Our “ultimate European road trip”, started in Stuttgart, Germany after we picked up our brand-new Porsche Macan S from the factory, now heads north from Lake Lugano (Italy/Switzerland) back to Germany, at Lake Konstanz.
The lake has many attractions, but the two most important to us were that the city of Konstanz is an excellent jumping off point for the final leg of our journey, and the city of Friedrichshafen is the birthplace of the Zeppelin airship as well as the base camp for Zeppelin sightseeing tours.
The adventure continues with planes, trains, automobiles and now a Zeppelin!
Getting There Proved to Be, Shall We Say, Interesting!
Getting out of the city of Lugano was challenging due to the narrow, twisty roads and the somewhat cryptic signage making us more dependent on our GPS to navigate the maze… eventually it overloaded both our GPS and ourselves… and we wound up on a service road to the A2 North and an hour delay added to the drive.
Clear Roads and Sunny Skies on the A2 Motorway
The GPS also warned us of a 45 minute delay somewhere ahead and advised that we needed to exit the roadway and take a different course. After the last experience we opted to ignore it and stayed on the A2.
Several miles further the traffic came to a dead stop and we watched people actually turn off their motors, get out of their cars and casually walk around like this was an everyday occurrence. We had no idea what the problem could be.
The Everyday Traffic Delay Known as the Gotthard Road Tunnel
About 45 minutes later we edged our way up to a TRAFFIC LIGHT right in the middle of the roadway which was two lanes in each direction, now merging down to one north and one south… creating a classic bottleneck.
Unbeknownst to us we were about to enter the second longest tunnel in Europe which measures over 10 miles.
The Gotthard Road Tunnel was certainly an engineering feat for Switzerland when it was completed in 1980 significantly reducing the travel time over the Alps.
Unfortunately in October 2001 a collision of two trucks caused a fire inside the tunnel and the smoke and resulting gases killed eleven and injured 128 people.
After this horrific tragedy multiple safety standards were introduced as well as a number of “flow” measures such as limiting the number of trucks to no more than three per minute with about 500 feet between each vehicle.
So when you have a classic bottleneck, combined with flow controls and heavy traffic patterns, especially in the tourist season, you have a recipe for a mess and two to four plus hour delays become the norm.
For us it was a very intense drive along a roadway with emergency exit doors every few hundred feet … going where was a question we opted to ignore… just get us out of this tube under the Alps!
The southern entrance to the Gotthard Road Tunnel under the Alps (photo: Wikimedia)
The Alternate Route Being the St. Gotthard Pass
The St. Gotthard Pass over the Alps (photo: Wikimeida)
The GPS suggested the Pass Road which is about 16 miles long and peaks just under 7,000 feet above sea level. This option is passable only seasonally and would be fun for adventurous drivers that like hairpin turns and lots of great alpine scenery.
But, and there always is a but… if anything causes a delay (breakdowns or traffic) on this road you are stuck with limited options. Playing it safe on the tunnel versus the pass comes down to the weather, length of the traffic delay and making sure you had a pit-stop before you got close to the area.
Through the Alps and Onward to Lake Konstanz, Germany
An interesting thing about Lake Konstanz is that this is the only area in Europe where no formal / legal border agreements have been established between Switzerland, Germany and Austria.
The Swiss believe the border runs through the middle of the lake, while Austria believes the borders are along each of their respective shorelines and of course Germany has its own variant of what makes up a border.
It all seems to work…. so leave it alone.
Arriving in Konstanz, Germany
We selected the Steigenberger Inselhotel because of its location on the lake, being close to the “old town area” and the proximity to the ferry docks and, of course, their private gated parking facilities.
A well-deserved glass of wine after a long drive
Weiner Schnitzel…we are back in Germany!
The planned four hour drive turned into a grueling six plus hour endurance experience but as we settled in to the Steigenberger with a beautiful lake view room, a cold bottle of wine and a good meal… all is well that ends well.
We had booked and paid for the Zeppelin tour months earlier in order to reserve two seats for the second day of our visit. The plan was to take the ferry over in the morning to Friedrichshafen, tour the factory and museum and go aloft in a real zeppelin around noon and return to Konstanz in the afternoon.
Uh-oh… just got an email from Zeppelin NT… need to reschedule the flight due to high winds projected for tomorrow… we did not have the extra day in our schedule and had to cancel… well that was deflating!
Please follow us as we continue our “Ultimate European Road Trip Series”, exploring Konstanz, the drive to back to Stuttgart and dropping off our car – which we named Max – for his boat ride home to the States.
After all, what is the hurry… be inspired.
© 2016 Inspired Travel Itineraries with Bob and Janice Kollar
© 2016 Picture Credits Bob & Janice Kollar