This week was the last week of scheduled classes, and the last full weekend for travel. As I reflect on my summer, I realize just how lucky I am to be here. I’ll be twenty-one years old and have been to twenty-two different countries in my life. I find this very humbling, since some people never leave their home country. Going abroad is a wonderful experience, and one I believe everyone should have in their life. It’s great to immerse yourself in different cultures and different opinions. I’m grateful for all my past experiences and the ones to come.
Today was the very last nine-hour day for Synthesis Laboratory! Although it’s nice to now have our afternoons to ourselves, I can’t help but miss it just a bit. I really enjoyed teaching in the laboratory, since I find the theory behind each technique fascinating (I’m openly nerdy, if you haven’t noticed already). All that’s left is a practicum the following week, but we’re not allowed to assist them as they perform the short experiment.
After cleaning up from a hot day in lab, we all make our way to Les Terrasses d’Alex, an outdoor restaurant not too far from our residence. It’s the Farewell Dinner for the BEST Study Abroad Program, another reminder that the summer is quickly drawing to a close. Despite the looming au revoir, there’s no better way to leave Lyon than with a gourmet three-course meal.
First, we were entertained with hors d’oeuvres, featuring crudités, pâté, sliced fresh baguettes, and an assortment of soft drinks. To be quite honest, it’s difficult to find vegetables that come with a meal, so we were all excited for the crudité platter! They also had violet-flavored water, which paired well aesthetically and flavor-wise. The plat du jour was incredibly-tender veal, served with roasted potatoes and a vegetable chutney. Dessert was essentially a giant macaron, flavored with candied pralines.
Now comes the long trek to Prague! Two flights and one Belgian layover later, we’ve made our way to the Prague airport. Before departing, Grace and I intend to withdraw koruna from an ATM, the currency of Czech Republic. Seems easy enough, no?
Famous last words.
I put my card in the machine, follow the instructions to the letter, and am denied my cash. Okay, that’s probably a mistake. Let’s try another ATM. Nope, still not working. I then find out that our hostel only takes cash; a common theme in Prague, but an utter inconvenience for us. *Panic ensues*
With a few krona from the euros I had on hand, we make our way to the hostel where I can *hopefully* get things sorted out with my bank. To my surprise (or not), the bank only had me listed in Europe through the end of June. Within an hour, my account was fixed and I could withdraw money. I can eat dinner and don’t have to sleep in a box outside!
Speaking of dinner, we ate at a café called NoD, as a recommendation from my friend Laura. The special of the day was an orient salad, topped with fresh mango, grilled chicken, and, Camembert cheese? I was in heaven.
After a long, stressful day, we settled in for a quiet night at the hostel. Tomorrow would be a busy day, filled with sightseeing, cobblestone walking, and happy reunions.
With breakfast in our bellies, Grace and I set out for a great first day in Prague. There aren’t a ton of things to do in this city (relative to other large European cities), but the architecture and history make Prague an excellent destination for a few days. Our hostel was located just off of the Old Town Square, which is fun to explore both in the day and night. Inside the square, there is an astronomical clock with little figurines that dance at the strike of each hour. The building that houses the clock was under construction, but fortunately left the clock exposed for tourists to view.
We then sauntered through the Jewish Quarter of Prague, home to several synagogues and the largest Jewish cemetery in Europe. Many of these synagogues are quite elaborate, especially the Jerusalem Synagogue. Since it was Saturday, most of the Jewish sites were closed, although I did snap a quick photo of a little friend on the other side of the wall.
A short walk from the Jewish Quarter put us at the Charles Bridge. Despite the plethora of tourists, the Charles Bridge is a great place to pick up an authentic Czech souvenir or snap an iconic photo of the city and Prague Castle, framed by the Vltava River.
Before meeting up with Laura, Grace and I made a quick stop at the John Lennon wall. The namesake comes from the inspiration for the art on the wall, and it served as a source of freedom during the Cold War. It definitely makes a great backdrop for any self-respecting photographer.
I’ve known Laura for quite some time, going on eight years. She moved to Prague last fall for work, and has fallen in love with the city. It was wonderful to see her after some time, and there’s no better way to explore a city than with a local! We decided to hike up to the Petřín Lookout Tower for a great look of the city. Theoretically, I should be use to hiking by now…but I’m not. I was tired when I got to the top; but as always, the view did not disappoint.
