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Sferakon – my first convention abroad

To be honest, in the beginning I wasn’t sure whether going to visit an abroad convention was a good decision, especially since literally a few hours after I bought bus tickets, a russian drone crashed in Zagreb. However I’m really glad that in the end I decided to go, because not only I enjoyed my trip very much but also I’m afraid that the next opportunity may not come  very soon.

I arrived in Zagreb on Friday around noon and was instantly greeted by a great heat. It didn’t stop me though from visiting a few museums and localizing all the places which sold pizza slices, because Sferakon wasn’t going to start until 19:00.

On the first day of the convention I attended only one lecture which was called Tradition of fear: Folk horror with the author Antonija Mežnarić (cro. Tradicija straha: Folk horror s autoricom Antonijom Mežnarić). I don’t deal much with horror and folk so the whole lecture was completely new to me. I started to panic a bit when the speaker started asking questions to random people in the room, because unfortunately I wasn’t able to understand everything (I think it was due to the speaker’s accent!), but still it was nice. What is more, skipping the unusual language, everything was “like at home”. The lecture was conducted in a classroom (well.. here it was an university room, but this happens in Poland as well), people behaved very much the same as in Poland and the products offered in the convention stands weren’t surprising for a person who attended as many conventions as I did.

I spent the rest of the evening talking with the members of the community Star Wars Hrvatska, who had a little stand themselves. It quickly turned out that many of them belong to 501st Legion as well and plan to appear in their costumes on Saturday. I also learned from them that it is really difficult to get Star Wars books in Croatian, but nevertheless they showed me where I could look for them in Zagreb. Of course we also talked about the differences in the Polish and Croatian fandom, which in the end turned out to be quite small. The biggest difference is that access to the translations of Star Wars books, comics and series.

Although the convention continued until midnight, I didn’t want to wander around the unknown city that late, so soon after I went back to the apartment I rented for the convention. Unlike Polish conventions, in Croatia a sleep room isn’t the typical part of the fantasy fans meetings, but from what I heard sometimes it is available. 

Since the convention continued until midnight, the first attractions on Saturday began about 13:00. Luckily my side quest was to visit as many museums in Zagreb as I could, so I kept being busy! When I finally arrived at Sferakon I really wanted to attend a guided tour around the convention, which is by the way a brilliant attraction, which I’ve never seen in Poland. Sadly it was postponed to the same time the meeting with Brian Muir was. Muir is a sculptor who worked, among other movies, on Star Wars and is responsible for the final look of Darth Vader’s helmet, Stromtroopers’ helmets and other designs. He was available for the talk not only during his speech because he had his own stand where he was selling books describing his experience on the movie sets. I was trying to stop myself but in the end I bought them and I even got an autograph! Now I just have to find the time to actually read them…

After some time I went to see the Cosplay contest, because I was curious how it is done in other countries. And how? As bad as in Poland! xD I was informed, however, that malfunctioning sound during the contest is a tradition there so there’s nothing that can be done about it. On the other hand the quality of the costumes was really high and it was a pleasure to see as many as five people who chose characters from the Witcher saga! I had the opportunity to talk to all of them in the convention corridor and give them stickers with the Witcher holding the Polish flag. I made them so I have something to give to the nice Croats who were willing to talk with me for a few minutes. (I also had two Star Wars designs, specially for the fans of that universe :) ).

The last lecture I went to on Saturday was The influence of the pandemic on the video games industry (cro. Utjecaj pandemije na industriju videigara), which was conducted by the members of a website which writes about computer games. This time I understood much more, but maybe I just started to get accustomed to the language. This time I gave away one Witcher sticker as well because I noticed that one of the speakers wrote about two Polish computer games in a row. I have a strange feeling that Croats like Poland, you know?

One of the best attractions was waiting for me on Sunday. The attraction was a coffee break with the organizers of Sferakon during which not only you could drink coffee (although it would probably be possible to get some tea as well) and get a really delicious chocolate but also give some feedback on the convention or praise something you enjoyed during it. I have to say that as a person from abroad who strives to learn Croatian I dominated this attraction xD. I especially enjoyed moments when new organizers were coming to see what was happening during the coffee break and someone was introducing me to them as a girl from Poland who arrived to see the convention, to which they were saying “hi” or “hello” to me and I kept answering “bok!”. Organizers’ faces were priceless <3. Apart from that we talked about the differences between Polish and Croatian conventions, about series and movies available in Croatian which are worth watching and about stereotypes because I just happen to have a worksheet from my Croatian language classes. I have a feeling that the rest of the participants enjoyed themselves very much while they were listening to stereotypes I had written down. They also shared with me the stereotypes they heard about Poland and I don’t know whether you knew this already but in Polish bakeries you can buy only donuts. You feel like eating a bread roll? That’s a shame. Take a donut and don’t whine about it! :D

Shortly after the coffee break there was one more lecture by Brian Muir, who focused this time more on the technical details of sculpture making instead of funny anecdotes from the movie sets. Additionally, this time he was joined by his wife, although she rarely spoke during the lecture. It was very surprising however that all multimedia were shown by forwarding some photos and then… a whole laptop! I asked whether they needed some help with connecting it to the projector but they weren’t interested. After the lecture I also had the opportunity to talk with a person who is currently working on a stop-motion animation. I keep my fingers crossed for him because it’s just a lot of work!

The last attraction I attended was Asian urban legends (cro. Azijske urban legende). The lecture was full of laughter and really absurd stories. It was conducted by a group of asian culture fans called Pandacon, so taking advantage of the opportunity I asked them whether they know something about japanese words used in Croatian language (asking for a friend!) to which they replied that they are available on Facebook and we are free to message them and they will try to find someone who is knowledgeable in this subject. What a nice group of people! :)

And that was the end of Sferakon, which was my first real Croatian language test. I was really welcomed by the Croatian fandom and I hope we will meet once again. Of course everyone kept assuring me that my Croatian is great and they are really impressed but sometimes I felt that I’m messing up grammar quite noticeably. However, if you don’t speak Croatian yourselves don’t worry about it too much. Virtually everyone attending Sferakon spoke fluent English and there were even some attractions conducted in English. What is more, it turnes out that it’s easier to buy an English Star Wars book in Zagreb than it is to buy a Croatian one. Still it’s a bit weird for me, but that’s just how it is!

It was an amazing trip! I’m really glad that I’ve decided to go! And I hope that’s not my last convention in Croatia, because there are several more for me to see there. :)

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