Sunday, October 25, 2009

Czech it out

The Czech Republic weather was definitely refreshing! It was around 45 degrees... 50 degree difference from Cairo. We flew into Prague, and then took buses to Litvinov to meet up with Chris's friend Petra and her family. Surprisingly it seemed that less people in Prague spoke English than in Cairo. Later we found this was because English was a newer subject to learn in school, from Czech becoming part of the European Union. Petra's parents both knew Russian and a bit of German. However, after taking the underground back and forth, and walking around streets a couple times, we found our way to the bus stop. Chris and Petra worked together in Ocean City, MD last summer and she offered for him (us) to stay with her for a few days. Her town is in the countryside of Czech and it was nice to spend time outside of the major cities. This gave us a better idea of what life is like for a Czech family. Her parents didn't speak any English, however, were very accommodating. The next day Petra planned for us to see some of the beauty around her town. She just got her drivers license, however, wasn't so comfortable driving yet. We walked into town and visited the Church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary (wow, this is long) in Most. The church had both Gothic style and Renaissance features, but was better known for having been moved 841 meters in 1975 because of coal mining. It is mentioned in the Guinness Book of World Records as the heaviest building ever moved on wheels. Later we walked up a mountain to a castle which we couldn't go in... had lunch and walked around Most.

It was quite exhausting walking all day and we went back to her home to rest. Petra wasn't feeling well and stayed in bed. Her mom told us to come down for food (I'm guessing because I don't know how to speak Czech) and served us goulash. Chris and I had never tried it before, and her parents laughed at us for eating it wrong.. then motioned how we were supposed to cut up the dumplings first. Afterwards we came to sit with her parents in the living room. Her parents were talking to us in Czech and we were talking to them in English.. thinking that eventually one of us would know what the other is talking about. Eventually we pointed to Indiana Jones and watched it in English with Czech subtitles and had some drinks. You don't get this kind of experience in a hostel!

The next day we visited the Cistercian Monastery at Osek and Jezeri Castle. The Cistercian Monastery, with its Romanesque and Gothic styles had amazing sculptures and painted ceilings. The medieval castle, lived in first by the Lobkovic's, was incredible with 244 rooms including a theatre. They had famous people such as Beethoven and J.W. Goethe visit the castle. The tour guide took us to the basement, where they interestingly enough had a haunted house for kids. After a few pictures outside we went back for another home-cooked meal! Her dad also made a concoction of rum, red wine, and spices that you heat up in the microwave. Definitely a Christmas treat. That night we thanked Petra and her parents for their incredible hospitality. It's not very often you get a feel for how other people around the world live, and they were so generous in opening their home to us. I've gotten a small feel for what life in Czech is like, that dumplings and poppy are common foods, beer costs less than water, and learned some simple phrases. The next morning we set off by bus, tram, bus, then our 13 hour bus ride to Venice. Luckily it was an overnight bus ride, however, who can sleep well on a bus?! Eventually Chris and I dozed off around 1 am, and I was woken up when we were already unloading at a bus stop. Luckily I had woken up because Chris was still snoring next to me and I asked where we were... Udine... OUR STOP! We hopped off the bus at 4:10 in the morning and had Pietro/Peter pick us up. His mom woke up, made Chris coffee, then we all fell back asleep.

Italy! Pietro is another one of Chris's friends whom he worked with in Ocean City, MD. Pietro lives with his sister and mom in Udine, a town about an hour from Venice. We took it easy the next morning and relaxed. His mom made us a pasta lunch then we set off to walk around town, which is a bit larger than West Chester. There are cobblestone streets, tons of shops and gelato! I'm glad we have had the opportunity to stay with families and really experience what life is like for them. There is a tons of energy and lots of food! I am definitely not going hungry! His mom and sister are hilarious, and have learned a few English words to communicate with us, and well as us learning some Italian words.

Yesterday we visited Pietro's brother, who lives in the mountains about half an hour away. The view was beautiful, even more so when we drove to the top. From there we could see the Alps in the distance as well as Pietro's town below. I ate so much that day. For breakfast there was jam pie, huge croissants with jam, and fruit. Lunch was lasagna, salad and bread, and for dinner we each had our own home-made medium-sized pizzas. I thought we would all share the pizza, but knew I had to prepare my stomach when my own pizza was set down in front of me. It had home-made tomato sauce, cheese, olives and artichokes. I could get used to this! Very different than when I was in Ireland and ate mostly potatoes and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Today we are planning to visit Trieste, a town on the coast. I can't wait to see more of Italy!

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