Monday, September 29, 2008

Update from London Airport

As I sit here in Heathrow Airport waiting for my flight home I thought I would take a couple of moments and put together some thoughts about the trip since this is the first time I have had a good internet connection in four days. I do not know how long I will be able to maintain writing this as I am limited by my computer’s batteries’ life and my bladder’s ability to hold the pint of bitter I just drank in O’Neill’s Pub. I apologize in advance for any disjointed flows in thought, but as my friends will attest, my thoughts do not ever travel in a straight line but wander to and fro like a dog sniffing at every bush and pole searching for the best spot to leave its mark. Hmmm. Maybe comparing my thought process to a urinating dog is not a great metaphor…Well; I’ll try to start from where I last left off.

We left Turin in sunshine and temperatures in the 70’s with the decision that we would try to hit Bavaria that night. The traffic was not too bad leaving the city, but it still took 30 minutes to get from the hotel to the Autostrada. I followed the traffic signs instead of listening to the GPS and that added a few minutes. Turin is not an unbeautiful city, but it is very industrial looking in many places. The young people here, however, are some of the most beautiful that I have ever seen. I heard that the Italian women were the most beautiful in the world (Sophia Loren…sigh) and I am now not inclined to disagree. But the men, too, were beautiful. I looked like a manatee in a sea of dolphins. But I felt better knowing that very few of them had the class and grace to sport a three fingered hand.

After I got onto the Autostrada I was hoping that I would enjoy the freedom to go what ever speed I desired. But, alas, the regulatory police of the European Union have decreed within their 10 Commandments of No Fun that “Thou shalt not pass beyond 130 kilometers per hour (80 mph) lest thou displease thy bureaucracy who is thy new god.” Fortunately, the Italians, who are the head priests of the Church of Bureaucracy, pay no attention to the rules and I knew I was going to have fun when I followed a UPS truck at over 95 mph.

After a couple of hours of driving we reached Verona and Lago Di Garda (a beautiful lake) and turned towards the Tyrol and the Brenner Pass which is the modern border between Italy and Austria. Arlette really wanted to stop at Riva del Garda which is at the northern end of Lago di Garda. To get there one drives through a small valley and then drops down a windy road into one of the most spectacular views possible. The cliffs of the mountains reach soar up from the lake. Absolutely stunning. Riva is a wonderful small town which has a running/cycling/walking path which follows the shoreline. I wish I had not forgotten my running shoes in St Roman. I also promised myself I would return to cycle the area. Riva is a cycling mecca and there were plenty of cyclists who had made their hadj to the area.

We ate outside at a small café overlooking the lake. The only disharmonious note to the lunch was the sound of a large group of German Harley riders leaving another café and Arlette complaining that she didn’t get mustard with her sausages and fries (I can't say which was louder). The café had only mayo or ketchup. Oh, the humanity! Quel scandale! Finally the waiter managed to dig up some mustard and quieted the loud, old lady wearing the strange Bavarian shirt and vest.

I will make an aside here and explain that Arlette was so excited to be going to Bavaria, which to her is the center of the universe, she wore some old Bavarian styled clothes that she bought in the fifties so she would fit in. In today’s era it looks a little weird. If she still had my grandfather’s lederhosen, I am sure she would have tried to convince me to wear them. Arlette also has a habit of talking loudly about whoever is sitting nearby and discussing their nationality. If they are American she will stop speaking French break out into English and exclaim loudly, “They are Americain?” She forgets that Americans will understand her perfectly. But she does the same for all nationalities. I do not know which the other people think is funnier, the crazy old lady in the puffy sleeved shirt under a red vest, or the three fingered guy who is as red as the vest.

After a decent lunch (I had risotto and mushrooms and a beer), we hit the road and headed back up towards the Brenner Pass and Austria. The town we planned to spend the night in, Oberaudorf, is in Germany but very close to the Austrian border and about 30 miles from Salzburg. I am very impressed with the Italian freeways. There was construction everywhere but we never dropped below 60 miles per hour. Everyone stayed in the right lanes unless to pass and so traffic flowed freely. I just wish all the schmucks who drive 75.5 mph in the left lane on I-10 south of Phoenix would follow this simple, yet effective rule. I took the picture below after slowing down (I was in a line of cars and work vans)!

As the road climbed up towards the Austrian border the traffic signs started to be in both Italian and German. This portion of Italy has been historically part of the Tyrol section of Austria and the town’s names are posted in both Italian and their original German version. As we climbed further up the road the high Alps appeared again. I thought the San Juan Mountains in southwest Colorado were spectacular and I also thought the nothing could match the northern Rockies in Montana and Idaho but I was wrong. Photos and films of the Alps do no justice to the beauty and awesomeness of these mountains.

When I was leaving Grenoble a few days ago, the Alps were covered by clouds and as we climbed past Bourg D’Oisans towards Briancon the mountain tops were covered, As the sun burnt away the low lying cloud cover and the actual peaks started show, I was nearly brought to tears by the beauty of these peaks (and also by the odor of Arletee’s old vest which may have never been washed since the time she bought it in the 50’s). They rise in almost shear faces from the valleys below and the roads cling to their sides.

Oops...they're calling the flight. I will finish this update later. Ciao.


Anna said...

Hey, it's about time you had an internet connection. A mannatee in a sea of dolphins? Did you get any pictures of the dolphins? The drive sounds great, Can't wait to hear more about Bavaria.

Anna said...

Now I understand the speedometer picture. I hadn't really check the numbers the first time I saw it. You have so much more to cover, I can't wait to read the rest!