Sightly confused about what to do on a day off in Vienna, I ended up spending the afternoon down by the river with some of our crew in a couple of make shift beach bars, one of them complete with sand and sun loungers. Feels odd sitting with your feet in the sand when your view of the opposing riverbank is of a graffiti ridden underpass! Great vibe in the evening though when everyone clocks off from work and the towpath is thronging with well behaved Austrians not falling into the barrier-less river (as I’m sure the occasional rowdy Brit would back home).
On Friday it was time to make our way to our next location – Poland. We’d be flying to Berlin and then boarding a bus for our 3 hour journey to the town of Szczecin. Things didn’t get off to a great start when it looked like they’d lost our bags in Berlin and the next 2 days filming were in jeopardy, but they were found within the hour. Naomi was there to greet us fresh from the UK, and we had lots to catch up on, what with the new series of ‘Marrying Mum and Dad’ being broadcast at the moment.
It was quite easy to tell when we’d hit Poland. All of a sudden the autobahn road surface became bumpy and passing buildings began to look a bit sorry for themselves. When we arrived at our hotel there was an imposing rectangular block of crumbling 60s flats opposite us, with KFC the only noticeable place outside of our hotel restaurant to grab some late night supper. A slightly surreal sight greeted us in the hotel lobby – lots of fireman milling about. Normally this would lead to concerns that the building was about to burn to the ground, but it was because of the fireman that we were here in the first place – to take part in the annual Firefighters’ Challenge.
Once we’d made our way down to the docks in the morning I was starting to realise that I’d judged Szczecin a bit harshly the night before, as it was a better looking place than I’d first thought. Our bus pulled up next to a number of red fire engines and we got to work filming our intro, explaining how firefighters come from all over the world to take part in the “toughest 2 minutes in sport”. It’s essentially a training exercise, with a relay team of firefighters in full uniforms and breathing apparatus running up a tower with a hose, pulling up another heavy hose from the top on a rope, running back down again, smacking a piece of metal repeatedly with a massive hammer, running a fire hydrant slalom, running back with a hose and shooting a target and finally dragging a 80kg dummy to the finish line.
I was teamed up with a woman called Yagoda, to make the competition more fair, and she gave Naomi’s fella a good run for his money before handing over the baton to me. However, Naomi did a better job of whacking her chunk of metal from one end of a girder to another and it was basically all over. By the end Yagoda had given up on me and was dragging our mannequin to the finish line herself (which I actually thought was quite funny and will make great telly!). Having lost the event I was allowed to get my revenge by ordering the firefighters to give Naomi a great big soaking with a hose. Went down quite well with her considering how sweaty we’d got in our firefighting costumes. I was actually quite jealous!