How German Autobahns modified the world

(CNN) – Ah yes, “ze Autobahn”. Only a handful of emblems represent Germany beyond their means of travel. The Church of Cologne is known as West Germany, and the TV Tower in Berlin is a professional GDR, but Autobahn (meaning “carriageway”) connects the whole country.

For decades, it has been eroded from global development tools to a culture that has produced art, albums, commercials around the world – and the name of the Irish place.

But why has it become so popular, and what kind of relationship do Germans have with their Autobahn today? Most importantly, is it true that you can drive as fast as you want?

Bad start

First impression: The Nazis did not make the Autobahn. Instead, the idea of ​​building roads connecting the growing cities in Germany after the First World War was made in the Weimar Republic after the war. The first public road of its kind was completed in 1932, connecting Cologne and Bonn. Still available – today, it’s part of the Autobahn 555.

When Hitler came to power in 1933 he used the Autobahn to his advantage, appointing Fritz Todt as “Inspector General of Germany Road Construction,” and giving him the opportunity to expand the Autobahn network.

Todt was behind the program to create jobs that, according to Nazi propaganda, helped to fight unemployment in Germany. Workers at Autobahn live in nearby camps near their construction site, although they do not like to come here freely – they are registered through the Reich Labor Service (in this way, they are removed from the unemployment register).

Early days of Autobahn: Frankfurt to Mannheim in 1935.

Fox / Hulton Archive / Getty Images

The growing impact of the traffic was small, however, and the construction relied heavily on forced labor and incarceration when the war broke out in 1939.

“Because of the large number of personnel needed to advance the war effort, they were able to make the Autobahn, making compulsory work even more important,” said Alice Etropolszky, a travel expert and a leading car salesman in Berlin. .

Forced labor, he adds, happens “obviously under the most difficult of circumstances.”

By 1942, when the war turned into a Nazi, it was 2,360 miles (3,800 kilometers) of the 12,430 miles (20,000 kilometers) that had been completed.

East vs. West

Under a divided country, West and East Germany formed a separate Autobahn (photo: Hittfeld in Bremen, Hamburg.)

Under a divided country, West and East Germany formed a separate Autobahn (photo: Hittfeld in Bremen, Hamburg.)

Three Lions / Hulton Archive / Getty Images

After the war, most Autobahns in West Germany were redesigned and reused, with an expansion program since the 1950s.

In the GDR (East Germany), at that time, the railways were used mainly for military service and government vehicles.

The diversity of views on the arrival of the divisive roads in Germany also means that even today, in a few places in the country, you can feel the difference as you cross the rough, West German coast and enter the old concrete corridors used to make most of the GDR Autobahn, and your journey begins very difficult. Test yourself on A2, before Magdeburg arrives.

Autobahn lero

Today, Autobahn represents the rights of many, even far from Germany.

Today, Autobahn represents the rights of many, even far from Germany.


Since 1953, the official name of the German movement has been the Bundesautobahn, the “federal motorway”. Currently there is the Autobahn (13,000 kilometers) located between the longest and strongest roads in the world.

Most units have two, three, or four-lane roads, as well as a permanent emergency road.

While for many Germans Autobahn is an everyday form, not surprisingly, real fans still respect it. Christian Busch is one of them.

“There are always technical issues that make the user change,” he says.

“The way it is built is an example of technical expertise.”

Autobahn is tax-supported and is maintained only by the German state and not by the provinces it passes through. Cars can be used for free, but since 2005, trucks have to pay “maut” (pay).

Autobahn also has its own police force, the Autobahnpolizei, which often uses anonymous police vehicles with video cameras to record speed violations.

He also has a TV series dedicated to them, “Alarm für Cobra 11”, which focuses on the full-fledged Autobahnpolizei team in the Rhine-Ruhr area.

