eve in the heart of europe

my final selects

all categories | 06.22.17

These are all of the photos I didn’t post, because they didn’t meet some sort of requirement, but now I can because it’s my last post and I’m not crying you are. 

IMG_3034IMG_0277IMG_0324-2IMG_0751IMG_0872IMG_0202IMG_1216-2IMG_1482IMG_2355-3IMG_2957IMG_9638-2IMG_9687-2IMG_0169IMG_0221IMG_0335IMG_7530IMG_7554IMG_7577IMG_7583IMG_1275IMG_1542IMG_1672-2IMG_1749IMG_1785IMG_1877IMG_1890IMG_1924IMG_1956IMG_1966IMG_2046IMG_2090IMG_2172IMG_2180IMG_8362IMG_9196IMG_9475-2IMG_9426-2IMG_9418-2IMG_9265-2IMG_2992IMG_3014IMG_3218IMG_8919-2IMG_2491IMG_2495IMG_3224IMG_8780IMG_0266IMG_0435IMG_2797

IMG_8116IMG_8127IMG_8164IMG_8192IMG_8212IMG_8686IMG_8873IMG_8914IMG_9037IMG_9039IMG_9044IMG_9142IMG_9199

a longer second

IMG_0902

the nocturnalist | 06.21.17

This is kind of sad. I am sitting Cobra, a coffee shop right by our flat, typing my last blog of this month long adventure. Twenty-nine days ago, I walked into this coffee shop alone, and ordered myself a shot of vodka in my grapefruit juice…just because I could. I sat there, sipping this watery cocktail I made up on the whim, and felt the excitement of new possibilities. I stared at people I didn’t know, and took deep breaths. I was here.

Now I am here, surrounded by people I know. Friends at the table, a wait staff that recognizes me and smiles (sometimes) when I walk in. I can’t believe how much has changed in such little time.

A month ago I posted my first blog photo, which was captured as tram doors were closing. It was me on the outside of the tram, seeing a happy couple on the inside. I was just learning this city

This is a photo of me inside the tram, seeing another happy couple, and feeling like I belong.

But now I have to leave.

You will see me again, Prague.

!!!!!!

going out

IMG_0913

the nocturnalist | 06.20.17

There is this club in Prague called Kalovy Lazne. It is five stories ( I think) and claims to be the biggest club in central Europe. I have been there twice, and had two totally different experiences there. The first night, I thought it was the coolest place ever. I was running up and down the stairs to each floor, which have their own designated theme, and going wild. My favorite floor was the oldies level, where they played ABBA and we danced on a giant light up disco floor. The second time I went, I asked the DJ if he could play Hall and Oates and he told me “they were not a classic”.

The first time I was there I was surrounded by groups of people from so many different places and backgrounds. I met so many people from all over Europe, there were so many stag groups, all with competing energies, which made for an interesting night. The second time I went it was kind of empty. I began to see how gross the place was, and how much of a tourist trap it was.

Fast forward to a few nights ago, I am walking around the early hours of the morning, and I catch this dramatic scene. Two girls, in matching clothing, hastily exiting the club in a language I do not understand. I first wonder why they are matching in an outfit I would wear in middle school. I think to myself that these girls look too young to be clubbing. And then it makes me not like the five story club at all anymore.

IMG_3170

Morning Glories | 06.19.17

Nothing like a fresh loaf in the morning.

I can’t eat bread anymore, but if I could, this is for sure how I would spend my mornings. Just think, this girl is maybe on the brim of six years old, and she is already figured out some key components of life.

The first one being solitude. Now, I don’ know if I recommend solitude in the streets for kids that age, but the important part is that she doesn’t need anyone’s company but her own. I envy that freedom on a trip like this; where the only solitude you can find is when you close your eyes to go to bed.

Walking alone is the best way to clear your mind, especially with a loaf of bread in your hands. It’s solid, grainy, with a wholistic taste. When I ate gluten it actually had adverse effects. It made my brain feel like a cloud, and I could never get anything done.

I don’t really know what this post is about. It’s just nice to eat some bread in the morning, and walk around a town like this. I hope she knows that.

roll the bones IMG_7434.jpg

Weekend Miser | 06.18.17

I recently grabbed breakfast with a friend of mine from UT, who is also studying abroad in Prague. She is doing an affiliate program though, so her only obligation is to go to class. This leaves her with so much free time, that I kind of envied in that moment. I assumed this course would be easy, one photo and 250 words to accompany that photo per day. As Dennis Darling said, “it’s not rocket science.”

It’s not, but it gets challenging, especially when your classes consist of daily tours that provide the content for nearly 70% of the students on this trip. It’s hard to be original in these cool places when everyone is photographing the same things. As the trip has wound down, I have begun to just enjoy these tours for the scenery, only snapping a few pics and hoping that I can salvage some good material from the free time I get.

However, I did take some in the last destination we traveled to this past weekend. If you get the chance, be sure to check out the Bone Church in Kutna Hora. I’m not sure of the actual name, but I think The Bone Church is an accurate depiction for the structure.

From what I understand, they buried some saint relics in this church, so the entire town was trying to be buried in this teensy cemetery so they could rot in close proximity to bits of heaven’s royalty.. Eventually they ran out of room, but people will always be particular, even after they die…and they demanded to be buried in this specific cemetery. So. They dug up all of the corpses, which were decomposed by this point, to make room for the fresh flesh. Then I guess they figured they had to do something will all of these spare bones lying around. The priest at the time had some free time on his hands, so he did what any other human would do with leftover skeletons.

