I spent a lot of time writing about the car, but then again I spent a lot time dealing with it. While the last two posts were all about the process, they didn’t give me quite enough space to really talk about the experience. If you’ll indulge me, I thought I would take one more post to reflect a little.
One thing I learned during our move is how much I took for granted in the US. Back there, I know exactly where to go, how do things, and who to call and ask if I don’t. Here I’m never quite sure if I’m buying the right thing, asking the right question, or even understanding the answers I get. It’s not that things are actually that much more difficult to do. The few local people I’ve talked to seem a little surprised that we think things are complicated, but then again they are as comfortable here as I am in California.
This point was driven home to me when I was back in the US last month. I talked with two people from the UK and Europe who moved to the US. They both had similar stories to mine… didn’t know how to go about getting utilities turned on, couldn’t get a cell phone contract because they didn’t have a local bank account, or had to find out which forms to fill out to get a new driver’s license. All things that I wouldn’t think twice about in the US, but struggled with here (still working on the driver’s license!).
Anyway, I’ll wrap up with a few quirky things we’ve learned about Austria that relate to the car:
-I mentioned before that from November to April you need snow tires. However, the dealer or garage where you buy them will store them for you. They call you up in October and make an appointment to swap them and then store the regular tires during the Winter. All that for a *small* fee.
-Living on the pedestrian zone of the Hauptplatz has its advantages – no traffic noise for one thing. However, the downside is that you can’t drive up to our apartment building except for “illegal” quick dropoffs of groceries, skis, or suitcases. The other downside is that there is no where to park. We checked a bunch of garages and parking lots that supposedly rented out spaces, but they turned out to be “voll” (full) or only charge by the hour/day. Finally a rental space opened up in a basement garage and we snagged it. It’s a bit expensive (but everything here is) and it’s tight fit (but the car has a button that automatically folds in the mirrors). The bimmer now has a home, even if it is just as far to walk to the garage as it is to the grocery store.
-The autobahn/autopiste/autostrada/autoroute or big highways in many European countries have lots of tolls. Aside from being an annoyance when you have to keep stopping, they can also get pretty expensive. Austria has a different system. Instead of paying tolls every time you use the roads, you just buy a one time pass called a vignette. It’s a little sticker that you put on you windshield and you can drive anywhere you want without having to pay. They sell them everywhere and you can get a year, a month, or a week. They can be a little pricey, but the fines for getting caught without one are much worse.
Here’s one of the incredible mountain roads that makes having a car here so much fun: