Before the internet captured every conceivable niche related to cars, a trip to a German railway station offered a chance to find out about cars from far-flung regions.
If you thirsted after wisdom about the US market, there usually could be found a magazine or two in the Presse shop. As you might have noticed I’ve been auf achse in Germany for most of the month. During that time I’ve travelled by rail from Flensburg to Hamburg and on to Goslar in the Harz and then to Zittau on the Polish-Czech-German border via Dresden; and then I travelled from Schwedt on the Oder river to Bad Bellingen via Berlin and then from Bad Bellingen back to Flensburg via Mannheim and many, many other stations.
What I noticed is that if you want to find a well-stocked newsagent then Deutsche Bahn’s main railstations don’t disappoint. En route this time I usually bought an International New York Times and peeped among the car magazines to see if Automobile or Car & Driver might be on sale.
No luck. They seem to have disappeared. Even the excellent newstand at Basel Badische Bahnhof (how Tyler Brule is that reference?) yielded nothing. The Swiss market has been more open to American cars than most so that was my last hope before returning north last Tuesday.
Automobile and C&D have different characters and I usually bought both when resident in Ireland (do Eason’s still sell them?) and eventually Germany. I had been looking forward to reading one or two of them while on holiday.
What are these magazines like? For one thing they are holding a better standard than the UK new-cars magazines. Automobile seemed to be a car journal for Democrats: modern typefaces and Jamie Kitman wrote for it. C&D had more conservative layouts and among their writers Patrick Bedard (now retired) wrote articles with deep engineering knowledge but also clearly right-of-centre leanings. Both magazines feature first rate writing and good photography though then, as now, the UK’s Car managed to best them. Reading printed texts – the same ones I can get for free on-line – made the content more tangible. Maybe that was because I’d paid cash for the privilege of reading but also because I tended to read the material slowly. It would have been nice to sip an Aperol or Lillet with a new copy of Automobile in front of me.
The German rail-station newstands deserve a mention. At one point during my time in the Harz I had reason to visit a small station called Wernigerode. The newsagent/bookshop surpassed that of Aarhus, Denmark’s second city. Dichter und Denker, hallo.
The magazine rack groaned under the bulk of journals for each of the main German marques. One general classics magazine was paying tribute to the generations of Kadett. BBC’s Top [insert name of host] and Car also stood packed into the horde. If you like car design then Auto & Design could be had but I find the price to be paid to be too much like giving blood. Also, the content is rich in photos but poor on the text side. Whatever your interest in cars, as long as it’s not new American ones you will find something and a nice cup of coffee to go with it (from the inevitable bakery nearby).
Maybe some of our loyal readers in Germany or Switzerland can put a date on the departure of these publications.