Munich, Lindau, Liechtenstein, Hohenschwangau - Neuschwanstein, Salzburg, Cesky Krumlov, Prague, Regensburg, Rothenburg od Tauber
Shannon and I am now in Munich. We arrived yesterday afternoon. For anyone coming to Europe from Portland, I would recommend the Northwest flight from Portland to Amsterdam. It is a little long at at just under 10 hours, but it on a Airbus A330 which has in seat entertainment with 20 or so movies and games. this helped pass the time as I was not able to sleep more than an hour or so, Shannon was able to sleep a little more than I was but not much more.
One of the interesting things that we were able to see on the flight over was the coast of Greenland. This was a flight that left Portland at 4:00 on Thursday afternoon going over much of Canada and then Greenland and Iceland. It ended up staying light outside most of the flight if not all. The seat back entertainment system has the GPS based map display that allows you to view and zoom into the map displaying where you are. While this was somewhat annoying through much of the flight as you knew that you hadn't gone that far and really still did have 8:00 hours or whatever left to go, it was nice once we were getting close to Greenland.
We were sitting in the two seats on the far left of the plane with Shannon on the window and I on the aisle. When we were right next to the coast, Shannon opened the window blind and it was daybreak outside. We were able to see what appeared to be a relatively thin layer of shelf ice out in the ocean with icebergs floating and then a narrow area of open water and then the coast. According to the display, there was a town several hundred miles south of us, but nothing nearby. The coast was composed of rocky bluffs, covered in snow. It was oddly beautiful and I suggested to Shannon that it wouldn't be a bad place to build a house as we could probably pick up a thousand acres pretty cheap. See didn't like the idea much.
We finally got into Amsterdam. We didn't have much time between arrival and departure on our next flight to Munich. We pretty much dashed through the airport in order to catch the bus that took us to our plane.
When we arrived in Munich, we were picked up by Rolf Raffelsieper, who is a gentlemen who I had heard of on one of the websites that I have been reading for the last few months about BMW European Delivery (ED) for BMW. He has worked for BMW for 30 years and drives both for BMW and then people doing ED. He was very friendly and knowledgeable, after we got to the hotel, he sat down with me and went over the map of Munich, suggesting some of the places we should go.
After getting settled in the hotel we went downtown (we are staying at a Sheraton about 5 kilometers from downtown in a more residential section of town know as Arabella. We went down to an area that has a pedestrian mall filled with shops via the U-Bahn or subway. We arrived at 5:00 on Friday, just as people were out wandering and socializing, starting their weekend.
The one thing that I should mention was the weather. It was raining slightly when we left the airport. By the time we were at the hotel, it was sunny but still overcast in areas. When we left to go downtown it was raining rather hard and there was a 30 mile an hour or so wind. By the time we made it the couple of blocks to the U-Ban station we were both soaked even though we both had umbrellas. Our heads and upper bodies were dry but our legs were drenched. When we got out of the subway station in was overcast but with totally dry streets. We didn't see anymore rain.
We ened up going to a department store, one of the things that I like to do. It is interesting to see what they have. The one thing that I was able to find that looked like it had really good prices compared to the States is Bosch hand tools, even the Henckels knives were more expensive than the are back home thanks to the Euro conversion.
One of the other reasons that we like to go to department stores are office supplies. Both of us like pens, and we ended up spending nearly $100 on pens and refills. These aren't the really expensive pens and they aren't the disposable kind, they are the ones in between, the $5-$10 ones. I ended up realizing before I went that most of my favorite pens of this type are German, and the department store had many of my favorite brands and many pens that you can't get in the States.
After a stop at Starbucks to fill up on some caffeine, we ended up going to a place called the Hofbrau House for dinner. It is somewhere that I have heard mixed things about. Some people recommend not going there, that you need to go someplace more authentic, as it is a little touristy. Others think that you have go at least once.