Running is important

Obviously, one thing most people (think they know) about Autobahn is that you can drive as fast as your car can drive. Surprisingly, this is a little true. Some Autobahn stretches – for example the A3 between Cologne and Frankfurt – have no borders, giving drivers the opportunity to get out. As Tom Hanks has previously said about Autobahn’s experience: “Once you cross the ‘120’ sign and cross the line, the gloves are removed, baby. The government has found you in Germany.”


Not surprisingly, Autobahn has once again made a name for itself, starting with the song and record “Autobahn” sung by German pioneers Kraftwerk, who reached No. 25 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1975.

The song also influenced the villains in “The Big Lebowski,” worshiped in 1998 by the Coen Brothers. In the film, “Autobahn” is the name of a techno-pop group of main rival Uli Kunkel (Peter Stormare) and two of his co-stars (starring Torsten Voges and Red Hot Chili Peppers, Flea).

There are also other ways of thinking about Autobahn culture in Germany. When the Ruhr region, especially in the west of the country, was renamed the European Capital of Culture in 2010, large sections of the A40 were closed for entry. Instead, two million people used it for walking, hiking, running, picnic or even going to a concert – all of which are art in a group called “Still-Leben,” or “Still Life.”

The future Autobahn

Autobahn has its own police force.

Autobahn has its own police force.


Today, Germany is the only country in Europe with no immediate limits, and negotiations on starting one have become German political issues. The call for boundary limits has been around since the 1980’s, and has increased in recent years – mainly because of its ability to reduce CO2 emissions.

The Green Party tried to introduce a tougher limit of 130 kph (81 mph) in 2019, but was voted out.

Rushing or not, another problem is the Autobahn component of weather problems. Will it be replaced by future railways? Alice Etropolszky believes that “her place of control” means she will have the power to stick.

“When it comes to human systems, Autobahn is highly monitored – people only use it from A to B,” he says.

“I hope that soon we will see a freight forward, which will be followed by a continuous transport response.”

But as Christian Busch puts it: “The long-term focus on the traffic and infrastructure that has been circulating in Germany makes for a more flexible approach.”

However, he thinks change needs to be made: “The system is reaching its limits and reconsideration is urgently needed.”

Autobahn is known as a car dealership.

Autobahn is known as a car dealership.


At present, politicians and people in Germany do not know the future of the famous Autobahn.

Leading the charge for most cases is German traffic minister Andreas Scheuer.

Scheuer recently wrote, “If you live in a village, you need an Autobahn!”, Which angered many people living in rural areas who would prefer a better government system.

The German Greens, on the other hand, want an immediate suspension of Autobahn’s extensive expansion projects – particularly the A49 in Hesse, as it could mean the destruction of the 300-hectare 1,000-hectare forest, Dannenröder Wald said.

But although its future is uncertain, Autobahn’s place in German history is certain.

Driving iron: How to drive on Autobahn

• It is illegal to pass a car on the right. You have to move to the left lane to cross, as the right lane is always kept to move slowly. Autobahn drivers are also encouraged to play on the left lane even when there are no other vehicles, following the so-called Rechtsfahrgebot, “the right lane” – just to avoid being thrown by Ferrari (see next point).

• Unless you drive an F1, there is always someone faster than you – so look in your left mirror. You may be traveling at a speed of 130 kph (81mph), but some German drivers will pass you twice.

Most importantly, there are speed limits on the Autobahn, which are always displayed with signs or electronic controls. The legal speed limit is the black number on the white red signal, and most Autobahn areas have a limit of 120 kph (75 mph) or less. Follow this, unless you want to know Autobahnpolizei.

• If you obey these rules, driving on Autobahn is safe. However, if you are in a closed car after an imminent accident, you should build a Rettungsgasse – a highway for fast cars.

When a car accident returns, drivers are legally required to set up an emergency shelter. If there are only two roads, they should drive their cars to the right and left of the road, creating a “middle road.” If there are more than two lanes, the right-hand lane drivers are farther away, while the third or fourth lane left lane is at the far left.

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