Czech Melissa Out!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Nashledanou, kamarades and kamaradkas!!

fun fact: Nashlednaou means goodbye. and i AM in eastern europe, and what would eastern europe be without the continued use of "komerade"?

Hey everyone

This is my last email from Prague. Or Europe, for that matter. The past few months have been like something out of a fairy tale. Minus the Prince Charming, that is (unless you count the random beautiful foreign men who text me on a semi-regular basis that I use to get discounts on pashmina and cashmere scarves).

At first it was weird being in a completely different world, with this crazy language and even crazier currency. But after awhile (and an intensive Czech language class), I've mastered this city. Prague is a beautiful city, with cobblestones and castles and communism, that has been so untouched by the Western world.

A nice little tradition has come about with some of the girls on the trip. We all gather in our friends Kristel and Angela's room a few nights a week, and sit around and talk and bum around for hours. The other night, my friend Sarah made an observation. To go to Prague, you've got to be a little quirky. Then we thought about it-weird Eastern European city that's just begining to peek out from behind the Iron Curtain, a city that isn't even on the Euro, full of unfriendly and unattractive Czech people (just the men, the women are beautiful). You've got to be a weird one to come here. And really, aren't I the weird one? In whatever circle of friends I am in with you, aren't I the one who is a little quirky? Well, that's just how everyone is here-a little weird.

My time in Prague has been incredible. I've visited every country that borders the Czech Republic, even if only for an afternoon. Some of the more memorable excursions included Salzberg, Oktoberfest, Auschwitz, Bratislava (very different from the way it looked in Eurotrip), the spa town of Karlovy Vary (very similar to the way it looked in that box office smash Last Holiday, starring Queen Latifah). Fall Break in Greece with the girls was a wonderful vacation from my 4 month long vacation. I ventured into the world of Couchsurfing, and didn't end up dead. I learned that the Czechs idea of vegatarian just means that there are vegetables in the meal, that even though I don't like beer, its better here than anywhere else in the world, and nothing says nice Czech dinner quite like a plate of goulash and dumplings.

I thank you all for reading these emails (or only half-reading them, whatever). Hurricane Melissa will be making landfall early Tuesday afternoon, and I should be back in Kingston by the evening (if you're in town, we're going to the diner). Its gonna be a low-key winter break, with a few trips here and there, but I'll be back in College Park in mid-January to move into my Commons apartment (Commons 2301, get pumped). I appreciate all of the emails you guys have sent me in response to my obnoxious updates, and will return the favor when you all go abroad (which you all better fucking do).

I hope that the holidays treat you well, and I'll see you all when I get back to America!

Oh, AND, my flight back to America, though on Chanukah, will not be as awesome as my last Christmastime transatlantic flight, because I don't think I'll be lighting candles in the middle of the airport waiting to board my plane. Though I highly recommend it.

Take care everyone!!

Love, goulash, pivo, and everything amazing and Czech,

Christmas markets, trees, and nativity displays around every bend? Must be Prague in December!

Hey there world!

Happy December, everyone! Its a bittersweet time for all of us here. On one hand, I'll be back in America with most of you really soon, stoked to kick ass for the rest of junior year. On the other, I'll be leaving Prague, which is really one of the most beautiful cities I've ever seen.

The past few weeks have been really busy. Last we spoke, I had just come back from Vienna, our last program-sponsored trip. The weekend after found me in Budapest, Hungary, with several friends. Budapest was beyondddddd amazing. We went to the baths, crossed the Danube several times, and even got caught up in a government protest (for the handful of you who sleep with a new york times or washington post under your pillow at night, then you know about the massive rioting and protests that were going on earlier this fall). It was sort of like being back at Maryland, except nobody was cheering, "FUCK DUKE!". Oh well, can't win 'em all. On our way back from Budapest, we decided to take a lunch break in Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia. Yeah, lunch break in Slovakia. It was really cool, actually. Well, first we missed the center of town entirely without even realizing it. Once we figured out the error of our ways, we hopped a bus back into town. We walked around their main square for about an hour and ate, and that was about it. It was really nice to go and experience it, but I don't know if I would suggest Slovakia for a romantic getaway.

The next weekend was Thanksgiving. Our program had a massive dinner for us at a ritzy hotel in town, and afterwards we celebrated being Americans the best way possible-by going to see Borat on its Czech opening night. The next morning, my mom and sister arrived from New York...weekend of fun and free stuff ensued! We took a bus tour of Prague, during which I learned more about the city than I had in 3 months of living here. We also took a day trip to Karlovy Vary, a spa town a few hours outside of the city. I wish the weather could have been better, but we still had a great time. It was so nice to see my family after so long, even though I'll be back soon enough and get to see them all the time. And also, they brought me eight boxes of Kraft mac and cheese, so I've been a happy kid.

The fam left that Tuesday, giving me a whole two day respite before my friends Ruthie and Erin came in from Rome!

Their weekend here was just as good as the weekend before it. Ruthie goes to UMD, and Erin is from Woodstock, so between the two of them, I got my home and school fill. We did the touristy stuff that one does in Prague, and as luck would have it, Saturday night happened to be the big Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Old Town Square. We got smushed like chickpeas facing their last moments pre-hummus, but it was alright, because in the end, we had an amazing evening. We went ice skating afterwards, and were all shown up by a six year old Italian girl named Sara, who was pretty much Oksana's kindergarten compatriate. She rocked. This weekend was also the opening of the big Christmas market in Old Town Square, which was tasty and pretty and fun all at the same time. We also sampled a few museums, like the Museum of Medieval Torture Instruments, and the Sex Machine Museum. Stories for another time...although it should be mentioned, I DID get to watch the first pornographic film that included a threesome (sorry Grandma).

