After saying our goodbyes to Anna, we took a seven hour train ride to Prague. We passed through the beautiful countryside of Slovakia on our way to the Czech Republic and napped for most of the ride. Immediately after arriving in Prague, there was a very different atmosphere than Budapest. Every street was crowded, and I was able to pick out many more tourists.
The cobblestone roads and walkways definitely gave us a workout as we drug our suitcases along to the hotel. Peter, our new tour guide, showed us around Old Town Prague and gave us a brief rundown on the history. Prague was one of the few cities untouched by bombing and destruction during World War II, so some building date back to the 14th century. One morning a few from our group decided to wake up around 4:30 am and watch the sunrise and St. Charles Bridge. It was one of the most beautiful times of the trip, because we were able to avoid the big crowds and have a nice quiet time watching the sun rise over the building tops of Old Town Square.
Our schedule was packed in Prague as we visited the U.S. Embassy, Senate, National Institute of Public Health, Charles University, and the University Hospital. We learned how health promotion and practice was administered in Czech during lectures and tours. We were even able to visit a room where Einstein used to give lectures at Charles University.
Also, our trip to the Jewish ghetto was a humbling experience I will never forget. Learning from textbooks doesn’t compare to walking the same halls and paths as those who suffered during the Holocaust. The healthcare system seemed to work about the same as Hungary’s since they both serve to provide free universal health care; however, the waiting list is still an issue for both countries.
I could honestly go on and on about this trip, the experience, and the wonderful little family I made along the way. This trip was absolutely extraordinary, and I have never experienced anything like it. Despite the culture shock, I’ve learned to appreciate the European culture, etiquette, and especially their food! I never realized just how loud Americans are, so we constantly had to tell each other to quiet down because we drew attention almost everywhere we went. Overall, this trip impacted me in so many ways concerning my education as well as my worldview and I am so thankful to have gone to Europe with this group of amazing goofballs.
On May 13th our Global Health study abroad group met at Huntsville Airport. After making all of our flights, and sprinting 78 gates in the Philadelphia airport, we finally landed in Budapest, Hungary. I had never flown or traveled much before, so right away this trip was such a new and exciting experience. Little did I know that was all just the beginning.
After meeting our amazing tour guide Anna, we made our way back to our hotel. Since our trip focused on the country’s health and health care, we immediately noticed almost everyone in Budapest seemed to be smoking. Also, everyone wore a lot of dark colors and seemed to keep to themselves along the streets and in the metros. We later discovered this was due to aftermath and effects of the communist regime had on their culture and society. I could honestly type forever about how wonderful this trip and these people are; however, I’m just going to cover some of the high points from both countries.
Budapest is by far the most beautiful place I have ever been. Everywhere we went, I was awestruck by the buildings and architecture. The Parliament Building was like a castle from a Disney movie. The ceiling was covered by gold sheets, and it seemed each room was more beautiful than the next. I loved learning about events from World War II and the communist regime in places where the events actually occurred. We learned that almost all of Budapest was devastated by bombing from the war, and we even got to see the red communist star that was placed on top of the Parliament Building.
At Semmelweis University, we got to interact and discuss Hungarian health care with medical students. We learned that even though the country provided universal health care, there was a long waiting list to receive the “free” care. The money actually comes from citizens’ paychecks (about 2/3rds of their paychecks). There are various natural remedies including the famous mineral hot springs and Palvogyi Cave. The waters supposedly have different healing properties for certain conditions; however, we just enjoyed hanging out with each other and enjoying the scenery. It was such a relaxing evening even though we accidentally swam in one of the pools we weren’t allowed to be in. The cave was also very interesting because the air is pure and only contains oxygen, carbon dioxide, and calcium ions.
Patients actually make appointments for natural breathing treatments in this cave. It is also accessible to patients in wheelchairs since the cave has a paved walkway. We visited various other facilities and places including the World Health Organization, Buda Castle, Liberty Bride, King St. Stephen’s Basilica.