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Bruges, Belgium through Western Germany to Route, Austria - Train or Car?

From 18-23 June, we are planning to train from Bruges, Belgium, cruise the Rhine (stay in Bacharach 19 June), visit Rothenburg ob der Tauber 20-21 June, and finally stay 1 night in Route, Austria (to see Neuschwanstein, etc). We then plan to travel by train in Switzerland. Are we crazy planning to train, or should we rent a car? Or some combination?

Thanks in advance, Randy

Posted by
1183 posts

Little rushing through for my taste.

Use train from / to Germany. Rental car x-border drop-off is extremely expensive, so rent and drop in Germany.

If rental car ensure driving permission, not driving license only. Make yourself familiar with traffic signs and rules (no turn on red, keep right lane).

Posted by
22467 posts

Where will you go on from Reute (note spelling) at the end of this? Back to Germany or further into Austria?

Posted by
4713 posts

From 18-23 June, we are planning to train from Bruges, Belgium, cruise
the Rhine (stay in Bacharach 19 June), visit Rothenburg ob der Tauber
20-21 June, and finally stay 1 night in Route, Austria (to see
Neuschwanstein, etc).

There are several good ways to spend 6 nights in Germany and to get a good introduction to the country and its people. Unfortunately, this plan isn't one of them - and a car won't improve it.

Bruges is a very nice place. So is the Middle Rhine Valley. But after that, you set out on a gigantic detour in the direction of Austria, a trajectory that is NOT on the way to Switzerland. That will seriously put the vice grips on your short time in Germany. It will also increase your ground travel costs unnecessarily and provide very little exposure to the real Germany.

I understand that in his videos Rick gets all "tingly" about Rothenburg and Neuschwanstein - and oddly enough maybe even about Reutte - but take into consideration that you'll spend about 30 minutes on your tour of N'stein (which btw is not a castle but a late 19th-century private home with a fake castle exterior.) And trust me, there are MANY other fine palaces and castles to see in Germany, and many nice old-world towns similar to Rothenburg that aren't totally overrun by the tourist horde. Many who've been around Germany a bit will tell you there are better places to spend some time on the more direct route to Zurich or to Basel and the Bernese Oberland. Or... don't trust me! Just pick up ANY of the other big-name travel guidebooks to Germany and you'll find good information about the options.

I encourage you to sort through these places on/near the Rhine - Basel route for things to see and do:

Besides Bacharach and the Rhine cruise in the Middle Rhine Valley:
Marksburg Castle - in the attractive town of Braubach
Oberwesel and its town wall walk

Further south:
Heidelberg
Neckar Valley area towns - Hirschhorn --- Bad Wimpfen - and others
Speyer - sights and museums
Burg Guttenberg
Besigheim - - - Gengenbach - - - and the other half-timbered-house towns
Ludwigsburg
Mercedes Museum in Stuttgart
Black Forest open-air museum in Gutach
Black Forest Railway and towns
Freiburg

I believe all the places I've named above are accessible by train.

Posted by
8 posts

Russ - I really appreciate your response and suggestions. Our only real plans are leaving Bruges on 18 June and arriving in Venice 10 days later on 28 June.

We want to cruise the Rhine for a day, have reservations to stay 2 nights in Rothenburg, see Neuschanstein, and spend the other days and nights in Switzerland. We are somewhat flexible and can get a rental car or train.

If we rent a car, it sounds like we should (pick up and drop off) somewhere in Germany.

Sort of panicking....

Posted by
4121 posts

Randy, the car isn't that helpful in Belgium or Germany. Especially in the Rhine valley. You don't want to pay for drop off in a second country, by the way. I would use the train for the entire trip, unless you have a special project like family history or something like that. Unfortunately, it is getting late for non-changeable discount tickets. Hotels may start to book up as well. It appears that this might be your first trip to Europe? If so, look at some of our host's free travel tips, menu top left.

Do you know how expensive Switzerland is? Not trying to talk you out of it!

Edit: Can you drive a standard if they fail to provide an automatic?

