Saturday 11 August 2012

With a bag full of fruit we walked to the car park at Lake Titisee in Germany. Paid the parking ticket. Walked to the car. And in the car we checked the route to Flims in Switzerland where we booked a hotel. At a camping.

Because we were behind on our schedule, we wisely decided to skip the Klausen Pass from Glarus to Burglen. Despite that ... Rebecca insisted to see Zurich. A short sightseeing tour through the city, she suggested. Alright, I agreed. We determined the route, drove to the boom gate of the car park, put the ticket in the machine ... and ... the boom gate didn't do its thing.

Try again.

And ... try again.

Aaaaand ... try again.

In my side mirror I saw the parking attendent approaching. I rolled down the window and handed him the ticket, which was carefully inspected til he came to his conclusion. In half German-ish, half English-ish, he explained that the ticket had expired and had to be paid for again. I tried to explain to him that the ticket was still valid within the time for which I paid for. Then, he escorted me to the ticket machine and pointed out the hourly rates to me. Then, I pointed out the arrival and the departure times to him. Then, I tried to explain the concept of time. Seriously ... this conversation took ages.

But ... he didn't understand me or he pretended he didn't understand me. And so, particularly annoyed I paid the parking ticket again, put the ticket in the machine ... and ... the boom gate did its thing. And as soon as the boom gate gave us the freedom to take off with spinning tires, a barrier of tourist busses appeared. With the ability and agility that my old man had while driving across the Amsterdam canal streets, I tried to squeeze the car between the busses. No chance. "Godver-de-godver!" (*)

(*) "Fucky-the-fucky!"

We waited.

And ... we waited.

Aaaaand ... we waited.

Finally ... after ages I found a hole between the busses.

Honk, honk, honk.

Powerrrrr ... exclamation mark! And off we went. And when we arrived in Zurich, we hit the tail of the city congestion. The weather was wonderful. The temperature was terrific. The sun was shining. And it turned out to be the yearly gay party. The Gay Parade or The Gay Pride. This meant that most "entries in to" and "exits out of" the city were closed. Thus, we were driving through the city trying to find the fastest way out. No chance. And so again, particulary annoyed, I decided to floor it at a traffic light. This triggered the ESP (*) light flashing in the dashboard ... and while we were driving it was still flashing. A faulty ABS sensor?

(*) The ESP is the Electronic Stability Program. It's a computer system in the car that tries to keep the car on the road in corners by independently braking the front-left, front-right, back-left, back-right tires. Like a cheap-ass knock-off LSD ... Limited Slip Differential.

At another traffic light I decided to stop and start the engine, forcing the ESP to reboot. But the ESP light was still flashing. Thinking about driving on the curvy roads on mountain passes in Switzerland made me a bit anxious. But ... no time to lose.

Immer geradeaus!

The tiny engine in the car continued with a growling sound ... and burn fuel. One liter, two liters, three liters. We decided to refuel. Again. We stopped at the greatest gas station ... wait for it ... "in the world"! The Avia gas station in Bergsboden. The scenery was spectacular. Lakes, mountains ... and fuel.

After refuelling I noticed the ESP light stopped flashing. I could only conclude that the computer system suddenly remembered what it was supposed to do ... so we set off. And when we safely arrived in Flims, our Dutch speaking TomTom took us to Camping Flims. A cool camping where we were welcomed by the multi-lingual-manager who showed us our eco-pod-hotel. Basically a small shed with a bed. We settled in and called it a day. (*)

(*) Well ... I'll skip the scene where we had a heated discussion at an Italian restaurant that day. The audacity of the manager "denying" us a "service". Too tired to write about it.


Sunday 12 August 2012

Today's trip was from Flims to Laax to Versam to Bonaduz to Thusis to Splügen to Mesocco ... and back to Flims. And it featured the following passes:

But before we took off on today's trip ... first breakfast. Tada!

On our way to these passes we passed several stunning tiny towns where we would stop and stare. We were convinced it was this surreal scene with a backdrop curtain that one could lift up and look underneath it. Well ... it wasn't!

And there ... the first hairpin turn! Unfortunately, due to my "virgin" excitement we were not far from off-road-rallying. Lesson learned: Break harder and a little less later. The excitement rapidly turned into experience.

On our way to the Splügen Pass we had to pass the Rofla Gorge, which is a small section of the Hinterrhein river that featured several classical cave tunnels covering the curvy roads. And tons of tourists. Rather annoyed we decided to do a "demarrage". Like in the Tour De France ... in Switzerland. We would be the "tête de la course" and the tourists the "poursuivants". Like this.

By the way ... besides being an ode to the Audi TT, this road trip was also an ode to my old man. My dad. Have you ever heard a song reminding you of something, somewhere, sometime? Well ... back in the days with family holidays, while driving through France, Italy and Switzerland my old man played Jan Akkerman's self-titled album like ... "all the time"! Like ... "on repetitive repeat"! And subconsciously, the act of and the visuals of driving on curvy roads on mountain passes were recorded with that soundtrack. And particularly the track Angel Watch. And so, whenever I would hear his songs, I would remember those memories.

