PSA: This post will not be as thought provoking as Belle’s and won’t make you question your love of coconut shrimp (or maybe that’s just mine?). BUT it will answer the commonly asked questions: Do I ever actually do school-related things? Or, more importantly, is there such a wonderland where beer is cheaper than water?
Surprise! The answer is yes to both. For the past week, I’ve been in 3 cities in 3 countries (4 if you remember that Budapest is actually two cities separated by the Danube River, Buda and Pest), been on 6 academic visits, countless cultural visits, worked with 3 different currencies, 3 different languages, slept less than I do during midterms week at Case, and walked so much that my heels are rubbed dry. But would I change a thing? Never.
One of my favorite parts about the DIS program is the integrated long study tour, where each core course travels for 5 days or so to other parts of Europe to supplement what they’re learning in class. For me, that including a trip to Budapest, Hungary, and Austria, Vienna to compare the Danish health care system with the health care systems of post-Soviet countries, like in Hungary and Austria. So for those of you who question if I do school work-yep, I do. In the next two weeks we’ll be hard at work integrating information from the hospitals like the Buda Health Center, specialized care clinics like the National Institute for Oncology in Budapest, non-profit organizations like the Austrian Red Cross, and private institutions like the Austrian Orthopedic Hospital for a presentation about how welfare health systems utilize technology. Fun Fun.
But the more entertaining part of the trip was that DIS strives to both show the students academics AND culture on these trips. In Budapest and Austria, we had ‘mandatory’ visits to wine tastings, beer tastings, dinner cruises, traditional Hungarian baths, walking tours, and castle visits-not to mention we were fed very well with traditional foods almost every night. Mandatory or not, I still felt like we were a bit pampered.
In addition to our cultural visits, we were given free time in each city to explore, which was my favorite part of the day-I’ve formulated this theory that the best way to get the vibe of a city is to wander around aimlessly and see whatever you come across! It also gives you a great sense of the history of each city, which I probably appreciate more than healthy because I love European history (I almost had an aneurysm standing in front of the Hapsburg’s imperial palace AND the site where Hitler annexed Austria and practically began WWII).
Vienna is what I would consider a traditional Western European capital. The architecture is stunning and detailed, and everything has some greater history behind it-EVERYTHING in central Vienna is beautiful in so many different ways. To hammer that ‘EVERYTHING’ in, our tour guide showed us one single building in downtown Vienna that the Viennese supposedly hate because it’s the ONLY building in town without detailed carving and patterns around the windows. Imagine one building without decoration in a sea of buildings build like old castles or Parisian apartments, and you can envision Vienna. Vienna was the regal, dignified, elaborate city we visited that was truly built for royalty (not to mention it was super entertaining to pull into the train station singing Billy Joel’s ‘Vienna’ and the Sound of Music soundtrack).
If you think of Vienna as the royal, composed grandmother of the European family, Budapest is the wacky, colorful aunt that’s full of pleasant surprises. I didn’t know what to expect going to Hungary-I didn’t know much about the history except that it’s a Central, Slavic nation that developed slower and very differently than the Western powers-but Budapest was an incredible surprise. Budapest is gorgeous as well, but in totally different ways than Vienna-the buildings are beautiful, of course, but it feels more like a modern city. There’s more going on everywhere, there’s a wider variety of culture and art, and you can tell there’s an Eastern influence that takes away from the traditional Western culture. But at the same time, I almost thought Budapest was more beautiful than Vienna, because you’re literally walking around in a new modern area and all of a sudden there’s a grand opera house or the Buda Castle or Hero’s Square or even just the bridges over the Danube, and it takes your breath away.
Side note: We thought Danish was hard…Hungarian (along with Czech) is NOT an easy language. The one word they kept hammering in our heads was ‘thanks’ and I’ve already forgotten it because it was such a strange word. Slavic languages are hard, but put a group of Americans pretending to be Hungarian in a restaurant trying to say ‘thanks’, and you’ll be laughing all night.
Finally, I decided my feet hadn’t had enough walking and booked a trip after the end of our 6 day study tour to Prague for 4 days with friends from my core medical class. My feet hate me now, but going to Prague was easily one of the best decisions I made all semester.
To stick with my awkward family metaphor, Prague is the semi-hipster, out there cousin that’s super classy when adults are around, but once the sun goes down, all bets are off. Prague is also a beautiful city with an obvious Eastern influence, and even though it’s small, the castles and churches and buildings spread between Old Prague, New Prague, and the Prague Castle area of the city are never-ending. I took so many pictures in Prague, but I always found myself reaching to take more (even of the same things) because everything was so gorgeous.
But the best part of Prague was how laid back and relaxing the city vibe was. We spent one day walking around like crazy tourists and seeing the city, but the last two were spent wandering around to find graffiti (like the John Lennon Wall), cute shopping areas, or expansive views of the city. We found ourselves in Old Town Square multiple times just sitting, drinking beer, listening to a great guitarist, and observing the street performers around the square. We also ended up in multiple different beer gardens, where Czechs go to literally buy beer, sit in the grass in a park with a killer view of the whole city, and relax in the sun. — If you can’t tell, Czechs love their beer. Czechs drink more beer per capita than anyone else on the planet, and yes, beer is indeed cheaper to buy in Prague than water.
I know I’m back in Copenhagen now because I have to pay $12 a sandwich again…and I even have some actual school work to do (so yes, Belle, I DO school). But on the plus side, only 2 weeks until I travel again!