Homeward bound! Finally. Posts about Brussels and Paris to come soon. Maybe I’ll write them on the plane. But for now: an airport adventure! See you on the flip side. 

karenh:

vintage Czechoslovakian matchbox label(more via David Pearson)

1000 most romantic places in the world: 94. Prague, Czech Republic

velvet-revolution:

SUBMITTED BY: http://untitledandunsettled.tumblr.com/

With its picturesque medieval streets and structures, going to Prague is literally like walking into a fairy tale. Whether it is Prague Castle, Charles Bridge, Old Town Square, or Wenceslas Square there is no shortage of places to explore…

Ahh Home. Let me come home. Home is wherever I’m with you.

Been humming this song all day. If you’re reading this, that probably applies to you. And you’d probably like this song. 

And, yeah, I know I posted it before I even left. But I’m posting it again, because this song is really, really awesome, and epitomizes my summer away from the ones I love, but also all the new friends I made that helped me turn Prague into a new sort of home. 

I didn’t get any fireworks today, but I got close. At 11 p.m. or so, the Eiffel Tower sprouted flashing lights, not unlike the millennial ones Dad, Matt and I saw in 2000. I was taking pictures around the corner when the Tower started flashing, and I heard a large crowd of people gasp excitedly in unison.
That moment caused me to think about my summer in D.C. last year, where I watched the magical fireworks show on the National Mall with Biko, not more than 300 feet from the Washington Monument, with Kelsey not too far away. This time though, there was a major lack of crowd! Just lots of French youth, making out and drinking champagne on the Parc du Champs de Mars. 
Before this moment, I had kind of forgotten it was Independence Day. It was easy to, though, because no one celebrates that here. But, nonetheless, Happy 4th of July, America! I can’t wait to be on your soil again. 

I didn’t get any fireworks today, but I got close. At 11 p.m. or so, the Eiffel Tower sprouted flashing lights, not unlike the millennial ones Dad, Matt and I saw in 2000. I was taking pictures around the corner when the Tower started flashing, and I heard a large crowd of people gasp excitedly in unison.

That moment caused me to think about my summer in D.C. last year, where I watched the magical fireworks show on the National Mall with Biko, not more than 300 feet from the Washington Monument, with Kelsey not too far away. This time though, there was a major lack of crowd! Just lots of French youth, making out and drinking champagne on the Parc du Champs de Mars. 

Before this moment, I had kind of forgotten it was Independence Day. It was easy to, though, because no one celebrates that here. But, nonetheless, Happy 4th of July, America! I can’t wait to be on your soil again. 

les langues du monde

This whole time I’ve been in Europe, I’ve been jealous of every bilingual person I’ve met. In America, we’re lucky to get one year of language requirements in high school, which usually meets the college language requirements. I feel like a lot of Americans only know English, though certainly a large portion of Americans knows Spanish too. But it amazed me to find out that my Czech professor Jiřina could speak Czech, English, Spanish AND Russian. And last night, Kasia from Poland told me she could speak Polish, French, English AND Russian. I’ve met others, too, who can speak three, four, even five languages. Wow. 

Everywhere I go, I try really hard to speak in the language of the country where I am, but sometimes to no prevail. It’s obvious that people in Europe are at least bilingual, because when you talk to them in their language, they sense your foreignness, and immediately switch to English. I can’t tell if they do it to show off their bilingualism, or if it’s to help me understand better, but I find it somewhat obnoxious. Sometimes it’s nice, yes, but when I, the foreigner, am making a concerted effort, I feel like they, the native, are just slapping me in the face with the language in which I am trying not to speak! It’s frustrating to me.

