2014: Snapshots of Prague and Berlin

By Cindy Corpier

Vacláv Havel Airport Prague: After a painless stop at immigration, met our EF Tour guides, Matt and Ildiko, British and Hungarian, respectively. Made a necessary purchase with Czech koruna: cappuccino. Too tired to try out my only Czech phrase, děkuji (thank you).

Opening dinner at the Café Imperial: Stunning dining room with pillars and walls covered in ceramic tile mosaics. My first (and last) traditional Czech dumpling. Toasts, hellos, hugs and laughter with 70+ writers & guests.

Walking Tour of The Castle Quarter: Perfect summer day. St. Vitus Cathedral, built between 1344 and 1929, contains a carved-wood relief of Prague, circa 1620 and an Art Nouveau window by Alfons Mucha. Learned the story of St. Ludmila, grandmother of St. Wenceslas, murdered in 921 AD. Choked with her own veil by her daughter-in-law’s henchmen—then canonized shortly thereafter. Among other things, she is patron saint of “troubles with in-laws.” Made our way past Starbuck’s to the Golden Lane, a narrow street of shops and reconstructions portraying medieval life. Franz Kafka lived for a time in #22, now painted lavender with green trim. The cannon tower at the bottom of the street, formerly a prison, holds grisly examples of torture equipment that make water boarding seem humane.
Charles Bridge & Old Town Square: Thronged with visitors, vendors and pigeons. The Vltava River busy with tourist boats curls around the city. Onward toward Old Town Square and the hourly chiming of Prague’s 15th century astronomical clock that begins with Death (white skeleton) ringing the bell and ends with the crow of the golden rooster. The skyline is a feast of architectural styles: Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, Rococo and Art Nouveau. A memorial to Jan Hus, the 14th century Czech priest and church reformer who was burned as a heretic, commands the square’s center. Crossing the square we dodged food stands, snake charmers, two 6-foot tall furry blue sharks and a gold ballerina holding third position.

Spalding Publishing Panel: Sena Jeter Naslund, Rebecca Walker, Maureen Morehead and Katy Yocom. Sena told us how she analyzed the journals she wanted to publish in and found they were taking stories with a “zany” voice. By writing against her grain, outside her comfort zone, she found something new and got published. Maureen advised us to aim high and not to take rejection personally. She looks for poems showing the writer has knowledge of history and literature and that move the reader. Rebecca spoke about editing creative nonfiction anthologies and advised writers to collaborate with editors whose goal is to help them write the best possible story. Katy gave us the inside view of fiction editing at The Louisville Review. She chose writing that was fresh and original with a strong voice and heart, stories that kept giving.

The Jewish Quarter (Josefov): Our group met at the Jan Hus Memorial and wound toward this compact quarter for a two-hour tour that should have lasted two days. Heartbreak and inspiration intertwined.

Last night in Prague: We signed on for the Prague By Night tour that left at 8:30 pm, well before sunset. The bus took us outside the city’s center to the mostly abandoned grounds of the 1891 World Exposition for an outdoor performance of “Swan Lake.” The dancing Krizikova Fountain, a 19th century precursor to the Bellagio fountains, was not only backdrop but another character in the ballet. Perfect for the city of Kafka.

Goodbye Prague, hello Dresden: The “Florence of the Elbe” is another place deserving more than two hours. Rebuilt after the horrendous firebombing of 1945 in an approximation of its former glory, the city is pristine. A 305 ft Meissen porcelain mural, “Procession of the Princes,” covers a building with the rulers of Saxony. A golden butterfly posed with tourists outside the Dresden Cathedral.

Drive from Dresden to Berlin: Thanks to Katy Yocum both coaches became theaters showing “The Lives of Others,” 2006 Academy Award Winner for Best Foreign Language film. Set in East Germany during the 1980s, this riveting film shows the lives of the Stasi and those they monitored and was timed perfectly for our introduction to Berlin.

Berlin: Where Prague is compressed, Berlin sprawls. We arrived during unusually warm weather to be reminded that Berlin is German for swamp. Our hotel is a ten-minute walk from the Brandenburg Gate and Potsdamer Platz. The first night we witness a small political protest of Senegalese immigrants that garnered a large Polizei response. Around the corner a banner congratulating Germany on the World Cup win hung from the U. S. Embassy. The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe honors the dead through light, geometry and silence, while the East Side Wall Gallery celebrates freedom through exuberant color.

