Alles in Ordnung – Everything in order


The card and message left under my windscreen wiper – name, email & phone details removed by me for obvious reasons 🙂

At the end of October, I took the last week of my annual leave for 2012 and with Sybille, visited Berlin for a few days, before travelling back to Prague via Wittenberg.

We were kindly hosted by our two friends, Alex and Bernd, who live in Wannsee on the south-western edge of the German capital city. On Monday 22nd October, we drove north-west from Prague along the motorway to the Czech-German border near Dresden, before heading northwards on the German autobahn to the outskirts of Berlin. Then, following Alex’s instructions, we carefully made our way to the street where their apartment is located.

Unfortunately, Alex’s last instruction, said ‘turn right’ when it should have said ‘turn left’. But we eventually spotted the correct house number on the opposite side of the street and, as there was the ideal gap between two parked cars, I pulled across the street and successfully reverse parked into the gap. We locked the car, rang the doorbell and were warmly greeted by Bernd – Alex was out walking the dog.

We had not been in the apartment for more than five minutes when the doorbell rang. Bernd went and answered it. It was the resident of another apartment in the block, an Erster Polizeihauptkommissar of the Berlin Police.

“Do you have guests from Prague staying with you?”

“Yes,” Bernd replied.

“Could you please ask the driver to go at once and turn his car around one hundred and eighty degrees? It is facing the wrong way! If their car is allowed to stay parked like that, others will start doing the same thing and will completely disrupt order in the neighbourhood.”

Bernd returned to us in the sitting room and, with a wry smile, recounted his conversation at the door with his near neighbour. Not wanting to cause any future hassle for Alex and Bernd, I duly went out and moved my car. Already under the windscreen wiper was the Erster Polizeihauptkommissar’s card. Written on the back was his clear instruction – ‘Bitte richtig herum parken‘ – ‘Please park the right way’.

Sybille has not lived in Germany since 1999 and describes herself as a ‘Germaphobe German’. After that little incident, I fully understand why 🙂

18 comments to Alles in Ordnung – Everything in order

  • LOL, Ricky! At least you just got a warning, not a fine. 🙂 Yes, the Germans do like order, but when I worked there, I did enjoy the way things functioned so well. Two sides of the same coin, I guess.

    • Ricky

      I thought you would enjoy this one Perpetua – Yes, things usually do function smoothly in Germany and we enjoyed our time in Berlin. But, parking on the opposite side of the road to the direction of traffic will ‘completely disrupt order in the neighbourhood’??? It just confirms the stereotype that so many people have of what Germans are like. Sybille thought the actions of the Erster Polizeihauptkommissar were like those of the former East German secret police who had an informer in every apartment block!

  • Benedikt Franz

    Well, I have seen cars getting fined because of that in Munich (one of them had a Dutch licence plate on it), so I guess the Hauptkommissar was in a good mood that day 🙂

    Anyway, did you have a green ‘Umweltplakette’ on your car? Because I assume you entered the ‘Umweltzone’, and I am curious if the German police are careful about that, too.

    • Ricky

      Hi Benedikt – I have since done a little research and discovered that according to German traffic law, you should only park facing the direction of traffic on that side of the street. But this was a quiet residential street with no through traffic. What really amazed and amused us all, (Sybille, Bernd, Alex & me), was the speed at which the Erster Polizeihauptkommissar (got to give him his full, correct title 🙂 ), sprang into action and that he was protecting the good order of the neighbourhood even when he was off-duty!

      I enquired in advance about whether I needed an ‘Umweltplakette’ but Wannsee is outside of the ‘Umweltzone’ so the Erster Polizeihauptkommissar couldn’t correct me on that point and we used public transport to travel into the centre of Berlin each day. However, whilst he could tell from my Czech number plate that the car was specifically registered in Prague, I did wonder whether he spotted that the steering wheel was on the wrong side!

  • Mike in Bohemia

    That is so funny 🙂
    When I lived in Düsseldorf about 20 years ago, I was on a tram all alone listening to my walkman. An old lady then got on and sat right in front of me. After a couple of minutes she said to me in German “Switch it off, it disturbs me”. I said to her politely “why not move further away?” . She said “No, there must be order, turn it off”. I gave her a look of “Get a life lady”. Then at the next stop minutes later she got off anyway !
    If you want escape over-order in Germany, go north to the coast 🙂

    • Ricky

      Glad you enjoyed it Mike – And your Düsseldorf story just confirms my title Alles in Ordnung – Everything in order 🙂

      Sybille says that Hamburg can be a little more relaxed which agrees with your last sentence. We also both thought Berlin might be too, but not whilst this Erster Polizeihauptkommissar is at large!

      • I can confirm that, Ricky. Hamburg is where I worked for six months altogether and though it functioned very well, there was flexibility. A good example is the official in the Fremdenamt who, when he heard I would only be working there for 3 months, gave me a short-stay permit, rather than insisting I got a full-year worker’s permit, which would have taken a long time. As he said, if I was willing to come and work in an Altersheim, caring for elderly Germans, the least he could do was to make things easy for me. 🙂

        • Ricky

          Thanks for that confirmation Perpetua – Hamburg is somewhere I’ve never been in Germany but is certainly on my ‘to visit list’.

