|International Vegetarian Union (IVU)|
What they said about it .... comments from some who were there:
Was a great event!
I think that´s all. Alex
I found the whole week very enjoyable and inspiring meeting 'old' and
making new friends.
I agree with Alex it was a great
event re organization at the Kulturpalast Dresden, translation to
English & quality of food. The youth hostel food, accommodation &
location was fine too. It was so nice that you did not have to worry
about what you could eat as it was all vegan.
and a much longer report from Gerry Coffey....
Hi, Everyone: Although Ray and I would have preferred to spread things out (over a few years, at least), the past 12 months have been one of the busiest and most traveled within memory. That, plus the diminished state of the U.S. dollar would have curtailed our attendance at the World Vegetarian Congress’ Centennial in Dresden, Germany, had we not ALREADY made plane reservations in advance of several fare increases.
Missing it would have been our GREAT loss, however, so THANK YOU! Hildi, John, and all the others whose fine planning and attention to detail made this historical event so memorable. The many adventures and misadventures we experienced, people we met, and history we learned, are another hallmark in our lives.
To capitalize on lower airfare, we arrived a few days prior to the Congress and though we had to pay a higher rate than the one Hildi negotiated for the Congress, we were able to arrange to stay at the Youth Hostel Hildi reserved for us. We found it to be very efficiently run and all the basic needs for sleeping, bathing and eating well provided (though it would have been nice to have ceiling fans for when the muggy temperatures got stifling;-).
The purchase of pre and post-Congress meals proved to be the most extravagant of our expenses! A breakfast of juice and fruit cost us the WHOPPING equivalent of U.S. $70.
Pre-Congress, we took a train to Berlin, stayed at another equally nice hostel, and then took a bus tour that included the infamous “Berlin Wall.” There is nothing like actually being there to make the history come alive. The words of a former German Ambassador to Thailand came to mind when I saw it: “To touch the Wall is touching.”
Back in Dresden, learning more about those caught behind the former Iron Curtain was also quite moving, and we thank the Congress Coordinators once again for having the foresight to select such an historic venue to hold the Centennial Congress. It was remarkable to see remnants of the destruction in Dresden resulting from warring forces and how caringly the historical landmarks have been restored.
Re: the Congress venue, the Kultural Palast: The main arena where talks were held was quite spectacular (though of course made for groups far larger than ours). Also, the woman who emceed the main sessions was very articulate and professional. Excellent choice! The staff who handled the sound and technical equipment was also very professional, and we were most impressed with contributions made by the young German gentleman named Lutz.
I agree with the comment that translation equipment might have been made more accessible, but that is a lesson that can be accommodated at future congresses. Other rooms set aside for speaker venues were also quite nice and we all certainly got our exercise just climbing stairs to get to different sessions, the dining room and the cyber café. As the Congress moved on, signs directing people to lecture sites were most welcome. It would have been helpful to have them posted from the beginning.
I thoroughly enjoyed all the sessions I was able to attend, but borrowing a tool used at other successful conferences we have attended, I think it important the audience be given evaluation forms at the door at each session, asking for comments on the speakers’ effectiveness, relevance, and suggestions for other sessions.
The forms would be collected as the audience exits and the contents be given full consideration when planning the next world congress. Providing this means of communication by attendees allows them to:
Speaking of speeches, however, as the speaker selection was made many months ago and I had not submitted a proposal for consideration, I was taken by surprise when Hildi whispered in my ear that one of their scheduled speakers cancelled at the last minute due to illness and would I be able to speak in her place.
Although hesitant at first, I scolded myself for not accepting the challenge and told her Ray and I would of course be happy to do so. We had done so before, and I knew that should my memory falter, Ray, my “walking encyclopedia” would be there to bolster me.
Not wishing to duplicate topics already covered, I decided on a subject dear to my heart, the connection between food and mood, and titled my talk: “Food & Mood: War or Peace.”
Lutz, the young German technician supervising the cyber café and sound equipment came to my rescue by staying long after the 10 p.m. closing time in order to help me negotiate the German language pc keyboard and printer so I might do some internet research. Armed with 40 pages of research to support my subject, I stayed up much of the night pulling facts and information together.