It is a beer hall. And I thought that it was going to be like one of the public houses that some of the breweries have back home. 10, maybe 15 tables some beer and food. Well, the definitely have the beer and food, nut is was few more that 10 tables. I really don't know how many tables they have inside in the different rooms and then in their courtyard. I think that there were somewhere between 500-1000 people there. There was a traditional German band playing and we wandered around trying to find somewhere to sit, no assigned seating here, you sit were you can find a space. Inside was like a sauna, very warm and humid, and the weather wasn't bad so we found a table outside.
We both ordered a beer, I got a Hofbrau original and Shannon got a Ross'n, which is a white beer mixd with lemonade (not something I like). The beers came as most do here, it one liter glasses, this is 4 times a normal beer back home or double the size of a pint. We then both ordered Weisswurst or white veal sausage, with sweet mustard and a pretzel. It was good, but the texture was a little softer than what we were used to for sausage.
After that we came back to the hotel for bed. At that point we had both been up for nearly thirty hours and really needed the sleep. We went to bed at 10:00, I then woke up at 3:45 AM, and then was up for a couple of hours. Shannon was able to sleep for longer but still woke up at 6:00. We were both able to get back to sleep for a few hours. Hopefully tomorrow we are a little better adjusted.
We now are going to leave for the BMW Welt to pickup the car. It is a several hour experience. We are then in Munoch for the rest of the day, to Lindau near the border with Switzerland tomorrow and then to Hohenschwangau on Monday to see Newschwanstein, one of King Ludwig's castles.
Picking up the car was quite the experience, significantly different than what I have experienced before. We went to the BMW Welt, which is a new delivery center that BMW spent $750 million on and which opened in October of last year. It is a very modern building and is quite the tourist destination. They have most of the different types of cars out on the first floor, including the new X6 which isn't available yet and one of their 7 series hydrogen powered cars. It also has the biggest BMW lifestyle store where you buy BMW luggage, BMW oil, keychains, miniatures of the different cars, bicycles and a number of different BMW branded items. There are also like 4 restaurants there.
When we first went in and went to the registration desk we were taken to the third floor, where we completed some paperwork that we need for the trip including 15 days of insurance, directions to drop off the car and a few other needed things.
We were then taken to the premium lounge where they had complimentary food and drinks, where we could wait until the next step began. We had a about an hour and a half to explore the Welt and relax. When the time finally came we went downstairs where Daniel, our delivery specialist, took us through a multimedia display on a horizontal flat panel display that was about 3' x 4' which went through the performance, safety and design attributes of the car. We were then taken into a booth with a large display, steering wheel and iDrive control. He then took us through using the iDrive which is used to control the navigation system and I was able to drive the simulator which demonstrated the stability control and ABS systems.
It was then time to get the car. We took the elevator back up to the third floor and walked down a staircase where they had several of the different cars waiting for delivery. When we got midway down the staircase, we then saw the car for the first time. Using an iPaq, Daniel turned on the rotating platform the car was sitting on and we watched it turn around. A photographer then came up and took Shannon and my picture standing next to the car, Daniel then demonstrated some of the features and walk through the items in the car, give us the picture they had taken of us and a BMW Welt keychain engraved with my initials and we were off.
I should take a minute and describe my car and the BMW European Delivery process. I am getting a BMW 135 which is a brand new car. The 1 series is smaller than their other cars (except for the two seat convertible,the Z4) It has been available for several years as a 4 door hatchback. Late last year it became available as a 2 door coupe in Europe and then on March 22, in the US.
Mine is a 135i in Sparkling Graphite Metallic with a coral red interior. It has a twin turbo 3.0 liter engine. It is fast, nimble and relatively light. BMW is trying to position it as the spiritual successor to the 2002 from the late '60s and early '70s. They are still relatively uncommon here and I seem to be getting a lot of attention (ok, maybe it is the car getting the attention).
The European Delivery is offered by several of the European car makers and they all do it slightly differently. With Porsche, you pay full price for the car but do get a free night in a hotel prior to picking the car up. With BMW, BMW AG does not have to pay BMW of North America anything for selling the car. They have a completely different pricing model for ED which allows you to save anywhere between 7-12% on the car off US MSRP. In my case, it was almost $5,000 that I saved, so it is almost a free trip to Europe(it would have been free if it wasn't for what the poor shape the dollar is in, compared to our trip to Spain last year this trip is costing us $1500 more just based on the changes in the dollar vs. the Euro). And then when you come over to Munich to pickup the car you get the full Welt experience which I just describes, which is something that European customers pay an additional 500 Euros for.
