Wonderful to be back in “my” city, the most beautiful of cities, Prague. I had my office in this city for 11 years and I walked the Charles Bridge every single day, most of the time that bridge put a big smile on my face. Great statues from the life of Jesus, the most exotic jazz groups playing on everything from saws to washing plates, spoons and combs and so on. I love the Charles Bridge, the centre of the Old Town, linking the new city with Mala Strana.
Life and culture, music and puppet theatre, paintings and dancing, you can watch anything on that beautiful bridge, surrounded by old buildings and architecture of all centuries. It is mystical, it is gothic, it is Art Nouveau and Art Deco, it is scary and shocking, but most of all with a huge ambiance of something wonderful. And it is jazz from morning till night, Reduta Jazzclub was always my favorite hang out in Prague.
My good friend Andrew has had his first experience of Prague, I took him walking around the Old Town and across the Charles Bridge and I know he will be back. That city does it to people, it draws all of us back, again and again. Now we are sitting on the fast train from Prague to Litomysl, or Ceska Trebova, which is the last station on our way to Litomysl. The last leg you have to do by car.
Here you see the beautiful YMCA Europe Training Centre, located in the old brewery of Litomysl Castle and a World Heritage Centre. Co-owned and co-operated with the City Authorities of Litomysl, and heavily funded and supported by the regional funds of the EU, it offers the YMCA excellent conference facilities in a very peaceful atmosphere of an idyllic little Czech town.
The renaissance castle of Litomysl is nicely renovated and hosts the international opera festival every summer. This is also the birthplace of the famous composer Bedric Smetana.
Several working groups will congregate in the YMCA Training Centre this week.We We call it the OUR WAY Strategy Delivery Summit. The first group is shown here and this is the Safe Space Group, established to follow up on the resolution from the last World Council in Estes Park, dealing with sensitive issues in a confidential framework. The group will work in closed rooms, but will report on important findings, procedures and recommendations. The group is established with the help of all Area Organizations plus the YMCAs of USA and Canada, so it is as representative of the whole world movement as we could make it. The group will identify the issues it will focus on, identify values and guidelines for the work, and at the end of the meetings the group will decide collectively what is to be reported to the wider movement.
This is our fabulous facilitator, Anthony Venn-Brown from Sydney, Australia.
This silent lady of iron from my room in the castle may be a symbol of the silence surrounding the Safe Space group. I can not say more about the work, but I am participating in the group. We are 12 disciples and one facilitator from Down Under.
In the lunch break we made a sightseeing in the town together with Jana Mackova at the left hand side here. She is the Director of the YMCA Europe Training Centre and an excellent hostess. In fact I was the one to hire her 12 years back when I was General Secretary in YMCA Europe. At the side of Jana is Chad from the YMCA of the USA and then Kim from YMCA Daegu in South Korea.
The evening sun is setting over the old buildings in Litomysl.
Our work for today is all done and we enjoy friendship and fellowship around the evening meal.
The last glimpse of the setting sun smiles back to us from the old windows in the castle court yard.