The German Autobahn – mythical, or a myth?

A driver’s dream – but an increasingly rare sight.

You thought the Nazis came up with the idea for the German Autobahn system, and that it’s still today a paradise of free speed? Sorry, but the first of those claims is a myth, and the second is partly true at best.

Construction of the first German motorways was actually initiated in the 20’s under the Weimar Republic, but it progressed slowly, meaning that the first stretch between Cologne and Bonn was not inaugurated until 1932. When the Nazis came to power the year after, they swiftly re-classified this first stretch to a Landstrasse (country road), such as to be able to argue that they built the first Autobahn.

As for the free speed, this is little news to those who regularly travel to Europe, but I recently found some interesting official stats. According to these around 30% of German motorways have a permanent speed limit, especially around large cities and in the Ruhr area. Adding temporary limits and above all roadworks, of which there are a lot at any time of year, this number rises to around 50%. If you then add all the regular congestion, traffic jams and sheer number of cars in this heavily motorized country of 80 million, you find yourself at a much higher percentage.

No free speed today…

The unlimited German Autobahns are thus not a myth, but if you really want to enjoy them, you’d better do so late at night or early in the morning on an empty stretch somewhere deep in Bavaria. And preferably do so in the coming two years, since it has been decided to introduce a German motorway fee for foreign cars from 2021!

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