Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Going out with a bang…. Or not!

After a glorious trip around the Hungarian Parliament (the lords wing is coloured blue and the commons wing coloured red to represent the different ‘bloods’ of aristocracy and MPs!! Can similar be said for our UK parliament lords having red blood and commons having green blood?!) we jumped on the metro to jump on the train to jump on the plane. Final destination: Blackwell Adventure, near Birmingham. Despite a long walk from the minibus drop off to the finish line we still arrived too fast for the photographer to catch us (posh frocks and big bags – oh Milan and Paris will be copying our style) and had to go back and pretend to arrive again!

We were greeted by the news we were sleeping in a tent, as it started to rain! We dumped bags, prepared roll mats and sleeping bags and then wandered over to the main marquee for canapés and champers. It was good to find out about everyone else’s trips. We noticed one ankle in cast, an arm in a sling and a knee or ankle requiring crutches, and that made us appreciate the lack of injury on our trip – Lydia’s bruised foot, Harriet’s blister and Amy’s bruised bum faded in comparison! We also heard about cancelled flights, missed connections and astronomical costs – another thing we were grateful to have not experienced! There were of course elements of other people’s trips that we were jealous of, but of course are not going to mention those here – ours was clearly the best!!!! ;-)

The giving of awards was interspersed between courses of the dinner (and the free bar of chocolate in our goody bag). The categories we expected to win (particularly pre trip publicity) alas we didn’t. However we did win the “renewing your promise in a meaningful place” and “silliest hat” (this was the most important one by far I believe). Plus we did get a special mention for Chief Guides Award, but unfortunately our Mozartian snow globe bust ‘Alex’ had a twin brother brought by another team so didn’t quite top the polls. The renewing our promise was a surprise – their reasoning was that most groups had picked a place (e.g. Arctic Circle) and all renewed their promise, whereas we had interpreted it differently and were “girl led” (a key ethos of guiding of course), each of us choosing a different place most meaningful to us as individuals. Shows what brilliant guides we are following the principles to the T – we hadn’t even considered there was any other way than “girl led” individual locations! Feels strange to be recognised for doing normal! And of course the hat deserves a mention too. The creation of Rachel’s crown took place on seats 25A, B & C of Ryanairs Boeing 737-800 using a variety of train, metro and bus tickets, leftover shinny coins, and an awful lot of sellotape and staples.

Dinner eaten, awards presented, rain subsided to drizzle, and onto the grand epitome of the evening… or not. Girlguiding Midlands had prepared a grand firework display to end the celebrations. The company they had purchased said display from (who I won’t embarrass and name here) had kindly donated some extra fireworks for free. Unfortunately, the free fireworks were beautiful but short lived and the expensive ones didn’t work. Neither did the computer playing the music. But it’s ok, because guides can sing, and we’d certainly learnt a new selection of songs whilst away!

Absolutely exhausted and still on continental time zone we headed to our tent and enjoyed our free sleeping bags. The next morning was rather sombre, doing our final pack and heading off to the train station one last time. Voices coarse from all the shouting and singing last night, exhausted from 14 days worth of public transport, the final stages of travel were sadly upon us. Talks of reunions in Brussels (Katie’s destination for third year of uni) or Taiwan for Jamboree started to perk things up… watch this space for the next adventure!

Gem xx

Monday, 9 August 2010

Goodbye, farewell, auf wiedersehen .... oops wrong country!

Today we woke up to our last day on the continent, later on this afternoon we fly back into Birmingham for the closing ceremony and to say goodbye to one another and the Ultimate Centenary Stampede 100. Today is a very packed one and so I am writing this blog from the Hostel just before we leave to visit the Hungarian Parliament as later on we will have no more internet facilities.

Another early start this morning in order to cram in last minute packing, blogging and of course the delicious waffles the hostel provides, using the excuse 'we're on holiday, and so we can eat what we like' bodes well when lots of yummy food is in front of us.

After breakfast, myself, Jennifer, Lizz and Rachel rushed out to the supermarket in order to grab lunch while some of the others blogged. We are about to head out to catch the Metro to Parliament, giving our feet a well deserved break. Our tour begins at 10 and lasts approximately 50 minutes and gives us an insight into the ways and history of the Hungarian Parliament, one of the prettiest buildings along the river and the whole of Budapest. After that will be a scramble in order to collect all our bags and head to the airport and we aim to get rid of all our spare change/notes at the airport on goodies :)

Thats all for now, Gemma calls :)

Amy x

Sunday, 8 August 2010

We came, we saw, we didn't quite conquer!!!

Today we visited Pomaz; a small, pretty town only a 30 minute train journey from Budapest. Well it would have been if we hadn't missed our stop! We quickly realised our mistake and got off at the next station, walked across the train tracks to the other side and returned on the next train! All worked out fine as Gemma guided us up the hill towards the fruit picking farm (challenge 16). The weather was gorgeous and after some of us stopped for another round of ice cream we continued up the hill. However after nearly 2km and not having found the fruit picking farm entrance (could only see lines and lines of trees behind a fence) we turned around and headed for the train station. So you could say the morning was unproductive, however I now have a tan line (something I've wanted since the beginning of the trip) even though it is in the shape of a necker!

After enjoying our tortilla wraps for lunch we headed to the Szechenyi baths (via metro as our feet were a little bit tired!) which were really relaxing way to complete final challenge number 17. In my opinion the best part was pool hopping between different temperature pools. According to the guide book, the thermally heated water around Budapest reaches 75 centigrade at surface level. The water is then cooled down to different temperatures, the hottest being 40 centigrade! We all enjoyed challenging ourselves to go from the hottest pools into the 20 centigrade plunge pool, which was freezing! After much confusion with the man booking us in to have massages (he ultimately gave us eight massages for the price of seven and booked two massages to be with the same masseuse at the same time). I think that the experience was interesting for everyone, but we all came out feeling refreshed! I found it funny trying to explain to the masseuse via sign language why I had such tense shoulders from two weeks of carrying a large rucksack! After another quick dip outdoors we headed off to an Italian restaurant for our last evening meal abroad together! Jennifer wrote down a list of our funny quotes from the trip, which was a good way of reflecting over what we've done so far!