That's about all for me. The program ends in less than two weeks, and due to some financial and otherrrr reasons, it looks like I'll be home soon afterwards. I miss you all, and while I can't wait to see you, Prague has a special place in my heart.

Keep me updated on your lives!!!

Love and Italian skating princesses,

Monday, November 20, 2006

Rock Me Amadeus

Heyyyy America (and a handful of Italys, Israels, and Spains)!

So its been a little's what's up. Its November in Praha, and November is pretty much synonymous with rainy here. Thanks to the weather, I've been stuck indoors a lot. I've lightened up on the touristy stuff. However, I HAVE managed to hit up the Jewish Quarter. My program organizes trips around town every week, and I usually go on them. I think its pretty clear that I jumped at the chance to go on the Jewish Town tour. Well, yours truly was the only one who signed up for it, so I had a private tour with Z and Jana, two of the people who work for the program. Z's real name is Zdenek, but Z is so much easier. He's this awesome tour guide who pretty much knows everything in the world.

Being on that tour was pretty much like being back in Hebrew School and I spent half the time trying to answer Z's questions about the holidays and people and stuff. I ate it up, you know I did.

Anyways, that's not the highlight of this email. This past weekend, AIFS took us to Vienna. Let me just say, aside from Israel, Austria is my favorite country. Its just so beautiful and classy. Its not hard to see how Mozart and Beethoven and all of these other musicians and artisians came out of the Viennese woodwork. We got into Vienna in the evening, and walked around town for a few hours. I got lucky, my main group of girlfriends all went on this trip (we usually end up going on different dates), so it was nice to experience it with them. Since we're all cash-strapped, and the Euro has a shit conversion, we dinnered at classy McDonald's for dinner, where I had my first ever Big Mac. We ended up staying there for several hours, just talking and having fun. Saturday was where the real party was at. Z took us on a tour of the city, and we may have seen it all...we saw a Holocaust memorial, Beethoven's birthplace, one of Mozart's houses, Parliament, EVERYTHING. Also in Vienna there is this hotel where a kind of chocolate cake was created, called the Sacher torte. We were all determined to get it, so we found the hotel and ordered cake and coffee. However, I thought it would be a good idea to get the coffee with cherry Schnapps. It was not. It was probably the most revolting thing I've had since the Polish lard. But I downed it like a champ and enjoyed my cake. We ended up staying there for four hours, eventually ordering wine so we wouldn't get kicked out. At one point, the waiter came over and asked us to at least pay the bill, because the staff was turning over. It was most certainly a nice, warm, fuzzy afternoon.

That evening some of us decided to go to the opera to see Othello They have standing room tickets for 2 Euro, but you really get what you pay for. Jess and I got stuck on the side of the gallery, against the wall, so we just sat and couldn't see a thing for the whole first act. However, it DID sound lovely. By the second act, it had cleared out a little bit and we were able to get spots where we could see. I would really like to go to an opera again, especially there...the theater was beautiful and majestic and had that ornate European charm. It was really an exceptional place.

Sunday we hit up a palace on the way home. Its where the Hapsburgs ruled for hundreds of years, and its so well preserved I wanted to cry. For any of you who enjoyed AP Euro with me, well, this palace would have made Sully melt. On our way out, we stopped to get apple strudel, which is a big thing in Vienna, and I learned why as soon as I took a bite. It was way better than apple pie, applesauce, appleanything. Eat it.

That's all I've got. Its Monday afternoon now...6 of us just bought tickets to go to Hungary and Slovakia on Thursday, so I'm looking forward to that. I turn 20 in less than two weeks, so I've also got that to look forward to. Things, all in all, are great here. I just had an interview at The Prague Post for a summer internship, and it went well, so we'll see how that goes. I'm all registered for classes at Maryland, and working on my apartment lease stuff. hat's really it for me. I hope you all have been doing well (the emails have slowed, and I miss your updates!). Take care everyone!

Love and Sacher torte, Melissa

Monday, October 30, 2006

Nigga I be getting high eating gyros on a beach

Hey there mes amis,

Let me just say that I should really change my name to Samantha Brown. And the Travel Channel should give me my own show. If someone wants to pitch that to the Travel Channel execs, I'd appreciate it.

Last we spoke, I was a few days shy of fall break and slathered in mid-terms. Now, I'm back and refreshed, and a bit more relaxed.

So let's discuss... Greece is absolutely beautiful, for starters. We flew into Athens last Thursday, with a layover in Munich. That is where the Euro started beating my wallet to a pulp. Since our plane ride to Munich was only an hour, we had a special plane. A prop plane. For those of you that read this and absolutely love planes (and really, most of you are plane enthusiasts), you would have been soooo excited. It was a crazy hour, during which I was pretty much convinced we'd crash. Lucky for me, we didn't! Upon our arrival in Athens, we trekked around looking for our hostel. It was right in the middle of town, with the most amazing view of the Acropolis from our window. The room was perhaps the tiniest thing I've ever been in, but it got the job done, so I have no solid complaints. The next day, we walked around Athens for the whole day...went up to the Parthenon and got a great view of the city. We even saw this place where a picture that was in the World Press Photo Gallery was taken (fyi, I'm obsessed with the World Press Photo stuff). We walked around Athens the rest of the day, and then took a night ferry to Santorini.

