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Posts Tagged ‘Slovakia’

Mapmaker, mapmaker, make me a map

August 9th, 2009 Comments off

Our GPS, as we’ve mentioned, had moments of great mischief during our jaunt through Europe. At several points, driving through both the Czech Republic and Poland, the highway icons on her display disappeared and we were, according to her, in the middle of huge fields with no roads in sight.

“Recalculating,” she said. “Take first dirt road on left.”  Fact was, we were traveling down a four-lane  highway at 75 mph.

In downtown Geneva, looking for a gas station, she sent us down a narrow road that ended at a farmer’s market.

Her most upsetting techno-glitch came when we were in Slovakia and had typed in the address for our campground in Trencin, a small town north of the capital city of Bratislava. The camping books didn’t say much about the place, except that it was on a small island in the middle of a river.  And we didn’t flinch when GPS sent us down increasingly less-maintained streets in a sketchy industrial neighborhood. It wasn’t passing the smell test, but we thought we would come upon a bridge that would take us onto the island with the campground.

Instead, we found ourselves inside what appeared to be an abandoned or little-used industrial yard in the midst of train tracks.  We conjured images of gypsies ready to pounce.  “This isn’t right,” Jeanne said. “Uh, let’s back out of here.”

We did and, as we approached the road, a man came running out toward us. Great. He’s going to stall us, distract us, as his cohorts in crime gather for their ambush. He smiled. Nice try, buster.

I told him we were lost. (Duh.) We didn’t understand his response but it was clear he did not speak English. And we knew something was up. He kept smiling.

Jeanne reached across me and handed him the book with the name of the campground. His eyes lit up. “Ah!” works in any language.  He started talking to us. I looked at him and shrugged. “I don’t understand,” I said. I pretended to look pitiful to gain sympathy.  Actually, I didn’t need to pretend at all.

He held up a finger as if to say “Wait,” and walked quickly back to what looked like a guard shed. He returned with a yellowed piece of paper, the kind that would have come out of a Big Chief tablet when I was in second grade back in 1958.

He drew me a map, and walked me through it.  He drew the road with several curves, bends and hard turns. He drew railroad tracks. (I went “ding-ding-ding-ding-ding” to imitate the sound of a crossing-guard gate. He looked at me, lost his smile, then found it again, and said “ding ding ding!”) Then he drew signal lights and a traffic circle and the name of a store, and an island in the middle of a river, and the name of the campground. Bingo!

I thanked him. Jeanne really thanked him and took his picture. We smiled and he smiled and we made it to the campground without a problem, four miles away. We camped alongside a river, below an old castle that was illuminated with colored lights.

GPS never apologized but she had sent us to a very nice map maker with a great smile.

Following the push pins across Europe

June 30th, 2009 Comments off

We leave for our European RV vacation in just four days, and we thought we’d better sit down and figure out what our basic plan of attack is once we get there. Plan of attack. Sounds like we’re planning a military assault. I’m hoping I can just pull the mobi out of the dealer’s lot without causing a scene. It’s heavier and larger than anything I’ve ever driven before. Well, there was that semi when we moved our daughter to college.

Our goal for this three-week vacation is to see as much beautiful countryside as possible, so we will immediately drop southeast out of Antwerp, where our daughter and her boyfriend live, and head east for Germany’s Black Forest, rather than heading northeast toward Berlin. We’ll cross southern Germany, through Bavaria, then head northeasterly toward Prague in the Czech Republic, then into  Poland and brace ourselves for Auschwitz. The basic route then takes us southwest, across western Slovakia and into Austria (Vienna, Salzburg and Innsbruck) before heading into Switzerland (Zurich, Bern and Geneva as the main targets but surely being seduced onto highways leading higher into the Alps). Then, we head back to Antwerp via Dijon and Reims, France.

We will, of course, be taking country roads versus the major highways, and targeting campgrounds outside the cities. And once in country, we’ll refer to our specific guidebooks and maps and solicit the advice of locals. In other words, we don’t know where the heck we’ll be, any given night, but probably we’ll be in the shadow of a huge blue pushpin.

We created a very general Google map showing the very basic route. It’s about 2,100 miles as the crow flies (are there crows in Europe?) but we’re assuming we’ll put in 3,000 miles or more. We are hoping, too, that the GPS doesn’t crap out, or we may end up in Slovenia instead of Slovakia.

Jeanne has been doing most of the research, and has relied heavily on what has turned out to be her favorite reference guide, “Central Europe” by Lonely Planet. She also has a lot of tabs sticking out of “Europe by Van and Motorhome” by David Shore and Patty Campbell, and is poring over Fodor’s “Eastern & Central Europe” and “RV and Car Camping Vacations in Europe” by Mike and Terri Church.

We could buy more specific guides, of course, but there is a weight limit to our luggage.

My diet-demanding health coach will be tickled pink with this news: Our route should take us to Uttenweiler, Germany, where we will visit her family’s bakery and we can say hi! to her cousins Gertrude and Paul. And pick up some streudel while weíre there.