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first time in Germany

My husband and I are planning on going to Germany for two weeks next year -- and that's as far as we've gotten. Obviously, we want to see as much as we can, including major cities and the Black Forest, and we think two weeks is a decent length of time in which to do this. I wouldn't say we're necessarily "seasoned" travelers, but we have done Italy three times for two weeks each time, and country-hopped around Europe for two weeks last year, so we know how to pack, how to navigate any and all transit systems, and how to prepare ourselves for any communication issues. My questions are these: 1) what time of year would be ideal for us to go to Germany? We've been overseas in May and September, and although we'd (of course) like to go for Oktoberfest, I also know it'll be much more expensive to find rooms and we're mostly going to see architecture, churches, beautiful forestry, etc. And pubs, yeah. We'll probably just use carry-ons again, so ideally we want to go during a time of year that isn't too cold (lighter/smaller clothes) but don't want to be miserable. 2) In your opinions, what order should we tour the country? I'm partial to top-to-bottom, but I really haven't looked into the geography all that much just yet. Munich, Berlin and Hamburg are the biggies for us, but we want to see some countryside this time. We missed out on doing that in Ireland and England last year, and aren't going to let this one get past us.

I appreciate any tips! I love traveling, and I am SO excited to add Germany to our list of amazing places visited. Thank you all!

Posted by
2526 posts

There's a load of great information on this website. Also, buy a copy (paperback or Kindle) or through your friendly public library and read his guide book on Germany.

Posted by
5552 posts

"...we're mostly going to see architecture, churches, beautiful forestry, etc."

There are some nice buildings and churches in Berlin, Hamburg and Munich but keep in mind you are not going to Italy, which unlike Germany was not turned to rubble in WW II. I would suggest to you that most of Germany's architectural delights can be found in the less prominent places that were spared 70+ years ago.

A few examples:
Burg Eltz, not far from Cochem on the Mosel River
Marksburg in the Rhine town of Braubach
Marktbreit on the Main River
Iphofen near Wuerzburg
Hannoversch Muenden, not far from Kassel

You may be interested in visiting some places on the German Half-Timbered House Road. It's a road but many of the towns are accessible by railroad as well if that's how you choose to travel. So are the towns I cited above.

September is best IME. The much smaller WINE festivals in the Rhine villages take place every weekend in September. Here's a fest in Oberwesel.

Posted by
6615 posts

May and September are both good times to travel to Germany (and just about anywhere in Europe). I prefer September. If you want to visit Oktoberfest, recognize that it is a festival local to the Munich area, and not everywhere in Germany (as some assume), so you do have to plan ahead for logistics there. There may be local wine festivals earlier in September in the Rhine and Black Forest areas worth a look. From the US, Frankfurt has good flight options, so for a first timer, I'd suggest flying into Frankfurt, going to the Rhine Valley, over to Bavaria and Munich, then ending in Berlin or wherever. More specifics would depend on your reading up and identifying what appeals to you. But please don't try and squeeze too much in, especially big cities. Two weeks is not a lot of time.

I know it is more than just Germany, but you might take a peek at the RS Germany-Austria-Switzerland (GAS) tour and see what that itinerary looks like for Germany. Rumor is there may be an all-Germany tour next year - we should know in a couple weeks. Some people hate the idea of organized tours, but it can be worth it to not have to do it all yourself.

Posted by
58 posts

Thank you, Russ and Stan! VERY helpful tips. I did purchase the RS guide, as well as a Lonely Planet one, so we are busily marking pages and highlighting passages. Initially, we wanted to do Germany, Denmark and Sweden, but decided there is enough to see in Germany that we want to use all of our time just for it. I know the countryside isn't comparable to Italy as far as preserved architecture, but I am sure we won't be disappointed. I will look into the places you recommended, Russ, thank you! In fact, some were already bookmarked in my LP book. :-)

Posted by
179 posts

As Russ even recommended a small (but fine) location as Hannoversch Münden, I recommend https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quedlinburg, which, from U.S. view, is just nearby. Another plus of Quedlinburg is the lovely Selketal in the Harz Mountains a few kilometres away which you can explore by riding a steam railway. And do at least a little bit of hiking there, of course.

