08 October 2009

More road trip prep

As my European road trip inches closer, I came across more resources of value.

A Texas-based driving enthusiast, who had once lived in Germany, put together a comprehensive resource of not just the Autobahn system, but everything about driving and other forms of transportation in Germany. There are even detailed descriptions of the traffic laws that apply specifically to Germany and Europe, differing from those in the US and elsewhere; for example, unless indicated otherwise, cars entering from the right have priority over through traffic, and right turn is normally not permitted on red. Granted, the author appears to support an evil neoliberal organization (and certainly links to it) that equates all speed limits with socialism, but I still have a resource that could save me a lot of headache once I am busy trying to conquer the Autobahn or the Romantic Road.

Getting Around Germany: Driving

And I also came across a resource that deals with sound driving practices, from a certain Uncle Bob based in the Phoenix area. He has 70 tips, which are far more informative than any traffic violator school will ever be. I'll surely need these tips, whether I am trying to negotiate the A8 Autobahn between Stuttgart and Munich, or the mundane traffic in Los Angeles (even more challenging, thanks to all the moronic California drivers).

Road Trip America

For actual sightseeing outside my car, I am going back to a resource I used to frequent: Europe for Visitors. It also has special sections on Paris and Venice, which I will rely heavily on. It looks like my Venice arrival will not be all that challenging - I can drive right into Venice itself, park at the Tronchetto artificial island and its huge garage, then take the No. 2 water bus, which will take me to Rialto Bridge - and my hotel. It's a shame I'll only have one full day in Venice; I'll try to make the most of what I do have.

Speaking of my plans for each destination, I have most of it nailed down, though I haven't yet booked my Paris hotel. My previous Paris stays were in Montmartre, and this time I want a change; I'm still trying to choose between the Latin Quarter (my initial preference) and the Marais (a friend's recommendation). But all other hotels and airfare are set in stone, and I also need to book train tickets, especially for the TGV run into Paris once my driving is finished.

Last, but not the least, Google Maps is proving to be very valuable. Its coverage of the world is expanding, and now, for major cities in North America and Europe, I can get mass transit maps and routing, of varying quality. I can get traffic reports for most of the US and a few major European cities as well, both real-time and average data by day/time of the week. Being able to study, now, the most up-to-date street maps of the European cities I'll be visiting/driving in will help greatly once I'm actually there. I'm also delighted to know that Google Maps is improving its coverage elsewhere as well. In Asia, it's had street-level maps of Japan, Taiwan, and Hong Kong for a while, and now its China maps are up-to-date (with tons of new expressways) and excellent, and South Korea has also been upgraded to full street-level coverage (great for retracing my road trip there last year, especially on a computer not running a Korean-language OS). Even closer to home, I am getting great maps of Mexico that weren't available recently.

I'll find myself in Munich, my first European stop, before too long. Though I don't think I'll ever get used to saying "God's blessings" (Grüss Gott) rather than "Good day" (Guten Tag) as "hello."  Grüss Gott is indeed the standard greeting in Bavaria, which is home to Pope Benedict and BMW and can easily be called Europe's Bible Belt, and it's said to be never used elsewhere in Germany. In the meantime, the blog timestamps are being switched to GMT +2, which will be the time zone in Europe when I initially arrive (Central European Time, Daylight Saving Time), though I'll have to fall back to GMT +1 (end of Daylight Saving Time) during my trip.