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itinerary help pretty please!

My family (13 and 10 yo) kiddos are going to Germany/France at the end of July. We have friends who live in Bad Durkheim so we start and end our trip there for sure. We are hoping for a mix of new experience and sights for the kids but also not making it so packed we can't really get the flavor and enjoy the places we visit. We are renting a car.

We definitely want to visit Alsace and thinking our last weekend in the Black Forest. We have too many other things that we want to see - would love some help in figuring this out!!! After much elimination, we are currently at trying to decide between: the Neuschwanstein, Hohenschwangau Castles OR a night in Murren Switzerland or perhaps Bern. I just pulled Strasbourg off the itinerary but would love to hear if that should be added back in since we will basically be right there. . . I'd love any input you can offer. Though this is what we are currently considering, all options are still open (though I'm getting nervous about lodging since it's so close)

Mon: travel from Bad Durkheim to ??? the castles?? or Murren?? both are kind of a drive and each seem like really awesome (albeit different) experiences
Tues: travel to Alsace (Kayersburg) No Monday availability otherwise we would start here.

Wed: Alsace villages
Thurs: Alsace villages?
Fri: end up at the Black Forest
Sun evening back to Bad Durkheim
Tues am fly out

Any insight/help much appreciate :) Many thanks~

Posted by
2263 posts

I'm not going to be as sarcastic as the first respondent. First, what do you like to do? Second, what do your kids want to do?

Going to the big tourist sights like Neuschwanstein is fine. In July, they will be quite crowded. One suggestion: You can either wait in the 2 hour line for tickets, or get tickets ahead of time for a specific time. We also found that you can get around the main ticket line by going to the Museum of the Bavarian Kings. But it is best to arrive with tickets. Your kids would be best served by learning a little ahead of time - who was this Ludwig II guy? Was he really mad, or just confused? Also to get there, consider a train from Munchen - in fact, Munchen has a lot of stuff that kids might like.

As to the Black Forest, it's a big forest. You need to pick something to focus on. Again, 10YO and 13YO kids might or might not be interested. I collect hatpins, and so buy them wherever I go. Perhaps a collection of small souveneirs might be helpful to the kids.

Posted by
27709 posts

Just a couple of miles south of Bad Dürkheim (don't overlook the pool/therme complex right there and all the great kid friendly stuff right there in Bad Dürkheim including the super huge barrel!!) is one of my favourite German small towns - Deidesheim. Have a look. See if the kids can work out what the shoes are for at the fountain. Or work out how auctioning a ram can create a party and pay rent.

There is loads to do right around there, Speyer, the Odenwald, and a big ruined castle to explore a few miles south of where you will be, and if you like wine you will be right on the Deutsche Weinstrasse.

Posted by
4684 posts

I agree that the Bavarian castles are too far away and there are other ones that are much closer. I wouldn't rule out Alsace, however, as it isn't that far. Colmar is closer to you that Strasbourg and is "quainter".

Posted by
1218 posts

Philip, unless I am reading your post incorrectly, Colmar is not closer to Bad Durkheim than Strasbourg.
Khunter, as other posters have pointed out, there is so much to see and do close to Bad Durkheim. Adding to the places mentioned, there are the wine villages of Sankt Martin, Bad Begzabern and Dorrenbach to the south. Wissembourg, in northern Alsace, is a very attractive, working town. Ladenburg, to the east, is a quaint town. As another poster has recently highlighted, Bad Wimpfen is a fantastic visit and has a salt works across the river which the kids may be interested in.
If Alsace is a must, on your first day you can drive to Kaysersberg via Mont St Odile and Chateau Haut- Koenigsbourg, the latter being one of the better castle visits in Europe. Depending on how long you want to dedicate to the wine villages of Alsace, on your way back to Bad Durkheim you can visit Europa Park for the kids (never been). I liked Colmar more than Strasbourg.
I don't see the logic in driving to Fussen or Murren for a day.

Posted by
1117 posts

You are going to be right next door to beautiful towns like Heidelberg, Speyer, Trier, Worms, in the midst of a lovely region, right on the Weinstraße, right next to the Palatinate Forest-North Vosges Biosphere Reserve, you are going to be surrounded by historic castles, you are actually going to be visiting Alsace and will be so near Strasbourg and Colmar, and you are going to trade all that for a long drive to a Disney castle?

With only one week to stay, I would try to avoid changing logdings all the time but rather stay put in one place as much as possible so you won't waste valuable vacation time on packing and unpacking. All of those sites listed above are more or less within day trip reach from Bad Dürkheim.

It's your choice of course, but I must admit I agree with the first poster.

Posted by
5554 posts

"...and you are going to trade all that for a long drive to a Disney castle?"

Yes, if he's like most forum posters, he probably will.

There is a well-known travel author and tour operator with a "Best of Germany" tour and "Best of Germany, Austria, and Switzerland" tour. Both tours carve paths that bypass Heidelberg, Worms, the Weinstraße, the Palatinate Forest-North Vosges Biosphere Reserve, and this area's historic castles. And both tours allocate time for the Disney Castle.

