As soon as I was able to drive I had a vision of my “dream car.” A Mercedes convertible. In 1977 I got married- through the years my husband and I bought many cars. The first was a white MGB with racing stripes down the side. It was so fickle that I had to park it at the top of a hill because I just knew it wouldn’t start. I’d get a push, pop the clutch and I was off. Snow would fall through the vents in the hood, building up around the accelerator and clutch. The seat was sprung so I had to put a textbook under it. The defroster didn’t work so I had to scrape the inside of the windshield while I was driving. It became really tiresome so we bought a brand-new beautiful yellow 1977 Oldsmobile Cutlass.
It was a sleek 2-door car with white leather interior and one of my all time favorite cars. My husband, Jeff liked to tinker with sports cars, so we bought a stunning 1969 red Jaguar XKE. It was our “date night” car and “take me out for a Sunday drive” car. It was temperamental, needing lots of repairs, but we sure did love that stunner. By the time baby #2 came along, it was time to trade the 2 door Cutlass in for a big Ford Taurus station wagon.
I still drove the Jaguar, knowing that our days together were numbered. I’d put my daughter in her car seat, dropping her off at Lucky Lane’s carpool lane. Today I’d be sent straight to jail for doing something so dangerous. Never mind the time I put baby #2 in the car seat, and toddler #1 in the back hatch. She had to curl up into a ball, but loved popping out of the back hatch at our final destination! We sold the Jaguar when Alex, our second child, was 2- we got almost triple what we paid for it in 1978.
Then came a succession of SUV’s. Since 2003 I have been driving a Toyota 4Runner, the most reliable car I’ve ever had. We had kids in college, then one in law school, so the opportunity to drop a chunk of change on a new car really wasn’t feasible. My desire for a Mercedes convertible never really went away, it just sat on the back burner for 40 years. Last month it became a reality. It was ordered in July from Tri-Star and delivery was set for September in Stuttgart, Germany. Not only did I get my dream car, I got a dream trip. If you like to travel, and you’re thinking about getting a BMW, Mercedes, Audi or Volvo, you might want to look into European delivery.
One of the perks of choosing European delivery of your car is a reduction in cost. We got a percentage off of the total price, making a big dent in the trip. We also bought a “Rally Package.” The package includes overnight stays in hotels that are way out of our price range and perks like free taxi rides to and from the airport. Come with me as I take you on a virtual trip to Stuttgart, Germany. We’ll make stops in Baden-Baden, Hinterzarten, Telfs Austria, and Munich. It was a whirlwind trip- we visited 3 countries in 6 short days. The exhaustion and jet lag were totally worth it!
Upon arriving at the Stuttgart airport, we grabbed a cab (thank you to Mercedes!) and headed to our hotel. Stuttgart is a big city; everything seems to revolve around Mercedes. Even the train station has a Mercedes logo on the top of the tower. We had a nice lunch at a park just a block from our hotel. Our plan after lunch was to take a cab to Wilhelma, a combination zoo and botanical garden. If you’re going to Stuttgart, I highly recommend visiting Wilhelma. They have many greenhouses, each housing a certain selection of plants. One held just Fuchsia. Another was just Cactus and Succulents. Another had tropical plants of all sorts, complete with an 8 foot Alligator in the pond! One of the most memorable attractions was a zoo employee playing on the ground with some baby Gorillas. For a good 30 minutes he just rolled around on the floor playing with the 4 babies. The Gorillas crawled all over him, pulled his hair and loved him. It was a very special thing to witness. After a good nights sleep in Stuttgart, it was on the Mercedes assembly plant to pick up my dream car!
We arrived at Mercedes about 10am. We had a short wait to finalize the paperwork so we hit the gift shop. I bought a few trinkets and it was time to see the new car. Of course, it was gorgeous! The top was down, waiting for us to drive her out of the factory. Jamie familiarized us with Navigation system, stereo and so on. We didn’t get any instruction about how to put the top up. Big mistake- we’ll pay for that later in the day. Because the trunk is minimally sized, most of our luggage had to go in the backseat. We laid a sheet of fabric over the brand new black leather upholstery and it was on to the Autobahn!
