Praha, final city of our spring break adventure

Aside

We hopped on a double-decker bus around 8am in Vienna and headed Northwest to a city I knew very little about, except that I should go. The first step I took into the city I was in love, the architecture here is so elegant, old and different from anything I have ever seen. I could not keep my eyes from looking up at the pointy tops of the buildings the whole time.

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We arrived in Praha, Česká Republika (in English, Prague, Czech Republic) around 1pm and made our way to our hotel for the night “City Center Hotel.” I wouldn´t reccomend staying here, the hostel, Arpacay we were at for the remaining 3 days was much cozier and all around had a much better vibe. Being able to jump into a down comforter that accompanied all of the beds in the hostel was quite nice and the breakfast was cheap but filling (tons of granola, yogurt, bread and meat), the staff helpful and the location perfect! It is located in the lower town (Mala Strana) of Prague, near the castle. ImageOur first night in Prague We walked up and down the Vltava river and each step presented us with a different view of the Prague castle, which is over 1000 years old! It felt like an alternate reality. I am from Florida, so I grew up seeing “Cinderella’s castle” at Disney World, there were times when I had to remind myself this is a real city, and that is a real castle. Nothing excites me more than the history that lies in these European palaces! We made our way to lesser town and hiked up to the castle at night! This was really awesome because we got to beat the crowds and look at the castle with out a group of 20 posing in front of it. Another interesting time to visit the castle, which we did, is at noon for the changing of the guards. There is a band and the guards are very traditional during this ceremony. Expect it to be packed, but worth it. I definitely recommend going at both day and night because you get to see two very different views of the city, dark and light. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter the extensive walk to the castle, we were parched, and headed to The Pub to wet our whistles. I´m not one to splurge much, but the bloody´s at The Pub are worth it! I never really acquired a taste for this drink, but after having my senses rocked by the bloody I tried in Prague, I´m a fan! The man who made our Bloody´s took his precious time, and for obvious reason, perfection!

My favorite musician in the town!

My favorite musician in the town! Check out that instrumental masterpiece he created!!

The next day we made our way from our hotel in old town to our amazing hostel in lower town. The best part about this walk is crossing the Vltava river via the Charles Bridge (Karlův most, take not of the Czech name because it is on signs everywhere and a very central landmark in town). In my opinion, the best free thing to do in Prague! On this bridge you can find several musicians, artist, and other types of vendors. Much entertainment to be enjoyed on this bridge, not to mention killer photos!

Charles bridge late night

Charles bridge late night

Viva La Musica!

Viva La Musica!

Photo by mi amiga Kim who I got to meet up with in Prague!

Photo of Trdelnik by mi amiga Kim who I got to meet up feast with in Prague!

After yet another trek, we were hungry, the lady at the front desk of the hostel recommended us to two amazing restaurants, both in lower town, U Schnellů and Malostranska-Beseda. My favorite being Malostranska-Beseda, it was here that I asked the bar tender how to say cheers in Czech, na zdravi, always a good word to know when visiting a foreign country! I fell in love with Czech food during my time in Prague. I had never given thought to Czech food before, but I´m glad we found each other. At Malostranska-Beseda they started us off with complementary bread and butter. This wasn´t your typical bread and butter, the bread seemed to have cheese and pieces of bacon baked into it (and I don’t even like bacon) and the butter was garlic and chives. For my main course, I ate Roast beef with traditional creamy sauce, cranberries and a variation of dumplings. The combination of roast beef and cranberries is AMAZING!! The next day At U Schnellu I had roasted eggplant filled with cheese, tomatoes, basmati rice and yogurt salsa. Both places were very reasonably priced but it’s always good to keep in mind the 100 Koruna (Czech currnecy) = about 5 US Dollars.No visit to Prague is complete with out grubbing out on street food, which we found plenty of in old town (Staroměstské náměstí) square. After missing our free tour, were living in Spain so being on time for anything has turned into quite a struggle, we did the next best thing, EAT!481250_10151474249027692_1781322584_n Our first snack was Lángos, which is actually a Hungarian treat. It consists of fried dough, garlic butter, tomato sauce and cheese. Although they can consist of many other things when made at home. Our next task was satisfying my ever lasting sweet tooth. The most common sweet treat on the street is Trdelnik; rolled dough coated with sugar, cinnamon or nuts, this was perfect to warm our hands in the cold weather that accompanies Prague in mid-February. Something I noticed almost instantly is that there are Puppets everywhere! Scary, cute, funny, naughty you name it Prague has it. We made our way to a puppet shop and I was able to sneak in a few pics for my Uncle Jimmy who collects these strange dolls.

