Monday, June 30, 2014

Prague Chillin

Tuesday was a school and errand kind of day without much to report. The main things of note are a wonderful early dinner on the river at Grosettos with Claire, Olivia, Julie and Steph, as well as some of the best dessert I have ever had in my life at SWEET Secret of Raw, the sister restaurant in Prague 2 to my second home next door. Made of completely raw products, both the chocolate torte and lavender cheesecake were like nothing I had ever had before! However, the best part of the day came shortly after, as Claire, Claire, Olivia, Julie and I decided to finally try a true Zizkov pub. Lesson of the Day: Go out like a local Along the Vitkov running path is one pub in particular that looked fantastic.
 With a giant back porch that resembles a roofless treehouse and exuding a truly Czech atmosphere it seemed like a great spot for a nice night. Walking in from the path along the back of the porch, we stepped down into a crowded porch with Czechs lining long wooden tables, Pilsner in hand. One table in particular was set in between two trees, with four other tree stumps as the chairs and “crochet graffiti” crawling up the trees. Heading inside to order drinks, Julie and I entered a smoky den with an older crowd, assumingly all Czech. The bartender had a white pixie haircut with a giant pink streak accompanied by a bald man with a huge beard - classic Zizkov. The room was SO old, and the bathrooms were covered in graffiti with rather..interesting…signs to explain which one was for which gender. However, it was a warm and relaxing place, and wonderful to sit outside and hang! 

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Warhol, The Wall, and (Hot?) Wine

Well rested and bucket list in hand, I started my week right. Bri and I first headed to the Gallery of Art in Old Town Square to see Salvador Dali prints and the Andy Warhol exhibit I had been WAITING ALL FREAKIN WEEK to go to. I owe much to the man who made me appreciate modern art, and I could not wait to see this exhibit. Dali’s work was also great to see, I especially loved the piece that doubles as a portrait of Abe Lincoln. However, the Warhol exhibit was just what I wanted to start my European art exhibit experience. The Gallery itself was a beautiful space, even greater by the fact that it overlooks Old Town Square, and I had a great afternoon with Campbells, Marilyn and Bananas, all with the Beatles playing in the background. 

Bri and I stopped for coffee at the top of the Hotel U Prince, which overlooks the square, before I headed to the Gastronomy Museum. While this may not be for everyone, as an unashamed foodie I truly enjoyed learning about the history of food. This was really the history of it – explaining all the way back how people started using fire to cook and the origins of hunter gatherer, to the creation of a fork, the origin of the cocktail, and customs regarding eating with one’s hands.  After, I stopped by Thai Box, a pop up stand that Julie and I had passed previously, for some great organic, gluten free/dairy free/vegetarian etc etc etc thai food that was SO good. 

I leisurely made my way to the Lennon Wall to meet Nicole and Amanda. While Amanda painted the W&M logo on the wall,  I sat and read my book on Prague, Nicole did homework, and a street artist played beatles songs in the background. It was actually a very peaceful hour to relax, and we got some wonderful pictures out of it! Headed back to Fittop Zizkov for a quick workout, ( I love my little Czech gym!!) and then met Nicole, Amanda, and their friend Delaney in my side of town at Radost FX. Hands down, this is one of the best veg restaurants ever, and although I am trying not to repeat too much (except with Secret of Raw of course) it was definitely worth the second..and maybe a future third…trip. Post-dinner, we decided to try out a close by “student bar”. Well, what we thought sounded like a cool place to stop for a drink seemed much more like a cheap and crowded Mexican restaurant. I guess by “student bar”they meant it was the Czech Chuys? 
However, the café next door looked really quaint when we walked by and we decided to backtrack. I will call this place the Café because I do not know the name, and even if I did, it is such a little secret hole in the wall that writing about it seems like “outing” it. This little room immediately seems old and antique, with plain beige walls, a dark oak bar, and large wooden tables with retro looking couches. This is a place that is supposed to be slightly dusty, it makes you feel like you should have a cigarette in hand and a typewriter in front of you. It was by far the most authentic place I have seen in the city. There are slight touches of communism/post communism that you can still feel, whether it be the odd black and white pictures hanging on the wall, the quiet, secretive nature of this literary haven, or the fact that they are ecstatic to play songs like “Scotty Doesn’t Know” or “Last Resort” on occassion. We had a great time talking to our waiter, whose name I still cannot pronounce but who also proved that breaking down the unfriendly Czech façade is not too hard and completely worthwhile. Nicole and I as tried Mulled Wine (which tastes like Christmas was spiked with Sweet tarts, and is only good with a ton of sugar and even then still not something I would ever order again) as our waiter laughed at us, and we swore we would return again.

