Moving In Day (or, Why I hate driving in Germany Part One)

I mentioned in the dog story the van we rented to get from the airport in Frankfurt to our new apartment in Nürnberg when we arrived on Thursday 26 June—Vanzilla! In case my description wasn’t enough, here’s a picture of the type of van we had.

After picking up the dog, it was around 1:30 in the afternoon. We were all tired and hungry, and had to be in Nürnberg in time to pay our deposit and pick up the keys to the apartment… all by 6 pm. It’s about 230 kilometer—about 2 ¼ hour drive by Autobahn, so no problem, right?


Roads in Germany aren’t marked “north” and “south” the way they are in the US—from Atlanta, for example, we get on I-75 N to head to mom’s. Here, on the other hand, directions are marked by cities, so you have to kind of know which way you need to go. Fortunately, I already knew this thanks to my friend Linda, so I was prepared, and knew we needed to take the A3 toward ? to get to Nürnberg. The van, while huge, wasn’t a problem to drive on the A-bahn, and the speed limit was 120 kph once we got out of Frankfurt. On our way!

Until about ½ hour outside of Frankfurt—due to ubiquitous construction on the Autobahn (friends who drive I-75 will appreciate this), I came to a near standstill. Traffic was backed up as far as I could see. But I wasn’t worried yet. We pulled over at a roadside stop to get gas, food, and drinks, use the restroom (50 cents each!) and take Siggy for a walk. I thought the traffic would have thinned out in the 20 minutes we took.

I was wrong. We spent the next hour or so crawling toward Nürnberg, averaging between 10 and 40 kph. I was so tired I could hardly focus on the road at the pace we were moving—I kept looking between the road (and the distance left) and my watch. When we realized that there was no possible way to get to Nürnberg in time, we pulled over at another exit to decide what to do. We were still several hours from Nürnberg, given the traffic, we had no way of looking up hotels, especially ones that would let us bring the dog, and I didn’t want to be driving around Nürnberg at whatever late hour looking for one.

My AAA membership is the single most intelligent and handy investment I have ever made.

I called the number on the back of my AAA South card and spoke to a very helpful agent back in Norcross, GA. I explained my situation to her, and asked her to find me a hotel in Nürnberg that allowed large dogs for a room for the night. Since she couldn’t call me back internationally, she had us call her back in ½ hour. In the meantime, we got drinks, walked around, and rested at the traveler’s station. At that point, what’s the hurry?

Half an hour later, the lovely lady had found not one, but two hotels for us to call! They weren’t cheap, but at this point I couldn’t afford to be picky. The first hotel was full, but the second, the Dürer Hotel had a room, which we reserved. Knowing we had a place to rest our heads that night, we headed on toward Nürnberg—slowly, with the construction—stopping every so often. It took us until 9 pm Thursday night to get into town.

Unfortunately, the directions the hotel receptionist gave us assumed we were coming from the other direction than we actually came, and without a Nürnberg street map, we drove around for about 45 minutes before we found the hotel—in Nürnberg Altstadt, with all its narrow streets, in Vanzilla, in traffic, with unfamiliar street signs and such (like, no yellow lines between traffic directions—they’re all white—and sometimes no lines at all between lanes going in the same direction! I was a total wreck by the time we made it to the hotel—hidden back near the Dürer Haus, just inside the old city wall, where I was lucky to find a place to park the van.

Dinner consisted of juice and peanuts from the room’s bar.

The dog STILL wouldn’t go to the bathroom when we walked him.

But we had a place to sleep.

The next morning, I left Kevin and Sheridan to have breakfast while I found a Sparkasse to pay our deposits—not too hard, since I’d driven past it about three times looking for the hotel. We had our breakfast, checked out, and had little trouble finding the landlord’s office. Got our keys, found the apartment, unloaded everything, and headed straight to the Nürnberg Airport (I’d seen signs on the way in).

You see, I’d rented the van for one day – around 10:30 in the morning, and it was now after 11:00, and I had to return Vanzilla to Eurocar before I was charged another day (another €285). I wasn’t, which was a small favor after all we’d been through.

We returned to the apartment by U-Bahn and promptly collapsed on the floor. Furniture, beds, etc. could come later—we were HOME!

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