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Germany, France, Austria, questions part 3

(Sorry, but it kept saying my post was too long)

10/30- earliest train to Paris in AM, Paris (follow Rick's two day tour for Paris)- not sure which area to try to stay- that information is very overwhelming

10/31- Paris

11/1- Paris/ late train back to Frankfurt (should we stay night in Frankfurt or Wiesbaden)

11/2 - Rhine tour, hang out

11/3- early departure.

I tried to see quite a bit of variety in Germany (but we still miss Rothenburg, Ludwig's castle, etc.) and to allow enough time in Paris to do some basic sightseeing.

I know that we don't have enough time in Munich.
I can't decide if Dachau is worth the trade off for more time in Munich or the Alps (seeing the castle, etc.) BUT I want my son to understand the concentration camps since we are focusing a lot of energy on Modern times history this year.

Posted by
13 posts

Thanks so much for the feedback so far. I kept looking at the itinerary and thinking of my husband and son who both get tired and cranky fairly easy- and thought "Oh, my gosh!"

I am going to work on it later this evening and post some revisions for you guys to critique. Thanks so much, Diane

Posted by
13 posts

Here's a quick try at revision- I will have to look closely at it later today- there still may be way too much train travel time (and it might still be too ambitious), but it's my first attempt at cutting.

10/24 Fly out

10/25 earliest train to Paris, arrive early PM, Paris (follow Rick's two day tour for Paris)- not sure which area to try to stay- that information is very overwhelming

10/26 full day in Paris

10/27 morning and early afternoon in Paris- take latest train back to Paris- We have to spend this night in Wiesbaden

10/28- Wiesbaden and surrounding areas (maybe train into Frankfurt for the short tour)- have to stay in Wiesbaden

10/29- Frankfurt (zoo or natural history museum, just relax and take in sights, etc.)- have to stay in Wiesbaden

10/30- take earliest train to Munich and use it as a home base per the southern Bavarian thread - (I have to check and see how feasible this is - I don't have time to calculate right now)

10/31- day in Salzburg, Austria (follow advice per the southern Bavarian thread)

11/1- Fussen or Mittenwald

11/2 - hang out in Munich, then catch late train to Frankfurt then on to Wiesbaden (I still have to check schedules to see what makes sense- I might have to train to airport then Wiesbaden??)

11/3- early departure.

Posted by
4132 posts

Wow, what a lot to cram in. Everyone's sweet spot is different but I think you've got too much--that you would be shortchanging yourself and your son by spending too much of your short trip on the train.

Since Paris is important (and also because it's great). I'd leave out Austria. But what you could do is sketch out two alternative itineraries--one without Paris and one without Salzburg and Munich--and see what is best for you.

If you are determined to cram it all in, see if there are flights from Salzburg to Paris. Or maybe from Munich to Salzburg the day you arrive, then work your way back.

Posted by
135 posts

Hi, Diane, I have to agree with Adam from Boston - this program is perhaps too ambitious, especially with an 11-year old who has to eat every couple of hours. You have a lot of long, boring train trips in there, bracketed by two long flights out and back. I would skip Munich and Dachau, so you can visit Austria and France and spend an extra day or so. It would be easier on all of you. When you get back from Paris, stay in Wiesbaden if you want to do a Rhine cruise the next day. Wiesbaden-Schierstein has a cruise harbor - or you could really do the cruise on the day you want to explore Wiesbaden's environs. Will you have a car? Necessary, if you want to explore the countryside around there, like the pretty little spas in the Taunus mountains - but this is not much fun for a kid. Good luck and Happy Travels!

Posted by
689 posts

Something has to be cut--I think this itinerary will leave you exhausted and unhappy. First, I'd cut that Rhine tour and stay in Paris longer. The Rhine was the lowlight of my Germany trip. There are some cute towns but honestly, it just wasn't that scenic/interesting. Salzburg is a joy--unless it turns out that logistically it's unworkable, I'd keep that over everything in Germany.

Remember to check train schedules at Deutsche Bahn (google it)--train travel will likely take more of your time than you are guessing.

Rick has good recommendations for neighborhoods to stay in in Paris--don't stress too much about which one. Find the hotels in your budget, look at the "guidebook feedback" part of the website where people leave feedback about hotels, and start emailing to see who has vacancies.

Posted by
13 posts

Thanks so much for all of the information. I am off to recalculate the itinerary and the costs.

Posted by
6664 posts

Diane: Your itinerary is still, well, ridiculously rushed. You can't see see southern Bavaria, Munich, Dachau, and Salzburg with just 3 nights, and the expense of getting there and around alone isn't worth it. You've already zoomed to Paris and back. Kids can sometimes be more traumatized than enlightened by Dachau, and your son will have a headful of experiences if you see what's near the Rhine. Stick to the Wiesbaden/Rhine/Mosel region which is chock full of sights and right in your own backyard.

Burg Eltz castle:

Marksburg castle:

Rheinfels Castle in St. Goar (See Rick Steves)

Cologne: lovely city for a day, very good museums, amazing Cathedral, easy to reach by train.

Mosel River towns:

Trier, Germany's oldest city, lots of Roman, early Christian history, musems, etc:

Remagen: WW II museum at the site of the former "Bride at Remagen":

Half-timbered cobblestoned villages worth visiting: Bacharach, Linz (north of Koblenz), both on the Rhine; Cochem and Bernkastel on the Mosel.

In Cochem: Reichsburg Castle tour:

You can get to these places by train - only exceptions are Bernkastel (bus connection in Wittlich) and Burg Eltz (long but lovely walk from Moselkern station.)

Posted by
2349 posts

I've never been to Germany or Austria so can't comment on your itinerary. I am concerned about the info in your first post about your son's allergies. You are going to spend a lot of time and energy figuring out what he can eat. In a foreign language. Your husband having taken a few years of French is different from sorting out the allergies. It sounds like you have opportunities in the future for more travel, so I think you should slow this WAY down and skip France completely. Get a German translation of all his allergies and keep it with you.

I think it's helpful when planning a trip to transpose those same distances in Europe on a US map. We think everything is so close in Europe. Would anyone here plan a trip to NYC for 2 days, take a train to Boston for a day and half, jet off to Chicago, zoom down to Cincinnati, and then back to NY for the plane home? No, it's just nuts. But we always hear, well, I'll just throw in Prague while I'm there.

Posted by
495 posts

One thing that often gets overlooked in these itineraries is the time and energy taken to move around in a city. It's very tempting to look at the train journey from city A to city B and think "it's only 5 hours, we can go in the morning and it have a full afternoon of sight-seeing!"

The problem is once you factor in the time to pack, pay the bill and check out of your hotel in city A, travel across town to the train station (leaving early enough to allow for unexpected traffic and time to find the right platform) you've already added another hour to the total. Then at the other end you have to get you, your child and all the bags from the station to the hotel, get checked in... And at some point you'll probably want to eat.

P.S. Flying isn't much better, the flight might only be 70 minutes but most airports are 15+ miles out of town; so by the time you've travelled out to/back from the airport, arrived early to check-in and go through security, waited for your bags etc. it can still be a very long day.

Posted by
13 posts

Thanks so much for the input. I am really going to look at the distances carefully. We do tend to drive to DC for the day every couple of months (4 hours each way), but that is only for one day, not several days in a row. Your idea about looking at a map of the US is absolutely excellent. I think it will help my husband see how far apart things can be in Germany.

My son's allergies do worry me. His Spanish tutor is also fluent in French, so she is going to translate all of the allergy information and spend time teaching him some basic French for the next couple of weeks related to food, etc. IF we decide to add Paris to the itinerary. I am trying to find someone to do the same thing in German for him.

Posted by
1358 posts

And Frankfurt, honestly, isn't much of a tourist town, it's mainly a financial and business center. I wouldn't plan a whole lot of time there.

Posted by
6664 posts

The daypasses (Rhineland-Pfalz ticket) Harry mentions are your best bet for exploring the Rhine and Mosel from - 26 Euros for all day (after 9 am on weekdays) for 2-5 people on the regional (RE, RB, S) trains. Daytrips to Trier and Cologne would definitely make for long days if must start from Wiesbaden, but trains run well into the evening. You can actually reach Remagen in a little over 2 hours from Wiesbaden with these trains - not so bad if you're seeing other towns in between - whereas Cologne is 3 hours or so. For Cologne, you'll need additionally some regular tickets round trip from Bonn-Cologne; the daypass only gets you as far as Bonn.

To see this region most efficiently, move yourselves to Koblenz, the rail hub for the area - then your trip to Cologne, Trier and pretty much everything else becomes much easier than from Wiesbaden.

Posted by
55 posts

I agree with all the suggestions to simplify. We just got back from 3 weeks in Germany. We have friends who live near Heidelberg and we used their home as a "vacation from our vacation." We would go off for 3-5 days, and then come back to rest up and regroup for a day. I grew up in a tourist town (Santa Cruz, CA) and lived in San Francisco for many years. The last thing we wanted was to hang out with a bunch of other tourists. We started on the Mosel and had such a good time out there that we decided not to tour the Rhine. I would recommend that you spend at least part of two days (and the night in between) in each of the places you visit. We were traveling with our sons, ages 15 and 20. The 20 year old would have loved to see the night club scene in Berlin and Dresden, but that will have to wait for another trip on his own. I encouraged him to think of our trip as a planning trip. He knows exactly where he wants to go back to, without Mom & Dad. I also agree that the Alsace would be a good choice for your jaunt to France. We went wine tasting, hitting only the smaller wineries and the ones without tour buses parked out front. With your 11 year old, you may want to focus on site seeing in Colmar or Strasbourg.

Posted by
8965 posts

Frankfurt does have a lot to interest children. The city has the largest cultural budget of any city in Europe, so they invest heavily in making it more attractive to tourists. It used to have the reputation of being just banks and business, but that is quite outdated. It is very historical and has wonderful gems to find if you take a bit of time to find them. Try the Staedel which is a fabulous art gallery for a just a small beginning. Lots of museums (Communication Museum, Historical Museum, & Strassenbahn Museum are the best for kids), the zoo, going up the Main Tower for a great view of the city, the Palmen Garten, 48 parks to visit, right outside of Frankfurt is the Saalburg - a wonderful rebuilt Roman fort, Hessen Park - a working middle ages village, and the Opel Zoo.

If you need help with translating into German for the allergies, please contact me with a message.

Posted by
13 posts

Thank you, thank you for your suggestions!! I decided to concentrate on planning alternative itineraries for each place we will be and choosing "the plan" based on how everyone is feeling. My goal is to soak in the ambiance and have fun. How everyone is holding up will determine what that means. I am going with the flow depending on how everyone is feeling and what they want to do. My job is to plan and research.

We looked at my husband's work schedule, etc., and this is what we have so far.

Fly in and out of Frankfurt (non-negotiable)

spend first three days in Paris (really 2 1/2 days)- one day of hard touring and the rest just soaking in the atmosphere--
we will do either Rick's one day plan or Frommer's - depending on my family
and one day just checking out neighborhoods and markets (based on Gourmet article and Markets of Paris book)

spend three nights in Wiesbaden (for his work)- I have several alternative plans for these days- We will definitely go into Frankfurt (the zoo and the natural history museum are calling my son's name) and then it will be the Mosel or the Rhine or Wiesbaden - I have itineraries for at six different day trips.

then three nights in Munich- we will do a day trip to to Salzburg, then after that, I have a few day trips they can choose from including spending time in Munich, Dachau, Mittenwald, etc.- they decide based on how tired and overwhelmed they are.

Posted by
8965 posts

One alternative for going up the Rhine is to take the slow train to Cologne instead of doing a Rhine River Cruise. It costs less than the ICE, the view is great and it takes less than 2 hours. Kids love riding the train and it will be more exciting than a boat. I saw the suggestion for seeing Sachsenhausen in Frankfurt. Much as I love this city, this is a bar area better seen at night-time. It does have some nice old half-timbered houses and narrow cobble stoned streets, but it can look sort of tawdry in the daylight. We have much nicer areas than that, such as our Chinese Garden in Bornheim and the Berger Strasse which also has some 15th century buildings and great applewine garden restaurants. Another alternative suggestion might be to consider going to Berlin instead of Munich. This is a hugely exciting city, Potsdam is nearby with its gorgeous palace and Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp is also nearby. This was more of a political prisoner camp and may not be quite so traumatic for younger children as Dachau might be. Though 1000's of executions took place here, they did not do the massive gassing as took place in other "death camps".

Were you able to get the allergy translations yet?

Posted by
13 posts

Well, we just got back this week, and here is what we did:

  1. First, Jo, thanks for the translation. It helped tremendously.

  2. We stayed at Hotel Drei Lilien in Wiesbaden. Wonderful owners, no elevator, comfortable and very fluffy pillows and comforters, close location to everything.

  3. In Paris, we stayed at the Latin Hotel in the Latin Quarter. Wonderfully helpful staff, small accommodations and elevator, great location.

  4. In Munich, we stayed at Hotel Jederman (thanks for the recommendation). Wonderful front desk staff (great recommendations for eating, etc.), located close to the train station and on the tram line, great breakfast.

  5. In Frankfurt, we stayed right across from the train station (I am blanking on the name right now). Convenient, friendly, three single beds, wonderful breakfast, a bit noisy, but fun to "feel" the night.

Our itinerary:

  1. Flew into Frankfurt, took ICE to Paris, stayed in Paris for 2 1/2 days. Walked around (did two of Rick's walking tours), did the Hop on, Hop off bus (my husband and son are very into "touristy"), toured Louvre (following Rick's plan), even though we did a lot, we never felt rushed, had a great, relaxed time. Concentrated on the museum area, Luxemburg gardens, Latin Quarter.

  2. ICE train back to Wiesbaden, spent one day hanging out in Wiesbaden- shopping and walking; spent one day in Frankfurt- did the zoo (great reptile and nocturnal exhibits), the bus tour (toured Goethe's house which was fun), hung out in the square, and went shopping at the zeil. The day we planned to do the Rhine and the castles, my son spent vomiting because he ate gelato when I thought he was eating sorbet.

more coming up - -

Posted by
13 posts
  1. ICE train to Munich. Did the Neu . . castle area (I would honestly skip this and just hit more of the Alps area such as Garmish area, etc., but my husband loved it), went to Salzburg (the squares and little streets were wonderful and also did the fortress)- but by this time I was a little "squared" out and think I would have liked to do a Eagle's Nest or another 1/2 day tour and just spend 1/2 day hanging out in Salzburg (loved the city but by this time I wanted a bit more variety), went to Dachau (my son did incredibly well and came away with a deep understanding of why it is important to stand up for human rights), did hop on- hop off bus in Munich and spent time hanging out in the square.

It seems as if we did a lot, but we never felt rushed, and the train rides gave us a chance to rest and regroup.

I loved Paris' attitude (and I really didn't want to go there) and totally enjoyed everything else we did.

Thanks for all of your help, it helped make the trip great.

Posted by
8965 posts

So happy to hear everything went well for you, especially with the food allergies. I was kinda concerned about that! Glad you got to see all that you wanted to and that all your plans worked out well for you. Thanks for getting back to us. We are always nosy and want to hear about everybody's trips.