Saturday, April 3, 2010

Funny accents, backwards letters, weird money: must be eastern Europe

Great day in Prague

that's the astronomical clock. every hour it has all this crazy stuff go on so people are always there watching
View of Prague from the top of the crazy clock
Wenceslas Square
Charles Bridge

It’s been a couple weeks since my last update, so here goes another long one. As far as school goes, everything’s still good. I had 3 tests 2 weeks ago and think I did fine on all of them, and I have my poetry class midterm this Wednesday. I know I’ve already mentioned this, but both the professor and the poets we’re reading are crazy, so we’ll see how that goes.

The more interesting info is that I had my first of 2 spring breaks last week and it was a blast. I met up with a bunch of friends from home (Luke, Jessie, Betsy, and Abby) in Prague for the first part, and then headed to Berlin with Abby for the second part.

I’ll start with Prague. I really had no idea what to expect before. At least in other countries I’ve had a general idea of some sights I wanted to see, but in Prague, nada. I guess I’d heard of the Charles Bridge and King Wenceslas, and I’ve seen Vin Diesel’s cinematographic masterpiece XXX, but that’s about it. I mean do you really know anything about any country in eastern Europe? Me neither. Pretty much just picture dark, run down buildings, overcast skies, maybe a fire in a trashcan here or there, and lots of angry people. That wasn’t really what I pictured Prague like I guess, more just east Europe in general.

Well I got there last Thursday and first thing I had to do was switch some money. Their money is called crowns and I think it’s about 4 crowns = 1 euro. I’m still not exactly sure what the conversion rate is if that gives you any idea of what the money aspect of the trip was like for me. It really seems like it shouldn’t have been that hard, but when the pressure was on and I was ready to pay for something, I cracked. People could have been charging me whatever and I would’ve just been handing over money. “O what’s that? You want my debit card too? Sure, here’s the pin number. Enjoy.”

Once I had some money, I took the train towards the town center and found the hostel. Luke, Jessie, and Betsy were already there and our place was pretty awesome. We had 2 rooms with our own kitchen and huge bathroom. Really clean, nice, and cheap. We got some dinner that night, walked around and drank for a bit, then Abby came in Friday morning. We spent most of the day just walking around and it was incredible. Prague is a beautiful city and we had perfect weather. There’s tons of neat architecture there, and pretty much everywhere we went smelled like a tailgate. Ate a ton of meat like sausage and pork knuckle, had some awesome sauerkraut, and lots of cheap, good, huge beers. Real frat. At night we checked out a bunch of different bars, but the coolest one was the place where there are taps at every table and you just pour your own beer whenever you want one. Then there’s a big screen showing how much you and the other tables have drank, so it’s kind of like a big race.

On Sunday, everyone started splitting up and Abby and I took the train to Berlin. The trip took about 5 hours, but it was a really pretty ride and definitely beat flying there. We started out winding along the river, then there was a ton of really green open fields, some huge hills, etc.

Now like in Prague, I had some preconceived notions and questions regarding Berlin/Germany. For example, are German Shepherds just known as ‘shepherds’ in Germany? And is German chocolate cake just ‘chocolate cake?’ Still not sure so let me know if you figure that out.

Also, I had a somewhat skewed image of what I pictured the Berlin fashion scene to be. I pictured people wearing lots of leather, lots of metal chains (perhaps a studded chocker necklace or bracelet), maybe a leather vest or hat. Not sure why, but that was the first thing to come to my head. Basically, Berlin was where weird dominatrix fashion would meet biker gang fashion. Thankfully (or perhaps unfortunately) that wasn’t the case. Berlin was an equally awesome city and I had a blast there. We stayed at this place called Wombat’s Hostel, probably the nicest one I’ve staid in. During the day, I took a really good tour that showed us a bunch of German landmarks like the Brandenburg Gate, Reichstag, Berlin Wall, Checkpoint Charlie, and old Nazi Air Force HQ. One interesting part was when our guide pointed out a parking lot. There was really nothing to catch your eye at this place. It was just an unpaved parking lot with no signs or anything around. Turns out that was where Hitler’s bunker was and where he committed suicide. Our guide said the gov didn’t want anything to commemorate Hitler so this was the best thing they could do – make a crappy parking lot and try to forget the place. Now people bring their dogs there and poop on it (the dogs I mean. Maybe some people do too?)

O ya and we saw the hotel where Michael Jackson was holding his new baby out the hotel window.

On another day we went to Sachsenhausen, a concentration camp right outside Berlin. Tough to describe that but something definitely worth seeing.

At night, we hung out at the bar at our hostel quite a bit and went on a pubcrawl one night. The hostel was a great place to meet people and lots of us ended up going on the pubcrawl together. It was pretty funny looking back because I’m sure there won’t be many times in life when I’ll be sitting around drinking with people from Canada, Australia, Spain, Germany, England, etc all in one place. Really fun night with one massive hangover in the morning.

The food and beer were great there, too. Lots of snitzel, currywurst, and other meat dishes for super cheap

I’m back in Sevilla now to catch the 2nd half of Semana Santa. It’s this huge Holy Week deal going on here and started on Palm Sunday (last Sunday). Most people get at least part if not the whole week off, and every day there are processions in the street. It probably sounds like a parade, but is quite a bit different. First off, there are people dressed up all over the place that are wearing the same outfits the KKK wears (Spain had them first). These guys are part of the procession, along with a band. But the biggest part are the pasos. These are these enormous elaborate statues that sit on big platforms and most of the year are hanging out in churches. For this week, though, they get to catch some air outside. Each of these dudes weighs over 3 tons, but during the processions (which can last around 7 hours), about 35 guys get underneath them, pick them up using their necks, and then parade super slowly around the city. So each guy has around 170 pounds on his neck. I personally would rather be in the band or KKK outfit, but the guys underneath see it as a sacrifice or repentance and it’s actually pretty competitive to be underneath.

The pasos are really cool though. It’s sort of like watching a huge, moving version of the Stations of the Cross. The different statues depict some aspect of JC or Mary’s life during the week. Pretty neat. I went and watched them yesterday with Concha, her daughter Ana, and Ana’s family. Ana and all her family are great. She’s super nice and has some cute kids. Concha is still doing good too. We had some beers yesterday after one of the pasos went by, and she got pretty drunk after 2.5 of them.

That’s all from here. I’m going to London on Wednesday so looking forward to that and will post some pics when I get back.

Stay classy,


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