grazie mille, Italia

It's been two weeks and I still find myself daydreaming about swimming in the Amalfi Coast. The water was the saltiest and most clear I had ever seen, my friends and I found ourselves losing track of time on the beach during our stay. I devoured the best homemade ravioli of my life for dinner at Chez Black in Positano, and somehow ended up at a drag show in the small town's club built into a cliff called Music on the Rocks. Although it was a brief trip, the amount of times I had to stop to take in the scenery was something I will never forget. Everywhere I turned, a nearly picture-perfect view was ahead of me. 

Three days later, I was off to Florence. Originally I was supposed to stay in the city for four days then venture off to Rome, but I loved wandering the streets so much that I extended my stay by two days. Once I arrived, I headed toward the tourist attractions and followed the advice of several articles I read - have no set destination and see where the streets will take you. Thanks to this advice, I came across the best pizza place in Florence, Pizzeria O'vesuvio, known for their famous ricotta stuffed crust pizza. I ended up coming here two nights in a row because I loved it so much, and I came to find out this was one of the restaurants the Jersey Shore cast visited during their season filmed in Italy. From getting lost strolling through the Boboli Gardens to catching myself breathless, admiring Florence's nighttime sky view from the Piazzale Michaelengelo, it didn't take long for Florence, and Italy as a whole, to steal my heart.

I spent one day on a winery tour through Chianti, which followed a day full of thunder and lightning storms which sporadically hit Florence. Coming from the Pacific Northwest, it was literally a breath of fresh air to smell rain on the concrete and cobblestone throughout the neighborhoods. I was never much of a wine drinker before, but something about the red wine of Chianti swept me off my feet - which is very rare, considering my usual sweeter taste palette.

Ah, and then there was Rome. I couldn't feel more serendipitous about this trip ending the note it did with a city like this one. I had two full days to explore, so after a night of creating an itinerary, I set off in the morning for the Colossum, Roman Forum, Trevi Fountain, Pantheon, and the Trastevere neighborhood. I was able to find a tour via Romaround, which included a tour guide through the underground, main and upper levels of the Colosseum and around the Roman Forum. Now THIS was a cool experience. When we went underneath the Colosseum, our tour guide told us stories about the gladiator games and showed where trap doors and man-made elevators were located to make the beasts "magically appear" on the arena floor. I saw the doors and walk way they would carry the defeated gladiators out of the arena, and we walked to the highest view of the Colosseum which overlooked most of Ancient Rome. The Roman Forum had to be one of my favorite sights. Our guide shared the origin story of Rome's name and showed us the remains of the building Julius Caesar was cremated in. Afterward, I went to the Trastevere neighborhood for lunch, checked out the Pantheon, made my way to the Trevi Fountain, then finished the day with dinner at That's Amore. If you make your way to this restaurant, try the risotto. It takes 20 minutes to prep, but a glass of wine and caprese appetizer will make the time go by fast.

My last day was spent with a tour of the Villa Borghese, Vatican City, and the Spanish Steps. I chose the Villa Borghese not only due to the beautiful historic artwork displayed in the park and in the gallery, but because the sculpture of Apollo and Daphne is located here. The greek myth is the origin of the Daphne plant and how it came to be. According to mythology and rephrased into a public blog-friendly version, Apollo was madly in love with Daphne and wanted her as his own. Daphne, the daughter of Zeus, was afraid of Apollo and wanted nothing to due with his possession. When Apollo chased after Daphne, she cried to her father asking for a way to escape. Zeus heard her cries and turned her into a laurel tree. Apollo discovered Daphne in her new form and was devastated. He made a head wreath our of her leaves, and plays the lyre instrument, singing for her to one day return to his arms. The laurel tree is one of the first plants to bloom in the spring, and the reasoning behind my name. Pretty cool, huh?

Had I stayed one more day, I would've spent my Sunday in the Vatican City, as traditions and former visitors suggest, where the pope resides. Instead I spend my last Saturday on a tour, again, via Romearound (highly recommend!) through the Vatican museums within the city. It was incredible to see all of the stories told through artwork, and my favorite was the detailed work of Michaelangelo in the Sistine Chapel. Although I don't come from a religious background, I really enjoyed seeing the stories of Jesus and Moses come to life. Seeing the original works of the Last Supper, Adam and Eve, and the Creation of Adam was the kind of experience you have to see for yourself, because you just can't put it into words. I ended the day walking around the city center, ending up at the Spanish Steps where I fully embraced my inner Lizzie McGuire. Starting at the top and making my way down, I would stop to look back every few minutes to take a breath and make the most of the last hours I had left in Europe. 

