he Czech embassy hosted an event called Mountaineering Day complete with food, sports and animal demonstrations to celebrate European mountaineering culture on Saturday from 10 a.m-2 p.m.
Almost 2,000 attendees visited the embassy throughout the day for the event. Front and center, visitors waited in line for a vertical climbing wall to try mountaineering. In the background, the Czech band Orchester Praževica played a Slavic-jazz tune.
Mountaineering is a traditional European activity that includes climbing and hiking. According to Jan Woska, the Cultural Attaché for the Czech embassy, it is common in Czechia to hike almost every weekend.
“If I wasn’t here today, I would probably be hiking somewhere,” Woska said.
The event was hosted 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 of Washington and the Embassy of Switzerland were also invited. Attendees crowded around tables hosted by the different embassies.
“Mountaineering and hiking unites people. Yet it’s very different country by country,” Woska said.
The difference between hiking in the U.S. and Czechia: there’s usually food at the end of the trail. According to Woska, in Czechia there’s “a bar at the top of every mountain.”
The Embassy of Slovenia handed attendees samples of Slovenian stew, a hearty meal to fuel climbers, as they went on their way. They also gave away pieces of apple strudel, a traditional Slovak baked good.
At the Republic of Poland table, Katarzyna Rybka-Iwanska, head of the Institutional Cooperation Unit at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Poland, handed out quizzes with questions about Polish culture. If attendees got at least three questions correct, they won a mug 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, an 18-years-old, sat behind a table and pointed to a brochure with a photo of her two-year-old self in the woods. She promotes orienteering — a Swedish competitive sport that consists of 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 came by.
Even the dogs at Mountaineering Day ran around — bred from a Czech canine bloodline, award winning dogs were exhibited to a crowd by Maria Donuhue of Rodina Straze. She explained these dogs are not the breed for a 30-minute nighttime stroll. They fit into the lives of those who like to run around all day.
The embassy also invited Collin Waybright, a Master Class Falconer and Director of the West Virginia Raptor Center to join in on the event. While he showed off his birds, he spotted a wild red tail hawk in the sky while holding another on his shoulder. “That was part of the program, not me getting distracted by a wild bird,” Faybrugh said.
Emily Bechtel, a junior studying International Relations at Georgetown University, just sent her visa to study abroad in the Czech Republic next semester.
“It’s really nice to be able to go to events like this in the D.C. community,” Bechtel said.