Everyone thinks the Autobahn is dangerous and full of crazies. Actually, very few accidents happen on it. The ones that do however are very, very bad. Speed limits range from 80 to 160 kmh. 160kmh equals 99mph. There are places on the Autobahn where there is no speed limit. You can fly as fast as your car can take you. I kept the speedometer at 120 to 140km. I stayed in the middle lane as the far lane is reserved for passing cars only. The difference on the Autobahn is that every driver knows what to do. No one hangs out in the left lane. No one passes on the right. In 5 days on the Autobahn, I never heard one driver honk at another driver. It wasn’t unusual to have Ferraris, Porsches, or an AMG Mercedes whiz by you. I even saw a Bugatti- my first ever!
Remember when I told you that we weren’t instructed in putting the top down? Well, the skies were getting dark. Rapidly. My husband comments to me: “Hey, it’s getting kind of dark.” But, he never got to say the word “dark.” It began to pour. Hard. The type of rain that’s so hard it hurts your head. I’m on the Autobahn, my husband is cussing, freaking out and having a hissy fit all at the same time. Luckily there was an exit 2km away. I pulled off the road and began pushing any button I could. Jeff was screaming, I was laughing and it was really hard to concentrate. Finally, Jeff pushed down on the latch and the top began to close. Pull the latch up, the top goes down. Push the latch down, the top goes up. Problem solved, lesson learned. But, we were soaked. My hair was plastered to my head. The interior of the car was dripping. We found a sweatshirt and dried off the best we could. We were almost to Baden-Baden and I was looking forward to a hot shower. The only wrong turn in the entire trip happened next. The thing is, though- it was one of the BEST things. The Black Forest. I took the wrong exit on a roundabout and was in complete darkness in about 10 seconds. We had driven smack dab into the middle of the Black Forest. A tiny road, it was hardly wider than one lane. I recalled the fairy tale “Hansel and Gretel,” knowing that I could never find my way out of that forest! The interior of the Black Forest is so dense that nothing grows but trees. No moss, no ferns and no other plants. It was eerily quiet and surprisingly, no other cars. Even though we spent days driving in the Black Forest, the only time I felt it’s true, deep presence was on that sliver of a road. By the time we started wondering where we were, we found our hotel.
As we pulled up to Brenner’s Park Hotel, we noticed about 10 Porsches all lined up. They were all hardtops and every last one of them was black. We later learned that the Porsche Club was having a rally, taking in the sights in Germany and no doubt enjoying the high speeds on the Autobahn. As we exited our car, I felt very out of place. The hotel was elegant and the guests extravagantly dressed. We, on the other hand, resembled drowned rats. We made a beeline for our room, showered and felt immensely more human. Given that Jeff didn’t pack a suit and I didn’t pack a dress and heels, we hoofed it into town and found a traditional German pub. By the next morning the rain had ended, the fog had lifted and we packed up the car, heading to Hinterzarten.
The scenery was beautiful and the weather had gotten considerable colder. I packed only 1 turtleneck and I was hoping that I wouldn’t be wearing it every single day for the rest of the trip. The Hotel Adler is a 5 star hotel, listed as one of the “World’s Best Small Hotels.” Our room was lovely, overlooking ski lifts and resembling a Tyrolean village. We wandered through town, looking at the shops and getting some cheese and sausages for an afternoon snack. The hotel has it’s own little Zoo. They had a White Stag, some deer (really cute if they aren’t eating your gardens!) and waterfowl. They were all so tame; I’m guessing that the guests give them food on a regular basis. After a restful night and sumptuous breakfast buffet, it was back into the car- we were off to Austria, driving through Switzerland. We visited 3 countries in one day!
Another glorious day- sunny skies and comfortable temperatures. We drove around Lake Constance, taking advantage of the many roadside stops along the Autobahn. It seemed that every time there’s a photo op, it’s accompanied by a roadside stop. We entered an area where tunnels are abundant. With the Alps in the distance, we were anticipating each exit and what the oncoming view might be. One of the longest tunnels is 14km has a toll of about $8. As we exited each tunnel, we were getting closer to our next stop- the Interalpen Hotel. We drove 3km up a winding mountain road, entering the hotel’s front lobby in our car. Yes, you read it correctly. We drove our car into the hotel’s front lobby. The hotel was beyond stunning and each window had a view of the Alps. They had many gardens on the property; one of my favorites was comprised only of little alpine plants. Our 5-course dinner was excellent and, as luck would have it, we ended up sitting with 2 other couples who picked up their Mercedes on the same day as we did. Jeff knows a little German, but was nice to finally carry on a conversation with people who spoke English. After another late night, we headed up to our room, planning the next days drive to Munich.
