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Holiday in Germany: Driving on the autobahns & the famous Nurburgring

The first car that I rented was a BMW M3 on which I was able to hit the gentleman’s agreement-electronically limited speed of 250 km/h on the autobahn.

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Visit to Germany, its autobahns and of course the Green Hell i.e., NĂŒrburgring has been on my bucket list for as long as I have known that there are no speed limits on many roads there.

The Plan came together as we ended up choosing Europe and specifically France as our first destination for a vacation this year and tagging up Germany after that felt like a natural choice for me (Thanks to my wife for accepting it though).

Planning

Since our trip included France and Germany for an almost equal number of days, we could apply for the Schengen Visa from either embassy depending on the way we designed our itinerary. We chose to apply via France because they seemed to be actually open v/s Germany which was so overloaded that the visa appointments were 3 months into the future. With France, I got a visa appointment around 25 days from my date of application, and to my surprise, we received the Visa within 15 days from that appointment. This is despite being cautioned that it would take up to a month for the same. France Leg was an individual package from SOTC so they helped with the Visa but their support left a lot to be desired. Let’s just say that I was glad I didn’t have to deal with them for the planning for the Germany leg.

Since our France trip would be ending at Nice, the only logical next step would be to take a flight out of there (for convenience and time). This gave me a lot of freedom to choose my first destination in Germany.

My priorities for the Germany leg were:

  • Self-driving between the cities as much as possible
  • Visit the NĂŒrburgring
  • Max out a high-performance car, if possible, on the derestricted sections of Autobahn
  • Visit the major HQ and car museums (BMW, Merc, Porsche)

Thus, my route was planned.

Munich-Stuttgart-NĂŒrburgring-Frankfurt

After my visa arrived and the pandemic situation definitely seemed in check, the first thing I did was book the slot for Driving at the ‘Ring with Apex. The slots fill up quick since these days are heavy with tourist rush but this is non-refundable, so keep that in mind. Then I proceeded to book hotels in each city, went through Booking.com and as much as possible chose hotels that allowed the bookings to be modified or cancelled until the day of stay (to maintain flexibility).

Day 1 (Munich)

We Fly from Nice to Munich (with a 1 hr layover in Paris - CDG). The first flight is delayed which led to a mad rush for making the connection once we landed in CDG. We managed to make it but I was worried about our luggage making the transfer. With the regular Air France horror stories in the past month and the news of issues at German Airport baggage handling, we planned for this by keeping an Airtag in each of the Check-in luggage and keeping a good number of clothes with us in the Cabin baggage.

And as soon as we land in Munich, we check the status of our bags on the iPhone and behold, just as we feared, the bags get pinged at Terminal 2F in CDG, Paris minutes ago. This saved us a lot of time and agony; we did not have to wait at the Luggage belt and we went straight for the Luggage handling counters. The counters are unmanned and in absolute chaos with nobody to help, this was at 2:30 PM in the day. We reluctantly fill out an online form and talk to an Air France helpline agent who assured us that the luggage would reach on a subsequent flight. We carried our cabin luggage and instead of taking an Uber/Taxi I chose to use the Car Sharing App (Share NOW) which gave me a list of almost 100 cars to choose from (all of which were ready to drive from the airport), seeing the fine weather outside I went for the BMW 2 series convertible (it seemed like a fitting option with our light luggage and seeing as we were just taking it to get its bigger badder cousin).

It took us a good 10 minutes to find the car as we only got the Parking number and the floor on which it was parked on, so we had to walk to search for the car on that floor. Used the app to unlock it and it just came to life, I never even saw the key as it was a keyless entry car. It had just enough boot space to fit our 2 small strolleys. This particular car was a 220d with 51k kms on the odo, the condition was above average but did have some cosmetic blemishes. Anyways, I put down the roof at the press of a button and set about driving to my destination around 30 mins/25 km away to
 MINI MĂŒnchen to pick up a special car for 1 day. Found parking next to a very familiar car and dropped it off.

