PRG / BUD, ’08
So, here I am again. Back in HK. It’s already my third week of working in the Hong Kong Baptist University and I haven’t caved in to the exhaustion yet. (Triumph!) It’s not bad at all. I’m a bit cautious about jumping into the conclusion that I like my job since it’s not even half the semester yet and the real paperwork has not begun, but it’s feeling good, despite the heavy workload. My colleagues are wacky and nice and I like the overall atmosphere. Of course, classes are as unpredictable as always and preparing college-level lectures take a lot of time, but I usually go home feeling satisfied about having done an honest day’s work, so that has to be good.
Where to start. The trip to Europe would be a good place. The reason I didn’t blog since coming back was because I dove straight to work the day I returned to Hong Kong (I already had a meeting that morning.) So Prague and Budapest, ’08. What a trip. A promise made to the self, I suppose, that in exchange for two weeks of living life fully and with as much fun as possible, I would return to work (with no complaints!) for the next 2 years.
No regrets. =) That trip has worked wonders for me, has given me a much needed time-off that I felt no resentment afterward about going back to work. A recharged perspective, like one deep breath. I wouldn’t go as far as saying that I missed work, but when I did get back to hunching over the desk preparing lectures, referring to textbooks, and working out a syllabus, I felt content. I was fulfilling my end of the bargain. Lord knows I never imagined I’d even be in Prague or Budapest for that matter, but life’s funny that way.
I had plenty to say about that Europe trip but now that the time has passed a bit, it just seems like one big yesteryear, although it was only really a month ago. Things are getting less vivid and I’m already starting to forget. Thankfully I had my notebook with me where I wrote random thoughts here and there (I’ll only post the short bits here) but mostly just bullet points of where I went.
Actually I haven’t really thought of that trip again until now.
Aug. 15 – Day 1
Arrived Prague. Raining. Walked around Stare Mesto deliberately without a map, best way to get acquainted with a city. Republic Square, Old Town Square, Wenceslas Square, and respective important buildings.
Written 1:13 PM…Not exactly off to a brilliant start. Raining in Prague and I’ve been in and out of planes for 2 straight days with no rest in between…at least the Cedaz transport went smoothly, lugged suitcase from V Celcini to Jakubska, 11am. Lady said I couldn’t check in, so walked. Ate at a Chinese restaurant. Got back around 12:15pm, waited a bit, then lady showed me my room. The ceiling light doesn’t work. Got 3 Czech ladies coming up to fuss about it, didn’t work, last one said Pardon, Sorry, so I guess that’s that. (Eastern European women really do look v. different. Huge eyes and really big bones.) I don’t really mind but it still puts a crimp. It’s a bit dim here. I’m too tired to bring it up with the lady.
Better get myself a shower and get things sorted out. Exhausted. Also have to find place to buy water.
This was, of course, when I didn’t know that tap water in Prague is potable.
Aug. 16 – Day 2
1. Grand City Tour (raining)
– main sights (the squares and cathedrals et al)
– Hradcany (Prague Castle, St. Vitus Cathedral, changing of the guards)
2. National Museum – great decor inside, exhibits not so exciting
3. Wenceslas Square and New Town walk (with just a guidebook)
– Wenceslas Square, State Opera House, Jungomannovo Namesti, Church of Our Lady of the Snows, Narodni Trida (Lanterna Magicka, National Theatre), Slavic island, Jirasek Bridge, Fred and Ginger Building, Orthodox Church of SS Cyril and Methodius, St. Wenceslas Church, Emmaus Monastery, Charles Square (St. Ignatius Church, New Town Hall), Stavoske Theatre
Aug. 17 – Day 3 – first sunny day
1. Photos! (finally. The touristy places.)
– Church of St. James
-Old Town Square (Orloj, Church of Tyn, Jan Hus, Church of St. Nicholas)
– Republic Square (Powder Gate, Municipal Hall)
– Wenceslas Square
2. Took the subway to the Zelivskeho station, Vinohrad
– Nova Zidovske Hrbitov (New Jewish Cemetery) where I paid my respects to the grave of Franz Kafka
3. Took the subway to Vysehrad
– Church of Saints Peter and Paul
– Vysehrad Cemetery (graves of Dvorak, Smetana, Karel Capek, Jan Neruda)
– Vysehrad Park (status of Premysl and Libuse)
– battlements of the Vltava
4. Took the subway to Malostranska
– Mala Strana
– Strahov Monastery / Library
5. Took the subway to Karlovo Namesti
– attended church, Prague Christian Fellowship at Evangelicka Cirkev Metodisticka (4:30pm)
Aug. 18 – Day 4
1. Terezin Tour
– Terezin Small Fortress (where the Jews were thrown into as a holding prison before they were shipped to concentration camps during WW2. Awful place.)
– Terezin Ghetto Museum
– Terezin Ghetto Memorial (graves, crematory house and laboratory…smelled like ashes)
2. Charles Square and Bridge
3. Klementinum (it’s the library of Prague. I don’t think I was supposed to enter the main place, but I did anyway. Inside, I tried to open one of the huge, very ornate gates to the reading room and made such a hullaballoo with the door handle that I just quickly shuffled off before anyone could see me and tell me off.)
