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How to Spend Time in Germany

Hello all -
My wife and I are taking my parents on a near 3-week tour of Europe (U.K, France, and Germany). We have a good mix of cities (London) and countryside (Loire Valley) built into the trip.

Here is my question: I am torn on Germany. We have 5 nights in Germany for the end of the trip. Should we spend 3 nights in Berlin and 2 in Füssen, or 2 nights in Berlin and 3 in Füssen? I love the museums and memorials of Berlin, but the sights and the beauty of the Alps in Füssen seem like a great, relaxing way to end the trip. Would one day either way really make much of a difference? We are ending the trip with one night in Munich, before flying home the next morning. Any help or insight would be most welcome!

Posted by
94 posts

Personally, I wouldn't want to go all the way from France to Berlin and then back to Fussen/Munich with only five nights total for Germany. I'd probably spend the three days in Fussen, because it will be beautiful out there, and then add some days to Munich. Or if you aren't interested or have already been to Munich, then pick some other place close by. There's plenty of great places to visit in the Munich area. One of our favorite activities near Munich was we spent a morning at the Andechs Monestary. We toured the place and then had a magical lunch on the patio. We just couldn't get over the beauty of the countryside views. And the food was fabulous also. Not sure what time of year you'll be there, but it's a great stop on a travel day back to Munich.

Posted by
16808 posts

I concur. Save what little time you have left and take the train from Paris to Fuessen. It is pretty straight forward. Fastest way is 7 hours with a train to Stuttgart, then train to Augsburg, then train to Fuessen. There could be one more quick change in Buchloe.

Posted by
5565 posts

"I love the museums and memorials of Berlin, but..."

Not sure how much time you've spent there yourself, but IMO you are truly underestimating this city if you are considering only 2-3 nights. Berlin isn't really done any justice without 4-5 nights there. The larger the group and the more elderly the participants, the more time you need.

Berlin is followed by "but" - and then by this:

"...the sights and the beauty of the Alps in Füssen seem like a great, relaxing way to end the trip."

So I think it's abundantly clear what you prefer to do. But here's my question... is it about the ALPS, or Füssen?

For "sights and beauty" and a 3-5 day stay, you'd be better off in the Werdenfelser Land region IMHO.

See highlighted area on map for relation to Munich: https://www.fernwege.de/fileadmin/_migrated/pics/l_31.jpg

See "zoomed" area with lakes, peaks, towns, and sights you can visit while you are there on this tourist map. The view is from north to south.

Top towns:
Mittenwald
Garmisch-Partenkirchen
Oberammergau

(Innsbruck is just over the mountains on the same train route as Mittenwald and G-P. Füssen is also within shot of this area if you wish to visit there; it's just not as good a base town for the area as Oberammergau or G-P.)

Mittenwald is maybe the most stunning of these towns but all are nice in their own way.

Major Sights:

The Wieskirche
Ettal Monastery (Kloster Ettal)
Linderhof Palace (Schloß Linderhof)

Access to mountains and views: Check into the Karwendelbahn in Mittenwald as well as the Zugspitzbahn and Gletscherbahn - and others - in G-P.

The river gorges (Partnachklamm and Höllentalklamm in G-P, and the Leutaschklamm and Geisterklamm in Mittenwald) could be interesting for you too.

Unlike the Füssen area, the Werdenfelser Land has a great local rail network (as well as bus options) for getting around. Access from /into Munich is excellent:
https://www.dbregio-shop.de/uploads/files/RTWerdenfels_Streckenkarte.pdf

Posted by
1117 posts

Much as I'd love to recommend sights in Germany, let me be quite frank: Three countries in three weeks is just way too much for my taste. If I were you, I'd simply leave out Germany altogether and add some more time in the U.K. and/or in France.

Posted by
11 posts

Sorry all, I left out some crucial information (I wrote this rather late and didn't read it over!).

