Thursday, July 24, 2008

Lies they tell us about Europe - Installment 1

On the autobahn in Germany you can drive as fast as you want.

Not exactly true. The speed limit on the autobahn is 130 kph (about 80 mph), just like it is almost everywhere in Europe except Belgium, where it's 120. There are sections of the autobahn where you see
the "end of all previous prohibitions and restrictions" sign. Then you can drive as fast as conditions permit. But those stretches tend to be not all that long in many parts of the country. And "conditions" include traffic. The autobahn in much of Germany is just unbelievably congested. It's like one gigantic Capital Beltway (NC readers, think I-40 between Durham and Raleigh) all the time. In more rural areas, like down south, you can actually get up some speed; but in many areas, you can't even go the speed limit because of another phenomenon: every German man thinks he's the fastest thing on the road. So what winds up happening is that everybody gets in the left lane, and you wind up driving 100. Why the left lane? Because unlike in the US, you do not pass on the right here. Europeans (well, at least Northern Europeans) are very strict about this. You drive in the right lane except when passing and always pass on the left. Passing on the right can get you a fine of several hundred euros and a chance to learn lots of quaint local gestures, some of which we also use.

End result: you don't drive as fast in Germany as we always heard you could.

1 comment:

Gloria said...

We did notice when we were there in May that the traffic has increased significantly compared to our time there in the early '90s. But I guess that is inevitable. But they still drive rather crazy in Italy. The only difference was the absence of the remarkable constant horn blowing we experienced on our vacation there when we were stationed in Belgium. As we were leaving Rome this time to drive north, there was a horrible traffic jam. Lane markings meant nothing. It was basically a herd of tiny cars jockying for a meter advantage. We had a rented Smart car that was dented on every panel. It drove (and rode) so badly that I never want to even ride in one again. And speaking of gasoline prices, when I got my credit card bill last month, the fill-up on that car was $90. Makes me feel better that although I am now over $40 for my Volvo, I haven't gone past $50. Crazy.