Friday, January 31, 2014

Could I Be Returning?

Ahoj all!

It's been a while.

I'm back with some interesting news: I might be coming back to Prague.

Interesting in the least...

There is a possibility that I will return, beginning this summer, to work for the company for which I completed my undergraduate internship. To be honest, I'm terrified, yet excited beyond belief. My time abroad was incredible, but as much as I claimed independence during that time, I still had the support of my program and funding from my school. Obtaining a visa, finding a flat, worrying about utility bills, banking, etc. in Czech? THAT is chilling.

I suppose my only option would be to learn to speak Czech...yikes.

On the plus side, I know the company and my colleagues, I have a feel for the city, I know I can (mostly) function without speaking Czech, I have a few friends around, and I love Prague.

Is this what my next step is supposed to be?
I'll keep you updated.

Cheers, and welcome back!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Home sweet...I want to go back.



Anybody there?

Well, I understand if there is not. It's been too long!
You'll be happy to know, if you didn't already, that I am home safe and sound, and have been for about two and a half weeks now. Man, does it seem like it's been longer! It's so good to be home, but as time passes, even as little time as the two and a half weeks I've been home, I find that I my lust for travel grows greater and greater.

You would think after five months away from home, most of which was split between ten different countries, in hostels and airports and on airplanes and trains, I would be quite content just staying put for a while. I would have thought so, too. Alas, I am starting to grow a little too comfortable for my own good.

Comfort is not a bad thing, and it's been nice to be comfortable and living an average, regular life for the past couple of weeks, but I'm about done with my little vacation away from...vacation. Unfortunately, I am relatively tied down for the next year - the last year of my undergraduate studies!!! After that, it's game on for me, and boy oh boy, to say that I've got a few ideas in mind for my travels in the near future would be an understatement! Who knows where the wanderlust will take me, but wherever that is I am excited beyond belief because I know it will be absolutely incredible.

For now, let's take a look back at the amazing places I was able to visit:
  1. Czech Republic (Prague, Karlovy Vary)
  2. Slovakia (Bratislava)
  3. Austria (Vienna)
  4. Germany (Berlin, Dresden)
  5. Spain (Barcelona, Madrid)
  6. Netherlands (Rotterdam, Amsterdam)
  7. Ireland (Dublin)
  8. United Kingdom (Edinburgh, London)
  9. Italy (Rome, Pisa, Florence, Sienna, La Spezia, the cities of Cinque Terre, Genoa)
  10. France (Paris, Nice)
  11. Poland (Warsaw, Krakow)
 Sometimes it seems like it was all a dream, that it didn't actually happen, but I am so amazed that it did!




It's been too long, my friends! But, while you've been repeating your daily rise and grind for the past two weeks, I've been enjoying gelato & quiche, the Eiffel Tower & Louvre, limoncello & gnocchi, the Leaning Tower of Pisa & the views from the Duomo, provolone piccante & vino, the coasts & cliffs of Cinque Terre, macaroons & salads topped with shrimps fresh from the Med, and going topless with a vodka tonic in hand on the stony beaches & in the crystal waters of Nice.


Disregarding a few train fiascoes, a lost cell phone, surviving primarily on biscottes with various toppings for a few days, and not meeting an incredibly handsome, kind, and rich Italian future-husband, I'd say my travels through France & Italy couldn't have been better!

Highlights from Paris include the Eiffel Tower & the views from its top, partying on a boat-club, exploring the Greek, Etruscan, and Roman antiques of the Louvre (no Mona Lisa for us), crepes, the Moulin Rouge area, croque monsieurs, Orangina, the Champs-Élysées, the Arc de Triomphe, practicing my French, the Notre-Dame Cathedral, a rollerblading competition, and almost getting on a flight to Milan.

Highlights from Pisa: cooking a feast on a hot-plate, falling off a coffee table & spilling a glass of wine all over the floor in front of our entire hostel, rooming next to a ferret pen, getting lost & resorting to boxed wine, getting drunk & taking dirty pictures with the Leaning Tower of Pisa, making friends with a group of Italian parachuters who barely speak English, limoncello & cute bartenders, introducing Cay & Alex to kebab (Cay: yeah, I've had kabab; Cay (later, when we get kabab): what the hell is this??), and an amazing outdoor trinket-market.

