Hello there and welcome to the BMW Car Club of America.

If you are a BMW CCA member, please log in and introduce yourself in our Member Introductions section.

Driving Bliss - Stelvio Pass and more - My solo adventure through the Alps

Discussion in 'European Delivery' started by Accel Junky, Aug 8, 2008.

    Accel Junky guest

    Post Count: 24
    Likes Received:0
    This is an account of my solo driving intensive adventure that spanned 7 days from initial flight to return home. My goal here was to drive the greatest driving roads in Europe, according to a certain Top Gear episode.

    The car: 2008 Alpine White 335i Coupe - 6spd manual, navigation, sport pkg w/ 19" style 230 wheels

    The illustrated story:

    ---------------------------------------------------

    Day 1-2: Travel and Arrival in Munich
    Monday and Tuesday, June 10th, 2008

    Well, I've been up for over 24 hours straight now. I've finally arrived in Munich after a brutal flight schedule with stops in Philly and in London (where due to strict carry on size restraints I had to check my only bag, luckily I had flattened a book bag inside of it and grabbed the valuables and essentials first). I tried my German skills out on the Polizei girl at the customs booth. It turned out that I'm not as good as I recall, but it was apparent that I made an effort. I grabbed my bag and followed the signs for the S-bahn. Just before the S-bahn escalator, there were ticket machines. One was in English but it is still a miracle that I was able to determine what ticket to buy. My 50Euro bill was not accepted, but luckily it took credit cards. I got the 10Euro "Single-Tageskarte Gesamtnetz" or single day pass for the whole network (I believe that included the S-bahn, U-bahn possibly more). Hopefully this "day" part refers to 24 hours so it will get me through my whole time here in Munich.

    I took the S1 to Moosach and got off. Fairly straightforward, however the hotel's directions claimed a three minute walk from the station to the hotel. It was more like 15 minutes, and that's after I was lucky enough to find Dachauer Strasse. The hotel seemed nice when I walked in but I soon discovered that there was no A/C. Oh well, I must have read something wrong on the website. Anyhow, it's very quiet so far but I would avoid Hotel Mayerhof in the future if you want A/C and non smoking. I had tentatively planned on meeting some family friends for dinner, but I am absolutely beat and need to shower and sleep.

    I've set about 5 alarms total for tomorrow, not including the hotel alarm clock. I don't want to sleep through my delivery.

    Hotel Mayerhof on Dachauer Strasse, Munich:
    [IMG]

    Looking across Dachauer Strasse:
    [IMG]

    Don't light matches in the fahrtzone:
    [IMG]

    Hotel Mayerhof courtyard:
    [IMG]

    Accel Junky guest

    Post Count: 24
    Likes Received:0
    My room (1):
    [IMG]

    My room (2):
    [IMG]

    Accel Junky guest

    Post Count: 24
    Likes Received:0
    Day 3: The Delivery / Escape from Munich
    Wednesday, June 11th, 2008

    I'm writing from the lounge here at the BMW Welt. Due to sheer excitement, I managed to sleep very lightly last night at the hotel, so I'm not quite caught up on sleep.

    I got some directions from the hotel desk clerks on how to get here (Bus 50 to Oberweissfeld then transfer to Bus 51 to OEZ). However when I got to Oberweissfeld I saw the U-bahn sign and decided to take that to the Olympia Zentrum where the BMW Welt center is located. To my amazement, when I got off and surfaced I was literally right at the building. I checked in and signed the Bimmerfest guestbook. I'm just waiting now for my briefing (which I understand is where they will tell me about all of the features and mechanics of the car using some sort of cool display). Then I will get to see my car and leave.

    Its official, I have my car now! After waiting in the lounge and snacking away, a hostess named Petra took me on my delivery experience. First, we headed to another floor where they had a series of flat screen and monitors and monitor tables. Here she showed me an overview of BMW design including a simulated drive to test how the DSC (Dynamic Stability Control) worked. Apparently I drove pretty aggressively, she commented on perceived video game experience which I did not deny. (I'd like to pause and thank the creators of Gran Turismo).

    After this part, we headed back down the elevator and began a descent down a flight of stairs at which the BMW cylinder building is framed by the architecture of the Welt. I peered over the ledge and there my car was, spinning on a turntable with a spotlight on it! Of course, I took a few hundred pictures, but then we reviewed anything that I didn't know about the car (mainly the navigation system, yep first time here). Petra helped me get my first address (Bormio, Italy) plugged in for directions, and then off I went. The car came with about a 1/3 tank of gas, so I just headed on out of Munich right away, catching rush hour as it seemed. This is where it started raining….for the remainder of the day.

    I took the A8 towards Austria/Salzburg then headed towards Innsbruck. I stopped at a gas station somewhere around a dozen miles or so before the border and bought the required safety vest and 10 Tage Vignetten (10 day vignette). I also bought a map of the Alps in the event my nav let me down. Gas was 76Euro (or somewhere around $115) for about 48 litres (or 12.68 gallons) - $9.06 per gallon by the way. I crossed the border with no issues and eventually got onto Reschen Pass which took me through countless small villages through the valleys. Eventually I reached a Swiss border crossing and had to pull over to have my passport and registration documents checked. The guard spoke perfect English. About 18 miles or so from my destination (Bormio, Italy) I discovered that the route was taking me up the Umbrail Pass!

    The premium lounge at BMW Welt:
    [IMG]

    The driving simulator:
    [IMG]

    The view while descending the stairs to my new car:
    [IMG]

    Any doubts of the color combination and wheel selection, POOF, GONE:
    [IMG]

    Accel Junky guest

    Post Count: 24
    Likes Received:0
    Zero miles. Finally, after 18 used cars and bikes, this one is a clean slate:
    [IMG]

    On my way to Bormio, somewhere along the Reschen Pass:
    [IMG]

    Accel Junky guest

    Post Count: 24
    Likes Received:0
    Day 3 Continued: The Umbrail Pass
    Wednesday, June 11th, 2008

    Just a matter of miles from Bormio, I turned onto the Umbrail Pass. I wasn't planning on taking this but the navigation system took me this way, and I'm glad! This road took me (pretty much just me, only one other car on the road) up a mountain via narrow initially tree lined roads with the occasional random cow crossing or calf feeding in the middle of the road. I'm not one for scenery but the view here literally took my breath away. I safely stopped in the middle of the road once or twice to nail a good shot. As I ascended I could watch the exterior temp drop and I started to worry about snow or ice at the top. Luckily, temps went from about 57F at the base to 42F at the peak. Just prior to reaching the peak, fog consumed the air and visibility was next to none. The drop offs were very steep and there were little or no guard rails. I had to be very careful, especially with the inclement weather.

    I reached the peak and took an obligatory shot of the altitude marker. The way down was much easier and quicker. There were some more breathtaking views here along with a cool waterfall. On the way down, I ran into some sort of gate closing off the road. Luckily an Italian came out and with me not knowing any English, I established that the gate was only open until 8pm. But after discovering that I was American and staying in Bormio for the night, he chuckled and gave the "shh, don't tell the authorities" motion letting me through along with another car.

    It wasn't long from there before I arrived here in Bormio for the night. The Hotel Genzianella, though a budget minded place, turned out to be very nice. It is family owned and one of the daughters helped check me in. Definitely an upgrade from the Hotel Mayerhof in Munich. All of the reviews I read were accurate. I even got a balcony with marble flooring! Tomorrow I wake up and hit the Stelvio Pass, San Bernardino Pass and stop in Alessandria, Italy for the night.

    Another village on the way to Bormio. Just the tip of the iceberg that is the Alps:
    [IMG]

    Early on in the ascension of the Umbrail Pass:
    [IMG]

    The Umbrail Pass turns to gravel temporarily:
    [IMG]

    The obligatory elevation/pass sign shot at the peak of the pass:
    [IMG]

    Accel Junky guest

    Post Count: 24
    Likes Received:0
    A scenic view, descending the Umbrail Pass:
    [IMG]

    And again:
    [IMG]

    And...again:
    [IMG]

    Alpine asphalt spaghetti, just after the Umbrail Pass/Stelvio Pass split:
    [IMG]

    Accel Junky guest

    Post Count: 24
    Likes Received:0
    My hotel room at the family run La Genzianella Hotel, in Bormio. Easily the nicest hotel and most pleasant environment of my trip:
    [IMG]

    Accel Junky guest

    Post Count: 24
    Likes Received:0
    Day 4: Driving the Stelvio Pass
    Thursday, June 12th, 2008

    I woke up this morning to a hearty Italian breakfast. As I was checking out of Hotel Genzianella in Bormio, Federica (one of the family's daughters) offered to bring me breakfast. So I sat down and enjoyed some Speck (a type of meat, pretty good), Italian bread with formaggio cheese spread, Nutella and a few pastries.

