We've seem these little "Smart" cars all over Europe - especially in Germany and Italy. They cost about USD 6-8,000 and we've been curious about their gas milage. Seems pretty smart to me.
The first few hours of driving from Milan were hell. We thought we'd flex our independent wings and dismiss the interstate and sieze the rural roads, where we would surely be winding through tiny Italian villages within minutes.
Four hours later and barely outside of Milan, we realized our predicament. We had not found rural Italy, but industrial zone after industrial zone (or perhaps the same one as we were lost for a while). We did see a farm along the way. Oh, and it was raining the whole time, did I mention that? The lesson is that sometimes interstates are better- and they even have wi-fi at some rest stops!
However all was not lost. The inside of the rental car was quite nice. The rental car place was out of the economy car we reserved (Insert Seinfeld reference here). So, darn it, they had to give us an Alfa Romeo instead. That added some sun to a day of rain.
Once we escaped the industrial zone, we did a drive that was one of the best of the whole trip. Between Milan and Verona, Lago di Garda (a lake) stretches north into the Alps. To finish the day, we drove around the lake and even through the fog and rain it made up for the suffering of the morning.
We're taking lots of pics, etc. but the hotels so far have not had reasonable Internet access. The hotel from last night wanted (USD 1.20/minute). Shyaah, as if.
It took us 4 busses and 3 trains to do it, but we have finally arrived in Narvik, Norway, from Helsinki, Finland - the starting point for exploring the Lofoten Islands and fjords via rental car over the next few days. Narvik is a cool little town that has the northernmost train station (and supposedly disco) in the world. It is a few hours north of the Arctic Circle by train.
This completes our overland trek from Beijing - from the Pacific to the Atlantic across Eurasia. Going from Asia to Norway seems like traversing planets instead of the same land mass. What a contrast.
On the way through we stopped at Rovaniemi, which is known for being so close to the Arctic Circle and having Santa's "official" residence. Surprise, surprise - it was a giant gift shop!
I wasn't really upset - i just love making stupid faces in these contraptions.
We did cross the Arctic Circle for the first time there though...
...so we can check that one off the list.