By Mikko Keski-Laturi
Eastern Regional Congress (ERC) 2017 by EGEA Praha in Hrachov, Czechia was my first EGEA congress ever. The congress week taking place in the beginning of April (31.03.-05.04.2017) was intensive and full of program and truly a great experience! EGEANs from 28 entities representing 18 countries got to learn during the congress about the heritage of military areas, how opening of a former military area to the public can be managed. As a case study, we had the Brdy former military area, now a protected landscape area open for public, located very close to Hrachov.
After having explored Prague for a couple of days, it was time to head to the official opening of the ERC 2017 at the Faculty of Science of the Charles University (Univerzita Karlova). Before the opening ceremony, we had time to see the Albertov Street campus of UK, for example the magnificent map collections and just relax at the university in a summer-like atmosphere. During the opening ceremony, we learned a lot, for example, about the Brdy former military area and why to call Czechia Czechia and not Czech Republic anymore.
From the opening ceremony we continued our way by bus to Hrachov, a small village in the Bohemian countryside, that was now going to host more than 100 EGEAns during the congress week. Our accomodation, RS Star Line, was located in a beautiful place next to a river and surrounded by woods. During the congress days, we were studying the heritage of military areas from various perspectives covering both physical and human geography during lectures and workshops. Also events like regional meeting, EGEA fair and training sessions about different topics, such as low-cost traveling and dumpster diving, took place during the congress.
One of the highlights of the congress was the excursion day. The congress participants had a chance to choose one excursion out of five options having different focus to the Brdy area, such as hiking on the Brdy mountains, visiting a former military base and exploring the nearby cities and towns. I participated to the Přibrám city excursion.
During the day we visited the Přibrám Mining Museum (and even went underground there which was super exciting!), had a lecture at the Přibrám city hall by the municipality representatives about effects of the Brdy former military area for the city, had delicious Czech pastries in a local café, and finally climbed all the stairs up to the beautiful Svatá Hora pilgrimage site.
The congress contained also a lot more than the official part. During the workshops and free time we had time to enjoy the heat wave embracing Czechia and chill outdoors. The evening program was fantastic consisted of, for instance, Military Night and orienteering, Czech Night with some live music, Eurovision talent show and of course, a wonderful EGEA classic, the Cultural Fair.
For me, the best thing during the congress was definately to meet old EGEA and to get to know many new ones from all around Europe! I had never visited Czechia before so it was also great to see Prague and Czech countryside and learn about the Czech culture and nature. Not forgetting the Czech food and the excellent beers!