Bucks Scouts return from grand tour of Europe
“Scouts can still enjoy all the traditional activities that you associate with the movement” said Richard Byford, former Group Scout Leader in Wendover (and now a volunteer with Wendover News). “But Scouting has moved on in leaps and bounds over recent years and has developed a programme of activities tailored to the interests of children and young adults both now and in the future.”
This year, accompanied by highly trained volunteer leaders, a large mixed unit of scouts and explorer scouts from Buckinghamshire travelled to South Korea for a World Jamboree. A similar 46-strong group went on an alternative 23 day ‘Grand Tour’ (GT23) backpacking from Zagreb to the fjords of Norway.
A report on the Jamboree appears the November edition, but in the meantime, here is a report of GT23, from Wendover Explorer Scout, Thomas Harrington:
This content has been provided by a community author, and has not been edited or amended by Wendover News.
Across 23 days of traveling, 45 teenage scouts and I, along with leaders from all over Bucks, embarked on a journey backpacking through Europe –
“Grand Tour 23”, led by Paul Wilson – enduring heatwaves, national emergencies, torrential storms and public transport challenges, camping and using hostels over Summer. Starting in Zagreb, Croatia’s diverse and cultural capital, over the course of a few days dorming in a hostel, we discovered the city, ranging from the colorful roof of the St Mark’s Church, the many different museums and exploring the Grič Tunnel through the hill. Through all this, we were becoming accustomed to the increasingly sweltering temperatures of the heat wave and the iconic tram and public transport systems of central Europe. We split off into smaller groups for day activities, one of which was visiting Zagreb zoo, featuring many mediterranean exhibits.
On the way to our next destination, we stopped off for a day in Ljubljana, the Capital of Slovenia, where we explored the Dragon Bridge and its impressive sculptures, which was an unforgettable experience, especially after overcoming many problems with public transport! After a very scenic coach ride through the Slovenian alps, we arrived at Lake Bohinj, high up in the mountains, one of the most picturesque locations of our trip. Here, we camped by the lake for an eventful week, where we canoed on the pristine blue waters and biked through the small surrounding villages. However, for the duration of our time here, Slovenia experienced its worst natural disaster ever in its history, constituting a national emergency. Over 275 mm of rain fell in 48 hours, a downpour that followed to continue almost non-stop for around six days, leading to at least seven victims in Slovenia, with rivers bursting banks and settlements flooding, including the nearest town to us, with the lake rising up over most the to roads. We drank boiled water due to the contaminated reservoir and struggled to keep our gear dry in our tents. But we managed to keep the morale high, having fun with the local Slovenian scout campers, and we were luckily far away from the lake and the nearby flooding.
We also enjoyed taking the Bohinj cable car up the mountain to see the stunning view of the surrounding mountains and lakes. On the last day of this, we took a detour to Trieste, in Italy, where we enjoyed the better weather, and a taste of the city’s diverse atmosphere. Next, we visited Zellhof in Austria, where we stayed at a camp with scouts from Italy, Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, and other UK groups. This was a great chance to meet with other international scouts, testing our language skills and ability to make friends. We are still in contact with many of the people we met here. Taking a detour to Hallstatt, Austria, we explored the oldest salt mine in the world, giving us a view of the ancient mining history, including the local ice caves, which were an absolutely mesmerizing sight. We also had an excursion to Salzburg in Austria, where we had a tour of the old castle, its history, and the incredible views over the city and the German border beyond. Our penultimate destination was Prague, in Czechia/Czech Republic, where we experienced the great culture and history of the city through an evening Ghost tour and a river cruise tour of its architectural treasures (being known as the “City of a Hundred Spires!) and its beautiful history of art and gothic buildings.
A small group of us visited the ballet, which was absolutely unforgettable and gave us a taste of the culture surrounding the place. Finally, we jumped to Oslo in Norway. Here, we island hopped in the Oslo Fjord though a beautiful Scandinavian summer landscape. Along the way, we visited some maritime and nordic museums, giving us an insight into its history of exploration, trade and Vikings. We also had the rare opportunity to zipline down the famous Norwegian olympic ski jump at the Holmenkollen zipline! To finish the trip on a high, we went to a theme park on our last day together before returning home, all in one piece and with an amazing experience to remember forever.
An edited version of this article appears in the October 2023 edition of Wendover News