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American in Brno: Love/Hate Relationship

What an exchange student from Philadelphia loves and hates about Brno after two months in here.

Me with a city view of Brno.

Riding on the bus back from Krakow at 2am wishing I was back in my room already made me realize something. I missed Brno. You know how when you go away and it gets to that point when you just want to go back to your bed and what’s familiar (especially when sitting on a bus for five hours). Well Brno has become that place for me now.

I am Kaleah Mcilwain an exchange student from Philadelphia, USA. I have been in Brno for a little over two months now and I would like to dedicate this blog to all the things about Brno that I like and the things that I do not.

My favorite things
My first favorite thing about Brno is still the food. In my first blog I talked about how there were so many different places to eat within the city center and now having been here for some time I can attest to said places having really good food.

My absolute favorite place to eat no matter what or when in doubt, is this Vietnamese place in the city center called GO. I could eat there all the time. If I am in the mood for some pizza or pasta I know that La Speranza has the best pizza and pasta I have had in Brno. If I want to grab something quick to eat between classes or on my way to work I can stop at the cafe inside the Faculty of Social Studies and grab a ham and cheese panini (they are some really good quick lunch items there). Or I can visit one of the food windows on the street to get a tortilla kebab or a slice of pizza.

​Vietnamese restaurant GO.

When I have some time to kill and want to sit down in a cafe I know that cafe TeeVee is nice but it is small, Aida, while it has tiramisu and space, does not have good wifi, and Starbucks has the best wifi but is usually crowded but most likely your best bet when in doubt.

Also if you are wondering, no I have not tried traditional Czech food exactly. Which seeing as I only have a couple weeks left here I should probably get around to that. I have tried some things here and there but not an actual Czech meal. I don’t think I would even know where to go. I am open to suggestions, where would be a good place to try traditional Czech food?

The people!

My second favorite thing about Brno has to be the people. Now I know this may seem strange but Brno has a very eclectic mix of people. During my time in Brno I think I have encountered more people from outside Brno than I have people who are from here. That may have something to do with the fact that I am an exchange student and spend most of my time around other students, however, I do spend my fair share of time away from the university.

This was also further proved when I was asking random people on the street about Brno and I think I stopped more people who weren’t from Brno than I did actual natives of the city. All in all it makes for a very interesting group of people that you see everyday.

Transportation and shopping: Inexpensive and easy

I also like the accessibility to transportation and how cheap it is here. Traveling from Brno is one of the easiest things to do. You can catch a bus or train to almost all surrounding countries and do so for really good prices. I have done some traveling of my own and have always been able to find quick and inexpensive buses or trains to other cities. (I will tell more about my other travels abroad later).

Traveling from and to Brno is one of the easiest things to do.

But more about how cheap Brno is (compared to America). As far as choosing a random place to study abroad I think I did pretty good in choosing Brno. To live in this city is far less expensive than it would cost me to live where I am from. Just the other day I went to lunch and spent less than 100 CZK on a whole meal.

I also go grocery shopping and I love to shop, any form of shopping whether for food or clothes, and I am one of those people that always ends up with way more stuff than they planned to have; but that doesn’t matter here because when I make it to the checkout and I am cringing inside because I know I have picked up too many things I don’t really need, the cashier tells me how much and I have spent and it is no where near how much I thought I was. So it is always a win win situation.

I say all this to say that Brno has become familiar. I no longer stand in the middle of the city center looking around to find somewhere to go or searching on my phone looking up places to try out or things to do. I have established my place within this host country. A kind of routine if you will.

Still have some bones to pick
However, there are still some small things about Brno that exasperate me. Yes this is completely me nitpicking but seeing as how this is my blog I am going to tell you anyways.

For starters, the hot chocolate here. At first it seemed that I could not find anywhere that had hot chocolate. In my first week or two I think I went to like four places and they either did not have hot chocolate on the menu or they had it on the menu but did not actually sell it (why? I have no clue).

Proper hot chocolate with whipped cream that tastes as it should.​

But things started to turn around and I was able to find hot chocolate more and more. And my general consensus on hot chocolate in Brno is that it sucks. I was never aware that there were so many different ways to mess up hot chocolate, but yes there are plenty and I think I have encountered all of them right here in Brno.

What I noticed first was the consistency. Hot chocolate is a liquid not a pudding so why is the hot chocolate here so thick. It is like literal melted chocolate which is nice and all because I love chocolate, however, it is not something I want to drink a full cup of. Then the places that get the consistency right because they actually add milk, it tastes horrible. At one place I went to adding sugar to it wasn’t even helping.

So while Brno is big on their beer and coffee, I guess they do not particularly care for hot chocolate. Although I have come across a place or two that has good hot chocolate, one being the Kofi Kofi carts on the street.

You may be wondering why the sudden rant about hot chocolate. Well as you know I do not like beer and I can not drink caffeine so the next best thing (to me) is hot chocolate or at least it was. Now I just prefer to avoid the gamble with whether places make it the way I think it should be made or not. Fortunately, I have had way better luck with trying hot chocolate in other countries.

One more note relating to the hot chocolate thing, what is up with the whipped cream here? It taste like nothing. I know I may have a slight sugar addiction but tasteless whipped cream is just cruel and unusual.

So many problems at dorms

Another bone to pick is my dorm here. Vinarska A2 is a nightmare. I am pretty sure I have had to call the handyman so much that he is getting tired of seeing me. First it was the tub contrapment thing they got going on in here, then it was the dryer, then the lights, next the door, and now the fridge. I have never encountered so many problems staying in one place for only two months. Like honestly this building is so old I am not sure how they still allow students to live in here, something breaks or stops working every two seconds.

Dorms at Vinařská.

And they really should invest in some wi-fi because it is 2017. Even the ethernet cable that you have to set up does not work all the time. My internet stops working even with that cable. All I am saying is that some upgrades could go a long way here.

As you can see me and Brno have a love/hate relationship. Although there are far more things that I like than I dislike.

While I have come to know some things about Brno there are still tons of things I have not seen or tried. But on the bright side the Christmas markets are starting soon and there is snow in the forecast!