Thursday, September 22, 2005

Lucerne in the Schweitz with Ibis

Preparing for today's long drive, we walked out early in the morning through the cycling masses looking out hopefully for a flotilla of nun and students led Madeleine style through the chilly streets. Not to be, but I got my java ignition, Bondi's ablutions completed and checked out of the hotel at 9am. Getting out of the city proved to be a little more challenging than the entry, despite knowing exactly where to go. I found that the cyclists were as intolerant of vehicles as they are of pedestrians. One cyclist didn't like being held up by me (I had pedestrians in front that I preferred not to steamroll) and he actually rammed my car rear with his cycle, screaming something in Dutch which I'm sure was to do with tourists. So, I turned on my windscreen water jets and dowsed him with a squirt over the top of the car. The rage subsided into a damp squib.

It was slow going until Utrecht, when we made a westward swing towards Arnhem, crossing the German border at 10.20am. With a lid off any speed limit, I learnt that it was wise to stick to the slow lane as much as possible, as regardless of my speed, there was always someone going 70kph faster. We had our first break sometime around Cologne/Koln at a roadside "rest house" where I picked up a 12V/100-240V mini-fridge that I could use for Bondi's fresh food: always a problem in UK hotels and B&Bs which have no minibar.

We skimmed along past Frankfurt, and glimpsed a German castle off a road-bridge at Limberg. Sometimes the roads slimmed from 3 to 2 lanes and this could be particularly stressful as there was little opportunity to get around the slow-moving wall of trucks in one lane without being targeted by a BMW sitting on 200Kph or more trying to force you off the road.

I chewed through quite a few CDs in the car today. I left Amsterdam listening to Dutch guitarist Jan Akkerman's Aranjuez collaboration with composer/conductor/arranger Claus Ogerman. The affair came off as a pale copy of Ogerman's work with pianist Bill Evans with Ogerman's arrangements being the only memorable elements IMHO. Skipped through the latest Gramophone highlights CD, enjoying the fragment from Neilsen's Aladdin Suite. Then it was the two Howells CDs I'd bought yesterday: the string/piano concerto CD was nothing special to my mind and of his piano cycles recreating Tudor dance pieces, I enjoyed the Lambert's Clavichord, but found the Howell's Clavichord too much in one go. By the time I reached Switzerland, I'd finished Andrew Sach's reading of the Tim Moore's travel book Spanish Steps and was starting Glitterhouse label's 3CD Nevermind, a celebration of 20 years of alternate music publication.

Longing for a proper break, but not wanting to get ensnarled in a large city, I made a break for it at Heidelberg around 2.30pm. We didn't spend too long there, just stretching our legs, but it was quite pleasant with a good bit of interesting public sculpture around. A group of schoolkids following Bondi swelled in numbers as we walked through the pedestrian area off Bismarckplatz and I led them in a Pied-Piperly fashion down to the river, and they all drowned. So ended the Heidelberg School. Maybe not.

Stopped again for petrol near the Swiss border and then at the border (Basle) itself to get a "vignette" or pass for using Swiss roads (30 euro). Basle seemed to be a mess of ugly roads, tunnels and a stink of tar, but we were soon out and moved rapidly through a series of tunnels alternated with picturesque valleys and industrial chimneys expelling smoke.

My target for the night was Lucerne where I knew there'd be an Ibis hotel, parking/pet/pocket-friendly and with free wireless internet. First I needed to locate it again, and after much bouncing between different 'burbs and Lucerne proper, found it with the considerable help of a local contact CK who I'd emailed yesterday. I'd lost touch with CK after he moved from NZ back to Switzerland earlier in the year. Catching him on the wing this evening, he doubled back to Lucerne and helped me find the hotel and we had a fine dinner together (with a notable chestnut puree, chantarelle and apple soup). I let him head back to his town while I tended to Bondi, who was feeling rather neglected after a largely boring car day for him.

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