We will be leaving from Stuttgart, and will then have 4 nights, 3 days to tour southern Germany with a car the first part of September. Would you suggest the Black Forest, or southern Bavaria to see the Castles etc.? We could also do the romantic road as an option. We have done part of the romantic road on a previous trip, although that was a quick trip as well. Any suggestions would be appreciated. Also, should I book rooms ahead, (which I usually do), or do you think it would be ok if we just found rooms once there. It kind of sounds nice to let a little serendipity happen!
Will you be returning to Stuttgart after your 4 nts tour? Makes a difference as far as a recommendation. Also, serendipity is fine but how much time do you want to spend looking for a place to stay? We like to plan where to stay because we have certain requirements as far as price, location and amenities that are important to us as part of our vacation experience.
We can fly out from stuttgart, Munich, or Frankfurt.
I would suggest you give the region of Swabia a look. Check out some of the castles like Schloss Licthenstein and Burg Hohenzollern. There's enough attractive old towns in the area that you don't need to even consider the Romantic Road.
When we drive, we don't usually book rooms in advance, as it gives us some flexibility in our plans. However that depends on when your travelling. If this is in the summer, you should definitely plan and book ahead. The castles would be my choice. There are 3 Crazy Ludwig castles in Bavaria, all in the Germany book, and all 3 are worth a visit. If you're going to Neuschwanstein, take a drive to the Wieskirche, which also in Rick's Germany book. It's really beautiful and it's not a long drive. Linderhof, which was the first castle he built I think, is very beautiful and the grounds are spectacular. We stayed outside of Fussen and saw all 3 in one day.
I whole heartily agree with Tom regarding Swabia. Ulm, Tubingen, Bad Urach, Grabenstettin, and much more. The Swabian cuisine is unique and outstanding. So is the beer and there are some excellent bier houses in Ulm. It looks to us that there are less tourists in this part of Germany if that is a consideration. You will find the Swabian people to be nationalistic regarding their heritage and they speak low German or Swabian, a dialect not understood by some other Germans. They are exceedingly friendly also, especially when they know my surname which is Swabian.
Not to sound too ignorant, but where is the Swabia region? I know I can look it up, but I figure I'm not the only one here who doesn't know.
Swabia (Schwaben auf Deutsch) is a cultural region including most of Baden-Württemberg (the eastern part) and a little of the western part of Bavaria. At one time, the Duchy of Schwaben comprised parts of France (Alsace), a large part of southern Germany (including the upper Neckar valley), some of Austria (Vorarlberg), and maybe northern Switzerland. In much a Swaben, life was hard, and the people became very frugal, somewhat the German equivalent of the Scots. Stuttgart is the major city. Rothenburg odT is just outside of Schwaben, but has some cultural resemblance. Part of the Romantic Road (Weikersheim, Bad Mergentheim, and Tauberbischofsheim) are in Schwaben.
" In much a Swaben, life was hard, and the people became very frugal, somewhat the German equivalent of the Scots." Specifically, the "schwäbische Hausfrau" (Swabian housewife) is often invoked as the symbol of stubborn frugality in the German voting populace.
It looks like I have been in Swabia! Who knew!! Thanks for answering my question gentlemen.
Thank you for all of your replies! If we go with Swabia, would you suggest flying out of Stuttgart?
If we only go back to places we know, no one would go anywhere new. That's what guide books and asking for advice on the helpline or other sources are for!
I guess having both Scottish and Swabian ancestors says a lot about my fiscal habits! Tuebingen, Hohenzollern Castle, Sigmaringen - lots of places to see. If you can identify where you ant to go and which towns to stay in, then I would make reservations ahead of time. If you don't and play it by ear, you can always go to the town's Tourist Information Office and book a room through them.
Swabia ambassador here! If you're leaving from Stuttgart, you have a lot of options for a really nice driving trip. The Black Forest is right here (although is not technically Swabia), you have the "Swabian Alps" (small mountains) directly to the south of Stuttgart, and south of that you have Lake Constance (Bodensee) which will still be lovely in September. What to suggest depends on your interests. There are some great castles here which others have already mentioned. To the north the Maulbronn Abbey is one of Europe's largest and best preserved medevial monestaries and is really worth a visit (technically that's not Swabia anymore either, but let's just think of the state of Baden-Wurttemberg so I don't hear the lecturing voices of my Swabian and Badischer friends in my ear). The Neckar river valley north of Heilbronn also makes for a great drive and has some great villages and castles, Bad Wimpfen standing out as a good place to check out. There's so many options, I could suggest a "loop" that would take you through some of the best sights ending in Stuttgart for 3 days. But it would depend on your interests and how much time you wanted to spend driving. But in general this area isn't super heavily touristed (outside the Black Forest and Lake Constance) so it's a pretty easy place to try for serendipity! And Swabian food is the best in Germany and includes a lot more than Spaetzle - maultaschen and zweiblenrostbraten come to mind. And this is big time wine country (then again most of west and southern Germany is...)
I would love for you to suggest a loop! We are really game for about anything-- We would not mind seeing a castle or two, (like Hohenzollern) but if we don't that is fine. We would love to drive through quaint german villages, see the german countryside, and eat good food! Anything you suggest would be appreciated!
There's a castle at Bad Urach. The food there is great. If you want genuine country food go to the only place in Grabenstettin.
