(Also: The German Paradox – The Autobahn)

To a driving enthusiast, the allure of Germany is undeniable. An unlimited autobahn? The Nürburgring? Home of Porsche, BMW, Mercedes, Audi (and for that GTI owner, VW)? What could be better?

It’s possible to get a taste of this driving paradise in many ways. Companies such as Fast Lane Travel can get you in a Porsche to drive on the autobahn and see the sights of Germany. You can get lessons on how to drive on the Nürburgring with the BMW Car Club of America. And if you want to save some money on your next German automobile, you can take European delivery of you Porsche, BMW, Mercedes or Audi. You can save a few thousand dollars by picking it up at the factory and driving it around Germany (and a few other countries) for up to six months before it’s shipped to the States.

You’re probably thinking to yourself that this is all fantastic. Germany must be the nirvana of the automotive world. The only way it can get better is if you actually moved to Germany and got to do this everyday.

Not so fast, Hans.

Caring for a Nice Car™ in Germany was one of the most frustrating experiences I’ve had with a car. It made me very, very cranky. Of course, a large part of my problem was the culture clash of the my American Midwest mentality dealing with the European Way. And because they don’t give me a bag with my groceries.

For every wonderful driving experience in Germany, there’s a frustrating aspect to car ownership there. I’ll cover various topics about this in future posts, but today let’s start with something basic, like parking.

In Germany, there isn’t any. Forget about it. Just park in a field outside of town and take the bus in. Or walk.

If you do feel adventurous, you could try the various 6-story paid park houses in the cities. If you drive up and down for a few hours, somebody is bound to leave. You may find the parking spaces a bit narrow, but rest assured they are designed for tiny European cars, not motorcycles. And yes, somebody will ding your door.

“Those who cannot remember the past will spend a lot of time looking for their cars in mall parking lots.”
–Jay Trachman

There are some metered parking areas in the city streets, but the rest are usually reserved for residents with permits. If you do find one of these metered parking places, it will probably require parallel parking, a skill that’s disappeared from America shortly after the introduction of the automobile. In Germany, you will get the added pleasure of trying to parallel park while busses, cars, and mopeds are all trying to get around you. If you hear people talking, they are making fun of your parking inadequacies. And yes, you will scrape your low-profile wheels on the square curbs.

I'm pretty sure no cranes were used

Somehow this man got his car in and out of this spot with leaving a mark on my red 944’s bumper. The space ahead of my car is no parking.

“When I get real bored, I like to drive downtown and get a great parking spot, then sit in my car and count how many people ask me if I’m leaving.”
–Stephen Wright

Are you one of those drivers that use the bumper of the cars around you as a parallel parking aid? That’s not such a good idea in Germany. That would technically constitute an accident if you hit another car, even at low speeds. Leaving a note on the other person’s car doesn’t cut it. You have to wait for them, or call the police. If you leave, that would be leaving the scene of an accident, and yes, somebody will call the police on you.

One of the leading industries in the city where I lived in Germany is the distribution of parking tickets. I used to watch the city parking “guards” (they’re not police) watch the meters run down. They’ll usually give you a few seconds to leave. Otherwise, if you’ve run out of time, you will get a parking ticket. Or two.

“A real patriot is the fellow who gets a parking ticket and rejoices that the system works.”
–Bill Vaughn

If you live in the city, you can get a permit to park on the street in some areas, usually for overnight (don’t forget to fold your driver side mirror in). But do you really want to park your Porsche outside? Some apartments have underground parking for their residents. If you’ve had previous experience navigating supertankers into port, then this will be a piece of cake for you. Otherwise, you will scrape a mirror on something, somewhere, somehow.

If you own or rent a house, then there’s a chance you’ll have a garage. The garage will probably be bigger than a breadbox. It should hold one (European) midsize car, like a VW Golf. Your passengers will have to get out before you park it inside. And yes, you will open your door into the brick wall when you get out.

So the next time you take your Nice Car™ out of the garage and park it way in the back of the Meijer’s parking lot, be glad that a) there is a “back of the parking lot” b) if someone parks next to you, you’ll still be able to open your door, and c) parking is free, as in beer (and speech).

Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone
They paved paradise and put up a parking lot
–Joni Mitchell