I’ve been around German products my whole life thanks to my German heritage. But I didn’t really know the history behind them or what part of Germany they were from. When I decided to go on a Germany road trip, I wanted to educate myself about all of these well known (and some lesser known) German products while enjoying the rolling hills and landscapes of the middle of the country.
I chose a number of German made products and put together a itinerary that would take me to the birthplaces of things like cuckoo clocks, cars, Christmas Ornaments, bratwurst and more! A Made in Germany roadtrip was born!
It’s easy to road trip to the well known places in Germany, but why not blaze a trail in Germany and go and explore something new. Be a travel leader – not a follower – and try a Thuringia bratwurst while you are at it.
Can a Road Trip Bring me Closer to my Roots?
There’s something about this Made in Germany road trip that feels cathartic. It’s stirring so many memories of my childhood and my trips to my grandparent’s homes. At times it feels like I’m getting the missing pieces to a puzzle I started 40+ years ago about my upbringing and family.
Little things jarred memories – like the brass candleholder with paper skirt found on a table at a restaurant in Triberg. We had something similar on our dinging room table in my childhood home. The strawberry preserves I had in Bad Nauheim resurrected memories of my Grandma Ott’s strawberry sauce she canned to put on ice cream; the taste was the same.
And then there was the wooden cabbage slicer hanging at the Black Forest museum which was exactly like the one my dad used in our basement when he spent the day making sauerkraut; a day I hated as it made the whole house smell.
I started to wonder if I was just imagining this German connection; was this my brain running wild with memories?
Our family heritage and how we grow up shapes us, it becomes a tightly knit piece of our DNA. And that’s what this Made in Germany road trip did for me. It made me take a look at that DNA and accept its existence in a way.
When I travel, I find the cheapest rental car rates at RentalCars.com. Check out their prices for a Germany road trip!
My Germany Road Trip Map
You can follow the Made in Germany path I took with the map below. I’ve listed the places I’ve stayed (in green) and where I stopped to (in many cases) get hands-on demonstrations of the products made in Germany (in Red).
The driving route takes you through the middle of the country – a part of Germany that is often ignored – and that’s a big mistake – because it was my favorite part of this trip.
Discovering Thuringia Germany was a highlight for me; a state that is seldom seen by international tourists, so much so that there was little English spoken there.
Made in Germany Road Trip Stops
Not only are these interesting sights to see in lesser known parts of Germany, these stops also have a number of hands-on experiences included that elevate this German road trip from good to great!
Day 1: Stuttgart Germany and the Birthplace of the Automobile
What better place to start a Germany road trip than the automotive capital of Germany? Every four people who live in Stuttgart are in automotive industry. Not only do you have a Mercedes Automobile Museum, and Porsche museum and track, but you can also tour the Mercedes plant that is the size of a small city.
I stood there on the factory floor watching robots that looked like Star Wars work the assembly line; it was astonishing. Even the forklifts ran themselves. And it gave me a whole new love and respect for engineering and tech geeks as they really are the scientists of today’s modern age.
Read about my cool Mercedes tour and all of the other Things to do in Stuttgart for the Automotive Nut
Day 2 and 3: Triburg in Germany’s Black Forest
Learn How to Make a Black Forest Cake
It was originally called farmers cake because it was made of ingredients one could easily get from the farm. Chef Josef makes 25 Black Forest Cakes a day…it’s the real deal. He uses 1.5 liters of cream for the filling in each three layer cake, but adds no sugar. He also makes his own schnapps which he referred to as ‘cherry water’.
I actually found this original German version much less sweet than what it’s morphed into in America. My Grandma Ott used to love cherries, a box of chocolate covered cherries was one of her most prized possessions. As I took a bite of the Black Forest Cake it reminded me of those chocolate candies in a slightly different form – delicious and not so rich. And it doesn’t hurt if you wash it down with extra ‘cherry water’!
Head to Landgasthof Zur Lilie in the Black Forest town of Triberg to see Chef Josef make one of his 25 daily Black Forest Cakes!
