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Day 3: From Brehna (Germany) to Grenoble (France), 1165 kms.
Right after Berlin, another great German city, München, was waiting for us. So, after a good sleep, a great shower and a poor breakfast, we were ready to get back on the road.
Easy one, Autobahn A9, about 400 kms from Brehna to München. We arrived to Brehna quite late at night, dark night, so we could not actually see anything. We were surprised to be surrounded by beautiful fields with horses, nice landscapes and a lovely sunny sky.
It was the first time driving a car in Germany for my wife and one of the few things she knew about was that speed limit does not apply. So, she took the keys and started her driving. She was enjoying it as I never saw before. Mentioning also that, not only it was pleasant to drive fast, but also pointing out in how respectful and careful are the rest of the drivers. Believe me, it is a true pleasure to drive in Deutsche Autobahns!
Our journey was quite pleasant. We were adding kilometres on our way to München. I really wanted to arrive there the soonest the better, as I planned to do a little tour of the city to her. So, no time to waste, we carried on and, yes, we arrived to the capital of Bavaria.
I remember seeing it from the plane on a previous trip but, this time, entering from Autobahn A9 we just passed by the Allianz Arena Stadium, home of Bayern München but also TSV 1860 München. The full stadium façade turns red when Bayern is playing and blue for TSV München. Today, no game, was just white.
My wife was driving and she was also entering the city center. Yes, we were following our navigator but, believe me, in München (and I guess everywhere in Germany) signs are just great. We reached the center easily and quickly and parked in a multi-stories parking just next to the Mandarin Oriental, one of the best hotels in town. Just minutes away from Viktualienmarkt, one of the most interesting places in the city. It was lunch time so we decided to enjoy a wonderful sausage (two, in my case) in one of the street stands. Maybe because of our Berlin passion, we had first a Currywurst with potatoes. Quite nice but I was still hungry. After getting my wife’s permission, of course, I went for my second one: a lovely Bratwurst with lots of mustard on a tiny piece of bread. Delicious. I just love them.
Once our bellies were satisfied, we walked a couple of hundred meters to enter the Bayerischer HofBrauhaus. One of the oldest bars in the city. They say they can serve 1000 people in the main hall and another 700 in the basement. Impressive but I must say too much people and very noisy for me. Just in the corner, you have Augustiner Brauhaus, another iconic place, where they serve home-made Weissbier and serve Bavarian food. We went there. My wife had a lovely beer while I had a coffee… Yes, she is way much smarter than me: she was driving before and, right now, it would be my turn… Smart move, I must admit.
Before heading back to the car, we walked a little to Marienplatz and enjoyed the views of the amazing City Hall. Pity we were short on time. München really deserves some good visit. A great city, walkable but with great public transport, good food and great beer, awesome gardens, elegant and trendy streets. I would say also 90% of the cars are BMW. Actually, the Bayersiche Motoren Werke (Bavarian engines factory) has its headquarters and it is originally from München. And they are proud of it. Same as Russians are of their Lada.
During the day, we were thinking wether we should look for a place to sleep in Germany, maybe Switzerland or, in our most optimistic thinkings, France. We spent a few hours in München. We could say we “lost” some good time on the road but, at the same time, walking and relaxing in the city made me feel quite fresh. So, after one Currywurst, one Bratwurst, one large Pretzel and, yes, two waters and one coffee, I took the wheel and decided I would drive another 720 kilometres to enter France and look for a hotel in the land of Camembert, the baguettes and the most unpleasant waiters in the world: la France!
After some kilometres, we had to decide whether to move west, direction Mulhouse and enter north of Lyon or, a bit shorter, entering Switzerland, cross the whole country from Zürich to Genève and enter France south of Lyon, near Grenoble. My wife was excited about “seeing” Switzerland and the beautiful mountains so we did it. Leaving Germany and entering Switzerland was kind of funny. In fact, once we crossed the border, we found out we were not in Switzerland but in Austria!. We stopped to ask at a gas station and were told to take “the next exit to the right” to enter Switzerland. We did but turned out to be the smallest road I have ever been driving in my life. Thanks to God it was only for some five or ten kilometres. Then we arrived to the border. This time, we were also asked to pay but only for this vignette they place in their cars and entitles you to use their highways. You pay at the entrance and it is valid for the year. Not for a year. It is valid for 2014 in this case. And it costs exactly €33, amount that you can pay in Euros.
So here I was, driving almost 400 kilometres in a very dark highway, and looking forward to arrive to France. It was so dark we could not see absolutely anything. So I am afraid we will need to be back there some day, for my wife to enjoy the country.
Et voilà, we left Genève and entered France. We were tired, after almost 1200 kilometres. I just wanted to find one of these highway budget hotels, so common in France and ready to serve all budgets: Formule 1, Étap Hotel, Première Classe, Ibis, Campanile and even Mercure. I am sure I forget some of them. I have used them (I think all of them) during many years. They offer comfortable accomodation in a very simple but clean and serviced room, a 24h automatic access with credit card and, normally, an awful breakfast.
But there is another thing they all have in common, no matter if it is a simple motel or a 3 or 4 stars hotel. No matter where in France. Sometimes, you can find these hotels alone or even four or five of them at the same spot, normally located off big cities or roads with a lot of traffic: They all share the most useless and horrendous signaling I have experienced. Not even in Cairo are so bad. Especially at night, you exit the highway and, suddenly, see the sign of one of these hotels, or even more than one. Ingenuosly, you follow this sign without realizing it will be the last one and, from there, you will need to find the damned hotel by yourself. Leaded by the moon, elves, who knows! This will be your problem only. I can say we saw about six or seven of these hotels but managed only to get to three of them. The first two were full and only at the third one, an Ibis, we could find a room. We paid by card at the ATM machine, parked the car, went up to our room, had a shower and sleep. It was nearly 3 in the morning. We were less than 700 kilometres away from Barcelona so, in the morning, we could relax a little and enjoy a good sleep.