This is what I thought about leaving for Switzerland from Romania, from Bucharest to Basel: that it will feel like a road trip, fun experience. I was so sweet and innocent back then.
Leaving our home
We woke up at 4 AM because we wanted to leave Bucharest before the 7 AM rush hour. Putting this next to our getting to be at 1 AM from the previous post, you can imagine our situation. At least I can live mostly on coffee, but my husband doesn’t even like coffee, and he was supposed to do all of the driving since I don’t have a driver’s license.
OK, so we got up at 4 AM. Then we started to put everything in the car because we didn’t want to have the car full of all our things overnight.
So, I started to do my Tetris-like miracle wonders, I filled the trunk of the car with the vacuum bags that had regular shapes that easily fitted in these, and then I started to put things in the back of our car after I pushed my seat in the front of the car as much as possible, so I spent all of the 1000 miles with my knees almost touching my chest area.
After a while of putting things in the car, I started to not be able to put anything, or to hold up, or to drag stuff, so I had a small nervous breakdown for a few seconds because I felt powerless and it was only 5 AM, the day wasn’t even started yet.
As always in this type of situation, I had to go into survival mode, and I had this planned to happen only in the afternoon, so I was clearly ahead of schedule. Somehow, I managed to continue until I filled the back of the car up until the level of the windows.
Yes, everything fit, and we were even able to take a few things from the “Maybe” pile that we never thought we’ll see again. We said “Goodbye!” to our home, me tearing up silently, and we got to the car, but not before leaving our last key in the mailbox for the people that were going to rent our apartment.
From this moment there was no way back. At the car, I have opened a back door to put something else on top of the pile and of course, some of the things already in there fell right on me and some mud, in the middle of the road.
By now, I had finished with the weeping phase and have achieved the cursing level, and I am happy there was no living soul around to hear me swear, but it was the freeing thing I needed to do so I could continue. Only at around 7:30, when we were getting out of Bucharest and seeing the sunrise in the mirror we did realize that we had indeed left our home.
The optimistic road
Usually, when we’re going somewhere by car my husband says he feels like he’s driving a sleeping wagon of a train because I manage to always fall asleep. But this time was different, I felt I couldn’t do that; given our level of tiredness, I was actually worried he may end up falling asleep while driving.
This attitude kept me asleep until we got on the highway to Pitești, and then I fell asleep for 20 miles. After these 20 minutes, I was woken up by my husband who wanted me to search for a certain bank office in Râmnicu Vâlcea.
Previously, he had gone multiple times to this bank, trying to close-up his account, but he always had pending payments and couldn’t close it in this state, so he thought he may try again once before leaving Romania.
So, we went to Râmnicu Vâlcea, we searched for a parking lot, we parked the car and went our way, him towards the bank office, and me to a nearby store to buy some coffee. While going away from the car, I heard a weird sound coming from it, so I wanted to see if something was wrong. Of course, it was!
We had a flat tire on the back-right part of the car. Of course, we panicked like crazy. My husband started to take out EVERYTHING we had in the trunk because our spare tire has its place UNDER the trunk, and in the meantime, I was trying to stop the air from coming out so that the car won’t stay on the rim too much, a dangerous thing to happen when the car is so loaded and it weighs so much.
My husband moved really quickly, mounted the jack, lifted the car with it and, right when he tried to take out the tire, the car started to move back towards both of us, and I tried to keep it still, thinking I was some kind of a superhero.
It was our luck that a group of teenagers was just passing by and they came in right away to help us, keeping the car still however they could. In the heat of the moment, it looks like my husband forgot to secure the car, so there was a very high risk of the car moving backward and hitting some other cars too.
When we all realized that the car actually fell from the jack and blocked it on the way down, the teenagers thought they may try to lift the car to we could unblock the jack. But, as one of them said, how in God’s name could they lift a huge car full of all of our stuff in it?
Eventually, I guy showed up, we have no idea where he was until then, and asked us if we could use a hydraulic jack. We did use it, thank you very much! I have no idea what we would have done without their help so, in case one of those nice guys is reading this, we were the losers with a flat tire in the middle of the town and we thank you deeply for your help.
Of course, since we were really tired but the adrenaline was doing its work, we started to curse that we haven’t even got to a quarter of the way and we already had a flat tire. We cursed the Romanian road situation, the banks, and all of the other things that made us leave Romania in the first place.
We put everything back in the trunk and of course, they didn’t fit like the first time, especially since some of the vacuum bags managed to get opened and we couldn’t seal them again. We managed to make it work, and he got to the bank; of course, he couldn’t close his bank account, he still has it, then we went to the store to buy some tissues (because we were looking like some kind of scavengers), chocolate and other energy products.
The pessimistic road
We got back into the car thinking we should leave as soon as possible like we were afraid the bad luck was going to follow us. After about 5 miles I started to worry a little bit. We didn’t have a spare tire anymore. But we were happy our spare was a normal tire, not the one that only goes up until 80 km/h, and just the thought of going 1000 miles with a smaller tire was odd and funny at the same time.
