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TDST2017 – Day9-10: A hasty return to Switzerland

I wasn’t able to arrange a return on Monday arriving Tuesday as planned. My company requires me to be back at the office Monday morning. I leave about the same time as my family after a tearful goodbye from my Austrian family which will continue buying wine from local wineries until later this afternoon.

My destination for today is Villach – one of three destinations served by daily car-trains from Feldkirch. At 172 km, my trip today is rather short and involves me crossing through Slovenia again.

My trip today

My trip today


 
I think it’s very obvious to regular readers of my blog that I like Austria very much. Every time I leave, I do so with a sad feeling that it will be up to a year again, until I will be back again. On the plus-side today is Villach, a city I haven’t visited for the last 25+ years.

I really don't want to leave

I really don’t want to leave


 
Rather cold and windy, my drive today starts with the canopy firmly attached. It’s a stark contrast to the big blue skies and brilliant weather we’ve had for the last few days! Driving alone is always a meditative affair – after just a few km I’m at a zen level and my brain switches to travel-mode.

Today’s weather deteriorated sharply after climbing the hills between Austria and Slovenia – driving through low-hanging clouds and heavy rain has a very marked impact on my driving pleasure. More so as the climb combined with the heavy rain has let a lot of water enter the inside of my TWIKE and is now fogging up my windscreen.

The time I had allotted for stops, photos and a tasty Slovenian lunch were promptly not used, since I, cold and no longer much enjoying my drive, just pressed on to Villach.

Eventually, in torrential rain, I reach Villach late afternoon.

Here, thankfully, I find a charging station quickly and start charging at a rate which will see my TWIKE’s inside nice and warm, but at the same time at a rate which extends the warmth as long as possible. (For my fellow TWIKE pilots who want to know the details: I set the charging rate of the controller to 10A and connected a Chinese charger along the main inverter. This meant that the inverter was charging a 0A and my Chinese charger taking all the load at 10A with a loss of about 300W which was what kept my TWIKE nice and warm – as I had used 10.6kWh, this setup ensured that the inside of my TWIKE was at a very comfortable temperature for 5+ hours)

Charging in Villach thanks to my Lebensland card

Charging in Villach thanks to my Lebensland card


 
Charging was free and easy since I had requested a so-called “Lebensland” card from Tirol prior to my trip. (Test-mode with free charging) I really appreciated the effort to provide barrier-free charging to non-Type2 cars by providing 1P/CEE16.

As much as I appreciate the effort… Why yet another RFID system? No roaming, no alternative payment methods, why not free with identification? (to keep the ever-present 100kWh- Tesla’s at bay?)

I’ve already ranted about this fragmented charging point madness – some people still think there is a business case hidden somewhere in urban slow-throughput charging. I predict that this will go the same way as WiFi did – it will be a free service with fair-use boundaries which will be established with some kind of ubiquitous form of identification. (I have very concrete ideas how to do this – if you, dear reader, are someone from a pan-European consortium: CALL ME!)

Pragmatic charging options

Pragmatic charging options


 
Later that evening, I had a very tasty dinner at a local restaurant just mere metres away from Feldkirch’s main station. After finishing my meal, I drove my TWIKE to the designated ramp for my train.

Whilst I’m eternally thankful to Austria’s Öbb for providing a car-train service active year-round, whilst everywhere else in Europe alternative train services have been in terminal decline and subsequently were canceled, I can’t stop wondering how long this service will be kept alive. The price is already prohibitively high if you want to have any kind of comfort – I can’t think of many scenarios where a cheap flight and rental car is more expensive than what I’m doing right now. In summer, I totally get why these trains make sense: You want to take your old-timer to far-away places and not subject them to 1000-km motorway trips – this is how you can keep the mileage down and still go places!

For me and my TWIKE, not so long ago, at 60km range, it was a pleasure to be able to drive in Vienna without a 10x-recharge marathon to get there!

Waiting for the train

Waiting for the train


 
ÖBB’s computerized planning means that we “motorcycles” (and since there’s only me) have exactly one (1) minute to check in, since we have to be placed either at the front or end of the train…

One minute check-in!

One minute check-in!


 
Unlike last time, getting on to the train with my TWIKE is no problem at all – everyone listens carefully to my instructions on how to strap TW560 into place and make sure that everything is ok.

Ready for the trip to Feldkirch

Ready for the trip to Feldkirch


 
Now comes the boring part of the trip…waiting for the train to arrive from Croatia, to which the carriages with our vehicles will be hooked up to. As the train arrives, I board the train to get to my private compartment with shower – like a hotel room on-the-go it is really the ultimate reprieve from trans-European travel: After being personally greeted and led to my compartment, I find myself enjoying complementary Champagne or chilled white wine. Thanks to my Austrian SIM, I retreat to a spot of entertainment streamed off my server at home. Later, I emerge freshly showered to get into my freshly made full-size bed covered in freshly pressed linen only to be woken by HŽPP’s Provodnik next morning bearing freshly baked goods alongside a continental breakfast, a cup of tea and some newspapers. I’m a sucker for old-school luxury 🙂

My Croatian option for the night

My Croatian option for the night


 
After having arrived in Feldkirch at 7.30am, I drive to Zürich directly (unlike older days) and start my day with a meeting at 9.30am.

This has been – again – a brilliant TWIKE adventure. I’m looking forward to my next trip!