As part of our Gadling on the Road series, Kent Wien and his wife Linda are participating as Team Gadling in the first run of Competitours, an Amazing Race like competition taking place in three different countries in Europe. Follow along each day this week as Kent documents their progress.
We arrived via train to Cologne from Frankfurt at around noon, which didn’t give us much time to brush our teeth, drop our bag off and throw up a post with video.
It was the video and post from yesterday that gave me fits. Trying to cram everything together before running out the door is a recipe for disaster, and sure enough, the browser froze, not allowing me to post anything. We finally got out the door at 2:10, 10 minutes later than scheduled and more than 24 hours after we had last slept.
I think we were running on adrenaline by this point as we raced through Cologne toward the train station.
Still I was texting with Grant, the editor at Gadling to get the first post up. He was able to work everything out, fortunately.
We elected to do the challenges north of the city. They seemed to offer more points than the scavenger hunt in Cologne, but the two cities, Dusseldorf and Duisburg involved 25 to 50 minute long train rides from our hotel, meaning we’d have less time for the challenges.
I made a shout out to everyone on Twitter, but it was Linda who came to the rescue when she looked up a few friends she had gone to school with who were living in the area.
Linda’s friend Sigrid met us in Dusseldorf with her son and we proceeded to traipse around the city accomplishing as many tasks as we could, which turned out to be everything we could do in the two cities.
Sigrid had to take her son home after just one challenge, but she proved to be a great help in pointing us in the right direction. We quickly learned to use strangers as much as possible, and I’d say we must have had discussions with over 40 people who were eager to help us along.
We sang beer songs in the world’s longest bar while drinking Alt Bier before heading off to find a statue that included references to the beer making history of the city. That proved difficult, as the locals had no idea what we were talking about.
Fortunately we found the answer in a map at the tourist board, who also had never heard of such a tribute.
We were spent. Exhausted. Kaputt.
Be sure to follow all of Kent’s posts about the Competitours race.
We went to the Japanese district to find three very odd items that aren’t related, but before we got too far, we found a fluent Japanese speaker to draw the symbols for us so we could simply point out what we were looking for.
It took a visit to a hardware store, a stationery place and a grocery store to find everything there.
We commented via video on some architecture, offering our take on the designs before heading out of Dusseldorf more than three hours later to visit the town of Duisburg.
We asked around on the subway ride about a statue in the town center of Duisburg, and a friendly person explained that this statue was rather unpopular with the locals after seeing the invoice from the french artist Niki de St. Phalle.
Finally we found a local who had the true story as to why this statue was so significant and we recorded that answer in front of the colorful piece while also discussing the contempt some had for such an expensive monument.
We didn’t stop for food for the entire day, since we were committed to finishing each challenge in the two cities. Occasionally we’d run across a team or two, and Elizabeth from another team even approached us and filmed the two of us describing the monument to beer that took us forever to find. I’m still not sure if Elizabeth knew what we had found.
We raced to our final challenge, a park that had been converted from an industrial wasteland into a recreation area and museum. Since it was 7:30 when we arrived, we could see the museum with only the lights scattered around the area. Apparently the place closed earlier than anyone planned, but we were able to walk right into the displays and get our video taken.
With an iPhone picture snapped to mark the time, we worked our way back to the station. While we were careful to walk to the park on the lit streets, all caution was abandoned as we went directly through the grassy dimly lit and occasionally forested area to the metro station.
Linda noted that this felt more strenuous than the Amazing Race because we were given the clues so far in advance that our minds were constantly thinking about how we’d shoot the next scene, make it funny and work our way to the challenge after that.
You could never take a mental break, and combined with the lack of sleep, we were approaching delirium.
On the way back to the hotel we ran into Steve Belkin, the man behind Competitours who was frantically searching for a place to make paper copies of the challenges for the next day. He looked more tired than we were, and I’m sure he didn’t sleep a wink, either.
After dinner, I went to edit and upload our 9 videos. Unfortunately, the Flip software was acting up, and I was starting to get frustrated. At one point it suggested a re-install of the editing software. Fortunately I read online about others doing the same thing and losing all their video.
I finally got six videos uploaded to YouTube directly and not through the Flip software. The last three videos I had to put through iMovie because these clips caused the Flip program to unexpectedly quit each time.
Little did I know my troubles were just beginning. Linda went to bed while I tried to upload videos by the 1 a.m. deadline. I was just going to make it, when I noticed that EVERYTHING had slowed to a crawl on our t-mobile €29 connection.
I gave up and came back at 6:30 a.m. to see if any of the manual uploads worked. Not a single video uploaded. When I tried again in the morning, the connection was much better and things started to sail.
I haven’t even looked at the challenges for Tuesday, but I’m happy to say, we did get everything done, albeit a bit late. Seven other teams were apparently in the same situation, since the standings show zero points for them as well. I suspect Competitours will allow some time for those videos to be uploaded.
And now we’re off for Tuesday’s challenges!