We left the Welt around 3:00 on Saturday afternoon and went to Dachau. Dachau was quite the experience. It was the first concentration camp, established initially in 1933. It started with common criminals and political prisoners (anti-Nazis) and then in 1939 expanded greatly and started to receive Jews, foreigners, Gypsies, homosexuals. 300,000 people were imprisoned there, with some released before 1939. By 1945, 45,000 had perished or been murdered.
Many of the buildings are no longer there. The Americans used it shortly after liberation, ad then it was basically abandoned until 1965 when it became a site of remembrance. There are still all the guard towers, some of the original fences, the main gate and administration building, a cell block and a barracks that was reconstructed. All of the foundations from the barracks remain, so you are ale to visualize what the site looked like when all the barracks stood.
They have a museum which goes through the history of the rise of the Nazis, some of the people who were imprisoned, what happened to them, how the prisoners were treated and overall, the horrible things that occurred to so many people.
The site closes at 5:00 so we had to leave. We ended up going about 20 miles southwest of Munich to Andechs Monastery. The weather was beautiful and Shannon and I were able to experience the car. I love this car, it is everything that I could have asked for, the feature and functionality are incredible, it is the perfect size for me. The backseat is small, it is ok for a cross town drive for adults, but I wouldn't want to spend more than an hour back there. That is the only downside.
We took the autobahn out from Munich towards Andechs. The autobahn has regulated and unregulated sections. The regulated sections can get kind of annoying. The speed limit will be 100kph, then go to 80, then 60 then 120, then unlimited, then 100 and so on. On the drive to Andechs we were passed by a convertible Lamborghini while in a tunnel. A Lamborghini in a tunnel sounds like nothing else.
We then got off of the autobahn and started taking back roads to the monastery. It was an absolutely beautiful drive, with rolling hills and small towns scattered through the country side. One of our guidebooks states that over 200,000 pilgrims go to the monastery each year. The church is beautiful, one of the oldest in Germany. When we got there there was a service going on so we weren't able to see much of the inside.
Now, most of the 'pilgrims' to the monastery aren't what you think. The monks have been brewing beer since the 1400's and the monastery is surrounded by beer gardens. The whole site is up on the top of a hill and has incredible views of the surrounding valleys. Combined with pretty good food (we had pork roast and potato salad and it was a good dinner and all around experience.
Right now it is Sunday night and we didn't do any better on the sleep front last night. We stayed up until midnight watching a movie and I was up by 5:00, Shannon shortly thereafter. We ended up taking off early so we could fit in an unplanned destination.
The plan Sunday was for Lindau which is a very cute little town on a island in the Bodensee (Lake Constance in English), right near the border of Switzerland (most of the land around the lake is actually in Switzerland) and Austria. The weather was beautiful and we set off down the autobahn. Once we got away from Munich , we ran into long stretches of unrestricted sections. Now, there are some limits on how I can drive as I will be in the break-in period for most if not all of the trip. After paying attention to what BMW recommends and what I have been able to glean from people that I would consider experts on this sort of thing, I will be staying under 4500 RPMs and make sure I am varying the RPMs frequently. What I can tell you is that 4500 RPMs is just over 130 (I was testing for purely scientific purposes).
Driving at this speed on the autobahn is a much safer experience than I would have thought. To begin with, the car is built for it. A decent percentage of BMW drivers will be exceeding 100 mph on a weekly if not daily basis. The roads are also perfect. These roads are designed for these speeds and are in truly excellent condition. Finally, the drivers know what they are doing, they tend to follow the rules (like drive on the right, pass on the left). The one thing that is kind of odd is to be driving at 105-110 and then be passed by a minivan that is driving at a much higher rate of speed.
We got to Lindau at 10:30. It is a beautiful town. The island that it is on is only a couple of hundred feet from the shore and connected via a bridge, it is also only a couple of square miles so there aren't any newer buildings. Check in for the hotel was 4:00 so we had time for the unplanned destination. We headed 40 minutes south to Liechtenstein.
