TCC German Chapter meeting in Frankfurt

These articles were published already earlier in this blog in Finnish and I promised to offer them also in English – even if mostly write in Finnish only.

On top of this material you can also read – and especially see pictures – from the meeting on the official TCC pages, including this nice picture of us!

L&P

The original content was published  in this blog as four articles with titles (links to the original articles in Finnish):

In this article all these articles are included in this one article – just press Lue loppuun –> (=Read more) to access them from here.

Travelers Century Club Meeting in Frankfurt

Intercity Frankfurt HbfTravelers Century Club German Chapter met in Frankfurt during the first weekend in September. We were 19, mostly Germans, but also a couple of persons from Netherlands – and two Finns, us. TCC country list was the first country list I learned about and our first goal of 100 countries was set according to it. Later we have learned about several other country lists, but as first the TCC concept has been the one we like most and thus we took the opportunity to attend the meeting in Frankfurt – after all Frankfurt isn’t that far away from Helsinki.

TCC is an American organization, celebrating it’s 60th anniversary this year, having 2200 members – members being persons having visited at least 100 areas on TCC country list, applied for membership and paid for introduction and annual fees ($100 + $95 per year). In USA there are local, active, clubs in most larger cities and up to 50-60 persons attending each meeting. In Europe there aren’t that may members and meetings are only held in bigger countries (Germany, UK) typically once a year, but there are members also in other countries. Btw, we are not members, not yet at least, but we asked separately whether we could attend the meeting in Frankfurt, to learn more about TCC, and we were warmly welcomed by the German Chapter.

You can read more about TCC membership on their web page, but it has got many of the same elements than our Finnish, less formal Finnish Global Explorers Club, sharing experiences, interesting presentations and occasional group travels. TCC has got in addition this country list, which they update on yearly basis and Centurian -magazine, which shares information on meetings held in different chapters (unfortunately not the content of the presentations held in meetings) and it lists members having reached next levels in membership: silver (150), gold (200), platinum (250), diamond (300).

St Helena Tristan da CunhaWe had a couple of the over 300 areas visited members in Frankfurt and when they listed the areas they still ”had on their list” it started to make sense that there isn’t actually a level for all areas visited, as some of them are really quite challenging, or what do you think about St Helena, accessible by boat 6 times per year? One member had spent 2 months on this island after his retirement to get this point! Or what about Tristan da Cunha – there is a boat connection about 50 times per year, but they can’t guarantee actual landing on the island.

One of the most traveled members, already a slightly older man, listed the about 10 areas he haven’t visited yet, including 4 areas on Antarctic, this Tristan da Cunha and some tropical islands in Pacific, and told us tha he is finished with his travels – the remaining ones are too tough for him and traveling to these remote places is so expensive that he will not do it. He had not only visited most of the 324 current TCC areas but also 32 of so called Retired Territories and when another member later told us that he had also visited Porkkala while recently visiting Helsinki, because of it being on this Retired Territories -list, we just had to look it up.
About his travels in more general he also commented that about 1/3 of the countries were not worth visiting, especially in Africa. And he also commented on the fact that so many countries have been lately getting in practice closed for tourists, in North Africa, in Middle East, West Africa … and he reminded us about the TCC motto and expressed his wishes that some day the situation would again get better.

TCC:n mottoPlaces like Andorra, San Marino, Guayanas, Sao Tome and Principe even a couple of times, North Korea and Afghanistan were mentioned in the discussions covering recent and near future travels – the discussions are also part of the monthly meetings held in Helsinki by the Finnish Global Explorers Club. Afghanistan was on the list of a member who had already visited all other independent countries. Also cruises both in Caribbean and Mediterranean seemed to be popular also among this group – no wonder, as by selecting the right cruise you can get several countries during the same trip.

When I told more about the Finnish Global Explorers Club and especially that many of our members use also other country lists, especially MTP, one member started quickly to criticize it about the non-existent rules regarding the areas on that list – maybe wanting to make a point that TCC has got clear rules defining what is and what is not an area. The same member asked me whether we also have ”circumnavigators” and when I first did not understand what he was talking about, he described to me one group of travel enthusiast which I had not know about, being the club for persons having traveled around the globe. And even we have not addressed this topic in the Finnish club, we do of course have also persons having done this. But on the other hand you can travel around the globe without visiting that many countries so these groups do not totally overlap each others.
And when we started discussing these different clubs, some one also mentioned Pitcairn Club in Switzerland, for people who have been there, and as few people start their travels by vising Pitcairn, also that club probably has got some quite well-traveled people!

ryhmäkuva

On top of introductions and lively discussions two excellent presentations were given one about Overland travel and another about Nature Parks in India (see further down for more details of these).

