We requested a pickup date of Oct 6th in Zuffenhausen. A few months later our European Delivery Packet from Porsche arrived. It was in a very nice leather carrying pouch embossed with the Porsche crest. In it was everything we would need, our hotel voucher, two taxi vouchers, details concerning the delivery process, and other information about the car.
During the last week in September, we received word that the car had been built and was waiting for us. We packed our bags and on 4 Oct flew to Chicago for our Lufthansa flight to Frankfurt.
Navigating the Frankfurt airport was a breeze and customs/passport control was very efficient. We took the ICE fast train from the Frankfurt Airport to Stuttgart. From there it was a simple walk across the street from the train station to our hotel for the next two weeks.
On the 6th, our taxi arrived on schedule and we were off to the Porsche Factory. The driver was familiar with the voucher provided by Porsche, which made things very easy. Once we were dropped off at Porsche’s doorstep, we located the reception area and put our luggage in a locker, before being offered breakfast snacks, hot drinks, and pastry. They even had Gummi Candy shaped like a Porsche. We were scheduled to take delivery at 8:30, tour the factory at 10:00 and have lunch at 11:30. Our delivery specialist arrived and escorted us to the carpeted delivery hall where 14 shiny new Porsches were waiting their owners. The hand off took about 40 minutes.
The factory tour was conducted by a charming young lady named Julie, a college student majoring in engineering design. Julie provided us lots of “behind the scenes” information as well as explaining the assembly line stations. We had a very nice lunch in the Porsche Restaurant. We skipped the Porsche Museum as we had several hours to drive to our first destination and did not want to be on the road after dark.
Porsche provided us with a TomTom navigation system and I would not recommend driving in Europe without it. The unit was easy to use, directions were clear and fast, and it always got us to the correct destination even though, at times, we refused to believe it. More on this later.
Our first stop was the Hotel am Triller in Saarbrucken. This was a quirky little hotel built on a hill side and had underground parking although the spaces were pretty narrow. The hotel had a nice restaurant and the food was excellent. WIFI was great, so we were able to get our Internet fix.
The next morning we were on the autobahn cruising toward Bastogne, when we ran into a sea of red taillights only to discover the road was closed. We followed most of the traffic while “Tom” kept up a constant chatter of “make the first legal U-turn”. After about 20 minutes of narrow roads and beautiful scenery, we decided this was not an effective strategy and pulled over to reset “Tom”. He finally realized where he was and got us back on track to Bastogne. We took in two WWII museums which were very well done. At one museum, the locals were pre-paring a bandstand draped in American flags for a “Glen Miller” concert. The town is still very appreciative of the American sacrifices during the Battle of the Bulge. The American War Memorial there is very impressive and certainly worth a look. We camped in the Hotel Melba for the night. The hotel provided free off street parking, superb rooms and excellent food. Our waitress did not speak English but the “point at the item on the menu method” worked well.
Bastogne War Memorial
We left Bastogne, cut through France, crossed the Rhine, and were back in Germany. Our next stop was in Staufen. Our hotel was located inside a pedestrian only area but hotel guests are permitted to drive to the hotel. Well, “Tom” refused to navigate through the pedestrian area and took us through several narrow, winding streets before we saw the hotel. There was parking behind the hotel, but the driveway was narrow and curvy with brick walls on both sides. We chose a close by public parking area instead. All this driving frustration was erased by a big slice of Black Forest Cake and tea at a local bakery. Our hotel, the Die Krone, was super quiet and we rested well. The next day we were off to see a clock museum in Furtzenwagen. The museum was interesting, but not as interesting as the drive getting there. Roads were very curvy with lots of switchbacks as we climbed a pass. It was a very fun drive. We had snow near the top, but fortunately only on the grass.
The next morning, we were off to Ravensburg to visit Sue’s cousin. It was a beautiful drive off the Autobahn. We skirted by Lake Constance and had a nice view of Switzerland across the lake. Some great photo opportunities. We met Sue’s cousin, Nathalie (Natalie) and filled in some blanks on the family tree. One of the tree branches showed three brothers with the notation “gone to Amerika.” Nathalie had been a foreign exchange student in Minneapolis and had worked in London for a few years. Needless to say, her English was perfect. We went to lunch and had a traditional dish, brown lentils cooked with root vegetables and napped with vinegar, wurst, and spätzle. Delicious! We wanted to stay longer, but the road was calling. We were off to Füssen.
