Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Autobahn Or An Auto Yawn

Ah, the Autobahn. The German highway system is truly a wonderful thing here. And not just for it's speed limits, but because it is one of the few highway systems in Europe that you don't have to pay exorbitant tolls on. A few friends back home ask often about driving here and if I will let them borrow my car when they come. But there is something I need them to know. Driving on the autobahn isn't all fun and unlimited speed. There are many things that make it un-fun. There are speed limits. There are rules. There is construction.

And there is this. Ladies and gentlemen, may I introduce you to our good friend, the Stau. Stau is German for traffic jam and is one word that seems to have migrated over from German to English among the ex-pats I know (pronounced sht-ow, rhymes with how). Nobody uses traffic jam, or back-up anymore. It's a Stau. When I had to take my German driving test, I couldn't remember all the words so I used word association. For me, stuck seemed to go with Stau. When you're in a Stau, you are sh-tuck.

Exits on the Autobahn are further apart than exits on the freeway system in the States. They can be kilometers apart so if you are in a Stau, there is no jumping off at the next exit and taking surface streets. You're stuck in the Stau for the long haul.

There are also things like this. A Lärmschutz is an area of the autobahn where a speed limit is enforced for noise protection. Cars going 200 kmh can get pretty noisy. This speed protection area is near my home and is the section of the autobahn that we drive the most, so I hardly ever get to drive fast. 100 km is 60 mph. Insert frowny face here.

If you are thinking that maybe this Lärmschutz isn't enforced, you could talk to my friend who was caught going 171 km in this zone one early Sunday morning. What was her ticket? It was for €1800,00! Yes! One thousand eight hundred Euros! That is over $2,300.00. The Polizei worked a deal with her though. They dropped it to €600,00 and a three month suspension of her license (still $775.00). I think of that every time I drive here and notice my speedometer start to edge up over 100 km.  I don't want to waste €600,00 on driving fast. That kind of money can buy a lot of shoes.

Ideally the autobahn looks like this. Light traffic, passing lane to the left open, and no speed limit. But I have found that driving on the autobahn is a lot like life. In life you can't always go as fast as you want. Sometimes you need to slow down. Sometimes you have to wait your turn. And sometimes you need to be quiet or pay the price. Here's wishing you happy driving (and watch out for the Polizei!)




  1. Words cannot describe how much I love road trips. I simply can't wait for my next one which is going to be in August and I am taking over Amsterdam and Brussels! So excited, thanks!

    1. Love the open road! Can't wait to pack up the car and drive down the east side of the Adriatic!

  2. Steep fines! I'd rather have the shoes too!

  3. This was funny! I saw shirts while I was in Germany that said "I drove the autobahn and lived tell about it!" Kind of cheezy.


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