Wednesday, April 30, 2008


i took the night train from vienna to krakow after a slightly unexpected delay. it turned out to be a really great one though because i finally got a chance to talk to my mom and dad on the phone... after i hung up with them i waited for a bit before heading out to my platform to figure the train out. its one of those that splits and goes in all different directions like in the cartoons, but i ended up in krakow safe and sound the next morning.

there's something really amazing about krakow and i immediately loved the city. it just draws you in with its markets and accordian players and beautiful architecture.... i really didnt want to leave. i spent my first day there jumping around between bakeries and parks and doing minimal sightseeing. i got a free coffee from a guy at a little cafe since the bills i had were too large for him to break, and when i came back later to pay for it we went for a walk on his break. i didnt even get his name but it was really nice talking with him. the next day i was staying at a different, beautiful little flower hostel and decided that since i was going to be coming home there that night instead of to a roomful of snoring greek guys, i could handle my plan for the day.... visiting auschwitz.

at first i was a little apprehensive about going since i'm freakishly sensitive but it ended up being a really incredible experience. i stopped into the train station to ask for directions and talked to a lady who got me signed up to be part of a tour group for not much more than i would have paid to go independently. i'd never been part of a tour before but i felt like this would be a place where i'd be happy to have a guide... i got picked up in this crazy little tourist bus and we set off to go pick up other people, but there was nobody at any of the hotels so it ended up being just me! so i got a private tour through auschwitz with a really great guide. i of course was crying from the get-go but eric, my guide was really sensitive in allowing me a bit of space, helping me move along and giving me a few shoulder squeezes here and there. after we were leaving one part of the museum i asked him what it was like for him to work there and he told me how its made him more optimistic... he used to be full of anger and now he's full of love... we sat out in the fields overlooking the camp and talked for a long time about the survivors he has met, the former nazi officer he talked with, about hope and the human spirit and resistance. i left there feeling more positive than i could have possibly imagined...

that evening i spent in the most amazing bookstore/cafe in the world! you know how when you have to go to the dentist or sit through something completely horrible and people annoyingly tell you to just "picture your happy place"?? well, for me, this place is it... its this fantastic flat with the walls entirely covered in books and you can just drink coffee and read for the rest of your life there... it was lovely. so my last day i saw some more of the sights around krakow, hung around by the river and had some gelato since i was missing my friend lynn, then took the train to meet up with laura. we headed to budapest together (on another crazy night train adventure) where i am now.

more from me later! take care of yourselves and each other.
love, mary

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

so full inside

since i last wrote a ton has happened, and honestly its as much for my benefit as yours to post these, so i'm going to get us caught up as much as i can for now...

vienna was absolutely amazing. there is something so decadent about it... i really loved it there, everything was so beautiful. i took the train from ostrava and checked into a really great hostel. as i was heading upstairs the girl at the desk asked if i would like to go to the belvedere because she had a free ticket i could take! so of course i did and i ran off to the museum and in to see the gorgeous klimt paintings, which you should really know, absolutely glow in person. i was pretty much the only person there and got to wander the gorgeous palace and its gardens... :)

after i got back to the hostel i met a girl who was in my room and we went to get a drink in the bar/kitchen in the lower level... i met a lot of cool people, a few of my favorites include the italian guy, paolo, who cooked an incredible pasta dinner... paolo insists that i come to italy and get married to him and that we live in his parents house and that it would be perfect. it took a lot of charades, guessing and enl-itali-anish just to figure those sentiments out! ha.. then i met a girl named belen from buenos aires and we had the most fun adventures the next day! she's so great and it felt like we'd always known each other. hopefully we will be meeting up in spain!

the day after that i had the loveliest time... i went to this amazing museum called the kunst haus wien. its this quirky, pretty, odd ball of a museum that houses the work of hundertwasser... i absolutely loved it! i will have to post pictures of it because i cant adequately explain the uneven sloping floors, the plants growing everywhere and the overall vibe the place has. after spending a few hours there i headed to a park, went to a great cafe with american-sized lattes (just as bill told me!) and then went to the opera. for two euros you get a spot in the standing room of the staatsoper but its worth a whole lot more than that. it was absolutely amazing... i saw la traviata, by one of my mom's favorites (giuseppe verdi) and it was so great -- i wish she could have been there.

