Friday, August 22, 2008

Pictures, finally!

I have finally uploaded photos from our family trip!
To see images about our adventures in Vienna, including visiting the fan area for the Euro Cup games, taking a carriage ride around the royal palace, shopping and eating downtown, and visiting the music museum, plus lots more, click here!
To look at our pictures from Rome--where we toured the Forum, Palatine Hill, St. Peters, the Colosseum, the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, and much more (by bus and on foot)--click here.  
And to see our pictures from Barcelona (a new city for me, and definitely one of my favorites!) click here.  This city was so much fun, from the wacky street artists, outdoor pet stores, and gorgeous flower stands on La Rambla to the surreal buildings by Antoni Gaudi--there was too much to do in just 3 days!
Probably the most interesting of Gaudi's architecture in Barcelona was La Sagrada Familia, a modern day cathedral that has been under construction since 1882 and is scheduled to be finished by 2026, 100 years after Gaudi's death.  This cathedral really is breathtaking, and it was fun to visit a non-traditional cathedral (it didn't look like all the others!).  Hopefully I can visit Barcelona again to see it after it is completed with all of its 18 towers.  
Along with all of Gaudi's works throughout the city, I also loved the Barcelona Pavilion by Mies Van Der Rohe.  This building was a great example of modern simplicity at its best and certainly justifies the statement 'less is more.'  

Barcelona was definitely the warmest city we visited in Europe, but we ran out of time to visit the beach.  There was so much to see and do here, I would love to go back one day.  Perhaps I'll visit the city of Girona and see all of the Salvador Dali museums...  It was a great end to two weeks of fun and traveling.  I think everyone had a good time!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

A Visit from Home

I am back in Prague after a visit from my family and traveling with them to Vienna, Rome, and Barcelona!  The trips were wonderful, and I'm glad I got to share the experience with them.  I think they enjoyed the trips just as much as I did.  I'll update more later with pictures and a little about each trip, but in the meantime I'm going to enjoy my last few days in the Czech Republic before I head home on Thursday.   

I can't believe my time here is almost over...this semester has been such an amazing experience.  I've met so many cool people, seen so many beautiful cities, and learned a lot about the world.  I do miss home, however, and I'm ready to go back.  See you all soon!

Things I'll Miss:
1.  Cheap public transportation ($45 for 3 months of unlimited transportation...can't beat that).
2.  Fresh flower stands everywhere.
3.  Hearing different languages everywhere I go.
4.  Beautiful cities with great (old and new) architecture.
5.  Traveling to a different country each weekend.
6.  Friends from all around the world that I met in Prague.
7.  Cultures that really care about not being wasteful, recycling, conserving energy, etc.
8.  Visiting countries with such rich history.
9.  Learning firsthand about so many interesting cultures, traditions, lifestyles, etc.
10.  Not having any real responsibilities--just being able to enjoy where ever I am at the moment.

Things I'm Looking Forward To:
2.  Free refills (and free water).
3.  Air conditioning.
4.  English.
5.  Cheap(er) food.
6.  Seeing friends and family.
7.  Eating something other than potatoes and bread.
8.  Convenience.
9.  Being able to read signs, menus, food packages, product labels, etc.
10.  Enjoying what's left of my last summer vacation at home!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Life in Prague

