Ciao Bella

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Top 15 Things I Learned Abroad

15. You don’t use nearly as many Q-tips in four months as you would think.

14. Sometimes you will be lonely, and that is that. You can cry and mope about it, but it’s inevitable - No geographical location in the world is devoid of loneliness.

13. That said, lonely and alone are two very different things. Some of the happiest, most profound, least lonely moments of my life and my time abroad occurred in solitude.

12. Making friends is hard. Straight up. Making true friends is harder.

11. The greatest education you can receive is to see how the rest of the world lives.

10. The greatest education you can give yourself is to relentlessly push yourself into new situations. 

9. The greatest skill/talent/gift/virtue/knowledge/wisdom you can ever possess: perspective.

8. Eat good food when it comes your way. Life is far too short and there is far too much good food in the world to worry about jiggly spots. 

7. Explore, explore, explore. Be not afraid.

6. The best, most beautiful, most precious sights are discovered when you don’t have your camera.

5. We could all be doing a lot more.

4. “The foreignness of what you no longer are or possess lies in wait for you in foreign, unpossessed places.”

3. missing home and missing out on things going on at home is hard, but you’ll miss it less if you stop trying to keep up with it on facebook. 

2. Enjoy here and now. It’s what they always tell you to do, but very seldom do we do just that. 

1. How to open a wine bottle.

4 months of wine

4 months of wine

past tense

This is harder than I thought it would be, and not in the way I thought it might be hard. 

I thought coming back to the US would be the hard part - that everything would seem foreign and not as great as Europe. But actually, the hard part is that everything is still exactly the same as it was when I left, and I’ve effortlessly fallen right back into the swing of things. With that comes this startling, disturbing feeling that the past 4 months never even happened - that time feels a dream away. I look back at the pictures, and already I feel so distant from the time that was just a couple days ago..

The people in the pictures look so young and alive. They don’t seem like pictures from last friday night that we took with our own cameras - they seem merely like the bent, glossy photographs that old people will flip through fondly and struggle to recollect. 

The hardest part of all the hard parts is the realization that I’ve just exited a golden age filled with exciting, careless, fleeting days. And that I’ll never get those days back again.

And so begins the quest to never forget. Already I’m clinging to these memories and the wealth of experiences I collected while there for all they’re worth. I never want to forget how and why I was changed in the afternoon of my youth. 

The series of posts and photos that follow are today’s effort at remembering. 

Praha

Sigh. Prague was great. 

We naturally didn’t have nearly enough time to explore the city and do all of the things we wanted to do, but I do feel like I learned more about the city’s culture and history than I have on any other trip this semester.

I’ma bouta school ya……

THE #1 MOST INTERESTING THING I LEARNED:

The Czech Republic is a self-proclaimed atheist country. I still find this awesomely mind-blowing, and so foreign to everything most of us are familiar with - that an entire country can, as a whole, reject or be apathetic towards religion.

Above is a picture of the Jan Hus statue in the middle of Prague’s Old Town Square, who led the movement against the Catholic church in the 15th century (he was eventually burned at the stake after founding the Czechoslovak Hussite Church, whose followers put up a good fight against Catholic crusades in what we now call the Hussite Wars). In general, the Czech republic is now one of the least religious places in the world. Incredible!

This means that nearly none of the gorgeous, gothic cathedrals that have been erected over the millennia are used today for their intended purposes. Most are museums, sources of tourist income for the city, and/or are owned by the government, like the St. Vitus Cathedral shown above. Located in Prague Castle (the largest castle complex in the world), St. Vitus took 600 years to complete, the finishing touches just installed in 1929! 

An atheist country also means Sunday is just another day of the week. No reason for businesses to close, no reason for brunch, no excuse to stay home and be lazy..

I can’t get over it.

Actually, although today a mere 6,000 remain, at one point (before WW2..) Prague had a huge Jewish population, owing to a portion of the city - known as Josefov - that was walled in as a Jewish slum by order of the papal decree in the 13th century, which leads to……. 

…SECOND MOST INTERESTING THING I LEARNED:


Prague was Hitler’s favorite city. He adored it and considered it to be ‘the cultural capital of the world’ - upon completing his WW2 crusade, he planned to retire there.

While Hitler extinguished most of Europe’s Jewish population and evidence of it, he preserved all of the synagogues and other Jewish presence in the Josefov area because……(wait for it)………he planned to transform the Jewish sector of his favorite city into what he called a ‘museum of an extinct race.’

…..yeah.

.

He never got to complete this plan, and today Josefov still exists and is now a beautiful area lined with French Neoclassic architecture, Jewish memorials, synagogues, and ritzy designer shopping.

Below is a picture of the Hugo Boss store located there, an ironic place for a Hugo Boss store because Hugo was the famous designer of the Nazi uniforms back in the day. 

On a lighter note…

Prague is known for being one of the few countries in the world that still produces quality absinthe. However, today’s legal recipe for the herbal spirit no longer includes distilled wormwood, the herb responsible for the drink’s notorious hallucinogenic effects.

(And it is so called an ‘herbal spirit’ rather than a liquor because it is not bottled with added sugar. The traditional process of consuming the drink included melting a sugar cube over a shot of the drink right before consumption)

This is the iconic astronomical clock for which the Old Town Square is so well-known. 

All throughout its history, Prague has valued science and education over religious and political figures. (<3) This contraption is the 3rd oldest clock in the world, established in the medieval ages, and it’s the oldest clock still working. It tells time in 3 different ways, incorporating the zodiac and everything. 

We also learned that the Czechs have an age-old naming system, wherein there are 365 names that a parent can name their child, in conjunction with the days of the year, which are represented on this clock. In addition to a birthday, everyone has a name day, and on your name day you are celebrated and can get cake and presents and everything! It’s not strictly reinforced anymore, but it used to be that if you wanted to name your child something other than the names represented on the Czech calendar, you had to make a special proposal to the ruling body explaining why, and it better have been a good reason or it could be vetoed. 

A calendar name didn’t have to correspond with the birthday, but if it did, my name would be Naděžda

And we’ll end the history lesson there :)

NOW LOOK AT THIS FOOD. 
(potatoes + sausages + sauerkraut = in mah belly.) 


Ridi, Pagliaccio,sul tuo amore infranto!Ridi del duol, che t&#8217;avvelena il cor!
Laugh, clown,at your broken love!Laugh at the grief that poisons your heart!
_
We watched I Pagliacci today in History of Opera. I cried. 

Ridi, Pagliaccio,
sul tuo amore infranto!
Ridi del duol, che t’avvelena il cor!

Laugh, clown,
at your broken love!
Laugh at the grief that poisons your heart!

_

We watched I Pagliacci today in History of Opera. 
I cried.
 

[gazing adoringly up at MC Illaman.. mad crush, frankly]

[gazing adoringly up at MC Illaman.. mad crush, frankly]