by the navigator
If you are the navigator, you should do your homework well. With a big paper map spread out on the table, you plot various routes and suggest them all to the driver, who will only feel comfortable with any of them once they have been plugged into his GPS. Together you will reach an agreement about which one to pursue the following day. Your navigatory role is then to make sure you know which villages, towns and cities you will pass through, but if you forget, don’t worry. You’ll just do what the GPS says anyway. Even if you are a well-prepared navigator and say at the very first turn, “That’s the wrong way, we need to go straight on to Garmisch-Partenkirchen.”
When this kind of conversation has already happened a few times in the preceding week (“There’s the Stellplatz up there” – “No the GPS says it’s a kilometre away” and so you drive on and do a u-turn when convenient……etc etc), you realise the best course of action is to Just Be Quiet and let technology rule. And normally you would, but this time, you end up very quickly on a very narrow winding road and so you point out that the reason *we* had decided to avoid this route was that it was mostly on secondary roads……but by this stage you’ve gone so far that you keep going.
And so we ended up going over the mountains instead of between them. And we went north instead of south. Actually we had been planning on going much further south, but decided after the slight stresses of the past few days on the road that it would be good to cut down the travelling and have a relax for a day or two. We are free agents and have the flexibility to do that! So instead of starting at the source of the Rhein, we saw – and crossed – it for the first time today, a little further on its journey than at Reichenau in Switzerland. And curiously enough, we have ended up staying at Reichenau tonight – Reichenau in Germany, that is. Oh, and somewhere along the way, we took a wrong turning, but saw a signpost that said “Neuschwanstein” and so I suggested we detour there for our lunch stop. We could do that too. However, the rest of Europe had the same idea and our little detour took a couple of hours…..and we didn’t even get in to the castle! The queue was so long, the parking was all full (and expensive), and so we parked beside a flower-filled meadow for our bread and apples. The flowers were so high the children could play hide-n-seek in them!
At the risk of making really repetitive reading, I’ve got to say again that the countryside is just simply idyllic. The mountains, the meadows, the cows with their cowbells, the blue sky threaded with vapour trails, the tolling church bells, the hamlets, the farms, the deep green lake – it’s all beautiful.
So we might not have gone where we were planning this morning, but we had a gorgeous drive all the same, crossing through three countries in one day – Switzerland once, Austria twice and Germany three times! It is so different to little ol’ New Zealand, which (obviously) has no land borders. There we were driving along through Bregenz, with three roads to choose from. One would keep us in Austria, one would take us to France, and the other would head for Switzerland. We chose the Swiss one (because the GPS told us to), and we were surprised to detect a noticeable difference between that country and the other two we had spent the morning in – perhaps it was just the area we drove through, but it was decidedly dingy. The buildings were not as well maintained and lacked the character that villages across the borders had. But then again, maybe it was just because we were driving alongside the train tracks, and that part of town is never the nicest, is it?”
As we skirted the southern shores of Bodensee (Lake Constance), we finally realised it was Saturday. So that’s why half of Germany was out on the cycle paths and visiting castles on this bright sunny spring day! It also meant tomorrow no shops would be open and so we needed to find a supermarket. But not until we returned to Germany – Switzerland still uses its francs and we didn’t have any! Fortunately we found a supermarket, stocked up for the weekend and grabbed some bockwurst and salad for dinner, knowing it would end up late. Good decision. When we finally got to Reichenau, the Stellplatz, where we were planning on staying was a) not where it was supposed to be and b) (when we found another) it was full. We were contemplating asking a friendly farmer if we could park in his driveway when a lady informed us someone was about to leave. One place was better than none! Exercising my most formal and polite German, I then asked another group if we would possibly be allowed to park in beside them (if they didn’t have their awning wound out so far and tables and chairs set up, there would be plenty of room for one more to squeeze in). What could they say? <wink> I’ll tell you what they did say: STOP! as Grandpa nearly nicked their brand spanking new Womo!!!!!
And so another day on the road drew to a close, the navigator jumping out to direct the Bear Cave back into its spot for the night.
Time on the road: 5 hours
Distance covered: 258km