Most people commute to work in one form or another. Some take trains, others buses and some unlucky people take both. I once overheard a fellow passenger on a RyanAir flight remark (with a total lack of irony) how he enjoyed his daily commute from Edinburgh to Memmingen airport everyday, and came to the conclusion that I would never meet a more terrifying example of sadomasochism.
I drive to work, and although this can be considered a fairly luxurious option when compared to my other examples I would have to disagree. This is because I have the misfortune to be an unwilling participant of a twisted reality TV show that pits me against Europe’s most insane drivers. It’s filmed using a complex series of cameras, strategically positioned and controlled in some centralised nerve centre of evil. Some drive in Audis, some in trucks, some in people carriers and once I swear I saw some kind of disused military ordinance rattle past me. I am part of Death Race 2013 or as the locals describe it, the A6 Autobahn outside Nürnberg.
For many outside Germany, especially those who enjoy cars, the Autobahn is the shining pinnacle of legal speed. When I went back to Britain after passing my driving test, most of the questions revolved around the fabled roads of Germany.
I felt like I was some kind of great explorer explaining to a mystified audience the strange tales of some elaborate adventure with giants and sea monsters.
I didn’t have the heart to break it to them that it was much like their roads but occasionally you could drive kind of fast. No one wants to hear that story, they all want to hear if I ever went 200 mph. I also didn’t have the guts to tell them I rarely went faster than 90 mph as I valued my no claims bonus, and to lesser extent my life.
The main problem with Britain’s perception of the Autobahn is that they base much of their opinions on clips like this, where a curly-haired tool drives very fast on a mysteriously empty stretch of German road, while over emphasising his verbs. In reality the Autobahn is filled with drivers from around Europe as it’s a main route from West to East and North to South Europe. This means that on any given day you will see a wide range of European license plates and during holiday season the physics defying 100 mph caravans. Also you have to factor in trucks.
Not just small ones but articulated ones that make your car shake as you overtake them. Sure they’re meant to stick to a speed of 80 km/h but you try and explain to them, while performing a routine overtaking, that driving too fast and randomly pulling into your lane is not particularly helpful. I did. I think he couldn’t hear me.
The lack of speed limits is perhaps why German driving lessons are so extensive, with 13 hours of theory classes, 8 of which before you even get behind the wheel.
I was also required to take first aid course, as all drivers are required by law to stop and help should you see a crash while driving. I can tell you that filled me with confidence. The true dangers were elaborated on during one lesson when my instructor explained the procedures for a Geisterfahrer. This is when someone accidentally drives the wrong way down the Autobahn… yes you heard that correctly… The. Wrong. Way. Apparently, it happens so often in Germany that not only is there a word for it but they had to come up with a procedure, too.
What he failed to mention was that the majority of people don’t know the rules or simply don’t care. For a country so full of laws and regulations, the roads might as well be the wild west.
Then we have to remember that all the foreign drivers have also heard of the wunderbare Autobahn and would also like to drive 200 km/h thanks to their own curly-haired tools professing its wonders. When I talk to my friends they all have a particular nationality that they hate driving alongside; maybe it’s the holidaying Dutchman with his standard bike rack and worrying amount of possessions strapped to the roof, or the Austrian who, having been liberated from the restrictive 130 km/h speed limit of his home, now feels free to drive at 180 km/h only half a meter from the back of your car. Or the Swiss who never really gave a damn anyway so screw all these losers. Personally I don’t judge based on any nationalities, I’m all about equality. No matter race, colour or gender, you all terrify me.