Category Archives: Baden-Württemberg

Differences Between Germany and the United States

I recently vacationed in Germany with my wife and learned some interesting ways that the country is different than the United States. Of course, there are more similarities than differences but here I want to share some of those differences, at least from my observations. Keep in mind that this is only my opinion based on my travels in the southern states of Bayern (Bavaria) and Baden-Württemberg and may not apply to all of Germany.

Germany is very similar to the United States in many ways. In fact, the large influx of Germans into the United States during the nineteenth century, including many of my ancestors, helped to shape what America has become. Nevertheless, there are many differences that I have noticed that I will detail below.

Coffee

In the United States, people love drinking coffee. There are many ways to drink coffee but I think the most common is with cream and sugar. Cream, when ordered in America, typically is understood to be half and half, which is halfway between whole milk and light cream, about 12 percent fat. I like no sugar and heavy cream in my coffee, which is about 38 percent fat. So far, Starbucks is the only place I have found that has heavy cream as an option.

Coffee also seems to be somewhat popular in Germany but cream is not. It is nearly impossible to find a coffee shop there that offers cream, or even half and half. It is almost always low fat milk which is 1.5 percent fat. That does almost nothing for coffee. One might as well drink it black, which is something I can’t do. Occasionally you might find a coffee shop that has whole milk but you are just as likely to find a shop that doesn’t even have regular coffee. Surprisingly, the Starbucks at the Munich train station had all their fancy drinks like lattes and espressos but no regular coffee.

it is very common for hotels in America to have coffee makers in the room. They usually supply their guests with regular and decaffeinated coffee along with various sugars and containers of half and half. Our hotel in Stuttgart provided us with a kettle to heat water and instant coffee but no liquid cream or even milk. Our hotel in Munich did not have any option to make coffee.

It is also common for American hotels to provide free coffee for guests in the lobby. I looked for that option at our hotel in Munich and was directed to their restaurant. There, they told me there I needed to have it delivered to my room, which I did. That was a mistake because the coffee was horrible and they charged me 15 euros for it. Our hotel in Stuttgart had a free breakfast buffet where they provided coffee with milk but I could never get it to taste good. They did have some good tea options, though.

Finding heavy cream or even half and half at the store was equally difficult. We looked for it at an Aldi’s store but could only find an artificial creamer. I did eventually find heavy cream at a store in Stuttgart but when I ran out and went back for more they were out of it.

Transportation

From what I have seen, the German transportation system is very similar to what you would find in the United States with a few differences,

Speed Limits – Some Americans think the Autobahn is a free-for-all and everyone can drive as fast as they want everywhere but I saw posted speed limit signs just about everywhere we went so it really isn’t that different than the United States except for the drivers. In America, you will occasionally see the crazy lunatic driving like a bat out of hell on the highway but in Germany those crazy lunatics appear way more often than occasionally.

Germany has plenty of slow drivers too and on more than one occasion while we were passing one of those slow drivers, we had to hurry back into the right lane because there was a car approaching behind us who was about to break the sound barrier and we didn’t want to stand in his way. I say “his” because the speed demons almost always seemed to be men.

Road Congestion – We sat through many traffic jams while traveling through Germany but we also covered a lot of miles so I think it is about average compared to the United States. What’s different is the reason for those traffic jams. Every traffic jam we encountered in Germany where we could determine a cause, that cause was road construction. Not once were we delayed by an auto accident. In America, I would guess that auto accidents are responsible for a quarter to a third of all major delays.

I don’t know if Germans are better drivers or we just happened to miss the accidents by chance. I did see one guy hit a pedestrian. He wanted to pull out onto a busy road and was looking left while moving forward. He didn’t notice the woman crossing in front of him from the right until he hit her. Fortunately, she was okay but it makes me think that maybe we just got lucky and perhaps Germans are not better drivers.

While stuck in a traffic jam in Bavaria one day, we noticed all the cars wer driving off to the side so there was a gap in the middle. We assumed this was required so that emergency vehicals could get by.

I find this to be a great idea. After this photo was taken, a Polizeiauto sped by with its lights on.

