Fall Break: London, Prague, and Amsterdam!
Well where do I even begin? I guess I should start with an apology for the delay in posting, fall break was no joke! But after much needed recuperation and reflection, I’m back and ready to write – grab a snack I’ve got lots to tell!
My story begins on Thursday, when we boarded a plane for London. Though we arrived late at night, our excitement took over as we disembarked into the rainy night, got some pounds from the ATM (I was so excited!), and headed to our hostel in the town of Shoreditch. We started our adventures around the city bright and early, visiting the Tate Modern Museum, Millenium Bridge, London Bridge, the National Gallery, and even an old English style pub. Only after it started pouring did we head home (on the underground might I add!); London really is as rainy as they say! Of course for dinner we had to find some fish and chips, and we did in an adorable diner-style restaurant. Though we were soaked, we headed out for a night on the town in our area.
Day two we headed out with high hopes of seeing the famous changing of the guard ceremony, only to arrive at Buckingham Palace to find that we couldn’t see a thing through the 20 person deep crowd outside the gates. After a day of wandering around town, we stopped for some high tea and scones in a cute little teashop, a first for me since usually I hate the stuff! After finding a unique spicy tea that I liked and drinking a whole pot of it, we, being the Harry Potter nerds that we are headed back out towards King’s cross to visit Platform 9 ¾! It was a tad underwhelming and seemingly touristy, but we had fun pretending to run through a wall while taking awesome pictures regardless. Our last big stop in London was, of course, Big Ben. As luck would have it, it began to rain again and my pictures are terrible, but seeing the beautiful and historic Parliament building in the heart of London just seemed right in the rain. It was sad leaving the city center (which I completely fell in love with), but after all the rain and the sky high prices, we were ready to head to Prague in the morning.
Some note-worthy trip highlights: STARBUCKS, British accents, Cadbury chocolate, phone booths, the English language.
So off to Prague we were! After taking out 3,000 crowns from an ATM at the airport in Brno ( a few hours outside Prague) and feeling rich for a few minutes, we took a little while to explore the city of before boarding a train to Prague. Here, we got our first taste of Czech food, which I have to say is in serious competition with Italian as my favorite cuisine. The train ride to Prague was probably my favorite part of the entire trip, as we rode through the Czech countryside observing small town after small town, my mind filling with wonder about all the deep rooted culture we were speeding by. Seeing fall leaves over the beautiful landscape filled a void that I had been seriously feeling in Florence after realizing that I would be missing one of my favorite times of year at home.
After finally arriving in Prague, however, I was thrilled to see all of the beauty that the city held. We took it easy our first night, staying in our awesome hostel complete with full bar and restaurant upstairs. In the morning, we headed out on a guided tour seeing all that the city had to offer including the astronomical clock, Jewish quarter, Charles Bridge, and a bunch of other stuff that I don’t remember but was cool nonetheless. Our tour guide was wonderful and took us to one of her favorite restaurants for lunch after the tour where I had my first tasting of goulash; let’s just say that everyone’s plates were sparkling by the end. She gave us some advice on where to go next, which we graciously took, and next found ourselves walking through a park across the river with a beautiful panoramic view of the city at every turn. Eventually, we ended up face to face with the Prague Castle, an ancient gothic style cathedral which was simply breathtaking. As the sun set over the stunning landscape, we headed back to the hostel for some rest before going out to explore the city at night.
The next day (and the next one after that), we spent our time exploring. First, we visited the Lennon wall, an ever-changing wall of graffiti which was started as a protest to the communist regime, and has since been a wall covered with every Beatles quote and quote pertaining to peace that you could possible imagine – It was so cool I visited twice! We also paid a visit to the Salvator Dalí Exhibit before we left, where we got to see an abundance of prints of his works!
Other than that, we spent most of our time trying as much traditional Czech food as possible from the markets, trying everything from cheese to pastry to meat, it was fantastic! That about concludes our adventures in Prague, but first, trip highlights – charming architecture, their money system is way cooler than ours, beer is literally cheaper than water, and CZECH FOOD (including but not limited to: goulash, fried smoked cheese, rye bread, staročeské trdlo, GARLIC SOUP). Oh and a side note, I want to learn Czech, it is beautiful!
Way too soon, we found ourselves on the last leg of our trip, Amsterdam! After an overnight train ride, we arrived at our destination, and stepped out of the train station and into a city that instantly reminded me of home – it was like I was looking at NYC brownstones everywhere! We spent the day exploring and learned that the city was filled with canals and beautiful parks – a perfect city for taking it easy after a week of traveling. We unexpectedly stumbled upon a park that contained the Auschwitz memorial, where thousands of holocaust victims’ ashes were buried – it was a beautiful tribute, a floor made of broken mirrors so that the sky, though beautiful and serene, would never be whole again in honor of those who suffered. Being thoroughly interested in the holocaust, I was very happy that we stumbled upon the memorial.
Most of our time in Amsterdam was spent like this – wandering around and stumbling on interesting bits that we may have missed out on otherwise (it was generally very expensive to do anything touristy, unfortunately). Our first night out, we were so curious that we couldn’t wait – we decided to venture into the famous Red Light District… I’ll just say that it was a crazy sight to see! In our last two days of the trip, we spend most of our time exploring the various markets in Amsterdam trying to find food as good as we did in Prague. Unfortunately, we learned that Amsterdam’s food culture wasn’t nearly as good (aside from STROOPWAFELS!), so our culinary adventures were limited. We did, however find an abundance of foreign restaurants, which gave us an excellent excuse to pig out on Chinese food, and I even tried some Indonesian food at the demand of my roommate who’s been to Bali! On our last day of the trip, we decided to pay a visit to the Heineken Brewery, a pretty cool experience! Though our trip was coming to an end, I can honestly say I was ready to go home. But before heading home, trip highlights included: fries everywhere (did I mention the Europeans convinced me to like mayonnaise on my fries now?), STROOPWAFELS, waffles in general.
So that concludes my awesome fall break adventures. Looking back, I still can’t believe that I have had the opportunity to visit all of these amazing places. It’s funny to think that at home during spring break, I spend an entire week sleeping and messing around on the computer or whatever I do. It really gives you a new perspective on life! As tiring as it was, I would do the whole trip again in a heartbeat; in fact, I really want to take a backpacking trip after I graduate now! Traveling is such an amazing experience, and I intend to take advantage of every opportunity that comes my way to continue to travel.
Since getting back to Florence, I have taken some serious down time to get my life back to normal – nothing much worth writing about. This weekend is the annual Stony Brook conference here in Florence, which I am actually really looking forward to. We have professors coming in from all over and I am excited to meet them and hear what they have to say about the topic of cultural exchange! I promise next week I’ll be back on my normal writing schedule, so until then!
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