Abroad in Prague: Week Three

Letna Hill

Prague at dusk from Letna Hill.

I’m spending the month of July in Prague, Czech Republic studying abroad. My goal is to write one of these a week for the month that I’m here, but if you want a better day-to-day look at our time in Prague, check out Claire’s blog. She’s way better about keeping up with blogging than I am.

If you just want to see all the pretty pictures I take on my trip, check out my Prague Flickr set.

I’ve spent three weeks in Prague now, and I have loved every second of it. I refuse to come to grips with the fact that I have to leave this awesome city in just a few short days.

THE CLASS

Tourists

Do we look like tourists yet?

Our third week in Prague marked our transition from the internship to culture class portion of the trip. The class, held at Prague’s Charles University, is very loosely structured. The class itself usually only takes up a portion of our mornings, and on some days we have short tours of some of Prague’s cultural hotspots in the early afternoon.

Each day we have a new guest lecturer who gives a one to two hour lecture on some topic pertaining to the Czech Republic’s history or culture. I have found the lectures to be really quite fascinating, especially those about the communist era in central and eastern Europe. They have given me a whole new perspective on just how rough day-to-day life was during that era here, and how it shaped the country into what it is today. You can still see the lasting effects of that era in the attitudes of the older generation in this country.

On Monday, we spent our afternoon touring through the Muzeum Kampa, Prague’s modern art museum. The museum featured an exhibit with works from Alphonse Mucha and František Kupka, two famous Czech painters. Our only other school organized afternoon activity this week was watching a documentary on the communist era in Czechoslovakia.

The rest of our afternoons during the week were free, so we did some further general exploration of the city.

BUDAPEST

budapest

Budapest from Castle Hill.

The highlight of week three, and probably the entire trip, was our weekend trip to Budapest, Hungary. Not only did we get to experience a whole new city in a whole new country, but Paige and I got to spend our 21st birthdays there!

Our culture class teachers were gracious enough to shuffle our class schedule around a bit to allow us to leave for Budapest on Thursday afternoon. Budapest is a seven hour train ride from Prague, so leaving Thursday gave us two and a half days there.

We debated heading to a few different cities in central and eastern Europe, but we settled on Budapest after we received it as a recommendation from just about everyone we asked. I had absolutely no idea what to expect heading into Budapest. The trip was organized at the last minute, and I didn’t really research the city ahead of time.

BUDAPEST DAY ONE

matthias

The Matthias Church in Budapest.

We spent Friday touring the sights of Budapest. I was amazed at how beautiful the city was. Over the course of our very, very long, self-guided tour we crossed Budapest’s Chain Bridge to reach the Castle Quarter. There we visited a few more incredible sights, including the Buda Palace and the Matthias Church. The Castle Quarter sits on a huge hill that overlooks the city and provides some truly incredible views. Afterwards we checked out the massive Central Market Hall and had our first taste of Hungarian food at a small restaurant.

Friday evening was spent at two of Budapest’s famous ruin bars, Szimpla and Instant. The ruin bars are funky, wildly decorated bars constructed in abandoned buildings in the heart of Budapest. The bars were unlike anything I’ve ever seen, and they were a very cool place to celebrate my birthday at the stroke of midnight.

BUDAPEST DAY TWO

Gellert Baths

Gellert Baths. Photo credit: @maddylight.

We spent my birthday at the Gellert Baths. Budapest has a number of Turkish-style bath complexes across the city, but Gellert is one of the most famous. The complex was built in the early 1900s on the same spot where the Ottoman Empire built their baths in the 17th century. Gellert has a number of pools and spas (even a wave pool!) that use water directly from the nearby underground hot springs.

The baths were definitely one of my favorite activities on this trip. Each pool was a distinct and regulated temperature in the neighborhood of 95-105 degrees fahrenheit. They felt like giant hot tubs. The complex was stunningly beautiful, and sitting in the pools was incredibly relaxing.

Saturday evening we went out to dinner to celebrate our birthdays at a nearby Hungarian restaurant. By chance, I found out that Reagan, a friend of mine from Mizzou, just happened to also be in Budapest that night as a part of her eight month long European adventure, so she joined us for dinner too.

Saturday night we headed to a different bath complex for a late-night bath party. The party featured a DJ and an incredible light display that lit up a huge outdoor pool. The pool was absolutely packed with people. I honestly can’t imagine a cooler place on earth to spend my birthday.

BUDAPEST DAY THREE

Gellert Hill

Some of the (very sweaty) gang atop Gellert Hill.

We only had a few hours on Sunday before our train back to Prague, so we checked out of our hostel and hiked up Gellert Hill for one last look at the city. Hiking up the hill with all of my luggage, in the middle of summer, is not exactly the most fun I’ve ever had. In fact, I would say it was borderline miserable, but the view at the top made it all worth it. Gellert Hill is the highest point in the city and it provides some unbelievable panoramic views of all of Budapest. It was the perfect place to end our crazy Hungarian adventure.

READ ABOUT WEEK FOUR –>