Stopping at an AutoBahn Services, it became very clear that we were crossing over into a different landscape to the one we had navigated for two days. Behind us, the undulating silken and silvan fabric of a landscape threaded by tarmac. Ahead of us, Mountains. Mountains that were the horizon. Mountains that filled half of the sky.
We were headed for Grindelwald, and a Campsite that was at the base of Mount Eiger. But we had to earn that spot first, taking the Swiss AutoBahn via Zurich and Lucerne, climbing to 1000m above Sea Level. Along a beautiful and scenic route, blinded by the Sun and Lungs filled by Fresh Crisp Cooling Air; the 993 growling and surging, hoovering in the dense elixir.
Arriving at the Campsite, we felt instantly that our adventure had begun. With the imposing Mountains, the fecund Greenery, the clang of Livestock Bells and the sting of the Burning Sun it was quite a sensory experience. Strange looks from Residents at Campers turning up in a 1994 Porsche notwithstanding, we felt as if we had arrived Home, as if we were meant to be here.
Lot allocated, Pig parked, Tent pitched, Chairs set, Beer cracked. It was time to relax, sit back and wonder at where we were.
I wanted to drive at least two of the Passes, that was my aim. This RoadTrip had started with the spark of the thought of driving Roads that had been made for the Porsche. That the Porsche had been made for. But I didn’t want to be so bloodyminded that driving Alpine Passes would dominate the Experience of driving across Europe; it was after all a Holiday..!
After three nights and two days of exploring the Grindelwald area, taking in the Eiger, a Mountain Railway, an Alpine Trek, and some High Altitude Beer, it was time to move on.. Pulling out of the Campsite, on to the Black Top, the sense of Adventure was renewed. Heading East it would take little time to reach The Sustenpass, in fact it was so close that we reached it without fully realising we were in fact climbing it already..!
Twisting, winding, blind and unknown, the climb was perfectly placed in the 993’s Second Gear powerband. The Traffic Gods working in our favour so that no one was in front holding us back, it was as if we were the only ones driving this Road. Stopping to take in the view of the Valley we had left, it certainly felt as if we were the only people for Miles and Miles, let alone solely on this stretch of Road. The Peace, the Quiet, the Calm. Torn in half as we continued our Accent..
Like passing through the Gates of a Classics tale, we summited, and drove over to the other side of the Pass; a view that needed to be appreciated..! Parking up, you could see the Road winding its way down the Snow lined Valley.
Pushing down the Valley, it became ear bleedingly obvious that I had made an error in Judgement choosing Brembo Brake Pads. The squeal from those Shoes was pretty horrendous, like a form of torture; an ugly distraction from a thing of Beauty. But Lessons are only learned when the Price is High [something about Experience being a Dear School?], and this one would definitely be learned. Still, it’s not like it destroyed an otherwise perfect Drive, nothing could do that, but it did mean that anyone coming the other way would know that something [us] were headed for them..!
It was Fast, it was Fluidic, it was Fun; Low gear, feathering the Squealers, roaring through the Mountains.
I could cite statistics, numbers, hairpin count or camber and grade, but none of it would inspire the sense of amazement that hits you at the start of the descent of the Gottardpass. That is, once you have taken the New Road by mistake, pulled a U at the nearest available pull in, and then made your way back to the sign that pulled you away from the Old Road.
The Gottardpass is an experience. It’s a sensory and tactile overload. The 13th Century [!] Cobble Stoned road reverberating through the chassis, the curves resisting the steering wheel in your hands, cool air blasting through the windows, the Flat Six Sports Exhausted burbling and popping on the Engine Brake. And unfortunately that Squeal from the Brembos.
But forget that Brake noise, there is too much else. And here I was, driving a 911, the boy that was who fell in love with the 911, now the man with grin ache, one of the most iconic roads of Europe [yes yes, Stelvio]. It was ridiculous. I still think it is, looking back now writing this some time since I was there; since we were there. Hairpin corner after hairpin corner, outside, inside, apex, outside and back again, persuading that MOMO wheel, feathering the Brake, easing the Throttle; grimacing, wide-eyed, smiling.
It was tough I won’t deny it; back to back turns, cobbles in good and bad states, using the Engine more than the Brakes. But so worth it. So worth it.
As the Cobbles ran out giving way to Blacktop, one sense was given reprieve but the others still maxed out. An unforgettable experience. The drive to Andermat used to reflect on that experience and be thankful for it. Andermat was a Caffeine Oasis in the Tarmac Dessert, and time to plan our route into Italy. After a day of Driving, real Driving, the triple lane expressway was a welcome comfort.
The European Roads are renowned for their quality. Smooth, relatively quite of traffic and direct. The roads to Verona, Italy did not disappoint, and with a Big Number looming, the digits ticked over quietly and consistently to our Hotel for the Night..