SEVEN COUNTRIES IN FOUR DAYS!!!
21.03.2008 - 24.03.2008 17 °C
Yay, a good ol' fashioned road trip! Euro style!
FREITAG 21.03.2008 - GERMANY
We were up aat 7:30 and all packed and ready to go by 8:30 though we didnt actually leave until just past 9:00. München was 3° and a mix of rain and snow fell from the grey, sombre sky. Rugged up in scarves and coats, we eagerly awaited the pridicted 15° on the Cöte D'Azur in France.
We left München behind and with it our jobs, our baggage and our homes. We headed straight down the Autobahn towards the huge, looming wall of the Alps that forms a natural border between Germany and Austria. Ive always felt that there is something myterious and magical abliut the Alps. I can sense that something is there, secrets are hidden and the closer I am to their beauty and majesty, the more I can feel it.
Driving into Garmisch-Partenkirchen, where it started snowing, we saw the ski jumps left from the winter olympics of 1936. As we ascended elevation, the snow got heavier and we were engulfed by the massive, sheer cliffs of the Alps. Our little car disapeared into a tunnel that cut through the very heart of the mountain, emerging on the other side into even thicker snow. By the time we reached the Austrian border, it was blowing sideways!
We pulled up at a servo for a quick pit stop and ejoyed an impromtu snowball fight! We took some photos standing on the actual border where the, now unused, gate stood and we built a mini snowman.
Driving into Austria the scenery completly changed. The landscape now snow covered, the Alps sheer, rising up abruptly from the ground and disappearing into the white of the mist and snow to an unknown height. As we snaked down the side of another mountain and into a new valley an amazing vista opened before us. The valley was lush and green with powdered snow like a dusting of iceing sugar sprinkled across the land. A thick bank of cloud formed a low sky over the city of Innsbruck and above the thick, white line of cloud rose the mountains whose edges were outlined harshly against the white, unpainted backdrop. It was like two, distinct and unrelated landscapes with a white line painted between them.
We wound our way through evermore beautiful valleys like the secret inner rooms of the Alps, when suddenly we past an inconspicuous sign and Toby announced, "We're in Italy!"
Again, the vista changed and we all agreed that the Italian Alps were far different to the Austrian and German Alps. The colours had changed, the shape, the texture and the light itself. The winter landscape was behind us and we literally drove into spring!
Around 14:30 we had our first stop at an Autogrill. A toilet break, pizza slice and grande cappacino, then on the road again.
Before I knew it, we were winding over the hills that line the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. The roads near the coast were amazing. As the mountains and hills were so steep and so many, the Autostrade was forced to cut its way throug the heart of one then pass over a gaping chasm via a tall, narrow bridge, from which we could see houses precariously pearched on the sides, surounded by vinyards out of season on terraced gardens, only to be abruptly plunged into the next tunnel.
I marveled at the sheer magnitude of the road building process here, thought about how isolated these places would have been beforehand and wondered at the cost of building such a highway. However, the answer to the latter came as we passed through one toll gate after another, ranging from €2.00 to €14.80!
We stayed with an Irish guy named Stuart, a fellow couchsurfer and we were his first guests. Although he wasnt expecting five of us, he was more than happy to make provisions to accomodate us all. We chatted over tea then Tobi had a nap while the rest of us ventured out into Arenzano, a beachside town near Genova. We walked the beach and the esplanade, then pulled into a bar that Stu recommended for their cocktails and buffet.
I think the drink was called negria (or something like that) and was a gin bassed drink, but we all found it incredibly hard to drink as it was so bitter/sour. Our waiter spoke no english but we managed to ask for food through the art of mime.
Later that evening Stu took us out for a night on the town in Genova, about 10mins drive. The guys had an early night so it was just Emma, Stu and I that ventured out. We weaved through the maze of dimmly lit allys filled with revellers and party goers who escaped the clubs for either fresh air or a smoke.
Stu managed to sneak us into a club without having to pay the cover charge (thanks for that dude). It was a small, underground club and we had a drink and danced on the hot, overcrowded floor with drunken and sweaty locals. When we left the place was still pumping.
I dont know how we managed to make it back to Arenzano safely but Stu managed to get us there. We walked to the beach and in an act of drunken spontenaity we plunged into the surf for a 1am swim!
Feeling decidedly more sober, we drove to the top of the hill to the lookout and marvelled at the moon over the coast.
Next morning we all explored the town, the guys had lunch on the esplanade and Emma and I bought some fresh cheese and bread from the market and ate on the beach.