At the end of the meeting the group made plans for the next meeting – the group meets only once a year, during the first weekend in September, in some German city and Cologne was agreed to be the next host (previous meetings being held in Bonn, Düsseldorfissa and Berlin). The members could also participate other European meetings, if they so wish, the next one being in London already in October.  We will not participate in either of these – on the other hand we are not actually members (yet) and by coincidence our first weekend in September 2015 has already been taken, being the weekend for the 40th reunion of Class of 1975 for Pirkko in Turku!

Arriving to Frankfurt on Saturday morning and leaving on Sunday around noon did not leave that much time for the actual city – we ended up with this short visit to minimize costs and because of our next trip to Bilbao and towards Santiago de Compostela started next Saturday. A few comments of Frankfurt and the cost details for the trip at the end of this article.

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World with Overland Travel

The most fascinating presentation in the TCC meeting in Frankfurt was given by Katja.

mapKatja has traveled in most corners of the world with Overland trucks – from Istanbul to Beijing, several routes in Africa, South America and Australia. When some one asked why not in North America, Katja said that she will leave the easiest ones as last, but she would like to do Alaska – Mexico along Pan American highway. The route from Mexico to South America she has already done, apart from Darien Gap. As an example of the pace of overland trips Katja had the route from Istanbul to Beising, which you can fly in 9 hours, but which takes 96 days as overland trip.

From the several trips she had done, she had chosen two in her presentation – the trip from Nairobi to Douala, from Kenya and Uganda to Kongo and further to Central African and Cameroon in 1996. The trip took 3 months and when the trip in the rainforest in Kongo, took more time than planned – 2 weeks became 6 – Katja run out of time and she had to return from Douala and could not continue to Accra, which was the original plan.

Nairobi to Douala (6)
The first pictures by Katja about the group participating in circumcision event in Masai village and of mountain gorillas in Uganda gave an idea what this trip included. In Kongo the 2000 kilometers along Trans-African Highway (= a muddy track) ment digging the car out of mud almost every day – and one trip to a pygmy village. The mechanic (in the crew for the truck) had also work to do almost daily – in challenging conditions. When there wasn’t any other place to set up the tents in rainforest, they were set up on the road and if there was other traffic during the night, the tents were packed up, even in the middle of the night.

Nairobi to Douala (26) Nairobi to Douala (23)

On this trip and especially on this part of it, the truck and the tourists was the main attractions which to locals came to watch.

Nairobi to Douala (15)

The car was equipped with water tank which was filled with local water and purified with Micropur -tablets. On top of rice and pasta which was carried along, the food was bought on local markets, where you could also by for example monkey meat, which the group however did not try.

Nairobi to Douala (38)

The trip dragging on in Kongo caused some minor issues in the group: the food supplies were scarce and the vegetarians gave their tuna portions to local dogs, but nothing major. Part of the group got malaria as the preventive medication ran out.

When the group finally came to the border of Central Africa it was closed and when they anyway crossed it, they were escorted to the border with Cameroon. This part of the trip was slowed down by the constant need to fix the police cars. The mechanic in the truck had again much to do. As Katja had run out of holiday and could not get a visa to Nigeria, she returned to Europe from the Douala in Cameron.

The other route presented by Katja, was from Manaus to Ushuia in 2012. The trip started from Amazon, with a boat. The pictures from different colored branches of Amazon converge and from the sleeping areas with hammocks (each person had to buy or rent one) told about that part. One first class cabin was bought for the group, to store the luggage, so that they would be safe, but otherwise the group traveled with the locals. In Brazil the group learned to kite-surf and to drive with sand-buggies. And Rio was visited, of course, during the carnival. The Iguassu Falls were seen both from Brazil and Argentine and as country collector Katja could also visit briefly Paraguay and Uruguay.

Manaus to Santiago (404)

Manaus to Santiago (150)

Manaus to Santiago (402) Manaus to Santiago (147)

The food was prepared by the group – each one had their turn in kitchen team. In South America using water falls as showers seemed already a bit more comfortable than washing in the African rivers.

Manaus to Santiago (204) Manaus to Santiago (189)

This trip ended in the spectacular scenery of Patagonia, where the team had the opportunity to try climbing on the glacier. We saw our first glacier this summer in Svalbard (target in Finnish, but pictures do not have a language …) and it was nice to see in Katja’s pictures that the glacier in Patagonia had the same shade of turquoise.
Pan-American Highway ends in Ushuia and with a stamp in the passport stating Fin del Mundo.

