Monday, August 27, 2012

What is it about Germany? Part 1

So, to change the subject, it’s time to say something about where I live. Thüringen – Thuringia in English – is slap bang in the centre of Germany. Thüringen is part of the old East Germany, so prior to 1989 it would have been difficult to visit this area, and now I live here. There are a lot of things to like about living here, but some things really get on my nerves!

The main industry in the area is tourism; the second industry, as far as I can tell although nobody ever publishes this, is road works. I live in a small village somewhere in the middle of a triangle with a town at each corner. And they are doing their very best to make sure I can’t get anywhere I want to go without a major diversion adding on about 30 kilometres to my journey. This could also be a cunning ploy to get people to buy more fuel at ever increasing prices (it’s not expensive only in England). For a month or so the road out of the village in one direction has been closed. There are two roads we can legally drive on, two illegal ones that people have been known to use (I admit to nothing here, and am naming no names but you can tell the locals by the way they weave around avoiding the potholes) and another which is not only illegal but which features a barrier at one end that means that driving a car the whole length is impossible. When they closed our legal road, we all received a letter from the mayor kindly informing us that if we filled in a little form we would be allowed to use the aforementioned road (presumably temporarily barrier free) to escape. So we filled in the little form and received a nice official letter saying we were allowed to drive on that road. Technically. However, someone decided they didn’t like that plan and put a barrier up at the other end of the road. Great. But, hooray, they have now finished doing whatever they were doing with the road so we can get out in that direction again. And they’ve closed the road in the other direction. Next week I start a new part-time job and need to use that way out of the village, but oh, no, I can’t. And the second best alternative route to where I need to go is… closed. Has been for several months now and nobody had a clue when it will open again, or exactly what is going on there. So I have the choice of two other routes that add many kilometres to the journey and mean that the small amount I shall be earning will mostly be spent on petrol. Although at the time of the first closure it was possible – although of course illegal – to use another road to get out and not add much distance to the journey, this time it isn’t.

Even the Germans moan about German bureaucracy. There is paperwork to cover every eventuality. And as of next January, I hear, everyone will have to have a television licence. It doesn’t matter whether they have a television or not – and I don’t so I particularly resent this – we have to have a licence anyway.

Do you have metered water? Do you think metering can save money? Not here it can’t. All water is metered and in an area abundant in water the charges keep going up and up. Last year I made a conscious effort to save on water and used one third less than the previous year. My bill was about 20 Euros more. I think I shall have to stop washing altogether soon.

My brother came to stay a while ago and I said my car needed a wash. He kindly volunteered, but I had to turn him down. You see, it is not allowed to wash your car on your own grounds. You must use a car wash. It’s to do with the environment and not clogging drains up with mucky water.

Are you insured? In England I had insurance for my house, my house contents, my car and my horse, when I had one. Here house, contents and car are covered, but it is expected for everyone to have third party insurance to cover themselves, dogs and horses (if you have them); accident insurance; legal insurance and a lot more I can’t remember right now. If you own a dog it has to be registered with the local authority, chipped and insured. As a horse owner I have to be registered as such and my horse has to be chipped and insured. If I want to ride in the forest, I have to be registered. By the time you’ve paid all the insurance premiums, there’s not a lot left to cover food and clothing! Dog tax varies from area to area, but it increases for each extra dog and if you have a dog that is deemed a fighting breed, you’d better have deep pockets.  

So are there any good things about being here? I’ll let you know next time.

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