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Topless in the Alps


The Neuturmstrasse in central Munich is a peaceful little street where often the loudest sound is the clicking of corporate heels over cobblestones. So when the raucous roar of a thoroughbred V8 shatters the peace, heads are bound to pop out of windows.

I was on a business trip in Germany with a three-day weekend in between meetings. The weather was fabulous and since the Alps are just a short distance from Munich, a road trip seemed the best way to spend the weekend. With Germany's unrestricted autobahns and Austria's twisty Alpine roads, I wanted a car that would make this weekend special. That's how I came to be waiting at the Neuturmstrasse for a gleaming red Ferrari California. The leggy blonde who delivered the car did a quick orientation of the dials and knobs in the cockpit and handed over hotel vouchers. Next, she handed over the second most important component - a GPS loaded with the route. It is important to understand that the main purpose of this weekend was not to sightsee or breathe in the bracing alpine air. On the contrary, the intention was to spend as much time with the car as possible, ears ringing with its exhaust howl and nostrils filled with the scent of burnt gasoline and rubber. So the route loaded on the GPS would take us over the best roads in the region - the fast straights and the thrilling bends - where I could give the Ferrari loose reign.

Formalities done (and a credit card security deposit put down), I headed south towards the Austrian border and Alpine roads. The quickest way there was on autobahn 96. Speeds are limited almost everywhere in Europe but many German autobahns are still unrestricted and it is on the A96 that the Ferrari's 453 horses showed me their prowess by doing 250 kmph quite effortlessly.

I drove through the village of Hohenschwangau, above which the Neuschwanstein castle is perched. Built by mad king Ludwig II of Bavaria in beautiful Romanesque Revival style, this extravagant castle is what inspired Sleeping Beauty's castle at Disneyland, California. The next time you see a Disney film, notice the logo - it is derived from Neuschwanstein.

The first night halt was about 90 km from Neuschwanstein in a little Austrian village called Buchen, near the charming market town of Telfs in Tirol. That night at the hotel, I dined on five courses served on fine china and looking out at the snow-capped Alps.

The next morning after a breakfast of made-to-order omelettes delicately flavoured with freshly dug up truffles and designer cheeses, I fired up the Ferrari with a roar that must have rudely woken up all of Buchen. The Ferrari went topless in a graceful 14-second mechanical ballet and I headed towards the Alps. The rental company's meticulous research of roads to unleash a supercar was spot on. The GPS directed me towards roads that had very little traffic, with delicious corners and unblemished Alpine views. I could almost feel this mid-engined Ferrari reflect my glee at being driven hard, sliding around corners with the engine happily nudging the red line. The exhaust was a loud growl of glee that retorted with a gunshot-like bang every time I shifted into the next gear. And then there were the corners - hairpins, chicanes and 's' bends that were either tight, lazy or challenging and it is around these corners I realised what it is about corners and a big-capacity rearwheel-drive sports car that together deliver such a heady adrenaline rush.

The route also took me past small and charming little Austrian villages called G?tzens and Mutters where school children waved with enthusiasm and men whistled in appreciation.

After about 250 fun-filled kilometres at the wheel, I stopped at Kitzbuhel for the night. The next day I pointed the nose of the Ferrari towards Munich going flat out past three stunning lakes - Achensee, Sylvenstiensee and Walchensee. The last is one of the deepest Alpine Lakes in Germany with a maximum depth of 631 feet. And within its depths lie the wrecks of a German Messerschmitt Bf 109 and a British Avro Lancaster bomber from World War II.
Back in Munich, I reluctantly handed over the shiny red key and walked away from the Ferrari. It had been a tempestuous weekend fling!

This self drive holiday was one of the itineraries offered by Elite Rent-a-car. Their reps in India are Travel & Beyond Mehta is a travel writer and author of 'Hot Tea Across India'

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