Saturday, 15 August 2015

What you need to know before road tripping in Germany

I'm not sure what I was expecting when road tripping through Germany, but I suppose I thought it would be similar to the Netherlands. How wrong I was - for one thing bike riding isn't nearly as much a big deal as it is to the Dutch. Here are a few things you'll want to know before road tripping in Germany. 
The autobahn was created in WWII for easy transport of tanks across long distances. The well-maintained roads have no speed limit, and even when you're doing 130 in the passing lane (the speed limit for many other European motorways), cars will come racing up and appear behind you in a flash. Stay safe and highly aware of what's going on around you. The fastest speed we got up to was 161km/hr, and it felt so fast!
If you're driving in Germany, you'll need to get a sticker for your car called an umweltplakette. These are to show how environmentally friendly your car is, ranging from green to red, and certain towns and cities only allow green stickered cars into the centre. I thought our car would be given a yellow sticker, as it runs on diesel, but as it is brand new (leased through Peugeot Euro Drive) we were given the coveted green umweltplakette. These can be obtained from a TÜV in Germany and will cost you between €5 and €12.50. 
You will initially see that many signs on the motorway show an exit for Ausfahrt. In German, this means 'exit', and as it took me far too long to realise this I will tell you now so you can learn from my mistakes. Other useful words to know are:
Einfahrt - entry
Ausgang - exit for pedestrians (used in underground car parks)
Eingang - entry for pedestrians 
In certain underground car parks, you'll see these symbols on the walls near ausgangs. These parking spaces are reserved for women drivers, as they are closer to exits and better lit. While it's good that these spaces are provided, it's very unsettling that they are needed in the first place and hopefully the issue is given proper attention. 
Smoking doesn't have the same stigma in other countries it seems. I've never seen a legit advertisement for cigarettes (you'd see Pall Mall and Marlboro ads on bus stops and billboards everywhere), and cigarette vending machines were around every bend. I couldn't stop thinking that this would never fly in New Zealand!
If you enjoy a Medditerranean diet (here meaning pizza, pasta and fresh salads), you're going to have a bad time in German restaurants. While the bakery offerings like bread and pretzels are excellent, meals heavy on meat, potatoes and sauerkraut is the norm. A particularly bland experience was ordering 'potatoes cooked in their skin served with white cheese and local herbs'. This turned out to mean potatoes without their skin served next to a huge pile of sour cream filled with chives. It wasn't the worst thing I've ever eaten, but I'd rather have not payed for that as I could have made much better at home. 
Wasps are the devil's insect. Occasionally in the Netherlands we would be bothered by a couple, but in Germany it is so much worse (though Czech Republic is worse still). When cooking outside, it was impossible to avoid them trying to land on whatever you were cooking as well as buzzing around your face. In this photo Fabienne demonstrates how to expertly avoid a wasp's attention. 
This isn't a need to know, but I found it hilarious that number plates from particular regions of Germany have umlauts! I couldn't believe it at first, but it turns out that it's real. 
Also, watch out for trams. 

Hopefully this post is helpful to others travelling to Germany. Is there any information you would add? Leave it in the comments below.