Saturday, 7 August 2010

Hands-on fun!

After stumbling into the hostel at the 11th hour the previous night, we awoke to our first full day in Budapest. Our first sightseeing stop was the Market Hall, a jumble of noisy food and souvenir stalls and erm chicken heads, which Jennifer was happy and disgusted to point out at the same time. I even got to grips with a little bit of haggling, but it's possible the lady agreed to the price I offered a little too quickly.

We bought our lunch from various stalls and then made our way via a few sights to the House of Future science museum, where the exhibition we wanted to visit turned out to be a giant empty warehouse. Luckily there was a hands-on exhibition right next to it called the Palace of Miracles, where we rushed in and had fun playing with all the toys. Annoyingly there were a lot of children in the way. Some of the translations were a bit interesting and made the 'science' part harder than usual. All in all though, challenge number 15 completed successfully, only two more to do tomorrow!

We finally wandered back to the hostel via the train station (to buy our final train tickets to the airport boo) and St Stephens Basilica (closed for a concert) to settled in for a relaxing film night, complete with pizza. Yum :)

As always, onwards and outwards!

Katie x

Friday, 6 August 2010

...thunder Thunder, THUNDERATION... we are the Girl Guide Association

At approximately 2am half of us woke up from the noise of a wonderful surprise from the sky… you can leave the UK but you can’t leave its weather behind… it was rain and thunder! I remember thinking ‘Yay, maybe the sky will run out of water during the night and we will have another sunny day.’ And I truly apologise because I think that I cursed it… because it rained and it rained… and it rained!

We had planned to take part in some fun spirited volunteering at a local nature reserve, Horesky Park (challenge number 14). In true guiding style the rain would not dampen our spirits and after preparing for the weather we left our hostel chanting the songs we had learnt from the Austrian Scouts. Team morale was high. However walking in what seems like a monsoon is hard work, especially when combined with a very steep hill… and when we arrived we were all wishing for a hand dryer to take the rain water out of our socks and shoes. We had arrived early in what seemed like a very derelict visitors area… but this was not a surprise because I found it hard to think of someone who would enjoy being out in the middle of a forest in the rain at 9am.

We stood looking through the gates hopefully, when Gemma received a wonderful text… basically we had been told that it would be impossible for us to plant the trees we were meant to, in this weather. When they realised we were standing outside they let us in for coffee and tea as a thanks for our determination. The ethos of the park is very unique in Bratislava. The park aims to ignite a relationship between the local people and the environment; it is an area with a strong community vibe, where people either meet for yoga classes or group volunteering sessions. In some ways it is the equivalent to our local Nature Reserves, however they do not work at getting the local community involved in their upkeep and so people lack the respect towards the area that Horsky Park has.

Bratislava is not a big city, and seeing as the majority was ‘Under Construction’ we were in no rush to see more buildings and landmarks. So instead we opted for a relaxed afternoon and headed back to the hostel to play Uno. This was the first time I have played this game and quite enjoyed it… partly because I won. We cooked a delicious risotto with lots of vegetables in it, and then feeling refreshed from our new intake of vitamins we headed to Tesco. The sound of Tesco may not seem that exciting to you… but this shop was something quite unique. It was a Tesco department store… containing six whole floors.

After our shopping adventures we had to head to the coach station. The journey went very quickly as ‘My life in ruins’ was being played. We all thoroughly enjoyed the film, regardless of our constant squinting to read the subtitles, and the fact we could only get half the jokes due to them being lost in translation. We arrived in Budapest, and the rain had still not given us a break! Despite using the metro we had a long walk to the hostel, and we all arrived so exhausted that we fell asleep with hardly more than a word said between us.

Bratislava is a wonderfully atmospheric city to visit, and I definitely want to go back… just hopefully at a time when some monuments our not ‘Under Construction’.

Harriet 

Thursday, 5 August 2010

....Under Construction

Well today has been a brilliant day! It has been so relaxed and chilled and the sun has been out! We all now have slight tans! Even me ( Sorry Ma, its only a little!)! We started with a lie-in which is exactly ‘what the doctor ordered’. We planned to leave the hostel by 10am so we thought we would get up at 8.30am as it takes us that long to get ready in the morning. In the end I think we were all awake by 7.30/8ish because Amy always sets her alarm early so she can snooze it! Also we were all so psyched (Yes, I did just say psyched) about the free breakfast that we’ve been waiting for since Salzberg. The breakfast turned out to be a little disappointing, as it was just fake cornflakes that tasted like Cheerios. As there were two random people asleep on the common room sofas we ended up eating standing up (plus Jennifer the American from the night before who had kept some of us awake all night was spread out across the dining room) but it was good fun. I can remember laughing at something with Amy, but I have no inkling of what it was now.

After brekkie we wandered down to the old town starting at St Michael’s tower which was the gate house I think?!? It had brilliant views of the city from the top. The old town square was also beautiful and in total contrast to the industrial Bratislava that we had seen on the bus and on our walk from the station to the hostel. After quite a while browsing the stalls we all sat down to have an ice cream, and they were AMAZING! Jen had an apple one that she absolutely adored and Gem had a mojito one. They were good. That is an understatement and a half, they were BRILLIANT.

After the brilliance of the ice creams though, things started to go down hill, through no fault of our lovely tour guide Harriet. Bratislava may be an up-and-coming city but has definitely not arrived yet. It seemed that every place we tried to visit – the castle, the cathedral, the primate palace (I have a feeling that’s not what its called but that’s what it sounded like when Harriet told me what it was), and a monastry – was under construction or closed for one reason or another. That didn’t ruin the day though so it was all alright. Bratislava is full of lots of statues poking out of the ground or round the corner of buildings, perfect timing as we needed to get about 30 more photos of Peggy for one of the 100 Challenges due to be submitted tomorrow. We had a lovely laze in the park, got brilliant views from the castle hill and had Mexican for lunch! I had paella and there was so much that I brought the rest of it home for dinner. At the Mexican we met some Italians and had a nice chat (again I love how having our guide scarves on makes people talk to us  ). We rounded the afternoon off with another ice cream stop (reached 92 scoops so far this trip, need to hit the big 100 you see!

