Last week was midterms week here. I turned in one paper and had three other exams. We soon discovered that midterms week here are sort of like finals week at home, in that no class is held during the week. Fortunately I only had my exams toward the beginning of the week so I had the rest of the week free, which, I should say, somehow never happens to me at Puget Sound and I always stay for the whole finals week. I should also explain, that this is not how the universities in Vienna work. In fact at Universität Wien, they do not have midterms but only finals. I don’t take classes at Uni Wien, however, which is rather unfortunate. Instead my classes are held at the IES center by my study abroad program. This means all my classmates are American study abroad students. Anyway, what I was going to say was, I had a few days off last week so I took advantage of the free time and traveled.
I took a train to Passau to visit a friend. The weather was really wonderful during the week and we took lots of walks around the small city and her hometown, which is a small neighboring town named Fürstenzell. I was really glad I got to take a break from the big city life and retrieve to a quieter place. I think that is what I would like to do when I have more opportunities to travel later – I want to be able to visit smaller places. After a beautiful train ride, I arrived at Passau Hauptbahnhof (train station) on Wednesday evening. J picked me up and drove us to her home. We drove through some country scenery and saw the gorgeous sunset. It suddenly reminded me how long it has been since I have lived in a big city and missed the sunset. Passau is a city only about 300 km from Vienna, about three hours drive. It is on the Austrian-German boarder and a meeting point of three rivers, Donau, Inn, and Ilz, so you can imagine how beautiful it must be! And then it was just really great to see J again after we parted last May. I was really glad I got to spend some time with her!
I have decided that the theme of my travels last week must have been river cities! Because I then went to Prague for the weekend with Suzanne and Kevin – okay, so I guess the theme was beautiful rivers and awesome people/friends/travel buddies, because they are some of my favorite people! It is needless for me to say how important it is to have good company. Prague was a marvelously beautiful city. It lies by the river Vltava, or Moldau, the German name that I knew. The walks along the river and across the bridges were absolutely beautiful. Suzanne did a tour of a few major Central/West European cities with her family last summer, and Prague was the city that she wanted to visit again. I have always wanted to visit too, as I am fascinated by all the East European cultures and post-communist arts, about which, I have to admit, I knew very little, and was even considering study abroad in Czech Republic at first! What I didn’t know was the city also contains a lot of medieval beauty, especially when you start going underground! Suzanne loves the city; she would repeat that again and again just walking down the cobble stone streets. I think it is the perfect representation my experience with the city. I mean, it’s just the atmosphere that is so attractive, and you don’t need to see any particular thing, but just breath the air of the city is enough. We just walked around a lot and tried to take in the city as much as we could.
I decided that everything in Prague was put together with good taste, it seemed. Like restaurants. Of course all these major cities would have plenty of descent, expensive restaurants all over. But too often I just see ones that are purely fancy. Just by looking through the windows of these restaurants in Prague, I was intrigued by the unique design and characters of each one of these places. I loved the heavy wooden tables, or individual old-fashioned lamps and lounge sofas. It’s good taste. And the streets are all dimly lit at night, together with the narrow stone-paved streets, they create a pleasant nostalgic feeling that I really enjoyed.