So I just came back from a trip to Italy and Switzerland with my family which was organized by my family friend in Italy. I had next to no say as to where and when I was going to places so in large it was wake up early, hop on a van, drive to location, walk around, hop in van, back to hotel. Sounds like a typical rush rush tour, well...basically it was. I was totally tired out by the end of it all and frankly I didn’t really enjoy it.
However, I could not let the entire trip go to waste so our last stop was in Zurich where we would spend 3 nights and eventually depart from. Nothing was really planned for Zurich as Zurich isn’t exactly tourist central.
I looked at a map and realized Stuttgart, Germany was only about a 2.5 hour drive from Zurich. I pondered for quite some time if I wanted to go to Stuttgart and hit up the Mercedes-Benz museum and the Porsche museum as both are situated in Stuttgart and both have a reputation for being worth the visit.
Finally as night fell on the first night in Zurich I decided what the hell, I’m going to rent something cool like an 6spd Alfa Romeo Giuletta or even the smaller Mito and head to Stuttgart. A big part of wanting to go was having some nice european metal to drive that we can’t get in North America. I was quite excited to feel what a modern Alfa drove and I quite like the Giuletta styling.
The next morning after horrendous sleep due to Zurich’s annual street parade which is essentially Zurich’s annual EDM festival. And when Europe does EDM, it’s bat-shit crazy. One million people went to this festival that took place less than 300 meters from my hotel so that’s why my sleep was terrible. Sorry Zurich these are the only two photos I have of you in the city and it’s during this crazy festival.
I was meaning have my car by 8:30am and on the road no later than 9. The closest car rental place was about 30min walk - a Europcar. I got there instead around 10am and they kindly (kind for Swiss at least) informed me they only had one car, an Audi A3. The precise car I drive in Canada. Not only was that a turn off, but the 260 euro price tag was also bit steep for a days adventure. They told me to go to the Airport as the have lots of cars and selections. Perfect, all I had to do was walk to the trainstation and take a train to the airport. In all fairness, the train station was about a 10min walk and the airport about 15 minute train ride, but not speaking Swiss-German meant walking in circles a bit at the station for another 10 minutes plus the 15 minute train ride to the Airport. So Finally, we arrived at the airport around 11am.
I went to Europcar and kindly requested an Alfa Romeo Mito. “Ah yes, Alfa, we have in our fleet but....sorry, car is gone, but we can upgrade you to large car for small car price.” Great, maybe they have the Giuletta or Citroen DS or......not, they had nothing except a Volkswagen Tiguan....no thanks. I went to Budget/Avis next counter over, asked the same question and was told “Yes we have small car still available” said the smiley Swiss lady followed by “can you drive manual?” oooo I’m excited now it’s manual only and it’s a small car, I giddily replied “yes yes!”. She then hits a few buttons on her 80’s looking IBM keyboard, that familiar sound, looks up and says “ ah yes here we have, a Renault Twingo”. I almost fainted. I told her “Thanks, I’ll think about it”
The only thing I heard about Renault Twingo’s are horrible references to them on Top Gear. So I headed to Enterprise. “Sorry, we have no cars”. Nice and painless. Alright, back to smiley Swiss lady at Budget/Avis. She cut me a deal and gave me the keys to a lovely Renault Twingo. I asked her if the best route to Stuttgart was on the E81, she replies “I don’t know, we don’t use highway names, we use cities, much easier”. Alright Ms. Swiss elitist just give me the damn keys. At least it’s a brand and car we don’t get in North America. It’s essentially the French version of a Toyota Yaris.
156 Euros + the 24 Euros for the GPS rental and....VOILA!
So off I went and driving in Switzerland isn’t too bad, just make sure you follow the speed limit as I did. 50 meant 50, 100 meant 100. 30 minutes later and we’re at the German border, you slow down, two relaxed dudes pretty spec-op’d out laughing away take a glimpse at you and wave you in. Yes, it’s that easy going country to country in Europe. Stark contrast to driving from Canada to the good ‘ol afraid of everyone USA border.
I continue driving in my awesome Twingo and make it on the highway. The GPS is great because it tells me the speed limits which is handy in a foreign country. On the freeway I drive for about 30 minutes and notice the GPS no longer displaying what the limit is. I thought yea, probably because we are in the country side the GPS maps/data not updated. I just drive with traffic.
I’m going 120 km/h because the sign entering Germany said 120 km/h on highways. I then began to notice a trend. Cars flying by me like I’m standing still. Ok, I thought, I will drive faster to keep up with some traffic. I’m now doing 150km/h, the car feels very light and there is whistling from the windows. There’s no tachomter so I don’t know the revs, and my right foot seems quite close the floor. I’m steadily doing 150km/h in the middle lane, not catching up to anyone. And then more cars fly by me like I’m standing still. Ok, let’s try to keep up.....
Here I am doing 160km/h steadily impeding most of the cars so then I move to the middle lane. Audi’s, BMW’s, Mercedes etc. keep flying by. This tells me this highway has no limit and the GPS isn’t showing a limit because there isn’t one! Oh my gawd I’m on a de-restricted highway, awesome! (at least I really do hope they were derestricted....)
The only non awesome thing is I’m in this pathetic Renault Twingo. And alas, my story ends here. I drove on an awesome road in a car totally not suited for the awesome road. Never ever drive a Twingo if you are ever in that situation and if you must, try to look as good (or nervous) as I did. I should have taken the Tiguan...