This is one in a series of posts on ways I have discovered that Germany and America are different. See the end of this post for other posts on this topic.
When we were first married, Rob and I had just one car. However, we both worked at Bed Bath & Beyond, which is on South Glenstone, and we lived up at Glenstone and Grand. We drove each other the 3.6 miles, and the person who didn’t have to work spent time, lots of time, at Border’s, which is next door. Eventually, we saved up and bought a second car, a Nissan Pathfinder, so we had the small Honda Civic for long trips, and the gas guzzler for short trips around town. Like almost all Americans, the car was our main mode of transportation.
Germany is Different
But when we moved here, not only did we not own or plan to buy a car, but Europe is a little different. Instead of buying a car as soon as we could, I bought a one-month bus ticket each month. For €32, I could use the city bus system five days a week as many times as I wanted to. Rob and I would take the bus to Real to buy groceries before we found a closer grocery store, Toom. We’d meet there after I was done at school, then lug all the groceries home. It was an hour and a half affair just because of the walking time.
When Rob’s Mom and her boyfriend brought down Rob’s old bike and an extra one for me, it was great. We could meet at school, ride to Toom (about 5 minutes), shop, and be home within 45 minutes or an hour! I could be at school within 10 minutes whenever I wanted, without adjusting my life to the bus schedule.
Then, my bike broke. The back brake wasn’t working when I got the bike, but then the gear shifter stopped working. It was stuck in a high (low?!) gear, which made pedaling up even the slightest incline feel like Heartbreak Hill.
Buying New Bikes
After a couple weeks of my persuasion, Rob agreed to start shopping for a new bike for me. After all, while it might cost us between €50 and €150 to buy a new (new to me, but used) bike, we would be saving that €32 each and every month I would have bought a bus ticket, which quickly adds up.
On our second try, we found a new and used bike store on Frankfurter Strasse, a major thoroughfare in Giesssen, but their selection of used bikes consisted of three that looked older and more decrepit than the one I was replacing and one that looked perfect, but was already “spoken for.” The other used bike shop we found, Fahrrad Second-Hand Klaus Landau, is owned and operated by a friendly older man, Herr Landau, who was proud to show us his wares and describe each bike: how many gears it had, how tall it was, and the price. His shop was easily a fourth the size of the other shop, but was neatly filled with ten times as many used bikes, all conservatively priced. We settled on a newer used bike with three gears, both a front and back light, and pedal braking for exactly €85, the amount we had with us in cash.
Rob’s bike was also on its last leg, so after seeing all of the possibilities at Klaus Landau, he decided to take both of the broken bikes back to the shop and trade them in for a newer, fully functioning bike for himself. After explaining the problems with our bikes and picking out the bike he wanted, the owner gave us a great deal for the trade-ins.
Biking is Awesome!
Now, we both have bikes that work properly, so we can ride to Schiffenberg monastery castle on a beautiful Saturday afternoon, go grocery shopping in a bearable amount of time, meet my colleagues at the Dutenhofener See for a relaxing afternoon watching Beauly play with the other dogs and beering on the shore, or getting to the Bailey’s place in just 10 short minutes.
Edit: Charity commented that “It takes some ingenuity to travel in Midwestern cities by bicycle, but I’m making the change.” If you are at all interested in what it’s like to use a bike as your main transport to work, read Charity’s great post in honor of Bike to Work Week. She also wrote about how her and her husband switched to “bikes” (read the post for an explanation of the quotation marks) as one step of many they are taking to go green.