Monday afternoon we caught a train from Berlin to Cottbus. The train was quite comfy (unlike the crowded train I took from Bratislava to Prague in the summer). We chatted the whole way in Esperanto, since there were 10 of us on board in total. I was kinda hoping that someone would ask us what language we were speaking, but nobody even looked at us.
When we got to Cottbus, we had to run across the station to catch our bus, but we made it with about 1 minute to spare. At that point, we realized that about 20 other Esperantists were waiting for the bus too, and it became a happy reunion for many.
The bus slowly made its way through Cottbus in the direction of Burg, our destination. Burg is a small town in the Spreewald (the forest along the river Spree, which eventually flows through Berlin). It’s sort of a resort town, known for its spa complex and forest surroundings. On the bus, I sat beside a Danish fellow named Kimo, who apparently was a musician of some sort.
We arrived in Burg and trudged through the snow to the youth hostel, and signed in. Soon afterwards it was dinner time, and the official opening event, attended by around 50 people, since not everyone would be arriving for another day or two. During the opening, we heard a couple greetings issued by local politicians who had come to say hi. Their slowly-delivered German speeches were filled with the expected ceremonial pleasantries, which were faithfully translated to Esperanto for the crowd.
Next came the musical act, which was Kimo from the bus. He busted out an accordion and started to crank out some catchy songs in Esperanto. Apparently he’s somewhat of a celebrity amongst the Esperanto community, because everyone seemed to know all his songs and sing along. He’s quite a lively character too, demonstrating his very youthful spirit, despite his gray hair and trimmed beard. As he introduced himself, he mentioned that he grew up speaking Esperanto with his parents, making him one of the small group of native speakers. Coincidentally, the stage lighting was being controlled by a computer programmer from England that I know, who also happens to be a native Esperanto speaker.
A while later, we went over to the Trinkejo (“drinking-place”) for a beer, and tried out some slovakian hard liquor that someone had brought along. Quite tasty, and also very smooth, despite having an alcohol percentage that made it suitable for use as boat-gas.
I the played a rather poor game of Go with a friend, and retired for the night, eager to see what would happen the following day.