As crazy as it is to say that it's already over, I couldn't feel more thankful that it happened in the first place. Just like that, six weeks came and went in the blink of an eye. But in the midst of it all, I have grown and learned more about myself in a short amount of time than I ever thought capable. This time away from home taught me a few life lessons about staying focused on the path to where I want to be in the long run, and who to keep close, especially those who take the time to consistently check in despite the chaotic time difference. I'm so excited to see what this next lap around the sun has in store, and this was just what I needed before finishing my last few terms of school. 

Thank you so, so much for reading and keeping up with my rambling throughout this trip. I really appreciate all the positive feedback and support I have received from family, friends, professors and colleagues about this little blog of mine! I hope it was as fun for you to check out as it was for me to produce. As for the future, who knows when I'll set out for my next trip across the world, but I'll cross my fingers it happens sooner rather than later. Here's to a successful closed chapter, and a positive outlook on the next chapter ahead!

A M A L F I

F L O R E N C E

C H I A N T I

R O M E

my guide to czeching out the best of Prague

Schnitzel, goulash, and pilsner... Oh my! If four weeks in Prague, Czech Republic has taught me anything, it's that the city is Europe's "best-kept secret." Think about it, when "Europe" pops into your head, you think of places like Paris, Rome, Amsterdam, the big guys with the world-renowned reputation. It may not have the Trevi Fountain or Eiffel Tower (well, kind of, but I'll get to that in a moment), but it has its own unique aspects of eastern European culture to embrace.

Although it only took four weeks for me to call it home, I swear I loved the city by the second day. There is so much to offer, whether you’re staying for a weekend or staying for weeks at a time. I’ve compiled a list of my favorite finds, and good news! You’ll save a few more dollars than you think by checking them out.

The currency conversion is about 1 USD = 24 CZK. One trick a friend taught me for quick conversion is by moving the decimal to the left one space, then divide that number by two. Usually, a classic Czech dinner plate (dumplings, meat, sauce, etc.) costs 140 CZK. With the conversion trick, you end up paying $7. Thirsty for a pint of beer? Turns out, it’s usually cheaper than a bottle of water. A 500 ml costs you 35 CZK, turning out to $1.50. You read that right.

Here are the winners of my must-try, must-see, must-do list. If you’re curious to do some research on your own, listen to the advice I took from a local - never depend on Yelp. In Czech, Google Reviews is more reliable!

 

IF WEBSITE LANGUAGE IS SET TO CZECH THERE ARE USUALLY LANGUAGE MODIFIER TABS IN THE UPPER OR LOWER CORNERS OF THE PAGE.

 

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SURVIVAL TERMINOLOGY

Dobry den (dobree den) | Good day

Prosim (proseem) | Please

Dekuju (deckwee) | Thank you

Na Zdravi (nasdravee)i | Cheers / We drink for good health

Mluvite anglitsky (mlooviteh onglitskee) | Do you speak english

Ano | Yes

Ne | No

Namesti (Namyestee) | Square (Location)

Dobreva (dohbrayva) | Right

Doleva (dohlayva) | Left

 

CHOW

LAS ADELITAS | Whenever we needed a break from traditional Czech dinners, this was our go-to spot. Mouth-watering enchiladas, burritos, nachos - they also offer discounted margaritas on Wednesday nights.

BURRITO LOCO | 24-hour cheap mexican food, coined the “American drunchies spot.” There’s one located almost every 15 to 20-minute walk. Think European Taco Bell, but ~authentic~

LETNA | Come here to enjoy one of the best views of the city with a pint in hand. The walk to the beer garden is a steep set of stairs, but SO worth it once you make it to the top. The location is set in a park, and the seating area overlooks Old Town Prague. The food stands offer enormous portions of sausage and bread, to match with a variety of Gambrinus, Pilsner, Master’s Amber Lager and Kozel’s dark lager. For snacks, choose between porchetta, grilled chicken, fried mozzarella, french fries, or a chicken caesar.

COFFEE CORNER | Probably one of the cutest cafes with the sweetest staff you’ll ever come across. Conveniently this spot was located around the corner from our apartment complex, so a lot of the students met here for coffee before taking the tram to class. What kept us coming back was their rotating variety of pastries, massive lunch menu, and incredible coffee. We noticed many cafes play American pop music, but this place stole my heart when it altered from Jack Johnson one day, to Beyonce the next. If their banana bread is on display, don’t think twice. Just give them the .50 CZK. Also, two words. Avocado. Toast.

