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June 2019 First Trip to Germany advice

Hello everyone, thank you in advance for your time.

My wife and I, from Ohio, both in our low 40's are planning an extravaganza of a trip. This is our first time in Europe, and it is a rescheduled trip from Fall of 2017 when a cancerous nasal tumor in my sinus ruined our plans a month before the trip. We had to cancel everything: plane, tours, travel, hotels. Thankfully, we were reimbursed fully (BUY travel insurance, you never know!).

Fast forward to today, I am healthy and we are ready to go! We are traveling to see the history, enjoy the food and beer, and relax. My wife has degrees in Art and Art History so its important to see these areas.

Our plan:
Day 1: Arrive in Frankfurt (overnight flight) and train to Cologne.
Explore Cologne and recover from the flight, sleep at Eden Hotel.

Day 2-3: Train ride to Koblenz, boat ride to St. Goar. Sleep at Hotel Rheinfels. Explore the area with bikes (taken on a boat ride), maybe Boppard?

Day 4: Travel to Oberwesel to sleep at Castle Hotel Schonburg. It's Germany, it's 1300+ years old, we HAVE to stay in it for a night :)

Day 5: Train to Munich for 4 nights, sleeping in Hotel Uhland. Plan to explore: Eagle's Nest, Neuschwanstein, Dachau, Weihenstephaner Brewery in Freising.

Day 9-10: Travel to Rothenburg ODT, sleeping at Hotel Gasthof Goldener Greifen. Probably take bikes out into the countryside for hours.

Day 11-13: Travel to Nurnberg for 2 nights stay at Gideon Hotel. Plan on seeing all the historic areas plus a beer cellar tour.

Day 14+: Travel to Berlin for 3-4 nights and sleep at Myer's Hotel. Plan on museum island, and all the places RS suggests.

Fly out of Frankfurt back home.

The main questions/statements are:
1) Does this sound like a good first timer visit? I know its a lot of travel, but we want to see a bunch of areas.
2) I was thinking 10-day Twin Flexi Railpass. That should cover most travel, right? I am going to stay away from car travel.
3) This is in June, unfortunately not many festivals going on. My wife did say its an anniversary of Bauhaus in Berlin though.
4) We plan on using some companies for tours, Radius Tours or the like, by bike or foot. Open to recommendations.
5) We followed RS's book pretty closely, and for good reason, we have never done been in Europe lol.

Thank you for reading this!
Brett and Deb

Posted by
2058 posts

I think it sounds wonderful but if your wife is interested in art, you are missing the art museums in Munich. You mentioned Museum Island in Berlin, be sure to visit the art museum right next to the Pergamon Museum. I saw a very good exhibit comparing French Impressionism to German Expressionism, both movements based in big cities in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The Gemaldegalerie in Berlin is filled with great masters and one or two Vermeers I think. Great art in Germany.
I’m going to Munich this year and a friend told me about the excellent art museums there. Alte Pinakothek is the name.

Posted by
5510 posts

I'm so glad you're able to follow through on your plans.

Day 1: With your wife's interests I assume you are doing the detour to Cologne largely for the cathedral, which you should indeed be able to see in the time you'll have - just check in advance about visitor hours for your date. If I'm wrong, Cologne might not be worth the detour, on a day when you may be jet-lagged or drowsy, for such a short visit, and it might be better to have 3 nights in one place - St. Goar.

Day 2: Right now you are cheating yourselves out of the best river cruise segment. I would advise you to take the train past Koblenz and St. Goar to BINGEN Rhein Stadt station, which is only a few minutes' walk from the KD boat dock in Bingen. Time your arrival in Bingen so that you have at least 25-30 minutes before cruise departure (there are normally 5 per day) and take the NORTHBOUND cruise from Bingen to St. Goar. That indeed is the most scenic Rhine segment of all:

The cruise south from Koblenz to St. Goar pales substantially by comparison.

If you end up going with 3 nights in St. Goar, rest assured there is plenty to see and do in addition to St. Goar and Boppard - you will not be bored.

Days 4/5: You will likely need taxi arrangements for coming and going to Auf Schönburg.

