Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Autobahn Driving: Andy’s New Favorite Way to Travel

Over the long Pfingsten (Pentacost) holiday weekend, we rented a car to drive over to see our friends in Bremen.  I’m working on two posts about our amazing weekend right now, but first I HAVE to write about the experience of getting there.  It’s really all about the journey anyway right?  We have some friends who drive here very regularly, despite the exorbitant gas prices and scary scariness that is driving in Germany. 

Small Disclaimer about this post before I continue: I don’t even miss driving a car at home where I know all the rules, all the signs are in English, and the speed limits are more stringent.  I do miss the convenience of having a car sometimes, but honestly, I would be perfectly happy without one as long as I have satisfactory public transportation options.  It IS pretty awesome to go out to dinner with my husband and not have to decide who is going to get to have a second drink!  I was very very content to let Andy do the driving during our car driving adventure here in Germany. 

Since Andy was doing the driving, I was able to sit in the passenger seat and alternate between typing out observations on my notes app on my Handy (cell phone) and entertaining the children as best I could.  Amazingly, just like at home, the girls were still best entertained by handing them an assortment of snacks and turning on a movie on my tablet. 

Mayzie still does not appreciate the Mommarazzi,  

and Annika is still good at sleeping in the car! 

A few shorts from the journey:
  • There were NO BILLBOARDS!!  Seriously, NONE.  There were signs for the shops and fast food and all that, but mainly just the ones that are on gigantic 100m high sticks on top of the building.  It was amazing! 

  • There are a whole lot of windmill turbines visible from the highways in Northern Germany.  I probably could not have counted them all, and I can count pretty high. 

  • There IS a speed limit, but it is variable, usually 120, and in sections there is only a “recommended” limit.  The recommended one is 130, but in these sections you can drive as fast as you think is safe.  For the record: Andy got up to 201 km/hour (125 mph) before we quickly hit a traffic jam because of an accident.  It scared the crap out of me, but I never felt unsafe, if that makes any sense.  This is what the speed limit & restriction signs look like when they are blank: 

  • Andy flew past a Polizei car and instinctually hit the brake before remembering that he wasn’t breaking any laws by driving 115 km/hour.  We laughed.
  • There are awesome public health-y signs for the drivers:

            -Lass dir Zeit. (Give yourself time.)
            -Finger vom Handy. (Finger off your cell phone.)
            -Fahr nicht so schnell. (Don't drive so fast.)

  • German rest stops are disgusting!  There were exactly 2 toilets in the women’s public restrooms without seats, and they were those industrial stainless steel toilets that whoosh like a water slide.  Annika set one off while sitting on it and we had to dry her from bum to knees.  We laughed because otherwise I was going to cry while thinking about the nastiness. 
  • Construction Signs had a great way to keep you calm and let you know how much further you had to put up with delays.  It went like this:

            -8,5 km more—red mad face
            -6km more—yellow so so face
            -4km more—green ok face
            -2km more—green almost happy face
            -Geschafft (literally “managed”)—green very happy face
We need to implement something like this at home.  It would certainly cut back on my road rage in             those situations.
  • It cost us 85€ to fill up our rented wagon’s empty gas tank.  That’s $106.22 @ todays exchange rate.  OUCH! 

  • German gas stations make you pay to use the toilet, and you have to have the right change!  Thankfully they had a kiddy door that let the little ones go for free, but I most definitely did the pee-pee dance waiting for Annika to finish so I could go back to the car to get my wallet. 

Overall, I would say that the experience was not so different from home, despite the minor differences.  We managed not to break too many laws unknowingly, and the signs we didn’t understand were very patiently explained by our German friends in Bremen.  I would definitely say it was a Fahrvergnügen situation, despite the fact that we rented an Opel Kombi and not a Volkswagen.  Just so you know John Wilson, it DID have GM printed on the gas cap.  


  1. Great blog. Just to correct two things from a german point of view ;-)
    - There is no speed recommendation! When its written it's the max allowed!
    - You get back the "toilet money". Just keep the receipt and trade it in at the gas station.

    Enough from your favorite german smart-ass. ;-)

    1. I should have been more clear about posted signs are always the rule, but when there is no limit posted the recommended maximum is 130--despite the fact that MOST people are driving faster than that at least partly because they CAN.

      Thanks for the receipt clarification...we'll know for next time.

  2. I feel like I went along for the ride! Sorry about the bathrooms. Bad bathrooms can ruin everything.

    1. Bad bathrooms > no bathrooms! This country's lack of hand sanitizer also did not help though. It gives me the heebies just thinking about it actually. Ewwww. I will gladly pay 50 cents for a clean toilet and sink with soap to wash my hands afterward.



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