About Kelli and her first month in YUNIT Schwaz

Hello, my name is Kelli and I am Volunteering in Yunit Schwaz youth center.

I am from Estonia, but last year before coming to Austria I lived in Latvia. In University I studied hydrobiology and from there I got my bachelor degree. I love nature and everything about that, but not so much about working as a researcher, which is basically too much paperwork, too less being actually in nature. (: After University I finished some more studies. These are accounting, youth work and truck driving. As you may understand little about me – I love studying and am not afraid to get experience in different fields.

At the beginning of the 2021 I started to learn truck driving and ended my studies two week before coming to Austria

More or less I have done youth work ten years from my early 20’s. I started to volunteer in a youth center already in high school where I replaced the local youth worker when she had to be in University. In 2017 the whole year I volunteered in an orphanage and for that I received a letter of thanks recognized by the municipality. I have been a volunteer coordinator in an Animal Society organization and at the same time I was also a group leader for some youth exchanges and wrote one Erasmus + YE project about animal welfare by myself. Two year I worked in Estonia as a youth worker in a youth center.

What I like about youth work is a similar example with city Rome. Rome took thousands of years to build, and it will never be ‘finished’. Youth work grows and evolves over time. Some of the basic things will always be the same – like youths wish to be accepted, loved, listened to and tolerated by others. But there are many things which change in time. So it is important that the youth worker himself is open to changes in youth work and ready to learn anything new at any moment – in youth work, none of your days are exactly the same as the previous one! 🙂

2020 we made trip with my youth center kids to forest and stayed there one night

2019 after my short term volunteer service in England I knew I wanted to do a long term volunteer service before I get 31. Because some of the people in that project were from Austria and I really liked how they talked about Austria, I just couldn’t get Austria mountains outside of my head after that. But at that time only one idea was clear: that I want to practice youth work abroad to give later a little fresh air and energy back to Estonia or Latvia youth work. And the other thing I knew what I wanted was that this youth center can’t be completely different from Estonia’s average youth center, because then the changes and ideas will be too big or even impossible to make.

Example in Finland, where they have youth center houses, which are the same sizes as Estonian countryside schools. Inside there they have big gaming rooms, a psychologist, job counselor, hall and so much more. Which all looks very nice and are with a big purpose – youth don’t have to go outside of his/her safe room to get the services he/she needs. I visited Finland youth centers and it was so nice to see and experience it, but it was a little bit far away from Estonian youth center work at that time. Then I started to do my research about Austrian youth centers and found out they are quite similar to Estonian youth centers, but they had little difference, like bars and party rooms inside youth centers. And I decided to give it a try..

And here I am and beside the difficult corona time and lock-down I think I made a perfect choice about the place. In my workplace I am doing youth work – being there for youths, helping them spend their free times, supporting their ideas and building trustful relationships. What I like about the YUNIT is that every worker has a different role to carry and it is fantastic to see how everyone is very professional in their role. I definitely have a lot of things to learn from them. We have a lovely hostess, we have a trusty super active character, we have a fun but specific role and me a trying-to-find-my-role one. Every worker is supported by their own ideas – all the new ideas are welcome and supported by others.

Kelli:”Youthwork is so easy.” Also Kelli after one week of being a youth worker in YUNIT Schwaz. Of course it is a little joke, youths are very welcoming here – it was our Halloween party. 🙂

Because right now we have a lock-down we had to change our working style and we are doing activities only online. Within one week I built the E-YUNIT Schwaz Discord server where we are making public video meetings or individual video meetings with youths, posting hand craft ideas, making cooking class live and challenging ourselves with physical activities. Every week I am doing weekly photo/video challenges which we great later as Instagram reel. For celebrating advent time I created an online advent calendar where every day is opening some new idea, challenge or tips on how to make still going corona time easier for yourself and every day remind us also to youth that we are there for them by our contact written.

This is basically my first month volunteering in YUNIT Schwaz youth center. In my free time I like to go hiking and I would like to talk about that also in one moment. Right now I think this post is already too long to read – so thank you if you manage until here. 🙂 So next time I will talk about how I am filling my free time here and maybe share some hiking pictures and tips.

