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September 3rd, 2012

Location: Praha 2 (Vinohrady)

Listening to: Nothing

Mood: Back-to-school!

Since classes start tomorrow for me (some people including one of my roomies started today) every day has been like a weekend so far, but my first ‘real’ weekend (Saturday and Sunday) here was an interesting one, to say the least. As school gets busier, weekends will be a combination of, as my father said, “Work hard and play hard.” I’m not really a party person, but weekends are when the adventuring happens, as well as being a tourist and staying out a little too late. And, uh, homework. So, without further ado, my first weekend in Prague.

I think I was still in the clutches of jetlag on Friday, so I stayed in, and my roommates didn’t return until the wee hours. So when Saturday morning rolled around and the ladies from around the corner came calling to bring my roomies to lunch, they were still sound asleep. I asked the neighbors what their plan was for the day, “Oh, I don’t know, a tour of the castle?” and I signed myself up to tag along. However, it was raining and we soon decided we would like an indoor activity. Pulling out the ‘budget guide to Prague,’ I found The Museum of Communism. [1] It looked interesting and admission was 140 crowns, $7, so we decided to go for it. The Metro stop (metro/tram tickets are starting to add up, they’re only 24-32 crowns each, $1.25-1.50ish, but we use at least two a day, soon we get our OpenID cards that function as unlimited metro/tram passes) was Mustek, which is also the stop for St. Wenceslas Square, Václavák náměstí, a big tourist destination I had missed on the walking tour I abandoned early. Foggy tourist pictures happened. [2 3 4, the ladies in the latter two being Rachel, Severina, and their roomie Sydnee, great adventure companions.]

We made our way to the Museum of Communism. I’ll be the first to admit I don’t know very much about European history, so it was an eye-opener, especially the film which showed a lot of police brutality against peaceful protests… blah blah blah political opinions go here Occupy movement blah blah, but it was also shocking that in the guest book, a visitor from Syria wrote something like “This is happening in my country right now, and the media is silent.” While the museum was interesting and enlightening and depressing, the most visually-stunning part was a model of part of the Berlin wall. [5]

After the museum, we were all kind of hungry and the ‘young people’s guide to Prague’ someone had put in our welcome packets included restaurant reviews. A ‘milk bar’ seemed like it was in the area, so we attempted to navigate there… well, you can guess by the ‘attempted’ that we weren’t successful. A kindly Czech man looked at our map and couldn’t figure it out, so he pointed us towards The Globe, an English-speaking bookstore and cafe, which my guidebook noted as an expat hangout for American and British folks who moved to Prague. They had never heard of a milk bar nearby, so after canvassing the streets nearby we returned there for lunch/dinner (linner?) It was mildly refreshing to be somewhere that English was the primary language, and the decor was pretty cool too. [6] Unfortunately, both the bookstore and the cafe were a little overpriced, but it was still a good meal. At that point, we parted ways, Seve and Sydnee went home and Rachel and I wandered around, checked out some shops, pointed at a fancy museum [7] and walked home. The clouds were finally clearing and we were struck by how gorgeous our new home was. [8] is a view down a random street and [9] is the cathedral in our neighborhood.

Wow, I’ve used up a lot of space describing Saturday, and that’s only half of the weekend! I’ll try to make the Sunday section shorter. My roommates and I were all feeling pretty lethargic, so most of the morning/mid-day was spent wrestling with the washing machine, trying to do laundry, and chilling in our apartment. We did go to brunch at Zanzibar, a little neighborhood restaurant, that was extremely cheap and extremely yummy. We also attempted to order pizzas (key word: attempted. After an hour with no pizza, we tried to call the restaurant (we ordered online) and got no response from either of the numbers on their site. The pizzas never arrived.) and sighed about having to line-dry our laundry. It was kind of amusing, though, at the orientation session last week the dean told us about the lack of driers, saying that they were basically a huge waste of energy and it’s a lot of electricity spent doing something that happens naturally. That took a little thought-power…. yeah, actually, laundry DOES dry naturally! It just takes a really really long time, and Americans have a need for instant gratification. Plus, in winter there’s nothing like taking clothes or blankets out and putting them on warm from the dryer. Oh well. We’ll adjust.

That night, we were feeling a little more energetic, and a few CEA kids from the neighborhood wanted to go to a beer garden. It had been explained to us that if we wanted to socialize, just hang out in a group of people and talk, that doesn’t happen in the home around here. There are noise laws restricting loudness in apartments, and the rumor vine had already sent reports of police getting called on one CEA group. So if I keep mentioning beer gardens, it’s not because I’m going out to drink every night (on the contrary, beer smells just as gross here as it does in the US) but because that’s just where people go to chat and hang out with a group of friends. We headed over there and stayed until they started to shut down, eventually amassing a group of 20-25 CEA kids, definitely the loudest and biggest group there.

Nobody wanted to go home yet, so we headed for a bar that someone else had seen earlier called “The Big Lebowski.” It’s in my guidebook as one of the most eclectic bars in Prague, where the bartender, owner, and sole employee lets people choose what they want to pay for drinks, and will challenge anyone to a game of chess. Seemed interesting enough for even a non-drinker, but of course it was closed. Everything in residential areas either closes or moves inside at 10pm. We sighed, gave up, and started to head for home, but ran into an expat: a guy who used to live in California, but had been in Prague for six years. He was an interesting fellow and knew of the one place in the area that would still be open: an underground bar and music venue called Paláce Akropolis. Most of the group enjoyed the cheap alcohol and I enjoyed the music; a DJ was spinning some fascinating reggae/dub mixes. Finally, at around 1:30, we headed back towards Vinohrady (turns out most of the stuff we saw that night was in Žižkov, another neighborhood, that my guidebook says is ‘relatively tourist-free,’ tell that to our huge group and the Polish folks we ran into,) navigating by the light of the North Star… nah, by a friend’s iPhone. All in all, it was a fun and fascinating weekend, but I’m thankful I don’t have Monday classes so I can use today to get my head into school-space and probably go buy some notebooks or something for class.

Nashledanou for now!

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