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A War Weekend

I know I said I’d write from Germany, but I ended up not bringing my laptop on the excursion. So this post is coming post-trip from Prague. This weekend we visited 4 different places: Bohemian Switzerland National Park, Dresden, Terezín, and Lidice. Most of this trip was related to World War II with the exception of the national park.

Bohemian Switzerland was our first stop and is a two-hour bus ride from Prague. We did a boat ride that involved a guy with a giant pole literally pushing us up the river. No one is really clear

on why we did this, because it didn’t take us to any cool views or waterfalls. The boats could only hold about 30 people at once, so with almost 80 students this took a really long time. After a really good lunch, we set off on a hike that is 15 kilometers long. For those who don’t know the metric system like me, this is about 9 miles. The last time I’ve hiked 9 miles is never, so by the time we got to the top I was very ready to already be back at the bottom and on the bus. The view was pretty good–it led to a sandstone arch. That night we arrived in Dresden and I checked my phone to find that my step count for that day was 30,046. 11 miles in total.

This is the Pravčická brána, a huge sandstone arch in Bohemian Switzerland National Park. It’s the biggest one in all of Europe!

Saturday in Dresden was the start of our World War II lessons. We visited the German Museum of Military History, which was pretty interesting. It was pretty focused on the World Wars and had a display of shoes that belonged to Jews. Apparently the concentration camps served as an industry because the Nazis could sell the clothes and shoes and even the hair of the people they killed. I had no idea they did that and was really horrified by it. Overall, the museum was interesting and I learned a few things that they never mentioned in school. The rest of the day was spent at an art gallery and a café where I got an incredible ice cream sundae.

On Sunday we visited Terezín, a prison camp. It was originally built to be a fortress but the Nazis took it over in World War II and it became a ghetto. It wasn’t a concentration camp, so no one was gassed there, but over 30,000 people died because of illness and just generally bad living conditions. The man who killed Archduke Ferdinand and started World War I spent 4 years there before he died from illness, which was interesting to learn. Overall, I did not like Terezín because it made me so sad. Imagining the horrors that went on there was aw

The grave of one of the people who died at Terezin. A lot of the graves just had the number of the prisoner, not their name.

ful. We did a guided tour and then had some time to walk around on our down, during which time another American tour group stopped in one of the rooms and sang what we think was a blessing song. Listening to them was almost enough to bring us to tears, and a few of the people who were singing had to leave because they were crying. It’s hard to be in America and imagine what these people went through, but seeing the places where they actually lived and died makes everything feel more real. The worst part was seeing the place where the Nazis lived just a few hundred feet from where the prisoners were. They had a swimming pool and a movie theater while people were crammed into tiny rooms and forced to sleep standing up due to lack of space.

Even seeing Terezín did not prepare us for what we would find out at Lidice. Lidice was a small village of about 500 people in the Czech Republic. During World War II, one of the major leaders of the Nazis was assassinated in Prague. Hitler believed that the people of Lidice were hiding the assassins and told his soldiers that he wanted it to be as though Lidice had never existed. The Nazis came in and executed all the boys over age 15. They separated the women from the children a few days later, sending the women to a concentration camp called Ravensbrück. Some of the children they sent to German families because they were blonde and blue-eyed.

This memorial shows all 82 of the children of Lidice who were gassed. It is a memorial to all of the millions of children who were murdered in the war.

Others were sent to an orphanage because they were unable to walk. The remaining 82 children, the youngest of which was 16 months old, were put in the backs of trucks. They drove the trucks around for 20 minutes and pumped the carbon monoxide from the exhaust into the trucks, gassing the children to death. Meanwhile, the village itself was burned down and the ruins were bombed. They even moved the lake and the hill so the entire area was unrecognizable. As if this story wasn’t horrible enough on its own, the Nazis found the actual assassins in Prague a few days after burning the village and killing the men. They could have let the women and children go, but Hitler said that if they admitted they were wrong it would make the Nazis look weak. I had never heard this story and it is without a doubt the saddest thing I have ever heard.

