W hen the bull comes back sooner Covered in ash and bleeding from abrasions came from the tennis court, it was said in the clubhouse: 'The name says it all.' The same can be said without a doubt for the Swedish auto-motor-und-sport colleague Nils. His last name is Svärd, which means sword in German, and even on his first trip in Chinese city traffic, the man from Stockholm glides through the morning chaos like a knife through butter.
The road book announces on the second stage of the Trans-China tour not only a tight 546 kilometers, but first of all a whopping three quarters of an hour to get out of the seven million capital of Shandong province. Car number three started earlier in the lower midfield of the 20 Audi Q3 armada, when the city limits are behind us, it easily made up four places. At the first major intersection, he skilfully circles a ball of lurking cyclists on the road. The next time we turn right, we accidentally land on the bike path, which turns out to be a brilliant move.
The pedestrian lane, which is not perfectly recognizable as such for rickshaws, cuts off two traffic lights on the inside. No Chinese get upset about the car on the dirt road until Nils turns with a smooth hook back onto the four-lane arterial road and quickly crosses from far right to far left, and bang, we're out of the woods.
It is market day and Operation Chicken is starting
The route soon leads south into a pretty river valley, in contrast to the completely flat area of A welcome change the day before. The Chinese think so too, which is why countless bridges span the river, leading to just as many restaurants on the western bank. In Beimingcun there is a market which, for the sake of simplicity, is held on the main thoroughfare. Nils sets out to buy tea.
Fruit glows in bright colors, it smells of fresh pastries every few meters, in a corner a flying shoe seller is selling his goods on the rummaging table of his truck bed. A corner further, a never-ending pile of rubbish winds like a river bed through the middle of the town. There are other market stalls next to it and the comb seller happily waves at the camera, while piles of rotting plastic are just a meter awaystack. That is China, too.
On departure we come across three Audi ladies lounging conspiratorially in front of the chicken cages. Even people in the Middle Kingdom were treated negligently for millennia, who can expect animals to be looked after better? Crammed together in a very small space, they offer a picture of horror. Most animals are half plucked before they are killed. Are the three ladies planning a spectacular rescue operation? 'We're working on it,' they whisper to us. In the meantime, we continue to roll unobtrusively so as not to cause a stir.
The route is being calculated, the bridge is still being built
Soon we will be the last in the field and see each other while taking photos at the Duozhuang reservoir facing the rag-collectors. Two silver Audi Q3 escort vehicles follow us, plus another in orange metallic, manned by mechanics. Plus two VW buses and an ambulance. The emperor did not travel much more conspicuously through the country during the inspection of his empire.
Everything is relaxed until a young Chinese lady suddenly gestures at the right side window at a railroad crossing. Nils makes a defensive gesture. We don't buy anything at the door. Then she shows her Audi ID, slightly desperate. 'You drove wrong,' she says. Our navigation system says the opposite. Well, in the support vehicle manned by four Chinese, you will already know where to go.
Turning around quickly, we gondola to the eastern outskirts of Taishan, where one of the five sacred mountains of China is located. But we have no eyes for the 1,500-meter-high mountain of the same name, because the motorway entrance demands our full attention. The navigation system leads us in a simple loop to the G3, only that in reality the bridge is only halfway up.
No problem, in the village past the Buddha Temple one stroke to the west, then to the south the highway, the gap would be worn out. But now there is a quarter of an hour consultation in a department store parking lot. Telephones are used, radio is used, the computer is started, reset and restarted, and another telephone call and radio are used, until the Chinese admit: 'Our GPS has got lost.'
The navigation system insistently warns
In the end, the small convoy follows the route through the city, past the Buddha temple to the west and so on. Everything would be very relaxed now if the friendly lady in the navigation device did not constantly ask to turn around soon. We did not go to one of the programmed waypoints, now she insists on returning. Three quarters of an hour late we reach Qufu, where there is a lunch break and a dainty string quartet in yolk yellow robes with a sweet smile relieves our tension.
That is not appropriate here anyway. Finally is Qufuthe home of the legendary philosopher Kong Fu Zi, whom Jesuit monks Latinized as Confucius 2000 years after his death in 479 BC following the custom of the time. Starting out as a barn keeper, he soon made a steep climb and made it to the building and justice minister, but had to flee to court intrigue.
He embarked on a 13-year hike. The time of the quarreling kingdom brought him to two realizations: first, that man has to be noble, and second, that order must prevail. This created a network of respect and obedience between parents and children, superiors and subordinates, which still runs through Chinese society today.
While he himself was indulging in the utopia that only order and the harmony resulting from it lead to true freedom, the Confucians who followed him introduced a governing regime in which many rules became ends in themselves and their rigidity into new constraints led. There is no absolute clarity about the theories of the master, because he did not leave any written instructions that were only written 100 years after his death.
Madam is silent, disoriented - finally
On the other hand, we receive verbal instructions to turn right after the toll booth at the motorway exit on the outskirts of Qingdao, but like countless colleagues, we miss the junction. Again the Madame sends us from the navigation in a circle to approach the waypoint correctly. The circle remains unfinished because the journey ends in a building yard.
Annoyed, we delete the waypoint and head for a headland, from which, according to the map, it is straight back and around the bay of the port city, Madame gives 100 kilometers as the remaining distance, and it's already after six and dark. Bull was not at the briefing, Svärd was only half listening, somehow there was talk of a tunnel.
Hopefully it will lead under the sea to the other side of the bay. If not, we won't be at the hotel before half past seven. Stier dials the service number given in the road book for assistance. They'll know what's going on at headquarters. That may be true, but only a Chinese mailbox will respond there.
We continue to meander across the southern peninsula, and the road actually continues, where the GPS device shows a dead end. Madame is quiet for five minutes, on the one hand because she can't believe how even a modern SUV can move so quickly over completely undeveloped terrain, on the other hand because she is now completely disoriented. The advantage: It is quiet for five minutes and does not prompt you to turn.
Everything will be fine. We cross under the sea, back up on the high-speed expressway not known in the GPS to the west, also bypass the one that does not exist because of the construction siteSuccessful right turn and you reach the hotel at the Olympiahafen. At dinner, an Audi person reminds us that in future we should definitely approach every waypoint indicated in the navigation device in order not to disturb the order and harmony. One of those present imperceptibly shakes his head gently. It's a bull and hardly anyone sees it because he has taken off his hat to eat.