I have been fascinated by Liechtenstein since I was a kid collecting postage stamps. It is a very small country, the size of the Rogue Valley. It is surrounded by the Alps and is very gorgeous. We just happened to arrive on a day that they were having some sort of organized bicycle ride and so it took us some time to get into the capital city of Vaduz. We wondered around for a while, bought some souvenirs and went to the tourist booth to pay 2 Euros to get our passport stamped.
Borders in Europe are very odd now. There aren't any. In the space of a few minutes we went from Germany to Austria to Switzerland to Liechtenstein and never passed any sort of check. We did drive through some of the closed border checkpoints, but you don't get stopped. We had our passports stamped and formally entered Europe at the airport in Amsterdam. We are now in Europe and won't go through another border. I think Switzerland still has some and if we drove through another entry point we might have been stopped, but for any of the EU countries that have gone far enough in the process of joining, the borders have come down.
On our way back to Lindau, we drove behind a couple of Ferraris at a leisurely 95 mph. We got into town and checked into our hotel, the Hotel Bayerischer Hof. It is a elegant European style hotel and is right on the harbor. While our room doesn't overlook the water, the hotel is situated on the promenade that faces a large statue of a lion and a lighthouse at the entrance to the harbor. It was perfect weather wise, at one point in the afternoon I was actually hot. I think it was in mid 70's, which compared to the weather that we have had lately in Oregon, is a really nice change.
Ok, we finally have both Internet access and the ability to upload to the Internet so you will be getting updates for all of the trip so far. I would recommend starting at the bottom of the page with the first post reading that first, the second post and then this one. I hope to have some pictures posted to Shannon's Flickr account by the time you read this.
It is currently Tuesday evening and we are in Salzburg, Austria. We got in this afternoon after a long day of driving. We spent 9 hours today driving the Alpenstrasse. It is not really a road as such but a collection of roads designed to show the best of the Bavarian Alps in Germany. It links a numbers of roads through a number of small towns. Without navigation it would have been extremely difficult. With navigation it was very easy, an absolutely incredible drive, with rolling green hills, high snow capped mountains, lakes and picturesque Germany towns.
Shannon didn't enjoy parts of the drive as much, while all of the roads were in incredibly excellent condition, some of them were narrow and there were sections with a ridiculous number of switchbacks which I enjoyed immensely but which occasionally stressed Shannon out due to the bicyclists, maintenance trucks, oncoming traffic and dramatic dropoffs. We made it safely and I don't have too much to say, you just need to see the pictures.
So on Monday morning we left Lindau and drove a couple of hours to Hohenschwangau, which is where Neuschwanstein is located. Neuschwanstein was built by King Ludwig in the late 1800s. He was obsessed with the operas of Richard Wagner and spent most of his rule building castles. Neuschwanstein is one of the most frequently photographed castles in the worlds, it is one of the castles that most people picture as the stereotypical castle.
We took the Alpenstrasse from Lindau and had a great drive, we then arrived at our hotel in Hohenschwangau around noon, got tickets for the castle and took a carriage up the hill for our tour. The castle was never finished, King Ludwig was found incompetent and ten died (was probably murdered) a few days later and the interior was never finished. In the 14 years that were spent on the castle though, we was able to have craftsman do some incredible work. His bed as an example took something like 10 people 10 years to finish. It was incredible to see and wander around.
Later in the day we drove out to Wieskirche, a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is an absolutely incredible church,pretty much in the middle of now where.
Today after we finished the drive we weren't able to do much more than wonder around Salzburg and have dinner. We spend all day tomorrow in Salzburg, and will have Internet tomorrow as well so I will try and get another post out tomorrow about Salzburg.
We spent the day in Salzburg. Neat city. They had a significant amount of wealth due to salt mines nearby and it shows. A number of churches, an incredible fortress on the hillside overlooking the city.
