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Germany is very diverse...

I would really like to challenge TTBD travelers to look out for more than the cute little fairy-tale villages and to see some of the more "lived in" cities. Germany isn't just Dirndls and castles and half-timbered homes (as wonderful as those are.) It's also the big cities- where many Germans live and work. It's the excitement of Berlin, the cathedral in Cologne, the industry in Hamburg, the bustling economy in Frankfurt, and the University students in Heidelberg.

Nothing against the more "traditional" destinations: Rothenburg is a great town (almost a neighbor to my mom's hometown), and St. Goar is cute, too, but to really feel the soul of Germany, expand yourself to checking out more.

Posted by
8996 posts

Thanks Cate, you hit the nail on the head. The most positive thing is that EVERY city and town has something interesting to offer of a historical value. I wish there was more positive talk about all of those cities you mentioned. I hardly ever hear people ask about going to Dresden, or Weimar, or Leipzig or any of the lovely places up on the North Sea. Often it is because the information in the Guide books and websites is inaccurate. I find wrong stuff every time I pick up a book. Trip Advisor has inaccurate information about Frankfurt, Lonely Planet and Fodors too. Yes, Rick Steves is also inaccurate. Please do not flame me for this. Imagine, I am only checking on the one city I know a lot about, how many other cities have inaccurate information?

It is sad to see people bypass Mainz, running up to Köln when one of the most significant and beautiful cathedrals in Germany is in Mainz, along with lots of Roman ruins since Mainz WAS the Roman capital city in Germany. People can't be bothered to even come into Frankfurt, instead of finding out that this city has been a main player on the history board of Germany for over 1200 years. There are so many historical and meaningful sites here. Hamburg too, what a fabulous, interesting city! How many people on this board have a hard time deciding between Berlin and Munich? That is such a no-brainer for me. It would be Berlin every time.

Granted I live here and that does make a difference. On the other hand, in 22 years, I have yet to meet a German who has gone to Oktoberfest. It is only something that the population of Munich goes to, and therefore it isn't a "German" thing at all, it is a Munich thing. Honestly, going to eat & celebrate at a place that Hitler loved, the HofbrauHaus, always sounded a bit odd to me. Why would you want to go there?

So, now I will slowly descend from my soap box and go get some coffee and think about walking to work as the public transportation is on strike today.

Posted by
671 posts

I adore the cathedral in Mainz, but I thought I'd give a plug to Cologne this time to be balanced. ; ) IMO, the Mainz Dom is much prettier. Wiesdbaden is a nice city, too.

I would pick Berlin over Munich any day, too. I am trying to figure out how to stretch my vacation a few extra days so I can get back there next trip. We missed so much, and I have learned so much since I have been back that I want to go back and check some more places out.

Hope your walk in is pleasant!

Posted by
19149 posts

In addition to Munich, I've spent time in Nürnberg, Karlsruhe, Mainz, Köln, Koblenz, but, basically, I'm not a big city boy. I prefer the charm of a small town. Rothenburg and Garmisch-Partenkirchen are well known, but give me Braunlage, Braubach, Freudenstadt, Sigmaringen, Burghausen, or Oberstdorf any day.

Posted by
485 posts

What I always find amusing is that when Americans picture Germany they think of dirndls, lederhosen, and cuckoo clocks. Those are things that are mostly seen in Bavaria. Most of Germany doesn't look like that. None of my German relatives would ever consider having a cuckoo clock in their home and they gave me funny looks on my last trip when I told them I was on a quest for a really nice one.

A few years ago I was searching for the best place to buy Hummel figures. No one in my family knew what I was talking about.

Posted by
8996 posts

James, that is funny. I also have NEVER seen a cuckoo clock in a German home, and this included my ex-father in law who lived in Nieder Bayern. Never seen a Hummel either or a nutcracker, though smokers and pyramids will come out at Christmas. What is sad, is that a thread about a lovely German tradition, the Easter egg and the decorations that go along with it is basically ignored on here.

Lee has it right, branch out folks, go some place different.

There are thousands of castles here in Germany. There are hundreds of walled towns, hundreds of towns filled with half-timbered houses, hundreds of gorgeous, old churches, tons of Roman ruins everywhere, Celtic burial grounds litter the countryside.

Every town has a website these days. Pick a place or a dozen and research them a bit online. You might be amazed at what you find. There are beautiful little towns all through the Taunus mountains and the Odenwald, but one barely hears of them.

Perhaps I have misunderstood Rick Steve's philosophy about having a "back door" experience here in Europe. I thought it was about finding your own little place, not going where the herds of other people are. Is this correct?

Posted by
380 posts

My husband and I stayed in Miltenberg last year and absolutley loved it!! Our apartment was right in the middle of old town, just above the town well which was decorated for Easter. I have never seen anything decorated as beautifully as that well was for Easter and watching the ladies take great pride in it was great! We went to many of the small towns surrounding that area while we were there and saw the same types of decorations, it was great. We really enjoyed our day trip to Frankfurt too! The museum there on the main square was very interesting, I espeically liked the models of Frankfurt before and after the bombings of WWII. Every town we visited, big or small, was so enjoying and we always felt welcome. We can't wait to get back.

Posted by
2349 posts

I think you're absolutely correct. However, isn't the same thing true for Europeans visiting the US? How many Germans are dying to visit Columbus, OH? Well, maybe the ones that talk to Jo-I assume she gets on her soapbox in Frankfurt to expound on the virtues of Columbus. :) But Europeans are most likely to visit NYC, Miami, Chicago, LA, Grand Canyon, etc. Often the only reason you go to an offbeat area is to visit relatives.

