we will be ending a Rhine cruise in Amsterdam and then heading to Hovelhoff/Paderborn area as this is our ancestral home. We have no experience traveling in Europe. Any recommendations on tour guides in this area? Will English language be prevalent in a smaller town such as Hovelhoff? Thanks very much.
While many Germans, particularly the younger ones, speak at least some English, it is does get less prevalent in small towns. Paderborn should be fine. You might be doing a bit more miming in Hovelhoff, but you might find tons of people able to help you if you need it. You should be able to get by just fine with some patience and a sense of humour if you don't find anyone; bring a sense of adventure, a phrasebook, and be ready to learn the German way. On the whole, though, you should be fine; Germans, while not overtly friendly, are actually generally helpful and hospitable.
As for things to see and do in that area, you can probably wander around Paderborn a bit--there seems to be a church and old town worth seeing. You are close to Hameln and Bielefeld--the latter of which doesn't actually exist (it's a German joke that this city doesn't exist). I can't speak to tours, but if you are going to be in a small town on your first trip to Europe, you might find just wandering around the local shopping district interesting--I love looking at grocery stores in other countries, for example. But that's me. I could sit all day at a cafe with a nice drink--coffee, tea, soda, lemonade, local drink--and watch the world go by.
You don't mention your pace or interests or timeframe or mode of transportation. Adding that information could help us give you more specific recommendations. But feel free to ask lots of questions and follow-ups!
If the steam trains are still running from Paderborn that might be a really good way to reach back through the generations. Some of the trains are (were??) quite old, pre-war.
Just a small tip, in case you are using your GPS: Those devices are picky about the spelling, so make sure you get that right, or you may end up totally somewhere else. I assume what you mean is Hövelhof.
Many years ago we spent 7 months in Bielefeld and did a lot of day trips in this area. A nearby town you may want to visit that is only 30 min away by car from Hövelhof is Detmold. It is a charming town in itself but what we really enjoyed was visiting the open air living history museum. They took homes, barns, buildings and windmills from that area and over time to recreate an outdoor museum to show how your relatives lived in a former time.
Some years back I did a short day trip to Paderborn, mainly exploring the Zentrum and also the cathedral. On various trips I have visited several towns/cities in this area. Are you more interested in the smaller places or the cities?
If you're gong to be in the area for several days, I would suggest seeing Soest, the oldest city in Westfalen.
If you're interested in history, especially Prussian history, two other towns I can also recommend if you're willing to go a bit further afield. These towns/cities are Münster/Westf. and Minden. Both cities have museums on the subject. If you 're only going by train , Soest and Detmold are logistically the easiest from Paderborn.
Can't help you on tour guides, or using English. I always spoke German when inquiring or communicating with the locals.
Mona, I am not sure I am buying seven months in Bielefeld!
@HowlinMad, people do live there... even if it doesn't exist! :-)
Münster is especially famous as the site of the Peace of Westphalia which ended the horrible Thirty Years' War. Münster also has an infamous history of reformation gone into more extreme directions, and people being horribly punished for their views. The cages of the Münster rebellion can be seen to this day.
HowlinMad, if I have pictures can I still win the 1,000,000€ bet?
The bet is for proving it doesn't exist, but I'm going to call fake news on the photos ;)
Sorry to hijack your thread with a bit of local humour. You should actually go to Bielefeld just to report back on here! Of course, if you do you must be working for THEM.
For those wondering, the Wikipedia article (I know, I know--sources) is actually a pretty good explanation:
Further hijacking… from the linked Wikipedia article:
“The origins of and reasons for this conspiracy are not a part of the original theory. Speculated originators jokingly include the CIA, Mossad, or aliens who use Bielefeld University as a disguise for their spaceship. “
We lived in Bielefeld for those 7 months because of this university (sabbatical). I must admit that when we saw this massive, glowing building in the middle of a meadow at the edge of the city i too had a feeling it was from another universe. Where are the other buildings, where are the students? It is a large self contained university, complete in one massive, glowing at night, oblong building. BTW it also looked like a shopping mall in the middle of nowhere. Never got used to a self enclosed university. Inside it was organized like a multi story mall with an open atrium.