So I Won’t be Borrowing the Car in Germany Again Anytime Soon.

Honey I crashed the car.

This is the kind of thing you really hope won’t happen when you move abroad and attempt to drive on the other side of the road. Particularly in Germany, where on some roads there is no speed limit, and you literally feel like you’re dicing with death when all you really want to do is pop to the supermarket.

I was coming home two weeks ago from a nearby town when I had a head-on smash on a major road with a woman probably doing 100kmph (just a leisurely drive by German standards).  The force of the crash shunted our car backwards and into another two vehicles, leaving a somewhat chaotic trail of destruction.

I don’t remember the crash as I didn’t even see the other car coming. The last I remember I was preparing to turn left across the road and into another at a pretty hazardous junction (where I have heard accidents are pretty common). There had already been a car accident on the road I was about to turn down. Nothing serious, just a shunt up the backside, as the locals seem to love driving right up people’s backsides at high speed here, as much as us Brits like to moan about the weather.

I often wonder, why the hell are people in such a rush on the roads here? Particularly in Bavaria, where there really is nothing worth rushing too? It’s the first thing I noticed when I moved here. How crazy overly sensible, law-abiding Germans become once they get behind a wheel.  And that’s really saying something considering I lived in Malta for four years.  Where is everyone so keen to get too? Are there amazing parties  on every day near German autobahns  with free alcohol and sausages that us foreigners don’t know about?

From witness reports it sounds like our accident was actually my fault though, and that I turned across the road into the path of an oncoming vehicle that I somehow didn’t see.

One moment we were driving along without a care in the world, then, bam! The next thing I knew I woke up on the side of the road, with a load of strangers peering down at me, muttering sweet German. “Sie ist in shock!” one woman said.  I looked to the right, saw our smashed up car and another person sprawled out in the road, and I realised there had been a terrible accident.

We all got off extremely lightly considering. I believe the other driver broke both of her legs and is probably still in hospital. I broke three ribs and suffered a bruised lung and spent a week in hospital. My 15-month-old son was in the back and he was completely unharmed, by some kind of miracle. It makes me sick to think that things could have been a lot more serious and I really have been counting our lucky stars.

The poor little mite must have been so traumatised at the time, but mighty Max has been his completely normal, happy and boisterous self since. Which is a right bugger when you’ve got broken ribs. The car is a complete write- off, and we only had third party insurance, but the money means nothing when I feel totally lucky to still be here and to have my son. I just hope the other driver gets better soon.

In England there are speed cameras everywhere, particularly in Essex, the county where I’m from. Here in Bavaria you certainly don’t see as many.

About a week before the accident I was walking through our picture perfect Bavarian village, thinking of how safe it is. “The only danger here are the roads,” I thought to myself.

I think I’ll be sticking to the train for a while.

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Life’s Simple Travellers: The Storks of Bavaria

Not much happens in the little Bavarian village I live in called Raisting.  Well, the library at the local school opens on Monday and Thursday evenings. And the Doner Kebab man comes and parks his little van here on Thursdays too. So I would say that Thursday is definitely the busiest day in Raisting (population about 12). But what little Raisting lacks in people power it definitely makes up for in terms of animals.

When I take my baby son for a walk around the village the monotony of pounding the same streets time and time again (there aren’t many of them you see) is broken up by the various animals we see. There are the horses, the black fluffy ‘moo’ cows, regular black and white ‘moo’ cows, chickens and lots of different types of birds that little Max loves to see and watch me try to impersonate. Back in my hometown in Essex in England we really don’t have much wildlife (apart from the drunk animals you get on Southend High Street every night) so this is all a novelty for us.

My favourite Raisting wildlife however has to be the storks, who return year after year to this little part of Bavaria to their nests. The White Storks are believed to be as faithful to their nests as they are to their mates, hence their return to the same spot here each spring. In Raisting we have a number of purpose-built platforms on the top of high poles that the birds use to build their nests, and it’s great to see so many of these long-legged creatures rambling wild around the village in the summer. I once cycled through a field and noticed a good 30 of them just hanging out, catching mice or whatever it is storks do in fields. Typically I didn’t have my camera on me but I’ll always treasure the memory. There’s something really special about seeing an animal in the wild, and not cooped up in some crappy ‘wild’ life centre.

The birds also melt my heart as they remind me of when my son was born on April 2 2012. As I waited for his birth the storks had arrived in the village and were flying high above as I waddled around with my huge bump hanging out of my leggings. Of course, the legend goes that storks bring babies, and I thought it was too cute that I was waiting for mine just as they arrived here in Europe all the way from Africa.

Storks are strong in German folklore, with their nests believed to bring good luck and protection against fires. You will also see many wooden stork decorations in front gardens to announce that a child has been born to the family that lives there. When I arrived here all fat and pregnant I thought this was the best tradition ever. In Essex this cutesy stuff just doesn’t happen. Mainly because people aren’t that thoughtful, and also because the storks would be stolen or urinated on if left outside at night.

A wooden stork in Raisting

Anyway, when I realised that other women were returning home from hospital with their babies to these wonderful giant wooden birds in their garden, I decided I had to have one too. Forget the baby. I WANTED A STORK. And most men should know that it always pays to listen to the really hormonal, emotional woman who has just given birth and won’t let them forget that they did so for the rest of their lives. I made it clear to Markus that his life wouldn’t be worth living if I came home and there was NO stork. If I was going to squeeze his baby out of my vagina, I WANTED A STORK. And crap loads of chocolate.

Despite my extreme subtlety, he got the message. And this is what greeted little Max and I, Mariah Carey, when we first arrived home.

The stork was hand-crafted and painted by our friends (Bavarians are really good at making things). It’s holding an Australian flag as its sack because Max was conceived there (in the country, not in the sack). It’s by far one of the nicest things anyone has ever done for me. I’m tearing up now just thinking about it, but that’s because I’m a mum and we cry at everything, including things like manky-looking pigeons that can’t walk properly.

The storks are yet to return this year, although two did stay in Raisting this winter, according to the local newspaper (yes, this does make headlines here). I saw one of them poking around someone’s garden in the snow last week. These travellers migrate to Africa from central and eastern Europe, but have to go all the way via Turkey and Egypt to the east or Gibraltar in the west because the air thermals they depend on don’t form over water. They must bloody hate the Med. But then at least they don’t have to fly over Malta, as the Maltese like to shoot birds for fun, and then they would be dead. And that would be a terrible blow to little Raisting (pun intended).

Many people who are keen travellers often find it hard to stay in one place for too long. As another travel blogger said to me recently, life can seem to be a tug of war between nesting and nomadic. Therefore I salute you, oh pretty storks. You seem to have the perfect mix in life. Nesting in Europe for the summer, then buggering off before it gets too cold for a fantastic journey south into Africa.

Without the barriers in life that hold us humans back, they make it look so simple.