Away for the Weekend in Prague and Paris

Dylan Ferrer is currently a third year abroad in Florence, Italy at Palazzo Rucellai. He updated us on his weekend adventures in Prague and Paris!
Two more weeks have gone by in Florence, and I spent the weekends in Prague and Paris. Both were beautiful cities, and they were strikingly more modern than Florence. This was particularly evident in Prague’s roads, which were wide, efficient, and tightly integrated with their tram public transportation system, and also with Paris’ metro and tram systems, which were far superior to public transportation even in the US. By contrast, many of the roads in Florence are so narrow that they can only fit a single car at a time, there do not appear to be many road signs or consistent driving guidelines, and the public transportation system is based largely on buses.This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it was interesting to note that Prague and Paris felt almost like sprawling, efficient US cities whereas Florence feels like a densely-packed microcosm of the ancient world, with few hints of modernization to be seen.In Prague, I walked across the Charles bridge, took a free tour of the Prague castle,visited the Lennon Wall, and spent some time wandering around the city, going to various stores and eateries. The Lennon Wall is my favorite thing I have seen in Europe so far, as despite it’s relatively small size, it was incredibly moving to see messages of love and peace written indifferent languages and interspersed with various likenesses of John Lennon drawn in different styles (see picture below). The food in Prague was delicious (and cheap, due to the favorable conversion rate between the euro and the Czech krone), and they seem to put a heavy emphasis on pork and beef dishes, with the fantastic Czech goulash being the classic dish to eat in Prague.
In Paris, I visited the Eiffel Tower (picture below), the Louvre, the lock bridge, Notre Dame, and Sacré-Cœur. I particularly enjoyed the lock bridge (although Paris has recently boarded up the bridge to discourage couples placing locks on it due to concern over the bridge’s capacity to handle the weight of thousands of locks), which was packed for Valentine’s Day, and Sacré-Cœur, which, along with San Miniato al Monte in Florence, is one of the most beautiful churches I have seen so far. Paris also felt similar to DC or NY in much of the city’s population used the metro to get from place to place; indeed, it was incredibly cheap and efficient to navigate the city using only the metro. It was also interesting to discover that Paris, unlike Florence or Prague, was incredibly hostile to people who are not perfectly fluent in French.
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My experiences in Prague and Paris also led me to the unfortunate conclusion that Florence is not a great place to learn Italian. Whereas Prague and Paris seemed truly immersive, in Florence I would have to walk for 20 minutes to run into a local who does not speak English. Indeed, the only truly immersive interaction I have had so far was with a barber,and it was fun to navigate that encounter using only my limited Italian and all sorts of hand gestures. As much as I love Florence, my Italian has barely come along at all, and perhaps it would have been more useful to stay in a home-stay or choose a program in which the courses are taught in the native language or in which there is not a two-mile radius of English speakers around my apartment.

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