I’m going to document my adventures in Germany in this thread, split it up in different sections. A little background about myself: I’ve been a huge car fanatic as far back as I can remember, but was especially fond of German cars. They captured my attention more than any other cars out there, and I’ve always wanted to visit the place where some of the most iconic cars are made. The opportunity came up a few months ago when it was announced that I will be doing a 6 week business trip to Munich. In this write-up, I will do my best to capture my experiences during this trip, so that others can either re-live it, or just get general advice should they decide to visit this great country.
While this journal will mainly talk about cars, I think it would be useful to mention a few things I’ve learned the past week.
- I may be stating the obvious here, but learn at least some of the basic phrases before coming here. Learn how to say hello, thank you and please. While most Germans speak English, it’s just polite to show that you made an effort; it will open up a lot of doors.
- Europe in general is more expensive than the US. The meals might cost more, but you definitely get your money’s worth as the portions are pretty gigantic. This also applies to the price of gas… big time.
- Unless you plan to drive outside the city (I can only talk about Munich so far), I wouldn’t necessarily recommend renting a car. The public transportation here is excellent (one of the best I’ve ever used). Everything is organized and on time, you just have to know where you’re going. The parking here is also horrific. I spent a good 2 hours trying to find a parking spot close to my hotel, and still ended parking almost 2 kms away.
My first experience driving a car in Germany was in a rental that I got from Sixt. My first trip would be from Munich to Stuttgart, to see the Mercedes-Benz and Porsche museum while experiencing the Autobahn first hand. I went ahead and did my research and ended up renting a BMW 118i hatchback from Sixt. In my opinion, the prices were fairly reasonable. They rent everything from economy cars to Porsches, although note that those require for you to have proof that you’ve held your license for many years. Here’s the car (Black on black, M-pack, updated I-drive, half cloth half leather seats, automatic unfortunately):
Link to Sixt: http://www.sixt.com/
Note that different stations will have different pricing, some of them quite big considering the stations aren’t that far apart, so do your homework. Booking and pre-paying online also saves you some money. Total rental for me was 106 Euros for 2 full days, unlimited miles. The other cars that were in the parking garage:
Not for rent, but cool:
I put in the destination in the I-drive navigation system and was on my way. As most of you know, Germany is known to have some of the best roads in the world as well as some of the best behaved drivers. So the big no-nos are:
- Overtaking in the RHS lane
- Following someone too closely, even if you are in the fast lane
- Only some parts of the Autobahn is unrestricted, so pay attention to the speed limit. They don’t mess around with giving you tickets
There are a lot of unmarked police cars with video camera systems. They will measure your speed and your distance behind a car if you are tailing someone. If you just pay attention to your surroundings, you’ll be fine. The 1 Series did great. Even though the 4 cylinder engine didn’t have much torque, it still managed to get up to 190 kmh.
Part of the trip was greatly slowed down by torrential rain (not unexpected during this time of the year), but I did arrive Stuttgart fairly quickly. Get a parking slip at the Porsche museum (you’ll need to validate it at the ticket counter) and park your car underground, which is reserved solely for visitors. In total, for the price of parking and a ticket to the exhibition, I spent 12 Euros. After grabbing a quick lunch at their cafeteria (just as expensive as their cars), I went upstairs to see some of my favorite machines. I’ll let the pictures talk for themselves:
914 with a V8:
944 LeMans car driven by the gear Walter Rohr:
One of my favorite race cars:
V10 from Carerra GT, so compact:
Such great history:
544 horsepower out of a 6 cylinder boxer engine:
Front tires haha:
All the 911 Turbos in one spot. What a sight that was:
That’s it for this episode. I’ll find time to write about the Mercedes-Benz museum that I visited afterwards. For the rest of the pictures (lots left from the museum, and a bunch from the dealership across the road), follow this link:
Other trips I have planned out that I will write about includes the Nurburgring experience, driving through the Black Forrest, BMW Welt, renting a high performance car (BMW E92 M3)… so stay tuned.
Here’s PART 2 of the trip:
After the Porsche museum, I headed off to the Mercedes-Benz museum, which was on the other side of Stuttgart. From the outside, the building looked fantastic, very modern. If you are going there by car, there’s a 2 floor parking garage. When you enter the lobby, there’s a giant dealership to your left and the gift shop on the right.