The German portion of our trip will actually begin in Hanover. We're still working out the logistics of travel from Amboise to Hanover. My father's German ancestors came from two small towns about 45 minutes south of Hannover, and for him, it is very important to see these towns. This is part of the reason the we have a little less time in Germany for the more famous sites.

My wife has been to Europe, but neither myself nor my parents have. So, for the museums and memorials of Berlin, those are things that I would love to see. We also do acknowledge that we are going at backpacker speed, but in several ways, this is an "Intro to Europe" or "Taste of Europe" kind of trip that will inform future trips. I hope this helps.

Posted by
1356 posts

I was fortunate enough to live in Germany for 6 years. I visited many famous sights and towns. What most impressed me about Germany was how much I enjoyed all the places between the famous sights. If you are landing in Hannover as a must do, I would really think about focusing on the sights in that area and near Munich. It will allow you and your parents to get a better flavor of what Germany is like, rather than consuming time getting from place to place.

I really enjoyed Goslar in that area and am planning to visit the region again before I fly out of Hannover. I got several suggestions about what to see.

https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/germany/flying-out-of-hannover-airport

Posted by
1117 posts

The German portion of our trip will actually begin in Hanover.

That's a region I happen to know very well and am extremely tempted to give advice on, but I also can't deny thinking that this will mean even more jumping around for you and your parents. Not sure what you mean by "backpacker speed", but there is not going to be anything relaxing about that part of your trip, especially if you plan to add Berlin on to that. I am sorry but my impression is that you are seriously underestimating the distances within Europe.

We're still working out the logistics of travel from Amboise to
Hanover.

I am not a great proponent of inner-European flights these days, but honestly, that seems the only feasible way unless you want to spend ten hours on the train or 15 hours in the car. It's another six hour trip from Hanover to Munich. So each of these will really be one whole travel day.

My father's German ancestors came from two small towns about 45
minutes south of Hannover

My advice would be to focus on the region of your father's ancestors and then on Munich, and you will be surprised how easily that will fill your week, and how much there is to see in those two regions. Save Berlin for another trip.

Why don't you tell us what kinds of things you are particularly interested in, and we can point you to worthwhile sights that might be within your reach. Would you mind telling me the names of those two towns your father's ancestors came from?

Posted by
12895 posts

Hi,

You are definitely under a time constraint. In the German part I would suggest skipping Munich and Füssen. That way you'll have time for Berlin , Hannover, and seeing the two connected to the family history. Those towns... are they Hameln and/or Hildesheim.?

I spent a few hours in Hameln as a day trip from Minden in 2007., the Zentrum is worth seeing but prefer that of Minden instead. Still, when I got to Hameln I thought automatically that I should have seen the town 20-30 years earlier.

Logistically, given the time squeeze, you can still do Hannover, Berlin, and Munich. If I had your itinerary, I would most definitely go from Berlin to Munich by night train, easily done, if that is your option. Taking the night train gives you an extra day.

Posted by
1117 posts

I would most definitely go from Berlin to Munich by night train,
easily done, if that is your option

Seriously? You would recommend for Andrew and his - possibly elderly - parents to take a nine hour nightly train ride instead of the four hour daytime trip?

Posted by
11 posts

This has been some great feedback! Especially since there has been nearly 2 months worth of back and forth conversation/planning within my family that I am not able to post here.

UPDATE: While my father would like to see his ancestral home, he knows the difficulty of the location (Stroit is the town), he says his biggest "musts" for Germany are the typical Bavarian experiences: He wants the mountains and Oompah music/beer halls. The only big historical site he wants to see on the entire trip is the beaches of Normandy. With that in mind, here's what I think we'll do now: cut Berlin and cut Hanover and give a day back to the other two countries. Thus, our itinerary would like this:

UK: 6 Days (3 in York, 3 in London with one London day being a day trip to Oxford)

France: 6 Days (2 in Bayeux, one overnight in Mont St. Michel, 3 nights in Amboise. This is flexible as we may add another day to Bayeux or add an overnight in Paris)

Germany: 6 days (4 in Fussen as a base, or possibly Oberammergau thanks to the tip, 2 days in Munich, fly out of Munich back to the states).