U TRI PRASATEK | The first place I had dinner in Prague, and it really kicked things off to a great start. I ordered the smoked salmon with potatoes and sauteed spinach, and that’s exactly what I had the next two times I returned. Translated to “The Three Pigs,” it’s a classic Czech spot with plenty of traditional meat plates, while still offering American items to choose from.

MANIFESTO | Think Portland Night Market, but more food, less crowds, and a local secret. When I first came here, I ordered a pizza from one cart, sweet potato fries with mustard + mayo sauce (sounds whack until you try it, I swear), pilsner from another, then picked up gelato before I left. There was SO much variety, choosing one item from one cart wasn’t possible. The best way to do it is going with friends and ordering a little bit of everything from every cart, buffet-style.

LA BOHEME | The other cutest cafe with the sweetest staff you’ll ever come across. Seriously, you’re going to step one foot into this place and swoon. It has a very relaxing atmosphere and it’s very spread out, many cafe menu options to choose from and the decor is on point. ALWAYS go for their sparkling lemonade or fresh juice, you won’t go wrong.

WAFFLIN’ | For my Portland and Eugene peeps, consider this the better Off The Waffle/Waffle Window. If you know me, you know how often I crave Off The Waffle, so that’s saying something. Their menu is build-your-own style, with savory creams, toppings, add-ons on one side, and sweet on the other. Not to mention, the waffles are bigger. Need another reason to check it out?

CREME DE LA CREME | This is the only gelato spot you need to consider when visiting Prague. It’s spread out across Europe, so you won’t have tough luck finding one anywhere you go, but you HAVE to give it a try, I promise the line to wait is worth it. I’m a sucker for their hazelnut and lavender, but you won’t go wrong with any of the flavors.

 

NIGHTLIFE

ROXY | Renovated 1920s movie theater made fun for dancing, usually has live DJ’s, Alison Wonderland played a show while I was living here.

ALIBI | Smaller underground bar located in the “trendy district” of Prague - Nove Mesto. , colorful decor and spread out with different themes for each room. Fun place to start off the night.

RADOST | Vegetarian restaurant by day, music club by night. This was the film location for Rihanna’s “Please Don’t Stop the Music” video. A little spendier on the drinks, but the atmosphere is fun and the bartenders are the best. Go for the hip hop + r&b night!

LUCERNA | The club of clubs in Prague located in Wenclesas Square. Come here for the Friday 80/90s throwback night it’s always packed and a great time.

HARLEY | You HAVE to check this place out. It’s a Harley-Davidson/Rock & Roll-themed bar where they play a ton of early-2000s hits. The perfect spot for a girls night.

VZORKOVNA | My FAVORITE spot in Prague! Also nicknamed Dog Bar for the MASSIVE dogs which stroll through this place, it’s an immaculate underground bar you’d miss if you weren’t looking for it. It’s like a maze with how many different rooms you come across, and ladders you can climb to hang on higher levels overlooking the foosball tables, or a fenced off cage on the top of the bar to watch live music. Keep in mind you pay up front and receive a bracelet to get you x amount of drinks, however much money you don’t spend, you can get a refund for before leaving. There are swings, barber shop-chairs-turned-built-in-benches, live music until 3 am, no matter what night of the week there’s always a crowd.

BEER GEEK | Two words. Beer. Flights. They have SO many drafts to choose from and it made me feel like I was back home at a McMenamins or Deschutes. Cool place if you want a laid back night, grab some appetizers or get some work done.

KAYAK BEACH BAR | You aren’t getting the full Prague experience if you don’t give the dock bars a try. This one is located toward the end of the bars, and right around the corner you can rent a kayak for an hour or two to take down the river. I snagged one right before the sunset and it was definitely worth it, really cheap also. Kayak Beach Bar has it all and the founder, former Olympic medalist Vavrinec Hradilek, knows how to provide a variety of night life with things to do all in the same spot. Located on a two-story boat, there’s music, paddling, boat tours, even a sand volleyball court attached to the back (!!!). Check it out, and thank me later.

 

VIEWS

CHARLES BRIDGE | The best way to check this place out is by doing so first thing in the morning, for a few reasons. For one, you won’t be in the blaring heat (if you visit in the summer), and for two, you’ll beat the VERY crowded tourist rush if you go before 11. Trust me, it’s worth it.

LENNON WALL | Make your way through Charles Bridge and when you walk through the tiny village and around the corner, you’ll find yourself at the famous John Lennon Wall. Man, this art piece was cool. I’ve wanted to check it out for years, and I’m so glad I did. The wall is covered in art, from signatures, to odes to John Lennon, to lyrics, to images. I had a few friends who created a beautiful mural for a class project, the art is always changing so if you want to go back again, you should.

