Thursday, October 29, 2009

Before Halloween

Since Halloween is coming up Saturday, it seemed appropriate to use the Czech national holiday wednesday to visit somewhere spooky. I'd say the Bone Church in Kutna Hora qualifies.


Along with my friends (from left to right) Sandi, Stephanie, Tim and Suzannah, I went to see one of the most unusual sights you're likely to find in Europe. And despite the despite (or perhaps because) of the disturbing nature of this landmark, it was a very interesting place to visit. Afterward, we visited another cathedral nearby that was decorated in the Baroque style (this means there were lots of pictures of fat babies with wings and plenty of light). We finished with a good, inexpensive meal in a local restaurant that included plenty of laughs. All in all, a very good day-trip.

Teaching continues to go well. I would like to pick up a couple more classes to make some extra money (as I'm tight on finances now) but the classes I do have are nice. They range from teaching basic preposition meanings (when to use "of, on, at, in, on top of, under ...") to advanced topics like the proper way to write formal letters (no contractions, no ending sentences with prepositions, etc). On the whole, I'm gaining excellent experience and really enjoying myself along the way.

Below are more pictures from the trip. Don't forget to email me and give me updates on what's happening back home. They always make me smile.


Smiling just didn't seem appropriate here


The entrance


Lovely chandelier wouldn't you say?


No comment needed


The main alter of the Baroque-style Church of the Assumption of our Lady (mostly a change of pace for those of you who don't find a church full of skeletons weirdly cool)


The light wasn't great for pictures but if you look closely, guess what you'll see. That's right, fat babies with wings!!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

My Castles

So far these are the castles and palaces I've visited (in order, with new pictures).


Prague Castle with St. Vitus's Cathedral rising out of it.

Karlstejn Castle: For centuries it held the Bohemian Crown Jewels and is only 45minutes away from Prague


Neuschwanstein Castle: The fairytale castle in the German Alps and the most beautiful one I have ever beheld


Schonbrunn Palace: Summer home of the Hapsburgs in Vienna and nearly a match for Versailles in Paris (and that's saying something)


The Vienna Hofburg: In the middle of Vienna, the ruling seat of the Hapsburg Dynasty for centuries

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Videos from my recent trips

video
Schonbrunn Palace - A look at the courtyard of one of the most luxurious palaces in the world.


video
Neuschwanstein Castle - The view from the top of the highest mountain I could find that overlooked the castle.


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From Oktoberfest - Its shaky because I took it when I was walking but it does give you a good idea of what the festival looks like.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Vienna


I went to Vienna to apply for my visas yesterday (I need 2, a long-term one for the next year and a short term one to keep me legal until my long-term one is ready). The application process went well and hopefully my short term visa will be ready friday and my long term one in december. Now for the fun part. Since I was in Vienna and finished with my task there by 9:30am, I got to spend the rest of the day exploring.


First, I went to Schonbrunn Palace (pictured at the top). It was the summer home of Habsburg monarchs and is the only palace in Europe that can rival Versailles in Paris. It was stunning inside and out with a huge garden, sumptuous interior and an interesting history behind it all. Sadly we were not allowed to take pictures inside the palace. This of course did not stop me from taking this picture (above) in the Great Hall. I spent the morning taking the tour and exploring the extensive grounds.


After that, I headed back into town to the church of St. Stephen (interior pictured above). It was a classic cathedral with a commanding view of the city from the tower (the cathedral is the tallest building in the city center by law)


Once I finished there, I headed lastly to the Vienna Hofburg (again above). From this palace the Habsburgs ruled over the Austrian and later the Austro-Hungarian Empire for over 670 years. It is a sprawling complex that has evolved over time like the dynasty it housed. Overall, not a bad use of a day at all. The day before and after were tough but the visit itself was great.

A final thought on Vienna. I would definitely suggest visiting to anyone who has never been. The city has a relaxed majesty about it that is hard to describe. Its like the weight of ruling an empire has been lifted from their shoulders and now everyone just focuses on living the good life in their beautiful city. And you know, I think they may have the right idea.

Below is one more picture from the gardens of Schonbrunn. Don't forget, click on the pictures to make them much bigger!



Thursday, October 15, 2009

Weather worthy of Texas (and when I'll be home for christmas)

While its nice and warm back home (and don't try to tell me that 60's or 50's is cold), the weather has taken an interesting turn here. It is currently 34 and snowing lightly outside. Last week at this time it was 70 and clear. Crazy.

This lovely change is wonderful to observe from inside. And honestly, even when I have to go out in it, its better than the freezing rain we had early in the week. So this week has been interesting. Fortunately, i'm discovering that I can abide the cold quite well. I may change my tune in January when the temperature drops into the twenty's and teens but for now I'm good.