Arrived in Santorini at 4am the next day. Our hostel didn't pick us up until 6am, so we made ourselves cozy at this port-side outdoor restaurant for awhile and ate Greek food. We didn't bother to ask why they were open at 4am. Finally, we got picked up, but couldn't check into our rooms for several more hours. We were all tired, so we dropped our stuff in the lobby and walked down 30 meters to the beach, where we watched the sun rise and then fell asleep on beach chairs for a few hours. Santorini was amazing. We were there for 6 days, so we had plenty of time to do everything. Since the season is almost over, a lot of businesses had closed, especially in our town, Perissa. There were some restaurants and bars and stuff that are open for a few more weeks, so we turned them into our local hangouts.
We befriended Marcos, who owns the only bike shop in Perissa that was still open. He said he was lonely, since the island was so empty. We ended up hanging out with him most night we went over and some of his friends were there having a good time and listening to music. They BBQed us some chicken and gave us wine and made us dance to Greek was a blast. The best day was when Marcos offered to take the four of us snorkeling...we swam about 15 mins out to this little area surrounded by cliffs, where I HELD A STARFISH...and then we went cliff jumping! It was crazy and scary and took 20 minutes to jump off, and I didn't land right, so my backside was sore for a few days, but it was absolutely incredible.
One day we rented ATVs from Marcos and drove around the whole island, which took surprisingly longer than expected. A lot of buildings were in the process of being built, especially once you got away from the will definitely be interesting to see how the island looks 10 years from now. We also did this excursion thing, where we were on a boat all day that took us around the island. We hiked up to the top of a volcano (clearly I had to steal volcanic rock), went swimming in hot springs, and saw an amazing sunset in the town of Ia.
At night, since most places were closed, we were limited to a few bars in Perissa. One sort of sucked, but they kept giving us vouchers for free shots. The other was a bar on the beach...we only bought anything there one night, but every single night they had a bonfire on the beach, which we all went to. There were a ton of Americans studying abroad in Prague there, from different programs. We met a bunch of them at our hostel and hung out with them at night.

Hate to burst your preconcieved notions of me, but we didn't go out and drink every night. The sun wiped us out so by evening, we are all exhausted. We went to the bonfires, ang hung out with Marcos and stuff, but I don't have any of those crazy vacation stories that you all expect me to have (or do I?...just ask if you care...).

Back to Athens on Friday...we were sick of spending money, so we found a guy on who offered up his flat to us. We took a day ferry and met some crazy Australians who were pretty much the most fun people ever. We parted ways once we got back to Athens though, and tried to make our way to our couchsurfing guy's apartment. He was soooo cool! His name was Costas, and he's a 25 year old university student. He took us on a tour of Athens on Saturday, which was great because he knew all about the city. We didn't have to be at the airport until like, 2am, so we stayed at his flat and drank and danced and partied with him and his cousins, who had stopped by.
I tried opening a wine bottle and ended up breaking the cork and pushing it into the bottle. We had to use a strainer to pour the wine. I was embarassed.
Jess and I were drunkenly fascinated by all of the trolls and tweety bird things around the flat, so we took pictures with EVERY SINGLE ONE.
Once the time came for us to leave, the guys decided we shouldn't walk to the bus station, so they drove us. Well, the girls got to ride in a car...but there wasn't enough room for all of us, so I got to ride on the back of Costas' motorcycle down the highway in the middle of the night...exhilirating doesn't even begin to describe it. Our arrival at the airport began a 13 hour airport saga. That part was absolutely miserable, but at least I wasn't alone. We got back to Prague yesterday afternoon, just in time to sign up to do some muchly needed laundry and watched some Grey's Anatomy.

This week is pretty low-key...nothing big happening here. A lot of people are having friends visit this weekend, so that should be fun. My friend Liz's German cousin Johannes (whose flat we stayed at during Oktoberfest), is coming for the weekend, so I guess TECHNICALLY I have a friend coming. Next weekend, I'm going to Austria for the weekend, then Hungary and Slovakia the weekend after that (hopefully!). My family is coming the next weekend, and then Ruthie is coming, so that takes us to almost the end. But not the real end, beause I'm staying in Europe and travelling around for a month. Its looking like possibly the Swiss Alps Dec.16-20, then a 10 day period with nothing to do (so come play with me, please...we can go ANYWHERE). I'll be back in Prague for New Year's and to see my friend Erin who'll be in town with her family, and then off to Belgium with my dad for a week. January 8-19 is looking like I'll be reunited with my sister from another mother, Ms. Aimee Weiss, who is studying in Israel all year. We'll be doing up Amsterdam and various others. I know some of you that are reading this love the both of us to death and miss us like crazy, so you should join us!!!

Oh, today I bought a winter coat. For $2.50...that's right, I got my winter coat for less than a pint of beer in America. Be jealous, its cute. With that, I'll leave you with a few fun facts I've discovered about Greece. Miss you guys!