Today fully symbolized the importance in breaking out of gallivanting through Prague 1. Our night at the Café was one of the most fulfilling experiences I have had so far. It also made me appreciate the time I have with Nicole. Relaxing at the JL wall made me think about how little of my life I am able to just sit and hang with one of the most important people to me. To be able to have even just a few days here and there to spend together in Prague is amazing, even if she has tons of homework or I am all the way across the city. I am so glad that we have been able to share this experience even slightly. In particular, I think together we bring out an adventurous side in one another that just is not the same on our own, and finding a place such as this one perfectly showcases that. I am so excited for other adventures we have to come, such as Birthright or even just a trip to Nashville or Williamsburg! Few people have a friendship that is as long and strong as our eighteen years, and I feel so lucky to have even a little time to spend together, especially in such a great city! Have a great rest of your travels Bee!

Zizkov pt. 2

Is it possible to do nothing and still have an active abroad experience? Today made me realize the answer is yes. I woke up with the apartment to myself (roommates still in Munich/with parents) hung up my laundry and made myself breakfast. Seiferetova is absolutely starting to feel like home. After a full day of exploring the day before, I unfortunately deemed today homework day. However, there is no need to stay inside for that! I selected the garden of Café Pavlac as the perfect working spot for a warm but cloudy day. I actually really enjoyed working on this project, especially outside, surrounded by Czech conversations, good background music, and the hanging lights swinging in the wind. The closest comparison I can make to this place is a simpler, more garden-y Barista Parlour. I also spent the afternoon finally making a bucket list for Prague. Lesson of the day: Figure stuff out BEFORE leaving. After two weeks here, I realized that with a bunch of excursions coming up, I need to start figuring out what I want to see so I make sure I get there. Some things on the list include: Finding all of Cerny’s artwork, Checking out Meetfactory and the Globe, Doing an Exit Game, Seeing the Andy Warhol Exhibit at the Gallery of Art, etc.  This would have been WAY better to do before leaving, but hindsight is 20/20. 

After this I ran my Vitkov path for over an hour, finding new side trails in the giant hillside along the path. This is the first day I have spent truly just being a person living in Zitkov, doing chores, working in a nearby café, working out in the neighborhood, etc. and it was really nice to feel so at home after just two weeks. That night, I headed to Monastary in Prague 6. This restaurant is at a true monastery and brewery(the oldest ones are all at monasteries) at the top of the city. I tried authentic Smazney Syr and goulash, finally having a real Czech meal, and realized it was much more tasty that I had expected.

My chill day made me think about how I am studying abroad versus what many people do. My situation of having friends from all aspects of my life weave in and out of my abroad experience is anything but normal, but at the same time, it might be the best part of my summer. Life feels much more authentic and less like a vacation or school trip when I am not doing everything with a group, compromising on plans and staying in my comfort zone. To spend the morning with a roommate, have lunch on my own, and again meet old friends in the late afternoon feels much more like “real life”. It gives me time to go to the places I want to see, the availability to find friends for activities when I want a buddy, and to have time on my own without feeling like I’m missing out on a group experience. While I have always enjoyed floating between many, many, types of people, this is the epitome of that part of myself. I honestly could not imagine doing this any other way, and I am so thankful for the opportunity to go abroad in this fashion. Now that I've done it, I would encourage this to literally anyone, there is just nothing in the word like having an experience that is so fully yours, yet filled with friendly faces from time to time.

How To Spend A Saturday In Prague

There are few things that will get me up in the morning. However, one of them, is the phrase “best breakfast in Prague”.  I made my way back across the river to meet Nicole and Amanda at Café Savoy.  Putting all of my stomach concerns aside, I bit the (sugary, gooey, delicious) bullet and ordered the infamous Café Savoy French Toast. Sometimes you just gotta live a little. It was completely worth it. Hands down the best breakfast of my entire life. With food comas setting in, we walked across the river to take the tram to a fashion market. 
Prague fashion is so weird...
Upon arriving at the tram stop, we noticed a cluster of tents across the street, in particular, a stand selling skirts with foxes on them..? Ok, Prague fashion. We debated catching our tram, but there was a market right in front of us, and we all wanted to see what was there so we screwed our plan and we went. Thank god we did because there were so many wonderful things to see! I finally bought a backpack, (Carrying my computer in my hand to class was miserable) which I had been looking for for about a year and it is perfect and I am in love with it. Found at a small market, handmade, from the Czech republic, I could not have found a better item to carry me through this trip and to use in memory of it afterwards. I have held out on buying almost anything, so I was very happy to have waited for the perfect purchase. Amanda and I also picked up mugs with weiner dogs on them, and I found a cheap journal for  the times I am apart from my computer. In general, this showcased more Prague quirkiness, given oddities being sold as well as the strangest fashion show I have ever witnessed to very slow, music that reminded me of Lana Del Ray crying, paired with smiling models and cheering and all. Super interesting, super eclectic, super Prague.

