Tuesday, September 04, 2007


You might know that Germans have a very intimate relationship with their cars. We like them. Most of all, we like to drive them fast. On our Autobahns, people check if their Mercedes really can do the 250 km/h as advertised. There's tailgating, there's swearing and cussing, co-drivers (women, of course) shaking their fists at you and copious amounts of adrenaline being discharged.

Unlike the French or the Italians who partake in risky driving with a nonchalant elegance, we take it all very seriously. You insult my car by driving too slowly in front of me? You're one BAD person, you have no RIGHT to be there, you should be REMOVED. In the monthly magazine of Germany's automobile club, I once saw a (photoshop)picture of that terrible car, that hideous obstacle in front of you being taken away by helicopter. The caption read: A dream come true.

And now, I have been to Scandinavia. The maximum speed on Norway's highways is 90 km/h. 90. That's VERY SLOW. The country has more automatisk trafikk-kontroll thingies than other places have traffic lights. And fines for speeding are high, presumably starting somewhere around 100 € - which results in a religious compliance with the speed limits. Snails' gallop, JH called it as we slowly, slowly passed forests and lakes and forests and lakes.

In Norway, people drive in a very civilized way. I'm sure they have very few traffic accidents there. Everyone keeps a safe distance to the car in front of them. No swearing, no adrenaline. Once or twice, we saw people going too fast, and I said to JH: Look, he's going over the speed limit! And together, we watched the exotic figure disappear in the distance with maybe just the smalles bit of envy, and homesickness.