About my new adventure

I arrived in Wörgl in mid-June 2021 on a beautiful, sunny day. My coordinator waited at the station, showed me around and gave me all the information I needed… She did her best to make me feel good and comfortable from the beginning. Thank you, Kadri!

This place impressed me from the first moment. I really like this small town, the fresh alpine air and the view of the mountains. I enjoy that nature is so close and I can easily go hiking or cycling.
During summer I spent most of my free time outside and discovered a lot of amazing places in the area.

Möslalm – the closest mountain to my appartment, which is higher than the highest point of Hungary

My project is very varied, every day of the week is a bit different and always something new is coming. I really enjoy it! I mostly work at youth centres in Wörgl and the surrounding villages. In addition to Jugendtreffs, I help with the office, Frauencafe, Lernfreude and various events.

At Flashpoint in Kundl

During my work I met a lot of people. The smaller kids are always nice and it´s easy to impress them. They are always happy to teach me something new in German during the games. With the teenagers it is a bit harder, but as I get to know them better and as my German knowledge improves it´s getting easier and easier. Luckily my colleagues are kind and patient. They help me a lot and make the work more enjoyable.

The first weekend I spent here there was a summer party, where I met nearly everyone who is working at komm!unity. It was nice to be there, even if I struggled with the language. I studied German at high school, but I didn`t really use it for a long time. This knowledge was enough to say some words about myself and to understand them when they talked slowly without dialect. Of course the conversation was mainly in dialect and when they talked fast to each other it was impossible to understand them. Nevertheless, I tried to concentrate all the time and catch some words, phrases. It was tiring and not easy, but funny at the same time.

I could have spoken with them in English, but I decided to talk in German from the beginning because I knew this is the best way to learn. After a month one of my colleagues was surprised how much I had improved. I already felt that my passive knowledge started slowly to turn on active again.

The other volunteers are nice as well. It is always good to meet people who are in the same situation as you. During summer we had some great adventures together. We went hiking, swimming, cycling together, visited a festival above 2000 meters and so on… It was a very nice time!

During a hike in Ötztal, near the Erlanger Hütte
Volunteer meeting on the Nordkette – the Top of Innsbruck

Unfortunately most of them left already, but now new volunteers have arrived. I am sure we will soon have many memories together. I look forward to it. 😊

All in all I really enjoy this project and I am glad to be here!

Anna Fülöp – volunteer in Wörgl, komm!unity

What a turn!

My name is Jesús, I am Spanish, and I have been a volunteer worker in Tirol.

In 2020, I decided to turn my life around – what a turn! Therefore I left Spain. Even though these were difficult times, Covid era, I thought it could be worth it. And yes, I have the Jesus of the past to thank for having made that decision despite all the difficulties.

For this reason I started looking for an association in which I could volunteer. I found one called Arche Tirol. At that time I did not know Tyrol very well, I only knew that there were many mountains, that it was very cold, and that Heidi’s house was there (more or less).

I contacted the association, who take care of people with intellectual disabilities. Just what I had trained for! I began to see photos of the area, the type of work carried out by the association with the users, and every time I was convinced more and more. I thought “if there is another quarantine, I want to spend it there”.

In the end, and after interviews and many emails, Arche gave me the go-ahead. I came here, as we say in Spain, “with one hand in front and one behind”. Not knowing German, not knowing anyone here, just traveling by plane alone, scared of turbulence.

Well, all this stuff just to say it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I have met great people, I feel like home here. I’m so good that I think I’m going to stay one more season… or two ;). Arche has hired me as a worker, and I am so happy! Spain can wait a bit.

From time to time it is good to say goodbye to your comfort zone and go out to find new experiences, to live new things, to meet new people …

Before I finish, I want to share with you the question that made me come here, and that I ask myself regularly every time I want to get out of my comfort zone but I don’t dare:

What are you going to regret, to do it, or not to do it?

Without anything else to say, I want to thank all the people who have supported me this year, who have helped me to adapt more easily to the country, the people of Arche Tirol, and especially also the people of my voluntary association, InfoEck, who have been working hard so that we all feel comfortable and warm.

Thanks for your attention, and greetings to all who are reading this!


