yesterday I drove from Belgium, through the Netherlands, into Germany.
It only took three hours, and made me think- this is what New England would be like if each state had its own language and visibly different style.
Belgium is extremely manicured, cultivated. I think the government must be doing well- every road, sidewalk, and sign was in pristine condition. The famous Belgian design sense shows through even on the highway sign iconography- which, incidentally, was just aesthetically tweaked enough that often I couldn’t figure out what the icons meant. I drove by a certain one about 5 times before realizing it depicted a snowflake.
Netherlands was a surprise from my garmin (not on my pre-planned route.) It was green with fields & sheep. And I got turned around twice by a large highway intersection– the second time through I noticed there were highway signs saying to turn off your navigation unit- because it will give incorrect directions. (they were in Dutch, so I don’t have the wording right.) I had to stop for directions…
In Germany it’s a relief to be able to at least read. However, as I’d heard, Germans seem to all speak excellent english. And when they catch a glimmer of my accent, they jump right to english. Even the man running the Thai restaurant (I could hear him speaking thai to his co-worker)– but he was determined to speak english with me.
Another thing…credit cards are not so welcome here, and ATM machines are uncommon. I was down to my last 5 euros cash yesterday, and the hotel told me that there weren’t any 24 hour ATM machines (I found one still open in a shopping plaza.)
At my hotel in Mons- a very nice, albeit small hotel- they actually asked if I could pay in cash (which I couldn’t.) Many small shops have told me they don’t take credit cards or they don’t want to, even though they can.
Isn’t the universal hand-signal for ATM machine taking a debit card and swiping it in and out through the air? This was not well understood. ;) And, unlike in thai where they are still called ATM machines (pronounced Ahh Teee Em), my first guess at “Geldmaschine” went uncomprehended. It’s a Geldautomat.