Our rented an apartment in Füssen had a kitchen, bathroom, and living room on the main floor with two bed-rooms upstairs. From our bedroom, we had a view of Neuschwanstein Castle. Our landlord was very chatty and insisted we park the Porsche in the garage. That was a plus. We spent the rest of the day exploring the town. Fussen dates back to Roman times. Some of the Roman construction can still be seen in buildings undergoing restoration. The next morning, we were off to see the “Disney Castle” or Neuschwanstein. We arrived early and found a prime parking spot. It was a thirty minute uphill walk to the castle or take a crowded tourist bus. We opted for a horse drawn carriage ride. There were eleven on our English speaking tour and the guide was exceptional. The castle interior was beautiful but a little gaudy. The castle construction began in 1869, but was never completed since King Ludwig II died under mysterious circumstances.
In the morning, we were off to Reutte. Sue spied an ALDI store and we stopped to take a look. It was one of the trip highlights for her. LOL. Our next stop was the Linderhof, a hunting lodge of King Ludwig II. The “lodge” was small, but over the top gaudy. The king ate 17 course meals and his dining table could be lowered to the kitchen and raised with the food displayed on it. After a pretzel and a Coke, we headed to Ettal to see the Ettal Kloster. The church was very plain on the outside, but the inside was baroque architecture to the max. Sue’s comment was, “Who do they get to dust all this?” A small adjoining chapel was very plain, Danish modern. What a contrast! We continued on to Oberammergau and Garmisch for some photo opportunities. On the way back to Fussen, we passed the Ehrenburg ruins. The ruins were on a hill connected to another hill by a suspension bridge over the roadway. The bridge is 1.2 meters wide, 114 meters high, and 406 meters long. Yikes! No way were we walking over that thing!
We left Fussen on a foggy morning toward Dinkelsbuhl. On the way, we stopped at the Steiff Museum in Gienger an der Brenz. Steiff makes high-end stuffed animals of all kinds and sizes. We took a tour and the stuffed animals were the narrators. It was very well done. We both really enjoyed it. It would be awesome if you had small children. For lunch, we had currywurst with French fries. It was surprisingly tasty. Dinkelsbuhl is a medieval walled city with tower gates wide enough for a single car, and cobblestone streets. We enjoyed walking around town and eating cherry strudel in a bakery. Yum! In the morning, we found a farmer’s market in front of the church – fresh flowers, lots of produce, and a bakery food truck. Awesome!
Three Bears at the Steiff Museum
In Nuremburg, we opted for a stay at the Hilton. Nice amenities, great Wi-Fi, nice bar, and an excellent restaurant. It was also within walking distance to Nazi Party Rally Grounds and the Documentation Center that explains how the Nazi Party was able to rise to power. The rally grounds had space for over 200,000 people and Hitler made many of his speeches there. You have probably seen it if you watch any programs on the History Channel. Today it contains soccer fields and a large paved area for roller hockey. While I toured the Documentation Center, Sue opted for a park bench by the lake. I was a beautiful day to be outside and watch people. The area around the lake is a very family friendly place. Excellent walking trails filled with dogs taking their people for a stroll, families with baby carriages, and people of all ages out for a walk.
Rothenburg de ober Tauber, a beautiful medieval city, was our next destination. This is the most photogenic place we visited. The town is filled with colorful medieval buildings, unique city gates, museums and has a mechanical clock in the town square. The old town is completely enclosed by the original wall that you can walk on. The central square is large and the winding, small streets connect to it like spokes of a wheel. The town has many bakeries and I think we sampled something in each one. One of our favorites was the salt and pepper pretzel. The pretzel seems to be the go to snack in Germany. We saw toddlers in strollers gnawing on them, teenagers, adults, and seniors were all enjoying them.
