March 2014

  Well hello again- or as the Czech would say Dobry-den. The second stop of our #blondesonbreak tour was the beautiful Prague located in the Czech Republic. My dad has always raved about the beauty of this city and so I was super excited to finally see it for myself. You feel like you’re in a medieval town filled with castles and stories filled with such rich history. It’s so picturesque that you could easily spend a week just walking aimlessly through the city. It also has quite an international population which surprised me and so we have met lots of people from all over the world in the past week and have gotten to speak lots of English (such a difference than living in France). The first day Sam and I did a walking tour which was a great experience. Our guide Declan was from Ireland but had moved to the Czech Republic about 15 years ago and so he had a vast amount of stories he shared with us. Prague is such a walkable city it was great to kind of get our bearings of the city this way.  After the walking tour we continued with our wandering nature and explored all of the nooks and crannies that we could find. That night we ended up hitting a British pub for dinner where we ended up spending the whole night. Lots of great beer, live soccer games on TV, and a live band- literally my perfect night. in the old town square View from Charles Bridge My first Bud on our pub night
Prague (like much of Eastern Europe) has an extensive Jewish history and so we’ve been exploring that which has been neat. The day we spent at the concentration camp/ ghetto of Terazin was super interesting. Terazin is a town about an hour outside of prague that was originally built as a military fort during the Hapsburg Empire. Our tour guide knew a lot and it was amazing getting an inside look into the town and all of its stories. It’s a very different story than most concentration camps as it was used as a transit camp but more importantly it was used as a propaganda center. The Nazi’s created a sort of fake camp within the camp and ghetto to show the Red Cross ( who would show up for inspections) that nothing was really wrong. They even made a full length movie about how great life was for the Jewish population who was living in Terazin. They allowed the prisoners to put on opera’s, plays and do art work so that to the outside world Terazin would look like a normal town. Whats crazy is that this propaganda scheme worked- the red cross was convinced and Terazin continued to send mass amounts of prisoners to the death camps of the East. It was bizarre to see the bipolar nature of it all.Terazin the town of Terazin The fortress still stands The unnamed graved in front of the crematorium It was also very interesting to see how much of Prague’s Jewish history is still intact within the city. In most cities all of the Jewish buildings and synagogues were systematically destroyed and burned. Yet in Prague they all still stand. This isn’t because the holocaust didn’t touch the Czech Repulic, it very much did, it’s because Hitler had plans to keep Prague as a museum dedicated to an extinct race once the war was over. That blew my mind. We walked through the Jewish quarter in depth on our third day and walked through all of the old synagogues which are beyond beautiful. It was really an awesome experience to be able to dig deeper and learn more about a culture and history I have always been so fond of and felt so connected too. The Jewish Quarter The old Synagogue Inside the old synagogue The old synagogue cemetery
Prague receives the highest ratings from me. It’s such a walkable town filled with so much to do and see. It’s history is rich and it’s selection of food amazing (street food ftw). We crossed the bridge on our last morning to see the Castle which wasn’t my favourite but the views from the top were worth it. Prague is definitely an international city with lots of young people looking to have a good time- we didn’t hate that either. We went out on a bar crawl while there where we met people from all over the world which is always a good time.
Off on another 7 hour bus ride to Budapest we go!!!
Love ya all a lot.
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So last Thursday Sam and I headed off on our Spring break which we have given the title and the hashtag #blondesonbreak. After a bus from Lille to Paris, a tram and then a bus from Paris to the airport and then a flight (where i had three seats to myself woohoo) and a cab ride we finally got to the beautiful city of Berlin. We woke up early the first morning and had breakfast at the hostel which was surprisingly good. Then we walked to the Reichstag which is the German parliament building. I had made an appointment to go up the building where the glass dome is which not only has great views but you can learn a lot about the government which was awesome. And it’s free! Super glad we had that planned as it was a great way to spend the morning and brush up on my German politics. From there we went to Starbucks to get a quick snack. I have really been loving how no one can spell my name in Europe. In berlin I got: Ameulie.
