Tuesday, June 13, 2023


When we landed in Switzerland, I was immediately impressed by the Zurich (ZUR) airport (especially coming straight from CDG). It was spacious, clean, and the bathrooms even smelled nice. It probably helped that SWISS Air (unlike a lot of the other airlines we fly) is more like a real airline, with adequate legroom, water, and even chocolate during the flight!

We picked up the rental car and I began my first significant driving experience in a foreign country. I drove a little bit in England (experimenting with left sided driving), but have not been the primary driver on most of our trips. That usually works out well so that I can navigate and plan along the way. We figured out pretty quickly that what I thought was a stop sign was actually a “no parking” sign. I also encountered my first “Ausfahrt” (exit) sign. Our first stop was at Schnitzelworld in Zurich for some lunch. After that, we began our beautiful drive through the Swiss countryside.

One observation: Switzerland (and, later, we found, Germany) really likes tunnels. I bet they have more highway tunnels per capita than any other country in the world. At one point, we had to detour around one of these tunnels, which routed us next to this beautiful alpine lake with mountains directly behind it. We made our first unplanned stop on the side of the road in town called Mols to take in the breathtaking view. We also noticed information on SCUBA diving in this particular location and seriously considered it as an activity for an upcoming day. However, we eventually realized that this would be considered diving at altitude (1,800 ft), which neither of us are currently trained for, so we deferred.

Our main destination for the day was our AirBnB in southern Germany, but, along the way, I wanted to make a stop to visit Liechtenstein, the world’s sixth smallest country, because I wasn’t sure we’d ever be back. This country, consisting of just 62 of square miles, is definitely the smallest I’ve ever visited. However, since they are a member of the EU, all we had to do was drive over a small bridge on the Rhine River, crossing the border with no formalities, to enter the country. The entire country is set on the edge of a mountain, and we stopped to visit the capital, Vaduz.

We parked near the Kathedrale St. Florin, but it was closed for the day, we then walked through the town square and down main street. It seemed like a nice sleepy little country and they even had a LEGO store! The residential castle with the ruling monarch sits on the top of the mountain, but as was made obvious from all of the signs, no, you can’t visit the castle. And stop asking.

After we wrapped up our visit to Liechtenstein, we continued on towards Germany, dipping into Austria briefly on the way. We stopped at a McDonalds (one of the few things open that late) for dinner. This was no ordinary McDonalds, but a fancy, two-story affair with touchscreen monitors for ordering (luckily for us, with English as an option). It was obviously the place to be, and there was a small conference room upstairs playing a construction time lapse on loop. It was obviously the pride and joy of that small town. I think eating a meal in a country counts as visiting it, but Gabby says we have to come back in order to count Austria.

At this point, it was very dark, and, with a few hours of European driving under my belt, we crossed into Germany. I saw a German state trooper sitting at the border, so I was careful to mind my speed. A little ways into Germany, we passed a circular white sign with a black slash through it. Not being well versed in German road signs, I noticed, but didn’t think much of it. However, just a few minutes later, I spotted headlights in my rearview mirror. Still going what I thought was the speed limit, I noticed this guy was going relatively fast. As he got closer, I realized he was *very* fast. Before I realized it, the guy was on top of me and blew past going maybe double the speed I was going. At first, I though this was an anomaly, some German teenager out for a joyride. However, not but a few minutes later, someone else buzzed past me going a similar speed.

That when it dawned on me. I was in the middle of figuring out the Autobahn from scratch. That little sign we had passed, with the circle and the slash in it, was an indicator that all speed limits had ended. I was driving through Germany in the middle of the night on a road with no speed limit. Later as I was reading up on German driving regulations, I ran across this comparison: “Germans have similar feelings towards mandatory speed limits as Americans have towards gun control or Japanese towards whaling.”

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