gonna discuss navigation a bit.
I brought two GPS devices with me: the PN60w (the DeLorme outdoors device, which I’m using for demos, overview nav, and fun) and a Garmin nuvi for driving.
When I rented the car in Brussels, the clerk said “oh, they gave you a nice car. must be because you are going to Germany. It has a navigation unit.” (I didn’t request a nice car- I always ask for the smallest, cheapest car. and the nav unit only has france and denmark on it!) At first I thought that he meant I got the VW Passat because it’s a german make and I’m driving to Berlin. Now I’m wondering if it has something to do with driving here. If I’d gotten a shitty car I’d be way more intimidated on the highway: The left lane travels at about 250km/hr and the right-most lane at about 100km/hr. The speed difference is incredible, frankly, but everyone drives politely and seems careful.
Being in Germany makes understanding the signage easier for me, but I’ve rapidly realized I’ve know restaurant german, not highway-driving-german.
The part about being in a foreign country and having to pay really close attention to figure out the rules everyone else is functioning under…that part of traveling I really enjoy.
I can, admittedly, go overboard on trusting the GPS, because I understand how they work and the technology behind them. I also know western europe is very heavily and frequently mapped…so the data should be good. And it worked flawlessly in Belgium.
Then I ended up in Netherlands, on one of those huge and brand-new highway overpass exchanges. I could see the GPS was confused, but I didn’t have a paper map and hadn’t memorize the names of any of the major cities along my route.
(that is mistake # 1 that people make when using a GPS)
The result was that I ended up driving 20 miles out of my way (because of infrequent highway exits) until I (luckily) found a store clerk who spoke english. He told me to turn off the GPS, and follow the signs to Venlo. Going through that highway interchange for the third and final time, I saw that there were actually large permanent-type signs saying (in dutch) that the navigation unit won’t work….and after the interchange another one saying the nav unit can be turned on. I wish I’d taken a photo of that sign…never seen anything like it before.
after that I bought a map, and started navigating point to point. This means: set the GPS for your destination, but write down or memorize the major cities along the way, and follow the signs on the highway. real life is always up-to-date. :)
Using maps in cities
Another thing about maps…I sometimes assume most people know this, but it might be a cartography insider thing…just by looking at a map you can find the older city sections- which usually indicate tourist areas or shopping areas. See below: older areas have irregular streets that don’t take right angles and are close together. This worked perfectly for Brussels. The problem with this strategy, for me, is I don’t like tourist areas at all. It’s much harder to figure out from a map the city region which has become cool or hip or artsy in the past 30 years. That kind of thing is more intangible.