We took a family vacation the week before Christmas. A driving vacation – one like we used to take when we were kids. Journeys where we would load up the family vehicle (Galaxy 500 or Pacer as the case may be), and head to points West. Both my and Becca’s families took these trips. I think in the course of my childhood, I probably drove through 30+ states of the lower 48.
I never thought of vacationing by automobile as a uniquely American thing to do, but judging by the look on people’s faces here when I tell stories of our recent trip, it’s definitely not a very European thing to do. Perhaps because it is so cheap to fly elsewhere, or so easy to take the train. In doing so though I think you miss the opportunity for the unplanned, the spontaneous – the flexibility for whim (or weather) to take you to a place not planned. Thus, we wanted to drive. And so drive we did. 3500km worth of driving. We left Saturday night (12/17) after Owen’s futbol game. Our goal was to first drive to the furthest point on our trip and then gradually work our way back to Barcelona.
The first night’s drive was really just designed to give us a bit of a head start on the next day’s journey. We drove 4 hours to Nimes, France. Nimes is famous for a lot of things. The Roman ampitheatre, Pont du Gard, and my favorite – a very durable textile – serge de nimes. Which most of us shorthand to denims – or blue jeans – first made famous in America by Levi Strauss.
After a quick overnight, and no sightseeing, we got on the road and made a 9-10 hour trek to Nuremberg, Germany which was the farthest point of our trip. On the latter part of this drive we had our first experience with the German autobahn. We quickly learned the etiquette of the autobahn, which is for all intents and purposes to stay the hell out of the way. You basically have 3 lanes. The far right lane is the fast lane. The middle lane is the really, really fast lane. And the far left lane is the “Holy Crap! Did you see how fast that car was going?” lane. With Owen cheering me on the in the back seat, we hit a top speed of a 160KM/hour, and we were still spending most of our time in the far right lane. We did begin to run into bits of snow and ice on this part of the trip, which slowed everyone down. Some not quick enough, as one particular storm – call it an “Iceburst” – it was like a cloudburst, but instead of dropping rain, it dropped hail (or ice pellets). It coated the road in minutes (seconds maybe) with about an inch or two of ice pellets, and on the other side of the autobahn there were two bad accidents. One car slid off the road and flipped, and then as folks were braking, another accident occurred about 1/2 mile back with a 3 car accident and spin out.
We made it safely to Nuremberg around 7pm and quickly made our way to the old city and its famous Christmas Market. We walked around and marvelled at the beautiful lights and Christmas booths selling every sort of Christmas accessory possible. There were ornaments, foods, wooden nutcrackers, candle holders, creches, etc. All beautifully crafted and presented.
We tried the ”Glühwein,” which I’m sure on a cold enough winter’s night, could be quite addicting. It’s worth adding that for us, recently arrived from Barcelona where it had been a sunny 60 degrees, that the near freezing temperature of Nuremberg was enough to make us addicts at first sip. We also tried multiple types of hard candies, ”brezels” (or pretzels), Nuremberg sausage sandwiches, chocolate covered ananas (pineapple), chocolate covered cayenne peppers, chocolate covered ginger snaps, and then set about looking for a chocolate covered antacid!
We woke the next morning and traversed the markets again and saw a bit more of the old town in daylight. There are some beautiful old buildings, which if I understood it correctly, were all rebuilt after World War II, when 90% of the old town was destroyed by Allied bombing. I think many of these landmarks were rebuilt using the stones from the original buildings. After Nuremberg, we moved onto Munich, and part two of our trip.
Okay that’s it for Nuremberg! Next post will be about our time in Munich. Cheers!