Krakow Bound...the homestrech at last!

Thursday May 1 – Day 21

Hello All -

We have regained consciousness after an amazing adventure over the last few days with our travelers here and there spread out across Central Europe…and us nestled sweetly in among the vineyards of the Wachau Valley with good friends.

First off, the teams…saw a team last night here in Vienna. Heard many teams were already in Krakow and some were arriving this morning. Check in time is tomorrow morning (Friday) at 11AM. Until then, we have a news blackout so no team gains any competitive advantage knowing where another is or what they are doing. That said…see YOU ALL tomorrow at 11AM hotel lobby in Krakow.

Today is May Day…international labor day…and everything is on a different schedule. Stores/retail are all closed, family-owned businesses are closed, but most museums and restaurants are open if on limited hours. Hopefully trains, and in our case, flights run as scheduled.

Other news…the LA Kings won a historic game seven last night beating the Sharks 5-1 and making an 0-3 comeback to win the series 4-3. Stunning and I would expect nothing less from that gritty former Stanley Cup champion…now the Ducks. In other great sports news the Laker coach resigned—a year too late in my mind as he was never a right fit for the legendary Lakers and their post game. And in other good news, the NBA banned for life that Clipper-owning pig. We all knew it in LA, now the rest of the world knows it too. Shame on you.

Okay, how to describe the hospitality of good friends. You can’t, you just thank your lucky stars for being in their orbit and know in your heart they know how appreciative you are to know them and share in their gracious generosity. We had a fabulous time visiting Silvia, Thomas, Clementine, Muki & Josephine at their home outside Krems, Austria. Lucca was so happy to see his friends…and play outside among the vines, laughing and not having to talk to us adults for a couple days. He was in tree forts, zip trekking, swinging like Tarzan, and learning the art of wine making and being the boy we know him to be. Pamela and I just relaxed in Thomas and Silvia’s company sharing in their own vineyards products (white wine and schnapps), while catching up, dinning gloriously and enjoying the simply spectacular views of the Wachua Valley—a UNESCO world heritage site along the Danube known for not only the wine but its natural beauty. Pamela was ready to stay forever…as I think Lucca was when he found out they played hockey there too. The weather was just breathtaking as well.

Thomas showing off his "The Man Who Returned Home" lable apircot schanpps
batch...minus a bottle or two.

Happy kids...

The vineyard house...

In Krems...

Kids on a ferry across Danube...no engines (current and cable driven) and on your schedule!

The Million Euro View of Wachua Valley and Danube...Thanks guys, see you soon!

Okay, we are off to Krakow…so more tomorrow.


Last Chance….Finally, remember that The Global Scavenger Hunt has always been about more than traveling around the world competing for The World's Greatest Travelers crown in the world travel championship... it is about helping others help themselves through the GreatEscape Foundation. This year, to celebrate our event's 10th anniversary, our goal is to fund 10 schools in places that really need them. Co-ed elementary schools at that. So, if you have it in your heart to not eat a lunch out this week and make a small one-time $25 online donation during the course of the 2014 event, we know a lot of kids needing an education that would thank you. Thank you all, because we all know that every little bit helps out a lot. (FYI: All individual donation names will be put in a hat and on May 3rd we will select a winner for a special fun prize—it will be worth much more than your $25+ donation!). Thank you!

 

Dateline: Highway en route to Austria...technology!

Good morning all...or good evening, whatever.

Road officials are on their way to Austria...other teams on their way to Vienna and Slovakia today, and we heard Liechenstein too! (Good luck with that bridge too far...) One team is on a side heritage roots tour looking for long lost relatives. Good luck all...

Thank you again to all the folks at the Hilton Budapest Castle Hotel ...we wish every property was so warm and wonderful. You should be proud of your service. Thank you all.

Just a few photos to share from the autobahn.

Danube River at night


The NEW standard for gelato (in the world?) Gelarto Rosa...a MUST!


Sublimely delicious...I had two!

Leslie & Michele plotting and planning...


Heckarewee (Dan & Leslie) currying favors from Pamela...(she's tough!)

See you in Austria...



