UCL has a really strange term set up; reading week is the first week of November but exams are mid-December. Consequently, this week doesn’t have to be reserved for studies alone. So, I used only a small portion of the week to catch up on work (which was, admittedly, very stressful), and spent the majority traveling instead.
Initially, I had only planned on going to one place for reading week: Copenhagen. However, I had one friend who really, really wanted to go to Prague and, some way or another, another friend and I got looped into going along for that as well. Though the bookings for travel and lodging had been rushed and flights had to be cancelled and rescheduled, everything had, eventually, fallen into place.
While I had been skeptical about how well the trip would go with how little planning we did, I’ve never been so glad to make a spontaneous decision. First off, the hostel we stayed at, Hostel Mango, was an absolute steal built for broke young people. I paid about thirty euros for three nights. Better yet, I got to bond with my UCL friends I travelled with and also made two new friends. One was a Spanish bloke with hair reminiscent of the biblical depiction of Jesus and another was a soft spoken Chinese grad student studying in the Netherlands. Somehow, we all ended up in Prague at the same time.
Prague is a beautiful little city and all the sights and attractions we visited were within walking distance (pro-tip: don’t buy a 72 hour metro ticket when you visit, spend the money on food). In the four days we were there, we visited major tourist spots like Old Town, Prague Castle, and the National Gallery. We also found a quaint gingerbread shop that smelled like Christmas with treats that tasted of pure happiness. Somewhere along the line we attended a string quartet performance, sitting in awe as Beethoven’s notes resonated throughout Mirror Chapel.
Dispersed in between our activities were copious amounts of warm mulled wine tinged with cinnamon, chimney cakes piled with fresh cream, and squishy little bread dumplings accompanying Czech styled roast beef. Needless to say, we ate very well.
The highlight of it all came on the last day; 6am and we were up to catch the sunrise. Standing on Charles Bridge, I watched as the fiery red sun rose into the sky and the sleepy town across the bridge begin to stir. Birds skimmed the river’s surface as they flew past and wispy fog began to dissipate as sunlight streaked across the horizon.
Watching daylight seep into the city was enough to make an economics major like me attempt to wax poetry. Sometimes spontaneity isn’t so bad, even if it means typing up a paper on a phone during the plane ride back to London at 1 AM.