Sunday, July 14, 2013

Watch Out Germany!

Two and a half weeks after we arrived, I passed the USAREUR (United States ARmy EURope) drivers test and got my German driver’s license!  I passed it on the first try and even scored better than Eric!  I have not studied for a test like that in a long time.    

Rather than having as many traffic lights as we do in America, German roads have a million different signs that all mean different things and you have to know every single one of them. 



I think they want you to look everywhere but the road.  The test was 100 questions, 75 multiple choice, 25 matching, and the most you can get wrong is 15.  It was full of different scenarios like these:

In which order may these vehicles proceed?:
Correct Answer: 2-1-3

Or this one...
In which order may these vehicles proceed?:
Correct Answer: 2-3-1

I seriously have not studied for a test like that in a long time....

German roads are narrower, pedestrian traffic is heavy, and pedal bikes and animal-pulled carts are considered legal traffic.  Speed limits are measured in kilometers per hour (kph) rather than miles per hour.  They have cameras every few miles on their roads that are hidden in all sorts of things…mile markers, plants, mailboxes, even parked cars.  The Polizei (Police) will sit in regular, unmarked cars with their radars and catch you for speeding.  You really can’t do much without getting caught, whether by the Polizei or a camera.  I'm pretty sure I've got a few speeding tickets coming my way....

Outside city limits and on the Autobahn you are not allowed to cruise in the left lane or pass on the right, even if the person in the left lane is going slower than you are.  Passing is allowed on all roads, even on side roads or in neighborhoods (as long as there isn't a solid center line).  
By the way, the Autobahn does have a speed limit....130 kph (75 mph).  There are only spots where there is “no” limit, but the recommended limit is 130 kph.  If you are involved in accident and speeding was even a small factor, whether the accident was your fault or not, you will get a ticket and a large fine.

We had decided to ship only our Explorer here because the Army will pay for only one vehicle.   Rather than forking over the cost to ship a second car we opted to sell our Trailblazer and decide what to do once we saw how things were going to work.  After only a few days, it was obvious that we would need a second car.  Driving without a license could have risked my ability to even get one, so until I passed that test I was at Eric’s mercy.  It was essential that I pass the test, get my license, and then get a second car.... or I was going to go insane, no question about it.

We had paid off our Trailblazer last year and were not willing to finance another car and knew that we would need a smaller car anyway, a smaller car that would be able to navigate the narrower roads in Europe, plus we knew that we would not be shipping back to the States when Eric’s tour is over.  There are tons of dealerships in the area that sell to American military families and then buy back the car when they PCS back to the States (at a lesser price than what we paid for it, obviously).  PERFECT!  This is where Eric found a little 1996 BMW that we paid cash for (likely to be the only BMW we will ever own).  It may have been fancy in 1996 but it is not fancy anymore! 



Fancy or not, it is the perfect car for driving in Europe, paid for free and clear, and it has saved my sanity!  Eric gets to drive the BMW since his work is further from home, I get my Explorer back- it’s been 6 months since I’ve gotten to drive it- and I have my freedom!  I’m a happy wife again!

Watch out, Germany, because your signs confuse the crap out of me and I've got my Explorer back! ;) 

3 comments:

  1. haha, I enjoy reading your blog. It’s quite interesting/funny to see Germany through your eyes.
    DON’T worry. You most likely won’t get caught speeding. There are hardly any cameras that actually to measure your speed. The ones on the Autobahn do measure the amount/ rate of traffic though, not to pass out tickets but to adjust the speed limit, etc. if necessary. And you can go as fast as you want on most Autobahn sections. I reached 220km/h last night =)

    If you do plan a longer trip (since here in Germany we’ve a different definition of “long” tan you guys) you should check out Northern Germany Hamburg and Hannover (great, but kind of expensive zoo!).

    I look forward to reading more of your impressions of Germany.
    If you have any questions feel free to ask.
    And keep in mind that you need to cancel your DSL at least 3-6 month before you’re leaving. Otherwise you’ll continue paying for it…

    Liebe Grüße,
    S.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you! I am SO in love with your country! It is so beautiful and the people are the warmest and kindest I've ever met! And thanks for the advice about the internet! :)

    ReplyDelete
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    Thanks,
    Sarah Johnson
    __________________________________________________________

    ReplyDelete