 

Travelers Found and Running Amok Through Central Europe

Dateline: Budapest, HUNGARY - Monday April 28 – Day 18

Time…what a mental construct.

Where to begin? We are ALL here in Budapest. I just sat and listened to stories of woe while sharing a few Pilsner Urquell’s and G ‘n T’s with the lost tribe of The Global Scavenger Hunt who just arrived from Dubai--24 hours late. They are all in good spirits and humor. Good travelers know random stuff happens and you complain, moan or groan and the uncontrollable random inevitability of it, or roll with the punches. They were all true champs.

So, greetings from the Hilton Budapest Castle Hotel situated in the center of the Royal Castle District, a UNESCO World Heritage Site—who’s entire staff I must say have just been exceptional while offering each and every team an amazing experience…although maybe a tad too much information—I am talking to you guys at the Concierge Desk ;)! Thank you all.

That said, we have to close the books on the Par 2 Dubai leg of the competition that ended Saturday night. Obviously as mentioned days ago, a few team members were suffering lingering effects of India, some were able to rally, some not, and the results I think reflected that fact. Dubai was a flurry of 28-hour activity; elevator surfing took place, snow skiing was involved, ice skating occurred, desert driving happened, a lot of mall hopping transpired, the interrogating of “guest” workers was widespread, and evading UAE’s morality police (at least in spirit) came to pass. Teams were busy visiting the travel and tourism Mecca we affectionately refer to as Dubailand

In fifth place, hanging on for dear life in the waves of Lawyers without Borders wake, were Matzah Burrito (Angel & Jordan) with 775 points;

In fourth place, were the team vying for 2014 rookie of the year honors, were Heckarewee (Leslie & Dan) who amassed 880 hard-earned points;

In third place, were the tried and true sophomore team Retired Traveling Chicks (Kim & Maria) compiling 1,040 points;

Earning just 30 points more, at 1,070 points for the Dubai leg, in second place, and somewhat of an upset, were Lawyers without Borders (Zoe & Rainey);

And the winners of the leg, amassing an amazing 1,390 points were Sister Act Two (Emily & Rainey Jr.) with their first ever leg victory!

Congrats all, and the 2014 travel world championship leader board looks like this…

Okay, that leg behind us, road officials had to make a call this morning and begin the leg on time with 80% of teams present and ready, or wait until 100% where at the starting gate. It was decided after examining the leader board and the competition results to date to begin on time and offer a set of progressive handicap Bonus points for the three teams bumped and left behind in Dubai. That said, teams were given their European (Par 6) scavenger hunt lists at 8:30am Monday morning.

There mission is to simply get from Budapest to Krakow, Poland—about 350 kilometers directly north—by Friday at 11am. Easy, right?  Wrong! There are only about 200 possible scavenges in between in Hungary, Austria, Germany, Poland, Czech Republic and Slovakia…and even Liechtenstein too! Mercifully, I left Romania and Slovenia off this year’s task list…

So, that is all…get from Point A to Point B, via Points C, D, E, F, G…and don’t forget the big May Day holiday either. Frankly, we have no idea where everyone will be over the next 5 days until we see them at our 11AM Krakow rally leg check in. But we do know that everyone should have fun figuring out their strategies, designing their routes and executing their plans. It will be an interesting few days. Good luck to all…

Here are a few photos from today…


The Actual View From Where I Am Writing This Post...Suite!

|
Chain Bridge

Street Scenes...

Paprika...I love paprika.

The scene outside last night!

The Mighty Hungarian Eagle

One Tired Kid...

Kim & Maria (Retired Traveling Chicks) on the move too...?


Our Tribe on Arrival In Budapest -6...

BTW: If I haven't mentioned, the road officials travel experience is somewhat different than our traveling competitors...their experiences are so much more fun and exciting than our daily grinds. This is work for us...and don't forget it!

Hello to Anna from your fair city...last time you were here!

And FYI if you don't hear from us for a few days as our teams attempt to conquer Erope, we are off tomorrow on an exciting adventure of our own to visit one of my son's school former mates, and our friends Thomas, Silvia, Clementine, Muki & Josephine who moved home to Austria a few years ago. Should be a fun sleepover!

