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Late March trip to Germany

We plan to travel to Germany for 3 weeks starting the last week in March. At our age we like to keep things simple. We want to visit 4 cities and know we want to go to Munich, Berlin and Dresden then take day trips from each of those. We don't plan to rent a car. We wanted to stay in cities with the high speed train to save time.

My husband is a major WWII military buff. We love museums, palaces, castles and food. We love it all.

We need a 4th city to complete our journey. We have looked at Dusseldorf or Stuttgart. We don't have airline reservations made yet. We would welcome any of your suggestions. Sandy

Posted by
7217 posts

Consider Frankfurt. One of the oldest and most historic cities in Germany. There are so many sites to visit here including dozens of museums, lot of historic Jewish heritage sites, lovely old churches, beautiful parks and easy access to the Rhine and many medieval type towns.

Posted by
393 posts

If you must stay in Germany I recommend Nuremburg. A WWII buff should stand on the parade grounds where the Nazi's held their rallys, see the old SS barracks at Darby Kaserne (now closed) and see where Patton's tanks shot holes in the walls that are still there, see where the trials were conducted, and then walk thru the old town. It's also in a straight line with your other cities and easy to get to and around.

If you don't have to stay in Germany I highly recommend Prague. It's also in the path of travel between Dresden and Munich, it's got an interesting WWII history (the SS HQ is now a gov't office), and there's a lot of great history there for anyone. Plus, it's prettier than any of the other cities you're planning on visiting.

Either way, If you husband wants to add to the experience and see something more than the normal tourist does regarding WWII in those cities have him get the issues from "After the Battle" magazine for the places you're going to visit. This British publication shows pictures from WWII with current pictures from the same locations so he can actually see the changes.

Posted by
2613 posts

Three previous posts all recommend places with some merit. However, having spent four years living in Augsburg (in Bavaria near Munich), I strongly recommend including Bavaria, which would include Munich, Nurenburg, Berchtesgaden (Salzburg, Austria), Garmisch/Fussen, and the Romantic Road, which includes the amazing medieval walled city of Rothenburg on the Tauber. The road goes from Wurzburg down to Garmisch. It includes several smaller cities that were relatively untouched in WWII. There are Romantic Road tours from Munich, so you don't need a car.

Unlike Frankfurt, Munich, Berlin, Cologne, etc. that had 90% of their buildings destroyed in the war.
Frankfurt would not be my choice, but the Rhineland/Mosel river valleys are worth some time. Berlin, Dresden are also worth considering.

Stuttgart is close enough to Heidelberg and if you want to go to the Mercedes factory.

Posted by
11348 posts

"...a major WW2 military buff." In that case, I would suggest staying in Germany to focus on the several war sights in Berlin, Munich, Dresden and Hamburg or Frankfurt as the 4th city.

a..In Berlin see the Invalidenfriedhof ca 30 mins walk from Berlin Hbf, the oldest and most famous Prussian-German military cemtery, he'll recognise some of the famous WW1 and 2 personalities buried there plus monuments to others.

b... the RAF war cemetery on Heerstrasse of British air crews shot down during their strategic bombing offensive.

c....a day trip out Seelow, to see the museum and memorial to the 1945 Seelow Heights battle, the biggest ever fought on German soil, accessible by taking the train from Berlin Hbf to Frankfurt an der Oder, then the S-bahn to Seelower Höhen Gedenkstätte

d.. the museum in Berlin-Karlshorst (the terminus for on the S-3) from Berlin Hbf., ca 20-25 min walk along Treskower Strasse, the name he'll surely recognise. Or, you can catch the bus at the Berlin-Karlshorst S-Bahn station that go to almost in front of the museum. Outside of both #2 and #3 are numerous WW2 Soviet tanks, SU types, artillery pieces, maybe even a Katyuska truck (can't remember exactly)

e... Not to be missed is also the German Hist. Museum on Unter den Linden, where you'll see the 88 gun.

f.. In Berlin are 3 Soviet WW2 war cemeteries and memorials...the Tiergarten on Strasse des 17. Juni, formerly known in Prussian history as "Charlottenburger Chausee." The other two are in Berlin-Pankow and the big one in Treptow.

g...If he is interested in WW1 too in Berlin, see the Rathaus in Spandau, (the U-Bahn goes out there), the memorial plaques can be seen there. I finally went to Spandau as a day trip in 2017. You get the feeling you're not in Berlin ( just me) but I don't have that feeling when in these other former suburbs, eg., Karlshort, Köpenick or Charlottenburg that all joined in 1920.