    I departed for the Stelvio pass. As it turned out I just needed to take part of the road that I came down from the night before, back up to where I was let through the gate after hours. There I turned right and the Stelvio pass started. The way up was certainly entertaining, but had no where near the number and complexity of curves and switchbacks as the opposite side of the pass. I went right through the top when I reached it. I descended the other side. This was where the famous 48 switchbacks were (#48 is the first one near the bottom and 1 is the final). This was pretty fun to drive with constant attention to the steering wheel, brakes and downshifting. Rock walls were always a matter of inches from my side mirrors. I turned around at the bottom and drove back up, stopping at the top for some souvenirs. I managed to converse with a shop owner as she spoke German and Italian, so I mixed and matched what I knew (mostly German). I drove back down the less intense side on my way back down to Bormio. So, I did drive up and down both sides of the Stelvio Pass. Check, done.

    From Bormio I headed towards the San Bernardino Pass in Switzerland, stopping in Lavigne for gas on the way. The station had someone pump for me, so I tipped the guy a 2Euro coin just in case. One of the other employees spoke a little English so we conversed for a bit and he asked where I was from (thought they would be able to tell at that point). He mentioned that Lavigne was a beautiful town, but I didn't really know at that point. As I proceeded from there I saw what he was talking about. The town was set in a valley surrounded by monster mountains, but then I saw a really awesome lake surrounded by more Alpine mountains. From here I approached what looked to be a border gate but was a toll…..for an extremely long tunnel! The toll was 10Euro but this one lane tunnel was easily a mile or more. It literally took minutes to drive through this thing going around 40mph. On the other side was the border crossing (back into Switzerland). The guard asked for any declared goods, but I just showed my passport nervously and he waived me on. Almost to the San Bernardino Pass….

    The view from my room in Bormio:
    [IMG]

    The approach to the Stelvio Pass:
    [IMG]

    Ascending the south side of the Stelvio Pass:
    [IMG]

    A famous shot: Looking down the north side of the Stelvio Pass:
    [IMG]

    Accel Junky guest

    Post Count: 24
    Likes Received:0
    Other enthusiasts enjoying those famous switchbacks:
    [IMG]

    An epic shot while descending the north side:
    [IMG]

    As you descend further down the north side, mountain scenery turns to flourishing forestry:
    [IMG]

    Just before turning around to ascend. the first switchback on the north side. They count down as you climb towards the top:
    [IMG]

    Accel Junky guest

    Post Count: 24
    Likes Received:0
    Traveling back to the top from the north, a view of the switchbacks to come:
    [IMG]

    Don't want to leave the front side of the car out:
    [IMG]

    The all-too-familiar scene at the top of the Stelvio Pass:
    [IMG]

    Another obligatory elevation sign shot:
    [IMG]

    Accel Junky guest

    Post Count: 24
    Likes Received:0
    Looking down part of the south side of the Stelvio Pass:
    [IMG]

    Accel Junky guest

    Post Count: 24
    Likes Received:0
    Day 4 continued: More Driving Bliss - The San Bernardino Pass
    Thursday, June 12th, 2008

    As I got closer to the San Bernardino Pass, I had to wing the directions a little due to the navigation system's tendency to choose to larger roadways. At one point I thought I had missed it and just about gave up, but I watched for a few signs as my map showed me getting closer and eventually saw a sign off of the highway near Hinterhein. I'm glad I did.

    This pass wasn't as technical as the Stelvio, in that there were fewer switchbacks and curves leading to the top but at the top there were level elevation curves across the mountain. The best part was the lake that was at the top near the San Bernardino Pass sign.

    After completing pass 2 of 3, I continued on towards Alessandria, Italy. Just a strategic place I chose to stay the night at before proceeding to the Col de Turini and Nice in France. It took a couple of hours to get there, and I got to experience three types of tolls on the way. Credit Card (insert card and go), cash (pay euro coins) and the "grab a ticket which you later insert in the toll both off of an exit and pay by card" method.

    Finding the hotel was a little tough as the streets in this city were very narrow (think the movie Ronin or any other car chase seen taking place in a European city), but I managed to find it. The A/C here worked! And internet worked in my room! The room was very nice with a king bed (I didn't choose that), lots of marble etc…. Again, a budget choice, but maybe it was the nicest in a cheap area? Parking was almost nonexistent here as the Hotel takes up the corner of a block of tightly spaced buildings. I was told to park in a lot just down the block, which I did. I was a little nervous about that while trying to get a good night's rest.

