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14 day trip for family with teen boys: what to do/where to stay for Nurburgring?

First family trip to Germany in July with 2 boys (17 and 15) who love cars, history, and castles. There is so much to see! It has been difficult to narrow it down.

We currently have planned:
- Berlin (4 nights -- days 1-5)
- Munich (2 nights -- days 5-7)
- Fussen area (3 nights -- days 7-10)
- Rothenburg (1 night -- days 10-11)
- SUGGESTIONS? (days 11-12)
- Nurburgring (stay that night in Mainz/Nurburg/other?) (day 12)
- Rhine River/Frankfurt (1 night), then fly out of Frankfurt next day (day 13-14)

We would appreciate your advice on what to do after we visit and spend the night in Rothenburg. We will have a rental car once we leave Munich.

Some possible ideas for Day 11:
OPTION 1: Drive from Rothenburg to Nurburg on the 11th day and spend the night in Nurburg area (or other town?) before driving the Ring on the 12th day? Recommendations on places to stay?
OPTION 2: Is it workable to use Mainz as our home base for the last 3 nights? (11th day: travel from Rothenburg to Mainz and visit Mainz; 12th day: get up early and drive to Nurnburg and return to Mainz that night; 13th day: explore Rhine River or Frankfurt).
OPTION 3: Other suggestions?

Suggestions for Day 13?
Should we should spend our last day in Germany on the Rhine River or in Frankfurt? We have already booked a hotel in Mainz for our last night.

Posted by
5507 posts

"2 boys (17 and 15) who love cars, history, and castles."

Besides the Nürburgring - what other "car stuff" do you have in mind? BMW Welt in Munich, maybe? Understand that if you arrive around mid-day on Day 5 in Munich and leave on the morning of Day 7, you have precious little time for Munich itself.

Castles: I am guessing that your 3 nights in the Füssen area will be spent not on cars but possibly on the high-profile palaces (Linderhof, Neuschwanstein, Hohenschwangau.) Maybe the history-buff teens already know that the first two were built in the late 19th century, after the American Civil War - and are not genuine castles (although N'stein does have a deceptive faux castle exterior.) Hohenschwangau isn't a castle either. So I'd suggest that if they/you are really interested in castles of medieval Europe that you take everyone to see the big three in the Rhine/Mosel region either in addition or instead - take tours of Burg Eltz, Marksburg, and Rheinfels. You plan to be on the Rhine anyway, so add some real time there - doing just he "Rhine River" cruise would be a shame. There's other stuff in this area as well - the Klettersteig for example - and some scenic hikes. History? Check out this terrific open-air museum in Bad Sobernheim. And lots of handsome old-world towns you can't appreciate fully from a boat. Some nice wine gardens too, and near the chairlift in Boppard some great spots for refreshments and a view. Another option would be to overnight in one of the castle-to-hostel conversions in this area - Burg Stahleck in Bacharach, or Burg Diez in Diez.

Cars and technology: on your way from Füssen (or Munich) to the Rhine, you COULD hit Stuttgart (Mercedes, Porsche) instead of BMW in Munich and instead of traveling via Rothenburg (and see old-world towns on the Rhine/Mosel instead, without so many tourists.) Another really good option is the Technik Museum in Speyer (on the way between Stuttgart and Mainz.)

In a nutshell I think you may have too much on your plate and have shortchanged Munich proper and the Rhine - and overemphasized Füssen (which along with Munich takes you very far south indeed.) The kids main car experience is going to be in the back seat of your rental, with all the driving you have planned! I might instead consider a shorter driving loop altogether. Berlin, then train or car to Rothenburg (with maybe nearby Würzburg?), Stuttgart, Speyer, Rhine Valley (Castles and Bacharach and??) + day trip from the Rhine to the Nürburgring, with Mainz at the end - that alone would be a very full trip and still probably too much ground travel.

Posted by
3 posts

Wow! We greatly appreciate your suggested changes and are adjusting our itinerary accordingly. So glad we posted on this forum!

Would you recommend Sachsenhausen (or other?) as an alternative to the Dachau Concentration Camp?

Posted by
5507 posts

Would you recommend Sachsenhausen (or other?) as an alternative to the Dachau Concentration Camp?

I saw no mention of Dachau previously. (Sounds like your original plans shortchange Munich more than I thought. Dachau would take some time - and it takes the steam right out out of one's motivation to do anything afterward.) Of course you can visit Sachsenhausen as a replacement. Whether that's a sound idea might depend on how much Nazi and Cold War and death stuff you want to heap onto your trip - many US visitors who are interested in German history overdo that part already... they go to see the wall, Checkpoint Charlie, Hitler's bunker, the Third Reich walking tour, the Documentation Centers, the Eagles Nest... and concentration camps. Of course WW II is history we Americans have already mastered - and usually the only German history we sort of understand already through our schooling and through Hollywood.

So if there's time for an outing from Berlin, what about Sanssouci Palace in Potsdam, where a different period of history is on display? Chances are good the kids have never heard a word about it. Something new. And it's one of Germany's UNESCO World Heritage sites as well - and could be a nice replacement for the Füssen area palaces. The post WW II Potsdam conference was held in Potsdam as well (Cecilienhof.)

Personally I find it hard to recommend concentration camps at all - I just don't understand them as a vacation event. Maybe they're worthwhile for Holocaust deniers, or for family members of victims. IMHO the gruesome details you pick up there don't yield a better understanding of the Holocaust or the German mentality - just a lot of nausea and horrible images that are hard to shake, and possibly some lasting and harmful stereotypes of the German people based on the "worst generation" of Germans ever. Germans today are a world apart - better to meet a few of them over some food and conversation, I think, if you are interested in the German character.

Palaces: I failed to mention the amazing Ludwigsburg Palace, not far from Stuttgart, should you be heading through that area on your way to the Rhine. If you're in Würzburg, check out the Residenz.

Posted by
3661 posts

You said this: OPTION 1: Drive from Rothenburg to Nurburg on the 11th day and spend the night in Nurburg area (or other town?) before driving the Ring on the 12th day? Recommendations on places to stay?

Do you mean renting a car to drive the Nordschleife? You cannot drive your normal rental car on the Nordschleife or the Nürburgring. The regular car rental agencies keep an eye on those facilities to make sure no one does that.

There are 2 options for renting a special car to drive that listed in the FAQs here. You can find out more about the process here.

Or do you mean riding with someone else who will drive you around either track similar to this?

As you explore the website more, you will learn about times the track(s) are open for tourist drives. You need to keep an eye on that. When we made our arrangements, the day we'd planned to go was open for tourist drives. When we got there the afternoon before, we learned that in the interim it had been booked for something special, so the only time my husband could drive it was that afternoon. Fortunately, he'd already paid for his track prepared car, so it all worked out fine.

That brings me to accomodations. We stayed right at the track. The room was great. The food was greater. But it wasn't cheap. We stayed at the Lindner Hotel. Information on it and other places to stay at the track or nearby is here.

With our free day, we drove from the track to Burg Eltz. There was plenty of parking and there are English language tours. It is my favorite castle of all the ones I've seen. It's real.

Posted by
2977 posts

Russ, as always, gives excellent advice. I agree with what he said in both posts, so I won't rehash.

Since teenagers are involved (I'm assuming US teens), I will offer a couple of ideas for Berlin that may be of interest...

In my mind, one of the US's finest moments is the Berlin Airlift, when the US (along with the Brits) supplied West Berlin by air after the Soviets closed all ground routes to the city in June 1948. If you land at Tegel, you will be at an airport that was created to support the Airlift. Tempelhof Airport, a now-decommissioned airport in the city, was the main airport in Berlin in 1948 and was also used extensively. English tours of Tempelhof are available and in my estimation, the airport is well worth a visit. There is a memorial to the Airlift and the people who lost their lives during it outside the airport; you'll see flowers on the memorial to honor them. If your sons are not familiar with the story of Gail Halvorsen, who became known as the Candy Bomber, it's a worthwhile tale for them to know before arriving in Berlin. The full 41-minute PBS documentary about Halvorsen is here and contains a good summary of the Berlin Airlift.

I don't know what your budget is, but if I had sons who were 15 and 17, I would consider hiring Robert Sommer for a few hours for a tour in Berlin (perhaps a Cold War tour?). He was the 15 yo son of a somewhat high-ranking bureaucrat in the DDR (old "East Germany") on the night the Berlin Wall fell. He went on to get a PhD in history and now gives tours in Berlin (among other things he does). During a a tour, he can tell you about growing up in the DDR, his experience the night the Wall fell, and the capitalist product he held out on trying the longest. Open-ended questions free of preconceived notions, of course, will get the best answers; "What was it like growing up in the DDR?" not "I bet it sucked growing up in the DDR"). You also might hear something a little different than the accepted "victor's history" of German reunification. Even though Robert has a PhD, he is very down-to-earth, friendly, and approachable. I much enjoyed my tour with him.

If you are a Dietrich Bonhoeffer fan, I have a recommendation for a site related to him in Berlin, too, if you are interested.

If you would like to eliminate a stop, Esslingen has Rothenburg ob der Tauber charm, but is a 15-minute train ride from the center of Stuttgart. Esslingen's manufacturing area was on the river, away from the town, so the town largely escaped WWII bombs. There are half-timbered houses galore, stunning churches, and city walls that can be walked. Sarah at Stuttgart Steps gives a very reasonably priced tour of the town that incorporates its history into what you see. Sadly, there is no nightwatchman's tour (at least to my knowledge).

Happy planning!

Posted by
3 posts

Fantastic! We greatly appreciate everyone's guidance. We have revamped our trip and are so excited.

Posted by
3595 posts

Russ made a good suggestion about Würzburg as one can easily spend a full day there. Check out St. Killian's Dom as well as the Residence. Be sure and check the chapel on the side of the Prince Bishop's Residence -- easy to miss if you don't look for it. You might even have time to go up to the Marienberg Fortress, but if time is tight you can skip it. It is impressive, but the view of it from the town is much better than the view of the town from the fortress.

If the boys are interested in WWII history, have them check out a site called thirdreichruins.com. It shows photos of many places just after the war and photos of what they are like now.