It should not be shocking that readers planning their own trips take ideas from the author's itineraries, or that they heed his specific trip-planning advice for Germany, which recommends time in Austria if the reader has a full week...

- 3 days: Munich, Bavarian castles
- 5 days, add: Rhine Valley, Rothenburg
- 7 days, add: More of Bavaria and Tirol, side-trip to Salzburg

That said, khunterphoto, I agree with the advice you have gotten. The Disney castles are a misguided, time-wasting goose chase. They aren't castles anyway, but more modern palaces. (N'stein, with its faux castle facade, is only a few decades older than Sleeping Beauty's castle in Anaheim, California.)

Posted by
288 posts

If you like pottery, there is a place in Alsace call Soufflenheim that has some of the most beautiful pottery I have ever seen. It is on my list of places to go back to and perhaps bring an extra suitcase just in case ;)

Posted by
2717 posts

Hi khuntrrphoto,

I agree that Neuschwanstein is too far for comfort and Muerren, Switzerland for one night? Only one night is too risky for the chance of overcast or rainy weather.

What I don't agree with is rudeness. Lubitsch and Russ seem to thrive on telling people wanting to see Ludwig's palaces that there is something wrong with that. Just wrong. Not real? I was in Neuschwanstein, I touched the walls, walked the stairs and floors. Yup, it's real. Heaven forbid it was never in battle or used for defense. Ludwig's story is quite an interesting one, as is visiting Hohenschwangau, Neuschwanstein, Linderhof and Herrenchiemsee. Are you guys on the Florida boards telling people not to bring kids to Disney World as all the stuff there is fake.

Imagine all those foreigners going to NYC! What a cliche'. They should maybe visit Bismark, ND and see the real America.

Paul

PS: Imagine this info being criticized on the RS Helpine!

  • 3 days: Munich, Bavarian castles
  • 5 days, add: Rhine Valley, Rothenburg
  • 7 days, add: More of Bavaria and Tirol, side-trip to Salzburg
Posted by
5554 posts

What I don't agree with is rudeness. Lubitsch and Russ seem to thrive
on telling people wanting to see Ludwig's palaces that there is
something wrong with that. Just wrong. Not real? I was in
Neuschwanstein, I touched the walls, walked the stairs and floors.
Yup, it's real. Heaven forbid it was never in battle or used for
defense.

My point was that N'stein is not a real castle - not that it isn't a real building. It is in fact referred to as a residential palace (Schloß) in Germany, whereas an older medieval structure is a castle (Burg.) Why the distinction? It's just one of those linguistic/cultural distinctions that I think most visitors to Germany might find interesting and that might add to their visit. For Germans, the fact that N'stein lacks, as you point out, a defensive infrastructure, and that it was not built in the middle ages, is very significant. They would never call N'stein a "castle" (Burg) because it's not one. They indeed are the castle experts... For visiting North American anglophones who have no castles back home and who use "castle" rather indiscriminately, I think it's a good thing to understand how locals view these things AND to better understand the type of building they are visiting - or not visiting.

None of this means visiting N'stein is "wrong." It's just factual information that I think anyone planning a long detour, like the OP has in mind, ought to understand up front. IME, many people with N'stein in their plans do not.

" I'd love any input you can offer."

I hope mine was helpful, khunterphoto. It's not "wrong" for you or anyone else to go there - it's your choice, of course. But it will take a good bit of ground travel time and expense and some time once you're there as well. Also... I'll add that the 30-minute tour was rushed, overcrowded, and conducted in English that was difficult to understand. That's my honest input - no rudeness intended whatsoever.

Posted by
2717 posts

Please, time and time again you try to discourage people from visiting Neuschwanstein, even if it isn't out of their way. You may be an expert on "real" castles, but how do you know about Neuschwanstein unless you yourself visited? Why did you? Purely for research? I'm not a big "fan" of Neuschwanstein, but I don't deliberately try to discourage someone from visiting. You alway do. It's not factual info you are trying to give, it's that you honestly believe you know what's best for others. I'm glad you visit "real" Germany. So if someone has seen photos of Neuschwanstein for the longest time and influenced them to travel to see it, they need a history lesson from you to ruin their image of it.

And to, in no other words, put Rick Steves down on his own site, very nicely done.

Posted by
1117 posts

@Paul: I am not Russ, and I am not Lubitsch, and I am not trying to discourage anyone from going anywhere -- go all you like, and if - in my opinion - you are wasting time and money, well, it's not my time and money.

Having said that: I do hate it when people visit Neuschwanstein and the Oktoberfest and then say they've seen Germany. Same as you would probably hate it if people were to visit Disneyland and then say they've seen America.

Well, sure you can say "I don't hate it, I simply don't care". But then why have people ask for advice on this forum in the first place, or give advice? Isn't "advice", by definition, always in some way encouraging people to do certain things, or discouraging them from doing other things?

The standard route Munich - Neuschwanstein - Rothenburg is all over the place. Nobody needs advice to find that.

