Updated: Jun 19
Road Trip is a 2000 film about a guy who videotapes his affair with another girl and accidentally sends it to his girlfriend studying in another university 1,800 km from there. Discovering the mistake, he tows three of his friends on a journey from Ithaca, N.Y. to Austin, Texas, to save his lifelong romance.
There are many road trip films to watch, so you forget you are stuck at home: Easy Rider, Thelma and Louise, The Blues Brothers, Little Miss Sunshine, The Motorcycle Diaries, On the Road, Rain Man. I am a fan of road trips. Although I have road-tripped only in Europe, there is one thing I have learned throughout the years. It is not that much about where you travel but how and with whom you travel.
It is the journey that is the destination. A road trip is an adventure. So, about a month ago, I decided to make a solo road trip from Brussels to Athens. Two weeks after my second Pfizer vaccination, I left with my 20-year-old Rover towards the south.
Now you should know that I am emotionally attached to my car. If you are one of those people who gave your car a name, assigned it a gender, or spoke about it in human-like phrases, you know what I am talking about. The Rover was there with me in significant milestones in my life, like weddings and graduations. The Rover saw my children grow up and brought them to school every day. Driving south was a ride with an old friend who has always been there.
The Rover is my Millennium Falcon. A miracle of European cooperation. British design with a BMW 2.0 D Turbo engine. I drove through Luxembourg, France, Germany, Switzerland and Italy. The last station was Greece. Now I love these countries, especially France and Italy. I stopped in Strasbourg for lunch.
The radio was playing, and the music was fun. Mostly the Rolling Stones, Lou Reed and David Bowie. Also, there were the Undertones with Teenage Kicks. Only it was day and night. The open road was perfect for clearing my mind and thinking about my new book: incredible landscapes everywhere and little traffic. Europe is a gorgeous place.
I entered Switzerland via Basel and took the road in the direction of Milano. I was lucky to put fuel in my car in Luxemburg and ride 1000 km with one fuel tank. Gasoline is costly in Switzerland.
When I arrived at the Swiss-Italian border the police stopped me at the Italian side. I thought the two policemen wanted to see my corona vaccination certificate that I proudly had next to me. But no, it was for something else. I had to come out of my cat and brutally they asked how much money I had with me.
"500 euros", I said.
One of the two policemen - I will call him "The Hulk" because of his appearance - asked me if I speak Italian.
"Si, un poco" I answered.
Then he took out a paper from his pocket with the sum of 10.000 euros and asked me again how much money I have in the car. He asked me to take out all my suitcases to give him all my money. I gave him the 500 euros cash I had with me. I was shocked. They probably thought I was a kind of Transporter, but I don't look like Jason Statham, and my car is not an Audi.
"I protest. I am a European citizen and this is Europe", I replied.
The Italian Hulk took out his handcuffs and wanted to arrest me. I was astonished. I told them that I do not have any other money than the 500 euros. The Hulk took my suitcases out of the car. After searching all of those, he found a box with ten copies of my book in the car.
"Scrittore?" he asked.
"Si scrittore" I replied.
He turned the book and saw my photo.
"Tu?" he asked again?
"Si, sono io", I answered.
From that moment, the attitude changed. They closed my suitcases, put them back in the car and said that it was OK and I could leave. The other, older, policeman said that it was just a routine control.
I drove to Como and decided to overnight there. I needed a drink. Overnight in Como by the lake. Home to Renaissance architecture and a good place to rest. I found a hotel restaurant with a fantastic view of the lake. They just opened a week ago they said, but there was only a room left. In front of the hotel there is a kind of "promenade" across the lake. Hundreds of people wearing masks walk timorously but happy. I see one school class of about twenty 15-years old walking in lines of 3-4 in their best ( well-ironed ) clothes wearing different kinds of perfumes and .. masks. Further on, a young couple is kissing. I am really touched and order a bottle of white wine.
Next day I head towards Ancona where I took the ferry boat - the iconic Superfast XI - to Greece. Mission accomplished in three days. If you have the time, I suggest to make a road trip, even if it is a short one like mine. It doesn’t matter what is going on in your life. As soon as you hit the open road, all of your worries and stresses seem to fade away.
I really love the feeling of being completely free and being in awe of the continually changing surroundings. And guess what: nobody asked if I was vaccinated. Nobody asked for a covid vaccination certificate. Only just before taking the boat in Ancona and when I arrived in Greece. However, everybody I met was wearing a mask. There is a kind of conformity about that in the EU. COVID-19 started as a pandemic quickly uniting all in isolation. It could be a small step towards further unification. Vive la liberté. Vive l'Europe!