I have to be honest, I do not understand German traffic signs for my life. Studying them before I left California did not yield fruitful in any way. On the highway, it's not so bad. For the most part, I've been able to figure things out. But on city streets, throughout the day, I've opted to circle the block a few times before "arriving" at my intended destination. Traffic signs are not intuitive, at least to me. I realized as soon as I hit the city streets, I became much more nervous driving around. If I'm going to be driving here for the next 3 months, and that too even potentially in other countries, I really need to come up with a better recall mechanism. If anyone has any helpful resources or tips, please let me know!
Action Item: Study harder.
If you read my Day 1 escapades, you'll know that I had some unplanned travel changes, one of which was driving from Frankfurt to Stuttgart. Today, I needed to return yesterday's rental car (rented for 24 hours) for the official rental car reservation for my 3-month stay. I needed to refill the tank to 100% prior to return.
Time for my next adventure. I found a Tankstelle (translation: gas station) near the Stuttgart Flughafen (translation: airport). It's owned and operated by Aral, a domestic German brand. It had reasonably good prices. To be entirely honest, my Euro / Liter conversion to Dollars / Gallon was a rough estimate at best. From my cursory understanding, in general, gas and petrol are more expensive in Germany due to additional taxation and fees. I'll need to consult Google if you ask me for more details.
I pulled into the Tankstelle (after circling the block twice 😂). I misread the little arrow indicator next to the gas pump symbol when I pulled next to the pumping station. I quickly reversed and popped over to the other side. As I stepped out of the car, I was greeted with not 3 pumps as in the US, but with !
This should be fun to figure out. Luckily, the inside of the gas cap had the specified options for gas: E5 and E10. I'm not sure what those mean, but I can only imagine they map similarly to the Octane levels in the US. What was interesting was also the differing Octane levels (95 and 102) – definitely more than the standard 87, 89, and 91 in the US. Unsurprisingly, there were 2 diesel pumps for the hyper efficient cousins of typical gasoline-powered engines. But I won't talk too much about Dieselgate – sorry, I mean Diesel! That was (and still is) an awkward topic for the German OEMs.
The €20 I paid wasn't enough to fill up the quarter tank that was used during the drive from Frankfurt to Stuttgart. The rental car attendant made sure not to make me forget that when I returned the car. I thought I felt the pressure of the pump as it typically produces as you near a full tank. But oh well – I think it comes out to €0.25 to fill up the final amount. I also didn't want to accidentally overflow the tank. This was my first time filling up gas in Germany, and I didn't want to unknowingly make a mess at the pump.
A Friendly Face
After returning yesterday's car, I picked up the vehicle for the 3-month reservation. At the National counter, I was greeted by a very friendly employee, Tina. I explained to Tina that I was just returning a car after adventuring from Frankfurt to Stuttgart and that I was here to pick up the reservation that officially started yesterday. A few button clicks later, she got me the keys of the new car, a Volkswagen Tiguan. I originally wanted a Wagon, but I will always opt for an SUV when given the chance. We briefly chatted about rental policies, countries I wanted to visit with the car, and subsequent emails I would receive for having a 3-month reservation.
Travel Tip: When booking a long-term reservation like this, at least with National, the contract will be chunked into increments of 28 days. 28 days is officially longest term one can rent a car. You can still book a reservation for longer than that, but National will close the booking after 28 days and re-open a new booking on day 29, day 58, and so forth. National will reach out to ask for the current mileage of the car (to make sure there aren't thousands of unplanned miles) and with that information start the next contract segment. It's a quick call / email to update National with information. This is known as a "turn in" (I don't think it has a more official name). At any point, National can request that you return the vehicle for inspection depending on the mileage accrued. Tina told me that this was very unlikely. However, one thing she did tell me to potentially anticipate is that the rental company is also actively selling cars all the time. Because I have a 3-month rental, there is a high likelihood that I need to return the car because it's ready to be sold. That would be my first time experiencing that, and I look forward to seeing how that plays out. Hopefully I'll be in Stuttgart if / when it happens.
After getting my car, I came back "home" and I quickly walked to a nearby pizzeria behind where I'm staying. I had a delicious Pizza Prosciutto with an Espresso at what I can only guess is a public children's recreational center. There were indoor soccer fields, trampolines, and play areas. I joined the parents at the Pizzeria who stole a few minutes of peace for themselves while their kids collided full speed in giant bubble balls while playing soccer.
If this were a 1-week or 2-week trip, I would normally just expense my meals per company policy. But that financially doesn't make sense, as it is definitely cheaper to prepare my own meals for the majority of the time (I'm a very financially cognizant employee 😉). So time to go grocery shopping.
After a late lunch, I walked over to Kaufland, which is just next door. Upon entry, I walked past the lines of people at the bottle return kiosks (I'll pay homage to the awesome Pfand system in another post) and went to grab a shopping cart. This was my first time needing a shopping cart for Kaufland. Normally, I just need a handful of things, and use, well, my hands. I went to grab a cart, but I saw that the carts were locked. Each cart was physically chained together. As I tried to get a cart, I instinctively thought I needed a 1 Euro coin to get the key. I expected it to be returned when I done shopping. Only, the thing that looked like it was a coin slot, was not a coin slot. And the "key" hanging on the cart was not actually a key to unlock the cart, but a way to release a separate key that was needed to get the cart in the first place. I definitely did not have this much needed key.
As I struggled trying to figure out how to get a key, a woman walked over and saw me fumbling around. She quickly said something in German, too fast for me to catch what she said. She produced this rounded little "key" that looked more like one of those souvenir pennies you can get at Disneyland or at national monuments that is flattened and engraved with a memorable symbol or logo. She stuck the key into the "lock" and the shopping cart was unchained. She then gave me the shopping cart, and from what I could understand, gifted me the key. Vielen dank! (translation: thank you very much!)
I was now on my way shopping. I grabbed the cart and wheeled it on the flat escalators (no stairs). As I pushed the cart onto the flat-bed escalator, the wheels locked right into the grooves of the platform. The grooves prevent gravity from causing the cart to slide down the escalator, in both directions. There was no easy way to move the carts without putting your back into it. That is a very well-designed solution.
I got my essentials:
- Vollmilch (milk)
- Brot (bread)
- Salami (salami)
- Käse (cheese)
- Müsli (oats)
- Äpfel (apples)
- Bananen (bananas)
- Joghurt (yogurt)
- Kekse (cookies)
- Kartoffelchips (chips)
- Orangensaft (orange juice)
- Apfelsaft (apple juice)
- Cranberry-Sultaninen-Mix (cranberry mix)
- Gesalzene Karamellnüsse (salted caramel nuts)
I think that should cover breakfasts. Lunches will be in the office cafeterias. Dinner will be a challenge because I don't have a stove, only a microwave, so I'll need to call upon some creative college-time recipes. Let me know if you have any suggestions!
Today was great. I feel like I'm seeing things in Germany for the first time, like reading a book again or walking a favorite hiking trail for the umpteenth time.
Guten nacht! (translation: good night!)
Frieden und Liebe ❤️ (translation: peace and love)