But still, 1000 miles, most of them on Romanian roads, and without a spare tire; this didn’t feel like a good idea. If we were to make a second flat tire, what would we do? I know it was a slim chance, but the car was full, the roads are as we know them, and my usual luck is not a good helper either.
If it would have happened in Romania it would have been one thing, we did at least speak the language and could easily ask for help. But if it would have happened in Hungary, Austria or Germany, things would not have been so easy to handle.
So I started to make phone calls to random garages I found in Arad, trying to buy a new tire from there, and to put it on the rim with the damaged tire – it was the original rim and we would have wanted to keep it. We eventually found someone that said that they’re waiting for us around 4 PM to take the tire that was a used one that they could barely find in their storage facility, but it was still better than nothing.
Of course, we couldn’t buy a new one because they’re buying them in 4 piece sets and cannot sell them separately since it would mean to keep some amounts of money blocked waiting for losers like us.
All of these discussions were held while we were in the Olt river valley, where the phone signal is so-and-so, but the area is so beautiful than it made us forget our problems for a few moments.
The traffic brought us back though, but at least we weren’t sleepy anymore. I started to also do live concerts in the car to be sure the driver won’t feel sleepy – and considering my singing skills, no one could ever sleep during my concert.
The realistic road
Unfortunately, the A1 highway is actually made out of multiple, smaller highways, some of them not connected to each other, so we had to use some other roads too. We were also doing this while being afraid, considering the past experience.
And of course, we didn’t tell anything to anyone, we figured it didn’t make any sense to make parents and friends worried about us, and for no good reason since they couldn’t help us with the problem.
It was just the two of us, the road, the music, and the feelings. The best road friends. But at a given time our friend the Road betrayed us. The holes in the road became bigger and bigger, the traffic did the same, until we got to a street that was full of holes and was couldn’t only be used with half of it, alternatively serving both ways.
And by full of holes, I’m not exaggerating, I even counted the hubcaps I could spot on the side of the road that I assumed were there due to the road state. I counted around 8. In a mile.
We were terribly worried because our car was so full and heavy that we were sure it wasn’t very happy with the craters on the road. We finally made it to Arad to take the tire that was going to keep us worry-free until we reached Basel (LNK).
After we discussed with the wife of the guy we have spoken to on the phone, and she kept on saying she could sell us 4 tires, not just one, the husband finally arrived and took out the tire from whatever corner he had found it.
And then we realized that our car, due to the spare tire, was having three winter tires and one summer one. The “new” one was also a summer one, so we couldn’t make it right with all four of them. But my husband proposed to have two summer tires on the back of the car and two winter ones on the front, to at least have some kind of symmetry.
We also had to take out everything from the trunk again, it’s not like we had another option on where to put the new tire. And while all of this was happening, we both stood on a bench, in the warm sunshine, and we became sleepy again.
The adrenaline from Râmnicu Vâlcea was almost over, the coffee as well, the weather was warm and felt cozy, sleeping full nights were so far away in the past, so sleeping on a hard, wooden bench somewhere didn’t feel like such a bad idea after all.
But we knew we still had a few miles to go, so we got into the car and went to Nădlac, the bordering place, stopping right before it to buy some coffee (the third one for me, and he enjoyed one too), and we also wanted to buy a vignette for Hungary, but we found out that we couldn’t buy there anything else but vignettes for Romania (because why wouldn’t you buy a vignette for the country you’re just leaving from), or for Hungary, but only for trucks and similar vehicles.
For losers like us, the only chance was after the border. We passed the border and luckily no one wanted to verify our car; it would have been awesome for us to take out everything once more on the same day.
The very long road
We looked a little bit in the rear-view mirror while crossing the border and the tiredness didn’t allow us any emotions whatsoever. My brain was already in survival mode and didn’t allow me any emotions, but only to keep me awake and to manage to reach Budapest.
The first stop was right after the border for the vignette. The lady from the office could have sold us vignettes for our whole journey, that’s how many options she had. Considering how many insecurities we have in our lives, we bought only the one for Hungary, trying not to force our luck by making plans.
The Hungarian highways made us less worried: they were present, they’re better than the ones in Romania and now we had a spare tire again. Nothing could stop us now! We drove those last miles in my screams, announcing in a TV presenter kind of voice every 10 more miles passed in the hope of keeping us awake.
We started to also be hungry, considering we lived mostly on chocolate, nuts, and coffee that day, but we couldn’t afford the luxury of stopping for lunch. We didn’t want to arrive at the destination by night and to make the driving even harder, we wanted to see ourselves at the destination first, and we were also sure that if we ate, we had a chance on relaxing too much and explode due to the tiredness.
The last 10 miles had their own shouting each, marking the countdown. We didn’t see anything in Budapest, we could only focus on our priorities. We reached the hotel, checked-in, and went into the restaurant that the guy from the reception desk recommended us which was two streets away from the hotel.
We ate in a hurry, we went back using a different way so we feel like we saw something and then we had an epiphany: since in Switzerland and Germany the next Sunday and Monday were going to be bank holidays, it would have been a good idea to go and buy something to eat to take with us, considering we didn’t have anything in Basel and the options to go out and eat were very limited.
