Alpine Getaway II

Alpine Trail
MUNICH, Germany
July 8, 2011

I felt a mild twinge of panic when I saw the roadsign:

Republik Österreich

"Oh! You might want to drive really carefully, now. We're entering another country where it's not legal for us to be driving... "

I blamed our predicament on the GPS navigator built into our rental car. We had input the names of two cities within Germany: Bernau to Berechtsgaden. We hadn't noticed that the quickest route the GPS spat out would take us through Austria.

Crossing into another country normally wouldn't be that big of a deal, now that there is no border control within western Europe. However, what we were doing was illegal on two counts:

  1. Our car didn't have a vignette, a toll sticker required to drive on the Austrian highway.
  2. More seriously, we each held nothing more than a U.S.-issued driver's license. That's enough to drive legally within Germany--but an International Driving Permit would additionally be required for us to drive legally anywhere within Austria.

Naomi Purchases Pretzels
With bated breath we exited the highway and took local streets back into Germany. We couldn't have been in Austria for more than 15 minutes--but every second of that time I pondered what the complications might be if we were to get pulled over.

Final days together with Naomi were largely spent catching up over traditional meals of sausage and sauerkraut washed down with really big glasses of beer. Really. Our default dinner place has been a place in Berechtsgaden's old city center, Bier Adam Hall. It feels as if our entire time together around Bavaria has been spent in some place overly quaint and cute.

I suppose we haven't been completely lazy. We did spend one afternoon on a short hike in the Bavarian Alps. There are well-marked walking trails along the Almbach Gorge leading from an old mill up to an old dam. The weather was perfect in both directions.

Yesterday morning was our last together. We drove back to Munich, this time with me behind the wheel. We debated whether we should map out an alternate route via back roads that would avoid Austria--then decided that it would be quicker and more fun to just drive back through another country, anyway. No problem. I dropped Naomi off at the airport and returned our rental car. Our brief rendezvous has already ended.

Thanks for coming all the way to Germany, Naomi! Your impulsive getaway has given a nice detour to my long journey. It will be good to see you again the next time I pass through Washington, D.C.. I'm sure we'll have quite a lot to catch up on again, whenever we next meet...

After dropping Naomi off at the airport, I took the S-bahn back to Jochen's family home for one last night before heading on. Jochen himself is away somewhere in the Swiss Alps for some job-related training. I'd like to have seen my friend again, but staying with the rest of his family is almost as fun.

Now, I'm off to catch a ride up to my next destination: Mannheim. Rail fares are high. Happily, I was clued-in to an alternative to expensive train tickets, a ride-sharing site with a name I can't pronounce: Despite the tongue-twister of the domain name, it's pretty straightforward to use. I've arranged a lift with a student heading back home for the weekend. At 20 EUR the ride won't be free--but half what the cost would be if I were to go by rail.

Next stop: Mannheim