My favorite Benz of all time, still looks amazing to this day. Not so much in this color, but I’d just love one in black. Plus they are so affordable nowadays:
Sitting in the middle of the dealership floor:
I headed upstairs to start the tour of the museum. The line was quite long (around 20-30 mins) but the ticket was very reasonable. I believe it was 8 Euros and that includes an audio guide that they give you.
The museum layout is very interesting actually. You start from the top floor (8th floor) and work your way down back to the lobby. The very first item you see is Daimler’s very first internal combustion engine. Very cool to see how the automobile started:
This, my friends, is Page 1, Chapter 1 of the GearHead Bible. The patent ton one of the most important inventions of all time:
Other variants over the years:
Oldest surviving Mercedes:
Hands down the coolest tow truck ever. Max speed 105 mph!
The most famous Benzes of them all:
Jurassic park (the awful one):
At the very end, you go through their motorsport section:
The very end of the tour is a small room for the Mercedes-Benz design concepts:
Overall, I was very glad I stopped by. It was very interesting how the car evolved to the way they are now, and how Mercedes-Benz rebuilt themselves after World War 2. Porsche and Mercedes-Benz are a huge part of the German history, therefore making this trip to Stuttgart from Munich absolutely worth it.
Next write-up includes visiting one of the craziest BMW dealership in Munich with many Individual cars and a weekend trip to the Nurburgring!!
I wanted to take a little time to write a little about the dealership I’ve been getting my rental cars from, because it is far from a regular BMW dealership. I picked this Sixt station because it wasn’t far from where I worked and had flexible hours. It turns out to be one of the biggest dealership in Munich.
This is what you are greeted with the first time I walked through:
To the right is where there are all sorts of Individual 3 Series:
Love this wagon. Something you’ll never see in the US unfortunately:
Walk past that and you have showroom just for M cars.
The mighty 1M:
A Java Green E93 M3. Talk about bright!
Here’s easily the weirdest color I’ve ever seen. From the outside of the dealership, it looked like a Fire Orange M3. I knew it wasn’t as soon as I saw it inside. The color is called Lipstick, which to me was a mix of orange and pink. Yes, pink.
Head downstairs and they have a whole floor dedicated to Individual cars, sales and service.
Here’s one combo you’ll almost never see anywhere. A 535d GT in Monte Carlo Blue!
This wagon was perfect. I did end up renting a 530d Touring and it was an amazing experience. More on that later.
An Avus Blue E93!!! This is an absolutely gorgeous color for this car. There were some awesome colors back in the E36 days!
This color is called Frozen Dark Blue if I remember correctly. This is the first time I’ve seen one of BMW’s matte colors. It even feels rough to the touch
Another E93 in Byzanz Metallic:
At that point, I was already late to pick up my car. They had a whole other sections for X cars, 1ers and 5/6ers. I came back a week after, and this is what they had on display at the lobby. Looks even meaner in real life. This world would be a better place with a hardtop Z4 I tell ya.
The next write-up will be about my first time at the Nurburgring. Many wrecks ensue (not me thankfully!).
This part of the journal is dedicated to something I’ve been looking forward to for many years. As soon as I found out that I was going to be in Germany, the first thing I knew I was going to do (apart from making it to the last day of Oktoberfest) was to visit the infamous Nurburgring.
The plan was to rent a Sixt car Friday night, take off Saturday morning and return to Munich Sunday night. There are more efficient ways to get over there because it is not exactly close to Munich, but I wanted to enjoy seeing the country side. Once I was at the Nurburgring, I was going to rent another car that was more race ready than the stock 1 Series from Sixt. Luckily, there happened to be a race that Saturday (VLN Series) so that gave me chance to tour the facilities and enjoy the race, before I took on the Green Hell myself Sunday.
Getting excited as I exited the highway. It was a while before I would reach the Nurburgring, but there were some great roads with beautiful views.
Time to fill up the 1 Series. Ouch
Finally made it! This place was huge! A Monte Carlo Blue with CF parts was on display as well
I have never heard of the VLN Series personally, but it was only 12 Euros for a ticket, that also gave you access to the paddock.
From what I can tell, the race included a few different categories. I was disappointed the M3 was not in the race, but there were Mercedes-Benz SLS’s, Audi R8’s, 1 Lexus LFA and Porsche GT3 in the fastest category. I also got a chance to see the prototype Toyota FT-86 during the race. There were plenty of private S2000’s, E36 and E46 M3’s as well as many hatchbacks.
I then headed to the paddock to walk around a little as I was getting cold sitting around. Also got to see another part of the track.
Poor E30 M3! That was a sad sight.
