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14 Days In Germany with 15 Year Old Son

I am in the beginning stages of planning a two week trip to Germany with my 15 year old son. I have done quite a bit of research (Rick Steves DVD's, books, various travel websites) and have many ideas (too many!) This forum has many astute posters and I am hoping for some insight based on your experiences.

A little about us. We will be traveling around March/April of 2009. My son will be 15 and we love WW 2 history. We are not into nightlife and clubbing but desire to truly experience German culture and history.

My first thought was two focus on two cities and spend our time on "day trips". But the more I have read, I am leaning towards renting a car and seeing the country by driving it. The only "must see" in our itinerary would be Dortmund to visit friends (1-2 days).

If we started in Munich and worked our way north west (via car)towards Dortmund, what would be some suggested sites/cities/towns? I know Munich is rich with WW 2 history and we would plan on spending a couple of days there.

I appreciate your insight and advise, thanks in advance.

Posted by
203 posts

If your son likes WW2 history, Berlin and Munich are "musts." For present day history, include Gorlitz (Rick features it in his latest Germany book) which is on the border of Poland. You can walk across the river and be amazed at the contrast between Germany and Poland. You write about starting in Munich and working your way northwest, but IMHO you'd be missing a lot, especially if you're a history buff, if you don't venture into the East.

Posted by
4 posts

Thank you Karen. This is the type of feedback I was hoping for.

Posted by
4555 posts

On your general "line of March" from Munich to Dortmund....Dachau, concentration camp just northwest of Munich (the first one opened by the Nazis, the prototype)....Remagen, south of Bonn, site of the Ludendorff bridge, the first bridge over the Rhine (made famous by the movie)....west to the town of Vossenack, site of a museum to the Battle of the Hurtgen Forest and the old Siegfried line...then south to Bastogne in south Belgium (Battle of the Bulge), the north to Eindhoven, Nijmegen and Arnhem for "A Bridge Too Far," (great website at http://www.rememberseptember44.com/rs44.htm with Google Earth and GPS coordinates), then east into Dortmund.

Posted by
479 posts

Nate, if WWII is your thing then you MUST go to Nuremburg (or Nurnberg). The Nazi stuff there is phenomenal. From everything I've seen this city is one that is coming to terms with its history as a Nazi stronghold. Go on a lot of touristy stuff like museums including the Detusche Bahn museum. You will really see what happens when a city is forced to try to forgive itself for some of the things that it has allowed to happen in the past. A very powerful experience. Spend at least 3 days there if you want a truly German perspective on WWII.

Posted by
4 posts

Thank you for taking the time to reply Jarrod.

Nuremburg sounds awesome and we will plan on visiting it!!

Thanks again.

Nate

Posted by
190 posts

Just a technique my daughter and I use: first, we both do our research. Then, we list everything (!) we are interested in. Next we circle those things that we really don't want to miss. Now we are ready to map out an itinerary. This has always helped us feel like we are not missing much of anything even when some of our circled items just can't be fit into the schedule. It also helps us make good use of our time by giving us a list of agreed on "fillers". I hope this helps. P.S. You don't say, but I hope your son is an active part of the planning.

Posted by
4 posts

Norm,

Some fantastic ideas, especially Belgium. I had not even considered Belgium!!

Follow up question: Regarding the sites you gave, can you recommend amount of time needed to visit each?

I really appreciate it.

Nate

Posted by
12040 posts

Somewhat conversely, there's probably more WWII history to be found outside of Germany than in. Other than the concentration camps, a few subtle memorials here and there, the ruins of Nurnburg, a few buildings here and there, and the Autobahn, Germany has removed most of the legacy of the Nazi era. Outside of Eastern Europe, France and Belgium seem to have the most WWII sites intact.

Posted by
6749 posts

Norm has given you very good advice on the WW stuff. The museum at the Remagen bridge is very good with lots in English.

www.bruecke-remagen.de

The area near the Belgium border includes a bunker or two you can visit (Westwallmuseum in Irrel - Sunday afternoons only) and the Belgian forest just to the west is full of Battle-of-the-Bulge towns with small museums and tanks on display - La Roche en Ardennes, Malmedy, Bastogne - and the American Cemetery Hennri Chapelle to the north near Eupen is moving as well.

