06 Aug Getting lost in a Mercedes is way more fun
Everything you’ve heard about the autobahn is just about true.
Things I didn’t realize:
1 – it’s not just one stretch of road, it’s Germany’s entire highway network
2 – some parts do have limits
3 – some people still drive normal speeds; it’s just a highway to them I guess?
4 – the highways aren’t labeled as north/south or east/west. You have to know a city in the direction you’re headed.
Things I’d heard that really are true:
1 – a large number of the cars are Audis, Mercedes, BMWs, and other built-for-speed cars.
2 – these cars drive FAST and you’d best not be in their way when the speed limits are lifted!
3 – driving fast is FUN.
We set out from Frankfurt in our rented Benz, and immediately found the highway we wanted to get us to “Castle Road” – a stretch of scenic byway that is dotted for miles with castles. It was even labeled, “Kassel” so I figured they must know a lot of tourists head out to find this road – how convenient!
As navigator, it was my job to get us headed in the right direction so that Britton could focus on driving since we didn’t know what to expect. Let’s jut say it’s a really good thing we opted for the GPS unit.
Upon further inspection of the map, it turns our that there is a city in Germany named ‘Kassel’ and that it is in the opposite direction of the castle road. Oops! It also turns out there are fewer exits (Ausfahrts, lol) than on a highway in the States. And that when in Germany, the street signs tend to be in German, if they have any words at all! Go figure!
We got ourselves turned around without much further issue, and kept a close eye on the road signs until – yes! – we saw the sign that means all limits are lifted! Britton was cautious to check the road ahead for other cars, etc., and started to gradually increase our speed.
First to 90, which seemed to be a comfortable pace. You might hit that in the states, if you aren’t paying attention. Then 100, a milestone of 3 digits! Giddy from the first burst, we settled down for a few minutes to keep our heads.
Next to 100 – much quicker this time. The Benz just wanted to go faster, faster! Then 110 – 120! We were passing most, but still a few others were passing us. Must mean it’s ok to get a little faster!
Britton hit 130mph! It was exhilarating!
The funny thing was after driving that fast, how slow 80 or 90mph felt now. Driving to St. Louis will never be the same.
We kept up those quick speeds (not as fast as 130, but still around 90-100 on average, I’d say) and found our scenic highway, which alas, had a speed limit (about 55mph).
But the road delivered as promised! It seemed that there was a castle every 10-15 minutes! We wandered around a few, just the outsides, as our previous detours had chewed through some time.
We stopped for lunch in a small, picturesque town with a name I can’t remember but had a lot of letters. Lunch was delicious. Kind of like a gyro wrapped in a large, thin pita bread that we watched the owner cook right in front of us. Best of all it cost only 4€ and fed both of us! Yummmm.
We eventually realized that if we wanted to get in to Munich to return the car at a decent time, we would need to get back on the autobahn and say good-bye to the castles. That meant it was my turn to drive.
Fun fact – 5pm in Germany is also rush hour. And just as many drivers pile onto the highways as in a major city at home. So for the first part of my stint on the autobahn, I was driving about 40mph in stop-and-go traffic with a manual transmission. Oh, joy.
It did clear up after some time, and I got to experience the thrill of driving as fast as I wanted. And as I said before – it was FUN.
And it meant we made it to Munich in time to return the car, find our hotel (best western – ha!) and find some food. That proved to be more fun than expected! Read “Hardy & Anka” for that story!