Petřín Park has also has an interesting memorial for those who suffered through Communism during the Cold War. It features a man withering away up the hill. It’s an eerie yet profound way to remember a time that ended not too long ago.
On our way down from Petřín, I became very fascinated with something about Prague: it’s DOORS. Or portals. It sounds cooler. Yeah, Portals of Prague. I like the sound of that. In the spirit of photography and being nerdy for almost no apparent reason, here’s a collage of various portals in Prague:
Mostly ignoring my recent obsession with doors, the three of us strolled along the Vltava River for more Prague originals. We stumble upon what the locals call “the Dancing Building,” which is named appropriately. Not entirely sure what the architect was doing when this was designed. Needless to say, but I didn’t “get it.”
Laura then showed us around where she lived: a much quieter part of town with a beautiful church at the center. We sat down for a quick drink during happy hour, where I tried Kozel beer and was surprised by its light and delicious taste.
After parting ways with Laura for the day, Grace and I made our way to a 100% gluten-free Italian restaurant for dinner. The restaurant was extremely cute, and I enjoyed a delicious salmon and spinach risotto for dinner. For dessert, I sampled trdlo: an traditional (yet touristy) cake-like item filled with ice cream and chocolate syrup. The trdlo itself is hollow, so the ice cream sits right inside. If it sounds like diabetes, then you’d be right. Although delicious, my body would soon regret its decision later. Despite my body’s impending doom, the universe decided to treat us with a beautiful full moon in the sky. I did the best I could with my camera.
Our day was off to an early start, as Grace and I made our way up to the Prague Castle. Much like the Tower of London, there’s a lot to see here. The main attraction is St. Vitus’ Cathedral, which is the most visible aspect of Prague Castle. Other attractions included a tour through the palace, Golden Lane, and various other chapels within the grounds of the castle. A changing of the guard ceremony took place at every hour, and street musicians entertained tourists at the entrance.
Once down from the hill, we met up with Laura briefly for some gelato and a stroll through Vojan Park. Prague has several delightful parks, but none with quite as much character as Vojan. At first glance, it looks like any other park in Prague. Walk in further and you’ll find, you guessed it, peacocks! Not one, not two, but FOUR male peacocks, with a handful of females (including an albino female). They were very photogenic, allowing me to capture their best sides.
After saying goodbye to Laura, we hiked south towards Vyŝehrad Cemetery, where many famous Czech composers, musicians, and artists are buried. Amongst the deceased lied Antonín Dvořák, composer of the famous “Symphony from the New World” amongst others. Since both Grace and I are in band and have played many of his pieces, we wanted to go pay our respects. The cemetery was pretty interesting to see as well, with elaborate and eclectic headstones all over the place.
Dinner that evening was more traditionally Czech than the others we had: sausage, dense bread, and mashed potatoes with bacon and cabbage. Truly a meal that will stick to your ribs. It was also another lovely evening, with the Old Town Square lit up beautifully in the cool Czech air.
And just like that, our trip to Prague was over. Two more short (and one rather turbulent) flights later, we were back in Lyon. Tired from a great weekend, we were ready to go home and rest. All we had to do was get on the Rhône Express, take the tram, and we’d be back at the residence.
Or so we thought.
To our misfortune, the Rhône Express was delayed for an unknown length of time. After thirty minutes of waiting, a group of us decided to split the cost of an Uber to the nearest tram station. Tired from a great weekend we were ready to go home and rest. All we had to do was get on the tram and we’d be back at the residence.
…or so we thought.
Turns out the tram was delayed, too. What luck. So, we decided to call another Uber. TIRED FROM A GREAT WEEKEND WE WERE READY TO GO HOME AND REST. ALL WE HAD TO DO WAS GET THE UBER AND WE’D BE BACK AT THE RESIDENCE.
And yes, we finally made it back.
Yet another great weekend excursion in the books. Although Prague may not be as flashy as Paris or London, it is a beautiful city on its own. Now, my final European adventure takes me on a brief holiday to London. Although I won’t do much sightseeing, I will get to visit with some family and catch a show in London’s famous theatre district. An appropriate curtain call for my time in Europe for sure!
Photos from Prague can be found here.