 

He made chandeliers.

 

boredom

IMG_7520

small wonders |06.17.17

A challenging part of this course has definitely been trying to find interesting subject matter to photograph. You are given somewhat broad prompts that you have to adhere to, however, in a city this size it’s hard to narrow it down.

But sometimes you get lucky. Whether you have good karma or the universe thought about you extra today, an obvious subject will be magically placed in front of you. Today it was a small girl, named Gia. She is four years old, but you would think she would be older by her physical strength and stamina.

IMG_7527

We walked into this beautiful, gothic cathedral. It was so grand, I thought it was a legitimate castle, but no… it was a church. I was only caught up in the grandeur for about a minute though before a blue little fluff caught my eye. I paced around a column to see this small wonder child, spinning in relentless circles. She tried to get her brother to join, as he was clearly bored with the architecture too, but he honestly could not keep up with her. She was scaling the castle walls, crawling through pews, and not at all afraid to throw a few glances at the camera.

IMG_7557

Me and my friends were dying as we chased after her, trying to capture how obnoxiously funny this little girl was. When we were walking out the door I noticed she was having a ball on the scooter, and was thankful that she finally had some freedom and fresh air.

IMG_7566

unleashing the beasts

IMG_7474.jpg

Not From These Parts | 06.16.17

Thank God it’s 2017. If it was 2016 than the date would have three sixes…and that would prove that crazy Monster theorist lady to be correct.

If you have not seen the video above, give it a watch for some context. She has some interesting theories about how the Monster Energy Drink is the drink of Satan, and I don’t know maybe it is true. Maybe it isn’t. They seem far fetched, but as an advertising gal, I know how much thought goes behind the symbolism of brands…and if they are aiming to go off this Satanic vibe then they are hitting the nail on the head. Anyways long story short, I saw this couple waltzing around this small medieval village called Kutna Hora.

They were walking step by step, wearing the exact same outfit…and I couldn’t help but chuckle when I saw the Monster logo plastered on their back. I don’t really know why they were both wearing it. Maybe they had the same event earlier that day and were given some Monster swag. Either way, the fact that they are parading it around a city like this just makes it all the more odd.

 

a hero

IMG_3319.jpg

a thousand words | 06.15.17

A while back I was scrolling through Facebook, watching all of the videos that appeared on my timeline. I was deep in the dangerous black hole of tasty recipes and random hair videos when I suddenly came across one that was quite moving. It was an older gentleman, sitting in an auditorium filled with other old people. He was just sitting there when the voice of a lady (I’m assuming she was the speaker of this event) addresses the woman sitting next to him, and says “Vera, the man you are sitting by is Sir Nicholas Winston.” The lady begins to tear up and begins to kiss his hands. This man, who I now know as Sir Nicholas Winton, nods and wipes tears from behind his glasses.

So, I think to myself, this must be a pretty impactful dude. The video soon proves my theory correct, when the lady addresses the entire audience and requests that any person that was saved by Sir Nicolas Winton, stand. Five rows of old people rose to their feet (except Sir Nicholas and his wife (maybe)). He turns his back slightly and is taken aback by the showing, and as the applause erupts you can just tell that he is so humbly moved. It really is quite beautiful, and lead me to research this guy.

I come to find out that Sir Nicholas Winton organized the rescue of around 669 mostly Jewish Czechoslovakian children that were destined for Nazi death camps before WWII in an operation known as Czech Kindertransport. He alone saved almost 700 people.

The other day we were at the train station and walked by his statue, which depicts him holding a child in his arms and guiding another by the hand. It is a very moving tribute to a man that did so much good to so many people.

dorris the socialite

IMG_7294.jpg

a thousand words | 06.14.17

Today we met a Holocaust Survivor. Her name is Dorris, she is a whole head shorter than me, she walks really fast, and she’s come to be quite the celebrity of the town which once imprisoned her, Terezin. Dorris spent four birthdays in Terezin, a holding camp for jews during the holocaust. The photo above is of her in the crematorium, which she only went in once during her holding period.

Terezin was interesting because it is a normal functioning town to this day. It’s hard to imagine the evil that took place there with people riding around on bicycles and eating Weiner schnitzels left and right. But at one point it was a type of purgatory for 150,000 people, around 30,000 of which died there because of malnutrition and disease. Dorris’s mother was one of those. Dorris was able to live with her until she died, and after that happened she was alone in Terezin with friends and the sheep she herded. Her father was transported to Auschiwitz, like many were from Terezin. At the time, people didn’t know what the end of their transport entailed, so they assumed they would be coming back. That was the last time she saw her father. Her brother was separated from her early on, and even after the war, Dorris assumed he was dead. The craziest thing was that her brother eventually found her. He went to the European Headquarters after he was released and discovered she was still alive. The next day he showed up to the flat she was staying, unannounced, and I can’t even imagine the reunion.

Throughout the trip, Dorris told us so many stories. She remembered so much for being 91 years old, and recalled upon so many memories from her late teenage years. During her time in Terezin, they assigned her to be a shepherd, so she was never transported to any concentration camps. We asked why and she said it was pure luck… with a head of blonde hair, the bluest eyes, and the ability to speak German, she was immediately preferred. This allowed her, at the time, to stay and work in the camp. Now Dorris collects sheep. Not real ones, but like small figurines. She said she has hundreds in her home.