From there we headed to the Holocaust memorial which is the square with all of the black blocks you all may have seen before. It looks super abstract but once you walk through the blocks the ground kind of dips up and down. It almost swallows you up. Someone told me that this must have been what the Holocaust was like- from the outside it just looked like an abstract, chaotic mess. But persecution is nothing new to the Jewish population and so it may have not seemed so different than past problems. However once you were IN it, it took you down a whole other path and swallowed you up whole. You lost your sense of self and your surroundings. I found that description of it all really haunting. Underneath it is a little museum about it all and it dedicated a lot of focus to personal stories to the lives of those who may otherwise be forgotten. They also have a database where you can look up those affected. There were A LOT of Zupniks. I’ve never seen that before ( I’ve never seen another Zupnik before ever) and for me that was when a whole new range of emotions came on.
That afternoon we got on a hop on hop off bus tour. Berlin is so big I was glad to see lots of it this way. We also learned a lot which great- for instance did you know Berlin is one of the greenest cities in the world with over 1/3 of it being covered in green space? Or that it has one if the oldest undergrounds in the world. Bet ya didn’t. We naturally stopped midway in the shopping area to go in forever 21 (France doesn’t have one). All I can say is now I am traveling with a backpack and a whole other bag. After we finished the bus tour around 6 we grabbed a quick bite in a food court at the train station and walked home ( I led the way and didn’t get lost!). We spent that night in the hostel bar enjoying some German pilsner until I found out they had Strongbow and I started enjoying that instead.
Day two in Berlin was spent exploring the city some more. We went to the Topographies of Terrors which is located on the grounds where the Getaspo prison and headquarters was located during the war. Lots more learning was done there. Outside the museum is a long stretch of the Berlin Wall that was left as is which was so neat to see. I can’t even imagine a city being separated in the way that Berlin was. So surreal that after all of the destruction that Berlin experienced during WWII the Cold War came and ravaged the city even more. In the afternoon we headed over to East Berlin to check out the East Side Gallery. This is about a mile long stretch of the wall on the edge of the river which has been decorated by artists from all over. Such cool artwork and messages that we couldn’t help but take our time and take about 1,000000 pictures. That night we had planned to go out and experience the infamous Berlin nightlife but were maybe to ambitious and confident in our directional/German skills and so we ended up getting lost. We ended up hanging at the hostel bar with our favourite hostel bartender Rob who is from Australia and we had nicknamed hipster Rob.
Our last morning in Berlin we decided to grab some food and bring it to the lawn in front of the Reichstag where we just lounged and people watched, all while enjoying the beautiful sun and Germany’s beautiful people (seriously hottest boys in Europe this far).
Overall I loved Berlin. Such a hipster vibe which constantly made me want to be trendier. I really loved the mix of the old and new that you find there as well. There is a huge presence of old neo- classical architecture but there is just as much modern architecture which makes for a really cool city landscape. I had previously loved Munich and now after visiting Berlin I think Germany would be the European country I’d most like to live in.
Saturday afternoon we caught our bus to Prague or as it’s known in Czech: Praha. There were only about six people on the bus so we were able to lounge and spread out quite a bit. Once we got to Prague I was immediately struck by the beauty of it all. After finding our hostel (literally the most central place if anyone is going to Prague stay at Prague Square Hostel) we met up with my long lost roomie Rhea who was just finishing up her Spring Break with her friend Julia who is studying in Amsterdam. We met some Spanish guys in our hostel and after having a few drinks there with them we headed out to explore a bar rhea had found. The bar was basically a labyrinth of connected tunnels that looked like caves. Very cool and very laid back. Sam and I were exhausted at this point after a long day of traveling so we headed back to the hostel for a much needed sleep!

Lots of love to you all!

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