Bavaria, and in particular Franconia, is a very pleasant place to travel around. While driving around Munich might not be the most relaxing, it’s probably less stressful than in comparable big cities in North America and larger cities in Europe. Once out of the cities, you have a well-maintained highway system (Autobahn), though it may seem a bit limited with regard to lanes if you are from more populated areas of the US. While it’s true there are parts of the Autobahn that have unlimited speeds, unless you are traveling well off-peak, you might not be able to fully utilize that rental Porsche. That said, the roads are in great condition and drivers, while aggressive at times, are fairly civilized. One thing to remember, though, is to NOT stay in the left lane. Often, there will only be two lanes in each direction and that is a passing lane. In areas of unlimited speed, that means you better be going very fast if you are thinking of about coasting in the passing lane.
Signs are a bit different from the US, too. There’s no mention of North, South, East or West. Signs for big cities or noted towns in the area tell German drivers which way to go. With GPS systems, this is not such a big deal anymore. There are free public restrooms but they are spread out a bit and most drivers just use the ones at gas stations more generously provided. You’ll pay to use them but they’re cleaner than the free ones and as comparable ones in the US.
Once off the highways, the back roads are just fantastic. Driving through rural Franconia is a joy and thanks again to GPS systems, the lack of signage in these areas is not the obstacle it once were. This is a good thing as not only is English often not an option but the Franconian dialect is nearly unintelligible even to other Germans. My wife had a hell of a time understanding spoken directions when I first introduced her to the region, and she’s German.
Since this is a beer oriented site, I must warn you that drinking and driving is not tolerated and should not be practiced. If you want to drive to small breweries, either have a designated driver or find a room in the village your brewery is located.
Just back from a weekend trip to visit my wife’s family in Saxony and made our customary stop at a brewpub with overnight options once again. The 2.5 hour trip was closer to 4 hours so if you have the option to avoid traveling on the day before a holiday or after, by all means do it. The roads in Germany are not adequate for all the traffic during these busy times. As more and more people drive rather than use the train, it gets progressively more crowded on the roads.
Generally speaking, we use Bavaria’s excellent public transportation whenever possible but there are some areas that are either impossible or very difficult to reach via those means. If we’re driving up to my wife’s family in the north, we’ll rent a car and make an overnight stop at such breweries. The rooms are generally great value with breakfast included and it’s quite a nice way to spend a night en route. You can have a great meal with a few beers, knowing your bed is only up a flight or two of stairs.
If you’re not into driving in Bavaria, there’s no need to. Just take the train.