Pickup Trucks – In America, pickup trucks are almost as common as cars. In fact, I recently read that Ford will soon stop selling all of it’s cars in North America except for the Mustang and one other vehicle. It will instead focus on pickup trucks and SUVs. In Germany, a pickup truck is as rare as a good cup of coffee with cream. I saw only one pickup truck during our entire ten days in Germany. By contrast, in America it wouldn’t be unusual to see a dozen pickup while driving to the local market.

Below is a video I took in Munich. Notice there are are no pickup trucks. I probably should have taken a video in America to show the difference but I didn’t think about it until now.

Gas Stations – When self-serve gas stations first appeared in America one would pump gas and then go inside and pay. It soon became a problem because many people would pump gas and then drive off without paying. That problem was soon solved by offering pumps that accept credit cards and and/or requiring people to prepay before pumping gas. In Germany the old system is still in place. I don’t know why. Perhaps Germans are more trustworthy. I did not see one station that accepted credit cards at the pump or that required people to prepay. Considering that I usually pay for gas with cash, it was definitely more convenient for me, although I will admit to being a little confused the first time I needed to buy gas.

Bicycles and Scooters – Bicycles are more common in Germany than in the United States. I used to ride my bike to work so I appreciate a society that embraces bicycles. They not only save gas and lower pollution, they also relieve traffic congestion and parking problems.

Another thing I saw a lot of was electric scooters. A few cities in the United States now have electric scooter rentals, or what they call sharing, but they seem far more common in German cities.

Energy and the Environment

The United States has come a long way during the last fifty years in reducing pollution and conserving energy but Germany seems to have come even farther.

Wind – I saw many large wind turbines in Germany and while I know there are areas in the United States that has them, there are none near me. According to Wikipedia 18.7% of total power in Germany came from wind in 2017. In the United States, that number was 6.33%.

Solar – Solar power also seems to be more prevalent in Germany than in the United States. I noticed many homes and small businesses with solar panels while in Germany. Again, according to Wikipedia, Germany is ahead of America in solar power generation with 6.6% of their power generated by solar in 2017 compared to 1.32% in America.

Energy Conservation – I think both countries have come a long way in improving energy efficiency but I have noticed a few things in Germany that I hadn’t noticed in the United states. Our rental car, for example, would shut off every time we stopped and then the engine would start up again when we stepped on the gas. This was a little annoying at first but I got used to it pretty quickly. I read that that feature is pretty common on German cars but I never saw it on an American car until just last week when we rented a 2020 Chevrolet Malibu that also shut off when the car was stopped.

Another thing I noticed at the Munich airport was that the escalators only run when someone steps onto them. When they are empty of passengers they are off. I thought that was a great idea and I hope to see that in America soon.

Drinking Water

In America, drinking tap water is common but in Germany it is not. At many restaurants in America, it is common practice to bring water to everyone before asking what else they want to drink. In Germany, you have to ask for water and then you usually get bottled sparkling water. We had to make sure we asked for still water when we ordered it in restaurants. I have heard the the Germans aversion to tap water comes from its name, Leitungswasser, which means something like line water or plumbing water.

Restaurants

I believe tipping has gotten out of control in the United States. It seems like everyone expects a tip nowadays and in many cases it is virtually mandatory. Restaurant workers are paid meager wages with the expectation that tips will make up the difference. I would rather pay more for the food and not have to worry about paying my server’s salary. From what I understand, this is close to how it works in Germany. A tip is still expected, I think, but it is more like five to ten percent instead of fifteen to twenty percent.

Because servers were not really working for tips, I was expecting service to be worse than in America. In some cases it was but usually it was about the same. Even restaurants in towns that had few tourists had good service.

Cleanliness

In some ways, Germans seem to take care of their public properties better than Americans but in other ways Americans are better. Many places we went to in Germany were very clean, including the trains and the underground stations but for some reason the government seems to tolerate graffiti much more than in the United States. Sure, there are some bad areas in America but it seems like everywhere we went in Germany, except small towns, someone, or many someones, had defaced public property with spray paint. Sometimes it was artistic but more often than not it was an eyesore. Some of it seemed very old too, like nobody has bothered to paint over it in more than ten years.