More later...


Finally, remember that The Global Scavenger Hunt has always been about more than traveling around the world competing for The World's Greatest Travelers crown in the world travel championship... it is about helping others help themselves through the GreatEscape Foundation. This year, to celebrate our event's 10th anniversary, our goal is to fund 10 schools in places that really need them. Co-ed elementary schools at that. So, if you have it in your heart to not eat a lunch out this week and make a small one-time $25 online donation during the course of the 2014 event, we know a lot of kids needing an education that would thank you. Thank you all, because we all know that every little bit helps out a lot. (FYI: All individual donation names will be put in a hat and on May 3rd we will select a winner for a special fun prize—it will be worth much more than your $25+ donation!). Thank you!

 

The Trials & Tribulations of a BIG International Event

Good Morning All -

First off, everyone is well and accounted for, but we hit a snag today. 

All the teams arrived at the Dubai International Airport this morning in plenty of time to take our confirmed spaces
on the flight to Istanbul. Sadly, Turkish Airline had other ideas. 

Three teams were unceramoniously bumped from the flight at the gate: defending champs The Ogopogos, Heckarewee and
the Geotrekers. And so for the first time in ten events we have an airline problem. 

WE have communicated with the three teams in Dubai and they are fine and booked on the same flight tomorrow (which
pisses me off because there were two Emirates Air flights they could have been put them on that would have gotten them to 
Budpaest much quciker...Note to self: NEVER AGAIN TURKISH AIR!)...they are being put up in a hotel and meals 
taken care of--I hear the bar bill is already three digits!

That said, we arrive over an hour late here in Istanbul with visa-on-arrivals in hand...only to find the longest immigration
line in the history of mankind. We huddled the teams...our  5-Hour Istanbul Layover Challenege was now down to maybe 
four good hours. But, being bitten once by NEVER AGAIN TURKISH AIRLINES, we decided to err on the side caution and 
we called off the layover challenge and are now cooling our heals here at the airport. Our flight to Budapest is a few hours
away. So it is Turkish coffee, seasame bagels and Turkish delight for all...but no new rugs, bowls and great food. 

(A quick aside: Go Kings and Clippers as we have always known suck....but you all knew that!)

Okay, so off to Budapest to begin the Euro homestretch Par 6...

Look for another post later.

 

Day 16 on the traveling circus that is The Global Scavenger Hunt

Ahlan wa sahlan…Welcome!

The sun is setting on our final day in Dubai…

“You know what the business community thinks of you? We think that 100 years ago you were sitting around in your tents in the desert, chopping off each other’s heads and that in another 100 years time, you’ll be back there.” (Matt Damon in Syriana)

And what a jarring juxtaposition from India it has been. On one had in India we had: surprising, authentic, cultural, enlightening, traditional, colorful, astonishing, unexpected, extraordinary, quaint, overwhelming, vibrant, chaotic, vivid, intriguing, enriching, sublime beauty…and interesting. On the other hand, you have Dubai.

Now I completely get and love the balls of autocratic ruler Sheikh Mo’s Dubai vision thing: if you build it—they will come. The motto being a developers wet dream: bigger, taller, more and the more modern the better. It is a land of untold megaprojects, a city of superlatives, of massive ego megaprojects where vanity bling abounds. It is a place designed to flatter Westerners with international luxury brands and pleases us tourists superficially (the annual month long Dubai Shopping Festival and “seven star” hotels say it all) since it rose from the unforgiving desert in less than three decades to, well, what it is today—“the fastest-growing city in the world"! (Their quotation marks.) That said, my deceased mother always told me that if you don’t have something good to say, say nothing. So I will…

So, here is Dubai in pictures…because sometimes a picture is worth a 1,000 words—sometimes not.


Hmmmm....

Camels have been replaced...

There is a method to the madness...

Food always transcends...

Will it work?

The tallest ziggurat in the world...