Astronomical clock in old town!

Astronomical clock in old town!

My favroite piece at the butterfly effect exhibit!

My favorite piece at the butterfly effect exhibit!

We went to an exhibit that was only in Prague until Mid-March, The Butterfly Effect, which hosted very unique pieces of art and then finally found our friends at the hostel! We met up with some of our best friends in the FSU Valencia program, Hector and Tash! I was beyond ecstatic to have this crew in the middle of Europe. We decided to hit The Jazz Dock, which I highly recommend. The atmosphere was chill but up-beat at the same time, the drinks were good and the food was great. Our group of 6 held down seats at the bar right near the band and enjoyed the sounds of this amazing quartet. After the Jazz dock some of us went to the most

Jazz Dock

Jazz Dock

visually pleasing club I have ever seen, Cross-Club. It is not in the center of town but well worth taking a cab. Just be careful with the cab drivers ripping you off and make sure you discuss the price prior to getting in the cab. One of our cab drivers tried to blatantly rip us off by saying my friend didn´t hand him money, when he did, luckily we didn´t let his sneaky ways get to us and we got my friends change back! 392958_497878680269200_407887803_nThe next day after watching the guards change at the castle and grubbing out on street food, we climbed up to Letenské sady (in English Letná Park) on Letná hill and hung out here for hours and could have stayed longer! Our friend Vanessa has an amazing camera so we got to take lots of pictures of the old town from this view and the Vlatava River rolling under the Charles bridge. The park is huge and there´s intersing buildings, swings and things to do all over it! We spent a lot of time watching the metronome swing back and forth, ha-ha. Fun fact, Michael Jackson kicked of his 1996 world tour here. If you want to people watch, this is definitely the place to do it! That night we went to a bar called the big lebowski, maybe you´ve heard of the movie. This is the only bar in Prague where you can actually name your price for your drinks and pay in Euros, Koruna or USD. The white russians were top-notch, next we headed back into the old town and went to a reggae bar (across from the 5 story club Karlovy Lazne) don´t go to this bar with your parents, but if you want to have some fun I would highly recommend it! And so came our final day in Prague, we obviously knew this day would come and wrapping up the most amazing trip I´ve ever been on was sad, but then we reminded our selves we were going back to our home in Valencia, España so it was fine. 525227_10151474239877692_172865002_nBy this point of the trip we were all scraping change so we decided to get into some nature (free!) and headed to the north-west outskirts of Prague via metro to Divoká Šárka. This place is amazing, directly behind a McDonald’s (gross) you can find this park and walk for hours! To the left of us were really impressive cliffs and to the right a bubbling creek where locals swim in the summer! There was definitely no swimming happening during my visit but we got to see snow, the combination of the green valleys and white snow was the  perfect sign that spring was just a few weeks away. This is a really tranquil place that makes you feel you are hours from the city, when in reality your bout 20 minutes away. Divoká Šárka was the icing on the cake for the final day of our spring break. A plane ride to Barcelona and bus ride to Valencia is what was left on our itinerary, sunny Spain here we come!485041_10151474233942692_1989390868_n Prague is the most architecturally pleasing city I have ever been to from walking the streets to hanging out in the park every sight was picturesque. If you ever make your way to this city be sure to bring some good walking shoes, eat all you can and use the public transportation because its easy, cheap and covenant. Also we found a use-it map for Prague and it was super handy! This map isn´t your standard map, it gives you advice about where the locals eat, party, shop and even how they act!

And im out, Danielle

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School trip to Andalucia

January 28th 88 students and I groggily boarded a bus and headed south to spend a week in Spain’s southern region of Andalucia. Our first stop was Cordoba and a visit to the breathe-taking Mezquita–catedral de Córdoba. This mosque began construction in 785 in a time when Cordoba was the capital of Al-Andalus.

Columns in the mosque

The Moorish architecture is heavily present throughout the Mosque-cathedral.What caught my eye the most were the 856 columns made of red brick and limestone; that gave the mosque a never-ending look.  What I found to be most interesting in this place of worship was the middle. In 1236 Cordoba was conquered by Kind Ferdinand III and the mosque was turned into a Catholic cathedral. About 200 columns were knocked down and an extravagant catholic church was put smack dab in the middle complete with lots of gold and giant saints. People still worship here today! Although it took the place of worship for the Muslim people and completely altered it, the reason it is still standing today is because during the Spanish inquisition it was pardoned of being destroyed because it was not solely a Muslim worship te

mple but a catholic one.

