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The Cities That Made Me Speechless

I sat down three times to write a blog about Prague, but for some reason, I couldn’t think of anything to say. It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy my time there, I definitely did. And it wasn’t that the city didn’t leave an impression on me. But I felt like I didn’t have any coherent thoughts or words about my experience there.

But soon after, it was time for me to go to Rome, and I had the idea to just write a blog about both cities, that way I had more to say. Then I came home from Rome and my writers/thought block was almost worst. I didn’t understand what was happening.

See the reason I couldn’t write about Prague, and now how it’s even harder to write about Rome was I didn’t know how to write about a beauty you just have to see with your own eyes.

I couldn’t explain the magical feeling I got walking through the winding cobble-stoned streets of Prague, like I had been transported to a fairy-tale land. I couldn’t put into words the emotions that overcame me looking up at the ceilings of the Sistine Chapel, the ceilings I heard about every day of my childhood (thank you Catholic school education).

It’s that feeling of being lost in history that people are chasing when they come to Europe. But it’s not kind of history that has a face and name, like when you see a Berlin square that the Nazi’s rallied in. It the 100’s of years of people that weren’t written in the history books. The merchants who all met in a small square in Prague that you, thousands of years later, are eating dinner in. It’s the streets that the first Christian’s walked on, and you have to wonder about what life they were living. The history that swallows you up, and you are just a small fraction, a blimp in the city’s eyes.

In Prague and Rome, when you see artifacts and buildings that were built in the 1700s, you are unimpressed because the 1700s? That’s new for these cities. With buildings built 2,000 years ago still standing, 300 years is modern. But then I kept thinking about how stuff in the 1700’s is older than my own country. With the U.S. not being founded until 1776, most of the stuff around me has been there before everything I’ve ever known at home was even thought of. Some of these buildings were worked on before anyone knew America even existed.

My expectations going into Prague were actually pretty low. I remember both of my sisters saying Prague was a “must-see” but I didn’t really know why. Prague’s history was (and is) confusing to me, I didn’t understand how the city was important in history, I don’t remember ever learning about it in history books. All I knew was that it was old and currently in the Czech Republic, but previously in Czechoslovakia, the Soviet Union, under Nazi rule, AND in the Austria-Hungary Empire. I couldn’t wrap my head around an old and beautiful city that experienced that many regimes in current history. But that experience made Prague what it is, a must-see. It has pretty much every era of world history to show, from ancient to Baroque to the communist era.

As for going to Rome, I was anxious. From loving ancient history, to learning about Rome so much in school, I was worried my expectations were going to be too high. But from St. Peter’s Basilica, to the Colosseum, to the food, Rome did not disappoint.

But my favorite part of both Prague and Rome weren’t the grandiose structures of ancient times, it was the quiet beauty that just existed as part of daily life. The cobblestone streets and the beautiful trees and the random statues on every corner. It’s probably the stuff you get used to living in Prague or Rome, but when used to seeing a Walgreens (no disrespect to Walgreens, I love you) on every corner, it is a bit overwhelming.

All in all, amazing doesn’t cut it. So again, I find myself at a loss for words.


Emily Reid is a junior at the University of Missouri-Kansas City double majoring in Journalism and Political Science. She is spending the semester in Berlin, Germany through the ISA Berlin Program

Disclaimer:  Student blog entries posted to the Roos Abroad Blog may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UMKC Study Abroad and International Academic Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.

Spring Break Chronicles!

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted on the blog. Please forgive me, I was on my spring break adventure and wanted to have one compiled post about all of the amazing and not-so-amazing experiences I’ve had while gone!

I have no idea how I am going to put all of my emotions and experiences into one blog post, but I’m about to take a stab at it.

So, for spring break, my friend Miranda and I traveled to 5 different places: Rome, Italy; Frankfurt, Germany; Prague, Czech Republic; Budapest, Hungary; and Stockholm, Sweden.

In your head, you may be thinking that most of the places are pretty random. But let me tell you, these places are spectacular! I think that American media has done an excellent job at glamourizing big cities while downplaying and overlooking smaller cities and countries. But Europe has so many hidden jewels, and these places don’t need any approval to “shine bright like a diamond” (in the voice of Rihanna, the singer)—these places shine all by themselves and the fact that they are, indeed, hidden jewels is what makes them so incredibly amazing.

Stop 1: Rome, Italy:

The whole time in Rome I couldn’t stop singing the song from the Lizzie McGuire movie (one of childhood favorites)!

“Hey now, hey now. This is what dreams are made of!”

For those who aren’t hip to Liz, the movie was shot in Rome. And not even 24 hours after having the song stuck in my head I was walking down the Roman streets — the same ones that I only longed to watch as a little girl.

Studying abroad truly is what dreams are made of, and I am so blessed to have the opportunity!

Overall, Rome was beautiful, but the city felt very dreary and almost sad. The people weren’t the friendliest either. But during my time there, I had an encounter with a man who enhanced my time like I never thought! When we were at aIMG_0646 restaurant, an African man selling bracelets came to our table and gave us both free bracelets. When he left he said, “love and happiness” with a huge, bright smile. It made my entire time in Rome! I’m sure he had been selling bracelets and getting denied all day long. But he still decided to be generous and not force his sales on us.