my last day in vienna i went to see the vienna boys choir with a girl named marita. they were amazing of course but it was a really strange experience for me to be a tourist during a mass... afterwards we got some coffee and lunch and i helped her get across town with a years worth of luggage to meet her ride to munich... we got there and had either missed them or just couldnt find them (much more likely) so i helped her haul it all back into town to figure out a train to get her to munich on time... so then we went to the station and i ran to catch the train right as the cars were closing, but she made it! and then began my trip to krakow..... which, let me just tell you was quite the adventure... but i made it too, after spending the rest of the afternoon sleeping in the sun by a pond...

pictures from me later when i can upload them... write me an email if you can, i miss everybody!!

much love!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

a few pictures from prague

the charles bridge tower

laura and me in old town

walking by the river my first day in prague

a jazz group playing on the bridge (wish you were here christianna!!)

me, laura and amy in front of the scary limestone creature wall

prague castle

Tuesday, April 22, 2008


sunday i took the train to ostrava where my friend laura lives. i am glad to be returning to prague later on in my trip because it is such an amazing city and there is so much i still want to see (jason & mary: we have to go to kutna hora together!!). anyways, laura's town is really cute and i'm so happy to be here to see where she's been living and working.

today i had tea with a czech student named honza in an adorable little cajovna. he is going to be living in minnesota next year and wanted to hear all about it and what its like there. it was really sweet, i had a nice time talking to him. he wanted to know if he would see lots of wolves and bear in minny-sotta. it was so cute!

i've been hanging around lots of cajovnas and kavarnas (tea and coffee houses) here, just like i do in the states. overall i feel like my experience thus far has been thoroughly american and pretty restricted to the tourist tracks. thankfully i am getting more of a taste of the czech republic outside of prague and in mid-june will get to see more of southern bohemia on a canoe trip.

i'm staying in ostrava until thursday and then the next couple weeks for me include trips to krakow, vienna and salzburg. then exploring the black forest in germany and catching a flight to dublin! more from me later, and i promise pictures soon!

much love,

Friday, April 18, 2008

stow away

today i slept in... i was going to go to kutna hora but ended up missing my train. so i went to old town again and was going to find this cafe that was recommended to me yesterday. but i got incredibly lost and ended up tagging along secretly as a french tour group passed by the fountain i was sitting at. they didnt notice me really and i learned quite a bit! i understand french infinitely more than czech so that was kind of nice. i jumped off the tour at a landmark i recognized to get myself reoriented but then i heard the symphony rehearsing for their performance that evening so i sat in for a while and listened. afterwards i wandered through what i think might be my favorite part of the city, mala strana. its just south of the charles bridge and it is full of absolutely gorgeous old buildings, beautiful gardens and winding cobblestone streets along the river. looking forward to seeing my amazing friend laura tomorrow and to taking pictures of the herb look-a-likes i've seen (all the italian tourists wear big designer sunglasses, button down shirts, plaid pants, and fancy leather shoes...) since the people i'm staying with have internet i'll try to post some pictures this weekend before i leave their flat.


Thursday, April 17, 2008

dobry den!!

hello from prague! i arrived safely yesterday morning after flights that were all on time and making friends with a woman from nuremberg. i successfully dodged major jet lag, but am still feeling a bit tired. i have already seen a lot of the city and spent tons of time walking around soaking in the sounds and sights. its absolutely beautiful here! czech is a cool language and i've been trying it out but find myself speaking spanish... going to the grocery store this morning was a small accomplishment for sure :)

much love,

Monday, April 14, 2008

the beginning

i had my interview for the masters in teaching program at uw today. it went amazingly well and i'm so happy to have had a chance to meet with them before my trip...

...which starts tomorrow!! oh my gosh!!!!

more from me when i get to the czech republic, take care everybody!

much love,