    A beautiful scene just prior to the Swiss border:
    [IMG]

    The pass starts off with the usual switchbacks like the Stelvio, but then plateaus to flat curves with bodies of water at elevation. Easily my favorite image from the trip:
    [IMG]

    More alpine spaghetti, continuing along the San Bernardino Pass:
    [IMG]

    Yet another obligatory altitude sign shot, with a bonus high elevation lake:
    [IMG]

    Accel Junky guest

    Post Count: 24
    Likes Received:0
    The 335i posing next to the lake at the top of the San Bernardino Pass:
    [IMG]

    A view while descending the south side of the San Bernardino Pass. My second favorite image from the trip:
    [IMG]

    My room at the Hotel Londra in Alessandria, Italy. Super nice for the money, marble galore, king bed:
    [IMG]

    By far the biggest bathroom yet:
    [IMG]

    Accel Junky guest

    Post Count: 24
    Likes Received:0
    Day 5: The final driving road - Col de Turini - and arrival in Nice
    Friday, June 13th, 2008

    Well, thankfully my car was still around when I went back to the lot in the morning. I continued on towards the Col de Turini. It took a couple of hours to reach Sospel (France), which was a small town that I had planned on using as a starter because the navigation unit would probably make finding the Col de Turini difficult if I inputted it directly. From there, I continued quite a ways until I reached the peak of the mountain, labeled as Col de Turini. I was a little disappointed as I could have sworn this was where the road was supposed to be. I searched around but only found some sort of camp and a road to another village. I decided to head down the other side towards Nice as my fuel was pretty low.

    Luckily, I went down the correct route which turned out to be the famous Col de Turini, on which part of a World Rally Championship race takes or took place as I understand. The road was not very scenic in my opinion nor did it have a very good surface, but I think it had the best all around variety of curves and had far more stonework than the others. Not too switchback intensive, but they were there in moderation and also included lots of tight esses and sweepers. And, because of my downhill direction, my fuel concern was alleviated.

    Eventually the road became tamer as I headed down the mountains to Nice. I drove through some surrounding cities and eventually made it to the BMW authorized drop off point, TT Transit, and honked the horn to get in as instructed. I nearly got myself lost several times but eventually found it. I removed my belongings, nav DVD and front license plate and kept one key as instructed (the still sealed key). After the paper work was completed (it's easy you just sign your name a few times) one of the employees moved my car within the gated lot and took me to the airport bus station. I took a bus from there closer to my hotel (basically right at the Place Massena which is a big plaza). I walked a ways trying to find my hotel. Once you see the hotel picture, you can understand why I overlooked it. This one had nice working A/C but the wi-fi was, once again, not strong enough to be accessed from my room. The room is a hair nicer than the place in Munich but nothing like the Bormio or Alessandria hotel.

    Believe it or not, I hadn't eaten dinner at all on my trip so far, so I decided to shower up, explore, and then get dinner. I took the short walk down to the Promenade de Anglais which is basically like a big boardwalk/ocean-side walkway where people are sitting, skating, biking, running, walking etc…. It was quite funny seeing all of the tourists here. They mostly seemed like other Europeans but in general they all had the same look going: designer sunglasses, sun dresses, buttons undone in the white long sleeve shirts, walking small dogs. I chuckled a bit to myself thinking of the stereotype. I took some photos and read the beach signs to see if there were any special rules. I continued around towards what looked like a bay where lots of expensive yachts were docked. I even saw a big pink house which supposedly is owned by Elton John. After that I headed back looking for a place to eat and nothing really stood out as far as places I remember hearing about, so I just stopped at a pizza place (lots of pizza here since Nice is right next to the Italian border). I ate a Tomato/Seafood/Garlic pizza which definitely appeared to have true local sea life thrown on it. It was here, sitting by myself at a table that I really could see why you need someone else to be with you on vacation when you aren't driving cool roads locked up in your car. I explored a little more after this but decided to call it a night.

