From Bilzen to Luxemburg was easy enough, the road was clear and dry and the outside temperature was around zero degrees centigrade at 8 o’clock in the morning when I left our house. Approaching Luxemburg, snow started to fall, very lightly at first, then as Metz came closer, the snow got thicker. I never Liked Metz before and I didn’t particularly like it this time. I find it sinistre, dreary, worn out and the snow and dark sky weren’t helping to make it look cheerful. Past Metz circulation pas slowing down to 40-50 km/hour due to the snow which was now blazing against the windscreen. Fortunately there weren’t that many cars on the motorway. At least in this respect I had picked a perfect day for travelling. Farther into the Alsace the snow turned into a drizzling rain. It stayed that way until Basel.
Basel was a mess, looked like a giant construction pit, with road deviations abundant. All the signs were seemingly haphazardly placed there in a hurry, pointing in arbitrary directions. I finally got out by following the Italian car before me, which was showing its origins in small letters on the license plate” “Carrozzeria Milanese” or something of that nature. I figured it was bound for Milan. In the meantime the temperature had risen to 8 degrees centigrade already. It would remain like that until 7 o’clock in the evening when I pulled up in the parking lot of the “Motel Piccadily” (who comes up with these names?) in Coldrerio, just 2 km off the Italian border and a mere 50 km from Milan.
But lets follow the natural temporal course of events. It turned out that the Italian car in Basel was heading east for Zurich, while I had to go south to Luzern. I never saw a signpost pointing in the direction of Luzern (but I told you that Basel was a mess). I could have missed it because of the rain which was by now pouring with buckets at the time (am I inventing my own idiom here?). Anyway, 20 kmbefore Zuich I discovered my error. A quick glance at the map while driving led me to believe that I could turn south just before Zurich, drive west of Lake “Vierwaldstattersee” and join the motorway comming from Luzern and going to Lugano. Well, I’ll spare you the details, Zurich was a mess too, and before I knew it I was launched on the motorway to Sankt Galen, in the general direction of Munich, back north-east. I got off at the first exit, got back on the motorway at the opposite side, and drove back in the direction of Zurich. This time I ended up smack in the middle of the city center. It took me an hour to get out of there, finally finding myself on a secondary road in the direction of Luzern and the Gothard tunnel. It wasn’t what I had planned, but it would do. It was now past 4 o’clock in the evening and dusk was setting in. Rain was still pouring and the few cars on the road were cruising at a conservative 70 km/hour. Next we got into the series of small tunnels that lead up to the Big One: “Gothard”. That made a nice change: now I had intermediate patches of dry road, alternating with pouring rain when we would get out of one of those tunnels. At least it offered a welcome change from the monotony of just rain. Then came the 17.1 km stretch of Gothard. I had never been there before. It’s an eery experience, only 2 lanes, one in each direction, you can almost touch the hand of passing drivers if you and they are crazy enough to open the window and reach out to one another. Except you’re driving at 110 km/hour. How quickly do accidents happen, I wondered… (not counting major hazards like fire, of course). And no, I didn’t take any pictures either.
After a few kilometers I started noticing how hot it was in the tunnel. Of course I had pushed the heater to its maximum before because of the cold outside. Now it was too late to turn it off. It was suffocating. But, all good things must come to an end. This one too. After the Gothard tunnel the whole landscape changed. We were out of the Alps, the roads were wide and straight, or so it seemed to me. And it had stopped raining. The sky was dark but open and littered with stars. Most importantly, the names alongside the road where Italian. I didn’t notice it immediately. We were in friendly territory. I had set myself as a target for the first day to get as close as I could to the Gothard tunnel. Although I was beginning to feel a little bit tired, now with the new road conditions I felt new energy and decided to drive on for a couple of more hours. I passed Locarno and later Lugano without a problem. It was to dark to see anything of the lakes, which was a pity. Past Lugano I started to look out for signs of a motel. I would welcome a hot meal, ditto bath and a bed.
That’s when I ended up in Coldrerio in the Motel Piccadily. I’m sitting here at the dinner table, facing a excellent scaloppino. There is no internet connection, not a my dinner table, not in the whole motel. I’m writing this down on the back of my napkin and will post it as soon as I can.
I’m off to see Morpeus now. Have sweet dreams, “sogni d’oro” as they wish me here…