Since schoolwork has been winding down recently and the weather in Prague is finally getting nice, I have had some time to really enjoy this city I've been living in for the past several months--and I love it.  There are so many streets to explore, so many parks to have picnics and see great views of the city, so many restaurants to try, so many theaters and concert halls to visit--I don't know if I'll be able to fit it all in before it's time to leave.
One of my favorite areas within Prague is Mala Strana.  There are tons of interesting little shops, small parks, and cute little cafes in this area.  It seems a little calmer than Old Town right across the river, and it's a nice place to just wander around.  During our first couple weeks here, I found an awesome new and used bookstore in this area in which I bought the book I'm currently reading, Atlas Shrugged.  The entrance to the famous Charles Bridge is in the heart of Mala Strana.  In fact, there are two ways to access the bridge from this side of the river: the end of the bridge and the staircase, on which a few action scenes of Mission Impossible were filmed.  Nearby, tucked in a courtyard, I found an interesting modern fountain of two men peeing.  I heard that you can text your name to a certain number and these statues will write it in the water.  
Not far from the Charles Bridge is Kampa Island and another one of the coolest parts of Mala Strana: the Lennon Wall.  Since the 1980's, people have been painting John Lennon and Beatles-inspired graffiti on this once-ordinary historical wall.  People are constantly adding to the wall, and the original portrait of John Lennon has long since been covered up, but you can still find pictures and postcards of what it originally looked like.  In the late 80's, the wall caused an uprising of hundreds of students against security police on the Charles Bridge.  Their movement later became known as Lennonism; today, the wall represents youth ideals such as peace, hope, and love.
Another one of my favorite places to visit lately has been Petrin Hill.  On Petrin Hill stands a lookout tower which strongly resembles the Eiffel Tower.  I have yet to climb its 299 steps, but I hear there are some great views of the city.  There are several places in the park with great views, and since the park is so big, the views are all very different.
Here is the view from the funicular ride up to the top of the park.  I'm sure I've mentioned this before, but I just love all of the orange roofs and colorful buildings.  It's such a contrast from most of the cities in Europe, and I think this is one of the unique characteristics that makes the city so beautiful.  
From further down the river in the park, there are some good views of the newer parts of Prague, including the Dancing House by Vlado Milunic and Frank Gehry.
Petrin Park also stretches over to reach Prague Castle, so there are also some unique views of the castle that you can't see anywhere else in the city.  Petrin Park has so many different areas, from the grassy parts which are great for a picnic, to the restaurants, to the areas great for reading, to the hiking and biking trails, and the hidden surprises tucked into the hillsides, like abandoned houses and secret buildings--it would take days to see the entire park.   
Besides just wandering around the city and enjoying the parks last week, we also went to see a soccer game!  We headed over to Sparta Stadium to see the Czech Republic play Scotland.  There are several Scottish students studying here at CVUT, so they invited us to come, and we ended up sitting in the Scottish fan section.  It was pretty funny to see and hear their cheering methods with many of them decked out in kilts or Scottish flag capes and all singing Scottish songs and selections from The Sound of Music--especially in comparison to the extremely reserved (and silent) Czech fans.  The game itself wasn't too exciting; nothing really happened until the last 10 minutes.  But, in the end the Czech Republic won 3:1, and our Scottish friends were not too happy.  

I've posted a few more pictures of Prague from the last few days, so click here to check them out!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Color & Composition

My final class, Color & Composition, was an art class in which we could do a project of our choice as long as it had something to do with Prague.  For my project, I decided to keep a sketchbook of the many important and interesting sights in the city.  Not only did I enjoy drawing all of these images, but I am also glad I will have a sketchbook that will remind me of my time here in Prague that captures a much different essence than any of my photos ever will.  Here are just a few of my favorites: 
Tyn Church in Old Town Square
St. Nicholas Cathedral in Mala Strana
Municipal House
Prague Castle

And with that, I'm done with all of my classes!  I got my last grade this morning and turned in my grade card this afternoon.  It feels really good to be done.  Now I'll have a little time to explore Prague some more before my next family is coming to visit!  

