Travel Log : Autobahn - Autostrada - Freeway
When leaving last Friday for Italy, I thought being smart and get as fast as possible on the German highway. Boy did I make a mistake ! Last couple of years we were accustomed to traffic jams and road blocks but this year was really terrible : one road block after the other, all the way from Nord Rhein West Phalia through Rheinland Pfalz and the state of Baden Wurtemberg. So what to make of all of this ? Is Germany also supporting the business cycle this year by means of exceptional public investment ? Crossing Switzerland no problems, with the exception of the pretty expensive low budget motel and accompanied evening meal and breakfast. Yes, the 1.20 EUR exchange rate striking hard.
So we finally arrive in Italy Saturday afternoon. Attenzione, uomi ai lavori - meaning men@work - with the difference that not a single road worker was to be found. Sabato, of course. I had a nice warm welcome by Izabella, the lady of the house, who also introduced me to a friend of hers, Marika, a teacher in English language. And with Marika I had a first interesting conversation on the current crisis, Europe, Berlusconi and Monti/Draghi.
But when solving the world's problems, the best spots usually are bars. In my case however, the following conversation took place on the parking lot of a Lidl supermarket just before closing time. A charming retired Italian guy called Guido came up to me asking about the colors of my car registration plate. Belgio ? Si, Fiamengho. Aha, Eddy Merckx ! And then of course the conversation kicked off. Do we also experience a crisis in Belgium similar to Italy and Spain with high interest rates. I tried to explain to him the difficult political situation (federal-regional-North & South) and the narrow escape of November 2011. Next question : and how about now ? I explained to him that somehow Mr Market is currently very benign towards Belgium with 10y interest rates at about 2.5%. Guido raised his shoulders and merely replied :"non capisco". And frankly, my response came automatically :"Anch'io, non capisco tutto Guido"
It is indeed strange, and certainly after having shopped and paying less than at home, that some are punished and others are not. And it's not restricted to Belgium/France versus Italy for example. The current business cycle numbers for the UK for instance are worse than for Spain (dito budget). Again, print and thou shall be rewarded !
So we have an element of randomness, probably a basic ingredient of life in general. So Guido, my advice would be as follows: It's a wide open road, now more than ever. And for those having the luxury and the money, it's not a certitude that they can afford the freeway.