  • I recall the UK police stopping to check me when I’d done a U-turn in a little country lane..

    I’d done it so as to park the right way near the girl I was visiting – and have rear reflectors showing to the cars coming. But the police must have thought I was “casing the joint” and acting suspiciously.

    They almost didn’t believe the reason for my behaviour. But then they said no would-be-thief could have given sensible parking as an excuse!

    – BTW am still married to the girl, so the story does have a happy ending 😉

  • Gordon

    It used to be the law in UK to park in the direction of the traffic. However the alacrity of the police-neighbour-person surely merited the most passionate confession of the enormity of your sin, preferably on knees with a knotted cord for self flagellation.

    I once went to the post office in Soest, Germany; as I had an A5 size envelope which might have been tadge overweight to post. The counter-lady looked at it, weighed it, announced 2 marks which I duly paid; stamped it and kept it for onward transmission. The next morning there was a very cold and fed-up looking posty standing on my front doorstep, in Soest am something or other – 3km from the post office, with my letter in his hand saying it was oversize and I had to pay another mark. When I’d recovered from the shock of sending a posty on a 6km round trip for one mark. I told him I`d submitted it to the post office and they were the ones who had charged 2marks. I have never seen such a shock of guilt and confusion hit a person before to the extent it did this Posty. He could hardly speak, such was the unheard of weight of the German Post Office sin. I took him gently by the arm, led him into the Kitchen, gave him coffee, bics and the errant 1 mark, telling him all the time that this was nothing compared to the PO sins in the UK; and that his behaviour had been exemplary. It was a lesson to me who had never come across a person so tightly wired before. I just hope he recovered.

    • Ricky

      Hello Gordon – As far as I’m aware, it not the law that you have to park in the direction of the traffic in the UK with the obvious exception of parking in a one-way street. If it the law, then I have never seen or heard of it ever being enforced. However, I do ‘acknowledge my transgression and my sin is ever before me.’ But I’m a bit less sure about the self flagellation 😉

      The story in your second paragraph is a delight 🙂

  • This definitely reminds me of some stories by Jerome Klapka Jerome… I recall one about a train conductor insisting on him sitting in the first class carriage when he had bought a first class ticket; though he was talking to a friend who had bought a second class ticket. German penchant for order is clearly at least a hundred years old. 🙂

    • Ricky

      Hi Hana – The German penchant for order probably a good deal more than 100 years old 🙂 And as my post illustrates, it is still alive & well!

  • Ricky, I’ve done my research on this and Gordon was right; the law was the same in Britain until the 1960s. My father told me this evening that you had to leave your back tail lights on at night as well.

    Moreover, it is technically illegal in the CR to park against the flow of traffic. I mentioned this to a student this morning and she said that her father had been ticketed for the offence. Naturally, one source – though she is a fine, upstanding Ostravan – does not make a claim publishable so I checked the matter with a class later in the day. One of them said it sounded familiar but he wasn’t sure if it was illegal or not and anyway he parked like that all the time. However, he has a friend who’s a copper here who confirmed that “stani v protismeru” is against the law in the Czechlands and, should the police officer be bothered, a fine can be imposed.

    One of the reasons you don’t see it in Prague is a lot of residential streets, particularly round my way for instance, are one way. But check it out. I did today and the only vehicle I saw parked against the flow was a builder’s van in Prague 8.

    Further research (well, Google) suggests it’s illegal in a number of states in the US, Singapore, Australia, as Bruce told you, and other countries.

    So, hats off to the kindly German police officer who saved you from a fine. And:

    “I have since done a little research and discovered that according to German traffic law, you should only park facing the direction of traffic on that side of the street. But this was a quiet residential street with no through traffic.”

    is like the it was 3 o’clock in the morning and there was no traffic on the street excuse for speeding/jumping a red light, no?

    • Ricky

      Hello Mr Hughes – In case TEFL teaching fails to provide you with sufficient income in the future, I’ll happily write a reference for you, in support of your application to join the German Polizei. I think the work would suit you perfectly 🙂

      I don’t doubt either you or Gordon as to what the law was in the UK in until the 1960s. However, you’re too young to remember that, unlike Gordon & I 🙂 Nor do I doubt what the current law is in the various states & countries you mention.

      Whilst I take the point of your last paragraph, a car parked illegally facing the wrong way will never knock over or kill anyone, whilst one going too fast or through a red light, very easily could, even at 3.00 in the morning.

  • Your experience brings to mind a story about Gen. Thomas Gage. He and his new wife, Margaret Kemble Gage, were sent up to Montreal after the end of the Seven Years’ War to “keep order.” Well, as it turned out, things were utterly boring for the social couple and the only major happenings were issues over parking – yes, carriage parking! People were shoveling their “driveways” to make room for their carriages, but then other people would park their carriages in the spots! This pretty caused feuding in the streets, so Gage had to lay down the law about it, in additon to penalizing people for speeding in their carriages and allowing livestock to wander around in the city!

    • Ricky

      Thank you Pearl – Yes, disputes over parking are not new! However, I wasn’t taking over anybody’s personal parking place – I was just facing the wrong way 🙁