Czecheap Challenge – Innsbruck to Prague (Day 4)

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Our first stop of the day was a tiny village called Fucking. Yes, that’s right! I felt quite sorry for the inhabitants of the beautiful, remote village. When we got there a chap came out and said, ‘No problems!’ and then took photos of everyone’s number plates. I watched from the back-seat of the Saab. I can totally understand why the villagers would be annoyed at their idyllic peacefulness being disturbed by visiting tourists. I think, if I lived there, I’d set up a stall and sell Fucking t-shirts, and Fucking mugs, to the Fucking visitors. Then I’d move house.

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2014 05 25 17 walchsee toboggan

Next stop – the Walchsee Summer Toboggan Run at Durchholzen. We hoped in a chair lift and made our way up to the toboggan station. The views of the Kaiser mountain range were amazing, the views of the tiny cars in the car park were pretty spectacular too! The toboggans looked like folding suitcases to me, I wasn’t sure how they worked. I put mine on top of the metal slide and sat down. ‘I’m not sure how this works!’ I said, as I rolled backwards off the slide and landed on my back, arms and legs waving in the air like an upturned tortoise! The shame. Off we went, down the big shiny slide, and it was wonderful.    So we had another go. Half way down on the second run I caught up with Al, who’d waited for me, having seen me roll off the back on the previous run, ‘Oh! There you are!’ he said, thumbs up, and then carried on. I laughed, a lot, and I kept laughing all the way down. Ha ha ha, like a nutter – you see!

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2014 05 25 08 walchsee toboggan

On we went, into the Czech Republic. The roads and buildings changed almost immediately. Ashleigh got shouted at by an angry German man and his wife at the petrol station. It was hard to tell what was going on.

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We finally made it to Prague, and Rob and Si dropped us off at our hotel, Novotel Prague. The room was superb, spacious, very clean, and well furnished, with a good sized balcony overlooking the street, with views to the left of the hills around Prague Castle.

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The bathroom was well equipped with bath robe, slippers, plenty of towels, shoe shine kit, shower cap, nail file, cotton buds and cotton wool pads, 2 soaps, exfoliant scrub, body milk, shower gel, shampoo and conditioner. The mini bar was well stocked, and there was even a Krupps machine. Unlike the Hilton, the big bottle of water was a gift, and it came with two tasty little ‘Pernik’ gingerbread biscuits. Thank you!

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We were only a 5 minute walk from Wenceslas Square, where we met up with all the other Czecheap Challengers at the Beer Factory. This was an interesting place, with beer taps in the centre of each table. The bar men did a fire show, I missed this, but Adam was trying to buy a drink at the time, so he saw it all. At one point he thought the mans mouth was on fire. He thinks they used petrol!

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We voted for our favourite teams (Rob and Si, of course!), ate our burgers (good chips!), watched the prize giving and got our special medals (top image).

Then there was a weird bit that I have tried to erase from my memory, but it just won’t go. I’m sharing it with you in the hope that it helps me. Sorry. There was a pole, for pole dancing. A couple of the guys started taking it in turns on the pole, I said to Freya, ‘I think they’ve been practicing!’ She said that she thought they’d been doing more watching than practicing. One chap stripped down to his pants, and then his friend, in what must have been an attempt at one-upmanship, took off all his clothes and leapt onto the pole like a white-washed monkey! I wasn’t sick, but it was a close call. I decided the pole should be melted down and buried, or that the ‘albino chimp’ should have to eat it, so that it was stored within him and protected the rest of the population. Bless him!

We had a bit of a wander around with some of the other guys, who turned down the ‘promoters’ offers of the chance to visit ‘titty bars’ or watch some ‘dwarf action’ (What?!), but then, to my absolute surprise managed to steal a disabled guy from a taxi and ride him and his wheel chair up the hill!

It’s okay. Turns out they knew him, kind of. And he didn’t mind, apparently.

Czecheap Challenge – Frankfurt to Innsbruck (Day 3)

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In the morning Colin and Ashleigh came over and confirmed that the drive shaft was shafted. Adam called a local Schrottplatz and within a couple of hours a lovely German man had arrived to take the car away. He was a bit (a lot) surprised when Adam brought the car up from the underground carpark, airhorns blazing, but he was very polite, saying ‘Good!’ and ‘Special!’ about it.

