Commuting Through Bavaria
At the start of September I moved house. Not only that, I moved cities. After a weekend of unpacking boxes and hanging up pictures, I went back to my old city and my old flat. I did this not because I had some terrible falling out with my wife, but because we had decided that, although my wife would be working and living in Augsburg, I should keep my job in Nürnberg. This has been the status quo for roughly two months. Every Monday morning, I get in the car, drive the 150 or so kilometers, stay for three nights and then drive back.
If I’m honest, the first few weeks were fairly terrible. Not only was my wife in a different city, but I was returning from work to a now empty flat, which we still had possession of for three more weeks. It felt like I was returning to the scene of some long-forgotten crime, picking over the bones of something I really shouldn’t. I suddenly became incredibly self-conscious about my neighbors and worried what they might think if they saw me through the window, clearly sitting on patio furniture in a now totally empty apartment. Perhaps they thought I was some kind of newly minted bachelor, who had lost everything in the divorce. “Jokes on them” I thought “My wife was the one who owned all the nice stuff, all I had was some books and a Darth Vader helmet”.
Sleeping on a mattress on the floor and eating from singular pieces of crockery that my wife had thoughtfully left behind didn’t improve my mood. I began to hate my old apartment and became certain that it smelled weird. I would tell my wife on the phone “This place stinks”, she would laughingly reply “It’s probably you!”. “It’s not me” I’d argue while carefully sniffing my t-shirt, just to be sure. When the time came to hand the keys over to the new tenants, I was relieved to be rid of the place. The new residents of the flat seemed pleased with how large it was without furniture and kept cooing as they walked around. As they wandered, I fielded questions on the weird cables that were sticking out of walls or which key was the one for the basement. They seemed unaware or unworried by the obvious odor in the air, but I wished them good luck as I drove away.
Returning to Augsburg, I would be confronted with another weird effect of my weekly commuting; my new flat seemed less like home and rather like a nice holiday apartment we had rented. Even now I’m not exactly sure that I live there, as I do exist. I have problems finding things in the kitchen and I spend way too long clicking the wrong light switches when I leave a room. However, the new house does contain my pointless collection of action figures, so I’m assuming I live there.
Commuting itself is a mixed bag. The journey, although theoretically short, is complicated by the fact that the most direct route is via a Landstraße. Unlike on the Autobahn, the Landstraße is restricted to 100km/ph and is mostly single carriage way. This means that, depending on the time of day, I spend an inordinate amount of time sitting behind articulated lorries, praying for an opportunity to overtake and hoping the lunatics behind me don’t try anything funny. More than once I have been surprised as some gambling fellow commuter whips passed me to overtake a truck and only narrowly misses hitting the equally terrifying oncoming traffic.
I have also become a connoisseur of German service stations, which is surely the lowest rung on the connoisseur ladder. I have learned that McDonald’s coffee is easily the best of the crap coffee options available, but I still opt to buy the lukewarm automat variety as I don’t get a horrible feeling of being a corporate shill. I have collected and forgotten to use a small, but ever increasing pile of SANIFAIR WERT-BON vouchers that service station customers in Germany get when they pay for the toilet. They should be redeemed when paying for my coffee, but like every good German, I forget. I read somewhere that Germany wastes billions of these vouchers every year, because customers forget about them and now I am part of the problem.
I suppose the alternative would be to take the train, but I have actively avoided that option. I used to commute to work via ubahn quite frequently and apart from summer heatwaves, it was fine. However, the idea of taking the train for longer than 30 minutes fills me with a certain dread. I like people, I really do, just not at 6.30 in the morning. I think the only real solution to commuting at so early an hour, is for Deutsche Bahn to offer heavy sedatives and wake people up when the train arrives at their station. I looked at the highspeed ICE option, that only takes and hour, but it turns out that I could just rent a sports car for the price I would pay per month. Highspeed rail is a fantastic idea, until you realise that it’s run by money grubbing hucksters.
No matter, I quite enjoy driving about, especially during Autumn. All the trees and all the colours remind me why I love living in Germany so much. It’s a privilege to get to live in such a beautiful part of the world. Even the many diversions that seem to occupy all roads in Germany don’t really bother me. If anything, I get the chance to see villages and towns that people rarely see (some for good reason), but it gives you a real sense of what the south of Germany is all about. Commuting around the Bavaria might not be for everyone, but at the moment, it seems to be working out.