Posted by
713 posts

To add the list of WWI sights in Berlin
h) Always forgotten is Berlin Teufelsberg which is 120 metres high, one of the two highest hills in Berlin. But this hill is not natural, it is built on WWII debris.

Already mentioned Nuremberg is a good idea but I like to bring in Hamburg.

A lot of people may ask why Hamburg because the city was nearly completely burned down after Bomber-Harris two major attacks to burn the civilist people as well. Reasons for Hamburg:

  • It is a different part of Germany with very own culture and character.
  • It has two wonderful museums: One is the emigration museums (counter part to Ellis Island), the other one is the Maritime History Museum.
  • A day trip can go to Lübeck with beautiful northern style old town and amazing Hanse museum.
  • Another day trip can be Laboe at Baltic Sea coast ... visit U995, a real WWII submarine. Do not confuse it with the submarine in Hamburg from Cold War times.
  • A must-have for husbands with little child inside is Miniatur Wunderland, world's largest model railway.
  • Food: visit Hamburg's fish market and taste a lobscouse

Hope that enriches your choice of destinations.

Posted by
4 posts

This is absolutely incredible all the input I have received. Thank you so much for taking the time to provide it. Last year we did travel to Budapest, Vienna and Prague which was an incredible trip.

We are already reviewing all the input. I find Erfurt very intriguing. All the information on WWII is awesome. My Grandfather was in WWI so I like the idea of considering that side trip too. We live in Kansas City which has the number 1 WWI museum in the United States and it is awesome. All we need is more vacation time or a 2nd visit!

Again thank you so much,
Sandy

Posted by
282 posts

I would also like to put in an add for Hamburg. Visiting the St Nicholas Church gives another perspective to the war - every day citizens caught in the tragedy of war. Across the harbor from Laboe (as a previous poster mentioned), is Kiel. I know it is not on most people's to do list, but we visited a WWI/WWII bunker there. Keep in mind it is all in German, but it was crazy to see. There was an exhibit there where high school students interviewed people who had lived through the war and gave their stories, (most of whom were children at the time). It was really interesting to read. There was another exhibit that focused on the aftermath of the war and mass emigration/immigration. The bunker is a bit tricky to get to, but I am sure a taxi could get you there. Another place to visit in Kiel is the Nordsee-Ostsee Kanal (aka the North Sea - Baltic Sea canal) which is interesting to see. We also visited the Uboat in Laboe it blew our minds. We got a bit lost getting there (I am going to blame the gps) and had 10 mins until the Uboat closed so we practically ran through it. I could not imagine living on that boat for months at a time. I was claustrophobic after 10 mins. I also would not want to be one of the men who had to sleep under the torpedo. Another day trip from Hamburg would be Bremerhaven with the Immigration/Emigration museum. It is really well done. There may or may not have been some tears when we reached the Statue of Liberty part of the museum. My hubby and I both had ancestors who left through Bremen for the new world, so it made that part even more meaningful.

Our experience in this area is really hard to articulate without feeling a bit guilty and perhaps misunderstood. WWII is a lot more complex than a lot of people on the allied side think. I tried to put myself in the place of an everyday citizen just trying to survive the war and the aftermath of the war. It hurts my head just thinking about it. One of the stories from the bunker was a child remembering how his mother struggled to find ingredients to make an apple pie, as the ingredients were scarce. As soon as she got it out of the oven, there was a bombing raid and a bomb hit. There was glass in the pie from a window thus making the pie inedible. Yes, Hitler was a horrible horrible person, but that doesn't make everyone else there horrible people.

I think one of the best things about travel is opening up your eyes to others history and experiences that may be different from your own understanding of the world.

Posted by
11348 posts

Hi,

I heartily second the suggestion to Laboe to see the U-Boat and the "Marine Ehrenmal." (Naval Memorial) I went there once in 1977, overdue for a revisit. You can take the ferry there to Laboe itself, then the bus to the U-Boat. Kiel and Kieler Förde are in interesting; in terms of WW1 history, it's the place where the naval mutinies began in 1918.