Back to my other reality

Lora Egle

Perks of volunteering from today’s perspective

Since I returned from my holiday, I miss Austria everyday. This is something I did not expect to feel. It has been two years since I finished my year of volunteering in the youth centre Park in in Hall in Tirol, and to be honest I rarely had a nostalgia about my great experience there. I truly enjoyed my project and living in Austrian Alps for a year, but I was as happy to return to Riga, Latvia. Despite the pandemic, my life after the project has been joyful and fulfilled – I have an amazing job, I have started to study again, and I am surrounded by great people. And during these unpredictable times I have realized how meaningful and beneficial the year of volunteering has been for my personal growth. While working in the youth centre abroad I learned an important thing that has helped me to stay calm and even enjoy the times of pandemic, it is going with the flow. Accepting the things the way they are. Not unnecessarily worrying about the things I cannot affect. Keeping a cool and open mind, and most importantly enjoying!

After returning to Latvia, I literally noticed my development because I felt more mature than my friends who have not done transnational volunteering. During my year in Austria I had to overcome several emotional challenges regarding the living abroad and it only did make me stronger, more confident, and more open-minded. A friend of mine from Albania who was an Erasmus student in Latvia once told me that I am more Western than other Latvians. This small remark stayed in mind, and I have thought about it quite a lot. I believe that volunteering in Austria added to the development of my European mindset.

A gap year of volunteering also added to my professional qualifications as I used the opportunities to learn by doing. In addition to European Solidarity Corps volunteering I did some more volunteering for an organisation Plattform Asyl in Innsbruck that works with refugee integration issues. During the work in a youth centre, I met many minor refugees and I got very interested in how the asylum and integration system works in Austria. Back then in Latvia there were few refugees, and I had a limited knowledge about the questions regarding their life, therefore I was curious to learn more. In Plattform Asyl I had a chance to help the amazing Kathrin Heis who was open to share her broad knowledge.

After working with refugees in person and getting to know about the institutional level in Austria, I was inspired to bring my new knowledge and understanding to Latvia. By fortuity when I came back to Latvia there was an open position for a social mentor within the project supported by the UN Refugee Agency and I got a chance to work in Latvian refugee integration system for five months until the pandemic. It was a great experience to compare both systems and contribute to refugee well-being in both Austria and Latvia which creates unique knowledge and understanding of integration issues in Europe.

Visiting Austria 2021

We had a plan with my colleagues from Park in that I will visit Tirol in the next summer after finishing my project but by then the pandemic had already made changes in our lives. Therefore, I postponed my trip and went to Austria this August. Before going back to Austria I was excited and wondering how I will feel being back to the places I have spent a whole year. I am not very good at keeping regular contact; thus I was thinking how I will be welcomed after two years. Will everything be different? Have the youngsters that I worked with grown a lot, do they even remember me?

But once I arrived, I felt like visiting my second home. Such an incredibly good and peaceful feeling! Seeing the familiar faces and streets, feeling the friendship and warmth – it felt like I was gone for a couple of months not almost two years. During just 10 days I met many people and visited many places, and absolutely would have liked to prolong my stay for a month. I especially appreciated the conversations with ex-volunteers and current volunteers. Everyone’s experience and path are different, but it is great to talk with people who understand and can relate to things and feelings only volunteers know.

And, of course, mountains! Living in such flat country as Latvia I did miss Austrian Alps, but I did not realize how much! I was sending photos to my friends and work colleagues in Latvia, and as one of them said: Lora, you are in a different reality now! And he was right. My life in Latvia and my life in Austria are two different realities. It is weird and awesome at the same time. After this holiday, I have realized how lucky I am to have those people and places Austria thanks to European Solidarity Corps. A part of my heart will always be in Tirol.

Lora Egle (European Solidarity Corps volunteer in Jugendhaus Park In October 2018 – September 2019)

Volunteering at a Montessori School

My name is Barnabé Albrespy, and I did a volunteering project in the SCHULGARTEN – Aktive Montessorischule Telfs in Tirol from September 2020 until July 2021. This is a Montessori school where children from 6 to 15 years old study. I worked the most of the time with a group of children from 6 to 9 years old.

The children work during the morning, which is divided in two parts. The first part of the morning is called « Free work time ». The students have to on different topics and different activities. During this time, I could help them, to make some activities or to propose some work if they don’t know what to do. After this part comes the « Free play time ».  During this time the children have the choice between playing in the garden, the school or to work creatively. Each day one teacher and once a week myself, propose a creative offer to the children. When I don’t make creative offers, I try to propose some games to them or at least I have a look to see how everything goes. At the end of the day is a short time where the children have to clean the room of the school. I also helped them to do this task.

I feel really happy in my work. The contact with the children is great. They are friendly and they have a lot of good ideas for work and for games. Also, the atmosphere between the teachers is great. My colleagues propose me all the time some nice work and games to do, therefore I always felt active and useful, which I really enjoyed.

Each Wednesday is the “Natureday“ – where we go on to the forest, the mountain or next tot he river. Same as the other days, there is a time of work and a time for games. I also prepared some work, activities and creative offers that I propose to the children. It’s all the time a really good day with a great atmosphere. Even if the weather is rainy or cold, the children are just happy to be outside. I also did Naturedays with the older group of the school. The Natureday I soften a very special day and we do great activities.

In addition to these nice moments in the school and during the Naturedays, we also do some projects with the children. We are actually doing a Garden Project with them. All the children, who want to participate, have a little area where they could plant some things. It’s also a really nice project because I think it’s great to get in contact with the nature. I was very surprise to see how many children were interested about this project. They have so much motivation to make a nice garden and to take care of the plants. Some of them go every morning before the school to check how the plants are doing an to water them.

This volunteering experience was really intense form me and the contact with the children was good. It was always a lot of fun to help them in the work and to play with them. It was my first working experience after high school and I think that going abroad during one year and work within this type of project was the best way to travel and to grow up. I’m really happy that I had the chance to discover a new country and also to discover a new way to do school. I was very interested about alternative and specially Montessori pedagogy. I think that this year thought me a lot of things.  


Up, Down and Further Underground

I arrived at the Backerei a good 15 minutes later than the time that I said I would be there, but no matter, because Maxime was not there either. That was good, unpunctuality in meetings is one of the things that I miss the most from home, where I would set up a meeting with my friends at 6 and everybody would send out a message at 6.30 saying that they were about to leave their house and that they would be a bit late. It was just like that, perfectly imperfect.

I weighed the option of waiting outside until I would eventually get a message back from Maxime saying that he was ready to meet me, but it is too late in the year to wait outside in the drizzle instead of bathing in the afternoon sunlight, so I decided against it.

There is always this small kick in my stomach when I have to force myself to enter unfamiliar and non- impersonal spaces on my own that is uncomfortable to say the least. You can draw your own conclusions about me based on this statement. If, however, you guessed that this must have been exactly the feeling I felt while I was sinking in my seat on that airplane that evening on September 4th, when I took off from SKG airport to come to Austria for my volunteership, I would pat you on the back and, in a very teacherly manner, reward you with a star-shaped sticker, because you would be undeniably right. The feeling is always the same, the intensity varies, but the kick is ever-present.

This time it was strong. The consecutive lockdowns have left me with few social skills and a fear of coming out of my shell, but walking through the door all those thoughts were interrupted, dissolved, evaporated into steam on my glasses as temperature change claimed my vision. And also because the cafeteria area of the Backerei is wonderfully cluttered, and could easily pass for one of the many student hangout spots back home in Thessaloniki, which made my shoulders immediately relax.

A man walked up to me and said something, I was still trying to take in the welcoming wormhole I had apparently just stepped through, but I managed to say that I was looking for Maxime. He confessed that he did not know what Maxime was up to, but urged me to take a seat in the front room a wait. It’s just like a doctor’s appointment, I thought, and also said so out loud because I found the thought funny, and with that, I took a seat next to the library corner in the far end of the room that seemed to be extra comforting, even though the space already felt familiarly cozy.

