Interactive youngsters in the interactive train through interactive Europe
The YEU train project “InterActiveTrain – Get in and Gain” has come to its final steps. In August we had the most important and exciting phase of it – the train travelling through Europe.
Getting ready for the journey
We started with a preparatory meeting of the train in Rome (Ostia), Italy. With the two days stay we aimed to get to know the group who will be on the adventure together for three weeks, make all the promotional materials for the journey and start preparing the sketches and performances that will be presented throughout the trip. With the limited we even managed to prepare a jingle for the project that was recorded in local radio and do a great street performance on Piazza Navona.
The start of the project was quite interesting as half of the participants already knew each other from the training course held in Amarante in spring. All the emotions and happy faces of the participants arriving and seeing each other again after few months was unexpectedly hearth warming. For the new comers it made the process of getting into the group a bit more difficult but at the end the group felt like a big happy family!
No trains for weeks
On 4th of August we started the journey to Resita, Romania. After a few hours on the train we faced our first difficulties – no trains from Venice to Resita. It was the first stressing point of the train as at one point we had no clue how to reach Romania with 26 people with Interrail passes. The problem that occurred already a few weeks before the train was that we are not able to do bookings for the groups online, in travel agencies or in stations. While travelling with Interrail Global Passes they can do the bookings only in the country of departure and from there only to a certain point. You had to present all the passes and IDs so that they could do the reservations and in some cases even wanted to see the people on spot. Every time when I went to ask for the reservations in the stations and when the ticket office heard that I have 26 people, they started laughing and asking whether I am out of my mind. Apparently we all were…. Furthermore, all the routes to reach our partner cities given by the Interrail system were completely different from the ones that local train stations offered us. So it meant that all of a sudden we started to rearrange the entire route that was planned on the principles that we do not need to change the dates of the stays in each city.
Getting lost in the middle of nowhere
Finally we managed to catch a bus from the Italian-Slovenian border to Romania. The trip was funny as the bus drivers managed to ignore the instructions of navi and get lost somewhere in Hungary. At one point we were literally in the middle of nowhere and no one had an idea how to get back to the right route! So our trip was 3 hours longer than expected and when arriving in Resita around 5am all the participants looked like zombies who could not understand whether it was day or night.
Empowering Romanian youth in Resita
The following days we had local activities in the park of Resita. There were workshops of balloon modelling, bracelets and joggling held by the local volunteers. The train participants had a chance to learn about those new tools together with local youngsters as the workshops were open to everyone. In addition we continued to improve the sketches and performances. Furthermore, one morning we had a meeting with the Mayor of Resita to discuss the reality of Romanian youngsters and how to develop youth work in Romania through international cooperation. The Mayor was glad to receive us and grateful for the ideas and energy that he got from the group. We also managed to visit the local volunteering center Centrul de Voluntariat Resita and prepare some more materials for the animations.
Is this your nose?
After the Resita visit we continued our journey to Lithuania. First we managed to get trains from Resita to Budapest, Hungary. Throughout the trip the participants were making a top of the worst trains of the trip and unfortunately Romanian ones were quite on top. Travelling by train in Romania resembles more horse riding than train as we all were bumping and jumping on the seats. The security control on Romanian Hungarian border was amusing as well as they could not believe that David, Portuguese participant, nose was real and they literally wanted to eat Marija, Lithuanian participant, with their eyes.
Animating the streets in Budapest - marvellous boost of energy
Finally we managed to reach Budapest and get bookings till Warschau. As the train departed in the evening we had a chance to spend a day in Budapest. This day can be titled as one of the best days of performances during the train. We started animating the Keleti-pu station with some sketches. The people surrounding us were constantly looking what was happening and some of them even interacting with the group. It was a great start for the day as the feeling that youngsters got from the performance was fabulous! After that we divided ourselves into groups as some of us had to stay to take a look after the luggage. Unfortunately all the lockers were occupied. The participants went to the city and afterwards we swopped our positions. We drove to the castle and after a small tour around the participants started to do another sketch called “The Statues”. It was unbelievable how the crowd surrounding us started to take part in the sketch after few moments. In the eyes of the participants this was one of the best performances ever as it happened unexpectedly and everyone just started to follow each other. The day in Budapest was a marvellous boost of energy and motivation for the participants to get to another train!
Getting on the train was my worst nightmare. I was constantly dreaming that the participants will get lost and people will miss the train. Even though we had the reservations getting everyone on board and sitting was the trickiest part. Apparently people took random seats in the train and all of a sudden 26 people jumped on with loads of luggage and started to claim that they were sitting on their booked seats. So you can easily imagine all that confusion and mess in the cabins where people were trying to get in and out! But as soon as everyone got settled in, the journey continued….next stop Warschau.
On our way we had some activities as well like reflection groups, leaders meetings and some preparations for next activities in next stops. This was also the night that most of the participants enjoyed the most! I am quite surprised that the other travellers could stand all that chatting, signing and running around! At one point it seemed like a school trip! We can say that after this night on the train everyone was comfortable with each other and the participants were becoming more like a family than ordinary group of youngsters participating in an event.
