History of the automobile

Stuttgart, Germany

We grabbed a couple of pastries from the bakery across the street for our 2-hour drive this morning through the Black Forest. The weather was about as nice as a European winter day gets: clear blue skies and temperatures hovering around 45 degrees. Cruising the autobahn, we experienced the German’s notorious driving etiquette. Cars certainly moved faster but the drivers were smart and courteous. No slow movers in the left lane or reckless weaving — basically, the exact opposite as back home.

On the outskirts of Stuttgart, a Mercedes-Benz logo rotated like a beacon in the sky. It was the first of many we would spot in this city, which is home to headquarters to both Mercedes-Benz and competitor Porsche, as well as their sleek and shiny museums.

Given our mode of transportation, we started at the Mercedes-Benz Museum, a wavy silver box whose undulating curves gave the impression of movement.

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After an elevator to the sixth floor, we started in 1886 with the world’s first four-wheel automobile. From there, we worked our way downward, exploring decade after decade and watching the evolution of the Mercedes. Some of the coolest of the 75 cars were from the 1930s, 40s and 50s.

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Off of each floor was a separate wing with other Mercedes vehicles, like its buses and Pope Mobiles. Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to board the latter.

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Downstairs, we checked out some of the Mercedes race cars — including the Blitzen-Benz, the Silver Arrow and the Indy car — before grabbing a surprisingly good lunch of schnitzel and maultasche in the café. Peter rocked the meat dumplings but said, for the record, that he prefers spaghetti bolognese.

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From Mercedes, it was a 15-minute drive across town to the Porsche Museum, completed just this January. From the outside, it was another modern beast with lots of glass, steel and mirrors.

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As we were waiting to buy our tickets, some friendly German fellow came over and offered us his unused ones — we danke’ed him and made our way upstairs. The museum was much smaller and provided less history but with around 80 cars on display, was impressive no less.

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Alex got me hanging out with this hot 911 GT1, a “supercar” that is apparently kind of a big deal. We also checked out a new Panamera that had been cut in half. Alright, fine, Porsche, you win. Your cars rock and we all want one!

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Back at another Le Méridien, we checked in and settled into our comfortable room. The gorgeous spa was about deserted so we took over the fitness center, sauna and steam room.

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The concierge suggested dinner at Alte Kanzlei, a contemporary restaurant serving updated traditional German cuisine. Between the schaufele and the rostbraten, washed down with a bottle of Lemberger wine, we don’t think Swabian cuisine could get much better.

Tomorrow, we continue northward to Cologne.

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