Germany:Trip & Rental Car ??'s

Mar 25th, 2001, 04:55 PM
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Germany:Trip & Rental Car ??'s

I am flying into Frankfurt on April 26th and meeting my girl friend in Florence on May 5th. Everything I do in between is up to me. I am planning on seeing Berlin and Munich. I am a big car buff so the BMW museum is on my list of to-dos. As is renting a fast car and driving on the Autobahn. After a few days in Germany I am taking the train to Florence, and maybe stopping in Innsbruck for a day or two. Hiking or spring skiing may be a possibility.

Here are my questions:
1.) Is it worth going to Berlin, if Florence is my final destination.
2.) Where can I rent a kick butt car for the autobahn? And where is a good spot to drive on the autobahn, views, ability to open it up, etc?
3.) Should I spring Ski or Hike in Innsbruck?
4.) I have heard that Heilelburg and the black forest are great places to take in?

Thought? Thanks in advance for the advise
Mar 25th, 2001, 05:21 PM
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1. Yes. I have not been to Berlin since 1992, but I loved it then, and the opinions keep going up that Berlin is on a very short list of the most dynamic cities in europe today. See this month's National Geographic Traveler.

2. I recommend the following as the first four places to start:

I have written a number of messages here on how to best use these. It may well be that the first is the only one you need. A lot depends on your definition of "kickass". I love driving in all of Europe, and especially in Germany. And I drive fast. I am often surprised that a car with a 1.6 or 1.8 liter engine can drive fairly well at 200 kph. They must gear them differently or something. All the companies listed above can be an appropriate resource for a BMW at 2.0 liters or above, if you want to spend the money. I am a strong believer that you owe it to uyrself to put a minimum of 1 or 2 days (4 to 6 hours behind the wheel) before you start driving above 160 kph. your eyes and visual-mental-motor processing needs some time to acclimate. And above 150 kph (maybe even 130 kph), I think you need total concentration. No conversation in the car. Maybe even no music. and be prepared that even at 180+, there will STILL be big 7 series come up on your bumper before three hearbeats. The left lane is not for "riding" without constant vigilance to your rear view mirror.

A lot of americans think that the "autobahn" refers to a specific segment of highway. It's like saying "on the interstate". You can drive fast a lot of places in Germany (and perhaps other countries in Europe also - - Princess Anne's speeding tickets notwithstanding) - - but NEVER count on being able to drive that fast. Sometimes there is simply too much traffic, or inclement weather that makes it a no-go.

You are going to love it. You may never come back.

3. Not a hiker, nor a skier in Europe. Pass.

4. I don't know Heidelberg. I love the Black Forest. Much of what is cool to drive through there is NOT autobahn.

Best wishes,


Mar 26th, 2001, 05:30 AM
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I agree with Rex, Berlin is a great city however, it is not in line with your destination.

Just about anything works well on the autobahn. I had a 320i when I lived there and it would cruise at about 120MPH, but it ran too hot above that. You watch the temperature gauge, and not necessarily the speedometer. You can get an Opel in the 2.5L range and it will cruise around 110+ MPH. We rented an Audi wagon in '99 and it handled 115 effortlessly. Other more exotic cars are more expensive to rent and it will depend on how much you care to spend and if you drop it off in Florence.

There is some good routes between Frankfurt and Munich on a couple of routes (A5 or A3/A7) and if traffic is light, you'll see cars reaching 140+.

Heidelburg is a lovely university town with a great castle above the Neckar River. On your way (taking A5) and worth the stop. I would take that route. Another option would be A3 to Rothenburg, stopping at Wurzburg on the way. Then there's the Rhine gorge...the possibilities.

Munich is a great city and home of course, to BMW. You can drive down to Garmisch, which is about 70 km from Innsbruck. I would suggest going up on the Zugspitze and skiing on the other side on the glacier. It is just beautiful there and you would not regret it. Use the cable car going up and the cog wheel train coming down.

Hopefully, that helps you some.

Mar 26th, 2001, 07:44 AM
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Thanks guys. I have done extensive traveling in Europe, but it has always been for business or a weekend jaunt picked up by the company I was working for. That said, all my travel has been via Car or Rental Car. Should I take the train to Berlin if I was to go? How much? Or, should I simply rent a car? Please note: I drive in Boston, USA and in London with ease.
Mar 26th, 2001, 12:00 PM
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Dan, one good stretch of autobahn that is usually pretty wide open is A62, specifically out of Kaiserslautern towards Nonnweiler and on to Trier. There is little if any traffic there and not enough scenery to distract you, an important point if you really intend to try out a big BMW or sports car. (One other caution: I learned quickly the hard way that I could very easily redline my Porsche at the einfart, and the engine cuts out until you can be a more reasonable driver; i.e., remember to shift. Gets your attention if you downshift to pass, too.) As an alternative, have you considered taking your rental to the Nurburgring? You can drive it for a small fee and nothing quite compares to actually driving on one of the most famous race circuits in the world... I bring that up in relation to the autobahn I just gave you, although the direction is opposite to where you're headed. Let me know if you're interested in heading up the Mosel and I can give you some reference sites. I don't want to sound as if I'm preaching, but feel I should in good conscience say that if you're not routinely driving at or above 120 mph, you probably don't want to do it on the autobahns, either, even if you "can." One tends to underestimate the closure rate, for example, and the car's handling (even for BMWs) is very different at those speeds. However, that being said, definitely DO travel by car. You will be able to hit high speeds just trying to get around the slower traffic and back into the right-hand lane before some bigger dog runs you over. As to your other questions: April is still a bit chancy, weather-wise, but I'd give driving, even in the mountains, a try. If the Mosel/Rhine region doesn't appeal, how about going to Eisenach to spend your first night? It's not a bad drive and I think it's MUCH nicer than Heidelberg, which is pretty, but a tourist trap. You can tour Wartburg, look around the town square (still being renovated from its time in the east). Plus nice easy drive on to Berlin on the next day, where you'll want to spend 2-3 days. Then you can swing south (maybe through Dresden or Regensburg) to Munich for a couple of days (the BMW museum is great!), down to Garmisch (I second Lee's suggestion for the Zugspitze) for a couple of days, and on to Florence. One other note of caution: you should check with the rental car company about taking any car into Italy, as there are prohibitions on that for some makes. Let me know if you need any other info, and have fun!
Mar 26th, 2001, 01:40 PM
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Heck no, I wouldn't take any train to Berlin. And yes, it is out of your way, but I might say do it anyway. Worst case - - you have extra driving to do (not as fast as you might have hoped) - - and a little more gasoline expense.

