By on January 18, 2013

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Yesterday, Clemens Gleich
brought you Part 1 of his authoritative guide to the Autobahn, due to overwhelming success, today Part 2. If you ask how Clemens became Minister of High-Speed Transport Propaganda – stranger things happened in Deutschland. A formerly leather-clad radical was made Secretary of State, and the province of Daimler and Porsche has a green governor. Expect to be surprised!  – BS

2. The Location

Many foreigners think that every Autobahn is basically the same, which can lead to a very unsatisfactory motor vacation, because it is easily possible to spend the whole length of it in absurdly limited sections and road works which means you might as well have stayed at home. There are some passages that not only are unlimited, but also have curvature radii that feel like a straight at 70 mph but tear your face off your skull (or your tires off the asphalt) at 170 mph. The A95 from Munich to Garmisch is a nice example (don’t go there on the weekends, when everybody and their mother will).

You could race down BMWs very own prototype test track: Enter the A92 leaving Munich, turn on the A3 towards Regensburg, at Regensburg go down the A93 towards Ingolstadt and Munich (A9). Rinse, repeat. You will see all those disguised next-gen BMWs and perhaps a few such Audis, too.

If you are looking for competition, visit the Kassel Mountains on the A7 (“Kasseler Berge” will give you Youtube-Clips galore, complete with infos on speed cameras on the limited bits). The Bahn through these hills is so steep that caravanists go a long way to avoid it for fear their underpowered bathrooms will be reduced to 20 mph or to going backwards very fast, disintegrating. This fact alone should tell you everything: few caravans, much competition, good road. To race the Kasseler Berge, follow the A7 from Bad Brückenau towards Kassel until you come to the Autobahndreieck Drammetal (A7 and A38 meet here). Yes, Google Maps is right: There are many miles in that bit.

Bring an amount of horsepower you would consider “too much” at home, otherwise you might leave the A7 a very frustrated man.

For pure, undiluted straight line speed visit the north of Germany where the landscape slowly peters out into the North Sea. A famous example of this experience of American motoring in fast forward is the A27 from Bremen to Bremerhaven: Going straight towards the horizon, towards the sea. Another good stretch are the 50 open km on the A7 from Rendsburg to Flensburg, Germany’s northernmost city, (in)famous for being the home of the points-on-your-licence database. If you don’t manage to max your car on these northern Autobahns, you need a slower one. Or bigger balls.

My personal favorite are the Autobahns of Eastern Germany. The East is a dark forested no man’s land that hasn’t changed since the Dark Ages, which is why it is also known as “Dunkeldeutschland” (“Dark Germany”). During the socialist occupation after the war, people were forced to live there at gunpoint, but when the wall came down, of course everybody with half an ounce of sense and two working legs left. Now, only ancient pensioners still haunt the ghost towns there, the rest has fled to Berlin or to civilized Germany (which funds the whole Berlin island setup).

As is customary, the government didn’t notice this and built infrastructure fit for two Irelands into the empty woods, financed by a special new extra tax cynically called “Solidaritätszuschlag” (solidarity surcharge). The Autobahns they built are gorgeous, empty and give me a feeling of my money well spent. The A2 from Magdeburg to Berlin is especially popular with tourists, because at the end of it, you are somewhere (Berlin) instead of nowhere (the rest of the East).

But my secret tip for you would be the A71 connecting Schweinfurt with Erfurt. It is still quite new, so it hasn’t made its way into the travel guides yet. You can go the whole length of it, the only limits being in the tunnelly bit. The tunnel stretches are a good place for a spot of R&R (relax and refuel), because there are nearly no service stations directly on the A71. Get off at Oberhof, race up an awesome hill course, pit stop, race down the awesome hill course, continue racing the A71. You can hold the pedal to the metal until it rusts into position – if you are brave or underpowered enough to leave it there in the many turns.

Another way of finding a good piece of Autobahn is asking a German who likes driving (i. e. any German) about his favorite segment. These favorites are everywhere, so one will always be near your lodgings.