Timewitnesses: The climax of this trip. An East German and West German, moderated by our guide Ildiko, discussed life before and after the Wall fell in 1989.
East German: “We could see West Berlin, but it was as unreal as the moon.” The people were consumed with thinking about consumer items—chocolate, pens. The morning after the announcement he went to the closest checkpoint and told the guard he wanted to cross. “You’re not the first,” the guard said. Over the bridge, the smell changed. Beautiful gardens. Modern buses like art. His first purchase: Janet Jackson’s “Rhythm Nation.”
West German: The news was incredible, the “notions of two worlds smashed.” Remembered “their faces” and their amazement at having oranges. Resentment remains in the West with some saying the Wall shouldn’t have come down. Surprised by the emancipation of East German women who worked and were fully equal. The dream for the future is a Germany that embraces the weakness and horror of the Third Reich, but is lighter and more open.

Pergamon Museum and Neues Museum: The Pergamon was built to house the cobalt blue Ishtar Gate and the Pergamon Alter with its mythological frieze, both huge relics of antiquity. Worth the 40-minute wait on a hot day. Islamic prayer niches of mind-blowing geometric complexity, tablets of the earliest writing from Uruk in Mesopotamia—from the 4th millennium BC. Next door at the Neues Museum, Nefertiti’s head is the big draw, but far from the only amazement.

Cabaret: In German, at a cabaret on the edge of the Tiergarten. Fabelhaft. That’s German for fabulous. Midnight dinner with my husband at a restaurant close to our hotel where an Indian waiter asked in German for our order of Mexican food.

Berlin Architectural Tour: Culminated in a 10 pm visit to the Reichstag and its modern glass dome with interior walkway spiraling up to the peak. An art installation in film and colored light visible from the terrace. Cool air blew as we watched film clips of German history, including, yes, images from the visits of JFK and Ronald Reagan.

Spalding Summer Graduation 2014: Clear afternoon light filled the room as our Spalding faculty and friends marched in. My heart felt full remembering last May’s joy and gratitude. Congratulations Joe Baillargeon, Karen Chronister, Alice Jennings, Christi Kelly, April Larson, Liza Mattison, Amy Miller, Nikki-Nicole Peoples, and Nicole Underwood. To quote Neil Gaiman, “Make good art.”

The aerial view of Prague

 

 

 

If you’re looking ahead to summer travel, this is just a quick reminder that you have until Jan. 10 to sign up for the Prague-Berlin alumni trip with the Spalding MFA in Writing program and receive a $250 early-bird discount. After that, registration for the trip remains open till Feb. 1.

For a day-by-day itinerary, pricing information (including more discounts), and all the details, go here.

Feel free to drop a line to Katy Yocom at kyocom@spalding.edu. If you have questions. she is always happy to hear from you.

The dates of the Prague and Berlin trip are July 10-22.

All about Prague-Berlin 2014 summer residency for alums

Join MFA Program faculty, staff, and students and Alumni Association director Terry Price in July as we travel to Prague and Berlin. Sign up by January 10 for an alumni-only early-bird discount!

Prague_Berlin_Itinerary

The Summer Residency in Prague and Berlin, July 10-22, 2014

Considered one of Europe’s most romantic cities, Prague is steeped in time, untouched by the bombs of the world wars. Built on seven hills, the city offers not just beautiful views, the world’s largest castle, and the best beer in Europe, but also a chance to experience old-school Europe when you pay for your purchases in the traditional currency, the Czech crown (koruna).

Our EF Tour Directors travel with us for the entire trip to answer questions, provide cultural insights, and keep our travels flowing smoothly. They’ll lead us on a walking tour to explore Prague’s Old Town, including the atmospheric Charles Bridge, and visit its castle, the largest in the world. We’ll visit the important Jewish Quarter on a walking tour that focuses on Franz Kafka, one of the most influential writers of the twentieth century.

We’ll take in an evening performance at one of the city’s iconic Black Light theatres, which mix mime and modern dance to create a multimedia, avant-garde theatre experience found only in Prague. An optional “Prague by Night” tour offers the chance to see the city by boat after dark, from the Vltava River.

From Prague, we travel by motorcoach north to Berlin, which has emerged as a vibrant metropolis since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. We’ll tour the city by bus to see the major sights, passing by the Brandenburg Gate, and visit the Checkpoint Charlie Museum. We’ll visit the world-famous Pergamon Museum, with its classical antiquities and Islamic art. In the evenings, you might opt to take in a cabaret or join a walking tour of Berlin’s justly famous modern architecture.

The MFA group shares meals on arrival day and on the last night of residency. In between, most evenings are free, giving you time to explore the cities as you wish.

