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My Dense, Pastel City

My Dense, Pastel City

Prague, Czech Republic – March 11-12, 2017

I have become accustomed to calling Oslo, “My Frosted City” for reasons I will explain at a different time. Hence, while traveling in Praha, I couldn’t help but develop a name for that city as well. The city is remarkably dense, and the staggering architecture is generally painted lovely pastel shades of pink, blue, yellow, etc. Thus, it seemed fitting to call Praha “My Dense, Pastel City”.

I was blessed enough to have a friend studying in Prague who let me crash with him for free. Ben was originally going to try to come to Oslo along with me through USAC but instead he chose the USAC program in Prague. Throughout my time in Praha, I found it interesting to juxtapose his experience with a different USAC program to my experience here in Oslo.

Here in Oslo, USAC is the definition of hands off. I don’t consider myself a USAC student, but rather a student at Universitet i Oslo for several reasons. I am mostly friends with the numerous other international students, the Americans I am friends with are numbered, especially those I know through USAC. Furthermore, my 5 roommates are all non-American, and it is quite common for me to be the only native English speaker in the room at most times. I even had to request for my classes to be taught in English, for example, because everyone in my math class at least was Norwegian, apart from me and two German friends of mine from my buddy group. Although USAC doesn’t do anything with us, the University of Oslo truly does an impeccable job orienting the 2,000 some international exchange students. Thus, I am extremely well adjusted and couldn’t be happier with how things have turned out.

Ben’s experience is quite the opposite. He is always with the 80 USAC participants in his program. He lives with them, only takes classes with them, parties with them, and travels with them. USAC even treats them to various excursions quite frequently. I am not saying my experience is better than his, or vice versa. I was just intrigued at the vast difference between our two exchanges. For me personally, it validated that I chose the right program for me (I utterly love Oslo and Norge as a whole).

Moving past that, I loved the trip. Ben was a great tour guide and I was able to see basically the entire city while I was there. In order to save money, we did not purchase transit tickets, and instead walked everywhere. We averaged about 15 miles a day, which I loved because I love exceedingly long walks.

At one point Ben took me to one overlook and told me that the very far tower on the horizon was where we had walked from. I was blown away and took a picture with my finger pointing to it to remember! It is so easy to travel far distances when you’re having fun exploring!

Ben not only picked me up at the airport but also dropped me off, even though it is easily an hour’s trip from his apartment. The public transit can just be very confusing and the language is extraordinarily difficult, so he wanted to make sure I wouldn’t get lost.

While on the train back to his apartment, we tried to start catching up for we hadn’t seen each other since the fall semester back at Loyola. Unfortunately the trains in Praha are unbelievably loud that we practically had to scream to hear one another.

Everything in Prague is just so old—Ben’s apartment building included. Even the key to his room is ancient looking. It is all so different to me. I was blown away at how lovely a street he lives on, and especially how huge his apartment and subsequent room is. I live in a small apartment in Oslo with 5 other people, where my room is maybe the size of his bathroom!

The key to Ben’s apartment – ancient, I know!
The beautiful street Ben lives on.

Everywhere I went, I was blown away at the buildings, what with their age and history. America just doesn’t have stuff like that, we are too young. We walked around Old Town Square, which was filled with history and people, followed by the famous Charles Bridge. I loved being on there, taking in the beautiful cityscape and the enormous statues. Ben made sure to show me his favorite statue at the very end of the bridge, before taking me to what he called ‘a special surprise’. I asked where he was taking me and he just asked if I liked the Beatles. I answered “Of course!”, but still he didn’t reveal where we were going until we had reached our destination.

The Lennon Wall is precisely everything that I love—rebellion plus art plus creativity. We stood there for ages, picking out new bits and pieces the more we looked at it.

The entrance to Charles Bridge.
The view while on the Bridge. Keep in mind this was taken on a Friday. When we walked past it again on Saturday, the place was so packed you wouldn’t even be able to walk without touching someone next to you! Blessed we went on Friday!
The view of part of Praha from Charles Bridge.
Ben’s favorite statue on the Bridge.
The famous Lennon Wall.

As we kept walking and exploring, we would come across the funniest statues and the nicest walking paths. I got the sense that Prague has a unique sense of character compared to other cities. I also learned from my Czech friends back in Oslo that the reason the city wasn’t destroyed during the war like many other places was because Hitler had fallen in love with it and wanted to preserve it. I can see why someone would fall in love with the city, it is quite impeccable.

