Road Trip: Commie Style


All tunnels are well marked identifying traffic moving in both directions, the speed limit (kilometers per hour here), and whether passing is allowed or not.
austrian tunnelSome of the tunnels can be quite long and expensive but I get a kick out of driving through a mountain. Sure beats driving around it! Most tunnels will show you every half a mile or so how many kilometers are in either direction of the tunnel. The Karawankentunnel from the border with Slovenia up the Austrian Alps is 5 miles long and costs $7 Euros to traverse. It was completed in 1991 and shortly after completion, it was briefly seized by the Yugoslav People's Army.  

Don't get caught on camera! Austria happens to be home to a bridge-tunnel-speed camera-repeat system of roadways. There are speed cameras before almost every tunnel and sporadically placed to keep you on your toes. But they are very well identified so as long as you fixate on those signs or assign a navigator as your lookout, you should spot them in enough time to adjust your speed. If you don't, you'll get a ticket a few months later in the mail!

Since Slovakia gained its independence in 1993, it has become home to a large number of car manufacturers from Volkswagen (Bratislava) and Puegeot Citroen (Trnava) to Kia (Zilina). Skoda also produces cars out of its partnership with VW. Automotive parts production have increased tenfold and even R&D in electric vehicles has taken off. There are advertisements everywhere for car manufacturers and tire companies.


BratislavaLove the checkered flag roof and trim…
Hungarian borderThe border between Slovakia and Hungary is (a few months ago at least) a vast, desolate space of abandoned border posts. 

Purchasing a toll in Hungary proved to be more confusing than most countries to the west. Pulling up to the overgrown remains of what was once a pretty solid border, there were no signs where to purchase the toll. In fact, there were hardly any signs of life. Stumbling upon the correct office, the lady officiating spoke no English. In some version of pidgin sign language and me making it rain Hungarian forints, she indicated she needed the Panda's license plate number. Vignettes in Hungary are actually not windshield stickers, but license plate scanners you pass through on the highway that check against the database from which the government gifts you a souvenir in ticket form.

I later discovered you can actually buy this toll online which I'd highly recommend. The penalty for getting caught without purchasing a toll is about $140,000 HUF (forints), which even with the exchange rate (a decent beer is $1-2) is a still formidable $500 USD. Most other countries affiliated to the Euro run fines of $250-300 EU for a vignette that costs about $10 for 7-10 days of travel. Vignettes for Slovakia and Austria are also available online though it doesn't appear there is any discount for purchasing ahead of time.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *