Good morning, Germany

April 11, 2009 02:28 – 02:28

It’s Saturday morning at 9 am at the Achat Hotel in Hochenheim, Germany. This hotel does not provide those little “leave us alone” signs for the door. So, a moment ago, this 20-something housekeeping dude with “service” on his shirt does this tiny little clicking knock (would not have heard if we’d been asleep or in the bathroom or doing naked gymnastics) and proceeds to unlock the door. I beat him to it, yank the door open and glare at his beady little eyes. It’s 9 o’clock! Give us a chance to get up, or give us signs so we can tell you we’re still in here.

My guess is that the little creep does this on purpose on the chance that he’ll barge in on someone who’s not dressed. But, I’m a cynic, and I always believe the worst about people who open your hotel door with a passkey after knocking so quietly that you have to be sitting close to the door—I was—to hear it.

Yesterday on the motorway coming here, I had a pleasant surprise. Apparently, Garmin has information about speed cameras and radar traps, and it warns you about them! This isn’t the same as radar detection. But, apparently, the locations make it into the system somewhat dynamically (I’m guessing), since many of what we encountered were handheld radar or laser units. We encountered those only in France. I don’t know if the warnings occur elsewhere.

On the French motorways, the cameras detect speeders, who are then stopped right after tollbooths. This is a very clever scheme for several reasons. First, speeders to not see stopped cars and flashing lights, so they get no additional warning about the cameras. Second, you don’t have stopped vehicles causing looky-loos to slow down. Third, you don’t have people speeding past people who are stopped. All in all, it’s much more efficient than the system used in the U.S.

When we got to Germany, things changed. I saw no enforcement, and Garmin did not issue any warnings. Instead, I saw a lot of fast driving, although drivers do seem to religiously obey speed limits in construction areas as well as other areas that have posted limits.

The last time I was in Germany, the car we’d rented was so small that it could barely do 100KPH with the gas pedal floored. This time, however, our little Audi can easily do 180KPH (about 110MPH) without breaking a sweat. The speed limits go up and down depending on conditions. At times, it was limited to 130—that’s the usual motorway limit in France. At other times, they would drop up back to 110 or 80. But, when those limits aren’t flashing, people drive at 200 or higher (judging by how quickly they passed me). Driving at 180 sure makes Garmin’s ETA drop in a hurry!

Well… time to start getting ready for the next leg in our journey. I don’t know if the Czechs have a border crossing. They’re part of the EU now, even though they don’t use the Euro. I guess we’ll see.

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