Thursday, November 18, 2010

Fall Break: Prague, Czech Republic// Praha, Česká Republika

So my first stop in this trip was my layover in Prague, Czech Republic. Being that this was my first time ACTUALLY traveling around alone and being in the Czech Republic I was pretty excited to head around the city. So I had looked up how to get to my hostel by public transportation and being that I got in close to midnight when the metro stops, I was determine to make my way and not have to pay for a taxi. Sadly, the machine at which you buy tickets at didn’t take bills- I found this out thanks to the man who asked me if I needed help in English after I foolishly tried to put the money in every slot I found on the machine. So I had to run inside and buy something in a vending machine to get change for the bus, and what was even sadder was that when I ran back inside the bus that was coming was the last one for the night- therefore missing my chance. I did end up buying a 24hr pass for the next day so that I wouldn’t have to go through this again in the morning. I then stood in the rather cold Czech night trying to figure out if another bus would come but sadly that was, like I said, the last scheduled bus.

So a taxi driver knowing that this was his chance came up to me asking if I needed a ride. The price he offered was what the hostel said would be an average price and having no other choices I decided to trust this elderly taxi driver, who was very nice and pointed things out of where I could visit near my hostel. One of the places was “Old Town” or “Staré Město” which I said to him and he asked if I spoke Czech but in reality a lot of words have a similarity to Russian because of the Slavic. So I got to my hostel, settled in, used the internet, slept and got up at 7am to go around and see as much as I could. With a map in hand and the few that I knew about the town I made my way to different sites such as: Karlův most (Charles Bridge) , Pražský hrad (Prague Castle) , Staroměstské náměstí (Old Town Square), Astronomical tower, Václavské náměstí (Wenceslas Square), Jewish Synagogue, among some other things here and there.

But there is always that one person! I went into an exchange office to exchange American money into the Czech currency because since I collect money from the countries I visit, I wanted to have actual bills. So I gave him a $10 bill and he asked doubtfully, “that’s it?” I told him yes and then he asked “would you like a map?” Now, I’m guessing this is a free map in the way that he asked. Not would you like to buy a map but rather would you like a map… I think there’s a difference. So he handed me the map and change in coins. I was confused as to why it came out to coins, but being that currency like the Euro has 2 and 1 Euro coins I guessed maybe there’s enough. After walking around Wenceslas Square and sat down to rest, I looked at the receipt I noticed that I was charged for the damn map, in reality I wanted it just as a souvenir being that I was leaving Prague in less than an hour. Thanks to Russian, I was able to figure out that цена in Russian, cena in Czech meant price. I learned to always ask Is it free when someone says would you like something.

Over all it was a very pretty, nice and since it was early everything seemed so quiet and quaint. I probably walked for about 4-5 hours trying to see as much as I could. Then I took the train to catch a bus to the airport, this time I didn’t need a taxi and accomplished what I tried to do the night before. Then I just did some more waiting in the airport for my flight to Madrid. It was interesting to be standing in front of a Chilean couple and then hearing two Argentinean women talking in Spanish about how their bags will go through some mix up in the Madrid airport in Prague; and it almost made me feel like I was in Spain already.

Hopefully one day I’ll be able to return to Prague and get to see some more of the city because 5-6 hours really isn’t too much to see a city but it was what I could afford to squeeze in. Now onwards to Madrid!

Fall Break: Getting to Moscow

So from Yaroslavl I took a bus that goes straight to the airport in Moscow- thank goodness! So instead of taking the express train to Moscow, the metro to the aeroexpress train and getting to the airport, a bus was able to do all that in 6 hrs.

On the bus ride, my snickers which I had packed for a nutritious breakfast in Prague during my layover had melted to the heat coming from the bottom of the bus. Luckily I was able to save them before they became liquidly, hot chocolate.

When I got to the airport I decided to get past security and just wait inside for the 4 hrs, but little did I know you can only check in 2 hours before. So when I got through a first baggage security checkpoint and then a line where they look at your itinerary (which the guy didn’t tell me anything) then wait about 15 minutes to finally be told by the lady that I needed to sit and wait until 8pm for me to check in, so I had to walk back out and sit in a waiting area of two hours.

About an hour into waiting a police officer came around to where we were sitting, we being everyone waiting for 2hrs before their flights. There surprisingly were a lot of different people ethnicities, and I heard Chinese and Arabic which of course being an airport makes sense…sort of, cause this is Russia and they might not believe in foreigners, I’ll talk later about that in a different post.

Sitting not to far away from me sat people from the Caucus area of Russia, who have darker features and traits throwing more to the Asian influence. He walked up to every single person of that group (who later turned out to be heading to Tashkent, Uzbekistan) and asked to see their papers and documents. I don’t know if I was shocked or how to describe it. Was this just outwards racism? People say that Political Correctness and that stuff don’t really exist in Russia, but what can we describe this as? A simple routine check-up ONLY to the people those ‘look’ foreign. Meanwhile, I could have easily been a drug trafficker or some outrageous, dangerous person; yet they never came up to me.

Something else I saw which I don’t know how to explain because I really have no idea what was going on was there was some sort of Chinese tour group apparently heading back to China but as I was heading through passport control, I noticed that the officers had sort of rounded them up and had two of the guys handcuffed to each other. I have no idea what was going on but would have been interesting to see for what reason they though they needed to be handcuffed.

Nonetheless, I made my way through passport control, security and on to my flight to Prague where I had a 19 hour layover before heading to Madrid, Spain!

10 Days of Freedom = Fall Break

As days, weeks, and months pass by I realize that I need to get up on this before everything just turns later and later. Plus we’re entering December which means the wrap-up of Fall semester, final projects, papers and exams. So here goes my entries about Fall Break and onward!


10 days off to head out somewhere in the world and enjoy my time! So I decided to hit up Spain and Italy where Alana, Shqipnije (Madrid) and Eleanor (Rome) are. No one knows the pain and agony I went through waiting to receive my multiple entry visa. So this is how it went down: when we first entered the country, we were given a single entry visa. This allowed us to register ourselves to our host family and of course enter the country. Now, once that visa is stamped it’s no longer active so if you leave the country, whoops… you can’t come back in. So we had to apply for a multiple entry in order to exit and enter whenever we wanted. But being that Russia is Russia, anything and everything could have gone wrong. It usually takes somewhere between 2 weeks to get the visa but who knows what could have happened in between that time (and trust me I thought of everything when I was waiting). It took us if I’m correct 3-4 weeks to get ours. So me being me, I booked my flights to Spain from Moscow with a 19hr layover in Prague, Czech Republic and then from Madrid a flight to Rome. But I didn’t have my visa yet!! So everyday I prayed and prayed that I would receive my visa, and luckily I did- ONE day before I left. I don’t know what I would have done had the lady told me they were coming in on Friday rather than Wednesday and I was leaving on Thursday. I’m pretty sure I would have cried in a corner of my room for those 10 days instead of traveling and enjoying my time.

But luckily everything went well. So the next few posts will be about what I saw and did in Prague, Madrid and Rome. Pretty much all the pictures are on Facebook so it’ll be worth it to go on there than wait here. I’ll try and post some here if my internet allows me to of course.