Michelle

About Michelle

I'm a Junior at Northwest Missouri State University and a Speech/Theatre Education major. I enjoy the outdoors and love exploring the world. I will be in the Czech Republic for about 4 months starting February.

The Best of Slovakia

Hello again!

Last weekend I participated in a trip to Slovakia.  The few people I talked to about it back home seemed to think Slovakia sounded unsafe.  In actuality, it may be my favorite place I have been since I left home three months ago.

We spent three days in this wonderful country enjoying nature for the most part.  The first day we went to two different castles and then went to the hotel we would be staying at.  The castles were hidden and set onto the tops of mountains. They were absolutely beautiful.  The Hotel was in the Low Tatra Mountains.

The second day we saw a small village and then hiked in the High Tatra Mountains.  It was absolutely beautiful and fantastic to get out into nature after not having too much opportunity to escape the cities.  That was the last thing we did for the day because we did quite the trek.

The third day was really quite laid back. We went to a small cave system and explored that.  I didn’t really enjoy that much.  I don’t know if it was because caves are all over Missouri, or if it had something to do with the fact that I saw caves that were more impressive when I was in Japan. After this we went on a four mile raft ride down a river. The boat we were on was similar to the ones that used to be used to take large loads of logs from the mountains to other areas of Slovakia.  This was very enjoyable and a great way to end the trip.

I do not think I’ve made a food post yet, so I will talk about this here. Most of the food in the Czech Republic is very heavy and not something I would usually eat daily in the U.S.  The main traditional meals include potato or bread dumplings with some sort of meat.  The main Slovakian meal is a plate of potato dumplings with sheep cheese and a tiny bit of bacon.  Ultimately the meals here are heavy and it is hard to find a restaurant that serves salads as a meal.

The grocery shopping has been a very interesting experience for me.  Fruit and vegetables are the cheapest thing that you can buy here, where in the U.S. it seems to be some of the most expensive.  I also have noticed that the groceries in general are very cheap when compared to prices back home.  Essentials are super cheap because they actually see them as essential here.  I think I will have a hard time going to the grocery store when I get home because prices will make me cringe.  I also go to the store almost every day here because it is not a big deal to run in and run out in less than five minutes just to pick up a few things.  Back home I can’t get out of the store in less than 30.

I leave in about 3 weeks.

Hope everyone is doing well,

Michelle

 

Czech Paradise

Hello again!

Last weekend I went on a Czech Paradise trip.  This was to many little towns around the Czech Republic and was really enjoyable.  The first day was rainy and cold, but we visited a few different towns, a chateau, a church and generally had a good time.  The “hostel” we stayed in consisted of many little cottages set back into the woods.  Each cottage held 2-4 people and were very cute and seemed like something out of a fairy tale.

The second day was really cold but the rain had subsided.  We traveled to another small town and toured a Silver Mining exhibit. The silver mine exhibit was interesting, but not something I would have done on my own.  We went to St. Barbaras church which was gorgeous.  It had fantastic stained glass and beautiful architecture.  We then traveled to another cathedral in the same town that was very open and quite plain in comparison.  It did not have stained glass but instead had huge clear windows that lit the entire church.  We then walked down the street to the bone church.  Oh goodness that was an experience.  The bone church was decorated with human bones.  There were pyramids of bones in each on the four corners, a huge bone chandelier, and many interesting uses of bones in this church. All I could think about was this question.  How many pieces of different people are in this church?

The last day was beautiful and sunny.  We went to a large park and hiked.  There  were huge rock formations, tiny little staircases carved out of stone, and beautiful lookout points. We also went to a small castle and saw more beautiful nature.

Overall, it was a great weekend. We saw quite a bit of the Czech Republic, explored some less touristy places, and saw some awesome nature sights.

Michelle

 

 

Krakow!

Hello again!

