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Friday, July 10, 2009

Observations on Germany

I recently returned from a ten day visit to Germany, my first visit to mainland Europe. The first six days were spent in the Moselle River valley between Bern-castle and Urtzig. We stayed in a pleasant hotel in Zeltingen having rented a car for the ten days. Here are the notes I took on my iPhone:

  • 11 FM radio stations, 1 AM radio station
  • 90% or more of the music is from the United States
  • We arrived the day after MJ's death - it was all they talked about on the radio.
  • No talk radio
  • No sports radio
  • No English radio

  • In the villages driving is slow - we averaged about 30 kilometers per hour
  • In the villages there are no lane markings
  • In the villages pedestrians and bikes are king
  • In the villages there are not that many stop signs yet people still stop
  • Generally, there is no cell phone use while driving (I saw one instance in 10 days)
  • No red light running
  • No yellow light running
  • Speeding is the norm on the highways (A-class roads the equivalent to our interstate highways) just like in the States
  • No speeding in the villages - literally it would be too dangerous
  • Cars are small by necessity in the villages
  • Cars are generally late model - we saw very few "beaters"
  • Ford has a presence but not GM or Chrysler (we saw Opels of course)
  • Along the Moselle River and the Nahe Rivers there are separate bike lanes which make cycling along the rivers very attractive.
  • Only the very old and the very young wore cycling helmets along the Moselle
  • Bars close early by US standards - even in the hotels
  • Cold beer only sold in Petrol stations
  • Petrol stations in the villages are rare (perhaps contributing to higher prices)
  • Subway Sandwich shops exist - the one we went to was in a Petrol station.
  • The Subway menu was in English even though the server spoke no English. She did, however, speak Subway.
  • No fast-food in the villages - they are too small to support even one.
  • Not much ethnic food in the villages
  • Cigarette machines hang on the side of houses/buildings - 4 euros gets a pack of 18 cigarettes (even though the box is big enough to hold 20)
  • Cigarettes sold openly in grocery stores not held under lock and key as in the States.
  • In one Lidl we went to the boxes of cigarettes were in bins at the checkout line as our candy bars are displayed in the States.
  • Car dealers are few and far between and are generally very small
  • VW has many models over there that are not available here (dammit): touran (like a Mazda 5), polo, fox, golf wagon, transporter van.
  • We did see one Chevy Equinox - and it was a diesel!!
  • Saw multiple KIA diesels
  • In the villages the mass transit busses were as empty as they are in the States - perhaps that will change in the high tourism season.
  • No sidewalks often
  • Driving in the villages is a lot like an obstacle course - fun but you have to stay alert.
  • Frittes are just French Fries - I suspect that our French Fries should really be called German Fries
  • Not many young people in the villages - median age might be around 50?
  • In the villages there are monuments to WWI dead but none to WWII dead.
  • Not many trash cans for public use.
  • Lots of smokers (more than 50%) and cigarette butts are littered everywhere
  • No loose change on the ground - not a single euro or cent piece in the villages and only one 20 cent piece found in Mannheim. In the States I routinely find pennies, nickels, and now even dimes on the floor.
  • No panhandlers in general, especially in the villages. We saw two in Mannheim and one in Trier.
  • Not a single American beer in sight - but with the quality of the beer they have in Germany I don't blame them.

    Overall, I loved my time in Germany and will definitely want to go back. The food is rather compatible with the US menu and the people are very friendly and the sights are amazing. The driving is not bad - on the A-class roads you stay right and ALWAYS pass on the left but you have to watch your rear-view mirror and stay out of the way.

    The wine served in the Moselle valley is generally dry (which is not the way Riesling is supposed to taste) but the beer is excellent.

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