Amazing feeling of freedom and satisfaction
Arriving in Warschau was the second stressing point of the journey as the lovely train was late and we missed the only train connection to Vilnius on that day. So we were stranded again in a station. Fast the Polish and Lithuanian participants started to search for options how we could get to Lithuania. This was the moment when we realized how important and useful it was to have locals on board. We found a way to reach the border and order a bus to pick us up from there. While catching the Polish train to the border everyone was confused as we were told, all of a sudden, that the train we were supposed to catch was not coming anymore (yes, that is how they change the timetable of trains in Poland) but we could get another one that is leaving in 2 minutes. Of course, without further thinking we jumped on the train and were on the road again. After some minutes we had the news from Polish – the train will take us where we need but we will be stuck on the train for 6 hours. In the beginning it was foreseen that we have a stop in some unknown station for an hour to crab some lunch but now we were just stuck on the train. Precious! Fortunately we still had some leftovers from previous train lunch packs so sharing started. Everyone was going from cabin to cabin to see what we had left. Although we were tired and hungry this was one of the trains that the participants liked the most. Old school Polish train, windows open, beautiful landscape during sunset, wind blowing through the hair….amazing feeling of freedom and satisfaction!
And for us, Rui and me, it was cool to see how the participants did not stop working on the trains. Andreea, a Romanian participant, and Miguel, a Portuguese participant, started role plays. They got into a specific role that they kept throughout the journey and it was amazing how despite all the distractions and fooling around of the rest of the participants they managed to stay serious in their roles. This was the moment where further ideas on role plays were developed.
Beds and showers like a luxury
When we arrived on the border a bus was waiting for us! Such a good moment! Everyone packed their stuff and journey to Vilnius continued. Though people were tired and sleepy, everyone was happy and excited to reach our destination! Around midnight we were in Vilnius and finally got some sleep in horizontal position! I can never forget the faces of the participants when seeing beds and showers, it seemed like a luxury!
When we arrived in Vilnius we ran into one of the girls who actually wrote the crazy train project – Marta Cubajevaite! She was just having a walk with her friends when the train bus arrived, she had no clue that we were coming and in the beginning she could not believe that we were actually doing the train project. She stayed with us throughout the stay in Vilnius. At the end of it she told me that while writing the project she was already feeling sorry for the person who will implement it and stated again that we must be completely out of our minds to travel with the group around Europe. But there we were – almost half way through already!
Masks, joggling, fakir and animating Vilnius
In Vilnius we had a city challenge and a visit to Lentvaris youth center were some workshops were held. The participants learnt how to joggle with pois and at the end of the day a fakir performance by our workshop instructors was held in a park. In addition, the participants had a street performance on the cathedral square that night in which local youngsters were taking part as well. The following days we had some workshops ran by the participants. Some of the participants were becoming proactive and proposing loads of ideas for improvement of the performances and sketches. So we decided to give them space to implement their workshops – construction of the characters, building the feelings as a tool for performance and movement exploration. Furthermore, we had a workshop of masks where each participant made a plaster mask that was used in the coming performances. The Vilnius visit finished with a street act in front of the city hall and on the road we were again.
Departing Vilnius was the moment when the participants realized that half of the project was already behind and only Poland and Portugal ahead. Confusing time! All of a sudden everyone wanted the project to last forever. For most it was the biggest and most exciting adventure and experience of all times!
The broken bus and a driver like a ex boxer
The bus from to the train station was one of the funniest experiences though. The participants were in a really good mood till the bus driver got lost again. We kind a had the fortune that everything went against plans! At one point we were already afraid that thanks to the driver we will miss our train. When we were almost there the driver stopped the bus without saying anything and got off. We ran out to see what was going on – the driver was fixing something and told us that the bus was a bit broken! Great, what else could have happened?! Fortunately after some fixing the bus was on the road again and we reached our destination Sestokai where we caught another train to Warschau. In Warschau we had a stop for few hours, some went to get some dinner, some started animating the station. Usual routine already! We were becoming professionals in that! It was great to see that street animation was becoming really dear to the participants and they loved expressing themselves through this tool! After the stop and some delay of the next train we started our journey to Leszno where we finally arrived early morning. At that time everyone was so exhausted and the only wish was a good night sleep.
Under police surveillance in Leszno
During our stay in Leszno we had an amazing street act that started with a parade on Leszno’s main street and ended up on the cathedral square! The participants dressed themselves up and the police even closed the street for us! The parade was held together with local youngsters and volunteers coming from Poznan. The feeling during the parade was amazing – this was the first time when everyone was completely into the performance and enjoying it 100%! While finishing the animation march we continued to interact with children and crowd on the square, children were all over us, participants teaching them how to joggle or do some tricks. In addition, we had some workshops in the hostel to develop the performances and sketches for next act, the mid term evaluation and some wooden jumping as leisure time!
