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      10-29-2017, 12:42 PM   #1

Drives: manual shift cars
Join Date: Jun 2012
Location: MD, USA

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Smile Black Sapphire Metallic M2 European Delivery: 5 countries in 10 days

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I was never into BMWs growing up; in fact, I was slightly annoyed every time the boxy E36 M3 would beat the cars I dreamed of (300ZX, Supra, RX-7) in magazine comparison tests. That all changed 20 years ago when, a few months out of college, the E46 3-series was introduced: incredibly good-looking inside and out - I wanted one badly! It wasn't until 2005, the last model year, that a new E46 330i was within reach, but at the time I had other priorities; then, in 2008, I decided against getting an E90 335i. Two strikes! One look at the new F30 and it was bimmer or bust. I waited for the M Sport to arrive in mid-2012 but was unable to do ED at the time, so I just ordered my first bimmer the old boring way (never again!). Its time with me would be unexpectedly short due to unforeseen circumstances, kicking off a very long wait! After 5 years of waiting, 2 years of M2 lusting, and 9 months of planning, it was finally time for my father and I, joined by my sister from California, to make our first visit to the land of our Bavarian ancestors, marking my first European Delivery and first M car - a Black Sapphire Metallic F87 M2!

(Insert typical warning here for long ED post with many pictures!)

DAY 1: Arrive in Munich

After traveling from Baltimore to Munich via Atlanta on an overnight flight, we were quite taken with the beauty of the perfectly quilted Bavarian landscape in various shades of green and brown, dotted with charming villages, before the plane even landed. With my M2 delivery set for 10am the next morning, we had our Sixt driver take us to our hotel. He briefly touched 200 kph on the way in his 520i. Leaving inner city touring for future trips and being, surprisingly, not very sleepy, we decided to take a walk through a local park and some neighborhoods. Early October is certainly a nice time to visit!

No cookie-cutter houses or vinyl siding here...

Nice to know you're never far from a pizza throughout your European travels...

DAY 2: Delivery Day!

Hard to believe the big day had finally arrived after years of waiting! The views inside BMW Welt are suitably impressive for your first time there.

I'd come back to the gift shop later for the safety vests and key chain, and put the discount towards an obscenely overpriced ///M t-shirt (black, of course)...

After signing just a few papers (and accepting the offer to move the delivery time up to 9:30), you have to enjoy some tasty complimentary treats in the Premium Lounge.

Of course I went to the window in the lounge to see if I could spot my car for the first time... with success! At this point, I was absurdly excited like a kid on Christmas morning.

Time to head to the media room for the 'virtual' intro to the car - I'm thinking they just want to build the anticipation!

Finally time for the real deal - heading to meet my M2...

On the way down, I spotted a pair of Mineral Grey M2s, both US models (one with moonroof and one without):

Quick stop to view the four-cylinder building on the way down:

The so-called 'stairs to bimmer heaven':

The moment arrived - first time walking up to the car, and it does not disappoint!

The moment I discovered she came with Continental tires (not Michelin).

Not much to see here with the classic inline-six hiding under the ubiquitous plastic shroud:

First time in the driver's seat - instantly comfortable!

Two miles at delivery...

Time for me and Dad to take the first lap!

Couldn't stop grinning first time driving the M2, even though it was just a little lap around the delivery center.

Going for a second lap.

After picking up my sister, took a third lap with all three of us and headed for the exit doors...

...and made an immediate right into valet parking before the 11:45am factory tour.

Looking back while going over the bridge to start the factory tour.

We'd come back to the bowl-shaped museum later in the afternoon.

After the factory tour, which of course doesn't allow pictures, we made relatively quick stops at the museum and the gift shop before having them bring the car around for departure.

I don't think I've ever been so completely comfortable driving a new car for the first time, though there was a bit of anticipation pulling into foreign traffic (which included some unfamiliar road signage) for the first time. We headed for the Romantische Strasse for my first drive in the M2, headed south to Fussen. There was some evening traffic, but as we got closer to Fussen, the views became quite spectacular.

Our first glimpse of the famous Neuschwanstein Castle.

My sister took the majority of the pictures, including this one, and though I did take dozens of the car, she took my favorite: the light of the evening sun hitting the car.

Then some stooge photo-bombed a perfectly good picture of a car with a castle in the background...

Our first glimpse of Hohenschwangau Castle:

Parked her out back at the hotel.

Tip: I recommend Hotel Waldmann in Schwangau - not only was this the consensus favorite hotel of our trip (very nice rooms at a decent price, friendly staff), you also have a stunning view of BOTH castles from the private, covered balcony if you are in Room 12!

Close-ups of the castles from the balcony:

After dinner in the nice hotel restaurant, we took a look at the castles lit at night, again from the balcony:

DAY 3: Castle Tours.

We visited Hohenschwangau first - we requested early morning tickets and got 9:40 for Hohenschwangau and 12:25 for Neuschwanstein - they automatically stagger the entry times just the right amount.

