Wednesday, October 17, 2018

No need for speed. Well, maybe a little.

The idea of driving through Germany was to have the freedom to stop along the way, but Rothenburg was planned. We had originally thought about spending a few hours in Heidelberg on the way to Rothenburg, but realized we wouldn't have enough time, so we'd catch it on the way back. From our last stop in Dirmstein to the outskirts of Munich was the most interesting and pleasantly surprising part of our trip, not necessarily because of the scenery, which was nice in parts, but because there were no speed limits.

First of all, let me say something to the people in charge of maintaining roads in the state of Baden-Wurttemberg. Or maybe I shouldn't, because it wouldn't be nice. I swear, that entire state is under construction, and the lanes are dangerously narrow. (Yes, there are speed limits in construction zones, and in urbanized and traffic heavy spots as well, and trucks have speed limits, too.)

Once we hit the Bavarian border, everything was much, much faster. Apparently, there is an advisory speed limit of 81mph, but you won't get a ticket, although if you cause an accident above the advisory limit, you have increased liability. Americans are mistaken in thinking that the "Autobahn" is one road. It is not one road; it is the entire federal highway system.

I had not once thought about a speed limitless autobahn when deciding to rent a car, and I certainly did not remember they existed while driving through Baden-Constructionburg, but when cars started blowing by me at racing speeds, it dawned on me. I myself was going 80-85mph for large portions of the drive. I'd look in the rearview mirror one minute and would see nothing, then suddenly a car is next to me. There are no slow left lane drivers - if you do it, you get smashed. At my fastest I got up to about 104mph before our economy car started shaking. I did not feel comfortable at that speed, but I wanted to do it for a little bit. It was a pretty thrilling stretch of the trip and felt like...freedom.

The road goes through it
There were no more stops aside from maybe a rest stop toilet break. We arrived to Rothenburg at night in a light drizzle, one of two times we had any rain at all on the trip. The GPS took us in a winding, confusing pattern around the town, finally directing us to drive through an old church. Yes, through it. I was sure I was doing something wrong as I crept through the narrow archway into the church courtyard - er, rather the sheepyard, as we found out later. (It is presently sheepless.) Across the cobblestones was another narrow arch to pass through. I had no idea what we'd find through it, but this was an adventure, so there we went, through what looked like a bell tower. Turns out, our hotel was on the other side, a great location in the medieval part of town. We barely made the check-in time, having twenty minutes to spare. We left the big bag in the car for the night (it was nice to not have to lug bags around everywhere) and headed out to look for food. We met some locals in a nearby bar who had lived in Washington and Baltimore, of all places. We were the only tourists at the place, exactly what we wanted. They gave us a little advice on things to see the next day, but Chris and the Baltimore guy talked too much about NFL football, as the guy was a big Ravens fan. The bartender seemed skeptical of us in the beginning, but warmed to us after we were accepted by her regulars.

They made a point of saying they were Franconians, not Bavarians, and I got a bit of a history lesson. It was Napoleon who gave Franconia to Bavaria after he destroyed the Holy Roman Empire. (I later found out that the term for this legal process was Reichsdeputationshauptschluss (29 letters), which I add here only because I am amused by the length of the word, not because it was the last law ever enacted by the Holy Roman Empire.) Every time I go to Europe I marvel at all the microethnicities and different dialects they speak and how the tribalism still exists, although I suspect it is strongest when it comes to football (soccer) rivalries.

In the morning we discovered what a gem was the medieval town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber. Unsure of what to do first, we walked to the church I had driven through on the previous night. There, we climbed stairs that led to a walk on the city wall. From there, we saw overhead views of a city straight out of the fourteenth century. Rothenburg had once been an important city in the Holy Roman Empire. Today, it is a prime tourist destination on Germany's Romantic Road, but as it was the off season, the crowds weren't bad.

We both loved walking around the wall, climbing a tower (well, I didn't like the actual climbing part of it, but the views were spectacular), visiting medieval churches, and even visiting the overpriced Christmas shops, as Rothenburg is also famous for its Christmas market.

Alas, we had to leave in the early afternoon to drive to Oberndorf, Austria, where we would stay with my friend for the next several days. It would take four hours plus a stop in Frasdorf, Germany, for a snack and a break from the car. It was here we met the foothills of the Alps. We would soon leave the motorway and drive through small alpine towns until we reached Laufen, Germany, crossed the bridge into Austria, and began the next chapter of our European adventure.

If you click the first picture, you can start a kind of slideshow. The resolution is probably better that way. Then just click the right arrow to move to the next photo.

Update: I just realized that doesn't work for mobile, and you have to click each picture individually to see it in a decent resolution, and I know Blogger sucks but I have had this blog for 13 years when it was one of the only CSS platforms, and they won't update their mobile stuff because Google is a massive, soulless corporation now and I am going to have to figure out a better way to post these pics on this platform. In the meantime, please scroll down to the bottom of the post, click on "view web version," and view in landscape mode (turn your phone longways). At least then you can just scroll through.