The German Autobahn – A High-speed Racetrack?
Categories: General Travel Info
[ source: Wikipedia]
The German autobahn is famous all over the globe and often glorified as some kind of fun fair racetrack for adults by car lovers. The appeal of the German autobahn is so great that there is a considerable amount of — especially American and Asian — millionaires, who regularly come to Germany solely to rent one of the equally famous German luxury cars, like a Mercedes or BMW, and speed cross—country Germany for a couple of days. Admittedly, Germany is the only country in the world that has highways with no speed limits and therefore can seem like paradise to a car fan. But, remember, even paradise had its downside. So, if you plan to have a go at the German autobahn, beware of some often unconsidered peculiarities, so your dream holiday doesn’t turn into a nightmare.
Americans are used to everything being big. The typical American car looks like a mini bus to most Europeans and also streets, above all highways, are much wider in the US than in any country in Europe. Especially if you live in the Midwest, you might be used to cruising around for hours without coming across any other cars or trucks. On German streets, even in the most remote areas, there is always traffic. Germany is only a tiny bit bigger than New Mexico. With this in mind, it is easy to imagine that there are no long stretches of highway where you can just drive undisturbed. Every couple of miles there is some kind of on—ramp or exit and you always have to be aware of other vehicles changing lanes, slowing down or passing you to get on or off the autobahn. From an American point of view the German autobahn can easily seem like an obstacle course.
Therefore, you probably already guessed, the myth of
no speed limits is only partly true. Of course, there are stretches of road, where you can drive as fast as you like and you will always have people in fancy cars passing you at 130 mph and even more. However, most street sections do have speed limits for various reasons, like on—ramps, exits, because it is a winding road, there is too much traffic, a construction zone, the street is in a bad condition and many, many other issues. You should also have in mind that the advisory speed limit is about 80 mph (130 km/h), which certainly is fast enough for most first—time autobahn users.
Finally, because the speed limit varies so much, the German autobahn is usually full of radar traps. Especially on stretches of road that only temporarily have a speed limit — let’s say because they are under construction — the police loves to install speed traps to make sure everybody sticks to the rules.
All in all, driving on the German autobahn can be an interesting and fun experience but it certainly is no racetrack and shouldn’t be abused as such. And, bear in mind, if you actually come to Germany to get to know the beauty of this country, it is much nicer to take the scenic route along smaller country roads.
About this Article
This travel guide has been written by Kathrin Wagner.
She grew up in a small town in Bavaria and then studied Media studies, Literature and History in Erlangen and Munich. As a student she already spent half a year in London and moved back there after graduation in 2006. She is still living in London, where she works in publishing.
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