One of the coolest parts of this trip was seeing how much of a light she was as a human being despite all that she endured. Every person that walked by her was greeted with a smile, and people that worked in the town knew her by name and were so excited to see her. She was a celebrity, and we were her paparazzi. And she was a hoot, always laughing and wanting to know the drama in our lives with pick-pocketers and what not. There was one point when we were walking through the museum, arms linked, and she stopped at a video where an older woman was speaking in Czech. She turned to me and said,

“Because of that girl I went to jail.”

We all paused, and she began to laugh.

She continued to tell us about how she met this girl one day who accepted bread from a random Czech man. The Nazi’s later found out this girl had bread and jailed her because they had to get to the bottom of who gave this girl a loaf of bread. Dorris, however, went on about her life, because she wasn’t the one who accepted the bread. But then one morning, she was doing her thing, herding the sheep, and the Nazi’s arrested her. They brought her to an interrogation room, and this man who Dorris described as a “bad cop” began to shout at her in German. I thought he was a bad cop because he was maybe super mean, but Dorris totally meant he was just really bad at his job and was on the less intelligent side. He demanded to know the identity of the man who gave Dorris’ friend bread but Dorris had no idea who this guy was. The Nazi Police man said,

“If you don’t tell me who this man was, I will hang you. Then send you to Poland”

Dorris laughed. She knew that this guy had no authority because what he said didn’t make sense. She told us,

“If he would have said it the opposite way, then I would have been scared. But he said he would hang me and then send me to Poland,” she shrugged, “and I like to laugh.”

They let her go after that.

a man and the sea

IMG_7187

Weekend Miser | 06.13.17

The whole time we have been in Prauge, there has been an art museum catty-corner to our flat that houses works from Picasso, Renoir, Pissarro, Van Gogh, Degas, and so many more well known artists. It has been a one second walk from our house this whole time and Dennis just now mentions it two weeks in.

Anyways, it is now one of my favorite museums. It’s good enough to dedicate yourself to one floor per day, if you really wanted to (there are six floors). The top floor had a really cool photography instillation with black and white shots of the human body against weather, and the bottom floor had some breathtaking modern art over the refugee crisis. Sandwiched in between these floors were classical pieces ranging throughout the years by some world renowned artists like the ones I mentioned above.

Not only was the actual art mentionable, the whole design and structure of the building was art itself. The windows were strategically placed so that the rafters created geometric patters on the tile floor. Each time you went on to the main area you could see a blip from each floor and the people walking and viewing this insane instillation on the ground floor. It was an electronic floor board that was contoured with black ridges. Flashes of light would spew from edge to edge, like comets in space. It was lined with a vibrating mirror that gave the piece the illusion of motion. But from up above it looked a lot like an ocean…or a pool of water that had been rippling from the after effects of a stone colliding against its waters.

“Puddles Pity Party”

IMG_3418

Noticed | 06.12.17

Napping. I found this gem walking through Wenceslas Square during our tour. My ADHD had gotten the best of me, and left me wandering without our group, eyeing each passerby as a potential subject. I saw this man sleeping hardcore. It wasn’t a dainty little nap that happens when you are really exhausted in public places, and you need just a few moments to flutter your eyelids before you realize that you are in public. He was super asleep…more asleep than I think I will ever be during any sleep in my life.

I was a little nervous to climb on the bench and snap pictures directly over this man. I winced as the shutter clicked, expecting to get at minimum: a nasty stare, at maximum: beat up. But nothing happened. He didn’t flinch, or even move. Not sure if he was breathing to be honest. But, I loved his candidacy. Here was a grown man, sleeping on a bench. Shirt unbuttoned and so vulnerable to the world. I really admired that he had no fear. Here I am, clutching my purse to my chest and making sure the zipper is fully closed and faced into me every time I walk in Wencesclas. Meanwhile, he is arms wide open to danger.

I also love his expression. I feel like it could be album art for his solo band. I doubt the music would be good, but it would be honest.

pointy roofs

IMG_1328

architecturally speaking | 06.11.17

People tell you that when you go abroad you will get homesick, and I was expecting to feel that for Austin or maybe even Dallas (the city I actually live in). I sat and waited for this wave of missing home to hit me, but the only thing that hit me was a pretty bad sinus infection.

I never missed home, but I missed Prauge.

The past week we have been traveling around the Czech Republic. We spent three days in this little medieval village, Český Krumlov and all today in Plzen.  They were great places, but I got over them so fast because I just wanted to go back to Prague. They felt like imposter towns that popped up for the sake of tourism, but they were totally legitimate. I missed being able to use my credit card, soy milk, and people knowing what gluten meant. I missed the stunning architecture that I realized I was taking for granted. There is just so much beauty in the buildings and surroundings, and I didn’t think I would get used to it to a point where it would be home. Who knew that walking on the Charles Bridge, and gazing upon the beautiful churches and quaint homes would be like a trip down South Congress. We are only half way done, but based on the feelings I have felt so far, I know that a part of me will always miss this place when I return back home ‘home’.

carefree living

IMG_1576

Around Here | 06.10.17

There are two specific cultures that this man represents.

The biking one is something I am jealous of. I wish I could even know my way around the town well enough to use a bike. I can’t even use the tram. I rode the metro one day by myself, thinking I could make my way back home. Well, I ended up in Prague 19, and to give you context I live in Prague 7. It was a shocking reality check of my hopeless sense of direction that I was already aware of. But I think that is what’s nice about public transit. You become really aware of the town around you, just by having to become aware of different routes.