Today there also happens to be a football match between Slovakia and Serbia (Slovakia is currently winning 1-0) so there have been lots of policemen who are wearing power ranger style robot uniform standing about. We have also encountered quite a few – I can only assume slight tipsy – Serbian men who have shouted ‘Skouty’ at us and made the promise sign at us but they’ve got it slightly wrong and it looks more like a three fingered peace-cum-star-trek sign. But it’s all in good humour so its funny!

Anyway, hope you are all alright back home and not missing us too much!
Lots of love, we’ll see you in 5 days
Lizz xxxxx

P.S. Just made my dress for the finale party, it’s going to be epic but I reckon it’s going to firmly cement us as the rebel group of stampede.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Paint, pink(as) and orange(ways)….

There were two main tasks for our last day in Prague. We needed to visit a “place of worship different to your own” as one of our challenges. For this we went to the Pinkas Synagogue and the Old Cemetery. The Pinkas Synagogue used to be a working synagogue but has since been turned into a memorial for those in Czech Republic that suffered the fate of the holocaust. The names of each person was written on the wall. There were several pieces of artwork displaced, both some therapeutic work from children in concentration camps and some of local children trying to understand the experiences and feelings of their predecessors. Quite a sobering experience. The synagogue then lead to the Jewish old cemetery, which hasn’t been used since the 1700s. Imagine a plot of land twice the size of a typical suburban back garden and in this there were 12,000 grave stones and 100,000 bodies – layered five people deep in places. The gravestones varied from those carved ornately in Hebrew and those which were so old you couldn’t tell what had been carved on them before. For those who hadn’t touched history textbooks in a long long time it made the World War feel like far more than just a fight between England, America, France and Germany on a beach in Normandy as often portrayed. Cultures spread over geographical boundaries, beliefs can be common even when the language is different – but the most important thing is having the freedom to choose your belief.

Our next task was poignant in a different way, we aimed to leave our mark on the Lennon Wall which we had visited yesterday. The wall surrounds the garden of the Maltese embassy but the pavement has a 1 meter band alongside the wall which is considered Maltese soil. So during communist times this wall was an area where freedom of expression (highly themed by 1960s peace aspirations of the Beatles) could exist as was not on communist soil. Armed with three tester pots of finest Dulux and several Sharpie pens we set about filling the wall with trefoils and inspirational quotes from Baden-Powell. It was difficult finding a patch worth writing over, without removing some other inspirational quote about world peace or making the world a better place. The paint was quite hard to work with as we didn’t have time to let it dry so had several marble effects, which of course was the artistic style we were aiming for! Overall however, we were very impressed with our artistic endeavours. We wonder if other groups travelling through Prague will notice our finger prints? Guess we’ll find out at the finale party in five days.

What a mixed bag of transport! We are sat on our first coach. Lizz had managed to get us free tickets for orangeways (yay!) and we are extremely grateful to them for their kindness. Their website is a very nice website with all the details you could possibly need to travel with them. They say on their website they have established themselves to be the easyjet equivalent transport for coaches – cheap and efficient, and particularly orange themed. They suggest coach travel is more environmentally friendly than our friend Stavros and want more people to travel through Europe by road than pollute the skies. When we arrived at the coach station the ticket office lady was incredibly helpful and we trotted off to the coach to check in. The drivers wear a particularly nice peach uniform (continuing the orange theme). The man ticked our names off on the list and checked our passports (first time since London…. only five countries later!) and had a bit of a joke with him. We said to each other “boy, this is like luxury and not easyjet”! THEN we checked our big bags in the ‘hold’. Our ticket clearly said we must pay the bus driver 20CZK for our big bags so we had earlier eaten enough ice creams to allow us to only have enough coins for the 20CZK each and metro (such a hard life, I had to have three scoops, all for the team you see). The man said it costs 30CZK each and showed us his sheet of paper, which was different to our ticket. Those of you who know me will be aware of my knowledge of all Consumer Protection laws and which subsections apply in situations and often quote this. Alas, this was a problem here because a) the laws I know are English and not Czech and b) suddenly the man failed to understand English. Firstly I didn’t want to pay an extra 10CZK per person out of principle, but secondly we didn’t have this because we spent it all on ice cream as we didn’t want leftover coins! Luckily after lots of scrabbling around Jennifer and Katie found some spare coins enough to pay the man so our bags were taken. We went to get on the coach and suddenly Amy was stopped. Apparently her hang luggage bag was too big. Now I had checked their very friendly website before we left and noted all the baggage allowance sizes and knew our bags most certainly fit these restrictions. Suddenly the man had lost all use of spoken English again. Magic. We realised he wanted to check it into the hold because the second bag in the hold costs 140CZK. Cheeky monkey. After lots of protesting (holding up other passengers) he let us on. Luckily our protestations haven’t barred us from the free hot drinks and complementary single-use-headphones as people sit watching the Pink Panther. We did check the bus station as we left, as far as we could see they hadn’t thrown our bags back on the floor – fingers crossed they leave the coach with us!! Orangeways like easyjet? A little bit more luxurious but yes, there are most certainly some similar traits! As with beliefs above, certain trading ethos’ can cross all boundaries. There most certainly is no such thing as a free lunch, but there are very cheap lunches if you look hard! (thank you Lizz!)

Next update will be from Bratislava, our penultimate city booohoooo.

Gem xx

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Soggy feet...

Well today we were meant to be getting up at 8am but managed to all be up at 7am somehow.

After a leisurely breakfast we chilled out for a bit before heading off to the scout shop. The scout shop was located quite a way from the hostel and took about 45 minutes to walk to - up a lot of steps to the giant metronome which replaced the giant Stalin statue from the 60s.

