Earlier this week, the Concert Choir and a group of alumni and friends embarked on the first international tour in nearly a decade. As the choir tours Eastern Europe with performances in Budapest, Prague and Brno, recent grad Haley Hudler shares her experiences from a student perspective.
After our long trip to Europe, our first location was Budapest, Hungary. On our first day of group traveling, we went sightseeing to many places including Hero Square, Matthias Church, and Liberty Statue. All were beautiful and filled with art and history. One of my favorites was climbing Liberty Statue which is built on a large mountain on the west side of the Danube river. There were three lookouts on the way to Liberty Statue and I climbed to the very top of the mountain. We have two tour guides who we are very grateful for; Peter on Bus 1 and Abby on Bus 2. Peter told us Budapest is the city of VIEWS, and the best sight of the city is from the top. He was right. We took so many photos at Liberty Statue and it was very peaceful to see the city from above and in full.
Our second day of sight seeing in Budapest included the tour of the Parliament Building, the largest Synagogue of Europe located in Budapest and the Memorial of Hungarian Jewish Holocaust victims. After that we walked to St. Stephen's Basilica and sang outside in front. We sang some of our signature songs from the tour including our Hungarian song called Erik a Som and Sweet Alma Home. This was probably one of the largest crowds we will have for the duration of the tour and it was very pleasant to have strangers come up to the front and begin to record us. They were smiling and it seemed they enjoyed our music. It was so great to stand outside with everyone in the sunlight and feel the energy from the crowd. It was a large accomplishment of singing outside without any accompaniment. It was a wonderful experience.
We left Hungary and traveled by bus heading north to our next destination of Brno, Czechia. Before reaching Brno, we had a surprise stop to the capital of Slovakia: Bratislava. It was a small city to navigate which made it very easy to get comfortable in. We were able to explore and eat a nice lunch. Loading back onto the bus, our next stop was Brno! We arrived at our large and modern Marriot hotel and then did a walking tour of the city. One thing interesting about this city and many cities in Czechia during the communist occupation was they built all the buildings in symmetrical block shapes in an unpleasant gray color. As time passed and they shifted governments, the painters and architects went a little crazy with color on the older buildings. Bright colors randomly placed all over the buildings making it look a little silly; but, I would also go crazy with color if I was living among rows of dullness
For our second day in Brno, we drove out to the countryside and took a tour of the Punkva Caves. These caves were MASSIVE, nothing like Seneca caverns. The preservations of these caves showed us the magnificent work of nature and how beautiful it is. The temperature in the caves was chilly and the path we climbed was steep both uphill and downhill. We had to take precautions going through the tour because of the slickness of the path and also to not touch the delicate areas of the cave in order to preserve them. Many of us loved the section of the cave where it opened up to the outside and we could see the sun. Here the cave made a connection with the forest growing above it and there were two small lakes forming below as well. We exited the caves with a boat ride and had lunch after. We headed back to the hotel in between lunch and our concert later in the day. Fast forward a couple of hours when we arrive at the Red Church. The entire exterior was made out of red bricks (she’s a brick… house) and the interior had whitewashed walls with stone pillars and wooden pews. This church was built in the tradition of the German protestants with a very plain design, but just as lovely.
We traveled to our final city, Prague, or Praha as natives call it. For a long day of bus riding, we took the time to see two small towns of Czechia: Třebíč and Telč. Třebíč is a UNESCO world heritage site because it represents the co-existence of Jewish and Christian cultures. The UN made Třebíč an important location for the world’s humanity. The second town of Telč had bright colors in its town square. It is known for its Italian Renaissance architecture including the chateau which used to be a Gothic castle. In both of these towns, we were able to see the atmosphere of small-town Czech and even driving through farmland was stunning, especially the bright yellow crop of rapeseed.
By the late afternoon, we finally made it to PRAGUE! We unloaded the bus and checked into Hotel Pyramida. We walked to a look out over the city which gave a preview of what to expect for the following day. Something special in the city is the Žižkov Television Tower that stands tall in the city. The artist named David Černý placed sculptures of black babies climbing it; check out my photo. At the end of the night, we had dinner located in an old monastery.