And the fact that he was smoking while riding makes it so much more ironic and so much more Prague. It seems like the whole town is always on a smoke break, so it is only fitting that he would be smoking while riding a bike. Funny story is that I saw him the other day on the bus. I bought wifi for the day to try to show him, but I never sent them to myself. So, I couldn’t show him, so he was probably really weirded out that I kept staring at him eagerly. But it was for a good purpose, I swear.

all of the big trees- jonsí and alex

IMG_3000

location notation | 06.09.17

So, if you haven’t heard from another blogger on this trip or from my social media (you didn’t because there was no wifi) , this weekend our class took a three day excursion to Český Krumlov. It is a small medieval town three or so hours outside of Prague, and the whole thing is maybe ten yards long. That’s an exaggeration, but it also isn’t. It takes about thirty minutes to clear the town, which made it really easy to see all the important things in the time we were there.

We were able to see how small the town actually was when we did our hike. We were told to follow the blue arrows and we would eventually find ourselves on top of the mountain. It was the easy route, they said. Well, no. It wasn’t. It was a literal straight incline up the mountain; forget any winding path. I couldn’t help but think about how all of these people had to hike up this to get home everyday. However, after 45 minutes of going straight up, we came across this beautiful meadow with an outlook on the entire town. We saw how small everything was and felt like birds. Then their came to a split path.

We could have taken our planned route to the chapel, and headed back down…but we took the road less traveled, as our good friend Robert would ascribe. This road bent through this evergreen wonderland, filled with pluming fields of baby breath. I played my one of my favorite albums, “The Riceboy Sleeps” by an Icelandic duo called Jonsí and Alex. The title above is one of the best songs, and as it played, the light broke through the tall trees. It was magic. We soon stumbled upon this open meadow, with miles of nothing. We properly freaked out, and spent the next 20 minutes running through  tall grasses, wild flowers, and over to some horses that were casually living there. It was one of the most beautiful hikes I had ever been on, and I collected so many pine cones to remember it forever.

 

despite the negatives

IMG_3131

Small Wonders |06.08.17

After a beautiful hike through the forrest of Český Krumlov, and a much needed nap, my friends and I made our way to our next tour. To be honest, 9 out of 10 times we have no idea what we are touring until we get there. This was not an exception, but we were pleasantly surprised to arrive at this really cool looking photography studio.

It was in this quaint two story house, with a beautiful flower garden out front. Atop the roof was the name Joseph Siedel, which stood in white large lettering above this greenhouse looking room. We come to find out that this was not a greenhouse, but a very picturesque photo studio that lets in so much natural right. The walls are lined with antiques and shelves of old fashioned glass photos from when this studio was established.

It had been a family business, passed down father to son, until communism claimed it from them. His wife was expelled to Germany too, and it wasn’t until thirty years later could they reunite after the war. But by then it was too late for them to have kids. What’s cool is that the studio was still around, with so much history preserved to this day. Part of the tour was seeing how all of the old cameras were used, and having the negative process explained to us. Our guide held up a typical bridal portrait and was able to show us the essence of negatives with the opposing white and black colors of the groom’s and bride’s attire. But the BEST part was when I was able to develop my own negative. I don’t think I did it really well, but nonetheless, it will always be a good memory.

Ahoy!

IMG_2622

Architecturally Speaking | 06.08.17

Yesterday was kind of a dream. We got on a bus, fell asleep, and woke up on an island where a lone castle stood. Tall trees and scenic views of the river surrounding us made me feel like I was in Narnia and it was the first time we had the liberty to explore  a new place without a tour guide in front of us.

I ran through Zvíkov Castle, imagining life in the literal 1200’s. I couldn’t do it. Castles are so romanticized, but I doubt they were fun: dimly lit rooms, plagues, the stench of death from the executioner’s tower (which existed), and people kept attacking it which I feel like would be a chronic stress situation.

However, the architecture was stunning. The gothic arches and shafts lit up these patterns on the stone floors. There were rooms made of entire blue tile and stairwells that lead up to these views that you just wanted to scream at for looking so good.

Some of the halls still had furniture, that looked liked some of the stuff at my home. Things always come back in style, they say.

And there were also quite a few people there, many old, some young, and one of them was a sailor man.

toes in the sand IMG_0133

Morning Glories| 06.06.17

There’s that no good country song that I know every word to because I grew up in Texas. It goes:

‘I got my toes in the water, ass in the sand

Not a worry in the world a cold beer in my hand

Life is good today’

This is sort of the same concept, except their toes are in the gravel and their a$$es are on a bench. The point being, it’s really nice to relax sometimes, and just take your shoes off and enjoy what your surroundings hold. In the song, the artist had to travel to a beach to achieve this level of optimum serenity. Well in Prague, you just need a good bench. And a moment to take your shoes off. Toes in the gravel and all can qualify any early morning.

the wild stag

IMG_2535.jpgNot From These Parts | 06.05.17

If Prague is known for one thing, aside from it’s beautiful scenery and culture, it’s the good and cheap beer. It’s cheaper than water. This brings quite an array of people to this town, and among these people are a location specific species known as stags (formally as stag parties). These men flock from all over Europe to consume the cheap beer and celebrate their last few nights of solidarity. They all wear the same clothes, and parade around the town, usually in a drunken manner shouting chants and getting themselves really hyped for whatever is they do at stag parties.

In the photo above, two stags are pictured playing what seems to be a ritual stag game. The purpose? Who could ever know. However, they continue to leave the public bewildered and always questioning their next stunt. If you wish to locate a heard of stag, sit anywhere and wait. These stags were spotted at a local beer garden, so one of those are probably your best bet.

the emerald cityIMG_3327

Architecturally Speaking | 06.04.17

So, Prague has been a while for a long time, more than a thousand years to be a little more exact. This makes for some pretty enchanting architecture that I had never really been exposed to until this trip, considering that the oldest things in America are like 100 years old. The house I moved into was 50 days old, and it boggles my mind to think that finding any structure that new here is probably a rarity.