We had a great time in the Scout shop looking at all the Czech badges and uniform! Rachel bought a dress and between us we bought several badges.

We then went across to the castle to see the changing of the guards - except we didn't quite make it and ended up sitting and having our pizza lunch instead!

From there we headed across to the fake Eiffel tower! After a pause part way to shelter from the rain! At the Eiffel tower we had a short browse around and then headed across to the mirror maze - which was a bit too easy :(

We took the funicular down (another form of transport - tick!) then went across to the Lennon Wall - where we had a look at all the spectacular graffiti - it was quite interesting. I think we're going to head across tomorrow with the paint to add our own - we think we're allowed!

After this we went across Charles' bridge to go shopping we all picked up various souveniers including some "Czech me out" t-shirts for Lizz, Amy and Harriet.

Lizz, Lydia and I went shopping for dinner - Omelette is on the menu tonight.

Other than being rather soggy another great Stampede day :)

Jennifer x

Monday, 2 August 2010

Ahhhhh, Crash, Bang… Amy’s in a bin!

Technically we started the Prague day sitting on a metro, having finally arrived, riding towards our hostel. Everyone was very tired and looking forward to our long awaited sleep. However the real fun began when we awoke the next morning feeling refreshed… well at least ‘less tired’ and started getting ready for our very exciting day that Lizz had wonderfully planned. We were getting ready… to go… on SEGWAYS!!!!

The walk to the beginning of the Segway tour was beautiful. The morning sun sparkled off the gorgeous architecture, and the hustle and bustle of the city was beginning as other tourists began their adventures, giving us an insight into the few days ahead. When we arrived we were quickly fitted with helmets, which doubled my nerves, and shuffled outside to be made into Segwaying pros. I was second to test my skills; combined with a lot of shrieking and wobbling was the laughter of spectators, including one man who thought it would be hilarious to come and ‘BOO’ me making me grab the instructor… after a minute I was told to get back off because I was a hazard! However, in my defence it is a lot harder than it looks! Once everyone was zooming around the street I was allowed a second try, thankfully, and this time it was a lot better. I discovered that the trick was having confidence and trusting that what looked like some metal with wheels was actually cleverer than it looked. I even managed to ‘reverse park’ into our rainbow order for a photo… something I can’t even do in a car!

Then our tour began, slowly at first, but everyone’s confidence grew exponentially and with it increased our speed and enjoyment. Our tour guide was a Czech called Marc, who I am sure never used both hands to grip onto the machine, unlike me where just the thought of taking a hand off scared me. He showed us lots of sights including the Old Town, where the famous Astronomical Clock stands, the Jewish Quarter, which holds the oldest synagogue in Europe having survived many Jewish pogroms, and the Castle where the changing of the guards was taking place. It was a great way to get a feel for the city’s atmosphere, and getting an idea of where the sights lay in relation to each other. During our travels our group comedian, Amy, thought she would add to our bank of laughs by taking a tumble. Having hit the corner of a burnt down bin she was sent flying and has a big purple bruise as a medal… however next time Amy please fall somewhere that doesn’t smell so awful!

We had all worked up quite a hunger by the time we finished, and made our way back to the Old Town Hall rushing to get there before the next hour so that we could watch the much anticipated dance to welcome the new hour on the Astronomical Clock. Lizz gave us some very informative information about the statues and clock face; I found it most interesting that the actual purpose of the clock is not to tell time but instead to imitate the orbits of the sun and moon about the Earth. I watched this whilst enjoying my lunch… a bit like watching a film whilst eating popcorn. We then had a thoroughly guilt free desert… massive ice creams, guilt free as it was all in the name of our self-made challenge to eat a hundred scoops of ice cream in total during the two weeks. We will succeed at this because I have already volunteered to make the number up to a hundred IF we are under by the end of the holiday (which I secretly hope we are).

That wasn’t the only challenge we did… our second was quite the opposite, and not in a throwing up way. The highest Scout badge in the Czech Republic is one called the Three Feathers in which the participant must spend one entire day not talking to anyone, another not eating anything, and the third in solitude. Rest assured though… none of us have forgotten how to talk or are feeling faint with hunger as we did all three parts in the same one hour. We went to the gorgeous Franciscan Gardens to find our own quite bench to reflect, I was so thoughtful that I couldn’t keep my eyes open and the next thing I knew I was being shouted at to wake up by some very scary Czech police… who didn’t speak English! It was a wonderful opportunity to escape from the frantic few days where we haven’t stopped, sometimes not even stopping for sleep; a chance to get lost in your own thoughts.

Czech Republic is surprisingly a very hot country, and by this point everyone was desperate to freshen up and change back at the hostel. So before dinner we all changed into something a little more sophisticated than the rainbow coloured T-shirts we were wearing, even though they are lovely. We then made our way to a restaurant that Lizz had found, walking down many steps we found ourselves in what looked like a cave, the dramatic lighting adding to the atmosphere. We filled up quickly with their delicious large portions, and yet our sweet tummy’s still had room for dessert, further evidence that the ice creams that we had eaten were guilt free.

It was a fantastic day that set the scene for our future adventures in Prague… for which I can NOT wait!!!

Harriet :-)

Sunday, 1 August 2010

The Sound of Salzburg (aka 8 Guides caterwauling)

After our first full night’s sleep for a long long time, we rose early in anticipation of a “morning of music”, accompanied by ridiculously early church bells. At 9am, a bright red minibus arrived outside our hostel ready to whisk us away, and our Tour Guide Pedro (real name David) greeted us. We set off to see film locations around Salzburg with Pedro’s voice telling us random facts about the “Sound of Music” and Julie Andrews’ voice blaring out of the speakers. For example, did you know Gretl almost drowned falling into the lake outside the Von Trapp House? It was lovely being chauffeured everywhere and clear blue skies gave fantastic views over the Lake District near Salzburg. We had a quick ice cream pit stop next to a gorgeous clear bright blue sparkling lake, and then arrived at Mondsee, where the wedding scene from the film was shot in the cathedral. Our challenge for Austria was to recreate a scene from the film, so we pretended to be cuckoos on the steps and skipped around a fountain. Finally it was time to head back to Salzburg to pick up our bags and begin the long train journey to Prague, singing happily (crazily) all the way there.