What’s even better is later that day we saw him again and he gave us a High five while saying “happiness.” He then looked us straight in the eye and said, “I love you my sisters, happiness and blessings to you and your family.”It sounds a bit creepy when I type it, but I promise it wasn’t. It was authentic and from his heart.

I wish every one had as beautiful of a spirit as him — telling people they love them and meaning it! Not always trying to get over on people!

So that was my favorite Roman experience.

 

Stop 2: Frankfurt, Germany

It’s safe to say that I caught “The Germ” very quickly; I am in love with Frankfurt and of all the places I went it is among my favorite.

I’ll keep it short, but everything from the museums, to the people, to the beautiful river, to the hostel, to the fact that the city has a Chipotle (YUM) was absolutely amazing. Frankfurt also has a Communication Museum—which is so monumental for me because I’m a Communications Major. We also went to a play at the English Theatre! Much of the time I was a little home sick though, primarily because it reminded me so much of the States.

Obviously I didn’t have the chance to see every part of Germany or Frankfurt—but from what I have seen and experienced I would suggest it to anyone looking for a good place to travel. I would especially recommend it as a study abroad location because it has a very “at home” feel.

 

Stop 3: Prague, Czech Republic

This place is magical. If you ever wanted to star in a Disney princess film, just go to Prague and you’ll easily feel like you crossed that off of your bucket list. It’s filled with stunning castles. I felt like I was either in the movie Tangled, Shrek, or Cinderella (the one with the singer Brandy in it).

Not much to say outside of this—the pictures, I believe, speak for themselves!

 

 

Stop 4: Budapest, Hungary

I thought Hungary would fulfill my travel appetite. But after getting a taste of some of Hungary, I’m not so hungry anymore…

A lot of people I study with here in Malta LOVE Budapest— although it was nice, it wasn’t among my favorites….not even slightly. That could be because we were there much longer than the other places we visited, though.

But even with my slight disdain for Budapest, the bridges and scenery had moments of beauty. I also went to a contemporary dance show which made me feel like a local. Also, the Holocaust Museum was absolutely AMAZING. Here’s a fast fact: After World War 2 and the holocaust, most Hungarians were very poor, which is where Hungarian ingredients and signature dishes come from. Hungarian food is typically made with simple, inexpensive ingredients like hand-made bread and paprika because at the time that was all they were able to find and afford. Another fast fact, many of the buildings in Budapest still have bullet holes in them from the war.

   

Stop 5, Last Stop: Stockholm, Sweden

The very first observation I made when I got here is that in formal settings, people say hey instead of hello. It’s so interesting and I never really noticed how much I say “hello” instead of “hey” until I got to Stockholm.

Anyway, the city was stunning, and Stockholm is one of my favorites, right next to Frankfurt. It is the capitol of the Scandinavian countries and it is basically a bunch of islands connected by public transportation. I did not get many pictures there because we didn’t stay very long, but here they are. Their country’s animal is the Moose. I fell in complete love with the cute little moose souvenirs!

The ONLY negative I have is that it’s cold. But we live in the Midwest, we’re used to that right?

Sorry I don’t have many photos of the Stock.

Final thoughts and pieces of advice:

I’ve learned that when I’m traveling I don’t prefer to do sight-seeing, tourist activities. I prefer to explore the places no one goes to and discover hidden jewels of the city. I like to be either doing something, or learning something. I enjoy mountain hikes and museums…stuff like that. Even the Rome is…well, Rome… I enjoyed little ol Frankfurt more and I think it’s because we did more exploration and went to museums… We did things that stimulated our minds, rather than just looking at statues, monuments and cathedrals. Not saying that those things aren’t beautiful, but I wouldn’t want to spend my whole time doing that.

That’s me though. I say all of this to say that it is important to know your travel style so that you can plan your trips accordingly with things you like and want to do.

When I decided to study abroad, the only places that seemed appealing were the really popular, really common, really touristy places like Rome, Barcelona or Paris. But now I’m realizing that a person’s lack of knowledge, respect, admiration or media attention for a country or person does not stop its beauty from permeating, and it does not stop it from being a great place to visit or study abroad at!

The biggest piece of advice I have for people studying abroad is to NIKE…Just do it. Do it! Every place will have a unique experience to offer you with plenty of things to learn, so just go for it and you’re sure to learn something. Don’t look at the smaller cons like the weather (whether its warm or cold) or the population size— your experience will ultimately completely outweigh any of those tiny little factors!

Additionally, just because a place is common or well-known doesn’t mean you will enjoy it more. In fact, you might even enjoy it less because of the utopian idea you’ve developed of it; the media’s hype over major cities could cause you to set a fantasy standard that wouldn’t be met if you visited the place. Ultimately, larger cities like Paris and Rome thrive off of tourism—which is great! – but if you’re looking to go to a place where you can feel at home, welcomed, and truly like a local, then looking into less-talked-about-places should definitely be an option.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s okay to want to visit larger and well-known cities… I’m just saying that you shouldn’t cross out other options just because you’ve never heard of it. My travel buddy and I both wrongly assumed that Frankfurt would be boring solely because nobody talked it up like they did other parts of Germany. But it ended up being one of our favorite places! Looking back, I’m so glad I didn’t choose London or Paris. Malta, in all of its tininess, is the PERFECT place for me, and I wouldn’t have chosen any other place to study abroad! I had fun during spring break, but I’m glad to be back in cozy little Malta.