A German rail pass is probably a sound idea. The twin pass is convenient to use and well priced. Can't say right now if you need 5, 7 or 10 days. I really see only 5-6 substantial train-travel legs in your current plans. The other train journeys might be added on most cheaply using local tickets and day passes, or it's possible that those days are cheaper by getting additional railpass coverage. It's hard to say without knowing your exact journeys. The trip from Rothenburg to Nuremberg demonstrates the day pass strategy... it would cost only €20 for two (VGN day ticket "plus" version, buy at ticket machine.) It would be wise to postpone purchase of a rail pass for a few months as your plans solidify, or in case your plans change. Pass prices are not capacity-controlled and passes don't sell out - but there is a hefty refund penalty.

NUREMBERG: I imagine your wife will want time in the Dürer House:

Posted by
444 posts

It sounds good. I think you are light on art for your wife. Also many churches have lots of art. I think purchasing tickets early may be cheaper than a rail pass. You can check on the official website for German trains. The fares have been posted.

Posted by
75 posts

So glad to hear you are cancer free. I am a cancer survivor myself and celebrate by traveling the world when I can (budget contraints only)! I don't know anything about art so I just want to throw in my 2 cents worth about castle Auf Schonburg and St Goar because I was just there this past October. On my bucket list was being able to stay in a castle and this place did not disappoint. I kept getting lost exploring every nook and cranny. Be sure to ask for specifics about getting into different parts of the castle at the front desk. I could sit on their terrace all day with a glass of wine (or two or three) and watch the boats on the river and trains go by. So relaxing and I felt like a queen! I emailed the castle about how to get there and they arranged the taxi for me. I was going to take the KD from Bingen to Oberwesel but it was cancelled due to low water so my pickup plans needed changed as I was no longer arriving at the docks (and arrived earlier than expected). I walked to the tourist office in Oberwesel and they called the castle and re-arranged my taxi pickup for me. It was all very smooth even with the change in arrival plans. I also want to give a plug for Rheinhotel because of the owner who was WONDERFUL! It's next door to where you have plans to stay and Gil was so helpful and nice. He could run the tourist office with all of his recommendations. There's a great Italian restaurant and gelato establishment in St Goar he referred me to (among many other ideas)!! I loved St Goar but I like small towns and it was easy to get around on train and boat to explore Bacharach, Boppard, etc. There's a sessellift (chairlift) in Boppard to take up a hill for a marvelous view of the biggest bend in the Rhein river - on a nice day, worth the excursion for that view. I did not use any tour companies and traveled solo using trains. I did use the RS books and local conversations for ideas of things to do and see. I wish you the best first trip to Europe!

Posted by
20866 posts

I had a great time in the art museums in Berlin a few years ago. It was difficult, because the city also has tons of important and very interesting historic sights. The museums on Museumsinselm are very large (allow plenty of time!), and their ticket lines can be very long. It's important to have some sort of pass so you aren't standing in line for an hour (or potentially longer) for each museum you want to visit.

The Berlin Welcome Card with Museumsinseln add-on did not work well for me in 2015. I have no idea whether the procedures have changed, but the pass didn't get me out of the ticket lines, and it conferred no benefit whatsoever if a museum had some sort of extra-cost special exhibition going on; I had to pay the full regular admission fee plus the special fee. So I cannot recommend the Museumsinseln supplement on the Berlin Welcome Card. If your primary interest is art, the BWC probably doesn't make sense anyway, because you simply won't have time to hit enough covered sights to make it pay.

There is now a one-day Museumsinseln pass for 18 euros (perhaps less if you are seniors?) that covers all the MI museums. That may be a good option for you and your wife. There used to be a multi-day pass. If you poke around online, you may be turn up information on something like that, and it might be an even better deal.

I do not mean to suggest that the only worthwhile art museums are those on Museumsinseln; quite the contrary. But it's the MI spots that had the awful ticket lines during my 2015 visit.

I recommend the Pergamon even though I believe some major artifacts are currently not on display. It's still a magnificent museum.