Classroom Sessions

Alums are invited to join MFA students and faculty at our opening session and Program Book in Common discussion, when Sena leads a discussion about Franz Kafka’s surrealist novel The Castle. Many other lecture sessions are open to alums who’d like to attend. Alums interested in participating in workshop should check with Katy about joining the trip as a residency-only student.

Day-by-Day Itinerary

For alums, residency includes plenty of free time to spend as you will, with opportunities to socialize as well as to enjoy solo explorations and writing time. Our EF Tour Directors can give you tips and insights as you plan your days. In addition to the events on our itinerary, Alumni Association director Terry Price puts together optional dinners, readings, and other events for alums who’d enjoy the company.

Day 1 – July 10

Board your overnight flight to Prague.

Day 2 – July 11

We arrive in Prague, meet up at the airport, and proceed to our hotel in the heart of the city center. Join our EF Tour Director for an orientation walking tour of our neighborhood, and learn where to eat, drink, and find wi-fi. The entire group sits down together for a welcome dinner.

Day 3 – July 12

A walking tour today begins at the Prague Castle. In the castle’s courtyard, we’ll visit the magnificent St. Vitus Cathedral, which took over 600 years to complete. We’ll stroll through the quaint, cobbled streets of the Mala Strana, the backdrop for Milos Forman’s Amadeus. We’ll cross the Charles Bridge to the 13th-century Old Town (Stare Mesto), where we’ll see Market Square, famous for its 15th-century astronomical clock.

Day 4 – July 13

Today is open for you to explore Prague on your own, or perhaps even rent a car for a day trip into the Czech countryside.

Day 5 – July 14

Today is open for exploration and writing. This evening, we attend a Black Light Theatre performance, a type of theatre found only in Prague. Known for its beauty and visual artistry, Black Light Theatre combines dance, music, and nonverbal performance into one memorable show.

Day 6 – July 15

Today, our tour director leads us on a stroll through Josefov, Prague’s Jewish Quarter. For centuries Jews were forced to live separately and were then purged under Nazi occupation in World War II. Today Josefov stands in loving memory of Judaism in Central Europe. We’ll visit the unique Old Jewish Cemetery, the Jewish Museum, the Old-New Synagogue, and the Spanish Synagogue. Afterward, we’ll stop by the Kafka Museum, located in Franz Kafka’s former home.

Day 7 – July 16

Our final day in Prague is at your leisure. Perhaps you’d like to visit St. Agnes of Bohemia Convent, one of the oldest Gothic buildings in Prague, which houses an exhibition of medieval and Renaissance art. This evening, join in an optional “Prague by Night” sightseeing trip to view the city lights by boat from the Vltava River.

Day 8 – July 17

Today we travel by motorcoach to Berlin, stopping in Dresden for lunch along the way. This afternoon, we visit the world-famous Pergamon Museum, which houses antiquities including the Pergamon Altar and the Ishtar Gate. The building also houses the Museum of Islamic Art and the Near Eastern Museum.

Day 9 – July 18

This afternoon, we take a motorcoach tour of Berlin. We’ll ride past the Kaiser Wilhelm Gedächtniskirche (left unrestored as a reminder of the ravages of war) and down the glittery Kurfürstendamm, Berlin’s liveliest street. We’ll arrive at the Brandenburg Gate, once the symbol of the Cold War, where East and West Berliners danced atop the crumbling Berlin Wall in November 1989. On the site where Checkpoint Charlie once guarded the border between East and West Germany, we’ll visit a museum devoted to the era of the Berlin Wall.

Day 10 – July 19

Today you’re free to explore Berlin as you like. Perhaps take a bike tour of the city, visit the Bauhaus Museum, or just hang out in funky East Berlin. This evening, you might opt to take in a performance at one of Berlin’s famous cabarets.

Day 11 – July 20

After a free day for writing and exploration, join in on an optional evening walking tour of Berlin’s justly famous modern architecture.

Day 12 – July 21

Today is open for exploration—or perhaps you’d like to sit in on our final day of classroom activities, including our interrelatedness-of-the-arts discussion, a journal reading session, graduation readings, and the graduation ceremony itself. The residency wraps up tonight with a farewell dinner.

Day 13 – July 22

Auf Wiedersehen, Berlin! We fly out of Berlin, arriving back home in the States.

