As per my entry about driving in Germany, Darth Jack lined up two driving lessons to give me some confidence with driving in Germany. The real reason maybe that it will give him some confidence that I will not write off his car.
My instructor was Mary. She was born in America but had lived in Germany since she was 10 years old. This was good as we could do the driving lessons in English and not concurrently have a German lesson where a misunderstanding from me could result in far worse than my usual embarrassment.
I found the two lessons very stressful and nerve racking. I am not sure if this was more due to the actual driving or having someone next to you critiquing your every move. This must be how it feels for Eva with me sitting next to her while she drives.
The first difficulty was getting used to driving a recent model VW Golf 7. The last car I had owned was a hot red 1991 Toyota Celica chick magnet. Technology has moved on since 1991.
The car engine was very quiet and when I stalled the car I could not even hear the difference. Also when you come to a stop and enter neutral, after a certain time the engine will stop to save fuel. I was not sure at times when I stopped whether I had stalled or if the fuel saving feature had kicked in.
In order to restart a stalled car, one used to have to put the car in neutral and then turn the key again. Now days you only need to put the car in neutral and then touch the clutch again to make it restart. This is much easier than the old way but I found it difficult to change my old man habits.
Hill starts have changed as the hand brake is now a finger brake as it is just a button. I had to use the foot brake to hold the vehicle, and at the same time slowly lift the clutch until I felt the pull then switch my foot from the brake to the accelerator.
There are a lot more of what I like to call “conditional road rules” in Germany. These are rules where there is a default rule but because of XYZ happening, this other rule also applies. Sometimes there may be further rules on top of this.
An example is the give way rules. The default position is you must give way to vehicles on your right. On top of this though is that there are priority roads indicated by yellow diamond signs. When you are on these roads you can ignore the giving right rule and have the right of way. These two rules are then subject of course to traffic lights and other various signs overruling both.
I found I was so busy trying to work out if I was on a priority road or not, I could also not keep up with all the speed limit changes. These happen pretty frequently and are not always indicated by a number but could be by the fact you are entering a town. I was constantly having to ask my teacher what the limit was.
They also have some pretty crazy abrupt speed changes and my teacher was adamant I must be at or below that speed before we passed the sign. Some of them have you leaving the autobahn at 130 km plus and needing to then immediately slow down to 40 km,
Another conditional rule is there was a sign (I missed what it looked like among the many other signs) about 15 meters before one set of traffic lights. This sign means that if the traffic light ahead is red, you are supposed to stop back by the sign 15 meters back. The purpose of this is to keep the driveway near the lights clear.
This is a really difficult rule to adhere to and usually when I am that close to traffic lights, I am not looking out for other signs on my approach to it. I was told by Mary no one really obeys it and most of the time whena driving student stops at the line, everyone else passes them to move closer to the traffic lights.
My main problem of judging the space on my right side was ever constant. I gave my driving instructor a few scares on her side and she kept telling me how expensive her heated side mirrors cost if I take one out. Not that I am a new learner, but it is not the most confidence building statement to hear. I think I just need to keep an eye on that side a bit more than normal and also stick closer to the middle of the lane.
Anyway, my two lessons were completed and I was glad to see the back of them. I was also glad to not find out how expensive those side mirrors were.
Residency Registration Certificate (Anmeldebestätigung)
We decided to get things rolling on the immigration front.
I was prepared for the worst re waiting, annoyance and form filling out. Ever the optimist I am.
Eva being more prepared than me, downloaded and printed the form. I was surprised it was only 3 single sided pages long. While completing the form it turned out we only needed to complete one page.
We headed to the Residence Registration Office (Einwohnermeldeamt) on Tuesday at 8:30 AM. I was expecting the worst in terms of waiting times and form filing. I hoping to make the best out of a bad situation by at least being able to make some fun out of the process.
We found the right area to wait and collected a waiting number which indicated which door we were to enter. There was no one else waiting and the light above the door immediately turned green indicating it was now our turn. Our information was entered in some system by bureaucrat one but we still need to complete the process by making an appointment to see bureaucrat two elsewhere in the same building.
The only part of the process I can point and laugh at is that we cannot arrange a date for this appointment for another three days. This is when bureaucrat two will have access to the information in the system entered by bureaucrat one. One can only guess why this is not instantly available to bureaucrat two.
I took the attached photos in preparation for a blog post about a long wait and pain that never eventuated.
Now comes the part where we replace everything we sold at 2-3 times the price we sold it for in Australia. First up on the list is a new bed.
We went to a place called Neubert. Think IKEA but the German version of this. It could have been the jetlag (or that we are really lazy) but Eva and I were exhausted just by the sheer size and amount of choice on offer. The place is huge and has so many options it can overwhelm you.
Germans do beds a bit differently to us in the southern hemisphere. My prior experience of buying beds is limited to buying whole beds so it was a simple yes or no decision.
In Germany you first select a frame, then slats and then a mattress. There are then further sub categories for each of these. What was a simple yes or no decision is now is now a decision tree branching out to 8 or 9 other choices which need to be considered together.
Selecting the frame was pretty straight forward. We had our maximum measurements for it to fit in the bedroom and knew we wanted something made of a light coloured wood to match the floor in our apartment.
There are then also various options for legs and head boards. We decided to not go for a head board as this cost almost half as much as the bed frame. The legs we choose were simple rounded ones though there was a strange option to have springs as bed legs. Even google cannot work out the why for this one but I am guessing it is something kinky.
Next up was the type of slats the still to be selected mattress would sit on. These slats are all hanging on the wall and look like some sort of rack torture devices.
Just by looking at them I have no idea which one does what and which will suit us best. I am told you can adjust the firmness of the slats and also raise and lower certain sections of the bed if you wish. We left this choice to the Vaders as we had no clue.
Lastly there is the mattress. This was probably the easiest choice to make as we can actually test these to see what we liked. The problem was we were so fatigued that any prolonged testing would have led to us giving the mattress an authentic sleep test. We left that decision for another day.
Interestingly Germans generally have two smaller mattresses in the frame and also two smaller separate duvets for each occupant. Google tells me this makes it easier to move into the German houses which can be pretty tight and small. I have gotten used to it but it is a bit strange and unfortunately makes it harder to Dutch oven Eva.
Once we had got through all the options we were then advised the bed and the slats would take six weeks to be ready. Another cross mark against that so called German efficiency. Luckily we don’t need the bed for a while and will have a fold out couch in the meanwhile.
Next up is France!
Bis zum nachtes Mal.