Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Kutna Hora, Munich, Prague, oh my!

After a busy week with friends visiting, we had an even busier weekend full of trips!  We started the weekend on Friday with a day trip to Kutna Hora to see the Sedlec Ossuary.  It looked pretty much like all of the pictures we'd seen--lots and lots of skeletons.  The chandelier above is actually made out of all the bones contained in the human body.  

Besides seeing the church in Kutna Hora, we made our way to the Easter carnival--which we were not expecting at all, but it was a great surprise!  We spent the afternoon riding rides and getting cotton candy.  Easter in the Czech Republic is quite different than in the US.  We learned about some of their traditions from the Czech students and our studio teacher--first, the boys make braided whips from pussywillow twigs to whip the girls (lightly, of course) to bring good health and chase away any bad spirits.  They also douse the girls with cold water for a similar purpose.  The girls in turn give the boys colored Easter eggs (much like in the US).  In Germany, on the other hand, Easter is a very religious holiday, and the only things that are open are churches and beer halls.
On Friday night when we got back from Kutna Hora we took a midnight bus to Munich, Germany. On Saturday we took a tour of the city...and our tour guide was right, there was no way you could have toured the city on your own and fully understood what you were seeing.  There is such a rich history to Munich, but most of it is hidden from someone who doesn't know what to look for.  For example, most of the city was destroyed during WWI and WWII, so nearly all of the buildings in the city are under 60 years old, although they all look like they've been standing for hundreds of years.  It turns out, Hitler had the Nazi party photo-document the city beforehand so it could be rebuilt later.  When they did rebuild it, they made everything look old so no one would know the difference.  Above is a photo of the Glockenspiel on the Rathaus, or Old Town Hall.  Along our tour, we also stopped in the Viktualienmarkt (the main food market along with a huge biergarten) for a traditional German lunch--bratwurst!  I have never liked it at home, but it was pretty good in Germany.   
Later that day when it got a little warmer we went out to the English Gardens.  They were really pretty--it's actually just a big park (over twice as big as Central Park!).  In the summer, there's a nude sunbathing area right in the center.  A little too cold for that this weekend...
On Sunday we started our day by heading towards Olympiapark to see the site of the 1972 Olympics (when the Munich Massacre--where members of the Israeli Olympic team were taken hostage and murdered by Palestinian terrorists--took place).  The site was huge, and I'm sure we didn't even see half of it.  There was another Easter carnival going on here--mainly for the children of Munich--with clowns, magicians, and of course, lots of traditional German food!
Right next to Olympiapark was BMW Welt, a giant complex of BMW buildings intended as a "multi-functional customer experience" with exhibition space and showrooms, so we decided to stop in and look around.  The buildings were amazing--so high tech and such a contrast to the historical architecture we've been visiting for the last 5 weeks.  The cars were pretty nice as well...  
We finished off our day in Munich with a trip to Nymphenburg Palace.  Another giantic building with gardens that stretched even further.  Even though it was freezing outside, there were plenty of local runners out for their daily jog at the palace.  So surreal...

We made it back to Prague just in time to catch the last day of the Easter festival and eat plenty of traditonal Easter festival treats.  A sort of strange pizza, corn on the cob, a chocolate covered strawberry and banana skewer, and a chocolate crepe.  Delicious.  We also saw plenty of boys walking around with their whips looking for some girls.  It's so interesting to learn about traditions from other cultures, however strange and silly they might seem. 
I have uploaded all of my pictures from this weekend, so there are a lot of new ones to see!  To see pictures of Kutna Hora, click here.  For Munich, click here.  I've also added more pictures of our adventures in Prague last week (including my birthday and our Ghost Tour where we toured the haunted streets, buildings and pubs of Old Town--pretty lame, but it was a fun night to spend with our Italy friends), so click here to view those.  

Lots and lots of school work to do this week before I head to Scotland for the weekend!  

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Birthday Party!

On Monday I turned 22!  For my birthday, we went out on this jazz boat that runs up and down the river and shows some great views of Prague.  The music and dinner were amazing, and we all had a great time.  It was also St. Patty's day, so we made sure to visit and Irish pub as well.  People here love St. Patty's day just as much they do in Ireland, and every pub in the city was packed.  

We've been busy with our friends from Italy who are in town this week, going to lots of museums and touristy places.  There is an Easter festival going on in Old Town, so we've gone there several times to check out all the souvenirs and delicious festival food.  Tomorrow night we're going on a ghost tour of Prague to find all of the haunted places in the city.  On Friday we're going to a little town in the Czech Republic called Kutna Hora to visit the famous Sedlec Ossuary, a small Roman Catholic chapel which is decorated with 40,000-70,000 skeletons--yes, a church made out of human skeletons.  Very creepy.  We should get back just in time to pack and take an overnight bus to Munich, Germany where we'll spend the weekend.  Then, hopefully we'll get to enjoy the Easter festivities in Prague on Monday (Monday is the official Easter holiday here) because we have the day off school!  

