Have you ever thought of doing a small town tramp show? While in Europe I like to get a eurail pass and stop where ever catches my eye. I stay in small guest houses and the food and company is much better than large towns. You can always find someone willing to give you a history lesson. My favorite large town is Bamberg. We were very careful not to bomb the central city because of it historical significance. A relative designed the courthouse in the river. Dinklesbuhl is awesome. Kitzingin is fun Heidelberg is cool. Boat tour is amazing the areas around these towns are nice.
My favorite small towns: Freiburg, Passau, Beilstein. Each of them different but in something similar.
My favorite small towns are Büdingen, Idstein, Eppstein, Seligenstadt, Bad Soden, Kronberg, and any of the towns on the Half-Timbered Route.
There is a train route that goes along the Bergstrasse through the state of Hessen. All along that route are great little places like Zwingenberg, Heidelberg, Bensheim, Heppenheim, Weinheim...small places that are very real and German - although Heidelberg is a little touristy I guess. We love those places!
Small preserved towns exist almost everywhere in Germany, not just along the Romantic Road, in Bavaria and on the Rhine. Here are some random towns of Central and Northern Germany that will probably never appear in Rick Steves books in pictures:
Tangermünde, Duderstadt, Rudolstadt, Mühlhausen, Lüneburg, Wolfenbüttel, Hann. Münden, Bautzen, Freudenberg, Oschatz, Bernburg, Großschönau (actually a village)
If you really want to see Germany you have to visit these small towns, since almost all big cities were destroyed in WW2.
Anita beat me to Heppenheim... I can see it's castle from my village. When I receive visitors from the US, most of them have Rothenburg odT high on their list. Rather than the 2+ hour drive to Franconia's most famous souvenir stand, I drive them 10 minutes over to Heppenheim. One look at the Markt usually cures them of the Rothenburg bug. If they're not convinced yet that attractive, well-preserved towns are everywhere in Germany, I drive 15 minutes south to Weinheim, with it's two castles. Rothenburg usually doesn't come up again for awhile.
My favourite small towns are Lüneburg, Minden, Bonn, Weimar, Potsdam, Meißen
So how about a Rick Steves Village Germany tour. In case you're reading Rick I'm sure their are plenty
of tourists who would love a tour similar to the Village Italy tour which we loved so much.
Just my opinion, but i consider german small towns to be very boring. So if you worry about a cheap price, I would suggest travelling to one of the bigger cities in eastern Germany. Because of former GdR, prices in Germanys Eastern part are still much below german average. Especially Leipzig and Dresden are worth a trip.
Just my opinion, but ...
--in what universe is $265 (195,60€), minimum, for a room for two, with breakfast, cheap?!
--I took one look at the picture of the hotel and knew I never wanted to stay at such a big, impersonal place. Give me a mom & pop Gasthaus any day.
--There is nothing I find more boring than art museums (or big, gaudy churches). You find those more in big cities than in small towns.
I don't look for small towns, but the things I enjoy most are natural sites, mountains, rivers, lakes, walled towns, castles, historic sites. These are what I look for, and it seems I usually find them (particularly mountains and lakes) outside big cities.
A year and a half ago, I spent four nights in a small town, Bad Schandau, about an hour up the Elbe from Dresden, in a clean, comfortable private room in a home across the street from the river. The entire top floor was remodeled to make three double rooms with attached baths. The room cost $37 (27€) per night for one with breakfast. My hosts were friendly, but not intrusive, and helpful. The husband drove me to the station the last morning. Bad Schandau is in the middle of the Sächsische Schweiz Nat. Park, with interesting rock formations and an impenetrable fortress, Königstein, on top of a "mesa". One of the three days I was there, I took the S-Bahn into Dresden. The streetcars were neat and it was interesting to see the rebuilt Frauenkirche, which survived the fire bombing at the end of WWII, only to collapse the next day, but I had no interest in the touristy things like the Opera House or the Treasury. The best part of that day was leaving.
In answer to the original post, I looked back at my travels, and I see that I've spent 91 days, or 60% of the 5 months I've spent in Europe (mostly Germany) since 2000, in towns with less than 10,000 inhabitants, compared to 12 nights, or 8% in towns over 100,000 inhabitants. Most noteworthy were 35 nights in a town of 3000 in the Allgäu, 23 nights in the northern black forest, and 7 nights in Berchtesgaden. Thirteen percent of my time has been spent in small towns in and around German Nat. Parks.
Lee... totally agree with your thoughts about the 'reasonable' room in Dresden... way off my radar. It is also the smaller towns and villages that I love. If I had only visited large cities in Germany I would probably not have returned. I stayed a few days in Bad Groenenbach and went to a parade and a horse show in another town very close to there. It was wonderful. Stayed in a little B&B a few miles out of town and visited a blacksmith shop.... ate the white asparagus in a small local restaurant and we were definitely the only Americans there... that experience was delightful. That is what my 'real Germany' is all about.... I guess it may be a romantic look back at the country that is part of my heritage, but I think you really miss out when only the big cities are on your agenda. Also love Bodensee...one of the most beautiful places on earth is the Lake of Constance.
I was in Germany a couple of years ago and spent a couple of days( 2 days, 3 nights) in Garmisch. Yes, there's the touristy Linderhoff Palace and Neuschwanstein Castle, which we did, but that area is in the Bavarian Alps, so that area is stunningly beautiful. In the early spring, April/May, which was the time frame we were there, the wild flowers are in bloom so a walk along a mountain path would be a must. Because of the time of year, not much was open in the evening, so our evenings were spent mainly at our hotel, but we did get out one night and found a found a great local restaurant that had some traditional dancing that we ate at. Our home base for this trip was in Mainz, west of Frankfurt, about 2 weeks, so when we weren't out cruising the country side sightseeing, we spent it walking around Mainz exploring. We stumbled on the Gutenberg museum, explored the cathedral and even walked through an old section of Mainz. The old Electoral Palace is now a museum of artifacts from that area's history. Not sure if those qualify as kind of the small towns you're looking for, but I'd look into seeing those two places. Oh, thought of another town: Cochem along the Moselle River. Another great little town.
Hope that helps.
Most Germans live in large metropolitan areas. So, if you want real Germany...
I like modest sized towns myself. Aschaffenburg, Landshut, Bad Hersfeld and Goslar are a few of our favorites that have not been mentioned. I like large cities as well but they are harder to get a sense of. It takes time to feel at home in Stuttgart for example.
I have lived in a couple nice villages: Queidersbach and Markt Roßtal. It is a bit idyllic until you want a couple restaurants for regular dining. Both villages were great for Sunday walks as long as you had a car to escape for Sunday dinner.
"but we did get out one night and found a found a great local restaurant that had some traditional dancing that we ate at." Was that Gasthof Fraundorfer? That's a great little hotel and restaurant, by I wouldn't call it a "local restaurant", unless you mean "local" as in "within the vicinity of".
... speaking of this general topic, here's a question for the group. I sometimes read on this and other forums that people want to visit a "typical gingerbread village" in Germany. I never know exactly what they mean by "gingerbread", and since certain styles of vernacular architecture have pronounced regional associations, it's hard to make a recommendation. Does "gingerbread" mean Fachwerk, which would be more typical of central Germany? Chalets with brightly painted murals, which you generally only find in the Alps and alpine hinterland of Bavaria and Austria? The brightly painted Baroque style that's found in Austria, some regions of Bavaria, and parts of Bavaria's former Rhineland territories? This style, (whatever it's called) that's indigenous to the north of the country? Or is it perhaps something more of a fairytale-influenced idea and less of a specific style?
" Was that Gasthof Fraundorfer? That's a great little hotel and restaurant, by I wouldn't call it a "local restaurant", unless you mean "local" as in "within the vicinity of".
Unfortunately I don't remember the name, but after looking at the site it does look like it. We went because my my brother knew of the place.
I have found so many interesting small towns in Germany over the past decade that it is hard to choose. But here are a few of my favorites:
Iphofen, Quedlingburg, Wernigerode, Alsfeld, Hannoversh Muenden, Bad Wimpen, Bernkastel-Kues, Staufen, Gengenbach, Ueberlingen on Bodensee and Tuebingen
I hope to discover many more before my travelling days are through!
Yes, quite right. It's hard to choose favourites among small towns. Of those you listed I've only been to Tübingen, stayed there a couple of nights, a very relaxing university town and nice place. I'll keep in mind Hannover Münden, which I have passed through by train a few times; Wernigerode is already on my list, specifically its Schloß.