|We avoided the fate of many: two hours crowded in the aisles.|
We spent three nights in Prague, and felt like we could easily have enjoyed another few. We loved most everything about the city: handsome buildings, interesting neighborhoods, good transportation, inexpensive prices, multitude of vegan restaurants, not too many tourists, etc. There were many Segway rental shops, and loads of Segways in the squares and streets.
|The John Lennon wall is a popular attraction in Prague.|
|View of the castle in Prague from a yummy vegan restaurant|
We left Prague on our "Bergfest" day. That's a term we learned from Anita, which signifies the middle of a project or workweek or whatever. It was day 67 out of 134. It was kind of fitting to be getting to the farthest place geographically on that day: Martin in Slovakia. We're here to participate in SES (Somera Esperanto Studado), a 9-day Esperanto class that's held every year in Slovakia. Many of the people who come have learned Esperanto through Lernu.net on the Internet; sometimes this is their first chance to speak face-to-face with others.
Our train from Prague, supposed to take five hours, was so late to Žilina that we needed to quickly jump to our next train. But nobody spoke English and we couldn't tell which platform to go to, or even how to exit from the platform we were on. We ended up on a different train than intended, but fortunately a young woman spoke some English and told us how to recover.
When we got to the dormitories for SES, it wasn't reassuring to hear "The elevators are over there, but sometimes they don't work." This is for a 10-story building! Indeed, I get the impression that the dorm was built with cheap materials in the 1960s, and has never had any improvements since then. One example: in the shared bathroom, instead of towel racks or hooks, there's a cord hanging between two vertical pipes. There's no way to close the doors without making a slamming sound, so there's a constant barrage of bangs. Speaking of doors, this is the only place I've been where you could be accidentally locked inside the room. Worst of all, the Internet didn't work in our room for the first two days, and Les had to be very aggressive to find the help he needed to get it working; for sure, Les isn't a happy camper when he doesn't have the Internet.
|Improvised hooks on the door of our dormitory room in Slovakia|
We met interesting people from many countries—mostly Europe, but also Australia and East Timor. There were 190 participants from 25 countries, and the 12 instructors were each from a different country.
|View from Strečno Castle near Žilina|
|Les and I each gave a talk in our class.|
Esperanto draws a lot of professional linguists, and one of them gave a talk about how to distinguish the writing of various European languages. The projector showed the first sentence of the International Bill of Rights in 40 languages, one at a time. We had a few seconds to write down our guess as to the language, then he revealed which it was, and how the writing is different from any other language (perhaps both the "a" and the "o" can have a certain accent mark). Then he'd ask if somebody in the audience would read the paragraph, and usually there was a volunteer (for Catalan, or Albanian, or Macedonian, or whatever); but if not, then the instructor would read it himself—imagine being able to correctly pronounce 40 languages. As a bonus, I learned that Norwegian has two official written standards.
|One evening people shared typical foods from their countries.|
Despite the sub-par dorm experience, we can't complain at all about the price. For 8 nights stay, all meals, 25 hours of expert instruction, four bus excursions including admission fees, evening entertainment by various groups, the total for the two of us was about $700—quite the deal. This has been the longest stay in one place on our trip so far. Les, with his love of lists, has kept track of every place we've stayed this year, and it's 42 for me and 41 for him (he didn't come to Merida with me in January).
|Our class (one of 12) showing off our diplomas; Tim, our instructor, is the one without a diploma.|
Tomorrow, after the final classes, we're taking the train to Bratislava, and the following day to Budapest. Stay tuned...