Prague (and the rest of Europe)

This is a picture of the Old town square in Prague. I was there among hundreds of other tourists during my visit to Europe during the first half of 1991. I visited Paris, Rome, Venice, Amsterdam, Geneva, Vienna, Frankfurt, Munich and Prague. But for the bulk of the trip I was studying at Eotvos University in Budapest, Hungary. The program is called BUDAPEST SEMESTERS IN MATHEMATICS. I managed to miss what happened in the Gulf War even though I was closer to it than most people.

The program itself is a great place to meet people and a great way to visit europe. At the time, the currency exchange was quite favourable, which made it a reasonably economical program. A word of warning however, the math courses offered are not trvial (some of the courses offered were downright nasty.) However a history, culture and two levels of language courses are also offered (but they aren't particularly easy either.) There were 4 people from my school (Waterloo, which is located in Waterloo, Canada.) During the complex analysis class, we had arguements over the correct pronounciation of "Z" (Zee or Zed.) Get it? Arguments in complex analysis? That's a joke son.

In terms of pure beauty and architecture I considered Paris and Prague to be equal and best, though Munich was also quite beautiful. Paris, however, was much less convenient as it is more spread out. I was quite miffed that the Eiffel tower was completely closed for the 4 days that I was there, due to some renovations. I was further miffed at being pick-pocketted less than 20 minutes after arriving in Paris.

Did you know that in Germany you can get beer at McDonalds? ... and for less than the cost of a coke! In Amsterdam, if you go into a coffee shop and order tea, they will most likely give you an illegal drug? Hasheesh (sp?) seemed to be the most popular. Rome has the worst drivers with the most emphatic body language. Street artists seemed to be more prevalent there than in the other cities I visited. That struck a romantic chord in me as I have quite an affinity for art, and had always dreamed of studying art or just in general being part of the art scene in europe. Alas, I was always too good at this darn math and computer thing for that ever to be realistic.

While in Prague I met two very interesting people. One was an Aussie named Diana who studied Hotel science and was taking a year off to travel. It seems Australians are very much into travelling, as Diana could offer no better excuse for hopping around Europe than "I thought it'd be fun to do, so here I am!". The other was Mark, a US National Chess master who had been playing in Russia to get his skills up. He bought a magic trick set there and was trying to learn all the tricks, but the instructions were in Czechoslovakian. Unfortunately, the locals spoke Czechoslovakian :) and seemed to genuinely hate foreigners.

While searching for a place to feed ourselves, our party was refused seating in numerous restaurants (they claimed to be booked up.) When we finally found one, they had us wait nearly half an hour for food. Nevertheless, this didn't diminish the overall experience. Prague has to be seen to be believed. "Kafka" and I believe the recent film "Mission Impossible" were shot there.

Update: I have since been back to Paris, France, where I got to visit a few less known sites (the Catacombs, some interesting war museums and a very tall centrally located building whose name I forget.) Also, as I write this my sister is in the French Alps. She seems to observed the same thing about french food as I: it is highly overrated. She tells me that Barecelona is the place to check out just to see the architecture of Antoni Gaudi. This from a postcard she sent me: