Munich and Prague: A mini-European adventure

Yep, you read that correctly!

I’m so behind on the blog. I mean, I know I don’t need to justify this to my ten regular readers, but editing as a job really takes away the desire to get back on the computer after work.

Fun fact, we’ve lived in Ecuador for a year! Actually, it was a year back in September. Even further back than that, in August, we went back to Europe for a few weeks (good news, both the German and Ecuador visas were valid! 😆). We needed to go back for a couple of reasons. Technically, our residence permit in Germany becomes invalid if we’re gone for more than a year (we have an exception for this, but you never know). Also, Shane (and Lucie) needed to check in with the lab in person. However, the primary reason for going back was for them to go to the European Society for Evolutionary Biology conference, which just happened to be in Prague this year (darn!).

Honestly, in Munich we didn’t really do much, so I’ll gloss over our time there. We spent most of our time catching up on dentist and doctors appointments and other adult-like tasks, reveling in the immense options of the massive grocery stores, and beyond that… doing absolutely nothing. However, did meet up with a few friends and check one thing off my Munich bucket list, watching the trains from the Hackerbrücke! Oh, and we couldn’t leave Munich without a maß. 🤷‍♀️

We definitely experienced a few shocks coming back to Europe, the first one being how damn expensive everything was! And I don’t mean inflation; we’ve gotten used to Ecuador prices!

Second, my, lower body is no longer bike-trained… and I’m not talking about my quads! We picked up our bikes from storage and went back to our normal biking ways. After three days I looked at Shane and practically begged him to please, let’s just walk! I couldn’t handle it!

Third, the air is SO DRY. I’ve embraced being a disgustingly sweaty human for all my waking hours (literally). Walk anywhere and you’re sweating. Hell, just stand in a shop for too long and you’ll be dripping sweat. Being back in Germany was the exact opposite. I mean, weather patterns, different climates, blah blah; I get it. But I forgot the feeling of your nose being so dry that it makes you sneeze and the constant need for lotion.

Finally, the roads! The glorious autobahn! ITS SO SMOOTH! 😂 I’ve mentioned before, coming back from our butterfly collecting trip we have to take a 13-hour bus ride. For me, there is essentially no chance of sleeping on this bus because the roads are so curvy. There are no massive highways in this part of Ecuador (the Pan American Highway is near Quito). So, I was shocked when I realized that I ACTUALLY napped on the bus ride from Munich to Prague and back.

As I said, the main reason for going to Prague was the conference, and *humble brag* my main squeeze gave a presentation!

I found the conference to be a delight! This was the first time that I came with Shane as an accompanying person. Basically, this meant that I was allowed to come to the welcome festivities and a couple of other events, but I also snuck in for Shane’s talk and the evening poster sessions with drinks and snacks (🤷‍♀️).

Given that all the lab folks were busy science-ing, I turned the poster session into my own “spot-the-lab-member” game.

The conference center’s view.

While Shane spent the week stuffing his brain with knowledge, I did some sightseeing. I went to the Museum of Communism (lots of reading but well worth it), up the Old Town Bridge Tower on the Charles Bridge (Shane was devastated to miss the 138 stairs to the top), and took myself out to some delicious lunches.

I also went on a walking tour courtesy of my “accompanying person” status. So, uh, funny story. I accidentally joined a private tour not the free tour from the conference… and it was in Spanish. 😳😆

So, what had happened was that the conference gave two time options for the tour: Monday and Thursday. Shane’s talk was on Monday, so I opted for the Thursday tour, which Shane scheduled for me via the conference administrators. Thursday rolls around; I showed up on time but the tour operator was really confused, as was I because I appeared to be the only one there for the tour. After a few phone calls, the tour operator points me towards a small bus with an older couple and a tour guide and tells me to join them.

“Are you sure?” “Yes, yes, its ok!”

Turns out, I got the date wrong; the 2nd tour option was on TUESDAY not Thursday, and they made me a last-minute addition on this lovely couple from Chile’s PRIVATE Spanish tour. 🤦‍♀️

Hey, at least I got some Spanish practice, right?!

To be honest, the tour was lovely. We toured the castle, tried chocolate beer, and walked all through the old town. Once the couple realized that I wasn’t going to commandeer the tour with English they warmed up to me, and we had a nice (but basic) chat in Spanish at the end where I graciously thanked them for letting me crash their tour!

Prague is also known for its beer; it’s literally cheaper than water! So, the Merrill lab did a Prauge Craft Beer Tour! And yes, I long-ago inserted myself as an honorary Merrill lab member. The highlight of the tour was the final stop at the beer gardens in Letná!

The lab
The Ecuador Dream Team!

Shane also managed to sneak out of the conference so we could go to the National Museum. It’s part history, part natural history, part… I’m not sure because we didn’t make it to that annex! The museum itself is huge, but the inside is beautiful and worth the visit. Not to mention, they have a wooly mammoth!

Watch out, kids! It’s my turn!

That about sums up our trip to Europe! Per usual, it was a whirlwind trip, but it was fun to spend more time in Prague. Of course, we had to do a little photo recreation… 😜


Hasta luego,

Whitney

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