Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Driving in Germany 11: Next Time I'll Take the Train

For those of you who do not live in Germany but have heard that there are no speed limits on the Autobahn and think, "Wow, that must be SOOO fun!!!!", I've got news for you.

It's true there are stretches here and there without speed limits where the nutcases drive like bats out of hell flashing their lights and waving their arms like maniacs when they have to slow down to 120 mph because you started passing a semi before they appeared in your rearview mirror. On my drive from home to Esslingen there are two such stretches. I go about 76 mph (120km/h) and sometimes creep up to 80 mph because there's just no blinking reason to drive faster than that. I regularly have cars flying past me in the left lane, which I avoid like the plague.

The thing I want to tell you about today, however, is not about racing on the Autobahn. It's the reason why it so often doesn't make any different that there are sections without speed limits. I'm talking about Staus. Traffic jams.

Tonight I had a meeting to attend in Esslingen for our exchange program. Knowing how problematic traffic can be, especially during rush hour, I left at 15:00 for the 19:00 meeting. I did this last week also - though with fewer problems than today - and spent the extra time at my Schwiegermutter's home, where I talked her ear off as usual and then we had a light dinner together.

The drive is 46 miles (75 km) and should take about an hour. When I'm driving it takes about an hour and 10 minutes.

Today after 90 minutes of driving, I was 2 km beyond halfway. I bailed in Sindelfingen, pulled into some bus parking lot near the Mercedes Benz Customer Center, called my Schwiegermutter and said I was turning around - after several failed attempts at figuring out how to make a call with my damn smartphone while shouting profanities at it.

Part of the reason I quit was because despite having driven 25 miles (40 km) in 90 minutes, the GPS was telling me my estimated time of arrival was still 80 minutes away. The Stau that I had been sitting in for about an hour already was not going to dissipate. And looking ahead I could see another on ramp with cars and semis creeping along at a child's pace merging onto the Autobahn where I was.

Poor Katja (that's our GPS) had been trying repeatedly since before I got onto the Autobahn to lead me on other routes, but I know only one way to get to Esslingen and hate driving on unfamiliar roads. Keeping my attention on the road, other wild drivers, and Katja because I don't know where I am or where I'm going is just too much. So I took my chances with whatever she was trying to steer me away from.

When I finally took Katja's "This is your third and final last chance" advice to exit at Sindelfingen, she was telling me I still had more than an hour to go. That was no problem really, because M had filled the tank on Sunday and I still had plenty of time before the start of the meeting. But then she started asking me questions. I'm driving in unfamiliar territory into what is rapidly becoming rush hour traffic, and now I'm supposed to accept or reject multiple suggestions from Katja?? Just give me ONE route and shut up! But no, she had to ask me if I wanted to cut 9 minutes off my new route. It is hugely unwise to take one's eyes off the road to discuss options with the GPS, but I clicked the "ja" button hoping she'd just carry on. Silly me. She recalculated and told me to do a U-turn.

Nope. I'm done.

After I called my Schwiegermutter and calmed down, I got back in the car and told Katja to get me home. Thirty minutes later, I started typing this blog post.

Yep, driving on the Autobahn is loads of fun. A real blast. I wonder if it is a bad sign that, as I left our house and locked the front door, I actually said aloud but quietly, "Please let this not be the end."

Trains. 'Nuf said.

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