What I did not take into consideration was that Ray, who had got a touch of food poisoning when we were in Berlin, was not fully recuperated. About 2 a.m. he apologized for not being up to par and told me not to count on him. A short time later, however, he said he would probably be well enough to provide my introduction. That was good news because unlike the other speakers, my personal bio was not listed in the program so the EMCEE would be at a loss to introduce me.
It must have been quite a shock to those entering the auditorium to have me introduced rather than the hallowed speaker they had come to hear. (Fortunately, I did NOT know of her distinguished background before I gave my talk. It would have been most intimidating to know I was attempting to fill in for Dr. Vandana Shiva, Environmentalist, civil rights activist, Alternative Nobel Prize Winner, etc.
And thanks to conscientious Lutz, who took the hand-printed sheets I had given him moments before and turned them into a Power Point presentation, I had a number of thought-provoking “bullets” to get the audience’s attention and provide talking points for me.
As I looked out over the audience, it was reassuring to see the auditorium space allocated to our group was quite full. But after Ray’s touching introduction, I wondered if I would be able to speak, I got so choked up with emotion. Rising to the challenge, however, I launched into some humorous remarks about air travel and King Augustus the Great to lighten the mood. Despite having to be translated for many of the European listeners, the audience laughed in all the right places so I felt more confident about going into the more serious portions of my talk.
At one point during my presentation, I wanted to illustrate the importance of self care in order to be effective in one’s mission whether it be to protect animals, the forests, the environment or the promotion of peace-on-earth.
Regardless of the mission, one’s measure of success is dependent first and foremost on one’s own physical, mental and emotional health. The two most important aspects over which most people have control is diet and exercise.
Once health-promoting food choices are made each one of us must challenge our body through physical activities. If these two aspects are addressed, all other health requirements: emotional, spiritual, economic, and environmental will fall into their proper perspectives.
For those who say they have no time to work out, I said there is NO excuse! Even if one is so physically impaired even blinking the eyes is exercise, THEN DO IT!
Daily Physical activity ideally should become as automatic as brushing one’s teeth. It is a gift one gives to oneself in order to be better at whatever one wants to do.
To prove my point I leaped up on a the on-stage table and led the audience in about 10 minutes of exercise. The translators must have done an excellent job for the audience mirrored my every move. It was GREAT FUN for me, and all seemed to enjoy the break from the monotony of sitting. We also proved that even in the limited space of auditorium seating, challenging exercises could still be accomplished. (Note: For future Congresses, I recommend 5-minute stretch breaks between lectures and volunteer to lead them! I did this at NAVS SUMMERFEST and the audience LOVED IT!
The entire talk, with a Power Point presentation, took about 1 -1/2 hours including a lively round of Questions and Answers which came to an abrupt halt when the emcee interrupted and said the translators were tired and wanted to go to lunch;-).
RE: The value of exercise: Overall, Europeans are far more fit than Americans. They routinely walk, bike and climb MOUNTAINS of stairs which are everywhere. On the downside, however, the majority of Europeans seem to smoke, and their diet is not much better than the SAD (Standard American Diet). A few Europeans are stout, but it is rare to find anyone obese.
I attribute that to all the exercise they get as part of their way-of-life. One woman sought me out to say the sequence I related about proving doctors wrong about needing a total knee replacement was worth the entire cost of the Congress. Her doctors told her she must have a knee replacement, and after hearing my similar experience and how now, WITHOUT succumbing to the knee replacement I was told I MUST have, I am running about 2 miles daily, she had hope and viable measures to take (A strict, vegan, mostly fresh, green diet) that might prove them wrong. I recommended she not take the first opinion and to realize doctors are fallible, too.
For the record, statistics indicate Europeans’ longevity is about the same as Americans (due to smoking and poor food choices) BUT their quality-of-life is probably far more enjoyable because their active lifestyle wards off obesity and debilitation much longer.
But aside from excellent esoteric value of the Congress, the exceptional bonus for all these World Congresses, in my view, is the international exchange provided by the attendees.
