My wife and I will be spending a week in Germany this June and I was wondering what your "top picks" might be. We are both young and I am a history teacher so WW II history will be at the top of my list. We would like to do all this by train. The number one thing on the wifes list is a trip down the Rhine. We have 16 days in Europe but will be in Ireland for part of the trip and would maybe like to sneak down to Venice or CT for a few days. Thanks for your help.
Berlin would top my list....but my experience in WWII period sights around Germany is limited. I found the area around Berchtesgaden, especially Hitler's Eagle's Nest to be very interesting as well as breathtakingly beautiful.
If your wife is interested in river cruise/wine country you might try the Mosel instead of the Rhine. It is very picturesque, less commercial and you can follow it to the Roman ruins of Trier.
I have never traveled by train and do not know of the availability through any of these places.
In 2007, I spent over a week in Germany. I love Munich---one of my favorite cities --- and the Rhine and Mosel valleys. I took two Rhine cruises and loved. You take the train up the river and then catch a cruise back down or vice versa.
If you are interested in history, I agree that Berchtesgaden would be a good place to go. Not only is Hitler's Eagles' Nest something to see, but down at the base of the mountain is Obersalzberg, where all the top Nazis had vacation homes and the SS had a large installation with bunkers connecting all of the homes. There is now a museum there, called the Dokumentation Center, detailing a lot about the Nazis' rise to power. You can also tour what's left of the bunkers.
Although I've been to Nürnberg, I didn't visit any of these, but I understand there are some sites with WWII significance there.
In Würzburg, in the Marienberg Fortress, there is a museum. One of it's exhibits is a model of Würzburg after it was firebombed shortly before the end of the war.
And, of course, the KZ-gedenkstätte (Dachau) in Munich has some historical significance.
Being a history teacher it seems you should definetly get to Dachau, eagles nest, the salt mine etc. My wife and I will be visiting those this May. It looks like you could do that with a couple days in Munich.
if you are in munich go to dachau. the exhibits are extensive, well presented and the experience was indelible. we enjoyed both the rhine(rheinfels ruin)and the mosel(burg eltz).
History in the Rhine/Mosel region abounds.
Trier: Emperor Constantine's hang-out. Roman historical sites, antiquities museum.
The Cathedral houses Christ's robe in the Schatzkammer, among other interesting artifacts laden with gold and jewels.
Aachen: Charlemagne's seat of power: cathedral is the oldest in northern Europe, a beautiful and unique building.
Cologne: interesting museums, cathedral (immense - like 1.5 football fields in length, one of the finer examples of Gothic.
Remagen: Peace Museum chronicles the taking of the Rhineland by US forces in WW II and the battle for the Bridge at Remagen.
Irrel, near Trier: German bunker, open Sundays, called Panzerwerk Katzenkopf.
Braubach: Marksburg Castle, never destroyed by the French, tourable.
Cochem: Reichsburg Castle, 1,000 years old, tourable, with excellent falconry show on grounds.
Near Cochem: Burg Eltz Castle, wonderful place and tour.
Half-timbered villages with medieval ambiance: Linz (north of Koblenz opposite Remagen on the Rhine); Bacharach (south of Koblenz on the Rhine); Limburg (east of Koblenz on the Lahn River); Cochem and Bernkastel (on the Mosel)
With a week, I'd spend half of it in the Rhine/Mosel area, the other half in the region of Franconia in northern Bavaria. See Nuremberg, Bamberg (beautiful, well-preserved city), Rothenburg (an amazing old walled town) and Würzburg (Residenz palace).
If you want to focus on history (mainly) the one week you're setting aside for Germany, I would say go to Berlin and Potsdam and a couple of days in Munich. The extremes of modern German history begin with Munich, Communism and Nazism, see the Feldherrnhalle that shows the Bavarian generals who fought against Napoleon that is, after they switched sides and joined the Allies and where Hitler attempted his Putsch, there and the Odeonplatz. I saw that last in 1977. though I was in Munich last summer for a couple of days. Most of all, go to Berlin, not just for the Jewish memorial but also see the German Historisches Museum and the Resistance Museum...very poignant and moving. Go to Berlin-Karlshorst for a more specialised historical exhibit; after the Russians left, that museum was revamped, a lot more impartial...it's also the site where the Germans signed to the surrender to the Russians. I've seen it a couple of times, the last being in 1999 after the departure of the Russians. Also there's the anti-war museum in Berlin's Wedding district (not surprisingly), Anti-Kriegsmuseum, haven't gotten to that one as yet.
As for Potsdam make a full day trip of it not only to see Sans Souci but especially Neues Palais, if your interested in Pruusian history...the museum on that is also well worth it, when I was there last July.
All these places are accessible by public transportation...the history museum in Potsdam is a few mins. from the train station..just walk.