Vienna, Budapest, Bratislava, oh my!

Thanks to my ridiculously particular preferences, I did not choose to participate in a University of Michigan study abroad program. Had I done so, it would have been very, incredibly, much, much much less stressful and so much easier to coordinate and organize my classes, credit transfers, financial aid (I miss you!), and such. Because of my pickiness and dissatisfaction with U of M program, I chose to do a random program I had never heard of and simply stumbled upon by way of intense research sessions. USAC had comparable programs at one fifth (1/5!!!!) the cost of other third party providers. I was sold and it turned out to be the best decision I could have made.

My lovely street Řehořová (‘jeh-ho-jo-va’) in a historical working-class neighborhood

Every weekend so far has had optional trips and tours outside of Prague that are led by the local program aids. They have been absolutely fantastic and exposed us to so much more of Czech culture than just life is Prague, which is certainly not typical. We simply wouldn’t have known about the small towns, how to get there, what to do there, and all the tedious logistics without them. The first month was saturated with tours of different areas and neighborhoods of Prague. The first two weeks was fully devoted to 20 hours of intensive Czech courses. Everyone who works for USAC jumps at the opportunity to help us. We get emails about the events, festivals, and happenings in Prague. We’ve been to over 5 different smaller towns in the month that we’ve been here. They help us translate menus, tell us where to go to buy things, and give us recommendations for everything. USAC has been unbelievable with everything they do for us. A friend in my program knows another girl in Prague studying abroad through a different third party program that I was considering participating in (at least until I realized there was no way I was paying over $12,000).

Jan, our wonderful program director on our Vltava River boat cruise (and me just creeping in the back)

She said that program just does not compare to USAC. They barely do any activities, in or outside of Prague. The group meals have been very expensive (compared to USAC bringing us, and paying for our cheap, authentic Czech meals). I was totally shocked at what I had heard from her review and I felt so very grateful to be involved in USAC. They’re basically on their own with schedules and activities. I love our program aids, who do everything to help us. Random, silly stuff that makes us know they love their jobs. Today, Arica got a toaster from Jan (program head). She missed her toast, you know.

Perched on the Prague Castle
A restaurant in the town of Svatý Jan pod Skalo (St. John under the Rock), our first optional weekend trip. This is the infamous restaurant in which I was violently ill and spent a…memorable afternoon. Never drink German Iced Coffee juice-box-esque drinks on a train. Never.

Tomorrow we set off for our Central European Field Tour. This is another trip put together through USAC. Logistics, travel, lodging, and many activities are already taken care of and paid for. It’s so wonderful. I am beyond excited and can’t wait to experience more of Central Europe and see countries besides Czech. As always, I have yet to pack, so while I go do that I’ll leave you with our itinerary. We will be visiting five different cities in five days:
Český Krumlov, Czech Republic
Vienna, Austia
Budapest, Hungary
Bratislava, Slovakia
Devín, Slovakia

How is this my life? Immersed in gratitude.

Fri, 5th 8:00am departure from Prague
–        hike to the Maiden Castle (Dívčí Kámen), ruins of the medieval castle above the Vltava River
–        accommodation in Český Krumlov (hotel Gardena); lunch on your own
–        meet by the bear moat for the unique Castle tour
–        6:45pm – meet on the square by the fountain for the dinner (hungry night for latecomers)
–        night walk through the town and castle gardens after the dinner

Sat, 6th 8:00am  departure for Vienna
–  Kahlenberg Hill and Memorial – view of Vienna
–  lunch at Kahlenbergerdorf amongst the famous vineyards of Vienna
–  accommodation and walk through historical Vienna; free evening

Sun, 7th 9:00amVienna, Budapest
–       Belvedere Palace’s gardens
–       optional gallery visit and/or free time in the downtown Vienna
–       departure for Budapest – meet by Maria Theresia statue
–       Pannonhalma: the oldest abbey in Hungary (founded 996)
–       meet for the Danube promenade, dinner at 8:30pm, and Castle walk; later free evening

Mon, 8th 8:50am – Budapest
–  Millenium Monument + Széchenyi Spa (swimming & bathing)
–  meet at the spas for optional walk to the Opera, Basilica and Parliament
– city walk – Váci utca, market hall-Vásárcsarnok, Cave Chapel, Gellért Hill
–  free late afternoon and evening

 Tue, 9th 7:30am departure for Bratislava
–  walk and lunch in Bratislava
–  Bratislava outskirts: visit to Devín castle by the confluence of the Danube and Morava rivers

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