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Netherlands and Germany

I've recently become more optimistic that my plans for 2022 will come to fruition. We are booked on a Transatlantic cruise, Miami to Amsterdam. We arrive in Amsterdam on Friday, May 13, 2022. We will have fourteen nights on the ground, and here are the options I am considering:

  1. Amsterdam (4 nights) -- Giethoorn (2 nights) -- Cochem or area (6 nights) -- Delft (2 nights) -- fly home. This option is based on picking up a car on the way out of Amsterdam and dropping it off at airport. DH is taken with Giethoorn after seeing it on Instagram, and although I am the planner/decider, I have to throw a few things in for him.

  2. Amsterdam (5 nights, with day trip to Giethoorn) -- Cochem or area (3-4 nights) -- Rhine area (3-4) nights -- Delft (1-2 nights) home. Again, based on picking up a car on the way out of Amsterdam and dropping off at airport.

Now, recently I've begun to flirt with Berlin and wonder if we should forget the Mosel and Rhine, and just take the train from Amsterdam over to Berlin for a week, and then maybe end in Munich. I think I might get over that flirtation though.

Any thoughts or suggestions? We don't want to move around too much, especially if we choose an itinerary without a car because although we are light packers by cruise standards, we will still have more luggage than we normally would for a trip in Europe.

Posted by
1048 posts

To get a feel for a place it’s best to spend the night. Since there’s no train service to Giethoorn, you would have to take a bus (2h) or rent a car (1h 30m) so I would go with option one. Another problem with day tripping with a vehicle is you need to be able to navigate out of a big city and find a place to park in Giethoorn, that can take a lot of time. To eliminate the hassle of driving from Amsterdam, consider taking a bus to Giethoorn.
In Giethoorn you can rent a car the day you drive to Cochem (4h 15m). Berlin is spectacular, but save that for another trip since it’s further out.

Posted by
2048 posts

Since you will have extra luggage, I would rent the car. It’s a drag, literally and mentally, taking the train with extra luggage. Also, the driving distances and time aren’t too bad between your stops. We loved Amsterdam and spent 9 days there with day trips to Delft, Haarlem, Edam, and Brugges. I’m sorry we didn’t spend a night or two in any of these places. Berlin is a large city and, even though it was rebuilt based on the original city plans, it doesn’t have that ‘old world charm’ vibe that we like. Go with your first itinerary and don’t second guess yourself. We haven’t been to Cochem or the Rhine, but it is on my list.

Posted by
5163 posts
  • I haven't been to Giethoorn, can't comment.

  • If you prefer not to change base towns, 6 nights in one base town in the Mosel (Cochem) / Rhine region is possible. This 1-or-2-base decision should be guided by distances you would need cover to reach intended day-trip destinations - Cochem might work, or it might not. Depends on how far afield you wish to travel.

  • Berlin / Munich option: BOTH after some time in the Netherlands? This is a VASTLY different approach to visiting Germany than doing the Mosel/Rhine - hard to compare this with your #1 & 2 plans.

  • If you can fly home out of Germany, and you think you might be OK with seeing just one of these two major German cities... why not do one Rhine/Mosel stop of a few days plus either Berlin or Munich? Fly home from there. By train, you can get from A'dam to Koblenz (where Rhine/Mosel meet) or to the nearby Rhine town of Boppard (good base town for both rivers) in 4.5 hours with just one change of train.

  • As for plans #1 and #2, I would be tempted to see your NL destinations first, move to your Rhine/Mosel afterward, then fly out of FRA (only about 1 hour by direct train from most Rhine towns.) Seems wiser than traveling back to AMS. If you can visualize traveling by train to Berlin and Munich, it doesn't sound like you have so much luggage that a car is needed for one journey ( NL > Rhine/Mosel base town ) + one final trip to FRA airport. From your Rhine/Mosel base, with your bags at your hotel or apartment, you'll find that the Rhine/Mosel region is easy to get around by train - see area map with train routes:

https://www.vrminfo.de/fileadmin/data/pdf/2017/RLP-Ticket_streckennetz.pdf

Posted by
1607 posts

I pretty much agree with Russ for the Germany part. I stay on the Rhine ( usually Bacharach ) but Cochem is fine. I would stay wherever you can find an accommodation that best meets your needs.

