Yikes! An American violinist can’t drive untested on German roadsmain
Anthea Kreston, American violinist of the Artemis Quartet, is still adjusting to her new life in Berlin. Latest calamity: they won’t let her drive. Read her latest diary entry below.
We finally have a car. I can’t begin to say what a sense of freedom this has brought to our lives. To move from a two-car home (although we did everything we could to go by foot or bike) in rural Oregon to the bustle of a big city has an interesting effect on my psyche. One would think that we are now bombarded by stimuli, but I miss the bombardment of Oregon – the smells of the trees, of fresh rain, of the farmers markets and birds. But – to have a car – this simple pleasure – now the city has opened to us – and I look forward to unpacking our camping gear and delving into my travel book – “Great Drives around Germany”. Today we went to a lake and jumped in, and after – found an amazing working farm, complete with a hands-on museum and a farm-to-table restaurant and bakery. Reminds me of Gathering Together Farms in Corvallis.
As I have mentioned before, my life is a pinball game of rotating mistakes and triumphs. And, like pinball, I am sometimes fooling myself that I have control, only to make a bee-line to the clown’s mouth, my flippers defenseless against the trajectory of the ball.
The car situation is a perfect example of this. Before moving, we had a huge list, prioritized (there was no way to get everything done), and on the final day, we ran to AAA to get international driver’s licenses. This is not necessary, but it can come in handy, and better safe than sorry. Our understanding (although, as in almost every case, we find it impossible to get a definitive view of any situation) was that our American drivers licenses were good for one year. Phew – one thing we don’t have to totally stress about. We moved it down the list of “things to get done in Berlin”.
But then, and old friend came to visit, and she sighed and said, “I wish I had known I only had 6 months with my license – now it will be around €2,000 and lots of classes to get a German license”. Gulp. Whaaaaaat? Turns out, you can use your American license for 12 months, unless – you are staying longer than a year. If you stay longer than a year, your license only is valid for 6 months. Yes, illogical. Yikes. I quickly looked up the information – each State has its own personal relationship with the German government – for some you have to retake the theory as well as driving, some one or the other, and a couple neither. For Oregon, it is just the theory. Ok – I can do this! All I have to do is go to the DMV and take the test, right? Luckily I am still 7 weeks shy of the 6 month deadline.
So – I look it up. You can’t just show up. You have to make an appointment at an office, at which time your application for a test is submitted. You then receive a letter from the government 8 weeks later telling you the time of your test. An appointment for an appointment. So – I make the appointment for the appointment. But – they don’t have any appointments available for 2 months. Wait a minute! Aaaaa. I would have had to start this process at least 4 months in advance. My brain can’t handle this. I make the appointment anyway, hoping that our re-entry in April can be a bluffed start date. But, we have been registered as living here since mid-February. Oh no.
Moving on. How hard can this test be? I am an experienced driver – I should just be able to brush up, learn some new signs, and take it, right? Then, my friends tell me the test is totally impossible. How hard can it be, really? Geeze. 900 questions. That is how hard. And my German is so bad. So bad. And, you can’t just go to the DMV and pick up the study pamphlet. No siree Bob you can’t. You have to be registered at a driving school in advance of the appointment for the appointment. And you have to buy their “software” (cd-rom – I don’t even have a computer with a cd option – that went out when we gave up our landline years ago), or you have to sign up for classes – and lots of them. Luckily, I found out we can take the test in English. But, the International Driving School is an hour away by subway (or 20 minutes by car – ha ha). If you buy their books, it comes with 60(!!!!) practice tests, which you apparently have to memorize because many of the questions defy basic logic.
In addition, we have to take a registered eye test (not like those quick ones at the DMV), and safety class, and maybe you can help me here – our “Anmeldebestaetigung”, which, when I enter into my Google Translate, comes up as “Anmeldebestaetigung”. Thanks a lot.
But – no need to worry! The driving school has written to me – “dont worry because of your license, let me explain. You have to stop driving here in germany after 6 month, but if your license is already valid you have time to make that transscription, for the time the license is valid.”. Crystal clear. So we just bought a car to be able to drive our daughter to first grade, and we won’t be able to drive it. So – here is what we will do – if we get stopped we will just say we are staying only for a year! That way our license is still valid.
I know what you are saying – “another disaster brilliantly avoided!”.
In case you’re wondering, that’s John Cage in the car.