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Germany Itinerary Help Needed! Mom's First Time Abroad

Hi Everyone!

I'm currently studying abroad in Spain and am trying to plan my mom's visit to Europe to visit me. It will be her first time abroad and I want to show her an amazing time. We've decided on Germany, Austria and Prague but nailing down the exact cities in Germany is so hard! We have 14 days once we leave Spain and here's my tentative itinerary. Thoughts?

We fly into Dusseldorf (ticket already purchased)
Day 1 - Dusseldorf, Cologne, Rothenburg
Day 2 - Rothenburg, Nuremberg
Day 3 - Nuremburg, Munich
Day 4 - Munich (day trip to castles)
Day 5 - Munich (day trip to Dachau)
Day 6 - Munich, Salzburg
Day 7 - Salzburg, Vienna
Day 8 - Vienna
Day 9 - Vienna, Prague
Day 10 - Prague
Day 11 - Prague, Berlin
Day 12 - Berlin
Day 13 - Berlin
Day 14 - Open
Day 15 - Leave from Berlin (ticket already booked)

A fellow exchange from Germany mentioned that I really need to see the Rhine Valley's wine area and visit Hamburg. Right now I only have one more free day if I keep the towns/cities above. I checked flights and they are pretty affordable from Salzburg to Hamburg and from Hamburg to Vienna. Total analysis paralysis over here!

Once I get this figured out I can try to figure out the most affordable way to travel when we're there.

Posted by
6735 posts

What kind of shape is Mom in? She'll need roller skates to see Cologne, Rothenburg and Nuremberg 2 days when she'll likely be jet-lagged. And roller skates aren't so great on cobblestones.

Your itinerary covers a lot of geography, but it doesn't really allow for any down time and hardly any sightseeing time, and it doesn't include much in the way of "old-world" village ambiance. And you're packing and unpacking constantly; try to stay at least 2 nights whenever possible. You probably need to set some priorities.

1.) I don't think it would be wise to add another major city like Hamburg - it's wiser to subtract one or two - but your colleague is right that the Rhine would be a good addition - a change of pace.

2.) You have almost no time in Munich itself - your daytrips there will eat up most of it. I'd suggest skipping Munich and adding time to Berlin and seeing Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp instead on a daytrip. You would then skip your castle daytrip and see the much older and more historically significant medieval Rhine Castles instead of the overtouristed 19th century castles south of Munich.

Day 1: D'dorf - Cologne - Middle Rhine village (Bacharach?)

Day 2: River cruise and castle tour, see other Rhine towns, (Bacharach)

Day 3: Bacharach - Rothenburg (make a stop in Würzburg on the way; drop bags in locker, see the Residenz (palace) with its crazy gilded Rokoko)

Day 4: Rothenburg

Day 5: R'burg - Nuremberg for a full day, then train to Salzburg for the night

Day 6: Salzburg

Day 7: Daytrip to Hallstatt, Salzburg

Day 8: Salzburg - Vienna

Day 9: Vienna

Day 10: Vienna - Prague

Dau 11: Prague

Day 12: Prague - Berlin

Day 13-15: Berlin and Sachsenhausen

That said, I find Vienna very dull - I'd drop it and see something else.

Posted by
531 posts

I agree whole-heartedly with Russ. You don't have enough down time. Your day 1 is too ambitious, esp with jetlag. I am fairly youthful (fairly) and able bodied, but by your itinerary - I would be wiped by Munich. And what would happen is you would just end up skipping those day trips. You need more down time and relaxing locations.

Russ's suggested intinerary is a good one.

Posted by
1068 posts

I, too, agree with Russ - and I might trim it down even more. Your suggested itinerary is a bit ambitious - especially for someone who has never been abroad before. Just taking in the whole European gestalt will be enough to have her eyes bugging out of her head!

My mother visited Paris this last April (not her first time abroad, but her first time in 30 years) for her 75th birthday. She's a healthy, adventurous, completely sharp/sane active woman, and just being in Paris - with no side trips - was enough for her for a week.

So, unless your mother is a marathoner, I would really suggest toning it down. To make the trip AMAZING, make sure you do your research and take her to restaurants/museums/sights/whatnot that you have thoroughly researched and that you know will float HER boat.