3. The Rules

In Germany, we love rules. The only thing we love more than making The Rules is explaining The Rules to the ignorant, which I shall do now. Fear not, I will constrain myself to the rules concerning a happy holiday. As always, the rules are split into the official rules of the written law and the unofficial rules “you just know”. As the French expect visitors to know their history and culture and speak their language, the Germans expect you to know the unofficial rules without being told. You just know. Which is why I won’t tell you either.

But I’ll do something better, I’ll explain official rules only you will know, starting with the mysteries of the Kraftfahrstraße: The sign for an Autobahn is a white road on blue ground stretching into the distance, being crossed by a bridge (mnemonics: a big letter “A”). So when you see this but no limit signs, you are allowed to go as fast as you can afford. BUT (and not even many Germans know this) the Autobahn is not the only place in Germany where you can legally do that. Look for a blue sign with a white car front on it, it marks a “Kraftfahrstraße” (mnemonics: translate it literally into “poweerrr drive road”). If it has two lanes per direction OR a bit in the middle (bushes, concrete, doesn’t matter) and there are no limiting signs, you can go as fast as you want here as well.

These open roads residing between a Motorway and an A-Road are unofficially called Yellow Autobahns (“Gelbe Autobahnen”) because of the yellow instead of blue road signs, and you should cherish this information, because you can use it to shut up a German going on about The Rules in the pub at night. You can finish him off by adding that there is a Kraftfahrstraße sign at the entrance of the Nürburgring Nordschleife.

A rule I don’t have to remind the visiting speed tourist of is nonetheless interesting, even heart-warming: In Germany, it is forbidden by law to go so slow that traffic is hampered without a good reason (see §3 Abs. 3 Nr. 3 in our holy traffic bible StVO). Traffic will immediately be hampered the nanosecond you fall below the current speed limit. The law is not often enforced, but when it is, we celebrate like Americans when they have found another terrorist. Pray that the offender doesn’t pay his fine, as this will provide you with the rare opportunity to attend a (public) trial of a Peugeot driver where he will be condemned for his sins of slowness. The memory will last you a lifetime.

On a more serious note, I have encountered tourists having a debate about their alleged whiplash on the leftmost Autobahn lane, our overtaking lane. I’m afraid this is not tolerable behavior in Germany. In fact, it is a criminal offence over here (dangerous intervention into traffic). If you get screamed at by a policeman who kicks you so hard his jackboot will stay stuck between your buttocks and then writes fines full of numbers you didn’t know existed, you will have been very lucky.

If somebody gets seriously hurt because of such stupidity, you will go to prison for “not under one year” and still be a bit lucky because you didn’t get killed by one of the many 2-tonne projectiles you were standing in the way of. You’ll see the wisdom of our legislation as soon as you come across a standing (stupid) obstacle on the overtaking lane while doing 190 mph in your 911 rental. Okay, it might be your last thought, but there are worse last thoughts.

To discuss your fender bender or the finer points of whiplash, you’ll have to leave the Autobahn, as it is completely verboten to stop anywhere on it, including the hard shoulder. The hard shoulder is for real breakdowns and emergencies, of which a spirited whiplash discussion is neither.

To cheer you up again, let me tell you another officially legal and accepted use of the hard shoulder: acceleration. If your vehicle is too feeble to get up to motorway speeds on the acceleration lane, you are not only allowed, but expected to continue your acceleration on the hard shoulder until there is an acceptable velocity to enter the Autobahn like a Gentleman (i.e. fast). But try real acceleration before you resort to this, which rally legend Walter Röhrl describes thusly: “Acceleration happens when the tears of a deeply moved heart roll along horizontally towards the ears.”

4. The Time

The best time to visit our Autobahnen is in the summer, because we’ll all be gone on holiday then. Typically, a German gets 30 days of vacation a year and receives extra payment for this very vacation, so that he may leave his country for a while. It is much easier to love Germany from afar.

You can find tables on the Internet detailing the school holidays of all the German federal states you want to visit for an inkling of the remaining Autobahn traffic you can expect. Warning: At the beginning or the end of these school holidays you can forget to go anywhere fast on the respective Autobahn that provides the fastest way to the German federal state of Mallorca.

There are also many speed limits that are only effective by day. You could for example go from Stuttgart to Munich in well under an hour at night … or so I have heard. And of course you will have the motorway network to yourself during all major football matches with Germany in them.

