Prague: Wake Up, Dorothy, You Are Not In Kansas Anymore

Allison Body is a student at Rockhurst University and an ISA Featured Blogger. Allison is currently studying abroad in Prague, Czech Republic on an ISA Fall 1 program.

Padesat sest!”  “PADESAT SEST!

If there is one thing we learned in our Czech class, it was numbers.  Our teacher would hold up flashcard after flashcard until we were lightning-quick at rattling off Czech numbers.  So when I woke up at 6:30 am on a train after less than an hour of sleep to a Czech woman urgently saying these words to me, I knew exactly what she was saying: 56.  The number of the seat in which I was curled up.  The same seat in which she was apparently supposed to be curled up (or some more dignified, Czech version of sleeping on a train).  Wake up Dorothy, you are not in Kansas City anymore.

Dinner by the river

At the time of this incident, I was on a train to Budapest for a weekend, but the experience seems to best encapsulate the slightly jarring moment when I wake up every morning and realize that I am in Prague.  This fact has mostly been unreal to me, but I am starting to notice patterns that remind me that no, I am not home, and no, I am not in Disney World, despite the presence of an enchanted castle.  I’d like to share a few of my observations about Czech culture, each little reminder that I am no longer in my comfort zone, but instead on a bit of an adventure:

  1. Even the dogs are polite.  This is a running joke between my friends and I to sum up how quiet and polite Czech people are (dogs don’t have to wear leashes here, yet are perfectly well-behaved).  People talk quietly or not at all on public transportation, the most common word you will hear is prosim (please), and the crime rate besides pick-pocketing is actually very low.  Today I watched a man jump out of his seat on the tram to help an elderly woman up the steps, and then usher her into his seat.  I love this about Czech people, and I hope my fellow Americans and I will learn a thing or two about politeness while we are here.
  2. Nix the pudding, get some garlic.  As a notoriously picky eater, I was worried about what the food would be like here.  My roommates and I made an attempt to collect a pantry full of American-ish food from the grocery store, with little success.  The quintessential example of this was the packet of cheap “instant pudding” that I found.  After spending a solid 15 minutes translating directions from Czech (not so instant), I tasted my final product and only to discover that it was definitely not chocolate pudding.  But I am branching out a little.  I had garlic soup, cesnecka, and found that it was absolutely delicious.  Other favorites include fried cheese, potato soup, and any kind of chicken.  How they manage to stay fit in Prague is really a mystery to me.
  1. Řeally?  I was told that Czech has a sound designated by‘ř’ that only exists in two languages in the world: Czech and the language of an obscure African tribe with only about 2,000 members.  Figures.  The sound is some cross between an ‘r’ and a ‘j’ that I will never be able to correctly replicate.  It is a difficult language, but there is something satisfying about learning how to speak a little of it.  My goal by the end of the semester is to complete some sort of interaction with a Czech person without them guessing that I don’t speak Czech.
  2. Take a look around.  What really strikes me over and over again is the beauty and history of this city.  It is everywhere.  Headed to class?  Wave hello to St. Wenceslas at the top of the square as you descend to the metro.  Out for the evening?  You can check the time at the giant astronomical clock as you pass it.  I will spend 3 and a half months tirelessly exploring this city and still not see everything it has to offer.
Old Town Square

While I suspect there will be days when I will click my heels and wish for home, I don’t think I could have been blown into a better city.  I look forward to some peaceful tram rides, trying new foods, and slowly learning more about this culture.

On Charles Bridge with my new roommates!
Prague Castle: my “enchanted castle” at twilight

11 thoughts

  1. I’m so jealous! I knew you would love this experience and I can’t wait to hear more about it through your blogs. Love you

  2. Hi Allison! These blogs are priceless!! We LOVE reading them! What a wonderful diary you will have when you arrive home. Keep blogging and having a blast :) We love you!

  3. Allison, You have a gift! I love reading your blog. Keep telling your story. It’s a trip of a lifetime! When your mom gets there tell us how the “Happy Hour” is in Prague!!! Love, Uncle Tim

  4. Hi Allison! We are Mrs. Samaniego’s 3rd grade class in Elgin, TX. We can’t wait to hear more about your adventures in Prague this semester.

  5. Allison, We were so glad you got to visit Gamp’s roots in Budapest and now you’ll get to visit Nana’s roots in Germany and Pop’s roots in Ireland. Pop said the people in Ireland are the nicest…but maybe not the most polite! We enjoy reading your blogs. Happy Birtday! Love, Nana and Pop

  6. Allison, I love reading your Blogs. Being able to read what your are doing and where you are makes it seem not so far away.I’m happy that you are getting this chance to see the world. Enjoy!! Gamma

  7. I am also studying in Prague this year and couldn’t agree more with your account of the city. The politeness on the public transport also struck me, and the beauty of the city as I walk through it everyday, stumbling upon amazing buildings and just thinking ‘wow’! Great post.

  8. Thanks for taking us all along on your adventure…
    You have a gift for bringing people and places to life with your words… Your sense of humor makes us all eager for your next post! So glad ISA recognized your talent! Happy Birthday!!!

  9. Happy Belated Birthday! Thanks for sharing your awesome adventure. I cannot wait to read the next post! Glad you enjoyed Budapest. Love you, Uncle Dan

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