The weather has held. When we pulled into town yesterday the clouds were building and in rained for a while. First time we have had a lot of clouds and the first rain. It did give me chance to try the automatic windshield wipers. They are pretty neat, hit a switch and when the sensor detects rain it automatically runs the wipers as needed. When we woke up this morning it was another beautiful sunny day.
We have a pretty neat hotel. We are staying at the Goldener Hirsch, which is in the old town on Getreidegasse which is now a narrow pedestrian street filled with shops with very unique signs hanging over their doorways.
We lucked out with the hotel, it is one of the best in town. I was able to get a good rate on the room and then when we arrived, we had a non-smoking room and wanted a smoking room. The gentleman working the desk said that we already had a nice upgrade but that he would see what he could find and end up giving us an additonal upgrade.
The room is gorgeous, done in traditional Austrian style. It has several antique pieces of furniture and is very large, with a nice sitting area. Right now with the dollar, it is a $750 a night room and we are paying about 1/3 of that. Nice bargin, the only I think we are going to experience as a combo menu at McDonalds is nearly $10 right now.
We spent the day touring the city, doing a little shopping then touring the cathedral and ended up spending most of the day at the fortress overlooking the city. It has been added onto over the last 1000 years and is pretty massive. No one wanted to live in it after 1500 so there are several rooms that are decorated (without the furniture as Napoleon took that) just as they were 500 years ago.
We then ended up going across the river and exploring. We walked down this street that still have the marks on the wall from when an American GI tried to take a tank down a street to go to a brothel and got it stuck. We then we able to go down a few blocks to where the brothel is still in business to see one of the girls in a pair of plethor hotpants.
We then finished the day at a park which used to be only for the prince-archbishops who ruled the city until they opened up to the public 150 years ago. It has a statue which apparently was in a scene from the Sound of Music. We could have taken the Sound of Music tour but I actually wanted to enjoy my day here so we passed on it.
It is kind of amazing how focused this town is on Mozart and classical music. We are here a few days before a music festival that appears to be one of many that occurs through the year. For people who are into classical music this city would be heaven, for those of us who aren't it still is worth a visit.
Tomorrow we are off to Prague.
It is Sunday morning and we are in Prague, we have been here since Thursday afternoon. The weather has been beautiful, other than rain when we first arrived in Munich and when we pulled into Salzburg the weather has been sunny, a few clouds on somedays but warm.
On Thursday when we left Salzburg we had a planned stop in Cesky Krumlov, which is a small town in southwest Czech Republic. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is one of the most beautiful small towns I have ever seen. It has a castle overlooking a small town with a river running through it. It is in excellent condition and is just beautiful.
Then we had a several hour drive into Prague. The Czeck Republic doesn't have many freeways and we ended up driving on smaller back roads, it was a nice rive but the one thing that I have now become a full believer in, especially when traveling outside of the US, are navigation systems. I don't know how frequently I will use nav back home as if I need to find where somewhere is, my iPhone works well. But there is a lot of integration with other features that comes with the BMW nav system that I wanted and after our experiences in Spain and Portugal using maps to navigate I knew that I wanted to use navigation and so instead of buying a portable system, I went ahead and got it in the car.
It has saved us an incredible amount of frustration and lost time having navigation, and I don't think you lose anything by using it. We are able to get from one place to another easily and in some case like driving the Alpenstrasse, we would have had an extraordinarily hard time driving the route as it is not well marked and there are many options for driving from one town to another. We have had a couple of times that the system wanted us to go one way when we shouldn't, such as the car not knowing that a particular street is pedestrian only, ad we have had problems finding our hotel a couple of times as it puts us a block or so off, so it isn't perfect but it is much better than a map alone.
We got into our hotel here in Prague rather easily, it is a ways from the historic center. It is a design hotel so all of the rooms look like they are straight from an Ikea catalog (and I think some of the furniture comes from Ikea), it is in a shopping district with a mall just a block away (just like a mall anywhere else in the world, but a new concept to the Czechs) and right by a subway station so we can be downtown in 10 minutes or so.