Concerning the future of our motorways: You might have heard the German Green Party’s efforts to establish a general speed limit on the Autobahns. I can assure all you tourists this is something to yawn on and then forget. These efforts exist since before the Green Party existed. They have never gone anywhere. Green means GO!!!!!

You see, in general, Germans don’t care much about freedom. They will happily trade freedom for more order every time. But the Autobahn is the one exception. The freedom to drive as fast as we want is the only one we are prepared to fight for.  To the German, speeding is like owning guns to the American. A general speed limit seems un-German to us, has a socialist stench, maybe even something French about it.

So I’m delighted to say that the unlimited speed of our Autobahns will be there for you as long as we German Autobahn Raser (a majority group) can still hold a weapon to defend your motoring holiday. Don’t worry about the cost: The German government collects nearly a Euro per liter as tax from your petrol bill and as I have said before: You will need A LOT of fuel.

Yours sincerely,

The German Ministry of High Speed Transport Propaganda

ACHTUNG: As our Canadian overlords have put us on a financial starvation diet, which forces me to rent-out my wife into yellow slavery, while Derek takes a night job at Chippendales Toronto, I am unable to pay the Minister of High Speed Transport Propaganda a reasonable, or even an unreasonable amount. Therefore, we did cut a deal: You click here.
In mean, NOW. You are supposed to click, verdammt und zugenaeht! The link leads you (sorry) not to a porn site, but to Amazon, where you can buy the Kindle Edition of
The Traveller’s Guide to the German Autobahn” for a lousy buck eleven. BUY THE DAMN THING!!!!!!

If you do as told (and there is no other vay in Germany), then Clemens might come back. If not, I’ll come after YOU. Bertel

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36 Comments on “Clemens Gleich’s Traveller Guide to the German Autobahn, Part 2...”


  • avatar
    kkt

    So what’s the design speed for the curves on the unlimited sections of Autobahn?

    • 0 avatar
      vaujot

      I don’t have a source for this but believe to have read 100 mph/160 kph. That being said, my rule of thumb is that if its unrestricted, taking the curves at 125 mph/200 kph is fine.

  • avatar
    mannygg

    Really, really entertaining article. Lots of good information in there too!

    I moved 2 years ago from Australia, a land of frustrating low speed limits (110 Km/h Maximum!) and draconian fines (starting at $150 for 10 km/h over…) to Germany. Driving the Autobahn has been a revelation. It is not so much the fun of driving fast, but the freedom to get where you are going in the time you want to. You find a speed you like driving at and go for it!

    Some comments
    - Germans, who as you say LOVE rules (I have never seen a German jaywalk), do not actually follow speed limits. My colleagues usually drive 20km/h over the limit, since that is when larger fines and points begin.
    - Speeding fines less than 20km/h over are incredibly small. I was fined 15€ for driving 62 in a 50 zone.
    - The absolute best cars I have driven for long distance autobahn roadtrips are big diesels. A 3.0 BMW or Audi will cruise at 190 km/h using only 25 MPG (US).
    - If someone flashes their lights in your rear-vision mirror, don’t get aggressive. It means you are too slow, so move the f**k over :)

    • 0 avatar
      increased

      Not following speed limits is part of the “we’ll do anything the rules say, but this doesn’t go for car and road related topics!”. Very rebellious of us…

      (I clicked on the Amazon link even though I don’t even own a Kindle – could stop myself before I bought it though!)

  • avatar
    Felis Concolor

    As I am not a fan of DRM, I don’t use the Kindle; might you have an EPUB, RTF or similarly unfettered copy of your publication for sale?

