In the beginning we did not want to participate at all: "we won't be able to bring together twelve dancers, we don't have a musician, we don't know enough dances...". But one after the other all these problems disappeared as if by miracle: many arranged holidays for the time, friends from the Münster-dancegroup joined us for the occasion, an accordion-player was engaged and months of enthusiastic practising perfected our repertoire and performance of dances.
By half past one in the morning on Tuesday, 24th of July, we were on the road.We shared the bus with a group from Siegen, the "friends of European culture". The journey made good headway, even allowing for a brief exploration of San Sebatian. We arrived in Zamora at four in the morning and had no trouble convincing the caretaker of the central reception office to let us sleep some hours in that school, in real beds instead of a bus - what comfort!
At the central reception office we obtained general information, maps, time schedules etc. The organisation of the whole event was admirable, not an easy achievement for such a large number of participants! Jorge, a Spanish student, had been assigned to us and the guys from Siegen as our guide and escort for the time of the festival, and from that moment he accompanied us to all events in the town. He took over most of the organisational stuff, told the bus-drivers how to get to the different locations, translated during our performances and was generally a great guy to be around, we had a lot of fun together.
Our quarters were in the school Corazon de Maria, a complex of several buildings. We unpacked our things, distributed the information material and what remained of our travel provisions. Then we went into town, a way of approximately 20min. that seemed much longer in the heat.
Zamora is a very old town with a beautiful old town centre, a cathedral that shows Arabian influences in the cupola, lots of little lanes and many interesting churches.
Cathedral of Zamora
In the evening the the welcoming event took place in the bullfight arena. Before entering already we could see the many wonderful dresses of the Spanish groups gathering in front of the arena. The arena had a central stage with a large screen in the background. In front of the stage two bands played in between the performances of dancers and traditional musicians. That night Spain, Castilla y Leon and the surrounding regions introduced themselves to us, the visitors, with dances and music. The solemn ringing of churchbells in the quiet arena was an impressive overture to the night. The atmosphere was incredible. On the stone steps of the arena approximately 10,000 people were seated, among them 5000 foreign participants, dancers and musicians of the performing 28 Spanish groups, and many Zamoranians. Whenever the bands played a well-known Spanish dance or song, everybody was clapping, shouting and celebrating. It was a wonderful experience, with lots of beautiful dances, costumes and music.
Breakfast in front of our dormitory
After breakfast in the school cafeteria we went into town, where the official festival program had started. In squares and streets everywhere different groups were dancing and music was playing, inviting people to join in the dance.
We recognised other groups that stayed in the same school as we did: Estonians, Lithuanians, Belgian and German groups, Spanish and Italian musicians - as far as we could find out in contacts or from the signs on the different busses. The school campus was like a theatre cafeteria, people with traditional costumes or in everyday clothes rehearsing dances or music, bands playing under the sunshine-roof at all times of the day and night, people coming from a performance, a colourful assembly at meals, talking in all kinds of languages, enquiring about an interesting instrument or dress, exchanging addresses.
Lunch in the cafeteria
In the afternoon we practised our dances one more time and then dressed up for the first time in our "Riesengebirgstrachten", traditional dresses from Silesia. The opening of the Europeade was in the arena, with all of the 5000 participating dancers and musicians in their colourful costumes and standards - a wonderful picture. While the participants sat on the ground floor of the arena, the Zamoranians filled the seats in the balconies. Here we noticed that we were not the only group in Silesian dresses - there were several groups from southern Germany and even from our neighbourhood, from Bonn, as we found out later.
At the beginning the Europeade flag was handed from the Danish groups to the Spanish groups - Denmark had organised the last Europeade. Then 55 groups from all over Europe presented their traditional folklore in dances and music. We saw beautiful dresses and dances from different cultures, from regions in Belgium, Denmark, Spain, Germany, France, Portugal, Estonia, Italy, Lithuania, Greece, Poland, Latvia, Czechia and Switzerland. "We enjoy our unity and celebrate our distinctness", the speaker said, and that was a very suitable motto. A beautiful evening. Back on the campus, as usual there was music and dance and chats with other dancers, so that the night was a very short one again.
After breakfast, which we took together in front of our dormitory, we got ready for our first official performance in town. The organisation had assigned times and locations to all the groups. Apart from these obligatory times and places everybody was asked to perform wherever they liked in the city, to let the citizens participate in the Europeade. So we (all of us and 4 of the other group) were taken to "our" spot, the Plaza Tres Croces, where we were to perform at 12.00 o'clock. From there we moved on towards the city centre, on this busy shopping street with lots of businesses and pedestrians. In each spot (in the shadow, of course, and with enough space for a circle of dancers and -hopefully- some spectators) we danced for 20-30 minutes and then moved a few hundred meters.
Dancing in the city
Our dresses, particularly the embroidery on aprons and bonnets, attracted a lot of attention and admiration. We came into touch with people at once. Jorge, our indispensable Spanish escort, translated questions and answers. Some of our new admirers followed us for several performances and treated us to self-made cookies and water.
A Spanish friend
It was incredible, a real pleasure to make friends so easily. The usual questions were where we were from (some guessed the Netherlands), whether the dresses were self-made (of course) and where else we were going to dance in the city. It was hard work dancing at a temperature of 38°C, always keeping in the back of our minds that we must not crush our dresses too much, but the admiration and friendship we were offered so generously made it worthwhile, and we had a lot of fun.