Highlights from Florence: warning my friends, "Hey guys, get your stuff together because the trains don't stop long," then missing our stop because said friends couldn't get off the train in time, then taking two other trains and still ending up at the wrong stop, Couchsurfing with the craziest but kindest group of Italian guys, the Tuscan landscapes, climbing to the top of the Duomo, leather markets and finding the most perfect leather backpack, gelato (a LOT of gelato), shots-checkers, a day-trip to Siena, karaoke (we definitely DID NOT participate), dancing to make people feel uncomfortable, pasta, pasta, pasta, more weird drinking games involving singing, and incredibly delicious desserts.

Highlights from La Spezia & Cinque Terre involve a beautiful B&B, cheap and delicious gelato, hiking for hours over the most beautiful cliffs & terrain, views galore, delicious home-cooked dinners, buying a hunk of provolone piccante the size of my head, biscottes, and the most delicious tomatoes I have ever had in my entire life. Truthfully, pictures do a much better job of illustrating the highlights of Cinque Terre (to be shared later)...

Highlights from Genoa: a personal box of wine, cheesy gnocchi, flirting with our waiter & drunkenly giving him my dad's phone number (uuhh...sorry, Dad), chanting "pizza!" and pounding my fists on the table with the million twatlers that invaded our restaurant, then accidentally pounding my fork, sending it flying, and some very deep conversations with two of my best friends. Let's just say Genoa looked a lot better after that box of wine (in the city's defense, we were probably just not in the right area for our one night there).

Highlights from Nice: speaking (trying) French again, perfect weather, crystal clear waters, getting to tan my boobs, paninis & someone's mom's apple dessert, pizza & beer, flower markets, castle ruins (wait, did we find those?), Cay's day of hilarity, drinks on the beach, weird (and not good, but quite funny) flavored macaroons, and the most delicious salad of my life (lettuce, avocado, oranges, shrimp, crab, artichokes, and some other kind of seafood).

Highlights from the whole trip include spending more time with two of my best friends than I have been able to in two years, constantly getting lost, weird interactions with weird people, delicious foods, a lot of pb&j sandwiches (you mean they don't sell peanut bitter EVERYWHERE?!) and crackers with Nutella, wearing dirty & smelly clothes, and inside jokes galore. I only wish that I could freeze this trip in my brain forever, because what a time we had!

FYI, I am currently posting this from Warsaw after a day with my friend Kasia that could not have been more perfect! This is the reason no pictures are included (yet!), and if you're one of the people who knows my travel itinerary by heart and are thinking, "Tempe, you got back from this trip a week go, so your timeline couldn't possibly make sense," well then, you're right...I wrote this post this past week, and am JUST NOW getting around to actually publishing it. Hey, at least it's getting posted, right? I have a feeling that it might take me the rest of my summer to actually write about all of the experiences I want to write about. Or maybe I'll be sick of writing and reading my own thoughts by then and officially close Czeching Out Prague. We'll see.

Au revoir for now, my friends!

Oh, and prego!!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Home so soon!!

Time is flying! I'll be home in a little over a week! Honestly, it's quite surreal still. When should I start packing (knowing me, probably right now)? How am I going to see and do all of the things I still want to do? How am I going to clean out this room that has been my home for the past five months? What am I even going to do with all of the stuff? How am I going to say goodbye to the amazing friends and colleagues I have acquired? And for that matter, how am I going to leave this city, this country, that has stolen a piece of my heart?

Don't get me wrong, I am quite excited to go home, but I am really very reticent to leave, too. Through all of the ups & downs, this has been an incredible experience for me. I have learned so much about Prague, the Czech Republic, traveling, living alone, living in the city, about other cities around Europe, a bit about what I want for my future, and of course, about myself. I think that studying abroad is an experience everyone should have to help put their place in the world into perspective. One of the most amazing exercises for me is to think of myself, sitting in my flat, and to imagine all of the other people in other rooms in other flats on other floors in my building, all just kind of stacked up on top of each other, moving and living independently of the others. I know, it's weird, but my narcissistic self is always focused on me & my position in a room - only imagining myself in reference to my most intimate surroundings. For me, to think of all of the other people, just in this building - sleeping, washing dishes, working - as I sit and do and live, too, provides perspective and reminds me how much bigger even just this building is than I perceive it to be. The world is a hell of a lot bigger.

I find that exciting. I want to see and do and experience. There is just so much out there, quite literally a world of different experiences. I know I can't have them all, but I want them. Having just the limited (in a world perspective - I am extremely fortunate to have had all of the traveling experience that I have these past few months) experience that I have has sparked an intense hunger in my belly to really get out there & travel and to experience every little thing I can. I don't know how I will travel in the future, but I will. For now, I'll take each and every day as a new opportunity to learn, see, do, and experience this amazing life.