Public Restrooms

I don’t think there was anything that caused more problems for us in Germany than finding a public restroom. I can only assume that Germans have developed very strong bladders. There were many times during our trip when our good time had to be put on hold because one or both of us had to use the restroom. In Heidelberg, for example, we probably could have spent much more time there but my wife and I both had to pee after the long drive to get there and we couldn’t find a restroom that we could use.

In the United States, places that sell food are required to provide restrooms for their customers but I don’t think that is the case in Germany. Also in the United States, grocery and convenience stores always have restrooms for customers but in Germany I did not find one store with a restroom. Gas stations we encountered in Germany had restrooms but they were always outside and needed a key. Most gas stations in America, except for the older ones, have restrooms that anyone can use and usually nobody need buy anything, although I always buy something because it just seems fair. Some gas stations even try to attract customers by making clean restrooms a top priority.

Conclusion

Our vacation in Germany was perhaps the best vacation my wife and I took together. It is a wonderful country but my intention here is not to conclude which county is better. I simply wanted to point out some of the differences I noticed. I am sure there are plenty of other differences I could have wrote about but I would have needed more time in Germany to notice them.

Thank you for reading. I hope you enjoyed my posts on Germany and I welcome any comments you might have. There are a couple of more German related posts that I want to write before moving on to another topic and I hope you will watch for those.

If you want to read the entire series about our trip to Germany, you can start here.

Vacationing in Germany: Part 9 – A Day in Stuttgart

As our vacation was nearing an end we decided to skip the day trips and just spend the entire day in Stuttgart. We were supposed to be heading back to Munich on this day but we bought another day at our hotel in Stuttgart, The Park Inn. Actually, we decided we liked it better there the day we arrived and asked about extending our stay that afternoon but we were told that the hotel was booked for that extra day. That evening my wife, Rose, saw that there were rooms available on the internet and at a rate that was a little more than half of what we paid by booking eight months in advance. We talked to the manager the next day (who was very nice and helpful during our stay) and booked the extra night even though we already paid for the same night in Munich.

After breakfast, which was free in the hotel, we went across the street to Marienplatz and bought an all day ticket for public transportation, which cost around 13 euros each. We were a bit unsure about which train to get on but since it was an all day pass we figured it didn’t matter. We ended up getting on what I later learned was called Zahnradbahn.

Since learning the German language, or at least trying to, I have been interested in why things are called what they are called. I knew Zahn means “tooth” but later learned it also means “cog.” I also knew “bahn” was a track or railway. I was not sure about “rad” but I knew “fahrad” means bicycle. I looked it up and found out it means “wheel.” Put together we get cog-wheel-railway. Okay, I can kind of unterstand but that was the only line with that name. Most everything else was called “stadtbahn” (city railway).

We road the train for about ten or fifteen minutes until it reached the end, a station called Dergerloch. We wanted to go to Konigstrassa but it was clear pretty early that we were on the wrong train. We didn’t care because we wanted to see the city and going to Konigstrassa was just not that important.

The area where we got off had many stores. Rose found a nice store that sold chocolates.

We walked on a little and came upon a little farmer’s market.

There we bought some grapes and a few other things to take back to our room.

We also bought some specialty olives.

We skipped the pasteries because we didn’t want to deprive the bees.

The train went uphill to get to Dergerloch so we had a good view of the city on the way back, even if it was through wet glass.

When we got back to Marienplatz we took the elevator down to the stadtbahn station and found the right train.

We got off a few stops later near Konigstrassa.

Rose did buy a few things there but there were not many stores that interested us so we headed back to Marineplatz. Since there was a constant light rain, it wasn’t a great day to walk around.

After we got back, we went out for lunch to a place called Onkel Otto’s. It was a nice place with very good German food and good service. Rose took a photo of me there but it came out blurry The only other one I have is below. I wish I had thought to photograph the food.

Later we went back to the hotel and repacked our luggage for our trip back to Munich the next day. Instead of going out for dinner, I bought some bread and bologna at the store and a few other things and we ate that and the grapes we bought earlier.