Posted by
4713 posts

"Our only real plans are leaving Bruges on 18 June and arriving in Venice 10 days later on 28 June."

?? Maybe I don't understand, but it seems like you do indeed have very firm plans, since you responded to my alternative suggestions with this:

"We want to cruise the Rhine for a day, have reservations to stay 2 nights in Rothenburg, see Neuschanstein, and spend the other days and nights in Switzerland."

With no prior experience in Germany, you plan to stick with the same plan you have in your original post, the one based on Rick Steves' most highly-ranked destinations, which I'm sure seems logical to you. Based on what I know about your time frame and Germany, I've advised you differently for the Germany part.

Now I'm struggling to piece together the small pieces of your total plan that you've shared so far...It sounds like you have only 4 nights max in Germany (June 18-21) with the 22nd in Reutte. Then presumably the 23rd to the ??th in one or more unnamed towns in Switzerland. Is that right? I wonder where - and if you are truly panicked, maybe you don't yet have any idea where. And we now learn that you plan to visit Italy - specifically Venice - by June 28. Is that about right? And are you going anywhere else after Venice?

"We want to cruise the Rhine for a day"It does not take a day to have a nice Rhine cruise - only about 1.5 hours for Bingen - St. Goar, the truly scenic part (5 boats per day for this part, only 3 to Koblenz.) Sadly, my Rick Steves GAS book makes a mess with its cruise suggestions (yours probably does too.) Rick in fact tells readers to cruise the Rhine all the way from Bingen to Koblenz - a long 4-hour cruise through parts that you don't really need to cruise through; some of the boats from Bingen don't go all the way to Koblenz anyway (less demand for the less scenic part = fewer boats!) Then when you reach Koblenz, you're nowhere near the train station - you must take the bus there or a long walk across town.

So... a day-long cruise - or even a 4-hour cruise - though it's what you think you want now, probably isn't the best plan. And I'm confident in saying that the other forum members will largely back me up on this 1.5-hour cruise idea.

There's a bunch of other stuff about Germany that you (and possibly Rick) don't have under your belt yet - and why would you? You're a newbie to the country. Rick's top recommendations aren't tailored to your particular circumstances but instead tend to be informed by the demands of his tour business, his relationships with hoteliers, and his own peculiar set of cliches about Germany. Yet you must choose. If your choice is to go with the Rick-picks and do Germany in 4 days by stringing together a Rhine cruise, Rothenburg, and N'stein, so be it.

Your route: No great transport ideas - no idea where you'll be in Switzerland. You'll be zigging to Reutte, zagging back into Switzerland, then zigging back east again to Venice, as it is now.

More reasonable might be to drop Switzerland and after your first 4 nights visit the German Alps instead - Mittenwald/Garmisch (the Karwendel, the Zugspitze) Salzburg and the Berchtesgaden region for example. It would be possible to do nearly your entire trip with the very flexible GERMAN RAIL PASS if you did this. The GRP is valid in places you probably don't know about, including Brussels - Cologne on the ICE trains as well as Munich - Venice on the DB/OEBB Intercity trains. See these routes on the flyer:

https://www.bahn.com/en/view/mdb/bahnintern/international/redaktion_bahn.com/pdf-datein/pdf_2019/mdb_289891_grp-flyer_2019.pdf

The GRP means no concerns about buying advance tickets or scheduling. You can even buy it in Germany.

Posted by
4713 posts

If you will keep Switzerland... It might be possible to rent a car in Reutte (or nearby Füssen or Garmisch) and drive Switzerland for a few days - then return the car to the same place and continue from there by train to Munich and on to Venice on your German Rail pass.

Posted by
2832 posts

I really encourage the OP to listen to Russ. With a finish in Venice, making your way from the Rhine through to Rothenburg, then down to Austria makes the most sense and can also be accomplished by train, which your current plan makes really difficult/impossible and is far too rushed.

With point to point tickets getting pricey now, this would be a pretty good use of a German Rail Twin Pass which can get you all the way to Venice, too!