Posted by
8067 posts

If art is your thing, you may want to plan at least one day in Frankfurt. Only Berlin has more museums than Frankfurt.

If it was me, I would stay overnight in Frankfurt after landing, go on your Rhine cruise the next day. The day after that go up to Cologne (you haven't said why you want to go there), then go either south or north.

There are a ton of festivals in June, so not sure where you are looking Every city is going to list them. All of Germany is celebrating Bauhaus in 2019. Frankfurt especially with Ernst May and the Frankfurter Kuche.

A sample of fests in the Rhine Main region during June:
* 1-2 June Rose Days, Eltville am Rhein
* 1-2 June Jousting Tournament, Königstein
* 6-9 June Rose & Tealight Fest, Frankfurt Palmengarten
* 7-9 June World Club Dome, Frankfurt Commerzbank Arena
* 8-10 June Knights Tournament, Ronneburg Castle
* 8-11 June Wäldchestag, Frankfurt City Forest
* 14-15 June Theatrium, Wiesbaden Marktplatz
* 15-16 June Wilhelmstr. Fest, Wiesbaden
* 15-16 June Wine Fest, Büdingen
* 15-16 June Medieval Fest, Boppard
* 21-24 June Johannis Nacht Fest, Mainz
* 26 June-5 July Opera Square Fest, Frankfurt Alte Oper
* 29 June SaTOURday, Frankfurt Free Museum Day
* 30 June European Ironman Championship, Frankfurt

For Berlin, recommend Insider Tours. For Munich, Dark History Tours.

Posted by
5697 posts

And if your wife is a Chagall fancier, stained glass windows in Mainz just outside Frankfurt. (It's on my list.)

Brett, best wishes for your continued good health. I celebrated a year after completing treatment with a trip to Spain -- twelve years ago.

Posted by
1489 posts

Itinerary sounds good in general. Others gave good advice already.

You mentioned June in headline which is traditionally a culture event highlight month in Berlin. I want to bring three events in Berlin to your attention, some dates ae still open.

  • Biennale turns various locations in the city into galleries for contemporary art
  • The Open Air Gallery turns the Oberbaumbrücke into an art mile
  • 48 hours Neukölln: Within 48 hours about 300 cultural institutions and societies display the diversity of Neukölln's artistic potential.

If you like culture festivals I like to add the Carnival of Cultures which will happen June 7-10 2019 (pictures from 2018).

Posted by
1743 posts

I agree with Russ about doing Cologne as a day trip from St. Goar rather than as a first night stop. Also he is right about the boat ride - go south to north with the current.

The sessellift in Boppard gets a nice view from the top and I especially like the view coming down.

The Chagall windows in Mainz are stunning.

In Oberwesel be sure to visit the red colored church near the train station ( Liebfrauenkirche ). I can‘t believe that Rick doesn‘t mention it. Very different from other churches and some nice frescos. It was the biggest surprise of my last trip to the area.

While I probably would not get a railpass, the flexibility and not having to make several purchases are probably worth it to you.

Posted by
5338 posts

That is a lot of travel for a 2 1/2 week trip.

Consider that you will likely come back to Central Europe and Germany. Try to plan an itinerary that is more geographically centered.

You are planning to visit three areas of Germany, the northern Rhineland, Bavaria and Berlin area. Consider narrowing it down to two areas. I lived in Augsburg, Germany for four years. It is on the Romantic Road, which is a wonderful experience. Pick either Berlin or the Northern Rhineland and come back for more later.

Posted by
5510 posts

I think geovagriffith makes a fair point - your trip involves "a lot of travel." But I don't see it as a problem of "geographic centering" so much; I think you have time for Berlin, the Middle Rhine, and some of Bavaria, but you are running yourselves a bit silly around southern Bavaria. On Day 5 you'll spend half a day getting to Munich. Then you have 2 very long travel days (one to the Eagles Nest, one to Neuschwanstein) and a 3rd day trip to Dachau... which is much closer to Munich, but then there's the Freising journey to make as well, which... well, even if it were logistically possible, how do you actually enjoy a couple of beers on a "Dachau stomach?" And where does Munich fit in at all? Why even stay in Munich? I don't quite get it.

