Do you have any suggestions for our family (4 adults)trip this Christmas? We arrive the day after Christmas, drive to Rothenburg and stay overnight, drive the Romantic road to Munich, day trips to Marienplatz, Dauchau, etc. then to Salzburg. We welcome all recommendations.
I'd suggest stopping at a Christmas market. There's only one open then. Head south along the Rhine to Speyer, where the market runs into January (it reopens on the 27th after the Christmas holiday.) Proceed as planned from there.
I question the car decision. Winter driving conditions are unpredictable; 4 adults would likely travel more comfortably by train. It could cost less as well since you can use a Bayern Ticket - under 30 Euros per day per group of 5 on regional trains - once you're in Bavaria (which begins not far from Frankfurt, actually, in the town of Kahl) and even to Salzburg.
You didn't specify if you had any Hotels booked at this point? Are you looking for recommendations for lodgings, sightseeing or other points?
I have to agree with the previous post, in that driving at this time of year could be problematic. While I haven't travelled in the winter (so far), I've seen regular news reports out of Europe describing horrific crashes that have occurred in the winter months.
Travel by train requires more planning, but I find it much easier in the long run (no parking issues, traffic tickets, etc.). I've travelled that route, so have some idea on the train aspect.
Just so you're aware, the Romantic Road runs parallel to Munich a significant distance to the west. And to be honest...having driven all over Germany, there's nothing particularly different about this road over any other routes that lead south to the Alps.
I would also recommend slowing down the initial phase of your trip a little, especially because you are driving. Winter jet-lag takes a little longer to recover (Send me a PM if you really want to know the biological reason). You may want to consider spending an extra night in Rothenburg, or at least get a late start the next day.
Thank you for your suggestions, particularly regarding our plans to drive by car. We haven't rented the car yet, so what are the pro/con's of train travel? A rental car will cost us about $400/wk.
I already have hotel reservations, Rotherburg-1 nt, Munich-3 nts, Salzburg-2 nts, Frankfurt-1 nt.
Our family of 4 did this and more in 3 weeks a couple of years ago, and enjoyed the freedom of a car. We spent our first nights on the Rhine, though, then went to Rothenburg, Reutte, Munich, Salzburg, Vienna, back through Germany to see Heidelburg and Augsburg and for 4 relaxing days in Lindau on the Bodensee (Lake Constance). We stopped at markets,out of the way cathedrals and palaces, the Lake District between Salzburg and Vienna. It's a great trip as set out by Rick. Honestly I think you see more by car. We stayed at all Rick hotels, parking the cars in the cities and taking public transport there. (Lindau he doesn't mention, it is just a little island which is more pleasant in the summer than winter.) I would not worry about the weather driving; if you can take your time and enjoy whatever the day may bring, it will be easier on the family dynamic. I'd be sure to layer as if you are going skiing, in Bavaria particularly.
Melissa & Harry, thanks for confirming that a rental car is Ok versus the train. My family likes to travel quickly and take impulsive side trips, so a car is better for us. Also, I've booked all of our hotel rooms on Priceline (2 rooms @ 4* hotels, $40-65/nt), and some are not located in the city centers.
New Question:it looks like its cold in Bavaria in the winter, so for those of you from Texas (100F in the summer), how should we pack? Do we need winter boots? Long underwear? We're just planning to go sightseeing, but it looks very cold with short days in December!
"Do we need winter boots?" Not unless you plan to spend hours at a time outdoors, or you plan to walk through deep snow. Wool socks are probably the most you'll need, and even these can be over-kill if you spend most of the time indoors. "Long underwear?" Once again, only if you spend more than an hour at time outdoors (which you may at Dachau). This is Germany, not Siberia. The key to staying comfortable in the winter is not to overdress- if you overdress, you'll sweat with vigourous walking or as soon as you go indoors, and then once you stop walking, you'll really freeze. Get yourself a comfortable sweater, a scarf, a hat that can cover your ears, some gloves, and a decent coat (not a parka).