If anyone is coming to Fort Wayne, I can offer iced tea on the front porch.

Posted by
1498 posts

Places that are popular with tourists are often popular with good reason. I really never get tired of visiting Rothenburg towering over the Tauber. Still you have a point that it nice to visit a place that people live. Last year we visited Rothenburg but also Aschaffenburg>

http://mcchelsea.smugmug.com/gallery/6785062_SypJ7/1/433525142_ig87Z

This year we will stay in St Goar and Bacharach but also Mainz for two days.

There are many places like Aschaffenburg that are overshadowed by more famous neighbors, which still offer a lot to the tourist. When I visited, I thought that if you could move Aschaffenburg to Kansas it would immediately become a major tourist destination.

Regards, Gary

Posted by
193 posts

If I wanted to see big modern cities I'd stay here in the US. I like going to St.Goar, Garmisch, Rothenburg, etc. because I don't know of any places in America like them as far as uniqueness and beauty. I enjoy dirndls, castles, flower boxes, buildings with painted stucco. That's Bavaria to me.

Posted by
12040 posts

You could say the same thing about any country in Europe.

Posted by
19149 posts

Europeans are most likely to visit NYC, Miami, Chicago, LA, Grand Canyon, etc.

At one time or another during my life (65 yrs), I have been to all those places except Miami. However, I've also been to Lake Pymatuning in PA, the Finger Lakes, Lakes George and Champlain, and Niagra Falls in NY, Poconos, Chatauqua, Estes Park, the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, and Oak Glen, CA. All these places were nice, but I doubt if many, or any, appear in U.S. guidebooks sold to Europeans.

Three of my backdoors, the Allgäu, the Northern Black Forest, and the Harz are filled with German vacationers, but I have never seen an American in any of them. In fact, in 20 weeks in Europe, except for my wife and co-workers, I have only seen three Americans, that I know of.

Someone sent me this, supposedly from an advertisement for a hotel in Italy, "This hotel is renowned for its peace and solitude. In fact, crowds from all over the world flock here to enjoy the solitude."

Posted by
8996 posts

Ft. Wayne Karen, please don't laugh, but that is exactly what I tell Germans! I do tell them to go to the heartland of America, to go to the small towns. Go to a baseball game, be there for the 4th of July in a town that still has street festivals and home-made floats, drive through the Appalachians, go down on the West Coast of Florida, visit the Serpent Mound and Chillicothe, go to a High School Homecoming game, and well, you get the picture. Because all of those things make up a country and its' people. The same way that big cities and small towns and the North Sea and the flatlands and Berlin and Munich make up Germany and the German people.

Posted by
19149 posts

Here is a perfect example. Someone, in another thread, who lives in Ansbach, which is near Rothenburg, asked about a place for a nearby getaway, maybe in the Schwarzwald.

The first suggestion was Triberg. Now, I've never stayed in Triberg, but I have been through it. That part of the Schwarzwald is lovely, but it is a long way from Ansbach. There are much closer places that are as nice. It is in Rick's book.

Another suggestion was Baden-Baden. I was there in November. It's much closer, but it is far too glitzy for me. Freudenstadt is a little closer, and much cozier. Baden-Baden is in Rick's book; Freudenstadt is not.

And, the world flocks to these places to enjoy the solitude (that used to be there, before the world flocked to them).

Posted by
2297 posts

So very true!!!

I'm currently teaching German to a young man who's about to travel to Germany. And I will make a point that he MUST visit my brother in Duisburg. Not many guide books out there that would mention this important city as a must-see tourist destination. But it's truly in the heart of the Ruhr region, with the largest inner harbour in the world and very interesting and diverse people.

Posted by
671 posts

Beatrix, I Googled some pics- now I want to go!

I think big city or small town, there is something to be said for the "real" places or finding less traveled back-doors. And yes, places are touristy for a reason, most of the time, but sometimes there are places non-American tourists have found that R. Steves hasn't. Wiesbaden has nice baths (Baden-Baden doesn't have the corner- actually any town with Baden in its name is a clue to look for baths.) Dinkelsbuhl is another cute medieval town (look for the festival in the summer to celebrate the liberation by the children.) My cousin-in-law's mom is from Hamlin, and I have heard good things about it. Thuringia was beautiful from the train- I noticed Rick didn't have a lot written, but I'd like to explore it further.

I do like Dirndls and half-timbered houses (when we moved back to the States and my parents bought their first/only house, we all fell in love with the one that looks like a half-timbered/tudor...and that's what they bought.) My mom has Hummels (her family thinks she is nuts). We have been to Oktoberfest in places other than Munich. My mom is technically Bavarian, but she flips out if you tell her because she is Franconian, and they are still mad because Napoleon gave them to Bavaria.) I like big cities, small towns, and the country- I get something different from each. I feel kind-of cheapened when I go someplace too touristy, though.

Posted by
12040 posts

"but sometimes there are places non-American tourists have found that R. Steves hasn't." Very, very true! As much as I enjoy reading Rick's guides and trust his recommendations, his books only cover the tiniest fraction of each country. This is particularly true with his Germany and Benelux books.

Posted by
100 posts

Cate,
It's great that you mentioned Heidelberg. My husband and I lived there for about 7 months and found it to be a fantastic city that is overlooked by the "cute fairy-tale villages". Definitely a place that should be visited more often that what it is.