Karie on Mar 19th 2008 03:03 pm
In order to fulfill Scott’s dream of driving on the Autobahn, we rented a car and drove from Berlin down to Würzburg, which is somewhere in the middle of Germany, not too far from Frankfurt. Unfortunately, we were not able to rent a Porsche, but our little Opel didn’t embarrass us too badly.
Scott is convinced that German drivers are the best in the world. I’m sure this has nothing to do with the fact that he is of German decent. Ok, I also admit that there seems to be a mutual respect on the road. Drivers reserve the fast lane strictly for passing, no one cuts anyone off, and rules of the road are obeyed (whether those rules are laws or just unspoken etiquette). Needless to say, we spent a lot of time in the right lanes, at a comfortable 130-180 kph (roughly 80-110 mph), and kept the left lane open for the Mercedes & BMWs that regularly fed us their dust as they flew by at 200+ kph.
After a 5-or-so-hour drive from Berlin, we stopped in Würzburg for the night, which is the beginning of the Romantische Straße, or Romantic Road. Our hostel, on the other hand, was not representative of this title. It felt more like an old hospital clinic than the gateway to the most beautiful scenery in Germany. At any rate, we didn’t spend much time there, as we were off again early the next morning.
The Romantic Road is a 2-lane, scenic drive that connects a series of medieval villages through Southern Germany. You could easily spend a few days stopping at each town through this 350 km (215 mile) drive, but since we had a limited amount of time, we stopped at the Tourist Information Center in the first village and picked up a map that included descriptions of each village. We selected 4-5 places to visit along the way, including the castle and gardens in Weikersheim and the tourist trap of Rothenburg ob der Tauber.
As the day closed in on us, we veered off the Romantic Road and headed for Munich. Of course, the first thing we did the following morning was take the New Munich Tour, which is a free walking tour, offered by the same company as the tour we book in Berlin.
*If you have not read the article about our tour of Berlin, please do. It includes the most valuable tip on this website – period. Click here to read.
The New Munich Tour was also very good. If I had not already been to Berlin I might have thought the Munich tour was great… but then again, my personal opinion is that Berlin is a more interesting city (at least as far as tour-going information is concerned). That being said, we also learned a great deal about Munich’s history, as we literally traced Hitler’s steps as he first attempted to begin the revolution unsuccessfully during the Beer Hall Putsch. I wasn’t aware that Hitler first attempted a revolution by force before he was elected into office, so the tour gave me even more insight into the dynamics that led to his election.
On our last night in Munich, we stopped for dinner in a local hall, which is pretty much cafeteria-style seating with lots of people eating fried foods and drinking beer by the liter. (side note: Munich consumes more beer than any other city in the world). There are signs labeling tables that are reserved for regulars, called Stammtisch, where you can sit if there are no other options, but if a regular shows up and wants his seat, you move. We spotted non-reserved table with a couple empty seats and used the universal language of pointing & grunting to ask if the seats were available. The 2 gentlemen sitting at the table motioned back that we were welcome to sit. After a couple minutes, they heard us conversing in English and said, “hey, where are you guys from?” Turns out they were brothers from Washington, who just so happened to be heading to Zurich the next day, as were we.
We already had a rental car reserved (or so we thought), so after a couple hours of dinner conversation, we invited them to join us for the ride to Zurich. Early the next morning, after walking 2 miles to get to the car rental agency, we learned that they did not have our reservation. We had a confirmation number from carrentals.com, the 3rd party booking service, but the Avis rep pointed out that beneath our confirmation number it read “Please do not book”, in German. Why they would give us a confirmation number at a location that specified it was not available is beyond me. Avis did have a 2-seater available, but we had already promised our new friends a ride, so we ended up running back across town and pay an extra 50 Euros to get the car that we thought we had originally reserved.
Travelers Tip: Do not use carrentals.com, even if they do have the best price. Price is irrelevant when there is no car… and I’m still awaiting the refund on the insurance deposit I paid in advance.
It was an exhausting morning, but we eventually crammed into yet another Opel and hit the autobahn. We could have made it to Zurich in about 3 ½ hours, but we opted to take a detour, back to the base of the Romantic Road, to see King Ludwig’s Royal Castle of Neuschwanstein.
This castle is said to be the inspiration for Disney’s Sleeping Beauty’s Castle. King Ludwig II died before its completion, hence only 20 of the 60 rooms are completed; yet it is every bit as magical as its fairytale imitation. Set in a mountainside, with beautiful peaks & waterfalls on one side, and expansive valleys on the other, you can see why it’s the most photographed site in the country.
It was the perfect end to our time in Germany. I have definitely gained a lot of respect for the German people throughout this trip. Not that I lacked respect for them before, but it felt something I have not felt in other countries. There was a strong sense of pride, yet humility in learning from (and in many respects still paying for) the mistakes of their forefathers. Thick-skinned and hard working, yet warm & friendly. I even quite liked the pork schnitzel.