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Thursday May 29, 2008
Thunder storms and rain all night and I can't establish a Vodafone connection
to upload my blog or pick up emails. In the morning it still looks miserable and
I am in two minds. I have my shower, shave, etc. while I think about it and that
clinches it. I am absolutely fed up with sitting on toilets without seats ,
pressing a button every 2 seconds to keep the shower going in a cubicle so
tight that I can't even dry myself properly. Frankly the worst Caravan park I
have visited in Australia is miles better than any French or Spanish one I have
ever stayed at.
So I pack up, pay up (only € 12.80) and tell Heidi to get me back to
the Heitzmannhof in St. Peter (Wivica's home) quick smart. She works it out at 700 km, freeway all the way. I can
easily do that in one day.
I absolutely love driving on the French autobahns.
The 2,000 km round trip this week costs me around € 100 on Toll charges, but
it is worth every cent of it. Here are some of its marvelous features :
- There are two basic speed limits on French freeways, 130 kph under
normal weather conditions, 110 kph when it rains. These are good choices and are
generally adhered to by most, give or take the extra 10 kph or so. At some spots
(through cities or on winding roads) the speed limit drops down to 110 or 90
kph, clearly marked at short intervals so that one does not forget. Automatic
speed checks along the road are sign posted beforehand with the apology of "For
- The very busy freeway from Barcelona Northwards through Lyon, Dijon, Paris
is at least 6 lanes wide, 3 in each direction. The numerous trucks (and
caravans) use the right lane and when overtaking can do that in the middle
lane. This leaves the left lane free for the faster passenger cars, ensuring
fast flow throughs even under heavy traffic conditions.
The stretch from
Barcelona to Dijon must be one of the busiest in Europe with thousands of
trucks going through every day. During my 2,000 km round trip I guestimate that
I have overtaken - I repeat overtaken - close to 1,000 trucks (including
caravans), but with the three lanes one can overtake a cue of 6 to 10 trucks
within a mere 20 seconds or so. South of Dijon the route starts to branch out to
various directions : Paris, Strasbourg, Muhlhouse, Grenoble, etc.
On my way
back I see a trailer carrying about 20 top of the range Mercedes
coupé sports cars heading towards (not from) Germany. These I am
sure are, like my Mercedes Vito van, assembled in a plant in Spain.
- Several European countries have discovered that reducing the number of
signs along the road increases safety and reduces road accidents
significantly. (I come across just one minor accident all week.) Therefore not a
single advertising board is there to distract the driver and pollute the
There are tastefully designed signs in uniform unobtrusive buff-brown
colours pointing out Historic and other features along the road.
- The outside of the right lane is marked by a dashed line. The dashes
are 30-40 meters long and about 5 meters apart. The distance of 2 dashes
represents a safe distance between your car and the one in front. A one dash
distance is dangerous. This feature is continuous along every freeway one drives
on. You therefore can not but remain aware of this and more or less adhere to
it. There is therefore no tailgating whatsoever on the road.
There are emergency parking spots with telephone at regular 1 km
intervals along the entire freeway.
- Large overhead digital display boards spanning the entire 3-lane
width of the road provide details of traffic conditions ahead.Alternatively they
display the time or friendly reminders like :
Note the use of the word vous, the polite and respectful form of "you".
The totally opposite approach to the one taken in Australia where in most
states the traveler is still address as if an ex convict.
- Fatiguez ?
Pensez a vous arreter.
There are rest areas every 10 kms or so. All cater for a large number of
both trucks and small cars, have toilet facilities, some even have children
- Fuel stations are spaced about 30-40 kms apart, all with food
facilities and shops. Digital boards along the road show fuel prices for the
next 5 to 6 fuel stations ahead, and before the entrance of each prices for all
types of fuel are shown.
All in all it makes driving on these roads an absolute delight. One can admire
the beautiful French country side at leisure without distractions, even at
speeds of 130-140 kph.
The drivers are all well behaved and stick to the
basic rules. I have the feeling of being part of creative improvised ballet
where every driver contributes to a harmonious flowing movement.
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Friday & Saturday May 30 & 31, 2008
Back in Sankt Peter I arrive amidst some sort of a rural upheaval. All German milk
farmers are on a milk strike in protest against the ever lower prices they receive for their
The Heitzmann family is of course in the middle of it all. Milking
proceeds as normal but the produce is given right back to the cows themselves.
The farmers are determined to stick with this for quite some time. The holiday
season is approaching and most have holiday units they let as extra income. The
Heitzmanns even have three permanent rentals (one of them Wivica) plus some additional holiday
letting, so money keeps coming in to sustain their farm.
It is dry and gradually getting warmer
here. I can sit here for hours on Wivica's terrace absorbing the magnificent and
very peaceful view, and contemplating the future in which I start to see now
definite realistic and very positive possibilities.
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Saturday lunch Wivica is
receiving a client from near München to pick up her painting and discuss
its meaning. So I drive into the village for lunch and to take a picture of this
gorgeous print from the traditional New Years Eve movie Dinner for One staring Freddy Flinton.
It hangs on the wall in the cosy Zähringer-Eck Cafe (St.Peter) where I often go for a green tea, a beer or some
sausages. In Australia SBS is showing this half hour movie every year at about 8
pm on the night. In Germany it is apparently shown by all TV stations at various
times during the day. (Click on the picture to bring up its larger version.)
In the evening we watch sweet German love soapies, for which I am just in
the mood right now.
Copyright © 2008 Michael Furstner