Dave Duncan

"Eat Well, Stay Fit, Die Anyway"

Driving in the Fatherland

We’ve all heard tales of the German Autobahn and drooled at the idea of driving on a highway with no posted speed limits, and I was eagerly looking forward to maxing out my rental car on these glorious highways.  The reality was more disappointing than I’d expected, and it had nothing to do with the roads, but more with the experience.

When we arrived in Munich, we made our way to our car rental place where we were handed the keys to a Fiat Panda with manual transmission.  As soon as I heard the name and noted its cuteness, I just knew that my dreams of going 220 km/h were quickly going to be dashed.

This car was easily the smallest I’ve ever been in, let alone driven.  It was slightly larger than a motorcycle, only with more legroom and a backseat that was more for show than for passengers.

The little auto that could... sometimes.

The little auto that could... sometimes.

In lower gears, it had enough pep to jump on the steeply graded roads in the mountains, but over 80 km/h, it lacked power.  At one point, I managed to get it up around 160 on the autobahn going downhill with a tailwind, but the glory of the moment was superceded by the Audi’s and BMW’s blowing past me at lightning speed.

The actual driving on the ‘bahn was awesome.  Drivers were courteous to a fault and traffic rarely slowed or stopped moving, even in major cities (where there is a speed limit, 120 or 100).  The only time we stopped dead was because of a major accident where someone towing a camper trailer had jackknifed.

Driving on the windy mountain roads was pure insanity.  The posted speed limit was usually around 80, but I could barely hold 60 in some of the turns (where it’s legal to pass!).  It was on those narrow, NARROW roads where I was thankful for the tiniest car of all time, with tour buses and transport trucks hogging most of the road and usually going double the speed limit.  It was terrifying and exhilarating all at the same time.  I loved it!

Finding your way in Germany is a little tougher than here.  Road signs are based on destinations, so you have to plan you trip thoroughly if you’re not a native.  Once we got the hang of that, Danielle became the greatest navigator in the history of road travel (I was the sole driver as she’s still learning standard).

Roundabouts are pure awesome and keep traffic moving really well.  They’d never work here as they require courtesy on the part of the drivers, something we lack.

In summary, I would have liked to have driven less (we put nearly 2,000 kms on that little car in a mere 10 days), but I really enjoyed the experience and hope to do it again soon… maybe in an Audi A4 or a Beemer.


3 Comments so far

  1. Dan July 16th, 2009 11:26 am

    Roundabouts are pure awesome. So much better than stop signs. Unfortunately, you’re right. They require courtesy, intelligence and signalling.

  2. Joel July 17th, 2009 9:08 am

    Plus the ones in Waterloo (like on highway 85) have signs that indicate the incorrect round-about behaviour. No wonder nobody knows how to use them here in Canada.

  3. Dan July 20th, 2009 9:53 am

    The yields are in the wrong place, right?

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