Found it at the airport

Customary Photo

Hi there

Enter, G80 BMW M3

Getting to drive this car was the first reason I chose to start the trip from Munich. Munich is the capital city of Bavaria and also the HQ for BMW. And as special service from the Welt, BMW offers direct rental of ALL their cars from this location (Yes, that includes M cars). So, I reserved an M3 as soon as my visa was final.

The Welt rental location is undergoing some work so all those cars are currently offered from the location next door which is the main dealership for Mini in Munich. Visited the front desk, and they confirmed my booking but remarked that I was late (I was only 10 min late, but it was Germany).

They checked my Driving License and also demanded my International Driver’s Permit. I had painstakingly gotten it after wasting a couple of days at my local RTO office in Ludhiana, and now I was glad that it came of some use. In fact, at the time of booking they had not mentioned IDP as a requirement if the original DL was in English, but they were quite stern about it and I was not able to add my wife as a second driver as she didn’t have an IDP ready. I was hoping to use my Forex Card to pay for the rental but they confirmed that they need a Credit Card, nothing else. I was given the contract to sign and seeing the odometer at 50k kms, I was worried that it might be a previous gen M3 (F80).

The car was finally brought out of the parking and it was impeccable. Looked brand new and shining in Black Sapphire. Took a walkaround to check any damages, there were none except for a couple of wheels kerbed. Drove out of the dealership and was searching for lunch options when we chanced upon a Pizza hut right opposite the Welt. Parking there proved to be a big challenge but finally settled on parking right outside so that I could observe the car while being seated at the table.

With the body fueled up, we set in Google maps a destination of Garmisch-Partenkirchen simply because it was around 1 hour away and the roads to it consisted of good sections of derestricted autobahn and the hilly sections at the end seemed like a nice place to be. And boy, were we right. After spending 10 minutes exiting the jams in Munich, the roads opened up, limits increased gradually until I saw this sign.

I shifted to the fast lane, hit M1 on the steering wheel and gunned the car. Life was perfect! Roads were straight at first, then there were winding sections leading to tunnels making for a great experience combined with this Twin-Turbo Straight 6 S58 engine. Power was never lacking and I was hitting 200 Kmph in a jiffy. But I guess that’s okay, roads were vacant and it is legal to do so. In some straight sections, I was able to hit the gentleman’s agreement-electronically limited speed of 250 Kmph. The speedo showed 256 kmph though. So, the car doesn’t have the M driver’s Package. Oh, shucks then.

Blasting Punjabi music (what else do you expect from a couple of North Indians) and enjoying the road we reached a quaint little café in our destination town. The parking was perfect, against the backdrop of the Austrian Alps made for a great scene. A few kids were quite struck with the car which was surprising for me as I thought it looked just like a 3 series for the most part. Had a hot chocolate and some snacks, strolled around in some nearby areas and it was Picturesque all throughout. Going through the area, all we really found were a few houses, some cafes and of course car dealerships of all the major Germans. What a place!!

Left from there around 9:30 pm and meanwhile, our Airtag showed that our luggage had indeed arrived at Munich airport. With nobody to answer the phone at the helpline we thought (or rather I thought) of taking matters into my own hands by driving back to the Airport and looking for our luggage. Of course, this had nothing to do with the fact that this would add around 60 kms of drive both ways in the M3. We reach there by 11, the airport is almost empty, the terminal seems deserted and after wasting a good 30 mins, we find that we need somebody from the airline to issue us a “boarding” pass to enter the arrival area but that’s not possible now since Munich airport terminal 1 has absolutely no flights after 10pm. A bit bummed at that but alright, at least I have the M3 till the next day!

Cruise back was relaxed, checked out the semi-autonomous driving features like Adaptive cruise, Lane Centring and even Traffic Jam Assist briefly. All worked well. Night driving was sorted thanks to the Optional Laser Lights installed in my particular car. I was surprised to see derestricted sections even on the way to the Airport, so had some fun on those.

Checked into the hotel Maritim, MĂŒnchen at almost midnight, sadly the paid parking garage was full but was told that the street parking is, in fact, free till 9 AM in the morning. Got a big thumbs up from a few locals for the car, and parked it on the street.

Continue reading about agambhandari's driving holiday experience for BHPian comments, insights and more information.

 
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