In this particular instance, here is someone going to visit a non-standard town in Germany, she is going to have a limited amount of time only, she is going to be right in the center of a number of amazing sights and places - so why not encourage her to enjoy those instead of traveling hundreds of km in order to see a site only because all American tourists think they need to have seen that? And why not trust locals at least a little bit when they tell you there's more to see in Germany than just this one castle that we don't usually even bother to visit?

.

Another way to look at it:

If I were to ask Greek locals where I should go if I had only a short vacation in Greece, they would probably tell me to go see the Acropolis. Well, that's one of their most important sites!

If I were to ask Californians where to go if I had only a short vacation, they would probably tell me to go to San Francisco and to Yosemite. Well, those are some of their most important sites!

If you were to ask Germans the same thing, you wouldn't find many people telling you to go to Neuschwanstein. I wonder why.

Posted by
1117 posts

castles, cute towns and Nazis. Plus beer and cars

. *sigh *

I wish I didn't have to agree to this. Unfortunately, I do.

And anyone just scanning the Germany section of the forum will also find that it's invariably true for at least 90% of all questions.

Posted by
5554 posts

Paul, I agree that my advice on N'stein is largely negative.
For fun I checked a thread from 15 years ago where I responded to a somewhat typical itinerary...

We have decided on Brugges, Aachen, Monchau, and Cochem
I also want to see Neuschwanstein. I am very interested in
castles, scenery, ambiance, quaintness, & people watching.

I advised against the long detour...

If you want a glimpse at HISTORY, Castles like Eltz and Marksburg (near Cochem) are
the places to go.

That's not to say that you shouldn't go to Neuschwanstein.
If you're in the area, I'd definitely drive by just to look at the
place from outside. It's stunning. But the tour is less than awesome;
if you've got the time and you're in the area for a tour of Southern
Bavaria, maybe it would be worth a try, but I would certainly not
travel all the way from Geilenkirchen just to look at either the
inside or the outside, myself...

So yes, I usually advise against it, even from a place as "close" to N'stein as Munich (which would mean ground transport time of nearly 5 hours by train and bus for the weak (IMHO) 30-minute tour.) But in fact I agree with Lubitsch that if you're in the area for other things, it might make sense to have a closer look. Anyway, it's all just advice. By definition, giving advice means telling others what you think might be best for them.. There's no way around that.

Posted by
1218 posts

I love all this friendly banter between the posters. To be as impartial as possible, I have visited Neuschwanstein twice, based in Fussen, and would probably visit again if close by, primarily because I would pair it with Hohenschwangau (I love the interior, and I'm a sucker for the mad king), as well as a hike above Neuschwanstein and around the lake. Only if I were close by. It is not worth the effort from Munich, never mind Bad Durkheim.
Khunter, aside from your 'must' visit to Alsace, there is plenty to do around Bad Durkheim within an hour.

Posted by
2 posts

First, thank you for the suggestions. All will be happy to know that both Neuschwanstein and Switzerland are off the itinerary lol. We are doing 4 nights in Bad Durkheim, 3 nights in Alsace, 2 nights in Black Forest tentatively, and two more nights in Bad Durkheim before we fly out that last morning. Very very excited - especially appreciate the suggestions of Bruchsal and the Palatinate Forest-North Vosges Biosphere Reserve.

I will say that the tenor of the comments made me pause before replying (hence such a late reply. . . please do not interpret that as lack of interest). But in the end I’m really really really grateful for the nudge (shove lol) and the specific suggestions.

For the Black Forest we will be with our German friends, but I’d love any specific suggestions folks might have. Either for economical lodging or specific places to go. We are nature enthusiasts - not so much the athletic aspect, though we do enjoy a hike, but more for the appreciation, identification of plants/birds/etc

Thanks~

Posted by
1117 posts

The thing is, the Black Forest is a large region, and it's not like U.S. national parks where you have a standard loop road with vista stops at all designated tripod holes, so you'll have to do some research on that.

Are those friends you are going to be staying with into hiking? Then they will surely be able to show you their favorite spots.

BTW, did you check out those Biosphere sites I linked to above? Seems like there is a canopy walk up there somewhere. Might be fun for your kids.

Posted by
5554 posts

You asked for specific recommendations in the Black Forest... I could make a lot of them here, like the farm stay I had recently in Steinach, but I think it would be more productive to refer you to some trip reports at a website put together by "Bavaria Ben", where he's done an excellent job of compiling various trip reports of his own and others, including mine, reports that include specific towns, sights and budget accommodations. (Most of these reports include another place or two in addition to the Black Forest / Schwarzwald.) I can't think of a better one-stop place to pick up ideas on visiting the Black Forest.

http://www.bensbauernhof.com/germanybyrailandbus2011.html
http://www.bensbauernhof.com/randringermany.html

All trip reports: http://www.bensbauernhof.com/tripreports.html

Note that in the Black Forest you can ride the scenic train routes (all the routes for that matter) for free when you stay in certain towns:

http://www.dreisamtal.de/en/service/konus.php?lang=en

Posted by
16 posts

Baden-Baden is my favorite town in Germany - a well preserved town with a lovely river walk and wonderful spa. It has a compact and walkable core and tons of activities all year round. I would take it over Strasbourg any day.