A trek through the Czech Republic: the Embassy of the Czech Republic hosts Mountaineering Day

The Czech Embassy organized an event called Mountaineering Day with demonstrations of food, sports and animals to celebrate European mountaineering culture Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m..

Nearly 2,000 participants visited the Embassy throughout the day for the event. Front and center, visitors lined up for a vertical climbing wall to try their hand at mountaineering. In the background, the Czech group Prazevica Orchestra played a Slavic jazz tune.

Mountaineering is a traditional European activity that includes rock climbing and hiking. According to Jan Woska, the Cultural Attaché at the Embassy of the Czech Republicit is common in the Czech Republic to go hiking almost every weekend.

“If I wasn’t here today, I’d probably be hiking somewhere,” Woska said.

The event was organized by the Czech Embassy due to its statue as the current President of the Council of the European Union. The Embassy of the Republic of Poland, the Embassy of the Slovak Republic, the Embassy of Slovenia, the Italian Cultural Institute in Washington and the Embassy of Switzerland were also invited. The participants crowded around the tables hosted by the various embassies.

“Mountaineering and hiking bring people together. Still, it’s very different from country to country,” Woska said.

The difference between hiking in the United States and in the Czech Republic: there is usually food at the end of the trail. According to Woska, in the Czech Republic there is “a bar at the top of every mountain”.

The Slovenian Embassy presented participants with samples of Slovenian stew, a hearty meal to refuel the climbers as they progressed. They also offered pieces of apple strudel, a traditional Slovak pastry.

At the Republic of Poland table, Katarzyna Rybka-Iwanska, head of the Institutional Cooperation Unit at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Poland, distributed quizzes with questions about Polish culture. If participants answered at least three questions correctly, they won a cup and a book about Wanda Rutmierziz, the first Polish woman to climb Mount Everest.

“We want to share the stories of the people who climb these mountains,” Rybka-Iwanska said.

Alexis Merka, 18, sat behind a table and pointed to a brochure with a picture of herself, two, in the woods. She promotes orienteering — a Swedish competitive sport that involves navigating a course in the woods with only a compass. Merka handed attendees a map of sample courses that run through and around the embassy as visitors passed.

Even the Mountaineering Day dogs ran around – descended from a Czech canine line, award-winning dogs were shown to a crowd by Maria Donuhue of Rodina Straze. She explained that these dogs are not the breed for a 30-minute night walk. They fit into the lives of those who like to run all day.

The Embassy also invited Collin Waybright, master falconer and director of the West Virginia Raptor Center to participate in the event. While showing off his birds, he spotted a wild red-tailed hawk in the sky while holding another over his shoulder. “It was part of the program, not that I was distracted by a wild bird,” Faybrugh said.

Emily Bechtel, a junior international relations student at Georgetown University, just sent in her visa to study abroad in the Czech Republic next semester.

“It’s really nice to be able to attend events like this in the DC community,” Bechtel said.

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