It was a fantastic morning, but then I am a Sound of Music fanatic.

Onwards and Outwards!

Katie xx

Saturday, 31 July 2010

Catacombes and Pretzels, Cathedrals and Schnitzels, these are a few of our favourite things....

My turn to tell you about today! Personally it wasn’t a great start to the day, despite having the best night’s sleep and the best shower so far! I used the computers in the hostel lobby to find a map of Budapest, then the printer died. Meanwhile in the second floor kitchen Jennifer discovered that our milk had been stolen from the fridge, which was incredibly frustrating. Jennifer, Amy and Katie went to the supermarket to replace it (and to buy lunch), where they were told that they couldn’t pay by card! All in all this meant that we arrived at Westbahnoff train station with minutes to spare before our train to Salzburg.

While on the train to Salzburg everyone contributed to writing our nomination poems for Best Actress and best supporting actress. We had a total of 50 words per nomination:

“Award Entry for 2.5 Best Actress in a lead role – ICELAND MUDDLES"

Ode to Gemma
There’s a person we love who’s super cool,
But she’s one of us, it’s not like school.
She's pretty, clever and also witty,
And she's guided us round some lovely cities.
An organiser right from the start,
Taking our views she captured our hearts.

G regarious
E nergetic
M alleable
M uddle-loving
A dventurous

Award entry 2.6 Best Supporting Actress – ICELAND MUDDLES

Lizz Willott

There was a girl called Lizz,
She was an itinerary whizz
She planned and she planned,
And got us free trams,
And saved us from many a tizz.

Lizz is our supporting actress as she was super organised in planning, wrote to companies and gained weight for our segway tour.”

On arrival in Salzburg we had a good look around the old town, across the river. First stop was the catacombs in the hillside. The view from the top of the steps was amazing and we had several group photos with Peggy and the world flag. We also visited the cathedral which had 5 separate organs (which I think is quite unusual!)! Several of us bought a marzipan and chocolate pretzel which was very yummy!

While everyone was in the tourist information we ran into another stampede group! For me, the highlight was eating at ‘The Faithful Monkey’ in the evening, where our waiter was called Alex. This was highly disappointing to us as we had planned to name our tacky five Euro souvenir after our German waiter. We still called him Alex!

Lydia :-)

Friday, 30 July 2010

"Are we in Germany now?"

We are off to Vienna! At a very early start of approximately 3am we left the hostel in Copenhagen and entered the windy rainy streets to reach the station in which we would get to Copenhagen airport. Our journey on the train encountered many strange people, including those coming home from a night out, a couple of guys belted to one another and also a scary grumbler and after about 30 minutes we reached the airport. Checking in was fairly rapid – getting to print the luggage tags ourselves! We were all under the weight limit for the hold but Harriet did the team proud with a hefty 20.1kg bag, leaving us thinking of inventive ways to cut it back before the Ryanair flight in Hungary. We also contributed to meeting international scouts challenge by meeting some Danish scouts (with a Baden Powell hat!) off to a Jamboree in France who were then subjected to a photograph with us all, not a good thing for any of us at 5am! Due to the quick check in we had time to find some food, shop, have a mooch etc-meaning for Rachel getting a few hundred over priced pastries ;)

We soon boarded the plane, with a suspiciously looking young pilot and soon was in the air Vienna bound. The flight was only an hour and a bit so just in time for everyone to take a nap or read, we then landed in a rainy Vienna at approximately 8.30 , although it seemed like late afternoon by now! Lizz made the arrival a little more interesting with the quote by Lizz ‘Are we in Germany now?’ as everything seemed to be in German rather than Austrian! We collected our bags, almost picking up a cute dog left in the ‘bulking luggage’ en route and made our way to the S-Bahn which we got to Westbanoffe (Westbahnhof) station. It was here where the problems began, I may have wit and good looks ;) but I sure can’t read a map  We hadn’t walked too far before realising my sense of direction was poor and got some help from some fellow English tourists – we had gone the opposite direction! Luckily enough the hostel was not far from the station and we soon arrived to a variety of décor and merchandise with many a strawberry on, we had found our destination, the strawberry hostel. It was rucksacks away and off for the day as it was less than 24hours before we would leave again for Salzburg.

I began the walking tour of some of Vienna’s main attractions by walking to the Austrian Parliament, on the way we took in a lot of the Austrian culture, many of us indulging in chicken Schnitzel aka McDonald’s, cultural! After picking up some postcards, nomming our Mcdonalds treat, finding an amazing Hello Kitty shop (which was closed ), passing the Natural History museum and embracing some other lovely Viennese architecture we reached the parliament. The rain had picked up by now and so rainjackets and ponchos were out as we reached the building, outside displaying a fountain depicting Athena and also representing the 4 four rivers of the old Austro-Hungarian empire. After taking lots of photos and of course having the standard statue pose next to the fountain, we went inside the visitor centre where tours can be taken around the various rooms etc. We opted against this due to time but had a browse in the shop, bought some stamps and used the toilet facilities before leaving to visit Rathaus. Rathaus (City Hall) was an amazing Neo-gothic style building in which Viennese and part of Austrian Politics take place within. Currently there is a film festival out of the front staging hundreds of chairs and a massive screen in which films are played daily. Wearing our neckers we attract some attention from the public and Vienna was no different, a man helped us to understand Scouting in Austria a little bit (his memory being slightly warped from his childhood we think) and wished us well on the rest of our trip.

