a few adventures

{maybe a few too many, given my current self-inflicted house arrest due to sickness. I blame the terrible gene pool recombinations that gifted me with misbehaving sinuses, but I’m doing some reading, drinking some tea, and finding some time to write; all good things and nothing much to complain about!}

Anyway. I’ve been out and about a bit the past week, first on a trip to the Sächsische Schweiz with my host family.DSC03311The Sächsiche Schweiz (or Saxon Switzerland) is a region just outside of Dresden known for striking hills and cliffs, and the Elbe River runs through it. The region extends into the Czech Republic (though the Czech region is known as the Böhmische Schweiz).

Our first stop was a trip to Festung Königsfeld, a former Saxon fortress. 200 years ago it was besieged by Napoleon’s army! But it’s way older than that, of course. We walked around the edges of the fortress walls, taking in a panorama of amazing views of the countryside! I was hoping the landscape would be a little more autumnal than it turned out to be, but there were some red and orange leaves to be seen.DSC03332Within the fortress, we got to see restored and/or museum-ized versions of many of its buildings. We saw the well (water collection is the most important aspect of life in an isolated community like a fortress!), which collects water from a remarkable depth: it took several minutes for the collection bucket to rise from the water level to us at the mouth of the well, and when the tour guide threw some water back down, it took 16 seconds to hit the bottom! We also saw the treasury, the church, the ammunition magazine, and the beer cellar (which would have held HUGE casks of beer: think several people high!)

A few centuries ago, beer would certainly have been safer than water direct from the well!

A few centuries ago, beer would certainly have been safer than water direct from the well!

After our adventure at Königstein, we headed to the Czech side of the border for some hiking! First, we stopped for lunch at a little touristy restaurant where I sampled Knödel alongside my pork and gravy. Knödel are “white bread dumplings” and they are just about as heavy and starchy as they sound. I guess I had to try ’em once, considering they’re a Czech staple, but I will probably not be eating them again 😉 I’ll stick with potatoes, please.

The trail we hiked was a series of cliffs and rock formations, starting with a stunning view of the valley:DSC03343

DSC03348We had a little key telling us the “names” of each rock formation, even though it seems they messed up the numbering somehow, since none of the rocks looked like they were supposed to, and the numbering didn’t match what was on the paper. We had fun trying to figure out how that could possibly be “Hercules,” or “Elephant Leg” or whatever. It turns out if someone tells you a rock looks like something, you’ll be able to see it.DSC03358The next day, I set out for Prague with my roommate (as of next week!) and some of her friends. They were nice enough to let me tag along on their vacation. I was reminded of my trip to New Mexico/Colorado with my own BFFs back home. Good times, friends. Good times.

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Taken from the hood of a car thanks to auto-timer! As all good group photos are…

The first notable thing about this trip was how little it cost to get to and from. Most of us were students, and our student IDs could get us (for free) from Dresden to the German border. That was about half the trip already, so the remaining price wasn’t much at all!

On Saturday, we started off with a self-guided walking tour around the city. We hit all the landmarks: the castle overlooking the city, the cathedral, the Senate building and gardens, the famous Karlsbrücke bridge, Old Town square bustling with tourists food vendors (whole pigs roasting on spits! Imagine it!), the Astronomical Clock in the Altstadt, so many old, majestic buildings and shops… there is just so much to see!! We walked around for hours.DSC03442

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DSC03415After a short rest at our hostel, some of us headed back out to the Altstadt to see a marching band parade! It was exactly what it sounds like. My roommate Agnes’ sister and dad are in a marching band back in their hometown, and this very weekend, many bands from around the region all participated in a parade around Prague! It was fun to experience such a fun and lively environment and hear some music.

We recovered from the afternoon in our hostel, writing and addressing postcards we’d bought along the way and drinking some beer, of course. We found a restaurant near the hostel and treated ourselves to some delicious Czech food. {because of my aversion to Knödel, I opted for Prague sausage with potato pancakes.} As we digested our meal, we took a quick climb back up to the castle to view the city at night. Just as stunning, albeit more difficult to photograph.DSC03491We ended the night with drinks: more beer, of course, and a Czech plum liquor called Slavovitz. I was not a fan, but you have to try everything at least once, yes?

