“As with any journey, who you travel with is more important than the destination.”
Hi everyone! I’m sorry it’s been two weeks since I’ve written. Last week I had a cold and hadn’t done much of interest to share. However, I have a lot to say today!
On March 15th , Gesa and I joined Gloria and her friend Laura (who was visiting from Italy) on a trip to Wraclaw, Poland. We had a great weekend exploring the city and eating way too much pierogi (we had it four times in 2 days…). The city was very beautiful and we enjoyed touring it. It was full of gorgeous old buildings, including cathedrals and churches, and had a wonderful park and garden. The city is also known for gnomes, so there are about 350 small metal gnomes spread throughout the city and we searched for them as we walked around.
As for pierogi, we tried a variety of places, fillings, and styles. At each place we all ordered different things and shared accordingly, so I feel as though I am now a pierogi expert. Throughout the weekend we created different criteria and discussed each place thoroughly while eating and acted as though we were professional critics. The criteria included things such as the dumpling dough, fillings, cost, atmosphere, and flavor variety. We went to one place that had oven-baked pierogi as well as traditional pierogi, and after trying them both we all agreed we prefer traditional style. My favorite type of filling is the traditional Russian dumpling, with potato and cheese. However, we also tried ones with onion, spinach, meats, and more. The spinach ones were also a big hit among our group. Oh, and the dessert pierogi are also wonderful. We tried some with chocolate and some with fruit. What did we learn through this experience? Pierogi is delicious and you will enjoy it at pretty much any restaurant that serves it. Thank you, Poland, for having such exquisite food.
I began to feel sick during our stay in Wroclaw and continued to fight a cold for a few days. Monday I stayed in bed and slept probably 20 hours, which made we feel much better. Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday I had class. I know what you’re thinking: three days of class in one week? Outrageous, I know. It was a tough one.
For those who don’t know, Thursday was my birthday. At first I was very sad because I wanted to spend my birthday with my family, friends from home, and Saul. As the day proceeded, however, my friends here made me very happy. For dinner many of my friends said they wanted to celebrate with me, so we decided to order pizza to the dorm building. We gathered in the dining area in the lobby with our pizza and beer, and many of my friends came bearing gifts and cards, which I had not expected at all.
We ate and laughed together, and after eating our fill of pizza, Gloria and Yaren snuck away and returned with a beautiful homemade tiramisu cake. The candles they chose were “magic candles” and were the most impressive things I’ve ever seen. After blowing them out several times and having them reignite on their own, I licked my fingers and pinched the wicks, expecting that to be the end of it. Alas, the flames returned. Eventually we had to remove them and fully submerge them in water to make them stop. Oh, and they were similar to sparklers and were sending off sparks the entire time. After dinner, we went to trivia night at the pub in the dorm, which we won, and all the Erasmus students in the pub wished me a happy birthday. Although I was away from home, my new Erasmus family here made my birthday one to remember.
On Friday I joined the ESN club on a trip to Landek Park, which is an old coal mining area near Ostrava where one of the mines has been converted into a museum. We were able to enter the mine and tour inside. It was very interesting and scary to imagine the work that occurred inside the mines. We were in the shallowest mine, only about 20 meters below the surface, but below our feet there were five more, the deepest of which was 600 meters down. It was interesting to learn about the machines inside the mines and see how little space the miners had to move around and work. I am very grateful that I am not a miner.
On Saturday we went with ESN to Olomouc, which is a neighboring city and is considered the historical heart of the region. A member from the ESN club in Olomouc met us at the train station and gave us a guided tour through the city. It was a beautiful old city with much deeper history than Ostrava. The weather was great and it was sunny and warm the entire day. In the afternoon we took the bus up to Holy Hill, which gave us a great view over the surrounding farm lands. I laid down in the grass and soaked up the sun and the view for a long time.
On Sunday a group of friends (Gesa, Gloria, Elina, Iiro, Michelle) and I set off on a hike up Radhost mountain, which is south of Ostrava near the Slovakian border. It was about an hour and a half away by train and then we did a 10 mile hike. We immediately entered a forest with a lovely stream flowing through it. We hiked up a pretty steep trail for a while until we reached the first stopping place: a small skiing village called Pustevny. There we sat and had some food, and I had the most incredible blueberry cake-dumpling things.
We then pushed on along the top of the ridge to the next place, where we found the statue of Radegast. Radegast is an ancient pagan god of hospitality, wisdom, war, and more, depending on who you ask. He is credited for the creation of beer, and the most common Czech beer is called Radegast. This mountain range was a place for sacred rituals and celebrations. We continued on to the summit of the mountain where there is a beautiful chapel on top of the hill. On the way down, we took a different and much less used trail, and weaved our way through the forest, over downed trees, and through overgrown areas. I was delighted to spend the day in nature.
Oh, and at the end of the day as we were walking back to the bus station, I decided I wanted to go down to the creek and feel the water. There happened to be a down tree laying across the creek as a bridge, and someone jokingly said, “You should walk on the tree!” Well, I took this as a challenge and a dare, and stupidly set off to cross the tree bridge. After a couple steps, I realized walking on it was too dangerous. So, I sat on my butt and started scooting. This also didn’t work. My next attempt was to lay down and inchworm my way backwards. This worked well, until I got about halfway across, got scared, and realized there was a big knob coming up that would be difficult to wiggle over. I decided to return back the same way, but quickly realized that pulling myself forward uphill was far more challenging than scooting backward downhill. I lay in the middle for a bit, deciding what to do. My friends tried to give me branches to pull me up, but that failed epically. Finally I continued my inchworm-ing down the tree, carefully maneuvered over the knob, and swung off the tree to the ground. I wish I could say it was graceful, but of course it wasn’t and I ended with some gnarly bruises.
This upcoming week is our spring break, and I am hoping to take a big trip for six days or so across Austria and southern Germany. Gesa, Elina, Yaren, Julia, and Iiro all want to join, so we are figuring out the exact plans to make it happen.
Time is flying by and my time abroad is already half over. My time is Ostrava is only about five weeks from ending before I leave for my trans-Europe trip. I still have days where all I want is to be at home, but I am loving my time here and am making wonderful memories.