Last weekend I went to Krakow, Poland.  I spent 3 days with about 70 other students from Masaryk University.  The first day was interesting to say the least.  We spend most of the day at Auschwitz, and Auschwitz II- Birkenau.  The whole experience seemed really surreal, but it was very interesting.  The whole thing felt less like an experience to have an emotional response, and more like a herd of cattle being led through a tourist trap.  Auschwitz  was packed with tourists.  I don’t mean just a few, but more like the crowded nature of Disney World with a dark past.  The guides had little microphones and every visitor had a headset to listen to their specific guide.  This sort of ruined the experience for me and made me feel rushed from room to room and unable to let the reality of this place really set in.  Birkenau was a bit more startling and real for me because we did not have the headphones and our guides spoke directly to us.  The area around the camp was barren and cold.  The fact that I could tell that I was standing on the same train platform where so many families were torn apart was very surreal.  Knowing so many had walked the same path I was taking had been sent to either the gas chambers as soon as they arrived, or had been sentenced to work until they either died or were liberated was very sobering.  As we walked around Birkenau I realized how cold I was. I refrained from any sort of complaint when I realized that the past inhabitants of this camp were clothed in so little.  Walking around in my coat, scarf, and fairly warm boots almost seemed unfair when thinking back on the thin clothing and wooden(or often no) shoes of the captives who had lived here.  Thinking about how cold the winters must have been in this area of Poland really made me think that I was so fortunate to be there as a visitor.  After leaving Auschwitz, we went to our Hostel in the city center.

The second day was dedicated to exploring the whole city.  We were shown many beautiful churches, important locations, the Castle, even the cave of the infamous Krakow dragon.  This day was packed full of walking from place to place in a group of about 30 and felt very touristy.  It was nice to see the city and the view from the Castle was beautiful.

The third day took us to a salt mine.  Some may ask, why on earth would you go to a salt mine?  To them I say, I have no idea.  I had a tour guide who did not have very much to say and she was hard to understand most of the time.  The mine consisted of 9 levels, we were only capable of seeing the top 3 in the 3 hours we were on the walking tour.  We also did not see very much of each of those levels.  Supposedly we saw less than 1% of the mine passages on our tour and in order to explore the whole system of levels you would need 5 months to dedicate to the adventure.

Overall this was a great weekend spend with some ladies who were awesome.  The views were beautiful but the weather was less than desirable.  The food was fantastic and I did not have a bad meal the whole time I was there.

Thanks for reading,

Michelle

Little Things I’ve Noticed and Budapest!

Hello All!

A few things I have noticed since I got here include the fact that people take their dogs everywhere, and in the US I have so many convenient things that I do not have here.  People really do take their dogs everywhere.  They go on the trams, in the stores, to the random buildings.  The dogs almost all have on little jackets and a muzzle.  The muzzle is an encouraged social norm.  No rules exist to require it, but many people do this with their larger dogs.  Also, I see grown men with little bitty dogs.  It was miserably cold the other day and I saw a grown mad with a tiny dog shoved into his coat.  And as he waited at a crosswalk he petted it, and was talking to it.  Men in the US would rarely do this and still feel manly.  I have serious respect for that man.  Convenient things I really miss (as sad as this is) are meals that are frozen and in bags.  This type of thing does not exist here.  The only already prepared meal you can really buy frozen is pizza.

This last weekend I went to Budapest and it was fantastic.  The trip was miserably cold and there was a bitter wind the whole time, but it did not deter any of us from having a great time.  Budapest is made up of two sides of the city “Buda” and “Pest”.  Buda is the side to the west and is the older part and is situated on a large hill.  Pest is the never area and is mainly on flat land.  The two are separated by the Danube River.  The first morning we went to The Citadel, Gellert Hill, Statue of Liberty, and Elizabeth bridge.  The Citadel, Gellert Hill and Statue of Liberty were pretty much all the same destination.  From this huge hill you could see all of budapest.  It was a beautiful view.  The hill is so named because Gellert was a bishop who was killed by pagans during a rebellion by pagans in 1046.  How did they kill him you might ask? Well, they tied his hands, put him in a barrel, and rolled him down this giant hill.

In the afternoon we visited the main market in Pest and visited an Easter Market.  The easter market was fantastic with all kinds of hand made goods, sweets, and all around great items.  Our hostel was fantastic and a group of us went to the Hard Rock Cafe Budapest for dinner.  Not a traditional Hungarian dinner, but it was fantastic.  My first taste of American food since arriving happened that night for dinner.