I didn’t register the age of the city as I walked down the roads the first few days because if I’m being honest, I have seen streets like this replicated at places like Disney World and what not, so it didn’t seem real at first. However, as we make our way through the days and pick up on more history, we get a gist of all that has happened in these buildings.

Which is why it has been hard for Czech’s to rebuild their city. There is so much history attached to these places, making the government really unlikely to let people build over and reconstruct. There are new people, new architects, people that want to explore modern styles and design, and getting permits to do so is very difficult in a place with rich history. However, there are some parts of Prague that don’t really fit in with the rest. Like a deformed puzzle piece, these buildings and their new shape are a voice of resistance, of new ideas…and it’s really cool seeing a building mid-construction knowing that this is something new for Prauge.

recycle with love

IMG_1899

Weekend Miser | 06.03.17

Here’s a not so funny story: on the way to Prague I lost all of my luggage. There were delays, missed flights, and really quick layovers–– all of which were out of my control. However, the main point of the story is that my bag never got on the plane to London, leaving me in the same outfit for four days.

If I had to rank top five outfits to never wear for four days straight, this would be like number 2. The most dreadful components of my ensemble would have to be this skort and these platform sandals that I would never wear to the airport, except I wanted to be posh so I did it and it was a huge mistake. I was walking alone in 40 degree London weather for a whole day wearing a skirt and heels, and I could tell by the types of stares I was receiving that people thought I was crazy.

So, long story short, I called Air-Lingus (do not recommend them after this ordeal) and they eventually told me that I would be given 60 euros for every day I did not have my luggage. This was not the most useful information, seeing that I was already in Prague and my suitcase was scheduled to arrive that day, but I figured I had a few hours until my bag would get there. So I thought why not spend 60 euros on clothes I like.

I wandered into this small up-cycled thrift store, called “Recycled with Love”. I had walked by there earlier that day when I was getting breakfast, and made serious eye contact with this really tall and fashionable lady, who was honestly really intimidating. She was standing outside of the store (which I later found out was hers) and I had wanted to go in and browse but she kind of scared me.

Later on that day, I worked up the courage with 60 euros worth of clothing as incentive. I tried on a bunch of things and she gave me some really helpful insight. She showed me just in arrivals and told me about how she started her store two years ago when she started re-making quality thrift finds. Everything in her collection are items she has picked out and made her own and I thought that was pretty cool. We chatted about my lost luggage dilemma and she ended up giving me a discount on one of the items. Now, all my friends on this trip go there too, and anytime I am wearing something from her store I try and stop by to show her my outfit of the day. And it’s become routine that anytime we do a weekend brunch at Bistro 8, we have to stop by her store. Living in the arts district has been pretty cool, and shopping here is the best way to spend your weekend hours, not to mention the goods are quite cheap here! Anyways, Martina was my first Prague friend and she is the coolest.

music in the streets

IMG_2423.jpg

Small Wonder | 06.02.2017

I really knew nothing about Roma people, however I would always get these random comments from people when I told them I was studying abroad. Cautionary remarks such as “watch out for the gypsies” and advice to guard my belongings around them were things I frequently heard, so that’s unfortunately all I knew. And what I’ve known has been majorly challenged because of what I’ve experienced today.

Today we went to a gypsy parade. It was called the World Gypsy Roma Festival, and Prague hosts this festival through it’s main town square. The only information we were given about this was the time and location, so my excitement level was pretty platonically low leading up to then. I really had no expectation for this event. We arrived early and tons of people were already crowding the streets, creating an atmosphere of energy as the bands began to tune their instruments.

And once the parade commenced, I began to feel the excitement too. All down Wenceslas square were people, clad in the most beautiful vibrant clothing. Sashes of red and pink with jangly coins were tied around the waists of women and girls, used as instruments while they danced. The men played accompanied them with brass instruments and percussion that created excitement wishing the entire crowd.

My favorite part was after every song or so, they would break it into smaller groups, and would perform these beautiful chants. They displayed so much love and pride for the culture, and I feel so much better for being able to witness the beauty of it firsthand. This was for sure one of my favorite days in Prague and it definitely shaped how I now view their culture. So much of the music and dancing reminded me of my own Hispanic culture and seeing the resemblances made me remember that we are all so so similar.

 

“were they buried here?”

IMG_1846Location Notation | 06.01.2017

, one of the girls asked. It was an innocent question. Both Hannah and I hesitated, waiting to see how their teacher would respond. He calmly stated that these children were buried in Poland.

This was a half truth, I suppose. They were gassed in Poland, and I’m sure their ashes are now the soil of Poland. I wish so badly that these 82 children had at least been granted this simple decency of a burial after what happened on the ‘dreadful day’ of June 1942 … but that is not how history played itself out, and I do not know if this young group of girls will learn the truth of the stone children they faced today.

Today our program took a trip, to a location 30 minutes outside of Prague, to What Was. The humble village of Lidice was home to around 500 people, who were one night told by German Nazis to  pack up their bags, without further explanation. The next morning, the Nazis lined up mattresses, taken from surrounding homes, against the village’s main barn wall. It was to prevent the bullets from ricocheting as they murdered every single man of the village. The youngest “men” had just turned fifteen. They were not bound, or even blind folded as they stood in a line awaiting their death. They were shot in groups of five to ten, bodies piling over each other as each bullet sounded. They had no choice but stand there, knowing their fate, as they watched their brothers, fathers, and friends be shot in a systematic manner.

