Upwelling

Day Thirty – Malostranská Station

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Playing with pressure has always been a pastime of humans it seems. Whether it’s holding down water fountains on a hot day, because you procrastinate and end up pulling an all-nighter to get something in by deadline, whatever social expectations you set for yourself, or getting on a plane to fly somewhere new, life seems to always be varying degrees of pressure.

But that pressure doesn’t mean it has to be negative, or that you let it get the better of you.

Today marks the last day of this study abroad program, and it’s certainly a bittersweet feeling. Walking around wondering when or if you’ll ever revisit could have the capacity to send one into a downward spiral, but thinking about the amazing experiences, and the not so amazing ones that upon reflection have become that, it’s truly an unforgettable city.

Wired

Day Twenty-Nine – Strossmayerovo Náměstí Station

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Public transportation is always an adventure.

There seems to be a sense of community and humanity on public transportation. Not necessarily a sense of camaraderie, but for the most part your personal space is respected. If it’s rush hour then of course all bets are off, and even your lap isn’t your own, but for the most part everyone is there for one purpose and doesn’t want to be disturbed and will respect that about others.

The later in the day it gets, or earlier depending on the night, can end up being a little dicey as well. Waking up at 4 a.m. to take the first regular tram of the day, you’ll see an interesting mix. Whether it’s those on their way to work, just trying to start their routine with some semblance of peace, or those coming back from the clubs, you inevitably have great people watching.

The chants of “You don’t need the bag, you can make it one more stop!” from drunken party-goers encouraging a friend to suppress any nausea, fill the tram, as commuters check their watches and observe in distant intrigue to see the end result make for an entertaining juxtaposition.

But the best part about the early morning commute, is eventually you’ll find a spot of silence. Before the cafés open, before the craziness of the new day starts and as yesterday’s ends, there’s usually a moment to just stand and take in the beauty of this city.

Beer-ly Beloved

Day Twenty-Eight – Stalin Containall, Letenské Sady

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Beer spills off the overflowing cup in rivulets, running down the sides of the plastic, leaving a trail of foam in its wake. As the bartender gruffly hands the drink to the bright-eyed tourist, a wave of laughter rises up from a nearby group, nicely capturing the mood of the beer garden.

In the Czech Republic, it seems that the only things open after 10 p.m. are pubs, bars, or beer gardens. Grocery stores, mini marts, restaurants, all close around then, perhaps to go partake in the merriment usually found at these late night watering holes.

The only downside to beer gardens is the number of abandoned cups you see lying around. It’s nothing that would take more than five minutes to pick up, and maybe that’s not as annoying to anyone without experience in the food service industry, but it is enough to make a busboy’s hands twitch walking past the discarded drinks.

In another world, in another time, America could develop to a point where we can establish laws like this. But considering how few places it’s legal to drink in public in America and how much garbage already litters public spaces in most major cities, that won’t happen anytime soon.

Sonnets could be written about beer gardens and open air bars; this post nearly was one. Sitting in a public greenspace, enjoying the slight tang from whatever drink the koruna at the bottom of your bag can afford is an entirely unique and peaceful experience.

Red-undant

Day Twenty-Seven – Jindřišská

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Most places you walk in Prague you’re bound to see tourists. But at the heart of the city, in Nové Mesto especially, is where you’re most likely to encounter map wielding, fanny-pack wearing, honest to god tourists usually trailing flag waving and harried tour guides.

Near the junction of the city’s Metro system and main train station, Nové Mesto is the area where Wenceslas Square, Old Town Square, and really the majority of the Prague hotspots are to be found, which makes the New Town area that receives heavy foot traffic.

Over 25 million tourists go through Prague each year, a reported 27.8 million in 2015 alone. It’d be interesting to know what percentage of them are stag parties, because walking the streets, large groups of men clad in matching t-shirts do seem to be an awfully large proportion of the conglomerate.

It makes you wonder how many tourists are pick-pocketed in their time here. Prague is known for being a magical city so it makes sense that sleight of hand would be so popular, but watching the clunky vacationers walking through main squares with backpacks larger than their expectations for the city, it seems a bit like flirting with danger – or maybe only to those of us mildly paranoid travelers.

But who can blame these visitors for their traditions and methods? Prague is an amazing city to see, and if matching outfits and four maps per person are what make you happy while wandering the streets, then by all means. But don’t be surprised to be thrown dirty looks from locals for sticking out like a weathered hitchhiker’s overused thumb – a sore one.

Making Bookends Meet

Day Twenty-Six – Strahov Monastery and Library

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Peering through the doorway, and surrounded by the sounds of small gasps of awe, the Strahov Monastery Library is a sight to behold.

Built in 1143, the Strahov Monastery Library has over 900,000 volumes, not to mention all the other works of art and artifacts hidden in these walls.

For 50 koruna you pay for a bright yellow sticker that protects you from the harsh barks of the workers who catch you with your phone – that is, to take photos. Admission itself isn’t particularly steep at 120 koruna, and only half that if you’re a student, but there’s not much to see once inside.

The libraries themselves are roped off, just to be peeked in at through cordoned off thresholds, teasing you with the views of the towering bookshelves and gilded adornments.

Between the Philosophical and Theological Hall is a short well-lit corridor that displays different curios that’ve been donated or housed in the monastery from years previous, be they weapons, bug collections or exactly what you’d expect to see in a library.

Philosophical Hall

Philosophical Hall inside the Strahov Monastery Library.

But once you make it to the Theological Hall, the experience mostly ends there. It’s unclear if anyone is ever allowed inside these hallowed halls, but back in 2011 photographer Jeffery Martin was allowed in the baroque style Philosophical Hall, photographing the storied stacks. Other than that, it doesn’t seem that anyone else has been allowed inside in recent history.

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Theological Hall inside the Strahov Monastery Library.

It seems a shame if at least the monks don’t get to go inside. Books were made to be read, at the very least cared for and worshipped, and that’s a little hard to do if everyone is stuck in the hallway.

The opportunity to stand in the center of either of these halls simply to absorb the surroundings would be an experience for the books (pun entirely intended), but regardless, having the ability to bear witness to these collections is worth the price.