I wrote this on June 14th but am just now getting the chance to post it:
I’m currently sitting on a plane from London to Chicago before getting a flight to Cincinnati for graduation events for the end of my program. I’ll be there from Tuesday night to Saturday night and am looking forward to going back for the week. After being in Prague for 5 months, I think I’ll be able to see a lot of the differences in cultures right away. This is the longest period that I’ve been outside the US before, so it’ll e interesting.
This past weekend, I made a couchsurfing weekend trip to Brno which is in the south part of the Czech Republic. It’s the second biggest city in the Czech Republic and is located in Moravia. I wasn’t planning to go there until very last minute when I saw there was a couchsurfing weekend of events planned there. This was enough to interest me and buy the $10 bus ticket for the 2 ½ hour trip.
I found an American guy to host me for the weekend who was also attending the events. He’s been living in Brno for 8 months teaching English. When I arrived in Brno, it was Friday evening and everyone was already at the scheduled dinner. I went immediately from the bus station there to join about 15 people for a few beers. The difference between Prague couchsurfing and Brno couchsurfing is that Prague is mostly internationals, whereas Brno is mostly Czechs. It’s actually pretty difficult to meet a lot of Czechs in Prague because of that. After the few beers, we all headed to the top of an apartment building in the city center to watch a fireworks show over the castle.
The next day, my host, his other surfer (a guy from Slovakia), and I all went to the couchsurfing event at the park in the city. It ended up being around 25 people there for the day, and we just sat around eating food, talking, playing Frisbee, and enjoying the company. As you can imagine, there are a lot of interesting people at events like these. People bring their homemade foods, homemade drinks, and always a lot of fruits to share with everyone. One of the guys brought their Patonque (pretty sure it’s not spelled right) set, so we had a nice game going for an hour or so. This is a French game, similar to Boche ball but Patonque is played on a harder surface. I might’ve talked about this is my last post about Paris, but I had watched some people play this when I was there last. It’s a great game to play outside on a nice day, so it was perfect for our event.
Another great example of the Czech drinking culture: we walked over to these tennis courts in the same park and found a children’s tournament going on with ages of probably 8-10 years old. In the small area, there was a little place to buy food, ice cream, drinks, that sort of thing. And of course beer. So everyone was taking pints of beer to their seats in the stands to watch these children play tennis. Of course we joined in since you need to fully engulf yourself into the culture!
The next day (Sunday) was the most popular event of the weekend, a day of hiking and wine tasting. We had a group of over 30 people take the train from Brno to a small town outside, where we started our hike. We hiked up to the ruins of a castle which overlooked a good sized lake, several villages, and plenty of vineyards. Moravia is very different than Bohemia in that it is actually known for its wine and not necessarily its beer. And it’s especially known for its white wines. So this is the reason for vineyards everywhere, which you never see in Bohemia.
So we hiked to the ruins of this castle, then hiked through the hilly forests in the countryside before stopping at a restaurant/winery in a small town. With about 30 of us, the owner had a wine tasting set up for us. He talked to us about the winery, his wines, and production of the wines before and during the tasting (which was being translated from Czech to English by the event organizer). The owner doesn’t actually sell the wine to any retailers; he only sells at his restaurant and gives the wine to friends and family. He explained that it’s his hobby and not a business. At this point, I was having too much fun with the people in our group so I decided that I wouldn’t be leaving on Sunday but very early Monday. Being a couchsurfing event, the easiest part was trying to find a place to stay for the night!
After this stop, we hiked for another hour or so before getting to our last stop which was another local restaurant/winery. Again, they let us taste several wines and we then had dinner. Describing this, it really doesn’t sound like it’s too special of a day (just hiking and wine tasting). I must say that it was a fantastic day mainly for the people in our group. Most of the people were from Europe, and over half were Czech. Spending the whole day (and whole weekend with some of them), you can really get to know people. And with that big of a couchsurfing group, there is never a boring moment. The group is full of people who travel everywhere so there is always something to learn. The mix of personalities, senses of humor, and backgrounds make for great conversations.
On Monday morning, I caught the 5 am bus back to Prague just in time to make it to work. This was another great weekend with very nice people. I don’t know what my life would be like without couchsurfing. It’d be so difficult to meet a lot of people with such similar interests otherwise, but with it I can make weekend trips just to meet a bunch of new people. With trips like these, I must say that I won’t remember as much the cities themselves, but rather the people I met. And I must admit, it’s weekends like these that are most memorable.