And in northern Bavaria, keep in mind that Rothenburg and Nuremberg are very close, and day trips are easy. Perhaps you could consolidate your days there into ONE location - that may save you some packing-up-and-checking-in-and-out time (I like Nuremberg best.) You say 2 nights in Nuremberg, but according to your dates, it looks like 3 NIGHTS to me... so w/ R'burg it looks like 5 NIGHTS in northern Bavaria. But ONLY 4 NIGHTS in the south, with all those day trips?

I would probably swap a night or two from the north (make it 3 or 4 there) to the south (make it 5-6 there) and select TWO separate base towns in the south - one in/near Berchtesgaden or SALZBURG and a second maybe in Munich, or maybe somewhere else. There is a LOT to see/do in/near B'gaden/Salzburg besides the Eagles' Nest!

Hohenwerfen Castle
Salt Mines
Herrenchiemsee Palace on an island in Lake Chiemsee (King Ludwig II's answer to Versailles; situated between Munich and Berchtesgaden)

With Munich as a second base, you would have time for Freising and Dachau outings as well as Munich itself. Neuschwanstein is a a double-edged outing... It's an iconic spot, but basically you get what you see in the glossy photos. It's nearly 5 hours round trip from Munich for an overcrowded 30-minute tour, and of course it's not an old castle at all but a relatively new palace that went up at the same time Chicago got its first high-rise buildings - the late 1800's. For some, it's just not a must-do place. You might give it a miss.

Posted by
5 posts

Thank you so very much for all of this excellent advice and for taking the time to compile it.

@Russ: You are correct, she said the cathedral is a must see for her. It's in all of her books lol. That is an excellent idea with going to Bingen and cruising back north. We are going to change that for sure! Maybe it would be advisable to stop and see the cathedral, train to Bingen and cruise back up on day of arrival to stay in St.Goar? Or is jet lag too much of a thing to deal with? Again, we have never been overseas nor had jet lag :)

@Connie: That is a wonderful story and cheers for your health! I actually think we may take you up on Rheinhotel. I looked it up and it is pretty nice. I need to see if it had the little balcony room I was planning on like the other hotel. I saw on their site that there are hiking paths, did you try those out? We love the outdoors :)

@acraven: I am sorry for your experience, we will definitely research the Berlin museums more.

@Ms.Jo: Yay! An insider! How on earth did you find all of those festivals? For Frankfurt, it turns out we will have time to explore it on the way back just before flying out. With the flight times, it forces us to stay a night in Frankfurt because we did not want to be rushed after the train from Berlin. So, its a good thing, we can see some sites you talk about!!

@MarkK: Thank you for the links!

@geovagriffith and Russ: I further discussed this with the Mrs. and we agree. We believe that we will cut out all south of Munich activities. This will give us a reason to visit again, maybe concentrate on Salzburg area. Such eye-opening advice too. I never contemplated the weight of a Dachau experience and then heading to a brewery. I think that we will visit Dachau and Freising (this is my own personal bucket list item as I love their beers so much), and enjoy Munich sites the other days.

Overall, I think that these are some great changes. Rothenburg and Nuremburg still seem like we could condense it but for some reason, I really have a desire to stay in Rothenburg. I had plans of riding bikes in the countryside, the Nightwatchmen "tour", strolling its streets leisurely without having to worry about a train ride back to Nuremburg. Is that a silly way to think?

Posted by
5510 posts

"Maybe it would be advisable to stop and see the cathedral, train to Bingen and cruise back up on day of arrival to stay in St.Goar?"

That's an interesting and time-saving idea. You could leave bags at Cologne station - and the cathedral is right next door. You may be jet-lagged but it won't require much energy to ride a couple of trains and a boat. I guess it depends on an early arrival time at FRA and personal preference. It would not be my preference to attempt both the cathedral and the cruise. I'd do the cathedral perhaps, then head to my St. Goar hotel for a solid "freshening-up." The cruise could be done the next morning after a short train ride to Bingen.