  • avatar
    vaujot

    A few comments from a someone residing in Germany:
    1. The A7 is one of the oldest German Autobahns and the Kasseler Berge section was designed with the objective to give motorists a few good views. That’s why it is so steep and crosses some hills at the highest point.
    2. I don’t understand the whole whiplash discussion. What kind of behaviour is being discussed in that section?
    3. One important rule the article doesn’t mention: It is prohibited and considered reckless driving to pass others on the right.
    4. “To the German, speeding is like owning guns to the American.” I agree with this analogy.
    5. Sad to hear about the site’s financial starvation. Instead of publishing e-books, may I suggest adding micro-donations such as flattr to the site.
    6. I don’t know if this may be a measure of frugality (as in saving letters) but the author’s first name lacks a letter.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      Re: #2. I had to read it a few times too, but he’s talking about the whiplash the passengers in the slow moving vehicle in the left lane will get when they’re rear ended by a vehicle doing double their speed.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    What’s the deal with the pic of the abandoned road? Old Nazi-era highway the Soviets left to rot?

  • avatar
    kitzler

    mannygg, sorry flashing your lights is illegal in Deutschland, but before always on lights were popular, if you wanted to speed on the ABahn you would put your headlights on daytime, and God forbid you tailgate in the passing lane, the roadside cameras would fine you heavy for that.

    • 0 avatar
      mannygg

      I suspected that it was illegal (it is in most countries), however that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen or isn’t common. It also doesn’t mean that there is always a better option. If the person driving in the left lane, usually not a German, isn’t paying attention than it is very difficult to get there attention. Most of the Germans I have driven with will flash their lights if they need to.

      Tailgating is illegal AND dangerous, so should be as heavily fined as it is. I think that the good lane disciple here helps greatly in preventing situations where bad drivers would be tempted to tailgate or overtake in the right lane.

      Impeding traffic in the left lane is apparently also enforced, but I have never heard of anyone being fined for it.

    • 0 avatar
      vaujot

      You are mistaken. Flashing the high beams to cause someone blocking the left lane to move over is not per se illegal in Germany. If you combine it with too close tailgaiting, that’s a different story.

  • avatar
    Carrera

    Back in 1997 my father shipped his 1992 Toyota Pick-up truck (extra cab 4×2, US specs) to Bremerhaven, final destination Romania. I went along for the ride to help him with the drive. It was an underwhelming drive for the most part partly because our Toyota (4 cyl engine, 5 speed manual), couldn’t do more than 105-110 MPH, but also because the weather that May was very rainy. It actually rained the whole time we drove. I don’t remember exactly the route we followed but this is before GPS became common in cars. We had google maps on laps. We drove from Bremerhaven to Berlin and then we exited Germany somewhere along the Czech border. For some reason, everything in Germany was a big construction area. All the heavy cab-over trucks (MAN, VOLVO, SCANIA) were in the right lane, bumper to bumper doing about 75-80 MPH and the faster vehicles in the left lane doing 90-100 mph. The problem was that both lanes were very narrow and we had the feeling that we were going to touch side mirrors with the other at times. We tried our best not to impede traffic but I guess because of the rain and construction no one was going more than 90-100 MPH anyway. There were very rare times when someone in a Porsche would go a bit faster, but most of the time we just saw small VW Golfs, Fiats, Opels and other small cars. We stopped for gas once I think (the truck had a full tank before we shipped it out of Jacksonville). We found the gas to be expensive of course. In 1997, I think a liter of gasoline was about 1.20-1.30 DM/l which was about $1/liter. I remember diesel was a bit cheaper. In Florida, at that time, a gallon of gas was about 80c/gallon.

    At that time (I was 21 years old) I thought everyone in Germany drove Porsche Carreras, BMW Ms and Mercedes AMGs. Well, that wasn’t the case. For long stretches, we were the fastest thing on the road doing 100 MPH, but that’s because either we didn’t know how to read the speed limits or we were so tired/delirious from the long Trans-Atlantic flight and/or stupid to go that fast during torrential rain in an underpowered 4 cyl Toyota pick-up. Luckily for us and everyone else, we got out of Germany alive.
    We entered Czech Republic well past midnight. The border guard in Czech Republic only spoke Czech and German. We spoke neither. We liked the highways better in Czech Republic. They were basically empty and very wide, almost like in Florida. We just didn’t know why they were so empty. That’s because everyone needed to pay a hwy fee which tourists obtained at the border. The fee at that time wasn’t too high (I think about 15-20 USD good for 30 days) but for the locals it must have been expensive (this is before USA started to print money to devalue the dollar to artificially keep stocks high). Since we didn’t speak the language, we knew nothing about the fee. After about driving for three hours we were pulled over by the Czech Police driving a Skoda Felicia. Having Florida plates didn’t help our case. My father was detained in a small town police cage for about 7 hours while the locals found a translator. Since I wasn’t driving at the time we were pulled over, they never bothered with me. I took a 7 hour nap back in the bed of the truck. After 7 hours, $ 150 fine/bribe and a faked heart attack, my father was released and we continued our journey to Romania.

