I am so sure there are a bunch of these kinds of advice posts out there, but apparently I didn’t read the right ones, or (more likely) I didn’t really believe them. Shame on me! Here are a few things we learned as we went on our trip!
- I’m just going to say it. Parking is a bitch. In Ireland AND Germany. It’s a lot of street parking. They are all teeny tiny spots. I am a great parallel parker, if I do say so myself, and I was stresssssssed. They usually cost money or say “no parking” for the time you want to park there. The BnBs in Ireland had places to park, but the cities/hotels were all about the tiny underground parking garages (hidden by a metal gate, where you had to pull the chain dangling by the sign for take away coffee), or off site parking lots (pay by the hour and walk back to the hotel). Some had push button tickets you had to validate, others you had to tell them when you were leaving at the front desk and then GO GO GO- DO NOT HESITATE OR THE GATE WILL CRUSH YOU- NO PRESSURE!!! We had a sedan in Ireland which wasn’t terrible, but the size of the SUV we got saddled with in Germany was a bitch.
- Figure out your hotel’s parking situation long before you are trying to arrive and check in. This created unnecessary stress – I assumed there would be a place in front of hotels to park, unload, then figure it out. Not always the case.
- So, in my opinion, if you can- don’t rent a car.
- If you do, get a SMALL ASS CAR. Repeat. Clown Car. I’m serious! When you are parallel parking between two motorcycles on a busy one way street, or parking in an underground “parking garage” (read: parking crawl space), with your father trying to “help” – also, don’t bring your father – thank me later. These parking garages are NOT like the ones I’m used to in the states. You might be thinking of your local mall or business district- nope. Think about an underground obstacle course of low ceiling-ed concrete with concrete walls, columns, and zero wiggle room. 20 point turns anyone?
- If you do drive: Driving in Ireland starts stressful, but it’s really fine. If you’re a good driver, you’ll adjust. If not, you might hit the passenger side car mirror on a parked car and not realize it (and refuse to stop to check). You might drive on the “turtles” the.entire.time/drop the left side tires off the road throughout Ireland. We won’t name names, but I’m just sayin’, it wasn’t me. And Gene didn’t drive. You do the math on that one!
- I do recommend researching traffic circles – there are some videos online of Ireland’s driving school which were incredibly helpful for me.
- Driving in Germany is a little less scary, especially if you like to drive real fast. What you need to know here is that the fast lane truly is THE. FAST. LANE. Do not drive in this lane unless you have a BMW or an Audi or something equally fast/faster and intend on feeling like you’re in the Fast and the Furious, Family Vacation edition. On autobahns, you will see a speed sign (white circle with the kph on it) with a black line through it. That means the gloves are off, and you best be paying attention. No checking Facebook while you’re cruising at 50mph in a 55mph zone, ok Oregonians? Are you listening? I’m serious!
- Story time: I am DILIGENT about checking my blind spots, and at one point, in the time it took me from checking my left side blind spot, looking back forward & to my right, and indicating my lane change a car came FROM NOWHERE and screeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeamed past us as I was starting to look left again actually change lanes. Mere seconds!
- Story Time Side note: These freeways are STRAIGHT – you could see for A LONG ASS WAY, and my distance eyesight is pretty damn good and that is all the time it took for them to be non-existent-to-there-and-then-gone-again. AMAZE. Also, minor heart attacks were had. Padre may still be recovering.
- In case you are wondering, the fastest I went was 160kph which is roughly 99mph. It. Was. Awesome. Don’t worry, Padre is fiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiine.
- Ireland is mostly smaller, two lane (country) roads (except the few bigger cities of course, and the freeway to Northern Ireland was wide and nice). There generally aren’t shoulders, and there aren’t many pull outs. If you have to pee in the middle of nowhere and you see somewhere you can stop. DO IT. Don’t wait “for the next one”, you might pee your pants before it comes around. Dublin had lots of city traffic, one ways and a light rail. It may be possible to accidentally drive on part of the railway when you should not be able to, but I (of course) would have no first hand experience of that particular situation. Moving on.
- Yes, in the more rural areas, sometimes there are sheep in the road. Yes, you just have to wait for them.
- Germany had a ton of road construction for some reason. Each time they would bring the lane sizes waaaaay down, and the left side was just a little too tight for my comfort with the SUV passing trucks.
- Germany also has an amazing protocol of separating to the sides of the lane when traffic slows or stops, creating a “lane” between two lanes, so emergency vehicles can pass unimpeded. It’s GENIUS! I wish you could do that in the states, but you know there would always be that asshole who just thinks he/she can pass everyone instead of staying in line like a good citizen. (Check out this article for more info).
- Dude. Study the German driving signs (Einbahnstrasse anyone?). And Parking signs. Duh. (Don’t think that your Padre will remember them from 40 years ago)… … … …
- In Germany: Know what a parking disc is, where it is in your car, and how to use it. Else you might get a nice lil’ 10 euro parking ticket in Nordlingen (oops!). And then Enterprise will fine you 20 euro for getting a traffic violation, EVEN if you ALREADY PAID IT. (You can write them back about it, but they just copy-paste their policy back to you in German. So learn that parking disc!)
I am sure there are other things about driving and parking, but these were the things that stuck in my head from our experiences.
As always, let me know if you have any questions, comments or concerns!! Happy Trails!
Side note: The cover image is Gene’s face every time Padre was driving. 😀