Prague is an incredibly beautiful city, the architecture is incredibly diverse, from medieval on including some cubist designs (we saw the only cubist lamppost in the world). During the early '90s it was cheap and there weren't many tourists, those days are definitely over. They are in the process of becoming full EU members and adopting the Euro as their currency. they just stopped having borders a couple of months ago, so there was no stop to enter the Czech Republic from Austria and the Euro will become their currency shortly.
In the meantime, with the dollar being where it is an the high VAT (sales tax essentially), Prague is the most expensive place we have been in Europe. I am paying $43 a day for parking at the hotel, and while some things are cheaper here than in the US (Shannon noticed the rates here at the hotel for waxing and plucking are dirt cheap) most things are about as much as they are in the US, in some cases slightly more. For me it is just odd to think that between the slide of the dollar and the improvement in their economy that there has been that much improvement since they were a communist country 20 years ago.
We spent Friday and Saturday seeing the sites here in Prague. There are a number of churches, squares and then the castle on the hill overlooking the city (less of a castle than a collection of palaces and other buildings. There have been more tourists here than I have seen any other place in the world other than Disney World. High season hasn't even started yet and in some of the places such as in the square near the astronomical clock and in the castle there are thousands of tourists. We didn't go into the cathedral at the castle because the line looked like it could have been a several hour wait.
Today we are driving out of Prague to go see one or two of the small towns or castles outside of the city. Tomorrow we leave and go back to Germany, first to Regensburg for a night and then to Rothenburg for a night before we return to Munich.
5/11/2008 Part 2
The one thing that I didn't mention in the previous posts was a couple pf the sites that we visited. One is the John Lennon wall. It started when the country was still communist and it was a site that was frequently graffitied. The secret police would paint over it and it would be repainted by graffiti artists. Now it is a constantly changing wall that is dedicated to John Lennon but with a number a phrases and pictures. The picture of it in our guide book is very different than how it looks now and it will probably look very different by the end of the year.
One of the other places that we wanted to see was the Jewish cemetery. We had seen it on TV and wanted to go. When we went we found out that you couldn't just go to it but had to buy a package that also got you access to a number of synagogues and other sites. The cemetery was interesting as it has been in place for several hundred years and the grave stones are essentially piled on one another.
Since we had access to some of the other sites we went to some of the other locations. It provided a good history of Jews in Prague over the last several hundred years and detailed the discrimination that they suffered not only during WWII but previously as well. They also had a number of religious items made from silver that were pretty amazing.
It talked about the Nazis kicking the Jews out of Prague and sending them to a ghetto they created in a town by the name of Terezin north of Prague.
We were originally going to go to Terezin and try and get to one of the castles just out of town as well, but the Prague marathon was taking place today and it took us a while to get out of town due to a number of streets being shutdown. So we just ended up being able to go to Terezin.
Terezin was interesting, when we first arrived we went to a section called the Small Fortress. Terezin was fortified in the late 1700s due to an impending war with Prussia, the main town was fortified and then there was a separate fort built just outside of the city walls, the Small Fortress.
This was used as a prison at different times prior to WWII and then was used by the Gestapo as a prison mainly for political prisoners and members of the resistance and also offenders from the Jewish Ghetto in Terezin. Over 2500 people died here, and there is now over 10,000 people buried in the front of the fortress who perished both here and in the ghetto.
We also went to the crematorium where they burned the bodies of the dead and a site where they dumped the ashes of 22,000 people trying to hide what had happened here near the end of the war. Finally we went to the museum of the Ghetto.
The Ghetto was essentially a stopping point between the time when the Germans cleared all of the countries in their control and the concentration camps where they were killed. Over 250,000 people lived in the ghetto at different times and most where shipped of to the death camps, but 30,000 died here.
It was also interesting to see that after the war the Czechs used the Small Fortress to intern ethnic Germans who were Czech citizens that they wanted to clear out and send back to Germany. These weren't people who had done anything wrong, they were just German. It sounds like the conditions weren't much better than when the Nazis had control and that there were large numbers of unnatural deaths due to the conditions.
While I really didn't expect to have an educational experience on the Holocaust before I came on this trip, it has been very worthwhile to see.
