More Stories about Signs
Why you can’t miss the German Hop Museum
Everyone knows them, the rectangular highway signs, in rich, earthy brown and white lettering. “Tourist information boards” is their official name. With varying graphic artistry, they point out the scenic delights of the regions through which we are currently driving. You notice them, but do they really do any good?
When our hop museum opened 17 years ago, we were firmly convinced that such a tourist information board would of course be useful. After all, millions of vehicles rush from north to south and vice versa on the A 9, one of the busiest highways in Europe. If only a tiny fraction of the vehicle occupants could be persuaded to take a small tourist detour to Wolnzach, this should rapidly increase the number of visitors.
And we applied for a sign just before the Holledau interchange, right after the sign for “Hopfenland Hallertau”. Naive as we were.
Because: Definitely not on the A 9. Wolnzach has no exit at all. But it needs one, otherwise there would be no brown signpost. A freeway triangle does not count as an exit, even if, as in our case, “Wolnzach” is written on the blue signs. Does not apply. And as a matter of principle, there are no brown signs in front of freeway triangles. Such a thing reduces the attention of the driver, which is especially important at such places, even more important than already on the highway. Bad luck.
No sign forest
Now the brown signs are actually already a compromise. Actually, those responsible for highways want their gray ribbons of traffic to be accompanied at most by roadside greenery, but by no means by information boards of whatever color. Whether the focus is more on the undisturbed enjoyment of wide open ranges or rather on the undesirable impairment of driver concentration remains to be seen. A certain gratitude cannot be denied that not every more or less globally minded burger roaster is allowed to put his colorful messages in the field of vision every few kilometers.
But there are no burgers at the Hop Museum. We have honest agricultural messages to convey that affect everyone who enjoys a pint in the evening. No matter where he or she is at home in the world. And at some point drives on this highway.
It didn’t help that the sign on the A 93 was quickly approved and erected as a consolation. The A 93, which really does have a Wolnzach exit. But not the whole world drives on this A 93, at most the eastern one. Clearly too little for our pan-European ambition. The frustration was great.
But as chance would have it, it happened at this time that the “Jetzt red i” team of the Bavarian Broadcasting Corporation was preparing to visit the hop country, right in the middle, in Wolnzach. For those who don’t know, “Jetzt red i” is a special format of participatory television. Citizens are allowed to communicate live during the program and address the (TV) public with their sometimes more or less idiosyncratic concerns. Even though a surprising amount is left to chance in this broadcast, not everything happens quite so spontaneously. Usually, the team selects a handful of interesting actors on location in advance. And when the offer was made to the museum director, there was no long hesitation to appear on television with the Autobahn Sign Memorandum.
In order to make the whole thing a bit more humorous (after all, it was somehow also about beer), two semi-serious signs were made in advance and held up during the live broadcast, hoping to win over the inclined auditorium all the more easily. Whether it was really the artistic inkjet prints or rather the fact that the sign request was the easiest to realize among all the others that evening (something positive has to come out of it) – just one week after the end of the broadcast, the good news fluttered into our office that ministerial consultations had been held and that nothing stood in the way of the sign on the A 9.
However, not in front of the autobahn interchange, as had been planned. What has once found its way into a German set of rules cannot be shaken by even the most successful television appearance. That’s as far as it goes. No, the brown signs should be placed BEFORE the respective exit BEFORE the triangle, that was the smart solution. So from the north just before Langenbruck, from the south just before Schweitenkirchen/Pfaffenhofen.
And that was not enough. It has been known since then that such a brown freeway sign always needs a so-called follow-up sign after the freeway exit. Not that the culture-willing motorist drives down first, but then soon no longer knows the destination he is looking for, turns around again discouraged, or even worse, takes a break in some coffee shop along the way.
Of course, there is no direct route from Langenbruck or Schweitenkirchen to Wolnzach. So first of all, a suitable route had to be worked out in detailed meetings, or rather, the route had to be signposted. The result is that today, in the middle of the Hallertau countryside, just before Sünzhausen, there is a signpost to the German Hop Museum, and on this route you can also get to know the beauties of Dürnzhausen, Geroldshausen and Haushausen. On the other hand, Fahlenbach, Königsfeld and Starzhausen thereby come to unexpected passing frequency.
Or just not. Because no driver willing to take a break will get the strange idea, just because he sees a brown sign somewhere in the field of vision, to simply take the next exit. After all, there’s no sign anywhere on the highway that says this is the way to the Hop Museum. And who knows anything about follow signs. And even if they did, any standard navigation system would reliably guide you directly to the desired museum destination. On the A 9 in the direction of Nuremberg, the route does not lead via Dürnzhausen, but – precisely.
Oh what would Germany and Bavaria be without their bureaucracy and the special ways and means to get along with it. And be it by means of follow signage. By the way, the brown sign on the A 9 has indeed had an enormous effect. Surveys among unannounced visitors as to their motivation to stop by the German Hop Museum put the earthy sign at the top of the list of reasons. And since then, commuters from Freising have been reminded shortly before they reach the freeway that they could spend their free afternoon in Wolnzach on one of the next Sundays.