It is a well-known fact that Germans love their fast cars. And what better place to drive than in Germany, with their lack of speed limits on their famous autobahns and the most polite and skilled drivers in the world? N and I rented a Mercedes stationwagon (i.e., SWAGGERWAGON) for a week to drive up to Berlin, not because we’re ballers, but because it was the cheapest automatic car we could rent in a land ruled by stick-shift drivers.
If you ever decide to drive in Germany, we suggest familiarizing yourself with the traffic laws and signs. We didn’t, and it was a guessing game all the way down to the Bavarian Alps from Munich. The turning point was when we ignored the signs and drove into a pedestrian-only dead-end in tourist-packed Füssen in our huge tank of a car. Germans stopped and quietly stared at us as we backed out of the virtual obstacle course — a narrow street with people milling everywhere and al fresco dining tables and chairs spilling out onto the street from all sides — and that’s when we decided to consult the internet that night. Thank goodness for this comprehensive site.
You see, the Germans have funny traffic signs. Most of them are impossible to decipher. They are mostly pictorial, which I guess makes sense since their words are normally about 20 letters long and wouldn’t fit inside the confines of a sign. Here are some fun examples:
After a good time in GaPa with the little lady, we started our three-day drive up the east side of Germany towards Berlin. We only had half a day in most places and a day at the most in a couple, but it was a good way to get a taste of these places. Keep in mind that we only had time to explore the old town areas of these towns and cities.
Regensburg is an adorable town with a quaint old town area. The town lies at the intersection of the Danube and Regen Rivers. It reminded us of Old Town Tallinn in Estonia, except this German town has one of the largest, most stunning cathedrals we’ve seen so far. It towers over everything, is totally over-the-top with its Gothic design both inside and out, and we loved it.
There are antique shops and the usual touristy hat, jewelry, clothing, shoe, knick-knack stores, but Regensburg also has an abundance of food options for such a small town. We settled on an airy place called Anna’s, where I had my eye on bread with spreads of your choice, and N had a tuna panini sandwich. For dessert, we skipped over to the attached dessert room and got us some delicious bitter dark chocolate gelato. FTW!
We had one whole day in Nürnberg (Nuremberg) but I’m glad we didn’t stay longer. Most people have heard of the city because the Nuremberg Trials were held here. It was probably the most disappointing old town on our route and packed with tourists. The food options didn’t seem especially good. The only interesting thing about Nuremberg is that it was the first racially-diverse place in Germany we came across. Oh and the fact that we missed their gay pride celebration by one day, so the town hall was adorned with the six-color gay pride flags. We regretted not going to the Nuremberg Trial Museum, which probably would’ve been interesting.
Bamberg has a surprisingly big old town area, and since we had to make it to Leipzig by evening, we only had a few hours there. After walking around the old town (which is divided by a river and multiple bridges), we found the tourist information center and were given an unnecessarily large map of the town. We are suckers for gaudy, Gothic cathedrals so we checked out the one in Bamberg. It wasn’t nearly as impressive as the one in Regensberg, but it had a small crypt that you can walk down into, and some Emperor and Empress were buried there. Food again was just OK, but they had a cool open-air food market right in the center of the town, which was nice.
Leipzig ended up being so drastically different from what I imagined it to be, that I still can’t get over the shock. Being known as one of the most famous classical music centers in Germany, I expected it to be an uppity little city. I forgot that it had been part of East Germany since the end of the war, and the impact is still very clearly visible. Where we stayed was about ten minutes outside of the old town area in the hipster neighborhood, and the entire area looked like it was in the midst of a transformation, with newly-built European-style buildings right next to old ones covered in graffiti.
Because Leipzig was the city where my favorite Baroque composer, J.S. Bach, had lived and worked, N and I decided to splurge and listen to a Bach organ concert in the very church for which he was a cantor. We sat with the predominately white-haired audience members and listened as the organ player alternated between two organs to play Bach’s music. It was magical… And after about an hour of it, I felt the strong desire to take a nap.
Two hours later, we were back on the road for the remaining few hours of our road trip. Berlin, here we come!