On Sunday, we had to check out of our hostel early, so we stashed our bags to pick them up later. {I learned my lesson this trip about overpacking. I brought way too much stuff! I know better now.}

Most of the group went to an art museum in the city; some went exploring in parts of the town we hadn’t seen yet; and I went to Mass at Our Lady of Victory Church, which is famous for the Infant Jesus of Prague. It was beautiful, yet under construction, so that kind of takes away from the beauty. I didn’t take any pictures inside, because Mass, but google it and you’ll see a better representation of its beauty than I got to!

Funny story: I was just sitting in the pew, minding my own business and waiting for Czech mass to finish (for some reason, despite the reported 10 AM start time, it went right up till noon when the English mass started) when the woman coordinating Mass came up to me, asked me if I would be staying for English Mass. When I said yes, she asked me if I’d like to read the first reading! Of course I said yes, but it was just the weirdest thing. The guy behind me (also American) read the second reading. We processed up together at the right time, coats and bags in tow to prevent theft by wandering tourists, and probably confused everyone with our American accents. The whole thing was just hilarious to me; I would go to Mass in Prague and be needed to do a reading. Definitely a fun and unique story. (Sorry for the lead-up in the last post and the subsequent self-explanatory story. It turns out there wasn’t much to it.)

The whole group met up at 1, at which time we went on a little hike. Up to a tower on the hill overlooking Prague, which promised a panoramic view of the city.

{One funny thing about living in a foreign language, at least in my experience, is that making and/or discussing plans is especially challenging. My host dad was gone for a week on business and I had no idea where he was until after he got back, and not for a lack of people talking about it. You think you know exactly what is happening, so you don’t ask questions, but it turns out you’ve missed essential details without knowing it.}

So the whole time, when people had been discussing the plan for the afternoon, I thought we’d be doing the thing where you pay to go up to the top of the tower of the cathedral, or something. For such an activity, I was adequately dressed. But for a hike to the top of a hill and then further climbing of stairs, I was not equipped. My too-heavy-already winter jacket was too hot; my boots were definitely not of the hiking variety; I could totally have left my huge purse behind. But alas, we survive, and have pictures like these to show for our efforts:DSC03529After lunch, we made record time in getting ourselves to the main train station… it was a haul, and we made our train by six minutes. There were some tense moments on the way there, but it happened, and we made it back to Dresden.

Not before I had come down with something, unfortunately, so I spent Monday rehabilitating before heading to Berlin on Tuesday to see my dad. I probably should have stayed home and rested, but I already had my bus ticket, and when else will someone in my family be in Europe in the next 2 months, and I knew my fleece jacket and other goodies would also be waiting in dad’s hotel room. And so I went. Several minor snafus later (who opens an Astoria Hotel 10 minutes away from the Waldorf Astoria? You are facilitating frustration on the part of cab drivers and confused daughters everywhere), we found each other and commenced the party* in Berlin.

*In this instance, “party” constitutes drinking tea, eating necessary comfort food, getting lost on the way to the Brandenburg Gate, seeing 3 Berlin things, getting tired due to sickness/jetlag, and going to bed at 8 pm.

3 thoughts on “a few adventures

  1. Hooray! Colorado/New Mexico trip shout-out!

    I liked the story about doing the first reading at English Mass, even if it was self-explanatory! And that is HILARIOUS about your host dad’s business trip.

    • I read it again, and it may sound more dramatic than it was. I knew he was leaving to go on a business trip, but it was for much longer than I had thought originally, and I really could not figure out where he was going. And when he came back and talked about the trip, it was still difficult because the names of countries are different and I didn’t know that Estonia was called Estland…

  2. Now THESE are the stories that make traveling abroad awesome! (minus succumbing to seasonal change and stress). I had forgotten how layering and traveling can get sooo frustrating. 🙂

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