A Very Long Drive

Hayden has been in Europe – well London and Barcelona, for seven and a half years.  It is a long time and he hadn’t felt he has seen a lot of Europe.

So the opportunity to visit a few countries between Croatia and Spain appealed to us all.  Perhaps in a smart decision, Andrea had flown home to her folks in Granada, while we spent some quality time with Hayden on the road.

A quick look at a map of Europe and the route seemed pretty easy: Trieste; Liechtenstein via Innsbruck; Interlaken; Trieste; Barcelona.

Split to Barcelona – a very long drive

Day 1 – Split to Trieste

On our first day the 420km drive from Split to Trieste was easy for us. It was the people travelling in the opposite direction that we felt sorry for.  Miles and miles of cars, stopped, waiting in the hot sun for something to clear ahead of them.  We didn’t know if it was accidents, borders (Italy, Slovenia, Croatia) or tolls, but it was clear that driving south for the summer holiday was a long, slow journey.  I suppose it was made worse because it was Saturday.

Trieste was delightful – the magnificent big square Piazza dell’Unità d’Italia set against the sea and surrounded on three sides by beautiful buildings such as the Municipio, Palazzo del Governo and Palazzo Del Lloyd leave you gasping.  As the sun set and the cooler evening breeze filtered in, the square was a beautiful place to be.

Italians are more than generous at cocktail hour.  Order a Campari and Soda and a couple of beers and your table will be filled with snacks – pieces of pizza, nuts, crisps, baked chicken legs, olives, frittata.  All yummy and filling.  It is seriously hard to look at a menu in a restaurant and look forward to the full Italian dinner after filling up on their snacks.

Nonetheless, we enjoyed dinner at dusk on the Canal Grande before heading back to our hotel to prepare for another long drive.

Day 2 – Trieste to Liechtenstein

Second day, out of Trieste, Jane, our friendly TomTom voice, thought differently to our 520km plan to Liechtenstein and guided us on motorways north of Trieste to Villach and Salzburg in Austria, to Rosenheim in Germany, then back into Austria, around Innsbruck and finally into Liechtenstein – 727km.  Jane thought it would be quicker!

By now it was Sunday afternoon and Hayden was getting calls from his colleagues at Titan in London that a server had crashed. So as we hurtled along German and Austrian motorways, Hayden was re-booting servers in London. A day of mixed technologies.

We stayed high in the mountains in Liechtenstein in a village called Malbun (not Melbourne).  We had a little rain and cool air, a pleasant change from the heat of Croatia. After a hearty dinner and a long, cool sleep we headed up the chairlift to see Liechtenstein from above.  We walked down the mountain, viewing beautiful green valleys dotted with quaint wooden houses and larger chalets, lots of colourful wild flowers and clouds dancing across the mountain tops.

Day 3 – Liechtenstein to Interlaken

It was a short drive to Interlaken, so we thought we would take the long route, even make a couple of stops en route – but the weather beat us.  The rain in Switzerland in that one day made up for all the dry days we have experienced for weeks.  It was hard work driving with visibility down to just a few meters.  We couldn’t see the mountains or the lakes or the green valleys in between – just grey and wet, so we stuck to motorways.

Interlaken wasn’t much better that evening, so we dragged our raincoats out and wandered into town for a look and dinner.

Day 4 – Interlaken

The next day was bright and sunny with a stunning view of the Jungfrau from our hotel.  As our Swiss-Russo waitress said last night “If it hasn’t rained in the morning in Interlaken, it will rain in the afternoon”.  Unfortunately, Hayden had to put in a day’s work for Titan, so after a visit into town to get him some lunch, we took an infinity lop around the twin lakes of Interlaken.

Switzerland is a very beautiful place and the drive was enough to confirm its beauty.

After Hayden had finished his work, we took a drive up towards the Jungfrau.  It was late afternoon and the green valleys were glowing with the low afternoon sun.  Clouds were playing games with us – hiding the peaks when our cameras were out and cleverly showing them off with afternoon light as we packed our cameras up and turned our backs.

Day 5 – Interlaken to Thiers

No sooner had we hit the road than Hayden had a cry of help from Elisse – she was about to launch the Sistema South Australia website and needed his expertise.  Technology is magic when it works – Hayden & Elisse were messaging between Switzerland and Australia as issues were sorted and we were hurtling along a motorway at 120kmh.  Sistema South Australia is now up and running and preparations are underway to start an amazing programme of music for young children in 2013.

We made a fuel stop at Orbe, very close to Denis & Martine.  They are renovating and we had a schedule to keep, so we waved and promised to catch up soon.

We arrived in Thiers (France) in time for a walk around the ancient town.  Thiers is a beautiful village with half-wooden houses, and a horrid history of industrialisation – near slave labour in a deep gorge known as the ‘Valley of the Factories’ created massive respiratory problems.  At the same time, the villagers worked hard to develop an industry and provide a life for their families.

Day 6 – Thiers to Barcelona

The last stretch was easy.  We stopped by the Millau Viaduct.  Bruce & I had seen it before, but it is such a beautiful engineering masterpiece that we couldn’t resist the opportunity for Hayden & Pepe to see it.  Lunch was interesting – a kind of crepe cone stuffed with something nice, such as raw roast beef and couscous or duck sausage and apple.

Across the border and into Spain we were horrified to see the damage left by recent bushfires after the long dry winter.  Clearly, a lot of effort had been put into saving houses, business and villages, but the landscape of burnt forests looked desolate.

And after 2,720km and 6 days, we arrived at Hayden & Andrea’s home at Cerdanyola.  We had driven a long and interesting path.