We reunited with a lot of friends from by-gone Congresses and made a number of new ones from some of the 30 countries that took part. In between Congress sessions we took tours of historical sites and found the background of King Augustus the Great to be most intriguing.
The GALA FAREWELL BANQUET was quite splendid as the Head Chef from the Hilton and his able staff laid out their vegan works of art. At the conclusion of such events it is often customary for the Head Chef and his staff to be brought out so the crowd might applaud their efforts. On this night, however, the tables were turned as the Head Chef from the Hilton thanked the organizers and the attendees for giving them the opportunity to learn how to prepare health-promoting vegan dishes. A WIN/WIN situation for all concerned.
After the sumptuous farewell dinner, a friend I met when attending the 2nd Asian Vegetarian Congress held in Bangkok, Thailand, had since transferred to Romania. He flew in for a visit with relatives who live nearby and took us on a night walking tour of Dresden’s historic district. Those glorious structures are even more enchanting when lit up at night! And the next day, he and his cousin gave us a fine tour of the countryside, a few of the castles, and Saxony Switzerland.
The following day, we joined several of our fellow VUNA Councilors and their mates including Peter and Jenny McQueen (Canada), Dilip and Sangeeta Barham (North Carolina), Saurabh Dalal (Washington, D.C.), Kay Sheehan (Colorado) and Alex ? from (Brazil).
We all caught a train to Usti in the Czech Republic that took us through the rural country side and afforded us views that, surprisingly to me, sometimes included modern Wind Turbines to produce oil-free energy.
At the Usti train station, we were met by one of Dilip’s fellow SERVAS members, an international exchange organization dedicated to promoting peace through friendship and understanding (http://joomla.servas.org/). Our lovely hostess who had never laid eyes on any of us in her life, brought us ALL into her home and served us a nice vegan lunch she prepared “with loving hands” and urged us to eat it all so she wouldn’t have to put it away;-).
Following lunch, our hostess led us on a leisurely tour of one of the castles which if I recall correctly was built in the 1300’, quite a walk into history.
As arranged in advance, Dilip and Sangeeta spent the night with our hostess and the rest of us rushed back to the train station HOPING there would be someone there after 5 p.m. to help us retrieve our bags in time to catch another train and go on to Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic. We had quite a time trying to communicate in a foreign language, but good fortune was with us and we boarded the train just in time.
While in the beautiful city of Prague, we all stayed at the Castle Steps Hotel, a quaint and lovely accommodation Peter found and reserved via the internet. It was within walking distance of a vegetarian restaurant and much of the city. While the hotel itself did not provide breakfast, they did arrange for a picturesque restaurant a few blocks away to provide us with a sumptuous complimentary breakfast.
The cobblestone roads, sidewalks, hills, plus millions of stairs (elevators were rare) sometimes proved a challenge, but we managed to keep up with the best of them, even when Kay and Saurabh decided to go on a midnight stroll to scout the city for the next day’s adventure. Unable to get much of a bearing in the dark, we vaguely headed in the right direction and ended up getting quite lost. We ran into two other men, also lost, who hoped to get directions from us to the nearest bar. Not much luck there, they found, so we went our separate way;-). Eventually we did find the bridge we were seeking and its beauty at night, city lights sparkling on the dark waters, was most rewarding. Moreover, we found a short cut back to the hotel so we might rest our weary bones.
The next day we all signed up for a 4 ½ hour tour of Prague and after walking some distance trying to locate our guide, we were looking forward to resting our feet while being squired around the city by bus and learning its history from an English speaking guide. We were aghast when we found out it was to be a WALKING TOUR!
Our guide, a tall, attractive native, seemed cold and abrupt at first, but eventually warmed to our irresistible charm (Smile). She told us personal anecdotes about historical matters and we all grinned when she related a story about a 65 year-old historian and writer whom she found to be quite “Sexy!”
We became so attached to our guide that in addition to tipping her generously, Dilip had the thoughtfulness to invite her to join us for dinner. She said she would like to but first had to go home because on awakening that morning, she learned her home had been broken into and she was concerned for her safety. I offered to go with her but she said that wouldn’t be necessary. She planned to meet us at the restaurant but regrettably did not make it. She has my card, however, so I am hoping to still hear from her via email one of these day.