On my next post we will be heading back to Munich. I hope you will look for it.

Vacationing in Germany: Part 7 – Heidelberg

After our trip through the Black Forest to Baden-Baden, we decided to head north to Heidelberg. We were told it was a beautiful town and since I used to be in the printing industry I was very familiar with Heidelberg presses.

It wasn’t too far of a drive from Stuttgart, maybe two hours with the typical construction delays. When we got there we were struct by how many people rode bicycles in the town. All German towns tend to have a higher percentage of bicyclists then in the United States but I think Heidelberg tops them all.

Our first impression was that it was a beautiful city. It was big but still had an old world charm.


When looking for a parking spot we realized why everyone rode bikes, We eventually found a place to park but after the drive we both felt like we needed to find a restroom. During our vacation, we learned that bathrooms are very difficult to find in Germany. We weren’t desperate so we stopped at a store but the clerk was a bit too pushy so we left.

We walked around for a while hoping to find a restaurant where we could both have lunch and use the restroom but the only restaurant that we were interested in was an Italian deli that had no restrooms.

We walked down to the main bridge because I wanted to get a few photos from there but also because Google said there was a public restroom near there that we were never able to find.

We wanted to see the city but at the same time look for a restaurant that had parking, so we got in our car and drove around for awhile.

It really was a beautiful city but we could not find a place to eat lunch that had an open parking space anywhere near it so we decided to head back to Stuttgart. I don’t remember if we found a restroom on the way back or if we just held it for that long.

Once back in Stuttgart, we walked down to the Dinkelacker brewery restaurant where they not only serve good beer, the food was also fantastic. I think it was one of the top three meals that we had while in Germany.

I rarely drink beer, or any alcohol, when I go out for dinner but while in Germany I could not pass up the opportunity to try the local brews.

My next post will talk about Triberg and our cuckoo clock purchase. I hope you will watch for it.

Vacationing in Germany: Part 6 – Driving Through the Black Forest to Baden-Baden

On our first full day after arriving in Stuttgart, we wanted to go to the black forest to look for a cuckoo clock. I found that Freiburg seemed to be the place to go for cuckoo clocks but my wife heard of many towns in the Black Forrest and thought we should look for one or two that were closer. I looked it up and found a list of towns that were closer. She remembered hearing about Baden-Baden and thought that would be a good place to visit.

The hotel gave us a card for the parking garage and we conveniently got into the elevator and took it to the basement where our car was parked nearby. It was so much easier than our last hotel in Munich.

Rose wanted to drive through the Black Forest and see the scenery so I set our British navigator to the scenic route which took us through the northern part of the Black Forest. It certainly was a great drive with some beautiful views. We would see beautiful scenery followed by a small town and then more scenery.

We did run into some problems, mostly from our navigation system which seemed to be plotting against us. It started by taking us off a main road, bringing us around in a big circle, and the putting us back on the road again. I thought we misunderstood her so we paid close attention and followed her instructions to the letter but ended up doing the same loop. It felt like a Star Trek episode and we were caught in a time loop. On the third loop I told Rose to ignore her and stay on the main road and the navigator seemed happy with that choice. At least she didn’t complain about it.

Another time she took us off a two Lane road and onto a road only wide enough for one car.

This road had some steep inclines and when it ended we had a choice to go left, down to the main road,  or right up to who knows where. The navigator said to turn right. Eventually we ended up on a road so narrow and steep it was foolish to go any further so Rose had to carefully back up to a place where we could turn around.

After that we were taken to a road that was closed. It was actually closed on one end but open so people could get out. Rose wanted to go through anyway but I figured it was closed for a good reason and said I would find a way around so I opened Google maps and guided her around a very long loop in the other direction. It connected to the road we needed to be on several miles ahead but when we got close to the connection point, that road was closed too. This time it was completely blocked off.  I then had to find us a way out of the mess we were in. Eventually we got fat enough away for the navigation system to change the route.