    • 0 avatar
      vaujot

      I think you have some of your speeds wrong. The heavy trucks (more than 3,500 kilogramms) are not allowed to go faster than 80 kph so in practise, they drive between 80 and 90 kph, not MPH. Also, in the mid 90s, a lot of Autobahn was under construction after the German reunion. Especially in the West-East direction you were going.

    • 0 avatar
      kkt

      “Before the USA started to print money to devalue the dollar”? You mean before 1933?

    • 0 avatar

      Going from Bremerhaven to Bucharest, Romania via Berlin would be a major detour today. In 1997, it was a major stupidity, because all the East-West routes were jammed with those heavy trucks you saw (it was eventually alleviated by multilaning the Bahn with all the heavy construction you saw.) A better route would have been south via Nuremberg, Passau, then Austria, Hungary, and Romania. With your route however, you could visit the famous roadside brothels at two Czech borders. Your dad is smart.

      • 0 avatar
        Carrera

        Funny you mention the “ladies of the night” Herr Schmitt. I wanted to keep my story PG 13, but yes you are correct. As soon as we crossed over into Czech Republic we noticed the store fronts with semi nude girls in them. At first we thought they were mannequins, but it freaked us out when they started to wave. It must have been abou 3 AM. We thought we were dreaming. We got a little closer, but we didn’t get out of the car. We just were not sure where we were or what the legality of things was. After checking out some store fronts, we decided it was best to leave. As for the route…my uncle who resides in Danemark gave us the maps. He told us that the road through Austria was a bit longer and since the Czechs had those nice highways we should go that way. We didn’t know any better and since he was driving from DK to Ro every year we didn’t debate the route he chose for us.

  • avatar

    Funny, informative post, I enjoyed it a lot. Thanks!

  • avatar
    skloon

    My own Autobahn experience is limited to one trip and a few listenings of Kraftwerk, I had a rental Opel Astra that I wouldn’t go over 175 in and was passed by a trio of M5s that made me feel like I was standing still. I applaud the German drivers adherance to traffic laws but why does it seem that every Lorry is in the left lane passing traffic at a pace that makes snails seem quick, especially in hilly bits

  • avatar
    danio3834

    Good read. Driving Germany has been on my list for a long time. After reading all of this, I feel like I need to move it up a few notches.

  • avatar
    kitzler

    I beg to differ with you Vaujot, high beams are for driving when no one is in front of you, OR, when you cross and intersection and do not have the right of way, also when you are behind somebody asleep at the wheel when the light turns green, it avoids using the horn.

    Also the trucks, or Lastwagen, have their maximum speed limit posted on the back of their rigs.

    When four cars come at the same time to an intersection and each faces a stop sign, who goes first, since everybody has someone on his/her right, the answer is the guy with the most expensive car goes first.

  • avatar
    kitzler

    Vaujot, I read the Focus article and I stand corrected, although I have both a German and French driver’s license, dating way back when, since they never expire, it used to be this way before the Wall came down. The East Germans with their smoke belching Trabants used to drive the Wessies crazy.

    BTW, in France anything is permitted, just don’t get caught, whereas in Germany, they practice delation, meaning you damage someone’s car and a passer-by will leave a note on the damaged car, after you’re gone of course, and write down your Kennzeichnen (License plate number)

    • 0 avatar

      I have one of those never expiring grey licenses (always a great hit, until I pull the Chinese license for an encore.) Using the high beams to announce your intentions to pass wasn’t illegal then, and it is not illegal now. Tailgating is. Tipping your brakes (preferably in a turn) just enough to make your brake lights go on while someone rides your ass at 250 km/h, is allegedly illegal. However it usually remains a witnessless, if not always victimless crime ….