PRAGUE CASTLE | Wander around to see where you end up, the church was my favorite part. Same situation with the Bridge though, beat the afternoon rush.

TV TOWER | This was located a few blocks from where I lived, one of the tallest towers in Prague which made it easy to navigate our way home. There’s a futuristic-looking bar and restaurant located on the top arena. It’s also famous for the sculptures which look like babies climbing up the tower, but this was under reconstruction while I was visiting.

DANCING HOUSE | Pretty much just a cool photo-op, it’s a building with groovy architecture nicknamed after dancing duo Fred and Ginger, designed to look like a pair of dancers.

PETRIN | Remember when I mentioned the Eiffel Tower? This is Prague’s version, known as “Mini Eiffel.” It sits on top of a park overlooking the city. Unfortunately, this was one of the only viewpoints I didn’t check out, but I heard from many friends it was worth the climb.

VYSEHRAD | My school was located here, I highly recommend making the commute up the hill to check out the cemetery, park, church, and castle. There’s a little beer garden in the same area where you can get incredible sausage and grilled zucchini kabobs.

ZLUTE LAZNE | If you plan your visit while it’s sunny and warm in Prague, CHECK THIS PLACE OUT. We heard about it from our professor and didn’t make the trip until one of our last days, I wish we had gone sooner! It’s a communal swim area along the river, with volleyball courts, ping pong tables, swimming docks, food and beverage carts and plenty of room for you to join the community in playing music, sunbathing, and meeting many new people. The area is huge and busy in the summer, but not overcrowded to the point where it looks like a tourist hangout. Definitely another best-kept secret.

BOHEMIAN SWITZERLAND | Located between the border of Germany and Czech Republic, this hike takes about two hours and worth every mile up. It’s famous for being a film location for the Chronicles of Narnia movie. Seriously, photos don’t do it justice, you have to check it out for yourself. Above the main tourist area, you can walk up a flight of stairs to a view that will put you at eye level with the rock formation.

DOX GALLERY | If you’re a fan of contemporary art you will love this gallery! There are many exhibitions to explore, including an outdoor patio with a man-made wooden blimp you can visit the inside of.  

VNITROBLOCK | It’s a little out of the way, but a gem to come across. Vnitroblock is a renovated brick interior warehouse turned into a shoe and clothing shop, film theater, bar, and art gallery all in one. Did I mention there’s a school bus food cart outside it’s entrance with sculptures and murals surrounding the lounge area?

 

 

 

the collection of beautiful sentences

There were a few quotes from my visit to the Anne Frank house which stuck with me, but this one was probably my favorite. When she originally wrote her diary, Anne Frank also composed a side project, in which she wanted to write short stories or rewritten versions of the journal entries during the two years of her life in the secret annex. She called it, the "Collection of Beautiful Sentences." I've wanted to visit this site since my sophomore year of college when I took the toughest but most beneficial history class on the Holocaust. Let me tell you, I'm so glad I did, and this experience will stick with me forever, and it couldn't have been a better way to start my next few days in Amsterdam. There were also two other quotes which stuck with me. I want to share them because they made me think more personally about Anne Frank's story, and I hope they can serve as quotes to consider with a deeper meaning. 

"She didn't die, she was killed. Because she was a Jewish girl." - N/A. On display in the exhibition room where original copies of her diary are displayed, leading to the Nazi break-in of the secret annex where the Frank family was arrested and taken to concentration camps.

"Most parents don’t know, really, their children." - Otto Frank, Anne's father, on reading Anne's Diary and realizing an entirely different perspective of his daughter after coming to terms with her death.

I had heard many stories of Amsterdam and created my own idea of what the city looks like. But let me tell you, pictures don't quite do it justice. Neither do stories. You truly have to be in this atmosphere experiencing it for yourself to truly know what it's like. This city quickly became my favorite to visit, perhaps because there was so much to do in such a small area. Or perhaps it was due to the casual, laid-back street style of the environment. Even though I only had a couple of days, I tried packing in as much as I could. I tackled...

JORDAAN DISTRICT

This consists of the nine famous canal streets running through central Amsterdam. Whether you travel by foot, bike, or canal cruise, this is a must-see when visiting Amsterdam. Here, you can find the shopping strip (within walking distance of stellar food stops Wok to Walk + C'est Magnifique), the cutest clothing boutiques, souvenir shops, coffeeshops, and landmarks. 

RIJKSMUSEUM

If you're looking for a good classic museum, this is definitely the spot to hit. Be aware this is one of the main tourist attractions, so lines will get long but you can beat them by buying a ticket in advance online. Each floor covers a different time period of fine art, from sculptures to portraits to remnants of history. My favorite was the mix between Claude Monet and Van Gough styles, called Impressionism. 

