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Mannheim to Munich in 8 days this December ... help please

My DH is traveling to Mannheim for work (instead of zoom! yay!) and I'm joining him; we arrive DUS Nov 22 (via SFO --> LHR) and depart on Dec 9 out of Munich at 8 am. This is our first trip anywhere since covid began.

The first half of our trip is set (2 nts Köln + 5 nts Hamm + Münster visiting friends, via train) but we need help with the second half: 8 days / 8 nights starting in Mannheim and ending in Munich. We currently have 2 nights in Mannheim: Nov 29 - Dec 1. Not sure if Heidelberg is best as a day trip from Mannheim or a stop on our way further along ... the castle overlooking town & river look spectacular.

With just a quick read of the forums I'm overwhelmed: Heidelberg, Bad Wimpfen, Würzberg, Regensberg, Bamberg are all intriguing (along with the auto museums in Stuttgart) & Ludwigsberg ... My brain is exploding!

Options seem to be:

Mannheim --> Würzburg --> Nuremberg (too big? yet maybe not) --> Regensburg --> Munich ?

Or

Mannheim -->Heidelberg --> Stuttgart --> Ludwigsburg --> Augsburg --> Munich ?

Or

Mannheim --> further south to the German Alps --> Munich ?

Not sure about train routes, which places to use as base & for how long + day trips. As I said, I'm overwhelmed.
If you have strong preferences, tell me why one is better than the others. My head is spinning. We'd love to see smaller towns / cities that weren't destroyed in WWII (Münster is lovely, but much had to be rebuilt), but also want to see iconic Bavaria.

FYI: We briefly visited the Sauerland (where my great grandparents were from), Cologne, Münster, Soest & Detmold in July 2018 & Dec 2019 (loved the half timbered houses & countryside), and spent 24 hours on layover in Munich in 2010. We love architecture, history & good food. In Dec 2019 we visited Vienna, Amsterdam, Münster & Cologne and had a fabulous time, but I’m a bit claustrophobic; I preferred the smaller Christmas markets with room to move around. Loved Vienna's small markets & wide pedestrian-only Graben w/ beautiful lights. Münster & Essen had beautiful decorations too + fabulous food: grünkohl (with + w/out wurst), käsespätzle & flammkuchen – all so good. The Christmas markets in Cologne were my least favorite – too crowded & claustrophobic, but the cathedral was impressive. This time, we’ll use Cologne to visit Aachen as a day trip & get over jet lag.

We’d love any & all advice re train routes, favorite places & for how long, where to stay, what to eat etc.
Do any markets outside NRW have grünkohl? If not, what regional specialties should we look for?

I appreciate any insight you can offer.

Posted by
12879 posts

Hi,

I see you are staying 5 nights in Hamm and Münster with friends. Münster is much better. I've stayed in Münster , in the hostel and in a Pension a few minutes from train station. Never stayed in Hamm.

I've been to Hamm, mainly to change trains since Hamm is on the trunk lines. I try to avoid transferring trains there, prefer doing that in Dortmund Hbf instead. One time in Hamm I did spend a couple of hours exploring, walking around. Hamm was plastered in the war, first by air and then on the ground since it was part of the Ruhr pocket operation in 1945. you can tell that by its unattractive 1960s architecture style

Be advised too that since you are coming from Münster Hbf, the ICE train (if you take that one) could split up , ie detach (abtrennen) in Dortmund, in another words, "Zugteilung"

Ask at the Reisezentrum in Münster if your particular departure involves that. To be sure you want to avoid that , ie, one less hassle to deal with if you're not well versed in German.

Posted by
12879 posts

part 2 here.

Re: the regional specialties... I would suggest the DAB beer from Dortmund. Numerous beers come from Dortmund and are available in NRW They're available in Münster as well as the Münster specialty "Münster Pinkus " beer. Your friends can surely advise on these.

If your friends are doing day trips by car, you could suggest (depending how far they want to drive), a small place Höxter, to see the Schloss or Soest, the oldest town in Westfalen. Both these places are cultural and historical sites.

Next to Münster is Warendorf, if your interest is also in horses.

Posted by
1117 posts

Grünkohl is more of a northern German specialty. There are special traditions around it, most of which involve significant amounts of alcohol, but not usually a Christmas market. I guess you may find it on Christmas markets, but that's not where I would look for it. And you may probably find it somewhere between Mannheim and Bavaria, but again, that's not where I would look for it.

