What is the Autobahn?

Setting the record straight for English speakers

To those who have never been to Germany, conversations about Germany usually conjure up images of blonde-haired, blue-eyed people dressed in Lederhosen and Dirndln sipping tall, frothy beer and munching on bratwurst while driving at break-neck speeds on the limitless Autobahn. 

Those images are only partly correct. While there are still blonde-haired, blue-eyed Germans, the country has had a large influx of immigrants with a variety of genetic traits that have changed the scene. Also, Germans dress like everyone else on the planet, and traditional Lederhosen and Dirndln are saved for special occasions like Oktoberfest or folklore festivals. However, Germans do consume a lot of pork and beer, so it is very common to find places to purchase a bratwurst and a tall, frothy beer.

Now about those break-neck speeds on the highway…

In America, we often hear about the Autobahn. It is this mythical road where one can cruise unrestrained by the limits of a legal speed.

Well, actually…

What is the Autobahn?

Simply put, the Autobahn is just the freeway. Any freeway in Germany is an Autobahn.

In German, we see the phrase der Autobahn. Many people who only speak English see the capitalization of Autobahn and assume it is a proper noun because, in English, we only capitalize proper nouns. 

This is not the case in the German language. All nouns are capitalized whether they are common or proper. Therefore, when we see der Autobahn, the actual English translation is simply the freeway

Is there a speed limit on the Autobahn?

The answer to this question is a little more complicated. Yes and no. Yes, there are speed limits on parts of the Autobahn. However, when you get out on the open road between cities, there is no limit.

Do you have any tips for driving on the Autobahn?

Driving on the freeway in Germany is a little different than driving on the freeway in the United States. Here are a few things you need to remember.

  1. Keep right when not passing. In America, although we should keep right when not passing, many people do not adhere to this rule. In Germany, you will have angry Germans who are driving much faster than you who want to go around.
  2. Pass quickly. When you are traveling where there is no speed limit, there is always someone who is going faster than you. They will fly up on you from behind without you even realizing it, so get back over quickly.
  3. Speed limits are in kilometers. Erica’s first time visiting Germany, she was aware that they used kilometers but was unaccustomed to making the necessary mathematical conversions. Imagine her surprise to see a speed limit sign for 100 and instinctually think it was miles per hour. That would be quite fast! After doing the math, that 100 kilometers per hour was revealed to be a very reasonable 62 miles per hour.

Honk! Honk!

Now you are all set to travel the interior of Germany! Have you ever been to Germany? If so, have you ever traveled on the Autobahn? What were your thoughts on the experience?

Are you ready to book a trip to Germany? Click here to book your ticket to adventure!

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