Love and way too many gyros, Melissa

-Toilet paper, contrary to its name, does NOT go in the toilet. Instead, you have to throw it into the garbage after its brief use. Sorta grosssssss.
-Tzatziki is the most amazing thing ever and I'm pissed that I don't have the energy or culinary talent to make it. It was present at pretty much every meal over the past week and a half.
-The Greeks don't like to lose at Rummy, and will go to all extremes to ensure that they don't. And they think its funny when they cheat.
-Gyros are tasty, don't let anyone tell you otherwise.
-Just like the Israelis, the Greeks serve their gyros with french fries in them. Makes me homelandsick... -
If you ever vacation on the Greek Islands, make sure its at the end of the season. Everyone wants to give stuff away. Like wine and food!
-S'agapo means 'I love you' in Greek.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

I'm slacking...all of my past entries

I'm headed off to Greece for fall break in about an hour, but I wanted to give everyone an archive of my emails, so you could miss me THAT MUCH MORE. That being said, here are all of my email updates thus far:

Oct. 16, 2006:
Okay, so its been awhile guys. I've been really busy getting my life together before fall break, so my apologies.

Since we last spoke, I have spent a weekend in Poland, visited three concentration camps, and watched 15ish episodes of Grey's Anatomy.

So lets begin. My program took us to Krakow, Poland, last weekend. It was a memorable experience, to say the least. For most of the weekend, we were in the city center...we toured the town (including the sad and rundown Jewish Quarter), bought Polish amber, and ate lots of pierogies. At one restaurant we ate at, they served the bread with not butter, but a cream cheesey sort of spread, and also a cup full of lard. Guess which one I didn't eat? That's a lie actually, I had a tiny bite of the lard and it was revolting. Don't eat lard, that's pretty much the moral of that story.
The last day of our Poland trip, we went to Auschwitz and Birkenau, neither of which I've ever been to before. It left a sour taste in my mouth, and while I'm glad I went, I don't know that I'll ever go back to the camps, or even Poland, again.
The best part about the camps were the Israeli groups that were also touring there. At Birkenau, a few of the kids had large Israeli flags on poles. They held them up and marched proudly through the camp. It was the only time I'd wished that I had come to the camps with a Jewish organization, instead of being one of the only Jews in a program with nearly 100 people.
On a more humourous note, some friends and I couldn't find our way out of Birkenau because it was all fenced in. We finally found a gate that was locked, but had enough room so that you could squeeze through. Clearly there had to be a picture taken of me escaping from Birkenau. I'm terrible, I'm aware.
Last week was super productive. My friend Kristel and I decided to visit Prague Castle, since we'd only ever walked outside it before. We went into the chapel and climbed up to the top of one of the church steeples that looked out onto the whole city. It was pretty much breathtaking. See my pictures innnn January, when I get my own computer again. The next day, I walked down into town and found a cafe that has the most amazing chocolate banana cake I have ever had, sat down with some cake and hot chocolate, and wrote 13 postcards. Then I walked over to the French Gardens, which are neatly trimmed and very well-kept and gorgeous, and wrote three more postcards. After that, I headed over to the British Gardens, which are sort of like a smaller, cuter, European Central Park, and read my first ever Vonnegut book ( fitting, yeah? shout out to anyone in my AP Lit class from senior year). Then off to class.

This past weekend was the weekend of field trips. Friday, my old professor who almost killed someone took us to Lidice, which is a town that no longer exists, because the Nazis killed everyone and razed the town during the war. But first, we went to a church, where the assassins of a big Nazi guy holed up. Two of the men were from Lidice, which is why the town was destroyed. That's the interesting thing about the Czech Republic...everything is connected here. The battlegrounds and graveyards and headquarters of this and that are in our backyard (think Linda Ellerbee...what's in YOUR backyard?). Its amazing to me that I can take a tram to the spot where the Nazi guy was killed, walk over to this church where the assassins hid, and then drive 20 minutes outside of Prague and visit this non-existant town.
Saturday, we visited Kutna Hora, which is an 11th century church whose decorations are entirely made from human bones. Skulls, thighbones, finger bones, everything. My favorite was a little cherub sitting up near the bone candelabra with a skull resting on its lap as it toots its little horn. After that we walked around the town. Some friends and I had lunch with Zdenek, an older guy who works for my program and pretty much knows everything about Europe. Over lunch he told us what it was like to experience the fall of communism. Ridiculous? Yeah. Amazing? Pretty much.
Sunday, my non-murdering prof took us to Terezin, or Theresienstat, former fortress, communist prison, and concentration camp. What made this trip different was that it was very personalized, since this is where the Hungarian Jews were sent. Guess what I am? Oh yeah, a Hungarian Jew. Additionally, this was the camp where my professor's mother was executed for being a member of the resistance. During part of the trip, we watched some Nazi propaganda movies that showed Jewish guys playing soccer and stuff. I leaned over to my friend Cameron and said, "This is clearly fake...everyone knows that Jews don't play sports." He wasn't amused. I don't care, because I made myself laugh.
Anyways, at the end of the day, our professor sat down on a bench and his hot younger wife (we call her the silver fox...she's probably about 65) brought him a tumbler full of vodka, which is what she does every time they visit the camp...he needs something to calm him down after seeing where his mother was killed. Some American and Canadian tourists nearby found that interesting and started talking to him. They were also curious about the whole study-abroad concept, so they talked to us a little. One woman, from Buffalo, upon finding out I went to Maryland, said a friend's granddaughter goes there. Okay, time for Jewish geography. Turns out, her friend's granddaughter is my friend Stacey, who I was in USY with and am still friends with at UMD, and who I've known for like, 5 years. Such is my life. The woman gave me a hug and a kiss that was destined for Stacey, and I returned to my friends, who were staring at me in disbelief.

