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Mad King Ludwig’s magical castle, Schloss Neuschwanstein

The Romantic Road, Germany

Navigating the Romantische Strasse or Romantic Road through Bavaria in southern Germany is a drive on many bucket lists.

Created in 1950 as a marketing tool to kick-start Germany’s post-war tourism industry, the Romantische Strasse stretches 400 kilometres from the Franconian vineyards of Würzburg – east of Frankfurt, before meandering south to the Bavarian alpine town of Füssen and the nearby fairytale castle of Neuschwanstein. It links together 28 towns including the country’s best-preserved medieval villages with picturesque half-timbered fachwerk houses, arched city gateways with guard towers, Gothic cathedrals and palaces, and attracts some two million visitors annually.

We hadn’t planned on visiting Würzburg as it was a Friday and felt there could be myriad international semi-trailers on the autobahn wheeling home for the weekend. But a detour, due to a breakdown, takes us right through the centre of this exceptionally beautiful city with its imposing castle of Marienberg, once the residence of the Prince-Bishops of Würzburg, overlooking vineyards and the River Main. We make a mental note to revisit on another occasion.

Our first destination is Rothenburg ob der Tauber – a 700-year-old village some 186 kilometres off the A3, and surely one of the prettiest villages anywhere. During World War II, around 40 per cent of the town was accidently destroyed by the Allies who had to deploy their remaining bombs somewhere; they did not realize they were blitzing this historic town. Today, it has been sympathetically restored to its original charm and attracts hordes of visitors throughout the year. Visit in winter, and you feel like you’ve stumbled upon the very heart of Christmas itself. Käthe Wohlfahrt established her first year-round Christmas specialty store here 40 years ago and now has two magnificent shops dedicated to the decorative joys and toys of the Yuletide season.

Our next stop is the walled village of Dinkelsbühl. It’s a Saturday morning and market stalls on the historic Weinmarkt, adjacent to the magnificent 1448-built Gothic St George’s church, are laden with summer fruits and frische spargel – fresh white asparagus. Outdoor restaurants are doing a roaring trade with patrons eager to absorb the first of the summer sun’s rays as we ponder how life might have been in the Middle Ages.

Brown road signs indicate the Romantische Strasse as it presses further south through copper birch and pine forests, expanses of green wheat fields, newly sprouting corn, haystacks – even the odd solar and wind farm and tiny villages with odd sounding names such as Itzlingen, Zipplingen, Wössingen and Schopfloch.

Some 80 kilometres on, we stop in 14th century Nördlingen, the only village in Germany with complete walls and battlements that can be walked all the way around. We walk some of the way and contemplate climbing the 350 steps up the 90-metre-high bell tower of the landmark late-Gothic St Georgskirche, but decide to venture on.

Travelling via Harburg with its cloistered monastery and Donauwörth on the Danube with its rainbow-coloured houses, we stop overnight in Augsburg, 34 kilometres away. Founded by the Roman Emperor Augustus in 15 BC on what was then the most important continental trade route, today it is a large city combining erstwhile prosperity with contemporary life. It has much history to discover including Romanesque and Gothic frescoes in the impressive cathedral dating back to AD 823.

As we drive further south through impossibly green farmlands, we get glimpses of the Bavarian Alps with snatches of snow-covered peaks until we reach Hohenschwangau and our final destination – mad King Ludwig’s magical castle, Schloss Neuschwanstein, the modern-day inspiration for the castle in Cinderella’s World at Disney World and for Sleeping Beauty’s castle at Disneyland.

The Romantic Road can be experienced from either direction – north or south. Just allow enough time to discover the extraordinary number of beautiful villages en route, because this could easily take up to a week.

Words Tricia Welsh
Many travellers meander from Cape Town, through Hermanus (pictured) to the spectacular Garden Route

Nurturing nature: driving South Africa’s Garden Route

The Garden Route in the Western Cape is rightfully recognised as one of the most spectacular drives in the world.

Where is it?
Africa typically provokes romantic images of endless plains teeming with wildlife. Not here – South Africa is home to diverse landscapes and in this part of the Western Cape it’s all about crashing beaches, dramatic mountains, lush forests – hence, the name. The Garden Route follows the N2 highway for 220 kilometres, from Mossel Bay to Storms River, linking a series of charming coastal towns interspersed with rich natural beauty.

What’s it like to drive on?
Comparable – better, even – than any major highway in Australia. Don’t expect limitless views of the beaches and rocky headlands though. Rather than mimicking the splintered contours of the Indian Ocean coast, it’s a surprisingly straight road for most of the way and often located inland, parallel to the splintered shoreline, with branching roads accessing hidden bays, beaches and river mouths.