BANKSY

Don't be surprised if you look up "Bansky Museum" and nothing comes up. Although this is its popular nickname, the building holding Banksy's famous works is called the Moco Museum. Located in the same area as the Van Gogh Museum, the Rijksmuseum and the I Amsterdam sign, if you find the Victorian building with pink bark dust, you're in the right spot. Check out Banksy's stuff, but also head over to the exhibit about Icy + Sot, two Iranian graffiti artist brothers whose work literally "holds a mirror to the current Iranian society." The museum descripition explains further, "With their work they offer an idiosyncratic view on themes like oppression, fame, freedom, war and dreams. The talent of the brothers did not go unnoticed and soon Icy and Sot got the chance to leave the streets of Tabriz tempted by New York."

DON'T MISS

 Red Light District + Red Light Secrets,

NEMO Science Museum 

Rembrandt District

Electric Ladyland

GOOD EATS

C'est Magnifique 

Juice Brothers

Bakers + Roasters

Wok to Walk

Sky Lounge 

Il Palio

Foodhallen

DUTCH TRADITIONS

Stroopwafel

Kopstoot

 

 

Sightseeing Amsterdam | Bricks + Canals, view from Sky Lounge,  I Amsterdam sign, Breakfast (Eggs Benedict), Dinner (Bitterballen + Spanish Tortilla), Breakfast (first Acai bowl in Europe... finally), Dinner (the Butcher burger in Foodhallen), Breakfast (Cortado coffee from Bakers + Roasters), Foodhallen Drinks (Dutch tradition, Kopstoot).

Moco Museum | Banksy, Icy + Sot

it's not goodbye, it's see you later

This is one thing my great grandfather used to say that always stuck with me. It's a simple, optimistic reminder that in this life, there is always something to anticipate - a reason to keep moving forward. Whenever I would say, "bye bye grandpa!" he would respond, "it's not goodbye, it's see you later!" 

I'm sure I'm not the only one, but I absolutely hate goodbyes and farewells. Yes, I'm the kind of person to completely avoid this scenario and spend my time reminiscing about how far I have come, and when it comes time to accept my defeat, there are always tears. Happy tears, but definitely tears. During our farewell dinner the other night, my friends were going around and talking about our personal growth, and what we've learned about ourselves. I thought about it for a while and came up with the thought that this experience helped shape my sense of independence. By going out and trying things on my own, whether it be solo or with friends, I have felt more confident about the direction I'm headed. While at times I missed home, family, and friends, I found solidarity in my individuality. It was the reassurance I needed to know I was capable of counting on my resources, my new relationships, and most importantly - myself.

Last week, I explored the most incredible places through my program. We traveled to Dêčin Czech Republic, a small town near the German border. From there, we hiked the Tisa rocks and Bohemian Switzerland. The Tesin rocks had my jaw dropping by the time we made it to the top of the sandstone remains. Our tour guide, Ales (pronounced Alex), was incredibly humorous and so helpful with any questions we had. Seriously, if you ever need a tour guide through the Czech Republic national parks, hit up my guy for all things exploration.

The next day we ventured out to Bohemian Switzerland, a naturally formed national park, known as a famous film location for Chronicles of Narnia. It was about a two-hour hike one way, and worth every single minute. When we arrived at the general public access area, I was blown away by the articulate structure of the rock formation. Ales told our group that if we wanted a better view of the entire landscape, to follow a steep set of stairs where you will be eye level to the top of the viewpoint. As some may know, heights are one of my worst fears. Not like anti-rollercoaster bad or anything, but when it comes to steep drop-offs, yeah... not my cup of tea. We started heading up the stairs, and I couldn't help but notice how high up we were. My entire body was rushing with adrenaline. At first, I didn't think I could make it all the way up. I took a second to stop and look at the view thus far. I thought to myself, "Come on Daph. You didn't come here just to chicken out on a once-in-a-lifetime hike. Finish that damn mountain." And on that note, I took a deep breath and walked back up the stairs. Let me tell you when I reached the top I could feel a refreshing gust of wind help guide me to the view. I could see mountain ranges and trees for miles, and the only word I could make out was a repetition of softspoken "wow." I was completely out of my comfort zone and it paid off. I didn't know if I was smiling at the gorgeous landscape or smirking at myself for getting up there, but that had to have been the highlight of this entire trip.