    A switchback, while beginning the descent of the Col de Turini:
    [IMG]

    Lots of stone work on the Col de Turini, almost castle like walls:
    [IMG]

    The view of the Alps along the Col de Turini is quite green in comparison to the snow draped Alps in northern Italy and eastern Switzerland:
    [IMG]

    The Col de Turini winding down the mountain side:
    [IMG]

    Accel Junky guest

    Post Count: 24
    Likes Received:0
    Combining switchbacks and esses:
    [IMG]

    The last of the elevation/pass sign shots:
    [IMG]

    At the drop-off in Nice, saying goodbye...for now.
    [IMG]

    My hotel, Regence, right smack dab in the middle of Nice action on Rue Massena:
    [IMG]

    Accel Junky guest

    Post Count: 24
    Likes Received:0
    The epic Cote d'Azur shot. The view is as good as the beach will get. No sand here.
    [IMG]

    A talented Nice local, performing a non-traditional slalom on the Promenade:
    [IMG]

    A view of the local yachts. Elton Johns pink mansion is a little further to the right outside of the frame. The parking area is for the ferry goers:
    [IMG]

    Nice is very active during the summer, even late into the night:
    [IMG]

    Accel Junky guest

    Post Count: 24
    Likes Received:0
    Day 6: Nice Day II
    Saturday, June 14th, 2008

    Today I slept quite late. It was nice to finally get a good night's sleep. After I woke up I grabbed some lunch to go and went out to the beach to eat. Then I swam in the ocean a little (pretty cold) and tried to lie out and relax in the sun but the beach consists of no sand and just golf ball to baseball size rocks. I would not recommend this beach over some US beaches even though the water is better looking. After this I walked back to the hotel and showered then went back out to find some souvenirs and to eat dinner. I bought a panini and a drink and sat in the Place Massena (plaza) to eat. Afterwards I had some ice cream from a shop. I had a scoop of Nutella ice cream and then another flavor that the shop girl recommended when I asked what her favorite flavor was. Not sure what it was called, but both were pretty good.

    I walked around for a little while longer looking at a lot of the shops. Then I headed back to the hotel to trial pack for the trip home tomorrow. My worry here was that my one piece of luggage was not going to get allowed as a carryon (slightly larger than the dimensions but it is still a small roller). The problem being that my connection in the UK would be tight and I wouldn't have time to leave the terminal, go to baggage claim and go back through security and still make my flight to Philly. So, my plan was to attempt to take the luggage and if I got stopped then I'd break out my flattened book bag that is inside and grab all of my essentials and ditch the luggage and some of the non-important items such as older T-shirts and stuff that I brought for that very reason if needed. It would be much cheaper to buy another roller suitcase than to miss a $700 flight

    I was also a little nervous about the connection at UK-Gatwick because I couldn't print my boarding pass in advance (they only let you print it within 24hrs of the flight). My hotel did not have a printer for me to use and the local internet cafes were closed.

    Accel Junky guest

    Post Count: 24
    Likes Received:0
    Day 7: Back Home / Conclusion
    Sunday, June 15th, 2008

    Well, I got up at 6am, Nice time. Took the Aeroport Direct bus for 4 euro (the 98 bus for 1 euro was also an option but this one arrived first, no chances here) and eventually got back on Sunday evening. Turns out my baggage and timing issues with the flight connection worked out fine. I was quite tired and glad to be back in the States.

    This was definitely an adventure. My recommendation for others is to bring someone alone (naturally most people will) and take a few more days if you can afford the time and cost. Most importantly, for routes like these, the navigation system is worth its weight in gold. I'm sure it's possible to do with maps, but probably very difficult solo and in as short of time span as I took.

    The hardest part now is waiting for it to arrive back in the States. That could take anywhere from 4-8 weeks.

    Thanks for reading,

    -Daniel
    • Member

    az3579

    Post Count: 3,270
    Likes Received:3
    :eek:







    Here I was sitting a few hours ago thinking about what it would be like to take delivery of a new 335i (sedan for me) and I remembered that Top Gear episode (Season 10, Episode 1) and the amazing roads they went on. Then I decide to open up my browser and BAM, there's your thread with exactly what I was dreaming about a few hours ago!

    Do you have the hi-resolution pictures available? Could you pleeeeeeeeeeeease send the pics to me on a CD???

    Accel Junky guest

    Post Count: 24
    Likes Received:0
    Wow, how uncanny! They say great minds think alike :D

    PM me your mailing address and I'd be happy to burn a CD for you. Most of the pics aren't edited and there are dupes (I click frames off like nobody's business, why take chances on a trip like this lol) but I've got a good supply.

Share This Page