Many of us were feeling peckish for lunch as it had been about 9-10 hours since we had woken up and so we began to make our way into the main area. St Stephens platz was our destination but looking for food places under budget on the way we found some lovely shops selling decorated cakes, beautiful dresses and crafts etc proving that Vienna is quite a sophisticated city in most parts. We searched and searched for lunch and so in the end to stick under budget trip 2 to Mcdonald’s commenced, with Gem and Jennifer being slightly more health conscious and going to the nearby supermarket. Once refuelling at lunch (and using the Mcdonald’s straw for comic value) we had a quick browse in the square and picked up some breakfast for the next day –finding Austria’s value range ‘CLEVER’ I can assure you all now that our intelligence has improved after just one meal! We had plans for a guided tour at the Vienna State Opera at 4pm and so had a quick browse in the beautiful Cathedral – famously connected to the parish Mozart belonged to before making our to the Opera. Our travelling was interrupted by some filming on the streets for an Austrian movie, looks like we are much more than just local celebrities now! (One of the challenges!) The tour at the Vienna State Opera was really good, enabled by the period of time during the summer, which shuts shows performing on stage. The building was really beautiful and had lots of intricate details, it was nice to see both behind the scenes and the atmosphere of the opera from a spectators point of view. The tour and visit lasted just over an hour and we had planned to look around the Opera Museum as it was included in the ticket but once again we became a little bit of a celebrity. We saw in the distance a big crowd of scouts, they were from Taiwan being tour guided by two Austrian Scouts and seemed very excited about seeing us! We posed for lots of photos, answered a few questions and asked some similar ones about their trip and also each got given individual business style cards from every single Scout as well as being invited to a Jamboree next year in Taiwan celebrating 100 years of Scouting in China (yes we are already planning ;)!)

We made a quick dash as we had to make sure we had plenty of time to get to our next destination – the Viennese Scouts we were planning to meet. After a quick rest in Stadtpark – rapidly trying to repair feet ache and injury we hopped on a tram into the outskirts of the city centre to meet Christina and some other Scouts that we have been in correspondence with prior to Stampede. We sneakily got on the tram without paying or shall I say using our Guiding charm and soon enough we were at the stop for us. It was a little nerve racking, as we didn’t have exact address or any clue who or what it would be like! Turns out the Austrian Scouts were absolutely lovely and we had a very cultural evening, with nothing to worry about! There were 5 Austrian Scouts in total and they run Viscout 88, a group which caters for international scouts in Vienna ranging in age. They had prepared a feast for us, when we arrived they were in the process of making Apple Strudel which would be our desert, but first for the main! We were firstly shown how to make Wiener Schnitzel, the process involves dipping pieces of pork firstly in flour, then egg and finally in breadcrumbs, which then would be fried, they then let us loose to have a go, it becoming almost a race to see who could get their Schnitzel on the end plate first!
The schnitzel was served with a red berry sauce which complimented the pork well, salad and potatoes. It was so yummy and we definitely all were up for seconds! The next course was an unusual pasta style dish made from dough and a special cheese, that also was very yummy, we were told that Austrian beer is often drunk with it and so we were obliged to have a sip, slightly against our charter :-p!

Throughout dinner we discussed both Guiding and also Scouting in Austrian and after the main course we sang some campfire style songs, teaching them some and also disastrously attempting some German ones of theirs. ‘Once an Austrian went yodelling, on a mountain so highhh …’. All the signing and also very bad dancing helped us to build up our appetite for the amazing Strudel! We happily ate a few portions of the apple and fruit filled pastry before having some photos and giving them our gifts from England (some tea and shortbread) and then saying goodnight in the traditional ways, Brownie bells, taps and their equivalent.

Overall we had a lovely day in Vienna, definitely worth a longer visit, the weather was slightly disappointing with the rain and we were sure happy to get into the hostel and sleep at night.

Onwards and upwards to SALZBURG tomorrow, Auf Wiedersehn!

Amy xxx
(Wow longting blogting)

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Masses of transport methods in Copenhagen

Ahhhh... a nice relaxing lie in! 8:30am... you can see how this trip is going to continue already! After waking up most of us remembered our rather abrupt awakening at about 2am by a murderous scream.... it turns out that lack of sleep causes nightmares! We had a leisurely few hours of getting our things together and making some breakfast. We made our way out at about 10:30 going past our favourite Danish bakery, picking up some bread for our picnic tea on route. We then caught the bus into town, and from there got onto the City Cirkel bus that took us all around Copenhagen. We saw the sights and Jennifer pointed out all the important landmarks. There were so many people on bikes, which I thought was really great, and being on an electric bus while seeing this made me realise how eco-friendly Copenhgen was compared to our capital city. We hopped off the bus at Rosenburg Castle, and walked through the park at the front. The Castle looked like something out of a fairytale, turrets included! We had a look around the inside - similarly preserved to many of the British National Trust properties - it was beautifully decorated, fit for the Kings and Queens that resided there. We were about to go down to the treasury to look at the Crown Jewels when one of the guards insisted that everyone moved away from the castle and sat on the grass. The alarm in the treasury had been set off! We all speculated over potential thefts and got excited about witnessing such an event... but in the end the alarms had been set off due to too much noise! We finally were allowed into the treasury and the crown jewels were spectacular! It was every girls dream… enough jewellery for something different every day of the year…. And that was excluding evening wear! We eventually left and wondered down into the main city centre and found a nice looking restaurant for lunch, Le Président. After a huge amount of food we made our way up the round tower, a viewpoint across Copenhagen, 36 metres high. On the inside was a never-ending ramp, continuing for over 200 metres if you walked up the outside, however just over 80 if you walked on the inside. The Danes on the train had told us it was because the King refused to walk up and always rode his horse to the top, the guide book however said it was to transport telescopes to the top when it was an observatory. The views were spectacular, we could see all the places we’d already visited plus every castle, palace, cathedral and church in sight stretching out for miles and miles. We walked to the Hans Christian Anderson museum where we leant about his life and got to read many of his tales, unfortunately most of which had sad endings. It was something fun that brought us all back to our childhoods. We then made the decision to explore Copenhagen in as many ways as possible in the short time we had there, so we caught the City Cirkel bus down to the harbour where we waited in the pouring rain for the harbour bus. We were thankful when it finally arrived, especially when we realised it was under cover! We got to see the few remaining landmarks we hadn’t yet explored including Christianhavn, the Library, and Opera, and once we’d made a circle of the harbour on the bus we jumped off and made our way to the much anticipated Tivoli. Here we were to ride the oldest roller coaster in the world! We got in, rushed to it and…. it was shut! The only ride that wasn’t operating due to the rain was the one we wanted to go on, typically! But in true guiding spirit we didn’t let it get us down and found another slightly more modern and slightly scarier roller coaster. We also went to find the little mermaid stature and said hello to her in our own special way!

