On Saturday I was driven into.
This sounds WAY more dramatic than it actually was, I'm fine and my cute little mini is also fine, but at the time I was a wreck!
I was at traffic lights, almost at my shopping destination (having promised Jasmine we'd go back to 'Build a Bear'* and buy clothes for 'Vanille' - apparently every self respecting bear has more than 1 set of clothes, and in our case a sleeping bag too.) We were waiting for the lights to turn green when I noticed the silver Merc in front rolling slowly but surely backwards towards me and my mini. It'll stop in a mo I thought to myself...soon...so I beeped my horn and the Merc stopped, not because its brakes worked but because mine did...I was dumbfounded with shock but managed to get Jas to take a pic of the number plate now visible again in front of me (she pulled forwards and applied her brake - eventually.) We missed that green light, to the frustration and beeping of the cars behind and at the next green we both drove on and parked up to inspect the damage. Bloody woman. Needless to say Jas had a great time shopping with me, I was incapable of making any decisions and as for saying 'no you can't have that'...good job Jas didn't realise the position of power she had!
Before moving to Germany four years ago I had only ever driven on the continent once (and that had been earlier that same year, and I hadn't liked it) and once here it took a good few weeks to get used to driving on the wrong side of the road, it's a good job they don't believe in traffic islands here, that would have stretched me. But why do they drive on the other side of the road over here? Back in the good old days most countries started out driving on the left but now only 33.9% do, some historians believe that this started with travellers on horseback, who would want to be on the left handside of the road in order to pass another traveller with their right (sword wielding arm) side. Popular stories then go on to say that Napolean changed the side of the road to ride on because he wasn't right handed.
But the driving on the wrong side of the road isn't the only thing that frustrates me about driving here, although they take learning to drive very seriously (afterall Germans take everything seriously) there's no getting mommy or daddy to be your co-driver here while you practice in the family run around, there's a theory test (as there is in Britain) and then there are lessons with a driving school and for practice there's a practice track, no scary learners out on the roads here!
However, they do seem to have some odd 'rules' that don't fit with my understnad of the British Highway Code (which although a pain to have to learn at the age of 17, does make sense) here are some of the things that bug me;
- In Britain you're not allowed to park within a certain distance of a junction, which makes sense, you need good visibility. Here, although not as bad as in Spain/France/Italy where any empty side of the road is deemed a viable parking spot (and that includes zebra crossings) parking on corners or over the end of a junction seems to be fine, dangerous for all other drivers, but legal.
- In Britain if you're on the main road and there are minor roads joining, you have right of way, cars on the minor roads have to wait their turn. Logical. Here you have to give way to the right unless there's a gold diamond sign. So this means having to slow down to an almost stop in order to check there's nothing speeding up the side road about to T-bone you. There' a crossroads just 3 houses away from me where a minor road is bissected by an even more minor road. There are no road markings and no signage. Accident blackspot.
- There are no high level traffic lights in front of you at a junction. This means if you pull up to the line of a junction (as I was taught to do by my driving instructor many, many moons ago) you can't see when the lights turn green because they're level with you. Frustrating. You have to learn to hang back and remain within sight of the lights.
- Cats eyes don't exist here, or if they do I haven't seen any, I miss them. Driving at night is not pleasant here as there is also not as much lighting on the Autobahns as there is on the motorways in Britain.
- Einbahnstrasse. Not a road name as confused tourists sometimes think (and then struggle to find their car later) but a one way road. Not a rarity here so why do cyclists think the 'one way-ness' doesn't apply to them? Dangerous, stupid and possibly breaking the law? Shall have to check that one before I hit a stupid cyclist headlong on an Einbahnstrasse and get sued...
Now where did I leave my car keys?
* see last week's 'Happy Bear-thday'.
Word of the day; umkippen - to tip/fall over, to become polluted, to change course.