But in Belgium, I have had the least problem with this. In all the places I have been so far this trip — France, Czech Republic, Austria, Germany and Holland — I have found that the people of those countries won’t speak in their languages to me if they see I am trying to speak in theirs. But in Brussels, every person I speak French to is happy to talk to me in French, and I have had several conversations with people. Despite not having taken French since I dropped it mid-semester last fall, I keep surprising myself with words and phrases I forgot I knew and conjugations I learned in French II in the 9th grade. It’s kind of cool. I’m actually able to fight back the English speakers with French, and it’s not so bad. I’m definitely not fluent or anything (there’s a lot of stop-go), but I am doing all right. I can speak about about myself, my studies, my family, food, and even football,  — all kinds of things I wasn’t entirely sure I could carry on a conversation about. So, perhaps I shouldn’t be so jealous of those bilingual people as it is…

ilovecharts:

Which is the world’s most expensive city? Costs of living compared | The Guardian

ilovecharts:

Which is the world’s most expensive city? Costs of living compared | The Guardian

cycles in amsterdam. 

cycles in amsterdam. 

bruxelles spontanéité

Made it to Brussels this afternoon, via train again, but no one to meet me this time. I maneuvered the Metro with ease, and found my stop fine — but once on the street, I was lost. A man pointed me in the right direction on my map, and I pulled my two suitcases behind me. I kept walking until I get to the right street and… what do you know? It’s uphill cobblestone and 90-degrees out. I said some words and began my trek. I arrived at my hotel with sweat dripping from my chin. I said nothing before the receptionist pulled a box of tissues from under the desk and handed it to me. All I could do was laugh.

My room is on the 4th floor, and the elevator is the strangest one I have ever seen. Perhaps more sketchy than the one in Witherspoon at NCSU — imagine that! You have to “appel” it, or call it, and it arrives, and you have to manually open the door, step inside, press the button of your desired floor, and then watch as each door passes as you go. Très bizarre.

I immediately hopped in the shower, called my parents and took a light nap. I stepped out later to explore my neighborhood, Ixelles, saving the rest of Brussels to see with my high school friend Ellie when she gets here tomorrow. 

 I found a little cafe a few blocks down, called Bar Parallèle. I sat by myself, and once my food came, a group of three girls invited me to sit with them. Turns out, one is Irish and the other two are Polish. The Irish girl, Maggie, and one of the Polish girls, Ashka (ah-sh-kah), live in Brussels, while the other Polish girl, Kesia (kah-shah), is visiting from Luxembourg. They were all lovely and conversational, and Maggie paid for part of my dinner — so nice.

They then invited me to go to a bar a few blocks down, and I obliged, not having much else to do. Maggie and Kesia bought my two drinks, attributing their hospitality to that of Americans when they were visiting New York. Maggie told a story about how she left NYC for Boston on a Greyhound the morning of September 11, before the planes hit. She and her friends got stuck in Baltimore somehow, where they were housed and fed and treated like queens, she said. And so, she added, she owed America for their kindness. I’d say she was quite kind! 

We watched the end of the Ghana/Uruguay game at the bar. It made me notice how almost no one at the bar seemed truly Belgian, and Maggie explained that it is a huge melting pot and that few are truly Belgian any more. Africans, Americans, Germans, French, Spanish, Poles… so many people in one place, and so many languages. I’ve never seen anything like it! And almost all were rooting for Ghana. Poor Ghana.

After, we met up with Maggie’s friends Cora and Joanna, and all walked back through Ixelles together. A lovely night for such a terribly hot day. I’m so impressed with European hospitality. I hope Americans are as hospitable as Maggie thinks they are. I really do. 

nederlandse gastvrijheid

My stay in Amsterdam was wonderful, to say the least. Shannon’s SA friend Karlijn met me at the train station on Tuesday, where we Metroed and walked to her flat. 

After a quick Skype with Shannon herself, Karlijn got me onto a bike — or cycle, as they say in Holland. Whew! I calculated that I hadn’t ridden a bike since the 9th grade when I went to the beach with the Clows. So, needless to say, I was a bit rusty, but so was the bike. My cycle — which I thought was a joke — was actually a foldable bike for taking on the metro, and it was therefore lower to the ground and quite uncomfortable. But I did it.

For a treat, Karlijn took me out for bitterballen, a Dutch delicacy of fried mincemeat served with mustard. After, we ventured to my cousin Duco’s flat, where we had a barbecue with him and his friends. It was quite nice to meet young people from a different culture.