Came home, and watched several episodes of Grey's Anatomy (including last week', holy shit? drinking wine beforehand was a bad idea...I cried several times). Some girls on the floor bought the entire second season, so we've been watching a few episodes a night for the past week, except for Saturday night, when we watched six. I feel no shame now, nor will I ever, for watching so many episodes of that show.

Sorry for the long email, but I wanted to pump out one last good one before things get really hectic here. I have two papers and a presentation all due between now and Wednesday, plus I'm seeing a ballet Wednesday night. Thursday morning I leave for Greece, and I won't be back until the end of the month. So, a bit of a respite from my emails (sad? because you should be).

On a completely random note, I finally got a gmail account. Send me shit if you love me. But don't try to hack in. And if you know anyone who attends Georgia Court College in New Jersey, let me know, so the FBI has an easier job of tracking them. Thanks.

Take care everyone, and if you have midterms, then I hope they go well!

Love and innapropriate jokes,

Oct. 4, 2006:
So, I'm back from Germany. And I'm alive. Double entendre? God, I'm terrible.

Anyhow, this past weekend, a ton of people from my program went into Munich for Oktoberfest. There were very few concrete plans, but thanks to our fabulous cellphones with insane roaming charges, we managed to keep in touch with a bit of ease.
Our adventure started Wednesday night, when we took a night train into Munich. We had to move our seats several times, because we kept sitting in restricted areas, or in cars that were splitting off from the Munich train.
We finally arrived at 6am Thursday morning in Munich's central station. My friend Liz's cousin Johannes is studying in Munich. He's 21 and has an apartment that is a 2 minute walk from Oktoberfest. Needless to say, I jumped at her invite to stay at his flat. We headed over there around 10am, and didn't leave until the evening concluded, with the exception of a few short breaks. We met up with everyone else from our program who was there in the Hippodrome, which is the classy, celeb tent. I guess Paris Hilton was there a few days earlier. And just like her, it actually sucks. You can't yell or sing or anything. Lame! So we found another tent where we spent most of our time. The food and beer was AMAZING. Words can't even describe all of it. It was like my mouth had died and gone to heaven.
So, right...back at Johannes flat later on, he and I were talking and he mentioned that Salzburg, Austria was a mere 2 hour train ride away, so I said, "Lets go tomorrow!". So Friday, Liz, Johannes, and three of our friends from Prague got on a train and went to Salzburg for the day. Salzburg is seriously the most beautiful city I've seen in Europe. Its nestled in the Alps and has beautiful old buildings and tiny windy roads that make you feel like you're stepping back in time. Salzburg is also where Mozart was born. It goes without saying that we had to play the parts of the sketchy tourists and vomit up 5 euros to go into his childhood home, which has been turned into a crazy Mozart museum. You can actually go into the room Mozart was born in. It is easily distinguished from the rest of the rooms because there is a black light that you see as soon as you walk in. Under the black light, there is a cradle with a baby doll type thing in it. The doll is wearing a ruffled shirt, has an old man face, and long grey curly hair. World, meet Baby Mozart. A few of us burst out laughing-it was so ridiculous, yet SO worth the 5 euros. The rest of the house was just as bizarre. I urge you ALL to go see it. Also in Salzburg, we walked by the house where parts of The Sound of Music took place, we hiked halfway up a mountain towards a castle that we never made it to, and ate a Salzburg delicacy-eggs, sugar, and jam, all mixed together in a souffle form-it was absolutely wonderful.
We headed back to Germany that evening with full stomachs and monetary contentness-the roundtrip ticket cost each of us 7 Euro, about $10 American. Seriously, go there. All of you.
That night, I was going to meet up with my friend Ruthie from UMD. She's studying in Italy and we've been talking about Oktoberfest for months. So her train came in, and I met her and her three friends. Well, one of her friends is like, "I'm from Woodstock!" I recognized her immediately because she looked just like a girl that I worked with over the summer whose sister was studying in Rome this fall. So right away, I was like, "I worked with your sister!," and automatic bonds were formed. We all grabbed some dinner, and then Ruthie and I made it back to Johannes' for some much needed sleep.
Saturday we headed down to Oktoberfest around 10am again. Weekends there suck, because its so crowded and almost impossible to find a seat. We ended up splitting up for a few hours and meeting back up later in the afternoon, when we decided to go into town and watch the Glockenspiel in the town square. So we bought strawberries from a street stand and sat in the middle of the square, eating and talking for awhile. Then out to dinner, and more walking around town. We met up with her friends again, and I had to bid her a sad farewell.
I headed back to Oktoberfest for one last crazy night with Johannes and Liz. We made our way into Johannes' favorite tent, which is primarily German. Since I'd been sick all weekend, he ordered me this drink that is part cola, part orange fanta. It was so amazing-apparently everyone in Germany drinks it! After we got our drinks, we stood up on the benches with the thousands of other drunk people and sang and danced to some crazy German songs. We made friends with this one guy who told us that in America, there are Jesus military camps where children have to pray to George Bush, and didn't believe us when we told him that wasn't true. Then he asked us to sing the Star Spangled Banner with him, so naturally, we obliged. And that, my friends, is how I found myself ina beer tent singing American's national anthem with some crazy German man at Oktoberfest.
Sunday, we finally left Germany, but not before the train screwed up and didn't go to where it was supposed to go. So Liz and I were stranded in podunk little Regan, Germany for half an hour while drunk Russian men hit on us.
Finally made it back to Praha around 10pm. We had befriended 2 guys on the train-1 a guy travelling on his own from San Francisco, and the other, a young Czech guy who lives about 5 mins from our dorm. Once we got back, we helped the backpacker find a hostel, gave a homeless man an apple and money, and made plans to meet up with the Czech tonight.
It was an absolutely ridiculous weekend, one that I'd like to experience again before its too late. Oktoberfest 2007, anyone?

