German Organization

In my previous post I noted that it was my assumption that the 5113 was the title stemmed from the old postal code. Trying to explain ended up being so long, I’ve expanded this into yet another entry.

Back in my German days (prior to unification) they had a very logical system for postal codes (or Postleitzahlen – PLZ for short.) Contiguous Federal Republic of Germany started at 2000 up north and went down to 8000 down south, with West Berlin on an island of its own at PLZ 1000. Major cities had lots of zeros after their number unlike the randomish numbers of small towns. For example the small town I lived in in Southern Germany, Immenstaad am Bodensee had the postal code 7997. The nearest city of note Friedrichshafen was 7990 and state capital Stuttgart was 7000. What was nice is you had a good idea where a town lay on the map and how big it was simply by seeing the PLZ.

There were a number of stereotypically well organized ways of doing things that I came to admire about Germany. Another similarly clever geographic bit of trivia is how they issue license plates. German registration plates start with the area in which the vehicle is registered. Big important areas will typically be as short as possible. For example B represents Berlin, Germany’s largest city. Smaller areas like Friedrichshafen the nearest town of note to where I lived were given FN. Sigmaringen, the nearest city to where I went to school had plates of SIG. Obviously given that with thousands of cities and towns this shortcut is more of an art than a science. For example it may be clear that the biggest cities like Stuttgart will get an S, or Munich will get an M. But why Aalen got AA and not Aachen, I’m not sure.

You may have also noticed people here in the US that have a German plate on the front of their car (illegal in Germany of course!) or underneath but still sticking out enough to read the letter Z in front. Z is a designation for vehicles in transit, like those purchased new in Germany and being driven on roads before being put on a ship and delivered in North America.  At least that’s how I recall, some of the facts and my memories have aged less-than-graciously over the last quarter century.

Back in my classroom in Saulgau* my tech teacher explained yet another beautifully simple organizational method that I think most of the rest of the world uses. Here in the US we our paper sizes seem totally arbitrary. There’s letter that’s 8.5x11”, legal that’s 8.5x14” and tabloid that’s 11x17”. Germany, Europe, and I think much of the industrialized world has a logical paper size standard. There are two primary sizes of paper: A0 and B0. Those big sheets are cut into smaller sheets. The total number of cuts gives the paper size its designation. For example A0, the master sheet is 841 × 1189mm. One cut or A1 brings it down to two pieces at 594 × 841mm. The “standard” or “letter” equivalent sheet size of is A4 and measures in at 210 × 297mm. In researching this entry I found that this is called ISO 216. Apparently there’s a C size as well I don’t think I’ve ever seen.

*and on that very topic of things not aging gracefully the town name has been changed to Bad Saulgau to designate its new spa town designation

A6 Notebook

A6 Notebook