28 Jun 2006

driving in germany

i wanted to go outside of the cities, so we left the last three days in Germany to chance. that is, all i had planned was hiring a car from nuremburg and then drive around bavaria and go wherever we felt like, find accommodation when we get to where ever we fancied.

driving on the right

the challenging thing for me is that i've only driven in australia. i did drive a couple of hours in the states for no other reason except that my dad was feeling "lucky" and let me go behind the wheel in my uncle's car. that was a pretty scary experience battling out on the roads of new jersey against SUVs. for those who don't know, you drive on the left in australia, and in europe, they drive on the right side of the road.

the biggest trouble i had with driving on the other side was that i kept on looking at the wrong place for my rear view mirrors. i think it took me nearly a whole 24 hours to get used to looking for the rear view mirror in the right place. i ended up just using the side mirrors as my rear view mirror. same thing goes for your seat belt's position and looking backwards when reversing!
but we were quite lucky with our rental car. i had booked an automatic car (because i didn't want to have to battle with stick shift on with the wrong hand given that i'm already battling with keeping the car on the right side of the road), but they ran out of automatics except for this massive volvo XC70. i'm not sure whether it is the automatic or the fact it's a huge car, but it is really sluggish off the line. however, it was really comfortable, and had GPS navigation which probably saved me hours of getting lost and frustration with maps.
the guy at the counter tried to sell me some sort of insurance excess waiver cover saying that if i had to claim, i needed to pay €700 excess, whereas if i took the excess cover, i would only need to pay €22/day. i found that a bit insulting that he'd thought i'd crash the car, so i didn't take it. i'm happy to report that i didn't cause any accidents in germany, except running up the curb while driving under a railway bridge on the last day, but didn't cause any damage. in fact i even navigated the treacherous streets of munich to return the car, which i believe you get a medal for.


autobahn rocks

if there was only one thing i love about Germany, it is the autobahn. these are those motorways that have no speed limit. actually, in some parts they do, but only for very short sections where maybe they go through a city and want to keep the noise down or some road works is happening. when i first got on, i drove at a pretty conservative 120kph on the slow lanes, by the end of the three days, i was driving 180kph on the medium lanes and occasionally on the fast lane. still i would be overtaken by audis and porsches going at probably 220-240kph.

driving on the autobahn is like commiting a crime you can get away with -- kind of like pirating movies! in fact, once you've driven on the autobahn, i don't think i can go back to driving on motorways with speed limits. on those autobahns, the speed limit is when you start to feel you are losing control of the car, which was quite slow for me because i hadn't driven for such a long time.

other driving observations

i had to cross over into Austria on our last day to take a scenic shortcut from Füssen to Linderhof. i thought the borders would have security or what not, but in fact you barely even notice it except for a sign saying that if you drive on the motorways in Austria you need some sort of pass.

also when going back into Germany, you immediately notice the appearence of lines on the same road where on the Austrian section, they were too lazy to put any lines on!

the most difficult thing to master while driving in Germany for me was driving in carparks. on the roads it is alright because you know which lanes you're supposed to go in because there are either cars parked on the road or you are already driving so its easy to visualise. however, in a carpark you easily get confused.

and more than once i activated my wipers rather than my indicator, which is embarrassing and dangerous all at the same time.

final thing about driving though, petrol is very expensive in Germany. i was paying €1.35/litre of regular unleaded. it is probably the equivalent in $AUD in australia. filling up the volvo cost me nearly €72 for 50 litres.

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