Thursday, November 29, 2007

Travel memories

I was catching up on the travel adventures of Kim and Connie du Toit, and found myself laughing out loud at the challenge of finding the way to their hotel in Vienna.

...But once in the city itself? Oy. The famous “Ringstrasse” is in fact a one-way (clockwise), and just because you can turn right easily into the Innestadt (inner city)—when it’s not a one-way out, that is—doesn’t mean you can get anywhere, because your street is likely to dead-end into a pedestrian walkway, or you’ll be forced into a T-junction with only a left- or right-hand turn (but never both). Getting lost, in an area half the size of Central Park, is easily done.

After an hour of frustration, we finally gave up, found a parking place (also no small feat), and walked the last four blocks to the hotel.

When we showed the receptionist a map of where we’d parked, and asked her to help us get our car to the hotel, she replied (and this is the quote of the trip so far): “I know exactly where your car is; I just don’t know how you got it there.” Pause. ”Or how to get it out.” ...

I could completely sympathize, as it was awfully similar to my own experience a few years ago.

When I wrote about the long day's drive from Venice, Italy to Zurich, Switzerland (by way of Schloss Neuschwanstein), there were some missing details. My brief description then :
Unfortunately, we had to wait 90 minutes until the next available tour. It was definitely worth it - but it made for a LONG day, as we didn't get into Zurich until about 9, and then couldn't find our hotel!

The REST of the story, as they say, is much funnier.

You see, I had a laptop with me for that vacation, on which I installed 'Auto Route'. That's the European version of Streets and Trips, and with it I had mapped all of our inter-city driving routes, from Geneva to Lausanne to Florence, then on to Venice, and the big final day of driving from Venice to Zurich. We were staying one last night there, as our international flight home was early the next morning.

That mammoth drive was actually a lot of fun. At one point, in the southern Germany countryside, we were weaving our way through small villages in an attempt to catch a highway and make speed into Zurich. My head would bob up to catch a marker or mile post, and then I'd try to correlate to the map on the screen, and warn of turns and roads to watch for. At one point I told the Hubster that we would pass through a village and then turn. As we pulled into the village, he said "Are you sure? Because the whole line of cars behind us ... turned left half a mile back."
Sure enough - technology hadn't quite caught up to the roads, and the locals had taken a turn I didn't even show on the map. So we wheeled around, caught up with the gang, and found the highway. Until it ended 10 miles later. Oh, well.

But the topper of the evening was arriving (at 9pm, well after dark in September) in Zurich. The roads didn't look quite like the turns that the computer told me would lead to the hotel, which I had found in the resident database of the program. As we turned off the route a few blocks too early, and tried in vain to re-sync ourselves with the map, the conversation went something like this...

Me: What's the cross street?

Hubster: Most of these streets don't seen to have signs!

Me: Well, here's a major street - is there a sign?

Hubster: It says 'B-something-Strasse'.

Me: Oh, Hell! They're ALL 'B-something-Strasse'!!!

And so on. For an hour. We drove around getting more lost, and the only saving grace was (A) there is a river, which kind of sets some nice boundaries, and (B) we found the train station. Finally, we struggled up some streets which didn't really look promising, to the address that we had been seeking.

Except we were in the wrong place. Because that database of hotels? Was out of date - and the place we found wasn't the place we wanted. *sigh*

But the good news is that the nice people there knew how to find the right place. It was 5 minutes away, and we finally found it.

It was 10pm at this point, and we were starving, having been driving like maniacs for nearly 5 hours. Bless the management - the restaurant was still open! Wheeee! I don't think the Hubster will ever let me live down my little episode with the laptop map.

By the way - we're headed to Vienna next spring. I'll be reading the rest of the adventures of Connie and Kim very closely !! But I'll still be taking a laptop, with maps on it ... I'm not curable.