Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Malaysians, German automobiles, autobahn

German automobiles

Malaysians always have a fascination with Germany and thing German. For one, Malaysians often associate German products with quality and reliability, especially German automobiles. Mercedes and BMW cars are status symbols in Malaysia and they cost a bomb. Many rich Malaysian businessmen use Mercedes and BMW cars to impress their clients.

German Autobahn and speed limits

German high-speed roads are referred to as autobahn or Bundesstraßen (federal road) which are maintained by the federal government. Although Bundesstraßen have recommended speed of 130 kilometer per hour, Germany is one of the very few countries in the world which do not impose speed limits except for dangerous or congested stretches. Sometimes, I am just amazed at Malaysians who buy German cars capable of driving at very high speed, but with the speed limit of a maximum 110 kilometer per hour, what is the use of owning such high speed cars in Malaysia?

Thus, if any Malaysians want to really put their high speed cars to the test, they will have to drive them on the German Bundesstraßen. Hopefully, they know what they are doing. But German autobahns overall safety record of generally better than other European motorways, so the Germans must know what they are doing.

Highly systematic German ways of labeling roads

When I was in Germany, I was made aware of the punctuality and the German systematic ways of doing things. This even extends to their autobahn or Bundesstraßen. They have a systematic ways of naming them. Bundesstraßen are labeled with a B (Wikipedia says it is A, not B) followed by numbers. For east-west oriented roads, the numbers are odd numbers while north-south roads are even numbers. It should be a pleasure to drive on these German Bundesstraßen but wonder if I would be able to handle its high speeds. There are also roads maintained by the states and these are called Landesstraße for country road and Staatsstraße for state road. They are labeled beginning with the alphabet L, S or St.

Driving To and around Berlin

Berlin is surrounded by the Berliner Ring (A10) and to get to Berlin's inner city, you will have to use various access roads. AQ115 will take you to the Western Berlin, A113 goes to South-east Berlin. Northern Berlin is divided into Pankow/Weissensee area and to get there, take A114. The other part of Northern Berlin is Reinickendorf and access to this part is via A111. While it is claimed that driving around Berlin is comfortable and easy because of Berlin's excellent infrastructure, motorists will have to note that from 1 January 2008, Berlin's inner city had been zoned as an "environmental zone" and cars in such "environmental zone" need to meet certain emission standards. In fact, to drive in such "environmental zone" your car must display a sticker with information about the emission standard of your car and these stickers can only be obtained from authorized garages.

If you had been driving from Kaiserslautern through East Germany to Berlin in 1964, this might have been what met your eyes:

driving to Berlin
Photo of "Road to Berlin" is property of Al

I think the gate you see in the distance is the famous Berlin's Brandenburg Gate

Berlin Brandenburg Gate
Photo of Brandenburg Gate is property of Rob & Lisa Meehan

Accommodation in Berlin

If you need accommodation in Berlin, perhaps one of the online accommodation booking website you can try is Berlin Hotels where I have seen hotel accommodation going for as low as 12 Euro.

Driving in and around Cologne (Koln)

Cologne had the honor of being the first German city to be entirely encircled by a highway belt with well constructed highways and byways. Some says driving in Cologne is a breeze but others say it can be a nightmare, especially for Malaysians as many are one way streets not properly marked and one drive on the right side of the road instead of the left as in Malaysia. This can get you into some sticky situations if you are not alert. Getting a city map would be a great suggestion and be seriously considered.

Landmarks in Cologne (Koln)

The most famous landmark in Cologne is the Cologne Cathedral whose main entrance you can see in the photo below:

Cologne Cathedral
Photo of Cologne Cathedral is property of Jeff Barnes

Accommodation in Cologne (Koln)

For accommodation in Cologne, you can try Köln Hotels where hotel accommodations can be obtained from as low as 17 Euro to as high as 216 Euro (may change by the day).

Driving in and around Frankfurt

Actually, Frankfurt is better known as an important aviation hub rather than a diving paradise. If you want to drive in Frankfurt, be prepared for lots of traffic, especially at certain times of the day near Frankfurt, and a shortage of expensive parking space. While no speed limits were mentioned above, there are speed limits in and near Frankfurt. But Frankfurt is one of the most modern of all German cities

Landmarks in Frankfurt

Frankfurt is situated on the River Main, and is in the Frankfurt Rhine Main Area. The best known of its landmark is of course the Frankfurt am Main International Airport or Flughafen Frankfurt am Main or Rhein-Main-Flughafen in German. It is the largest airport in terms of passenger traffic in Germany, the third largest in Europe and the eighth largest worldwide. It serves as an important hub for international flights from around the world. The few times I flew to Europe including Geneva, Switzerland, I transited in Frankfurt. However, if you are driving in Frankfurt, you are not likely to drive to or from the Frankfurt airport unless as a point of arrival and departure.

The best thing that can be said about Frankfurt is its modern skyline:

Frankfurt skyline, Germany
Photo of Frankfurt modern skyline is property of Rupert Ganzer

Online booking of accommodation in Frankfurt

Compared with the bad old days when you have to waste precious time to hunt for accommodation on arrival, with the Internet, you can easily book your accommodation via websites like Frankfurt Hotels.

Driving in and around Munich

Munich or München in German, is the capital of Bavaria and Germany's third largest city after Berlin and Hamburg. Bearing in mind that most autobahns do not have a speed limit, try to get a fast car as otherwise you will be looking at the rear view mirror all the time as Mercedes, BMW and Audi zoomed ahead of you. It is nice to spend some time driving around Munich, but Bavaria has plenty of spectacular mountains, the quaint villages, the pretty lakes and among the most famous castles in Germany. So spend some time driving around Bavaria outside of Munich.

But if you want to see a curiosity, make it a point to visit the unusual Adidas Bridge:

Adidas bridge Munich
Photo of is property of Adidas Bridge Munich is property of Arturo de Albornoz

Have you ever seen a bridge like this in Malaysia? Don't know about you, but I have not, and if you just have to see it with your own eyes, you will have to get a ticket to fly to Germany.

Accommodation in Munich

After my traveling experience in Europe in the 1970's where no one even had the dimmest idea of this great invention, the Internet, my advice to you is if you want to see that Adidas Bridge in Munich, book your accommodation online before your arrival date via online accommodation booking websites like Munich Hotels if you don't want to go through the time wasting bad experience of hunting for suitable accommodation on arrival that I experienced when I was traveling in Europe.

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