Saturday, 26 July 2014

WordPress Daily Prompt: Road Tripping

Tis the season for road trips — if time and money were out of the equation, what car-based adventure would you go on? (If you don’t or can’t drive, any land-based journey counts.)

Heaven forbid, no I am not doing that again, never. Every year Mr. Swiss and family Angloswiss, with 2 kids, took a road trip to arrive at a holiday destination. Where did we go? We are Swiss, and we stayed in Switzerland in one of those wonderful holiday places with sun, fun and nothing to do. The problem was that you had to do a road trip.

Mr. Swiss and Mrs. Angloswiss were working in the office on Friday, although preparations had been made during the week for the big journey. Washing, ironing, organising what to pack and eventually we were free. We had three weeks holiday, two of which were spent away from it all. It was usually the last week in July, first in August, the so-called watch-makers holidays when the factories in our area were all closed. This was our heat wave season, when daily temperatures were soaring and a good night’s sleep was impossible due to the heat.

Where did we go?: to the Italian part of Switzerland of course, silly question. Where everyone goes because you know you will have good weather, you know that it is the place to be and it is still within the borders of your country, although Italy is perhaps 30 minutes away by car over the border, so you even have the opportunity to make further road trips while you are there. There are a few problems connected with this South Swiss holiday. You have to cross a mountain range to arrive, known as the Gotthard. There is also the San Bernardino, we chose the Gotthard as we generally spent the holiday in places near Lugano or Locarno where you knew it was the place to go and where it was more or less a direct route via Gotthard. Unfortunately thousands of other Swiss, with their families, had the same idea. What was usually a four hour drive could develop into a eight hour drive as everyone was taking the same path to the glorious South.

To ensure avoiding the chaos we left early in the morning. It was not even morning. Dawn was breaking and we parcelled two very sleepy kids into a fully luggage packed car and this was fun? So we began the journey and first hour to Lucerne was OK. It was on the motorway and traffic was flowing. After Lucerne it was no longer flowing so much, now and again it stopped. This was in the days before we had a fantastic, modernised network of motorways and tunnels. We had a choice to either drive over the Gotthard, which now at least had a new motorway, or to load the car onto a train and get pulled through the tunnel. It made no great difference. Either you had long waiting times for the train, or you had to climb up a narrow road to reach the top of the Gotthard where you could afterwards drive down to the sunny side off the mountain leading to the Ticino, as the Italian part of Switzerland is called.

The choice we made varied, but our four hour travel timetable had already been used up and we were approaching the fifth hour when we eventually left the Gotthard behind us and arrived in the glorious South of Switzerland. Now the road trip became a torture. Lugano or Locarno were in the south of Ticino and we had to drive through the complete valley to arrive: the sun was beating down, you had two frustrated kids in the car and we were in a traffic jam. Not just a jam, it was a stop. Now and again we moved a few centimetres, but the view from the window was the same. Remember these were the days when Mrs. Angloswiss had not yet taken her driving test and Mr. Swiss had to do it all by himself. We had left our beds at 3’o clock in the morning. We departed an hour later and it was now around 11 o’clock in the morning and our nerves were no longer awake and ready to go. Our patience had terminated some time ago when one of the kids decided he had to go somewhere. We found one of those rest places along the motorway so we all made the most of it and that problem was put on one side. The motor road through the Tessin is accompanied by many little villages on the way. They would be very pretty and picturesque, but we just did not find time to appreciate them.

Now we were feeling hungry and we made a lunch stop. Actually lunch was planned when we arrived in our holiday apartment/house, but it seemed that lunch in the new place would become evening meal, which it did. Eventually we arrived, some-time in the late afternoon. We must have been suckers for punishment as we did this annually for approximately four years.

One day we decided this Italian sun and fun was enough and we changed our route to the Bernese Overland. It was 2-3 hours away, up in the mountains, and although there were a few bottle necks with traffic, it was easier on the nerves. By this time I had taken my driving test (I was a late beginner) and I had my own car, so we often took both cars, dividing the kids between us. Mr. Swiss had the more powerful car, I had a little Fiat 127, but it was OK, small and handy.

Today we go nowhere. Swiss roads have developed positively over the years and there is a complete network of tunnels, motorways and good wide roads connecting everything. They have even built a new road tunnel through the Gotthard, and here is a film. It takes about 15 minutes, so the film is boring and all you see are tunnel walls. We have done this a few times, and as long as there are no accidents it is OK. If there is an accident it might be closed and only one lane can be used.

I would not advise anyone to travel through Switzerland in Summer. We have snow and ice in winter which causes damage on the roads and also makes road repairs impossible. The repair work is carried out in summer which means a few detours and traffic jams to allow the repair work to be done. I noticed even our local road/street at the high school is closed at the moment because things are being done. So tourists, please no road trips just for the fun of it in Switzerland in Summer. It can become frustrating for the natives who have their own traffic problems.

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  1. If time and money were no object, then Joanne and myself would drive to as many, if not all, of the National parks in the US. A big job, but it would be great fun!!

  2. That sounds like torture to me Pat. If I was younger, had money, have the time. I would drive the South Island of New Zealand. I live in the North Island and have already done that. A pity I didn't own a camera in those days!