My husband and I will be spending roughly 5 weeks traveling Europe from England to Italy. We have about a week span to go through Germany. The only thing we know for sure is that we'd like to stay a night in Rothenburg and a couple nights in Munich. I think it would be fun to do something along the Rhine River and also to see King Ludwig's castle. I was looking at the bus tours along the Romantic Road and it seemed very confusing to me. Basically, we're not going to have a car, so will be taking trains/buses along the way... I like the idea of seeing the small towns along the Romantic Road, but I'm not sure what the best way to go about it all is. Does anyone have any recommendations?? THANKS!
Oh, good point! We will be coming from Amsterdam and probably leaving from Munich to Prague, then going into Austria.
Harry has a pretty good itinerary, except like most people he doesn't know which direction the Rhein flows (it's from Frankfurt to Köln).
As for the Romantic Road, you can skip it. I didn't find anything on it, other than Nördlingen and possibly Landsberg, worth a stop.
However, Füssen and the castles are worth a stop.
Spend a night in Rothenburg, then go to Munich for a few day, then see Füssen. That's about it.
Rothenburg is very nice. We also visited Neuschwanstein and another one of King Ludwig's castles at Herrenchiemsee(it is a replica of Versailles). WE enjoyed both castles.
Heck, I know which way the Rhine flows, but I always say go down the Rhine from Köln to Frankfurt, simply because Frankfurt is south of Köln. Or I say go up the Rhine when going from Frankfurt to Köln. The ships do go in both directions. I guess it is like the way some people say uptown and others say downtown. It is just a figure of speech.
There are tons of small towns to visit in Germany, most of them lovely. It comes down to picking some out that are on your route, google their tourist websites to see if they have what you want and then do a bit of research on them. Read these boards, do people rave about certain towns? Do they sound interesting to you? Though I like small towns, I have seen enough of them and enjoy visiting or want to visit the big cities, like Berlin, Köln, Hamburg, Munich, and of course my own city, Frankfurt. They have so much to offer. It is all a matter of taste and what you prefer and what your interests are.
Coming from Amsterdam I would first head to Koln (Cologne).
If you can, visit Bonn, a very nice nearby city. It's no longer the capital so is less visited these days.
You didn't say when you are going so I'll give general advice. Time of year makes a difference.
My top week would include two days on the Mosel, down to Trier, with a stop at Berg Eltz (walk to the castle from the train on a great trail through forest along a stream), and an overnight in Cochem.
Follow that with two days on the Rhine, focusing on Rick's suggestion of Bacharach and St. Goar, the river cruise between the two, Marksburg Castle and the Rheinfels ruins.
Spend one night in Rhotenburg ob der Tauber (the Rhotenburg everyone knows, but you will have trouble if you don't know the full name) and take the Nightwatchman's tour.
Spend the rest of your available time in Munich. See Marienplatz, the English Gardens, the Alte Pinokotek and Schloss Nymphenburg.
I'm leaving out some great stuff. You're skipping all of Northern Germany, Black Forest, the Alps, most of the Romantic Road (hard to do without a car) and King Ludwig's castles (a lot of work to visit and Neuschwanstein isn't a real castle, it's a fantasy recreation from a romantic's perspective).
Definitely see Salzburg.
My favorite Romantic Road town is Wurzburg which you could consider as an alternative to Rhotenburg. Wurtzburg has more sites but doesn't have the same medieval small-town charm.
As has been said, there are many good choices. I would recommend the Michelin Green Guide as a good planning tool. It has a map in the front that lays out many of the sights in Germany geographically. Then you check out sights to find those that appeal to you.
I liked the Rhine and Mosel Valleys already mentioned. The area is well supported by trains and has a wealth of wine villages and castles.
I also liked some medieval towns in Bavaria: Würzburg, Rothenburg, Bamberg, Nürnberg and Regensburg.
For train travel, this is one of the templates to Die Bahn, the German railroad site:
Once you get a list of possible stops, you can usually find German cities, towns and villages on line under the format XXXX.de(e.g., Regensburg.de). Wikipedia also has good pages on German towns and will reference the towns' own sites.