Posted by
130 posts

Russ, do you know when Bacharach, Beilstein and Cochem will be having their wine festivals?

Posted by
12875 posts

Hi,

If you want to see cultural sights in Germany that survived the war intact, I would suggest these places, Celle, Lüneburg, Heidelberg, Flensburg, Halle, Meissen. With the exception of Heidelberg, these towns are in north and eastern Germany. If you're visiting Hamburg, Lüneburg is ca 40 mins away.

Best time to be in Germany: depends, it's a trade-off. Weather wise I would say Sept but then several cities hold trade fairs (Messestädte) , which as a result the hotel rates are much higher. August is usually the month that the hotel rates in Germany are at their lowest.

Posted by
8100 posts

There are tons of towns that survived the war! They are all over Germany. Just a few of them would be Esslingen, Tübingen, Limburg, Michelstadt, Marburg, Idstein, Gelnhausen, Büdingen, Seligenstadt, Erfurt, and yes, even a neighborhood in Frankfurt: Höchst.

Rothenburg isn't one of them though, much as people like to think that it is all authentically original and old.

Posted by
12875 posts

@ Danielle...I forgot to add as a town that survived the war...Sigmaringen an der Donau. The town I saw in 2009 was not same that I saw for the first time in 1971, obviously, with the growth and expansion during these years.

Posted by
5552 posts

"Russ, do you know when Bacharach, Beilstein and Cochem will be having their wine festivals?"

Cochem's Mosel-Wine-Week will be June 14-18 in 2017. Beilstein has a festival? I don't know about that. Bacharach-Steeg has a fest on the next-to-last weekend in June. So for your purposes I think the better question is whether you can schedule your trip so that you can take part in a wine fest SOMEWHERE either in May or in September.

In September, Ediger-Eller (a short train ride from Cochem) normally has a street-wine-fest on the 2nd weekend every year; on the weekend before that and the weekend after, Ellenz-Poltersdorf (near Beilstein) has festivals.

On the Rhine wine fests are ubiquitous. Normally, 1st weekend fest is in Unkel, 2nd weekend in Oberwesel and Linz, 3rd weekend in Erpel, St. Goar, St. Goarshausen and Oberwesel, 4th weekend in Boppard (and on the following weekend as well - and also in Braubach on that same following weekend..)

I would be sure to include a Saturday night in my stay so that you can be at one of the fests on the biggest day (often fireworks, music, and/or parade.)

I have not attended all these fests myself so I can't really advise you on which one to target.

Where to stay... if you are interested in staying in Cochem, Bacharach or Beilstein, you won't have a problem getting to a festival (with the exception of Beilstein perhaps if you plan to use the trains - the best way to see Germany IME. Beilstein and Ellenz-P'dorf are served by buses.) Cochem is lovely AND a major transportation hub.

On the Rhine it's quite easy to stay in any of the west-bank towns - Oberwesel, St. Goar, Boppard, Bacharach, Bingen - and still get to the festival towns by train. St. Goar, besides enjoying the best scenic location on the Rhine IMO, has a ferry crossing which lets you get to Braubach (Marksburg Castle) and Ruedesheim easily by train. It would be my first consideration. I wouldn't limit myself to Bacharach, which IMO has certain limitations. It would even be possible to stay in Cochem on the Mosel and take in a Rhine festival in Boppard... it's not so very far away.

Unkel and Linz are north of Koblenz and would require a longer train trip if you're staying in the west bank towns, as most do.

Posted by
16721 posts

Click on the Moselland tourism link I gave you, then click on the "Wine Festivals" picture (with the 3 cute Weinkoeniginnen) and you'll get an event planner. Name your dates and they will show what is going on where in the Mosel Valley.

