In an earlier post, I waxed lyrical about the prospect of travelling via the Grand St Bernard Tunnel through the European Alps on the outbound leg of our trip to Montenegro. Yet I’m embarrassed to admit that – as we travelled on our homebound journey through Croatia northwards from Zadar towards Zagreb – our tunnelling experiences far outshone any romanticised notion of the GSBT.
Having effectively bypassed Zadar, our route continued on an all-new, barely-unwrapped A1/E65 dual carriageway which began climbing towards the awe-inspiring mountains of the Velebit range, honeycombed with road-tunnels, each of which appeared after almost every sweeping, inclined bend. And as if Croatia’s finest civil engineers were keen to prove a point, these impressive tunnels were accompanied by similarly awe-inspiring viaducts of scare-inducing height.
Our intrepid journey along this particular stretch of motorway was made even more so by the quickly developing gale-force wind which had sprung up as we climbed higher. Gantry signs flashed graphic warnings at our high-sided vehicle as we emerged from one tunnel onto a huge, arcing and perilously high viaduct which crossed the neck of a huge sea-strait and lagoon below us.
The motorway’s indicator windsock was bulging and buckling at its post – almost tearing from its mounting as we passed – by which time we were down to 30kph in order to wrestle with the Knumptywagen’s seemingly-possessed steering wheel. Plucky caravanners and all those lucky motorists towing oversized powerboats were forced to crawl in jittery convoy in the (very) slow lane, as their expensive appendages swayed alarmingly and alternately in towards the concrete parapet and then out again as we edged past.
Respite from the wind was only acheived once inside a tunnel, each of which was individually named (alongside undoubtedly proud Constructor’s branding) but the most telling attribute to the engineers’ skills were the signboards announcing each tunnel’s length. GSBT, eat your heart out! We actually lost count of the number of tunnels which were either its equal – or indeed longer – in terms of kilometres travelled underground. Even the Sveti Rok tunnel pipped the GSBT by a couple of hundred metres in length and (we later noted) was far better value since the road-toll had cost much less – and we’d enjoyed a whole lot of smooth extra miles plus lots of cross-wind induced nerve-twisting excitement thrown in for free!
Footnote: With apologies to regular readers who may have been shocked by the untimely publication of this tale. Contrary to appearances, we are NOT still travelling around Croatia – I just discovered this unpublished draft and thought – what the hell – publish and be damned!