May 15, 2008
Well, the trip is coming to a close. We have had a busy last couple of days though. We left Prague on Monday morning and had a nice drive to Regensburg. The autobahn was not too bad although some sections did have some heavy truck traffic. I heard about truck traffic when I was reading up on coming over and how it is sometimes difficult to go fast in an unregulated section of the Autobahn due to the number of trucks. This can be the case, I don't know if there is as much cargo hauled by train in Europe as there seems to be two or three times the number of trucks as in the US on some of the busier routes.
Oh, one other thing happened on the drive on the way to Regensburg. I got pulled over by the Polizei doing 120 mph. It isn't what you think, though. When we passed through the border of between the Czech Republic and Germany (now closed of course) there was an Audi station wagon sitting to the side of the road. There was a speed limit through the section on the Czech side, then no speed limit and then a speed limit on the German side. As soon as I saw the speed limit on the German side I slowed down although not all the way, maybe 10-15 kph above the speed limit which I think was 100 kph.
The speed lift was lifted and we were off again. Almost immediately I was up to 110 or so and continued to drive. It is hard to sustain higher speeds for more than a mile or two, someone changes lanes to pass and you slow back down. Sometimes you are doing 140 and you have to slow down to 110, sometimes you are doing 110 (all of these are in mph unless I say otherwise, by the way) and have to slow down to 80. Other times you are doing 130-140 and have to slow down to 80, when tis happens I am very glad the car has huge Brembo brakes, total overkill for the US, but very nice to the Autobahn. Slowing to 80 from 140 isn't a problem you can break very hard, the car stays very straight and slows down incredibly fast.
Anyway, I had done 3-4 miles from the border when the same Audi wagon came flying around a corner when I was in the right hand lane and really had to hit the breaks in order to slowdown and pull in front of me. The a flashing sign in back window came on that said Polizei and then something in German that I don't remember that means pull over. I followed the car for awhile until there was a pull out and we both came to a stop.
A young man and woman got out of the Audi. They were both in civilian clothes (the woman was blond and looking at her I would have never suspected she was Polizei) with handguns holstered at their waists. They approached us and after greeting and my asking him to speak English, he told us that it was a document check and for us to give him my drivers license, both of our passports and the vehicle registration, We did and after a few minutes of them going back to their car and checking our documents we were back on our way.
I had heard about this from several people who had been stopped at the Czech border as the temporary plates we had were targets for car thieves taking stolen cars into Eastern Europe. It was also good to know how they pulled you over, otherwise it is hard to say what I would have thought or done in the situation. I am still curious how fast they had to drive to catch up with us.
We spent the rest of the day in Regensburg, which was the capital of the Holy Roman Empire at different times several hundred years ago. It is a beautiful town with a number of cool buildings. I will mention that thanks to Cindy's advice I did have Currywurst for lunch and it was good. They also had a fair in town (mini Octoberfest as it was described to us) near the hotel. We went there in the evening and it was interesting to see a German fair.
I am not going to talk much about Regnesburg though, as the highlight of the trip was the place that we left for on Tuesday morning. It was Rothenburg od Tauber (Rothenburg over the Tauber river), it is an incredible town and one of the few places in the world that I think everyone should visit. It is a medieval walled city that was one of the largest in Europe and very wealthy due to its location at the intersection of major north-south and east-west trade routes across Europe until the 30 years was in the mid 1600's, when that all stopped. What this means is that they had incredible wealth to build, but then they had no money to modernize when most of the other towns tore down their walls and remodeled buildings. Today it looks pretty much the same as it did 500 years ago.
Part of the town was bombed by the US in the final days of WWII but was saved due to a US official whose mother had been there, so most of the city is original and the part that was destroyed has been rebuilt and they did a very good job because other that the names on plaques for major financial donors in part of the city wall, there is no way to tell what is original and what has been rebuilt.
It is just a beautiful small town, with the best shopping that we had seen all trip. They have what must be the worlds largest Christmas store (even I found a few things I had to buy), and pretty much everything that you would want from Germany as a tourist. This trip we used a Rick Steve's guide book which is the first time I have used one of his and now I will swear by them when in Europe. He recommend one particular store, that happened to give a 10% discount to people who had his guidebook, so we went there. Several hundred Euros later we left, we did a lot of our shopping there as not only were the prices the best in town before the discount, but it is family run and they were wonderful. Shannon and I even bought a coo coo (sp?)clock and are having them ship everything home for us so we don't have to lug it around.
