Week Twenty Four: Klášterec nad Orlicí and Religion in the Czech Republic

This past week, I have been adjusting to my new host family and recovering from a cold. I am very happy with how accepting and kind they have been. My host family has been involved in a camp (Tabor) that is situated near the border between the Czech Republic and Poland. They informed me last week that we would be going to a camp, but I honestly didn’t know what to expect. This weekend, I went to this camp with my host brother, and host sister, my host sister’s best friend, and Nick. This blog post will be a bit longer and separated into two parts. The first will be about my experience at the camp, and the second will be about Religion in the Czech Republic.

Our journey began on Thursday. We left from Rynholec by bus to Prague. The journey ahead would be very long because we had to travel by bus. Once we arrived to Prague in Zličín, we took the metro until the end to catch our second bus. The bus ride was around three hours. We had one minute when we arrived to our stop then we caught another bus. We stayed on for one stop then we had to walk about 40 minutes. This walk was certainly a tough one! It was very dark outside with snow and a lot of potholes in the road. We had to walk all uphill and we were slipping and falling all over the place! We finally arrived at around 18:00 and waited for the rest of the people to arrive. We settled into our rooms and got to see around the camp. We were staying in a very big house that had separate rooms with bunk beds. You can imagine, it is just like any typical camp. During the summer, they stay in smaller cabins outside, but we would only sleep inside this time. I stayed in a room with my host sister and about six of her friends. They were the sweetest girls ever and I got to speak Czech with them, it was fun! There was a main room called “Amerika” and this would be the common meeting area. Downstairs there was the kitchen and the eating area. It wasn’t too big, but it was decently sized for the amount of people there. Upstairs, there was also a chapel, which at first surprised me. I didn’t know that it was a bible camp until I arrived… and didn’t realize it was a Catholic camp until the second day. This would be my first experience being in a bible camp, because I had only ever gone to do outdoor activities in one in Canada. After everyone arrived, we got to eat dinner. Before eating, everyone stood up and sang a song. It is the same song that my host family sings before every meal. After eating, we stood up and sang again. Afterwards, we went upstairs to play a game. Everyone was very shy and for this first day, no one really spoke to Nick or me. Nobody explained what we were doing and we were pretty confused just for a little bit. I should mention, the camp is for children from 11-16, but there were older people that were “leaders”… Nick and I got to be leaders and help as much as we could. It was a bit stressful because it was hard for us to understand everything that was going on, a lot of people spoke abnormally fast! We sat and watched while everyone played a rock, paper, and scissors game.

After the game, we did our first prayer session. I’ve never been to Catholic Church or really know much about it. Of course, everything was in Czech, so it was even harder to understand. Once entering the chapel, we had to dip our fingers in this water then do the cross with our hands and most people went down on one knee. Afterwards, there were a series of prayers said either standing or sitting. Then, there would be many songs sang. Sometimes during the chapel, someone would play guitar and the rest would sing. I was surprised at how many different songs everyone knew as well as all of the prayers. When leaving the chapel, once again, we had to dip our fingers in the water, turn towards the front and do the cross. Every day before breakfast, before lunch, and before dinner, we went to the chapel to pray. Also, before and after every meal there would be prayers.

Friday, we once again prayed in the morning then ate breakfast. We went outside to play a game and we got to know more people. There was soccer, volleyball, and some other game that we could play. I played volleyball and we basically just threw the ball back and forth over the net. Afterwards, we had chapel, and then ate lunch. After lunch, and after a small break, we played Parliament. It was a fun game and we could participate. We then played another fun game! At this point, we got to know some more of the leaders as well as the kids. They weren’t so shy anymore and we felt a lot better. During the night, we played a very fun game. Nick and I got to be leaders during this activity so it was even better. Each leader had to write down a nickname and the name had to correspond with the initials. We then dressed in a disguise and went to the forest. There were bowls with lights in them that had the nicknames. All the kids had to memorize the nicknames they found. We leaders got to chase them then ask them if they knew our name. When they guessed wrong, they were sent back to the home base. Once they could guess the names, they got to collect some tokens, which would determine their team’s rank in the end. After this game we had chapel then went to bed!

Saturday, it was the last official day. In the morning, there was a game outside. There were groups of kids and they had tasks that they needed to complete at different stations with different leaders. My job was to stop the group between stations and ask them questions. When they got it wrong, they had to do some physical activity. I decided to ask them what Czech words were in English. I tried to use the hardest words I knew in Czech and a lot of people were doing squats! After this, we had chapel then lunch. After a small break, we went outside to go sledding and it turned into a snow fight. It was also Nick’s first time sledding and it was a great time. Since this was the last night, a pastor came into the chapel. This session was very long and included bread and wine. Afterwards, we had dinner then went outside to play one last game. In this game, we each had five flags and the kids had to steal them from us. When we were done the game, we went inside and had free time. Everyone ended up playing music. Someone played guitar and the rest sang. There was also someone who ended up playing the violin and the trumpet. All of the songs were in Czech and I believe that they were all traditional songs. Afterwards, there was a small dance party, and then we had to have chapel again.

Sunday, it was time to clean up the house and head home. We had to leave a bit earlier than everyone else because we had to drop off my host brother for his weeklong ski trip. Overall, it was a fun time; I met a lot of new people and got to see a lot of improvement in my Czech.

Here are some photos of the weekend, as well as some photos of the place we stayed. I will also include a map so you can see where exactly the camp is situated in the Czech Republic. If you would like to continue reading, you can read the second part, which will be about religion in the Czech Republic.

 

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Sestra

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I will just briefly write about what Religion is like in the Czech Repbulic. Before I came here, one of the main things that I knew about the Czech Republic was that it is an atheist country. The Czech Republic is known as one of the oldest atheist countries in the world. Until the early 20th century, Christianity was the dominant religion. Since the Battle of White Mountain in 1620, there has been a large anti-Catholic sentiment and Christianity has been declined since the early 20th century. After World War One, a decline in Catholicism began. The government confiscated properties of Church during Czechoslovak unification under communist regime. During this regime, religion was virtually outlawed and churchgoing was strongly discouraged. After the communist regime fell, 39% were found to be Catholic in 1991. This faith would rapidly decline and in 2011 census, only 10.5% of Czechs considered themselves to be Catholic. Although this is true, modern Czechs are known to be “tolerant and indifferent to religion”. The Czech Republic is currently a member of an international organisation of atheists (Atheist Alliance International). There is also an organized group of atheists within the country, which is the Civic Association of Atheists. I’ve noticed that religion isn’t really spoken about at all.

  • 5% No religion
  • 7% Undeclared
  • 5% Catholic
  • 0% Protestant
  • 1% Other Christian Churches
  • 8% Believers, not members of religion
  • 7% Other/Unknown

For those of you reading my blog from the Czech Republic, I thought it might be interesting to include what religion is like in Canada, to see the difference. Canada encompasses a wide range of groups and beliefs. In fact, in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom the monarch carries the title “Defender of the faith”. Support for religious pluralism and freedom of religion is a very important part of Canada’s political culture.

  • 0% Roman Catholicism
  • 3% Other Christian
  • 9% Non-Religious
  • 2% Islam
  • 5% Hinduism
  • 4% Sikhism
  • 1% Buddhism
  • 8% Other religions

I’m sorry for the late post. I hope you enjoyed!

-Cass

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