Overall, this excursion was a good experience. There were a lot of times where I wanted to cry, but I think it was good that we found out about all of these things. The story of Lidice is very well-known in this part of the world and was famous during the war, but they don’t talk about it in America. I think they should, because it makes the Nazis seem even more horrible than they already appear. It just adds an entire level of evil when you know that they knew the village was completely innocent.

On a happier note, this weekend Livia and I will be traveling to Nice, France. Our Airbnb doesn’t have wifi (which is weird, right? I feel like most Airbnbs should have that by now), so I probably won’t be blogging from there, but I’ll make sure to tell y’all all about it when we get back! Later this week I will be doing a post about my photography class again because we’ve gotten into some really cool techniques with water!

Czech Out This Food!

I’m sorry for the awful pun in the title of this post, but I had to use it at some point. It would be wrong to come to the Czech Republic and not make some kind of pun with that. The topic of this post is also in the title. It’s time to talk about FOOD!

First off, let me tell y’all that food here is cheap and delicious. I can go out to a sit-down restaurant and get a ton of food for somewhere between $6 and $7. In America it’s hard to get fast food for that cheap, let alone decent food. We’ve found a couple of places around the dorms and Institute that we go to a lot because they have tasty food and are super convenient. In addition to food at restaurants, I’m taking a culinary class (not for credit) to learn to make some of the more traditional Czech foods.

The best part about food in the Czech Republic is brunch. Most of the cafés serve brunch all day. Right beside our dorms is a little place called The Farm, and it’s one of the top 10 cafés in Prague supposedly. That’s one of my favorite places to get a late breakfast. They make these really thick pancakes and cover them in strawberry sauce, cinnamon, and slices of strawberry. Pairing this with their raspberry lemonade makes for a really good start to the day. My favorite place for breakfast food is called Waf-Waf. They only sell waffles and crepes, but when you go there you get to pick what toppings you want. I usually get nutella and strawberries on top of mine and get a chocolate milkshake. I also love Waf-Waf because it’s painted bright pink and is just really pretty and happy! Closer to the institute is The Venue, which is little more pricey but is also incredible. They have really good chicken and waffles.

My typical order at Waf-Waf!


Lunch and dinner tend to be at cheaper, more Czech places. The first night here we went to Lokal, which is fittingly named because we were the only foreigners who were there. Czech meals typically involve some kind of meat and potatoes. That first night I got fried chicken (very different from what I’m used to!) with mashed potatoes. That was also the first and only time I’ve gotten a beer, and I got it by accident. They just kind of brought them to us. I’m not opposed to drinking while I’m here (I have a bottle of wine sitting in the fridge), but I really don’t like beer. I prefer going to Fraktal, which is actually kind of a strange place but is really good. It serves Mexican food and then things like hamburgers, but again, they aren’t like what we’re used to. I ordered chicken wings and fries, and the wings were similar but they were served with what seemed like an entire loaf of bread. The fries also had butter on them, which I’d never thought about but was really really good.

My culinary class is definitely where I am getting the best idea of what people eat here. We’ve made two kinds of soup, both amazing, and desserts that are to die for. We even made noodles from scratch on Monday. I’d never done that before and had never really considered how it was done. We’ve made two kinds of cake (different than American versions of cakes) and fill them with fresh fruit, nuts, and different kinds of spreads. They’ve all been delicious. At some point, we’re going to spend one entire class on cakes and coffees alone. All of us are very excited for that lesson!

Homemade pretzels in my culinary class. The cheese and croutons were toppings for soup.

Presentation is also really important here. In America, the food is just kind of slapped on the plate if you aren’t somewhere that’s really nice. Here, even cheap food is arranged on the plate in a way that’s pleasing to the eye. My $6 meals here look nicer than more expensive ones do back home! I’m actually going to miss the food here more than I thought I would. The food I’ll be happiest to have at home is ice. It sounds dumb, but I miss having ice in my drinks! It’s especially hard when I want to bring a water bottle to class. Or drink Pepsi. Pepsi with ice is one of life’s simple pleasures that I’m excited to have again when I get home.

