Easter Monday is a federal holiday in Germany, as is Good Friday. Everything is closed: shops, offices, schools. Since we are affiliated with the U.S. military base, today was a normal Monday for us; Jason went to work, Natalie went to school and I went to the gym. As I was driving through the village between my house and the gym, I noticed that it was extremely quiet. No cars parked on the street, not one person waiting at the bus stop, etc. It was quieter than even a Sunday morning. I saw a few people, dressed in riding gear (not an unusual sight), riding their bikes and I thought, “Hmm, this is what some locals choose to do with their day off work.”
I should have known better! When I drove home from the gym, the road that leads to my village was closed with police officers standing at the barrier. I tried to turn a block before the barrier and drive through a neighborhood to get to the road I needed, but as I approached the intersection, a truck pulled up, 3 men hopped out, and they pulled a barrier out of the back of the truck placing it on the road right in front of me! There was a bus sitting across the intersection and the driver was talking to the police officers. Not knowing what else to do, I put on my turn signal to indicate that I wanted to turn onto this road (now closed) that would lead to my village. 😀 Once finished with the bus driver, the police officer walked over to my car. He immediately began speaking in English! What gave me away? My car? The fact that I was wearing sunglasses? My sweaty bed-head hairstyle? My University of Colorado t-shirt? My general confusion because I simply sat there not knowing what to do? I feel compelled to point out that there was a car behind me and they seemed as confused as I was; they were probably Americans too! Ha ha Anyway, the police officer said, “It is not possible to drive on the road. It is closed for a bike race.” I said I just needed to go to Holzgerlingen (the very next village). It didn’t matter, he wasn’t going to let me pass. 😦 At a loss, I asked him how to get to Holzgerlingen and after some thought, he gave me a suggestion. I am so thankful the GPS lives in my car. I programmed it and when she realized I wasn’t going to take the normal route, (She was unaware of the bike race, too!) 😉 she guided me on an alternate route. After a twenty minute detour I was home.
I find this particularly interesting given our experiences with German road construction. On the autobahn, for example, the lanes are either narrowed (so there is no shoulder), but kept to two lanes going each direction, or one set of lanes is closed and traffic is shifted to the other side of the autobahn so there is one lane of traffic going each direction. Generally, the same holds true for road construction on the secondary highways and back roads. So, why couldn’t they just close one lane on the road for the bike race and have a temporary traffic light or a person with a flag directing traffic?
This is similar to an incident Jason & I experienced a few weeks ago during Carnival/Fasching season leading up to Ash Wednesday. We had spent the day in Strasbourg, France (only a one hour drive from home) and decided to take the scenic route through the Black Forest to get home. The roads were hilly and windy leading through small villages. We needed to go through one village and at the main road where we would turn off to go into the village 4 km away, there was a temporary road closed barrier. We sat for a moment contemplating our options and watched two other cars sail past the barrier down the road so we decided we would too! (Isn’t it lemmings that follow their leader even if it means running off the cliff to their death?) The drivers of those other two cars appeared to know what they were doing, not even hesitating as they sped past the barrier. Once we reached the village, there was another temporary road closed barrier and we could see why: they were having their Fasching street parade and party…on the main road! We tried to take side roads through neighborhoods to get around the closed road but there was no possible way. This was the only road through the village! So we had to turn around, head back up the hill to the main road 4km away, then drive on to the next village and continue on our merry way. It was a 45 minute detour. It just really surprised me that the only road through the village would be closed. Why wouldn’t they have their Fasching parade/street party on the side streets? On the other hand, why am I surprised?
I think on the next German federal holiday, I will just take a holiday from the gym too! 😉