Today was a day to remember and a day to forget. We really don’t care what Rothenberg is like, we are so dead tired. The walk from the station to the Avis depot was enough, considering we had to wheel the suitcases over 4 kms of uneven cobblestones. We really expected them to tell us they didn’t have any cars left, as we had had no confirmation from them at all, but fortunately they had a brand new Fiat ready for us. And then it was time to hit the autobahn. Beautifully sealed, three-laned expressways that incorrectly limit the speed to 120kph, and even 130kph on some stretches. However, hardly anyone keeps to that speed. Only the semi trailers, which is a good thing. In fact, the semis never deviate out of the right hand lane, only to pass another semi. The amazing thing though is that Mr X averaged between 130 and 140 kph’s, and was passed by most vehicles as if he was standing still. He maintains they had to be travelling at between 160 and 180, and a couple even faster than that. It was incredible. Not a cop in sight.

After about 2 hours, Ms X suggested we hit the country roads to see a bit of rural Germany. Things were going fine, with us passing through some very quaint but lifeless ski villages, so we decided a bite to eat wouldn’t go astray. Ms X had a lovely salad rool, while Mr X is still waiting for his salami toast. It just didn’t arrive, and as the waitress did not speak a word of English, it wasn’t worth the effort to complain. So he went over to pay the bill, and decided to mimick that he wanted a salad roll to take with him. He pretended to eat and at the same time drive a car, but madame fraulein still looked at him with a blank German face, so we walked out, with Mr X now even hungrier than before. Storm clouds were gathering over his head, but they didn’t match the ones coming in from the west. They were as black as batman’s undies and as threatening as a Geelong forward thrust, so we decided discretion was the better part of valour and parked the car in a side street to allow the storm to pass. Before we knew it, hailstones as big as marbles were battering the car (sure glad we took out comprehensive insurance in the Italian mini!). Soon it became deafening and real thoughts of permanent damage to the car made us decide to move it to a safer location. It didn’t take Mr X long to find a vacant car port belonging to a local resident, who I’m sure wouldn’t have minded two scared little Aussies using it as a refuge for the next 45 minutes. Even after that time, it was still a deluge, but at least the damaging hail had stopped falling. Venturing back out into the streets awakened us to the chaotic scenes taking place. The drainage system could not cope with the incessant deluge, and there were already people sweeeping water out of their homes, rivers of stormwater were covering the streets, and even one elderly woman was trying to salvage what she could whilst dressed in her bathers. The car in front of us failed to see the sign in the middle of the road and side-swiped it accidentally. Finally, after many detours by an army of vigilant fire-fighters around flooded areas, we managed to escape the maelstrom and be able to recommence our journey to Rothernberg. But like a shadow you can never catch, so was the mission to find Rothernberg. Town after town, detour after detour because of roadworks (and in Germany, it seems to be the custom that it’s OK to put in a detour sign, but its then up to the motorist to find his own way back to the main route). And their other joy in life is to name a town on a sign, then not mention it for the next 50 kilometers, at the same time mentioning every other town in Germany at the many forks in the road. U-turn after u-turn followed, and the air in the car could be cut with a knife. Darkness was approaching, and we were no closer to our destination than we were an hour ago. At one stage we even came to a dead end. There was no more road to go! We found 4 very likeable Germans who didn’t speak a word of English between them, including Cousin Eddie from National Lampoon. So they were useless in putting us on the right path. Ms X then rang the Romantik Hotel to tell them not to get rid of our room, and more importantly give us directions, thus enabling us to somehow get back on course, even with Mr and Ms X spending the final 2 hours without any conversation between them what-so-ever!

Finally, we crawled in to a totally dark Rothernberg at 10:30pm, eleven hours after setting sail for what should have been a 4 hour cruise! Now we know how Gilligan and the skipper must have felt.

But the wait and frustration was worth it, because the Romantik Hotel was magnificent. The owner greeted us out in the street as we arrived, took our bags for us, parked the car, gave us the choice of two superb rooms, then cooked us a dinner where we practically licked the plate. During the feast, Mr and Ms X looked at each other across the table and both burst out laughing. It had been a day to remember alright.