By Carson Carter
Our program here in Prague shuttled four of us, who were arriving at the same time, by mini-bus into the city from the airport, and I was immediately thrilled about the views of the city and the apartment location. My roommates were outside flying through cigarettes when I disembarked, (quite the welcoming party, wish I had a photo!) but I’ve already gotten used to that as everyone here smokes in public/bars/clubs/restaurants. Thankfully, my roommates only smoke outside and are really courteous about it.
The building we are in is a circa 1918 Art Nouveau building in the middle of a block that sits directly on the river. Sadly our side of the building faces the street looking away from it. There are four of us boys in this particular apt on the Euro 1st floor, which I like for convenience but also because the elevator looks original and terrifying! Frank Gehry’s Dancing House, which is now one of Prague’s most famous buildings, sits a mere 500 feet out the front door, overlooking the Vltava river, on the former site of a large hall that a guide told me today was one of only three sites in the city to be bombed during WWII. Allied bombers went off course due to faulty equipment and fog during the bombing of Dresden and ended up destroying this hall, before stopping and realizing their mistake.
On my first night here we all went out to some bars and clubs and it was like watching a scripted piece on the Ugly American. It’s a sorority and fraternity party and most of them came together to study (probably not) business and/or marketing. I feel really lucky that my two roommates, David and Philip, are very nice (the third, Ajay, has not arrived yet due to the hurricane) and seem pretty even keel. They are from Charleston and Burlington, VM, respectively, and are not garishly American! They are some of the few who haven’t been wearing their Greek-life letters or their Uni logo tees!
We’re two blocks away from the stunning Státní Opera Praha, the State Opera House. I’m sorely disappointed that the finale of VerdiFest 2011 is tomorrow night, with La Traviata, and alas I start classes tomorrow and have my only evening class from 6 to 9:30pm. Everyone tells me there will be many more concerts starting in September, so I’m trying to remember that! Already, we’ve done a lot of walking and the city is just amazing. It’s like a very gritty Paris, with stunning Baroque and Gothic buildings everywhere and granite cobbled streets and sidewalks set out in geometrical patterns. It feels like LA weather-wise but we’re told it will get really, really cold come October.
Rick Steves’ son, Andy Steves, gave us a welcome talk on the city which was interesting! The only thing I really don’t love is the spraypaint EVERYWHERE, but the place really is so amazingly beautiful that you just stop seeing it after awhile. Visited St. Vitus Cathedral and Prague Castle today, among other things and got pretty well settled in. Lastly, I’m thrilled that I’ll only have class Monday-Wednesday each week so I’m hoping to do a bunch of travel this fall.