Sep 19 2011

Prague & Oktoberfest

The nice thing about studying abroad is the opportunity afforded to students for travel. The Institute at Palazzo Rucellai gives students three-day weekends, so that we can travel throughout Italy and Europe.

I took advantage of this free time and spent Friday and Saturday in Prague and a few hours on Sunday at Oktoberfest. I book my travel through a student travel company here in Florence- Bus2Alps (http://www.bus2alps.com/en/tours), which organizes trips for students studying in Europe to other European destinations.

Me and Lisa- my ever-Reddy travel buddy

Me and Lisa- my ever-Reddy travel buddy

We left Florence around 9 p.m. on Thursday night and arrived in Prague at about 9 a.m. on Friday morning. After checking in to the Czech Inn, our hostel, we jumped on a tram and headed into the city center. Bus2Alps arranged a tour guide well-versed in Czech history and cultural to show us the Old Town, New Town, and Jewish Quarter. After the tour, we had some time to explore on our own and since I was one of only two guys on this particular excursion (not counting our two awesome Bus2Alps guides- Tony and Sean), that inevitably meant shopping. However, walking around in Prague was very pleasant because it actually felt like fall. Florence on the other hand, is still quite hot.

Astronomical Clock

Astronomical Clock

The next morning, Sean and Tony took us out into the city again and we explored the Charles Bridge, John Lennon Wall, the Kafka Museum, and took in everything Prague had to offer. We then went up to Prague Castle, which is the largest castle in the world for a tour of the courtyards and cathedral.

Lennon Wall- which pretty much changes every week!

Lennon Wall- which pretty much changes every week!

Detail from the Lennon wall

Detail from the Lennon wall

View from the castle hill top

View from the castle hill top

Our tour guide then took us on a beer tasting to three different locations in the city. At the first, we learned about cultural aspect of beer in the Czech Republic. The proper way to toast is to raise a glass, look the person you are cheersing directly in the eye (or seven years bad luck will follow) say “Na zdrovie!” (to health!), put you glass back down on the table, and finally take a drink. We learned about the subtle nuances of beer and how important it is to the Czech people (much like wine to the French and Italians).

Traditional Czech dinner- which was a nice change from the usual pasta and pizza I've grown accomstumed to

Traditional Czech dinner- which was a nice change from the usual pasta and pizza I've grown accustomed to

Afterward, we met up with Tony and Sean to experience some Czech nightlife at Lucerna. The discoteca has giant video screens that play 80s and 90s music videos. It was one of the most laid back places I have ever been to with a very varied crowd- locals, business people, students all of whom were dressed in a variety of attire.

The next morning we were bound for Munich. Unfortunately, it was raining so the walk was a bit unpleasant. However, Oktoberfest was an amazing time. The spirit of the event is wonderful. Everyone is so friendly and willing to get to know the people around them- which wasn’t difficult given how full the tent was. After sipping our glasses and eating our giant pretzels we were back on the bus and homeward bound.

Our tent at Oktoberfest

Our tent at Oktoberfest

This weekend promises to be a little bit quieter with me just spending time in Florence, catching up on reading and getting some work done.

Till next time,

Tom


Sep 13 2011

Firenze

Ciao ragazzi!

It’s hard to believe that I’ve only been in Florence for a week now. Luckily, my flight was not delayed by Hurricane Irene and was safe and sound and in Florence last Thursday after a quick stopover in Frankfurt. All of my luggage also arrived with me, which was a welcome surprise since we were told our bags would probably be delayed a few days.

I was herded into a taxi and taken to my apartment on Via del Moro, 22. I live on the second floor (third floor by American standards), so getting my two bags upstairs was a less than fun endeavor. I live with seven other Roger Williams guys, most of whom are architecture students.

We had orientation for school the following three days, during which we were instructed on what to do and what not to do in the city, how to not act like a tourist, and to really go out and enjoy everything Florence has to offer.

Some rules at school (which is housed in Palazzo Ruccelai) are not to slam the doors, because they “are older than your home country,” no chewing gum (it will stain the limestone stairs if it falls on the ground), and avoid yelling in the halls, because the noble family which lives on the upper floors of the Palazzo Ruccelai will be disturbed by the noise. The Count Ruccelai in particular. Yes, the Count.

I’m taking a full course load:

  • Michelangelo
  • Archaeology and Art of Ancient Italy
  • The Roman Empire
  • European Union
  • The Florence Experience: Elementary Italian

All of my classes have field trips that will take me across Italy- Rome, Pompeii, Populonia, and throughout Florence. The school also has trips and cultural activities for us to participate in- Chianti this Friday and Siena on Saturday, for instance.

Next weekend, I’ll be heading to Prague for the weekend with a brief stop over in Munich for the start of Oktoberfest.

I’ll post pictures of my apartment and what I’ve encountered in Florence so far after the weekend.

Arrivaderci!