At the first Interpret Croatia General Meeting it was suggested that we should also connect with Interpret Europe to widen our horizons and gain valuable knowledge. So it was a spur of the moment decision – Prague here I come!
It was a lovely April afternoon in Zagreb, Croatia. Still under the impression of the first and very successful workshop organised by a newly established association, Interpret Croatia (IC), in March, I was very much looking forward to seeing some of my colleagues again at IC’s first General Meeting. 
Interesting lectures and a lot of practical work triggered the exchange of ideas, experiences and energy at our first workshop in a small town of Ogulin, the home of a great multimedia and interactive visitor centre „Ivana’s House of Fairy Tales’. All the participants were thrilled to learn that interpretation in Croatia is no longer just wishful thinking but a serious and professional effort to interpret and bring the best of Croatian heritage into the light for Europe and the world to see.
Having an interest for interpretation in common, we connected, became friends and stayed in touch so seeing familiar faces at the General Meeting was a bit like a family reunion – with a touch of seriousness, of course, thanks to our President, Darko Babić, and IE Secretary, Ivana Jagić, who were responsible for delivering the agenda and all official reports.
During the free discussion on the importance of networking and gaining valuable experience, our Vice President and IE National Coordinator, Dragana Ratković Aydemir, pointed out that IC members should also connect with the members of Interpret Europe in order to widen their horizons in the matter of the interpretation. Hearing about the IE Spring Event being organised so close by, in Czech Republic, made me think – this was definitely an opportunity not to be missed! And when Dragana kindly offered me a place in their car, thus removing my transportation concerns, I made my decision very quickly – IE Spring Event here I come!
From that moment on, everything went very smoothly thanks to the administrator, Helena Vičič, who replied to all my e-mails kindly, informatively and quickly, making me feel welcomed already! Knowing that Dragana and her ‘Muses’ Ivana and Mirna would be there, and also Iva Silla, our first interpretative guide/ trainer and the author of Secret Zagreb Tours (highly recommended) gave me once again a feeling of belonging to the Croatian interpretation family.
Finally, May 18th arrived, luggage was packed and early in the morning we were ready for a long drive to Prague. Due to the serious construction works on the Czech highway the drive was much longer than expected but we were in a good mood thanks to Dragana’s witty and cheerful husband, Oguz. 
The arrival in Prague was a special moment for me. I wandered through its colorful and vibrant streets as a carefree student 25 years ago, and I was really curious to see if my adult eyes would see it in a different way on this occasion.
Although a part of me wished to be closer to the centre, Toulcův dvůr, where the event was held, was a pleasant surprise. This historic farm estate, recently transformed into an ecological learning centre, is also a fine example of interpreted heritage. It would be great to have such grounds in Zagreb – a place where kids can get in touch with nature and learn about it. My favourite part of Toulcův dvůr was a small gift shop. I was enchanted with bright colours and the beautiful smell of the flowers, and especially with the offer of various hand made souvenirs created from natural materials, telling the story about Czech history and heritage.
My first encounter with the IE Spring Event team, Helena and Michal, took place during the registration. Michal was busy with final organising touches as well as Helena who was just as kind and dear as I imagined through our e-mail correspondence. When I got a key to my hostel room, I realised that I had never been in a hostel before! Thanks to my funny and cool roomates, Janja Sivec and Iva Silla, it was a positive first-time experience. After refreshment, it was too late for me to join Iva in exploring Prague, but I found an even better thing to do. The best way for a new member to join the IE family was to help Michal and Helena with a few remaining organisational challenges and to meet the IE Spring Event participants one by one as they arrived at Toulcův dvůr. 
While preparing the materials, we were conversing in English, and also in Czech, Slovenian and Croatian – the languages with so many similar words! I assisted Michal and Helena until the begining of the event, and the adrenaline rush reminded me of numerous events I used to organise while working for the biggest Croatian online travel agency Our day at the event office ended very late but in a very nice way – in Toulcův dvůr’s yard, Michal showed us a wonderful sight of a very bright spring sky and a myriad of stars above Prague. 
