Road Trip

August 24

For the last two full days of our vacation, we decided to take a road trip with Scott’s parents. The original plan was to drive Scott’s parent’s Volvo, but the word from the repair shop was a cracked cylinder head caused the explosion on the trip home from the airport. While I’m admittedly no automotive mechanic, I think fairly highly of Volvos made in 1988 that have been driven 176,000 miles. But all good things must come to an end, and this was no exception. After a brief discussion, we all agreed the only logical course of action was to break into the local mortuary, steal two cadavers, situate the bodies in the front seat of the Volvo, and roll the vehicle on to the autobahn during the middle of the night.

While Scott and I were taking in the sights in Berlin, his father was busy trading in the Volvo for something else. After a series of intense negotiations he exchanged the car for a very nice cup of coffee to enjoy while looking for a new vehicle. He eventually agreed to buy another slightly less broken Volvo. I assumed we were going to take the car on our weekend excursion, but in Germany it takes roughly two weeks to buy a used car. I’m not sure what is involved in the whole process, but it starts with multiple signatures, continues with an extensive paperwork trail, and somewhere along the line requires a complete DNA sequencing analysis from all parties involved in the transaction.

Fortunately, Scott’s father was able to secure a rental car for the weekend. Given the extensive presence of the German automobile industry around Stuttgart, I was expecting to spend the next two days driving around in a Mercedes or BMW. But since the reservation was placed less than the customary thirty weeks in advance, we ended up with an Imbizu. Yes, it’s the best four-door compact diesel that Spain has ever designed and manufactured. Ever.

August 25

As much as it pains me to do so, I must admit that the Imbizu is doing a pretty good job of getting us around. It doesn’t do much to make me feel cool, but it does manage to get us around the steep mountain roads. To the best of my knowledge none of the cylinder heads have cracked. That is, of course, if diesel engines have any.

That is enough about cars. After spending the past eight days with Scott, I can’t help but to notice that he likes to walk a noticeable distance in front of everyone. At first I thought it was just me walking too slow, but now that we are with Scott’s parents I’ve decided he walks faster than everyone in the group. I’ve mentioned it a few times, but he still does it. I don’t really mind except for the fact he is out of earshot, so it makes any kind of conversation rather impractical. I’ve been entertaining myself by calling him “Scout” and envisioning him getting snared in a trap involving a net concealed under a bunch of leaves and attached to a nearby tree. Perhaps I’ve watched a few too many episodes of “Xena Warrior Princess.”

We have spent the day visiting various castles and their surrounding towns in Germany and Austria. While castles come in many shapes and sizes, the one thing they all seem to have in common is that they are all built on ground that is a lot higher than the rest of the area. The only exception to this rule seems to be the “White Castle” hamburger franchise which generally settles in the crappy part of town all across the Midwestern United States.

While getting to these structures requires a moderate amount of uphill hiking, seeing them close up is worth the effort. In one village in Austria, we walked up to the ruins of a 12th century defensive outpost. Despite the fact that many of the upper levels had collapsed, you can still see the general design of the building. I kept thinking this is what my apartment is going to look like a few years down the road.

August 26

Today we drove through Liechtenstein. Proportionally, I’ve already spent too much time writing about it. I’m not sure how they managed it, but this country is a four mile wide sliver of land sandwiched between Austria and Switzerland. The most notable quality of this country I’ve discovered is they charge you to stamp your passport.

We rather briefly drove through Switzerland, but most of the time was spent driving on a road next to a large lake. While visually stimulating, I don’t really feel as though I got to experience the true Swiss culture. I didn’t even see a single person drinking hot chocolate. So even though I can add it to the list of countries I’ve been to, I think sometime in the future I’ll come back to get a better look around.

August 27

Well, that wraps things up for my trip to Germany and neighboring countries. After spending ten days here I’m definitely ready to be back in Colorado. The public transportation isn’t as good and we don’t have quaint little villas in Colorado, but at least we never had to worry about evil oppressive forces occupying parts of our state. Unless, of course you count Colorado Springs.