Feeling 16 again, and not in a good way….
Posted On April 28, 2013
I’m a driver. I pretty much am the one who volunteers to drive when in a group and drive anytime we go out as a family. I think I’ve sat in the passenger seat of my own car maybe a dozen times in 5 years. So not having a car at all to get out and explore is definitely a different feeling for me.
In order to drive in Germany, you have to study for, and take, a written drivers test. After our first excursion with the realtor, I wasn’t sure I wanted to take it because THAT was enough to make me feel unfit to drive in Germany. But after we found our rowhouse, I knew I had to do it. The house it out of town by about 15-20 minutes and there is a ‘bus route’ of sorts, but its about an hour to get into the city and doesn’t really seem practical with an almost 3 year old and a soon to be new born.
The book they gave us to study with was big. Like almost 100 pages big. I felt like a 16 year old again as Jon and I diligently studied for and quizzed each other on the practice test. There was a whole section dedicated to the 300+ signs and their meanings. I’ve selected a few to share as they are quite amusing from a foreigner’s perspective 🙂 I’m sure their purpose is well intentioned, and I have a lot of learning to do before it ALL makes sense!
To enter the highway, you need to find a sign looking like this:
I’m not really sure what it is, but it kinda looks like an ‘A’ so maybe for autobahn?’
While driving down the road, you will find these yellow diamond signs, which are VERY important. They establish your ‘right of way’ at intersections. Unless there is a stoplight or sign stating who has the right of way first, EVERYONE has to follow the ‘right before left’ rule at ANY intersection, no matter the size of the road or who seems like they would get to go first!!
This first sign means you have the right of way, no matter what because you are on a ‘Priority Road’ and therefore you are first to go at the intersection.
The second sign means your ‘Priority Road’ status has ended, and you must observe the right-of-way from now on at any intersection, unless there is another sign or stoplight.
This third sign means you have ‘priority’ ONLY at the next intersection, and then you are back to normal, and must follow the right of way rules.
Now to start getting to the hard stuff…
At many intersections, you will see this sign, or a flipped variation of it that establishes the priority of the intersection. If you are on the solid black line and staying on the solid black line, then you can continue to drive without stopping. If you are coming from a side road, you have to wait, even if the solid black line traffic is turning in front of you! The physical size of the road has nothing to do with its priority… You MUST follow the signs!
This is the sign I wrote about earlier as ‘One Way Street.’ The letter that looks like an exaggerated ‘B’ is used where there would be ‘ss’ as in ‘strasse.’ Took me a little bit to figure that out, but makes sense 🙂
Pedestrians have a LOT of rights and so do cyclists on the paths and roads. The first means they have to share the road or path they are on. The second means that cyclists need to stay on the left and pedestrians on the right. It is kinda nice to have it all spelled out for you when walking or riding, I must say 🙂
This sign means that people will be playing in the road, and THEY have the right of way and you, as the car, needs to wait for them to get out of your way! Again, nice warning, but interesting rule.
Now, the most nerve-wracking thing is that all traffic lines are white. So, turning onto a street, it could be a one way or two way street, but the lines painted on the road won’t tell you that – yo have to look for signs or look at how cars are parked on the road because all road lines look like this:
This is a 2-way road, but the center lines are dashed like the single direction roads in the US, or just the passing zones. There will be a solid line ONLY if there is no passing, but normally, it is just the dashed white line. That will definitely take some getting used to 🙂
Now, I’ve saved my favorite sign for last:
This means that frogs are a danger on the road and will make the road ‘slippery’ and could cause accidents. This sign is usually accompanied with a maximum speed limit in this area! There are also ‘frog fences’ instead of ‘snow fences’ like we have in Colorado. These frog fences are tall enough that frogs can’t jump over them, and then will guide them down to a tunnel so they can ‘safely cross under the road to the pond on the other side.’ I thought our realtor was lying when he showed the fences to us, but then we learned about the sign in the driver’s class. I find it funny and kinda giggle when I think of it 🙂 Hopefully I won’t be the one that has an accident with the cause listed as ‘Frogs.’
And that was your crash course to driving in Germany 😉
Oh, and we both passed the driver’s test the first time! You have to score at least an 85, and Jon scored a 95 and I scored a 92. I’m still the better driver, though 😉