In California, weary road warriors who need a place to temporarily rest have few options if they’re traveling outside the reaches of its sprawling cities. The drive between the capital and L.A. is especially dreary: miles and miles of industrial farms, oleander and eucalyptus trees. Worse, rest stops are barely-maintained, glorified pit toilets. You’ll never forget the stench of an I-5 rest stop toilet hut.
In Germany, autobahn drivers have the option of stopping at one of thirty-three roadside chapels. More than one million visitors stop every year. Most of the chapels are Protestant but welcome visitors of all faiths, and they provide a place of solace to weary travelers. “Drivers who stop at an autobahn church tend to continue their journey in a more relaxed manner and are more considerate to other road-users which goes to show that a visit contributes to road safety,” the custodians of one church write on the website autobahnkirche.de, which is maintained by the Bruderhilfe pastoral organisation in Kassel.
According to Deutsche Welle, “[e]xperts from the Catholic University of Applied Sciences in Freiberg found in a survey that a typical visitor to an autobahn chapel is at least 50 years old, with male churchgoers outnumbering female. A study of 400 questionnaires also revealed that two-thirds of visitors come in from the road not just to rest but to pray, light a candle or take part in a religious service. The majority of visitors were Catholics.”
Though I’m a “fallen” Catholic, I’d prefer the smell of a house of God over the stench of a California rest stop any day.