Germany Celebrates 125 Years of Car-Loving Tradition

The Porsche Museum in Stuttgart, Germany offers interactive displays and hundreds of beautiful cars.
The Porsche Museum in Stuttgart, Germany offers interactive displays and hundreds of beautiful cars.

Car-loving Celebrations in Germany

By Elayne Badrigian

This summer, join in Germany’s celebration of the 125th anniversary of the car by taking part in a multitude of events on the theme of the automobile with special exhibitions at three state-of-the-art museums. This is a country of car-loving people, and home of the world’s top car brands. Motor heads will be in heaven visiting these car museums, the pride of modern Germany, next to the Autobahn.

Mercedes-Benz…BMW…Porsche… all car brands that scream luxury, class, and style just as loudly as the noise of their engines. Over the past 125 years, their interior and exterior designs have changed dramatically, but the goal of building vehicles of high quality and excellence in functionality has never faltered. Germany remains the epicenter of fine car building, and they’re celebrating with a long list of activities centered on the automobile.

Baden-Württemberg and its capital city, Stuttgart, are synonymous with the automobile. There, the first motor carriage was invented 125 years ago. Today, production plants and world-renowned museums remain.

Also in the city are the headquarters of Mercedes-Benz and Porsche, the roots of which are firmly planted and grab a hold of the people who live there. It’s a car-crazy place and it’s the place to be this summer if cars are your thing.

Carl Benz with his first automobile.
Carl Benz with his first automobile.

In 1886 in Mannheim in Baden, Carl Benz applied for a patent for his three-wheeled motor car. Around the same time, Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach produced the world’s first four-wheeled vehicle in the Württemberg capital of Stuttgart. The automobile may have been born in Germany but it has been bred throughout the world. Still, its production has and will always be the most successful in this land where the car was born.

Through the power and influence of the automobile, Stuttgart has become one of the Germany’s most charismatic regions–with high incomes, technical innovation and economic vitality. The Mercedes star on the top of the tower at Stuttgart central train station has been revolving without interruption since 1951. It should come as no surprise that the city will serve as the focal point of the Car Anniversary celebrations in Germany.

Tennis legend and entrepreneur Boris Becker said, “The atmosphere in Stuttgart is great. It’s full speed ahead when there are normally radar traps. Everyone here is a car freak. I like driving a lot and do it a lot, and it’s interesting to get acquainted with history.”

The momentous event continues this month with “Motorissimo,” the automobile festival that wouldn’t be complete without Bertha Benz, the wife of Carl, who in 1888 took the world’s first overland drive from Mannheim to her home town of Pforzheim in the Benz three-wheeler, with her two sons, Eugen and Richard. To mark the event, more than 140 classic cars will travel along the same route as this earliest woman driver.

Bertha Benz, immortalized in the museum and history's first woman driver.
Bertha Benz, immortalized in the museum and history’s first woman driver.

For those whose dream it has been to get behind the wheel of some of the marvelous cars being showcased, they have the great opportunity to do so at the “Klassikwelt Bondensee” trade fair. Those curious about the future of the automobile can check out the Karlsruhe Institute for Technology in July. Are flying cars within sight?

A Car Symphony

Top-notch vehicles are known for the crisp sound they emit from their speakers, but they can also produce a symphony! Witness this event at the first performance of a symphony played by 80 automobiles, accompanied by the SWR Baden-Baden and Freiburg Symphony Orchestra and the SWR Vocal Ensemble Stuttgart in September.

Make sure to be in attendance at the world premiere of “autosymphon-ic”—a musical-visual combination of the arts by composer Marios Joannous Elia and multimedia artist Horst Hamann. This event will bring the aspects of the automobile to life with music, pictures, video, light and laser effects with vocals and language for an awe-inspiring treat.

Inside the Porsche Museum in Stuttgart.
Inside the Porsche Museum in Stuttgart.

