When I decided to study abroad one of my main concerns was the ability to travel to other places. I originally chose London for its central location, not really because the place itself had any appeal to me originally. I actually adore London, much to my surprise, but I also yearn to see the rest of Europe. This past weekend was the first time I was able to venture out into Europe. You may remember that this abroad experience is my first time out of a country…like ever. So therefore this trip out into Europe was my first time really seeing a very quaint and European city. For the weekend my flat mates and I decided to journey to the incredible city of Prague, Czech Republic. Two things to note about Prague: first, it is pronounced, and many times spelled “Praha,” and also the country is going through a rebranding in an effort to sound more modern and now is referred to on many maps as “Czechia.” I know, quite interesting indeed.
This weekend was an absolute dream and as my first real travel experience I not only learned a lot about myself but also had many instances I was able to have some reflection. I loved Prague because while it was beautiful, architecturally pleasing, and rich with culture and history, it was not too over-crowded with tourists. Not all of the streets too packed, in fact I noticed many quiet streets, something that stood out to me I guess as I am so used to the deafening noises of London.
We arrived on Friday and stayed near the center of the city near Old Town Square, the location of many tourist spots and many beautiful buildings to see. When we first walked through the square we noticed that Prague’s famous medieval astronomical clock was under construction and covered. ALL THE CLOCKS MUST BE UNDER CONSTRUCTION THIS YEAR (Big Ben is completely covered in scaffolding for a couple of years). We were disappointed but moved on to many of the other beautiful sights in the square. Prague truly is an astounding city. It feels quaint and European and yet its architecture is old and magnificent; this whole weekend I was overtaken with many moments of how lucky I was to be there (more on this later). Later when we walked through the square—all routes seemed to lead through the square, we noticed a very large crowd of people, camera crews, etc. We soon realized that that day was a national holiday, St. Wenceslas Day, and the day the clock was to be revealed, newly constructed, and the month long celebrations for Czechoslovakia’s centennial were to begin. How lucky were we to happen upon this ceremony?
Throughout the weekend we noticed that the reoccurring theme was luck. Even though we wandered frequently we seemed to always just happen upon the most beautiful spots and the quaintest local markets. We did many tourist things, like walk across the St. Charles Bridge and take in the sights there, or partake in the ritual of leaving your mark on the John Lennon wall, but we did our best to consume as much Czech culture as possible, whether in the form of food or in wandering until we found a local market. One of my favorite things we did, and we didn’t even plan it, was exploring the Prague Castle gardens. Originally we intended to go to the castle but the lines ended up being too long to gain entry and instead when we were walking past the nearby neighborhoods we saw a small opening to the gardens that only cost $3 USD to enter. We ended up spending a couple hours here in these incredible terraced gardens, each terrace with different flowers and the higher ones having breathtaking views of the city.
The last day we strolled along the river, quested for the perfect Trdelnik (we each had three the whole trip), sampled a bunch of Czech pastries, and ended with a traditional Czech dinner. All weekend, but especially this day, I was overwhelmed with so much joy. I kept thinking over and over “how lucky am I?” to experience this, to be here, to be doing these things. I could live my whole life without seeing all of this, without trying this cultural food, and without living these experiences and yet I haven’t, I have done these things. I am so lucky to be able to be here, why me? People live their whole lives without going to Europe, without leaving their country, many without leaving their region. Being from Florida, I remember the moment I realized that people live their whole lives without seeing the ocean, and that is something I could not fathom. People live their whole lives without experience the true joy of travel and now I, for some insane reason am lucky enough to have these experiences and I really truly cannot believe it.