The EUDC Trip
The European Universities Debating Championship is the second biggest debating event in the world and it takes place every year at the beginning of August. This year SSER&LMT Debate Society was represented by two teams – Tadas Stankevičius & Edgaras Marcinkus and Lauma Vernere & Ieva Skrīvere. Of course, it was a great honour to have this opportunity; however, there was a slight problem with the transportation: there are no direct flights to Belgrade, Serbia where the tournament was held. Therefore, we decided to make a bit of a euro trip. So, please, enjoy our compilation of travelling tips, random unforgettable adventures and legendary stories.
We started our the trip with a flight from Riga to Oslo, and then another flight to Budapest. Getting off the plane around midnight while it was °C hot was a pleasant surprise. Therefore, we decided to save money and not go to a hotel. Instead, we went to the centre of Budapest to see what the city has to offer. After visiting some local pubs some of us started to feel the first signs of exhaustion after the flights. At that point the initial plan of spending the night outside did not seem so brilliant anymore. Lauma and Edgaras were so tired that they chose to sleep on a bench on the side of the street, while Tadas and me stayed awake to guard the bags and the wellbeing of the two sleeping beauties. And this is when the fun began! Around 5am a local Hungarian went out of a nearby house to walk his small Chihuahua. The first thing the dog did was peeing on the bench of the sleeping beauties. Then it ran to a local homeless people gang that was having a party next to a bus stop. One member of the gang (may I add: he was without a shirt because of the heat) was angry at the dog; therefore, he took out his belt and tried to hit the dog. However, as he took the belt out, his pants dropped down to the ground. So there he was, wearing only his underpants in the centre of Budapest. But that was not yet the end of the night. After about an hour another member of the gang (let’s call him Mr. Hepatitis) came to us asking for cigarettes. But when he saw that there are two girls on the bench, Mr. Hepatitis became very friendly: he started calling us “his Mademoiselles”, was asking for group pictures, and tried to buy us.
Euro trip tip #1: Getting new friends is cool, getting random diseases from them is not.
Next morning after 7 hours on a train we finally arrived in Belgrade. The first impression – the Balkan heat is something that we will have to get used to.
Euro trip tip #2: when it is +38°C during the day, +30°C during the night, and the air conditioning is broken, ice-cold vodka bottles from the mini-bar on your face help falling asleep.
The local culture was a bit unusual for our Western-oriented minds; just to get the feeling of what the country is about, here comes a small dialogue right before leaving the hotel:
Lauma: Should we leave the window open?
Ieva: Nu, it is the 10th floor.
Lauma: It is Serbia!
The tournament consisted of 5 days of intense debating. Some of the topics were:
· THBT the music industry should not facilitate the comebacks of artists who committed violent crimes.
· THBT the Palestinians should accept complete demilitarisation in return for a guaranteed sovereign state.
· THW amend the US constitution to prohibit any involvement by religious organizations in the electoral process.
But debating is nothing without a good party at the end of the day. This year organizers were really creative while choosing the places for the events: we had socials in a replica of an old market, on a boat, on a tennis court, and in an old castle. But the best event was definitely the final night when the organizing team decided to make an open bar party. The flows of rakija really were unlimited. The great party made some adjustments to our next morning’s plans: a true SSER debater would never leave an open bar to go to a 5am train to Ljubljana. We would have been even happier if the 9am train wasn’t so full that we had to sit on the ground for 10 hours. Luckily we met two really friendly backpackers from France, who made the trip a lot more interesting, for example, by the telling the story of their gold fish George: bought for 1 euro in Prague, now he was travelling across Europe in a plastic box with them.
After a day in Ljubljana, we took a train to Sežana, a small Slovenian border town. Although Villa Opicina (a small border town in Italy) was just 3 km away, there was no public transportation between the two cities. Therefore, we crossed the border like typical Eastern European immigrants. When we finally arrived in the city, we asked a local scout for further directions, and he suggested taking a historical tram to the seaport city of Trieste. During the day we were fancy tourists that visit the sightseeing sites and enjoy the local cuisine. But during the night we returned back to our homeless people lifestyle. While we were sleeping on the floor at the train station, a man who seemed to be living there offered us cardboard boxes as a mattress.
Euro trip tip #3: If a бомж gives you cardboard boxes, take them; it is so much better than sleeping on the floor.
Next morning we took yet another train to Venice. Although in the beginning we thought that this is going to be the most interesting city from our euro trip, we were unpleasantly surprised of how dull the city actually is. Moreover, everything is massively overpriced.
Euro trip tip #4: Al banco means takeaway, Al tavolo means that you are going to stay in the cafe. The difference in prices is at least 2 euros per each item you eat. Don’t waste money; eat outside sitting on the stairs!
Soon we were tired of the tourist masses; therefore, we took a train to a smaller city Treviso. A local Italian uncle took us to an authentic restaurant with pizzas, pastas and everything else you could find in the Italian cuisine. After spending all the money that we had saved by not staying in a hotel on food we finally went to the airport and took a flight to Brussels. There we had a choice of either spending unreasonable amounts of money to get to the city and spend the night there, or just stay and sleep in the airport. For us, the tired people, it was an easy choice. Next morning we had the last flight of the euro trip, so after 2 hours we landed in Kaunas. The +15°C winter weather in the middle of August was a bit unbearable, but at least then we knew exactly where we were. And we did not have to sleep on the street anymore!
After visiting 9 countries in 12 days we can say that everyone has to have a euro trip in his life, so that you know for sure why you should never do that again.