Wednesday, 11 September 2013

A Mega Time in Prague

A Mega Time in Prague

After attending the Brugge Beer Mega Event in April we decided to see what other Mega Events there were  in Europe and spotted the Geocoinfest in Prague.  Some cachers local to us had visited Prague not long after we started caching and we’d always thought it would be a nice place to visit.  So, within days our flights, hotel and car hire were all booked.

In June the Maze Event was published and we couldn’t believe our luck.  This was the first Maze event ever outside of  USA and would be a new cache type for us. Would a CITO be published as well we wondered, thus raising the possibility of 12 different cache types in one day?  A few weeks later the CITO event was published but the start time was 7am and our hotel was quite a distance away.  No problem!  Booked a room at a hotel a short walk from the park and cancelled our original booking - sorted.

Czechs seem to be crazy about Wherigos - and we quite like them too.  There are more Wherigos in the Czech Republic than there are in the UK.  There are only 130 active Wherigos in the UK (11 of which are owned by us. We have another 2 which we've archived) out of a total of over 155,000 caches.  In Czech Republic there are over 211 Wherigos out of fewer than 35,000 caches.

We were planing to arrive on the Tuesday evening.  Spend Wednesday finding caches to the south, spend Thursday in the centre doing the town trail Wherigos and generally sightseeing.  Saturday would be filled with side events and Sunday would be the main Mega and attempting to find 12 types in one day.  That leaves Friday 'spare’…. Not for long!  It just so happened that there was an event in the evening just over the border in Germany just to the left of Dresden.  Hmm…. We also have only found five different cache types in Germany so we identified a Webcam, Letterbox and Multi to bring the total to nine types!  A too good a chance to miss surely…
Love locks


Back in May, the Groundspeak Blog mentioned two caches in Prague which were the world’s most visited.  So those went on the to-do list. There are four bi-lingual Wherigos starting near the main tourist area so we decided to do those as well although we’d opted to leave the easiest looking one for the Sunday to ensure finding the 12 cache types.
Scooby Doo Wherigos

Wednesday: Headed through the horrendous rush hour traffic in our hire car to an area South East of Prague to find a set of nine Scooby-Doo themed Wherigos which really appealed to us.  We'd been in contact with the CO over the possibility of providing us with English translations and rather helpfully he told us that he would provide English versions in time for the Mega event and luckily they were published just in time.  A pleasant walk around a forest although we were initially un-easy about the number of people wandering around. More cachers?  No; it seems they were gathering wild mushrooms!  Next we headed West to another Wherigo which had a 'play anywhere' puzzle.  There are a few of these in Europe and they are great fun because you can take your time solving it before actually heading out to find the cache.  Basically you go to any open area and the zones are automatically plotted relative to where you are. This particular one was all in Czech and Mark had spent several nights wondering around trying to complete it and translating key instructions then trying again etc.
Ticket machine took some fathoming

Thursday: Left the car at the hotel and headed off to catch a tram. The hotel receptionist advised us that we could use the ticket machine or buy tickets form the post office. Unfortunately the Post Office staff weren’t aware of this! :D

Ta-da! We have the tickets!
Finally managed to rustle up enough change to buy a couple of tickets from the bewildering ticket machine.  It’s actually easier than it looks once you understand it and the public transport system is so efficient and cheap to use - a 24hr ticket to hop on and off trains, trams and metro only cost around £3 each.
Lennon Wall

We started off by doing a short Wherigo which follows the river and after having a coffee returned to Charles Bridge to start the longer Tourist Guide I Wherigo which was about 6kms long and seemed to take forever.

We saw an exhibition by the river which was all about the June 2013 flood, we remember watching it on the news and hoping that there wouldn't be too much damage for our visit, but it's very hard to see any signs of the flood now.  This is a rather interesting photo:  On the left shows the statue of Indian spiritual leader Sri Chinmoy, partially submerged by the rising flood waters from the Vltava River at 16:40 on 2 June 2013. The statue was completed covered by 19:30. The photo on the right I took and we were able to walk to it easily today.

We picked up a few other caches en route and visited the astronomical tower.  I'd seen a photo in our Rough Guide book that taken from the top of the tower, so we decided to climb to the top to take the same photo .

After having a bite to eat and despite being totally worn out, we even made a start on the second tourist trail Wherigo but had to stop when we got to a park that was closed for the night.

Friday:  Destination Dresden.

We’d read about Terezin in the Rough Guide and decided to make a detour off the motorway to visit the town. The history of the town is shocking. The inhabitants were evicted during the Second World War and the Nazis commandeered the entire town as a transit camp for prisoners en route to numerous concentration camps including Auswitz, Trelenka etc. The numbers of prisoners held there and the conditions they were held in, is beyond comprehension….

We visited the Ghetto Museum and barrack house before finding a couple of caches and heading on our way. There is a series of caches around the outskirts of the town each called by a child’s name. The cache page simply says the date of birth and death of each child. The simplicity of each cache page is disturbing in itself:

Narozena *08. 04. 1939

transport Cv, c. 613 (06.03.1943 Praha; Terezín)

Zahynula +21. 03. 1944 Terezín

Back on the route. After another short detour to find another  'Play Anywhere' Wherigo, we headed back to the motorway.. or so we thought. TomTom had different ideas and directed us down a very windy lane for several miles before finally getting to the motorway. Progress was swift then. Very swift ;) but no matter how fast you drive on the German Autobahn someone will still want to overtake.  The journey involved driving through the Panenská tunnel, the longest tunnel in the Czech Republic at 2058 metres!

