Deutsche Schustrasse, Germany
This Great Road, originally written by Kieron Fennelly, was featured in issue 72 of Total 911.
You can drive from Calais to Stuttgart in a day although this involves being almost entirely on motorway – efficient (roadworks permitting) but mind-numbingly dull. Here, then, is a way to add a little spice to a long journey.
If taking the Luxembourg route (more direct and less dreary than the northern route via Aachen) the usual itinerary is Luxembourg – Saarbrücken – Mannheim before branching south towards Karlsruhe and the Stuttgart turn off.
But just after Saarbrücken, if you take the Pirmasens exit, you can chop off 60 motorway miles and replace them with half that length of challenging A road and some spectacular countryside.
An ancient settlement hidden in the mountain range between the rivers Rhine and Mosel, the small town of Pirmasens is best known as Germany’s shoe capital and is on the main road east towards larger German cities.
The route we are about to take is the Deutsche Schustrasse. The motorway deposits us on Pirmasens’ bypass but it’s worth going into town and enjoying a cake and coffee in a Konditorei; much nicer than an anonymous motorway pull off.
LATTITUDE: 49:12N/7:36E LENGTH OF DRIVE: 29 miles POINTS OF INTEREST: FOOD AND ACCOMMODATION: Wasgau Bäckerei and Konditorei (bakery and cake shop), Erlenbrunnerstrasse, Pirmasens
Reichsberg Trifels (Trifels Castle, Annweiler)
Pfälzerwald (walking, climbing)
Hotel l’Antico Ruota, Annweiler
+49 6346 9344
LENGTH OF DRIVE: 29 miles
POINTS OF INTEREST:
FOOD AND ACCOMMODATION:
Wasgau Bäckerei and Konditorei (bakery and cake shop), Erlenbrunnerstrasse, Pirmasens
On the move again, we leave Pirmasens on the Zehn, an A road with a generous width and smooth, well sight-lined curves. The views are of wooded hills and occasional castles.
As with so many German roads, the surface is refined and the absence of tyre roar is refreshing as you concentrate on the long, fast swoop down from Pirmasens into a broad valley and then the climb before the next valley.
The Schustrasse is a truck route, but overtaking opportunities are frequent and other traffic is sparse, although this is not a route to take in August when most of the continent is on holiday. Although single carriageway, the junctions are over or underpassed and progress is initially quite rapid, especially as the Zehn seems to bypass everything.
However, a reminder that this isn’t an autobahn comes after ten miles; the turn off to Hinterweidenthal is a semi-urban T-junction which slows the traffic, but it’s the only delay on this impressively architected highway.
Seven miles further on, our route goes through a series of curving half-mile tunnels under the picturesque town of Annweiler. The Germans think nothing of putting a road underground to improve traffic flow and clear towns.
After Annweiler, we descend towards the Rhine flood plains and distant peaks give way to fields as the Zehn skirts Siebeldingen on the left and Birkweiler on the right. Traffic is heavier and with the factory chimneys of Karlsruhe on the horizon, the view is less scenic, but here the Zehn forks left for the A65 north–south motorway, Karlsruhe and Stuttgart.
The Zehn is not the most spectacular or most demanding road, but it’s decent enough, it cuts off a corner and is a reminder that the Germans have not only the best-engineered cars, but also some of the best-engineered highways.
Basking in the afterglow of a road well driven, we finish the journey in a relaxed frame of mind and the prospect of tackling the Deutsche Schustrasse in the reverse direction on the trip home.