In the UK, we'll just do trains and taxis. We'll take a Eurostar from London to Paris, then a train from Paris to Bayeux for the travel day. Bayeux, MSM, and Amboise will be via car rental. We'll drop off the car in Amboise, train to Paris, flight to Munich, then train to whichever area we decide on. After researching times and distances, I think this would work. It is a mix of fast paced, but also slower moments.

Oh, and to answer the other questions in terms of sights: Both parents are excited about the sites of York and London, particularly the museums. They are both lukewarm on France, but the beaches of Normandy are a big must for them. Otherwise, they just want to drive by the Eiffel tower while we are in Paris. The Loire Valley is a bigger deal for my wife and I. And for Germany, like I said above, the stereotypical Bavarian experience.

Posted by
1117 posts

Stroit is a very tiny town near Einbeck. There are certainly worthwhile sights within easy reach of that, like the UNESCO world heritage sites of Hildesheim and Goslar. If your parents prioritize Bavaria and Oompah though, your current planning makes a lot more sense.

Here's another very extreme idea. If your parents are lukewarm about it anyway, you could consider making the Loire Valley a destination for your next trip with only yourself and your wife and focus on that trip with your parents for now. U.K., Normandy, Stroit, Munich... that should be quite enough for three weeks, and you wouldn't be in that constant conflict of interests, trying to fit everyone's wishes into those three weeks.

Posted by
21075 posts

The beaches in Normandy would have meant very, very little to me if I had just driven to them. We're talking about outdoor sights with an occasional sign. In my view, they cannot be appreciated by folks who aren't WWII scholars without a guide. There are quite a few companies running one-day small-group (van) tours, most of them originating in Bayeux. I used and was happy with Overlord; the driver/guide provided information that put what I was seeing in context, so it wasn't just sand and some concrete. I strongly recommend that you spend one day on a tour or with a private guide. The basic tours cost just over 100 euros per person, I believe. A private tour for four people might not be an awful lot more.

There are quite a few invasion-related museums in Normandy, as you might expect. The one in Bayeux is relatively new, modern and quite good. It's a bit of a walk from the center of town.

If airborne activities are of interest, the Airborne Museum in St-Mere-Eglise is recommended. It's smaller than the Bayeux museum and a bit more old-fashioned in its presentation. My tour took its lunch break in St-Mere-Eglise, where I had just about enough time to see the museum by wolfing down a sandwich from a local bakery for lunch.

Posted by
12895 posts

"Seriously".... The OP chooses the option he wants to take. Read what I wrote again. It's written in the "Conditional", meaning if I had the OP's circumstance, I myself would take the night train.

Posted by
12895 posts

@ Andrew....If you are into beer and are in the Hannover area, presumably south of it in the family connected towns, you are in the area of Einbecker Beer, (good stuff, if you want North German beer) as that town is south of Hildesheim.

Posted by
11 posts

@Anna - That is some good advice. Thank you! And trying to squeeze in things for everyone has certainly been a challenge! The Loire Valley is one of the musts though... it's high on my list and the top site for my wife. Honestly though, I think once they are there (from what I've seen and read), my parents will really enjoy that area. I know my mother would like the Châteaus, so despite the pace, I think they'll enjoy.

Also, what I think this trip will do is, despite missing the Hanover area, I think it will empower my parents (both of whom are retired) to play their own trip and they can return to Germany next year and hit the more northern sites. They both want to go to Italy as well, so maybe they could do a 3-week Germany/Italy combo.

Posted by
11 posts

@ Fred - We have thought about a night train if it makes sense, but so far we haven't found one that works for our schedule. Thanks for the advice though.

