Sunday 18 August 2013

German observations

Thoughts on Germany and Germans, from an Australian bloke with a German name and a German wife.

The Roads

The Germans are much smarter than us about speed limits, which are slower in town and faster on the freeways.

Australians, myself included, get frustrated and angry in suburban 50km/h zones. But here everyone is totally cool about doing 30, and I have found that it encourages me to be relaxed about it as well.

Often in the middle of town the roads are made of old fashioned flagstones, which are indestructible but a wee bit bumpy and slippery. So you go very slowly indeed.

At this low speed, people just have more patience with local conditions.  We rode around Celle in a horse and cart today, causing about forty cars to slow down and wait for 5 minutes on a particular one-way road. There was nary a beep. They all just waited until we were out of the way.

Everyone double-parks if they need to pick up a passenger or drop off a package, and no-one else cares. You just go around them.

Here's a neato idea.

When you park in a time-limit zone, you put this little cardboard thing on your dash with the current time on it - how many minutes past the hour it was when you arrived. Then the inspectors know when you got there. (And if you don't have one of these things displayed, they book you.)

There are lots of people on bikes. The kids are legally required to wear helmets but virtually nobody else bothers.

There are dedicated bike lanes everywhere, sometimes on the road and sometimes marked out on the footpath.

Where bikes and cars co-exist, it's with easy-going familiarity. Drivers aren't angry about cyclists being on the road, which is just unnatural to me. Cyclists don't seem to be afraid of cars either.

I think every driver is sometimes a cyclist or a pedestrian, so they act the way they'd want cars to act when they're walking or riding.

Australian drivers only think of themselves. While we're driving, every other driver can get fucked, especially if they're from another state. So cyclists and pedestrians have no chance at all - they're just vermin which ought to be banned. I paid for this road, god damn it!

The highways in Germany have speed limits that actually fit the conditions - smaller, bendier ones might keep you to 100 km/h, while the lovely Autobahns are unlimited.

In our little family wagon, I found 130 to be quite comfy - much faster than that and the wind effects began to get a bit scary.

But we were often passed by cars that made us look like we were sitting still - usually German makes like BMW, Audi, and Porsche. And every now and then a tiny little Skoda would whiz past at Mach 3.

The shelf!

Many European toilets are the same as Australian ones, but some have a big shelf for poos to land on.

This allows you to poke them with a stick, checking that the corn and peanuts have remained undigested, and ensuring that you haven't accidentally eaten a threatened species or a car part.

I wish I was joking.

The fountains

A fountain is meant to be refreshing, for both the body and soul. The gentle mist of water cools the skin, while the play of the spray over the beautiful statuary lifts the spirit.

But I keep seeing German fountains which just pump water over rocks.

Like this one, clearly modelled on meat slabs from a kebab shop.

I actually saw one like this, but worse, in Fussen. It had three similar slabs, with slightly smaller versions on top of each one, rotating inexorably around.

As an artwork, it said "we are excellent engineers".

Or check out this one in Berlin. It's got a giant circular chunk of concrete with water dribbling over the edge, gradually turning to slime. There are statues of locals standing under it, looking like they don't really understand the point.

(In the voice of Rainier Wolfcastle) "It's water, ja? But why is it spraying uselessly about here in public? No matter, just make sure you reserve your spot under the dribble nice and early. You want a prime position for projecting your existential angst. Come children, enjoy the slime."

Tour Facts

On our horse and cart tour of Celle, we learned some useful facts about the town. Well, my wife learned them, and translated them for me.

- Mankind first struck oil at a location nearby. The oil was originally used for frying weapons-grade schnitzels.

- The King of Hannover once offered the town a gift - their choice of a university or a prison. They chose the prison. I can't think of a joke to make that sound any more absurd.

- The old bridge used to cost 2 pennies to cross, with the money going to local widows and orphans. For half price, you could go under the bridge and take a leak in the stream on the way. Hence the phrase "to spend a penny". The first sentence of this paragraph is true.

- The oldest restaurant in Europe is here. The descendants of one table are still waiting for the garlic bread their forefathers ordered almost a thousand years ago.

(I will totally go to that restaurant and report in.)

Random stuff

Statues aren't always what you think.

My son loved these lions in the park, until we got up close and he started asking questions about it.

Him:  What's that on the mummy lion?

Me:  That? (Looks closely.) That's an arrow. And apparently she's dead.

Him:  What are the baby lions doing?

Me:  Saying goodbye, I guess. Let's go buy an ice cream.

Him:  Yaaaay!

We chose this, because our knackig was lackig.

Playgrounds have rules here:

1) We are here to have fun!

2) But we will have fun in a safe and orderly fashion, with queues forming behind each ride.

3) Laughter and boisterous conduct are forbidden.

4) Beware of the fun.


We have been to Legoland, but Lego has a serious competitor called Playmobil.

It's not a building toy, more like tiny models of just about everything - zoos, pools, pirates, the Wild West, sci-fi settings, etc.

There's a big box of bits and pieces at my wife's parents' house, which includes this grizzly little scene.

The blood has been drawn onto the man figure by one of the grandkids. I guess it's revenge for what happened to the lioness in that statue.

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