More Info: Landgasthof Zur Lilie Restaurant
Learn How Cuckoo Clocks are Made By Hand Today
I remember my childhood home’s cuckoo clock that my dad was always tinkering with. It always left me wondering why he didn’t just get a cool digital clock that was all the rage in the 80’s. My grandparent’s farmhouse also had a cuckoo clock, it was always there, in the background keeping us in sync and moving us along through the day.
I never really understood what the fascination was with cuckoo clocks until I walked into the Hubert Herr cuckoo clock factory in the Black Forest town of Triberg Germany.
The Herr family knows a lot about time, as the Herr’s have been making cuckoo clocks from the Black Forest in Germany for 5 generations. There’s something magical about cuckoo clocks, they have survived the test of time for hundreds of years and are still in demand.
Read about my experience learning about Black Forest Cuckoo Clocks
Experience The Lutheran Lifestyle and a Special Hat
Where do I start with this one? I was raised Lutheran…and Germany is the epicenter for the Lutheran religion; it was ‘made there’. I was able to visit the Open Air Museum in the Black Forest to learn a bit more about how the Lutheran families got by farming and living off the land.
Their big, traditional homes were part house, and part barn. The Lutherans worked the land and made many products as well as upheld many traditions – including the Bollenhut.
The Black Forest Bollenhut (hat) was a German Lutheran tradition. Young Lutheran girls wore these hats with dense, red, wool balls (weighing 4 lbs) after they were confirmed in the church (around 13 yrs old) to signify their availability to be married. Married women wore black versions of these hats. So you can consider the Bollenhut sort of like an online dating profile.
More Information: Black Forest Open Air Museum
Day 4: Lauscha the Birthplace of Christmas Ornaments
As I put ornaments on the tree this year at my parent’s home, my mom got out an old box that said Shiny Brite. I picked up the ancient box and on the side it read, “Made in Western Germany”. Christmas ornament’s origin are Thuringia Germany in the mid 1800’s.
During Christmas people in Thuringia hung fruit and nuts on their trees for decoration as a ‘celebration of nature’. However, in the 1800’s money was tight and it was considered pretty wasteful to hang food that you could/should be eating on your tree. They needed a substitute.
Since the village of Lauscha was the epicenter of glass making, thanks to it’s natural environment with an abundance of wood and sand (the two main ingredients for glass blowing), Hans Greiner decided to make glass versions of the fruit and nuts and hang that on the tree instead, leaving all the real food available to eat.
Lauscha is still the center for glass blowing in Germany and you can stop there to see glass in progress, and even blow your own! Learn more about my experience blowing glass and How German Christmas Ornaments Went Viral
Day 5: Gnomes in Grafenroda Thuringia
My grandma used to have little plaster garden animals in her lawn, which I never understood. I thought they were tacky – apparently they were just German.
History of the German Gnome
Thuringia used to be a clay mining area and most people worked in the mines. The first gnomes were created in 1880 as figurines of people working in mines (the hat is actually a traditional miner hat). People bought the gnomes locally for indoor decoration. Then after World War II, gardening became more necessary and the Gnomes moved outside for decoration.
The gnomes used to only grace the gardens of the wealthy or royalty, however; a terra-cotta workshop from Grafenroda Thuringia started mass producing the gnomes out of the abundance of clay from the region. Suddenly everyone could afford a garden gnome!
For the gnome fanatics out there…you gotta visit this little quirky museum and learn about the four generations of gnome making. Meet the owners, walk through the museum and see the factory!
More Information: Gnome Museum and Factory
Day 6: Holzhausen and the First German Bratwurst
Who hasn’t had a tailgate with bratwursts at some point in their life – that’s an American tradition! However the bratwurst is a true ‘made in Germany’ product, dating back to 1404.
If you want the best bratwurst in Germany, then you have to go to Thuringia to have their special version, which has different dimensions and flavors than it’s American counterparts. Experience the best of the wurst and stop at the Bratwurst museum in Holzhausen and meet Thomas – the Bratwurst king…he’s true sausage royalty.