I looked around, occasionally people walked in and out and there was chatter coming from the next room. The bookshelves were full of mismatched, clearly pre-loved books. There were plants, an old jukebox that probably wouldn’t play any more and raw elements everywhere. It all looked significantly different from all spaces I had happened in since September. It was not pristine, it was textured. It was authentic, a place where objects seemingly chose their own posts, rather than being arranged by a well-meaning, yet ignorant as to the object’s desired placement human.

When Maxime showed up, I had already swept the entire visible area with my eyes more thoroughly than the thoroughest of spring cleanings and was eager to sweep further in as well. Therefore I was delighted when he offered me a tour of the place, almost immediately after we said our hellos.

He seemed to be well practiced in the art of guiding one around the building and so we glid through doors and corridors, right and left, up and down fluidly like a flood from floor to floor. My head was swimming with information rushing in, my eyes jumped from surface to surface taking in every detail available.

Here are the offices and here are is the art studio, and here is a shower room that leads to another office where someone makes speakers out of old suitcases. Behind that door there is a room where somebody is living, probably. There, on the top of that staircase, is a creepy door that probably leads to some topsy-turvy dimension, and across, that is, behind us, is a door that is not particularly memorable, but behind it are some spare, unhinged doors and a kingdom of dust in an attic.

We stayed a while in the attic. There was a mass of old and dusty wooden furniture appendages piled up high, lining a small path. We followed the path while we were being showered with the last glittering light of the day that was slipping through big and small holes in the sloping roof and thus we were lead to a clearing where an old ornate dresser stood, centered and illuminated from a side window as though it was an ancient occult object of narrative importance that would change our lives forever the moment we touched it. I touched it. To my disappointment, there was no orchestral music playing in the background as I inched closer to it and nothing happened. It also seemed mostly empty.

Behind it lay a plain old trunk that delivered the intrigue the dresser did not. It was filled with old school notebooks from the 60s, where an unknown young child had scribbled notes in perfect and unintelligible cursive.

We went on. If left to my own devices I am certain that I would have stayed poking around in that attic until it ate me away and I was nothing but a pile of forgotten dry bones trying to pry open some sealed crate or locked drawer.

There were balconies with beautiful views and a mishmash of empty flowerpots that I imagined would be the perfect locations for drinking a sunset lemonade. Underneath there were bathroom tiled walls that were not belonging to bathrooms, bathrooms without bathroom tiles and a fridge with a busted light that was filled with all sorts of packaged meat for anyone’s taking. Underneath those where the guts of the Backerei, accessible through a steep rusty ladder underneath a hatch and resembling a lot an underground gymnastics mini-studio/ bike tire graveyard.

It was beautiful. And I was disappointed in myself for not exploring it earlier in my volunteership. It flared my imagination up more than the spring here has flared up my allergies.

When I was small I used to sneak into rooms I was not supposed to sneak in and snoop around all the dusty exhibits I was not allowed to be around because my asthma would take the better of me. My love for my grandma’s old pantry or my parents’ house storage room was drenched in tragic irony, and disapproved by the adults dictating my life back then. But being here alone, with my nearest relative miles away and led enthusiastically into this never-ending rabbit hole of unknown wonders, I was filled with immeasurable child-like joy that I had not felt in years.

My visit in the Backerei stroke a very tender cord and I would honestly describe it as one of the most interesting bits of my whole experience here. I can’t wait to visit again.

Foteini Tyrovouzi


Before coming to Park In I asked myself what would make me a good youthworker.

I knew that the team was very motivated and willing to involve me in every activity. I also wanted to genuinely learn and give my individual contribution.

Being here for more the three months now, I have found out some interesting things that I think every youth worker shares and that makes his or her job so very valuable.


Sounds obvious, but it´s actually not. Not everyone in every field checks in everyday at work with the will to improve the life of people around them; even if that means to listen and pay attention to a single person for an afternoon, or to hang Christmas gift packages to the door so that youngsters can take them. Or to turn on the air diffuser with essential oils or prepare questions to interview the kids about crucial matters.


It´s easier said than done. It is easy when someone, especially if younger, brings an issue to your attention, to want to give an advice. Or maybe, tell them what would be best for them. It comes not natural to just take a step back and listen. With no judgement and no answers. But with openness and understanding instead.