Finally, on Friday afternoon, after several busy but enjoyable hours with Helena, Michal and Sarah Wendl who also offered to assist, I became a regular participant, a new member of the IE family excited to meet my fellow colleagues from all around Europe and even Brazil. Many thanks to Michal who acknowledged my contribution to the preparations in his opening speech. I felt I became a part of the European interpretation family as well as the Croatian.
During my time in Prague I really enjoyed all the engaging conversations with so many different and interesting colleagues like Ivana, Dijana, Sebastian, Alicja, Tetyana, Marie, Claudiu, Franziska, Jose, Valya, Celine, Zrinka and many more… An IE event or a conference provides a great opportunity for some quality networking, but very often there is just not enough time to talk more extensively to people we share professional interests with. As I have suggested to Helena, it would be useful to create a database of participants with their photos and basic information on the IE website before the conference, in order to make easier and faster connections once we are there.
All IE members were very informal and friendly during the breaks, and professional and dedicated during their sessions. I was sorry for not being able to attend all the sessions because very often it was really hard to choose. The keyonote about the European Heritage Days by Jelena Mocevic from Council of Europe was delivered with impressive passion and energy. Elien de Meyere from the Belgian University College VIVES gave us an interesting example of a successful introduction of the World Word II heritage to very small children, emphasising their ability to understand any topic if it was skilfully interpreted. I especially enjoyed an insight into Danish higher education because it is so very different from Croatian. Poul Hjulmann Seidler from Copenhagen University gave an engaging and motivated lecture about assignments and courses as stepping stones to reaching the higher learning levels. The presentation of University of the Highlands and Island by Steven Timoney made me think about formal education in the field of interpretation. I was also excited to see in what way our neighbours from Slovenia answered the challenge of mobile media interpretation. Franci Zidar from Nexto Inc. introduced us to their culture management platform and showed us how great and useful the synergy between new technologies and interpretation can be.
The most useful part of the event for me was the IE traning taster for Interpretative Writing. As a new member I wasn’t aware I had to sign up for the ‘tasters’, and was rather disappointed when I found out that the list was full. In an attempt to get in and just observe, I approached Steven Richards-Price from Natural Resources Wales, who was running the course taster, and I wasn’t the only one! Steven was kind enough to drop the idea of the workshop and gave a general overview of the course to everyone who was interested. If the idea for organising this course in Croatia is realised, I will be more than happy to attend!
After the official part, it was time for sightseeing and finally visiting Prague. The weather was cloudy, the Charles Bridge was terrifingly overcrowded and the tour around it didn’t impress me as much as I expected it to, but the view from the tower and a walk through the city of Prague reminded me of the reasons I fell in love with this city in the first place. Dinner in an authentic Czech restaurant ‘K medvedku’ gave us a chance to try some of their famous delicacies but I played safe ordering a Greek Salad and didn’t regret it. The company at our table was loud and cheerful, mostly thanks to our Spanish-Croatian crowd and excellent Czech beer. I noticed much the same atmosphere at other tables! An evening stroll through Prague was just the opposite experience, quiet and relaxed. While walking through the old streets of Hradčany I was finally able to feel the true soul of Prague. 
We said our goodbyes on Sunday morning since we had to leave before the official end due to the long drive home. The best part of the event was meeting all those really great people, and saying goodbye was a chance to thank everyone for the unforgettable moments and to invite all new friends to Zagreb. I wished Bill Taylor a succesful organisation of the IE confrence in Inverness, Scotland, that will take place this October. Although I won’t be able to join the IE family there, I wish all participants a great time like the one I had in Prague, and I highly recommend IE conferences to new members!

Silvija Jacić is a journalist and promotion manager from Zagreb, Croatia. After working as web editor and head of PR for, Croatia’s first and largest online travel agency, she became a freelancer with a special interest in promoting interpreted heritage. She is a member of Interpret Croatia and also joined Interpret Europe in March 2017. She can be contacted at:

To cite this article:
Jacić, Silvia (2017) â€˜IE Spring Event through the eyes of a new member‘. In Interpret Europe Newsletter 2-2017, 6-8.  
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