Our next stop was Sevilla, Spain, home-town of my amazing friend Lucia!

Beautiful view of the town of Sevilla! (from the top of the bell towers at Catedral de Sevilla)

Beautiful view of the town of Sevilla! (from the top of the bell towers at Catedral de Sevilla)

My schoolmates and I felt like royalty (which is only appropriate while in Andalucia, right?) when we entered our hotel. Before dinner we made our way up to the terrace and got an amazing view of Catedral de Sevilla, the largest Gothic style cathedral and 4th largest overall cathedral in the world!

Taking in the view!

Taberna Coloniales 

For dinner in Sevilla my friends and I took Lucia’s advice and had dinner at Taberna Coloniales. This was the best meal I ate the whole Andalucia trip, and maybe even during my entire trip in Spain thus far! If you ever find yourself in Sevilla put this place on your list! At dinner I ordered  berenjenas rellenas (stuffed eggplant) filled with shrimp, which was a delightful surprise! Our table also ordered Roquefort dulce con moras (cheese and sweet berry jam spread) this combination was fantastic, I am a huge advocate for cheese and berries! For dessert we got Tia Pepe (Spanish cheesecake).

Plaza De España

Panoramic view of the plaza

Panoramic view of the plaza

This famous Plaza was used as a filming location for Star-wars episode 1 & 2, I have never really seen the movie but my roommate, Alison better known as Rosada, is a HUGE fan so she was pretty thrilled about this. A neat feature of the plaza is the tiled covered walls that feature each province of Spain. I really could have spent hours here observing the fine tile and bridges throughout the plaza.

Viva Valencia!

Reales Alcázares de Sevilla (Royal Alcazars of Sevillethe oldest royal palace still in Europe!

Hall of ambassadors

Check out that detail!

Check out that detail!

It’s very typical for artist to come to the ancient palace and work on paintings,etc.

Notice the beautiful painting and immaculate tiles behind her!

Notice the beautiful painting and immaculate tiles behind her!

After we toured Sevilla we were off to Granada to visit the Alhambra. Never have I seen architecture so fine before, I was taken aback by how small the detail was here. I tried

A view of Granada from a window in the Alhambra

A view of Granada from a window in the Alhambra

to imagine my self back in 889 when the Alhambra was first constructed as a fortress using tiny tools hour after hour to create a huge piece of what would be one of the most amazing buildings in the world. In 1333 the fortress was converted into a royal palace. Of all places, my camera died mid way through the Alhambra, but I was able to snap a few photos before it died. Since Alhambra is a bit higher on the mountain than the rest of Granada we were able to get a spectacular view of the white washed city from above! We were also able to see the snow-capped Sierra Nevada, a mountain very popular in Andalucia for its skiing. It was a bit surreal being so hot and then walking up and seeing snow! Especially being a Florida native.

A nice shot of the Sierra Nevada by my class mate Oliver Pettis

A nice shot of the Sierra Nevada by my class mate Oliver Pettis

Their were many royal cats in Alhambra, not a shabby spot to live if you ask me! I could go on for days about Spanish tile, the tile in the Alhambra is probably my favorite so far. Covered in star patterns and geometric shapes of yellow, green, blue and white the tile could almost tell a story. How is it that something so old is still so appealing to the eye after all of these years? IMG_3731Walking through the Alhambra where most of the palaces walls were covered in carvings like the photo seen below literally sent chills down my spine. This palace is so well-preserved (although new pieces are sometimes added) it is almost like time travel thinking about the royal families that once lived here.

Intricacy at its finest

Intricacy at its finest

Ceiling detail

Ceiling detail

After so much sight-seeing (although I could have stayed there for hours longer) I was ready to eat! One thing I loved so much about Andalucia was the free tapas! This is most practiced in Granada. Order a reasonably priced beer or wine (or soda but no thanks) and get a free tapa, rice, bocadilla, or any other concoction the bars come up with. After 3 drinks and 3 tapas I was full from tapa hopping (and my wallet was still pretty full too!)

The weather, food, architecture and nightlife were remarkable in Andalucia. If you ever end up in Spain put this region on your to-do list!