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Ups and downs in Bavaria

July 24th, 2014 (by Steve)

We like mountains. We also like toboggan runs. So when we heard that if we ventured a little further south of our planned route we could go down the longest summer toboggan run in Germany, we were there like a shot. Well, maybe not quite that fast; we hadn’t consulted Bertha about going back to the mountains and she obviously wanted to take her time. Alpsee Bergwelt was our destination; a short distance from Immenstadt.

After our rather tame experience of a toboggan run in Slovakia, we didn’t want to get our hopes up too much. Sitting in the car park at the bottom, we noted that lots of toboggans were being held up by people in front of them, so realistically, we probably wouldn’t be able to go that fast. After our chair lift ascent (yes, we could have walked, but the chair lift looked more fun!) we waited in a queue for an hour for our opportunity to weave our way down the mountain, hoping that we wouldn’t be stuck behind someone slow.

toboggan1

And then it was our turn. Our game plan was to both be in the same toboggan (higher mass leading to higher velocity) and not to use the brakes. Our briefing on how to use the brakes (we listened politely) bought us extra space between us and the toboggan in front. We were off. Now our thinking was that health and safety would dictate that it must be possible to do the whole run without touching the brakes (unless we caught up with the person in front). That worked out pretty well for us until the 4th corner. It’s simple physics really – an object will continue to travel in the same direction unless a force directs it otherwise (Newton’s first law of motion para-phrased). Well, the track guided the toboggan around to the left. We were leaning forward, with our seatbelts loose. It’s fun trying to brake when you’re hanging out of the right of a toboggan, travelling at speed around a left-hand corner, held only by a loose seatbelt. But, technially we didn’t actually fully fall out! We still maintain that it is possible to go down that course without braking… you just have to lean perfectly into every corner. Nevertheless, we touched the brakes a little in addition to our leaning for the rest of the corners on the 3km course. At 10.50 Euros each (including chair lift) it was a little too expensive for us to do it again immediately, but we wanted to!

toboggan2

After a night in Immenstadt, we chose to venture along to Lake Constance. Now we’d previously read about Ju + Jay’s experience of the German Alpine Road and as a result had decided to avoid Bad Tolz and the south east of Germany. We might like mountains, but Bertha’s not a fan, so the Deutsche Alpenstrasse wasn’t on our agenda… until we saw this sign:

alpenstrasse

Sorry Bertha. We hoped that the western end of it wouldn’t be too punishing and that we would have patient drivers behind us. Let’s say we had patient drivers behind us. In good weather I’m sure the views are even more stunning than they were in the rain. At least we had plenty of time to see them as Bertha puffed and wheezed up and down the winding roads. One part was even like the toboggan run in the way it wound downwards, hugging the hillside… only experienced at a much slower pace!

alpineroad

The rain didn’t clear up… in fact it intensified and only Kiri was brave enough to venture the kilometre or so to the lake from our next overnight stop location. I stayed with Bertha because I wanted to keep dry make sure she was ok after a stressful couple of days.

After a very wet night (it just didn’t stop falling!) we headed straight up the main roads towards Ulm. Just as we were approaching, we saw signs warning us that the “umwelt zone” started in 3km. Those two words have been tinged with bitterness for Bertha ever since we received a letter from Germany in October last year informing us that “Unforunately [sic] no environmental badge can be issued for your vehicle”. And here we were, heading straight into the forbidden land. I immediately panicked and pulled off the road at the next exit, at which point Kiri pointed out that the satnav was bringing us off the main road in 2.4km.

Suddenly we swapped places (not physically, as that would have been tricky whilst driving) and I was keen to carry on (there were sure to be more signs) whilst Kiri was keen to stop and look up the extent of the low emission zone online. I was in the driving seat, so I won the brief conflab and we ventured on. We only saw one more sign on the dual carriageway, which I interpreted to mean “warning, parts of Ulm are a low emission zone”. After that, no more signs and we happily pulled into our stop for the next few nights amongst motorhomes young and old. Kiri went for a little explore whilst I double-checked the extent of the umwelt zone online. Oops. We’d driven slap bang through the middle of it and were now parked inside its limits. Time to move on!

It’s quite hard to drive whilst you’re kicking yourself, but I somehow managed it as we hurriedly and sheepishly left Ulm. I didn’t really want to climb the highest church tower in Europe anyway. No matter what spin I try to put on it, I goofed. I should have done the research that I’d done for all of the other German cities – there’s even handy information online (overall map and detailed maps). It doesn’t matter that when you put it into perspective a 40 Euro fine is comparative to some of the tolls we’ve paid in other countries…. and we’ve had to pay no tolls in Germany and we’ve been able to drive as fast as we want(!!!) on some of the best quality roads in Europe. We’ll await the letter in the post with a German postmark. Never have I been so happy to see a road sign in my life:

endumwelt

And then I looked in the rear view mirror to see that we’d left the bathroom window open. Not having a good day!

I was going to write “hopefully there won’t be too much more drama”, but in all honesty, it’s the drama that makes this trip interesting. This trip isn’t the 100m; it’s not even the steeplechase; it’s an obstacle race. And that’s so much more entertaining to run.


All posts about Germany

Homeward bound

Barefoot in the Black Forest

Ups and downs in Bavaria

Melting in Munich

Fu├čball und Achterbahnen

Just another brick in the wall

Speeding in the sunshine

Little people in Hamburg

Currywurst with a side of pondering

3 Responses

Wot no video? Brakes are for wimps! Looks great!

Gotta love an Umweltzone! Dave merrily coughed his way through several of them, as we sat petrified, scanning for police cars.

From what we understand you need to be stopped while driving in it, they don’t tend to have cameras, why would they need too, as a nation the Germans are more law abiding than us Brits? However the Italian ZTLs are usually cameraed up to the eyeballs – hmm, I wonder what that says about Italians?

Keep Truckin’!

Julie

Don’t worry Peter – we did shoot video footage (with an appropriate gap where we nearly fell out) and it will feature in an upcoming film.

Julie, we think we probably actually got away with it as there didn’t seem to be cameras… but we wouldn’t be totally surprised if a letter did arrive!

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