Thursday, January 5, 2012

"Tak szaleje pół miasta tu co dzień..."

I longed for the last days of the year to be as crazy as two years ago at Budapest Winter Camp. When my plans significantly changed and I knew I would be off for NYE, I didn't wait a while and registered for the next Winter Camp in my CouchSurfing history, this time in Prague.

The city I used to under-appreciate as a kid since it was "too close to Poland," this time showed its totally different side to me.

In Budapest my travelmate Iza and me wanted to take everything we could from the event. That meant dancing the night away for 5 nights in a row, getting 4 hours of sleep a day, waking up at 9 and rushing to the events until the day took full circle. On the top of that, more side effects included: losing our voices, not being able to cooperate with our hosts and hitchhiking drivers on the way back home, hitchhiking with 37-something fever and being carriers of an epidemic for 2 more weeks after making it home. Not surprising after carelessly running outside with just swimming suits on in the Széchenyi thermal bath and long exposure to sub-zero temperatures.

This time I took it easy. I took the time to get to know new friends, spend time with my host, get some sleep as well. During the day different events were organized, like City Race, street art tour, cemetery walk, City Run, free hugs, as well as  a couple of day trips to other places nearby.

Singles are free. The married ones had to get to the next checkpoint tied with scarves (City Race).

How to kiss the horse?

Hugs are for free.

Guido, don't scare the baby!


Staroměstské náměstí

I tried to find graffiti of a hedgehog in a cage. I didn't find the hedgehog but I found some words of wisdom.

City Run was the daytime event I liked the most. More because of the spirit of competition than the final result.

We worked in teams of two and had altogether 12 questions to answer and tasks to complete. What was "African" about this race? When you mark the borders of the historical city center of Prague, the formed shape resembles Africa. And so the questions had hints that were the name of the country where certain place can be located, if you compare both maps. We had 2 hours to complete the race, those who come later would lose points.

Two hours before completing the task
Questions were easy, with the only difficult part being that some places were far apart from each other and we had to speed up. Tasks seemed to be easy but were nothing but. Get at least 200 ml of water from Vltava (my partner Rick and I found an island in the river where it was easy to reach the water without unwanted bath). Take a photo of yourself with a very drunken person (Prague train station is too clean to have any drunken people). Get a stamp from a post office (hard to find any that was open on the New Year's day).

Multivitamin juice straight from Vltava
We finished the run in a way that lived up to its name. After finding out at the main train station when Joseph Fanta was born, we only needed a post stamp. We assumed this one can be ignored and instead we can say that they're not open on that day. Luckily, a woman on the street gave us the most valuable information: "There's one post office 200 meters from here." And then the run started. We ran into the  post office and insisted on having the paper stamped: "We're in a game and that's the last task!" The clock ticked... Now there was no time to take it slow.

"The GPS says it's only 750 meters more! We can make it!", Rick encouraged me while I thought to myself "My poor knees, have mercy on me." I felt blood start to rush to my face.
"500 meters more! 450 meters! It's not that much!"
"I can't make it!"
"Only 250 meters! You can make it, Ewelina!"
"My legs hurt too much!"
"A few meters more.. here's the end!"

I pushed the door open and headed to the area where some couchsurfers already waited for other participants. Sit sit sit. It was one of the moments when you hurt so much you don't feel the pain. My knees felt like squished. I longed for a drink and for fresh air. But the thing that cheered me through to the other side was the organizers announcing we had completed the task in 2 hours, just on time! We walked, ran and only once used a taxi!

While waiting for the verdict, we were amused by a discussion "Whose is Borneo?"

Finally the cherry on the cake arrived: "You are the winners!" The precious moment! Thank you, the woman on the street! If not your information about the post office, we would have blown our chances to succeed!

Celebrating the victory, champagne came at midnight!
One thing is sure: the more the camp advanced, the more it focused entirely on the nights. They started with International Night (durian sweets from Malaysia, my favorite Dutch stroopwafel, sugary cranberry liquor from Finland, Turkish delights, French Bûche de Noël, Polish kutia, getting blatantly drunk with whatever we could get), then followed by dance workshops (still many days to go before I learn to dance tango the, hmm... sensual way), battle of nations (where the winners in every category were Germany, Germany, Germany; the masters of the best gay couple kiss - but the Team Expats was awesome too!) and dancing until the main venue, Meet Factory, closed.

It was my first beer since 3 years -4months! Photo by Elpida
"German gay couple wins!" Photo by Franci
So many fond memories... It was hard to farewell each other and head back to everyday life, definitely far less exciting by comparison. After the party marathon I was so happy to come home to the warm and cozy comfort of my heavenly bed. The exhaustion is still here but a couple of days spent with other couchsurfers, meeting old friends who had all been pulled apart after BPWC and making new ones was worth it. Nobody looks back at their life and remembers the nights they got plenty of sleep, right?

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