Saturday, 17 April 2021


Avoiding the Autobahn, by Tony Straw.



           The arrival of Covid-19 has effectively ruined the world’s travel plans.  One cannot now travel with the freedom we all took for granted just a year ago:  we are now the nation (the Team of Five Million) who, because they must stay at home, must also play at home.  Fair enough.  But we can always remember yesteryear when a chance cough as a stranger passed by didn’t make our hair stand on end, and nostalgia trips were what we experienced when we viewed all the photos of various Great Holidays.  Now we must rely on others to provide the nostalgia trips for us, and Levin author Tony Straw (Bon Vivant and all-round Good Bloke) has filled the gap admirably with ‘Avoiding the Autobahn’, an account of a trip that he and his wife Lee made to central Europe in 2015.

            Flying via San Francisco for a couple of day’s sightseeing and shopping (‘Going shopping with your husband is like shopping with the Game Warden’ observes Lee.  Any woman would agree.), then, having a last beer (Tony has an Advanced Degree in Beer Appreciation) at the airport they tip their large, exuberant barmaid all their remaining dollars after she deliberately regurgitates her tongue-piercing.  She relishes their admiration of her vast array of ‘body-jewellery’.  Pride knows no Pain!

            From San Francisco to Zurich, then on to Berlin to meet friends Adrian and Ulrike.  A rough itinerary is planned, car hire and travel from North to South on the minor roads to avoid the stress (for timid Kiwis unused to 200+KPH speeds) of the ubiquitous Autobahn system.  The Czech Republic and Austria are on the way, but what better place to start than Berlin, that wonderful Paris of the North (they say that about so many cities, don’t they, but it’s true.), steeped in culture and history, good-fellowship und bier.  Lots of it.  Und Wurst.  Every kind imaginable and all excellent.  Except Curry Wurst:  it is impossible to understand Berliners’ attraction to Curry Wurst so it’s best not to try.  It will be one of life’s mysteries.

            The tour starts:  on the road with Tony, Lee – and their recalcitrant GPS baptised Gretel.  Gretel has a mind of her own and shows it at every opportunity, taking them on some wild rides into very obscure places, regardless of how carefully Tony has programmed their route.  Driving is hazardous anyway;  thanks to having to drive on the ‘right’ side of the road,  our Kiwis are already at a disadvantage without having to battle Gretel.  BUT!

            All’s well that ends well:  Tony charms us all with his warm and witty commentary of a wonderful holiday that may be their last  for some considerable time thanks to Covid – but not permanently, I hope:  at the end of the book they were already planning their next trip.  Let’s hope it can eventually happen, so that we can enjoy the next instalment.  FIVE STARS



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