Tip: make reservations for your castle tours two days ahead of time, prior to 3pm - I figured most people would already be aware of this, but I was shocked by the massive amount of people waiting in the ticket line at the ticket office. There was only one person ahead of us in the line to pick up reserved tickets.

Of course I had to spot the M2 down in the parking lot from the terrace of Hohenschwangau.

It rained a lot on our trip, including this morning, so I waited under here!

We had plenty of time, so we took the scenic route back down after the first tour (it had stopped raining).

Tip: skip the long lines for the bus up to Neuschwanstein - the map they give you says it's a 20 minute walk up to Hohenschwangau (it's less than 10) and 40 minutes uphill to Neuschwanstein, but it only takes about half the time at a slow mosey.

The ubiquitous 'money shot' after hiking up the hill to the bridge:

So what do you see if you look over the other side of the bridge?

My father is afraid of heights and the floorboards of the bridge bounce a little, so I was surprised he stepped out onto the bridge, snapped a couple pics with his phone, and immediately scurried back off.

After the castle tours, we headed to Innsbruck, Austria for the night. The underground parking garage seems to span the entire city; found a nice end spot and tucked the M2 in for the night.

Tip: if your new bimmer has nav (and it's a US model), the RTTI (Real-Time Traffic Info) won't work in Europe but, regardless of whether your car has nav or not, I like Google Maps better anyway as it has traffic info in Europe plus it announces street names (not just "turn right"), and it very often gives slightly earlier guidance and is more chatty in general, which can be reassuring if you're driving in foreign countries for the first time.

DAY 4: Stelvio Pass

The next morning, we headed for Stelvio! As we had a few hours to drive through Austria down into Italy, we wouldn't get to Stelvio until the afternoon. After I had already booked the trip, I came across some advice to avoid Stelvio on the weekends - this was a Saturday - and/or to run it early in the morning - we arrived in early afternoon. Maybe we got lucky, but there was not a lot of traffic on the pass and it was a clear, sunny day.

We ran it from north/east to south/west, so we went up the steep side:

This was the only bus we encountered - I pulled as far to the right as I could and came to a stop, but it was still a little too close to the mirror for comfort!

I drove up without the jacket on, which turned out to be a good idea 'cause there were a few hairy moments (in a black car on a sunny day) where I was starting to sweat! Besides an oncoming bus, some of the tightest turns were so blind I had to get over halfway around before I could see whether someone was coming down in the other direction - had to back up once!

After driving from Austria to the summit of Stelvio with no stops, I was in such a hurry to locate a pit stop, I forgot to buy a t-shirt. Whoops!

As mentioned before, you're never far from a pizza on your BMW ED trip...

This is the start of the descent:

Going back down the other side is not as steep - it's a lot of fun!

Our downhill guide: I followed this little guy most of the way down - fortunately he went down at a decent clip, and his brake lights tipped me off to tight turns and oncoming traffic (the road is a bit narrow for two-way traffic). It was a blast!

We headed to Livigno for the night but, in order to get to the hotel, I had to drive through this crowd!

Seeing the M2 stopped less than half a block away, some friendly and amused Italians encouraged me to honk the horn and drive through the dense crowd of people, which turned out to be a wedding party waiting for the bride and groom to emerge - it took a lot of encouragement for me to proceed, and the poor M2 was showered with rice - twice!

After reaching the hotel and parking the M2, we walked back to the street in time to see the bride and groom emerge in an old Alfa sedan:

I spent half an hour picking rice from all over the M2, then opened the hood and trunk to reveal I was only halfway done.

Tip: the other hotel I can recommend is Bio Hotel Villa Cecilia if you ever stay in Livigno, Italy (close to Swiss border) - nice town, lovely rooms, great breakfast.

DAY 5: Drive through Switzerland

The next day, it was a short drive in Italy to the border with Switzerland, going through several tunnels like this that are open on one side.

Some very blue water:

Tip: some Italian gas stations don't take credit cards so make sure you have some Euros with you, unless you have an Italian bank card!

Halfway over this dam is the toll booth where you pay 15 Euros for the Munt la Schera one-way tunnel.

Entrance to the tunnel is right around this corner; a traffic light changes the direction every 15 minutes.

In the tunnel.

Exit/entrance on the Swiss side:

After failing to secure a Swiss toll vignette at an Italian gas station not far from the border, we parked the car when the booth on the Swiss side of the tunnel appeared to be empty.

Not only was there no one in the booth, an automated machine outside was not working. A couple other cars also parked and other people wandered around with us, also looking confused. At this point, we were 0 for 3 in securing a toll sticker - if you're going to drive through Switzerland and you don't already have a toll sticker, you may not want to enter the country on a weekend, as they apparently don't man the booths (and a fair number of gas stations) at least on Sundays! We mapped a new route that was supposed to avoid toll roads, though we eventually obtained a vignette later in the day.

Random castle in Switzerland...

Little did we know that this road would lead us up a mountain, well past the snow line, where it was raining and I watched the temperature plummet from 13 to -1 degrees C (mid-50s to 31 F)! This was another hairy moment, as we were on summer tires and the snow was right up to the edge of the road; while there was only spot where some snow was in the road, we just didn't know at the time if things were going to get any worse! Unfortunately there was no place to pull over for a picture.

