Sunday, May 4, 2014

End of 2014 Great Escape Trip: Finale in Chicago

We lucked into a beautiful day in Chicago (sunny and crisp) for our last day of the trip.  Emily and Ugs shot out of the hotel like jackrabbits, as soon as Bill opened the leg, as they were sitting in second place after the Europe leg and wanted to secure the spot.  Angel and Jordan abandoned us because they wanted to leisurely choose only a few scavenges and do them at a slow pace.  So Bettina and Johnathan came with Rainey and I to rent bicycles and explore the Windy City.  We had such a great day.

Took a ride on the Ferris Wheel at Navy Pier

Reflected ourselves on “the Bean”

And photographed interesting outdoor art throughout the city …

Often starring Johnathan’s interactions with the art

Including a modern rendition of Rodin’s “The Thinker”

 Check in was 4PM. Followed by the award ceremony.  
AND THE WINNERS ARE… drum roll.  Rainey and I came in first ... YAY. 

And for the first time ever, there was a complete tie for second place.  So Ugs and Emily – as well as - Kim and Maria (The Retired Traveling Chicks) were all awarded second place.

Last event of the trip… the farewell dinner. Always such a bittersweet event.  

Based largely on the charitable contributions raised by this event each year, the Great Escape foundation now funds 10 schools (all co-ed - so girls have the same opportunities as boys) in six of the most impoverished countries in the world. They also fund a clinic for a nomadic tribe in Northern Africa which provides basic medical care, vaccinations etc.  Plus they have funded hundreds of micro-loans: all to women trying to better their financial situation. Not only is the trip a powerful life-changing experience, it also raises money to change the lives of so many other people around the world.

I'm glad to be going home tomorrow (I've missed my eldest son Ben so much) but I'm very sad that another Great Escape scavenger hunt is over.  It has been truly amazing 3 weeks.  
Signing off until our next adventure..... 

Friday, May 2, 2014

End of Europe Leg: Mummies, May Day and Memorials

Traveling across Europe, we went from Hungary to Austria to the 
Czech Republic to Poland.  May 1 is "May Day" here - similar to our labor day - so we saw lots of parades and festivals in town squares.  It also made travel a little more challenging as trains and buses did not run on their regular schedules. 

Brno: On the way to Prague, we stopped in the town of Brno.  Stopping is a bigger deal than it sounds as, once you get off the train for an hour or two, you then have to find a “left luggage” office or lockers, store your suitcases, find some type of map for the town (amazingly, there is little or no ability to buy guide books any more as everyone – except us – just uses the internet to look everything up), navigate the town and complete the required scavenges in time to run (at a full gallop) back to the train station and hop on the next train to your destination.  Logistics are tough on this leg.

Mummies and Daddies:  The scavenge clue was to find the mummies and the daddies in the town of Brno. And we did… in the crypt below the church there is a wide selection of mummy preserved bodies from the 1700s.  It was fascinating and creepy: like a train wreck you just could not stop looking at .

At the foot of one of the corpses was even a mummified rat!!!!

Also in Brno… this interesting statue of a bishop’s hat with freaky hands scampering out from underneath.  These people have a somewhat peculiar sense of art.

Prague: In Prague, we had to walk across the Charles Bridge and have our likeness drawn.  We got there at sunset. WOW. 

Rainey was the guinea pig for the caricature portrait

And then find and photograph the "dancing" building: interesting architecture.

And learn a drinking song in a beer hall

Prague at night is spectacular

Katowice:  In Katowice, we got off the train again to see a very bland, very architecturally uncool former communist town.  Block after block of communist regime housing: square, concrete, unimaginative, totally devoid of flair.  Compared to the beautiful cities we have been in like Budapest and Prague, the event producer obviously sent us to Katowice for a powerful comparison. 

And yet they have a UFO styled sports arena called the Spodek

Krakow:  We reached Krakow in the early evening.  Bettina and Johnathan had decided to leave us when we got off the train in Brno.  They wanted to go directly to Prague so they’d have more time there.  We did not see them again - for 2 days - until we met up in Krakow and had a fun dinner together.  They did great on their own… following the scavenge breadcrumbs across Europe. So proud of them.

Auschwitz:  The final morning of the Europe leg, we were up at 5:30AM so we could be at Auschwitz when it opened. 

There are no words to describe that place.  It makes you truly ashamed to be human

This is a pile of eyeglasses removed from the prisoners. A sobering way to end the Europe leg.

What sights we have seen, what places we have been, what wonders we have observed…

Even got a photo of soon-to-be-a-Gator Ugs (University of Florida Law School here he comes) in Brno.

Heading now for Chicago for the last leg of the trip.  Can't believe it's over.  This is the saddest part. 

blog stats
catalog outlet store