I haven’t ever driven on the European mainland because trains have always been sufficient.

The Wolters World videos on Youtube have some good info. One bit of advice is to stay in Haarlem instead of Amsterdam. It’s only a 15 minute train ride away and is less expensive.

Posted by
1048 posts

Haarlem is closer to the airport than Amsterdam. Since you're arriving by boat I don't think it's necessary to stay in Haarlem. A day trip to Haarlem does make a nice day-trip though. If you do go to Haarlem visit the Corrie Ten Boom House.
Another thing to do in Amsterdam is to visit the Hilton near the central train station top floor for a drink and the view, it's priceless.

Posted by
25772 posts

Giethoorn Is indeed beautiful- I visited it and used a roll or two of actual film capturing it a number of years ago.

I would question however needing two nights there when it is so close to Amsterdam. It took me about 3 hours to get my pics, using my own car when staying in Haarlem.

Posted by
2597 posts

I love Berlin, but agree with the others to stick with the Rhine/Mosel area. I also agree with the suggestion to have one base. I explored both valleys from a Rhine base where I stayed for 7 nights in 2018.

Posted by
2169 posts

How much luggage will you have? I'm not convinced a car is the best option in this part of the world, public transport in the area is great in general and the towns and cities are not designed for cars.

Are you packing for the cruise or for the time spent on land? If you need extra luggage for the cruise you could repack once you arrive and leave a bag or two at the airport to pick up before you fly home.

Posted by
1248 posts

Thank you all for your replies. We are rethinking the car rental.

I think that for luggage, I could use my RS Rolling Carry On, plus my RS Convertible Carry On backpack. My only concern is that I can't load the backpack up too much anymore with my back issues. DH is a problem packer. A few years ago we did two weeks in Spain after a Transatlantic, and he overpacked despite my pleas to reduce. He insisted on taking TWO suits, and lots of other cruise appropriate attire. After dragging it all over Spain by train and bus, he finally admitted he overpacked. But now, its like he has no memory of that debacle. He also complained the last time we used the train around Europe that we had too many changes of locations, which I don't believe we did. I even asked him about that complaint last night, and its like he has no memory. I guess I should be glad he only remembers the good parts of the trips!

So, if we ditched the car rental idea, we can fly home from Frankfurt. I was only circling back to Amsterdam because of the car rental, and had identified Delft as a great final place to see that is convenient to the airport.

If we weren't circling back to Amsterdam, I have nights to apply elsewhere. Since Nigel thinks Giethoorn is a good day trip, maybe five nights in Amsterdam, then moving on to Germany? Our first day in Amsterdam will be productive since we will be time adjusted by the Transatlantic cruise, and we will arrive early morning so will likely be out exploring before lunch. Any suggestions on what to do with the extra nights? Add more to Amsterdam for day trips? Add location in Germany? Two nights in Frankfurt?

Thanks again for all your responses.

Posted by
2065 posts

What a great opportunity to come to The Netherlands - I live in The Hague so my comments will have some bias towards the NL. Amsterdam is a wonderful city to visit and also a great jumping-off point to see many other parts of the North and South Holland districts. Thus, five days is great and enables you to also visit Utrecht, Haarlem, Leiden, Rotterdam, and other locations easily by train.

I've visited Giethoorn a few times - primarily for weekend stays. We drive from The Hague as Giethoorn is in the middle of nowhere! (We also take our bikes. Like most parts of The Netherlands, it's a great place to ride - you can rent bikes & boats in Giethoorn). We found numerous parking lots available. On our first trip, we stayed at Hotel Brasserie De Pergola (pretty basic), another time at a B&B, and also caravanned with a large group and stayed in a house. All of the accommodations we sourced were 2 or 3-star properties. We did rent a boat on one trip - had a blast. If you can avoid staying there on a weekend, you'll have a far better experience as it tends to get crowded. We generally spend two nights - which really equates to 1.5 days on-site. Not sure I'd see this as a day-trip as we found a lot to explore in the area via bike. But I could easily understand this as an "arrive early in the day/leave late the next day" type of location and thus be a one-night stop. (not a lot there if you remain in town).

