Sunday, July 6, 2014

The Angelico Austrian Adventure - Guten nacht fellow bus passengers, und nicht snoring bitte

I think I mentioned in my last update that we were just arriving, having sat quietly smoking our monkeys for the rest of the voyage. In Calais, we left the noisy kids. By rejoining our bus on the car deck (in French) we escaped detection and made for the autobahn.

On that note, I had neglected to mention that the queues at the ferry's restaurant were as long as the fork on a pole Major Bloodnok used to spear Neddie's kipper, so we waited for a bit before eating. When we got there they were closing the place up because we were just about in France...

So we got on our bus and met our new tour guides. They told us there's a new way of scanning passports for immigration into France, by opening our passports and holding them up at the window. Lolz. I guess they must send our details to customs ahead of time and then the bus is automatically waved through. But this is just a tiny taste of what's to come with a clown like this as our tour guide. (A few examples from various points in our journey: "We have a sharp bend in the road here ladies and gentlemen. It was designed by that famous German road engineer, Herr Pin." "You can sometimes see deer crossing the road here. Always young ones, you know why? Because all the old dears are on board this bus.")

Just as we head out of Calais we see our first French train. It's only a rake of car carrying wagons, and they're four wheelers with buffers. Seriously? You even had a major rollingstock retirement program thanks to the rocket-equipped Mustangs and Typhoons in advance of the D-Day landings. Why wouldn't you get proper auto coupled bogie stock to replace it? I guess as a Victorian I can't talk. We call it Operation Phoenix but it included a few hundred steam locos and a few thousand GY wagons, not to mention the hump yard, instead of mass produced off-the-shelf diesels and moves towards containerisation on 80 foot Jumbo wagons.

The next impression we get is, as we're crossing railway lines a lot of them are single track. That's fair enough, they're probably quiet branch lines, but they're electrified! If they're busy enough to justify copper overhead for the sake of a small reduction in tonne-km costs, surely they're busy enough to be duplicated?

Maybe that has something to do with the ratio of car to truck traffic on the autobahns. Our freeways usually have about five cars for each truck travelling. In France and Germany it's the other way round - it's quite rare to see a car on the autobahn, and those that do usually zoom past at 130km/h or more. High speed rail has killed off the car traffic, but freight still goes by road. Interestingly in Belgium it's not that way - the proportion is much like in Australia. We were told by our guide that Belgium prides itself in having a huge motorway system, bigger than Britain's in fact, and that over 90% of it has street lights.

The exit ramps were interesting to Australian eyes. Instead of "Reduce speed now" and a 60km/h speed limit about half way to the traffic lights, they have four speed limit signs each about 100m apart, to tell people exactly how fast to slow down. Imagine the outcries of "revenue raising!!!!!!!111111" if VicRoads tried to do that...

By the time we got to Germany it was quite late, but it wasn't fully dark until about 11pm. There were some roadworks, which in Germany are done very thoroughly - they had painted yellow lines to show new lane placement (without removing the white lines) and all the warning signs looked fairly permanent by our standards. Imagine how much preparation work had to happen before they started the "real" job of resurfacing or widening or whatever it was... In some places where they'd used the shoulder there wasn't enough room for two full lanes, so they had one normal width and one for cars only. Fair enough, but the sign telling us that told us exactly how wide each lane was, to the nearest 10mm. Germany is still ruled by engineers, I think.

We kept driving overnight, with the two drivers/tour guides taking shifts. Sleeping on the bus was like sleeping on a plane, and I got quite a work-out because at every stop (of which we had several, about every two hours or so) Midga would connect to WiFi, load heaps of Verity Stob or BOFH in tabs, and then read them while everyone else on the bus was snoring noisily away.

There were several train sightings, but of course we have no idea what they were. Electric locos with pointed noses, regional DMU sets, rakes of container wagons - and in Holland, a yellow double ended set which looked like an EMD streamliner but not quite. Taking photos from a bus at 100km/h is tricky and not many of them came out well.

This morning we arrived at our hotel in Austria at about 7am local time, and have now checked in to the hotel and plugged in to power. The humans are looking at either doing some tours or just taking it easy (ie sleeping and looking around the town). We'll see what happens.

1 comment:

Talldad said...

Re freight by road: probably because of the high cost of inter-modal transfers vs the advantage of travelling point to point.