Are there any highlights?
• Best base towns – Wilderness (unobtrusively nestled among the thick coastal vegetation), Knysna (idyllically located on an oyster-rich tidal lagoon) or Plettenberg Bay (a holiday resort town that is a favourite with South Africa’s rich and beautiful over the summer months). However, bushfires caused widespread damage in June 2017 and rehabilitation works in the area are ongoing.
• Look for rare Knysna lorie birds or go in search of the near-mythical elephants that are said to roam the Knysna forests.
• Cage dive among great white sharks at Mossel Bay.
• Free-fall from Bloukrans Bridge on the end of a bungee cord.
• Walk through the Garden of Eden and to the Big Tree – a 600-year-old Outeniqua yellowwood.
• Zip line 60 metres above the ground on the Tsitsikamma Canopy Tour in Storms River.

How about detours?
• Wealthy merchants built ‘feather mansions’ in Oudtshoorn on the back of a thriving ostrich feather trade at the turn of the 20th century. Combine a visit to an ostrich farm with entry to the Cango Caves just outside town.
• South Africa’s most popular multi-day hike, the Otter Trail, starts at the Storms River Mouth campground and continues for 43km to the Groot River estuary at Nature’s Valley.
• Walk to the Cape Seal Lighthouse on the Robberg Peninsula, south of Plettenberg Bay, passing fur seal colonies and crossing steep coastal sand dunes perfect for hurtling down.
• You’ve no doubt heard about the Big Five. Well, how about the Big Seven? Not only can you find elephants, lions, leopards, rhino and buffalo in Addo Elephant National Park, but also southern right whales and great white sharks.
• Serious surfers will make a beeline for Jeffreys Bay and its legendary Supertubes right-hander where Aussie world champ Mick Fanning infamously faced off against a white pointer.

Words Mark Daffey 

Mark Daffey visited South Africa courtesy of South African Airways and Oudtshoorn & De Rust Tourism.

Mercedes-Benz Magazine features the best on luxury travel around the world.
Find your perfect driving experience at Mercedes-Benz Driving Events

Take your driving to the next level

Nothing really prepares you for the sensory thrill of a Mercedes-Benz Driving Event.

On arrival, a full range of gleaming Mercedes-Benz vehicles greets participants before they take in a detailed briefing by Peter Hackett, chief driving instructor of Mercedes-Benz Driving Events. Then it’s onto the racetrack where participants’ driving skills and understanding of high-tech vehicles are put the test. Be prepared to be dazzled by these cars’ advanced safety technologies and, of course, by the sheer performance.

This is just a taster of Mercedes-Benz Driving Events – a nationwide program that is designed to improve driving knowledge and showcase the advanced technology in Mercedes-Benz and Mercedes-AMG vehicles.

The program is accessible to a wide range of drivers – from young drivers who have just received their licence, to those with many years on the road who are keen to go further with performance driving.

As you would expect, a Mercedes-Benz Driving Event is unlike any other drive day, says Peter Hackett.

“Our events are different, firstly, because you get to drive Mercedes-Benz vehicles. Then there is the level of personalisation that we provide – the sheer resources, with the cars and the instructors, is impressive. There is an individual touch and great attention to detail – we really set the benchmark,” he says.

While no two Mercedes-Benz Driving Events are exactly the same, Hackett says he does consistently receive similar feedback from participants: “The thing we most frequently hear from customers at the events is: ‘I didn't know my car could do that’. They are always amazed by the assistance technology that is in Mercedes-Benz cars. The events are an opportunity for them to realise just how safe and reliable the vehicles are. They experience an overwhelming sense of reassurance – they realise the technology is always there for you, if you need it.”

When pressing Hackett for his favourite event, he is quick to answer: “AMG Snow”. This high-performance event in New Zealand’s Queenstown is all about high-speed, high-tech driving in slick, icy conditions. “For many Australians, driving on snow is such a unique experience – we have customers who haven’t seen snow before, never mind driven on it. The AMG cars are also so impressive – it's a really sensory experience,” Hackett adds.

Mercedes-Benz Driving Events include First Gear, for new drivers; Accelerate, which has a focus on driving excellence; and the by-invitation-only Festival of AMG, among others.

Words Lucy Siebert

Find your perfect driving experience at Mercedes-Benz Driving Events.

Tasmania’s Great Eastern Drive

Tasmania is easily Australia’s prettiest state, with its east coast providing one highlight after another.

Where is it?


The stretch of highway tracing Tasmania’s east coast from Orford to St Helens is marketed as the Great Eastern Drive. All up, it’s a distance of just 176km. Ordinarily a drive of that distance could be completed in less than two hours. But in Tassie, where narrow single-lane roads constantly twist and turn, that’s not even worth contemplating.

