The Czech Way: Culture in Prague – My Latest Blog on Verge Magazine

Every wonder about the Czech culture and what it’s like to live in Prague? “Czech” out my latest blog post with Verge Magazine titled The Czech Way: Culture in Prague

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The Reality of Scams in Prague

National Geographic offers a documentary series called Scam City which features scams from ten of the world’s most popular cities. “Ever had your pocket picked? Been ripped off by a taxi driver? Well, every year, hundreds of millions of tourists have their holidays ruined by conmen and scammers and often in the most glamorous cities on earth. Now Conor Woodman enters the underworld of petty crime and gets scammed…so you don’t have to”

I have just finished watching season 1, episode 2 which features scams in Prague, Czech Republic. I have just come back from an exchange here for three months and have personally witnessed a lot of these scams. There was nothing surprising on this documentary (well, I guess sort of the being threatened in a whore house and having to pay 500 euro), I have heard tell of every one of these scams even if I haven’t personally experienced it. Although this documentary is very real and Prague can be a sketchy place, this should not deter you from visiting this amazing city.  It will obviously talk about all of the scams because that’s what the show is about, it should the ratio/likelihood of this happening you should be considering yourself with. If you watch this documentary then this will bring you closer to not getting scammed because you will be aware of the realities and will watch yourself when put in similar situations.

Some tips:

  1. AAA taxi is a legit taxi service and will not rip you off. Make sure you have their number on hand in case you are ever in an emergency where you need a taxi. Also make sure you have the address written down for where you are staying in case of any language barriers
  2. If you are worried about taxis ripping you off then tack public transportation. Prague has very reliable transportation and offers trams, busses and a metro system. You can use the DPP site to plan your journey and see exactly where and when to catch the tram. The only downfall with this system is that you need to know the name of the stop you wish to get off at but this can be found by using Google Maps. If you Google the place you are going you can then look on the map to see which stops are in the area and base your journey off of that
  3. The Drunken Monkey has since closed down but it is a rip off of a pub crawl. We had a blast on this, it was my first real night in Prague, how could we not, but it was definitely not worth it! We could drink for “free” (i.e., after paying 500 czk just to go on the pubcrawl which would not cover the price of your beers and cover charges at the bars) in the first bar (The Drunken Monkey) but the beers were only 3.2%. The night we went on this pubcrawl was the first night of the alcohol prohibition so we were not able to drink any liquor so I cannot speak to the quality/availability of liquor VS beer
  4. Don’t buy drugs on the street. Just don’t. I know people who were ripped off both on quality and quantity. It’s all around stupid, if you REALLY need to get a fix, make friends with a local and get an insiders tip
  5. If you want to go to this Christmas Markets go to the ones at Náměstí Míru as opposed to Wenceslas Square. The prices are more reasonable and the items aren’t as touristy

Budapest, Hungary; Friends Visit; and <2.5 Weeks Until Home…

Today I finished my latest post for Verge Magazine and I’m really excited for it to be put up. It is honestly the post I’ve felt most passionate about while writing and I really hope I can inspire some others with what I have written. I discuss my thoughts on studying about and how I’m feeling about leaving- you’ll have to wait and see for more specific details!

I am currently writing a paper for my Drugs & Economics course about Canadian drug policy and its influencers over the last century.There’s a lot of information but often times that can be more difficult than not enough because there’s so much reading and narrowing down of information. I have two weeks left of classes and then I go back to Canada. It’s INSANE how fast the time has flown. I have two presentations to do on Monday, one final exam on Wednesday, two papers due before I leave and then a week of finals the week after next. Oi. The work here is not hard but it’s a nuisance how much of it there has been. I know I’m here to study but I honestly thought school would be more of a joke than it has been lol. I’m find myself thinking there’s that school’s interfering too much with my travelling aha. But that is life and I have managed just fine =).

