You can find all the information about our meeting in Mérida
Our first day . Getting beyond being strangers
Now we are all here in Mérida, Extremadura, Spain. All teams have arrived with their students and we are enjoying the spanish hospitality. The day has been intense, like a paso doble. No bulls are roaming the arenas anymore but the river Guadiana is still wetting the pastureland around the city and the heart of the spanish people is warm and red and welcoming.
All countries started out by introducing themselves to eachother. After a short break we then got to the more serious tasks of sharing knowledge about different environmental issues with eachother. The spanish students led the way. They introduced different sources of environmental problems to us. The Czech Republic followed up by furthering our knowledge of the causes of deforestation. In the Czech Republic draughts and the birch-beetle have severely harmed the forests. Italy and in particular Sardinia is experiencing loss of biodiversity and we got to know a little bit more about the albino donkey and other red-listed animals. Lithuania told us about garbage accumulation and Poland about pollution. The swedish girls then finished the theoretical part of the day by sharing their knowledge about the clothing industry. There we all can participate by using, reusing and mending our clothes.
After a typical lunch – chickpea stew – we went to the Roman theater in Mérida, one of twelve treasures of Spain. The site inspired Ridley Scott when he worked on the film Gladiator and today it also inspired us. Agrippa made an entry into the historybooks of us all when he financed the buildings of the arena and the theater in the decade before 0.
So, here we are, people from six european countries. Our main aim is to do something about the climate but a co-benefit of it all is that we get to learn about eachother! Tomorrow the experience will continue…. for today, we say thank you!
Our second day: Hydro electric power plant and Roman bath in the village of Alange
Tuesday morning was a sunny and cold morning. We gathered at the IES Sáenz de Buruaga school where we got on a comfortable bus taking us to the hydro electric powerplant of Alange. The dam at Alange is a gravity dam built in 1992. It has two main uses; providing fresh water for the Mérida region and producing hydro electric power. Nuclear power is the most important source of energy in Spain at the moment (45%) but renewable sources like sunpower, aeolian power and hydro electric power are growing in importance.
The village of Alange is a sleeping beauty at this time of the year. Its approx. twothousand inhabitants are recovering from previous season and are expecting the next. When the fourhundred hotelrooms are full of tourists they have nine busy months of working around the clock. The main attraction is the Roman baths dating back to 300 AD. They are dedicated to the goddess Juno.
Overlooking the village is the Castle of Alange, once held by the military order of Santiago after they had conquered and won it from the Moors. The symbol of the order is said to date back to the age of the crusades.
The cross is also a prominent feature inside the Church of our lady of Miracles in the central part of Alange. In the walls of the church swifts have their nests which is seen as a symbol of fertility, giving extra power to the church.
In the evening our students spent their time with their hostfamilies meanwhile we got to enjoy the hospitality of our spanish co-ordinator Inaki trying different kinds of tapas.
Of course we sang along with the food!
Our third day : Regional efforts of Extremadura
This morning we where invited to the Extremaduran assembly. It was a very representative place in the middle of the city of Mérida. Here we learnt a bit about how an autonomous region works and that the Extremadura region has more ambitious goals than the Kingdom of Spain! When Spain has 20% of the energy coming from renewable sources, the figure for Extremadura is 50%! Our students also got to meet a politician from the assembly – Mr Felipe Redondo Milara, a member of the socialist party. One of the questions he was asked by our students was: “What are the politicians of Extremadura doing to improve the circular economy of Extremadura?”. He told us about the creation of a new National Park to protect biodiversity and the eco-system of the flora and fauna of the region. There is also approx. 160 other projects going on in the region. Many of those projects are about solar energy replacing fossile fuels as sources of energy production.
Next official visit was at the mayor´s office. The mayor himself: Antonio Rodriguez Osuna, held the opening speech. A panel made up of the head of the board of education, the head of environment and the principal of the Sáenz de Buruaga School told of us about their work with circular economy and sustainable tourism, then all students were presented with a gift from Merida, a T-shirt of course in spanish red.
When all questions had been answered we walked back in time to 37 AD, the date when Augusta Emerita, the “grandfather” of Mérida was founded. The Romans built a fort at the northern banks of the Guadiana river. The fort was later taken over by the arabs and turned into an Alcazaba. A remnant of its roman history is kept alive in the current coat of arms of the city – a two-arched bridge. Our guide through this long history was the archaeologist in charge of the excavations. Whoever was in charge of this fort controlled the only bridge from the north to the south in the province of Lusetania!
Those of us who had some energy left after this went to Dolmen de Lacara and after that we had a dinner together before finally getting a night of sleep, preparing for another busy day experiencing the spanish hospitality.