A year in the planning and well done! In July 2001, Crew 7 set Begegnung 2002 as their super activity occurring in August 2002. This activity was an international hiking expedition out of Pfadfinderdorf, the scout camp in Zellhof, Austria. Zellhof is about a half hour north of Salzburg.
Begegnung 2002 was a total of 10 days long. The first 5 days were hiking in the nearby Austrian Alps. The last 5 days were filled with a number of interactive events with units from other nations. The other countries included Great Britain, Sweden, Finland, Portugal, France, Greece, Italy, and our host country, Austria. Staff also included scouters from Germany and the Czech Republic.
In September, 2001, the crew members began making a list of places they would like to visit in Europe prior to Begegnung. After several meetings, including an all day Saturday meeting, the crew settled on the following cities:
- Monte Carlo
For the rest of the year prior to leaving, they focused on all the sights in and between these cities that they thought might be interesting. Camping, it was decided, would be done with scout groups and at scout camps in order to minimize costs and maximize fun.
With a well thought out itinerary by the crew members, we left on our trip on July 15 with plans to return on August 16. As planned, our first stop was London. We took a train from the airport to Victoria station and from there we took a second train to South London Scout Centre. Staying at this scout camp had been coordinated with
Crew 7 at LAX
Gordon Carr, South London Scout Centre Camp Commissioner. It was a good camp and Gordon responded promptly to all e-mails sent to him to plan the stay.
After checking into camp, we were off to London. One of the first things we did was to locate a tour bus, a traditional double-decker with an open top. The tour helped us to locate all the important sights that we planned to visit. That afternoon,
we visited London Tower. Our only problem by this time was that we were tired, very tired. At the end of the day we went back to camp and had a good night's sleep.
Tired at the tower
The following day, we saw more of the traditional sights in London including the British Museum, Buckingham Place, Westminster Abbey, Kensington Palace and lunch at a pub. We ended the day by taking a sight-seeing boat down the Thames River which brought to a close our time in London.
The next day, we caught the EuroStar from London to Paris. The train ride was very pleasant and fast. Once in Paris, we picked up two Renault 9-passenger vans. These vans would be our transportation for the rest of the trip and they worked out very well. They provided us greater opportunities to travel to places than trains would have and it made transporting our luggage far easier.
Our camp for our stay in Paris was about an hour west of town. The name of the camp was Chateau de Jambville. For the next two days, we walked around Paris taking in all the normal tourist sights that we could:
Chateau de Jambville
Eiffel Tower, Arch di Triumph, Champs Elysses, Notre Dame, Louvre, and several sidewalk cafes. We were left with good memories and sore feet. On our way back to camp, we also visited the Palace of Versailles.
Sightseeing in Paris
Following Paris, we took a long drive to Menton. Menton was a short distance east of Monte Carlo, Monaco. In Menton, we were put up by a local Pionnier scout unit.
Monte Carlo Casino
The hospitality was fantastic. Not only did they escort us on a tour of Monte Carlo, they cooked for us and treated us to a wonderful afternoon at the beach. We owe a great deal of thanks to Jean-Michel Damasco, Chef de Groupe, and all the others in the Menton unit.
Fun at the beach
Our next destination was Rome with a quick stop in Pisa to see the famous Leaning Tower. We had hoped to go to the top of the tower but because they only let a few go up in the tower at a time, we were told our wait would be many hours. So we took the traditional pictures of holding up the leaning tower and left for Rome.
Make sure you have a city map for Rome. All the roads go one way in the wrong direction. After a number of hours weaving our way around Rome, we arrived at our host scout group's meeting location. Our stay in Rome was coordinated with an Italian International Scout Commissioner, Leandro Tifi. If you are going to Italy, Leandro is the scouter to contact.
We had a full three days in Rome and were able to see many of the magnificent sites of both Rome and Vatican City. We used the subway to travel between the many sites we saw: Coliseum, Vatican Basilica, Appian Way, Sistine Chapel, St. Paul's Cathedral, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, catacombs and enjoyed Gelati ice cream at every opportunity.
Leandro also helped to coordinate our stay in Venice which was our next destination. Again, we were able to stay at a scout meeting location. Like our stay in Rome, this was also at a church.
On our way to Venice, we drove through Florence and stopped at the replica of the statue of David. The replica was on a hillside giving us a great view of Florence.
Venice was a great place to walk; all the old buildings and no cars. We visited San Marcos square and the Grand Canal. We thought about taking a ride on the gondolas but they were very pricey. If you intend on going on a canal ride, you will want to understand the price before you go and plan your spending accordingly. We spent a full day and a half in Venice which seemed just about right.
So much of our trip had been driving that we decided to not go to Prague.&nsbp; So from Venice, we left towards Munich, Germany. It was a beautiful trip through the mountains. We stayed one night at a campsite just outside of Innsbruck, Austria. Rained hard that night, so the Venturers slept in the vans. Our California tents are not very good in downpours.
The next day, on our way to Munich, we drove a bit out of our way to see the Neuschwanstein Castle, called the "Storybook Castle." This is the castle that Disney used for his model at Disneyland. The unfortunate part was that the castle was being refinished and most of the front was not viewable. We did tour it but were only able to see the front through pictures.
We arrived in Munich in the afternoon and made contact with Piet Richter. Piet was very helpful with finding us a scout unit that would give us a place to stay. I recommend contacting Piet if you are going to southern Germany. For the first time however, we did not have showers. Germany has set some high standards for shower facilities and most scout units do not have them.
We walked downtown to the - clock tower. For whatever reason, the clock did not do its usual automated noontime performance that day but we still had a nice time walking around looking at the shops and buying souvenirs. The next morning, Piet took us to Dachau concentration camp. Viewing a place like that sure makes you glad you didn't live in Europe during that time.
From Munich, we were off to our final European destination, Pfadfinderdorf, the scout camp in Zellhof, Austria. We arrived a day and a half before the beginning of Begegnung but that gave us time to clean up and do some sightseeing in Salzburg.
Just to the south of Salzburg we visited a salt mine. There were two sets of long wooden slides in the mine and everyone had a great time racing down the slide. Also in the mine was a small lake that we took a barge across. They choreographed music and lights together which you got to enjoy as you crossed the lake. It was a very well put together performance.
August 4, 2002, was the first day of Begegnung. The organizers had set up camp so that about 20 venturing-aged scouts and their leaders would camp and cook together. We shared with a unit from Vienna, Austria and a young man from Taiwan.
Setting up Camp
It worked very well for us. Everyone was helpful and friendly. That evening, we had a very nice opening ceremony. It was nice to see so many different scout uniforms.
Prior to the event, we had filled out a form that helped camp classify us into different hiking groups.
On August 5, we left with our respective hiking groups to the Austrian Alps. Some hikes were relatively hard and some easy but all had some magnificent views and each night we stayed in a different mountain hut along with another hiking group or two.
The hikes were similar to Philmont where you may only cross paths with one other group during the day but would meet up with a different group or two each night.
Most of the mountain huts were great, as were the facilities and the hospitality. The proprietors cooked for us and we always had a dry bed for the night. During the hike, we had quite a bit of rain, and so we really appreciated the huts. It was an experience that we will always remember.
The last half of Begegnung was filled with various activities. They included making a wooden car for racing down hill into the lake, a day in Salzburg, and an international food day. All in all, it was a fun time and a great experience because of the great people and the beautiful location.
We had turned in the vans prior to Begegnung, so we caught the train back to Munich and flew home, back to the routine world!