By: Emma Livingston, Staff Writer
From March 26-29, the students on module abroad in Prague were granted their only four-day weekend of the six-week module. So, in true T-Bird fashion, many of the students used the opportunity to explore. Some students traveled to other countries: Germany, Croatia, Austria, Hungary (see Sinduja Kodivalasa’s article for more on her exploration of Budapest). Others traveled to towns and villages in the Czech Republic to get to know the country better. Still others explored parts of Prague far outside the typical tourist trajectory. I talked to six different T-Bird students asking them the simple question: “What did you do this weekend?”
Sunil Shambulingaiah (MBA ’15, India) took the train to Munich, Germany (along with about ten other T-Birds). He was most impressed by the Deutsches Museum (translates to “German Museum,” a museum of science and technology) and the Residence, a palace where the Bavarian royalty used to live.
The museum, he said, “had all machines starting from 1900s in working order. The guide switched them on and actually showed how the machines worked. And the machines were huge! Mining machines, drilling machines, ships, submarines, U-Boat, electricity generation, miniature models of how crude oil gets converted into petrol and gasoline.”
As for the Residence, the vast palace with its piles of jewels and exotic spices and trees from around the world, “gave me a sense of what royalty meant and how they were living compared to people around them.”
Munich, Sunil says, has a much newer and cleaner feel than Prague, despite the old architecture. “Because of the second World War, there was a lot of damage. So they rebuilt the entire city. But they retained their old architecture because they were so adept at noting down everything. They cataloged everything: which place, what was done.” The German people surprised him with their friendliness. The only downside to Munich was, “It was expensive, compared to Prague.”
Kyle Morgan (MBA ’15, U.S.) went a little further afield during the four-day break, traveling to Croatia and Montenegro where he escaped the wind and cold we’ve experienced these past couple weeks in Prague and enjoyed some sun and warmth. “The coolest part about hanging out in Dubronvik [in Croatia] was wandering through the twisting alleys of the old city and taking a walk along the city walls where there were awesome views of the city and the crystal clear waters of the Adriatic Coast. I also chanced on the annual oyster festival, with fresh oysters brought in from the Croatian port of Ston. Locals believe oysters taste the best out of the year on March 28.”
One of the biggest differences he noticed between Croatia and Czech Republic was around the coffee culture: “It was impossible to find ‘coffee to go’ anywhere in Dubronvik, as they believe coffee should be an experience enjoyed sitting down and talking. Annoying at first, but I came to really enjoy it.”
As for Montenegro, it was, “very mountainous compared to Croatia with great wine and cheese. The town of Kotor is surrounded by a huge wall snaking around the city and up the mountain. With the fog that was in the area that day, it was eerily spooky!”
Darren Watkins (MBA ’15, U.S.) got his fair share of spookiness, much closer to home. He traveled to the town of Kutna Hora, about an hour by bus from Prague, to visit the famous “Bone Church” there. “It was an existing church that was built near a burial ground. One of the monks decided to start stacking bones in artistic pyramids with the idea of conveying to the parishioners the idea of their own mortality.” He said the experience was a strange one: “The juxtaposition of a ton of tourists and children running around with the giant pyramid of 40,000 corpses…to me it was just really creepy.”
Raphael Rique (MBA ’15, Brazil) spent a few days in Karlovy Vary in the western part of Czech Republic. “It’s a city known by its thermal water and its famous spas. The movie Skyfall was filmed there. It has those beautiful, colorful houses and buildings, typical European style. It’s a three-level city. From the third level you have an amazing view, you can see all the buildings.”
He and his friends went on a 10km hike to the Loket Castle. “We passed through the forest. It was raining when we hiked, and then the sun came out. The castle was a place Goethe [the famous German author] visited a lot. This castle had a dragon beneath it. And a chamber of torture that was on the ground floor. In the upper part, we could see the rooms and antiques that were still there.”
David Roman (MBA ’15, U.S.) chose to explore the Czech countryside: “I did a three-day camping slash hiking expedition.” He says that what surprised him most was the kindness of the Czech people he met along the way. For example, towards dinner time one night, he “found a couple restaurants that were closed, but the restaurant owners were nice enough to cook me up some meals. I saw a totally different side of Czech than the normal tourists saw, so I was really grateful for that. They were really gracious and served some really great food.” In another instance, “One guy took me to catch a train. He threw me in his car and zipped me, double the speed limit, to get to this train.”
Finally, some students found new areas to explore in the city of Prague itself. Robert Calkins (MBA ’15, Canada) traveled to a suburb in the south of the city to visit a friend. “I got off at the end of the tram line and took a bus five or ten minutes further, through fields. And in the distance, you see these housing blocks pop up. The bus stops and that’s it. Ten buildings, 5000 people living in this area. One Albert [a grocery store] in the base of one of the buildings, one pub, and casino in the base of another building. Nothing else.” His friend lives in a neighborhood of Soviet-era apartment blocks, dropped in a place no one lived 50 years ago. Calkins says, “It gives me the feeling that there are two Pragues.” There is the historic touristy area where most Thunderbird students are living and where we have out classes, and the gritty, post-industrial fringe of the city, where thousands of Praguers live and commute.