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Germany by train for 17 days.

We'll be flying into Prague for three days and then going to Germany for the rest of our three week vacation. We will be flying out of Berlin to come home. We are interested in places to see and stay without renting a car. What are some must see towns and how should we efficiently use the train service to see them? We know we would like to see Salzburg, the Black Forest area, Rhine and Mosel valleys. We plan to skip Munich since it is Oktoberfest time. Thank you.

Posted by
6951 posts

I've run the length of Germany twice, but prefer to spend most of my time in Bavaria and Western Tirol.

I do enjoy Salzburg, but there are other places than the Black Forest with much more breathtaking scenery. I would really like to see Dresden, home to some of our relatives prior to 1939.

For the Rhine and Mosel Valley, I suggest you read Bavaria Ben for tips: http://www.bensbauernhof.com

Posted by
2081 posts

@ Sharon,

you can provide more input/hints as to what floats your boat so others can provide better suggestions.

also, when youre going would help. i know you hinted at octoberfest time, but from what i understand it starts in Sept. also, from my short time there last year, not everyplace celebrates it or as large as others.

happy trails.

Posted by
8189 posts

@ Ray - Oktoberfest is celebrated in Munich, it isn't a German wide celebration.

There are tons of wine fests happening all over Germany though, in all of the wine regions. Up on the Mosel, down along the Rhine, near Heidelberg, and near Stuttgart to name just a few. Have to say, the Mosel was absolutely gorgeous when I was up that way in early Oct. this year.

If you tell us a bit more about what you are interested in, we can give you better suggestions. My "must see" town or sight, may not be yours.

Germany is easy to get around just using the train. Have been doing it for over 27 years now, and have seen quite a bit.

Posted by
18390 posts

The German Rail (Bahn) website has schedules for trains all over Germany. Their home page, www.bahn.de, has maps and information about regional (Länder) day tickets on regional trains for short distance as well as advance purchase Saving Fare tickets for longer distance on express trains. Most places not serviced by trains are accessible by bus, and the Bahn shows those connections, too.

Within the actual Black Forest area, your accommodations will provide you with a Konus Card, which is valid for free transportation by bus and trains in the Black Forest.

Posted by
6 posts

Thanks for all the suggestions so far.

To clarify our timetable, we will arrive in Prague Sept 20, and leave Berlin for home Oct 10.

Our interests are varied, we enjoy seeing old small towns, are interested in some castles, want to see some of the beautiful scenery of Germany including wine regions, rivers, and forests. The occasional museum is fun, but not a huge interest of ours.

To get an idea of what we like, we have been to the Cinque Terre, Provence, and Tuscany, and thoroughly enjoyed the little towns, hiking between them and just kicking back and enjoying the local atmosphere and culture.

We realize we will likely only get a sampling of all that Germany has to offer, and we are open to returning for more if we choose.
The crowds, noise, and increased prices in Munich during Oktoberfest are why we plan to skip it, knowing that the city does have a lot to offer.

I hope this clarifies our desires.

Posted by
12040 posts

Two fall festivals that I can recommend if you would rather avoid the frat party that Oktoberfest can sometimes resemble.

Stuttgart's Canstatter Volksfest. Very similar to Oktoberfest, but without all the obnoxious international fratboy types that infect Oktoberfest at times. Better for families.

Bad Dürkheim's (on the Deutsche Weinstraße across the Rhine from Mannheim) Wurstmarkt. The main tipple here is wine instead of beer. This is also a beautiful spa town in the heart of German wine country.

Posted by
123 posts

That's easy to reach Poland as Szczecin (former German Stettin) is situated near the border and has many connections of Deutsche Bahn from Berlin (some of them direct and some with a change in Angermünde) and Lübeck. Travel from Berlin takes about 2 hours. You can plan a trip from Berlin to Szczecin, visit the city and then travel to Lübeck with stops in Greifswald, Stralsund and Rostock. Then from Lübeck to Kiel, Hamburg or Schwerin. These are examples of the most interesting cities of the Baltic Sea coast and the area.
Greetings from Szczecin
Michal

Posted by
6 posts

We have been reviewing our travel plans and were wondering if we need to modify our travel plans because there are 4 train transfers sometimes and the connections are tight.