Aaaaaand, see you soon 'Merica!!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Bonjour! Ciao! FRIENDS!

Oh my goodness! It's the eve of my big trip!

It's surreal that it's already time! I remember planning this part of my adventure (what, 5 months ago?) and knowing that I would be ready for a break at this point in my time abroad, particularly one that involves meeting up with two of my best friends in Paris and traveling through France and Italy with them for 16 days!!

Boy oh boy! Cay & Alex are on their flight to Paris by now, which is crazy to think about, as my flight isn't even until tomorrow night. Time changes will mess you up, no?

So, on the eve of this fantastic and much anticipated rendezvous avec mes chéris (it's funny how little yet how much high school French will stick in your brain), I can be found languidly packing for weather ranging from rainy to sunny and 50° to 80°. Fun, fun, fun! My sissy gave me some good advice: "Who cares if you wear the same thing the whole time?! Just throw some shit in a bag!" Shocking, if you know my sister, who rarely cusses. Someone's cutting loose, eh?

You can also find me frantically trying to prepare all perishable foods I have around the flat, including: 2 eggs, sauteed peppers & onions, half a kelbasa, some grapes, a bag of sugar snap peas, some ancient beets that are starting to grow hairs, a few sweet potatoes, and a 1 kilo bag of carrots. Needless to say I've been eating some strange meals for the past few days. After work today I made roasted beets & curried sweet potatoes and decided a little brown rice would bring the meal together.

It didn't.

Looks yummy, no? The sad thing is that I was actually paying attention to this. I had just put some extra water in the pot, and not 10 minutes later start smelling smoke through my (open) bedroom door. Panic ensued. Luckily we have a huge window in the kitchen that opens up into an empty courtyard, and whenever I burn something, I simply stick the offending pot out on the ledge to cool off. I was strongly considering simply leaving the pot out there - forever - but I decided to not be a total jerk and clean it (5 hours later). Unfortunately, my hands now smell disgusting and I can't get the stench out of my nose. Yay. In my defense, I have never in my life burned rice before - scout's honor!

Truthfully, just the other day I was thinking about how awesome I am at making rice in a pot, because normally the pot ends up like this:


Needless to say I am looking forward to the next 16 days of relatively little cooking, and there definitely will not be rice on the menu. I'm thinking wine. A lot of wine.

So, where will we three peas be for the next 16 days? Ah, put your sasspants on because you will be jealous, my friends! We'll begin our little expedition in the classical city of Paris, of course. Then we will move to the region of Tuscany in Italy to visit Pisa, Florence, and La Spezia & Cinque Terre. Next comes a night in Genoa, rounding out our Italian adventures before we move on to Nice for a few days, then one last night in Paris before the girls head back across the Big Blue and I return home to Prague (yes, home). While I don't expect to do much blogging during these travels, I'll try to post some pictures and a few updates on all of the fun we're having (and food we're eating, wine we're drinking, clubs we're hopping, and beaches we're lounging on).

For now, enjoy yet another inspirational video I've found below, and if you didn't catch the link in my last post to "Last Days: Meet Zach Sobiech," you should check his story out, too (I accidentally hid him beneath Imagine Dragons' "Radioactive."

Au revoir mes petit choux! Ciao! I look forward to blogging to you again!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Na shledenou? Ne! Ne!

Almost anyone you talk to who has taken the opportunity to study abroad will tell you it was the most amazing experience of their life. Cliche? Yes. True? Also yes.

With about six and a half weeks left before I fly back to the stars and stripes, I'm realizing that I don't really want to leave. Although I've stumbled throughout my entire stay in Prague, it's been the most rewarding and exciting time of my life. I am going to miss the independence of living on my own and the ease of living in a city. I'll miss being able to walk to work or the grocery store or just through the narrow cobblestone streets, staring up at the wedding cake that is Prague architecture. I'll definitely miss the never-ending list of things to do at anytime of the day or night, and I'll miss the adventure of meeting new people and making new friends every single day.

Now don't get me wrong, I am so excited to see my family and friends again, to experience some of the things I've been missing from home (Plaza, Qdoba, not outrageously overpriced clothes shopping), to return for my last year of undergrad and competitive volleyball, but I have a feeling that I will be longing to return to Prague after only a few steps on US soil.

