Europe Week 15: By the numbers

Dobry Den!

My final update from Europe. I’m in disbelief I leave Saturday. 106 days is really not that long. I’m going to miss it here so much, but it is time to come home. From a truly unforgettable time in Belgium, to surprisingly delicious food in Budapest, to the beer that never stops flowing in Prague…how do I sum up my time here?

A brief update of the last two weeks:

It’s Christmas time! I went to Vienna again last weekend to explore the Christmas markets, which were incredible. Full of handmade ornaments, gifts and supremely fattening foods—it was marvelous.

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The Christmas tree in Old Town Square, Prague

It’s Christmas in Prague, too! Mulled wine and holiday lights are everywhere (so is the winter chill)! The Christmas markets are fun to walk around and czech out the local Czech specialties. (I promise that’s the last time I make that joke.)

Finals are this week (I’m in school, remember) so some time is being spent creating presentations, writing papers and studying for exams. My last class/exam is Thursday, then the University has a special closing ceremony on Friday. I should probably start packing soon…

 Now that I’m finishing up my 15th week in Prague, I thought I’d share my final thoughts about Czech culture:

 —Czechs don’t care what other people do: think kissing on the sidewalk, peeing in the street

—People will not smile at you in public

—An angry man yelling at you in Czech is one way to induce an anxiety attack

—Milk and Kefir have the same labels

—Czechs are known for their beer, not food

—This country is still recovering from communist rule

I truly did love my time in the Czech Republic. It is beautiful country full of quirkiness. I learned to appreciate and love the everyday oddities here. The ancient and modern history is all encompassing. The stories I’ve heard about living under communist rule blew my mind. Can you imagine when you’re 15 years old protesting with 500,000 dissidents in the hopes of overthrowing your own government? This is something we learn about in a text book feels like a century ago. To Czechs, this happened in their lifetime. It’s remarkable what these people have been through. The Czech Republic is still recovering from the economic, political and cultural oppression of 40 years of communist rule. People couldn’t practice religion or own property and it takes a long time to heal those wounds. Czechs also go into great detail about the drawbacks of their newly formed democracy. Almost half the population wants communism to be reinstated. And you think we have problems with American politics. (Aside from Donald Trump.) 

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Hard to find a better view than this

 Living abroad was an incredible experience for so many reasons. Europe is rich in diverse cultures and history. I have taken in so much over the past three and a half months. Kutna Hora, Dresden, Karlovy Vary, London, Cesky Krumlov, Vienna, Berlin, Munich, Pilsen, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Budapest, and Belgium. This semester was a balancing act in so many ways. Whether to stay in Prague or travel. Whether to go out or sleep. I was extremely fortunate due to my unusually light course load that I was able to explore Prague during the week and travel for the weekends. I feel so fortunate that I know a European city so well. I wouldn’t have traded my abroad experience for anything. Am I exhausted? Yes, but I had the time of my life.

 A short list of some questions I feel may be asked a lot in the coming weeks:

Favorite cities: Amsterdam, then Copenhagen

Favorite restaurants: Truffe Noir in Brussels, Restaurant 1070 in Vienna

Favorite beer: Beer Project Brussels

Best airline: Swiss Air

Flights taken in 2015: 25 (27,462 mi)

Bus rides: 14 (2,496 mi)

Trains: 5 (841 mi)

European culture is wonderful. As a whole, people just know how to live and enjoy life. It seems there’s less stress here too, but that may just be me. And people can dress themselves. However, the coffee culture may be my favorite thing over all. And how open carry laws don’t exist 😉 I hope I don’t become that person who talks about how European culture is different than American culture when I’m back. I apologize if so. 

 Let me know if you plan to travel here or anywhere in Europe. I created a travel document with must see sights, my favorite restaurants and things to do here in Prague. I’d be more than happy to share it with you. 

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Thanks for reading this every week. I really enjoyed writing and reflecting on my travels, like a public diary – love it or hate it. I at least hope you enjoyed following my crazy journey. I’ll be in California for three weeks until Jan 2nd, then it’s back to reality. I would love to see you while I’m home, preferably at Philz or Fraiche—I’m convinced good frozen yogurt does not exist outside Palo Alto.

How do I leave my home away from home? It’s not goodbye. One of my favorite Hebrew words is lehitraot, which translates: see you later. So, lehitraot, until we meet again, Europe.

Follow is a link to all of my European photos: Mark in Europe

All my love from Praha

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