Rules are there to be respected. And youthworkers are there also to help the kids to follow them. This naturally pushes them to keep their accountability in check and be an example for the youngsters. We know that people learn by imitation primarily, and this is crucial when working with younger kids that are often searching for someone to look up to.


In this crazy times of a World wide pandemic we are leaving in restrictions. Most of the activities that were possible before, are no longer allowed. It can be hard to find the motivation to show up with a smile and the right attitude when your job consists mainly in contact with people and now that is in stand by. But still, the focus is always on the solution, never on the problem. Whenever I was asking a question the first answer was never „no“, it was „but, maybe…“. The energy is used to find a creative, different solution.

Those are just few of the elements that youth work consists of. I hope that with time and more experience, I can get to learn even more of them, and grow. In the meantime, I can just be grateful for the amazing opportunity to see this qualities realized in the everyday life.



During this crazy pandemic times it is easy to feel stuck and unsafe, yet some people take advantage of this slow and unsettled era to explore. To explore not only foreign countries, but also and maybe most importantly, different cultures and parts of themselves.

We have some sneak peek of their of their life abroad so far. Let´s dive into their experiences, starting with Baha:

“Due to my high interests about foreign cultures and diversities, I decided to have a social year as a volunteer. I was expecting to improve my multicultural knowledge, learn new languages and discover different cultures. For me that was the way to observe the effect of culture and language on people’s perceptions, behaviors and living styles. Then at the end i could remove borders in my mind and gain better understanding and different approaches of people who are different from me. During my first days of volunteering, I felt that I was exactly in the right place. The place was a Youth Center where I can get in touch with a lot of children from many places of the world. The thing that made me most excited was speaking 3 different languages everyday and switching from one to another instantly during the day. In those moments I felt that I was exactly in the place where I wanted to be.Although only 3 months have passed I feel myself more open minded and with more tolerance about differences. Day by day I learn more about the value of diversity. Once for all, it felt amazing to do a favor without expecting anything and see smiles in their faces.”

Let´s continue with Aleksandra´s words:

“Even if I had any doubts or concerns before coming to Austria, they all faded away as soon as I met my crew, my neighbours and of course the teenagers – the amount of support I received was just amazing. The Tyrolean community was so welcoming that Schwaz instantly became my new beloved home. I am happy that I found a place, where diversity is cherished and everyone can feel safe. I am going to do my best to contribute to the work of the youth centre’s stuff.”

It is interesting to see how important it is to feel welcomed and to perceive a home environment away from home, even when we look for a challenge or a new experience. Linda has also highlighted that concept with her words:

“I first decided to engage in a volunteer project abroad because I wanted to make new experiences and meet new people from a different cultural environment. I didn’t want to create expectations before my departure: I was taking the leap and was ready to welcome everything new with a positive attitude. When I first came to Tyrol I immediately felt that I had made the right decision: the people were welcoming, the environment stimulating and the landscape just dreamlike.During these first months I feel that I have learned a lot about myself, the others and about how to deal with many different situations. I had the occasion to be helpful to people who often come from a difficult background and this had a great impact on my self-development. At the same time, being part of an international community of young volunteers gave me the motivation to overcome the little struggles in everyday life.”

I certainly share many of the feeling expressed by my fellow international explorer! The first word that came to my mind when I stepped into Park In was : Cool. This youth center where I started to work and the beginning of October 2020 really reflects in its aesthetic the purpose that it has; a place where everyone is different and equal, a safe space to share thoughts, music and creativity. My purpose for 2021 is to learn more everyday about that, Austria and Tirol, traveling around as soon as possible! Forever grateful for the chance that I got.

I am sure that even in this challenging times we will all use our time in this beautiful country for the best, always connected.


First Christmas Experience In My Life!

I am Bahattin from Turkey. Since 1st of October i am working as a volunteer for a youth center in Telfs. Altough i have been in Austria before i could not have chance to get in touch with people this much closer and to get know them and their cultures properly. My first days in Austria started amazing. My house, my homemate, my collegues everything and everyone was so nice. Until the second wave of pandemic hit us…

Second wave brought second lockdown with it. One more time we closed ourselves to houses. I had some digital works for youth center and rest of time was passing with reading, running and watching Netflix. During these days i have got and invitation from my German friend Marie. I didn’t even know we have 2 weeks of holiday during christmas. She invited me to her hometown and celebrate Christmas with her family. It was an fabulous idea! It would be really nice to see Marie again after 9 months and despite of the corona situation i could experience one of the most important cultural event of european people.