And so again, with Jan Akkerman's self-titled album blasting through the car, we climbed to the top of the San Bernardino Pass. Remembering and rerendering the memories in full streaming HD. And once we were approaching the top of the pass, after driving through a deserted countryside with delightful curvy roads, we turned down the volume and pulled over. Our private playground.

"No chicken to witness" ... another Dutch expression. But the silence at the top of the pass was pleasantly broken by a red dot driving around the lake. A Ferrari 458 Italia. And a modestly moaning Porsche 911 Carrera. Finally ... the first respectable cars for these types of roads that we saw in a long, long, long time.

Exhausted from all the experiences we went back to Flims where we ate at Arena Kitchen. The best burger ... wait for it ... "in the world"! Seriously ... there are stories about that burger in history books. "Evolution on the outside. Revolution on the inside." Quote courtesy this.

Monday 13 August 2012

Today's trip: From Flims to Disentis to Andermatt to Wassen to Innertkirchen to Belvedere to Hospental ... and back to Flims. And it featured the following passes:

But before taking off on today's trip ... programmning the TomTom. Tada!

This bit of the blog is kinda boring, because I can't really comment on any of the photos of the passes, besides mentioning "the elegancy of the curves" and "the smoothness of the roads" over and over and over again. Racing on these passes was a remarkable rush, which caused the fact that I can't really recall all of it. Lots, lots, lots of lakes. Many, many, many mountains. And so, no comments, only some coordinates to look at the locations on Google Maps.

The Oberalp Pass at 46°39.07N, 8°41.05E and 46°39.59N, 8°40.15E respectively.

The Gotthard Pass at 46°39.17N, 8°36E.

The Susten Pass at 46°44.75N, 8°28.95E and 46°43.74N, 8°26.79E and 46°43.74N, 8°26.55E respectively.

The Furka Pass at 46°33.9N, 8°28.77E and 46°34.59N, 8°23.19E and 46°35.37N, 8°28.86E respectively.

Tuesday 14 August 2012

Today's trip: From Flims to Surava to La Punt Chamues to Zernez to Davos ... and back to Flims. And it featured the following passes:

But before taking off on today's trip ... programming the TomTom. Tada!

And so again, no comments, only some coordinates.

The Albula Pass at 46°36.15N, 9°45.31E and 46°35.09N, 9°46.75E and 46°34.95N, 9°50.27E and 46°34.95N, 9°50.27E respectively.

The Flüela Pass at 46°45.38N, 9°56.37E.

Wednesday 15 August 2012

Today the last day in Switzerland. We were sad we had to leave, although little did we know that Switzerland still had something in store for us.

Oh. My. God.

Before we took off to the Italian lakes and Milan, the chap that managed the camping suggested to walk to Lake Caumasee. A short fifteen minute walk through the forest. And because our eco-pod-hotel carried the same name of that lake and because Flims was famous for three of these lakes, we thought it was the appropriate thing to do. But only for "but-a-moment", because we were on a schedule. But when we approached the entrance, we were speechless.

Oh. My. God.

When we went through the gates, Rebecca got all grumpy and shit because of the expensive entrance fee and the fact that she didn't have her swimming stuff with her. Well ... my underwear looked like speedos if you squinted your eyes. While Rebecca was still busy being grumpy, my underwear went underwater, i.e. with yours truly in it obviously. The "but-a-moment" turned into "but-many-moments". But ... we had to leave. Leave this stunning lake. Leave this stunning land. Switzerland.


Don't ask ...

We decided to skip the Italian lakes due to time and drive straight to Milan. Fast forward to the Italian border. We approached the queue at the border. Rebecca was well prepared with her passport in the front of the car. My passport was in my bag. And my bag was in the back of the car. Pondering ...

Should I go and get it?

While we were slowly approaching the customs check, I still hadn't decided. Still pondering ...

Should I go and get it?

Seriously ... I have a PhD in Procrastination.

Go, go, go ... got it!

While we were approaching the customs officer, I saw the few cars in front of me driving slowly without stopping for the officer. When it was my turn, I was looking for a sign, like a little nod or like a little wave, as a form of approval.

Can I go?

No nod. No wave. No nothing. Except for a glimpse at the registration plate.

Can I go?

Seriously ... this chap also had a PhD in Procrastination. And suddenly ...

Knock, knock, knock.

The chap knocked at the back of the car. I could only conclude that I had to stop, which I wisely decided to do. In my side mirror I saw the customs officer approaching. I rolled down the window and checked his facial features that hadn't changed like ... "at all"! In half Italian-ish, half English-ish, he asked how much money we had. Totally caught off guard I contemplated what he meant. I responded with a slight hesitation and a questionable expression, hoping to have answered his question correctly.

And so again, I was seeking for a sign. No nod. No wave. No nothing. The tension at the scene was beyond bearable. The chap was probably also applying for the Academy of Authority in Audacity ... another PhD. And suddenly ... with the most minimal nod and wave we were allowed to enter Italy. And we took off with spinning tires leaving Switzerland in smoke. (*)

(*) Because my parents are probably reading this blog too, I won't bring up the high speed police car chase and the police helicopter that blew up.

To be continued ...