I really hated to leave this hotel. The Alps are so stunning; you could see snow at the very tops of the highest mountains. The hilly terrain had me thinking (and wishing!) that Julie Andrews would bound onto the scene singing: “The hills are alive…” She didn’t and it was time to bid the Alps adieu.
Arriving in Munich is like driving into any large city. Very little remained after the war so you see buildings of all types. Some were just slapped together so that citizens had a place to live. Some were constructed with a little thought. Still others were tacked onto buildings that survived the bombings. The city was a real architectural hodgepodge, one that I didn’t find attractive. We arrived at the Hotel Bayerischer Hof and I felt immensely underdressed and totally out of place. My new Mercedes was chump change compared to the other cars parked out front. Bentleys, tricked out Range Rovers, and the most unusual car of the trip: a Porsche Carrera convertible. The oddity was that there wasn’t any paint on the car- it was covered in what appeared to be alligator skin. I touched it and it felt just like an alligator. The color of the hide was spot on and fitted perfectly, covering the car where paint would have been. I will live the rest of my life comparing all other Porsches to that car and wondering what billionaire it belonged to.
We arrived in Munich one day before Oktoberfest. This was totally happenstance; my life’s desire is not to get hammered with 10,000 of my closest friends. Even a day before the festivities, the town was mobbed with locals and visitors. Many patrons filled the shops brimming with authentic German clothing, purchasing something to wear for the kick-off to Oktoberfest. I have to admit it- some men can really carry the “lederhosen look” better than others. The women looked charming in Loden jackets, dirndl skirts and white shirts with abundant ruffles.
Jeff had been to Munich a few times. Since this was my first trip, we booked a walking tour of about 2 hours, meeting our group in the Town’s Square. Mindy, a native of Fort Myers, Florida, was out tour guide. She was cute and bubbly, but had no idea about anything to do with the history of Munich. When asked about the specific dates of historical events she either checked her notes or gave it a good guess. She was consistently adding… “Well, that was one of the Ferdinand’s, I’m not sure which one,” or, “That building was damaged in one of the wars.” Charming, but clueless.
We wandered thru the city, seeing churches, buildings riddled with damage from the bombings in WWII, a park that has an area devoted to nudists and another where kids can surf; the oldest pub, full of drunken customers just waiting for Oktoberfest. We broke away from the tour, taking refuge in a Starbucks. It reminded me of home. I was tired, jet-lagged and cranky. We hoofed it back to the hotel.
The Hotel Bayerischer Hof had a lovely breakfast buffet- it filled the entire floor. The room was packed because the parade marking the beginning of Oktoberfest was due to commence in a few hours. Grandstands lined the rainy streets. I seriously doubt that rain will dampen the sprits of the revelers in Munich. Our bags were packed, we were ready to go and we hailed a cab (again, thanks Mercedes!) to the airport. Our whirlwind trip was drawing to a close.
When my husband suggested European delivery, I really didn’t want to take this trip. I wanted to order it, wait for it to arrive at Tri-Star and be done with it. Six jam-packed days of travel seemed like a big chore and horribly exhausting. But, Jeff kept telling me that I’d love it. Over and over again until I started to believe it. Looking back, a week after returning home, I am so glad that I had this experience. I saw places that I otherwise would have never visited. I hobnobbed with the rich and famous- we stayed in hotels that we couldn’t afford. I felt like a kid again- getting caught in a rainstorm on the Autobahn with the top down. I saw nudists in a park, a Porsche covered in alligator, snow on the Alps, a White Stag, guys in lederhosen, a field of sunflowers and so much more.
If you are even slightly considering a new foreign car, I suggest you look into European delivery. You’ll save some bucks, make some memories, and see things and people that blow you away. The exhaustion and jet lag are worth it. I really hope my travel diary peaks your interest!