We were all knackered by this point but still made time for our picnic tea in the park. Eventually, now very full, we wandered to the bus stop and made our way back to the hostel, knowing that in a few hours we would be leaving this beautiful city and be waiting for the metro to the airport for Vienna. Overall a really lovely jam-packed day, in a beautiful city. So much to take in, so little time!

That’s all for now!

Rachel xoxo

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Scouts ahoy!!!

After a quick trip by Jennifer and myself to double check where the metro was in comparison to the hostel (we didn't want to do that at 4am before the plane!!) we stumbled across a gold mine! Ok, not really a gold mine, but an unexpected challenge filler, which is always a bonus! On our way into the hostel we had noticed there was a scout hut nextdoor, and knowing it's the summer holidays thought we'd have no chance of bumping into any of them. We posed the below photo "please share my Danish pastry with me"

Well little did we know they could share our Danish pastry! As I said, we were walking past on our way to find the metro, I noticed the gate was open, looked up at the door and it was open with a warm glowing light flowing. We looked a little closer and there was the silhouette of a man in a necker in the distance. Jumping with glee and making girly excited noises we walked through the gate and into the hut. The man greeted us as we explained who we were. He said they were rovers packing for their camp to Sweden. He was a bit busy so handed us over to Ana who is "good at English and talking to new people". We had a chat about scouting in Denmark, guiding in England and our stampede. They got us a leaflet about all the activity options (in Danish - we might not understand it but proof we met them!) and we said we'd just nip back to the hostel to get some badges. Everyone else was reading or relaxing in the room and a bit surprised by our bursting in so soon after we left. We grabbed our badges and ran back down to the hut. Amy had time to put a hoody and necker on over her pyjamas... only just! We then engulfed the scout hut and apologised for quadrupelling in numbers. There was then lots of excited jibber-jabbering between English and Danish and we were shown their twinning link with Barking and Dagenham and their various swaps, including an English rugby shirt.

This whole unplanned meeting reminded me just what guiding and scouting is, a 'brotherhood' (sorry for sounding corny). Its very rare that you can walk into a hut of strangers and just because you are wearing a necker you are accepted as a long lost cousin. People joke about dodgey dib dib dob handshakes - but at the end of the day wearing a necker shows you are part of a large large family and you automatically have something in common and a new friend, before you've even spoken. Just a bunch of welcoming like minded people, identified by a symbol.

Gem xx

Having a whale of a time!

Hi guys!
Well what an eventful night! I am so glad that I have been able to have the experience of travelling on an overnight train but I would safely say that I would quite happily not repeat it again!

After a hectic change in Cologne (which even Gem admits stressed her out!) we got on our sleeper train and we got seated in our harry potter style compartments – Gem and Jen in one and the rest of us in the other. Gem and Jen managed to get the first 4 signatures on Laurence (…more about Lawrence later) from some Copenhagiens, whilst some of us stood in front of the windows, wind in our hair, watching the city lights go by (Katie was very nervous that we were going to get limbs chopped off by passing trains/bridges – sorry Katie!). The ‘youngster’ carriage (Gem and Jen just made tutting/afronted sounds at me) got a bit carried away with all the excitement but it was so amusing trying to get changed and ready for bed with 6 of us in a space the size of a large cupboard. However we quickly became very unamused by the uncomfy nature of the seats we were meant to be sleeping in! I do not know how many times I woke up last night, it was definitely too many for me to count! I can remember waking up at 2am with Harriet and Katie and thinking that we had broken down because we kept stopping and starting at Hanover station ( I think) but it turns out that we were changing direction apparently?! At another point, maybe at about 5 or 6am, a man walked into our carriage which resulted in lots of jumping and screaming particularly from Harriet, to which he responded ‘don’t worry, don’t worry, it’s all under control’ which just resulted in lots of confusion, had something not been in control before?. Turns out he was a policy man checking that we weren’t hiding any extras. I don’t think he was expecting the screams that greeted him.

Anyway, on to today. Today we have had a relaxing day so we could rejuvenate ourselves from last night! Jen has been our tour guide so we popped into the tourist information to get our free maps of Copenhagen before heading off to the hostel on the bus. The people are really nice here, demonstrated by the lovely bus driver who told us which bus stop to get off at and also the women who lent out her window to give us directions this afternoon when we couldn’t find the hostel. Also a man at the supermarket stopped to talk to us. I like the fact that lots of people stop to talk to us when we are wearing our guide uniform.

When we got to the Hostel we spotted some guides wearing centenary tops, turns out there are 19 guides and senior section members from Kent area staying here for two weeks and there is also a scout hut right next door to the hostel! We are hoping that we can catch some Denmarkish scouts going in or out at some point.

This afternoon after the supermarket we decided to go swimming, just round the corner from here as we were all really hot! It was amazing! It had slides and floats and flippers and it was just generally cool! I’m pretty sure we all felt like kids again!

Amy, Rachel and Jen just cooked pasta salad for dinner. I had seconds (big deal for me! I have to think about those segways!) so it must have been good! I think we are just having a relax from now on and gonna have an early night. Amy is eating the epic danish pastry that her, Harriet and Rachel bought earlier ( I had one too! A Danish pastry in Denmark- Amazing!), Gem and Jen are sorting finance stuff and Lydia and Katie are postcarding and diarying. Harriet is already in PJ’s (its 8.30pm).