Other random things from the weekend:
The German police have not changed their car sirens since WWII. Therefore, everytime we hear a cop car, it sounds like the Gestapo is coming to get us. You can only imagine the fun Ruthie and I had with that.
The first day, we met a crazy German man who followed us all over. He bought our friend Sarah a cookie, then got offended when she ate it. He was pretty much insane. He decided to come along when we climbed up to the top of a church tower, then abruptly fled when Liz and I started speaking Pig Latin.
Which brings me to my next point-while Europeans can understand almost everything we say in English, we can't understand a single thing in any of their languages. However, they have no idea what Pig Latin is, so Liz and I took to speaking in it when we were walking around town, on the train, and while we were being harassed by the Russians. Thank youuuuu, Babysitters Club, for teaching me what I used to consider the most worthless language ever.

And a retraction on an earlier email: my history professor, Jan Weiner, unfortunately did not kill a man, he merely held a gun to his head, then punched the guy out. We were all very dissapointed when we found out.

This coming weekend will find me in Poland, so while I can't say that the update for that will be as upbeat, it will most certainly be fabulous (because I'm really full of myself).

I hope you all had a meaningful fast.
And if you want to play with me in Europe at the end of December, let me know!

Love and pig latin,

Sept. 25, 2006:
Dobre dan ('good day,' or something like that)!

Hope everyone had a good Rosh Hashana-it pretty much took up my whole weekend, so this email will be a little shorter. Also, I was getting comments about how long these things were. Sorry, I talk a lot. It happens.

So right, for Rosh Hashana, I went to Prague's Chabad house. Large hairy rabbi, cute little wife, and a zillion kids-it was pretty much like being back at UMD. During the breaks, aside from eating a ton of food, I met some NYU guys who are studying here for the semester. I also met this young couple from Australia who are travelling around the world for seven months. All in all, it was a good holiday. Oh, and for tashlich, we went down to the Vltava, the main river that runs through Prague. I felt like a celebrity, or at least a tourist attraction-people were taking pictures of us from up on the bridge and from passing boats.

Classes started last week-I'm not taking too many, so I'm enjoying them for now. I'm taking Czech language, American Lit. from a European Perspective, Modern Eastern European History, and Eastern European Cinema. They all are fun, and the professors are great. My history professor is the most ridiculous-he's done a zillion things in his life-he was in a Communist prison camp for five years, had dinner with Eleanor Roosevelt IN RED HOOK, was a translator at Nuremburg, and he killed a man. Wait, what? Yeah, you heard me. HE KILLED A MAN. Not spur of the moment, either. Sort of premeditated. Yeah, its going to be an interesting semester.

I've been walking around town a lot-not doing too much. I happened into the World Press Photo Exhibit the other day-you'll have to google it, because there is no way to describe it. It was pretty much a building full of the most amazing photographs I've seen in my life.

This week is a shortened one, because Thursday is a national holiday, so we have no class, and we don't ever have Friday classes. So I'm leaving either Wednesday night or Thursday morning for Munich with a bunch of my friends, and Oktoberfesting until Sunday with Ruthie.

Next Monday is Yom Kippur, so I'll be back at Chabad, and then that evening I'm hitting up the Sparta/Slovakia football match with my program.

Hope everyone had a great holiday!
And oh yeah, happy birthdays all around to my sister (her birthday is Tuesday) and my dad (Thursday)!!!

Love, shana tovah, and apples and honey (which I SO bought the other day),

Sept. 18, 2006:
Happy Monday, world!!

So the past week has pretty much been me getting aquainted with Prague. We stayed in the city this weekend, so everyone finally had a chance to experience Prague nightlife.

My language class has come to an end. I'm not sure my Czech is stellar, but I can sure get around a supermarket. My professor started taking us on walks towards the end of each class. Last week we went to this place that sort of resembles the Eiffel Tower. Its the same concept, only much smaller, even though it boasts some amazing views of the entire city. The walk up was killer, and not meant for girls in skirts and flipflops, as my friends and I were. Our professor also took us to this photo exhibit, where the best aerial photos from all over the world were displayed throughout the narrow streets by the river.

Fun interjected story-as we were exiting the 'Eiffel Tower,' the faint smell of marijuana hit us. After taking a quick look to my left, I realized that it was coming from this guy who was selling postcards. Nobody else besides us abroad kids seemed surprised by this-our professor told us that there was no real law outlawing marijuana-only the selling of it. Possession is alright, in 'small amounts,' but the Czech government has never defined what a small amount is.