After lunch we headed into Genova to explore by day. The city, built precariously squeezed between the steep mountain and the coast was like a maze from an M.C.Escher print.
We found our way to the central fountain and to another marketplace, where the lure of many free samples of pestos, cheeses, breads and chocolate filled our bellies.
Exploring without a map, we still managed to stumble on amazing things, like a huge church, striped like a candy bar.
We ended up down at the harbor and I was excited about visiting the tall ship that we drove past in the dark the night before.
After some long winded and ultimately pointless disagreements by the guys, they went in to the famous aquarium. Having seen the huge aquarium in Osaka, Japan, I didnt feel the need or interest in exploring this one. Especially not with the ship one dock down!
Emma went off on her own and I climbed abord this full size recreation!
I was shaking with anticipation as I approached and the tall masts towered over the hull making the sheer size known.
I was so excited and wanted to run around the ship and scream with glee like the children but took it slowly and explored thoroughly.
I examined every detail and took many photos, as I only had an hour until we were due to meet back I didnt do any sketching onboard.
I covered every deck, looked out every port, veiwed it from every angle, and of corse imagined myself as the captain as I sailed it over the open sea.
Times up, must meet the others. That was sooooo cool!
We hook up and make our way back to the car. It took what seemed like hours as we navigated the maze, mapless and hungry, night eventually fell upon us. We walked steps and ramps, followed alleys and eventually found a hidden, non touristy restaurant to stop for dinner.
Again, with no Italian (Tobi spoke the most and made a daring and admirable effort) we managed to order something. Emma played it safe (as a vegitarian) and ordered a simple cheese pasta which turned out to be a cheese platter! Bear in mind we had cheese for lunch, cheese at the market and by now were well and truely over it.
Not knowing exactly where our car was parked, we continued to walk up, knowing at least that we went downhill to the harbor so we should run in to it eventually. I was still excited and energised and was happy to wander these amazing streets all night but soon fatigue took its toll and some wanted to pitch in for a cab. But as we couldnt give the cabbie a street name of where we parked it seemed futile.
Eventually we found a familiar street and realized that we had acutally overshot the car so downhill we went, home we drove and well we slept.
SONTAG 23.03.08 MONACO, FRANCE
Off to Monaco!
Actually we just drove through and pulled up in Nice, France.
The guys wanted to gamble, Emma and I didnt. So they dumped us at "central station" and drove to their couchsurfers place to meet, greet and unload before heading to Monaco for an evening of gambling.
Emma and I walked to the coast, which was simply a huge marina with moored boats and a massive dock for cruise ships. We went and lay on the rocks that lined the coast. The weather was fine and the sun beautifully warm.
Walking around the headland we discovered the real city as a beautiful beach stretched out before us.
We wandered into the city centre, found a nice little cafe and had a coffee.
We wandered around looking for accomodation but most places were booked and there were only more expensive rooms available.
After we settled on a room we explored the old city by night. Buying a bottle of wine and drinking it as we went, then another, then another. Got back to our room and slept.
Next day we went to the beach. It was a stone beach and the water was very cold. We lay in the sun, played in the shallows, I collected interesting pebbles while Emma chased the waves.
I had a craving for fish and chips. Perhaps it was the sun, surf and sand and the salty air on my lips. We went to find lunch. And stumbled upon a market.
Finding a nice beachside restaurant we sat outside and people watched as the market came to life before us.
Being in France, I wanted to try something different. Escargot, aka snails. It was an interesting experience.
They were baked in their shells and filled with an oily, pesto sauce. Armed with a special pair of snailshell tongs and a skewer I set about at figuring out how to eat these things. It seemed a simple enough technique, pick up shell with tongs, skewer meat, pull out of shell and eat, but I was finding it very tough going and must have been very amusing to the staff and other locals.
The wine complimented it excellently. Then came mains.
The dish I ordered was an amazing fish dish with jacket potato and salad covered in a sauce and by the end I was having trouble eating it all.
When our plates were cleaned our wine bottle empty and our appetite sated. We meandered into the markets. More like an antique market than a trash and treasure. Nothing was cheap.
We received the dreaded call from the others to say it was time to meet and head home.
We drove straight from France, back through Manaco, and into Italy, where there was a mass of people heading home from their long Easter weekend, we debated about the best route.
Driving north through Italy it was dark by the time we crossed over into Switzerland where we stopped for fuel. It was late, we were tired and it was cold and snowing outside. It was well after midnight when we passed through Lichtenstein, then Austria and finally back into good old Germany, and home.
The road trip gang. Stefan, Jörg, Tobi, Emma. Thanks for a great Easter!