Some Not so Random Thoughts of the Day:

-Hard to decide where to eat here today in Dubai? Johnnie Rockets at the Dubai Mall, the Cheesecake Factory at the Mall of the Emirates, Applebee’s at Wafi Mall, TGI Friday’s at Dubai Marina Mall or CoCo’s at Diera City Mall. Or maybe you prefer Tim Horton’s, Coldstone or Pizza Hut? It is just like all the choices I have when visiting Orange County…or Las Vegas...only more of course.

-Okay, I am just wondering, but why do people pay to go up to the top of tall buildings and then put money in binoculars to look at things on the ground?

-Just remember, that when you are traveling in a Muslim country, one must truly know the difference between haram and haraam...one meaning forbidden or sinful and the other meaning a holy place. I am just saying...

-I finally figured out where all the modern day oasis in dry Muslim nations are: at the Hyatt's, InterContinental’s, Radissons, Hiltons, Four Seasons and Shangri-La's...
 
-There is a bar here in Dubai aptly called Dar Al Harb (aka the realm of the infidels).

-I have noticed over the years of coming to Dubai (and all the nouveau riche Gulf States for that matter) a new type of language rising due to the massive influx of cheap foreign laborers (87% of Dubai’s population)…not Spanglish as it would be in States, but Arabenglish...

-Muslim fashion statements: it is 100 out…why do the men get to wear white and women black?

-My sense is that here in the Gulf States that freedom of expression is notably stronger than freedom after expression.

-I heard today from a reliable source that Lebanon's Bekka Valley is the new Napa, correction, make that the new Mendoza of wine regions of the world...

-Aren’t hotels odd buildings; no locks on the front door—they are always open!

-Bellman in the 21st century are funny dudes (especially in the age of roller bags), think about it: you take your luggage from your house to airport, onto the plane, off the plane, thru the airport, into the cab, and pull up at the hotel...let’s say you traveled 6,000 kilometers or more--now the bellman finally sees you when you arrive at the hotel and wants to help you cover the last 10-meters of your journey for a $5 tip of course! Gee whiz.

-I realized today that I have been felt up more by airport security than the happy hooker…

-You know you travel a lot when you can smell jet fuel on your clothes when you open your bags…

-Make no mistake, there will be no Arab Spring here (for good or bad), but one can sense Dubai's bipolar personality…a brewing social/cultural-divide between  a free trade zone which caters heavily to Western tastes and lifestyles and Sharia law; between the international marketing allure of tourist permissiveness and the sensibilities of conservative Islam. Whether Dubai circa 2014 is a utopia or dystopia…time will tell?

-Finally, note to self: When in Dubai, remember that PDA’s or kissing on the beach with a hottie (or your wife, hopefully one and the same says the editor) could land you in jail.

Nuff said

Okay, event news…all the teams have checked in and are safe and sound (okay, still a few with nagging effects from India) after a full and busy day here in Dubailand.

We have an interesting day set for tomorrow as we reposition ourselves for a final hard five-day Par 6 European leg. But, before they get to Europe, we have a fun little 6-Hour Layover Challenge (Par 1) set for Istanbul, Turkey. After that, we are off to Budapest, Hungary to begin the next leg.

More tomorrow when we get to Budapest!

Please friend/like/follow us on Facebook...we will attempt to add Twitter insight (in 140 characters or less!?) and YouTube-like vines (6 second clips) if possible along the way.  I will also be writing periodic Huffington Post pieces along the way as well. So stay tuned.

Finally, remember that The Global Scavenger Hunt has always been about more than traveling around the world competing for The World's Greatest Travelers crown in the world travel championship... it is about helping others help themselves through the GreatEscape Foundation. This year, to celebrate our event's 10th anniversary, our goal is to fund 10 schools in places that really need them. Co-ed elementary schools at that. So, if you have it in your heart to not eat a lunch out this week and make a small one-time $25 online donation during the course of the 2014 event, we know a lot of kids needing an education that would thank you. Thank you all, because we all know that every little bit helps out a lot. (FYI: All individual donation names will be put in a hat and on May 3rd we will select a winner for a special fun prize—it will be worth much more than your $25+ donation!). Thank you!