The past two weekends were actually fantastic! Last weekend I had two friends visit me; Stefan who studies with me back home but is currently studying in Wales and Sherall who I grew up with but is teaching English in France. We had one of the greatest weekends I think I’ve had while in Prague since the semester began. Me, Stefan, and my other friends from uni here all went to see Swedish House Mafia last Thursday. That concert was soo awesome! Sososo awesome!

Me and my friends at Swedish House Mafia's final tour in Prague

Me and my friends at Swedish House Mafia’s final tour in Prague

Our amazing view of the Swedish House Mafia concert. Confetti, balloons, and amazing sound

Our amazing view of the Swedish House Mafia concert. Confetti, balloons, and amazing sound

Other than the concert we were straight up tourists the whole weekend. I showed them all of Prague’s amazing gems like the Prague castle, the Lennon wall, Charles Bridge, Petřín Hill, the metronome and so on! I even got to see a few things I had yet to since I’ve been here. We checked out some local pubs like the Prague Beer Museum, and spent one evening at Cross Club. It was really great to show them how awesome Prague is and to see some old friends!

Me in front of the Towers of Fisherman's Bastion, Budapest, Hungary

Me in front of the Towers of Fisherman’s Bastion, Budapest, Hungary

The week before Stefan and Sherall visited I found my way to Budapest, Hungary. I absolutely LOVED Budapest. I know Prague a lot better and it holds a special place in my heart but Budapest just had something about it. I loved the ruin pubs! We went to Szimpla for some beers on the Friday we were there and I also tasted hot wine for the first time. It was fantastic from there! Budapest has a crazy quirky feel to it that I thought was so cool. I found some really neat jewellery and clothes there and loved the atmosphere. We had some delicious food, checked out the Szechenyi thermal baths, went on the free walking tour and basically just saw everything we could fit into the weekend. It has been really hard to travel this time of year because the amount of daylight is slim to none. It’s basically fully dark come 4:30pm so you have to wake up early to get the most of your days.

Perusing Prague- What Have I Been Up To?

Hello friends! So sorry for the lack of blog posts since I have been away. These past two months have been super busy with starting school, an intensive course which included a paper and a final, four midterms, four different country trips, and the random homework in between!

I have finally slowed down a little (but only just a little) and have found a few minutes to FINALLY write a post about what I have been up to all this time. The first week I was here I did a lot of adventuring around town. I made friends my first day in town which is pretty inevitable when you live in residence with hundreds of other international students. I saw the major tourist attractions around town (except for the Prague Castle which I still have yet to see but am saving that for when my two friends come and visit in two weeks. One of which I went to high school with and the other I study with back in Newfoundland and he’s studying abroad in Wales) and got a feel for the city.

Wallenstein Garden, Prague Czech Republic

Me in Wallenstein Garden, Prague Czech Republic

September 24th I started my classes. The system is different here in Europe so instead of my usual 5 classes, 15 credit hours I’m taking 8 classes (plus one intensive class) worth a total of 31 ECTS (European credit transfer system). 6 ECTS=1 class=3 credit hours back home. The intensive class I took was during the second week of school and it was 3 days 9:00-4:30 and that was it. We had a “final” during the last class and had to submit a 5 page paper. The class was called Japanese Management Style and was actually really interesting! It was basically a huge discussion about cultural and gender differences and as a lot of us were exchange students who gave a lot of different input. But enough about the boring stuff which you probably don’t care about…

TRIPS. So far I have been to four different countries excluding the Czech Republic- Germany, Italy, Austria, and the Netherlands. I also had a day in Karlstejn in the Czech Republic where we had a full day of hiking.

In Germany I was in Munich and Dachau but unfortunately did not see any of Munich (which really does disappoint me because although I enjoyed my time I really would’ve liked to see the city). We spent our time at the last weekend of Oktoberfest.

My fine looking crew in the Hofbräuhaus at Oktoberfest 2012 in Munich

My fine looking crew in the Hofbräuhaus at Oktoberfest 2012 in Munich

We had all intentions of doing the free walking tour of Munich but with the rain and poor weather we decided  to check out the Dachau concentration camp. It was pretty epic and you were feeling emotions for something you can’t quite comprehend. I will soon have a post on Verge Magazine about my experience in this concentration camp. Stay tuned for that as well as a post about Vienna and the pros and cons of off season travel.