Here’s one of the pace cars:
Teaching to computer a lesson or 2 in my E90. I think it was 8 Euros for a full practice session, qualifying and 3 lap race. Pretty reasonable I think.
Let me take a little time to write about the “touristy” part of the Nurburgring. When you get here, you will see plenty of “Save The Ring” pamphlets and stickers. Long story short, a lot of people tried to turn the Nurburgring into a Disney Land type attraction. In my humble opinion, unless you are there to enjoy a race (I’d love to come back here during an F1 weekend) or there to drive on the Nurburgring, don’t bother coming because it’s not what the Ring is for in the first place. It is supposed to be one of the most fearsome and famous track in the world, not a theme park. How can you help? Just support the local businesses (car rental, hotels, restaurants…).
I decided to stay in Adenau for the night as it was quite close to the entrance of the Ring as well as RentRaceCar headquarters. It was a quiet little town at night as I’m sure everyone had the same idea as I did: Get plenty of rest, because tomorrow will be the most epic days of your life.
So the next morning, I set off to go pick up my VW Scirocco from RentRaceCar.de.
I picked RentRaceCar.de after doing my homework as soon as I found out I would have to chance to drive on the Nurburgring. They have a very big selection of cars, ranging from Suzuki to Porsche GT3’s. I picked the Scirocco for these reasons:
- I’ve always liked the Scirocco. I think it’s the best looking hatchback on the market right now
- It was race prepped with roll cage, upgrade brake pads, lowered suspension
- I wanted to try VW’s DSG and compare it to the competition
- Price wise, it was right in the middle
- It would be forgiving car
For a little more, you can rent a Z4 Coupe and I definitely considered it. Inline-6, RWD, 6 speed manual transmission? What more can you ask for? But the thing is, I’ve already driven that car before, and you aren’t able to get the Scirocco in the States and I wanted to try something new. So for me, the Scirocco was the right car to drive on the Nurburgring for the first time.
I’ve been in touch with Heide ever since I reserved the car back in September. She’s very quick at answering any questions you have and was extremely friendly. I decided to pay 599 Euros for the all-inclusive package. That includes renting the car of course, as well as 6 laps, fuel and insurance. I highly recommend doing this rather than taking your normal rental car out there on the Ring. Here’s the car:
After getting a quick walk-around of the Scirocco, Theo showed me some of the other cars that were available for rent… as well as some that weren’t!
Renault Megane, Porsche GT3s and BMW Z4 Coupes:
I won’t go into the details, but here are some cars that are stored here. Porsche GT3RS 4.0!!! Never thought I’d see one in real life, such a limited production car.
And a black Ferrari Enzo:
Porsche CGT hiding in the corner:
After spending a while walking around these amazing cars, I set off for the Green Hell. Most people will recommend that you tag along with a car that’s in the parking lot if it’s your first time, and as luck would have it, I was behind a Nissan GT-R (R35). It only took about 10 seconds before he was completely out of sight. The next couple of laps were just spent getting used to the car and the track, while looking in the rear view mirror for traffic. Within the second lap, there were already wrecks around the track, including one of the many GT-R’s that showed up that morning. As Heide will tell you, this is not a race. Don’t try to impede others and just move over to the right. Keeping that in mind, I managed to do a total of 5 laps out of 6, being able to play with a Porsche 996 Carrera 4s and Audi S5. Unfortunately, on the fifth lap, I counted 3 separate yellow flags, and the Ring was temporarily closed.
All the cars dodged out to the parking lot, creating one of the best traffic jams I’ve ever seen:
The track was re-opened, but before I could even make it back on the track, it was closed yet again because of another wreck. The tow truck and police had to show up. At this point, it might have been another hour or 2 before the track re-opened, so I unfortunately had to leave. Either way, this was one of the most exciting experiences of my life and would highly recommend this to anyone. When I returned the Scirocco, I had a chance to chat with Christian about cars in general. Heide, Theo and Christian were extremely friendly while giving you very useful advice if this is your first time at the Nurburgring. I highly recommend them, and absolutely cannot wait to have another shot at driving on the Nurburgring.
Before I left, I stopped by the BMW Testing Center and take a few pictures.
That’s all for this section, thanks for reading! The Nurburgring really is as fun and scary as everyone says. It is very bumpy and narrow in a few sections. You just cannot get the same sensation by watching a video or playing Forza/Gran Turismo. This is an absolute must-do if you are a gearhead!
The next write-up I have is going to be about the BMW Welt and Museum.