There you can make you own bratwurst from scratch, learn about it’s history, attend a musical about bratwurst and pet live pigs. It will change your view on bratwursts.
Read all about my incredible bratwurst experience making my own bratwurst and experiencing bratwurst overload at the Germany Bratwurst Museum in Holzhausen.
Day 7: Weimar Germany and Bauhaus
We’ve all been exposed to Bauhaus design at some point in our lives. This modern, simple, sleek design still dominates our world today even though the school was founded back in 1906.
Bauhaus is known as a design style and it’s also the name of the university in Weimar Germany where it all started with Walter Gropius. The Bauhaus style later became one of the most influential currents in modern design, Modernist architecture and art, design and architectural education.
You can do a walking tour at the university and see some of the original work rooms at the university. In addition you can see other workspaces and a Bauhaus museum in Weimar.
More Info: Bauhaus University Walking Tour
Day 8: Altenburg for a Beloved Card Game
This is probably one of my strongest German memories growing up. My father taught us all how to play Sheepshead (Schafkopf), we had friends from Germany over every New Year’s Eve and played.
Skat is just a more complicated version of Sheepshead, and it is Germany’s most beloved card game. It was created in the town of Altenburg in Thuringia, and now Altenburg is the card capital of Germany! From museums to card walking trails, to card shops, and lucky card fountains – you’ll get your card fix there.
And if you stop in at Hotel am Roßplan, you may even get to join in on a hand of Skat! Read about my day of learning how to play Skat with locals from Altenburg and experiencing this unique town of cards.
Day 9: Annaberg Germany and its Delicate Lace
Lace making came to Saxony Germany through trade people who traveled to the area. Annaberg was a town that was also dominated by mining. The wife of a mine owner, Barbara Uttmann started the lace making industry and school there.
When mining started to decline the lace makers supplemented their dwindling mining income by providing lace for the fashion industry. I met experienced lace makers who showed me how they follow patterns with wooden bobbins and lightening quick hand movements.
I was able to sit down with these artists and try the basic stitch which you only need 4 bobbins. Simply managing four bobbins was a challenge for a novice like me. However the pattern my instructor was working on had 68 bobbins to maneuver and she was super fast!
Lace making classes still happen today in Annaberg, and you can see it and even get hands on at the Erzgebirgsmuseum.
More Info: Visit the Erzgebirgsmuseum
Rent a Car for This Germany Road Trip
Driving yourself may seem daunting in a foreign country, but it’s worth it when you can have the freedom to explore these out-of-the way places, craftsmen and women, and see a part of Germany that most never see.
Plus, I had one of my best rental car experiences ever in Germany!
I walk into the rental car office and the two people behind the counter are chatting away in German. The young man looks up at me and says English or German? I answered “English” and smiled. And then as if someone flipped a switch, a barrage of English came out of his mouth. My first gut reaction was awe. I’m still amazed that people can speak multiple languages because it’s something I can’t do. I’m fascinated by it; I hold it on a pedestal of curiosity, much like pregnancy and childbirth.
He took me outside to show me the rental car and look it over. Much to my surprise and shock, he got in the car with me and sat in the passenger seat. He then proceeded to go through every gadget with me even showing me the navigation system and ensuring it was all setup in English.
I’ve never had anyone sit with me and show me how to use the car or all the buttons…normally they just give you the key and say, “come back if something is wrong” and I’m left looking at the dashboard wondering what all the stuff is and how to turn on my lights. As he flashed me a smile and I pulled off the lot, I thought to myself, this is my first dose of the famed automotive German precision and quality.
Driving on the Autobahn
I normally love taking back roads, but I was in Germany, so you can bet I was going to hop on the Autobahn.
I started out pretty cautious as cars blew past me like a blur and eventually got my speed up to par.
However After 9 days of driving around central Germany, I was a pro – and you can be too. Rent a car, don’t be afraid to be a speed demon, and enjoy these sites on a German Road Trip!
When I travel, I find the cheapest rental car rates at RentalCars.com. Check out their prices for a Germany road trip!
I was a guest of Germany Tourism during this road trip, however all opinions here are my own.
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