Now in its 14th season, CBS’ Amazing Race features teams of two racing around the world in attempt to win a prize of $1 million.
Regular series viewers have come to expect challenges as contestants have to deal with various travel situations with their warts and all—late flights, missed connections, surly taxi drivers, unhelpful locals, and more.
So as the television duos make their way around the world, here’s how you can follow in their footsteps on your own terms …
Start the journey in Locarno, Switzerland and race onto Verzasca Dam, which some might recognize as the fictional Arkhangelsk chemical weapons facility from the 1995 James Bond flick GoldenEye. Standing more than 700 feet high, the dam is open to the public and a company called Trekking Team (Bungee jump: www.trekking.ch/eng/007.asp) offers both training and bungee jumps. Their season generally runs from April to October and each jump (plus training and fees) costs €170 (about $215).
Next up, is Kleine Rugen Wiese, Switzerland, where contestants transported four giant, 50-pound cheese wheels to the bottom of a hill. Although cheese-transporting may not ever really catch on as a favorite activity of travelers, cheese-making tours are growing steadily in popularity.
Although a number of small dairies will allow visitors, very few Swiss dairies have formal classes for visitors. One that does is La Maison du Gruyere (www.lamaisondugruyere.ch). Here you can observe the cheese-making process of one of Switzerland’s more famous cheeses, with multiple sessions in both the morning and afternoon.
For those who really want to get hands-on with cheese-making, a trip to the Centre de Carmejane (www.actilait.com/en/training.html) in nearby France is a great way to learn more about cheese. Here, alongside professional cheesemakers-in-training, you can learn to make nearly any type of cheese in existence with some of the world’s top cheesemakers.
Love cheese? Don’t miss Voyage de Fromage: Destinations for Cheese-Lovers.
Contestants were called to the final checkpoint in Switzerland by the sounds of yodeling. Interestingly, this traditional Alpine folk music has been experiencing a resurgence in popularity. At the Zurich Conservatory Music School (www.konservatorium-zuerich.ch), yodeling classes often fill up months ahead of their start date. Unfortunately, the conservatory’s Web site is only in German, so you’ll have to use an online translator for more information.
For help with this, check out Lost in Online Translation.
Following that, it was off to Munich, Germany, and on to the town of Ruhpolding in the Bavaria region. The area is a fairly popular year-round destination about 30 miles from Salzburg, Austria, with skiing in the winter and plenty of outdoor activities in the summer—including paragliding and hiking.
Don’t miss the cable car up to the peak of Mount Rauschberg. For €15 roundtrip during the summer, you’ll be whisked to the top of this mile-high mountain for a panoramic view of the region. There are a number of trails that will lead you back down the mountain, but if loose gravel isn’t your thing, feel free to ride the cable car back down. That said, there are a number of interesting hikes you could try, including ones focused on the area’s nature and geography. You can pick up information about these trails at the information booth near the entry point for the cable car, and generally speaking, trails are well-marked on the mountain itself.
Of course, for the truly brave, there’s also paragliding as an option for getting back to the bottom. A tandem glide starts at €49. For more, check out www.flugzentrum-ruhpolding.de (in German)
Back in Ruhpolding, you might’ve noticed the prevalence of wooden buildings and various woodcutting motifs. That’s because lumber and forestry are big local traditional industries. If you’re interested in learning more, stop by the Woodcutter’s Museum in Ruhpolding (Holzknechtmuseum Ruhpolding). Check out their Web site here: www.holzknechtmuseum.com (in German, with an English summary)
Next up is the town of Schonau Am Konigssee, a picturesque mountain village wedged into the far southeastern corner of Germany near the Austrian border. Konigssee is a vivid green mountain lake and a boat tour is de rigeur. Nearly all boat trips feature a demonstration of the Konigssee Echo, an aural phenomenon which has to be heard to be believed.
While you’re there, don’t miss the onion-domed St. Batholoma Church on the lake’s shore. A round-trip ticket from the Konigssee dock to St. Bartholoma is €12.5 for adults.
For more information on the boat rides, check out www.bayerische-seenschifffahrt.de (click the British flag in the upper right-hand corner for a translated page).
Finally, make your way to Salzburg, Austria, which is known for its historic architecture, castles and gardens, as well as being Mozart’s hometown. Movie buffs will also recognize various landmarks from the popular movie musical, The Sound of Music.
Schloss Hellbrunn, the pit stop for the second leg of the Amazing Race, is a great example of Mannerist architecture, but in a town so full of history, it’s not the architecture that really stands out. What’s really worth a stop at Schloss Hellbrunn are the rather astonishing fountains. Known as the Wasserspiele (“trick fountains” seems to be the preferred translation), visitors will find an array of fountains and grottos, along with the not-be-missed “Mechanical Theatre” with well over 100 water-driven miniature marionettes depicting 18th century life. Tours and audio guides in English are available. For more information, visit www.hellbrunn.at/
By Matthew Calcara for PeterGreenberg.com.
Headed to Austria? Don’t miss our Off the Brochure Travel Guide: Vienna, Austria.
If you’re going to be near the Swiss-Austrian border, find a secret destination with Hidden Travel Hotspots: European Micro-States.