In the evening the performance of all Silesian groups was scheduled at 18.00 o'clock at the Forum, the central performance location of the Europeade. There we met our Spanish friends from the morning.What we had not known before was that the other Silesian groups were located all in the same dormitory and had practised together. None of the groups were complete, three of one group and five of the next and so on, with only one accordion player for the assembly. We could easily have joined the performance with our twelve dancers since we knew the scheduled dances, they belong to our standards, but for whatever reasons we were not allowed to. So we moved to the Plaza Mayor and started our own performance, which immediately attracted a lot of attention - even by a television company. Our neighbours from the school, a historic musicgroup from Valencia with beautiful dresses sat in a café, and we invited them and the other spectators to join us for some simple dances. We danced for almost an hour and enjoyed it a lot, the appointed time for the bus to pick us up came too soon.
Musicians in historic dresses from Valencia
After dinner we were taken to the Plaza de Toros for the choir and music evening. Part of the musicians wore traditional dresses, others black and white formal clothing. Some members of the audience wore traditional costume, too, for instance the Scots in the row behind us. Again it was a fascinating evening with lots of new experiences. None of us had heard something like the Sardinian style of signing before. The night ended much later than the performance, as there was music and dance on the campus again.
The day started with breakfast in the sunshine, then our ways separated. In the theatre the official reception of representatives of each group was held. The rest of our group went into town do dance in the streets and on squares as part of the voluntary Europeade program.
Dancing in a street close to the Plaza Mayor
Again we got a lot of attention and applause. After the reception we all joined and danced a little more before retiring to our favourite bar for some ice-coffee. After lunch in the school we took a rest.
Resting in a bar
In the evening the line-up for the great parade of all groups began at 19.00 o'clock. We were number 69 of 174 participating groups. What a colourful picture, the whole street crowded with people in traditional dresses.
It took some time before we actually got going, so we danced with the Portuguese group next to us or walked around to look at the other groups. When we started moving at 20.00 o'clock it was for a very short distance since it started to rain after 500m. For a few minutes we tried to take shelter below our somewhat oversized flag, huddling together, but then the downpour got to heavy.
Multiple uses of a flag
The parade dissolved quickly, and we fled with approximately 100 other dancers and musicians, Italians, Estonians and Scots among them, into an underground car park. First everybody was downcast, inspecting their pitiful dresses hanging limply and feeling uncomfortable. But soon we realised that we had dancers and instruments down there, and after a short while everybody was dancing, accompanied by Scottish bagpipes and drums and an Estonian accordion player.
The officially scheduled "Bal de Europe" that was cancelled due to the rain simply was transferred to this car park. After approximately two hours, the rain had not let up at all, people finally started to move on, calling their busses or running. Luckily the Estonians stayed in the same school as we did and gave us a lift in their bus. Back there we dried ourselves and then fixed our costumes with the help of flat-irons and hair-dryers, as we needed to be presentable again the next day.
That taken care of we took some wine and juice to the Estonians as a thank-you for the lift, and all together we joined the Lithuanians and whoever else was dancing in the courtyard. Again it was a short night.
A night at the Europeade
The solemn church service was held in a large pilgrimage monastery at 10.30 o'clock. We found a place in the entrance hall which was getting crowded very quickly, too. The service was very ceremonious and festive. It was transmitted outside for those that had not found room inside. After the service we went to the city centre, on the way enjoying the sight of many people in traditional dresses.
Instead of the packed lunch we had asked Jorge to show us some of the typical tapas bars. That was another pleasant experience, moving from bar to bar and sampling their different specialities, always taking care not to spoil our dresses. On the way back to the school we finally visited the remarkable exposition "Remembranza" in the Castello, this time dressed impeccably in the traditional dresses. Again the embroidery gained us a lot of admiration and interested questions.
In the park of the Castello
After a quiet afternoon we dressed up for the final evening, again in the sports arena. Luckily we found seats in the front. As before the atmosphere was overwhelming. We were asked to join the other Silesian groups for the performance and had the honour of walking in with the flags and form the background for the dance. After the performance each group walked once around the stadium to give the audience on the far side a chance to see the costumes - we never had such an audience before, a great experience!
Other participants at he final evening
Afterwards we enjoyed the rest of the evening with beautiful dances of other groups. The next Europeade will be held in Antwerp, Belgium, and the Flemish speaker invited all those present to take part. Late in the night the Europeade hymn indicated the official end of the Europeade, which nevertheless continued in a general dance and polonaise across the field, everybody moving onto the grass and joining the long line of dancers from all over Europe. It was a very emotional moment, and we all regretted the end of the Europeade.
The last dance in the stadium
In a quite sentimental mood we drove back to the school, had a little farewell party with Jorge and his friend Juan and exchanged addresses. After packing for an early start the next morning we joined the other groups dancing in the yard, through another short night.
Before breakfast the bus was completely packed. After the typical Europeade meal we climbed the bus and were finally able to sit next to each other, not separated by the other group, and had a good time together. Looking back we were glad to have taken the challenge of participating in such an event. Already we started planning for the next year, so the journey passed quickly.
Spanish chants in the bus
We passed Aachen at about 7.00 o'clock in the morning and were dropped of in Leverkusen an hour later. After a last breakfast our ways separated and the wonderful trip was finally over.