Here’s Part 4 of my journal, dedicated to the BMW Welt and Museum. I wasn’t planning to go until November, but found some free time one Sunday afternoon. Luckily for me, my timing was impeccable as the BMW i cars were there!
Engines across the BMW range that were on display:
Here are the cars they had on display. I was really hoping to see that Melbourne Red M3, but it had to make way for the M5, which looked fantastic by the way.
Other random pictures around the Welt:
After walking around, I finally found my way outside:
Eventually found the museum, I was starting to get worried for a second. Here’s what they had in the lobby. I love how a customer (not to mention modded) car was center stage of BMW’s historical museum.
After paying my 8 Euros to get into the museum, this is the first display you are able to see. Very cool to see it change shapes:
Here’s how it all started for BMW:
Formula 1 and competition engines took up a lot of room, but it was spectacular to see such legendary engines. There’s nothing like a mint looking engine:
3-Series room! It’s so hard to not love the E30 and E46 (own both fortunately!). Forever young:
Here are the displays as you walk from room to room:
Roadster hallway with the Z8, one of the most beautiful cars made in the past couple of decades in my humble opinion:
The most important and favorite room of all, the M Power room!
Touring racers, they look absolutely amazing in real life! Loved every single one of them. My favorite used to be the E46 GTR, but I have to say the Batmobile looked absolutely out of control. Would love to hear how it sounds like:
Some important concept cars:
As I was heading back through the Welt to get back to my rental car, I was surprised to see an F10 M5 driving around the first floor.
That’s it for this episode. I really enjoyed going through the BMW museum and Welt of course, it’s absolutely something you have to do if you are in Munich. Not as big as the Mercedes-Benz museum, but just as good as Porsche’s museum.
For the next time, I’ll write about my epic journey through Austria, Italy, Switzerland and France in an F11 530xd. See you guys then.
PART 5 - THE CONCLUSION
Here’s the last installment of my journal (unfortunately). I was lucky to have a 4 day weekend (Bavarian Holiday) so I decided to do an epic road trip across multiple countries. I travelled from Munich to Austria, then Italy via the Stelvio Pass, then a quick drive through Switzerland to end up in the Black Forest. My weapon of choice was going to be a BMW Z4, but Sixt did not have those available. I’m assuming those are put away during the winter, even though the weather was still very mild. I therefore decided to go with something on the complete opposite end of the spectrum: BMW 530xD (F11). Why? I wanted to experience a powerful 6 cylinder diesel while testing the capabilities of a wagon during everyday situations.
The next morning, I set off for Austria, more specifically Salzburg, which was only about an hour and a half away:
Pictures from Salzburg, Austria:
Then I headed off to the Eagle’s Nest, which was unfortunately closed by the time I got there. Still beautiful views though:
Then I headed off to Innsbruck, pretty much just to stay the night. This was my first time driving a car with HUD and came away extremely impressed:
After a nice meal and rest in Innsbruck, I set off for Lake Como (Italy) by going through the Stelvio Pass. I’ve been warned that there was a chance the pass would be closed, but luckily, due to warm weather, I had no such problems. Some people will say the Stelvio Pass is very overrated and I do agree to a certain extent. The roads were so swooping that you couldn’t see traffic coming the other way. If you think that you could really explore the limits of a car like Top Gear did, you are sadly mistaken. However, it is absolutely still worth driving just for the views, which were breathtaking. I’ll let the pictures do the talking:
I made good time and arrived at Lake Como by late afternoon. Here are the pictures from Day 3:
Since I didn’t have any plans, I decided to visit Villa D’este, where BMW has revealed plenty of cars over there. Really beautiful hotel:
Then it’s a quick blast through Switzerland to get to the Black Forest back in Germany:
What a trip that was. Overall, I’ve truly had the time of my life during this “business” trip. As a grand finally, I decided to rent 2 more cars for 3 days to do a little test of my own. I also went to see a few castles not too far from Munich. Here’s Car #1, a Mineral White on Saddle Brown 335i with M-package:
And here’s the car I’ve been waiting all trip to drive. A fully loaded Individual E92 M3 in Ruby Black on Rust Brown (I believe). What a color combination, it was just so classly. I should mention that both these cars were rented through the BMW Welt, a program called BMW On-Demand. I will admit that it is more expensive than Sixt, but I seriously enjoyed every minute.
Well that’s it from me. Thank you very much for reading about my adventures in Europe. Hope that my experiences help you plan your own trip, and should you have any questions, you are welcomed to contact me.
All the best,