>  Blog!   >  Whatever Happened to the Clothes Hanger Trick?

The last couple of posts, in my mini-series, I was writing about everything to do with train travel – partly inspired by my series of journeys last week down to Frankfurt and back (which ended up being in a car anyway). In all this time, I’ve been half-living in the north-west of Germany, half down in Frankfurt. So what’s been happening?


Today, Beer, Tomorrow, Pfand...

Well, following a job interview on Thursday, I repaired forthwith to Lidl with my empty bottles of beer to claim my prized ‘Pfand’. Germany is in the envious position of being possibly the cheapest place I’ve ever been in terms of drinking beer – you can buy a 6-pack for as little as €2. For me, that’s been right up there as one of the best things about the country. Spirits also follow suit, with bottles coming in for vodka and rum from as low as €7, or €8. I don’t really drink spirits much though, so that’s not of great importance. To build further on the cheapness, they also have an extensive glass recycling system that rewards recycling with yet cheaper drink that works a bit like putting a euro in the trolley, only away from the supermarket. It works a bit like this – you buy a 6-pack for say, €2, and then they add another €1 of ‘Pfand’, so you pay €3 in total. Then, you go away and drink the 6-pack and when you go shopping next time, you bring your empty bottles along with you (no need to clean them or wash them out) and every supermarket has a special machine where you can place your bottles. I’m not sure how it works exactly (and this description isn’t actually exaggerated) but what I do know is that the bottles, when placed inside the machine, disappear down a long tunnel, eventually vanishing out of sight in a flash of blinding strobe lighting. The machine then gives you a ticket for a euro off your next alcohol purchase.


In my case, the real beauty of this system is in my forgetfulness to return previous bottles. As a result, I’ve had one or two occasions where I’ve returned so many bottles in one go that my next purchase has been essentially free.


And with that, they were gone...

The next morning, I took a car-share back up north again and everything was going swimmingly until the next afternoon, when myself and Anna decided to take her brothers dog out for a walk in a park we pass every Sunday evening en-route back to Frankfurt. So, we borrowed her brothers car, I even filled the car with €10 petrol to ensure we’d get there and back (even though it turned out, we’d not need to drive the car back) and headed to the park. And the dog, which is a young puppy, bounded along the footpaths, up and around the trees and I had great fun holding a stick in front of it and running away. And everything was going fine, until we neared the car and realised that in fact, we’d lost the car key on our way around the park. So we walked around the park, and then around again, and around a couple more times before realising that the car keys was hopelessly lost.


...and of course, all quiet on a bank holiday weekend...

In my head, I presumed these kind of things were pretty frequent occurrences and that, remembering something about being able to pick car locks with a clothes hanger and a few minutes, this wouldn’t really be much of a problem longer than a few hours. Wrong – we stayed until dusk sitting by the car hoping someone might come along and open the door for us, but that never happened. So, the next morning, I set about searching on the internet the various methods one could use to actually open the car since clothes hangers seem to have gone out with the ark. Among the suggestions, in case it happens to anyone else, is either to stick a spare key inside the tire wall of your car that you can then retrieve should you lose your main key, or slightly more unusual, cut a key sized hole in the side of a tennis ball and then, holding it up to the lock on your car door, flatten the ball rapidly – apparently, if all goes according to plan, the air pressure should then force the locks to open. It turns out however that, even with that plan succeeding, cars aren’t as easily hot-wired as I always presumed they were – in fact, dire warnings across various internet forums suggested that any efforts to hot wire the car in question would result in permanently damaging the steering column. Who knew? There’s obviously a good reason why I’m not a successful criminal.


Having spent Saturday and Sunday looking for the car keys and trying to figure out how to break into the car, the answer was finally revealed on Sunday. It turns out, thanks to a visit from the ADAC, Germany’s answer to the AA, you open the door with two bags of air wedged in the doorway and a long stick. And in spite of how regular an occurrence I firmly believe it was, the only way to get the keys is to order new ones from the car manufacturer, and wait until they arrive. So for now, the car remains in the garage, while both of us are instead in the doghouse.


And I’ll know for next time not to bother with a clothes hanger, tennis balls are obviously where it’s at.

Reformed backpacker & former ultra-cheap traveller, Andy now atones for his past by overspending on premium travel experiences and failing at making the most of the miles & points game. Former expat now returned to Ireland, he is a product manager by day, and travel aficionado by evening and weekend.