30 October 2011

The perils of driving in Europe

Travelling on the opposite side of the road, it seems so easy. Sure, you have to reverse 20 years of learned behaviour, turn into the opposite lane when turning into a road and check for oncoming traffic in the opposite direction, but overall the concept is the same.

At least, that’s what we assumed when we took to the road for our first time in Europe. Took to the right side of the road, that is, not the left, where we are so used to driving.

But so many people before us had braved driving on the opposite side of the road, how difficult could it be?
What we hadn’t anticipated was how difficult it actually is.

Oh and did I mention the gears? Of course we were driving a manual car, so had to recalibrate our thinking to changing gears with the right hand and hanging on to the steering wheel with the left.

We headed into the heart of Konstance, with its cobblestone laneways and traffic control signs funnelling all traffic – in both directions – into single lanes. And left with a minor scratch down the side of the car.

Not off to a good start, but we not to be deterred, we connected our satnav punched in our destination and left Konstance for Appenzell.

With a mantra of “stick to the right” and “look to the left” we followed the deserted country roads through the quaint towns of Germany, past the picture perfect – and clich├ęd - cow-filled meadows back into Switzerland.

We didn’t lose our nerve, not even when the satnav took us along roads we were certain were actually part of private farms, or urged us to drive straight ahead, when our road had clearly ended!

At least, we didn’t lose our nerve until we arrived in Appenzell, where the roads were built up again and the biggest problem? Turning right into a side street with a barge down the centre, try as we might we couldn’t get used to turning into the right lane of the road.

The car survived our stay in Appenzell – perhaps because we chose accommodation within walking distance of a train station, and left the car in the garage! 

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