As it turns out, the monastery where Gregor Mendel (aka: the father of modern genetics) did all of his research is located in the Czech Republic. To be more specific, it is located in the second largest city of the Czech Republic, Brno, which happens to be about an hour and a half long train ride north of Vienna. Of course, being the biology nerd I am, this means that, when I decided to go to Prague over a three day weekend, I needed to make a pit stop. In Brno. To fangirl. Over scientist monks. It’s just a thing, you know? I left Vienna on Thursday after class, and spent Friday in Brno, leaving for Prague towards the evening.
I believe that traveling is all about the people you meet and especially the adventures you have, so naturally, the first thing I did when I arrived in the Czech Republic was get lost (because why not, amiright?). I had googled the instructions from the train station to the hostel, but apparently I went under the wrong underpass (Thanks, Google). I kept walking, and realized that I couldn't even find the streets I was looking for on my phone's map. It was night and the area I was in looked pretty sketchy, so I walked into a bar/restaurant I had passed a couple times already. I walked up to the bar, and asked the woman behind it "English?" She just stared at me, and kind of shook her head. So I tried "Deutsch?" She shook her head again. So, I laid the paper with the address on it on the bar and pointed at where I needed to go and did my best to look sad and confused. She looked at it, narrowed her eyes, and started talking frantically with the woman she had been talking to. They talked and talked, gesticulating wildly all the while, and at one point she grabbed a paper and started drawing, before scratching it out and crumpling it up. She grabbed my phone, which I had placed on the bar with the map showing, and started moving it around. And still they continued talking, until they suddenly called over a middle aged man walking by. They explained the situation (I assume), and he kind of heaved a sigh of resignation, and the three of them get into another wildly gesticulated conversation. Suddenly the man walked away, and the women stopped paying attention to me. The man headed straight for the door, so, naturally, I assumed I should follow him. As I walked out the door, I noticed a table right by the door with an empty place with a beer. The people at the table waved at me, and I realized the man rushing ahead of me must have been a customer! When I finally caught up (it took a couple meters), he kind of nodded at me. As the walk continued we tried to make conversation, but didn't have a language in common. Instead he kind of pointed at things and I nodded and smiled. Eventually, after passing the train station and walking crossing the street in the exact opposite way I had walked, things start looking familiar from Google's street view. I pointed and looked really excited to let him know I recognize things, and still we kept walking. Eventually he stopped and pointed at a building with a decisive nod. That's the place I am looking for. He gave me a firm hand shake, and I pressed my hands to my heart and looked as thankful as possible. He just turned on his heel, and walked away (probably back to the beer that was still waiting for him). Though it was mildly terrifying to a) walk into a bar to ask for help to realize they didn't speak the language, and b) follow a strange man through the streets of a strange city in the dark, it was still an amazing experience! I tend to hate going up to people to ask for help when I am lost or confused, and this encounter reminded me that people tend to be super willing to go out of their way to help, as long as you ask with a smile!
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<p>Fionna studies Anthropology and Molecular Biology at the University of Pittsburgh. Though she is originally from the Netherlands, she has spent the last ten or so years in California. Her free time is spent reading, horseback riding, nerding out about television shows, hiking, and dreaming of future travels and adventures. She is looking forward to spending her spring semester enjoying the life and culture in Vienna, Austria and the surrounding countries. </p>