Letterbox Hybrid – Nice and easy and Mark had identified one which was located at the given co-ordinates.

Dresden Webcam – parked in a side street and Mark asked a woman who was just going to a nearby house if it was OK to park here. The reply was a bit surprising. She asked if he spoke English as her German wasn’t very good! Yep she was Norwegian :D The webcam had a painfully slow refresh rate and we had to wait for about 20 minutes before being able screen grab the picture

Multi next, we had a short list of three - good job two as the first two were DNFs.  The third one actually had a higher difficulty rating but was a nice quick find.
Event in Freiberg

Event – this was about 20 or so miles out of Dresden and road improvements meant we had to double back a couple of times because Tomtom lead us to dead ends etc.  The event was just a small regular meet for locals but it was very well organised with a couple of marquees , beer tent and barbecue. We chatted to a few of the other cachers for a while before departing for the two-hour drive back to Prague. Well, that was how long we thought it would take but it was along endless winding tree lined country lanes. It would probably have been very picturesque in the daylight but we just wanted to get back to the hotel.  Eventually we saw a sign giving directions to the Dresden-Prague motorway. ‘At Last’ we thought but Tomtom was insisting that we go its route instead.  Having trusted Tomtom’s lies earlier on, we decided to follow the signs to the motorway. After about fifteen miles in the wrong direction we reached the motorway. Progress was better now but the motorway seemed to fade away about 40 miles from Prague and we ended up going through a town. All the signs said Prague so it probably wasn’t our mistake this time; just the way it was!

Saturday: The Side Events

Left the car at the hotel and hopped on a tram to the centre.  No problem with buying tickets this time. The first event was a presentation by some crazy Czechs who made an expedition through south America with a couple of Trabants, a Fiat 126 and  Jawa 250 motorbike. The presentation was all in Czech but we got the gist of it and the photos were amazing.  On the way in we met a Swedish cacher and sat and chatted with him whilst we were waiting for the presentation to start, we swapped interesting stories of our caching trips and it was interesting to speak to someone who embarks on similar crazy trips to us.
Logbook for GC49B1A
Next event was  in the viewing area 93 metres up the TV Tower.

Yep the event is at the top of the Tower!
 While trying to decide which tram(s) to take, a local lass asked if  needed any help and she helpfully advised us to take the underground instead. The stations on the underground look like something from an old film where they imagine what the future will look like.
Like something from Dr Who

Meet the Danes was next. No problem with the location as the turnout was massive!
Meet the Danes Event

The next one was a D1/T5 event.  Just getting there was more than a D1! It took us ages as the location was off the map given to us by the hotel, so after walking a mile or so and hopping on and off a few different trams and underground trains we eventually arrived.   It was really great fun with me doing the belaying and Mark doing the climbing for our team.

We had planned to go to a few more events but decided to finish off the Tourist Guide II Wherigo instead.

This one led us round the West side of the river including going up the funicular railway. Amazingly the tram/underground/bus ticket is also valid on the funicular!
Funicular Railway Station

We also happened upon a mountain bike/BMX competition. The whole area was buzzing with excitement and action. We stopped to watch a few of the crazies going over the jumps but soon decided to press on.
Cito - Cache Type #3
Sunday morning we were up at 5.30 and out before breakfast to attend the 24 hour TB relay Event, followed by  a visit to the GPS Maze (luckily we were nice and early so no queuing)  and the CITO starting at 07:00. We found a puzzle cache and a couple of Trads during the CITO. Five types before breakfast!  Not bad. Now back to the hotel for a well earned breakfast!
Puzzle- Cache type #5

After breakfast we czeched , I mean checked out and walked down  to the Geocoinfest Mega event where we bumped into Monki, Unowho68 and Blue Nora our caching friends from the Midlands.  The Mega event was extremely well organised and we thought the maps were a great idea, where visitors had to stick a pin in the place they had come from.

The ‘logbook’ was the Groundspeak logo make from tile pieces, another great idea.

'Signing' the log book

The Meet the Germans event near by was more ‘join the queue of Germans waiting to sign the logbook’  EarthCache next followed by the Wherigo making it eight types. No problem with the Virtual but DNF on the Multi which meant we had to resort to the back up plan.

Cache Type #10

Time to head North to the Letterbox Hybrid – cache type number ten.  Where we bumped into some more cachers.

Time for the Multi next, in a strangely quiet area of the city in another very well kept park.  We enjoyed a peaceful sit down before heading south to the small town of Zbraslav for the webcam. Cache type number 12! Yay!  MISSION COMPLETE.

Just as we were sitting relaxing after completing the challenge we were surprised (although not too surprised) to see Monki, Unowho67 and Blue Nora arrive, they'd caught the bus from Prague to find the webcam!  Enjoyed a chat before going our separate ways as we were heading back to the airport.  At the airport we bumped into Spooky Luke and friends, some cachers that had visited Geocoinfest for the weekend from Cornwall.  Had a good chat about all things Wherigo and general crazy caching trips before going off for different flights home.

Cache type #12
We had a great time in Prague, it was exhausting though as we were on the go all the time and I did joke saying that it was like being on a Geocaching bootcamp as there was no time for relaxing but we have many fond memories of our trip to such a beautiful city and would recommend a visit to anyone.

New stats summary
1 new country - Czech Republic
1 new cache type - the GPS Maze
Additional 4 cache types found in Germany making a total of 9 types
12 cache types found in Czech Republic
100th Wherigo found
100th Event attended
....I think that's about it...

Right, now where to next?............

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