Go to Prague

April 1, 2006

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Go to Prague! As a January student, I went after my first term and knew nothing. Enjoyed the hell out of it. If you start in January and wait till the end of 4th term (2nd year) to go, you’ll be squeezing the dates a little close together. I recommend as a freshman. If you’re an August student, you get one crack at it: after 2nd term. This is probably the perfect time to go.

**The Official Prague Selective website is run by Martin Stransky**

Get your friends together and rent a cheap apartment or stay in a 4-bed hostel suite. You chose your own level of grit. If you’re a vegetarian, eat a face. If you’re a recovering alcoholic, relapse. Prague is beer and meat and beautiful people and you shouldn’t miss any of it.

Smiling beer

Before you head over, go online and buy the DK Publishing Top 10 Eyewitness Guide to Prague. I lived by this book and it did not disappoint. Useful Czech phrases in the back. Also, don’t ever call it “Czechoslovakia.” The Czech Republic and Slovakia are quite separate now.

The set up of your selective is simple: Once a week you meet as a class with Dr. Stransky (the guy throwing this party) above Club N11. Besides being a big deal in Prague, he said one of my favorite things: “In life, it’s good to be best, but it’s better to be first.” He owns the club N11 and will host a part there pretty early into the selective. As I remember, the first day you meet Dr. Stransky, learn about the program and what your rotations are going to be. Wear professional clothes. For guys this means shirt and tie. Do not be the guy with tennis shoes, an untucked shirt and a poorly-knotted tie. Ladies, wear comfortable shoes and a nice dress or skirt. Once you have your assignment, you meet in front of the N11 club with a bunch of other students, and someone working for Dr. Stransky takes your group onto the metro system for your destination. Remember it, because you’ll have to do it yourself every day after. Your destination will change every week, so you’ll repeat this process every Monday morning. Some people start rotations at 8:00am, some at 9:30. Everyone checks out by 5:00.

Each rotation at each hospital is different. For example, my Neuro rotation consisted of locking us in a room and letting a tape play (half the time), talking with Czech medical students so that they could practice their English (1/4th the time) and seeing a bunch of really interesting cases for the rest of it. If you understand 1 and 1/2 syndrome and the workings of nystagmus, you’re golden. My Cardio rotation consisted of puting on a heavy-ass vest and standing in the room while the doctors snaked line up everyone’s femoral artery into the heart. We watched all of it on angiogram. It was great, except for the vest and the revolving door nature of it all. My Orthopedic surgery rotation was my favorite. The doctors and nurses do not care what you do, so long as you don’t hurt anybody. You change into their scrubs and gowns (their locker room) and just pick a surgery. Axilla surgery in room 1, hip replacement in room 2, and so on. I went to see a hip replacement and got blood all over me, which was AWESOME! Loved that rotation. At the end of the week you meet up above N11 with Dr. Stransky, see a patient, and talk about the week. Wash Rinse Repeat.

Neuro Selective SGU

You’re in Europe, the center of it, so you’ll want to travel. I know people that made it out of Prague to go to Germany, Italy, what have you. It’s hard though. You have to be at the hospitals on Monday and Friday. Once you factor in the time of transit to and from another country, you are really cutting things close to say nothing of a slow train or a broken one. To get the credit for the class, you have to have perfect attendance. That said, some of the doctors will sign your sheet for the week regardless of your attendance and I don’t know of anyone that did the selective and didn’t get credit. So who knows. Travel at your own peril I guess.

The weather in Prague swings. Bringing nothing but summer clothes with something nice for the hospital is not going to cut it. Bring a sweater, a jacket, something. Also, it rains in Prague. Don’t be that wet guy without a raincoat.

Speaking of clothing, you should probably buy the greatest pair of shoes on the planet before getting on that plane. Everyone wonders why the people in Europe are so skinny? Not me. They walk everywhere, never stopping, always walking. So if you buy a pair of shoes that pinches your toe or drags on your heal ever so slightly, that’ll be a gapping hole bleeding through your socks by the end of the third day. And since you’re walking everywhere all the time, it will NEVER have a chance to heal. So just avoid that whole mess and buy yourself something nice.

The nightlife is great. Try to avoid the comfort of your two favorite clubs every night and see as much as you can. Joe’s Cafe was a great one, and no trip to Prague can possibly be complete without a few trips to the Duplex. Enjoy the dancers and the air horn.

All in all, I hope you really enjoy Prague. Their subway system is larger than anything I’ve ever seen, and you’ll have a great time getting lost even though their are only three subway lines. Every set of directions you’ll ever give will be in terms of Tesco. It will take you a week to discover Andel. You’ll buy a bottle of water, take one sip and spit it out, and forever after ask for “Voda, neperlive.” (Voh-dah, nay-per-leh-veh) Make sure you’re friends with someone who takes a lot of pictures; you’d be surprised how quickly you forget how great it was.


I wrote home when I was there, and I’ve included those posts. If you have any questions, please post them and I’ll add where it’s empty.

In Prague

Prague, Part Dva

Prague Part Dva

July 21, 2005

Czesky Krumlov

My last free weekend in Europe was a week ago and I had yet to travel anywhere. So the night before, I found a like-minded student, Adam, and we took off for the Brewery tour of the Czech Republic. We caught a bus to Pilzen, home of the only true Pilsner beer, Prazdroj. We arrived in this town, unable to speak Czech or find someone who mluveetee anglitsky (speaks english), so we decided to take random buses in random directions. We ended up taking a bus past an enourmous complex with PILSNER URQUELL written over and over on the wall followed on the end with a sign that said GAMBRINUS. Now, Gambrinus is a competing beer made in the Czech Republic. That, along with this bus stop being called “gambrinus”, made us feel justified in riding further. We were such idiots.