Back to the Rhein - Köln to Frankfurt:
The scheduled K-D ships only go up (southerly direction, against the flow) the Rhein as far as Mainz.
Because the current is so strong, you cannot make a trip all the way up the Rhein (Köln to Mainz) in one day. There is only one ship a day leaving Köln (9:30). It only goes as far as Linz or Bad Hönnigen, depending on the day of the week. It does not go as far as Koblenz.
There is one ship a day from Bonn (8:00), which is a little up (So.) the river from Köln. With a 1 hr change at Koblenz, it goes up as far as Rüdesheim (8:15 pm).
So, basically, you could spend the night in Bonn, or get up very early in the morning in Köln and take the train to Bonn, spend a very long day on the ship, then take the train that night from Rüdesheim to Frankfurt, but I would not recommend it. You would spend all day on the ship without a chance to get out and see sights like Rheinfels and Bacharach.
Instead, I would take the train from Köln to St. Goar, with a possible stop at Koblenz to see Deutsches Eck. Definitely see Rheinfels castle ruins at St. Goar, then take the ship to Bacharach, tour it, and take the train the rest of the way to Mainz or Frankfurt. This is what Rick does in his guidebooks.
The details about the Romantic Road bus tour can be seen here. From Rothenburg to Füssen takes almost eight hours (7:45) without any stops long enough for real sightseeing. The bus follows the RR pretty well until it gets to Augsburg, then it diverts to Munich (not part of the Road) and doesn't pick up the RR again until Wieskirche (where, mercifully, it doesn't stop) before going on to Füssen.
Last October, I decided to fully explore the Romantic Road, to see if it is really a "must do" as some say. I started on the southern end at noon of the first day at Wieskirche (I had already been in Füssen three times) and traveled the Road using only public transportation. I visited Wieskirche, Schongau, Landsberg (nt), Donauwörth, Harburg, Nördlingen (nt), Dinkelsbühl, Feuchtwangen (nt), Rothenburg, Laudenbach (nt), Weikersheim, Bad Mergentheim, and ended in the afternoon of the fifth day at Würzburg. I spent an average of less than three hours a day traveling - the rest seeing the sights.
As for driving, which isn't really necessary, ViaMichelin gives the time on the actual Romantic Road as a little over 4 hour. I think that is optimistic; I've seen the Road. It is a two lane, winding, country road with truck and farm equipment traffic. I can't imagine it is fun to drive.
I think the real attractions of the Road are the towns along it. Of these, Rothenburg and Füssen have to be the major attractions. Other than these two towns, there are a lot of interesting places, but nothing I would label "must see". Of the towns in between Rothenburg and Füssen, I by far prefer Nördlingen. It is Rothenburg's little sister, with an almost intact wall, and with a Wehrgang you can walk along. However, it is much less touristy.
Not everyone will have the time or patience to spend five days on the Romantic Road like I did, but trying to do it in one day is rushing it too much. Spend at least one night between Rothenburg and Füssen. If I were doing it in two days, I would start in Rothenburg, spend a few hours to half a day (max) at Dinkelsbühl, then go onto Nördlingen for the night. The next morning I would explore Nördlingen and then take the train to Füssen.
If you want to spend two nights in Nördlingen, on the second day, take the train down to Harburg, walk the 25 min to the castle, take the castle tour, spend a little time in the picturesque town square, then go back to Nördlingen for the night.
BTW, in Nördlingen, I would recommend Zum Engel. It's reasonably priced, just outside the town wall, a short walk from the train station, and the owners speak enough English for those who can't speak German.
I would go with Brad's plan. I did the route that he talked about this past May and it is so easy to get around by train. If I had more time I would have liked to have checked out Wurzburg as I have heard that it is worth checking out. Munich deserves at least a few days especially if you plan on checking out the castles and Dachau. Burg Eltz is a must see and it is not as hard to get there by train as it may look. Just be prepared to hike a little to get there. It is however an easy beautiful hike through a forest. Also don't miss Koln. We caught a train early in Amsterdam, hopped off in Koln for a couple of hours to check out the cathedral (right in front of the station). Very worth it! The luggage storage in the station is also very easy to figure out and incredibly handy! We had enough time to check out the cathedral, climb to the top, eat lunch and hop on the next train to Bacharach in time for dinner.