The next day we saw parliament, the castle district, Fishermen’s Bastion, and then had free time to eat lunch.  The castle district was great with the many streets with vendors, fantastic cafe locations, and great picture opportunities.  Later that night we went to St. Stephen’s Basilica.  It was fantastic and so beautiful.  Later that night another girl and I went to the Easter market again because it was such a great atmosphere.  We couldn’t leave without buying a Hungarian chimney cake.  It was fantastic and a great way to end the night.

The last day was spent visiting Hero Square and Szechenyi Thermal Bath.  The thermal bath was a fantastic way to end the trip because it had been miserably cold.  These thermal baths are filled by hot springs located under the city.  It was nice and warm and oh so relaxing.

Budapest is the city I have enjoyed the most so far on my stay in Europe.  I hope to top how I felt about this one with next weekends trip to Krakow!

Signing off- Michelle

After 4 Weeks

Hello all,

I’ve been here for about 4 weeks now and I’m having a fantastic time.  I have less than 90 days left here, so I need to start traveling more than I have so far.  Yesterday I actually went to Prague or Praha as they call it here.  I went to the first ever roller derby game in the Czech Republic which was awesome!  I saw quite a bit of the old city, but didn’t like how most of the square was just souvenir shops.  The buildings were gorgeous and that was a nice change.  The atmosphere was amazing and I loved the experience.

I’ve learned some key Czech Phrases so I am able to communicate a little bit in Czech, but not much.  I am able to take public transport and not feel like I’m going to get lost, and I also feel confident in my ability to actually buy things at the grocery store.  So many things are impossible to read that I just guess sometimes.  Luckily most of the groceries here have fairly good pictures to tell you what is in the package.

My classes are awesome and rather interesting.  My Modern Czech Theatre class is probably my favorite because I feel like I’m learning so much.  I have lots of work to do in my History of Central Europe class, mainly because I feel like I know absolutely nothing about the history of this region.  I think that is one flaw in what I learned in high school.  My whole world history class was spent talking about China and really very little of anything else.  The area has a very interesting history.

Overall everything is fantastic here!

Michelle Signing off!

After My First Week.

Hello all,

Today is Sunday in Brno, and I have officially been here for a week.  Saturday morning I took a bus to Vienna to practice with the Vienna Roller Girls.  Trying to catch the bus leaving Brno, I had been given directions to use the tram, well the tram doesn’t run at 6am, luckily someone else was going to the same location I was and helped me get to the bus stop.  I was able to make it to Vienna just fine, but one I was there, things got interesting.  I tried to get on the “U2” the name of their subway, but realized I needed to buy a Ticket.  The Czech currency is the Czech Korun, and Austria requires the Euro.  I knew this before I left but didn’t have time to find an ATM or exchange money.  The card reader for the subway station wasn’t working so I had to try to find a bank.  I eventually did and was able to buy a ticket and find my way to the place where we would practice.

Once at the practice location, I waited for about an hour to see any other roller girls.  I went in and started the 3 hour practice.  I thought the off skates section was great and felt like I got a really good workout.  The second section was skills and then scrimmage.  Neither of these seemed to go well for me.  I play by a different rule set than this group and it definitely showed.  We have very different play styles and there is definitely a disadvantage there.  Afterwords, I went home with one girl so that I could shower and then she was going to show me the city.  About 3 roller girls took me around the city and then we met another 7 at a restaurant for dinner.  We stayed out all day and I carried all of my gear in a backpack, not the brightest idea. Overall it was a great experience though.

How do I feel about Brno?  Well, I am finally figuring out how all of the trams, busses, and trolley cars work.  The food is rather bland for my taste, but that’s just because things are made differently here.  I am able to read some signs and ask essential questions.  The people are interesting.  They are not overly friendly, and very few people over 30 speak english.

All in all, I’m having a good time.

 

Michelle Bartels

Signing off.

The First Full Day

Hello all,

Today was my first full day in Brno and it was amazing.  I would firstly like to say that I did arrive safely after almost 24 hours of travel time.  I was exhausted when I got here last night but decided to unpack and talk some with the roommate and meet a few new people.  I then promptly fell asleep until about 10am.

