This is part seven of a tale about driving from the UK to Estonia, and back again. If you missed earlier segments, and want to start from the beginning, it can be found by clicking this link: Road Trip From the UK to Estonia.
We pick up the tale as we enter Germany from Poland in search of a hotel for the night.
We crossed into Germany, I checked my navigation and drove to the first three hotels on it.
One was wasteland (demolished maybe), one was a small guest house where nobody answered the door, and the third one looked promising: A small guest house run by a widow type woman. She showed me a room and it must have been the smallest one I had ever seen. No breakfast or bar going on either…….. so I declined.
I stopped and asked a local for the biggest hotel in the area, they said it was the City Hotel: http://www.citypark-hotel.de/
So tonight was to be at the City Hotel in Frankfurt an Oder in Germany. The room was pretty small and grim. But hey, its only for a night. It had been another long day and I was past caring.
I generally get my lad the room next door to me, as he is old enough to start to want his privacy. They said this wasn’t allowed in this part of Germany; he was too young. Well, Germany likes a rule.
After I paid, the woman on the desk started reeling off other rules: No externally bought drink in the room, no smoking anywhere, no visitors, breakfast is extra, wifi is extra, parking the van is extra; a huge list of things that are extra.
Then she tried to bill me in £ Sterling at an usurious exchange rate. No thanks love, I have a card denominated in Euros already; local rates please.
We dumped our stuff in the shoebox and went back downstairs. I asked where the restaurant was, “closed” she told me. What, at 8pm? OK, I’ll have a drink instead while I find out where we can eat. A bottle of German wine maybe (which is all they seem to have in Germany). Nope – not allowed! Only by the glass. “Why is that?” I asked. “Hotel rule” she said. I was getting fed up of rules by now and wishing I had stopped twenty miles back in Poland. In Poland you could ask for three hookers, a gram of coke and a crate of booze, and nobody would bat an eyelid. This is one regulated place!
I decided, as we were in the city, a stroll to find a restaurant was in order. The receptionist directed me to the ‘main part of town’ a few minutes straight up the road. “Its full of restaurants” she declared. She wasn’t wrong, but most of them were closed. I found one that looked kind of open. We sat down outside, we were the only clients. I ordered some food and a bottle of wine. “A bottle?” the waitress asked as if I had asked for Polonium. She went on to explain that serving a bottle wasn’t encouraged because of city drinking laws. I made a face like this and she brought the bottle. The wine was average, the food forgettable. As was breakfast the next morning – I don’t even remember what it was.
8.30pm in a town with 60,000 people in it and the streets were deserted. Shops were lit as if they were open, but they were closed. The only traffic was an ambulance every few minutes and the odd taxi. I probably saw ten pedestrians in an hour. It was like they had heard the four minute warning. The one restaurant that was open was empty. I decided to ask the waitress. She said it was normal it was like this every night of the week.
Germany: An unusual country that we admire from afar. The home of VW, Mercedes, Audi, Porsche, Bosch, Hugo Boss, Siemens, Blaupunkt, Lufthansa and Grundig. The powerhouse economy of Europe. Asleep at 8.30pm. Maybe there is a rule for that too………..
Actually, from previous visits to Germany I recall, they are all out of bed at dawn and are cycling to work whistling at 5am with a packed lunch on the pannier. Reminiscent of a Soviet Tractor factory actually.
Next morning I a took a run down the main street looking for a sausage shop. No sausage shop in Frankfurt (albeit an Oder and not am Main) but, OK. I wanted to go. Was it this town or this country? I couldn’t decide, but we were 500 miles from the ferry at Rotterdam in Holland and that means the autobahn beckons.
I was still musing on Germany as I was driving, and what a bloody odd place. Yes, the autobahns – with no speed limits – work just fine. Way faster than Poland. No roadworks to speak of, few accidents. Teutonic efficiency everywhere. German cars as far as the eye can see. Patriotic they are too. That explains the economy: Buy a Merc and keep the money in Germany. I cant argue with that, but I was driving a Merc too.
So I pulled in for coffee and fuel. Right there near the gents toilets was a vending machine. Not just condoms as you might expect, but vaginal lubricant, love balls, cock rings and all manner of sexual toys were available. For three Euros. Next service station I saw the same; but this time blokes were queuing buying them.
Now I don’t know about you, dear reader. I am sure many of us might have taken a car journey with a lady from time to time, and gotten a little frisky along the way. That seems pretty healthy.
But I never felt the urge to seek out vaginal lubricant, love balls and nipple clamps at the roadside; as an impulse purchase. What is with Germans? Anyone who watched the UK show Eurotrash will likely be nodding now. It was a show that looked at Europe and almost always seemed to focus on naked bearded Germans in forests doing something bizarre with a tin of automotive grease, a long stick and a woman in leather shorts with a cap at a jaunty angle. The car park revealed many way over-the-hill rotund German women dressed in skin-tight leather skirts and blokes with handlebar moustaches and yellow tinted aviator-style spectacles. I felt like I was on the set of a bad 70’s porn movie. The mind boggles. Eurotrash was true after all.
So what are to make of the Germans if we take all this evidence together? The price of an innovative, economically healthy nation is no speed limits, to go to bed at 8pm, get up at 5am, eat cold meat for breakfast, and cycle to Soviet Tractor Factory Number Five in leather shorts. Drinking more than one glass of something alcoholic is discouraged, but roadside shenanigans with nipple clamps and vaseline is not. As long as its before 8pm. And whatever happens after 8pm, in Lindenstraße at least, ends up with many ambulances being called; (screaming fifty-shades-style subs in cellars most likely). Oh, and unlike most of Europe, they sell two grades of diesel, and the expensive one is like rocket fuel! And you cant cut your lawn on a Sunday. Maybe it disturbs the blokes crawling on them at 5am in leather caps and nipple clamps?
An odd place indeed – when you scratch the surface – is Germany. So we hit the road heading the last 500 miles towards Holland………..
As I mentioned before, German traffic is generally quite efficient and I had to be checked in in Rotterdam by 7.30pm. The navigation said I would land at 6.30, so that doesn’t leave much time for traffic delay.
Ahh, now we are getting closer to Holland………
At last, by late afternoon, we are in Holland……..
Then rush hour hits, Holland is also notorious for traffic jams, but logic told me that people would be heading away from Rotterdam rather than towards it. Turns out that was correct.
At long last, one hour early, I saw what I had been waiting days to see……….
Yup, the Rotterdam to Hull ferry!
The boat is an overnight boat, and after a full English breakfast on board the next morning, and being waved straight through customs, it was only two hours or so within the UK to get home. Ahh, the correct side of the road once again!
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