My poor little mind is going to be so confused: where is home? Can home be more than one place? I suppose. Can it be more than one country, though? I don't know if I would (could) ever feel that Prague or the Czech Republic is my home the way a native might, but now I feel like I'm halfway there, and I'm leaving the party early by heading home. There's that word again; home. 

Prague really does feel like home for me now. Maybe not "home home," back in Maryland or even at school in Virginia, but every time I return from a trip, I walk up the metro steps, take a deep breath, and smile. I'm back. Home. I feel certain I could call Prague "home home," given time. I can certainly see myself living here - maybe not forever, but definitely again. Prague deserves more attention than I've given it. I have, after all, already visited eight other countries over the past three months (not including Czech), will definitely be adding two more to that list, and possibly others. So really, I feel like I'm still just starting to get to know the Czech Republic, and I long to keep uncovering the secrets of its capital city of Prague.

Every time I explore a little further or take one more step out of the box I've put myself in, I am amazed at the complexity of this city. Just 15 minutes from the center you'll find rolling hills completely covered in tangles of the greenest shrubbery, spotted with homes overlooking the Vltava, or a huge park with never-ending lanes cocooned in an ongoing ceiling of giant trees. It's heartbreaking to know that most tourists won't experience the city past Old Town, and even worse, that I've really just begun to explore outside the city center myself.

As I have to start saying na shledanou to this city that has become my home, I find myself growing more and more resistant to say that goodbye. Maybe I can settle on a "goodbye for now," but not until  after I peel back a few more layers and fall further in love with Prague.

Interesting things:

  • This song makes me want to put the volume on maximum and just move. I love it.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Whimsical Barcelona

It's been a month and a half since I traveled to Barcelona, Spain! Not only does it seem like just last week, but I am afraid that my memories of that trip have already started to fade - truly unfortunate, because I remember feeling like everything in the world was absolutely perfect when I was in that city. Although I can't make myself truly experience those pure and absolute feelings again (except maybe with another trip - I wouldn't complain!), I can reflect on them and hope to rediscover some of the infatuating affection I felt for the city of Barcelona.

Barcelona was one of those cities where I step off the plane and immediately smile. It's just that kind of place - I couldn't help but be happy when I was there. Just from my walk down Las Ramblas to my hostel in Plaça Reial, I knew Barcelona would be my kind of city. The shops, the people, just the airs of excitement and happiness - it was all infectious. The city is full of enthralling Spanish architecture - colorful buildings, balconies, shutters - fountains, palm trees, plants, and sculptures. My only complaint? Tourists. Barcelona is chock full of 'em. Yep, I know that I am one. Wouldn't it just be dandy to explore the world as it exists without other tourists?


Besides the crowds, I don't think I could possibly have any other complaints about this city. From the amazing Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria marketplace where every morning I ate a walking breakfast of delicious, vibrant fruits and amazing, authentic empanadas, to the astoundingly, intricately beautiful and truly overwhelming Sagrada Familia, to the sublimely charming and expansive grounds of Parque Güell, to the calming and relaxing Parc de la Ciutadella, to the sapphire (and surprisingly warm) waters of the Mediterranean, I have simply fallen in love. Yup, writing about Barcelona has definitely awoken the city's spirit in me once again. My entire being is now twitching with longing to just go back. What is this pull?!

I think I've also fallen in love with Antoni Gaudí. The fact that I would never have recognized his name or works before visiting Barcelona is simply astounding. Gaudí's impact on the city is beyond obvious, from the previously mentioned Sagrada Familia and Parque Güell, to the lamp posts in Plaça Reial, Palacio Güell (directly across the street from my hostel), and Casas Batlló and Milà (La Pedrera). In my mind, "Gaudí" is simply synonymous with "Barcelona," and of course, "Catalan architecture." The character, wonderment of Barcelona? For me, it's Gaudí.

Not only does this city boast the whimsically delightful works of Antoni Gaudí, but also the lion's share of Pablo Picasso's rearing into the progressive artist he became. It's almost possible to imagine Picasso experiencing Gaudí's work and drawing inspiration, isn't it? At least in my mind, the two artists, although preferring different mediums and styles, share a certain expression - one that I am invariably attracted to and infatuated with. The pair of Spaniards are quickly developing into two of my favorite artists.

So what's next? Good question. Between the attraction I feel towards bustling Barcelona and the contentment I felt while visiting Madrid, I truly think some time spent throughout Spain in my future is necessary. Add it to the list, right? Sometimes, though, it seems like it would be just plain old ignorant to ignore your own feelings, especially when they're so strong. I guess we'll just have to wait and see where this life takes me!