(We then drove to North Germany, near Bremerhaven, that same day to see some good friends.) Over the next few days, whilst it got blisteringly hot, we drove through Germany. My self taught German just about passed muster. (I hadn't realised just how polite the Germans are. For the first time in my life someone said to me "bitte wiedersehen"...which I think means..."hope to see you again"...does it mean literally..."pleased to see you again!" maybe someone can put me straight on this one and what does one say in return?)
We stopped and had cake and coffee at the wonderfully medieval town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber (see photo above). We stayed in a few places in Germany. We went through a bit of Austria. We were doing well, just replying on maps, unfortunately we got onto the motorway going North instead of heading South and seemed to go round bits of lakes in Switzerland for what seemed like an eternity. We stayed a night in the Italian Swiss city of Locarno and the noise level at night was upped 1000% as there was a rock and jazz festival taking place in the square outside our hotel. I didn't mind...it just seemed a true reflection of national characters. The Dutch, Germans, Austrians had been quiet and here in the Italian bit of Switzerland all hell had broken loose! At least it wasn't just our children being noisy for a change...
We did really well with the roads (viz. maps and map reading) and we didn't have one of those husband/wife map reading arguments until we came off the motorway in Italy. I had just wrestled with the automatic speaking toll machine and was still examining the euro change when hubbie said "Which way? Which way?" It turns out that the Italian road planners like to stick every conceivable village and hamlet known to man on road traffic signs (see below). Upon examination of the signs (all 40 of them) I declared that I hadn't got a @#**@*' clue!
So unless you are 100% sure of your destination then it is 100% pot luck...which direction you take. We spent about two hours driving around the main town of Nizza Monferrato desperately trying each sign (and direction) and we must have gone around the main square about 20 times. I kept trying to phone the place where we were staying but I think they were having their siesta! We went up hills and down valleys in search of our ultimate destination in sweltering heat. Does anyone remember a scene in the 1963 Pink Panther film where an old guy is trying to cross a town square and cars keep zipping past him. (Inspector Closeau is trying to catch the Pink Panther dressed in a gorilla costume and there are several gorilla dressed guys in several sports cars zooming around.) They then reappear from another direction to cross the square again. Eventually the old guy gives up and goes back to his chair to watch the cars zip up down, down up, across, zig zag, back up down, reverse, down, up, across....believe you me...we were repeating this version singlehandedly! On our way home from La Mussia agriturismo (where we'd had a great time incidentally and the family there is fantastic)...we followed a sign for the motorway out of the opposite end of town from whence we came (we were leaving towards France this time). It took us another hour to get out of the town and when we had found the right road (which was the one incidentally where La Mussia was)...some joker had moved the motorway sign so that it pointed in a completely different direction. Luckily we realised this just in time and whilst we were turning the car around we saw several foreign cars follow the sign and head for the hills...who said the Italians do not have a sense of humour! (Maybe we will be investing in a SatNav after all...)