My flatmate Zita snapped this moment during the lockdown while i was drinking my coffee in our balcony.

I started to packing for my exciting travel. Marie was informing me about christmas and according to her suggestions i went to market to buy some christmas presents to her parents. As far as i learnt they like some special Tirolian foods such as Getrocknete Steinpilze and Tiroler Speck. As far as i learnt presents are one of the most enjoyful part of Christmas! (I will tell others below)

Tiroler Speck and Getrocknete Steinpilze

I was just leaving from the shopping center. Something took my attention and i started to walk toward the place. It was a Christmas Tree shop, surrounded by fences and there were lots of various size of trees. They were just waiting for to be bought. This reminded me our Sacrifice Fest in Turkey. During this fest, lot of cow and sheep bazaars appears around the cities. And people goes there and buy one animal for their family. Then bring them to butcher. They take 1/4 of meats and they donate the rest 3/4 meats to poor people. It is such a social event makes bridge between poor and rich people. Also people visit their families, elder parents and we cook and eat all together for 4 days.

Travel Begins

On 19th of December i was in the train from Innsbruck to Saarland. When the train crossed the German border 3 polices came to me and asked for passport and my travel quarantine registiration. Even as a person from out of Europe like me, it was so unusual to have border control in schengen. But they were so nice and helpful. After 5 years i was in Germany again and while watching outside from window i was thinking about how time flows rapidly even we don’t realize…

During my travel i had 3 train transfer, and it was so impressive to observe places from Telfs to Saarland all the way around. The train passed huge cities like Munich, small cities like Kufstein, and smaller towns and villages which surrounded by farms. You can even realize in this route changing of plant types. This was such a nice experience.

I have arrived to Saarbrücken at late hour. Marie picked me up from train station and we went their home. Her parents didn’t sleep and wait for welcome me. This was such cute and warm. I was also so tired because of the travel and everybody went to sleep…

Saarbrücken is a small city which based around old coal mines at south-west of Germany. City is consist of small streets and really nice and old traditional houses. As an architect, i impressed from this well preserved town and low density buildings.

Decorating Christmas Tree!

Next morning, i woke up quite late because of my tireness. When i went downstairs there was already a big tree middle of the living room. Marie and her father was trying to put some lights on the tree. He offer me a coffee for getting awake (probably i was still looking so tired). He went to kitchen and i helped Marie for putting lights. After completing lights we start to put other decorations. End of the day we have a so cute christmas tree. I was curious about what happening these trees after christmas. I asked this her mother and she answered ‘We throw them from window’. This is another funny and cultural part of christmas. I said ‘ So it is in good place now. Near the window!’

Christmas Evening and Dinner!

My favorite part was just beginning. The thing about christmas which made me most impressed was dinner with family. Since before i traveled there, Marie was mentioning family gathering is the soul of Christmas. I understand her better when i witness it. Since i came to Austria, almost 3 months passed. While i spend time with Marie’s family, i realize that how much i miss this family atmosphere.

They had invited her aunt and she didn’t even know i am from Turkey. This unknown caused too many funny moments. After a while we get know each other and before dinner when we drink champange she was looking at me so strange. And suddenly she asked ‘Are you allow to drink alcohol?’. Everybody started to laughing because i was the person who was drinking beer all the time in last 3 days. After a while we sat dinner table and there was a slice of bacon on my bread. She started to starring at me the same way like before. And she asked again ‘Are you allow to eat bacon?’. Actually it was so nice of her that warning me about. But others they know that i am already eating bacon and drinking alcohol, they start laughing everytime after these type of questions. But i informed her patiently about more than half of Turkish people have a secular life like me and also we are not riding camels… 🙂

After dinner we sat in livingroom and all presents were already under the tree. I wasn’t expecting that they also buy some presents for me too. This is why i really suprised and was so happy. I had already become the child that i was watching only in movies who getting lot of presents in christmas. We opened the packages with a game. Everyone choosed a number on a dice. We roll dice and the person who matched with the number go for open one of his packet. After these ritual we made a video call with Marie’s grandmother and her brother who studying in Innsbruck. We spent rest of evening with drinking chatting and playing games.