When we returned back to Prague, I could tell it would be a colorful sunset in the evening. Some friends were leaving for weekend travel, so I decided to rent a kayak and take a solo trip down the city canal. It was such a serendipitous way to end the last eye-opening two days. The next morning, I toured the Prague Castle, a famous tourist location if not the biggest must-see in Prague. Afterward, I went to the Botanical Gardens greenhouse. I really need to find better words than "breathtaking" and "beautiful" because I can't stop using them for every place I've been, but seriously, this one is added to the list. It's an indoor jungle with butterflies everywhere, and since it was almost 100 degrees that day I stayed as long as possible.

As I have been focusing on final exams for my program, I've found myself taking the time to reflect on my growth over the last four weeks. I've said it before and I'll say it again, it's amazing to take a look back and see how much has happened in such a short amount of time. It feels as though this is truly the first time in my life that I have truly felt whole-heartedly content and looked forward to every single day, gone with where the wind has taken me, and opened my eyes, and heart, to new experiences. The best part? This is exactly what I came here to do, and I still have two weeks left.

To the people who have made this trip the truly once-in-a-lifetime experience it was, thank you. For making Prague feel like a home, for always being up for adventure, for making the most of the little things, and for simply being you. I wouldn't have asked for this experience to have happened any other way. Every single second of every moment throughout the last four weeks were meant to happen for a reason. Maybe we missed the tram a few times or maybe we impulsively bought the gelato we were craving. Whatever it was, it will stick with me for the rest of this life. Thank you CIEE Study Abroad, and thank you Prague. Until next time.

Sightseeing | Tisa Rocks, Bohemian Switzerland, Dêčin

Sightseeing | Prague Castle

Sightseeing | farewell dinner, kayak + sunset, botanical gardens, Létna views

copenhagen, you have my heart

Over the previous weekend, I had the chance to explore the beautiful city of Copenhagen, Denmark. My oh my, what a place. From the second we stepped off the tram from the airport, I was in heaven. The refreshing smell of ocean air and the cool summer breeze as bicyclists sped by was something I knew I wouldn't get tired of. During my freshman year of college, my aunt and uncle hosted my good friend Regitze, a student from Copenhagen who was studying for a semester at Portland State. She told me many stories of her home and insisted I visit as soon as I can. Now I know what she was talking about, and I'm already daydreaming about my next trip back.

The first day was spent checking out the Nørrebro district near our AirBnB, where we found the cutest clothing boutiques, delicious street food, and stellar street art. The only downside to this city? Currency. Man, was it out of my college student budget. Don't get me wrong, the food was incredible and definitely it's own wild card compared to foodie-capital Portland, but if you don't want to spend almost $30 for a fresh juice smoothie and burger, this city might not be the next vacation spot for you. However, it's absolutely worth a try at least once in your life. We ended the day by renting a boat for a one-hour trip down Copenhagen's canal. With a few bottles of wine to share and the best company, it was truly an afternoon well-spent.

My friends and I spent the second day packing in as many sights and recommendations as we could. We began our self-guided tour of the Rosenburg garden, a beautiful place to start the afternoon. There was the queen's castle, a church to walk around, surrounded by an enormous park with tall hedges leading to beautiful sculptures. Afterward, we headed toward the Nyhaven district, famous for the picture-worthy row of pastel-colored buildings and a street with built-in trampolines. After trying to fight the heat wave all day, we walked to the shaded Freetown Christiana district near the water. Local merchants of various goods hosted the entire area, and abandoned buildings were occupied by street art and locals.

We ended the excursion a little further toward the docks, at REFFEN, the "new urban playground for co-creation, innovation, food and creativity." Please, please PLEASE check this place out if you ever have the chance. It's basically an abandoned shipping dock-turned-food court. When I first got there, I heard live music playing and turned the corner to see where it was coming from. Turns out a local artist, part of ADP, a recycle clothing company, was doing an exhibition in partnership with dancers/models from WEAREHOODNATION. I was quickly intrigued and brought out my camera to take a few photos. After going through and editing them, I loved the finished product. Once I returned to Prague I trackwd down the artist and companies and sent them my pieces. They loved the photos and we shared and received great feedback. It was such a great feeling, and just goes to show that taking chances for even the smallest opportunities never hurts - especially when it helps with a resume builder in the long run!

Next up, I have a trip to Bohemian Switzerland, one of the filming locations for the Chronicles of Naria film (yeah, you read that right. I'm still pinching myself). I plan to do the rest of my must-see sightseeing in Prague this weekend, then after final projects next week, I'll be off on my next adventures through Amsterdam and Italy. Stick with me, we're not finished quite yet.

