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Postcard From...Munich

The German car owner enjoys a life of rare privilege: not only are his autobahns free of speed limits, but his petrol stations are the only place outside bars and restaurants where it is possible to buy alcohol on a Sunday.

Foreign visitors are often shocked to find filling station shelves stacked with alcohol. Any suggestion that this kind of legislation is an open invitation to drink and drive is flatly dismissed by the car lobby as an insult to the integrity of drivers.

In most places in Germany, however, the ruling does allow non car-driving citizens to circumvent the country's draconian Sunday shopping laws by buying wine, beer or spirits from their nearest filling station.

But now the southern state of Bavaria has tightened the legal corset even further with a new ruling which bans anyone but car drivers from buying alcohol, soft drinks and food from filling stations after 8pm.

The new ruling came into force at the beginning of June and was designed to ensure that only motorists who were travelling long distances – and not local residents – benefited from the special out-of-hours shopping provision.

However, its days may be numbered. Bavaria's outraged opposition politicians say the new law is ridiculous. They have called for state-wide protests outside filling stations after 8pm, starting this Saturday. "It's bureaucratic insanity. Drivers can load up with beer and schnapps, but a thirsty cyclist is refused even a bottle of water," is how Bavaria's Liberal Party leader put it.

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