The journey home

Praise where it is due, this is the first year I can say that the Polish roads were NOT the worst of the holiday. In the past, the difference between highway heaven Czech, Austria and Italy and medieval horse and cart Poland was striking but those days are gone (depending on your destination and route).

The worst driving this year on a country level was in Czech and on a local level the E45 in Italy. In terms of a fully joined up highway system Poland is still the loser but now they have finally completed what was the biggest problem, the highway connection between Ostrava in Czech and Poland (A1), there are only a couple of pieces missing now:

> final improvements (turning S1 into A1) between Katowice Airport, through Czestochowa and up to Piotrkow Tribunalski
> connecting the A1 to the A2 around Lodz.

Despite this, the roads in their current state are an extremely significant improvement on what they used to be and I can honestly say the drive from Ostrava to Warsaw was a pleasure. Must be said we were lucky with Czestochowa though. This could be a major spanner in your works, as it was with us on the way down. Mind you, the old McDonalds at the traffic lights junction in Czestochowa will be missed as a convenient point for a break.

Let us all pray to the Gods of the EU for proving the funds to do this and also give thanks that nasty encounters with Chinese or otherwise contractors were no worse than they were!

I predict, or perhaps repeat what I have said earlier, that building highways with only two lanes will quickly become a very obvious mistake. This is the golden period for driving in Poland – highways are pretty much built but are not clogged with traffic. Make the most of it.

The Czech Republic got off to a bad start by taking three hours or more to clear an accident in Brno on our way down. On the way back there was no repeat but they had decided to do roadworks to every stretch of motorway near to big cities – Brno, Olomouc, Ostrava – which wasted at least an hour. They then brought on the remnants hurricane Bertha with such downpours of rain that driving was almost impossible. Add to this the psychopathic and apparently inexhaustible army of lunatic Skoda drivers and Czech takes the prize, by a long way.

Italy was okay. It can get very sticky around Bologna and they have the never ending roadworks between Venice and Palmanova but neither of these held us up. It was interesting watching the clouds and the temperature as we rose from Palmanova through Udine and up into the Alps.

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The clouds got blacker and more menacing, as you can see, and the temperature dropped from what had been a steady 30C down to 18C at times. The holiday was definitely over!

Driving in Austria was fine apart from all the limits of 100 or 80 km/hr for tunnels and mountain bends, of which there are many, and the fact that everyone follows the rules. The only thing to annoy us in Austria was my car, again!

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This warning had come on a couple of times on the drive but only momentarily when navigating twisty entrances and exits from the highway. On the flat it went off again and stayed off so I ignored it. After we checked out of the hotel in Vienna….

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….and started the car in their car park the warning light was immediately on. Just for kicks I called Arval Nonsistance who assured me they would call their Austrian people who would come and recover my car. I explained that all I needed was some coolant liquid and didn’t have time to bugger around. They said they would get right on it.

An hour later I had found a garage open on what was an Austrian Bank Holiday, taken a taxi there and come back with a liter of coolant, filled the thing, eliminated the warning light and was ready to go. I called them again to see how they were getting on. They were getting nowhere. We left.

The only annoyance between there and what I’ve written above was that bloody silly missing bit of highway between Mistelbach in Austria and Pohorelice in Czech. One lane, pretty much zero overtaking opportunity and enough trucks to cause a problem. It was actually on this stretch that the Czechs played their trump card. A section of roadworks just by Aqualand Moravia where they had removed the tarmac and then cut a series of deep grooves into the road meaning anyone not driving a hovercraft had to go very slowly so as not to break something. This led to at least a 5km tailback in the direction we were going and at least 45 mins delay. There was nobody actually working on the road. Looking at the map now it was pretty easy to avoid this by taking a different route – bad SatNav lady!

The final tally for the holiday was 4,500 km (2,800 miles), roughly the same as driving from New York to San Francisco.

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3 thoughts on “The journey home

  1. Pleasure to learn you enjoyed the holidays and are back home safe and sound. Although the tribulations with a brand-new posh Volvo are ghastly. One would expect such vehicle to be more reliable and accompanying assistance package to work much better…

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