Favorite Places: Cadelbosco

Cadelbosco is a village in Reggio Emilia, Italy. My first visit here was three years ago. A friend of mine I had met at the European Taizé meeting in Rotterdam for new year’s eve 2010 invited me and a couple of other people to meet him at a Taizé meeting in Cadelbosco the following summer. He organized everything – prayers, touristic trips and host families for all of us. Latter is what I love most about Cadelbosco.
Annagret, Gianni and their daughter Chiara treated me like a family member right from the start. Since Annagret has swiss parents, she speaks German which made my first stay in Italy a lot easier. Gianni and Chiara only speak little English but we use our hands, feet and surrounding to communicate – it works out quite well. Since Chiara has had more English lessons and I started to learn Italian a few months ago we started to talk bilingual.

Talking about language: last evening was a great example of how eight people can talk in five languages at the same time while still understanding each other quite well. Wondering how this works? Let me start three years ago…
As I mentioned before, our group gathered for the first time as a result of the great encounters we have had at Rotterdam. Mauro (Italian) invited several people and we finally met with three Polish, one Columbian and one German girl as his church community’s guest. Two of the Polish girls (Anna and Joanna) and I remained faithfull to Cadelbosco and kept visiting the following years as well. As time has passed our little Taizé group has developed its very own way of communication.

Our language net (c) Laura Konieczny

Our language net
(c) Laura Konieczny

Since we all have a different life story, we ovisously speak different languagesb. English is the only one we all have in common. Apart from that we speak and/or understand German, Polish, Italian and Spanish. Yes, some of us do understand a language but have trouble speaking it. I, for example, just started to learn Italian but have had Latin and French at school so I am capable of getting what the Italians are talking about but I only stutter a few sentences (Mi chiama Laura. Ho venti anni. Io sono dalla Germania. Io studio della letteratura e della cultura. Parlo solo un po ‘di italiano. Un gelato per favore. Mi piace.) Well, I DO know some more Italian – but it always takes some time to recollect what I have learned a while ago so I tend to take the easy way of speaking English (I know I shouldn’t, but well…)
Anna speaks Spanish fluently because she has studied in Spain. Since Italian sounds similar she understands it quite well but has never learned how to speak it. It works the other way round as well. Luca has a Polish mum and therefor speaks and understands Polish. He talks to Anna and Joanna in Polish quite a lot and helps Mauro to learn Polish as well because the Italian guy will move to Poznan in Poland next June to live there with his Polish girlfriend he met in Milan. Love doesn’t know country borders, I guess. I could go on like this for hours but the map I drew should be self-explanatory.

The point I want to make is that you do not need to know a language perfectly in order to get along and to have a good time together. When we cooked dinner last evening (oh yeah, I AM IN CADELBOSCO RIGHT NOW for an extended weekend) we named every item we used in five languages. Pronunciation is a funny thing… have you ever heard an Italian try to say “Pfefferminzkuchen” or a German read out Italian recipes she has never heard of before? Try it and you’ll burst out laughing.

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Favorite places: Taizé

To start off with my blog, I would like to introduce you to some of my favorite places in the world.

Taizé
is by far one of my favorite places and actually the one I visited most. I somehow lost counting but I guess I have been there about six times, excluding the three european meetings in Rotterdam and Cadelbosco.
 

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You might have heard about the Taizé Community as some kind of summer camp before, but I will give you a short introduction on the  Taizé Community.

It is an ecumenical monastic order in Taizé, Burgundy, France close to Dijon. More than one hundred protestant and catholic brothers from about thirty countries across the world live there. When Brother Roger first arrived in 1940 he bought a house to hide war refugees. He had to leave the country due to the Gestapo in 1942 but came back to France in 1944. By then, the first brothers had joined him to found a protestant and later on ecumenical community (Communauté). Many other Christians followed the brothers and formed what now is one of the world’s most important sites of Christian pilgrimage. Over 100,000 young people from all over the world come to Taizé each year to pray, do Bible studies, meet new people and do communal work. Due to its ecumenical outlook the Taizé Community encourages people to live in the spirit of kindness, simplicity and reconciliation.

Those who know me in person can probably tell a thing or two about how passionate I can become when talking about my Taizé experiences. It is one of the places that favored me with the most diverse, stunning, spiritual experiences I have had so far.

Small discussion groups.

Small discussion groups. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A typical day in Taizé starts with a communal prayer in the church of reconciliation, followed by a simple breakfast (tea or hot chocolate, one piece of bread, a piece of butter, two pieces of chocolate) and a bible introduction by one of the brothers. After the bible introduction you meet in small groups to discuss the bible passage and do some sharing about your faith, your life and whatever you like to talk about. Since you usually are in a small group with people from several different countries you usually also get to know not only a lot about different cultures but also many fun games. I have never seen that many playing ice breaker games at the same time. It is no rarity to start playing a game or singing a folksong in a group of six people and end up playing it with 16 or even 60. What follows are church at noon, lunch, another meeting in your small groups to discuss or do work at the community and tea and a snack in the afternoon. The last prayer of the day is the evening prayer after lunch.

If you like to know more about a typical day in Taizé ,including a schedule for the entire day, have a look at the community’s website.

Prayer in Taizé church

Prayer in Taizé church (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You go to church thrice a day for morning prayer, midday prayer and evening prayer. Yes, I am a religious person. But No, I would never think of going to church this often in my every day life. However, there is something special about the prayers in Taizé. They are different to what one is used to from catholic or protestant worships and masses because they appear to be less formal but more meditative. All you do is sing repetitive songs, listen to small texts and enjoy ten minutes of silence during each prayer. What actually sounds unusual at the first glance has given me a lot of strength throughout the past years. Did you ever just sit down for a while thinking about God, the world and nothing? Although it appears to be an easy thing to do I usually do not take the time to do so on a regular basis when I am at home in Germany. So everytime I am in Taizé I quite enjoy it.

 

A beautiful house at the village

What I also like a lot about Taizé is the fact that everybody is really open-minded. And by everybody – I mean EVERYBODY. Throughout the past six years I have not met a single grumpy or unfriendly person in Taizé. Everybody seems to be interested in meeting new people, learning about their cultures and sharing their views.
I also really enjoy the nature in and around the village. There is a broad variety of paths, rivers, and fields you can walk through if you want to have some time to organize your thoughts as well as to go on a little trip with your newly gained friends.

I am actually not quite sure if this blog post could possibly give you an impression of why I love Taizé. I could spend hours and days writing about my personal experiences in that wonderful little village in France. Pages over pages could be filled with stories about countless interesting people I met, spiritual moments I had during prayer and meditation and memorable moments I have had playing funny games. Unfortunately, this would go too far.