Stranded in Berlin
While we were on the road again the most hectic time began! We managed to get some regional trains to Berlin but from there, there was nothing to get us any further that day! To travel with 26 participants in Germany, France or Spain is like mission impossible. No trains, no seats, no sleepers, no nothing. Finally we got some tickets till Paris the following day which meant staying in Berlin for a night. The participants were excited to see Berlin, I was worried about what will happen next. Oh yes, believe me, at that point I had already the worst scenarios in front of my eyes…
The following day was the most stressing for all of us. Thanks to cold weather in Berlin people started to get sick + in Strasbourg it turned out that there is no way to reach Spain nor any other city close to the border. The tickets were sold out for days and we even could not get enough sleepers on one train though we were considering it. At one point we were already thinking of getting flights just to take the participants to Faro as the situation seemed hopeless. So there we were again – stranded! This time in Paris! While I was trying to find us a solution the participants used the time to reflect the whole project, the group, the activities done so far and to get some more ideas for the next phases and improvements. We knew that there is an amazing performance waiting for us in Tavira and it was time to start getting ready for it!
After we had a solution how to get to Irun (the city that all the trains pass to reach Portugal) we had a decision to make – whether we are going to stay out the whole night or take a hostel. In the beginning everyone was for discovering Paris by night adventure but finally we decided to take a cheap hostel next to the station as it was raining heavily and people started to get a cold.
Hostel without bathroom doors or toilet pots and a leaking roof
The hostel we stayed was the best hostel ever – a place where the bathrooms had no doors or toilet pots and roof was leaking. However, this was one of the funniest nights! Somehow all the participants were staying up late, chatting and having fun though we should have been resting! I believe we were in a point where sleeping seemed like something out of space! This was also the night were strange things in the gossip corner were happening and when the train song “All I wanna do is find a train to Portugal…” was presented and recorded! The only wish that the participants had at that point was to find a train to Portugal! We called the day being in a dark phase… .
The following morning we took the early morning train to Bordeaux and from there managed to reach Hendeye and finally Irun. You should have seen the faces of the participants while arriving in Spain – feeling went back up! Still this was not the end of the difficulties we were facing. Apparently there were no train to Lisboa nor Sevilla to reach Faro that day. So we were stranded again! But this time at least we had exciting night ahead – a night in San Sebastian.
Getting kicked out of the beach
The participants agreed to spend a night in San Sebastian and camp on the beach. For the ones who were sick or wanted to sleep we got rooms in a hostel, the rest stayed in San Sebastian. We accidentally even managed to attend the fireworks of the International Fireworks Festival, go for tapas and pinchos (typical Spanish delight) and have some fun around the city. The points that we did not foresee during the night was that we were kicked out of the beach, had to find another place to stay, the participants got lost and it was 9 degrees outside. But at the end it was an adventure and experience that we still remember as it was yesterday.
The following morning we caught trains to Madrid and Sevilla. This journey was probably the most quiet one. Everyone, absolutely everyone, was asleep. It was like a graveyard where dead bodies were lying on the seats and corridors in the weirdest positions ever. And arriving in Sevilla was just precious! Portuguese participants’ families greeting us with freshly baked delights and a bus waiting us to take to Tavira – our final destination! This bus drive was unforgettable – people singing of joy! And the arrival in Tavira, stepping out of the bus on Portuguese ground….we could not believe that we were finally there… .
The big thing
Though we had arrived in our final destination the hard work was not over. The next day we were on a tight schedule as in the evening took place the greatest performance! The day started with a city challenges and meeting in the municipality, continued with preparing the final sketches and rehearsing for the “big moment”.
After dinner we went to the center to do our final performance. We had designed several sketches around the main square which will be accompanied by a drum band! At the same time was held a local festivity, which meant that we had all the audience we needed. We started with the first sketch and then continued with a drum parade to the next “station” where another sketch was performed. Like this we moved around as a train five times. People observing what was going on, following us, band making loads of noise and bringing special energy, participants fascinated and excited. It was the most awesome nights of the train, especially for the feeling and emotions that followed it. As participants called it “this was the big thing!”. After finishing the performance we seemed happy and sad, tired and full of energy, confused and relaxed at the same time. Though this was the end of our animation train, we knew that this was actually just the beginning.
The final night and farewell was held on the Tavira Island. We went there to camp around fire, enjoy the starred sky, listen to the ocean waves, remind everything that happened on the train and last but not least celebrate Rui’s, our trainer, birthday!
Participants eyes full of sparks
Even though the train was tiring and full of unexpected moments, we all are happy that we had a chance for this experience! It is unbelievable what kind of impact the train had on the participants, how their eyes were full of sparks, how they were motivated to take action and do whatever it takes to meet again and continue where we stopped… Hopefully we will soon have a follow-up project because we cannot lose the energy and motivation gained in train to make a difference!
Project Manager and Newsmail Editor