Somehow, I managed to become quite the Bohemian. Ok, yes that’s just a lie, but I did visit the lands of Bohemia and had a grand time. My week-long continental vacation was fantastic and definitely a highlight of my time on this side of the Atlantic. It was the perfect chance to refresh myself from a semester of not doing all that much and get refocused enough to pound out papers and exams over the next two weeks.
FRIDAY, LONDON Well it’s finally spring in London. The trees are starting to turn green and the people are getting happier. That is until they get on the tube. Being the oldest metro in the world, the tube has one or two quirks. One is its complete lack of AC. For some reason, the system is usually about 20 degrees warmer than the outside world. Now, this was fine in winter, but now it’s killer. I had a meeting with a professor in town and got caught in rush hour on my way back home. Sweaty people on the train make for an interesting commute, would be a nice way of describing my journey.
THURSDAY, BUDAPEST For our last day abroad, we went out and shopped for some souvenirs. I personally didn’t get anything as I set a strict no souvenir policy before I left owing in part to the lack of space in my suitcases. Taylor and Montana both got some things and we retreated to the hostel after grabbing some food to wait on our flights. We left for the airport around 6 pm and grabbed dinner there. Ryanair being what it is, our flight was significantly delayed. So, we waited as the airport shut down around us. We did actually have to pass through customs on our way out of the airport surprisingly.
STANSTED We finally got back into the country around 12:30 in the morning. I thought we’d breeze through the border, but unfortunately so did several other non-EU citizens. We stood in line at the border for almost an hour or so before we finally got through and got on the bus home. I’ve never gone to sleep faster.
WEDNESDAY, BUDAPEST Today was by far the best day I’ve had in a hot minute. We spent the day at one of the famous Budapestian bathhouses. I now understand why the Romans built these wherever they went. We went to Szechenyi Bath, the largest in Budapest. Budapest sits on top of natural hot springs powering the various Baths throughout the city. Now let me tell you, you need to find one of these nearby and go. It was the most relaxing experience of my life. We rotated from the mineral waters inside to the large pools outside to the saunas and onto the steam rooms and finally the ice baths. It was the most relaxing thing ever. The weather was also beautiful and we finally were able to layout and soak up the sun. I think I may even have finally gotten some color for once. I never realized how much I missed the sun and warmer weather. We, unsurprisingly, ended up spending the better part of the entire day there. Now if only London had something like it.
TUESDAY, BUDAPEST Today marked our walking tour day around Budapest. We made sure to hit all the major sights in the city. From the cathedral to the parliamentary building, the chain bridge to the Buda castle, we saw it all. I have to say, I liked Budapest far more than I liked Prague. The city, in my view, was prettier and the people were nicer. The history nerd inside of me was freaking out. I was standing on the ground that had been continuously settled since the beginning of humanity. It was a weird, but cool feeling. We spent all day wandering the streets soaking it all in. I loved every second of it.
MONDAY, PRAGUE The day started out a little wet. After we checked out and stored our luggage, we tried to visit the old Jewish cemetery in town. However, once we got there the woman manning the ticket desk wouldn’t sell us tickets. Deciding not to argue in the rain, we called it and headed back to the hostel common room where we all rested and waited for our flights. After a few hours of napping and reading, we gathered our stuff, said goodbye to Henry and Jessica and headed to the airport.
BUDAPEST The flight into Budapest was fine (it helped that there wasn’t a bunch of drunks). It looked like we were one of the last flights into the airport that evening. I laughed as we got to the exit when I realized customs consisted of three uniformed guards standing next to an open door. I didn’t even have to present my passport. After yet another hour-long bus ride into the center of the city (seems to be a theme) we got to our hostel. Now here’s where it gets interesting. Our hostel was on the second (U.S. third) floor of a building. To get there we had to buzz in through three doors, walk through a dark alley, and climb three unlit flights of stairs. To say I thought we might be getting jumped at any moment would be an understatement. When we finally got to the front desk, I was pleasantly surprised. The place, while not the nicest one we’ve stayed at, was by far the most social. Everyone was out and chatting. However, having spent the better part of the day traveling, we deiced to call it a day and crashed.
SUNDAY, TURNOV, CZECH REPUBLIC We decided to get out of the city today and head to the Czech countryside. After a late start and brunch, we caught a train out into the country. It was really refreshing to get out of the traditional tourist areas and get a feel for what the country is like at its core. The train took about two hours to get to the little village of Turnov. Turnov is home to Bohemian Paradise, which is a protected area with hiking, castles, and overlooks. For several hours we hiked trails, visited castles, and stood on hillsides admiring more views. I have no idea how far we hiked but I think it was around 10 or more miles according to the nearest Fitbit. I’m really starting to like this hiking thing, I think I might have to bring that love back to the States.
SATURDAY, PRAGUE Started the day off right. We all stopped by a little market and then sat down on the banks of the river and enjoyed an amazing breakfast. After we finished up, we start to explore the city. We walked the streets and found the Lenin wall, which was a cool graffiti artist space. After taking the obligatory pictures, we wandered around the city some more. We hiked up the hill overlooking Prague and marveled at the views. We spent the rest of the day just admiring the city and immersing ourselves in the culture. Not a bad start to our adventure.
