20 September, Germany – ‘All Over The Place – Europe, Part 2’
What a great day to finish this series. When it comes to events, you can’t get much more “All Over The Place” than a giant pumpkin race. And when I say giant, I mean giant.
When we turned up to the ornate Ludwigsbehg Palace today I had no idea that pumpkins could be grown big enough to comfortably sit a fully grown man in and have him paddle himself around a race course. Turns out they can.
The pumpkin race is part of the palace’s annual pumpkin festival, where they fill the beautiful gardens with around half a million pumpkins, many of them displayed as huge pumpkin sculptures such as space rockets and men on flying carpets. Michelle and I helped to hollow out a pumpkin the size of a go kart and got pumpkin paddling tips from organiser Mathius. After a lunch of pumpkin burgers and a bit of cheering by the side of the race pond set amongst the ridiculously opulent flower beds and fountains, it was time to get stuck in.
For my practice paddle I’d been in a smaller pumpkin, but the wading frogmen who moved the things around in the water brought over a bigger one for the race, and as I slipped off the jetty and got inside on my knees I didn’t fancy my chances, as I’d been tipped off that the bigger the pumpkin the slower the progress. Michelle was in the race lane skirting round the other half of the circular pond, and I kept my eye on her as we set off. I was in front for the first third, then she somehow got in the lead and I paddled for all I was worth to catch up with her, reaching the finishing jetty just a few strokes ahead. A German bloke was shouting “Be a gentleman!” in the last few seconds of the race, but I’ve never been a gentleman on ‘All Over The Place’ and I’m not going to start now!
And with that our location filming came to an end. This summer we’ve been to Iceland, Portugal, France, Norway, Germany, Austria, Italy, Slovenia, Serbia, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Finland and Poland. 14 countries – many of them in Eastern Europe, which I’d never really explored before and was surprised to find I LOVE. It provides a sense of adventure like I used to find travelling Africa when I was a teenager, but with less of the risks that that volatile continent contains. I think cities like Belgrade, Budapest and Krakow have a great future ahead of them if world events don’t dictate otherwise, and I feel like a whole part of Europe that just wasn’t on my register has opened up to me. Hopefully, a whole load of kids watching in a few months time will feel the same way…