As this happened women and children were corralled into the school for the next three days. Mothers were forced to give up their children, based on a false premise that this was a temporary arrangement. But they had to have known the reality of these half truths, adding to the devastation. From then on the women were sent to concentration camps to work for these Nazi monsters making leather and building roads.

The children were allowed to only bring the pair of clothes they were wearing, and were sent to an old textile factory where they suffered from lack of hygiene and illness. The Nazi’s had them write post cards to their relatives (some of which were in the museum) that asked for simple things such as shoes and clothes, because they had not changed in days. One child even asked his aunt for a spoon. These children were desperate, and like one of the surviving children stated, “were so unaware and naive to what was happening. [They] had grown up in such a small village. [Their lives] consisted of going to school, and playing with the animals” so they could have never fathomed the evil that was about to take place. Two days after the Nazi’s sent these post cards, 88 children were sent to the Chlemno extermination camp and gassed to death. By the time their relatives received the postcards, they had already died.

However, a handful of these children were spared upon arrival. They were separated from the others, due to physical attributes that made them suitable for Germanisation. These children were adopted by SS families and were forced to learn a new language and assimilate into a new culture. One survivor accounted that after the war was over, she was reunited with her mother. They instantly recognized each other, but could not communicate with each other. Daughter had long forgotten Czech and mother could not speak German. A few months later her mom died of TB.

The memorial pictured above honors the 88 children that lost their lives in Chlemno on July 2nd, as well as the other children who lost their lives in WWII. It was created by an artist, who created each child as an individual piece of art to commemorate each gassed child of Lidice, but she died before her work was finished. These stone children were then arranged together like so, and placed in the village that they had spent their childhood in.

I know the photo only shows the back of the memorial, but if you get the chance you should google or try to find a photo that allows you to see the expression of these statuesque children. The sadness in their eyes is truly felt, as they permanently overlook what once used to be their home. After everyone was removed or exterminated, Nazi soldiers slaughtered every animal, uprooted every tree, and even re-routed the stream so that it would erode the roads. Every building was set a flame in explosives, and a new top soil was placed over the entirety of the town. Not even the dead were spared. They were dug up out of their graves; and were robbed of their jewels and teeth.

And as a twenty year old, this is the first time I hear of the Lidice Massacare. I know why it happened; it was reprisal––it was payback for the assassination of Hitler’s number two man, Reinhard Heydrich in 1942. However, it will never make sense to me.

Today I stood in a beautiful meadow. Rolling hills, and small flowers grew from long grasses. One singular stone path lead to a pond and forrest of tall trees. It was the purest place I had ever stood in. Nothing was there. I think that what was so haunting about it; something should have still been there. My friend Briana said to me that if she were to drive by this place, with no knowledge of its history, she would have just thought it was a pretty field and that would have been that. It’s the strangest feeling standing in this vast expanse of nothing because an entire village was erased from existence.

The majority of this blog post is just regurgitated facts from what I learned today, because describing nothing is near impossible. Since there are such few physical remnants of this place and people, it is important that the story is carried on, because that is all that remains now.

While I was there I scrawled some lines into my travel journal. It’s straight nonsense that somewhat captures the sense of confusion and sadness I experienced in what once was Lidice. All I can say for certain is that it was the opposite of spooky, and it kind of resembled what I think heaven is, and that comforts me.

The sun is shining but there is no heat

I feel the air blowing but just around the edges of me

 A contradicting state of immortality in a place absent of life

It is like everything has stopped here.

A physical location that ceases to exist

Is pulled from time and earth, yet here I stand

In this postcard image

But when you hold up a mirror of the past the

Ends do not align 

Homes and houses ripped from this landscape

Torn scraps and jagged edges suspended in eventuality

Humanity under my feet

Innocence had its final breath

and after all this time trees and purple weeds

mark the lives of a bustling village 

Where nothing is and nothing be

mr. lisa

IMG_0433

Around Here | 05.31.2017

You know how they say people look like their dogs? Well, I’m a semi firm believer–– I feel like it’s not super common but every once in a while you will see a human-dog combo that look more like siblings rather two different species that mutually exist together without the ability to communicate. This ties in to the photo above, I suppose.

I was walking through Wenceslas Square, a very hyped tourist location Prague when I stumbled upon the male Mona Lisa. If you even happen to find yourself in Prague, and then in Wenceslas Square, take yourself over to the tables of artisan booths. Not because I think you should buy something (it’s probably over priced or mass produced) but I want you to try and take photos of the vendors. It usually doesn’t go over super well, as these craftsmen and woman are very territorial over their art, and are aiming to make high dollar from tourists eyeing their selections. I got yelled at by quite a few of them, making for some interesting portraits that were taken, mouths agape and all.

However, I was walking by this one booth that was filled with moody paintings and I see this head pop out from under a portrait…its Mr. Lisa, wearing the most mischievous smile. I think I really like this photo because he was ready to be photographed, with a smile that really held so much mystery. Also I can’t help but notice how much he looks like his paintings, or how much is paintings look like him. It’s a classic dog-owner clone pair. But bottom line, if you’re in this city, check out the art, and please see about Mr. Lisa.

asking for a friend

IMG_1414

 Morning Glories | 05.30.2017

We were pulling an all nighter, which in Prague means staying up for the four hours of darkness that Czechs experience in the summer months. The sun had started to rise around 4:00am, shedding light to the drunk stumblers out of near by bars.