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I was very sad to see the car go. We were incredibly lucky not to be stranded in Frankfurt. Although everyone else had left the city at around 9am, Rob, Si, Colin and Ashleigh all waited with us until the Polo was gone. At about 11am we hopped in Rob and Si’s Saab with them and headed off to Wank (pronounced Vaank!)

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When you are hitching a ride with two boys, you don’t get a say on what comedy named towns you stop off at!

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The roads and scenery of Austria were fabulous, stunning and fabulous. We were in a bit of a rush because we needed to get to OlympiaWorld at Innsbruck, to meet up with other banger ralliers and have a go on the Bobsleigh… the BOBSLEIGH! Whaaaa hooooooo! The altitude was high, the air was thin, and I was giddy!

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2014 05 24 24 bobsleigh

We all got in the back of a truck and tried to stand up straight without falling over, whilst we were driven up the hill at speed. It was like some kind of strange people-trafficking. At the top, right at the top (of the world!) there wasn’t much time for me to chicken-out before we were squished into a bobsleigh and launched down the run, the same run used in the 1976 Olympics! We were told to keep our backs and neck straight, but after about 3 seconds I turned into a floppy thing and spent the following minute smacking my head from side to side as we took 14 turns and reached 100km/hr! My running commentary went pretty much like this – ‘Jesus!‘ ‘Sorry!‘, mixed with some manic laughing.

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It was absolutely bloomin’ amazing! We were soooooo lucky we got to do this. And we survived! This is Simon’s photo (above) he also found this cool footage on youtube  of the 2013/14 World Cup held here.

Rob and Si dropped us off at our hotel. It was weird being chauffeur driven to the doors of the Hilton in a £350 banger, but I liked it!

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Our room was on the 7th floor and gave us a stunning view across Innsbruck. What a beautiful place. (We definitely plan on going back there.) Although we definitely booked a double, we ended up with a twin room. We weren’t bothered, in fact, we were really pleased to have a mega bed each! I didn’t like they leave a bottle of water on the table, but want to charge you for it, or how they have all the mini bar snack items on a display shelf under the TV to tempt people all the time they are in the room. I brought my own Kitkat – In your face, Hilton!

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We met up with our ever growing gang of banger buddies and went to The Orangerie for big meat dinners before heading back to the Hilton bar for  a few hours, before a fairly early night (1.30am). I went to sleep feeling happy to have such lovely friends.

Czecheap Challenge – Zebrugge to Frankfurt (Day 2)

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We dismounted the ferry (what is the term? That’s not the term!) and drove to a car park on the outskirts of Brugge to meet up with more banger ralliers. There were many amusing cars, one of them had a bubble machine which was great for cleaning my shoes.

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2014 05 23 18 the polo stereo

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Because the ferry had been delayed it meant we had less time for sight-seeing and we just needed to crack on with the driving, we also needed to visit the Nurburgring on our way to Frankfurt.

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We were just 300 miles into our 1200 mile journey when the clunking started coming and going. Then it stayed. Nurburgring was pretty cool, but there was absolutely no chance we were going to take the Polo round there, it wasn’t safe for anyone!

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We found a quiet, picturesque spot and stopped to barbecue a sausage rainbow.

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2014 05 23 42 bbq view

By the time we reached Frankfurt our car sounded properly broken. Something was wrong with the drive-shaft at the gear box end. It wasn’t going to be fixable. It sounded like it wanted to break free and smash us in the face. It was angry. We were gutted. We checked in to the Star Inn Hotel before heading off to O’Reilly’s Irish Bar to meet up with the other ralliers.

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We felt pretty sure that our journey had come to an end. The car was broken and we needed to dispose of it. Everyone would be heading off first thing in the morning, and we had a rusty Polo to dispose of. It made our hearts sink. Then our wonderful friends came to our rescue. Rob and Si offered to take us on if I sang along to Oasis and didn’t mind travelling in the boot. It didn’t sound too bad!

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We had a good evening in the Irish Bar, despite the horrendous Karaoke. Colin, who is a proper mechanic (and Ashleigh), offered to come over first thing in the morning and take a look at the car, just in case it could be fixed, and we went back to our hotel feeling happy and relieved.