Rothenburg de ober Tauber
After two lovely days in Rothenburg, we departed for Sindlefingen where we would turn in the Porsche for shipment back to the states. The drop-off location had been preprogrammed into the TomTom’s “Home” setting. We followed Tom’s directions and turned down that “alley” to find a small parking lot jammed with BMWs, Mercedes, Audis and a few Porsches. Cars were everywhere. Drop a handful of straight pretzels on the floor and that will give you an idea of what it looked like. I asked, “Do you speak English?” “A little” was the reply. I asked if this was the place to drop off the car. They nodded yes, and I asked where to park. “Anywhere” was the reply. It was quite a shock from the Porsche Factory with all the cars neatly spaced and aligned.
A young man appeared from the office, asked if we needed a taxi, and instructed us to unpack the car. We went into the office, handed him the shipping voucher, and completed the necessary paperwork. The entire process took about 30 minutes. I kept the rear license plate as a souvenir, took a few pictures, and left the 911 in the midst of auto chaos. We had about a 25 minute ride to our hotel by the train station in Stuttgart. The driver took our taxi voucher; we dropped our bags at the hotel Steigenberger Graf Zeppelin and walked about for a few hours until we could check-in. We found yet another bakery where we had a pastry and decompressed before walking over to the train station to check-in with Lufthansa for our ICE train to the Frankfurt Airport. We were also able to print our boarding passes for the flight home. Great room in the hotel, all the comforts of home. We had a beer in the lounge, grabbed some dinner and repacked for the trip home.
A few comments about driving in Germany. Most of the autobahn is regulated with speed zones ranging from 60Kph (37 Mph) to 130 Kph (81 Mph). Construction zones, tunnels, autobahn exchanges, and exits all usually trigger speed adjustments. These speed changes occur so frequently that using speed control is almost impossible. Most Germans follow the posted speed limits but there are just enough high speed cruisers to keep you on your toes. The left lane is truly for passing and if you cruise out there you are liable to be gobbled up by a fast moving Audi, BMW, or Mercedes. Signal all lane changes and keep a sharp eye on your mirrors and autobahn driving is a snap. Trucks are restricted to the right lane except when passing.
Parts of the autobahn are unregulated and you can do some high speed cruising. It is quite comfortable to motor along at 160 Kph (100 Mph). We were able to go 202 Kph (125 Mph) for a short stretch but traffic congestion made it almost impossible to hold that speed for very long. Even at that speed, you still need to keep an eye on your “rear”.
The secondary roads are very nice to drive. The maximum speed limit we encountered on these roads was 100 Kph (62 Mph). Frequent speed changes can be expected for curves and approaching villages. Roads through mountain passes are twisty with lots of switchbacks; a great place to put your new Porsche through its paces. There are frequent places to pull off, enjoy the scenery and take pictures.
German drivers are somewhat aggressive, but always signal their intentions. They move to the left to allow you to enter the autobahn and merging into the traffic flow is easy. Unlike American drivers, I did not see anyone talking on their phone, texting, eating or drinking. When Germans drive, they are focused on driving and do not permit distractions.
We avoided large cities as much as possible. Parking in large cities can be problematic. In the smaller cities, car parks were easy to locate and were usually close to the “old town”. Some towns are still surrounded by walls with narrow gates. Streets were usually cobblestone and while some on-street parking was available, it was not dependable and parking spaces were tight.
The next morning at 6:00 AM, we were enjoying our last delicious brötchen with breakfast. By 7:20 AM, we were on the train heading to Frankfurt. Our train arrived at the airport train station at 8:40. We hiked to the terminal, cleared two levels of security, completed passport control and arrived at our gate in 40 minutes. Plenty of time for our 10:00 AM boarding time. I was amazed again at how passenger friendly the airport was and the efficiency of security and passport control.
Landed at O’Hare and were smacked in the face by rude TSA agents, confusing directions in the terminal, and the less than efficient passport control process. We were spoiled by our German experience. None the less, we arrived safe and sound. Now the hard part begins, waiting for the Porsche to arrive. I’m hoping it will be here for Christmas. Maybe I’ll get lucky.
PS: On 9 Nov, I received an email from Porsche European Delivery that my car is on the Columbia Highway auto carrier and is scheduled to arrive in Houston on 22 Nov. Awesome! I looked up the location of the Columbia Highway on Fleet Monitor (https://www.fleetmon.com) and determined it was in the mid-Atlantic on the way to its first port of call on the East coast.