Rest of my days in Saarbrucken passed as same like Christmas evening. We were cooking, eating, playing, watching movies together. I even cooked some Turkish dishes for them. After being long time alone in quarantine in Austria, this family gathering was brilliant for me.

Turkish Dolma (Paprikas filled with rice) with Cacik (Juicy yoghurt with cocumber)

Consequently, all the time i spent with a family in christmas mood made me notice that even most of new generation people from both side of east and west prefer staying away from a religious life, they should still keep these type of events to keep family relations alive. Thus we will save our organic connections despite of globalization which makes us living, studying, working far away easily from our hometowns and making our family relationships weaker. No matter how we mention them: Christmas, Easter, Ramadan or Eid, we are still human and we will always need those deep connections with our past.

And we will always be in need of a real warm hug more than a whatsapp emoji.

Merry Christmas !


Baha 🙂


Last Sunday I had the opportunity to visit the Montessori school in Telfs, guided by two lovely workers: Zita – teacher, former Esk volunteer and Foteini- current Esk volunteer.

The Montessori Method of Education is different from the school system that we know, what we would define as „regular“.

It emphasizes  independence and it views children as naturally eager for knowledge and capable of initiating learning in a supportive environment. It discourages some conventional measures of achievement, such as grades and tests. At the school in Telfs, they welcome kids from 5 to 15 years old.

I was not aware of the details of that method before, and when I got to know them, they sparked some reflections. I think we could all take inspiration and example from that and ask ourselves some important questions.

  • Why do I want the things that I want?

In Montessori School, there is a general program that teachers follow and three main subjects : German, Mathematics, and the Science of the Cosmos. Two things really stood out to me regarding the academical program. Firstly, one day per week is dedicated to contact with Nature. Secondly, children can choose to deepen a specific topic according to their predispositions and inclinations. There is no particular ranking or order that they have to respect, or judgement.

As a result, they have the opportunity to get in touch with their true preferences and what gives them joy and purpose. They are free from a very young age to unleash their potential and their natural curiosity.

Why is it so important to ask ourselves this question as adults? To understand how much of what we think we want is spontaneous and genuine and therefore brings us motivation and meaning, and what was learned as a result of a poor and discriminatory education system. Often we are taught that some passions belong to a lower category of skills, or maybe they won’t get us anywhere in life. With these premises it is undoubtedly more difficult to discover what gift we are meant to bring as unique individuals in this World. Which is a crucial part of living a life filled with relevant and positive experiences.

  • Where do I create my home?

The Montessori School in Telfs looks like a big family house. When the students get inside, they take off their shoes and wear slippers. In the secondary class, they cook 3 times per week , planning the whole menu ahead. Classes eat all together and clean after themselves, they also take care of laundry and ironing. This is, in my opinion, a good method to learn responsibility, obviously. But other that than, it pushes people to give a personal contribution to their environment. In today´s society we tend to focus more on permanent achievement rather that how important it is to grow together with our surroundings, developing, learning about it and also shaping it, somehow. We often forget that our voices and actions matter. We are connected and we can create meaningful experiences for ourselves.


Many of us are getting progressively further from mother nature. This is understandable and logical considering urbanization. Still, we should keep in mind how important is for us, as humans, to form a relationship with grass, lakes, rivers and mountains. I think this is crucial in the teaching of Montessori School, kids spend one day per week immersed in the green. Here the territory is so amazingly beautiful and nature is rich, which makes it simples to just take a walk through the backyard and be in the forest.

Every time we step into nature and reduce external distractions we are recharging and meditating. Nature heals. It´s scientifically proven that <<Exposure to nature not only makes you feel better emotionally, it contributes to your physical wellbeing, reducing blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and the production of stress hormones>>.

I think everyone can take inspiration and example from this method of learning. As individuals and as a collective.