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Creative Detail

In my Creative Detail (aka 'doodling') class, we had to sketch with the intention of eventually refining those doodles into architectural details (door designs, windows designs, grills, etc) or jewelry designs.  Here are a couple of my designs during the sketch phase:

Figure Drawing

One of my favorite classes this semester was figure drawing.  It was such a stress-free class because all we had to do was show up every Tuesday night and draw for a few hours (no homework!).  While it got frustrating at times, I loved this class because I could work on my drawing skills, and I really saw improvement over the course of the semester.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Computer Graphics

In my Computer Graphics class, we learned more about the programs in the Adobe Suite: Illustrator, In Design, and Photoshop.  Here are a couple examples of my projects from the semester:
My final poster for our class exhibition (made in Illustrator) which is also the home page to my digital portfolio (created in In Design).
A composition made in Photoshop that merges two images together (the tunnel is in Glasgow, Scotland, and I took the photo of the bike in Vienna, Austria).

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


This semester I took a design studio that did several small projects with an emphasis on furniture design.  
Our first project was to design a logo for our personal design company.
Then, we had to translate that 2-dimensional logo into a 3D form.
Our third project was to design jewelry for a client of our choice.  I designed these earrings which are based on the 'tree of life' symbol for Natalie Portman to relate to her Jewish heritage.
Our fourth design was to create a chair similar to those designed by Michael Thonet.  He used the technology of steam bending wood to create cheap, sturdy chairs that could be mass produced quickly.  
Our final project was to design a modern chair for a historical building in Prague.  We could choose from the Gothic Vladislav Hall in the Royal Palace of Prague Castle, the Romanesque church of St. George in Prague Castle, the Baroque church of St. Nicholas, or the Art Nouveau theater the Municipal House.  I chose the Municipal House and designed this chair using the principals of the Art Nouveau period: organic lines, plant-inspired motifs, and highly-stylized, flowing curvilinear forms.

This chair can be used as a single chair or joined with a second chair which is its mirror image to create one large chair.

Photography at Letna Park

Many people have been giving me a hard time about not actually going to school this semester, so I thought I'd include a few posts with the work I've been doing.  These photos are some of my work for my photography class and were taken at Letna Park, a huge, beautiful park overlooking the city of Prague.  The park itself is a fun place to visit and people watch, and the gorgeous views of the city make it even better.  

Sunday, May 25, 2008


After being back in Prague for about 48 hours, we headed to the airport to begin our next great adventure...Paris!  Upon arriving in Paris, we quickly learned that this is one of the biggest and craziest cities in the world (probably because we ended up at the central metro station on a Friday at rush hour...pure chaos).  Chaos aside, we were ready to see the city.After navigating the 14+ metro lines in the city, we got settled in to our hostel and decided to go to the Louvre for the evening.  We also were extremely lucky in Paris with free museums...the Louvre is free on Friday nights if you're under 26, and all of the museums in the city were free on Saturday night that weekend.  The Louvre was really big, but we were able to see the majority of it in a couple hours.  We definitely could have spent longer, but honestly, most of us were getting pretty tired of going to museums and churches.  
Of course we saw the Mona Lisa, but my favorite part of the museum was the sculpture garden.  They had so many interesting sculptures of people...all with different facial expressions and poses.  These two busts were pretty amusing--the one in the back with his shocked and disgusted face, and the one in the front with his tongue in his cheek.  
We began Saturday morning with a modern art museum, the Pompidou Center designed by Renzo Piano and Richard and Sue Rogers.  The most notable feature on the exterior is the escalator tube that runs along the length of the building.  The interior was also quite industrial, but it had really interesting suspended signage and some really awesome design.  
The sign outside of the museum said the entrance was free, but we missed the fine print that said that didn't take effect until 8:00 pm.  So, we didn't actually visit the entire museum, but we did spend quite some time in the modern design shop which was very similar to the types of products on display in the Danish Design Center.  There were so many innovative and classic product designs, furniture designs--I could have spent all day there.  Among my favorites was an amazing Moleskin sketchbook exhibit with famous architects', designers', artists', and photographers' sketchbooks from around the world.  I also loved the mini Vitra chairs (scale models of classic chair designs).  I've always wanted to collect them all, but with the cheapest one being over $100, I think I'll just have to keep dreaming for now.  I did, however, purchase this when I got back to Prague: a business card holder featuring some of the Eames' best chair designs.  Just a little inspiration and motivation so that maybe someday I can design something
 half as good as they did... 
After the Pompidou Center, we wandered around the rest of Paris and saw Notre Dame, the Conciergerie, Hotel de Ville, Les Halles, Place de la Concorde, the Champes Elysees, the Grand Palais, the Arc de Triomphe, the Eiffel Tower, the Moulin Rouge, and the Sacre Coeur Basilica in between rainstorms and with a very mutilated umbrella.  All of the sights were cool, but the weather was less than desirable for sightseeing.  We ended our night back at the Eiffel Tower in hopes of going to the top, but they kept closing it due to the weather, so we decided to come back the next night. 
On Sunday we decided to begin our final day in Paris with some modern architecture, so we headed out to a major business district in Paris called La Defense.  Here, the main attraction is La Grande Arche, a 20th century version of the Arc de Triomphe, but instead of celebrating military victories, this arch is a monument to humanity and humanitarian ideals.  We decided not to go to the exhibition center at the top (reachable by the elevator suspended in the center of the arch) but instead just wandered around the area listening to the creepy art-music (or just weird noises) being blasted from gigantic speakers at the base of the arch.  There were some cool features underneath the arch, such as the tension structure which made some fun light patterns on the ground as well as the glass panel maze behind the elevators (see the rest of my pictures). 
We spent the rest of the afternoon moving slowly through some parts of the city we had not yet seen (and stumbled upon a street band made up of French students) before having dinner and going back to the Eiffel Tower.  This time, we were able to go all the way to the top, which was a little intimidating in a glass elevator.  Despite the super cold wind, we got to see some amazing night views of the city.  After seeing the Eiffel Tower one last time, we were able to say farewell to Paris, and I headed back to Prague early the next morning.  