Posted by
13 posts

Danielle we just went to Germany for our first time in May for 15 days and had a fantastic time. We flew into Frankfurt, rented a car and stayed in Rothenburg(sunny and clear high 60's to low 70's for a 4 days while doing day trips, next stop was Neschwanstein castle for 5 days drove thru the Black Forest area and other scenic towns (mid 60's and a few showers but beautiful, then to Berchtesgaden for for 4 days, amazing weather and actually got snowed on the top of the mountain when we did the Jennerbahn. but was not cold at all and mid 60's.. then the last 2 days in Munich we did get some rain but we are from Arizona so def enjoyed walking around with our umbrellas enjoying the beer gardens and cafes while checking out the sights.. I hope you and your husband have a wonderful time.. I know our trip was incredible and saw so many beautiful towns, met wonderful people and in awe at the churches, castle, etc. :)

Enjoy,
Donna

Posted by
58 posts

Thanks, everyone! Some really excellent stuff here. :-) We have decided to go in September next year, though of course I am buying up maps and guidebooks right now like a crazy person. I am so excited!

Posted by
5552 posts

"I am buying up maps and guidebooks right now."

Have a look at Earl Steinbicker's Day Trips in Germany - it's fantastic for visiting certain smaller places on foot.

Posted by
2 posts

Danielle,
In three trips to Germany, the one place we would not miss was Munich. Great food, greater beer and delightful people. Englisher Garden is a beautiful spot - complete with with river surfers and a huge biergarten (along with others). Don't miss the Augustiner Bier. Exceptional!
Heidelberg was another favorite with a wonderful pedestrian area and a great castle. Beautiful place.
Garmisch (near the Austrian border) is a delightful little town close to the Zugspitz (the highest point in Germany in the German Alps).
Trier and the Moselle on the Western side of Germany near Luxembourg were a part of this year's trip. Trier had a great Russian restaurant (go figure) in the pedestrian area. Lots of Roman ruins. Driving along the Moselle River was beautiful. Vinyards everywhere. Stayed in Bernkastel, a little village on the Moselle. Great wines!
Generally, we like Bavaria. Friendly people and beautiful scenery. We try not to drive too much so we haven't gone too far North. However, when we do drive, the Autobahns are great.
Just a few thoughts,
Ed
Belmont, NC

Posted by
1878 posts

My wife and I went to Germany in May 2006 (a great time to be there), and returned in April 2014 (also great) as part of a river cruise (with four days on the ground afterwards, two night in Nuremburg and two nights in Munich). I have also been to Germany on business three or four time—Munich and Berlin. We really enjoyed the Rhineland/Mosel area, also Baden Baden. The German Alps did not wow us but Rothenburg lives up to Rick's accolades in my opinion. Nuremburg and Berlin are very underrated, in my opinion. On our river cruise we stopped at Regensburg and Passau and both were very pleasant as well. Looking forward, I am planning a future itinerary that starts in Krakow and ends in Germany—Goerlitz, Dresden, Berlin. It's sad fact that lots in Germany was destroyed during WWII but it's still a very rewarding country to visit. Rick's book on Germany is very good and I recommend very highly that you get it.

Posted by
527 posts

If you'll be in Hamburg, you could visit Lueneburg and Celle for the interesting architecture on a slightly roundabout way to Berlin.

Posted by
3680 posts

You already have more suggestions than you can possibly get to in 2 weeks, but I'm putting in a plug for Nuremberg. So much history for such a long time. A delightful central walled old city. Great food. Google it for more detail and take a look at this in the meantime.

Posted by
12875 posts

Hi,

I totally agree with seeing Lüneburg from the point of architecture. It survived the war intact, was quickly taken by British troops in 1945. Bei der Johanniskirche , the area around the church leading to the Zentrum , should not be missed.