Do you have a need, a need for speed? In July, historic race cars, sports cars and racing motorcycles will zoom around the historic Solitude ring located between Stuttgart and Leonberg. The future of the automobile will once again be on display with a demonstration of vehicles with alternate means of propulsion.

The celebration wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the relic-filled museums dedicated to cars the in the region. The Porsche Museum in Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen is a feast for the eyes; the building looks as if it is about to propel into the sky. Around 80 vehicles and many smaller exhibits are on display in the museum, in addition to Porsche’s most iconic cars such as the well-known 911 model.

A moving walkway gives visitors a spectacular view of the collection. The very first Beetle, designed by Professor Ferdinand Porsche, is also on display. The Professor’s son, Wolfgang, remembers watching his father take the first Porsche he built in 1947 on the road. “There’s lots of pictures, there’s not much more you can say. It’s moving,” he said.

The tornado-shaped Mercedes Benz Museum in Stuttgart.
The tornado-shaped Mercedes Benz Museum in Stuttgart.

The Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart documents the 125-year history that began in a tiny workshop and grew into a legendary brand.

Over 160 vehicles and more than 1,500 items are on display, including the Grand Mercedes Type 770 once owned by the Emperor Hirohito and the Emperor Wilhelm II, and Princess Diana’s red SL.

The museums are just as famous for their cars as they are for their architecture; the Mercedes-Benz Museum is in the shape of a double helix.

For an experience designed for the senses, BMW World is the place to be. The architecture is an eye-popping double cone made of glass and steel designed to look like a tornado that supports a “cloud” roof that provides a floating façade. Inside, visitors are given the opportunity to hop inside a driving simulator that imitates the feeling of driving a real BMW.

The building boasts the world’s biggest exhibition of BMW cars. The museum nearby details the 90-year history of the company and features seven themed areas, each of which are located in its own “house.” BMW enthusiasts are sure to feel like kids in a candy shop.

The only thing better than seeing these works of art on display is getting behind the wheel and driving one. Get up close and personal with Southern Germany and the cars produced there by booking the automobile tour “Premium Cars of Southern Germany.” The package includes a tour with Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, BMW and Audi to Munich, Stuttgart and Ingolstadt. Participants can choose their favorite vehicle to drive, or give all three a spin. If that gets your need wanderlust going, try renting a car to explore more of Germany.

Aerial view of the massive BMW World, part shopping mall and part museum.
Aerial view of the massive BMW World, part shopping mall and part museum.

History buffs have the opportunity to follow the inventor’s trail and learn about the development of the automobile. The trip begins in Schnorndorf, the birthplace of Gottlieb Daimler. After visiting the house where he was born, a tour guide impersonating Lina Daimler, the pioneer’s wife, will take participants for an informative and engaging walk through the old town. The trip is topped off with a visit to the elegant Mercedes-Benz Museum.

For two days, you can live the lives of a king or queen by visiting the region’s castles, monasteries and ruined strongholds, in your own vehicle or in a hired classic car. German culinary delicacies such as spaazle and the area’s legendary beers in local restaurants are sure to keep your engine purring.

Continue your journey into the past by learning about Baden-Württemberg’s automotive history while driving one of a fleet of classic cars built between 1959 and 1983, including compact models, sports cars or limousines. These will be available to test drive during the celebrations.

The tornado that is the BMW World museum.
The tornado that is the BMW World museum.

The environmentally conscious have not been forgotten during this German summer of the car. During the Automobile Summer, Black Forest communities are offering guests overnight stays in climate-neutral accommodations. Additionally, hosts will offer electric vehicles, electric bikes and Segway Scooters to their guests.

Car collector, Josef Mast, brought his rare 300B Mercedes-Benz convertible to the party.

“It’s a great event, I must say. The automobile set the world in motion and it will continue to do so in other forms and with other engines, but always emotionally.”

Elayne Badrigan is a former editorial assistant with GoNOMAD. She drives a lowly Toyota and she writes our daily Travel News Notes blog.

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