Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Germany for Tourists - Some Basics

It occurred to me, as we toured a part of Europe and a great deal of Germany, that there are pieces of information and essential vocabulary which could save tourists a lot of time and potential frustration.

"A" is for Autobahn

 We all know that the autobahn is some kind of super German expressway where a car can all but fly at any speed right? Wrong. "Autobahn" rather is a general term used for freeways or highways. More often than not, another word synonymous with autobahn is "stau" or traffic jam. When the signs have no posted limit, go for it. However, when there are traffic issues or inclement weather conditions, there are often posted speed limits of 80/100 or 120 on overhead pixelated signs. 

I highly recommend a GPS if you are travelling anywhere by car. We ordered a European SIM card from the internet and inserted it into our North American GPS. Also, in Germany, a GPS is referred to as a "Navi". Gas is expensive. While we were there, it was between $1.60 and $1.80 per litre.
Also, same cell phone, or "handy" rules apply. Hands free only.
I appreciated seeing this sign in many parking lots. At first, I wondered. Then it made sense. The "Frauen" parking spots are located closer to exits and in brightly lit places. What a terrific idea.
"A" is also for Accommodation                                                                                                                
There are different types of accommodation depending on your preference. Hotels are similar to ours and usually have air conditioning, interenet, hair dryers and so on. A "Gasthaus" is more like a Bed and Breakfast. There are no guarantees when it comes to "extras" such as toiletries and hair dryers. A "Ferrienwohnung" by definition is a holiday residence. They do not always require that you stay long term depending on how busy they are. We stayed at such a place for one night. These usually have facilities such as a kitchen with stove and fridge.  
 Do not expect to find ice easily at any of the above locations. We were directed to a gas station where "Eis Würfel" are sold. Hotels sometimes give you a glass of ice at their bar. Do not request "Eis" as you are likely to get an ice cream cone.
Some hotels have a plastic key card. Check inside the room door to see if there's a slot. The key card goes there to turn on the electricity.

We stayed at a few hotels that included a lovely free breakfast buffet. The little waffle cone things have many uses (bottom left) and the little trash container on the table is for dry garbage such as egg shells, napkins, empty butter containers and the like.

If you see a bar such as this in the bathroom, it's for warming towels. It is also very useful for drying any laundry you might have hand washed. Just make sure it's turned on. There's usually a knob and thermostat dial near the bottom. Another  tip - Take a few clothes pins and hangers with you if possible. These come in handy for hanging damp clothes.
By the way, should you need to get some laundry done on your trip, this is what a laundromat looks like. We found it quite costly. For two loads, washing and drying it cost us about 13 Euros.
 Watch for "Some Basics - Shopping, Eating and Other" where I'll describe shopping, food/restaurants and the elusive and expensive WC's.

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