The one museum that we went to is the Museum of Medieval Crime and Punishment. It was a great museum, they have an incredible collection of historical documents on medieval laws, torture devices (an iron maiden and the like), executioner's swords and axes and was just plain interesting.
We also went on a tour. I hate organized tours, but everyone who has done this fully recommends it and now I do as well. It is called the Night Watchman Tour and it starts every night from April 1-December 30 at 8:00. We and probably 60 other people listened to the Night Watchman (I have no ideal what his name is) talked about being a night watchmen, medieval life, and the history of the town as we wondered through the city seeing the different sites. He was hilarious, he has the tour down to an art.
Many people do the city as a day trip, especially on river cruises and the town was pretty busy during the day, but after about 6:00 most of them left and I am very glad we stayed overnight. You can wonder the city walls at any time of day and it was just a great overall experience.
On Wednesday we left and came back to Munich where we are now. The drive to Rothenburg and then onto Munich wasn't as fun. Heavy traffic and some horrid construction. We could go fast and then have to slow down, sometimes at a crawl as there were sections that the left had lane was 2 meters (6 feet wide) and I have to tell you that this is lot of fun when you have a row of nothing but trucks on the right and a concrete barrier on the left.
I was still able to get at least some fun in, but it was limited. Shannon several times mentioned that I had taken 45 minutes or an hour off of our estimated arrival time that the navigation system projected, although it never worked out that way due to the construction. And stopping for gas. One thing that I hadn't thought of was the fact that driving 120-130 miles an hour does not give you good gas mileage. I think I may have gotten as much as 10 MPG through these stretches.
Today we went back to the BMW Welt to take the factory tour as we were not able to do so when we picked up the car as it was Saturday and the factory was closed. We were getting something to eat and I heard a guy behind us order a beer in American English and pay with the card they give you when you pick up your car with credit on it. On went over and asked him if he was doing ED and we got to talking. He was with one of the Portland BMW dealerships (Kuni). It is a small world.
The tour was fascinating. They make everything for the 3 series sedans and wagons here and parts for other factories, including engines, here as well. We got to see them make body parts from huge rolls of steel, these incredible robots that weld the car together, make the engines, attach the frame with drivetrain to the body and a number of other steps.
We then went and did the paperwork for shipping the car home. Shannon hadn't driven the car at all so we finished the paperwork so that we could bring the car back at anytime tonight. We then went back out on the Autobahn and Shannon was able to drive the car. Even though there was construction and a decent amount of traffic she was able to get it up pretty quick. In one of the sections she was able to get it as fast as I was. The car is electronically governed at 150. At one point on Monday I hit the governor, with the speedometer displaying 153, Shannon did this as well today.
When then turned the car in. It was tough knowing that his is the last time I am going to be able to drive it as fast as I have (at least away from a track). We left it with the odometer having 1499 miles on it, about 500 more than I planned on. I pulled the front plat off as a souvenir and we cleaned out the car and came back to the hotel.
It is going to be very tough for me to drive this car at home. Now when I merge on the freeway I tend to be doing 100-105, the car so easily accelerates from 80 to 120 and drives so smooth at 140 that I am going to have a tough time not doing this at home. They need to be able to reduce the governor to 80 when it is in the states.Now I understand why BMW and Mercedes are as good as they are. They have to be. Now you do see the occasional Ferrari, Porsche and such in the left had lane doing 140 and you even see the occasional Citroen, Opel or even Ford Focus in the left hand lane doing 110. But is is a BMW or Mercedes (an a few Audis) that are flying down the Autobahn. These cars are made for driving this way everyday, they are really overkill for the US. I think I need to get one of the European 1 series sedans with a 1.8 liter diesel engine in it.
Tomorrow we are doing a little bit more sight seeing and then we pack-up and fly home Saturday morning, so this is probably it for this trip.