Seeing as how this weekend was my first Shabbos in Prague, I felt it only fitting for me to go to the oldest synagogue in Europe-the New Old Synagogue in the middle of the Jewish Quarter. Getting in was a whole adventure in itself. There were guards at the doors interrogating everyone who wanted to go in. For any of you who have been on an El Al flight, it was pretty much the exact same thing. The services were alright-the mechitza was more like a solid clay wall with little windows for us to see through. It was hard to hear the actual services, because the women were chattering the entire time. I'm still glad I went though.
For lunch today I went to this kosher deli called Shelanu in the Jewish Quarter, run by the Chabad rabbi and his wife. While there, I was invited to Rosh Hashana services at Chabad, which I intend on going to.
This weekend was my friend Kristel's birthday, so the whole weekend was spent going out to clubs and restaurants in town. There is this guy, Will, that hangs around our dorm, who lives in Prague but doesn't work for any of the abroad programs. He and this girl Ashley are both American but live in Prague. They just show up at our dorm and take us to cool parties and clubs. They also sell a ton of drugs. We're all sort of sketched out by them, but go to the clubs they suggest because we always have a great time. So Saturday night, we found (with no help from Will and Ashley), this great club right by the subway. The music, well...its best described this way-a hiphop remix of all of the songs that I used to do my gymnastics routines to when I was six years old. Needless to say, we had a great time. Will randomly showed up, called us a cab, and sent us to some after hours lounge across town. It all sounds so sketchy, but it was really great. The place was swarming with Norwegian med students, and a few others. I met a guy from Virginia, who now teaches English in Prague. He graduated from Virginia Tech in 2005, so he's not sketchily older (I know you were all concerned about that). We exchanged numbers, so we'll see how that goes. By the time my friends and I left the lounge, it was 4am. The subway didn't start until 5am, and we couldn't find a night tram, so after blocks of walking and getting lost, we finally called a cab. We got home around 5:30 in the morning, absolutely exhausted.

A lot of you have asked about the other people in the program. Everyone is really cool-there are like, 80 of us, but a big group of us sort of clicked, so there's always someone to do something with. Three of the guys live together had a big potluck brunch for all of us on Saturday. Of course, it didn't actually start until 3 in the afternoon, but what can ya do? The people are from all over the US, and we all pretty much get along. One of the guys bought several episodes of KyleXY off of Itunes, so you can guess what we've been watching as of late.

Another place we've discovered is the beer garden. It sits on a hill and overlooks the whole city, and is absolutely gorgeous. There are little parks and paths all around it, so its pretty much rollerblader and dog central. In fact, the other day when I went there, I was standing around talking to some people, and a dog walked up to me and peed on my leg. Actually lifted his stupid foot up and peed on me. I was pretty much livid, as you can imagine.
Also a fun fact: most European dogs aren't neutered. Therefore, they look a little different, if you know what I mean. It just takes some getting used to.
But back to the beer garden-if you come to Prague while I'm here, I promise to take you there (aside from the fact that we've been going almost every day). The beers are cheap and the company is good.

My next few weekends are booked up, so you'll start to get more interesting emails from me-this weekend is Rosh Hashana, so I'm staying in town. I'm planning on going to Oktoberfest with my friend Ruthie the next weekend (she's abroad in Italy, and we're going to meet up there). The first weekend in October, our program is taking us to Krakow. Then I have a free weekend. Our fall break begins around the 20th of October. Two friends and I are going to Greece for a week-we booked the flight yesterday. We found a villa in Santorini that's 100 meters from the beach, and only $80 for the whole week, per person.

That's about all from this side of the world. I have to run because I'm part of this internship for American students here. We're going to a Czech school to teach English. I'm really unsure of how I got roped into it, but it should be a good time. Look for more about it in my next email!

Oh, if any hears what the real cause of Anna Nicole Smith's son's death was, lemme know ASAP. I have a bet going with one of the guys, and I'd really like to not have to buy him a drink.

Love and pivo (that would be Czech for beer),

Sept. 11, 2006:
Hello, North America.

Well, this has been a most unusual week.

First of all, someone hacked into my yahoo email and tried defaming me zillions of ways. Sorry about that! No worries though, the FBI is on the case (its pretty sweet that I'm entirely serious)

Alright, Europe now.

My language class started last week. I'm not sure if I'm learning all that much, but my god its intense. 4.5 hours a day doesn't seem like that much, but we're learning how to conjugate handfuls of words in a half hour time span and that's ridic.

This past weekend we went to Moravia-total wine country. Driving through it felt a little like driving through the Catskills, but cooler because all the signs were in Czech. On the way there, we stopped in this really rural town to visit one of the oldest churches in Eastern Europe. Before our tour of the church, we explored this seemingly abandoned town. We found this old seed barn type thing that was built in the mid-1700's...older than crazy? The whole town was a little different-nobody spoke English, and I couldn't exchange any money.

We stayed at a hotel in the middle of nowhere in Brno where the waiters were sort of jerks, but the food was really good. At one point on Saturday night, after everyone had been drinking the wine we got at a winery earlier in the day, a few of us wandered out into the woods, where we sat down on a trail in a circle and played never have i ever, for about 45 minutes. at one point, someone just stopped and said, "We're sitting in the middle of the Moravian forest, drunk as hell and playing Never Have I Ever...does anyone else think this is absurd?"

And yeah, it was.

Also in Brno, we took a tour of the town, went to the site of one of Napolean's battles, and to Gregor Mandel's monastary, where genetics was "discovered."

Every day after class, whoever is around just kind of wanders around town discovering new things. Last week we went to the Lennon Wall, which was the site of a huge graffiti fight between Czechs and the police after the Revolution in 1989. Now the wall is covered in bright colors, with graffiti-ed Lennons on there, and different things in all sorts of languages. its really, really awesome.
after class today, we walked up to Prague Castle and just walked around in the gardens for a bit. there are some amazing views from up there, its kind of like being on top of the world.

