Zurich to Salzburg

We were up again at about 7:00 am, showered and down to the Novotel restaurant for breakfast. On the way to breakfast I checked the departure times for shuttles to the airport and found they were half-hourly so we opted to try for an 8:30 departure to match our 9:00 am pick up for our rental car.

After breakfast we finished packing and I tried to get a fix on our TomTom GPS so that we could get a good start on navigation from the airport. I was not surprised when I could not get a fix in the hotel room and only slightly more so when leaning out the window did not work either. I put that down to looking out on a courtyard with high walls all round blocking access to the GPS satellites. Once we had checked out of the hotel and were waiting for the shuttle I tried again, well clear of the hotel, but without success. I put that down to the presence of high voltage overhead power lines that I thought might produce fields that could interfere with the signals. When the shuttle appeared I figured I could sort out the GPS at the airport in the care – after all, it had performed without problems on our trip from Toowoomba to the Airport in Brisbane. It had to work. We were relying on it, and the European map I had bought online and installed, as our primary means of navigation.

It took almost as long to locate the car rental counter in the airport as it did to complete the formalities for our rental. Shortly after 9:00 we were loaded into the car and headed out onto the autobahn, Majella driving and me trying to wake TomTom from his apparent stupor or intransigent refusal to communicate with the GPS satellites. I did have an alternative – a map with a planned route printed from Google maps – but had not checked that by the time Majella first started asking which way she should go at an approaching fork. At that one and the next couple I opted for roads that did not head for Basel or Zurich. Mostly the ones we took mentioned Sankt Gallen, a name that I recognised but not anywhere that I had intended going enroute to Salzburg via Liechtenstein and Schwangau. It was probably half an hour and more than 30 km before TomTom managed to get a lock on the satellites – after several reboots – and I was able to activate the itinerary I had prepared. By that time I was confident we did not want to go via Sankt Gallen but had no real idea how to get us back on track. We decided to exit the autobahn and regroup.

After some minimal tinkering, TomTom continued to insist that Sankt Gallen was the way to go. Rather than risk being lost without trace in Switzerland on our first day of driving we decided to go with the flow and got back on the autobahn. Sankt Gallen came and went. At least going that way afforded us a good view of Lake Constanz. Shortly beyond the lake we crossed the border into Austria and I began to wonder if TomTom was taking any notice of my planned itinerary that included Vaduz, the capital of Liechtenstein.

As we entered Dornbirn, Majella asked about stopping at a supermarket. I spotted a Spar store so we pulled into the carpark and headed into the store. Majella selected a pack of nectarines and one of strawberries, put Joel’s German language skills to work to buy some bread rolls, and selected a pre-packed portion of salami. That fixed lunch and it was only 11:00 am. Now we needed to find a suitable place to eat at an appropriate time and to sort out the navigation. Rather than rely on TomTom to follow my prepared itinerary with waypoints at Vaduz and Schwangau, I decided to opt for navigating directly to Vaduz, Schwangau and Salzbug in succession. At least that way I could have some confidence that we were going where we intended. I reset TomTom accordingly, opting to avoid toll roads when asked, and off we went on the ‘slow road’ to Vaduz. By the time we reached Nendein in Liechtenstein it was already after 12:00 pm and I was beginning to wonder whether our planned itinerary was achievable. We actually turned off the route advised by TomTom, intending to turn back towards Germany with a fair claim that we had been to Liechtenstein though not its capital, but our route was blocked by a train and we sidetracked parallel to the line and around a corner where we found a small park with a bench that looked about right as a lunch spot.

While we were eating lunch and I was working on TomTom, a car pulled up beside us. The coincidence of having similar cars led to a conversation in which the woman, originally from Vietnam but now living in Austria and commuting daily to work in Vaduz after several years in a London bank, persuaded us of the necessity of seeing Vaduz. We headed off again to visit Vaduz, very briefly, and then pointed TomTom toward Schwangau – this time without shunning toll roads in the expectation that it might be faster, even if possibly more expensive. Despite the warnings from TomTom, we encountered no tolls on that stretch or for the rest of the day. Although Hohenschwangau, our real destination appeared in the list of German towns on TomTom, every attempt to set that as a destination resulted in a spontaneous reboot so I opted for Schwangau – near enough that if we found one we could surely get to the other.

A short way up the road we decided that it was time I did some of the driving so I took over as we headed into Germany. We made good time on the autobahn (130 kph limit) but slowed down once we got off that onto the secondary roads we needed to follow more or less south to Schwangau. We really slowed when we came to a junction where the road ahead was blocked by a sign that seemed to indicate that we should not proceed that way but on which the real meaning of the German was beyond our meagre language skills.

We took the road that was open to the left but soon realised there was no signage about how to get back on track and TomTom simply insisted that we turn around. I pulled off onto an open patch on the right, turned around, and got back on the otherwise deserted road. It was not deserted for long and, to my momentary confusion, the first car I saw was coming directly toward us on our side of the road. A moment later I realised I was in Europe and hastily shifted from the left to the right side of the road.

Back at the junction where the road was blocked we headed right, back in the direction we had come, hoping to find a sign I thought I may have seen indicating an alternative route. A short way back we saw a side track with a house. Majella insisted on asking directions. I tried to get TomTom to sort us out. Majella’s hoped for guide spoke as much English as she did German and she thought he suggested detouring by the road we had taken previously. We headed off on a track we thought went under the main road with access on the other side. It went under and then on and on for several hundred metres before we eventually found a way back to the real road and thence to the ‘detour’. Some way along TomTom eventually decided we were not turning back as directed and recalculated an alternative route that took us up some very obscure roads before leading back to the town to which our access had been blocked. We headed on toward Schwangau.

Neuschwanstein Castle at Hohenschwangau was worth the extra driving.

Just before we reached our destination we encountered another blocked road. This time there was clear evidence of ongoing roadwork but, rather than work around it, we took our cue from a large bus that simply slid by the roadblock and went on down the road. That took us around a lake, past Fussen and into Hohenschwangau where we parked and took the bus up the hill toward Marian Brucke and our view of Neuschwanstein castle. Because it was already late and we anticipated close to 2 hours further driving to Salzburg, we restricted ourselves to a short time at the top of the hill for viewing and photographs and took the next bus back down to hit the road.

Once fed the address of the Hotel Lasserhof in Salzburg, TomTom performed to specification and guided us through county roads and onto the autobahn that runs between Munich and Salzburg where we arrived without further interruption to our travels.

Our Wotif booking worked as it should and we checked into the Hotel Lasserhof without problems. After a short rest we headed out for an initial exploration of the city and dinner. We wandered down to and across the river to the old town where we found Mozart’s birth house and a few other  sights of interest. Back across the river we wandered the streets looking for food that would satisfy our divergent tastes without emptying our wallets. We eventually settled on an Italian place just down the road from our hotel. Joel had soup, Majella had the cheese and bread platter, and I had a salad. After eating we headed back to the hotel for a well earned night of rest.

Because I had read in various places about using GPS coordinates to pinpoint the location of photographs using Google Earth, I had spent some time back home seeking out ways to have TomTom keep a record of our travel – something that I was a bit surprised to find was not part of the standard setup. The software I found and installed retains a complete record of position and speed at reasonably short intervals. The record is stored on TomTom but can be downloaded to a computer and then converted to a format (KML) used by Google Earth. Because of the interruptions to operation of TomTom during our first day of driving I finished with a set of files that had parts of our path from Dornbirn to Salzburg. I was eventually able to merge those into a single file that can loaded into Google Earth where it can present an animated trace of our travels for the day.