Forty people on the Alberni Wrestling 2012 Europe Tour are having the time on their lives.
We landed in Prague on July 28 after more than over 24 hours of travelling. Our departure was not without stress as one of our wrestlers lost his passport and we had to get him to Victoria for an emergency replacement, then delay him to a later flight to Prague.
We also had four members who travelled up to two weeks early and all worked out with us.
Prague lived up to its hype as one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Our two days there were filled with sight seeing and soaking up the rich history of the city.
Certainly a highlight was visiting the old town and its building dating back hundreds of years and learning that Prague was one of the only major cities of Europe spared bombing destruction in the Second World War.
On Monday we were off in our private charter coach to Munich and Bavaria. That afternoon, we travelled to the village of Hallbergmoos, about 30 minutes from Munich, to be hosted by their local wrestling club. We found out quickly that this is one of the top clubs in all of Germany and had last year won the prestigious Bungestad League involving many wrestlers who are brought in from other countries and paid to represent various clubs.
In our matches against this top quality competition we fared well in many but in many our younger wrestlers were in for a learning experience. I was actually annoyed that our hosts had not paid much attention to my request to have these friendly international matches set based on the age and experience of our wrestlers.
Too many matches had our wrestlers against much older, more experienced opponents.
Despite this our athletes never complained and were tough competitors. Strong performances were put in by Jordie Bodnar, Brianne Charles, Cullen Hines, Cody McEvay, Michael Cappus and Graeme Wiggins. The final tally was lopsided for the Germans but they commented on the tenacity of our athletes.
We did have one elbow injury to Aliocha Perriard who joined us from Kamloops, but after amazing medical care from the German system she is casted and comfortable for the rest of the trip.
After our match the Hallbergmoos club hosted a barbecue and social for all 40 people in our group. Everyone had a great time and enjoyed getting to know our hosts, who by then felt bad about not matching wrestlers up in more fair way.
We accepted their apologies and thanked them for hosting us that evening. There appears to be real interest from them to come to Canada in the next year or two.
We toured Munich and the famed Nazi concentration camp at Dachau yesterday. Dachau was a very powerful experience for all of us. I was again so proud of the young people in our group who showed sincere interest and respect for the horrible history of this place and the atrocities of the Nazis from 1933 to 1945.
We all left more educated and appreciative of why we must learn from history. We had some great discussions on the bus about racism and persecution all over the world including our own country. As we left Munich we stopped at the impressive headquarters of car maker BMW.
Last night we travelled to Austria. We arrived in the village of Kuchl about 8 p.m. Our breath was taken away by the beauty of this village nestled in the Alps. It was truly inspiring to walk their clean streets and soak up another different setting and culture after an amazing Austrian meal.
Today we head to Salzberg, the birth place of Mozart, and the site of two Olympic Winter Games. We have many excursions planned to castles, the salt mines and an ice cave. Many plan to come back to our guest house in Kuchl early by train and maybe rent bikes tonight.
Tomorrow, we are off to Innsbruck to wrestle in the small village of Inzing. This should be another remarkable experience. Hard to believe we have so much ahead of us yet, including Switzerland, Paris and the Olympics in London.