"...for some reason, I really have a desire to stay in Rothenburg. I had plans of riding bikes in the countryside, the Nightwatchmen tour..."

I am likely in the minority here, but for me there are numerous places in Franconia that rank higher than Rothenburg, the big drawback of R'burg being two-fold... a.) It's a town with no other purpose than catering to tourists, mostly international tourists. I just prefer real towns with a German life of their own, places which aren't artificially "cute-ified." b.) I enjoy towns that aren't so overrun with tourists that you have to walk them in the evening or near dawn (this is the prevailing advice among Rothenburg fans for enjoying the town without the tourist horde.) The Nightwatchman deal... others seem love it but it came across as overly-touristy, canned, and hokey to me... made me squirm a bit. Biking in the countryside is lovely - and surprisingly it takes place in literally every corner of Germany. Bamberg, like most towns, has lots of options. Iphofen, a lovely old walled town in the region (and only 30 minutes from Nuremberg) does too. The following link (in German) shows numerous options, including the first one on page 3, a 30-minute bike tour that hits Mönchsondheim, a village that was turned into a living museum, but one that is un-trampled by the tourist horde.

The prominence of Rothenburg in the tourist guide books might lead you to think it's the only such place around - but in fact there are many similar and excellent alternatives all around Germany.

One additional open-air museum in Franconia is the one in Bad Windsheim. My walk through took a couple of hours and was very much like traveling back in time over the centuries. Excellent.

Posted by
1743 posts

If you rent bikes in Rothenburg. I recommend that you cycle the bike path ( radweg ) along the Tauber river to Creglingen to see the wooden altar at the church there. Many consider it superior to the one in Rothenburg ( both by the same carver ).

there is also a thimble museum there. I love the German word for thimble - fingerhut !

You can return by the same path or by little used country roads.

Posted by
380 posts

Glad to hear you are cancer free! We love Germany and Munich is my favorite city, my husband flips between Berlin and Munich :). It is a lot of traveling but you two will love it. I wanted to add a suggestion or two for Munich. I was also an art major in college and one of my favorite museums has been the Alte Pinakothek. They have so many pieces by the great artists we all know and lots of ones you've never heard of. My husband does not enjoy a lot of it, but he's always liked this one. Dachau is a great side trip and easy to get to. The English Garden is beautiful and worth a walk through, they even have a great beer garden. The Residenz was also great! For a great restaurant, we love to eat at Augustiner Brau near the Hackerbruke Sbahn stop. Have a great time!

Posted by
288 posts

When my husband and I went last June, we used Radius Tours to visit Dachau from Munich and were very impressed. We also did a bike tour of Munich with Mike's Bikes and enjoyed it a lot. I would have liked to do one of Dark History's tour, but didn't have time.

If you have a car and are visiting Neuschwanstein, consider adding a side trip to the Tegelberg luge and gondala nearby, and/or stopping by Oberammagau on the way back to Munich.

Rothenburg ob Der Tauber was lovely. We stayed at the Hotel Klosterstuble and really loved it. The NIghtwatchmen's tour was great.

We were underwhelmed by the Rhine cruise, but one of the best parts of our time in that area was biking from Bacaharach to Rudesheim and then spending the afternoon there. Really cute place.

Similarly, we went to Burg Eltz and although the castle itself was just OK, the hike up to it and back was amazing.

Enjoy your trip!

Posted by
784 posts

I think you have a good balance of days, but agree that saving the places south of Munich for a later trip is a good idea. You have some really good advice posted here, so I'll limit myself to a couple observations.

If your wife can get through the Alte and Neue Pinokotek's in Munich in a day she's better than I am.

The bike ride along the river out of Rothenburg odT is a great suggestion. Also visiting Bad Windsheim.

In Nuremberg don't bother with a beer cellar tour. You can visit Barfusser (under the old Rathaus in the old town) and get what is possibly a better view of the equipment and a decent meal at the same time. Also, while Albrect Durer's house is more often mentioned, the Germanic Museum is better. You may want to add the Tucherschloss to your list of things to see there. (Tucher is the major local beer.)