If you want to have those specialties at their best, that is: in the regions they belong, go to Northern Germany for kale, to Swabia for Käsespätzle, to Alsace for Flammkuchen.

The Christmas markets in Cologne were my least favorite – too crowded
& claustrophobic

Christmas markets will be all different this year, with Covid, provided they take place. You may find them less crowded but more fenced in, and with 3G in effect. Not sure if that will be more or less compatible with your claustrophobia. :-)

Posted by
3195 posts

Bad Wimpfen (not sure how to get there via train)

Buy a ticket and board the train. Takes about an hour from Mannheim by direct train, but there are also a number of connections that involve a change or two.

Posted by
117 posts

Fred, thank you so much for your helpful input (esp. the "zugteilung"), I truly appreciate your thoughtful response.

What you wrote about Hamm is true, but we stay at the Alte Mark Hotel, located in a pretty little "village" very close to where our friends live. The tiny church in the center of the old "village" makes the location rather charming, and while some may not appreciate church bells ringing for ten solid minutes, we loved it. The hotel also has a small beer garden that we rather enjoyed. While downtown Hamm is not terribly attractive, we did appreciate the history & the glimpse it gave us into the harsh realities of war - which for me, is better than just "Disneyland" all the time (if you know what I mean). The 2 to 3 story "above ground air-raid shelters" that are still scattered around the city ... https://www.tracesofwar.com/sights/15627/Where-is-Air-Raid-Shelter-Ostenallee.htm were rather sobering. Interestingly, at least two have been converted into a private homes ... I'm sure the solid construction is part of the draw, along with the long distance views from the rooftop (since that area is flat as a pancake).

We actually visited Soest as a short day trip with our friends in July 2018 and loved it - excellent tip! Besides the pretty half-timbered houses & cathedral, there was also a lovely tree-lined walking trail on top of the old city walls that we very much enjoyed. We might return on this trip if the Christmas Market is running.

Thanks also for the tip about Höxter, Warendorf & DAB beer - we'll definitely have to try it. We loved Pinkus Müller; their "Pinkus Special" beer was a favorite.

Posted by
117 posts

Anna: thank you so much for your reply, I appreciate your input.

We really enjoyed the Grünkohl ... a delicious alternative to all the red cabbage we'd been eating (and much preferable to the sad little salads typically seen in some restaurants).

What you mentioned about fenced in markets has me worried - we will be sure to choose locations that offer sightseeing alternatives.

Posted by
117 posts

Badger: I suppose I deserved that snarky comment since I meant to edit that bit out of my post. I'm a bit overwhelmed from trying to figure out how best to string these towns together, and since trains aren't as common where we live, it's a steep learning curve.

Posted by
1117 posts

Here's a Grünkohl anecdote for you as some additional input, from way before kale became known as a fashion food in American cuisine, and way before you even found the word in dictionaries. It's from a reliable source and happened exactly that way:

The American exchange student is living with a Northern German family. Of course, they want to introduce him to all Northern German traditions, including a good meal of Grünkohl. He looks at his plate, bewildered, and finally says: "I don't eat grass." :-)

Posted by
794 posts

First, let me say I lived near Nuremberg for four years back in the 1980's, and have been back to Germany a dozen times since. I am quite comfortable traveling there, especially in the southern part of the country. that being said, and taking in your preference for smaller cities that were not so hard hit in the war, I'll suggest this route:

Mannheim, Stuttgart, Nuremberg, Amberg, Regensburg, Landshut, Munich.

All of these cities connect by rail, most without need for changing trains. Yes, Stuttgart, Nuremberg, and Regensburg were hit hard, but they built back very well, retaining the old parts of the city as much as possible. They are also quite beautiful and very different and rightfully big tourist draws. Amberg and Landshut however are rarely on most American tourist itineraries, and I think you find them well worth a day. The rule of thumb being the further east you go the less the destruction (outside of the major cities). The Allies had pretty much won by the time they got as far as Nuremberg so while they may have got bombed they didn't have the pitched battles that really flattened places in the west. Plus that route is fairly attractive by rail and there are enough trains that you don't have to rush, or you could get off and visit other small towns along the route.

You should see the auto museums in Stuttgart if that interests you. I'd plan on 1-2 days in Nuremberg and Regensburg; there's just so much to see.

