Today, I was at the customs office for the first time in my life.
I had ordered a number of books from amazon.com, because they were considerably cheaper than at amazon.de (Space Mission Analysis and Design was about 60$ instead of 180€). I ordered a creditcard for this purpose, and ordered the books a few weeks ago. Estimated arrival date: 15 November. On the 6th of November, one week ago, I received a notification from the Zollamt: customs office, that I could get them at Mainfrankenpark, Dettelbach.
Why on Earth in Dettelbach? I thought, and started to look at bus timetables. To my surprise, there were virtually no buses to Dettelbach, even though it is a medium-sized city. Only early in the morning there were some buses, none between 8 and 14. I decided that I would go on Tuesday the 13th, because I had no time before that. On Sunday I saw on Google Maps the even though the address is in Dettelbach, the Mainfrankenpark is not: it is located very near a highway exit in the middle of nowhere; but much closer to my home, about 10km. I decided to go to the Zollamt by bike.
This morning, I departed at around 8.15. Until Rottendorf, the route was pretty straightforward, but after that it became complicated. First I had a concrete path, but then it became smaller and smaller until I was cyling over a small and steep footpath. My map didn't show any other route to go by bike; either the highway or this. Finally I arrived at the Mainfrankenpark, a huge area with businesses, "restaurants" (mostly drive-ins), open-air house catalogues, and, supposedly, the customs office for the region. I noticed the yellow building I had seen on a picture and went in a one-way road that appeared to go there, but it ended at a big fence for the police office. I went back and asked a postman the way to the Zollamt, and he described the complicated route to me.
"Sind Sie mit dem Auto oder Bus gekommen?"
"Mit dem Fahrrad."
"Das ist kallt!"
"Nicht so kallt... aber es war schwierig den richtigen Weg zu finden"
"Sind sie schon mal beim Zollamt gewesen?"
"Nee, noch nie."
After some smalltalk, during which he expresses his astonishment that I came by bike, he asks me if I have been at the customs office before. I answer negatively and he explains me how it works. The books arrive at Frankfurt, but in Frankfurt they don't look at what it is and send it to the customs office. I go there to declare what kind of goods those are, so that they know how much VAT I need to pay, and I take the goods when I have paid them. So I do. The value of this first shipment is $164.42.
After all the formalities - about twenty minutes in total, and I am the only visitor there - I stand at my bike looking at my map when the man who helped me comes running out. He tells me there is a bicycle path and describes how to get there. It is not on my map, but he shows me. I thank him and leave, and indeed there is a bicycle path: much better than what I did on the way here. I need to remember it for next time.
Because there are at least two more shipments to come.