Manaus to Santiago (235)

Manaus to Santiago (246) Manaus to Santiago (340)

All the pictures are here I got from Katja, with the permission to use them in this context. Katja’s own travel blog you can access from here.
And as usually you can see the pictures larger by clicking them.

Safari in India

I promised also to summarize the other presentation in Frankfurt TCC meeting which was about Armin’s and his family’s trip to Nature Parks in India. I found also this presentation really fascinating – before this I had never thought that you could go to safari also in India and not only in Africa. The Big Five is however a bit different there and in India the main attraction is tiger. Armin told that on safaris in India the Big Five comes from the Jungle Book by Kipling – here you are looking for Baloo the sloth bear, Bagheera the panther, Kaa the python and Shere Khan the tiger. And of course elephants (General Hath, of course) and monkeys.

hahmot

And of course, there are also antelopes – and with the most common ones (spotted deer) the outcome is was the same as with impalas in Africa: first ones are so cute and so worth taking pictures, but after a while, no one cares.

The pictures below, from real tiger,  real panther, real python and elephants come from Armin, with the permission to use them in this context.

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And of course, also in India, there are a lot of birds to see – for example bee eaters, drongos and kingfishers.

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The nature parks, where Armin and his family visited on this trip, were:

and they are all relatively close to each other in the middle of the Indian continent:

national-parks

Accommodation in parks where mostly in tents, which were in the class of 4-5 star hotels – the tents could have marble floor and air conditioning!

Armin and his family visited also Delhi and the main sights in North India, including Taj Mahal, and – as most of visitors in India – they got their part of this for Westerners slightly odd phenomenon, that locals want to have their picture taken with tourists completely strangers to them – or like in this picture – they want a picture of their children being taken in the lap of an unknown tourist!

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The – sex impregnated pictures of the temple groups in Khajuro and the kamasutra statues were also interesting, but let’s leave them out of this story – Google will of course find them – if the topic is of interest …
Visiging Khajuraho could have been easily combined with our visit to Varanasi – but our tour operator Aurinkomatkat had not done it at that time (again, target in Finnish, but pictures do not have a language …).

Weekend Trip to Frankfurt

Frankfurt

We spent a weekend in Frankfurt to attend Travelers Century Club German Chapter meeting there. Even if this wasn’t really a trip a such, a few lines about it just as a trip.

We flew to Frankfurt on Saturday morning with the first Lufthansa direct flight from Helsinki and flew back via Copenhagen, as we that was the cheapest option. Regarding just flights it had been even cheaper to fly through Copenhagen on our way to Frankfurt, but choosing the direct morning flight we saved costs for 1 hotel night and were still there well before the meeting start at 11 o’clock.

For accommodation we chose the hotel were the meeting was held, Intercity next to main railway station, and it was surprisingly good for the cost of 70 euros, including breakfast and tickets for local transportation, including train back to airport. Also the location next to main railway station was superb.

Frankfurt Altstadt

After the meeting we spent some time in the Frankfurt – checking Altstadt, Old Town, walking a bit on the Eisener Steg bridge over the river Main, which seems to be one of the bridges with masses of love locks. On Willy Brandt Platz we just had to take a photo of the statue of Euro before we continued to the surroundings of the Old Opera House, where we could enjoy a few classes of wine on the wine market taking place around it.

Willy Brandt Platz

Eiserner Steg Weinmarkt

And as we usually do also open the costs for our trips, let’s do it also for this one. This one we managed to do with 506 euros (for 2 persons), 506 eurolla (2 henkeä):

    • flights 390 euroa
    • hotel 70 euroa
    • train from Frankfurt airport to hotel 8 euros (4,35 per person)
    • parking at Helsinki Airport 38 euroa

From all the cities we have visited lately, Frankfurt wins the first prize regarding transportation from airport to city. The train was easy to find, and it was fast and cheap – there were trains at least every 10 minutes and it took around 15 minutes.

Regarding costs, we have got some wishes to also list some food prices, but especially on this trip there was really few expenses which were not included in the participation fee for the meeting or hotel room, but lets list some of them anyway:

  • Coca-cola 0,5l 2,15 .. 2,70 euros from kiosk in airport
  • can of beer 0,5l 2,45 euros from kiosk
  • glass of wine 2,50 euros 0,1l on wine festival, 4,60 euros 0,2l in Altstadt.

And still, one interesting remark related to Finland in Frankfurt – in the Old Town there was an art exhibition presenting some Finnish artists!

Matters of time

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