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    A Different Kettle of Fish: German Roads from an Irish Perspective

    When I took up learning German language for my Junior Cert, I had no idea that it would one day be my passion and that I would develop an affinity for all things German. I went on to study it for my Leaving Cert, and then chose it as my main subject in University. Learning the language, despite the fact that at times it was difficult, and sometimes nearly impossible (those who are familiar with attempting to memorise the definitiv Artikel tables will get the gist of what I mean) has led to wonderful things. I got my first taste of this rich, vast country in March 2012, where I went to Munich for three days with the German society in my college. It wasn’t enough time for me to immerse myself in German lifestyle and culture… that chance came in October that year, where I began my student exchange programme, or Erasmus, in Universität Potsdam.

    Car hire PotsdamMy uni was a refurbished part of the palace of Frederick the Great, who ruled Prussia in the eighteenth century. Due to the fact that I am a history nerd, this made me giggle with delight every time I stepped on to the campus. It took me a while to adapt to the German lifestyle. As I ran around campus with an arm full of forms to sign and permits to be approved just to get my student card, it became all too apparent to me that Prussian bureaucracy is still alive and well. Being a laid-back Irish student, I found the efficiency somewhat intimidating at first. After time, however, not only did I learn to adapt, but I relied on it. I had to learn to scoop up my groceries at breakneck speed as they were thrust at me by the quick and nimble hands of the cash register clerk. The fact that shops are closed on Sundays took some getting used to, but if you’re lucky you could find a petrol station to pick up some necessities. I also had to learn that smalltalk was a no-no, and that Germans are very particular about when it comes to using their roads… such is the main topic that I’ll be discussing in this blog entry.

    I liken Germany to my brief experience in Holland, as cyclists seem to have priority over people. While I was in Potsdam, I didn’t see any designated cycling paths. Despite this, cyclists still proclaimed sovereignty of the footpaths. Jaywalking was extremely taboo, and I found this extremely difficult to adapt to. In Dublin, I could easily dart across the road if there were no oncoming cars in either direction. Do you think you can do that in Germany? No, you can’t. In fact, don’t even try. Even if you try to cross a quiet side street with absolutely no traffic before the green man comes on the traffic light, just don’t do it. I’ve been there, and I was snapped at by some unimpressed locals, as though I were performing a crazed Satanic ritual in a public place.

    Car hire MunichIn the southern half of the country, things are pretty much the same when it comes to jaywalking. Another thing that I noticed during my stay in Munich was that cars had priority over pedestrians, and they can bend the rules to their will. Do you think you’re safe to cross the road once the green man is flashing? Nope. Cars are known to run a red light even when you’re right in the middle of crossing the road, so you’d better be quick. At least here there are designated paths for cyclists, so there’s no need to hop out of the way when you see or hear an oncoming bicycle. Believe me, you will hear them coming! Cycle paths are prioritised for cyclists, and must be kept that way. In Dublin, where the cyclist population is a minor percentage, it doesn’t matter as much if you use the cycle paths, as long as there aren’t any oncoming cyclists.

    I don’t drive myself, and I’m more accustomed to using public transport or walking when it comes to getting to where I want. I’ve noticed that in Germany, there is no general speed limit on the Autobahn or the highway. This means that you should be extra careful when using the German Autobahns, as you should when driving anywhere else!

    I have only begun to scratch the surface of this country, but in the future I hope to broaden my experience and delve even deeper into German culture, customs and traditions… I’m hoping for a possible future road trip.

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