It was when I saw the sign on the particular A3 Autobahn Tunnel in Switzerland on our way to Wollerau that I started thinking, something that can border on aggravating or dangerous for those around me.
Now, I grew up in Minnesota. We had towns, cities, and spots on the road which might be inhabited by five people and a gas pump. All of them had names known to one and all. Lakes were names, rivers were named. Streams? Not unless they were big enough to be navigable. Given the area and the ethnic background of those providing the names (Native American or Scandinavian) the patterns were fairly simple. Long words not properly spelled or pronounced by any of the white folks wandering around who also had not a clue as to what the name meant; people and places from home being the other favorite option. Tunnels weren’t a question. I don’t think there were any mountains in Minnesota large enough to require a tunnel. That leaves bridges, most of which seemed to be named for the river that flowed underneath. Perhaps some of them had other names (including X Memorial Bridge) but most of us never learned those. Freeway bridges and over passes did not have names.
Maybe they do now and any Minnesotan reading this can certainly pipe up.
When I think about Washington, DC, I have the impression that many of the large freeway bridges have names, but then – those self same bridges are not crossing deep valleys but connecting two riverbank sides and many are named for the River.
Europeans seem to name everything. Of course, all Europeans take extensive amounts of geography in school so that they can locate all those places with interesting names. The Autobahn bridges have names; usually but not always for the valley they cross, or the river or someone who needs to be remembered or more than one of the above. In Switzerland, the tunnels are named for the mountains through which they bore. This fact leads me to the problem then of who named the mountain and why.
The particular sign said “Habsburg” which I misread as “Hapsburg” was above the entrance as we headed in at relatively good speed and me with mindless knitting on rather slippery metal needles. A little bit of research netted me the information that the particular peek was only 1540m tall and that, indeed Habsburg is an alternate spelling for Hapsburg.
By the time we were done arguing – excuse me – discussing whether or not the US named things as often as is the case in Europe we had driven three more tunnels, exited the A3, wound around a number of hills and were parking the car. The thunder, lightening and rain trying to become hail that had been 15 minutes behind us the whole trip came crashing down around us just after we settled in. More than glad not be be driving in such conditions but you would have been spared since there is no way I could have possibly read the name of anything through the sheets of water.