After Prague, Ray and I opted to join Saurabh and Kay and take a night train that would arrive in the wee hours of the morning at Krackow, Poland. After saying farewell to new and former friends at two different Prague restaurants, Ray, Saurabh, Kay and I made another mad dash and barely made it to the train station in time to squeeze ourselves and our luggage into an enclosed compartment.
Once the train was on its way, Sauabh checked around and found some more empty compartments. He and Kay each grabbed one so they could stretch out and try to get some sleep before our 5:00 a.m. arrival in Krakow. Saurabh had more excitement than the rest of us when a rowdy set of beer-guzzling youths barged into his compartment and made themselves comfortable until a ticket agent ran them off.
The Youth Hostels in Krakow could not compare to the ones in Germany, so I demanded--and got--a refund. After searching aimlessly for awhile, the Karmel Hotel in the heart of the Jewish section was recommended by the Tourist Information Bureaus, and it turned out to be immaculately clean and comfortable and the service was excellent. Saurabh and Kay had made advance reservations at a Holiday Inn.
That afternoon we took a bus tour to the Auschwitz Death Camps, "known all over the world as a symbol of terror, genocide, and the Holocaust. The Nazis conducted this horror in the suburbs of the city of Oswiecim which, like other parts of Poland, was occupied by the Germans during the Second World War. Liberated in January 1945, the remains of the two major camps, the survivors' and liberators' testimonies, and the documentary evidence leave no doubt as to the enormity of the crimes against humanity which were committed at Auschwitz and Birkenau."
Our guide was very somber, as was fitting of such a place. Despite the sunshine, a cloud of doom and depression engulfed me. So very, very depressing that humans are capable of such inhumane acts against humanity.
While in Krackow, we also visited the infamous Salt Mines described as:
"... historic underground chambers, shafts and caverns decorated with sculptures and carvings. It's the only site in the world where mining has continued since the Middle Ages. In the old times mining and resultant excavations could be shown only to members of the upper classes. The magnificent chapel is made out of salt, captivating underground lakes traces of mining works.."
I found Auschwitz AND the Salt Mines terribly depressing however I am very glad we witnessed, belatedly, the sites where so much inhumanity to man and beast took place. A rude reminder of what could happen again if we are not ever vigilant.
Mentally and physically exhausted on the bus-ride back to Krakow, I kept dozing off. Wishing to relieve me, Ray put my purse containing money, credit cards, camera, etc., in the souvenir-cloth bag presented at the Congress. It wasn’t until later, after he hung it up behind our table at the vegan restaurant that we found my purse was missing. After much alarm and discussion, Saurabh thought it best it be reported to the police and I ended up in the back of a police car with hard, fiber-glass seat, whizzing through the streets of Krakow.
They would not allow Ray to come with me, but I felt reassured when he, as well as Saurabh and Kay, said they would meet me at the Police Station.
The two burly police men spoke no English and rattled away in Polish as I grew more alarmed as they drove away from town and eventually pulled up to a secluded, dark dwelling and honked the horn. Shortly, a woman came out and climbed into the back of the car with me. She turned out to be an interpreter, which is why, though they knew not how to explain, they could not allow Ray to ride in the car, too.
We arrived at the Krakow Police Station after midnight and I was relieved to find Ray, Kay and Saurabh already there. They assumed I had been back giving my report so were surprised when I arrived long after they did.
Motioned to follow the woman into a back room, I followed reluctantly as I just wanted to go back to the hotel and sleep. Actually, I was so tired, and the interpreter and the clerk seemed to enjoy talking more among themselves than to finishing the report, I kept catching myself dozing off again in the chair.
It was quite a mis-adventure, but after Auschwitz I could not allow myself to become dismayed over the loss of material things. We had a few other misadventures due to the Lufthansa Airlines strike, but arrived back home a day later than planned, safe and sound, and our lost luggage arrived a short time later.
IVU’s WORLD CONGRESSES have to be one of the best ways to promote peace, happiness and understanding around the world so I, for one, say:
VIVE LA WVC FOREVER-AND-A-DAY!;-).