Just so you know, gasoline runs about $7-8 a gallon. Make sure you figure that in. There is no way that a car can compete with a train going 100 - 200 miles an hour. All it takes is one accident and the autobahn will back up for 30-40 kilometers. I am not joking about this either. A trip that should take 3 hours can quickly (or slowly) turn into 6 hours. The person driving does not get to see much of anything either. I think I would go with the train. Have you read any of the reports done by Lee about traveling through Germany by train?
Lee posts all over this forum and knows the train system backwards and forwards. Just look for his name on here and post him a message.
Jo, thanks for the feedback and can you forward a link to 'Lee' travel information?
"Melissa & Harry, thanks for confirming that a rental car is Ok versus the train. My family likes to travel quickly and take impulsive side trips, so a car is better for us."
Based on your comments, Ken, you seemed to already have set your plans in stone. So I've been silent.
But if you're open to suggstions I would strongly suggest the train for the reasons Jo gives and many others, including cost, rental offices looking to make an extra buck off you, parking fees, figuring out parking zone rules, radar-ticketing, traffic in metro areas, general navigation issues, getting lost, returning the car, it's all just too much hassle and time. On the train, you can all relax, sip some wine, and move around at will. And the Bayern ticket (daypass) allows lots of spontaneity since you only pay once. Just pick up a pocket timetable from one of the DB sevice point counters in the main train station serving your travel area (like Munich and Würzburg in your case) so you can figure out how/when to get back to your base.
If you are going to be walking around the different towns and cities, plus going to Dachau, I think a set of long-underwear and a pair of boots would certainly not be wrong. This will keep you comfortable. Boots are stylish and everyone is wearing them now.
I'm a native Texan, living in Colorado, and have traveled to Europe twice in February. Clothing is simple in the winter because you just "assume" that it will be cold and you layer! I wear my Cuddle Duds, long sleeve/short sleeve t-shirt, and a turtleneck with a leather coat, and a pair of tights and black pants with wool socks and ankle boots-we had a snowstorm on one trip and you don't want snow to get into your shoes. So this was easy-you remove layers as the day gets warmer-if it actually does. You don't take extra shoes or skirts-you just wear your pants if you planned to dress up at all. If the day is warm, you can just wear your t-shirt!
We highly recommend a B&B in Rothenburg for the excellent all round stay www.haus-karin.de and the price was very good, 23 euro pp.
I traveled to Germany in Oct/Nov 2007 and drove all over Bavaria. While it did not snow during my trip, i would be concerned with snow on the roads in December. However, I'm a bit confused by all the posts (on this thread and some others) about heavy traffic in Germany. I never once experience heavy traffic while driving in Germany (or Austria for that matter). In fact, European drivers understand how to drive correctly. It's nothing like driving in the US (especially where I live... ugh DC/Baltimore beltway traffic). Even in the cities I never experienced heavy traffic--except for just once and it was due to a soccer game. It might be worth it to make sure there won't be any major games in the areas you're traveling through.
Most of the posts that mention traffic jams or "staus" are from people like me, who live here. Yes, you may spend weeks on the autobahn without experiencing a stau, but all it take is one, to just put you off. My favorite memory is, we were coming back to Frankfurt from a trip to Nieder Bayern near Straubing, which should have taken 4 hours tops. Due to fog, snow and an accident(not us, just one up ahead that jammed traffic), this trip took 8 hours. For people who are traveling and counting on every minute of time for various tourist activities, to spend it sitting in a car on the autobahn can be a huge loss. I for one, always feel sorry for the driver when one is going through particularly pretty scenery, simply because when you are driving 120 km an hour, looking over at that scenic view can be deadly. Partaking in a wine fest and then driving can be deadly. Not being used to people barreling down the autobahn at 200km an hour can be deadly. So, yeah, I always recommend the train. As to why the drivers may be better here, it might have something to do with the difficulty in getting a license. Going rate around here is about 1500€ give or take a few euros. This is hours and hours of classes.
One more note about driving in Germany around Christmas time. News reports today indicated that a heavy snow storm was "blanketing parts of Western Europe". Given the time of year, this could be the situation during your visit as well?