We leave this Friday for an excursion to Dresden, Germany and Lidice, Czech Republic. All of the students at the Prague Institute are going on this trip. We’re going to hike and see a castle and go to the memorial of a village that was massacred by the Nazis in World War II. I’m pretty excited to see everything, especially whatever is on the hike. Next time I write, it’ll be from Germany!

Photography For Non-Photographers

I realized today while I was working on my assignments that I haven’t posted anything about my class! The class I’m in is ADN 490, which here means either Photography or Drawing. I can’t draw, so mine is Photography. Even though the class has a really high number, none of us are photography majors and take pictures as a hobby. It’s really nice to learn how to use my camera to take a lot of different pictures!

This was my shallow depth of field picture. This flower was in the Royal Library Garden in Copenhagen.

We started out with the basics–aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. We were given our first assignment and I’ll be honest: I had no idea how to take the pictures he asked us for. Luckily, my dad is more knowledgeable than me and was able to help me out. The instructor, Marian, asked us to take 3 photos with varying depths of field, one with motion blurring, one with motion freezing, and one using panning. The depth of field ones were easy–I just found a flower while we were in Copenhagen and used that. The others were harder because we needed something to be in motion. The assignment is due tomorrow, so a group of us went out today (procrastination!!!!) and took the pictures. We have no clue if we actually did them right, but at least we’ll all get them wrong together, right?

One of the other instructors (we have 4 in total), Štěpánka, is working with us on black and white photography. We made pinhole cameras on Tuesday and her assignment is for us to take a relatively clear photo with it. This is way harder than it sounds. The way the picture comes out is completely different every time based on lighting, positioning, how long you leave the

Here’s the negative I took with my pinhole camera! You can see the side of the building and the NC State flag in it. Next week we’ll make it positive.

“shutter” (a piece of black electrical tape) open, and how big the pinhole is. I went in today and luckily only had to take a picture three times before I got one that she said was clear enough. That entire project was very cool, but it was a lot harder than I originally thought it was going to be. I’m really glad we did it!



Our third instructor, Miroslav, is pretty well-known in the Czech photography circles (at least that’s what they told us. I don’t know much about Czech photography so I can’t confirm this) for his still life pictures. He’s working with us on studio photography, which means adjusting lights and screens to get still life shots. I’ve never tried staging pictures in a studio before, so learning what lighting works is really cool.

We haven’t met our fourth instructor yet, so I’m not sure what he’ll have us work on. We have a special class on Friday this week with a guest lecturer. I think he’ll lecture for three hours and then work with us on photos for the other three or four hours. I’m excited, but also that much class on a day when no other classes have it sounds like

This is the picture I’m turning in for motion freezing. The tram was moving pretty quickly when I took this.

not much fun. I’m hoping to get a gallery set up on my blog soon so y’all can see all of the types of pictures we’ve been assigned! For now, check out my album on Facebook for pictures from all of my adventures here.

Copenhagen Take 2

As expected, today’s adventures in Copenhagen were less tiring and way shorter. We did so much of what we had planned yesterday that we felt like today could be pretty leisurely. Even so, we walked over six miles and did some pretty cool stuff.

Hot chocolate at the Chaplon Tea Room. It was the best hot chocolate I’ve ever had!

There’s an amusement park here that’s right smack in the middle of downtown Copenhagen. It’s called Tivoli Gardens and is the second-oldest functioning amusement park in the world. They call it an amusement park, and it does have rides and shows, but the really incredible parts of Tivoli are its gardens. The flowers there were gorgeous as were the fountains. There’s a little place in the middle of it called the Chaplon Tea Rom (which is misleading because the whole thing is outside) where you can order tea or hot chocolate or a beer and sit by a fountain. We got hot chocolates, which were incredible, and listened to a performance that was going on nearby. We didn’t ride any rides because they cost extra, but it’s definitely somewhere you should go see if you’re in Copenhagen!

