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Should I rent a car?


I never do. In general, if there is something worth seeing, somewhere people want to go, the Germans have provided access to it via public transportation. I've driven in Germany (reluctantly), plus riden in cars driven by others. I never found the experience particularly exhilerating.

I have planned and executed eight trips (16 weeks) to Germany in the last nine years. Almost without exception, I have managed to see everything I wanted to see without needing a car. In 2004, I spent five nights on the Rhein River in Boppard. First day, I crossed the river by ferry and went by train to Braubach to see the Marksburg. Second day I went by train to St. Goar to see Rheinfels, took the K-D boat to Bacharach, and came back by train to Boppard. Third day I took the train to Koblenz for lunch, used an Internet Cafe there, saw Deutsches Eck, and walked through the old town. So far everything was easily accessible with the train. My total transportation expenses for the first three days, not including 8,60 for the boat, was 20,85, about $26 at the time.

The last day I had planned to go to Burg Eltz, but I didn't look forward to the 2 km walk from Moselkern, so I looked into renting a car for the day. The best deal I could find for one day was about $100, not including fuel.

In my opinion, there are two reasons people drive in Germany.
  1. They have heard about no speed limits on parts of the autobahn and want to entertain a Walter Mitty fantasy that they are race car drivers.
  2. They know how to read maps, but can't understand rail schedules.

To the first part, yes there are portions of the autobahn without speed limit. I once rode with the country manager of the company for which I worked from Offenburg to Zweibrucken. We went 320km, 200 miles, in 2 hours (100 mph aver.) in bumper-to-bumper, rush hour traffic. Big thrill! It really wasn't much different than driving from Denver to Colorado Springs on a Sunday afternoon at 80 mph.

On the other hand, I have been on most of the Romantic Road by bus. It is a narrow, winding country road, choked with trucks, buses, and farm equipment. The speed limit is 80 kph (50 mph) and most of the time you can't do that.

So, leave your Walter Mitty ego at home. You can't play race driver here.

As for the second part, I have never heard from a road warrior who gave any indication that he knew anything about reading the schedules for public transportation. I think that's why they go by car - it's easier than figuring out how to do it by public transportation.
  1. Freedom: With a car, one person has to watch the road. With public transportation everyone is free to get up and walk around, use the WC, watch the scenery, eat, sleep, read, write in your journal, etc.
  2. Cost: I've tracked the cost of a rental car (Gemut) and fuel (ViaMichelin estimat) for my last three trips vs.what I actually spent on public transportation. A car has always come out to be almost thre times as expensive.