Michelstadt & Esslingen, Germany

Jason R. Matheson
6 min readApr 27, 2023

--

Driving on the Autobahn is not for the faint of heart. Much of Germany’s federal highway system does not have an official speed limit. There is a recommendation of 130 kilometers an hour (81 mph) but you’re free to drive as fast as you want as long as you can maintain safe control of your vehicle considering all the conditions.

Conditions include the weather, traffic, terrain and your vehicle. My little Opel Corsa is not going to win at Le Mans so I stay far to the right on the highway and let the big Mercedes, BMWs, Audis and Porsches zoom by.

Much of my drive south from Hesse to Baden-Württemberg was on the Autobahn but I pulled off several times to explore a few towns. Michelstadt featured a unique old Rathaus (town hall) constructed in 1484. Remember, Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492 so this was built by folks who had no idea the new world existed.

Aside from a handsome Marktplatz, the Stadtkirche (city church) was interesting. I can open the front door of an old church in Europe and tell within a second or two if it’s worth going inside. Some churches (especially Protestant) are painfully spartan. I get it, the focus is on the worship. But the Catholic churches tend to have a little more icing on the cake.

Back on the street, I watched a postman roll up the sidewalk, grab some mail and jump off his bike to make a delivery. You certainly can’t miss these bright yellow Deutsche Post vehicles.

Earlier in the drive, I’d crossed the river Main and pulled off to get gas near Frankfurt in a small town called Steinheim. I decided on a whim to walk into town and have a quick look. I rounded a corner and right before me was a pristine Porsche 356. Evidently I was just meant to see it.

The owner eventually showed up after I’d taken a bunch of pics and told me it was a 1964. I told him it was beautiful and he smiled and waved as he drove away. Basically, I didn’t have to see anything else the rest of the day.

My next Airbnb in the village of Talheim put me a short drive from the Stuttgart area. The next morning, the weather was perfect so I drove down to Esslingen.

Even though so much in the world has changed, it’s comforting to know some places don’t seem to change all that much.

I had the lunch special at a Biergarten I’ve always liked overlooking the river. It was a small cut of schnitzel with lemon, fries and a strange little tomato (it tasted better than it looked).

I took advantage of the sunny weather to wander familiar cobblestone lanes. Every time I come back to Esslingen, it’s like I’m checking up on the buildings and monuments like they’re old friends.

A Thursday afternoon in late April is a great opportunity. No tourist crowds yet. I had all the saints and stained glass to myself inside St. Dionys.

Back on the Marktplatz, I stopped for a tall hefeweizen at one of the outdoor cafes. I talked with a Spanish couple who were visiting and they wanted to know what I thought of my time in Madrid last November. Later, I was joined at the table by a Mexican engineering student who was doing an internship in Stuttgart. Eventually, a German couple joined us to round out our international table.

I came across another beautiful classic, a late-1950s Mercedes 180. It was finished in a pleasant banana pudding color and sported a retractable soft top. The tag on the back started with “ES” for Esslingen and the round tax stickers included the three pacing lions on the shield representing Baden-Württemberg.

Possibly I’d had too much luck in cars these last couple of days so to even things out, I landed in a big Stau (traffic jam) north of Stuttgart on my way back. You see how the cars are pulled over to opposite sides of their lanes? That’s called the Rettungsgasse (rescue alley) and drivers here do it automatically when backed up. If there was a wreck up ahead, the emergency vehicles could get through.

Hey, at least I was behind some Swiss family with a big, interesting Mercedes SUV to look at.

……….

Thanks for coming along on the trip. If you have questions or suggestions, tweet @JasonRMatheson. Missed an entry? Click here.

--

--

Jason R. Matheson

I prefer to travel slow. Enjoy history, design, architecture, cars, sports digital. Auburn alum, Sooner born.