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International archaeological work camp at "Saint Miklosh" castle, Chenodievo, August 2014

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Working at the workcamp in ChenadievoChenodievo is a little, picturesque village in Zakarpattya region in western Ukraine, where time seems to stand still for leaving the dream of a jump in the past, and where a very generous nature provides a setting of endless mountains, forests and pastures. Here cars give way to horse-drawn carriages and an ancient Hungarian castle, surrounded by an enchanting landscape, stands alone not far from the little village houses. Chenodievo is therefore one of those places which you rather may call idyllic, where nature meets history and where a strange kind of magic seems to make dreams come true. As far as I am concerned, at least, my stay here had the features of a waking dream: I am talking about the archaeological summer camp spent at "Saint Miklosh" castle in this charming corner of Ukraine.

When I travel back with my memory to those remarkable two weeks of August, I can barely realize that me and the other members of the camp could share so many adventures in such a short period of time. Every bright impression, sincere emotion, crazy experience was mixed together with virtually endless sensation of lightheartedness, longing for freedom and inspiration. The long chatting evenings around the bonfire, our survival through thunderstorms and overwhelming floods in our tents, the traditional Chinese Qi Gong sessions at the sunrise near the mountain river, the contemplation of the majesty of the starry sky, the endless football matches with local children and even the dances on the burning coals, are just some examples of how we used to spend our everyday camp life.

What were then the ingredients of such an unforgettable experience? First of all, the group of people volunteering at the castle, as everyone of us could boast a very bright and strong personality, lots of interests and an active and full of initiative attitude to life. After a week spent in the camp we got the feeling of being part of a cheerful big family, and as one of us said at the last evening bonfire: "it seems like living with your best friend".

The second ingredient which made such an experience unforgettable for everyone of us, is undoubtedly the beauty of the location and the kindness of local people. “Saint Miklosh” castle has its own mysterious atmosphere which is quite hard to describe in words, as every corner of this ancient building can reveal some secrets or the history of someone’s life, a kind of magic that only oldest places can transmit.

Eventually, the third ingredient, consisted in our work as archaeologists, through which we could be able to bless our shovels, spades and wheelbarrows for every piece of XVII centuries ceramic found, to thank our sweat for every brick of an ancient fortification uncovered and to feel ourselves like children putting together the tiny pieces of the puzzle of history. Though the work was quite hard physically, it was extremely delightful to spend time together and to learn a lot from experienced archaeologists and historians, who were always keen to share their knowledge and energy with us.

Now, that two months have passed since the camp has finished, I cannot help but feel a sense of nostalgia when I retrace with my mind the adventures of our big family in our mysterious castle. Nevertheless, though the camp went to its end, I am pretty sure that our friendship is not over, and every minute we spent together will remain in our memory forever, as world is not big enough to leave us no chance to meet once again.

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