Steaming in Stuttgart

The Airstream rally is over, and we are moving again. This morning we awoke to find only a handful of the Airstreams still on site, and everyone was packing up to go.

Part of the reason this rally was the biggest one in Europe since the Wally Byam caravans of the 1950s was the fairly central location. Since it was in Germany, the Dutch and the Germans could come for the weekend, even those who have day jobs. Only the British really had a long drive (400-600 miles depending on where they came from) and they seemed to relish the excuse to cross the Channel and explore the continent. So except for the Brits, nearly everyone bugged out on Sunday or very early Monday to get back to work or other obligations.

We tidied up the Airstream and emptied the tanks again, reluctantly packed up and said goodbye to our friends who were still on-site, and VERY reluctantly handed the keys to the new Airstream 684 back to Armin. When I say “new” I mean really new: we were the first people to sleep in it. I’d buy it if we afford to have a third Airstream permanently located in Europe, but alas we are not quite in that bracket just yet. Still, we already are certain we’ll be back one way or another.

I have to give special thanks to Armin Heun of Airstream Germany and his team, who really did an excellent job at putting together this event. We feel privileged to have been invited to come, and to stay in an Airstream while we were here. I hope Armin and/or some of the guys from Airstream Germany come to America and allow us to somehow try to repay the favor.

Today’s drive was down to Stuttgart, but since we were so close to Limburg, and everyone raved about it, we took a short detour to explore the downtown. It does look like a neat place. Our parking ticket downtown was good for only 2 hours and we needed to get going on our drive to Stuttgart, so the visit was short but enjoyable.

Once again we were fahren fahren fahren on der Autobahn, which is trickier than you might think. Despite the myth that “it has no speed limit” it often does have speed limits, varying from 80 kph in construction zones up to 100 kpb in moderately congested areas, and 130 kph in less congested areas. Only a few spots along our three hour drive today were truly free of speed limits, and even then we had to be constantly on the lookout for sudden changes in speed. We could be zipping along at about 140 kph (about 86 MPH) and then in a flash traffic would slow to 90 kph and I’d be stomping the brakes as other drivers quickly weaved from the slow lanes to the fast ones.

The Citroen made the drive more challenging, because that little tin box really wasn’t very steady above 120 kph. At 140 with a little breeze crossing the road, I had to wrestle with it, constantly making course corrections as it bobbed and wandered in the lane. I rarely dared enter the leftmost lane, which was the exclusive domain of German-made automobiles such as Mercedes, BMW, Volkswagen, and Audi. Those cars are Autobahn-ready, whereas I think Citroen built this C3 for toodling around city streets.

Eleanor offered that we might go to Europcar and ask for something a bit more capable of handling the Autobahn, but I didn’t want to go to the trouble. Soon enough we’ll be in Switzerland and Italy and we won’t be going all that fast anyway. Although I am wondering how it will do at Gotthard Pass …

We have only one reason for visiting Stuttgart, and that is because I insisted on seeing the Mercedes-Benz Museum. This town also hosts the Porsche Museum, which we drove by today, but we may not go into that one, depending on whether we are burned out on car stuff after MB.

Unfortunately, I made a strategic error when planning this stop. I booked two nights and didn’t notice that the hotel lacks air conditioning. This is not uncommon. This wasn’t a problem a few days ago when the forecast said Stuttgart would be nice and cool, but in reality it was 91 degrees today and it will be the same tomorrow. At 11 p.m. as I write this we are in our hotel room with windows wide open and it is still close to 90 degrees. Plus there’s a lot of street noise, which doesn’t bode well for sleeping tonight.

I am going to see if we can cancel our second night and head off to Switzerland tomorrow after visiting the Museum instead. Hopefully the hotel will be accommodating about this. This is just the sort of thing that reminds me why I hate making reservations, even when camping.

Since our hotel was chosen for convenience to the museums and not for walking access to the city, we had to use the car to get to dinner this evening. Navigating and parking were an adventure, as they always are in European cities, and that was expected, but once again I forgot that air conditioning is not to be expected 100% of the time as it would be at home. We ended up in a very nice Vietnamese restaurant sweating bullets as we ate our dinner. The mountains of Switzerland are looking better and better all the time.

Once we leave Germany we will no longer have Internet on the phone, or any phone for that matter. The SIM card I bought will roam to other countries but the cost of calls becomes prohibitive and the Internet functionality simply stops. So from here on in we are going to rely on public and hotel wifi, and Skype to call home occasionally. If I really get crazy about connectivity I might pick up an Italian SIM card, but maybe I’ll forget about the real world while we are in Italy instead.