Since a few years me and a dutch friend who I met years ago in Latvia, have a tradition: every year we celebrate new years eve together, somewhere in Europe with people we meet there. This year I nearly chickened out: too much work had to be done for Frollein Europa, spending a few days abroad didn’t really fit in my working schedule… But in the end we just decided, to spend half a day every day working. And that I’ll write a blogpost about Prague.
As always Eline and I used couchsurfing for traveling. First, we stayed with a really nice host who had tonnes of Christmas cookies and a wide knowledge about Prague. But this isn’t the story I want to tell you, I want to take you to my New Years Eve.
I hope you enjoy.
The Strahov Students dormitory is located high on a mountain above Prague, right next to the Strahov Stadium, the world biggest stadium. In CSSR times thousands of men in white underwear danced here to show the strength of the Sowjet Union.
Today little remains to the former glory. Concrete walls scratch the blue sky. The ten dormitory blocks aren’t scratching the sky, nor do they remind to former glory. They must have been ugly from the moment they were built. One after another they stay in two rows, distinguishable form each other just by the black number above the entrance. Sport grounds are located between the two rows and I didn’t even need to close my eyes to imagine seeing young men preparing hard to contribute their little piece in the competition of systems.
One of the Blocks, the number 8, is exclusive for the exchange students, around 300 are living here. If you enter the building you will find long white corridors and a full condom dispenser next to the empty coca-cola dispenser in the lobby. But in difference to the stadium these gray buildings are in glory right now. Even if they don’t look like this, the students make them the best place to live ever. None of the apartment doors is closed and by walking by you can catch little pieces of students life. The moment we arrived everybody was preparing for the big new years eve dinner, in the apartment we were invited to stay two Argentinian boys just discussed with another girl if there should be onion spring in the tapas filling. Within seconds I was catapulted from the past to the great present of the last day of 2012.
Strahov Stadium today, found here
Andres places the big kettle full of tapas fillings, without onion springs, on the table, sees somebody he hasn’t seen in a long while and leaves to talk to him. Andres is the one who brought us here. An Argentinian exchange Student with one free bed in his apartment, where Eline and I stay now. Besides him and his two flatmates we don’t know any of the laughing and chatting faces around us.
While I’m occupied with watching all the people and the table full of good smelling food, Eline starts to talk with Cristos the Greek flatmate of Andres. He offers us some traditional greek food he has brought and tells Eline about being a Erasmus student in Prague. I get into a conversation with a Bulgarien girl, who is planning on moving to Prague permanently because she deeply fell in love with the city. After a while she leaves me for another girl and I have a moment to watch the scenario. People from all over the world, but mostly Europe, are together in the small room. Some are playing table kicker, it seems like Germany and Italy win against Russia and France. Some are grouping around the table and a bunch of people dances to their favorite songs from 2012. More or less traditional food from everybody’s home country gives the room a delicious smell. Eventhough I can hear a lot of languages, english seems to be most common. I’d say around 90% here are Erasmus-Students. It might be that every prejudice against Erasmus Students is true – sure we did not learn anything for university this night and for most of the people this is true also during the whole semester. But one should never forget that academic learning isn’t always most important, espacially if it comes to international understanding. In my opinion Erasmus is one of the best programs the EU ever had, it connects young people and if you want to explore the feeling of a united Europe simply join a dinner like this.
Anyhow, after a while I concentrate my attention on Eline and Christos again. They were talking about Greece’s economical situation. Christos noticed that I was listening. “You know, I don’t like European politic at the moment, but it is really cool to be here in Prague, to host you and Eline, and that shows me, that, after all, Europe has to be something good!” I smile, watch all the happy faces and nod. Due to all the people, the windows are steamed up and someone reminds us that the fireworks will start soon.
A few seconds later we all run down the hill towards beautiful Prague and the amazing fireworks.