Leaving the market, we decided we wanted tea, and headed to the famous Café Louvre, a favorite spot of Kafka, Einstein, and more. This is the true, old school, European café, and really reminded me of Paris. I then headed to Namesti Republicky, to grocery shop and catch my tram. There is ALWAYS something happening  in this square, and today the event was 3x3 basketball. Interesting, to say the least, pretty sure Brando could’ve gone 1 on 3 with any team. Pretty sure I could’ve gone 1 on 3 with any team…

That night, I met Nicole and Amanda again for Sleeping Beauty, the ballet. The State Opera house is GORGEOUS and while we were definitely in student-price nosebleeds it was great to see ballet in this part of the world! Dressed up, we went to Bugsys Bar which is notorious for famous guests and unique cocktails . This was the perfect post-ballet hangout. It is still crazy to me how cheap everything is in Prague. This is one of the “fanciest” bars in the city, and I struggled to find a drink over $12, most of them ranged in the $6-8 area. I was surprised to see anything over 100 crowns, as most drinks were about 95, ($4.75) which is a prettyyy sweet standard. Coincidentally, I ran into Julie on the tram! And then headed home.

Lesson of the day: Do what ya want when you wanna. Never in my life have I felt the sort of freedom that we have here. Freedom of time, responsibility, obligations, and so on. Every day, I wake up and feel lucky for the fact that I can do whatever interests me, whether it be a museum exhibit, a market, a bookstore, a café, or even a trip out of town. Therefore, I am trying as hard as I can to squeeze everything I like into this time, but at the same time, this type of freedom is best used with spontaneity, such as a random market, stopping to watch an event, changing plans, and more. While it has by no means been a struggle, learning how to strike this balance has been interesting and definitely a life lesson regarding my need to make plans. I think that it is good for me to have this experience, especially in terms of learning to relax and just go with what happens rather than making things happen.  

Intentionally Lost

Our one free Friday! Waiting for Julie to wake up, I headed to the farmers market for a THIRD DAY IN A ROW to look for a stand I saw my first day in Prague (it was a Friday, so maybe they are only there once a week, idk). Too bad that it was Slovenia day in a rotating international market series. Ugh…Still, it was cool to see! I then met Julie at Secret of Raw - yup I live there now, sorry Grins -for lunch and we planned the rest of our day in Mala Strana, which is the part of Old Town on the other side of the river near the Castle. Lesson of the day: There are positives to veering from the plan. Skipping out on the places we had originally planned to go, we instead made our way to the area of town we wanted to be and decided to just look around and see what Mala Strana had to offer. We found a wonderful street nearby that had a BEAUTIFUL hotel, one of the prettiest I had ever seen, and took time to look around at the architecture and decorating.
A hidden garden cafe
in Mala Strana
Heading down the hill, we found a small café run by an old Czech woman who must have converted the first floor of her house for the public. With a pink, white, and black color scheme, a small garden, flowers everywhere, and the smell of chorcolate croissants, this is definitely somewhere I will be returning. Continuing our path, we found a truly Czech liquor bar, boasting hundreds of types in a dark room with large furs covering wooden benches and tables that felt like it was out of a time mach
ine. Lastly, we stopped in a South African wine bar with interesting décor where we chatted with a bartender about the area and swore we would come back again! I definitely want to come back and try at least one of these places, but it was nice to find some hidden gems in a different area of Prague!
Old school bar @ The Aquarius
One interesting thing that stuck out to me today was how much I love discovering new places and finding situations that match them. To have a certain mood, type of food, entertainment event, or the like and then have an idea for the PERFECT place to go literally gives me butterflies. I have turned into such a little planning nerd! Still, there is something about discovering these hidden gems in Prague that has completely made my experience. I am starting to realize that this is probably one of the things I enjoy most in life, and it would be awesome if “Tour Guide of the World” was a real career. However, it is something to keep in mind that above all things, I am the happiest when I am finding unique spaces and then telling others about them. I cannot WAIT to make a full list of all of the things I have found abroad.

The oddity that is Luka Lu
That night, I headed back to Mala Strana (and a little past it) to meet Nicole and Amanda for dinner at Maly Buddah. We had some great Asian food and tea which was perfect for the rather cool night. Heading down the hill in search of dessert, I found myself in the same area I had been with Julie! It is odd to see things in pieces and have them slowly come together, but it is nice to know I am getting a better feel for the city as a whole. Strolling down Ujzed, we stopped in Luka Lu because of the oddest decorations I have ever seen. This restaurant honestly looks like someone put glue on everything in a garage sale and then a tornado came through. Only pictures can describe. Here, I learned that I do not like Panecotta and that this part of town is pretty freakin cool. I am happy to have another area of Prague I am excited to CZECH out (Really still not that sorry about continuing that)