The Dutch language has never sounded so beautiful. When I bought my Douwe Egberts coffee (my new favorite, by the way) at the Albert Heijn when we landed back in The Netherlands this morning, the cashier sputtered off what would’ve sounded like gibberish to me a few months ago. Ok, so it still sounds like gibberish… but at the recognition of DUTCH chatter, my whole body relaxed for a moment, finally realizing I was somewhere familiar. I was closer to home.
Before I start telling you about our extensive sixteen-city trek across Europe in the past three weeks, I’ll go ahead and catch you up on a couple places we went before school ended.
On the way to Prague, I remember looking out the window to the sight of rickety buildings, rusted tin roofs, and little gardens with twiggy trees in tiny backyards. When I woke up on the train the next morning in the Czech Republic, I looked out the window to the sight of graffiti covering the walls of almost every building we passed. All the graffiti is one thing I didn’t expect from Europe in general before I came, but just like in America and everywhere else, artists just want to make their mark on the world, and Prague seems like one of the best places to start doing so.
Whether it’s street graffiti artists, caricaturists, experienced water color painters, or even musicians playing in the town square or on Charles bridge, Prague is bursting with art and life and creativity. It’s really no wonder when you look at the beauty and the scenery surrounding the town. Once we got past some of the big city areas of the Czech Republic, pulled into Prague, and navigated our way to the cobblestone streets and bridges just past the main road, we’d struck gold in the form of art and architecture. I’ve never seen such beautiful archways, buildings and bridges in my life. The whole city seems to be painted with a shade of light sepia, and pops of color shine through every now and then, rendering everything and everybody completely picturesque. The intricate detail of the statues, the bridges, and even the roads and the lights feels old and wise in the sense that they’ve seen hundreds of years worth of people walk past.
And then there are the people who make the city feel hopelessly modern. As we hurried through the dark town at 4:30AM to catch a train home, we approached Charles Bridge and heard the first sound of life in the dusky city that we’d heard all morning. As we began crossing it, we saw in a group of young guys in the middle of it, obviously drunk, not wearing any pants. Since we were running late and because two of us knew self-defense pretty well and the other two can throw a mean punch (or squirt a mean mace), we felt fine not diverting our course just to avoid them. Turns out we were pretty safe since all they wanted to do was hum a tune while shaking their hips at us.
Despite the crazy guys (ok, partly because of them), I really loved Prague. The scary thing is that I almost missed it. Early on we had decided to go to Prague on the weekend before finals week, wanting to take advantage of every single weekend in Europe. Keep in mind that over here, since our schooling was on a condensed and intense schedule, we had no “dead days” or study days for finals, and we even kept going to some classes while finals were starting. Since we hadn’t stayed in Maastricht a single weekend, we desperately needed that weekend to study for these tests (which made up anywhere from 50-70% of our grades!) BUT, as always, we decided that we could multitask. So we packed our books and papers and set off on the train for yet another country. We did, though, make the wise decision to come home very late on Saturday so that we could have Sunday to study in the comfort of our dorm rooms, which meant, sadly, that we had to leave Prague far too soon.
Looking back now, comparing my final grades to all of my travels, I definitely know which one of the two is more special to me. I think you might know too.