I've recently returned from eight glorious vacation days in Munich, batteries recharged and with plenty of weisswurst (literally now) under my belt.
The first question most of my friends asked was, "Did you drive on the Autobahn?" When pressed, I discovered that most of them thought it was a single stretch of road, speed-limit-free, as if you'd stretched a Formula 1 track out straight and let everyone have at it. Which it isn't. (And the answer to the question is no, I didn't. I have on other trips, but this time it was entirely shoe leather and a couple of subway rides, which I find far more relaxing. It also allowed me to enjoy the nectar pictured here more often.)
Here's how it works. It isn't "The" Autobahn, as if it's a single road - the name translates to "motorway" and refers to Germany's national highway system. Saying you drove in Germany on the Autobahn is the equivalent of saying you drove in the U.S. on the Interstate.
It also isn't entirely free of speed limits. The overall recommendation is 130 km/h, and when you get close to towns there are strict limits, which can go as low as 60 km/h if there's construction or very foul weather. Trucks, buses and cars pulling trailers are limited to 80 km/h. Only when you see specific signs are you in an area where you can travel to your heart's content, and even then, there are relatively few cars that whizz past you at 200+, mostly German and Italian sports cars. Which they do on the left, because Germans are smart enough to obey the drive right/pass left rule (and they can get hit with a hefty fine for passing on the right).
The roadway is in impeccable shape, the cars are well-maintained and the drivers are trained, and it can be a real joy to take a high-performance car along the no-limit stretches to see what it will do. But that's next time. This time around, walking speed was more than enough for me.