Coastal villages


Tasmania’s greatest asset is that it is an island. The surrounding water forms a natural barrier preventing hordes of city dwellers from coming here – which helps to explain how many of the seaside hamlets along Tasmania’s east coast have sidestepped the bustle of coastal towns on the mainland. Bicheno and St Helen’s have a timeless appeal, Orford is as pretty as a postcard, and Scamander and Swansea are likely to prompt childhood memories of carefree summers by the beach.

Natural attractions


While the littoral towns certainly have abundant charms, this is a shoreline that’s tailor-made for car camping. The beaches all along here are world class and you could spend entire summers free camping at designated campgrounds adjoining some of the best beaches in the country. The highway hugs the coast between Bicheno and Scamander, where surf waves consistently roll in off the Tasman Sea. Inland you’ll find waterfalls and towering eucalyptus forests. And let’s not forget the wildlife – nightly penguin and Tasmanian devil spotting tours run out of Bicheno, Triabunna boasts its own Pelican Walk, and resident Bennett’s wallabies are likely to nuzzle up against you the moment you step outside your vehicle in the Freycinet National Park car park.

Historical reminders


Did you know that there are more Georgian buildings here than in any other state? That’s because Tasmania was the second area to be settled in Australia, behind Botany Bay. Cross any river or creek along this route and there’s a good chance you’ll find a stately mansion or colonial cottage snuggled up against the banks. The convict-built Spiky Bridge is just south of Swansea and there’s an old convict road along the Prosser River near Orford.

Culinary delights


Tasmania has become a real foodie’s paradise in recent years and you can’t go past the fresh seafood along its eastern seaboard. As the name suggests, Great Oyster Bay harvests some of the best shellfish known to man, while St Helen’s or Triabunna are deep sea fishing ports with restaurants purposely mining that catch. The stretch of road between Swansea and Bicheno is known as the East Coast Wine Route, and Orford and St Helens are home to a number of vineyards with cellar doors.

Off track


There are plenty of worthy side trips away from the Great Eastern Drive route. Triabunna is the departure point for ferries to the former penal colony of Maria Island. Further north, you can’t possibly bypass the sublimely beautiful Freycinet Peninsula, where the hike to Wineglass Bay is not to be missed. St Marys is home to quirky antique stores and galleries. And the beaches caressed by the turquoise-coloured waters inside the Bay of Fires, north of St Helens, are as good as you’ll find anywhere.

Mercedes-Benz Australia/Pacific Pty Ltd at all times promotes the responsible service and consumption of alcohol. 

Words and photography by Mark Daffey, who visited Tasmania courtesy of Spirit of Tasmania.

Six decades of the Mercedes-Benz SL Roadster

There are many ways in which a car becomes an icon. It’s not just the inspiring and timeless design, its exclusivity, its performance capability, or all of these elements combined. It’s also desire: the emotional response that both enthusiasts and naïve passers-by feel upon spotting its silhouette. It’s desire that raises status to that of legend, and the desire for a roofless SL - particularly in the lucrative US marketplace - that saw the birth of Mercedes-Benz’s SL Roadster in 1957. 

Two year earlier, Mercedes-Benz had hit the heartstrings with the infamous SL Gullwing, a vehicle originally produced for racing, and kept exclusive with a short production run and an even shorter list of people who could afford it.  

A moment in history

When production of the Gullwing ended, calls for a more user-friendly and luxurious model - and from America, an open-air automotive alternative – saw Mercedes-Benz answer with the SL Roadster.  

It debuted at the Geneva Motor Show in March 1957; its gaping gills, shark-fin bumpers and slippery soft-top silhouette cementing its status as an instant classic, and one of the most exclusive cars of its era. 

“The SL Gullwing is still the pinnacle of collectable Mercs and commands a higher price, but the Roadster is one of the prettiest sports cars ever produced,” affirms 300SL Roadster owner and Mercedes-Benz collector Ray Eastwood. 

“These cars were so expensive at the time, it was almost the exclusive territory of film stars and the who’s-who around the world who can afford them. Presidents and kings, names like Hugh Hefner, Sophia Loren, Paul Newman, Yul Brynner, Tony Curtis, Clarke Gable … the list goes on. And they are still one of the most sought-after collectables in the world today.” 

SL Roadsters in Australia

Eastwood, a retired Mercedes-Benz dealer principal from Adelaide, South Australia, has owned two examples in his lifetime; his current vehicle is fully restored to its original condition, and “a pleasure to drive”.  

“A lot of people will tell you it’s a nicer car to drive than the Gullwing, which was produced from 1955–57 (and preceded) the production of the Roadster,” he explains. 