Simon decided he was going to prank call our room, and it was very, VERY funny! My German is very limited, but it seems that Si’s is non existent, so I was at an advantage.

‘Guten abend,’ I said. ‘Room 316 please,’  he replied. ‘Nein!’ I said. ‘I’ve got to press nine?’ he asked. ‘Nein!’ I repeated. ‘Okay, sorry!’ he said, before putting the phone down.

Then the phone rang again.

‘Guten abend,’ I said. ‘Room 316 please,’ he replied. ‘Nein!’ I said. ‘I’ve got to press nine?’ he asked. ‘Nein! Sprechen Sie Deutsch?’ I said. ‘No. Angleterre!’ he replied. ‘Deutsch! Deutsch!’ I said. ‘I’m really sorry!’ he said, before putting the phone down. Apparently this was the bit where Rob told him ‘Nein’ meant ‘No’ in German.

Ha ha! I’ve never been any good at accents, or tricking people. Thanks Simon!

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I can highly recommend the Star Inn at Frankfurt for absolutely amazing value and superb service. The surrounding area is a bit rundown, but it’s very close to the train station, and I didn’t notice anything that really bothered me. The reception staff were incredibly helpful and kind, the room was big and clean, everything was calm and lovely, and it only cost us €47!

 

Czecheap Challenge – Home to Hull to Zebrugge (Day 1)

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We left home at 10.40am and met up with Rob ‘Cafe CremeÂ’ Grimmer and Al ‘DuffÂ’… I donÂ’t know his surname, friends weÂ’d made on Barcelona Bangers in 2013. IÂ’ve kept in touch with Grimmer through Facebook, but IÂ’ve not seen or heard from Al in almost a year. 51 weeks actually. It felt like weÂ’d just woken up from a good sleep and were carrying on with our driving journey.

We reached Scunthorpe and met up with some of the other ralliers, we met some new people and got to see many of the cars before we all set off across the Humber Bridge to Hull, for the overnight ferry.

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I was really worried that my best banger buddies, Rob and Si, werenÂ’t going to be able to make it as SiÂ’s sister had been taken seriously ill. We were waiting for news to see if sheÂ’d started making an improvement, Si was really worried about leaving her. As the Rally Events organisers started to get us together to leave, I got the good news phone call to say that theyÂ’d meet us at the ferry terminal.

We got to Hull and RobÂ’s girlfriend Sarah was there with their beautiful little girl, Lauren. I was really pleased to meet Lauren as IÂ’d heard so much about her. She is brilliant! She has the most lovely voice and a really thoughtful tone. SheÂ’s super clever and super cute!

As we neared the ferry we were selected for a security check by a man who said, “Scrapyard’s that way mate!” and laughed at his own joke.

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We boarded the ferry and then waited for about 3 hours while our departure was delayed by the tides, apparently. It was weird to be sat in the port amongst half-drunk people listening to mediocre cabaret. Later there was bingo, and other things that made me want to jump overboard!

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Adam and I went to the ‘World FlavoursÂ’ buffet for our dinner. There were all sorts of random things on offer and I could have made up a very odd meal-concoction – as it was I went for lemon chicken, macaroni cheese, cucumber and cherry tomatoes… oh, and two puddings!

We spent the evening chatting to our friends, and making new ones. Last year Colin came on Barcelona Bangers for his Stag-do, and this year he brought along his wife, Ashleigh!

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There were lots of bikers in Hells Angels style gear, and too many cool skull back-patches on jackets. One of them won £125 on the bingo.

Later that night I was to be found in the Casino betting GordonÂ’s money on Pontoon… someone said you could win chips! After a few games I managed to get the hang of it. I reckon I made him at least €2.50. Then I went to bed.

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Adam took the top bunk, and I was actually quite happy nesting in the bottom bunk. I liked the red and white colour scheme, even though the ‘room’ was much smaller than the photos had made out and was about the size of a cupboard. It also smelt a bit cupboardy.

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Strangely, and much to my surprise, the bed was rather comfy and I quite liked the lumpy, waviness (it reminded me of airplane turbulence), but it was noisy, and hot, and there was too much light coming under the door. By the time I got off to sleep it was time for tannoy lady to announce “ItÂ’s 8am European time and breakfast is served.”