A few points related to winter driving....
First, I don't know what the laws are in Germany in terms of requiring winter tires on rental vehicles, but the standard here seems to be "all season radials", even in the winter. I can tell you from over 40 years experience driving in Canadian winters and 30 years as a Paramedic, that all-season radials are NOT adequate for driving in winter conditions!
Also given your home location, if you're not used to winter driving it might be more prudent to consider train or public transportation. It will require more planning and provide less spontaneity, but may be a safer choice for you and your family.
In any case, happy travels!
Jo's post brought back the memory of being stuck for about 9 hours on the autobahn on our way from Augsburg to Vienna on, unbeknownst to us, a German national holiday. Everyone and his dog was on the autobahn that day. We lost a whole day of our vacation sitting in the car and in the end found a way to turn back (illegally) and start again the next morning. Lesson learned: acquaint yourself with national holidays.
I agree with the posters who said to take the train. I've lived in Germany and traveled there and can't endorse the train enough. One of the trips that we took in 2005, we drove and got stuck in a 3 hour traffic jam. If we'd taken the train, we would have been there in less time. BUT, I found that there was no good way to/from Rothenburg by public transport, so a car there may be the best choice. But I'd ditch the car in Munich. I really enjoyed the train because southern Germany's landscape is so beautiful and when you're not driving, you can relax and enjoy it! As the above posters stated, there are great deals to be had on the train (Schoene Wochenende and the Bavarian daypass...)
Long underwear? My first trip to Munich last year I brought some although I thought it was a little over kill. Since they work, take no room...take a set. I was happy I did. Loved the science museum near the Marienplatz.
"I found that there was no good way to/from Rothenburg by public transport"
Actually, it's fairly easy to reach Rothenburg via train. On my last trip I was travelling from Frankfurt Airport. As I recall, there were two changes in Wurzburg and Steinach. Rothenburg seems to be on a "spur line", so the train from Steinach was diesel, rather than electric. I decided to take a Taxi from the station to my Hotel in Rothenburg. It was a very easy and pleasant trip, and no worries about traffic or parking!
I just returned from a similar trip yesterday. We took the train part of the way, then met up with a tour group and took the tour bus the rest.
The problem with the train is that unless you travel with only an overnight suitcase (or a VERY small suitcase), it's difficult to haul big suitcases on and off the train (especially if children are involved; we traveled with two adults and an 11 yr old). We had one large suitcase each and then a small backpack-type carry on. While some of the trains have areas to store suitcases (basically, metal shelving close the doors), many do not. We rode the ICE train and there was only small shelving above the seats to store carry ons. I was forced to stand the first half hour in the space between two cars, watching our suitcases until a conductor told us to move them to another area that was more suitable (and I could then be seated). Every time the train stopped one of us to get up and check to see that our bags hadn't disappeared in the crowds getting off the train.
If you reserve a 'compartment' on a train, then you have seating for 5 people and more storage for suitcases. And you can close the door.
In Rothenburg, two nice hotels are the 'Eisenhut' and 'Hotel Kuchenmeister', both near the Christmas market and the main shopping areas. I also suggest reading Rick Steve's book on Germany/Austria. He suggested one nice store called Annaliese Friese (close to the Christmas market). It's family-owned and they have a 'special' for readers of the book: any purchase is 10% off, PLUS the 19% sales tax is deducted from items that they will ship direct to your home. Of couse, they charge to ship but it's worth it. I bought a cuckoo clock and saved over 150 Euros on my purchase. And they are nice people.
Maybe on some ICEs but not the two we rode in. There was no way to even wheel the suitcases down the aisle (seats on both sides) and in the two cars we searched in there was no suitcase storage. When we complained to the conductor about the lack of storage he remarked, "Well, most people are gone for a long weekend or so and take smaller baggage." And what about people who go on longer trips? Where do their large suitcases go?, I asked. He shrugged and had no comment.
So beware. While I love to ride the trains in Germany, they are not all the same when it comes to storage.