Tip: you can display speed in a digital readout in kph, which is important since the speedometer in US M2s only has increments in mph and speed limits are strictly enforced in Switzerland (we were only passed three times the entire day); however, when the car's nav is on, this display is obscured by directional arrows designed to aid in navigation.

For a brief, unexpected treat, we inadvertently entered a 6th country: Liechtenstein!

We stopped in Konstanz, Germany (Lake Constance) for the night.

DAY 6: Off to Strasbourg via the Black Forest Road

We took a brief walk around Konstanz old town in the morning before departing.

Unfortunately, the tower was closed due to a Monday morning service.

Then we were off to the beautiful city of Strasbourg, France! My sister and my father took turns driving this day.

Tourist boat! No, we didn't care to go for a ride on that, but we did spend a lot of time touring the city.

Inside of the covered bridge.

A couple views from on top of the covered bridge.

Cars can actually drive on roads like this one - there's not much traffic on them, but it happens!

Obviously, there are a lot of bridges in Strasbourg - they have many different designs.

Notre Dame de Strasbourg.

DAY 7: The Nurburgring

The plan was to drive from Strasbourg to Nurburg on this day, and for my M2 to do a lap of the Ring (open for tourist laps from 5:15pm to 7pm this day) and to pick up the must-have 'money shot' photo driving around the Karussell; however, things took quite an unexpected turn my when father had to wake me shortly after 5am! He was in severe abdominal pain and, after having the front desk of our Strasbourg hotel call a doctor for a quick exam, Dad became the envy of our group by getting a ride to a hospital in a French ambulance!

As we waited to find out whether he would need emergency surgery or not, my sister and I had an opportunity to try to remember several years worth of French class, most of which we had forgotten over the past 20+ years. Abdominal scans revealed his intestines had decided to do their best imitation of a pretzel, which I quietly hoped wasn't a result of my spirited M2 driving (kidding)! In the evening, it was determined that urgent surgery was not needed, as Dad was responding to treatment which allowed him to experience what was basically a vaccuum tube shoved down his nose and the apparently not-so-delightful taste of what we referred to as "human Drano." The bad news was they wanted to keep him until Friday, which meant we would miss the drop-off appointment and our flight home!

DAY 8: Stuttgart - home of Porsche and Mercedes-Benz

The plan for this day was to drive from Nurburg to Stuttgart and to stay in Zuffenhausen within walking distance of the Porsche Museum, which we planned to visit in the afternoon. Originally, we were hoping we'd also have time for the Mercedes-Benz museum the following morning (well, at least two of us were!), but this was likely to be sacrificed to ensure adequate time for a visit to Rothenburg. Dad was doing better, and a hospital social worker informed us he could likely be released the next day, Thursday, which would allow us to make our flight. To celebrate, I went down to the hospital cafe and proudly ordered myself some lunch - in French.

My sister and I headed back to our hotel rooms for the night, and I checked on the filthy and neglected M2, only to discover another car parked so close that I couldn't fit my iPhone (the small size!) in between them.

DAY 9: Rothenburg

As mentioned, the plan for this day was to visit Rothenburg and then blast down the autobahn on the way back to Munich. I had noted the address and phone number of a BMW M service center in Stuttgart, but it was clear we were not going to make it there. At breakfast, I checked on the poor M2 again, and found her threatened by another car, this time with a driver's door within striking distance.

Despite the proximity, she appeared to be unscathed, so the two of us finally fired her up once again and made the short trip to the hospital in anticipation of getting our father out of there that afternoon. After making our escape, I drove straight from Strasbourg to Munich. It was after 11pm by the time I was washing the M2 at the airport Agip station.

Tip: you can pay an extra fee in cash to drop off your new bimmer outside of the normal hours at Loginout, such as 50 Euros for an appointment between 7am and 8:30am or between 3:30pm and 6:30pm, otherwise the after-hours fee jumps to 200 Euros.

DAY 10: Drop off the car and fly home

We would have topped 1200 miles, but we ended up with 901 after missing the last three days. The good news was Dad was doing better (the French hospital took very good care of him), we were able to make the 7:30am drop-off and our flight, and each of us made it home in one piece. Would I do it all again, all things considered? Absolutely!

What I'd do differently: stay longer! We visited 5 countries (er, 6...) in 10 days - in hindsight, I'd arrive a day earlier and leave a day later, then I'd have time to make a trip to Spa-Francorchamps after the Nurburgring (only about 90 minutes away), plus allow time to visit both car museums in Stuttgart before going to Rothenburg.

If you made it this far, thanks for reading, and keep those European Delivery posts coming!
2018 M2: BSM, Exec, 6MT (ED on 10/5/17, re-delivery on 11/30/17) My BSM M2 European Delivery Story
2013 335i M-Sport sedan: BSM, 403M wheels, walnut trim, 6MT (gone)