I hope that was too muddled, I’m sure it isn’t as fluent as Jens!
Ta ra for now,
Lizz xxx

P.S I hear that is a year today since we said goodbye to all our Roverway friends at the closing ceremony! Can’t believe it has been so long!

Tuesday, 27 July 2010


After an early start for all of us, varying from 1am to 4am, we all met in our wonderful Muddles multicolour uniform at St Pancras International for the first leg of our journey. After Lydia’s mum had taken a couple of photos for us we checked in.

Now having been excited about going on the Eurostar for the first time I must say I actually slept through most of the journey. Apparently though Rachel and Gemma talked to another stampede group, Amy did her makeup, Lizz slept (clearly that runs in the family), Harriet played the idiot game(?!) and Lydia ate breakfast while Katie read. We got to Pareeeeee at 10:17 English time, 11:17 French time. As we needed to be at the embassy at 11:45 it was then a mad dash to the metro.

Now I should point out that this was not only a need to get the embassy fast but a bit of a competition. You see the other group which we met on the train were getting to the embassy by taxi and we were determined that public transport would be both cheaper and faster – we don’t have money to burn on taxis!

So we arrived at Pareeeee gare du nord and headed straight for left luggage. Crammed 8 bags into 2 lockers (we were very pleased with this) and then ran for the metro. Then DISASTER there were MEGA MEGA QUEUES for the ticket machines! So being the genii that we are we split into 2 groups with one Frenchish speaker in each to try buying some tickets. Then super geniuses Lydia and Katie spotted that the little shop sold carnets of tickets which is what we wanted, thus skipping the whole queuing and having to then try using a ticket machine thing!

So 2 metro rides later (scary doors open before the train stops) we arrived at Madeleine metro station and headed for the embassy, We found a road with lots of embassies and walked along until one embassy made us cross the road because they wouldn’t let us use their pavement. Turns out it was ours. We got chaperoned back across the road by Rolph from the sound of music and we showed our invitations and passports and were allowed in. We felt a little out of place looking rather hot and slightly grubby in what is essentially a MASSIVE stately home (be warned everyone now has aspirations of becoming a British ambassador).

We were the 3rd to last group to arrive, but weren’t too long after 12 noon. Another group turned up slightly after us, but to our surprise the group who had taken the taxis didn’t surface till a long time later, clearly public transport is the way to go!

After a speech by the British ambassador (when everyone went quiet Lizz managed a little faux pas –clearly lack of sleep was getting the better of her) and another by the chief commissioner for the Midlands region we sat down to have our picnic lunches. While doing this each group also had their photo taken. We were BY FAR the best looking group in our rainbow uniform. We looked AMAZING in our multicoloured hoodies (and I don’t mean to brag…). We had various photos in lots of different places in the house and gardens.

After spending a while at the embassy we headed off, with the wonderful Rachel as tour guide, to get a taste of Pareeeee. We went through Place de la Concorde – where we had various photos with statues, then Jardins de Tuieries and then Paris Plage- a series of funny beach type things along the river Seine, with very few actually having sand! Here we completed the country challenge for France – a boat ride on the Seine, although it was actually a little toy boat….

From here we went to Place de Vosges – the oldest square in Paris and had a little rest – which was much appreciated by all, it has been such a humid day and everyone was rather worn out by this point. The intention was to go to Musee Carnavalet next, however by the time we got there it was going to be a waste of time putting our bags in the cloakroom only to have to leave 10 minutes later so we decided to give it a miss.

We decided to make up for this loss of culture with some French food on the way back to the station so we stopped and practised our best French to get some crepes, slushi drinks and glace (ice cream). Back at the station we had a bit of a wander, got some more water, stamps for postcards, butter (!!!) and retrieved our bags from the super hot locker room ready to board the 18:01 train to Colonge.

We are now sat on the train (although won’t be when we post this…) in the middle of Belgium, having just passed through Brussels. We tried to leave Harriet and Lydia behind in their quest to stand on Belgium soil, but failed :P We are enjoying the slightly more comfortable and spacious seats of these longer distance trains and I think we have now each eaten most of our packed dinners.

The rest of this journey will be spent by most of us trying NOT to sleep (Rachel, Amy, Harriet, Lydia and Lizz are Sudukoing) so that we can sleep as well as possible on our next train to Copenhagen…fingers crossed we’ll get a reasonably good nights sleep.

I think that’s it for now. Keep following us – we’ll update as often as we can…

Jennifer x

Monday, 26 July 2010

Less than 24 hours!

Well it's less than 24 hours now - this time tomorrow we'll be under the sea heading for Paris!

In Paris we'll be having lunch at the British Embassy with all the other stampede teams (a chance to show off our wonderful rainbow hoodies and polos too!) and hopefully we'll also be able to see some of the other sites of Paris before heading off on our longest leg of the journey - Paris to Copenhagen via train...

Several months of planning finally come into fruition tomorrow. Everyone has put so much work into choosing hostels, thinking about meals and transport and making country plans, fingers crossed it will all go to plan...

We hope to update this blog where and when we can so keep checking back.

Bon Vogage! (or are you meant to say that to us?)

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

The dos and don'ts of map reading...

As part of their Out and About badge, 4th Taunton (Holway) Brownies taught Peggy how to map read. Before they left the meeting place everyone was given two copies of a map - one your typical street map version, and the other an aerial photo of the area. The Brownies quickly found the school on the aerial photo and then compared to the street map to see what road it was on. Off they went on a walk, learning the Green Cross Code on the way. Peggy found it quite hard when the Brownie leading the walk changed (as they all took turns) because often it can be complicated moving from one to another. They had to regroup and look at points they could see on the map to identify where they were. The Brownies found the aerial map a lot easier to use, as you can look at landmarks such as trees and bus stops and buildings to locate where you are - in England you can easily get aerial maps on smart phones but how will we cope in Europe when the cost of roaming charges is actually the cost of us getting lost while roaming??