Esperanto Language Blog

Universala Kongreso – something for everyone! (Part 2/2) Posted by on Aug 16, 2011 in Uncategorized

In the last part, to enjoy the conference, David Dougherty asked himself the following questions:

a. Where could I meet people?
b. What were my personal interests?
c. What could this Congress offer me, that is not available elsewhere?

The following describe the particular highlights of the Congress for him, including his answers:

1. Visiting the tables for all the special-interest groups during the Movada Foiro. I got to explore various interests and meet individual Esperanto speakers who promoted them.

JoMo: always a crowd pleaser!

2. Going to the banquet and the ball. At the banquet, I met many new people, and at the ball, one of my friends from Second Life (the virtual reality world) invited me to dance. We had both been to virtual dance parties before in Second Life, but this was for real! They had great music at the ball, too!

3. Seeing the musical group Kajto playing and singing spontaneously on the stairs. Others joined in and made it a family-like etoso (atmosphere) for which Esperanto congresses are famous.

[Chuck: Note that atmosfero means the atmosphere in a scientific sense while etoso is more like a good atmosphere at a party.]

4. Seeing the Esperanto theater presentation–“Dek Tagoj de Kapitano Postnikov” (Ten Days of Captain Postnikov), which dramatized the life of Zamenhof and early Esperanto speakers.

5. Seeing the indoor concerts: Kajto, Ĵomart & Nataŝa, Reverie, and on the final evening, the chorus and singers with their individual presentations at the Internacia Arta Vespero (International Art Evening)–these were all very well done! Meeting the musicians in person and getting to hear their stories was also fun.

Esperanto info table attracts local passers-by

6. The outdoor concert at Islands Brygge–Kim Henriksen with Esperanto Desperado, JoMo, La Perdita Generacio. This was particularly good. The crowd and the musicians had a lot of energy, and the concert was outdoors by the river and open to the public. Many people stopped by and watched, and visited the information table where Danish Esperantists handed out information in Danish about Esperanto, while Esperanto musicians played and showed people that the language is indeed very much alive. I thought that not only did this have a fantastic atmosphere, but is one of the best publicity efforts that I have seen for Esperanto recently.

7. Touring the center of Copenhagen and hitting the herring buffet at a restaurant in Nyhavn together with Kalle Kniivilä and Steve Brewer.

8. Taking Betty Chatterjee’s guided tour of Copenhagen. Just as in 6, this was a great chance to get to know a small group of fellow Esperanto speakers and experience a unique location at the same time.

9. Meeting my Esperanto friends in person who I knew from the Internet: from Second Life, Skype, Ipernity, Facebook, etc.

Betty Chatterjee shows us around Copenhagen

10. Sitting with several Esperanto speakers around the table every evening in the lobby of my hotel, over a beer or two. Here is where I realized that not only the major events are fun, but the after-hours “unofficial” gatherings are even better. The Congress provides these opportunities, but I had to see them and take advantage of them! This is where I met some people who I had never met online or at any other Esperanto events.

In short, my answers to questions a, b, and c are:

a. I was best able to meet people at smaller and more spontaneous gatherings. Meeting people who I already knew online proved to be an excellent start, and the smaller casual meetups proved to be the best way for me. It takes some time to uncover these possibilities, but they are there.

b. I found the musical and cultural presentations to be the most interesting and fun.

c. The Congress offered concerts and music, theater, and the banquet and ball, all on a much grander scale than I had ever seen elsewhere. Also, the local trips in Copenhagen (six and seven) were friendly and of course, unique to Copenhagen and offered more personal contact with other Esperanto speakers as well!

Universal Congresses are large and can be confusing and a tad impersonal at first. Making contact with Esperantists online will provide you with a group of friends who will welcome you once you arrive. I believe that lectures can be quite interesting, but taking part in concerts and cultural events makes the experience much more special (and only these larger congresses have the resources to provide so many of these). Experiencing the local city together with Esperanto speakers not only puts you in contact with new people, but provides a uniquely local experience as well. For me, the events in c proved to be the way to go–for me, they were the best way to benefit from the Congress.

Thanks David for your story and all the advice. I wouldn’t recommend the UK to a beginner, because you really want to be fluent in order to fully appreciate it. I was fortunate that my first UK in 2002 was right after the Brazilian Internacia Junulara Kongreso in the same country, so I already knew a lot of people right off the bat. It still felt overwhelming though! In any case, I always say that it’s the Mecca of the Esperanto world. Everyone should make the pilgrimmage at least once in their life. It’s not for everyone, but some people go every year. Only by going for yourself will you see whether it’s really for you or not.

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About the Author: Chuck Smith

I was born in the US, but Esperanto has led me all over the world. I started teaching myself Esperanto on a whim in 2001, not knowing how it would change my life. The timing couldn’t have been better; around that same time I discovered Wikipedia in it’s very early stages and launched the Esperanto version. When I decided to backpack through Europe, I found Esperanto speakers to host me. These connections led me to the Esperanto Youth Organization in Rotterdam, where I worked for a year, using Esperanto as my primary language. Though in recent years I’ve moved on to other endeavors like iOS development, I remain deeply engrained in the Esperanto community, and love keeping you informed of the latest news. The best thing that came from learning Esperanto has been the opportunity to connect with fellow speakers around the globe, so feel free to join in the conversation with a comment! I am now the founder and CTO of the social app Amikumu.


  1. Allan Lemos:

    Kara Chuck,
    via artikolo estas bonega precipe koncerne la komparo inter pilgrimado al Mekao kaj partopreno en UK.
    Mi neniam demandis min kial mi ne iras al la UK kaj nun vi donis al mi bonan kialon.
    Tiel, mi iros al Mekao! 🙂