I awoke in Strasbourg to the pitter-patter of rain on my hotel room’s thick-glassed windows. Day 1’s weather in Paris had been warm and humid, so the thought of precipitation had me hoping the clime outside would be cooler. But I wondered: would this welcome pitter-patter soon become unwelcome, following our crew as we journeyed some 300 miles east to Munich, our second stop on the Orient Express tour? While not especially long for a day’s drive — the trip would include a run through the lush mountains of the Black Forest and a visit to the Zeppelin Museum on the shores of Lake Bodensee, just a 40-minute ferry ride away from Switzerland — it was far enough to where the thought of looking out the windshield past sweeping wipers for six hours had me a bit worried.
But as it turned out, the wipers got only a frantic four-hour workout, tiring our eyes and fatiguing our bodies but not our minds — ah, they would be alive and well upon our arrival in Bavaria’s hip and historic capital, relishing Deutschland’s great twisty roads and high-speed autobahns, and the amazing stories behind such transatlantic behemoths as the Hindenburg.
Twenty or so minutes after leaving Strasbourg, we entered Germany and quickly jumped on the A5 autobahn, which would take us south to Freiburg, where we’d bust east and then head into the Black Forest. I had never been to this famous, heavily wooded area, so I was looking forward to experiencing what I had been hearing for years — a serpentine drive through the twisty mountain blacktop was as majestic and alluring as the breathtaking scenery. MacKenzie seemed equally eager to get there, pushing his silver Genesis 4.6 up to an effortless triple-digit cruising speed. I promptly stomped on the throttle of my blue 375-horse Hyundai, and tucked in behind him.
As we entered the Black Forest, a natural park spanning nearly 927,000 acres between the Rhine and Necklar rivers, I was instantly reminded of the landscape in the Cascade Range of Oregon and Washington. Like the mountains and national parks of America’s Pacific Northwest, this area of Germany featured everything from daunting rock formations and deep canyons to alpine lakes and rushing rivers. And, lest I forget, some great driving roads, too.
I had yet to pilot a Genesis up and over a mountain pass, much less one in Europe, so I was pleasantly surprised at the results. While not as sporty as, say, a BMW 550i, the Genesis nonetheless proved a happy hauler along 60 to 80 mph sweepers that meandered their way through the verdant hillsides. Grip and balance were commendable. Steering was light and linear. And the power and smoothness of the Tau V-8 were impressive. The only sections in which the big Hyundai seemed somewhat unhappy were those of the tight, hairpin variety, where its size and softer turn-in translated to moderate understeer. This Korean is a luxury sedan you want to aggressively nudge rather than flat-out push.
With the Black Forest in our rearview mirrors, we headed southeast along the northern shores of Lake Bodensee, destination the Zeppelin Museum. Opened in 1996, this 43,000 square-foot Bauhaus style building — formerly the Hafenbahnhof railway station — houses artifacts, photos, and displays encompassing the giant airships of the 1930s. Most notable, the museum features a 108-foot reconstruction of a section of the infamous LZ 129 Hindenburg, the Zeppelin that went up in flames in Lakehurst, New Jersey, in 1937. Not only does this replication give an idea of what it was like to “silently float” across the Atlantic, enjoying the pleasant lounge and smoking room and the surprisingly plush sleeping quarters, but it also sheds light on the unparalleled engineering and technology of the time. For instance, the structure of the Hindenburg was built from lightweight aluminum (even the lounge’s grand piano was made from the feathery metal), the diesel engines came from esteemed automaker Maybach, and the gearboxes were sourced from ZF, which, ironically enough, sources the Genesis’s six-speed. The Hindenburg’s construction and supplier list almost reads like that of one of today’s top German automobiles.
A few crazy and cool factoids about the Hindenburg: 1) At 245 meters long (268 yards or the combined length of about three American football fields), it is the longest aircraft to ever make a transatlantic flight. 2) To minimize weight, artists painted their work directly on the Hindenburg’s interior canvas walls, thus eliminating the need for frames, nails, and wires. 3) Watchmen manned the four engine gondolas, working in four-hour shifts due to noise and heat. Better yet, they had to scale down a ladder outside the aircraft to enter and exit the gondola.
With our Zeppelin fix satisfied, we hopped back in the Hyundais and aimed for Munich, a relatively short 120-mile jaunt. I say relatively short because on the A96 autobahn, where the two Genesis sedans could occasionally clip along at a rate of 130 mph, it took us just a couple hours to make the trip. Granted, it wasn’t an exactly relaxing two hours, as inclement weather and a traffic jam taxed our focus and patience, but the Genesis proved it wasn’t a fish out of water, easily swimming along the wet tarmac with aplomb. In fact, MacKenzie had no problem hanging with a Mercedes-Benz S-Class, whose driver was most likely wondering, “What the hell is that thing?”
It’s a Hyundai retracing the trail of the Orient Express, of course.
-Photos by Brian Vance
ORIENT EXPRESS SERIES: Day 1 – Paris to Strasbourg
Source : blogs.motortrend.com/6562116/miscellaneous/on-the-trail-of-the-orient-express-day-2/index.html