Most people look at the title of this trip with apprehension. A bison trip? What, are we just going to look at bison all day? I personally would love to do that. Anyone who knows me knows my passion for bison. I have multiple shirts featuring bison, plus my cherished stuffed animal. Chances are, if we’ve had more than one conversation, I have managed to find a way to bring up my love for America’s national mammal. I could go on and on about the random facts I know, trying to convince y’all to see why bison are the absolute best. This trip was a no brainer for me simply because it has the word bison in the title, and I knew I wanted to be the first person to sign up. But I know few people share the same sentiments about bison, which is why you need to see this list of all the other great things that make this trip one of the best NYU has to offer.
1. Visit a beautiful Czech city you will never think to see on your own.
So many of our weekends are dedicated to getting out of the Czech Republic to cross other European countries and cities off our bucket lists. And why not? We have long weekends every weekend, and Prague’s location makes travel very easy. But what is the point of studying abroad in a country if you don’t explore anything other than the city in which you are living? This trip gives you the opportunity to visit one of the lesser-known destinations in the Czech Republic: Telč. When we arrived, we met up with an English-speaking tour guide who showed us all the town had to offer, including the local castle, a beautiful château with a complicated history, and the most picturesque views you can find there. This quaint town on the border of Bohemia and Moravia dates back to the 13th century, and the town square looks more like a movie set than real-life, well-preserved 16th century houses. If you think the buildings in Prague are colorful and unique, just wait until you see these beauties!
2. Stop at a unique café, unlike anything you’ll find in Prague.
Calling all café gurus! After leaving Telč, we stopped in the village of Markvarec just to go to Domlejna. Hands down one of the coolest cafés I have ever been to. This café and ceramics gallery found its home in an old flour mill. No two chairs or tables are the same, and eclectic ceramic creations are scattered around the walls, giving this place a homey feel. And of course, this place has amazing coffee (try the vacuum pot brew!), tea (served with a variation of fruits and spices to make it your own unique blend), hot chocolate (so thick you need a spoon), milkshakes (the flavors get way more creative than classic vanilla), and desserts (hot raspberries served over vanilla ice cream? Just as heavenly as it sounds). On the lookout to get someone a gift? They also have a huge selection of extremely creative mugs, bowls, and other creations that you won’t be able to find anywhere else.
3. Castle ruins with some views.
Landštejn Castle is one of the oldest and best preserved structures of its kind in Europe. It dates back from the early 1200’s, and some of the architecture is unique in Bohemia. There is a beautiful and friendly German Shepherd who lives with the family in charge of castle operations, and we know that dogs are always a plus. From this castle you can see far and wide across the beautiful countryside (Austria is out there somewhere), made even more spectacular in the fall with the leaves changing color to paint reds and yellows amongst the trees. There are two different levels that provide views of this spectacular scenery, so if you’re afraid of heights you don’t have to face your fears to get pics for the ‘gram.
We walked from the Castle to the bison farm on a path through the woods. I’m all about that granola life, but if you aren’t don’t worry, the walk isn’t that long and it’s on a well-cleared, even path. The sun was setting on our walk, giving everything in a soft glow. It was so calm and serene, and a great time for conversation and making new friends. We were in the height of mushroom season, so Tyna and Šimon stopped every 5 seconds to pick a mushroom, and they taught us how to tell which ones are edible. As we neared the bison farm, the trail opened up to this huge field that was bathed in pink from the sunset. It was surreal how the light played with the colors of the sky, grass, and trees. Everyone was screaming about how beautiful it was. And then the sunset really began, and it was one of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen in my entire life (and I’m from Texas, so I think I know a thing or two about grand sunsets). The pictures in no way do it justice, but here’s one anyway.
5. BISON (and the farm)
Once again, I love bison. This was the highlight of the trip for me. There was some mild screaming. Tears had been shed. My bison t-shirt finally got to see its real-life heritage. We got to be so close to these majestic creatures, I was so insanely happy. I cannot write much more to express my feelings about the bison, but even my friends who think I’m insane for how much I love bison admitted it was pretty darn cool. We ate dinner at the restaurant on the farm, which of course features a plethora of different bison dishes, including bison burgers, ribs, pâté, soup, and so much more. (Note: No, I do not have a problem eating bison; I think they are delicious, better than beef. My stuffed animal’s name is burger. As long as I am eating a bison responsibly raised on a farm I will choose bison over beef any day.) The food was delicious and covered by NYU, and we all know that free food automatically tastes better. The owner of the restaurant has a friend in Belgium who brews a special beer specifically for his farm, so you get to try a beer that you really cannot find anywhere else in the world. The farm also includes a hotel that provided big rooms with balconies for us to sleep in, and they were loft-style so I could easily watch the Astros vs. Yankees ALCS game at 2am on the lower level without disturbing my roommates.
6. Paint your own ceramic mug
After leaving the farm, we made our way to a paint-your-own ceramics place. We had the option to paint ornaments, mugs, bowls, or napkin holders. You already know this is a great gift for your parents, because they have to love it no matter how ugly they think it is. Your friends or significant other will also appreciate the amount of effort you put in to making something for them. Or, you can keep it for yourself as a memory of the trip. This was incredibly fun. There were tons of colors to choose from, and everyone loved seeing what each other were painting. Everyone’s designs were so unique and imaginative, and our personalities really showed through our work. I was so excited when they were finally ready for us to pick up, it’s a really great memory of the trip for me that I know I’ll have forever.
7. Visit another Czech city that you didn’t know of
Slavonice was a wealthy town in the 14th and 16th centuries, as it lies on what used to be the route from Prague to Vienna. Like Telč, the city preserved its renaissance look. But the coolest thing about this visit is the channel of underground tunnels. This part of the trip is not for those with claustrophobia (like me), but there are some cool places to hang out around town if you opt out of this 30 minute activity. The tunnels date back to the 12th century, when homeowners had underground storage for food and other supplies. These little basements would fill with groundwater very easily, so the tunnels were built to help disperse that water buildup. There is a guide who takes you down beneath the homes and through a small length of the tunnels. Once again, I did not do this myself, but everyone that participated loved it.
This is by far one of the best trips that I have been on my entire time at NYU Prague, including my fall break and weekend trips to other parts of Europe. This trip is such an unmatchable experience, unlike anything that you will plan on your own or with your friends. And (except for lunch) it’s free! Of course, I mean free in the sense that you are already paying NYU a huge amount of money to fund these trips, so why not take advantage of what they have to offer? You don’t have to be a bison lover to love the bison trip. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience that you will not want to miss.