Czechmate: Adventures in the Czech Republic

Have you ever been to the Czech Republic? If not, I highly recommend that you go: it was everything I hoped for and more.

Two weeks ago, I started a journey with three assistant friends (Frankie, Jameson, Peter) to this country to the north for Easter Break. One week in the Czech Republic — three nights in Prague, and three nights in Cesky Krumlov. Prague, of course, was an obvious destination choice, being the capital and all. But Cesky Krumlov was recommended by the former assistant here in Bad Aussee, and I’m glad I listened to her.

My friends and I had heard a number of travel myths about the Czech Republic, and I’m here to tell you: they are true.

1. Prague is beautiful. The hostel we stayed at was slightly outside the Old Town of Prague, however the walk wasn’t bad at all. After we made it in to the Old Town, the architecture and sights bombarded me on all sides. “Eastern Europe” definitely feels different than “Western Europe,” and I like it. Additionally, we were there the week before Easter, so there was a huge Easter Market in the main square, and the people were out and about and excited. The atmosphere reminded me very much of the Christmas Markets in Austria. Although Prague is such a huge tourist destination, the amount of English I heard astounded me.

Now, if Prague is beautiful, I’m not sure what adjective I should use to describe Cesky Krumlov, a town in the Southern Bohemian region of the Czech Republic. The city looked as if it was taken right out of a fairytale, and I could have stared at the pink, cupcake-like castle tower all day. The Vltava River winds its way lazily through the town and definitely adds to the chill, hippy and — dare I say– Bohemian atmosphere of the town. Prague impressed me, but I’ll never forget Cesky Krumlov and the hostel built right in the town’s walls, the cobblestone streets, the sun shining on the river, the bears guarding the castle, the freshly fried potato chips in the town square and the beer. Ooh, the beer. (But we’ll get to that later.)

2. The Czech Republic is cheap. Being part of “Eastern Europe,” my friends and I had heard how cheap the country is. I believed such myths, but they rang more true than I possibly could have imagined. One night, the 4 of us got 19 beers for €30… that’s €1,50 per beer! In Austria, one beer is about €3,50. I believe that’s all I have to say about that.

3. Czech beer is delicious. Compared to American beer, or piss-water-drank-from-a-sock as I describe it to my Austrian students, Austrian beer is amazing. There are no light versions of beer and it all tastes crisp, refreshing and full of flavor, (the slogan of one Styrian beer, Gösser, is “Gut, besser, Gösser”… good, better, Gösser.). Beer, in Austria, is my drink of choice. My friends and I had heard that our neighbor to the north had some good beer, so we were eager to try it out. And one sip of that delicious Czech nectar, and we knew our beer drinking in Austria was ruined. The hostel in Prague served a unpasturized, local made brew. It was a dark amber color and very sweet. Pilsner-Urquell, which is apparently available in the States but I had never had, is a pilsner with a buttery taste.  And in Cesky Krumlov, we went straight to the source: the Eggenberg brewery (the name sounds very Austrian, no?). I got the dark brew, and it had a carmelly smooth taste which I very much enjoyed. Not to mention, the beer at the brewery was only 20 Crowns for a half liter…. which is less than €1.

The trip, in all, was awesome. I know that word is a bit cliché, but it’s true. The company, the country, the cities, the hostels, the beer (the beer!)… it was all fantastic. The four of us got along so well and we were always laughing and chatting. I couldn’t have asked for a better Spring Break. My only regret is not having spent more time, and sooner, in Eastern Europe.

In the basement, aka Party Central, of Hostel Marabou in Prague.
Crazy huge monument up on a hill that you can see from anywhere in Prague.
Easter Market in Old Town Prague
My crazy travel buddies
At St. Charles Bridge… (stolen from Jameson)
The cupcake-like castle in Cesky Krumlov (stolen from Peter)
At the top of the castle tower (stolen from Peter)
At the top of the castle tower pt. II (stolen from Peter)
A moat of bears! (stolen from Jameson)
Just bein’ cool in Cesky Krumlov (stolen from Peter)
Our fave place in Cesky Krumlov
Jameson and I pretending to be rhinos on Peter’s birthday (stolen from Peter)
Playing scenarios on Peter’s birthday… not sure what this is. (stolen from Peter, there are a lot more of these on Facebook…)

So, that was my Easter Break. Very enjoyable!

And for those of you who do not know, last Thursday, I got confirmed to stay for a second year teaching English in Austria! Next year, however, I’ll be in Graz, the second largest city in Austria and the capital of Steiermark (Styria), the best state in Austria. So I’m pretty pumped. A lot of American friends are staying on for a second year, including the two guys who went to the Czech Republic. Next year should include a lot more jokes. =)

Anyway, hope all are well.

A Very Styrian St. Patrick’s Day

Yesterday, as you all know, was St. Patrick’s Day. I had two classes yesterday, and only two students were wearing green! A little sad, but oh well. I told the students they could pinch those who were not wearing green, and I ended up with the whole class PUNCHing each other, so I had to put a quick end to that. As you can imagine, St. Patrick’s Day is not a very big holiday here in the middle of Austria, but I found a way to celebrate.

First, I scoured the grocery stores for Guinness — no luck. But, inspiration struck and I instead purchased normal Gösser beer and some food coloring — Voilà! my very own homemade green beer. Of course, I needed the other Irish staple, potatoes, in my celebration, so I picked up a bag of potato chips. Ha Ha.

My St. Patrick’s Day “meal”
Maize + blue = green!

Zandra, an English assistant from a few years ago who settled down here in BA, invited me over to her house for some whiskey before we headed to Salzhaus, the local, and only, disco. She had Bushmills, and it reminded me of friends from home. At Salzhaus, there was a St. Patrick’s Day celebration of sorts — Guinness, whiskey, lots of my students and Irish music. I had dug up some green eyeliner, and we gave everyone a shamrock on their cheek. Zandra gave the bartender green food coloring, so everyone was getting green beer last night! Also, Zandra had convinced the Austrians that the Irish wear potato necklaces on St. Patrick’s Day, ha ha! We all had legumes around our necks…

Mmm, I love Guinness!
Salzhaus celebration
Woooo, St. Patrick’s Day!
Someone got a little inappropriate with the green eyeliner…

The students had brought a big Irish flag with them to the bar, and today it was hanging in their classroom.

Yesterday was my first time really drinking whiskey, and I must say I like it. Never could I drink straight vodka or rum, but straight Irish whiskey is actually quiet tasty. I also had an Irish whiskey highball, which is ginger ale and Irish whiskey, but last night’s drink also had muddled lime and lemon in it. Very delicious! However, the whiskey did give me a pretty bad hangover headache…

Also today, I was in my first class and noticed that something stank like poo. I thought nothing of it, maybe a smell had gotten in the class from outside. I went to my next class and sat down to read an article with them. I again noticed the smell. I thought, “It must be me that smells…” I then looked down at my shoe and saw DOG POOP all over it! I pulled my foot up to my nose to check, and, indeed, it was poo. The students found this absolutely hilarious and laughed as I put the shoe in the hallway. Took a while to get the class back in order after that one.

I’m going to Graz this weekend — looking forward to getting out of Bad Aussee and seeing some friends. I’m getting quite excited to go home — I really miss my family and friends from home. Not long now!