So, my camera arrived! I am still astounded by the generosity of ‘Hip’ (their term, not mine) Mistral Cafe who sent it all the way back to Poland. It’s amazing the faith in humanity travelling can restore for you.
As the College split into 4 groups, heading to Georgia/Armenia, Belgium/Luxembourg, the Baltic and of course the Visegrad, I was apprehensive about whether I’d made the right choice. Turns out it couldn’t have been a better one. With only 21 students, we really bonded as a group. I feel I know not only a lot more about the ancient and yet modern Visegrad group, but I also know a lot of the students even better.
The Visegrad is a group of 4 countries within the EU (Hungary, Czechia, Poland and Slovakia), united to some extent by their history as well as cultures, and committed to working together. We had some really impressive meetings, with leading academics, politicians and even Commissioners, all of whom were very open. Each country was also very different, which begged the question of how they work together (they don’t always). However by binding together through their history and a collective recognition of the need to cooperate; a interesting dynamic is created: no matter how euro sceptic they may be, they remain committed to Europe.
So study trips aren’t always known for entailing vast amounts of studying and I definitely got to make the most of each country.
Prague was beautiful, despite the weather. Still recovering from a bit of virus, I didn’t stay out too late, nor did I get to run (an aim in each city); but a visit to the opera (with English subtitles), a walking tour and jazz bar certainly let me taste Prague again – as did the goulash! Moreover I didn’t miss out on the opportunity to visit my favourite haunt either: Cafe Louvre…
Our visit to Bratislava was short to say the least. I’d been told not to expect too much and welcomed the prospect of a single night only before heading for 3 days in Budapest. how surprised I was then to find a beautiful old town with a delightfully easy-going atmosphere after the more impersonal hustle and bustle of Prague. The sun came out too and I even got to run.
The nicest surprise of Bratislava whoever was to see my friend Sophia again. Travelling all the way from Austria (ok it’s 60km to Vienna – but still), we enjoyed a great catch-up over Thai food before visiting a ‘secret speak-easy’ she knew in a cupboard.
Budapest was – hot. Shedding our coats, evening the evening, I felt like I was on holiday (albeit with a lot of conference rooms, but just as much ice cream). It’s much bigger than Prague or Bratislava (after all it was 2 cities), but after 2 days I felt at least a little bit acclimatised. This was perhaps aided by a trip to the Gellert Baths – with a 36 degree Celsius pool outside and a 40 degree Celsius one inside, it really was an experience.
Finally, we rounded off the trip with a quick stop off at the in-restoration Visegrad Palace, seeing where the Treaty of 1991 was actually signed between the then 3 countries, before heading back to our final V4 destination, Warsaw.
All in all, what a chance and what a trip.
*Just don’t think about the fact it’s like a big lab incubator…