A memorial in the Dachau concentration camp, Dachau, Germany

A memorial in the Dachau concentration camp, Dachau, Germany

Amsterdam, Holland, The Netherlands

Amsterdam, Holland, The Netherlands

The weekend after I went with a few students here to Amsterdam in the Netherlands. Amsterdam was a really neat city, kind of a surreal place in the world since it’s so different than where I live (Canada). It was a lot of fun though and we met a group of Aussies who we spent the weekend with. We saw the infamous red light district, the Anne Frank house, went on the Heineken Experience tour, checked out the Van Gogh museum and did a lot of walking around and sightseeing.

Typical Amsterdam...

Typical Amsterdam…

Karlštejn Castle, Karlštejn, Czech Republic

Karlštejn Castle, Karlštejn, Czech Republic

After these two big weekends I decided to stay in Prague for two weeks and do some things locally. I did a lot of exploring to parts of Prague I had yet to see in the city and had a day of hiking in Karlštejn.

Baby statues by David Černý outside of the Kampa Museum in Prague, Czech Republic

Baby statues by David Černý outside of the Kampa Museum in Prague, Czech Republic

One of my favorite things I have seen in Prague so far are the metal baby statues at the Kampa Museum which were created by David Černý.

I had read about these statues before I came here and were on the list of top things to see in Prague. There are three of them located just outside the museum. They’re one of those not-so-touristy things all the tourists should see (in my opinion, anyway!)

After a bit of a break I had two big weekends again. The first one I found myself in Vienna, Austria. I will have a post published on Verge Magazine in the next few weeks about that trip so stay tuned! I discuss the pros and cons of off season travel. Vienna was really gorgeous and I loved the palaces and architecture. Also, the food was nothing to turn your nose up too, yum yum!

The weekend after that I finally made my way to Cinque Terre <3. You can see my blog post about that trip; it deserved its own post because it was just so gorgeous and awesome- a definite must see!

And this brings us to now. The past three weeks I wrote some midterms and travelled and needed another break. This weekend I decided to stay in Prague and I’m thankful I did because I developed a cold on Friday. I took it pretty easy this weekend doing a bit of school work and hanging out with my flatmate, Reem (our roommates are gone to Amsterdam this weekend so we had a quiet flat to ourselves). Last night we made a homemade facial, had some wine and chatted, it was a nice evening.

Next weekend is a trip to Budapest and that’s the last trip I currently have planned. I really want to head to Krakow and to Berlin but I’m not sure yet if I will travel in December or not. My first final will be December 12th and the following week I will write the rest. Between now and then I have those finals, a project, two papers, and four presentations- plus some scattered things for my web 2.0 class. Oivey.

Stay tuned for another update. I apologize again for my lack of updates, but at least now you’re aware of what all I have been up to the past two months!

Cinque Terre, Italy

Just last weekend I was finally able to view one of the most colorful places in the world; Cinque Terre, Italy. As a side note, I think it’s pretty rad that the place I currently live (not when I’m on exchange) also makes the list; St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada.

Another awesome thing to note is that Cinque Terre made the list of the Europe’s Top 10 Scenic Rail Journeys by Lonely Planet– I totally agree!

Me in Levanto, Cinque Terre, Italy the first night of our trip

Boats at night in Levanto, Cinque Terre, Italy

Boats at night in Levanto, Cinque Terre, Italy

Cinque Terre was absolutely breath taking, regardless of my journey taking place in the off season. I admired pictures of this region for quite some time and that was at the very top of my list to visit during my semester abroad. I am so thankful I was actually able to go, but that journey was honestly just a tease.

We flew to Milan the night of Thursday November 8th and stayed there for the evening. We only had enough time to sleep and head out to Lavento where we stayed the next day. It was a 3 hour train ride and was the first village just outside Cinque Terre.