I would recommend something similar to Brad, Gary Mc and Kate. Did something very close, i.e. from Dusseldorf to Koln to Koblenz down (I don't care which way the Mosel flows Lee, it's South of Koblenz so I say down... get over yourself and your self-rightousness) to Trier back to Koblenz to Wurzburg to Rothenburg then to Nurnberg. Very easy and relaxing traveling. A wide variety of towns, castles, vineyards, etc along the way.
Hello Erin. Ride in railroad Trains. Germany has great railroad systems. Have your overnight accomodations at either St. Goar or Bacharach (at the Rhine River in Germany) 2 nights, Rothenburg 1 night, Fussen 2 nights (visit King Ludwig's castle Neuschwanstein and Tegelburg Bahn - short bus ride from Fussen), Munich 2 nights. Ride in train from Munich to Prague. I did the "Romantic Road" bus tour from Munich to Frankfurt, several years ago. It was an 11 hour trip. I recommend travelling in trains.
Ride in trains from Amsterdam to Koblenz in Germany (3 hours and 30 minutes trip), and a quick train ride from Koblenz to St. Goar or Bacharach (along the Rhine River). In the Koblenz railroad station visit the train schedule information office (the man there talks in English language): ask for a printed railroad trains itinerary for your trip from St. Goar or Bacharach to Rothenburg. In your one whole day at the Rhine River (in between two nights at either St. Goar or Bacharach) I put a high priority on riding on a big K-D ship on the Rhine River from Bacharach to St. Goar. If you start early in the morning, you could also visit the Marksburg castle at Braubach, in the same day. (Travel to Braubach via Koblenz). Marksburg is the only medieval castle at the Rhine River which was not destroyed. Reserve your tickets for a Marksburg tour before you leave California. In Marksburg castle an English speaking guide is not necessary. The view from the castle windows, of hills and river, is beautiful. Or, in addition to the ship ride, travel in a train to Bingen, and ride on a ferry boat across the Rhine River to Rudesheim, ride on the chair lift up hill to the Niederwald Monument. Up there you can see a good view of the Rhine River Valley. In what month will you be in Germany ?
If you go by train from F'furt to R'burg you will change trains in Wurzburg. That being the case, take time to visit the old town area and do not miss the Prince Bishops Residence. The small chapel is out off this world -- it has it's own entrance so don't overlook it. Forget going to the fortress overlooking the city -- I used to live there and the view of it from the town is much better than the view of town from the fortress. W'burg and R'burg, are the two best parts of the northern end of the Romantic Road. From R'burg you could also train to Heidleburg and then Munich. Hope this helps. Contact directly if you need details. TC
Erin, in my opinion, having seen them both, the absolute best thing to see in Würzburg is the fortress, Marienberg. It is worthwhile, not just for the view of the city, but for the historical, midieval fortification.
The Bishop's Residenz is just one more example of over the top, gaudy, rococo architecture, which, unforturnately, you can find anywhere in Bavaria, and not worth the time. (By the way, wasn't this guy supposed to take a vow of poverty. How can anyone support this hypocrisy).
I also preferred the Würzburg Marienberg Fortress and its two museums over the Residenz. My wife liked the Residenz better.
The best view of the town IMO is not from the Fortress but along the walk on the way up. There is also a nice walk up to the Käppele on that same side of the river which is lined with the "Stages of the Cross".
The Residenz was the home of a bishop. Seeing how he handled his vow of poverty, I can't help but wonder what he did about celibacy (LOL).
My best advice is to slow down and spend at least 7 nights in each town you visit. We Americans cram too much into a time span and everything becomes a blur. Also, people don't take into consideraton the large amount of time it takes to take a train from point A to point B...get to train station, buy tickets, wait for train, take the trip, depart train, reorienct yourself to a newtown, find a hotel, get a room, unpack........too much time doing that rather than sitting in a cafe and dawdling.
Anyway, have agood trip.
Lee, if we ever take another vacation in Germany, you will be our guru.