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Sunrise Over the Charles Bridge, Czech Republic

Jena Parker

"This past summer I spent six weeks studying abroad in the Czech Republic. Through lectures, field trips, and a weeklong study tour we learned about the history, political and economic development of the Central European nation. As is usually the case, the most memorable experiences were those that took place outside the classroom. The one memory that will always stay with me was our last night together as a group before heading home. All summer we kept a list of things we wanted to do while in the Czech Republic. Some were going to restaurants or bars that were local favorites and other were seeing the major tourist sites like the Prague Castle. One of the top items on our summer to‐do list was to stay up and watch the sunrise over the Charles Bridge. After our last group dinner, we gathered up a group of Czech and American students to take the metro into the city for the night. At first everyone was excited to be done with finals and go out and experience the Prague nightlife for the last time, but as the night waned on people got tired and our group became smaller and smaller. With less than an hour left before dawn we made our way to the bridge feeling cold and tired. As we waited for any sign of light we joked that maybe those that headed back to campus early had the right idea and our plan was better in theory than in reality.

When the sun finally began to come up I looked down the bridge and noticed that it was completely empty except for our group. Over the past six weeks I had spent a good amount of time in the city and bridge was always packed with tourists taking pictures and street performers trying to earn money. I felt like I was seeing the city the way it was meant to be seen for the first time. For me, history has always been in books or movies, but standing on a deserted Charles Bridge I was able to see history come alive. My imagination could fill the empty space with the Swedes who fought for control of the Old Town in the 15th century or the horse drawn carriages that were the main source of traffic on the bridge up until the 20th century. In that moment I felt more a part of the city than I ever had during my time abroad. It was like we were no longer tourists with time‐crunched schedules. We were just living a typical carefree Czech night where the final destination was the bridge and the route to it was made up as we went along.

I never mentioned any of what I was thinking to the group I was with that morning. It's one thing to have an internal monologue but it's quite another to bring it up to a bunch of people who are light heartily joking and reminiscing together. If I'm being completely honest, I know this epiphany I had would have just seemed corny if I'd said it out loud, and I didn't want to ruin the thought. Looking back I find it funny that that moment sticks out as something special. That sunrise wasn't the prettiest I'd ever seen and those laughs I shared with my friends were definitely not the best I'd ever had, but here I am writing an article about it when I could draw from a summer full of memories. Maybe it's because the Charles Bridge is so historic and I want some of my life to be a part of that history or maybe it's just one of those little moments that strikes you and stays with you for no reason at all. Either way, I will always remember how I felt that morning and how I already missed the city and the people I had met that summer."