The 2010 Eurocon - Poland / Czech Republic
Jim Walker straddles a European border and rides in a taxi wearing underpants
The 2010 Eurocon was held in the twin towns of Cieszyn, Poland and Cesky Tesin, Czech Republic, at the end of August. Called Tricon 2010, it was simultaneously Polcon, the Polish national convention, Parcon, the Czech and Slovak national convention, and Eurocon.
It was very well organised. The programme book, admittedly quite a small format, had 144 pages and there was an accompanying A5 book with interviews, background information and a short fantasy story in English. The languages of the Con were Polish, Czech, Slovak and English. There were an incredible twelve simultaneous programme streams at the Polish University. These covered authors, science, animé, manga, Doctor Who, Star Wars, Tolkien, etc., as well as the Eurocon meetings and Awards from Eurocon, Polcon and Parcon. The organisers had arranged that there was always at least one item in English.
There was no video stream, but Dave Lally did his well polished ‘Prisoner’ shtik. There was no Masquerade as such, but a, new to me, democratic costume competition. Many people went around dressed up all day, and all attendees were given three paper votes each, to be presented to their choice of costumer. As well as all this, there were five Gaming streams in a school on the Czech side. The well supported Convention bar was also on the Czech side where the beer was cheaper.
I found some of the items, such as 'Lem and Communism', 'Weird Weapons' and 'Special Effects in Cinema' very interesting. The item 'Realistic Space Combat' by Leszek Karlik was fascinating - sorry David Weber, you don’t have a ‘Wall of Battle’ in three dimensional space - no, George Lucas, space ‘fighters’ don’t zoom around like Spitfires and Messerschmitts, they go in straight lines. Oh dear, Captain Kirk and Darth Vader, the decks of a spaceship should be perpendicular to the line of thrust or everyone ends up on the wall at the back. (even artificial gravity can fail!)
Most of the usual suspects were there, Roberto Quaglia (Italy), Frank Roger (Belgium), Pascal Ducommun (Switzerland), Attila Nemeth (Hungary), Imants Belogrivas (Latvia), Boris Syduk and Alexandr Vasilkovsky (Ukraine), Piotr Cholewa (Poland ) and Oleg Kolesmikov and Kiril Pleshkov (Russia). Then there were the Brits, Martin Hoare, Bridget and Peter Wilkinson, Peter Redfarn, and, I suppose, myself. There was even a couple from Luxembourg, which seems to be a first from that country.
There were 1,304 prepaid fans at the Con, including 1007 Poles, 190 Czechs and 19 Slovaks, plus some 300 walk-ins. Attendance may have been affected by the fact that the Worldcon was being held in Australia at the same time.
The twin towns of Cieszyn and Cesky Tesin are worth seeing. When the area was part of Austrian occupied Poland they were just one town, with the historic centre, including the castle, on the hilly east bank of the Olza river, and the more modern part, with the main railway station, on the west bank. Following the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, which broke up Austria Hungary, the river became an international border and the western part found itself in Czechoslovakia. It was renamed Cesky Tesin (Czech Cieszyn). They then had to build a new Town Hall there and set up border posts at the bridge.
Now both sides are in Schengen and there are no border formalities at all, the old border posts are shops and art galleries, and you just walk across. It isn’t quite that simple, as the Czechs use crowns and the Poles use zlotys. Our hotel was on the Czech side, so we were carrying two sets of money and constantly having to think - which country am I in now? Taxis from one side would take you to the other but could not pick up there. To signify this one driver put a pair of underpants over the taxi sign on the roof before crossing the border - a bit bizarre but it seemed to work.
The Con was billed as dual nationality and had activities on both sides. The opening and closing ceremonies were held on the bridge where there was an impressive display of sf movie posters. The procession was preceded by a brass band and included a platoon of Imperial storm troopers in full armour.
It was a good Con in an attractive historic town. My only small criticism was that there was no place to congregate and socialise at the Polish University site when there wasn’t an interesting item.
Next year the Eurocon is in Stockholm, Sweden (17th - 19th June 2011) and in 2012 it will be in Zagreb.
SF2 Concatenation's initial summary report of the event is on the autumn 2010 news page.
For the latest news of Eurocons see the Eurocon/Worldcon subsection of our seasonal news page.