Nørrebro District

Rosenborg Garden + Palace

Nyhaven + Trampoline Streets

Freetown Christiana

Reffen | ADP

blackbird's still singing, yoko's still writing

Time truly flies when you're having fun - this week came and went in the blink of an eye. Looking back on a jam-packed week, my legs are definitely sore. This is due to the eight miles on average of walking I've been doing every day with friends in my program, spent exploring around the city and seeing what every little corner and alley has to offer. But hey, I'm certainly not complaining... Just need to force myself into somewhat of a rest day. 

In the second half of the week, I ventured out to a few art exhibits, monuments and parks. While on my way to a beer garden with a couple friends, we realized we'd rather walk around Charles Square, and rather than have a set location, we walked around until we wandered into a winning spot. This quickly became my favorite way to find new restaurants. I realized due to making this my temporary home for the next few weeks, it would be better to steer away from the popular, tourist-esque spots and find some of our own. With the help of a very friendly Charles University student who lives in our flat, here are some of the winners, both traveling must-sees and local favorites:

ROSE -

By far the John Lennon Wall. I have been wanting to see this monument for years. Although to some it may seem like a random element of graffiti, I was moved by the evidence of self-expression, for which fans of the late Beatle could script his famous lyrics and scribble odes to the power of his music. I found myself walking back and forth a few times so I could pick out as many recognizable quotes as I could, with the rhythm playing in the back of my mind. Seriously, this was such a cool spot to check out. I highly recommend going early in the morning, so you beat the tourist rush. 

Another favorite was a best-kept secret called VNITROBLOCK, part clothing/shoe store, part art gallery, part bar, part theater. Yeah, you read that right. One of the "flat buddies," a Charles University student assigned to a student housing flat as a resource for getting accustomed to life in Prague, showed us this favorite spot of hers. After about five minutes of being in the brick interior warehouse, I could see why. I'm already considering making this a regular study spot. There's even an outdoor patio dining area, with a renovated school bus-turned-beer cart. Does it get any better?

THORN -

As I reflected my morning spent at a café the other day, I realized I went through a little bit of culture shock. I knew this would occur eventually, in some form, but didn't think it would occur to me the way it did. What struck me was getting used to the culture of eating out at restaurants in Prague. As my program director explained, post-communist era Czech people have the tendency to keep to themselves. While it may seem intimidating that they rarely smile or appear overly-observant in public settings, it's the personal behavior they are accustomed to.

Getting to my point, one significant factor in restaurant culture is that tipping or gratuity isn't a thing in this country. Basically, if you enjoy your meal and are satisfied with the service, you round up to the nearest Czech koruna hundred, however, you are never obligated to tip. Whereas in America, tipping 15 to 20 percent per meal is expected, and flipping tables in restaurants is a priority for most to achieve business goals. While I was able to save a dollar or two, my experience in the restaurant industry made me wonder about Czech hospitality as an element of a restaurant's success.

As Americans, we are used to meeting and eating in an immediate manner. In the Czech Republic, people stretch their meals over long periods of time. They converse, take the time to enjoy each other's company and the server rarely checks on you, unless you ask for them. If you want to take home food, you are usually charged for the box, because the Czech custom is to finish your meal throughout the extended period. Although this was in no way a bad encounter, it made me take a step back and realize how go-go-go our society is with even the most simple occasions, like going out for dinner. Something to consider, no doubt.

 

Breakfast spot | 1902

Lennon Wall

Charles Bridge

DOX Contemporary Art Gallery

VNITROBLOCK

Sightseeing Finds

roses and thorns

It's only the end of my fourth day and I don't even know where to begin! To attempt to put it into words, Prague has been absolutely incredible and I'm starting to see why people call it one of the most beautiful cities in the world. The historic architecture and the culture of the city is an exciting combination made for great experiences every single day - and I haven't even started talking about the food and beer yet. I'm going to keep this one brief because this is only the beginning and I have taken on so much information, but trust me - I will know what I am talking about more in-depth soon enough. 

To name a few of the highlights thus far, I've been to Kutna Hora, a historic town which put the Czech Republic on the map for the discovery of silver during the medieval times. We also toured the Sedlec Ossuary, a REALLY cool Roman Catholic chapel home to a bone church then went on a tour of the silver mines (If you're claustrophobic, this might not be the tour for you). The program orientation was hosted at my school's headquarters (within Charles University) located in the Vyšehrad district and afterward, a group of us went to check out the Old Town district, followed by a recommended beer garden with an incredible view of the city.

If you know me well, you know how much I love rose and thorn. For those who don't know, it's basically a way to reflect on your day with friends by going around and saying your favorite (rose) and least favorite (thorn) part of your day. It's crazy to look back on an entire day and realize how much I have already seen, learned and experienced. 

