|Laura Russell, left, of Boxborough and Lesley Murray of Acton at Engstligen Falls near Adelboden, Switzerland.|
WHO: Lesley Murray, 60, of Acton, and Laura Russell, 49, of Boxborough, along with two other adults and 10 Girl Scouts ages 13 to 17, all from Acton and Boxborough.
WHERE: Italy and Switzerland.
WHEN: Two weeks in July.
WHY: "It was something I'd wanted to do as a girl and never did," said Murray, who has been a co-adviser to Troop 2001 since her daughter, now 30, joined at age 7. "Laura and I went two years ago with different adults, and we've wanted to go back since." Russell is a parent volunteer and her daughter, Michele, 15, is a troop member. Scouts from Troop 2350 also went.
COUTURE, THEN CULTURE: They started in Milan, where the girls "discovered the shops. Luckily everything was on sale," Murray said. The cultural highlight was the Duomo, the city's cathedral, both inside and climbing to the roof. "You walk across the center of the entire nave and there are all these statues and pillars," Murray said. Indoors, "the challenge was to keep them from being scantily dressed," Russell added.
HIGH TIMES: A four-hour train ride took them across the border to Our Chalet, one of several international centers operated by the Girl Scouts. It was completed in 1932, mostly with donations from Helen Storrow. (Storrow Drive was named after her husband.) The center sits at 4,400 feet atop a hill in Adelboden, about 35 miles south of Bern. "You stop at a bus stop and you have to walk 20 minutes uphill," Murray said. "That's your introduction to Swiss hiking." "You have to pay someone money to take your luggage up," Russell said, "but it's worth it."
FIRST IMPRESSIONS: The girls were amazed by the steep mountains, Russell said. "When they looked up and then down the valley where we'd come from, their eyes were bugging out. The snow and mountains and seeing real chalets, they were totally in awe." Scouts from other US regions and several countries, including Switzerland, Scotland, Canada, and Australia, were staying there too, so it was fun to mingle.
RIDIN', ROPIN', AND RAFTIN': The Scouts were divided into smaller groups and had daily choices of activities that included hiking, horseback riding, white-water rafting, and ropes and high-wire challenge courses. "The white-water rafting was phenomenal," said Murray. "We wore wetsuits; the glacial river was just churning. It ended in a lake, and we went swimming." One of Russell's favorite hikes was to Trummelbach Falls, a waterfall inside a mountain where 10 glacier-fed falls merge. Murray also joined Scouts for an overnight stay at a cheese-making hut that included a 2:30 a.m. hike to reach the mountaintop for sunrise.
AROUND THE CAMPFIRE: In the evenings, the Scouts entertained each other with skits. "We did ours about Pilgrims landing, the start of the American Revolution, and the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry," Russell said. "The girls wrote it and it was hilarious." On the final evening, all the Scouts gathered in uniform for a group photograph and taught each other songs around the campfire.
'LAST SUPPER' STOP: Back in Milan, the Scouts viewed Leonardo da Vinci's "The Last Supper" in the convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie. They had purchased timed tickets months earlier, but almost missed their slot. "We'd got majorly lost and were late, but eventually they let us in," Murray said. Once inside, "we were in awe."
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