HONEY, I’m home! Wow, what an experience I have had. The past nine days have been filled with adventure, some good some not so good but all of which I will share with you now.
Leipzig in Germany is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to. We flew in to Frankfurt on Sunday the 23rd and drove to Leipzig making use of the amazing Autobahn (Not a single pothole to be seen for miles, Ireland.. take note!).
When we arrived in Leipzig we decided to kick off the week in style with a glass of gluhwein or mulled wine as we would call it.
I am not normally a fan but one taste of German gluhwein and I was officially converted. Monday was an action packed day which began with a quick journey via tram (or Luas as it was nicknamed) to the Convention Centre Leipzig (CCL) where our training was held.
The grounds are made up of three buildings two of which you can see in the picture. It was at this point we really began to appreciate the scale of the event we were attending. There were hundreds of people walking around.
The sense of excitement and anticipation were evident among all participants and everyone was eager to introduce themselves.
The opening ceremony took place on Monday evening and had over 4,600 attendees! As you can see from the photo our National President, Derek Reilly did us proud with his custom suit lining which featured the tri-colour.
Everybody wore their National colours and the result was quite pleasing on the eye. Getting out of bed on Tuesday morning was rather difficult and it is at this stage I should point out that the entire congress was sponsored by Budweiser.
Need I say more? We spent our day getting to know the city and I was struck by how few non JCI people there seemed to be. The architecture in Leipzig is in a league of its own. Each building was unique and I found that interesting.
I always make a point of looking up when I travel. It sounds strange but you would be surprised how few people remember this simple movement! The design on the tops of the buildings were beautiful.
On Wednesday we had scheduled some JCI training in the CCL so after a quick spin on the Luas we were once again in the heart of JCI world. Some of the Irish delegation were participating in the JCI World Debating Championship so we went along to support them.
They were excellent and handled the pressurised situation with ease. Afterwards we made our way to the official opening of the Christmas markets. I feel I should stop the story again to emphasise one important point. I really, REALLY love Christmas so for me to be standing in a German Winter wonderland was, to quote a popular saying with our Canadian friends, ‘totes amazeballs’.
The market was flooded with people. I had wondered where they all were on Tuesday, they were obviously hiding in their houses until the market opened because for the rest of the week there were hundreds of people everywhere. It was quite surreal, like actually, where were they all before Wednesday?? The opening of the markets was lovely. A children’s choir sang festive songs and we drank gluhwein out of real mugs that we were allowed to keep!
The food was amazing, normally when I go to a new country I don’t each much but I couldn’t help myself while in Germany. The various scents in the air were mouth watering. The second I stepped off the plane I was greeted with beautiful smells, it was almost like the country is sprayed with a giant bottle of sweet smelling perfume!
The only downside for me was my leg. I found myself in quite a bit of pain throughout the week and missed out on a couple of things because of swelling in my leg. I decided to stay in on Wednesday night to rest and I was glad of it the next day as we had more training scheduled for Thursday.
We attended the General Assembly in the afternoon and I was curious as to how it would work. The entire process was fascinating. It is not unlike the UN in its layout and while the setting was quite formal, they ensured the intervals were music filled which was a nice touch.
On Thursday night we attended two parties, the first was hosted by Japan and the second, Canada. It was a great night where we enjoyed sampling some Japanese cuisine. The Canadian party was held in what looked like a Government building which automatically made it cool. Once inside it was like a crazy frat party.
We met lots of friendly Canadian delegates who took us under their wing and by that I mean plied us with Budweiser! We had an enjoyable evening and made some valuable connections. The rest of the week was filled with both training and sightseeing and before we knew it the week was over.
We were tired but happy. New friends had been made, memories created and many many laughs were had. Our journey home was both nightmarish and hilarious. I won’t go in to too much detail but it involved missed trains, airline strikes, hotel issues and lost luggage along with a host of other dramas. It was made bearable by the company of a certain Ms Emma Boylan.
She carried my luggage and helped me with my crutches whenever I needed it and never once complained. I would like to say a huge thank you to each and every person I met while away. The experience was one I will never forget and I cannot wait to do it all again next year!!!
Nikki Bradley is the founder of Fighting Fit For Ewing’s, a campaign to promote awareness of Ewing’s Sarcoma. Nikki is sponsored by All Sports in Donegal Town. Support her campaign by giving ‘Fighting Fit For Ewing’s’ a LIKE on Facebook or follow her on Twitter @nikkibradley59