      The Lichthupen regs had nothing to do with Ossies in a Trabant, which was a quickly passing (and quick to pass) phenomenon anyway. Also, when Germans damage another car, they leave a note with their information under the damaged car’s wiper. Should you fail to do that, a helpful bystander will do it for you.

  • avatar

    Having relatives in Germany I visited for the first time in 1995 and have returned several times since having amassed about 10000 km (4000 miles?)in total driving experience, albeit not just on the Autobahn.

    Impressions:
    • Not everyone drives a big BMW or Merc, lots of VW Passat wagons, Sharan’s, Golfs, etc.
    • Not everyone goes 180-200 kmh
    • The Autobahn is not a free for all, lots of speed controls depending on weather, traffic etc and vigorously enforced.
    • No one passes on the right, its simply unheard of.
    • And while it’s anecdotal I have never seen anyone flash their high beams or engage in overly aggressive driving.

    Assertive, no nonsense yes, but not aggressive, well except for that ahole in a MX5 between Hamburg and Keel.
    I’m sure it happens but why? Watch them carefully, every driver has both hands on the wheel, eyes ahead, not a cup of coffee or phone in sight, they stay to the right, check carefully, pass and right back over to the right.
    The transport trucks stay to the right, and always under 100 kmh.
    I love that they hit their flashers if there’s trouble ahead, it gives you a feeling of confidence that you’re among the best drivers in the world and you try, well at least I do, to emulate them as much as possible.
    True, little old ladies in Fiestas and Twingo’s in the towns drive just as slowly as those in a Buick or Camry here in NA, but you’ll never see them on the Autobahn.
    I can tell you of examples of bad driving on the Autobahn with both hands tops and I’m sorry but the bad driving is usually from Eastern European countries – in particular Poland and the Czech Republic.
    When in Germany, do as the Germans do, and you’re golden.

    • 0 avatar
      JuniperBug

      I also did somewhere in the neighbourhood of 10,000 km (actually closer to 6,000 miles) in Europe, and found I drive very differently depending on where I am. I’m from Montreal, where I drive like an asshat, because that’s what everyone does, and driving like someone with sense or human understanding is seen as a sign of weakness which will prompt everyone to cut you off seven ways from Sunday. It’s been over a decade since I accrued any demerit points on my licence, despite several years on a sport bike that saw 120 MPH just about every time I left the house, and a couple more in a roadster that regularly gets sideways, so the threat of reprisals for irresponsible driving just isn’t much of a worry.

      Germany is exactly as has been described, including driving rural roads in the Black Forest where the speed limit was 100 but I was squealing the tires of my Mazda 121 at 60.

      Switzerland’s drivers have similar discipline to the Germans, but the roads are smaller, the speeds lower, and breaking traffic laws – including speed limits – is as much a social faux-pas as it is a legal issue, and slower traffic is not likely to move out of your way on the Autobahn if they’re already driving at the speed limit of 100-120 km/h. In towns, I was told that going 6 km/h over the limit will trip the photo radars. I had a fender-bender with an empty city bus that prompted police intervention complete with CSI-grade photo taking, chalk outlining, and talk of a $1,000 fine (“Failure to control one’s vehicle”) that I only managed to avoid thanks to a serendipitous combination of having the right last name, speaking the right dialect, making jokes about foreigners, and having licence and insurance documents that were incomprehensible to the German-speaking officers.

      Driving in France – at least in the rural area of Burgundy and the autoroute leading towards the Swiss border – was a bit like in Germany, although the drivers and police were a bit more lax. I recall driving my Renault Master diesel van past a police car doing 150 in a 130 and they didn’t even look at me twice. I haven’t driven in Paris, but based on what I saw as a pedestrian, it would be a very unique experience. Just about everything parked on the side of the road, from Citroen 2CV to new Mercedes S-Class, had some kind of body damage on it.

    • 0 avatar
      vaujot

      “• Not everyone goes 180-200 kmh”
      Indeed. I have read that about 75% of the passenger cars will be driven at 80 MPH or less. I often don’t go faster, either. You don’t gain any significant time unless traffic is very light and you’re going some distance.

