prahan who can now seemingly navigate the city without a flaw, I’m just saying this week had firsts up the whazoo. I’m sure I’ll experience many more firsts during the next four months but here are a few from my first week…
First visit to Prague Castle
Oop, and second and third. That’s right, I went to Prague Castle three times this week. Despite the weather being freezing and miserable each and every time, the beauty of the Prague Castle and the views from the hill were more than worth it (every time I went I would think, “Well, maybe this time it will be sunny and pleasant!” FALSE. It is cold here. Although I am a cold-weathered gal from ‘da nort’woods up der,’ Prague cold is different. It is damp and horrible. And that is how I justify my complaining).
An upside to visiting the Prague Castle three times this week, other than taking in the beauty of a 10th century masterpiece of course, is that I had plenty of time to plan my wedding.
I’d then have a cocktail hour at a vineyard located on the grounds.
And then the reception would be in the courtyard.
Done and done. My wedding is planned. I can already see my father reading this and saying, “Say Maarja, aren’t you forgetting something? As in a groom?” Right. That’s a minor detail at this point. Unfortunately, there are no Prague princes- believe me I asked. They banned all royal titles in 1918. So a Czech prince isn’t an option for me. Eh, I’ll figure it out later.
First trip to a Czech grocery store
Like Walgreens or CVS in the states, there is an Albert on every corner in Prague. And many of them are in the metro stops- how convenient, right? They are probably the most popular grocery store and although there are many cute and inviting fruit stands, I need to take baby steps when it comes to buying food in a foreign language. So I’m sticking to Albert for now.
My Czech buddy graciously took me to Albert for the first time and thank goodness she did. If it hadn’t been for her I would have left the store with only carrots and raisins. They were the only two things I could pick out on my own without translation.
Food is not only labeled with names far beyond any recognition, they are also packaged differently and under different brands. It’s almost like a guessing game. But a cheap guessing game. My first trip was under 20 US dollars and in the states I probably would have paid $35. So although I might not always know what food I’m buying, at least it is relatively inexpensive.
First trip to a Czech gym
I decided it was time to work off the rich beer and high fat ham and potatoes that the Czech seem to love so much. The gym is a block from my flat and surprisingly well equipped. I had sort of figured that, like the French, the Czech didn’t work out and were annoyingly naturally thin. But the gym was very similar to an American gym- Zumba included, as in nearly five sessions a day. Apparently the Czech love to Zumba, and so do I. We are a match made in heaven.
First trip to a Czech music bar
80’s and 90’s music played until 5am. Enough said.
First trip on a Czech metro
I have maybe spent more time on the metro than asleep during my first busy week. The metro is very clean, as well as efficient, but most of all it is quiet. Almost eerily quiet. Except of course when obnoxious Americans are riding. One of my teachers asked us the other day, “So why exactly does your culture insist on being so loud all the time?” It’s true. In general, the Czechs are very quiet and you can immediately tell a group of Americans even before you recognize the language. I have learned to blend in on the metro by sitting quietly, looking rather bored, and not smiling- ever.
First Czech flat
I feel so posh using the word “flat.” I’m fully becoming an European and loving every minute of it.
Our flat is located on top of an Italian restaurant (dangerous, I know) and is not even a block from the nearest metro and tram stops. Across the street is also a huge shopping mall (dangerous as well, I know). Our building is 100 years old but our specific flat is nicely renovated with a brand new kitchen and bathroom- we even have a dishwasher!
First (and last) week of intensive Czech
I think I have made large strides towards fluency during my 20 hours of intensive Czech this week- meaning I can now successfully tell you my name, where I’m from, what I do, and little bits and pieces of my family. That’s all you need, right? Oh, and I know how to order beer. Velké pivo, prosím– A big beer, please. I’m sure my mother would be proud. Or if anything, at least my big brother would be.
Here are a few other essential phrases:
Nerozumím český.- I don’t understand Czech
Na zdraví!- Cheers!
Both necessary phrases. But I cling to Nerozumím český like no one’s business. It is my life support.
Tomorrow, we finally start classes and I have a quiz in Czech so I better get to studying. I don’t think my teacher would be pleased if I wrote Nerozumím český for every answer…