A few more comments that have gone through my head. I have never been to the BMW museum, but let me tell you something that is fantastic - - but I don't know if you have the time (or connections) to do it. go to the Porsche factory tour (Stuttgart). Not the "Porsche museum" - - which isn't much bigger than an average bowling alley.

You might need a little pull to get in on short notice. Any chance you know the Porsche dealer in your town (I don't; I went with someone else who is a Porsche owner). Books say to call there directly, but I got shot down - -only to have my friend succeed when he went through his dealer, who in turn went through Porsche USA main headquarters (I forget where that is).

Finally, I agree with the excitement of driving in mountains; though I have never done any wild and crazy moutain driving in Germany, I have coming down out of the Pyrenees (Andorra to Perpignan), and climbing up from the Italian Piemonte (to cross over in France at the Queyras) - - the best! 30 miles an hour on the right hair pin curves can be just as exciting as 90 miles on the straight!

Let's be careful out there...

Mar 27th, 2001, 11:55 AM
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Okay. No trains until I get to Munich. I was planning on taking the train to Innsbruck and then on to Florence though.

I checked out the rental info. A bit discouraging. Most of the companies rent out a 318 or a 520 BMW for a reasonable amount of money. However, I checked on a porche and anything a bit faster for that matter and it was prohibitive. I am not spending $5,000 US on a rental car for three days. I can rent one in the US for 1/8 of that. Oh well, I will keep looking.

Also, Rex and company it is funny to me speed warnings that you issue. People often think that if you drive in the US you are used to driving slow. I routinely travel 160 KPH and have gone as high as 250 (Cops please don't read this post). You are right that the cars handle differently and that you do come up on slower cars very quickly, but if you have adequate reflexes you do fine. I am not slamming you and I do appreciate your concern for my well being Please know that some of us Yankees can drive!
Mar 27th, 2001, 12:07 PM
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Dan -

I'm only going to say one word in relation to driving. Stau. It means traffic jam in German and if you've never encountered one, trust me when I say you don't want to do it at 150 mph.
(Lee, Rex, Ann?) My rental got totalled in one in December. They happen for no particular reason, at any time of the day and in any weather conditions. Traffic will go from a nice steady 90-100 mph to a complete stop in less time than it will take you to sneeze.
Rex is right when he said that driving on the autobahns takes a few days to 'gear up' to. It's a blast, but requires total concentration - nothing like driving in Boston (I'm from Worcester) or London (which is a whole different kind of adventure)
I'm a big fan of Heidelberg (and will be there in less 3 days) if you decide to go that way, let me know.
Mar 27th, 2001, 02:46 PM
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Don't forget there's a Mercedes museum in Stuttgart as well.

The last time I was in Germany there was too much traffic to do a lot of high speed driving. The time before that I had miles and miles of open road. Hope you luck out and hit the open road!
Mar 27th, 2001, 03:32 PM
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A few hints for safe, fast autobahn driving. There are certain (unwritten) rules which are pretty well understood by locals and they expect you to know (esp when driving locally registered cars):
1. Stay in the right-hand lane and only use left lanes for overtaking (passing). This is the law BTW. I know Germans often hog the passing lanes, but you will annoy other fast drivers if you don't move over straighaway. And never underpass.
2. Regular speeders in powerful cars travel in packs. As a visitor you should leave them well alone, even if you think you can keep up with them. They cruise at 120 mph+ virtually nose to tail and leave little room for error.
3. Flashing headlights to get a car in front to move over is illegal, as it's interpreted as aggressive driving and WILL annoy the driver in front. The convention is for you to signal left, indicating you want to go faster. If the car in front responds by also signalling left, it means it's going to pass another car before pulling in. As soon as it's moved over, accelerate smartly and pass - don't dawdle.
4. Before driving at high speeds, check tyre pressure and conditions. A blowout at 120 mph+ means almost certain death.
5. You find fast cars driving with main beams on even during the day, to make them more visible to other drivers. You probably don't want to copy them.
6. If you see cars in front switch on hazard warning lights, it means there's a hold-up or slow moving traffic ahead. Ease up on speed immediately and switch on HWL to warn those behind.
7. There are nowadays many stretches with speed limit. It is strictly enforced, and police use unmarked cars to detect speeders. Fine is usually payable on the spot.
8. You may like to know that if you are involved in an accident when driving at more than 130 kph or 80 mph ('recommended' top speed), that fact alone can put you in the wrong even if it was clearly the other driver's fault (e.g. pulling out suddenly in front). The reason is, if you had not been going so fast, you could have taken evasive actions.
I hope you enjoy the 'freedom of the road' that Germany, alone in Europe, still offers, but safely and without raising your and other drivers' blood pressure.
Mar 28th, 2001, 02:49 AM
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