by Ami Gates – 6/24/14
While Germany and Austria are certainly famous for their wonderful dark breads, their Ice Caves and Caverns, and their beautiful castles and forests, fewer are aware of their fame for driving skills, explicit signs, and curious sculptures.
Driving on a German Highway is very much like being part of a strictly coordinated German ballet of madness. There are two lanes. One is the slower lane (relatively) and one is the faster lane. There are no speed limits or upper bounds on speed of any kind. There is simply an understood obligation of all drivers to persistently note the drivers around them (a shocking concept for most of the world).
If a driver is traveling more slowly, he or she is expected and obligated by sense and consideration to remain in the right lane and to graciously make room for any car who wishes to pass. Drivers only pass using the left lane. While fast drivers mostly use the left lane, they must quickly move out of the way and to the right lane if an even faster driver approaches.
Now for the fun part.
Cars in the left lane drive an average of 150 miles per hour. This is not an exaggerated value as we were driving 120 mph in the “slow” lane.
The amazing part of this ballet is the grace with which it is performed. There is never a time when a driver is forced or inclined through rudeness or impatience to get too close to the back of another driver’s car. All drivers are always considering each other (a concept lost in most parts of the world). There is no notion of resentment or jocular harassment toward faster or slower drivers. When a driver wishes to pass, they simply do, without the other driver suddenly speeding up to prevent this intension. Finally, merging does not cause delays. It is completed in an orderly and clean fashion.
Most cars on the road were also German-made and so performed very well. For the first time in Jeremy’s life, he could not and would not drive faster than the other cars and he elected the “slow” lane (at only 120 mph). Too bad he would not let me drive.
This wonderful method of driving with consideration and skill was immediately lost however, when we crossed into Italy. But it was replaced with some very fun hand gestures. In Spain, there is absolutely no similarity to this method as drivers in Spain are certain that there are at least twice as many lanes as are designated and no need for space between cars. We were once stuck on a round-a-bout for 20 minutes in Valencia.
In the USA, driving rarely has any level of grace or consideration, and frequent experiments have shown significant evidence that I can make any driver increase their speed simply by putting on my turning blinker with the mere threat of merging into “their” lane.
To further prove the curious differences between Americans and Germans, a 20 year old American student became trapped inside a large German Six Foot Vagina sculpture (costing 200K) and an appropriate use of funds to be sure. The student, who elected to remain nameless, apparently lost control of his senses and placed his head and then some of his person into the vagina. This approach signifies a lack of understanding of a number of criteria, but does illustrate a need for more female world leaders. Upon entering the large vagina, the student’s head became trapped. It then took 22 rescue workers to remove the student from the vagina. While therapy has been recommended to assist the student in avoiding a future fear of vaginas, a number of extremist religious groups are blaming the vagina, and have claimed that it actually flirted with and then viciously engulfed the student. There will be a vote as to whether all such sculptures will hence forth be required to be covered in a black sheet.
And so, after our exciting Germany visit, we traveled on to Austria and stayed in Hallstatt. Austria has a number of very unique societal expectations that we enjoyed learning about. They find it rude to speak loudly, ever and especially in public, and so the Chinese visitors were not popular as they could be heard for miles. Austrians are also very firm and unpleasant (with mean faces) at first, until you greet them properly by saying “Guten Tag”. They then say “Guten Tag”, after which everyone is all smiles.
While we have made an effort to learn a little bit of the German language, I think we often miscommunicate our needs and ask the wrong questions. For a few days, we were looking for a Health Food Store and some good hiking options. After seemingly getting tired and frustrated with our poor pronunciation and annoying questions, the Travel Office Person referred us to a special member of the community to gain further assistance – with whom one can make appointments with, but not on Sundays.
Hallstatt was very lovely and quaint, but was also a very small village. We did a bit of hiking and site-seeing…