“Mercedes-Benz made some big improvements to the car: the Gullwing was based on a race car, but the Roadster was a production car, so it was more comfortable, had a different rear axle, getting in and out was easier, and although all Roadsters had racing cams fitted (for) a little more horsepower, the engine was less fussy.” 

It formed the blueprint for future generations of Mercedes-Benz Roadsters; a car with sporting prowess that was also comfortable and luxurious, finding that tricky balance between performance and practicality. And it is a tradition carried forward 60 years to this day. 

Words Samantha Stevens 

Explore the Sunshine Coast Hinterland, bite by bite

Most visitors to Queensland’s Sunshine Coast go for the sun, surf and sand. And admittedly the three are in abundance along this 55km stretch from Caloundra, about an hour by car north of Brisbane, to Noosa – about another hour’s drive further north along the coastal Sunshine Motorway.

But those who venture inland are in for a scenic and gourmet treat, plus a refreshing change of pace. The route via Landsborough to Maleny, on a spur of the Great Dividing Range, then along the Blackall Range towns of Montville, Flaxton to Mapleton and back to the coast via Bli Bli makes the perfect day trip from most places along the coast.

Something for everyone 


At Landsborough, buy top rye and wholegrain bread at Buck’s Bakery before wending your way up the range. Stop for uninterrupted views of the majestic Glass House Mountains at Mary Caircross Park or from McCarthy’s Lookout. Consider Devonshire Tea in the gazebo at the spectacular Maleny Botanic Gardens with a similar Glasshouse Mountains view. Once a private garden, these now spread over four hectares with six kilometres of walking paths that meander through roses, azaleas and more, adjacent to a virgin rainforest.

The verdant rolling hills surrounding Maleny are dotted with grazing milking cows, producing some of the best cheese in the state. You can take a tour of the Maleny Cheese factory, then savour the great triple brie and le blochon cheese, and perhaps share a fondue in the café. A short distance away, you can also take a Maleny Dairies Farm Tour with the opportunity to sample fresh milk and natural yoghurts in a way that explains, particularly to children, that the origin of these nutritious products is not a supermarket.

You’ll want to stop a while to discover this vibrant rural township with its gentle country lifestyle and idyllic climate. Ready for a caffeine hit? Then head for Shotgun with its chic black and white awning, where local barista Kelly makes arguably the best coffee on the range. Nearby, is the charming atmospheric Rosetta Books, one of three great bookshops in town.

Sweet-tooths will love the divine award-winning hazelnut roche or decadent passionfruit cheesecake ice cream among the selection of ice creams, gelati and sorbets at Colin James Fine Foods. Cheese-lovers will be right at home in the walk-in Fromagerie with excellent imported and local cheese including Kenilworth flavoured cheese – sweet chilli and coriander, roast garlic and cracked pepper or pickled onions and chives.

Organic delights 


Locals love the range of organic produce from honey to avocadoes at the Maple Street Co-op, as well as the artisan bread from Woombye and Conondale. Conondale is also where Richard Mohan grows the small traditional Spanish padrón peppers – absolutely delicious when lightly pan-fried and sprinkled with rock salt. He ships all over Australia, but look locally for them in the Noosa market on Sundays and the West End market in Brisbane on Saturdays.

Commune with nature in a falls pavilion at Spicers Tamarind Retreat, sip a Spicers Sunset cocktail and dine in the intimate on-site restaurant, The Tamarind, on exemplary modern Asian cuisine. Or checkout The Long Apron, arguably the region’s top restaurant at sister property, Spicers Clovelly Estate, which offers boutique accommodation in a beautiful provincial-style building.

Continuing along the ridgetop road, enjoy grandstand views across fertile farmlands to the white sandy coastline beyond. Picturesque Montville has become very touristy but is worth a wander for the first-time visitor with its giftshops, cafes, artisan workshops and nurseries.

In Flaxton, sample indulgent artisan chocolate made by Sebastian Clerc, who believes he is the youngest chocolatier in Australia. He uses local produce for fillings such as pineapple, ginger, lavender, honey and shiraz from the winery next door. His chocolate shop, Cocorico, is housed within his chef parents’ Le Relais Bressan Café and Deli complex, alongside their fully-fledged French restaurant.

You will need to pre-book a table for lunch on the verandah at the Mapleton Tavern – a classic old country pub serving hearty meals with one of the best views over undulating farmlands through to the coast. But it’s the perfect way to relax and enjoy the peaceful surroundings in bucolic bliss.

Mercedes-Benz Australia/Pacific Pty Ltd at all times promotes the responsible service and consumption of alcohol. 

Words Tricia Welsh