This past week was the first week of classes for ECES students at Charles University. I am taking a Czech modern politics course, and it is different than any other course I have ever taken. While I knew a brief history of Czech politics and history, I have already learned so much in only three classes. We began with a crash-course in the history of the Bohemian Kingdom and its eventual tradition of being controlled by other nations.
The class went outside the next day! It was amazing to be out in a park in the middle of Prague, yet we were still in class at the same time. During this class, we learned about the government structure of the Czech Republic and compared it to the government in the US. What I found to be most interesting was the role of the Head of State. This key figure is expected to be “above” and “removed” from politics. He acts as a moral leader for the nation and does not tie himself to a political party. I found it interesting that the Czech parliament currently has seven parties, with the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia having a strong presence. We started the second class discussing the communist rule in Czechoslovakia and what the culture was like at that time. We watched a BBC documentary that included footage from the collective farms, state owned businesses, and other aspects of communism under Soviet Rule. This week, we will be comparing communism in the Czechoslovakia versus in other countries such as Hungary or Poland.
Aside from classes, I have continued to explore the wonderful city of Prague. I found my favorite cafe (so far) near Old Town called Grand Orient Cafe. I had the best cappuccino and a delicious raspberry chocolate cake for dessert! This building is built in the cubist style, meaning the buildings have shape points and continuous crystalline shapes. Actually, Prague is the only city in the world that has buildings that are actually in true cubist form!
On Wednesday, we went to a beer garden near the Hradčanská metro stop. The view of the city from there was spectacular! On the way to the garden, we passed a lovely park that has live music most nights. A large statue for Stalin once stood at this park, so it has been commonly called Stalin Park (and is actually known as one of the most romantic places in Prague!). In addition to exploring Old Town, I also have continued exploring areas that I don’t know as well, such as Lesser Town and the hidden “beach” in Prague!
I already feel like Prague is my new home, and I am almost a local. While I love going to meals at “the usual” places, I still enjoy finding new places and finding small hidden gems throughout Prague. I have really settled into Prague, and to be honest, I have not been home sick at all (no offense, Mom!). This week will continue to be busy with an increased course load, but there is always time for coffee and cake, or as the Czechs would say,”káva a dort!”