I can't make many recommendations for places to stay or eat as I'm not sure what's survived. But my usual strategy is to ask the students, they usually speak English, and they know all the places with cheap and plentiful food locally.

Posted by
117 posts

Anna: that's so true. 😂 And in the opposite direction: when our German friends visited us here in California, they looked at us like we were crazy when we offered a raw kale salad (often called "rainbow kale salad" as it's tossed with fresh Meyer lemon dressing + peeled segments of homegrown oranges along with other colorful ingredients) as a lunch option one day. They seriously thought we were deranged; we had to show them that the type of kale used (which we grow in our garden) in raw kale salad = Lacinato kale (aka dinosaur kale) which isn't as tough as curly kale - the type more common in their neck of the woods. Even then, they were still skeptical. 😂

p.s. In case you're curious, here's a recipe for typical California "rainbow kale salad": https://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/recipes/rainbow-kale-slaw
We like it because we grow both kale & citrus in our yard.

Posted by
117 posts

Thank you KGC, your input is very helpful. I appreciate it very much. Going to go now and read up about Landshut & Amberg ... thank you again.

Posted by
1117 posts

@Carolyn: Oh, I can understand your friends so well! :-) I sure would hesitate to touch raw kale ... and California grown kale at that! How has that gotten the frost it needs before harvesting? Kale fields up in the Sierra? :-o

BTW, you might be interested to know that we call kale the East Frisian palm tree. Makes sense, doesn't it? :D

Posted by
117 posts

Anna: the Lacinato kale we grow (aka "dino" kale, Tuscan kale or cavolo nero (Italian for "black cabbage") isn't bitter if leaves are harvested when young and grown in cooler weather (tho this variety is known to do well in warmer regions like Tuscany) - which we have where I live (SF Bay Area) thanks to the fog / marine layer. We never grow it in hot weather. And yes, when the plants get old, they look similar to your photo ... but have a look in the link below to see what the leaves look like on younger plants (which can very grown as ornamentals as well as edibles).

https://gardenerspath.com/plants/vegetables/grow-lacinato-kale/

I was skeptical about eating raw kale until I tried it at a friend's house at Thanksgiving. She slices the raw kale leaves very thin - perpendicular to the mid-rib (which some people remove, tho sometimes we like the crunch it adds). Combine the julienned kale with an equal amount of thinly sliced raw Brussels sprouts, then toss with a homemade dressing made from Meyer lemon juice, EVOO + Mustard + S&P. Toss well with some grated Parmesan cheese and toasted chopped almonds for crunch. Delicious! It's now one of our favorite side dishes for Thanksgiving (prime Brussel sprout, kale & citrus season here). Trust me, don't knock it until you've tried it - but the type of kale used really does matter. 😊 Also, most raw kale recipes call for citrus juice - sometimes even rubbing or marinating the leaves in fresh citrus juice as a means of making them tender. Regardless, once I tried it, I was hooked. We don't eat it all the time, just in season. I've also learned to make grünkohl - which of course, my husband prefers, because it calls for smoked sausage or bacon 😉😂.

Posted by
3195 posts

It wasn't intended to be snarky, but I really couldn't understand the problem since there is a railway station in Bad Wimpfen. You could make Bad Wimpfen a stop on the way from Heidelberg to Stuttgart, that would be my choice. It is roughly an hour from Heidelberg to Bad Wimpfen by direct train. Bad Wimpfen to Stuttgart is around 1:10 to 1:30 with one change.

Posted by
12879 posts

@ Caroplyn..... You're welcome. On the issue of a "detached" train, I also suggest checking the big yellow "Abfahrt/Departure " schedule to see if your desired departure has in bold black print , "Zugteilung"

I always look at the yellow "Abfahrt/Departure" schedule, but that's only one way getting the information. To be sure, inquire at the Reisezentrum in Münster Hbf.

That route ie, Münster/Westf. to Düsseldorf am Rhein is a junction area (one reason for the Zugteilung) served by not only the ICE and regional trains but also the U-Bahn and S-Bahn lines from Dortmund, Düsseldorf, and Cologne which takes you out to its extensive network, say out to the samll towns and boonies where I've gone in the greater Dortmund area.

Bottom line...much better to avoid that by planning

Posted by
117 posts

Badger: my fault, so sorry. I'm removing that from the original post now since I meant to initially. Again, my apologies and thanks for your help.

Posted by
1117 posts

Raw kale AND raw Brussels sprouts?? This is getting worse and worse... :D