On Wednesday, Duco and his friends took me out on a boatride through the canals. Very lovely. They were all so nice and made an effort to speak English to me. I found it hard not to be surprised when one of them began rolling his own joint in front of me, but then I remembered, “That’s legal here!” We cruised along, drinking beer, and they showed me the Heineken brewery, Anne Frank’s house, the Van Gogh museum, Rembrandt’s house, the Rijksmuseum, Nieumarkt (the historic market), Bloemenmarkt (the flower market), the Red Light District (the prostitution district), Centraal Station, and much, much more. 

One sunburn later, and I was on my way with Karlijn to meet her marathoning, fundraising friends at the Olympic Stadium. It felt weird to be on the field where Olympians tossed shot-puts, threw javelins, jumped over hurdles and pole-vaulted — in 1928. We joined her friends for drinks at the field, and I talked to an American who had just moved to the Hague from Chicago, but he actually is from Charlotte! He went to Myers Park, too. Small world! Afterward, Karlijn’s friends, who work at ING, treated us to dinner. So nice.

And on Thursday, I explored Amsterdam on my own. I visited Nieumarkt and Bloemenmarkt just to see them, and I spent a time at FOAM, the photography museum. Then, I took a nap on a bench in the sun, right along one of the canals. So nice to relax. Later, Duco took me to dinner at a Chinese restaurant, and then for drinks at a bar where his friend is the bartender. Free drinks, too. I barely spent any money on food in Amsterdam! So nice.

And now, it is time for Brussels. I’ll be back, though, A-Dam, don’t worry. 

I’ll definitely be coming back here. 

My two days in Berlin. Wish I’d had more time there!

Mijn vrienden en ik zijn Berlijners

Day two in Berlin. I journeyed out without Juergen to meet up with my Prague friends at Pariser Platz, where we proceeded to walk around downtown, exploring the city. We saw all kinds of things, including:

  • the Brandenburg Gate
  • the Reichstag
  • the Holocaust Memorial
  • Embassy Row
  • the Berlin Cathedral
  • Museum Island
  • The Jewish Synagogue
  • Alexanderplatz
  • The TV Tower
  • Marionskirche
  • the Eastside Gallery (the Berlin Wall)

Then, we split up, and Shelly and I met up with our friends Kiley and Marc, who had just arrived in Berlin. The four of us went to dinner at a typical German restaurant. We all tried different beers. I thought I ordered a plain beer called a Berliner Weisse, but then the waitress asked me, “Rot oder grün?” Having no idea what she asked, I just said, “Light?” Frustrated, she asked again in English, “Red or green?” And as that is not your usual option when choosing beer, I chose red, and I was presented with a candy red beer in a wine glass. And it was delicious. Juergen later explained that it’s a beer flavored with a syrup, raspberry or woodruff. I tried the green one second, and it wasn’t as good, but everyone agreed that it was a unique thing to order. 

Overall, a good day in Berlin, but it was sad to say goodbye to my friends. Off to Amsterdam on my own! 

Ik ben een Berliner

Oh, Germany. What a lovely place. I arrived Sunday by train with six friends from the program — Will, Ryan, Shelly, Tucker, Mikey and Mark, the latter four of which go to Appalachian State. We had two cabins to ourselves and our luggage, which made for some nice naps. 

In Berlin, Shannon’s friend Steffi’s boyfriend Juergen (YER-gen) met me at the train station. He took my by car — the first car I’d been in since Kelly dropped me off at the airport six weeks prior! — to his flat. We passed Tiergarten, where every Berliner and two of their brothers were dressed in the Deutchland flag getting drunk before the World Cup match against England. Mind you, this was four hours before the game. I guess it was something of a European tailgate. 

After a time of rest and e-mails at Juergen’s flat, we walked to get Turkish food for lunch, and then ice cream, and then to his friend Amit’s flat, where we watched the game with Amit’s wife Judith and their baby Julius and Juergen’s twin Tom and his pregnant girlfriend Janka. They served us more food — a sushi feast and ice cream — while we watched Germany cream England. They were pleased to have their own Wembley against England after all of these years. It was a really nice time!

My final week in Prague! I just tried to see as many things as I could and hang out with as many people as possible to end the trip. Kind of sad, but kind of happy to start my trip around Europe, then go home. I’ll miss this place, for sure. I already do.