Does sleeping in a monastery, hiking for eight miles sort of walking into Poland, but not really, and NYU paying for all your meals sound like a trip you would like to take? Well, it should.
This year NYU Prague organized a new cultural immersion trip to Broumov, a small town on the Czech-Polish border. The ride to Broumov is about three hours along a picturesque road of houses and land. I arrived at the metro station to see about eight other NYU students. One of the smaller trips so far, but it was great for the bus ride, as we each got our own row of seats.
Our first stop was at a Gymnazium. No, not a gym where you go to lift weights, though they did have one of those. A Gymnazium is a type of school for university-bound high school students focused on advanced learning in which students spend around four to eight years studying there. It can be compared to a magnet high school in the US, as students have to take exams to get in.
When we entered the school, we were introduced to our tour guide for the weekend who would eventually become a dear friend, Simon. Simon took us to sit in one of the English classes. At the start of the class, there was a clear division as we seemed to be just as nervous to meet each other as the Czech students. The teacher quickly broke us up into groups for discussion. We quickly found that we were more alike than we initially thought. Immediately we discovered that we shared the same love of certain TV shows and similar career aspirations. After talking, Simon and two other students, Stepan and Nikola, took us on a tour of their campus. We even got to watch some of their classmates practice a dance for their version of a prom.
Later on, we settled into the monastery where we would sleep for the next two days. The architecture is stunning to say the least. It has tall wooden doors guarding the entrance, a courtyard, and a garden with landscape views of the town. While the building was colorful on the outside, the inside was purely white. We slept in bunkbeds, three to a room. Each room had a sink and a mirror, while the bathrooms and showers were located at the end of the corridor.
At around 7, we made our way to a local restaurant for dinner. Apart from eating good food, which was paid for by NYU, our RA's suggested we play an intense hand game which ended up unleashing a competitive streak in some students. On the walk back to the monastery, it was pitch-black. There were barely any street lamps to illuminate the path. Luckily, the millions of stars in the sky did the job instead. We pinpointed different constellations admiring their beauty and complexity. That's definitely not something any of us will see in New York.
The following day we woke up as early as we could for a hike through the national park with a name no one could pronounce: Adrspach-Teplice. The first 20 minutes of the hike were the easiest with a predominantly flat landscape. As we followed the trail, the difficulty of the hike intensified, but the nature views made up for it. Adrspach-Teplice is famous for its rocky formations, each with a different shape and a name to go with it. The formations are popular among hikers who will often bring their own gear to rock climb. There were a lot of twists and turns throughout, but perhaps the most strenuous part was walking up and down stairs. Nature certainly did not make those. In total, we hiked for nine miles meeting a lot of dogs on the way. Yes, hikers brought along their dogs.
Our last day was bittersweet. We were taken on a tour of the monastery and learned the history of the Benedictine order throughout the Czech Republic. In 1213 king Ottokar I of Bohemia gave the Broumov region to Benedictines from Břevnov Monastery in Prague. In 1420, The Břevnov Monastery was burnt down by the Hussites causing Benedictines to escape to Broumov. As a result, the Broumov Monastery, united with Břevnov into one single complex. It then became one of the most important Benedictine monasteries in the Czech territory. The area of the monastery in which we stayed was recently renovated in 2014. No monks currently live there.
As we said our goodbyes, we coiled in for a tight group hug. Out all of all the cities I've visited in the Czech Republic, Broumov will always be my favorite.