Road-trips have always held a special allure for me. When I was a child they meant adventure: my brothers and I all packing into our van with my parents to drive all the way to Florida or New Brunswick from our home in Ontario. In my teens and early 20’s it meant freedom: jumping in the car with high school or university friends and driving all night to NYC. Ultimately, the one thing that never really changed, in my opinion, was that road-trips were always more about the journey than the destination. Even though I’m “all grown up now,” I’m still drawn by this childlike fancy to jump in the car and go; go anywhere and everywhere.
Recently I took a road-trip from Berlin to Frankfurt. Rule #1 of the road-trip, your ability to enjoy your journey depends 100% on who you’re with. If you have to be in a confined space for many hours with a person, it better be someone you enjoy spending a lot of time with. I was luckily making this drive with one of my closest friends, so we were already off to a great start. Why I classify this as a road-trip upgraded is because it was unlike anything I have ever experienced.
First things first, we were cruising on the autobahn at a comfortable 180-220 km per hour. Believe it or not, pumping up the speed actually makes a huge difference. Not only does it cut down your actual driving time, but the rush is exhilarating. Of course, there were a few teeth clenching moments when we needed to slow down quickly and I braced myself for my imminent death, but in the end it remained fun and not fatal.
Second was the upgraded scenery. Don’t get me wrong; Canada and the U.S. have very beautiful pastoral landscapes with cattle grazing or fields upon fields of crops. However, in Germany, this pastoral landscape is also dotted with castles and windmills. While driving down the highway there were multiple stretches of km after km of windmills. At one point we were so close to these windmills as they surrounded us on both sides for as far as we could see. I felt so tiny among the towering windmills, like Don Quixote amidst his giants.
Perhaps windmills aren’t enough to make most people feel like they are driving through an almost fairytale landscape (they do for me because I am bizarrely fascinated by windmills) but the castles really seal the deal. All along the stretch of our 5 hour drive, we saw castle after castle; at one point there were three castles in a row on closely neighbouring hilltops, all easily within the same field of vision. At this point in our trip it was starting to get dark, so the castles were all externally lit up; they stood on their hilltops looking stately and majestic, and we drove on in admiration. ‘I’m driving through a land of windmills and castles,’ I thought to myself, ‘this is by far one of the coolest road-trips that I have ever been on!’
There are about 20,000 castles that grace the German landscape, many of which have been preserved as heritage sites or are being used as museums and hotels. There are also more than 21,607 wind turbines located in the German federal area, with plans to build even more in the coming years. This means it is pretty difficult to drive anywhere in Germany and not come across some windmills and castles. With about 19,990 castles left to see…who feels like taking a drive with me?