THORN - 

Definitely adjusting to the jet lag. Since this is my first time overseas, I had never experienced fatigue like this. It only took one to two days to get used to the time change, but hey, if that's the only downside, I think I have a lot to look forward to these next few weeks.

ROSE -

Visiting Kutna Hora was a trip I was skeptical about at first, being that I wasn't exactly jumping with excitement about checking out an exhibition of human bones. However, spending the entire day in this beautiful little village opened my eyes to such interesting history of the country, and from the articulate details inside the small gift shops to the underground mines, this was definitely the kind of trip I don't see coming, but ended up feeling  thankful you experiencedrticulat.

 

 

 

 

My new favorite study spot | Coffee Corner Bakery

My new favorite study spot | Coffee Corner Bakery

Lunch in Kutná Hora | signature chicken caesar with bacon + poached egg, Kozel dark lager

Lunch in Kutná Hora | signature chicken caesar with bacon + poached egg, Kozel dark lager

Lunch in Kutna Hora | we love our Czech caesars

Lunch in Kutna Hora | we love our Czech caesars

Sightseeing in Kutna Hora

Sightseeing in Kutna Hora

Complimentary cappucinos in Kutna Hora | Definitely not complaining

Complimentary cappucinos in Kutna Hora | Definitely not complaining

Sightseeing in Kutna Hová | Audrey Hepburn-themed dessert cafe

Sightseeing in Kutna Hová | Audrey Hepburn-themed dessert cafe

Dinner in Prague | Carbonara + Prosecco 

Dinner in Prague | Carbonara + Prosecco 

Sightseeing in Kutna Horá | Bone Church

Sightseeing in Kutna Horá | Bone Church

Post-orientation beer garden hangs | Riegrovy Sady

Post-orientation beer garden hangs | Riegrovy Sady

Sightseeing in Prague | Old Town District

Sightseeing in Prague | Old Town District

Sunset from Slezska 61 | Home sweet home

Sunset from Slezska 61 | Home sweet home

kde mě vezme vítr (where the wind will take me)

I can't believe I'm writing this, but in exactly one week from now, I will be heading to Prague, Czech Republic for a one-month-long adventure of self-discovery and embracing new cultural experiences. Of course, it hasn't hit me yet that this whole thing is actually happening, and to be honest, I don't think it will until I board the plane. Even if that's the case, I'm still incredibly eager to see what these next weeks have in store.

My first four weeks will be spent in Prague, where I will be studying European media and culture. Since this will be my first time overseas, I wanted to pick a location to study abroad preferably in Europe, and for the location to have the historic beauty and architecture throughout the city's landscapes. After weeks of research for different study abroad programs, Prague became my top pick. I knew I made the right decision after hearing the several stories from friends who have previously traveled through Europe and said Prague was one of their favorite cities.

Following my studies, I left a two-week time frame to do some backpacking through Amsterdam, Netherlands; Santorini and/or Mykonos, Greece; and Rome, Florence, Venice and around the Amalfi Coast in Italy. Almost everything is set in stone and I can't wait to see where the wind will take me. I catch myself daydreaming about wandering through the cobblestone streets, gazing up at the colorful buildings and ancient cathedrals. Monuments with hundreds of years worth of stories told and art galleries I have grown up wanting to experience in person - and don't get me started on the copious amount of wine and food I'm going to indulge. Lately, I've been reading Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat Pray Love, a book I tend to pick back up between school terms that sparked my eagerness to go abroad. It's a story I've held close to my heart and I feel like I've secretly taken forever to read it so it can help contribute to my journey of inner-growth. I hope to finish it during my trip and begin Anthony Doerr's The Light We Cannot See, a novel based in World War II's Germany and France. 

I'm going to do my absolute best to keep track of my daily excursions throughout this blog. Whether it be a photo series, a few blurbs about my itinerary, or just a quick update to let my family know I'm surviving, this is how I want to remember it and be able to look back and reflect on my growth in the future. I tell people this is my opportunity for self-discovery because for the last four years I have worked incredibly hard to get to where I am today. I have to pinch myself sometimes because it's still surreal to think I finally have figured out my career path through several job shadows, internships, interviews, extra-curricular clubs and projects I've done. Above all else, I made it to the University I wanted to receive my degree from. It may have taken a little longer than expected but like my dad says, life is like a roller coaster. There are as many ups as there are downs, but keep your head focused on the tracks, and you will make it to the finish with your hands in the air. So without further adieu, stay tuned for many exciting stories ahead - it's going to be quite the ride!