Scouts flock to Prague from around the globe

The Central European Jamboree, a traditional 10-day event primarily for scouts from the Visegrad countries, has returned to Prague after eight years. It had its opening ceremony at the Prague Exhibition Grounds by Stromovka park on Tuesday evening.

Barbora Trojak | Photo: Khalil Baalbaki,  Český rozhlas

Although the majority of the more than one thousand young scouts attending this year’s 15th edition of the jamboree are from Europe, primarily the Visegrad countries, Barbora Trojak, spokeswoman for the scouting organization, says that people have come from 23 countries all around the world:

“This year we have scouts coming from Israel and from Ukraine. We can see at these gatherings that scouting is our universal language – even if we’re all from different countries, we have this thing in common, which is wonderful. It allows us to overcome language and other barriers.”

For the next week and a half, Prague's Stromovka park will be full of tents. Over the course of three days, volunteers turned the site at the Prague Exhibition Grounds into a scout camp, complete with cafes, a museum, and a teahouse. The camp is in the same place where, in 1931, 15,000 scouts from all over Europe gathered for a similar event, to celebrate 20 years of Czechoslovak scouting.

“The interesting thing is that we are now standing on the path that is in one of the historical photos we have from 1931. This exact path is photographed there and there are tents all around it just like now.”

Photo: Michal Kamaryt,  ČTK

Upon their arrival in Prague in 1931, the participants went to Prague Castle, where they were welcomed by the first Czechoslovak president, Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, who spoke to the young people and praised the ideas and thoughts of scouting in his opening speech.

Not only is that event considered to be one of the biggest and most significant events in the history of Czech scouting, but it also established the tradition of similar scout meetings. Known today as the Central European Jamboree, it was officially revitalised in 1997, and since 2004 has taken place every other year. The organization of the event rotates between Czechia, Slovakia, Poland and Hungary, with Czechia last hosting it in 2014.

This year’s event promises sports and skills days, mass field games, and a procession through the capital.

“One of the days we’ll have the traditional parade, starting at Vystavište and finishing at Letná. We’ll all be in traditional costumes and carrying flags and banners with the names of our countries or towns. So I’m really looking forward to that, it will be really colourful.”

The main purpose of the gathering is to connect young people aged between 14 and 17 from all over the world and to establish new friendships, regardless of nationality or language.

Photo: Michal Kamaryt,  ČTK

This has certainly not been lost on these two young Czech attendees, who spoke to Czech Radio.

“I had never been to an international event, so I wanted to experience what it was like.”

“I would like to meet some scouts from other countries, so that we can get to know each other better and write letters to each other.”

And, as Barbora Trojak adds, the idea is also for them to leave feeling inspired.

“The point is that they will leave richer, and that's about new contacts, new friends and new relationships. But also about inspiration: they will try activities that they don't do at home, that they don't know and can bring something back to their scout groups at home. And also for them to have an experience – because this is most likely one of their first meetings with the wider scout family.”