The other things that would happen is the navigator would suddenly stop talking and we would miss a turn. I would then have to fiddle with the controls or reset the map to get her talking again. I also tried to turn off the radio once because of bad reception but couldn’t figure out how to do that without also turning off the navigation. Finally she would sometimes tell us to turn were there were no roads, even though the map on the screen showed us continuing straight. If there was a road, we would turn on it and then be told to make a uturn back to the road we were just on.

Dispute all the navigation problems, the drive was very beautiful and well worth the trip. We are blessed with beautiful beaches where we live in Florida but there is nowhere in Florida that I know of that has countryside as beautiful as I have seen in Germany.

When we arrived in the town of Baden-Baden, I was reminded of a college town, and I learned there are several colleges in the area but I didn’t know that at the time.

We drove around but we couldn’t find a parking spot. After awhile we found an Italian restaurant we wanted to try so we drove down the side street next to it and up the next street before finding a spot to park.

We walked down to the restaurant which was also a hotel. The lady inside said the restaurant was closed and then added “It’s Wednesday,” like that was an obvious reason for closing a restaurant. After that we decided to go back to Stuttgart.

When we got back we made a reservation and then had dinner at our hotel’s Italian restaurant which was very good and more reasonably priced than the restaurant at our Munich hotel.

I will talk about our trip to Heidelberg on my next post. I hope you will join me.

Vacationing in Germany: Part 5 – Munich to Stuttgart

After spending three nights in Munich, it was off to Stuttgart, a place you might call our second base of operations. When we booked our vacation we didn’t want to have to change hotels every day or two so we chose two locations that were near places we wanted to see, namely the Bavarian Alps and the Black Forest. Of course, there were plenty more places around Germany that we wanted to visit but we couldn’t see everything in nine days.

That morning was our twentieth anniversary. Our main anniversary gift to each other was to be a cuckoo clock that we bought together in the Black Forest so on this morning we just exchanged cards and token gifts. As soon as we were ready that morning, we checked out of our hotel and headed to Stuttgart. Before leaving one of the hotel staff took our photograph.

On the way to Stuttgart we stopped at a town called Ausburg. It was an okay town but it didn’t seem special enough to spend a lot of time in. 

While we were there, Rose saw a sign at a corner bakery that looked like a pretzel so we parked and I went inside but saw no pretzels at first. I did see pastries that looked like pretzels. Then I saw it. A single lone pretzel. I still didn’t know the German word for pretzel so I just pointed and said “Diese pretzel, Bitte.” When I got back to the car Rose opened the bag and noticed it was cut in half and had some kind of lunch meat in it. She gave me the meat and ate the pretzel but was not impressed. So our hunt for a good German pretzel continued.

We arrived at our hotel in Stuttgart, The Park Inn by Raddison, at around 1:45. As in Munich, we also had to park in a public parking garage but this garage was cleaner than the one in Munich and the elevator near were we had to park brought us up to just outside the reception desk inside our hotel. It also brought us up to just outside our room which was very covinient. The hotel was more modern than the Excelcier and we had a real king bed, although, like in Munich, we had no top sheet and two single comforters. They did have USB chargers near the bed, which meant I didn’t have to deal with power converters, at least to charge our phones.

Our room was number 703 on the seventh floor, or eighth considering the lobby was considered zero.  It was the only floor with balconies and we were glad we spent the little extra money to get a balcony room because we had an awesome view of the city and it was just nice to sit outside since the weather was near perfect for most of our trip.

We then took a walk through Stuttgart. Rose was looking for a large market that she heard about but it was too far to walk to with her bad foot. We walked a few blocks and passed the beautiful Saint Maria’s Church.

We then ended up eating an early dinner at a place called Rathaus im Gerber. They actually had real German food, and it was good. We also had a nice conversation with a waiter who was Indian and spoke good English. He talked about how great Germany is. He said it is the safest county in the world and people don’t have to worry about pickpockets, purse snatchers or even businesses ripping you off. He did not have the same kind words for Italy.

When we returned to the hotel, we sat on the bacony for awhile and enjoyed the evening view.

The following day we took a trip to Baden-Baden. I will talk about that on my next post.