Today I got ready and went to the lobby of Vinarska.  There was a scheduled “Brno City Game” and I decided I should go to meet new people and to explore the city so that I am not totally lost.  I had an absolute blast. I met so many new people and had such good conversations.  The city game was to find certain things and ask questions of the locals.  We found everything and learned what a lot of things were called.  I also realized that you can ask most people under the age of 30 a question in English and they can usually give you some sort of answer either in English or with gestures.

It snowed as we all left for the game, but it was a pretty snow and lasted pretty much all day!  I am loving meeting new people, exploring the city, and just having fun.  I ate dinner with a large group and had Risotto with smoked goats cheese on top.  I had never liked any goat cheese in the states, but this was super yummy.  I may eat this again sometime I enjoyed it so much.

 

Michelle Bartels– Signing off.

 

The Day Before Leaving

Hello All!

I leave tomorrow morning for the airport.  I have been busy packing, making sure my mom has all of my contact information, extra copies of everything, and knows what is going to happen.  I have packed all of my items in a back pack, small suit case to be carried on to the plane and a very large suitcase that will be checked luggage.  This seemed like quite the accomplishment to me because I had originally planned on taking two bags to be checked.  I still have room in the bag for souvenirs, but also have things that I will trash before I come home which will free up some space.  I have always felt that rolling all clothing into little bundles makes more room in the suitcase, I have no idea if this is true or not, but I was able to fit quite a bit in those few bags.

My feelings of excitement and nervousness have tripled, but I’m so ready to finally leave.  It’s crazy to think that I’ve been waiting for tomorrow for about 5 months and it’s finally here.  I’ve laid out my outfit that will be my travel clothes so that I have a tank top if I’m hot, and a Cardigan and coat if I’m freezing.  I’m also wearing my boots because I’m pretty sure there will be snow on the ground when I get to Brno.  My roller derby gear is all safely packed in my carry on.  It seems silly that I’m so protective of it, but this way I know it made it safely!

I will be in transit a total of about 20 hours.  I fly from KC to Ft. Worth, to London, to Vienna.  From Vienna I have to take a bus that will take me to Brno.  The bus is sort of an issue at this point because I don’t know if I should buy a ticket for the 3:30 or the 5:30 bus.  I get in to Vienna at 2:15 but I’m not sure how long baggage and customs will take.  I have to check the available seats from London to make sure they both have enough spaces that I don’t need to purchase a ticket beforehand.

For now,

 

This is Michelle B, Signing off.

Getting Ready To Leave!

Hello All,

I’m trying to finish up preparations for leaving so that I do not get stressed out on the week that I finally leave.  I’ve already been to the doctor, dentist, filled prescriptions, taken care of registering for classes and housing in the Czech Republic.  The sheer amount of things to be done before you leave the country is disgusting.  I still need to talk to my bank which is very important to make sure that I can use my bank card over there.

I got my visa back from the Czech consulate so I am good to go on that aspect.  I will leave from KC, fly to Ft. Worth, then London, and then on to Vienna.  I’ll get to Brno on the 9th of February.  This means I have about 18 hours in transit which doesn’t really seem that bad. I’ve been getting excited the last few weeks because this trip is finally becoming real to me.  I’m going to get to meet new people, grow as a person, and become more independent.

 

Michelle B. Signing off!

Hello and Happy New Year

Hello everyone!

Since this is a new year I decided I should start working on this blog a little early.  My name is Michelle Bartels and I am in the middle of my third year at Northwest Missouri State University.  I am a Speech/Theatre Education major.  I will be here for your blogging pleasure for the next 6 or 7 months.  Since I will be here fore a while, I’ll let you into my life a little bit.  I play roller derby for the Blacksnake Roller Girls in St. Joe.  I’ve been doing this since June of 2012.  I enjoy spending time outdoors and exploring nature.  I will be leaving for the Czech Republic on February 8th and will be there until the end of May.  I know many of you would ask “why the Czech Republic?” My answer to you is that this destination had my major in their school, were a country that seemed okay for a female in her 20’s to visit, and didn’t speak English.  I wanted to plop myself in an environment where I would have to figure things out on my own and either sink or swim.  Hopefully Masaryk University will give me the opportunity to grow as a person and learn more things about myself.

Michelle Bartels- Signing off.