After the Pilzen tour we caught a train for Ceske Budejovice, home of BUDVAR! We had about an hour until our bus into Cesky Krumlov was scheduled to leave, so we wandered a bit. I have to say that one of my favorite things about Europe is their town squares. Anytime a town devotes two square blocks to an open cobblestoned square with nothing in it but a central fountain, I am a fan.

A half hour later and we are in Cesky Krumlov, touted as one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. The place belongs in a snow globe complete with waterfall and wheel, aqeduct, palace, ornately decorated spire, and a lazy river that wraps around to define the borders of the city. Of course, I took no pictures.

The next morning we went back to Cesky Budejovice to take the brewery tour. Too bad it was Sunday. We made the best of it by sitting in the Budvar restaurant and drinking 5L of delicious Budvar each. I also managed to spend 1000 Krowns on a Budvar tie, tie clip, bottle openers, and a Budvar towel. I do like Budvar. I also have 6 Budvar coasters that tell the story of some demon that sneeks into the Brewery, tampers with the beer, and is then stoned with corn-on-the-cob.

And the winner of these priceless coasters and Budvar bottle opener? Uncle Neurophysiologist, for his advice on traveling in Europe:

“Look at your luggage and divide by 2; then look at your wallet and multiply by 2.”

Girl in Hat Store

Returning to Prague, I have gone Euro. “Going Euro” is wearing the tight jeans, the tight shirts, the green sneakers, the button down shirt open with belly proudly leading on a hot day, the guy with no shirt in the middle of the classy bar, the girl and the guy making out so hard you think one is trying to eat the other (this drawing no stares). Going Euro happens in pockets instead of on a gradient. You don’t have people that are half punk, half model, or half naked; everything is all out. It wasn’t till the end of the trip that I realized how much I was ignoring, but Prague is a twilight zone of crazy.

In Prague, I have finally hit “survive” on the scale of Czech fluency. I can come and go, order and pay, ask and understand directions, and tell a Czech women that she is beautiful. But more than all of this, the ability to say “buzz off” in Czech without accent has been the most useful when dodging vendors and prostitutes on the tourist-choked streets.

Traveler’s note: if a woman walks up to you asking for “sexy?” and you refuse, she will try to run after you and hug you. She IS NOT trying to change your mind; she is trying to pick your pocket. Channel Ron Burgandy, and you’ll know what to do.

Landing back in the US was disorienting. First, everyone is speaking English while I’m still on Czech autopilot with my Dyekui’s (thanks) and my Dobry Den’s (hello). The faces in the airport are softer, without all the dramatic angles that hallmark the euros.

So that was it. My own advice for those traveling to Europe:

“Learn their language.”

Cheers And Nastravi! (Nicedriveway)



In Prague

July 13, 2005

Hanging Statue of Lenin

Where to begin. Having a bit of writer’s block. I’m sitting off the balcony of my new room in a Hostel downtown. This is so much better than living in Kobylisy 8 with 7 other people in a room with four beds touching. I’ve been in Prague for seven days now. There are so many different types of faces and haircuts. The mullet is king, with every third person from the UK sporting one. The Scottish are terrifying. Every one of them looks like an extra from Braveheart that kept the costume. So scary. Nobody wears matching clothing, colour or decade.

Everything is different. Their toilet paper is thinner and has that recycled-paper look. I am still terrified of bedais (sp?). Men with capris are king; runner up is the tapered pant leg. The escalators are very steep and seems like the most popular place to stare at people. I haven’t figured out if this is a staring society or if I’m getting the tourist treatment. Either way, I’m staring back.

Hilarious Phallic Statue

It seems that only 3/4 of Prague is Czech, the rest ex-pat and vacationing. Opening up your head to all of the different languages ruins your ability to eavesdrop on your own, I’ve learned. I’ve learned about 50 czech words that I can’t pronounce. Nerozemum = I don’t know = most useful word. “krk”= throat. “Cheers!” sounds like “nice drive way” slurred. Beer is “pivo”.

There are no ranch homes in Prague. You can buy a shirt that says “Czech me out!” but not one that says “Czech, please?” which disappoints me. Everywhere I walk has art. If not paintings on walls then reliefs over doorways or statues on state buildings. There is a statue of Lenin hanging from one arm four stories off the ground and out my window. There is a statue of Superman proudly face-planting into the ground.

Thai massage

My legs are oak dipped in steel. I’m averaging 8 miles a day on foot. There is something to look at or do every single step. There are so many restaurants that you marvel at how they can all stay in business. There just can’t be that many hungry people. I have been living like a king, eating out every meal, sitting in beautiful restaurants that could fetch $100 plate prices back home but cost only $7. The dollar trades with the krown at 1/25. I feel like I am stealing from these people. There are so many places to eat that you are forced to have the appetizer, course and desert at three different locations with drinks at a fourth, fifth, ad infinitum.

I’m in Prague to study. A course through SGU places me on rounds with doctors from different fields, one per week. I lucked out with heart, brain and bone. Some poor saps got lungs, guts and kids. I have two more days of heart, where I get to watch a doctor push and pull a tube through someone’s chest via a hole in their leg. We watch all of this on live x-ray monitors and ponder the weight of our full body lead vests. For the vest alone, I do not want to be a cardiologist.

Things to do:
1) walk across all seven bridges in Prague (maybe two people laugh at this)
2) buy uncle a gift for telling me about Budvar, the best thing since life itself
3) Get out of Prague for a while

Taking a nap and walking somewhere, topher.

Street beggar in prague