As marvelous as today’s GPS is I would advise that you keep a map handy. The GPS is modern technology at its best but it is not magic nor is it infallible. You do realize it’s the old adage “Garbage In Garbage Out.” It was explained to us on a trip to Tuscany by a very reputable guide that he had escorted a passenger whose job it was to map the area for a GPS. In so doing there was a lot of free reign exercised when it came to areas where it was debatable which way was the correct way to go. At one point said passenger could not make a decision so “went with their gut” and documented the directions accordingly. I guess that’s how it is possible to hear the following from your GPS, “When it is safe to do so, make a u-turn.” Immediately after completing the maneuver you hear once again, “When it is safe to do so, make a u-turn.” Now I’m no genius but if you follow these instructions you are right back where you started and if you continue to obey you will forever travel in a circle – well, a square.
In Europe the markings of some city and rural streets are often not like anything we are accustomed to in North America. There is very little evidence of traditional signage on posts at intersections. If marked at all a street name may be on the side of a building. And not on a plainly visible side either. It may be painted on the brickwork and it may be a hundred years old. Even worse, that street name you are so desperately seeking may be painted on a curb or on the street itself – right under the car you are now sitting in cursing the situation.
We realized early that the GPS was not performing well. Annoyingly, it TRIED to work, but gave false information, so we hit the point where it did more harm than good. What are we going to do now? Come on, surely you are not so entrenched in this electronic, technical world. No, not yet! We turned the GPS off, bought a map, got off the highway onto the secondary roads and got a good look at Western Europe.
On the way back to Frankfurt the drive through the Dolomiti in Northern Italy was quite wonderful. Snow-covered craggy peaks, blue skies and wonderful Italian mountain villages. The roads were confusing as can be. Tell me how can you get lost on a road that goes into a tiny town then comes out about 3 miles later? Lots of turn backs, asking directions in whatever language seemed to work, and cursing – yeah, lots of cursing.
When we got to Vienna we got hopelessly lost again. I couldn’t tell you where the hotel was; somewhere near the big Ferris wheel, but then looking for that nearly put us in Hungary; but it was a quaint, beautiful hotel. Travel is not easy when you have no idea where you are, where you want to be, or what you are looking at.
We left very early (6:30 AM) as we anticipated hell on earth getting out of Vienna. Ironically, it was easier than finding our hotel from the parking lot. We had Mapquest directions (which got us started), the GPS (which pointed us in the right direction) and only one stop to ask directions (which, for once, were bang on). Can it be that this has just become so routine we’re getting better at it?
An overnight stay in Frankfurt brought our European vacation to an end. Just so we would not finish the trip with too much confidence, we got hopelessly lost trying to return the car. We actually ended up back at the hotel we just left to ask directions for the second time; all this because the GPS originally led us to a totally different area with the same street name but in a different region, borough, or whatever.
I guess we got to the airport (we were on a shuttle, which is the only reason we didn’t get lost again) just after 11 AM. By the time we checked our luggage, checked in, went through security, and lined up for final documentation in the boarding area, it was time to board. That’s the best part of cutting it really close. So, you see, getting lost has its advantages and it certainly puts a laughable spin on a fabulous 5,000 kilometer road trip.
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