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Germany, Stuttgart and Autostadt

Stuttgart and Autostadt, The Motor Cities of Germany

Germany has been called the Motherland of the automotive industry, and still is known for producing a disproportionate number of the world's best cars. It's full of history, beauty and, of course, enthusiasm for all things automotive. Furthermore, Stuttgart and Autostadt each are in their own ways even more worthy of the being called a "Motor City" than our own beloved Detroit, Michigan. Now, before you write an e-mail protesting the audacity of that assertion, read on to find out why anyone who has ever looked at a car with even the slightest amount of admiration, must see these cities before they can call their life complete.

Stuttgart: The Original Motor City

German Classic Automotive
One of Germany's many classic cars on display.

Contrary to what most Americans think Detroit is not the birthplace of the automobile, whereas Stuttgart, Germany is. Most true car-lovers know this (and certainly all Germans do) and for them, a trip to Detroit (even during the awesome North American International Auto Show in January) will never compare to making a pilgrimage to Stuttgart to see the living, breathing answer to the age-old question: "Mommy, where did cars come from?"

Of the two manufacturers that call Stuttgart home, the youngest is Porsche. The company's founder, Ferdinand Porsche, once was a prominent engineer for Daimler shortly after WWI and then for Volkswagen before and during WWII, where he designed the Volkswagen Beetle (actually called the Porsche Type 60). The first car bearing his own name, the Porsche Type 356 roadster, was built in 1948, and the city has not been the same since. You can see that first car, which itself has a very interesting history, as well as 20-25 other significant Porsches past and present, from the street and track, at the Porsche Museum.

The other manufacturer calling Stuttgart home is none other than Mercedes-Benz, a company whose history reaches over twice as far back as Porsche. Now having blossomed into the pioneering automotive superpower that it is, Daimler Chrysler is responsible for much of Stuttgart's spiritual and financial livelihood. Its history, as you can imagine, is remarkable.

In the late 1800s, Stuttgart the car itself was born, thanks to concurrent projects by rivals Karl Benz and Gottlieb Daimler. It is here in Stuttgart, you can see for yourself the greenhouse-like structure in which Daimler's first horseless carriage, which most people thought was possessed by ghosts was created using a one-cylinder internal combustion engine, a three-wheel chassis and a park bench-like two-person seat.

You can also see running replicas of that car (the original is actually at the Deutsche Transportation Museum in Munich) in the vast and expansive Mercedes-Benz museum in Stuttgart, along with more than 100 other stunning Mercedes-Benz vehicles.

Now, while on the topic of historic Mercedes-Benz cars, I would be remiss not to mention that you can even buy a brand new replica of the very first car ever built, an 1883 Daimler, or an exquisite, factory-restored, historic Mercedes-Benz at the nearby Mercedes-Benz Classic Center in Fellbach. And if you still have three-pointed stars twinkling in your eyes, and trust me, one visit to the museum or the Classic Center is enough to get you hooked for life, I would suggest a tour of the enormous and incredible Sindelfingen Premium Car Plant, where C-, E- and S-Class models, as well as the $317K-$362K Maybach super-sedan, are produced. Certainly, it's one thing to see where a normal car is built, but it's another altogether to see where the world's best and most technologically advanced sedans are built, especially considering that it all happens just a few kilometers away from the birthplace of the automobile.

For places to stay in Stuttgart, you could be a lot worse off than at the luxurious Maritim Hotel. This centrally located hotel features a bar that looks like Cheers on steroids, an indoor pool and a location that is within walking distance to Stuttgart's main cultural centers, including the Stuttgart Opera House (home of the legendary Stuttgart Ballet), the awe-inspiring Stuttgart State Gallery and the 1-kilometer-long Königstrasse shopping zone. If you happen to be planning a trip toward the end of the year, aim for late September, early October for the Stuttgart Beer Festival, or December, when you can enjoy the festive Stuttgart Christmas Market. Also, remember that Stuttgart is known throughout Germany for its excellent white wines.

Autostadt: Volkswagen's Vunderland

Wolfsberg, Germany
Visitors with Wolfsburg in the background .