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Český Krumlov

This weekend we decided to spend some time in the Czech Republic--starting with a day trip to the town of Český Krumlov in South Bohemia on Friday.  Český Krumlov is in the very southern part of the Czech Republic, almost touching Austria and Germany.  It is situated within a horseshoe bend of the Vltava River, making it appear almost like an island when viewed from above.  This is one of the cutest towns I have been to, and it was such a nice change of pace from the large city of Prague.  The trip was really fun, and due to the rainy weather, we had the city nearly to ourselves.  
We arrived in the town just in time for an awesome traditional Czech lunch, then we headed up the castle.  As you may have noticed, the Czech Republic is famous for their castles, and this town was no exception.  The castle complex here is second in size only to the Hradčany castle complex of Prague.  The castle had a gorgeous tower and some even more spectacular views of the city from the tower.  The whole complex is even guarded by bears!  (Although the bears must have not liked the rain much either because we never did see them.)
The rest of the day we just wandered through the town, taking in all of the sights.  It would be nice to go back when the weather is better and just sit on a bench near the river and enjoy the quiet town.  We also visited (another) torture museum.  Apparently where there's a castle, there's also a museum about all of the awful things that used to happen in that castle.  This museum was way more graphic than the one at Loket castle, and much scarier as well.  
We came back Friday night because on Saturday, some of our friends who are studying in Italy came to Prague for their spring break.  It's been nice to see some more familiar faces and get to show them around the city.  

If you want to see more photos of our trip this weekend, click here.  It is such a pretty town, so check them out!

Monday, March 10, 2008


This weekend we took a trip to Vienna, Austria!  I love love LOVED that city.  Everything about it was wonderful--from the architecture and the restaurants to the wide open spaces (there were so many parks!) and all of the bicycles--I wish we could have stayed another day.  

We arrived on Friday afternoon and immediately searched for a restaurant.  We went to one recommended by the girl working at the hostel called Centimeter, which supposedly sold big hunks of meat by the centimeter, but the only thing we could figure out that was actually sold that way were sandwiches.  A little disappointing, but the food we got was decent, and the portions were outrageous!  I also sampled the Wiener schnitzel (something you have to do while you're in Vienna, but I'm glad I didn't get a whole plate of it...that's a LOT of fried veal).  On the way back to the hostel, we stopped for some ice cream at Zanoni Eissalon Garda which serves the best ice cream in Vienna (the gelato in Prague is good, but this ice cream was outstanding--plus they actually give you a decent size scoop).  By the end of the trip I think I had tried 6 flavors...
On Saturday, we decided to do all of the touristy things and see all of the sights of the city.  We started out at the Secession building, an Art Nouveau structure built in 1897 by Joseph Maria Olbrich.  Even though it was built so long ago, the building still looks very modern and was quite inspirational, especially all of the plant and flower graphics covering the building.
Next we moved on to Karlskirche Church, the Opera House, St. Stephen's Cathedral, the Haas Haus, Museumsquartier, the Parliament Building, the City Hall (Rathaus), and the famous Riesenrad Ferris Wheel at Prater Amusement Park.  
On a whim Saturday night we decided to go see the opera La Forza del Destino at the State Opera House.  We heard there were standing room tickets for 2 Euro (that's $3!), so we knew we couldn't pass that up.  While the opera wasn't my favorite type of musical/theater, I was really glad we went.  It was worth it just to see the inside of the opera house and hear some good music.  Afterwards, we headed to Cafe Sacher to indulge in the famous Original Sacher Torte and Viennese coffee, which is supposed to be some of the best in the world.  The cake was pretty good--after all the hype I was expecting something a little different, but I still enjoyed it.  Mmmm chocolate cake and coffee. 
On Sunday, we got up really early to get in line (free standing room this time) to see...the Vienna Boys Choir!  So so cool.  When they first started to sing I got goosebumps.  They sing every Sunday at the 9:15 Mass in the Hofburgkapelle chapel in Hofburg Palace.  I thought the church would have been huge, but it was quite small, holding maybe a couple hundred people (all tourists).   They were hidden up in the choir loft for the entire service (which was all in German) until the very last song.  It was kind of funny seeing the awkward young boys that can make such beautiful music.  Afterwards we enjoyed an enormous brunch nearby.
To end our trip on Sunday afternoon, we visited the Albertina art museum downtown.  They had some awesome exhibits, including a large collection that included pieces by Monet, Renoir, Picasso, Kandinsky, Pollock, Rothko, and many others.  Afterwards, we went back to the large park in front of Hofburg Palace to enjoy the sun, people watch, and nap before heading back to Prague.  After all of the amazing things we had seen and done over the weekend, this was still definitely one of the highlights.  Such a great relaxing end to an awesome trip!  