The chocolate pastry I got for breakfast that was incredible.

After we left Tivoli we just wandered around the city. We got pastries (I had what looked like a cinnamon roll but was all chocolate and it was the best thing I’ve ever eaten) and went back to the King’s Gardens for a while. We shopped a little more before deciding to walk to the Little Mermaid statue. It’s very far out of the way and had a ridiculous number of people, but it was pretty and I’m glad we went to see it.

The Little Mermaid statue

Tomorrow we go back to Prague, which I’m a little sad about because I really love Denmark. I hope I can come back someday and really learn the city. I have class all day on Monday (a Czech culinary class from 9-noon and my photography course from 1-7:10) and this week we really will get into a routine with classes in full swing. Hopefully soon I’ll have some really good pictures to share with y’all!


Velkommen til København!

I’ve finally made it to Denmark! After a year’s worth of research and wishing to come to this place, I’ve arrived. I was asked before I came here if I was worried about Copenhagen not living up to what was inside my head, and I always said that I really hoped that it did. I can tell y’all after one day here that it definitely lives up.

I’m not really sure where to begin with this, because we walked almost ten miles today (22,300 steps. Shoutout to iPhones for keeping track of that stuff) and saw a lot. I also have some pretty huge blisters as a result, but it’s worth it. We started off figuring out public transit and were successful, which was surprising to both of us. There’s a bus stop right near our rented apartment that goes straight into the city. We were also relieved to discover that we can use the buses and metro to get to the airport on Sunday (we took a taxi when we arrived and it cost a ridiculous amount of money).

Lunch from Copenhagen Street Food! It was really, really good.

Copenhagen is not cheap. One Danish krone is worth about fifteen cents in the US, which makes it sound like everything should be inexpensive. We’re also used to the Czech Republic already where things actually are very cheap. Here, lunch cost around $15 just for one person. To me, that’s expensive, especially when you compare it to Prague where you can get a really good meal and a beer for $7. The food is really good though. We found a bakery called Emmerys and got cinnamon buns this morning and for lunch we went to Copenhagen Street Food. CSF is this huge place on Papirøen (Paper Island) that is full of street food vendors. I got a barbecue sandwich and curly fries, all of which was delicious. Paper Island is across the harbor from the rest of Copenhagen and CSF sits pretty much right on the water, so we got lunch with a view.

We made it! This is Nyhavn Harbor, one of the most well-known spots in Copenhagen.

We did a lot of the touristy stuff today. We went to Nyhavn Harbor, which is as beautiful as all the pictures make it look. Hans Christian Andersen lived in number 20 on the harbor, and his house is painted red which made me love it even more. That whole place has a ton of people and is expensive because it’s so touristy, but it’s beautiful and has hour-long boat tours that go out into the big harbor. We also went shopping on Strøget, the tourist magnet shopping street. It has everything from H&M to Louis Vuitton. We didn’t buy anything there (I guess I did buy socks from a souvenir shop), but it was fun to walk around and see the kinds of clothes Danish people wear.

One of the things I really wanted to buy here was a t-shirt from the University of Copenhagen. I want to spend a semester studying abroad at that university later on in college. We were sitting at lunch just chatting when we realized the bookstore closed at 3pm and it was already 1:45. We were across the city. We practically ran to campus and I got my t-shirt (yay!) and then pretty much collapsed into chairs at Torvehallerne Market with juice. Torvehallerne also has kind of a street food vibe but is way more expensive. It has one side with actual meal food and another that’s mostly pastries and sweets. The middle is flowers and fruit. We’re going to go back there tomorrow to get pastries.

