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Wind, Rain, Sleet and Snow

December 2005
Schnee auf dem Autobahn
As we left Ulm in the morning it began to snow, and what with the strong winds blowing the snow across the autobahn travel became at quite a sedate pace, quite stressful too, requiring all one’s concentration. Snow and whiteness and two tracks to follow on the autobahn.
Der Brenner ist immer Öffen
Last year we had been held up by snow and had stayed the night in a B&B, where an ancient Bavarian lady fed us schnapps and assured us on our departure that, ‘Der Brenner ist immer öffen’, and so it turned out to be. And this year the same, to our surprise and relief the wind had dropped by the time we came to cross the alps and the snowploughs had cleared two lanes of the motorway across the Brenner Pass. We stopped the night in Brixen (Sud Tirol) (see Javoll in Brixen).
The Pall of the Po
Coming down from the mountains in the morning from Brixen in bright blue skies and sunshine, we could see the pall of pollution hanging over the Po valley, and into this we had no alternative but to descend. Italy has a big problem along the Po, and the Adriatic coast, and around Milan, where the weather tends to be fairly still, with no wind, for days on end. This coupled with the Italian’s predilection to use their motor car even to go round the corner to see their mother, means that they have a serious problem with what is called ‘lo smog’ (nouns in Italian beginning with s and a consonant, take the definite article, lo, see). So serious is this issue, that increasing numbers of towns are introducing alternating number plate days, where you can only drive in town today if your licence plate ends in an even number, and tomorrow if it ends in an odd one, and you get fined for getting the sequence wrong. This doesn’t appear to be having any noticeable effect on lo smog, but perhaps it isn’t being policed adequately, or maybe it’s because many Italian families have more than one car (oh, yeah, hadn’t fawt o dat, capitano).
Anyway, for us, while the Po valley was quite densely foggy, by the time we got to the Adriatic the heavens opened and it was bucketing down, causing yet more stately driving as the outside lane of the motorway became too exciting.
More Snow
Then as we climbed away from the coast towards our village, the rain turned to snow, and the roads became increasingly slippy. Since the road to our village includes a number of hairpin bends and we were the first over the snow, our journey became somewhat uncertain, but the car got up and round the curves without our needing to get the snow chains out, and with a bit of a slide of the back wheels into the road that skirts the village, we became more happy that at least we’d be sleeping in our bed, even if it meant a trudge up to the top of the town on foot.
A Car Out of Control
We thought we’d give the hill leading up to the top of town a try, so I turned into it, and there coming sliding down, completely out of control on its steering, was a car. I pulled right over alongside the door of the mini-market and the shop man opened his door to watch what seemed to be the inevitable outcome, but by some miracle, the sliding car stopped, literally but centimeters from our car, broadside on. Probably the ridge of snow that the car must have been ploughing had acted as a buffer, which was extremely kind of it. The driver dare not try moving, and it looked like I had space to pull forward, so I did, and the man at the door of the mini-market shook his head in a kind of confirmatory disbelief. Then we had the hill to negotiate, so I waited for a bit deciding what was best, when to our good fortune a Land Rover came by so I followed up the hill in his tyre tracks, three-pointed round the hairpin at the top, slippy-slidy up the final slope and we got to our house in time for a shower followed by dinner at the taverna, which was fully-staffed but empty but for a couple who’d driven up from the valley where it wasn’t snowing yet, since the Italians don’t go out if the weather’s poor. A journey of weather.


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