Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Road to Portugal

My trip to Portugal was rather eventful. I decided to go by car, eventhough by plane it would be ten times cheaper. I am going to spend year and a half in the western Europe and wanted to have the car by my side. You are curious about the prices? 60 € for a trip with Ryanair, 600 € for the gas and highway tolls. Especially French highways will pull the last penny of your pocket.

The journey started in Slovakia. I crossed Austria, Germany and got to the Switzerland relatively according to my timeplan. I wanted to avoid driving by night. Because of my recent laser operation I still have problems seeing well at dark. In Germany, I took a hitchhiker. He had Polish ancestry, lived in Germany, studying in Switzerland. In the beginning I let him speak Polish and try to pick up words, but then we just switched to German. He was fun, not unpleasant, but one thing that I don't like about hitchhikers is that they take it for granted that they go like this for free, not even buying you something symbolic, like a chocolate at the gas station.

My hitchhiking colleague in front of one of the Swiss lakes
And then I came to Zug, Switzerland where my friend Gabi with her husband Andrei are now living. I got to exercise Romanian, eventhough it was weird for her, since we always spoke in English before. But she kept to Romanian. They took me around the city and after a good sleep I continued my way. Thanks for the breakfast Gabi! :)

Gabi and Andrei in Zug
France has a system of highways that is well taken care of and... empty. The prices of the tolls combined with good quality of the parallel roads gave me the opportunity to have a three-lane highway just for myself. I would have been successful with my plan to come to Bordeaux before dark, had it not been for the failiure of my alternator. I stopped at a rest stop and with the help of the big portion of gesticulation, the crew of the bar there understood what my problem was and called a car mechanic. Luckily, the supervisor at the bar spoke a bit English.

So the car mechanic grabbed my car, loaded it on a truck and took me to their garage. Hannes, a friend from Austria that I met in Hamburg and who spoke French, helped me with the translation over the phone (Thank you!), when dealing with the guys from the garage. I did not feel like going in a hotel there, so I asked if I can sleep in the car and he did not have a problem with that. That probably made impression on them, making them think I am rather poor, because later I discovered that they found some older, still functional alternator and gave me a discount. I was happy that I could continue and that it was not as expensive. In the end I payed some 370 € for the towing and for the alternator replacement.

The beauties of la France
Clio cut open. On the rigt side the old alternator
And then, off I went. Bordeaux. I am going to skip this part and write about it in the next post, so that this one is not eternally long. I spent one whole wonderful day there.

Passing through the Basque ragion was magical. The humid forests of the Pyrenees. Beautiful stuff. I was turning my head around like kid in a candyshop. Then came Castile and León and the road became drier, flatter and monotonous. One could see only hills with dry grass on them. The Sun was setting when I came to Galicia and the nature was getting greener again. I crossed the borders to Portugal and had some one and half an hour to Porto.

Passing through the Basque region
Dry Spain
I was tired, but the road got then so beautiful that I forgot all my tiredness. I caught a Portuguese radio station. I asked at the gas station about the tolls and I understood! Such a refreshing feeling of being able to communicate, after the France and the Spain. There was a dark blue sky with first stars above me and an orange strip on the west towards which I was driving. There were thousand lights on the hills around me, from the lanterns of the mountain villages. The air smelled beautifuly. I had kind of a feeling of coming home. And it was even reinforced by the warm welcome from my flatmates.

Already chillin' in Porto
3 000 kilometres. But worth it :)

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