If he is into naval war history, then I would suggest too a day trip to Stralsund, which can be reached from Berlin Hbf direct. Stralsund is the terminus.

The Marine Museum is located in Stralsund, German naval history is dealt with starting from the North German Confederation including that of the world wars.

There are more war sites and military history sites in Potsdam.

Posted by
3817 posts

I would suggest sleeping in historic Weimar (local bus to Buchenwald, a few minutes), and daytripping to Erfurt. You might also be able to get Eisenach. We wanted to see the Karl Zeiss museum in Jena, but ran out of time. I don't know if Quedlinburg (read about the Texas GI's who stole the church treasure, but the real reason to go is the old town ... ) is accessible without a car. Don't overlook Leipzig, which will add no travel time and is very attractive and historic. It figures in the fall of the Wall, as well as being the main Bach city of several. Consider also the UNESCO WHS Dessau-Worlitz. (Maybe too chilly in March.)

When in Berlin, see if you are interested in the Grunderzeit Museum, a quirky place that "includes" both Nazi and Soviet times, in its history if not its collection. English tours must be booked in advance. (Drama in English, "I Am My Own Wife") Long walk from the S-Bahn, maybe take a cab the last leg.

I do not suggest Frankfurt, Stuttgart, or Dusseldorf. But Cologne (especially if you can get a local flight connected from one of your two [open jaw] Transatlantic cities) is unique for being 80% walkable, at a cold time of year. And it has many days of attractions right downtown. Alas, no Rhine boats in March, I think.

Edit: I meant to suggest both Leipzig and Cologne as possible multi-night stays. They have lots to do. Aachen is a good daytrip by train from Cologne.

Posted by
393 posts

Looking at most of these replies I wonder if anyone is actually looking at a) the line of travel between Berlin and Munich, and b) the fact that this is planned for March. Most of the places listed are a ways out from the line of travel (either north to south or vice versa). Berlin is about as far north as I ever want to go that early in the year. It can be darn cold, especially along the North and Baltic Seas, and visiting sub pens in freezing weather has never been on my list of "fun" attractions.

There are cities worth visiting directly between Munich and Berlin, without having to go all over the place.

Posted by
11348 posts

Hi,

As you are planning and deciding on a 4th city, if you do choose Düsseldorf, you can take a day trip (a bit over one hour) by train to Kleve to see the Reichswald war cemetery, resulting from the big battle in the area of the lower Rhine (Niederrheingebiet), the Battle of the Reichswald. The Reichswald war cemetery has the British cemetery and that of the German troops. I saw it once...in 1989, poignant, note the difference between the two.

Another WW2 site taking a bit less time from Düsseldorf Hbf than going to Kleve is the town of Xanten, should you be interested, and where the Canadians were. Xanten was pretty much shot up.

Between the two I found Kleve and the Reichswald more interesting.

Posted by
4 posts

Thanks again for all this geat information.

We are flexible in our departure date. We always go during shoulder seasons. We are always prepared to bundle up. But could certainly leave in early April vs. the last week in March then start in the South. We are OK with a high of 45-50 degrees.

We want to avoid huge tourist situations and long lines. Of course there are always tourist!!
Thoughts?

Posted by
3817 posts

I'm not specifically interested in military sites, but presumably you have experience touring outdoor locations in shoulder season. As for visiting cemeteries, it's not hard to find war cemeteries in Europe(!) I thought it was particularly easy in French Alsace, where totally German cemeteries (facing their homeland) are right beside Allied cemeteries. Battlefields (all green and inscrutable today) are not as fungible. But visiting exposed, outdoor sites in the winter without a car is, too me, risky of discomfort and cold waits for busses.

One way to avoid crowds is to pick less traffic-ed places. I went to the Budeswehr museum in Dresden to only to see the modern addition architecture. But it's apparently a massively important location for all of European history research (and some exhibition.) Because it's away from central Dresden and the art/opera mile, I doubt that it's ever crowded. If you visit the gentrifying Neustadt area of Dresden in the winter, I don't think it will be that crowded. The art museums, yes. On a sunny day, maybe the boat ride, either east or west, on the river maybe.