  • avatar
    Autobraz

    I’ve read the article with Christoph Waltz voice in my head: accent, intonation and mannerisms included. Can’t stop laughing.

    Thanks for the articles. Funny and informative.

  • avatar
    kitzler

    TW, that was the most succinct and best description of driving in Germany, thanks, the rule of common sense in conjunction with some good driving habits trumps any set of enforced regulation, thanks…

  • avatar

    As someone living in Germany, I find Herr Gleich’s comments very entertaining, although today I drove 225 kms from Gelnhausen to Dusseldorf entirely on autobahns and it took me 3 1/2 hours, an average of 64 km/h. This included long stretches at 160-180 km/h on the A45. This is what happens when you drive in the Western part of Germany on a Friday afternoon as there are traffic jams everywhere. Clemens has mentioned avoiding the A3 and I do this whenever possible but no luck today even taking other roads. The traffic reports on the radio cover the whole country and traffic jams are often impressive in their length as well as geographic diversity.

    Under no circumstances can trucks go faster than 100 km/h and because most autobahns are only two lanes in each direction and the right lane is occupied by trucks from Poland or wherever it can make driving a difficult exercise in planning your own overtaking and avoiding that guy in the 911, or much more likely Audi/BMW station wagon, hitting you from behind as he zooms along.

    Although I travel a fair amount in country I have not found many empty stretches of road to really hammer on. Shortly after we got our office Passat I found a nice place to cruise at 200 km/h but you catch up to other traffic so fast it is all a bit tiring. The most fun I had was with a BMW 330d AWD diesel coupe with seemingly limitless torque. 500 kms of driving at quite high speeds (160-190 km/h) returned 6.5 liters/100 km, or 36.2 mpg in consumption. You can rent one of these cars for 150 Euros for a full weekend.

    Incidentally, filling up the non-diesel Passat today after starting with 2/3 of a tank cost me the equivalent of US$ 130. Be sure to budget for this in your holiday plans!

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      I hear you on the Friday traffic – imagine, first time driving in Germany, my first brand-new BMW, been awake for ~36hrs, pick up the car at BMW Welt in Munich at 4pm, on the last Friday in July. And immediatly drive to Stuttgart to spend the night. Ugh. Lesson learned! Next time, stay in Munich! The traffic jams really WERE quite impressive – took >3hrs to Stuttgart. Though we did manage some 120mph running along the way when not in a jam.

      The cost of fuel in Europe certainly concentrates ones mind on how much performance one really needs and is willing to pay for. I thought my relatively fuel swilling 328i did quite well, but the nearly the same performance 320d gets 50% better mileage, and a lot more relaxed to drive. I think the least I paid for fuel summer ’11 was $10/gallon, and the most was darned near $12 in rural Sweden. $200+ a tank! Glad three of us were splitting the cost.

  • avatar
    Darth Lefty

    These are great. Thank you Clemens for writing and Bertel for posting them.

  • avatar
    modemjunki

    If you have spent the evening in the company of fine friends celebrating the summer solstice in the hills and thus find yourself unable to navigate on foot because somehow conditions in the Fränkische Schweiz have become too windy, simply turn over the keys to your sober significant other and advise to stay in the right lane and do the posted speed limit or 100, whichever is greatest.

    If your significant other is tachophobic, do not be surprised when a Renault Kangoo passes at what appears to be hypersonic speed on the short unlimited stretch between Forchheim and Erlangen as 100 KM/h is really quite slow, and being startled in such a delicate state (see windy, above) may cause you to break out in laughter. This laughter may cause your significant other to become offended and cause them to lose all sense of sympathy when you are moving slowly the following day.

    And remember – never drive when it’s too windy to walk or bicycle, no matter the country.

  • avatar
    kitzler

    the body damage you describe on cars parked in Paris streets, is not necessarily due to being hit by another vehicle, the French have a nasty habit of “christening” your new vehicle with gratuitous dents and scratches.

    Also, while the German Polizei may have occasional evening road checks for inebriated drivers, the Polizei also knows the sober driver rule, so more often than not, the Polizei performs such checks in the morning, when the last night drunkards still have over the limit alcohol in their bloodstream and are driving to work, happy as a clam.


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