Travel Costs and Discounts

A land-only package, which includes housing, breakfasts, two dinners, museum and theatre entrances, walking tours, motorcoach transportation between Prague and Berlin, travel insurance, and tips, costs $2,730. A complete package, which includes all of the above, plus air travel from Louisville and ground transportation to/from the airports, costs $4,090. If you’re flying from an airport other than Louisville, contact EF College Study Tours to see how your costs are affected. Additional meals, optional activities, and free-time activities are not included in the trip price.

Essential information for alums

Discount: Alums and guests receive a special $290 rebate from EF College Study Tours, credited to your account in April.

And another discount: The MFA Program is offering an alums-only early-bird discount of $250 to alumni who sign up by January 10. This discount, available only to alumni of the Spalding MFA program, is credited after you sign up for the trip.

Yet another discount: Repeat travelers with EF College Study Tours receive a $100 credit after signing up with EF.

Total savings available to alums is $640!

Enroll by February 1!

Before you sign up for the trip…

Check out the day-to-day itinerary.

Read essential information about flights, payment options, guests, and more.

Prague_Berlin_Itinerary.

When you’re ready to sign up…

To sign up for the Prague/Berlin residency, click www.efcollegestudytours.com/1321663JM or call the toll-free phone number, 1-877-485-4184. Enrollment deadline for alums and their guests is February 1. Sign up by January 10 for the $250 early-bird discount!

Essential information for alums – Prague-Berlin 2014

TRAVELING WITH EF COLLEGE STUDY TOURS: THE ESSENTIALS FOR ALUMNI

The MFA Program has a dedicated customer-service representative at EF College Study Tours. Contact Stephanie.Lane@EF.com and include “Spalding” in the subject line, and you’ll receive an email response within one business day. But first, read on for essential information.

What’s the deadline to sign up for travel?

Alums and their guests can sign up for travel until February 1. Alums who sign up by January 10 receive a $250 early-bird discount!

What’s due upon sign-up?

At sign-up, you’ll pay EF College Study Tours a $95 enrollment fee and a required $145 comprehensive travel insurance policy. (Your discount will be applied later, so you’ll provide a credit/debit card to cover these initial costs.) After that, you can pay in automated monthly installments. On the monthly payment plan, your final payment is due about 30 days before the trip (about June 10). For those not on the monthly payment plan, final payment is due 95 days before departure (April 6). See the Booking Conditions in the EF College Study Tours Enrollment Booklet.

Are flights included in the trip price?

It depends on whether you choose the full package or the Land-Only package.

The full package includes air transportation. The price is based on air travel from Louisville. If EF arranges your flight from a different airport, total cost will be adjusted to reflect the price difference. A perk: Through a special arrangement with Spalding, EF is waiving the usual $150 “special travel” fee for those flying from airports other than Louisville!

To see what else is included in the full package, see the Prague_Berlin_Itinerary.

The Land-Only package includes everything included in the full package except air travel and ground transportation to/from the airports. However, EF Tours will arrange ground transportation for Land-Only travelers who arrive and depart on the residency arrival and departure dates. EF is providing this service to Land-Only travelers at no extra charge.

Note that we fly into Prague Václav Havel Airport but return from Berlin Tegel Airport.

Should I book my air travel through EF College Study Tours?

It’s your choice. Read the Booking Conditions in the Enrollment Booklet for details. Below is a summary based on past experiences:

Advantages of booking air travel through EF:

EF’s rates are often better than those you can find online.

EF makes your flight arrangements for you.

You pay your air travel costs in monthly installments.

Your airline ticket cost is covered by EF’s travel insurance.

Disadvantages of booking air travel through EF:

You might not like your assigned route, layovers, or flight times.

Your ticket won’t be associated with your frequent flier number or be eligible for an upgrade. (That said, it never hurts to ask when you check in for your flight at the airport.)

In case of serious flight delay or cancellation, you must call EF’s emergency travel hotline to rebook tickets rather than dealing directly with the airline.

Advantages of booking air travel on your own by choosing the Land-Only option:

You call the shots. You choose your airline, route, layover length, and arrival and departure times when booking your ticket.

You can use frequent flier miles to pay for your ticket.

In case of travel cancellations or delays, the airline must deal with you directly rather than requiring you to call EF’s travel hotline.

Disadvantages of choosing the Land-Only option:

It’s up to you to shop for your ticket.

You have to pay for your ticket when you purchase it.

You’ll need to purchase separate travel insurance for the cost of the airline ticket.

If your arrival and departure dates don’t coincide with the groups’, you must arrange your own ground transportation to and from the airport.

Note: Those traveling from outside the United States must choose the Land-Only package.

When do we travel?