4. Jewish Quarter / Josefov
– Old-New Synagoge (oldest working synagogue in Europe. For 200+ korunas, one entry. I insisted sitting inside it for at least half an hour although I was dying to go the toilet.)
– passed by Jewish Town Hall, Jewish Ceremonial Hall, Jewish Cemetery
4. Took photos of Prague at Night
– Charles University, Rudolfihum Concert Hall, Jana Palacha Square, Hradcany, Charles Bridge (where there was this gypsy-looking lady busker playing my favorite songs on her classical guitar. Almost like in a movie.)
* bought Capek’s War With the Newts (it’s a book.)
Aug. 19 – Day 5
1. Went in Church of St. James, Church of Tyn, Church of St. Nicholas
2. Prague Castle and St. Vitus Cathedral Tour
– St. Vitus Cathedral (remains of St. John of Nepomuk, St. Vitus, St. Wenceslas)
– Prague Castle – Old Royal Palace (Vladislav Hall, defenestration windows, Hapsburgs meeting room)
– St. George’s Basilica (tomb of St. Ludmilla)
– Golden Lane (Kafka’s house, no. 22)
3. Church of Our Lady of Victory (run by Carmelite nuns)
– the original Sto. Nino of Prague
4. Charles Bridge
* bought Meyvrink’s The Golem (it’s another book.)
Written 9:06 PM….Last night in Prague. I think going insane on Days 2 and 3 was not such a good idea; I’m exhausted. It’s only been half the trip, Budapest tomorrow, hope I have the strength left. Prague has been tiring but mighty good.
Aug. 20 – Day 6
Took the plane. Arrived Budapest. Gyongyi got me from the airport to her place, where I met her parents and where I was going to stay. The memory of that day has simply fled from my mind, I didn’t write what happened that day.
Oh right. Gyongyi brought me around the castle district, where I spent most of the time concentrating on catching up to the latest gossip about friends rather than looking at the sights. *cough* Well, we were going back another day anyway, so there.
And the fireworks. We watched the fireworks from their balcony at night. It was a national holiday.
Aug. 21 – Day 7
– National Museum
– National Theatre
– Ziggurat (I don’t remember it having a name. But it was like an exhibition of the works of contemporary Hungarian artists. Great concept for the building to be built like a ziggurat. It had a certain aesthetic, and rather grim, joke on the 9 Circles of Dante’s Inferno, which I’m too tired to type out at the moment.)
– Palace of Arts – Ludwig Museum
– St. Stephen’s Basilica
– Walked Chain Bridge
– Zero Kilometer Stone
Aug. 22 – Day 8
– Hero Square
– City Park
– Agricultural Museum, imitatation of fake church, Anonymus statue
– Ice-skating Rink
– Passed theme park, zoo
– Museum of Fine Arts
– Szechenyi Thermal Bath (Good grief. This deserves a post by itself, one day. I’m dissolving into laughter as I type this.)
Aug. 23 – Day 9
– Terror House
– National Opera, Art Movie Theatre, Applied Arts Theatre
– Back to Castle District (Trinity Statue, Fisherman’s Bastion, National Art Gallery, St. George Gate, Matthias Church)
– Tram to St. Gellert Hotel
– Cave Church, climbed up Mount St. Gellert, Palm Leaf Woman Statue
– Old Fort – Citadella
– St. Gellert Statue, Queen Elizabeth statue (other queen. Hungarian. Not the one you’re probably thinking of.)
Aug. 24 – Day 10
– Car trip with G’s family to Visegrad (old fort, museum exhibitions)
– summer residence of King Matthias
– Szentendre (St. Anthony Church, Marzipan Museum, Kristaly Shop)
Aug. 25 – Day 11
– Parliament (coronation jewels, ex-upper chamber)
– Passed by Museum of Ethnography
– Chair-lift to Libego
– Mount John, Elizabeth lookout
– Fairy Rock
– Dinner at Vaci Utca (Fatal / Hungarian for “wooden plate”) with G’s family. I had the Farmer’s Pan, which comprised of a blood sausage, liver sausage, an ordinary sausage, crackling (kind of like crispy pata, if you know what language I’m talking about. Except it wasn’t the pata), red cabbage, potatoes, and dumplings. YUM.
– Took photos of Budapest at night (Basilica, block of flats, Parliament, Chain Bridge, St. Anna Church, supermarket, Batthyany statue)
Aug. 26 – Day 12
– Palvolgyi Cave
– Walked on Margaret Bridge to Margaret Island
– back to the apartment, watched Miss Congeniality on VCD (yes, well, a rather anti-climactic way to end it all, but I was gonna fly to Frankfurt then a long-haul to HK the next day)
Aug. 27 – Day 13
Written on the flight from Budapest to Frankfurt, 4PM……Right now I think what I’m feeling is withdrawal. Awful feeling to be had in such a limited space as a plane…
It goes on for a while. Like for 4 pages of the notebook.
Written 1:45pm….Arrived HK. Back to reality. Bite me.