The Cochem region sounds like a great choice... we been a few times (mostly on the way to somewhere else) and we always drove, stopping to explore when we found a town we liked. I suppose the number of days you stay here would be impacted by how many locations to visit or how much exploration you want to do.

I'd agree that Berlin and Munich deserve a separate trip!

As far as returning to drop off a car, you can certainly opt-out for Frankfurt, but you'll pay drop-off fees. Perhaps trackback through The Netherlands, stopping by Maastricht for a night, then ending up in The Hague. If you're interested in US military cemeteries, you'll find the Netherlands American Cemetery six miles from Maastricht. And I love Delft and ride my bike there at least once a week and visit the markets on Saturdays - but it's just not big enough for a two-night stay.

Rather, spend your last few days in The Hague. Here you have the Binnenhof, Escher in Het Paleis, Panorama Mesdag, Madurodam, Mauritshuis Museum, Louwman Museum, The Peace Palace, the Kunstmuseum Den Haag, The Hague Forest, and a compact "Old Town" city center. And if all else fails, head to the Scheveningen Beach - a short ride from downtown via multiple trams.

From The Hague, you can drive to Kinderdijk or train to Rotterdam... and you can ride the #1 tram (or train) from downtown and be in Delft in about 20 minutes. I would suggest trying to plan to go to Delft on a Saturday morning. Each Saturday, there's an Antiekmarkt Delft (antique & flea market) alongside a farmer's market. The stalls are spread along the canals and it's a great way to spend a morning and find unique gifts!

May is also a great time to go to FloraHolland - it's just after the height of the season and they'll be busy. For a change of pace, head to the Kröller-Müller Museum, where you can get inches from the 2nd largest private Van Gogh collection in the world - and they let you take photos! Also, it's a great national park to ride bikes around.

I suppose I'd stay with your circle route... but lean more towards the NL (Again, I'm admittedly biased. You could easily spend two weeks here!). Perhaps an Amsterdam, Cochem, Maastricht, The Hague type of trip. From The Hague, the ride - by car - to the AMS airport is all 4+ lane highway and takes about 35-40 minutes. By train, it's only 29 minutes to the airport.

So much to see - so little time. Enjoy your trip!!!

Posted by
5163 posts

Any suggestions on what to do with the extra nights? Add more to
Amsterdam for day trips? Add location in Germany? Two nights in
Frankfurt?

Assuming you'd head into Germany and on to the Rhine/Mosel area by train, I would suggest a stopover in Cologne for a few hours on the way. The cathedral there is one of a kind, and there are a few other draws there as well. Cologne's main station (Köln Hbf) is positioned next to the cathedral and on the pedestrians-only zone, which makes it very easy to get around on foot from the station entrance.

Sample travel schedule:
Lv. A'dam 8:08, ar. Köln Hbf 10:54
Lv. Köln Hbf 14:56, ar. Boppard 16:44 (or some other Rhine base... St. Goar, 16:55 - or Bacharach, 17:05.)

A nice city for 1-2 nights prior to flying out of FRA is Mainz. Mainz is where the Rhine and Main Rivers meet up and just a short distance from the airport (about 20-25 minutes by direct train from Mainz Hbf to the air terminal.) Mainz is a university town and also blessed with a huge tangle of pedestrianized streets, and in addition to some good shopping, there are many things to see and do. For some inexcusable reason, it is off Rick Steves' radar.

Things to do in Mainz: https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attractions-g187393-Activities-a_allAttractions.true-Mainz_Rhineland_Palatinate.html

A good guide for exploring the town on foot: https://www.tripadvisor.com/Travel-g187393-c218446/Mainz:Germany:Walk.Mainz.In.One.Day.html

Map of Mainz showing the pedestrianized streets in pink and the location of Mainz Hbf station (DB / Hauptbahnhof)
https://www.orangesmile.com/common/img_city_maps/mainz-map-2.jpg

Posted by
1248 posts

Thank you RnR, you do a good job selling the NL part of the trip!

Russ, we had considered Mainz, as we are big fans of Jurgen Klopp and had looked into Mainz as a destination as a result of that connection.

Thanks everyone for so much to consider. I just hope we know in the next few months if this trip can actually happen.

