Yesterday, Laura shared her account of what it’s like to drive on the autobahn. In her words, it was “absolutely glorious.”

But I am here to tell you that as a passenger, it was also terrifying. Absolutely terrifying.

After we picked up our rental car at the Munich airport, we immediately headed in the direction of the Bavarian countryside and, ultimately, Oberammergau. The first 40 minutes or so of the drive were uneventful, and most of the time we were stuck in Munich traffic.


But as we hit the open road, speeds started increasing. Laura is a fantastic driver, so much so that she’s almost always behind the wheel when we go anywhere — including in this case. And she did a great job driving the entire trip.

But as a passenger, my mind wasn’t occupied with controlling the car. So, while the scenery was passing in a lovely blur for Laura, I was looking behind us at cars that were approaching at literally 150 mph or more. Were they going to hit us, I wondered? Do brakes actually work at this speed?

Also: Would we end up in a crumple of steel like at a NASCAR race? Were we going to fly into those cows, and if so what happens when you hit a cow going 120 mph?

At these speeds it was easy to admire distant landscapes, but anything very near the road looked rather like the space outside the Enterprise when it is traveling at high warp.


We averaged well over 100 mph ourselves, and — while our car was solidly built — I also couldn’t help noticing that minor shaking cars do when they’re going really fast. In my experience driving in the U.S., that shaking tends to start when you’re going way over the speed limit, so it was seriously nerve racking when it began on the autobahn. Like, I didn’t know you could go that fast for that long without the car just kind of rattling itself to pieces.

Ultimately we got to Oberammergau alive, but not before I left a few permanent fingernail marks in the armrest.

IMG_6158And things only got scarier when we started heading back.

During the drive to Munich, it was raining and sleeting. The roads were wet and visibility was super low, especially when we were passing the many trucks on the highway.

You would think that inclement weather would slow people down, and it probably did — a little. The truth is, however, that average speeds were still over 100 mph. Imagine being inside a bullet that was fired into a hurricane and you get the idea. Or, imagine being a particle in space just after the big bang, traveling just under the speed of light and barely not converting from matter into pure energy.

That is an accurate representation of what it is like to travel the autobahn in a storm.

Which is not to say I regret going on the autobahn, or that I think U.S. highways are superior. It was certainly thrilling, and fun in a roller coaster kind of way. I also have no idea what the autobahn’s safety record is; the Germans we spoke with seemed to like the system and it appears to be working for them. Which is awesome.

For me, however, it was definitely a scary experience. It’s something to check off my to-do list, but in the future I may opt for the train instead.

— Jim Dalrymple II


Written by Jim Dalrymple II

Urbanism and travel writer. Also a journalist covering the news.


  1. Ha! When I was younger, when we would drive on the freeway in snowy weather at night, I always liked to imagine we were on the Enterprise at warp speed (unaware of the how stressed my parents probably were).

    When we were there this summer, there was quite a bit of construction on the Autobahns, so traffic would be cruising along really fast and then suddenly everyone would have to slow down to a crawl. Slowing down so quickly was the most treacherous part for us.

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