Berlin is good for five to seven days, and is of course full of places to duck in and get warm. We've been back (as a brief stay, transit or plane point) to Berlin several times, and there's always more to see. The reason I pick Cologne over Duesseldorf is that there is more to see, less walking, and more indoors to escape to in Cologne. There's nothing wrong with Duessldorf in good weather. When we started a vacation in Cologne, Lufthansa (via the United Airlines website) flew us to Cologne from one of their big hubs for a two-digit addition to our fares, if that much. (You can't get into your room before noon anyway!)

Posted by
713 posts

In general no tourist masses in March likely because Easter school vacations in Germany are all in April in 2019, only Hamburg 2 weeks but that number of people is easy going in Germany, also in and around Hamburg. You will not recognize it. Only end of March can increase a little bit because that is last date most employees are allowed to use their paid vacation days from 2018.

Berlin will be a little bit filled up by international folks for ITB fair.

Temperatures cannot be forecasted. look at climate tables of the city. Often the northern part has milder temps than the south in winter due to nearness to North and Baltic Sea. DWD is doing the official weather service including weather warnings. This forecast is reliable 3-4 days ahead.

Posted by
11348 posts

In Germany and Austria it is not a sure fast rule that you can't get into your room prior to noon. I've done that, say arriving at 9 - 10 am at the hotel or Pension, do the check-in, I am allowed to go to the room, have done this in Vienna, Hamburg, Kiel, Berlin, Frankfurt. Lüneburg, If the room was not used the night before, you have access to it when you show up prior to noon

Posted by
3817 posts

Fred, I was speaking conceptually about early AM arrival from the U.S. Of course I wasn't describing a unalterable fact of life that always goes one way. There are no absolutes in international travel. If you look at the antecedent of the statement, I was describing why a two-segment flight at the beginning of a trip is not necessarily a bad thing. It can save travel time and money.

Anyone who lands at 7AM and expects to get into their hotel room in order to have a happy trip must be prepared for disappointment. Some lucky business travelers are permitted by their company to book the preceding night before arrival if there is a high-stakes meeting first thing in the morning. My wife has sometimes had to change her clothes in the car, in the parking lot outside the plant.

Posted by
11348 posts

"Conceptually" not being able to check in and go your room can happen. As to the "absolutes" on not being allowed to check in if you show up at the hotel at say at 9 am, I can say based on "practical" experience, as opposed to conceptually, that has only happened in London in the various B&Bs where I stayed in Kings Cross. I do have the names if you want them since 2009.

Apart from London arriving between 9 to noon, ie, landing from the trans-Atlantic flight or coming off the night train, I can pretty much count on at least checking in and having my luggage stored in the Pension or hotel in Paris, Austria and Germany. Going to the room is obviously another story, which depends on whether it had been occupied the night before.

Only in London in B&Bs, again based on actual experience, did I have to wait until 2 pm, before the check-in was allowed, which in the long run is an unimportant detail as the B&B stored the luggage anyway, so therefore I could return at 6 pm.

Posted by
11 posts

I also am planning a trip in March. I see that someone commented on a day tour of the romantic road from Munich. Any recommendations for a tour company. Are doing all of our traveling by train, so no car

Posted by
4 posts

We want to go to a Nazi documentation center. We will be in Munich, Nuremberg and Berlin. All 3 have documentations centers. Does any one have a recommendation on which one is the best?

Also, we can either go to Dachau or Buchenwald concentration camp. If we can only go to one, which one is the best?

Sandy

Posted by
11348 posts

Other cities have a Documentation Center too, such as Cologne and Düsseldorf.

The Americans got to Buchenwald first, where they encountered the horrors for the first time. They did not reach Dachau until the end of April 1945.

Posted by
11348 posts

Another reason for considering Hamburg, regardless if it's not on the North American tourist radar, is simply the fact that Hamburg is the cultural center of North Germany.

My first time going to Laboe was in 1977 for the expressed purpose of seeing the Marine Ehrenmal and the Museum as a day trip from Kiel where I was staying at the HI hostel.

Just as I was about to enter the Museum, this woman, obviously with tears and choked up, was walking out, saw me entering, and said, "ergreifend." (poignant). Hearing that I had an idea what to expect.