About three hours, by train, northeast of Stuttgart, and just one hour, by high-speed train, away from the bustling city of Berlin is Volkswagen's awe-inspiring Autostadt. Translated as "Car City," this so-called "theme park" in Wolfsburg, Germany, is located on the hallowed grounds of the birthplace of the aforementioned Porsche Type 60 (a.k.a. the Volkswagen Beetle). As with the cars that have been built (and continue to be built in the form of the Golf V), the Autostadt is a marvel of modern architecture, integrating brand stewardship, Discovery Channel style education and sheer automotive passion. Sounds like the perfect place to visit for anyone who calls him or herself a car-lover, eh?

With that said, you don't have to be a huge VW fan to have a great time at Autostadt. In fact, you don't even have to be a car-lover. You can be a fan of architecture, landscape design, or heck, anything new and interesting to have fun. The buildings are magnificent, the grounds are a modern corporate interpretation of a king's palatial garden, and the technology related films and displays are fascinating.

However, if you weren't a car-lover before entering Autostadt, you probably will be afterward. Autostadt's auto museum is a masterpiece of architecture, and the collection within it includes many of the most significant pieces of automotive history from many manufacturers around the world, including one of four Bugatti Type 57 Atlantics ever produced and is worth millions of dollars. Best of all, Autostadt is a very trusting place, allowing you to walk right up to the cars for a close inspection, rather than enshrining them behind ropes or glass.

The first place that almost all of the six million people who have visited Autostadt in the past three years hit is the visitor center (KozernForum). This is an awesome place, highlighted by an airplane hangar sized piazza with louvered, all-glass walls that let the outside in, weather permitting. A Plexiglas floor with slowly rotating, illuminated globes beneath it, highlight interesting facts or notable locations about the earth on each of the unique globes. Kids love it.

Kids Driving Volkswagen Beetles
Kids learning the rules of the road while driving beetles.

Speaking of kids, you'll want to be one again once you see the expansive Kids' World and the Kids' Traffic School, where they learn the rules of the road by actually driving kid-size cars on kid-size streets. And no, the kid-piloted baby Beetle convertibles are not bound to tracks, like Disneyland's Autopia ride, but rather miniature city "roads" with traffic signs, intersections, crosswalks and all.

The best way to describe the various "pavilions" is to say that they are showcases of brand DNA. But we're not talking about just the VW brand. Volkswagen AG actually controls Audi, Seat, Skoda, Bentley, Lamborghini and Bugatti. Accordingly, the pavilions are distinctly different facilities that immerse the observer in the sights, sounds and essences of each brand. For example, while VW's pavilion is bright, geometric and stark, Lamborghini's is edgy, dark and modern, and Bentley's solemn and luxurious. Even if you aren't really into any of the brands (though how could one not be into Lamborghini and Bentley), you'll be able to appreciate the diversity after spending some time in each of their worlds. If anything, the architecture is really cool.

There are seven restaurants on site at Autostadt, ranging from the casual coffee shop, to five-star restaurants (all run by Mövenpick of Switzerland), with diverse interior themes created by celebrated designers, which pull out all the stops. Truly, if you do one thing at Autostadt, make sure you eat. Even better, eat VW's trademark "Curry Wurst," a delicacy that has been eaten at the site since the days of VW's humble beginnings.

One of my favorite places in Autostadt is actually not a Volkswagen branded facility, but rather the on-site Ritz Carlton Autostadt. With gorgeous, ultra-modern décor, unbelievable vittles from its two restaurants, Aqua and Vision, comprehensive health club facilities and of course, a full spa, there is no better place to relax and unwind. Now, for those of you who know a thing or two about Ritz Carlton hotels, the words "ultra-modern décor" are not usually used to describe them. The creators of Autostadt met with Ritz Carlton to discuss their concept of the facility and agreed that a new, edgier, fresher concept was in order. The result is a breathtaking, nearly avant garde, take on luxury, thanks to architect Andree Putman. The rooms manage to be lavish and simple at the same time, with B&O electronics in every room, and a magnificent view of the Wolfsburg manufacturing facility.

Travel Information

Mercedes-Benz Museum

Maritim Hotel

Porsche Museum

Porsche's Stuttgart factory
+49 711 911-5985 (18 and over only).

For more information on Stuttgart and its many delights, visit or call +49 (0)711 2228-0.

For more information on the Autostadt and the Ritz Carlton Autostadt, click on,3606,2~117,00.html

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