It's been a nice change of pace being back in Prague and just getting to relax and really enjoy this city without feeling like I have to see it all in 3 days.  I've been doing a lot of exploring as well as finishing up my schoolwork, so there will be more to come on that later.

In the meantime, click here to see my pictures from Paris.  Happy Memorial Day!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Santorini Island

After trekking all over Athens, we were ready to get to Santorini Island and relax.  The ferry we took there was great--it was gigantic--almost as big as a cruise ship.  We were a little surprised by the difference in weather, though.  Santorini was really cold, and we were supposed to be going to the beach everyday!  We were a little disappointed about the temperature, but we enjoyed the scenery of the island nonetheless.  On our first night on the island, we went to the city of Fira.  We climbed up to the top, passing shop after shop and restaurant after restaurant.  Surprisingly, even though this was supposed to be the beginning of the high season, there was hardly anyone on the island.  The restaurant and shop owners were practically begging us to come in just so they could have a customer for the night.  The views from the top of the city were absolutely gorgeous--just like you see in the movies.
The views from on the water were also stunning.  I loved seeing the different layers of rock and the formations of the island mixed with the little white and pastel-colored buildings lining the top.
The next day, we went on a guided tour of the island.  In the morning, we hopped on a boat that took us to our first destination: the active volcano right next to Santorini.  We hiked to the top of the volcano where there were yet more amazing views.  Here I am feeling the heat coming from the active part of the volcano.  They told us we were safe on the volcano because they could predict an eruption six months to a year before it would actually happen.  Near the hot spot, there were also a few other spots that were smoking--really the only visible evidence that this volcano could possibly erupt again someday.  Otherwise the little island looked pretty barren--just a bunch of lava rock.   After the volcano we visited some hot springs at a nearby island, and then moved on to another city on the main island for lunch.  Here, we rode some donkeys to the top of the city!  This was probably the most fun part of the day.  The ride was hilarious--they donkeys wanted to race each other to the top of the hill, but they stubbornly obeyed the trainer who was following us up the hill.  At the top of the city, we enjoyed kebabs for lunch at the only restaurant in the city.  They were delicious, but we had to hurry back to the boat for our final destination of the evening--they city of Oia.
The city of Oia (or Ia) is famous for its views of the sunset.  We arrived at the port and hiked the 274 steps up the (very steep) hill to find ourselves once again in a maze of shops and restaurants.  We explored the city for a while and finally found a place to view the sunset.  It was pretty, but I think it would have been even more spectacular on a less cloudy day.   At the end of the evening, we were happy to get back on the warm bus that would take us back to our hostel in Perissa.  
We spent our last morning in the city of Perissa on the beach.  It had finally warmed up just enough that it was comfortable to lie on the beach without having to wear layers of clothing.  The ocean, however, was still freezing.  It was just enough time to read a little and relax before having to catch the ferry back to Athens for our flight that night.  We got on our 4:20 am flight just in time to be back in Prague by 6:00 am, and we were exhausted, but our trip to Greece had made it worth it.