To end the day we walked to Kongens Have, or the King’s Gardens, and sat down to people watch. Copenhagen is fantastic place to do that. We met

This wisteria was actually in the Royal Library Garden, not the King’s Garden, but it’s too pretty to not be posted!

two girls from Texas who are traveling around Europe this summer and made friends with a super cute baby. The weirdest thing about this entire day happened while we were sitting in the gardens. We sat down near a bunch of rhododendron bushes and were admiring them when a man walked into the middle of them and peed. We started cracking up and wondering why this guy was just peeing in the middle of a park with a lot of people in it when two more walked up and started doing the same thing. In the two hours we were sitting there, between 20 and 30 people peed in the bushes. Some girls did it too. We were shocked (and still are, to be honest) and laughed about it the whole time we were sitting there.

I’m excited to see what Copenhagen has in store for us tomorrow. Hopefully it’ll involve less blisters and more pastries. Luckily we did a lot of what we wanted to today, so if we get really tired tomorrow we can take the time to sit down and just chill out for a little bit.

Sorry for the longer post, but the weekend travel days will probably have long ones since we’ll be packing a lot into a short amount of time. Godnat (good night) from Copenhagen!

Zones, Walking, and Windows

Well y’all, we made it here safely. After an 8-hour flight to Paris and a very eventful trip through customs (one of the French security guys got mad at me because I don’t speak fluent French which was so rude), we got on another plane for an hour and a half and landed in Prague. It turns out that Europe has this thing called the Schengen Zone. Basically, when you enter a Schengen country from a non-Schengen country you go through customs. Once you’ve been through customs in that initial country, you don’t have to go through customs again as long as you’re traveling between Schengen countries. We went through customs in France and since the Czech Republic is in that zone, we didn’t have to stop and do anything for customs when we arrived in Prague (I was actually disappointed about this because it means I won’t get any more passport stamps).

Our window in our room is awesome. We spent half of our first day sitting in it.

Our dorm here is really awesome. I’d say that we’re lucky to be staying in such a beautiful building, but every building in the city is at least as beautiful as this one. Our room is huge and we have an awesome view. Everyone who is staying here is so nice–we’ve made some friends already who are great. Livia and I are the babies of the group so far though. No one else who’s here yet is a freshman (sophomore? I guess technically we’re sophomores now). The only downside to this trip so far is that I don’t adjust to time zones well. The first night we were here I slept 15 hours and last night I think I only slept for 3. Hopefully that’ll fix itself somewhere along the way because I don’t think I can do that!

State’s Institute. This is where all of my classes will be!

We finally got up today and started to explore Prague (Praha in Czech) a little bit. We walked almost 8 miles today and barely saw the city. We went to Old Town Square and found the location of the NC State Prague Institute, which is beautiful. Tonight some of the girls here are going to mass at a Catholic church a mile away, but after walking 8 miles already I just decided to sit in the dorm and relax. I think I typically walk a mile and a half in a normal day, so this was a ton of walking for me.

I’m not sure what our plan is for tomorrow. We have orientation on Tuesday. They’ll be giving us a Czech history lesson as well as teaching us some basic phrases in the language at that, and classes start on Wednesday. I’m taking ADN 490, which is Photography, and my first class will be Thursday at 9:00am. After that’s done, Livia and I are off to Copenhagen, Denmark for the weekend! I’m so excited about this because Denmark is at the top of my list of places to visit. Next time I’m writing it’ll probably be all about Copenhagen!



And We’re Off!

Hey y’all!

Welcome to the place where all of my European adventures will be! I’m spending the next 6ish weeks in Prague, Czech Republic. I’ll be taking a photography class through NC State’s Prague Institute. On the weekends my roommate, Livia, and I will be traveling to Denmark, France, Austria, and maybe Germany.

Right now I’m sitting in the airport waiting to board the plane. We’re flying to Paris (this’ll be my first time on a redeye) and then on to Prague. I’m pretty nervous because I’ve also never flown without my parents. Hopefully it’ll be an easy flight and I can sleep the whole time!

You can also keep up with me on Instagram (hailey_loftin) or Twitter (@haileyloftin). Most of my stories and photos will be here, but I’ll be sure and post on my social media every time I make a new post!