Germany is the ultimate vacation spot for automotive enthusiasts
Last summer I visited Germany for the first time: here are the highlights
I arrived in Munich following a brief visit to France, where I attended the world's most famous endurance race: The 24 Hours of Lemans. This was also the first race I had ever attended in my life. Lemans did not disappoint, and it was a very solid start to my European travels. When we landed, we picked up the rental car that we would be using to travel the country for the next week, a very luxurious Volvo V90 T6 diesel wagon. I was personally hoping for an E-class, as I thought it would be more appropriate, but the Volvo proved itself to be an amazing Autobahn cruiser.
Monument in Munich where Hitler gave speeches
Munich has an incredible history, but even better beer
I decided to start my time in Munich by going on a biking tour to familiarize myself with the city. The guide was super knowledgeable, and taught us about many famous buildings, statues, and showed us the best places to hang out. Being a history-lover myself, I was intrigued by the storied past of this town. Most of the buildings were not original, as they had been blown up by the allies during the Second World War.
"Beachgoers" hanging out on banks of the Isar River
Being from the greater Los Angeles area, I am accustomed to the sunny beaches of Malibu and Ventura. Seeing people tanning and swimming by the banks of the beautiful Isar river was very foreign compared to anything I had ever seen. The tour stopped in the English Garden for lunch. This park is located in the center of the city. Flowing through the middle of the park was a turquoise river which travels down from the Alps. One of the most popular attractions of the park is a special spot in the river which holds a constant wave for surfers to ride. In the park you can also find the Chinese tower Beer Garden. This popular lunch spot offers a variety of traditional Bavarian food such as curry-wurst, pretzels, and of course, lots of amazing brews.
Munich is home to Bavarian Motor Works, commonly known as BMW. The factory and museum are a short 10 minute drive from the center of town. I won't spoil too much, but the museum holds quite the impressive collection of historical BMW models. The displays and exhibits showcased everything from historical racing to the technology used to build the "i" line of electrified futuristic vehicles. At the end of the museum is an area which holds just about every vehicle in the current lineup, including Mini and Rolls Royce. Unfortunately I was less focused on taking pictures, and more focused on the cars. I did manage to snag a picture of my personal favorite BMW, the 3.0 CSL racecar.
1975 3.0 CSL
Right across the road from the BMW headquarters sits the Olympic stadium. This was built to host the 1972 summer Olympics. For a few dollars, you can walk around the historic grounds. The stadium had not aged very well, and it looked mostly original. The architecture was very impressive, especially for being more than forty years old.
Olympic Stadium in Munich
Part of the reason I was coming to Germany was to visit a long time family friend who lived in the town of Ulm, which was on our way to Stuttgart. While driving to Ulm, I realized we were not far from from Ruf Automobile, the car manufacturer famous for creating Yellowbird. The modified turbocharged Porsche is most famous for the videos of it sliding around the Nurburgring. I was greeted by Marcel Ruf, who is the third generation of his family to work at the company. He was incredibly generous and invited us for a tour and wanted us to come and meet his father Alois Ruf Jr. who was the son of the original founder. It was amazing to see the magical workshop where all Ruf cars had been birthed. All of the engineers wore the signature dark green overalls as they serviced some of the most beautiful classic Ruf models I had ever seen. The most exciting car was the brand new CTR Yellowbird. Pictured below is what hides beneath all the gorgeous yellow paint, a fully custom carbon fiber tub and panels. The Ruf family and staff were the friendliest people I met over the course of my trip, and it really blew me away that their entire operation was in a tiny little farm town in rural Germany.
Stuttgart, the home of Porsche & Mercedes
My father picking up our rental for the day, a Lava orange 991.2 Carrera S Cabriolet with Sport-design Pack
Mercedes and Porsche are located in the city of Stuttgart, which attracts car-fanatics from across the world. I started my tour by visiting the Mercedes museum, which is in my opinion the best car museum I explored on the trip. The building itself is quite impressive, featuring a cylinder-type architecture where you start at the top, and gradually work yourself down to the bottom floor, travelling through the years of Mercedes design and innovation. As you walk from one floor to the next, the walls are lined with a timeline of historical events, and a description of how they have impacted the car manufacturing world.
Mercedes has a history spanning a far greater time period than most other auto manufacturers, and they are credited for making the first car. The diversity of vehicles in the museum was vast, included was everything ranging from F1 pace cars, DTM legends and Le mans icons. My personal favorite was the ultra-rare W201 190E Cosworth Evo II. This museum blew all my expectations out of the water.
1981 924 GTS Rally car driven by the great Walter Rohrl
Porsche admittedly holds a special place in my heart. My first car was a 1988 Porsche 944 in Guards Red. Today, my father and I still drive my grandmother's original 1967 912 which she bought new from Porsche San Francisco. This car is a testament to the engineering marvels that Porsche is known for. My 50 year old 912 has been across the country, stolen and dismantled by a Porsche thief ring, and left to rot for 10 years in Mendocino county. Still to this day, the ol' survivor still runs with the original engine showing over 320,000 miles. To visit the home where both of my cars were built felt like I had come full-circle with my passion for the brand. In the museum, I got to see with my own eyes my personal favorite models such as the Martini 917K, the Moby Dick 935, and the Rothmans 962. Yet again, I was too busy looking at the cars to take any good pictures. I also went on a guided tour of the factory, where the final 991 models were on the same assembly line as the brand new 992s. What was even more mind-blowing was that the 991 Cup cars were being assembled on the same line as the street cars. That really put in perspective just how similar the race cars are to the GT models. Me and my father rented a 911 from the museum the following day, and got to explore the country and truly test the speed on the Autobahn.
Expectations exceeded, on all accounts
My time in Germany was one to remember. I can confidently recommend this same experience to any gear-head with a love for travel. Germany is a beautiful country, with lots of history to explore. An additional bonus for English-speakers is that just about everyone can speak English too! I never once had an encounter with someone who could not speak any English, which made the whole vacation work a lot easier. Make sure to find some time to drive on the Autobahn and see what all the hype is about. From the delicious food and beer, to the endless museums and landmarks to visit, there is no reason that Germany should not be on the top of your bucket list.