Letní univerzity jsou tento rok nenávratně za námi a tak nezbývá už jen vzpomínat, co jsme všechno zažili, a těšit se, až potkáme znovu nové kamarády z celé Evropy. Stejně zavzpomínal i účastník naší letní univerzity, kterou jsme letos pořádali s AEGEE-Plzeň, a napsal krásný článek o tom, co všechno zažil. Děkujeme Bastiaanovi za jeho úžasný příspěvek 🙂 Originál příspěvku můžete najít zde.
And there you are. You do not really know anyone of the thirty-something people surrounding you, but they all have the same excited looks on their faces, because they, too, are far from home. This will be your family for the coming two weeks, and you like the idea.
“Czech Mission: Possible” hosted a huge variety of Europeans, with origins ranging from tropical places like Las Palmas to eastern cities like Dnipropetrovsk in Ukraine. We signed up to experience some adventurous activities that we would not likely find in our home countries. It was generally expected by the participants that in a Travel Summer University in Czech Republic this would come down to: hiking, rafting, culture and a good look at the City of One Hundred Towers (which is Prague’s nickname). We should have known that this was only partially right.
After the ice-breaking games, a nice tour of the city of Brno (which included a bizarre descent into a so-called “bone cellar”, where human bones and skulls are used to build – seriously – walls and sculptures) and a very nuts European Night to which every participant had brought more liquor than food, everybody realised that the group was crazy. Who was this Spanish señorita, teaching us a Flamenco dance that includes “take the apple – bite the apple – and throw it away with passion”? Or this Greek girl, who is not interested in politics and does not care about anyone’s opinion about the Greek economy? Or the Dutch guy, unbuttoning in the hallway for free? Our hugely celebrated gossip wall had a lot to endure that night.
Really surprising to most people, however, were the advantages of brewing beer in your own country and refusing to join the euro. Beer in Czech Republic will cost you on average 30 crowns, which is about 1,20 euro, and they come in 0,5 litres. But this is not your common Heineken, we’re talking some of the finest beers in this part of the globe here. It is considered normal to take one for lunch and some for dinner. Of course, none of us was so arrogant as to ignore this lovely tradition. And for some reason, this gave an unexpected twist to the Summer University…
The nutrition was badly needed, though, as the program was murderously tightly planned (no possibility of Spanish time, or even AEGEE-time, just German efficiency please), and we managed to kart, do a survival course, have a first-aid course, learn the basics of Czech, and even have a small party every now and then. It was amazing to see how easily people bonded and amused themselves by teasing each other. There was one interesting hype that involved imitating a turtle with your hands whenever a conversation or situation got too awkward – but even more fascinating perhaps were the awkward turkey and awkward chicken. You had to see it to believe it.
After having visited Znojmo and a lovely wine-cellar there, we continued to Vyšší Brod for the highlight of our Summer University: the rafting. Sleeping was in tents and tepees along the way, eating at campfires while singing along with a guitar, and there was burning sun in the day and rumbling thunder every night. It may sound a little dangerous, and perhaps that was why we were given a whole day to cross a parcours that should normally take four hours. Anyway, we learned to sing like sailors, bump into other boats like sailors, steal drinks from other boats like sailors, and oh, occasionally even sail like sailors.
Group spirit was high when we arrived in Český Krumlov, also known as the most beautiful city in Czech Republic. It was here that we wandered through Medieval-style streets, feeling like troubadours or artists, sipping cocktails and dropping our jaws at the musicians on the street, the houses built hundreds of years ago and the Czech art that was for exposure in every street.
A lot was learned about the very basis of Czech culture when the group arrived in the wonderful city of Plzeň, where the first beer was brewed. We visited the beer brewery of Pilsner Urquell, and were approaching the end of our trip. We had a “C for Czech”-party: wear some clothes that start with the letter “C”. One German, one Dutch, and one Spanish dude decided that it was the right moment to look “colourful” and donned themselves some pink masks (“This is not gay at all. It is just three guys in pink masks.”), somebody was found in a “cape” and there were some smart people attending the party as “couple”. By this time, after about one and a half week of hiking, studying new cultures and dancing, we were exhausted. We had taken a thousand group pictures, eaten stuff that we had never expected to eat and gotten close to people within days that back home would have taken us months to get to know. The one thing that made us all not go to bed, that kept us going for the last city rally, the last party, the last beer, was the group. You just did not want to leave it, as they were such great people, and our time was limited.
When Prague finally happened, we spent a lovely day there visiting some of the highlights and partying to sixties, seventies and eighties music for the last time. People got sick on this last day, and we were not sure whether it was caused by the food they had eaten or just by the aching feeling in our stomachs that we all felt when our Ukranian hero was the first to leave. The following days were extra heavy when some of our brilliant organisers took off, then half the group, and then more people every day. One Spanish die-hard guy had decided to stick around longer, and was the only one to enjoy the wonderful feeling of being able to take a group picture without having to shout it around ten times: he could simply take the camera and point it at himself.
But the feeling that stuck with me in the airplane back home was not sadness. It was the sheer pleasure of having made friends all through Europe, having gained first-person information about complicated topics like the financial problems in Spain and Greece, having seen the differences in culture between Germany and Azerbaijan up close (and realising there is actually more similarity than difference) and having experienced a holiday like locals would, not like tourists. We had the time of our life. The end of one thing, the beginning of something else. We were, as Tina Turner put it on the last night in Prague, simply the best.