So we went into the first we found open at 10 PM, bought water for the road, some pasta and pasta sauce, and also some pretzels, nuts, and chocolate. We couldn’t buy anything else but things that were not going to get bad in the car for two days.
And, also, before leaving Bucharest we took from home a large jar of cornflour, thinking that no matter what happens, we can always make a polenta if needed (the polenta is a Romanian dish made out of cornflour and water and it used to replace bread some years ago).
After that, we went to the hotel, took a long shower because we were feeling like we worked in a farm for the whole day instead of staying inside with the AC on, and we slept such a deep sleep that I woke up the next morning before the alarm started, but felt really well-rested.
Anyway, we planned to reach Munich to visit our friend in there, and the road was going to be easier: the highways were in Hungary, Austria, and Germany, the distance was smaller and our sleeping hours were more than enough.
The easy road
We enjoyed the breakfast at the hotel, packed our small bag and left for Munich. Of course, we only had a small bag with us, and the rest of the things were in the car, so we were very happy the hotel had an underground, secured parking area, so the car was not right in the street as an easy target.
So we left, thinking we could stop for a little bit in Vienna so I could see something there since I didn’t visit it before. I didn’t even feel the trip to Vienna. I sang we talked, I sewed the heart from Raluca, I have no idea when we got to the border to buy the vignette.
We found a parking space somewhere in the middle of the city and we started to walk around the area to enjoy the city. We took a walk, made some mental notes about having to properly visit Vienna one day, and went in search of a coffee place to enjoy a cappuccino and an apple strudel with vanilla sauce – we were in Vienna after all, this is a must-do when in the area.
We found the Il Tempo coffee place while wandering around the city center and we decided we could enjoy a cappuccino – him, and a coffee – me, and to share a strudel. They even had an offer with a cappuccino and a strudel for 5 euro, or something similar, and we thought it was a sign for us.
The nice lady came to take our order, she delivered it, we ate, we drank our coffee, and we asked for the check. And she brings us a check for 10 euro (I’m not exactly sure about the numbers, but you’ll get the picture). On the detailed check, it was something like 4 euro the cappuccino, 3 euro the coffee and 3 euro the strudel.
Thinking it was a mistake, we explain that, by adding up the 5 euro for the cappuccino and the strudel and the 3 euro for the coffee, that would equal 8 euro, which is less than what was on the check. It was not a huge amount of money, but I felt the need to tell her, maybe she had made a mistake.
And she explained that we didn’t tell her we wanted the offer. Because, yes, you had to specifically say it like that, it was not enough to order the exact things in the offer. Stupid reason, from my point of view, but we left it like that, it’s not like we were going to fight over it.
We left her the 10 euro, it’s not like we were going to also tip her (Yes, I know how it is to live mainly on tips. Yes, I would have left her that 2 euro as a tip anyway. Yes, she preferred to put that money in the owner’s pocket instead of her own. No, I didn’t think I was supposed to also tip her considering the circumstances.), and we continued our day.
The confusing road
Our day continued by going to the parking space, paying for it, and trying to get out. And because our German skills were not very good (and they’re not very good now either), we looked for the Exit signs to try and get out.
But apparently, the Exit signs are for pedestrians, I don’t think our car could have gone up the stairs we kept on finding near every Exit sign. We wandered around the parking lot for a while, until we found someone that spoke a little bit of English and that explained that it was a cleaning day and we couldn’t use the usual exit, but we had to go to the third floor and come back on another side to get out.
We were lucky enough to find someone that was also getting out and we followed their car until we found the exit. And from this experience, we found out that the exit for cars is called Ausfahrt in German, a very important aspect that also applied to highways.
The rest of the trip was pretty uneventful and we reached Munich while it was still light outside. Comparing with the previous day, we felt this as a walk in the park.
Note to self: the journey should have been split into segments of about the same difficulty, probably the best option being to spend the first night in Arad, the second in Munich and the third in Basel. We have basically covered on the first day about the same distance as in the last two days.
The finish line
We started our last day on the road pretty relaxed, with a great breakfast, amazing coffee and some good energy, thinking it was our last day of driving. And knowing we were not going to have an internet connection in Switzerland, and our car didn’t have the maps we needed either, we had to rely mostly on offline maps when arriving in Basel.
So we decided to make the most out of the Germany roads and use them intensively, right until reaching Basel. Everything was smooth until we got to the border, even though it rained a little bit – which was not that bad, it washed our car that was not in the best state after the last days.
At the border, we stopped for the vignette and we continued our way until we reached some really narrow streets where Google made us go. Those small streets looked like they were only for pedestrians, and they were full, since it was the Easter Sunday, and everyone was looking at us and the way we were struggling to find out where to go next.
We somehow managed to leave the area and arrived at our new home. The best surprise was that Monika and John were there, waiting for us, trying to give us a warm welcome.
The sweet people wanted to be sure we arrived safely, to show us the parking place they got for us from a neighbor and to take us to a store that is OPEN ON SUNDAYS and on Easter Sunday as well!
Yes, apparently there is such a thing pretty close-by. And they thought we surely need to find that place, so they came to take us there. If only they knew about our plans for the polenta…