There's so many great places I'm going to suggest two different loops and maybe you can choose one (modified however you like obviously) or combine elements from both depending on your interests. Loop 1: Northern Black Forest and Neckar River Valley
Day 1: Starting in Stuttgart, drive south on A81 to Herrenberg, a delightful town on the Fachwerkstrasse (half-timbered road). Enjoy wandering the town, climb up to the big church, have lunch maybe, or go on to Calw. Now you're in the Black Forest. Calw is also full of half-timbered homes and is the birthplace of Herman Hesse, you'll see his house and a statue of him there. Continue on to Bad Wildbad to overnight. Or if you want more Black Forest scenery, continue on to Bad Herrenalb and overnight there. Less than 2 hours total driving time this day. Day 2: Take a hike or take the waters in either town, both are in stunning settings. Do this late afternoon day 1 or morning day 2. Then get in the car and head towards Maulbronn, stop in any towns you think look interesting. Arrive Maulbronn in the afternoon, tour the abbey, go up to Heidelberg if you to see Germany's oldest university town and the beautiful ruined castle there. If Heidelberg is too big/busy for your tastes, drive south on B27 and overnight in a smaller town along the Neckar. Day 3: Mosey down the Neckar, stopping at the castles, wineries, and abbeys along the way. Overnight in Bad Wimpfen. Day 4: Continue on the B27 towards Ludwigsburg, stopping at any of the nice half-timbered towns along the way. Tour Ludwigsburg schloss (english tour at 1:30 p.m. I believe). Overnight in Stuttgart near the main train station or the airport for your flight out the next day. The Stuttgart Wine Village festival should be going on at this time, that would be a perfect end to your trip.
Loop 2: Swabian alps and Lake Constance Day 1: From Stuttgart, head to Tubingen to tour the beautiful old city, grab lunch, then head to either to Burg Lichtenstein or Burg Hohenzollern to tour the castle. Both are romantic recreations, but the latter has more history and is more impressive, so I'd probably choose it. Continue on to Sigmaringen, overnight there. Day 2: Tour Sigmaringen castle, then head south to Lake Constance. You could either go via Konstanz to tour the flower island of Mainau, go through Ravensburg for more half-timbered quaintness, or head to Fredrichshafen to tour the Zepplin museum. I would overnight in Meersburg or Lindau, which I think are the two most beautiful cities along the Lake. Day 3: Lake day! Explore Lindau, take a boat ride on the lake if it's clear (you could go to Switzerland, bike, go wine tasting, lots of possibilities. Either overnight at the same location, or head up towards Ulm, either staying in a town like Bad Waldsee to take the waters or for some "big city" excitement you could check out Ulm with it's famous cathedral (birthplace of Einstein). Day 4: Head back towards Stuttgart via Ulm, either taking back roads or the Autobahn 8 depending on how pressed you are for time. Overnight in Esslingen, explore the town with the vineyards and Germany's first sparking wine cellar. Head to the airport directly from Esslingen the next day. Loop 2 involves a little more driving, while I'm acquainted with the major sites on this loop, less so with the actual scenic driving routes and small towns versus Loop 1. I'd definitely do more research into things to see/do/stay in both areas, but neither loop requires too much driving - Loop 1 is downright leisurely.
A stop (overnight or otherwise) in Bad Urach could easily be added to Loop 2 at the beginning or the end, particularly if you spent less time at Lake Constance. I haven't been to Bad Urach but it looks great.
Sarah, thank you so much for your suggestions, and for taking the time to plan the two different routes! This will definitely make this trip easier!
I don't think you could lose with either one of Sarah's suggested loops. We loved Herrenberg and Burg Hohenzollern and found Bad Wimpfen to be absolutely charming. We stayed at the Neckarblick Hotel, just a short 3 minute walk from the Haupstrasse (Main Street). On the other hand, we have been to Bodensee 3 times and it will be quite nice in September. On Mainau island, the Dahlias should be in bloom. They have over 12,000 dahlia plants (I forget how many different species) as well as every other bloomming plant you can imagine! Gorgeous. Also, the university town of Tuebingen has one of the most photographed town squares in Europe! Like I said, you can't go wrong with either option.
I've really enjoyed reading about the Stuttgart/Swabian area as I am planning on heading in that direction in October. From the posts I now want to see if I can get to see the Hohenzollen castle. I had planned on Tubigen and the castle isn't that much further away. We will not have a car however and our base will be Kirchheim u Teck. I'm wondering about the regionalrail ticket(ticket that allows you to travel the region for one price): price, and can I purchase it at the station in Kirchheim? Or would a standard ticket for the day be better? I checked the DB site and the price was around 22 euros for standard. Or any other suggestions that I'm not aware of? Another day we hope to go to Ludwigsburg. Thanks for any help.
"We will not have a car however and our base will be Kirchheim u Teck." There is a nearby castle, Burg Teck, that you can see on top of a hill from the main Autobahn. I have always wondered if it would be worth the time to leave the road for a visit. Perhaps you can check this one out and report back?
Thank you everyone for all of your comments and help! You have really been a huge help in planning this leg of our trip!
To spin off of Sarah's comments you could head south through Castle Hohenzollern (highly recommend), Tuebingen, down to Meersburg (highly recommend castle). Spend the night there. Head west, cutting through the black forrest Titisee-Neustadt/Freiburg towns. End up in Riquewihr, France, one of the cutest towns in France for the night. Head back through Strasbourg to Stuttgart. You'll want to look for rooms before you go, it's still Germany school/vacation holiday time until September 10, so many places are completely booked.
Love Sarah's loop trips... but especially #2... Have been to Lake of Constance a few times and it is one of the most beautiful places. If you go there be sure to get up really early and watch the sunrise at the lake.