Upon arrival we heard about the crazy labyrinth that lay within the forests. Unfortunately that didn’t fit into our itinerary but I will most DEFINITELY come back to this! Instead we just adventured around the town and walked the old railway tunnel that lead to Bonassola.

Me in front of Manarola, Cinque Terre, Italy

Me in front of Manarola, Cinque Terre, Italy

The next night we stayed in Monarolla and went from town to town inside Cinque Terre. We had all intentions of hiking the mountain trek trails but once we went to purchase our Cinque Terre pass we were informed they were closed for the season. This somewhat made out decisions easier as the weather for the day was supposed to be very rainy and we didn’t have all that much time in the area. Instead we just train hopped between the villages and explored among them. We ended up missing out on Corniglia due to limited daylight. At this point it was getting dark around 5pm and we just didn’t have the time.

We also found out once we arrived that the Via dell’Amore was closed due to a landslide in late February. There is currently an investigation being conducted as four people were injured in the slide. Overall it sounds as though there were a lot of disappointments but the place was so magical that I enjoyed every minute of it despite the closures  Because of this tease of a trip I have decided I will for sure make a trip back during the peak season and found out what I would like to see when I come back. I realized I didn’t know all that much about the area and will do a lot more research next time and plan a longer stay. This is definitely a region people should check out, especially if you’re a hiker and love the outdoors!

Arrived in Prague- My Initial Thoughts

I landed in Prague, Czech Republic this past Thursday, September 13th. I had all of 2 hours of sleep after my 15 hour journey across the pond but my excitement didn’t let the sleep deprivation get to me.

Traditional Czech meal. Dumplings, beef, gravy, cream, and cranberry sauce

Traditional Czech meal. Dumplings, beef, gravy, cream, and cranberry sauce

I was picked up at the airport by my amazing Czech buddy who had his friend pick us up and escort us to my dormitories. The workers at the residence did not speak English and it was essential he was there to help me register and fill out the paperwork. I honestly would not have known what to do without him. I moved my things into my dorm, had a shower and we then went to eat some traditional Czech food and beer.

I had this meal which was dumplings, beef, gravy, cream, and cranberry sauce. I must apologize for the poor quality photo. My camera has decided not to turn on so I have been using my BlackBerry for the time being. I am crossing my fingers that it’s just a dead battery.

David, my buddy, had this goulash dish which was a combination of sausage, onions, some gravy, and potato pancakes. It was also quite tasty.

My kitchen in my dormitory

My kitchen in my dormitory

Once we got some food into our systems we headed to the grocery store to get some food for my dorm. I picked up some dishes and cutlery for the kitchen because nothing was provided. We only have a small fridge for four of us, no oven, and our “stove” is just two burners.

I intend on eating most of my meals in restaurants and just purchasing breakfast food and snacks. The food here is very cheap and given my kitchen situation it makes a lot more sense to do it this way.

Friday I did some errands around town like got my student ID and paid my dorm fees. Me and a few others adventured into the city and saw some of the gorgeous scenery around Prague.

This weekend I have checked out some of the local bars, did more sight seeing, and met some other exchange students. Tomorrow is the start of orientation week and then I start classes the following Monday.

Things are going well so far overall and I’m so thankful I made friends right away and I had my Czech buddy there to help. If it wasn’t for them I think I’d be all out of sorts at this point because I know about 4 words in Czech. Díky za čtení (thanks to Google Translate).

My latest blog post has been uploaded to the Verge Magazine website. I discuss preparations for studying abroad, check it out!

First Blog Post on Verge Magazine

My first blog has been posted on the Verge Magazine website!! I am super excited to get this started. In the post I discuss my upcoming exchange in Prague, Czech Republic and what are some of my pre-Prague thoughts and anticipations! I should be posting every 2-3 weeks and will update here when new posts go up. I hope you’ll enjoy reading them as much as I’ll enjoy writing them and sharing my experience.

Cheers and enjoy =)