We were starting in Prague and going to Dresden and staying there two days.
Next was Dresden to Rothenburg and staying two days.
Next was Rothenburg to Salzburg and staying another two days.
Salzburg to Fussen...another two days.
Fussen to Staufen....two days.
Staufen to Cochem two days.
Cochem to Bacharach...two days.
Bacharach to Berlin...three days.
Any suggestions to make this more efficient and fun please advise. Maybe we should be renting a car for some of the trip but we were hoping to just sit back and relax. Renting a car for a portion of the trip is still a consideration though. Thanks again!!

Posted by
4959 posts

To avoid backtracking, consider flying from Prague to Frankfurt to start (looks like there are direct flights, perhaps not too expensive). That might save you some time as well and some money. Then you can train back up toward Berlin (with some detours).

Then you could do this:

Fly Prague to Frankfurt
Train to Cochem
Train to Bacharach
Train to Staufen
Train to Rothenburg ob der Tauber.

Train to Salzburg
Train to Fussen
Train to Dresden
Train to Berlin

(Not sure if I got the order 100% right at the end.)

I wouldn't necessarily rule out a stop in Munich - just check hotel prices on the days when you might be passing through, and if you miss Oktoberfest, maybe rates will not be through the roof.

Consider a day trip from Dresden to Görlitz, which is right on the Polish border. I actually spent a night there between Dresden and Berlin and enjoyed the town a lot - not very touristy, nice town, great feel, very laid back. It was one of my favorite spots on my trip. It's an easy day trip by train from Dresden.

I have been to all of the places you mention in your last post (except Bacharach), most of them last month. Staufen is a nice little town, but it's SMALL - at least the core is small: one main street and a tiny square. (It makes Vernazza in the Cinque Terre feel larger.) I assume you are planning day trips from Staufen? There seems to be little to do in the town itself, though I spent only a few hours there. I stayed in Freiburg instead - not nearly as quaint as Staufen, not by a mile, but I'm sure I would have been bored with two nights in Staufen. If your goal is just to chill and relax, I guess you could make it work. By public transportation Staufen isn't necessarily the most convenient base for day trips, though.

I wouldn't want to do four train connections either between cities. I went from Cochem to Rothenburg ob der Tauber in one day, with three train changes. It actually wasn't so bad. I never missed any connection, even some of them were less than five minutes. The German train system seems well tuned to tight schedules. But three was about the most I'd want.

Posted by
868 posts

You want to spend most of your time in Southwestern Germany, but you end your trip on the other end of the country. This doesn't make an awful lot of sense, but most American travel guides still ignore large parts of the country, which is the reason why many people come up with strange itineraries like these.
German travel guides are a bit more balanced. This is a map of Germanys highlights according to Baedeker, Germanys most popular travel guide: Best of Germany
As you can see, Southern Germany doesn't stand out, and the Romantic Road isn't even visible. What's visible is a straight line of sights from Berlin to Southern Germany. Or a number of sights around Dresden, which is halfway between Prague and Berlin. Or a large number of sights to the west of Berlin.
I would recommend to add some these places for a more reasonable and diverse itinerary. The Harz area, to the west of Berlin, is a area full of perfectly preserved towns with literally thousands of half-timbered houses. It's like the RR, but without the tourist hordes, and in a more picturesque region. On the straight line from Southern Bavaria to Berlin you cross the cultural heart of Germany for the last 500 years, connected to names like Luther, Bach, Goethe, Schiller, Wagner, Herder, the Bauhaus and many more. And Saxony, the area around Dresden, was once the richest state of Germany, visible today in dozens of big, preserved old towns and the vast collections of Dresdens museums.