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Located very nearly in the geographic center of Europe, the Czech Republic is an achingly beautiful nation with a long and storied history.
As a college student looking to study abroad, you could scarcely do
better than spend a term or two studying in this gorgeous, storied, and
Live in the HEART of Europe.Underappreciated -
really? You can be an entire nation and still be underappreciated? Well,
yes, when you're a country centrally located in the continent. The
surrounding countries make for tough competition - they are much-sought
destinations. But for students studying abroad in the Czech Republic,
this works as an advantage: If you're going to do some traveling to
other countries during your stay, it's a very reasonable hop to Poland,
Germany, Hungary, Austria, Romania, Croatia, Slovenia, Slovakia, France,
the Netherlands, and more - an almost endless list of places with
fascinating things to see and feel and eat and drink.
PRAGUE is the PARIS of the 90s.-That line is a
quote from Marion Ross (the actress who played Mrs. Cunningham on "Happy
Days," and more recently was on Gilmore Girls and about a million other
shows). It's relevant here because another rationale for saying the
Czech Republic is underappreciated is because of the renown of Prague.
Prague is a lovely city, and has become so prominent that, in some
ways, the city dominates the country. For many people, stories about the
wonderful Prague make up maybe the full extent of what they've heard
about the Czech Republic. Also, at this point, Prague has been on
travelers' radar for long enough that a fairly common refrain from
people who've been there is "It's a nice place, but it was soooo much
better 10 years ago."
This is nonsense; don't buy it. Here's how to experience the city of
Prague: visit the really well-known parts early in the morning, before
the tourists are awake and out. Then, if you're spending the afternoon
out in the city, for the rest of the day, anytime you find yourself
surrounded by tourists, walk one block away. One block, and they will be
gone. It's amazing, really. Czechs live in these neighborhoods, and
they know how to avoid the tourists. If you live there, you can too.
Get lost in Old Town, Mala Strana, and Zizkov. Literally lost - it's
the best way to see the city. Follow your nose up strange sets of stairs
and around winding corners through the maze of old streets. You will
find beautiful, amazing things. Wander up to the castle and accidentally
experience its historical and visual power. (While there, one wonderful
destination is the neighborhood known as Novy Svet (New World), up
behind the castle.) Visit the Charles Bridge, very late at night or very
early in the morning - it will take your breath away. Walk up Petrin
Hill for amazing views of the city without standing in any touristy
See? This is why Prague helps the Czech Republic as a whole remain
underappreciated: it's such a splendid city that it's really hard to
talk about, even briefly, without getting carried away by its culture,
personality and old-world beauty.
Live in the OLD WORLD.Outside of Prague, you can
visit the historic castle (or "Cesky") towns in the southern area that
was once called Moravia - these are real fairy-tale towns, such as
Krumlov, Mikulov, Znojmo, Lednice, Valtice, and Tele. They are just
beautiful. (But don't expect many people to speak English; be prepared
to really use your phrasebooks.)
These places have a ton of fascinating things to recommend. The
Ossuary at Kutna Hora (about an hour's train ride SE of Prague), to
choose one example, is a small chapel, fairly unremarkable from the
outside...but inside it's decorated with human bones. 400,000 bones.
There's pyramids of bones, crucifixes of bones and a chandelier that
includes every bone in the human body. It's one of the strangest things
you'll ever see.
From an academic perspective, the Czech Republic offers a full buffet
of options to those wishing to study abroad there. With more than a
dozen universities that are ideal for foreign students, it's hard to go
wrong. Among these, Charles University (in Prague) stands tallest, being
well-regarded around the world as a top-notch university.
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