2014 05 23 03 ferry al's breakfast

Breakfast was a buffet mountain. Sleepy people shuffled around with piled-high plates. I opted for Alpen. I did try a pastry, but it was stale beyond belief and tasted of meat fridge. Shudder.

Czecheap Challenge – This Time Last Year!

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So, we’re off to Prague on the Czecheap Challenge, in our trusty, crusty, totally rusty VW Polo, but this time last year we were heading off to Barcelona with the Rally Events guys. We managed to raise over £1700 for East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices while we were at it, too.

Barcelona Bangers was amazing fun, so I thought I’d share some of the gazillion photos I took on the journey… see you on the other side!

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We took Lisa the Tigra up to Grimsby Signs to get stickered, so on the way home we stopped off at Louth for a photo with this amazing building. We also stopped at the Admiral Rodney for a Rodney Burger. That’s right, a Rodney Burger!

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We dressed up in our best ‘Glitter Mitten’ gear and hung around in Calais, watching exceptional French television in our hotel room.

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Our first destination was Tours, on the way we went to Le Mans and visited the amazing museum. There were things that I wanted to bring home, many things.

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In Tours we met up with some of the other drivers, and went for dinner in an Italian Restaurant. It wasn’t very Italian. The food was vaguely edible. Adam had his steak knife thrown at him by the waiter, and then a strange little French man asked a group of Scottish guys to serenade his wife/girlfriend/female… and they did! It was truly bizarre and wonderful.

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In France they have the best net curtains.

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And the best names for pubs.

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The following day we headed off to Toulouse. We took more of a scenic route and stopped off at many random supermarches on the way.

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Simon found a race track out in the countryside, so we headed there and watched the fast cars go round. Then we drove electric go-karts. I’ve never been in a go-kart before, and I can’t say I was very good at it. Apparently it’s not the done thing to stop when another driver has gone off and ask them if they’re okay and need any help getting started again. I’m learning!

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After a night in Toulouse, where there was a very cool break-dancing event going on in the city square (I didn’t take part!), we headed off through Andorra, on our last leg of the journey, to Barcelona.

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I know it’s wrong, but this was my favourite car – his little arm waved when the wiper was on! There was also a missile on the roof.

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Andorra was beautiful. I got stuck in a toilet in Andorra, and I didn’t mind. That’s how nice it was.

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I forgot about that tax disc holder. I miss that tax disc holder.

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The weather was magnificent, and so were the roads. We stopped for lunch, chatted with other drivers, and watch some of them sledge down the icey mountainside.

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Finally we arrived in Barcelona and parked up in the beach-front car park. We watched the rally organisers cars get shrink-wrapped and then headed off to our hotels.

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We had an amazing night out with everyone, one of the best nights. I danced like a right pillock and had a lovely time. And then I got to eat cake and fruit for breakfast.

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We stayed in Hotel Attica 21, in Barcelona. Apparently this is the swimming pool they used on the Trivago advert. I don’t know. I don’t believe anything they told me. They told me the water was 15 degrees celsius, but when I got in and thought I was going to have a heart-attack I realised they might have meant 5!

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We spent the Monday wandering around Barcelona in the sun. I was so disappointed to find that the Museu Blau was closed, but we did visit the Museum of Contemporary Art, which was another spectacular building.

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And of course, a visit to Barcelona would not be complete without a walk along Las Ramblas to La Boqueria Market. 

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On Tuesday we packed our bags, got back in our banger and made the epic journey from Barcelona to Calais, via the Millau Viaduct.  The weather got more and more stormy the closer we got to home.

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We made a few ‘Yop Stops’ on the way, and stayed the night at Calais, before catching the ferry back to Dover and coming back to reality! I still can’t explain what a wonderful time we had, and although these photos serve as a reminder to me, they don’t express half of the fun, glee and freedom we felt.

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If you want to follow our Czecheap Challenge journey I’ll be adding pictures to instagram (harveyhotdog) and facebook (glittermitten)

Welcome to the World of Karen Harvey: photographer, writer, creative consultant… self proclaimed cat whisperer, chicken wrangler and chief cake taster!