Like I’ve said in previous posts, Czech’s are somewhat serious people and they usually don’t enjoy having their photo taken by tourists. It was as if the early dawn and the draining alcohol levels had suddenly bewitched its people… and suddenly, they were all wanting their photos taken. They were jumping in front of every frame. My energy was depleted by this point, leaving me with no patience. So, I left the spot that I had been staking out all night, and walked over to this man who had just lit his cigarette.

I had come to find out he was exhausted too. He had just spent all night traveling and after landing in Prague, his friend would not pick up the phone. So, he just walked around the city, waiting for his friend to pick up the phone. He figured he might as well catch the sunrise and make the best out of his given situation. Amidst the calm and cool morning, with sloppy drunks and early risers, I found peace in this man’s subtle optimism and felt a mutual desire to crawl into bed after a night roaming in the town.

five rows under

IMG_0848.jpgLocation Notation | 05.29.2017

It’s hard to believe that a week has gone by in this city. Each day consisted of good food, breathtaking scenery, photographing anything that caught our eye, and really trying to soak in every bit of beauty that Prague has to offer. Today was not like that.

Today was grim and pensive.

Today we were taken on a tour that took us through three synagogues in the Jewish Quarter of Prague.

It started off sitting in this semi circle, in a dimly lit room with cave-like walls–– their cragged rock creating echoes that carried the voice of tour guide throughout the hall. I was honestly really tired that morning, running on a piece of burnt toast and berry jam, and any other history lesson probably would have put me to sleep. However, there was something about our tour guide, and the way she expressed the oppression of the jews throughout their existence: it was her telling the story of her people.

I feel like the only oppression you ever hear about regarding Jewish people is the Holocaust, which is understandable considering its atrocious nature. However, today we really understood the effects of antisemitism and how this mistreatment over time lead to mass genocide…and it all pares down to fear of the other.

Lining the walls of the second synagogue we entered were the names of 80,000 Czech and Moravian jews that were victims of the Nazi genocide between 1939 and 1945. That is only six years. What made this moment even more terrifying was when my friend from the trip grabbed my arm, to show me a name inscribed in the wall. It was her last name.

The last one we went to housed a cemetery where thousands of jews were buried in Prague. They had all been kind of cornered in this one area, the Jewish ghetto, and so all of the people in that area had been buried in this one cemetery, which at first glance didn’t seem big enough to hold that many people. That was until the tour guide told us that the cemetery was five rows deep, which made sense seeing that the whole thing was essentially a mound. They would basically layer body over body (only important figures like famous Rabbi’s had their own graves) and it was up to five bodies stacked one on top of the other. All of the tombstones were different architecturally and because of the weather and erosion, they had slanted over time in their own directions. It was crazy walking through this maze of graves, knowing that you could count five people dead for every stone you saw. I think this photo kind of captures the astounding number of the tombs there were in this scene.

Something cool I will leave you with is that in Hebrew stone translates to initials that sounded like “Evan”. What it means is ‘father, son, grandson’ or ‘mother, daughter, granddaughter’, which is cool considering that is literally the structure of this graveyard, longitudinally speaking.

ridin’ dirty

IMG_0521

Not From These Parts | 05.28.17

I can say with absolute confidence that we have all been this man at some point in our life. It’s when you pull together a really good outfit, and people compliment you, but you already know. It’s when you pay with exact change at Billes (the local grocery store in Prague) or when you trip on a cobblestone but play it off with a few more falling runs so people just think you’re really eager to get where you are going. He just feels really cool and his face wants everyone to know, whether he is aware of it or not.

I don’t know what else to call him but smug. He is not smug. He is Smug; it’s who he has become now in this rented car from trip advisor. They are clearly the superior tourists in this photo, and he knows it. The other ones trail behind his car and make way as he zooms by, like the pedestrians they are. And I am all about the confidence.

I’m not trying to make assumptions about this gentleman and his life, but this reminded me so much friend’s mom who had a mid-life crisis and traded in her mini-van for a Range Rover. She wanted to be ‘young’ and ‘hip’ again, and I feel like he and his wife (another assumption, I know) are feeling pretty content with their decision. It’s just funny because these cars are actually really cool until you realize how many of them there are. There is one is hiding around every street corner, yet it is Prague’s least hidden treasure. With the amount I have seen in the short time I have been here, I can’t help but wonder how many victims they have taken prey, like Smug pictured above.

And all I can say is that I am truly happy for him and I hope he makes the most of his financial endeavors.

Rest in peace to Smug’s wallet.

fiddler on the roof

IMG_8802.jpg

Noticed | 05.27.17

I think it’s safe to call myself a first-time traveler, unless you count walking the beaches of Florida as exploration. After I found out I was accepted to this program, I tried to not think about Europe. I ignored any romanticized ideas I saw from movies and read in literature because I wanted everything I experienced to be my own reality, and not anything sooner. Something I was not anticipating was how much music would end up affecting my experience here, walking in the streets.

