Noilly Prattle: GPS

Saturday, September 28, 2013


     I sing the praises of modern electronic marvels, useful gadgets in a sea of often techno-junk. Specifically, I'm talking about the automobile electronic navigation device known as the Global Positioning System .

        Driving a car in Europe can be a daunting experience, especially in the maze-like streets of old cities that were never intended for cars. A couple years back I rented a car, for the first time in Europe, in Spain to drive from Seville to Granada through Carmona and Cordoba. The highways were not particularly troublesome, well marked and well maintained. But the cities, that's another story. We got thoroughly screwed up in Cordoba where a major road into the city that I had planned to use was blocked off, under construction. It took a long time, wrong turns, 180 degree flip arounds and a lot of body language to finally find our hotel near the Mezquita. Same story in Granada, missed the exit from the motorway and with more time, wrong turns and body language finally got to our destination.

        Fast forward to the present road trip from Cologne, Germany to Zurich, Switzerland. With the memory of driving in Spain, it was with some trepidation that I ventured to rent a car in Cologne, but we wanted to see the castles of the Middle Rhine River region and take a boat trip on part of the river as well as visit a couple other sites: Kloster Eberbach (where they filmed part of the movie "The Name of the Rose" based on the Umberto Eco novel of the same name); road buddy wanted to see the town of Eberbach which has some relation to one of her favorite manga authors; Hohenzolern Castle and the lovely old town of Tübingen. I hope to have more to say on these places with photos later.

        I hadn't planned on opting for a GPS since I wasn't familiar with how to use it, and I also didn't know if it could do English (really behind the times where electronics and information technology are concerned), plus I'm a Google Maps true believer (I had planned the whole route and printed out the driving directions). But the Europcar agent said I could have the GPS without additional charge since it was in the car anyway. I talked to the man who took us to the car and he programmed the GPS for our first destination, Boppard, Germany. He didn't show me how to program it myself. I should have asked.

        It was such a marvelous device, got me right to our hotel in Boppard, which had no private parking. Had to circle around again until I found an available public parking space. At any rate, I was kicking my ass for not having asked the rental car attendant to show me how to program the GPS, because I had fallen hopelessly in love with it. To make a long story short, we screwed up our courage and figured out how to program the device, which turned out to be absurdly simple.

       It took all the guesswork and anxiety out of driving the rest of the way to Zurich and was, for me, a revelation. Now, I wouldn't hesitate to drive anywhere in Europe with a GPS in the car. The extra cost is well worth eliminating the wear and tear of driving with uncertainty and fear of missing turns and getting lost in a strange place. That is truly one of the pitfalls and the pits of driving in Europe.

     One word on the German highways known as autobahn. The Germans are speed freaks and there are no speed limits on the autobahns. I would be going 130kph and other cars whizzed by me as if I were standing still. I estimated they must be doing 150 or 160+kph.

      The car has been returned and I had to part with my new love. We are in Zurich for four days to attend the opera and are back on foot and using public transportation. Nice!


Anonymous said...

A few years ago, I was heading into Boston to go to Mass General. I missed the exit and ended up going over the Zachem Bridge and in Somerville, G-d help me. I was in a PANIC. Later on, after figuring it out, heart in my throat, a friend said to me 'You need to get a GPS'. I have been IN LOVE EVER SINCE. It has made it possible for me to travel ANYWHERE with confidence. Mazel Tov, Joe!!!! Incidentally, MY GPS man is an sexy Aussie.

Noilly Prattle said...

Exactly. Mazel Tov with the sexy Aussie...