January 24 2008:
I must admit that I do love driving. I can thank a lifelong friend for infecting me with the driving bug, something to do with an ill spent youth driving around Ottawa for no apparent reason. I consider myself to be a fairly good driver, although I will admit I have never spent any time on a closed course track and thus cannot claim to be an expert. There are only a few drives I will remember for quite a while and today’s was one of them.
I left Interlaken at around 0700hrs in near dark as the Swiss valleys are deep enough that sunlight at this time of year does not touch the valley floors until well after nine AM. My navigation system continued to warn me of ‘snow on the road ahead’, perhaps unaware that the driver was Canadian and thus the warning produced no element of fear. Almost immediately upon departing Interlaken the route climbed from Brienzwiler up through the spiral tunnel to the Brunigpass (1008m) and then down alongside the Lungerer See and on into Luzern. Despite every attempt of Mercedes to deter me from my route, I never did encounter any snow on the road at all – in fact snow was conspicuous by its absence.
By 0800 I had encountered the Luzern rush hour – too many automobiles on a constricted tunnelled highway equals ‘stau’. Once beyond Luzern I left the autobahn to wind my way up a secondary road past Zug and over a mountain pass and down the other side into a lovely valley. At the crest the valley below presented a lovely vista as the sun burned off low lying moisture creating a faint haze over green hills and pastures. Green, because the alpine region seems to have been experiencing unseasonably warm weather, with very little evidence of snow below 3000 feet.
In a previous post I mentioned the large number of tunnels I encountered on my way down. I recall thinking at the time that there ought to be pull outs either just before or just after exiting certain tunnels since the reason they were built in the first place was to transit some awfully large yet picturesque mountains. I did think to keep my camera up front on the return trip and thus was able to capture a few cool tunnel entrances. I think the longest tunnel I passed through was the 6.7km long Pfander Tunnel at Bregenz Austria, rather than any tunnel in Switzerland. I have heard it said, and I did look as carefully as I could (at 80kmh) in an attempt to confirm, that the Swiss Army has each tunnel prepared with emplaced charges to collapse tunnels in case of invasion.
While I didn’t note any prepared defences, I did see elements of the Swiss Army on the motorway as I headed towards Austria. A couple of G-Wagon jeeps on my way to Interlaken and today on the way back I screamed past one of their Eagle II Light Armoured Vehicles. Apparently the Swiss continue to believe and demonstrate ‘armed neutrality’. Regrettably I was unable to grab my camera quickly enough to snap a photo, and I am not sure that it would have been welcomed if I had done. Had to go to Janes to get a good shot of one.
Have I mentioned just how beautiful the Swiss Alps are? As I rounded a corner heading north towards the Austrian border I encountered a simply stunning vista – out came the camera again. Please don’t ask how I was able to both drive and take pictures – all I can say is thank goodness for digital cameras because a lot of foreshortened dashboard pics were thankfully discarded. This is the view seen from near Haag (Rheintal) on the A13 heading north.
Once I entered Germany, as it was a lovely sunny day, it was easy enough to reach appropriate autobahn speeds and the two thirds distance through Baden Wurtemburg and Bavaria actually took less time to transit than departing Switzerland. 296km in about 1hour 50 minutes due in part to largely empty roads and very good weather.