Monday, 4 November 2013

All Roads Lead to Ausfahrt

Driving abroad continues to be a new and challenging experience, as we travel though the countries of mainland Europe.  Everyday there is something new.  Mark continues to take up his post behind the wheel, as the girls and I play the role of co-pilot and support staff.  Garmin (pronounced ‘jar-mean’, with a slightly French accent) is working overtime. She has saved our marriage countless times and is easily blamed when we are lead astray. I don’t know how couples would survive driving in Europe with only a map. Ally is reading her 30th novel and Meg is trying to manage her motion sickness without meds.

Thankfully, we are now driving on the right hand side of the road again; however, the vehicle is ‘still’ a right hand side drive.  You would think that my stress and anxiety in the passenger seat would have reduced, since we were back on the right side of the road.  No more ditch views for me!  I was giddy with anticipation about being able to sit up straight as opposed to leaning into the centre of the car.  Unfortunately, my leaning has graduated to practically climbing up onto Mark’s lap.  Instead of being in the ditch, I am now headed straight into oncoming traffic, as Mark slowly creeps over the centre line.  When the motorways are wide and spacious, things are good… but when the roads are narrow and windey, like when climbing into the Swiss Alps, let’s just say NOBODY is giddy!  There are occasional squeals and gasps, and my legs have honestly ended up on the other side of the vehicle.  I’ve never really gotten over that instinct to pull up into the fetal position when adrenalin is thumping through my veins…so there I am on the centre console, in the fetal position, as we continue to meet transport trucks and tour buses, head on. Poor Mark not only has to deal with hairpin turns but also a stressed out wife.

Driving in Paris was just plain CRAZY!  We had been warned back in England, when we were struggling with the round-abouts, to wait until France.  Luckily, Dan (Mark’s brother) was here and took over my role as co-pilot. Otherwise, I’m afraid I wouldn’t be here to tell the story!  The ring road surrounding Paris has the highest number of vehicle accidents in Europe, and it is easy to see why.  Speed limits are similar to those on the autobahn – non-existent, and motorcycles do not adhere to the rules of the road in any way, shape or form.  They race up the dividing lines, weaving in and out of traffic at unheard of speeds.  The round-about at the Arch de Triomphe, was a mass of cars, bicycles, tour buses, motorcycles and scooters going every which way, without dividing lines.  An absolute horror to be driving in, but quite the spectacle to see as a pedestrian.  Fortunately for us, we decided to avoid that mess on wheels!
A view down from the Arch de Triomphe

When arriving in Germany, some time ago, we noticed many signs on the motorway with the word Ausfahrt.  Initially, we didn’t pay much attention; other than the odd giggle from the back seat.  As we passed more and more signs, we figured Uncle Dan (aka Uncle Stinky) would have had us in tears laughing by now.  We soon realized, that many roads were leading to Ausfahrt.  This Ausfahrt place must be quite the spot - every exit seemed to point there.  As we ventured through more countries this word ‘fahrt’ kept appearing.  Clearly it was not a place, but what did it mean?  We could have plugged it into the translator to see what this word meant, but that would have ended our fun.  As I enjoyed the architecture, culture and atmosphere of the villages and cities we visited, Mark and the girls busied themselves with taking pictures of the different ‘fahrt’ signs.

Ausfahrt must be HUGE!
On a bus….

On a building...

At the side of the road...
When we were on the ferry headed from Ireland to France, there were signs in the gift shop, notifying drivers of certain equipment that was required in the vehicles while on mainland Europe.  Of course, they had everything on the suggested list at sky-rocket prices.  Some of the items included a mandatory breathalyzer, warning triangles, 4 neon vests – 1 for each person in the car, special headlight stickers, flashlights, licence plate stickers, dashboard stickers - to remind you what side of the road to drive on.  This was just to name a few.  We decided we would hit a convenience store to pick up the items later, at lower prices.  As we continued our journey we saw the odd car pulled over at the side of the road, and sure enough, they had their warning triangles out and were wearing their neon vests, hmmm.  We figured we had better make more of an effort to pick up these items.  As my luck would have it, we were just too busy seeing the sights and didn’t quite get around to the purchase.

You can just imagine what was going through our minds when we pulled onto the motorway in the Czech Republic and passed the Policie, who proceeded to pull out after us.  We watched for flashing lights, phew, no lights, we were safe!  But within a minute the cruiser pulled in front of us and on top of the car we saw a neon sign with the words “Folge Mir - Následujte Mě” scrolling by.  Although we didn’t speak German or Czech, we deciphered that it said “Follow Me”, YIKES!  We figured the officer thought we were on the phone while driving because I (in the passenger seat on the left hand side of the car) had the cell phone on - navigating.  Surely that was why they were pulling us over – right?  Then it hit me, why didn’t we purchase that equipment on the ferry? Oh boy we were going to get it now!  I panicked even more, realizing that we didn’t even have any Czech money, we had just crossed over the border.  My legs started to shake and I quickly started fumbling in the glove compartment for the documentation that we would need.  Mark was as cool as a cucumber as the THREE officers got out of the cruiser, and I headed into a panic attack!  I literally emptied the contents of the glove compartment onto my lap as the officer laughed.  When you are living on the road – you wouldn’t believe what is in the glove compartment! The crazy thing was, we weren’t even supposed to be on this motorway.  Our GPS didn’t have maps for the Czech so we were navigating using Google Maps on the cellphone, and didn’t realize that we had gone the wrong way.  After producing the required documentation, he told Mark that he would have to see the contents in the trunk– I was about to vomit.  Mark opened up the hatch and started to unload the bags, as I envisioned all of our possessions strewn across the parking lot.  After the second bag (stuffed with dirty laundry), the officer said – never mind, that is good!  The blood rushed back into my head and my heartbeat slowed a little. Luckily, the officer let us off easy, and all we had to do was buy a motorway sticker to place on the dashboard. Phew! We had avoided the fine.  He didn’t even ask us about all of the equipment that we didn’t have in the vehicle – and STILL don’t.  Maybe we will head into Ausfahrt one day this week, and pick it all up.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Hi, we love to read your comments. It may take awhile for us to publish them so don't worry if they don't appear right away. Thanks for taking the time to read about our adventures!