The Autobahn is a big thing here in Austria. It’s long, it’s well used and it takes a lot of maintenance to keep everyone safe. So people are very diligent about reporting anything that might cause a disruption or be unsafe. With drivers travelling at 130km/h there is a good reason why. Not just for the ghost drivers (people driving the wrong way), but also for accidents, bad weather conditions, broken down vehicles and random things creating a hazard.
Like, for example, foreign objects. There is nothing more terrifying than coming around a bend at 130 to find a piece of ‘something’ on the road in front of you.
Not to make light of it, but more to praise the almost instantaneous way the radio and traffic authority tells us about these things, I do find myself intrigued about what might be found on the autobahn today.
The most common is a Ladegut which seems to be a generic term for an item that fell off a car or truck… or a Holzstuck (piece of wood)… or a piece of tyre… and so on.
But then there are the things that are not only less common, but sometimes have me giggling and wondering how the hell they got there in the first place.
I was at a wedding recently talking to an American who had moved to the UK and actually had to retake his driving test before he was allowed to drive there. And it got me thinking. Because in Austria, I was allowed to drive, on the wrong side of the road, in foreign language, with different road rules, immediately – no lessons or tests required!
The driving rules between Austria and Australia are similar in many way – ignoring the whole ‘driving on the other side of the road’ of course. Still, Austria has some quite interesting quirks when it comes to road rules and the way to drive.
In Austria there’s a saying: April, April, der macht was er will… which basically translates to: April will do whatever the hell he wants! That means in April you can expect weather ranging anything from a sunny 25°C to below zero with snow.
And last week, April, the nasty bastard, did exactly that, surprising everyone with snow.
I honestly thought snow would be the worst thing I would encounter when driving in Austria over winter.
I was wrong.
While snow does provide its own unique challenges, I have to say, in my first year of driving it wasn’t nearly as bad as the fog (Nebel, in German) – the dreaded, nasty fog. Austria, as it turns out, with its scenic vista of mountains and lakes, is a veritable fog-magnet.
When I finally (just in time) got a job in Austria, I didn’t have much time to buy a car. Though with a 45 minute commute to contend with, it was a necessary evil.
Thomas doesn’t like car shopping, and I’m not much help. To me, it’s a car – I want to be able to drive it without breaking down and I want to listen to music… if it was a cool colour that would be ok, too. But that’s it. We checked out a few cars and found some models I liked (in truth, I would have been happy with any of them… I just wanted a good deal) and I ended up with a Ford Focus. I’ve never been a Ford girl, but it was the best one we found. And here’s why: Continue reading →
My job is conveniently located (despite quite a long drive) just off the autobahn out of Graz, which means I have an easy run every day with no traffic problems. The only problem is that it also requires me to drive over ‘The Pack’ which I have affectionately renamed: the Death Pass.
It is one of the higher parts of the Austrian autobahn, climbing up over a mountain range and being notorious for heavy snow and ice. With my minimal snow driving experience, the thought of driving the Death Pass in winter scared the crap out of me. I was sure I was going to be stranded overnight in my car as thick snow slowly built up around my car turning it into an icy death den… ok so I was being a little bit melodramatic.
So now that winter is finally over, here are my more realistic reflections on the Death Pass.
It’s pretty exciting (and scary) facing the prospect of driving legally at 130km/h. I have to admit it took me a couple of weeks before I was comfortable but now, I am just like everyone else – hating slowing down to 100 to go through the tunnels.
So here’s a few tips I’ve put together if you ever get the chance to drive the Austrian autobahn. Continue reading →