Julia SMU-in-Paris

Julia is a junior from Plano majoring in history, with a French minor, and is a member of the University Honors Program. She is studying abroad with SMU-in-Paris in fall 2007.

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Czech Me Out!

What a wonderful weekend I’ve just had in Prague!

I have to admit that before I came to Europe I hadn’t really considered Prague among one of the destinations I had wanted to visit, but after staying here for a couple of days I’m so glad I came! Though the capital city of the Czech Republic, Prague is a relatively small city. In fact, we were able to walk most places in the city without any problems.

julia-prague1.pngAfter spending nearly two months in France and constantly having to translate during conversation, it was actually kind of weird to speak English again. Luckily, though, pretty much everyone in Prague spoke English so there wasn’t a big language barrier.

Our hostel, Old Prague Hostel, changed my perceptions about all hostels. This one was actually decent. We had our own private room, and the location was convenient. The only weird thing was for breakfast they gave us sandwiches … Maybe that’s what they do in the Czech Republic? Either way, it was a decent and safe place to stay for the two nights that we were there, and I would recommend it to anyone going to Prague on a budget.

julia-prague2.pngAll aboard!
On our first day in Prague we mainly walked around the city, acquainting ourselves with the major landmarks and streets. I stupidly insisted that we go on a boat ride on the Prague River, which turned out to be less than thrilling as it was about 20 degrees on the boat. We saw all of the major sites, like the Dancing House, the Charles V Bridge, the Parlement Building, and Prague’s version of the Eiffel Tower.

Shades of Communism
I’ve never been to a former communist country before, and to see the effects that communism had both on the morale and the economy of the people was quite striking. The Czech people are definitely attempting to bring more capitalism and investment into their country by having department stores and major brands, but it’s clear that they are still in a “transition” phase. You can tell in the faces of almost all the people, even 20-year-olds who endured the civil war in the early 90s, that life isn’t easy, and they are struggling everyday. It was a little bit of a reality check to be there.

Because of their transitioning economy, everything is dirt cheap. Luckily I exchanged Euros for Czech Koronas, so for every 1 euro I got about 30 Czech Koronas, which is about 3 dollars. I couldn’t believe how inexpensive food and souvenirs were; it was amazing! I was able to buy my mom a really nice Swarovski crystal figurine for very cheap, so if you go to Prague, shopping is a must!

The “Eurodog”
Also really cheap in Prague is the food; a nice change of pace considering the food is so expensive in Paris. Every place that we went we were able to get a very nice meal for about 7 or 8 euros! I have to admit though, the food wasn’t that good. There was one exception to this rule, though. I’ve never been one to be drawn to the hot dog vendors on the side of the street, but in Prague there are tons of little hot dog stands that smell absolutely divine. Giving into our overwhelming desire for a “hot dog out of a cart” three of my friends and I bought a hot dog, fries, and a Diet Coke and let me tell you … it was the best meal I had in Prague.

Footloose!
On Friday night Brooke, Brenda, Federico, and I went to the “largest dance club in continental Europe,” Karozy Lane. There are five floors of dance space, each with a different theme. Be aware, though, that it’s a very varied mix of ages, there were high schoolers and people on retirement packages dancing next to each other. Also people in Europe dance very differently from Americans. For the most part, “dancing” is defined as “flailing your arms and legs to music.” It’s quite amusing to watch and imitate.

julia-prague3.png
Recommendations
If you go to Prague be sure to check out the Charles V Bridge, the Old Prague Square, the Astronomical Clock, and of course the Prague Castle. Unfortunately when I visited the Prague Castle, it was closed due to renovations, but the facade is very interesting with an odd, but pleasing combination of gothic and baroque architecture. Wear your walking shoes, though, because the hike to the top of the hill where the castle is located is a killer!

Though I am sad to leave the quaint city of Prague, I am so excited to be going to Rome!

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