I'm trying to think of other things we've been doing...
a few days ago, a bunch of us hit up this 5-story club on the river, apparently the largest club in eastern europe. it was a crazy time. at night, we're just going around discovering restaurants and clubs to go back to. the best restaurant around is Male Buddha (we figured out that it means Little Buddha), which boasts amazing Thai and Vietnamese food. Another place right near our dorm is owned by the boyfriend of one of the people who works in our program's office. The food is insanely cheap (I payed about 130 crowns (6 dollars) for dinner, which included soup, a main course, water, and dessert). All of the food is around that price, and its all so good!!

Alright, that just about does it for me. Send me back emails, because I like being caught up about whats going on in the states! And if you want my phone number here, just ask (its free for me to receive calls)

Oh right, and lastly-I think I found a place to live when I get back. The other girl from UMD here, Sarah, her apartmentmate in Commons 3 is graduating in December, and already okay-ed me taking over her lease. It'll be easy to square away since Sarah is here, so it looks like I'll have a bed come January!

Hope everyone is doing well in the States...and again, my apologies for that email. Stupid hackers.

Love and Moravian wine,

Sept. 3, 2006:
alright, sorry about that half-assed email the other day. we got into prague yesterday, but not before extensive money wasting in munich and london

so in london, we were tired during the day and drunk at night. we toured the city with the whole group, and then i went off with 3 of my friends, kristel, jessica, and liz, and wandered around the city all afternoon.

we had dinner at a bar in Soho where i spent 10 pounds (nearly 20 american dollars) on this amazing drink-blackberry, absolut vanilla, chocolate and a few other things...and it was topped with a sugary graham cracker. after that we went upstairs to an ice bar=the ENTIRE thing was made of ice-the cups, tables, walls. it was ridic. we had to take the tube back to our hotel in Kensington, but not before going to the Kings Cross station to try and unsuccessfully find track 9 3/4 (i dont even LIKE harry potter). we finally headed back to the hotel and hung out with some of the guys from the program. kristel and i ended up staying with our friends cameron and wade in their room until 6am. the guys had to be out of the hotel at 7am to catch a flight-sucks for themmmmm. our fgiht into munich wasnt until that afternoon, so we got a few hours of sleep.

munich was alright-i hated it at first-it was gross and grey and not fun. ended up going to get some thai food for dinner with kristel, liz, and a few others. on the way out, i noticed my favorite thing ever-MAGNUM BARS. i jumped up and down in the restaurant and tried to explain the amazingness of them but nobody believed me until i bought them.
after that we went to a bar and met up with about 20 other people. we danced on bars and were obnoxious americans, im afraid. we then left to go back to the hostel bar, where liz and i befriended an englishman named mike. he had recently graduated from school and was travelling europe en route to spain where he was going to be a bartender in a hostel in barcelona. we talked to him most of the night, and moseyed back to the room around 3am.

yesterday morning we got a walking tour of munich, which is a lot nicer during the day. while i had a good time there, i felt a little out of place the entire time. i was pretty glad when we left for prague. the bus ride took most of yesterday-we stopped for dinner at the place where pilsner beer is made, which was amazing. finally made it to our dorm in prague that evening. i ended up going out with three people here-cameron, chase, and jen. we went down to old town square and walked around for awhile-i dined on one of the czech republics specialties-fried cheese. i had a fabulous fried cheese sandwich with ketchup. seriously, wawa should start selling them. the night ended with will and grace back at the hotel and a sleepover with the boys.

today we got a walking tour of the city and then had the afternoon to ourselves. kristel, liz, jess, another girl named sam and i wandered around and found a nice little place for lunch-they were shooting a movie right across the street so we got to watch them as they did all the effects and stuff. everything here, food included, is super cheap- one american dollar is equal to 23 czech coronas. lunch today (a big pasta and chicken dish, and a sprite) only cost me 8 bucks. Believe it or not, beer is cheaper than water here, and tastes much better than american beer (sorry aepi, i think im over beast).

a few final things-im still homeless for the spring, but the other girl here from maryland said her roommate was def leaving in december, so i might be living in commons 3

-im off to moravia next weekend-wine country. dont know a thing about it, but it should be fun

-language class starts tomorrow. apparently the czech language has 46 letters. this should be interesting...

-my friends were accosted by the entire leeds soccer team last ngiht at a club. apparently one of them was gettng married and havnig his 'stag' party in prague

-the czech word for 'thanks' is pronounced 'deaky'...some of you will enjoy that

-there is an H&M here.

-amanda cannon, of khstv fame, is in my dorm. i ran into her twice yesterday while we were moving in. it should be really fun to have her around

-i guess thats pretty much it-prague is amazing. there are old churches and castles everywhere, and everything looks like its straight out of a fairy tale. the buildings are all different colors with orange roofs. the people dress so much better than americans, too.

so yeah, hope you all enjoyed this. hopefully someone from the trip will put up pictures so i can steal them.

love and fried cheese,

Sept. 1, 2006:
hey all!

just a quick email to let you know that im alive

im in heathrow right now en route to munich-headed to prague tomorrow. london was amazing-we toured and walked around and went to an ice bar, but youll hear all about that in a real email when im not paying for internet.

hope school (life) is going well for everyone!

and also, quick story. so im walking around heathrow starving because i slept through breakfast because i didnt go to sleep until 6:30am, and in my starved stupor, i ran into a friend from GW-russell nemiroff, who is apparently en route to spain. i thought run-ins with members of the tribe only occurred in israel (apparently i was wrong?)

so yeah, thats it. take care and email me back, because im dying without a phone

loooooove and afternoon tea,