Quarter Life Crisis

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1000km

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Big travelling weekend has just passed. The main objective was to attend a friend’s wedding party near Greifswald, which is both far away and not particularly convenient to reach. Hence I decided to borrow my mum’s car and and drive there, rather than going by train. That would save the hassle of getting affordable and inflexible train tickets as well as the inconvenience of carrying all the stuff I had to take on the train and going the final 20 km from the railway station to the middle of nowhere where the party took place.

I don’t particularly like driving a car, so the 1000km which the weekend’s journeys added up to weren’t exactly brilliant. In fact, they were a bit worse than that because of Murphy’s Law adding a good dose of bad luck to it.

I started off at my parents’ place in Bremen and the first leg of the journey was to Hamburg, up the A1. That could be 100km of reasonably fast driving. However pretty much all of that bit of Autobahn is under construction at the moment, with 13 construction sites and maximum speeds of 60 or 80km/h going along with that. Of course that makes the driving more stressful and there was more than enough traffic as well, taking about 2 hours in the end. I amused myself by listening to British Forces Radio which is broadcast in Northern Germany. The music wasn’t good at the time, but hearing proper English was. With all the bridges crossing the Autobahn being under construction (replacement? repair?) as well there were many temporary bridges in use. Oddly, they tend to carry the web address of the owner, e.g. Janson Bridging or Stahlbau Niessen. After that I needed a break and decided to invite myself for a quick coffee with friends in Hamburg, using the opportunity to see them.

My vision was that the rest of the journey would be smooth driving. Unfortunately, all the way up to Lübeck was heavy traffic as well with very slow speeds being reached, wrecking my nerves further. I think school holidays may have been the cause for that. Then, finally, I reached the A20 which is in good shape and doesn’t have a lot of traffic, letting me hope I could catch up a little on all the time lost before. When taking a small rest and enjoying the snack my mum had given me (including a napkin!) at a rest area, I thought that the air was nice and fresh and decided to open the car’s window, to get some of that inside the car.

… which was the point at which the window decided to break, opening all the way and then stopping to work. As a consequence my next half hour or so was spent trying to find the fuses in the car and figure out what was going on there and how I could close the window again. Not just because it’s uncomfortable to drive fast with the windows open but also because it looked like it might rain. I soon learned that the fuses for the window openers in the car are actually quite clever: They don’t really blow but automatically close the circuit again a few seconds after disconnecting it. Not knowing that fact can make attempts to deduce what’s going on and why certain things work or don’t work in the car rather confusing.

After some additional fiddling, tweaking the plastic components of the car (and the joy of grabbing into the full ashtray which my dad conveniently prepared…), I found out that the up/down switch for the window seemed to be the problem. Luckily cars are not iPods and their circuitry is connected by solid plugs, so I could remove the switch and replace it with the passenger window’s, letting me solve the problem and drive on (I’ll still need a working switch and reassemble everything…).

Luckily the rest of the journey there was fine, and it was almost adventurous to drive the last few kilometres to a village with 30 or so inhabitants on a single lane road, who would have thought such things exist in Germany?

The party was fun, included funky candle driven balloons and ended with us sitting close to the stereo with a glass of whiskey listening to James Bond title tracks on vinyl while the cocks in the neighbourhood started waking people. The only complaint should go to the local mosquitoes. With only my hands being uncovered, I managed to collect nine mosquito bites on my left hand alone. They’ve been overdoing it.

traffic sign 466 The next afternoon I went on to Berlin. While things there started well, I somehow ended up on a Umleitung (do other countries even have this? The idea of a fixed set of detours along the Autobahn to easily redirect people in case the road is closed seems quite German to me) which took me 50km through the Brandenburgian countryside on slow, small roads (including an extension of the detour as indicated by traffic sign 466).

It’s green and leafy in Brandenburg, the towns look like they’ll die out soon and there were a few Alleen on the way: Pretty roads seamed by trees which are notorious for killing teenagers using them at high speed. After getting through that with not a single obvious petrol station on the way, I had to worry about refueling (and the fact that there were actual queues at the petrol station I found made me think that perhaps I didn’t just overlook other petrol station).

The final thing I did on that day was getting lost on my way into Berlin (hint: signs for Prenzlau and Prenzlauer Berg can point in opposite directions…) and experiencing once more that the directions given by Google maps may be quite good (even though they’re notoriously optimistic as far as their time estimates go), but lead to you feeling absolutely lost once you manage to get off the designated track. The final fact that the Autobahn exit I had to take was closed for construction almost seemed like a minor detail in the end and I was happy to stay with friends for the night. We even had a nice dinner at Sumo Sushi in Kreuzberg.

Just to complete the list of all-inconvenient-all-the-time car journeys, my trip back to Göttingen this morning started off with almost two hours in traffic jams on Berlin’s local Autobahns. Even though the rest of the journey went smoothly, it started the day with a bad mood.

July 20, 2009, 20:15

Tagged as autobahn, berlin, car, greifswald, travel.

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