FRIDAY, MAUGHAN LIBRARY For being a travel day, I managed to actually get quite a bit of stuff done this morning. I dashed over to the library after waking up to renew a book, print off my boarding passes, and scan in my primary ballot (That’s right there’s an election in 2 weeks on the 8th and you best be voting in it because of civic responsibility). So, I left Maughan feeling pretty darn accomplished for once.
ABOVE THE ENGLISH CHANNEL If you weren’t aware, today just happens to be Friday the 13th. Now I’m not a superstitious person or anything, but when you get up 30,000 something feet in the air over water, the rational part of your mind sometimes starts to shut down. The flight itself was fine. Nothing crazy happened mechanically. However, I failed to realize that Prague just happens to be the premier stag/hen party destination. So, there I was, trying to read a nice book and enjoy my flight when I’m surrounded by at least two groups of twenty/thirty-somethings drunk out of their minds. Now I can handle a group of drunks at sea level. I mean I successfully herded a group of drunk freshmen who were heading to Hillsborough because they were so lost back to their dorm my first weekend on campus this past semester without batting an eye. Sea level drunks, that’s fine. Drunks in a small metal tube 30,000 feet in the air, that’s not fine. The Friday the 13th flight syndrome was real. I was the happiest I’ve ever been getting off a plane when we landed.
PRAGUE After almost an hour-long bus ride into the city we finally got to our hostel. This place had to be the nicest hostel I’ve ever seen. It was beautiful. I honestly think they just converted an old hotel and threw in several bunk beds. I mean the bathroom had a rainfall showerhead. I’m talking luxury right there. Montana, Taylor, and I met up with Henry and Jessica and we went out for a touch of nighttime exploration. It turns out almost every famous clock in Europe must be getting fixed because Prague’s famous astronomical clock was also covered up and being reworked. Apparently, 2018 just isn’t the year of the clock.
THURSDAY, STRATFORD Well it’s official, after four straight days in the library my brain is a pile of mush and I don’t even have an entirely written paper to show for it. Well to reward myself for just about nothing I agreed to go out to the movie theater across the street with Montana to see A Quiet Place, the new horror movie by John Krasinski. Oh my gosh. The movie was amazing. I was on the edge of my seat for the entire length of the film. It has to be one of the best horror/suspense films I’ve ever seen. This and Get Out I think to mark the beginning of a new era in the genre. If you haven’t seen it, GO. You won’t regret it. Just make sure not to buy any popcorn.
TUESDAY, THE CITY It finally happened. I met the commute from hell. It was a mystical beast I only laughed at when mentioned because there was no way it could possibly be real. I should not have laughed. My troubles began when I left the library. I know it was a bad idea to leave around 5 pm but I just had to get out of there. My brain was dead. So, I headed over to Chancery Lane Station. While I was on the platform a full train stopped at the station and one or two people tried to squeeze onto the train. I decided I would wait for the next one. Unfortunately, there wasn’t another train.
Turns out, in the middle of the evening rush, there had been a signal failure further down the line, meaning almost all trains were being held. Well, I waited for about 15 minutes before deciding to strike out on my own. I looked for the nearest bus stop and jumped on the first bus east. I now know why I never ride the bus home. London’s above-ground traffic is worse than expected. It took probably 45 minutes for us to drive across the square mile that is the city.
After the harrowing journey, I jumped off and grabbed the TFL rail from Liverpool back to Stratford. A commute that should have taken me about 25 minutes ended up taking almost two hours when it was all said and done. The lesson here folks is always stay in the library, otherwise, it will curse you.
MONDAY, MAUGHAN LIBRARY Today was the start of a long stint in the library. I’m trying to get as much of my paper on empires written as possible before I leave on Friday afternoon so I can focus on my French exam and Digital Journalism paper when I got back. I managed to settle into a nice spot and cranked out a decent amount of work. Weirdly, I missed working hard. (Yes, I will reverse this position the minute I get back to Carolina).
SUNDAY, STRATFORD I learned a semi-valuable lesson today. Rice expands far more than you would think when you boil it on the stovetop. Let me explain. Now, I’m not sure if you know this, but I’m a breakfast/brunch aficionado. As such, back home that would be just about the only meal I’d cook. Yes, I’d occasionally make some dinner, but I’ve never played around much with the sides. But now that I’m semi-broke, rice has become a staple of my diet. So, there I was with a bag of rice and a pot of water. Me being me decided it would be a good idea to just dump a full cup of rice in the pot. That would be enough for a side I thought. Well 11 minutes later, I had a massive vat of the stuff sitting in front of me. I guess the point of this little tale is, never underestimate cooking instructions and portion sizes.
It’s finally springtime in London. Let me tell you I didn’t realize this city could come alive like this. People are happier and nicer. The views are better. Even the weather is nicer. There has been sun and 70-degree weather for the past three days in a row. I think I might be going into shock. While I’ve wrapped up my travels for my time abroad, I’m looking forward to exploring London in the coming weeks and experiencing a new side of the city. Well, I should start to learn French now so I’ll see you next Sunday.