Well, it’s been an embarrassingly long time since I posted, and now my ticker at the right is reading 1 month left in Europe. That’s not quite accurate, but I’ll continue anyways. I had two stressful weeks between London and the Czech Trek, which is a DIS trip about 40 students took to go hiking, climbing, spelunking, and roaming in the mountains of the Czech Republic.
It all started on Friday, the day of my Danish oral exam. That’s right, I spoke Danish for a solid 2 minutes and no one was offended. Friday evening at 5:15, we boarded the bus, which took us south, through Denmark, across the Baltic Sea, through Germany, and into Bohemian Paradise. No really, that’s the name of the region. After a long night which included: 1) Love Actually 2) A ferry ride 3) Me taking a Benadryl to go to sleep 4) Pouring rain 5) The bus driver singing all night long 😡 we arrived at Hruba Skala a bit before 8 on Saturday morning. In time for breakfast, ice breakers, and archery.
It was all good fun, though I was significantly less good at archery than I hoped, I made up for it by being really solid knowing people’s names in the ice breakers. Here are some photos of me and the group being badass.
Channeling my inner Katniss. And my outer Katniss.
It was so nice to finally meet DIS people who were fun, down to earth, outdoorsy, and friendly. I got to hang out with a bunch of different people, though there were three of us who made a dynamic trio known as Pip, Squeak, and Crackle (because Becky (Squeak) couldn’t remember that the names were actually Snap, Crackle, and Pop). I was Pip. “Because you’re a Pip” said Becky. (Mom, I know you’ll appreciate this one).
In the evening, we had a nice dinner, which for me as a vegetarian was potatoes and deep-fried cauliflower. Which was miraculously good. And the lights were out in ourroom before 9:30.
Sunday was as cold as all getout, and I was placed in a group that was set to adventure through the caves first. On our hike into the woods, I saw two white-tailed deer running up the hill. The caves weren’t at all what I expected. I expected big, open-mouthed caves with stalagmites and bats. What I found was really small sandy caves with irregular ceilings that we shimmied, walked, and crawled through, sometimes just squeezing through. And we weren’t allowed to use flashlights in any of the caves, or candles in most of them. It was a part of the trip I expected to be a big challenge for me, because I often have nightmares about not being able to fit in small places (yes, weird), but it was definitely a team-building exercise and just casually being expected to do this stuff, nobody making it a big deal, took a lot of the pressure and stress off.
A Bohemian Rhapsody
Girls in da woods.
Unfortunately, it is really hard to take a picture inside a totally dark cave. And pictures of caves are really hard to tell apart.
After the morning of hiking and spelunking (our Czech tour guides, Hanza, Hanza, Zuzka, and Stephanka were amazing, BTW), we had a traditional Czech lunch at a small restaurant. It was an important Saint’s Day (St. Martin?) so there were a lot of people there. The lunch for me, as a vegetarian, was fried Camembert cheese and mashed potatoes, followed by a giant buttery blueberry dumpling, with sides of whipped cream and sour cream.
SO MUCH CHEESE
SO MUCH SUGAR
To work off our food babies, there was rock climbing and rappelling in the afternoon. We climbed a giant ladder to the middle of a rocky cliff, and you had the option of climbing up rocks or rappelling back down to the ground. I was WAY too scared to rappel, and after an unsuccessful first try, I made it to the top of the easiest climbing route, feeling like a champion.
Oh yeah, no problem.
Me vs. the cliff
View from the bottom of the wall.
In the evening was another giant meal, which began for me, again with the weird veggie options, with a bowl of clear gelatin with hard boiled eggs and pickled vegetables in it. Not my favorite, but not the worst thing I’ve ever eaten. Mostly just texturally unappealing. After dinner, we had a “haunted scavenger hunt” through the grounds of the hotel, which was set at our hotel, the Hruba Skala castle, which according to Wikipedia was built somewhere in the 1400s? It was definitely creepy, and my group won third place, which was a bottle of wine, candy bars, and t-shirts. Pretty good.
Another crazy day of facing fears on Monday morning, when we stayed on the grounds for more rappelling as well as a zip line and rope bridge (both across a gorge). The gorge that we were rappelling down and zipping and walking across was 45 meters deep and I freaked out before rappelling. I really wanted to do it, but I was so scared. Hanza (the guide) helped me feel comfortable and Becky was waiting at the bottom to cheer me on and talk me through it. Which was really awesome, helped me conquer a fear and accomplish something. It sounds so cheesy but it was really important to me.
Arianna (Crackle), Carolina, me (Pip), Becky (Squeak), and Nick
That moment before I jumped off a cliff
We made it!
ALSO mad scary was jumping off a cliff, even connected to the zip line via a full-body harness. But I did it, and it was so much fun it was worth the second trip across the shaky rope bridge back so that I could do a second zip across. Thinking all the way of a giant t-shirt my Gram gave me when I was 7 or 8 that she got at a zip line in Costa Rica (Gram is the coolest) that said “I SURVIVED” and I wore for upwards of 4 years (as pajamas. not to worry).
Then in the afternoon, Stephanka took us on a hike through the sandstone cliffs and forests around Hruba Skala. Rock climbing is a huge thing in Czech, and it’s SO impressive that people actually climb these rocks without ropes, free climbing more of the way in order to clip themselves in. We also saw a memorial for Czech climbers who died on the rocks all over the world. The circle with the line through it is representative of the last sight of a falling climber: the sun and the rope.
Just the hotel. No biggie. And that mountain in the distance? A volcano.
Don’t these make you want to climb without ropes?
The sun and the rope
Bright and early on Tuesday morning, we left our guides and boarded the bus to Prague. Prague at first looks like an industrial, post-communist city, but getting downtown you get to see the rich history. The architecture is varied and glorious, especially the art nouveau, which apparently was very big in the region. We went on a way-too-long walking tour, but did get to see so many wonderful sights.
Forgot what this is.
2:00 at the astrological clock
A statue of Czechoslovakia’s first president, overlooking the city.
Art Nouveau stained glass
Drooling over stained glass.
PRAHA et moi!
Shopping was great in Prague, so cheap. Bought some Christmas presents and also gifts for myself and my host family, for no particular reason except that it was there and I could afford it. Finally, we loaded back onto the bus, watched the worst movie ever (Short Cuts from 1993… horrible), slept on and off until we arrived in Copenhagen. As one of the DIS tour leaders said “#NapOnNapOnNap.”
Also while I was gone my friend/hero Caitlin registered me for classes at AU for next semester. Here’s what I’ve got right now to look forward to, though I hope to get an internship for credit (meaning I’d have to drop one of these):
Communication Law (waitlist, but only a matter of time)
Creative Writing: Poetry
Survey of American Literature II
Digital and Emerging Media Design
Real pumped for all that. AND THEN TOMORROW (or maybe today depending on when I post this) Rachael is coming from Madrid. Just you wait, world. Shit is going down.