Thursday, 10 November 2011

Deutschlandreise 2011: Die Autobahn

There are two public holidays in France in November. Both are somewhat sombre in their origins: one, the 1st, is All Saints Day and the other, the 11th, is Armistice Day.

Not being particularly bothered about going to the cemetery to visit our dead relatives at the beginning of the month, Understanding Frenchman and I took a four day weekend and went to Germany instead.

We flew into Munich airport and a friend picked us up to drive us to his house near Augsburg and it was time for our first famously German experience: travelling at 180km per hour down the motorway. I've been to Germany several times, but this was the first time I had been on the open road in a car, and it was an excellent opportunity to gather further food to fuel my obsession with cross-cultural driving comparisons. (And yes, I understand that not everybody shares this particular interest. Hold out for the next post if you want to know about something less nerdy.)

My first impression was that it didn't actually feel that fast. Perhaps it's the design of the roads, or perhaps it's because German drivers don't sit up backside the of the car in front nearly as much as their Gallic neighbours, but it all seemed pretty safe. Also, unlimited is only the de-restricted speed-limit and their are lots of places where you have to stick to 120 or less. Finally, they have electronic signs which vary the speed limit according to the traffic, so you would never be able to do 200km/h if it was really busy or there was a traffic jam up ahead.

I wasn't totally convinced, however, that being able to travel at such high speeds was a massive benefit. The combination of stretches with speed limits, the fact you have to give way to a person who is pulling out in front of you means that you have to be able to accelerate pretty fast to take full advantage or the rule. My little Clio and all the similar cars I see on the roads in France would just never make it.

Which I guess explains why the Germans have a thriving automobile industry and tend to drive really big cars.

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