There are small joys in life – sitting by a fire with your friends, learning foreign words, swimming in a cold river, laughing with a friend or picking wildflowers from a nearby field. Those are just some of the things that made the big thing (= the project) so special.
Connect to Nature was a youth exchange project that took place from the 1st of September till the 10th of September in Slovenia. There were 7 of us from the Czech Republic who went on a journey to a small village in the Slovenian Alps. The village called Zgornje Gorje became our home for ten whole days and we got to spend them with 45 wonderful souls from six different countries. There was a team from Slovenia (of course), Ukraine, France, Turkey, Latvia and Hungary.
The topic of the youth exchange was connecting to nature and its impact on our well-being and awareness towards the environment. We had a lot of activities focusing on group sports activities, survival skills or outdoor treasure hunts. Due to the flawless weather, we were very lucky to spend every single day outside in the garden or in nearby fields overlooking the Slovenian Alps. We were located pretty close to Lake Bled (about 1 hour by foot) and a mountainous river (about 10 mins by foot), so there were always a lot of options to go swimming or hang out in nature during our free time. We would spend lots of our breaks lying in a hammock, sipping coffee, walking around or talking with our newly made friends from other countries.
For anyone curious about where we lived and what we ate: We stayed in EMAVS – a youth house with big yard and various playground objects (swings, monkey bars etc) and a basketball field. We were sleeping in shared rooms with bunk beds and shared bathrooms. It was always bit of a hassle to manage to get to shower, but somehow it worked out at the end, you just had to stay in line somedays! There was also a play-room in the house, where we played card or board games during the evening or in our free time.
One of my personal favourite activities from the project was a treasure hunt that we did on our first day. In our groups, we got a long list of different “tasks” with a certain number of points. The goal was to get as many points as possible and we got the whole day to play this game. Some of the tasks included: taking a picture with a fireman, get a kiss from a stranger, taking a photo with a fish, swimming in Bled, eating Kremšnita (the local cake) or finding and taking a photo of someone with shoe size 47. It was really so much fun and we got to know each other very well at the end of the day. The team that won received a suitcase full of sweets, chips and other snacks!
I asked some of the other participants about their favourite moment or an activity from the project and here are some of their answers:
Aous from France:
“The experience was truly amazing for me, and I was deeply impressed by the fantastic atmosphere that emerged during this project. What made it so special was the diverse backgrounds and experiences of our group members. Some of my favorite moments were when we gathered around a lively bonfire, sharing our knowledge and experiences. We couldn’t help but burst into laughter, sing songs, and thoroughly enjoy engaging in exciting activities together. Of all the workshops we attended, one that stood out to me was the one where we learned how to make ointments. It was a real joy collaborating with everyone to create these unique healing creams. And I have to give a special shout-out to the Czech team, they were simply the best! :D”
Isabella from Peru (living in France):
“I think was the cultural day. I didn’t know most of the countries and seeing dances and especially hearing the Ukrainian girls talking about the war… But I felt we all were in such a comfortable environment and even if we had done really weird cultural stuff we wouldn’t have been judged
+ everyone was really involved and since it was the last day and we knew it I felt vibes were superior”
Metahan from Turkey:
“My best moment in the whole project was me meeting with the people, getting to know you and Czech Republic and culture while we are dancing together at the fire place! That was my best moment in the whole project! Sadly, I don’t have any pictures or videos of my best moment. Wish we coulda had more time to spent in Slovenia. I am already preparing proper documents to move to Brno. I hope we can spend more time at Brno!”
Connect to Nature will be a special memory for all of us. We laughed a lot, did fun things, made new friends, and felt more connected to nature and ourselves. Leaving Zgornje Gorje, we felt happy, knowing we have new friends from different parts of the world who shared our summer 2023 adventure!