My first impressions of Prague
Walking out of the baggage claim, I saw a man with an ECES sign waiting. I checked in with him and we waited for the rest of the group to get their luggage and we headed to the vans. There are a couple of programs that participate in the ECES program, all of which end up taking the same classes and living in the same dorm for the most part. So when I met up with the kids from USAC in the Frankfurt airport, I didn’t know we would all be in the same program for the most part. The main difference between the programs are the extracurricular activities offered, such as weekend trips and the like.
With all of our luggage piled into the trailer towed behind the van, we drove into town and to our new home, kolej Komenského.
I had no idea what to expect of the dorm. I had seen a picture on the Charles University website and seen where it was on the map, but didn’t really know what it would be like. The driver let us out in front of the dorm, unloaded our stuff and pointed the way inside. We carried our stuff inside the front doors and checked in at the front desk and received our room keys. I brought my stuff up to my room, put it down and tried to figure out what I was supposed to do. Unfortunately, I never received the pre-welcome packet informing me of what it is that I am supposed to do. Apparently, we just had free time to unpack and settle in and such. I met the rest of the guys living in the suite, which is actually a pretty large suite with 8 rooms (5 singles, 3 doubles) for a total of 11 guys living in one hallway. We share a kitchenette (sink, hotpot and two half-fridges) as well as a toilet room (with two individual rooms for two toilets) and a shower room. The shower room is interesting in that we have two showers but one shower stall. We’re planning on a buying a thin curtain to stretch between so we can have two shower stalls instead of the one. All in all, it is a nice little suite/apartment.
We had an orientation that first sunday night whereby we had a little bit of basic information given out and were told that we could join a student that has been studying here for years to take us from the dorm to the nearest tram stop and on to the class building. I think many of us would have gotten lost if left to our own devices. I certainly would have.
There was another orienation at the class building that monday. This orientation covered academics and class selection and also a general overview of what we needed to know about getting around Prague. We were told that there would be morning classes and afternoon classes for Intensive Czech. The individual programs are kept together for the most part for these classes, each class having 15 students or so. The classes were quite a bit of fun and considering that we only had two weeks of instruction, I think we learned a lot.
The city itself is beautiful, with buildings from any number of historical periods still inhabited and functional. The streets are clean for the most part, and often busy with traffic , either pedestrian, cars, or trams. The trams, by the way, are a student’s best friend. During that initial orientation, we were able to buy our tram passes which gives us free transport for 90 days. We can ride the tram, the bus or the metro any time, any where. Truly a remarkable thing.
During the first week here, I think everybody took their own time to go and see the typical tourist spots. Old Town Square, Charles Bridge, and the other “Disneyland” areas of Prague. Apparently, the typical stay of a tourist in Prague is right around two days. In two days, most people feel like they can experience the city. I’ve been here for nearly a month and am still amazed by something new almost every day.
Google Earth is my new best friend. I have managed to learn so much about the city just from looking at aerial photos and street map overlays. I’ve been keeping track of keypoints in the city as well. I will hopefully be getting this up somewhere so you can check it out (if you have Google Earth). Over the summer I bought a cheap little GPS unit to play around with and I’m really digging importing GPS data into Google Earth to see where I have been. Very interesting.
I am officially the biggest dork in the world. Thank you.
These two introductory entries have gone on entirely too long as it is, even with splitting them up. There will surely be more things that I have forgotten or left out that will be making their way into entires later on. Sorry.
But to finish off today’s entries, a bit of a Czech lesson: