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Berlin Marathon 2016 & post race sightseeing !!

I have secured a spot to run Berlin Marathon in 2016. The race is on September 25th. I'm planning to travel from US(New York) on 22nd night and return back to US by October 9th.It gives me about 12-13 days to sightseeing Germany. Its my first trip to Deutschland and hoping to get some trip planning advice. I would start sightseeing from 26th. Appreciate if I can get some answers on these questions.

a)Should I fly into Berlin and fly out of some other location in Germany ? Or is it a good idea to do a sightseeing loop to return back to Berlin before flying back ? As its only 2 weeks should I spend most of time in Germany or is it possible to add parts of Austria to the trip ?

b)What location / neighbourhood should I book hotel/airbnb in Berlin.I'd prefer to stay close to the race location which also has convenient access to restaurants and food stores.

c) Any reasonably priced airbnb or vacation rentals in Berlin ? I prefer a rental that has a kitchen as I prefer to cook my food (at least till the race is over) and avoid eating outside before race.

d) Suggestion on a good sightseeing itinerary for 10-12 days starting from Berlin ? I will not be driving and want to do the whole trip on trains and buses. I'm OK with a) either a loop trip that starts/ends at Berlin or b) Ends at another place where I can easily fly back to New York. I'm more interested in touring places of historical importance rather than looking at big modern buildings. I like outdoors so any hiking oppurtunities around German side of Alps is great. I'm definitely interested in spending some good time in Munich/Bavaria ( And Salzburg/Austria if possible). I have bought Rick Reeve's Germany travel guide but I'm bit overwhelmed with too many low level detail in the book at this stage. I thought I'd first finalize one or two home bases and then divulge into the details of specifics outlined in the book.

e) Is it necessary to learn bit of German or can I manage with speaking English in most places ?

f)How hard is it to manage as a Vegetarian in Germany ? I'll probably have to travel light as I will not have car to store weeks worth of food supplies.

g) I'll have to assume that I'll be reasonably tired after the race. But that said walking is a great post race recovery activity for me. I always go to a place with the assumption of returning back in future. So I prefer a trip that's relaxed than an ambitious / crammed one.

h)I'll be travelling alone. Is solo tripping safe in Germany ? Any places to avoid while travelling solo ? And any tourist traps to avoid ?

I know its too many questions but I have bit of time to plan and make the bookings. I'm fairly seasoned traveler in US but I don't have much experience travelling in Europe. I'd been to Paris and London many years ago for a short 1 week trip and didn't even get to scratch the surface of those countries ;) . Appreciate any inputs and suggestions.

Posted by
23 posts

Hello there, I applied for the Berlin lottery when the registration opened end of October. I had heard Berlin is somewhat ok to get in compared to other big city marathons like NYC or Chicago. I received confirmation that I have been accepted during first week of December. I totally agree with you on booking the accomodation ASAP. Thats probably the first thing I'd do as soon as I figure out how many days i want to spend in Berlin after the race.
Thanks for the advice on training / nutrition for the marathons. I've run about 4 marathons so far and a 50k and I still feel the need to learn pacing/eating every time. So certainly appreciate your tips from fellow runners :)
I did plan a sightseeing trip @ California earlier this year after BigSur marathon. I had a hardtime walking the day after but hiking made my recovery easier and was in much better shape after that.

Posted by
3994 posts

A friend's daughter ran the Berlin marathon 2 years ago and I'll ask her where she stayed. She has similar requirements to yours prior to running, diet and cooking i.e.

Since the race starts and finishes in the Tiergarten (massive green space) I would recommend that you look at neighborhoods south of there that are on the bus 100 route or near the Wittenberg Ubahn stop.
We usually stay in a hotel in this area, not an apartment but I'll ask the friend's daughter. I see that there is a big trade show right around the marathon dates so booking something should be done as soon as you can and be prepared for higher prices. For instance I see one hotel where we have stayed in the past for 90€ (on the marathon' webpage) going for 208€ For your race weekend.

I highly recommend that you plan your time after the marathon by train going from Berlin to the south through Munich/Salzburg and maybe ending up in Switzerland (fly back from Zurich) or Austria (fly back from Vienna).

There are a lot of good specialized walking and bicycle tours of Berlin. Can't recommend a particular one. Here is the city's tourist information site. https://www.berlin.de/en/tourism/ I'd suggest that you look for reviews online of particular tours that interest you.

Good luck and have fun!

Posted by
23 posts

Thanks Mona. Appreciate your inputs. I'm thinking of staying about 6 nights in Berlin (arriving on 23rd & leaving on 29th). Two days before the race would be mainly spent getting acclimatized to the location and the night of 25th (race day) I'll be totally beaten up to travel anywhere. I'll be left with 13 days for sightseeing from 26th morning.

Would staying 3 more nights after 25th be good enough to visit key attractions in Berlin ? I can think of travelling south towards Munich on 29th.
Are there any tourist places like Rothenburg/Numberg between Berlin and Munich where I should stop and spend a day or two ?
How many days is recommended for visiting key tourist attractions in Munich, Bavaria and Salzburg ?
Can I make Munich (or a cheaper nearby alternative) as the home base and do day trips to Bavaria & Salzburg ?
Also are there any major attractions in the west germany(Frankfurt / Cologne / Rhine) ?

Based on answers to some of these questions I can decide whether to go to
a)Vienna/Zurich
b)just fly back from Munich
c)Fly back from Frankfurt

d)Make a clockwise loop Berlin-Munich-Frankfurt-Berlin & fly back from Berlin

Posted by
16921 posts

Congratulations! Berlin is an amazing city, and you will enjoy traveling around Germany too.

I will start by saying that Munich will be staging Oktoberfest during the time you are there, up until October 3 which is the last day. This may affect your plans, in that you may want to visit during that time, or avoid it until afterwards. If you do want to go, you would go straight there from Berlin---the train journey is about 6-7 hours but I am doing that from memory, so it may not be exact. We broke up that journey with an overnight in Bamberg which is a lovely small town with nice cycling on a river path. Try a Motel One for lodging in Munich during the Fest---it seemed when we were there that they did not crank up their prices as much as other places did.

If you do this first, you could then go to Garmisch-Partenkirchen for some great hiking, visit Salzburg, see the historic WW2 and Holocaust sites in the area, and then return to Munich to fly home. ( Just one of many possible itineraries.)

Lodging in Berlin: you can use a booking site like booking.com to find likely candidates ( filter for apartments and neighborhood) and then book direct. Look for something in Mitte close as close as you can get to Brandenburg gate, or south of the Tiergarten. This place came up in the search: Apartments am Brandenburger Tor, which is about as close as you can get.

http://www.apartments-mitte.de/en_apartments-very-centre-of-berlin/

They may well be already booked, but the online booking is not working, so I can't tell. It might be worth just giving them a call. The studios appear to be reasonably priced.

I can never get air B and B website to work smoothly on my iPad! but if they have a "search by map" function that would be a good place to look as well.

Speaking German is not necessary but anything you can learn will make your visit a bit nicer. At a minimum, learn the polite words--please, thank you, hello, and goodbye. Note that there are local variations in greetings, like "Grüss Gott" in Bavaria instead of Guten Morgen or Guten Abend.

Posted by
16921 posts

I will add after re-reading your questions and the other answers that the farther you travel ( I.e., Vienna or Switzerland) the more you will spend. Vienna is a long way east so if you do go there, you may want to make it a one-way trip and fly back from there. Check flight prices and schedules before deciding. And Switzerland is one of my favorite places, but it is very expensive, especially train travel.

You can save a lot on travel within Germany by buying train tickets well in advance on the national website, bahn.de. Austria also offers some deals, but they are hard to find in Switzerland.

Posted by
23 posts

Thanks for the headsup on Oktoberfest. I would try to avoid Munich during oktoberfest and plan reaching there on or after October 3rd.
How does this loop plan look ?
Berlin-Dresden-Prague-Salzburg-Bavarian Alps-Munich-Nuremberg-Bamberg-Rothenburg-Berlin

Basically
a)Reach Berlin on Sep 23rd. Rest up and run marathon on 25th.
b)Spend 3 days in Berlin (Sep 26-28)
c)Travel east on 29th AM, spend a day at Dresden (Sep 29th) and reach Prague on 29th night.
d)Spend 2 days at Prague(Sep 30 and Oct 1st).
e)Go to Salzburg Oct 2nd morning. Spend the day at Salzburg.
f)Go to Bavaria Oct 3rd morning. Spend 2 days hiking Bavarian Alps & visiting Castles
g)Go to Munich on Oct 5th morning. Spend 2 days around Munich.
h)Start travelling north on 7th morning towards Berlin via Nuremberg-Bamberg-Rothenburg (romantic road).
i) Fly back from Berlin on Oct 10th Morning.

Just a thought.. Do you think its too ambitious ?

Posted by
16921 posts

A bit ambitious. It is a reasonable distance to cover, with excellent sights on the way, but I would not so many one-nighters. Maybe combine seeing Munich, Bavarian castles, Bavarian Alps, etc. from one base, and Bamberg, Nürnberg, and Rothenburg from another?

On the other hand, maybe as a marathoner, you do not mind being constantly on the go. I often say that I count a moving day as exercise so I don't mind changing hotels.

Posted by
9044 posts

Being a vegetarian in Germany is a lot easier than in the US. Lots of options, every restaurant will have vegetarian options and being a vegan as well as a vegetarian is very popular. If you are on FB use this page to find places to dine.
VEGANZ is a strictly vegan store, but you can get vegan items in Tegut, and most other grocery stores too.
https://www.facebook.com/groups/berlinveg/
http://www.happycow.net/

Traveling alone in Germany is extremely safe.

Join some walking tours in Berlin or in any other city you visit. Potsdam, Dresden, Erfurt, Hamburg, etc. If you can't make it down to Switzerland, visit the Erzgebirge in Sachsen. Germany has so much to see and much of it is up north, so you don't have to travel all the way to Bavaria to get stunning scenery, castles and historic churches and buildings.

Posted by
23 posts

I realized I'll not have car for the whole time and have to minimize the one nighters at hotels and dragging luggage almost every day. So I'm inclining towards making Berlin and Munich as the two home bases and do the day trips to all other destination. That would make my itinerary somewhat look like below.

Sep-22 : Fly out of NYC to Berlin (Overnight transatlantic flight)
Sep 23 : Arrive in Berlin, relax and get acclimatized( sleep in Berlin) . Sleep well to get over jet lag.
Sep 24 : Race packet pick-up, relax, Prepare for race and early dinner & bed(sleep in Berlin)
Sep 25 : Run marathon , Rest up (sleep in Berlin)
Sep 26 : Sightseeing in Berlin(Explore on my own or hop on/off tour). Easy walking as i'll still be fatigued from race. (sleep in Berlin)
Sep 27 : Sightseeing in Berlin - Explore on my own or take some walking tours (sleep in Berlin)
Sep 28 : Sightseeing in Berlin - Explore on my own or take some walking tours (sleep in Berlin)
Sep 29 : Dresden day trip from Berlin. I was considering this trip (return to Berlin)
http://www.viator.com/tours/Berlin/Dresden-Day-Trip-from-Berlin/d488-5560DRESDEN
Sep 30 : Take "Discover Potsdam walking tour", (return to Berlin)
http://www.viator.com/tours/Berlin/Discover-Potsdam-Walking-Tour/d488-3817POTSDAM
Oct 1 : Travel to Munich (Fly if possible), Sight seeing around Munich whatever works (sleep in Munich)
Oct 2 : Sightseeing Munich - explore on my own (sleep in Munich)
Oct 3 : Sightseeing Munich - explore on my own (sleep in Munich)
Oct 4 : Day trip to Nuremberg from Munich
http://www.viator.com/tours/Munich/Nuremberg-Day-Trip-from-Munich/d487-2666EMPIRES
Oct 5 : Day trip to Rothenberg and Romantic road from Munich
http://www.viator.com/tours/Munich/Romantic-Road-Rothenburg-and-Harburg-Day-Tour-from-Munich/d21519-285010
Oct 6 : Day trip to Salzburg from Munich
http://www.viator.com/tours/Munich/Salzburg-and-Lake-District-Day-Tour-from-Munich/d487-285012
Oct 7 : Day trip to Bavaria- Castles (Explore on my own or take a escorted trip to castles)
Oct 8 : Day trip to Bavarian Alps- Hiking (Are there any hiking trips recommended ?)
Oct 9 : Wrap up Munich / Bavaria- / Tirol area. Last day in Munich
Oct 10 : Fly back from Munich to NYC

Questions :
a) How does this itinerary look ? Do-able ?
b) Is there any scope to add Prague ? If yes..then Suggestions on which part I can cut above to incorporate Prague into itinerary ? If i cant do justice to Prague then I'd skip it.
c) The viator day trips listed seems to have great reviews. Anyone has pros/cons of these trips ?
d) I would like to avoid Munich till oktoberfest is over to get cheaper accomodation ? Is there any tweaks i can do for this itinerary to make it happen ?
e) I want to explore some hiking trails if possible ? Any suggestions in Bavarian alps ? (or anywhere else for that matter)

Posted by
16921 posts

I suggest traveling by train and visiting Dresden and Prague on the way, taking 3-4 days and delaying your arrival in Munich to avoid Oktoberfest.

There is fantastic hiking at Garmisch-Partenkirchen, about 1.5 hours by train from Munich. The Klamm or gorge hikes are amazing--Google Partnachklamm and Höllentallerklamm for photos. From the high end of the latter you can continue on past Osterfelderkopf to the top of a lift on the Alpspitze ( can't recall the name but I can find it) and ride down. One of my all-time favorite hikes.

Posted by
9044 posts

Viator is a re-seller of tours. Best is to go with the company itself. Insider Tours is the one selling the tour to Dresden for example.
http://www.insidertour.com/

The Romantic road is an ETS tour I believe. There are far better tour companies to use, though sometimes you don't need them at all. Pick out the towns on the Romantic Road you want to visit and then go there. Read the reviews to see if you really want to spend your money on an ETS / Viator tour.
http://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g187337-d3587687-Reviews-Romantic_Road_Coach-Frankfurt_Hesse.html

Look at all the tour companies operating out of Munich.
http://www.tripadvisor.com/Attractions-g187309-Activities-Munich_Upper_Bavaria_Bavaria.html

As to the Hop on Hop off buses, read their reviews too. Waste of money. Perhaps do something relaxing, like visit a pool or a museum.

Posted by
23 posts

@Lola, Those hiking options look mind blowing. I'm now tempted to spend both 8th and 9th Oct just hiking in those regions. May be stay in Bavaria (Fussen) area for 3 nights to have easy access to Bavarian castles and hiking trails. As much as I'm tempted for Prague, I'm skeptical thinking I might not get to spend much time. If I arrive in Munich after Oct 4th, I'll be left with just 4 days to cover Munich, Salzburg, Bavaria, Nurnberg and Rothenburg regions.I'm thinking it would be too hectic and wont be able to do justice to these locations. I need to figure out a way travel by train from Berlin to Munich by just adding one more home base to visit Dresden, Nurnberg and Rothenburg.Then Once I arrive at Munich I can focus only on Munich, Bavaria, Garmisch and Salzburg.

@Ms. Jo, Thanks for those pointers on Viator trips. I'll check out the reviews before making reservations. I'll try to find better alternatives or try to explore the regions on my own. My only worry is i'm giving one day to those side trips. If i go exploring myself I might miss out on places of importantance.