If you want to see more pictures of my trip to Vienna, click here.  I've also uploaded photos from the buildings in Prague that we visited last week, so click here if you want to see those.  Enjoy!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

This is what homework in Prague looks like

After getting our studio assignments on Monday, we decided to go visit all of the spaces that we can choose from to inspire our furniture designs.  They were pretty incredible places, and I'm glad we got the chance to see some more of the important landmarks in Prague.  
On Tuesday we started out at Prague Castle and visited Vladislav Hall of the Royal Palace.  
The ceiling here was just so cool.  I loved the Gothic arches that formed flowers and star patterns over the entire hall.  It was so simple yet extremely complex in other areas, and all of the stonework was beautiful.
Next we went to St. George's Basilica, a Romanesque church also in Prague Castle.  I wasn't as impressed with this space as the other, but it had some nice frescoes and a cool wooden ceiling over the main space.
I probably enjoyed the iron railings the most in this church, though.  They were really cool and should be good inspiration for our creative detail class (the one where we have to design some architectural detail such as an iron railing, grill, window, door, etc.).  
After we were done at Prague Castle, we headed down the street to the Baroque church of St. Nicholas.  This was probably the most intricately detailed church I have ever seen.  While some might say that it is gaudy looking, I think it's important to appreciate the architecture for the style it is and the amount of time and effort it must have taken to design and build.  I can't even fathom having to draw each single little detail and the level of craftsmanship that went into its creation.
Some of the details were especially intriguing to me.  I have noticed a reinterpretation of the Baroque style gaining popularity over the years (through companies such as Brocade Home) and can see the detail of this door becoming the pattern for many products such as textiles or wall covering.
On Wednesday we went to our Art Nouveau space, the Municipal Hall.  This building serves as a theater, and we will probably go into the main hall (we only visited the lobby because you had to pay a considerable amount just to see the theater space for a couple minutes) when we go see a play or concert soon.  
This building was also very interesting and had a ton of cool details in the handrails along with several fun mosaic tile floor patterns.  

I'll post more pictures of all the spaces (and some of the exteriors) next week.  Tonight I'll be getting ready for our weekend trip to Vienna, Austria!  Have a good weekend everyone!

Monday, March 3, 2008

Brunch...probably the best meal of the day

This weekend was rainy and cold, so we decided to spend most of it indoors lounging around.  On Saturday, we got up late and went to brunch at Radost FX, a restaurant and lounge by day and a nightclub in the basement in the evenings.  
Although it took over 2 hours for that one meal, it was totally worth it and such a relaxing morning just enjoying some wonderful food.  I had the Elvis Lives! (a toasted bagel with crunchy peanut butter, bananas, and honey served with a gigantic fruit salad on the side).  Probably one of the best meals I've had here (I know it wasn't traditional Czech, but it was delicious).  
Most of the restaurants and clubs around here have such great personalities and are each so unique.  I loved just being in the restaurant--the atmosphere and decor was funky yet elegant--just a fun place to be.
Here are just a few photos of Radost FX.  I'm sure we'll be going back there soon.  Their dinner menu looked pretty enticing as well...
Well, class has officially started.  We went to studio today and have about 5 assignments due Thursday.  Yikes!  We'll have 4 projects over the semester.  The first is a logotype design for ourselves as a designer, the second is to translate that logotype into a 3D sculpture, the third is to design a piece of jewelry for a client of our choice, and the fourth and major project is to design a contemporary chair for a historical building in Prague (we get to choose from 4 spaces they have assigned).  So, this week we have to visit all 4 of the buildings and sketch inspiration for our piece of furniture.  It is so amazing to be able to interact with the local historical architecture to serve as inspiration for our designs.  The 4 spaces all have different architectural styles: Baroque, Gothic, Romanesque, and Art Nouveau, so we'll get to pick a style that we like in order to design something contemporary with great respect to the historical style.  We'll start visiting the sites tomorrow...I'm glad we'll finally be seeing a few more sites around Prague!

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Prague is a cool place to be

Well, nothing too eventful has happened since our adventure in Budapest.  Except we all broke down the other night and had a completely American evening.  We ate at Bohemia Bagel, which was amazing.  I wanted to order everything on the menu: pulled pork sandwiches, turkey club, cookies! (I haven't really seen cookies since I've been here).  I settled for blueberry pancakes which were delicious.  Plus Bohemia has FREE REFILLS!  I get so thirsty here...the drinks are tiny and each cost at least $2, which is sometimes as much as your meal!  The food here isn't that bad, but I can only take so much meat & potatoes.  Afterwards we went and saw Sweeny Todd.  A very good movie, but extremely gory.    

This week we visited many classes to try and figure out our schedules.  Here's what I think I'll be taking:

Studio (furniture design of some sort)
Figure Drawing
Color & Composition (abstract art)
Creative Detail (designing architectural decoration like an iron gate -- ie doodling)
Computer Graphics (Photoshop, Illustrator, & InDesign)

I'm pretty pumped about my schedule.  This is the part of me that originally wanted to go to art school but eventually decided interior architecture & product design sounded just as fun but a little more practical.  All of the professors seem awesome and really excited to have all of the Kansas students here (they really like Kansas for some reason...I think they have high expectations for us!).  

No exciting trips this weekend.  We decided just to stay in Prague and check out the city a little more.  Little did we know it would be pouring down rain all weekend, so we'll see how much sightseeing we get done.  We did visit the Salvador Dali exhibit in a gallery in Old Town Square yesterday, though.  It was a little different than I expected, but fabulous nonetheless.  Hopefully this rain clears up so we can spend some time outside!  This city is so cool, and I can't wait to see even more of it every day!