Sunday, April 22, 2012

A Long “Weekend” in Budapest

In the 20-odd days since I last updated this, I have finished my research project (46 pages of work, what up), traveled some more, gotten rained on, and eaten scones to my heart’s content. Before we get to those stories, let me take you back, way back, to March 22nd, when my friends Alicia, Anna, and I spent a 7-day-long “weekend” traveling Central and Eastern Europe.
Our first stop was in Budapest (pronounced Budapesht), where we spent three days exploring Buda (the old, hilly side of the River Danube) and Pest (the flat, newer side where our flat was). It was an interesting trip, because Hungary is now the furthest east I’ve ever been and it really felt different in many ways from Western Europe. We took a walking tour of the city on our first morning and our tour guide reminded us that she, a 25 year old woman, was born under Communism. It wasn’t all that long ago.

After our walking tour, we headed back to Pest to climb up to the top of St. Stephan’s to get that always-cool view of the whole city at our feet.

We went from the church to the opera! Anna, resident music nerd, found us tickets to Straus’ opera “Arabella.” Normally tickets are super cheap but there was a music festival going on so our tickets cost a bit more but we also got box seats...super fancy. The opera was in Italian and the projections were in Hungarian so afterwards we spent dinner trying to figure out what, exactly, it was all about. We cooked dinner in our flat’s kitchen, the smallest I have ever seen. There was hardly space to turn around, but it was just so adorable!

The next day we went to the Holocaust Museum, an incredibly touching experience especially in the country from which many Jews and Gypsies were deported. We decompressed with a lunch of goulash and an afternoon in one of the famous Budapest baths.

We spent our last day in Budapest at the synagogue, enriching what we’d learned at the Holocaust Museum. It was a beautiful building filled with so much history - there even remained part of the wall that was used to created the Jewish ghetto.

On that happy note, we left Budapest and hopped on a train to Prague. x

Sunday, April 1, 2012

No seriously, do you do any studying?

Answer: no.
April Fools!

is this hilarious to anyone else? just me? cool.
I sort of do. Actually, I really do. Contrary to popular belief, this term has involved many hours of reading, writing, and interviews...and we’re just getting started. After a few French exams and one three-hour-long written final we are technically done with classes. Yet as hard as it is not to go directly into break-mode, we are nowhere near finished with the semester. We get a month (more like 2.5 weeks at this point) off to do research on our giant research project.
The scariest part of this “ISP” (independent study project) is not the 30 pages or the 120 hours of research or the thought of writing a slightly short thesis in a month’s time, but it is the 30 hours of interviews we are required to have. I have sent out 25-30 emails in the past few weeks and today I FINALLY scheduled an interview. When I grow up I will make sure to answer everyone’s emails especially if they are a lowly undergraduate student just trying to get some research done.
Anyway, in addition to studying for finals and freaking out about interviews, my time between travels and since Ireland has been filled with lots of sunshine, friends, and lakefront lounging.

post-finals, holla!

I also went up to the mountains with my host mom. In a more successful adventure than last time, we rode a cabine to the top, saw the Alps, drank hot cocoa and ate crepes, and hiked down the mountain via the easy slopes. It really made me want to learn skiing - too bad it is the end of the season. Next winter though!

On one of the less-sunny days, some friends and I did slack off on our research and took a day trip to Montreux, the city on the opposite end of Lake Geneva. I went with my host family right before we went to Paris, but that was a quick trip filled with traffic and a fencing tournament. With my friends we were able to take our sweet time to saunter around the lake and sit in the shadow of the castle.

Anyway, this is just an intermediary post to fill you in on more day-to-day things outside of my big travels. But get ready, because I just got back from Eastern and Central Europe and I have lots of stories to tell. x