Posted by
1607 posts

I agree with Russ (again ! ) about Cologne. The cathedral is right next to the train station. Don’t fail to visit the treasury ( fee ) as well as the main church.

My wife and I spent 3 weeks in Europe after our transatlantic and even though my wife overpacked her large suitcase ( overweight fee on flight to Miami - grrr ), we got by fine on trains and even a bus in Nice.

Posted by
1643 posts

hey hey andrea
been to amsterdam twice and loved it. no car needed in amsterdam, parking is a "BEAR" if you can find one, parking outside of city area is costly and pulling luggage to hotel/apt, bikes bikes bikes everywhere, watch out.
walk and roam, take an uber/taxi/tram when needed and if paws sore, lots to see and enjoy, restaurants/cafes to sit for a bite to eat and have a drink, people watch, plazas and canals to enjoy. here's a couple sites to checkout:
cntraveler.com/16 places to visit in netherlands
sidewalksafari.com/top places to visit amsterdam
gpsmycity.com/ self guided walking tours
we stayed put in amsterdam, private taxi tour to windmills, edam cheese factory, small fishing villages, zaanse schans (great tour and fabulous guide). took train to haarlem, history, art, architecture, had lunch and had to have poffertjes, yummy, made fresh at a stand in middle plaza (tasteatlas.com/most popular desserts in netherlands). train back to amsterdam.
i'm happy we stayed in town, first was an apartment on prinsengracht for 4 friends, second time in a houseboat. walk out and enjoy this gorgeous city, different strokes for different folks.
iamsterdam.com/food hallen
albert cuyp market. blocks and blocks of anything and everything, spent a few hours just looking, eating, cocktails, people watch, stalls, food markets, souvenirs. a fun day
RinR always offers great info and things to do and see, will message you about couple of things.
aloha

Posted by
292 posts

Ignoring your dates, you should consider an earlier trip. Kings day is April 27th. You cannot experience Amsterdam without being there for this holiday. The streets close to vehicle traffic, there is music and food everywhere. The locals dress in their best orange. It's a hoot.
Public transportation is excellent in the Netherlands. A car is not a necessity. We use the trains and busses to go everywhere. In the city there are also trolleys.
If you do opt for an earlier trip, you should consider a visit to Keukenhof. I have travelled extensively and I have seen some very interesting things. I half expected Keukenhof to be a letdown. It was not. If you are a photographer you will find yourself stopping literally every few feet to take a picture. Like visiting the Forbidden City, try to arrive as early as possible. The crowds pick up later in the day.
You might also consider Hoorn as a destination. It's a short train ride from Amsterdam and a nice place to have a few Genever's with a bit of herring or eel for a snack...with a few Belgian beers for a chaser. No offense to the Dutch, except on Kings day, their beer is best avoided when Belgian beers are an option. Visit Keukenhof in the AM and then continue North by train to Hoorn for dinner and drinks. It's a perfect day.

Posted by
356 posts

There are services that allow you to ship home some of your clothes after your cruise, which would allow you to travel light in Europe.

Posted by
2169 posts

Rethinking the car rental sounds like a good idea. If you still pack to much, sending parts of your luggage back one you arrive in the Netherlands could be worth looking into. Without a car, Frankfurt is a good airport to fly home from as it is one of the biggest airports in Europe, Lufthansa's largets hub, and has direct flights to several North American cities.

What do to inbetween is a good question, your options are not endless but can certainly feel that way. It depends a bit on what you want to see and do. You can go straight to Germany by trains, but you could also make a stop in Belgium on the way. I agree about Köln, it is worth a stop and if you like beer you should try the local Kölsch (if you enjoy beer, a stop in Belgium makes even more sense). Another town in the area that is often overlooked is Aachen.

Posted by
1248 posts

Thanks again everyone.

Mack, my dates are "set in stone", since we arrive in Amsterdam at the end of a Transatlantic cruise. No King's Day fun for me!

We had already considered Cologne, either on the way to Cochem or as a day trip. I definitely will find a way to get there.

My positivity is up, then down, almost daily, regarding if the whole thing will go, depending on the news reports. My understanding is that I'm eligible for a vaccine in a few weeks (April), of course that means nothing, really, in terms of travel freedom. I've been missing travel more lately than I have at any point over the last year.