To see all my pictures from Santorini Island, click here.

Athens, Greece

Finally, a little about my past couple trips!  
We began our trip to Greece with an overnight flight into Athens.  The traveling on this trip was even more exhausting than usual.  We landed in Athens at 2:30 am Friday morning, and since the metro didn't open until 6:30 am, we had to sleep in the airport for a few hours.  After catching up on some sleep and meeting up with some friends who flew in from Italy, we were ready to explore the city by late Friday afternoon.  
We decided to begin our sightseeing with the new Olympic Stadium built for the 2004 Summer Olympics.  There were some cool structures and interesting features, such as the arched walkway at the entrance and the louvered sunshade.  Overall it was pretty impressive, but it seemed very odd since there were only about 10 other people in the whole complex besides us--definitely not what it must have felt like to be there when the Olympics were taking place.  It also looked surprisingly run-down for having only been used four years ago.  

We ended our evening in Syntagma Square, one of the central spots in the city.  There was some concert going on, and it took quite a while (and an English-speaking performer) before we knew what it was all about.  They were having some sort of earth and environmental action celebration...which turned out to be quite beneficial for us the next day because all of the sights in Athens were free!  
We definitely took advantage of the free sights and tried to visit each one, if only for a few minutes.  Our first stop Saturday morning was the Olympieion which had many ruins, including the Temple of Zeus, the Hadrian's Gate, some Roman baths, remains of houses, the Basilica of Olympieion, and the Temple of Apollo Delphinios, along with many others.  From here, we had a nice view of the Acropolis.  Before seeing the Acropolis, we stopped at the original (modern) Olympic Stadium, built in 1896.  Not quite as eventful as we had hoped, so we headed for the Acropolis.
The Acropolis was really cool, and we had absolutely perfect weather that day.  It was warm, but there was a nice breeze blowing so we were never hot.  That (and the free entrance!) made this a great day for sightseeing.  The sights were beginning to get crowded, but I think we just missed the major tourist season, so we never had to stand in line to see anything.  
All of the old structures and temples were really interesting, and I tried my best to remember everything about them from my history class three years ago.  Surprisingly, I didn't do too bad.  My favorite building on the Acropolis (as well as when I studied it in history) was the Erechtheum with its caryatids (women columns).  They're just so different from all of the other temples (which all start to look the same after a while).  The Parthenon was also amazing, but I was a little disappointed by all of the scaffolding.
After walking down the hill from the Acropolis, we decided to climb this really big rock at the foot of the hill for one last really great view.  From here, we also had an amazing view of the rest of the city, including the old town of Athens and the Athenian Agora.  After some shopping time in the old town (there were so many amazing little stores with all kinds of handmade goods--jewelry, dresses, sandals, etc!) we visited the Agora and called it a day.  Our feet were pretty sore from hiking up hills over the rocky ground, and we had an early ferry to catch to our next destination--Santorini Island!

To see all of my photos of Athens, click here.