road trip update #1
Now that we finally have some consistent internet I can write an update. I know I promised a write up on Rome, and I will, but if I don’t write down what we’ve been up to the last few days I’m sure I’ll forget a lot of it.
I picked up the rental car on Sunday morning with minimal set-backs. I had booked an A6 wagon and all they had for me was an A4. Still enough room for all our crap, but not as spacious as I had hoped for this trip. Oh well, at least we have a car, right? I had planned on doing this trip the old fashioned way, with just some google-maps printouts and a smile, but on a whim I threw down some more money on a GPS from the rental company as well. Let’s just say it’s paid for itself already. More on that later.
Driving back through Copenhagen from the airport was a strange experience. I have been riding a bike in the city for a long time now and it was the first time seeing it from this angle. It was my first taste of driving in Europe and it was a little confusing. In retrospect, it was a walk in the park compared to what we’ve been up to the last couple of days. I’m getting ahead of myself though…
So, we loaded everyone into the car and headed south. Our first destination was Hamburg which is apparently the original stomping grounds for the Unger clan. We made it to the bottom of Denmark and onto the ferry bound for Germany with not much to report other than the crazy price for the ferry. I shouldn’t have been surprised, still being in proximity to Copenhagen, but it was a bit of a shock. We’ll most likely take the longer way around on the way back, though I think there are toll roads that way too. Don’t we pay enough in taxes already?
Driving in Germany is what I imagine heaven looks like for cars. Rest stops every few kilometers, high speed limits, and everyone driving with a high level of skill. I always thought the autobahn was a specific stretch of road hidden away in some remote part of the country where you could drive as fast as you bloody well felt like. It looks like that is just the word for ‘freeway’ in Germany and the unlimited speed thing is all over the place. We would be doing 140kmh+ in the SLOW LANE with people passing us on the left like we were standing still.
Anyways, we got to Hamburg and it was really nice. I think we will definitely go back for a longer visit because we all got a really good vibe there. Our next goal was to head to the middle south of Germany to a stretch of road called the ‘romantic road’ which was supposed to be the quintessential German countryside experience. I had also read that along the top of this route, there was a small town called Colmberg where you could stay in a 1000 year old castle that had been turned into a hotel. I tried to book on their site bit they appeared to be filled up. I found a couple of back up hotels in the area and we decided to try our luck at the castle just in case. We got there just as it was getting dark (and starting to rain) and were in luck. They had one room available with a double bed and they could move an extra cot in for us. A bit of a squeeze, but how could we turn down a chance to stay in a real castle for the night.
It was family run and they couldn’t have been nicer. The kitchen was closed when we arrived, but they put together a meat and cheese plate for us anyways. The whole place was decorated in a hunting theme and was really cool.
Here’s the view from our room. The castle was on top of a hill overlooking the town…
The kids checking out some of the ‘furniture’…
…and part of the view…
It’s strange. I had tried to plan my shortest route through Germany as it didn’t hold much interest for us. By this point, it was really starting to grow on Leigh and I. The people were really friendly and we just got a good feeling wherever we went. We will definitely be coming back to check out more of the country. In particular, I’d like to see more of Hamburg and visit Berlin.
That said, the gloomy weather was bringing us down so we decided to head south as quickly as possible. We chucked out the plan to do the romantic road and head for Switzerland. I’ve always wanted to see the Alps and in my mind, it was full of quaint little ski villages with people wearing suspenders and pockets full of Ricola. How wrong we were. We headed for Zurich, thinking that in a Larger city, we wouldn’t have trouble finding a place to stay. Turns out Switzerland is crazy expensive and full of really rude people. The only place I could find for us to stay that didn’t break the bank was in Luzern, about 45 minutes away. We plugged the coordinates into our trusty GPS, who by this time we had started calling Gill after a really nice lady at the Hotel in Hamburg, and headed forth.
The next morning, I was really looking forward to our drive through the Alps to Italy. Turns out the Swiss are a bunch of mole-people as we spent probably two-thirds of the driving time underground. One tunnel lasted for nearly 40 minutes! I got dizzy when we finally emerged. Unfortunately, because of all the tunnels, I have no pictures of the mountains. Take my word for it, they are beautiful when you get a glimpse of them. Also, they sell firecrackers in the grocery stores, so the Swiss aren’t all bad.
We arrived at the border to Italy with the temperature hovering around 30 degrees and sunny weather, yay! Now, there was pretty much nothing as far as a border crossing into Germany and Switzerland, but Italy had a proper station. As we pulled into the line up and started getting our passports and Rylee’s documentation out, we noticed another lineup with an ambiguous sign over it that said ‘Other Passports’. Surely a Canadian passport falls into that category (whatever category that was) so I pulled into that lane. We drove through some randomly placed cones and barricades, past some border guards, and out the other side in Italy. I felt really weird, like I had just robbed a bank in plain site or something. The guards looked right at us and did nothing so I assume everything was cool, but what the hell were the hundreds of other cars doing waiting in the other lanes. I kept watching the rearview mirror for the next hour thinking they were going to chase us down.
Well, we arrived in Milan and settled into our hotel just outside the city center. I will go into more on a later post, but let’s just say that driving here is not for the weak.
It’s getting late and tomorrow we are heading to Nice for a couple of days. I can’t wait to hit the beach. We should have some decent internet at the next hotel so I will continue this tomorrow hopefully. For now, I will leave you with this view from our table tonight where we had dinner…