It seems that on every street corner, there is another jazz trio or soloist pulling the heart strings of tourists for more tips. I knew they would be there, but I didn’t know how they would ruin me emotionally within the Parage atmosphere One morning, when my friends and I didn’t have class, we decided to hike up this one hill. Our mission was to see Europe’s oldest library–– so we walked. I ended up getting distracted somewhere on the Charles Bridge and when I came out of my ADHD I saw an array people but not one I recognized. So, this left me to find the library on my own. Long story short, I hiked up the wrong hill. It was a peaceful sense of disorientation and I was turning the corner of this one bend, I heard a subtle song. I come to see an old man bowing a violin, and behind him is the city of Prague, except all miniature and hazy underneath us. I took a moment, dumbfounded by the beauty of what I was experiencing, but the people around me did not. They keep walking. I wanted to shake them, and tell them to give time to this person, but instead I just photographed them. So, here is something I noticed that others maybe didn’t. These passersby strolled on through, hearing his his song as background noise as they hiked to their destinations. As seen in his expression, this is quite the tragedy of Prague. There is so much beauty that it is almost impossible to give every aspect of it your undivided attention. The reassuring thing is that it is always there, if you ever go back.

backstage festivities

IMG_9365

Around Here | 05.26.17

At the age of three, my mom enrolled me in my first ballet class. Little did I know it would consume my life up until college. My nights were often spent in the studio preparing for shows, where we would spend so much energy and effort perfecting a piece that would be no more than two or three minutes. Despite the stress, the feeling of performing in front of an audience made everything worth your time (and money).

As I watched these Czech children twirl and leap across the stage, memories of my life as a studio dancer flooded back into my brain, and soon I was reliving the performance through them. I could see them thinking about their choreography and the interchanging  patterns that they would weave in and out of. I caught those out- of-character smiles and winces that they would quickly throw to their partner when their backs slightly turned the audience.

The audience was a melting pot of people, gathered in Wenceslas Square from all directions of the world. They saw, their children saw, merry folk displaying pride in their culture through dance. I saw the other side of the dance: the weight of their performance hidden behind their crafted performance faces, which masked how much time and effort they had poured into their routine.

This photo was taken moments before they went on. I was hanging around the dancers, as if I belonged there, and snapped this photo of a girl helping her friend apply her make-up. I think the annoyed expression is quite relatable, and gave me deja-vu to the looks I would throw my mom in those hectic backstage moments. I think it captures the reality of the performance for these children: which is stress, until they get on stage and are able to do display their art and the stories of their people.

the eye of the storm

IMG_9180

A Thousand Words | 05.26.17

It’s ironic that I should look at this photo and see a thousand words because I’m having trouble even formulating a sentence in my mind to describe this moment. I think a lot of the difficulty arises from my own personal ethics, and knowing that I photographed this man who had just been hit by a car moments before. Having been in a serious car accident, I am still too familiar with the terror and pain that accompany this moment, and I don’t think I would have appreciated a foreign girl in a yellow dress documenting it. However, the other joyous photos of girls dancing and musicians playing seem shallow now, and this is a real story. So, here I am.

I was walking in Old Town Square, a little stressed with the given assignment, which was literally just to shoot people. Old Town Square is filled with tourists, and Czechs trying to scam tourists, and pickpocketers trying to steal from tourists….so I assumed it would be an easy task. What I discovered twenty minutes in, was that there was too much of nothing happening. In the midst of my frustration, I began to hear sirens, and my instinct told me to follow them.

I leisurely made my way to the flashing lights just some yards from the center of the square in time to witness the clean-up of what seemed to be a serious accident. There was a small crowd surrounding the scene, but I managed to weave through most of the bystanders. There, I saw an older gentleman lifted from between two cars and onto a stretcher.

I immediately felt wrong for being there, but I looked around at all of the other people, and assured my attendance with the fact that they probably didn’t know him either. I don’t know when I started to take pictures, but I quickly stopped when I heard the voice of a man, yelling at me in German. The only word he used in English was “camera,” so all I could do was stare at him and know he probably thought I was scum, but I continued to take more pictures anyway.

I realize this is longer than what I was supposed to write, but I think that is what makes it fits the prompt. It still boggles my mind that this happened in the middle of a city hot spot, and the only people who knew about it were in a 20 foot radius of the scene. Old Town Square is hectic in general, and there was even more chaos created by the shuffling first responders and ring of uninvited spectators. The calmest part of this whole incident seemed to be the man himself, who lay helplessly on a stretcher, watching me photograph him. He was very much the eye in his own storm.

a split second

IMG_3369

The Nocturnalist | 05.25.17

We stood by the tram tracks, waiting for the correct line to come that would bring us up a mountain that Dennis claimed had the best view of the Prague skyline. Every five minutes or so the wrong one would speed by, inches away from my nose, and I would get these few seconds to contemplate the people inside.

It’s become a sort of game, like if you ever played “Sweet and Sour” with the strangers in the cars adjacent to you. It’s like that with the trams. I stare and they stare back, a mutual sour expression. And while this mutual stare down is pretty intimidating, I have really began to enjoy seeing this sea of faces–– all framed by glass windows, with the same copy paper expression.

I have learned thus far that people from Czechia tend to be more serious, and it makes sense considering that four decades ago they were under communist reign. Smiling in Prague is saved for people you care about, and people you actually know, which is actually quite beautiful and something I am getting more used to. I’ve had to personally adjust my eagerness because when you are throwing strangers cheesy grins, they either get really uncomfortable or think you are attracted to them. So, these past few days, I feel like I have been walking in a town of underscore smiles. Just straight lines. No expression. And this is why waiting for your tram is so amusing: the wrong one approaches, and for these few moments, your world is interrupted by rows of chilling eyes and straight mouths, and then they pass and your soul re-enters your body again.

Except last night. Last night the tram doors opened to scene of genuine romance. For a split second the embrace of a happy couple was revealed to us and in in a split second they were gone. This was the only picture I got, as I was really taken aback by the beauty of this moment, and although I think the sound of my shutter startled them, the doors closed before I could really tell. And as far as I know, and according to this photo, they are happy in the tram forever.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s