We leave the U.S. on July 10 on overnight flights and arrive at Prague Václav Havel Airport on July 11. We depart from Berlin Tegel Airport on July 22, returning to the U.S. the same day.

Is there any advantage to arriving in Prague a day or two early?

Some MFAers travel early so they can recover from jet lag and adjust to the new city before residency begins. Traveling early builds in a cushion of time in case of travel delays.

If you travel early, you’ll make your own housing arrangements for the nights before July 11. You must also arrange your own ground transportation from the airport into the city.

The same goes if you stay beyond the departure date—you’ll arrange your own housing for the extra days and your own airport transfer.

Can EF book my air travel if I want to go early, stay late, or return from a different airport?

Yes. The Special Travel Requests on page 5 of the Enrollment Booklet covers the details. The $150 Special Travel Fee is waived for Spalding travelers!

Is there a discount for guests and alumni?

Yes! Several, in fact!

Alums and their guests receive a $290 credit to their EF Tours account in April.

Alums only are eligible for an early-bird discount of $250 when they sign up by January 10.

Repeat travelers with EF College Study Tours receive a $100 credit after signing up with EF.

What about optional events?

Several events are offered as options to give travelers maximum flexibility in deciding how to spend their time and travel budget. Optional events are not included in the trip cost. Planned optional events include a “Prague by Night” boat tour, a cabaret performance, and a walking tour of Berlin’s modern architecture. You can sign up and pay for these events on EF’s website or by calling EF by May 21. Once we arrive, our tour directors may offer other optional outings.

 How is the housing priced?

The program price is for a twin room with double occupancy. You can reserve a room to yourself by paying the single supplement price of $495.

Can I book my own lodging instead of staying with the group?

No, everyone on the trip is required to stay in the arranged housing.

Can I bring a guest?

Yes, alums can bring family or friends. A few things to remember:

Guests are welcome to participate in off-campus activities such as walking tours, theatre performances, and group meals. Certain classroom sessions that are open to alums are also open to interested guests.

Depending on enrollment, guest slots may be limited. If that’s the case, guest slots will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis. Generally, alums may bring a maximum of two guests.

Guests must enroll through EF College Study Tours for either the total program or a Land-Only version of the program. Events included cannot be broken out into individual components.

The minimum age for guests is 12. Any guest under age 18 must be accompanied full-time by an adult who is not an MFA student.

My family members are joining me at the end of the trip. Can they participate in activities?

Activities and lodging arranged by EF are open only to EF participants. It may be possible to arrange for a non-EF guest to attend certain activities, such as the closing dinner—check with the Tour Director during the trip. That said, for liability reasons, EF never, ever allows a non-EF participant to ride on an EF-arranged bus.

Family members are welcome to attend graduation as well as other classroom events that are open to guests.

What are the physical considerations for the trip?

Residency-abroad locations sometimes pose challenging situations for those with limited mobility or special needs. Standards of accessibility customary in the United States are often not found abroad. Wheelchair accessibility is not the standard. Walking paths and streets may be unpaved or rough and irregular. Stairs are a virtual inevitability. Some events involve extensive walking. Classroom space may be at a distance from lodging and may not be air conditioned. In addition, classroom and tour days are sometimes up to 10 hours long, with breaks for meals.

If you have special needs (e.g., limited mobility, heart condition, diabetes, asthma), the University requires you to describe them fully on the travel questionnaire you will complete after enrolling for the trip, and to let us know what accommodations you think you might need. We will investigate to the best of our ability what accommodations can be made, but it is not possible for us to foresee every eventuality or guarantee that special accommodations will be available.

Special arrangements such as taxis are made by the traveler at the traveler’s expense.

Do I need a passport or visa?

You’ll need a passport valid for at least three months beyond the date of travel. We recommend you check the status of your passport now and, if needed, apply for a new or renewed passport promptly. For more information, visit http://travel.state.gov. You do not need a visa.

For more about travel to the Czech Republic, see this site. For information about travel to Germany, visit this site. For tips on traveling abroad, visit this site.

How do I sign up?

Step 1: Read the EF College Study Tours Enrollment Booklet (including the Booking Conditions section) to be sure you understand payment plans, cancellation policies, etc.

Step 2: Sign up online or by calling EF College Study Tours at 877-485-4184. (Use the 877 number only; the 800 number listed online connects to a different EF department.) Or, complete the Enrollment Form in the Enrollment Booklet and fax it to EF.

For specific questions, contact Stephanie.Lane@EF.com and include “Spalding” in the subject line, and you’ll receive an email response within one business day.

See you in Prague and Berlin!