The other piece of big news is that I bought my plane ticket home for christmas. I will arrive in Dallas on Dec 17th and fly back to Prague January 5th. So I have almost 3 weeks home. Hopefully I have time to spend with everyone I miss. And fyi, if you plan to see me during those 3 weeks be prepared for me wanting to eat as much traditional texas food as possible. I'm going half crazy missing mexican (especially queso), barbecue, steaks, hamburgers and giant burritos (I'm thinking qdoba here). lol, now I went and made myself all hungry. Fortunately, our friends Stephanie and Sandi (from the pictures here) invited Tim and I over for a homecooked meal. :D

And speaking of food, I tried anchovy pizza last week. It was not bad like i expected but very salty. If nothing else, I am now one step closer to being like Garfield! And on that happy thought, I leave you with a few more pictures from our trip to the picturesque Karlstejn and the stunning colors of Autumn.




Anchovy Pizza

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Pictures

From the left: Sandi, Me, Tim, Stephanie

I'll keep this one short. Below are the links (click on them) to a larger collection of my German weekend pictures and a collection of pictures from my 2nd trip to Karlstejn Castle. This time I brought some friends with me and quite a few of the pictures turned out great (no doubt due to the very good looking people in them) ;)

School is going well. I had my friday lesson cancel on me for the coming week so i'm trying to decide where to go for the weekend (because I HATE to waste a 3 day weekend). Aside from that, I start another new and slightly different class this week (more advanced) and I just finished watching the Cowboys win in overtime. WOO HOOO!!!!!!!

I'll keep the updates coming but right now my life is focused on teaching and planning trips as often as time and money permit. I can think of worse places to be.

Germany - http://picasaweb.google.com/luke.brazell/20091002Germany#

Karlstejn Castle - http://picasaweb.google.com/luke.brazell/20091010Karlstejn2#

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

My Classes

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
- Robert Frost

I now officially have as many classes as I had originally hoped to teach. I have 15 90minute classes, with the bulk of them on mon, tues, thurs. I am working full time, I have only 1 class on Fridays which I can reschedule if needed (which means I can create a 3 day weekend for traveling nearly at-will), and I love my students. All my students are adults, ranging in age from around 28-55. All my classes are onsite at major corporations like Ikea, Pfizer, and Phillip Morris. And because I’m teaching responsible corporate adults, all my students are there because they want to be. They know how important English is to them and their careers.

I am having a wonderful time teaching them. Every single one of my students is eager and attentive in class. I am becoming better at lesson planning every week (which is by far my weakest area) and my classes have a comfortable, fun feel to them. Since many of my students are often afraid to speak English (for fear of making mistakes), this atmosphere is invaluable to their development.

As of right now, I’m exactly where I had hoped and prayed I would be. My only remaining concern is finishing the process of getting my visa (and that hopefully shouldn’t be a problem). After that, I simply have to teach, travel and enjoy my time during this strange, wonderful twist of fate. "And I, I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference." :)

Monday, October 5, 2009

Germany!!

Hi everyone. For those of you who don’t know, I took a three day trip to Munich, Germany this weekend. It was grand; a wonderful trip that perfectly illustrates why I am over here teaching. The weather was perfect, the atmosphere wonderful and the countryside beautiful.

It started with a 6 hour bus trip from Prague to Munich. Fortunately I sat next to a very very cute American girl who is studying abroad in Prague, so time flew by as I dazzled her with my brilliant intellect, sharp wit and irresistible charm. Ok, so maybe we just had a pleasant conversation but I got her number and have a date with her tomorrow so I guess I did something right.

Once I arrived, I met my friend Jen and went straight to Oktoberfest. This was a great party. It is like crossing the state fair with a pleasant, relaxed European beer garden (with fun music). I met people from every corner of the globe.

After getting a good night’s sleep (don’t ask me how), I got up the next morning and headed for the main train station. I bought a ticket to Neuschwanstein Castle on the Germany-Austria border in the Alps. For those of you who don’t know, Neuschwanstein was the castle that inspired Walt Disney when he made Sleeping Beauty’s Castle and the Disneyland Castle. And as you can plainly see from the pictures, I’m not exaggerating. This place was directly out of a fairy-tale. Its high ivory towers formed a lovely contrast to the lush green valley, the deep blue lakes and the stunning fall leaves of the surrounding mountains. Simply put, it was the most beautiful place on earth I have ever seen.

Sad as I was to leave, I headed back to Munich that night and returned Sunday for another round of Oktoberfest (it was fun during the day but night is when the real party happens). After that I caught the train home (which was not as pleasant a trip due to a group of deafeningly loud drunks and their music in the next compartment)

To sum up, Germany is beautiful, the people are friendly, the countryside is poetically lovely and the weather was stunning. I couldn’t have dreamed of a better trip. I can’t wait for my next adventure.

PS. I’ll write another post with a more routine update. This one is too long already.

(caption not needed)

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When in Munich ........

The inside of a beer tent