Theme: Places – The Danish/German border

One drives at a sedate 120 kmph along the Danish motorway to the border with Germany. Not so long ago there were guards controlling this boundary.

Space-time breach: source
Space-time breach: source

One stopped or came to a rolling halt. If you were sufficiently ethnically correct you’d be waved through. Or, if they didn’t like the cut of your jib, a quick look at the passport might have been required.

Either way, one usually had to go from standstill or walking pace back up top speed (unrestricted on the German side). At this point I commonly experienced a shock as a car doing light speed would zoom past, seemingly having accelerated from near-zero (just like me) to 220 in the time it took me to get to

Markgraeflerland: source
Markgräflerland: source

the third and work out where to put my driver’s licence. Such cars always bear German plates and are invariable high-end Mercedes or Audi’s. While the laws of physics allow for these remarkable accelerations, it feels like the missile has emerged from empty air as if from a rift in the fabric of time. As I snick into fifth gear the car has arrived in Hamburg.

A similar experience can be had as one leaves Switzerland: this time it is commonly Swiss motorists off to have a cheap lunch in the many pleasant hostelries a hop away from the border. I base that theory on the number of Swiss cars parked out restaurants in Markgräflerland. It is always unnerving because no matter how much attention I give my rear-view mirror, the cars always seem to appear in the half-second it takes for me to look elsewhere and back in the mirror.

As a counterpoint, arriving at the German border with anywhere else is like stepping into a vat of treacle. Brakes, decelerate and stop: sanity returns and all of a sudden one steps back into a calmer version of oneself.

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

6 thoughts on “Theme: Places – The Danish/German border”

  1. Although in no way wanting to associate myself with the current political climate, border posts did add to the sense of occasion when travelling. My most memorable crossing was leaving Communist Czechoslovakia at night and being saluted farewell by a lone border guard.

    One could write a similar thing about motorway toll booths. I do admit to a childish desire to dispense these booths in a personal best time. So much so that I have a Liber-t transponder for French autoroutes. Using these is a game of chicken as you approach the barrier and judge whether it will actually raise automatically.

  2. A fairly common occurrence in the Dreiländereck (the region encompassing Basel, Freiburg & Mulhouse) is that French and Swiss motorists consider the German stretches of Autobahn their own personal playground. My own (non-representative) experience is that the most aggressive drives tend to have CH or F number plates in that corner of the country.

    Don’t get me wrong – there’s an awful lot of terrible German drivers around too, but German signage appears to have a kind of carte blanche effect on some French and Swiss drivers, with appalling results. Even speed limits seem to matter less to those people than to the average German driver (mind you, the German fines must be laughably low by Swiss standards).

    1. Speaking as someone who is expecting their first ever speeding fine and endorsement to arrive in a few days (entirely avoidable, but long overdue some may say), it’s apparent that the French and Swiss are far more respectful (fearful) of speed limits in their own countries that the British are. So, like the time I took a ferry from Oslo years ago, and found it full of Norwegians bingeing on easily available alcohol, I guess the visitors to the Dreiländereck are binge speeding.

    2. Quite true what you write about the height of fines and on the attitude of some Swiss (don’t know about the French) when reaching the German Autobahn. I admit having gone there for the sole reason to test a car’s top speed. Nowadays, I have become a bit calmer. With my current car, I just wondered how the leading ‘2’ would be displayed in the HUD. Been there, seen that, won’t do it again.

      Regarding the compliance with German speed limits: I will eagerly stick to any limit that makes sense for me, especially in populated areas. But I must say the German Autobahns give me a very hard time to do so. Nowhere else I’ve seen so many different limits signposted in such frequent succession and so devoid of every logic. The worst thing are stretches of dozens of kilometers limited to 80 km/h due to allegedly damaged pavement. Needless to say, no Citroën driver will ever see the necessity of such a thing.

    3. Sean, even better if you can combine binge speeding with binge shopping for low prices, as the Swiss do in Germany. Going into Constance on a Saturday has become virtually impossible, and I understand how people there slowly start to hate all the Swiss who block their streets.

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