We got back to Zurich late last night (not quite as late as we got into Prague though, thankfully).
We stopped off in Deggendorf on the way through Germany to visit our friend Christine from the Bilbys, who has moved back to Germany, along with her Australian boyfriend, who is now furiously learning German (we're talking a year-long immersion program).
Deggendorf was a gorgeous little town, with cobblestone streets and more Churches than you can shake a stick at. Unfortunately we could only stay for a few hours, so we had a barbecue lunch and a quick wander around, and headed off on our way again.
This morning we dropped the rental car back at the airport, had one of our typical misadventures on the train (went the wrong way at first) and then caught a tram back to the apartment. Everything being in German is a bit of a challenge. Parts of it you can make out, parts of it are totally unintelligible. There seems to be a general tendency to concatenate words, for example, our apartment is on what would translate to "Rehalp Street", but in the local vernacular, is expressed as "Rehalpstrasse". So when you're looking around and trying to follow directions, the names don't seem quite so ludicrously long and intimidating if you just drop the "strasse" or the "brücke" (bridge).
The car that we rented from the Zurich airport developed some kind of non-critical fault on the way to Prague, and Sarah exchanged it for another one in Prague, as Hertz seemed unable to fix it. (It had the "check engine" and "check vehicle stability control" lights on). So we drove to Prague in a petrol Toyota Auris, and drove back in a diesel Audi A3. We both preferred the Auris over the A3, as the A3 seemed easier to stall, and harder to recover from a stall. Putting it in reverse was totally unintuitive as well.
Speaking of fuel, it sure is expensive over here. We paid about 60 euros in Germany somewhere to put about three quarters of a tank in the Auris on the way to Prague, and we spent about 100 CHF to refill the A3 in Zurich. I think Sarah said the diesel cost converted to about $9 USD per gallon.
So it was a nice novelty value to drive across Europe, but I don't think we'll be doing it again in a hurry. I did enjoy driving on the autobahns though.
While I'm writing about driving in Europe, I might as well make a note about the traffic signs. We really should have researched them before hopping behind the wheel, as there were quite a few we didn't understand, and they weren't terribly intuitive (to us anyway).
For example, versus versus
The first is the pretty internationally standard "no entry" sign, but when you see the third sign in isolation, it seemed to us at least, that perhaps that meant "no entry", where it actually means "no standing". "No parking" is a variant of "no standing", with just one diagonal line. The middle sign means "no vehicles", which makes no sense at all, unless you've seen (and understood) the other versions of this sign, which have lesser restrictions of "no cars" or "no bicycles" and feature an icon of either inside the circle.
Speed limit signs were also a bit interesting. You'd have , which specifies a speed limit, but then you'd have , which means "End of speed limit". Our question was "well what is the speed limit now?" The answer seems to be "the default national limit for the class of road you're on".
The final set of signs we didn't understand until Christine explained them to us when we saw her yesterday, were and , which are "priority road" and "end of priority road", respectively. We just didn't know what a priority road was. Turns out it means traffic on the priority road has right of way over traffic on roads intersecting it. I would have thought this was pretty obvious, but apparently on a non-priority road, you have to give way to traffic on the right, regardless of whether you have a stop sign or a yield/give-way sign. So there's some sort of implicit four-way stop thing going on on a non-priority road.
Every time I see European traffic signs, particularly the triangular warning signs, it gives me a flash back to my childhood. My Aunty Peggy used to have a huge big bag of mixed Lego pieces, including a bunch of European traffic signs, and some square Lego mats, and when we were kids, and we used to go to her house to play, we'd build little towns out of all of the Lego.
This was the first time we've driven a manual left-hand drive car, and it was fine, except your immediate subconscious reaction the first few times is to go reaching for the gear stick with your left hand, and bash it into the door. It was also the first time we've driven on a roundabout on the right hand side of the road. That was interesting, because it added an additional thing to think about: the traffic on the left.