Yes, you see that correct. That is a statue/fountain of men peeing. Fun fact, it also moved! So quirky, Praha…
These statues of these giant babies are all throughout the city. Honestly, they freaked me out a tad…
Pictured is Ben on one of the various paths we wondered on.

The second day Ben also took me to some fascinating parts of the city. We found this strange park that jutted out on a tall wall, with winding stairs to get down to the ground. Then we walked through another park, which the only way I can describe it is magical. The sense I got while wandering through there truly was fairytale like—I don’t know any other words to use for it.

The park that jutted out on top of the wall. It had strange statues of wooden legs, and nice benches to sit on when the weather is nice.
That is the wall in which the park is located, as well as the spiral stair case we used to get down. All so old!
The “magical” park I described previously.

Following that we entered the old grave yard of the city, Vyšehrad Cemetery. There’s something about walking through graveyards that I enjoy—not so much in a morbid way or anything but for reasons I can’t exactly put into words. I guess I just like to think about all the lives that had been lived with each gravestone. Moreover, every country (every city, even) has their own twist on how they built and manage their cemeteries. This one was filled was greenery and trees everywhere. It was delicate and inviting in a strange way.

One section of the Vyšehrad Cemetery. You can see all the plants and trees everywhere – quite beautiful.

Lastly, we crossed a different, but also beautiful bridge to hike up to the Metronome. There were stairs leading up to it and once up their there were lots of people laughing with their friends, drinking beers in the sun. In addition there was a skate park where we watched various people try to improve their best tricks. It was a nice spot, and I told Ben he has to come back he with his friends at sunset with a few beers before his semester is over (he finishes school a lot earlier than I do).

The bridge with the Metronome in the distance on the hill.

The food was also so cheap, which was a nice break from Norway, where I haven’t eaten out once because the prices here are exorbitant. I really loved this particular café we went to called Standard Cafe. The art on the walls was a collection of photographs, probably about 8 frames in total. Each picture had a pair of two photographs highlighting a single person among a crowd. The people were all looking up at something with looks of amazement and awe. The lead people sometimes had phones in their hands to capture whatever they were looking at, while others simple stood there in the picture with their jaws hanging down. Their facial expressions were radical and quite humorous. Seriously, this installation was just so dope! It makes you wonder what the heck all these people were looking at, and it made me want to meet the artist…

Of course both nights I was in the city, I just had to stop for a late night kebab—among the best meals on this planet, the kebab <3 You can also see a bandaid on my thumb; I had cut it on a donut box and was bleeding profusely at one point.
Some cheesecake and coffee that I got at the Chocolate Café.

As for the night life, Prague is so diverse. On the first night, we bar hopped a lot (5 to be precise). The goal was just to get a sense of the diversity within all the various bars and clubs. Almost any scene you could possible want, you can find in Prague.

The cutest and sweetest dog ever that was at one of the bars. I just sat with it the entire time, utterly in love!

I especially enjoyed my second night out because I was able to meet and converse with some of the coolest strangers. First, we went to a bar that was literally in an old, World War II bunker, which was fascinating, followed by this club which is where I met those groovy people. There were 2 different bachelor parties going on at the club, so the place was primarily filled with men. The first group was huge and all the guys had on the same matching shirt. The groom was wearing a veil and they were hilarious to watch dance. The second bachelor party was one that I conversed with for quite a while. They were all from Ireland, and the groom was wearing a long, red wig and a dress. They were the funniest people; I kid you not. One of my roommates, Shannon, is Irish and so I bonded with them over talking about where she is from and such. I’ve learned over the semester that people from Dublin (where these men were from) have a sort of rivalry with people from Cork (where Shannon is from). It is a running joke that they hate one another. I got a video for her of all of them saying her name, and making jokes about Cork and Dublin. Then they proceeded to teach me how to do some Irish dance. It was just fun to meet such friendly, welcoming people.

Following that, I came across a group of eight guys speaking English and turns out two of them were studying in Prague with Ben, but the others were students studying in Barcelona and Italy. A few of them were Jewish (one had the same last name as me) so it was extremely awesome to connect with other Jews after so many months. I am not kidding, I am pretty sure I am the only Jew in all of Norway. That is not necessary a big drawback, but I certainly miss being able to connect with people that share the same values and background as me.

Overall, I am so glad I had the opportunity to come stay with Ben in Praha. The city is gorgeous and while I left reeking of cigarettes (EVERYONE smokes there), it was a successfully fun weekend that I would do again in a heartbeat. S/O to Ben, once again, thanks for letting me crash with you for the weekend!

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