Posted by
11 posts

*"I was fortunate enough to live in Germany for 6 years. I visited many famous sights and towns. What most impressed me about Germany was how much I enjoyed all the places between the famous sights. If you are landing in Hannover as a must do, I would really think about focusing on the sights in that area and near Munich. It will allow you and your parents to get a better flavor of what Germany is like, rather than consuming time getting from place to place.
I really enjoyed Goslar in that area and am planning to visit the region again before I fly out of Hannover. I got several suggestions about what to see."
*

This is some great advice and really fits with our travel philosophy of mixing it up between well-known and not as well-known destinations. Thank you!

Posted by
1117 posts

@Fred: No offence meant. It's just that to me, that didn't seem a viable option, especially under the OP's circumstances.

Posted by
5565 posts

"...he says his biggest "musts" for Germany are the typical Bavarian experiences: He wants the mountains and Oompah music/beer halls."

So far I think you've mentioned Füssen or Oberammergau as base town considerations for your time in the Alps. Have you pinpointed an inn or other venue in these towns for the typical Bavarian stuff?

Sounds to me like you should bed down in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. It's not only the best town for transport in the area - it's the home of the Fraundorfer Inn's Bavarian Evening, which takes place nightly (closed Tuesdays) and AFAIK is the best-known place for your dad's biggest "must" in the area.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/88/Gasthof_Fraundorfer.jpg

Posted by
12895 posts

@ Andrew....you're welcome. I heartily second the suggestion of Goslar. The place is famous culturally and historically.

Admittedly, I still haven't seen it yet, although I had the chance logistically in 1987 of going there as a day trip from Göttingen where I stayed 3 nights. Instead I went to Kassel to see the Schloss. In 1870 Napoleon III was escorted there by Bismarck after the French surrendered at Sedan.

Posted by
1 posts

I really like to hear that you want to come to visit Germany with your husband. Everything is ok here now that the restrictions have been lowered and public transport has started working again. There are now a lot of means of transport working, so you don't have to worry about traveling around here. The https://www.dbauskunft.com/de/ train company also started working again, so you can see their schedule from your country and see what routes you need to take during your long trip.

Posted by
215 posts

Berlin and Fussen are so far away.. why not skip Berlin for another trip and split the time between Fussen and Munich? Fussen is extremely scenic. Yes it is "touristy" but they do have a good assortment of restaurants, hikes, shops, and the alps. I really loved visiting there last month. While most people go for Neuschwanstein (which yes do the tourist thing and see it) the surrounding area is really gorgeous, even nearby towns are lovely to visit. Visiting the surrounding area gives you a great idea of why it was chosen for such fantasy castles. It is really quite charming.

Posted by
11 posts

Final Update:
Thank you again everyone for your input! We decided to cut Hanover and Berlin from this trip. We'll spend three nights in Fussen (the relaxed schedule will be a great finale for our European tour), then two nights in Munich before flying back. We'll have to hit Berlin on another trip. I think the more relaxed pace will be worth it.

Posted by
18310 posts

Visiting the surrounding area gives you a great idea of why it was
chosen for such fantasy castles.

The area was chosen because Ludwig, who built Neuschwanstein, grew up in Hohenschwangau castle below and as a boy dreamed of having his own castle on the rocky outgrowth above the town, where two castle had been in earlier centuries.

You can have a good German Alps experience at Oberstdorf, in the Illertal (valley of the Iller river) in the Oberallgäu (Upper Allgäu. Füssen is in the Ostallgäu or East Allgäu). I could't find a good picture of the area on the Oberstdorf website, but here is a good picture from the Fischen website (Fischen is about 4 miles down the valley from Oberstdorf, which you can see against the mountains in the background).

The Illertal is my favorite part of Germany; I've spent five weeks based in Fischen in the last 20 years. From Oberstdorf, you can go by bus up into the Austrian alpine valley, Kleinwalsertal, for a real mountain experience.

Oberstdorf is about 6½ hours from Paris if you take an ICE to Stuttgart, another ICE to Ulm, and a direct regional train from there to Oberstdorf. From Oberstdorf, it's about 2¼ hours to Munich and its airport (for your flight home).