Most of Germany can be seen by train but you will need a car if you go to this area of Belgium.

http://www.henrichapelle.com/

Posted by
9 posts

Nate:

Here are my recommendations. I'm sure you will get lots of ideas. I know you will have a good time with your son in Germany.

Fly into Munich and spend two additional days there. You will arrive in the morning. Next morning spend walking around downtown Munich. It will not be too cold to do a Munich Walks Hitler's Munich Third Reich Tour (about 2.5hrs)Then plan a half day trip to Dachau. Second morning stroll around Marienplatz, see the Frauenkirche and a quick trip down to Andechs (another half day) would give you a good Bavarian feel.

Morning of your third full day, drive to Nurnberg, stay inside the walled old city. See the Congress Hall site, the site of the war trials and follow the other postings on what to to in Nurnberg. (2 days)

Next, drive to Rothenberg. Again stay in the town for the night and take the nightwatchman's tour. Do your gift buying here and ship everything home.

Drive to Frankfurt and ditch your car, hop a train for the Rhine.

Bacharach,

Posted by
9 posts

To finish:
Bacharach for a night, take the KD boat up to St Goar for castles. The boat trip is part of your rail pass. Then take the train to Koblenz, pick up a car and drive to Remagen, overnight there and tour the next morning.
On to Koln, drop the car, see the cathedral. Night Train to Berlin.
Spend the remaining days in Berlin, then fly home from there.

Posted by
7209 posts

If you visit Nurnberg there is a fabulous cheap castle about a 30 minute train ride east. Castle Veldenstein. All of its corridors and vaults and dungeons are open free to people staying there. The owner also told us that Hitler stayed there briefly.

Posted by
2779 posts

If you're planning on visiting the Black Forrest as well, your son might enjoy a day at wwww.europapark.de. There also is a former Nazi concentration camp by Natzweiler called Strutthof which today is on the French side of that area.

Posted by
42 posts

Hey Nate... I am leaving tomorrow and have a few plans similar to those you mentioned. We are renting a car for our trip and I also want to see some of the WWll sights. I am planning on going to Dachau as well. I will try to remember to give you some info. on how things worked out for us. We will be going to Berlin, Dresden, Muncich area, Rothenburg, and Kolhn. You can send me a private message to remind me of you like.

Posted by
9 posts

You can see German WWII tanks and battlefield equipment, as well as a few planes (and TONS of other cool stuff, a Concorde, 15 Ferraris and dozens of other cars) at the Technik Museum in Sinsheim (off the A-6, kind of near Heilbronn). Free parking. Tons to see. A balanced presentation of WWII. (Note: while many of the museum's signs are in German and English, most of the war-related ones are only in German. I don't know why. If you don't read much German, consider bringing a tiny dictionary.) This is a fabulous museum for anyone who likes vehicles, as they have trains, tanks, tractors, Formula I cars, luxury cars, chain saws...

Driving note: the A-6 between Heilbronn and Mannheim has very few exits and tons of traffic and construction. Consider learning enough German to decipher traffic reports. Buy a good set of maps when you get there (cheaper in German bookstores than in U.S. bookstores).

Posted by
12172 posts

Berlin is probably best, but a long way from other places in Germany.

You may like the former bridge at Ramagen, subject of the movie "A Bridge Too Far". I toured there with a bunch of military officers and noticed that the US Army officers acted like they were at Mecca.

Another treat may be to have dinner on one of the former WWII mine sweepers that have been converted to restaurants. The one I was on had knee deep militaria. Some Germans said the stuff had to be from WWI because swastikas are outlawed in Germany. On closer inspection, it was from WWII (and illegal).

Way up North is Jagel Air Base (near the Danish border). It's the base where they had the Jet engine Messerschmidts at the end of the war. The hangars were disquised as farm houses. It's a nice area but out of the way.

German military officers really clam up when you talk about WWII. They are proud of their military roots but the time from the 1930's-1945 is something they would as soon forget.