Grundtvig Workshop: This is charming and lovable Europe!

Article published on Oct. 31, 2011
community published
Article published on Oct. 31, 2011
By Elina Makri On 1998, Depeche Mode were singing, ''it’s only when I lose myself in someone else that I find myself”

This is what happened last week when I had to pass an entire week with 13 Europeans exploring backpack journalism and creative writing in Unesco City of Design, Graz, Austria.

Not only did I had to spend seven entire days with these guys, share ideas and techniques but foremost, pass my free time, hung out with them and share with monastic discipline three daily meals in the auspices of European Grundtvig Workshop.

And the song goes There is a thousand reasons why I shouldn‘t spend my time with you, For every reason not to be here, I can think of two…

One can read at the page of the European Commission, “Launched in 2000, the Grundtvig programme focuses on the teaching and study needs of learners taking adult education and ‘alternative’ education courses.

Yes, but there is more to that. Much more.

A good start.

Taking the train from Vienna to Graz, I had to traverse northeast Austria, passing almost a breath distance from Eastern Europe and the Balkans.

Travelling abeam Europe with the train, time to think, contemplate, away from home. I am already in a good mood.

IMG00407-20111017-1406.jpg Walking along Mur, the Grazian river, I took some deep breaths of cold air and remembered my student life in the north of Europe, the carefree moments of being in a place where I am not supposed to be. Back to the hotel, meeting point at 19:50 for our first get together dinner. Miss Denmark, Miss Slovenia, two Czechs “demoiselles”, Mr England and Mr Latvia were there. Self discovery just begun. First tales from home. I had my honors; Greece is in the world agenda.

austria03.jpg Next morning, working sessions begun at Karina’s floor, at the premises of the association, a typical Austrian house in the woods that gives the impression it has just escaped from a fairy tale. Brainstorming and writing, 13:00 sharp time to lunch. It is undisputable that eating with someone is supposed to be a sort of intimate and highly social moment of sharing and behaving. Cultures unfold, perplexity mechanisms put into practice, savoir vivre in all its splendid, at least for the first day. Then, I was among friends.


Something beautiful is happening inside of me

Long walks, chats, a visit to the local free Radio, drinks at the local Irish pub after the work, the hot red wine, all moments that created more intimacy and contributed to get to know each other. The stories from home, personal narratives. Now, I get what Czechs feel about Russians when they expect them still to speak Russian, refusing to communicate in english, “a thing left from the days of the Occupation”, or what is the situation with the Austrian youth, the difficulties that one can meet several resemblances with the naughty European south (shhhh, we do not talk about it). Thank you Juris for reminding that Latvia’s capital, Riga, is also situated by the sea and that his home town is struggling to find its way between religion and ethnography all by “Preserving Centuries” of history.

My mind is already back in Athens, at the demonstrations, the riots, the uncertain future, the yet to come. Taking my distances from home, made me realize where I belong, my priorities and what I want from life, and all that, just by having the chance to share, expose and explain what I do back, home.

A mosaic of idiosyncrasies

austria01.jpg And the time of the intercultural dinner, all the laughs, introduction to new flavors, tastes and drinks, the story behind the traditional dishes and the question that freezes the atmosphere, “do you think we will ever become the United States of Europe?” “Not, unless we get to know each other”!


austria04.jpg Last talks

And the I-hate-goodbyes-last night, a promise project for Japan and the last moment, outside the hotel room, share the dominant thoughts of this week’s, or was it of the previous?

Letting get deep into methexis

Beyond any romance, I believe the essence of Europe is hidden somewhere here, European Union, offers a wonderful chance to spend useful time, to live with other nationalities that we will probably face the same destiny and have the chance to work, project and live together. Journalists operate through distance. I am glad to indulge into methexis.

And what if distance passes through methexis?

And so the end begins.

We say that real trip starts with landing at home, when you have the chance to see your own home with a fresh look.

The song of this trip.

Shut the gates and sunset

After that you can't get out

You can see the bigger picture

Find out what it’s all about

You're open to the skyline

You won't want to go back home

In a garden full of angels

You will never be alone

But oh! the road is long

The stones that you are walking on

Have gone

This is for Karina, thank you for letting this happen, charming Helena, airy Ida, funky Sara, mild Nikola, timid Galya, smiley Katarina, fast moving Joao, easygoing Alin, our oh-so-Brittish Thomas, traditional Juris and last but not least, Jorge, my Spanish comrade-in-arms!