For instance - my mother is an artist, so we didn't take her shopping on the Rue de Rivoli - we let her go wild at the Pompidou Center, and then took her around the corner to St. Merry's - a church with a wildly artsy congregation, and the decorations to match. That was perfect for her.

So - is you mother a wine lover? Then yes, I'd explore the Rhine. Is she a big shopper? Then check out cool shopping arcades in the cities you settle on. Is she a foodie? That should inform your decision of where to go.

Just my two cents'. And have fun! What a treat, to get to travel with your mother!

Posted by
19146 posts

I also agree that you are trying to do to much in too little time. Depending on whether you see anything in Nürnberg, you have only part of a day in Munich when you arrive. Next day will be fully taken up by the day trip to the castles. Dachau only takes part of a day (trip from Hbf to Memorial - 38 min, tour (11:00 or 13:00 - 2½ hrs - trip back - 45 min. Better yet, forget Dachau and stay around Marienplatz (Frauenkirche, Neues Rathaus, Viktualienmarkt, Hofbräuhaus, Residenz).

It looks like you are planning 7 places in 14 nights, 2 nights/place - a lot of one night stands. That is going to be tiring, and a lot of your time is going to be consumed traveling, checking in, checking out.

Posted by
430 posts

I agree with everyone else. This trip needs to go on a diet. I'd make a few different suggestions, purely based on my personal tastes, for what I'd want to show a first-time Europe traveler in the Germany part of the world.

I'd start by chopping Nuremburg, Rothenburg and Vienna. (I love all three... but you've got to set some priorities.) I also agree with the prior poster who suggested cutting Dachau, and seeing Sachsenhausen instead.

I personally would not cut Munich as has been suggested, as this is a very convenient location from which to side trip into the countryside. You've got a lot of 'city' -- and I think it is important to include at least one day in the country. Adding the Rhine to get that outdoor time would be good, but I would choose the Munich area over the Rhine (just taste). I do agree that you've got some tough choices to make -- if you want to see the Rhine, do it as a replacement for Munich, don't try to do both (you own't hurt my feelings...:D).

Another possible itinerary... showed Rhine stops. If choice is Munich, just replace the Rhine portion with Munich. side-tripping to the countryside in south Bavaria, or even better, eastern Allgaeu.

Day 1: Dusseldorf - Cologne - Middle Rhine village (I suggest St. Goar).

Day 2-3: Tour Rheinfels castle, River cruise. Tour other castles. See other Rhine towns, like Bacharach.

Day 4: Bacharach - Salzburg (I, too, like the idea of stopping in Würzburg along the way. If you did Munich instead, see Wurzburg on the way into Munich on Day 1 or 2.)

Day 5: Salzburg

Day 6: Salzburg

Day 7: Daytrip to Hallstat. Salzburg - Prague. (a night train is possible, which is what I would do)

Day 8: Prague

Day 9: Prague

Day 10: Prague - Berlin

Day 11-15: Berlin and Sachsenhausen, possible also to side-trip to Hamburg from here. With this many days allocated to Berlin, you can decide once there what side-trips you are still up to.

Posted by
4 posts

Thanks for all of the great detailed replies! It's funny b/c I thought I had already trimmed it down before I posted it :) I will put some more thought into it tonight and post a more relaxed itinerary. And just so everyone knows I'm not crazy... we aren't planning on doing any sightseeing in Dusseldorf, it was just cheap to fly there from BCN and as for Cologne I thought we could have lunch and see the cathedral and then head out of town. I wasn't trying to kill her on the first day :)

A few helpful facts I left out the first time... my mom is 56 and in fairly good shape. She's not at a high level of fitness but she can hold her own. And her main interest is history. She just loves to visit places she's read about and see really old things.

Thanks again!

Posted by
1633 posts

Katrina, sounds like you want to keep busy and on the go taking in as much as you can. Considering all the places you want to see, I would spend 2 nights in each location. You will then have to plan your days carefully and determine what your priorities are in sightseeing. If you want to cut out a city, I also would cut Vienna and add a day to Munich. As others have noted, I would stay along the Rhine the first night. I would also eliminate Nuremberg (not enough time). Day 1 - Dusseldorf, Cologne, Bacharach Day 2 - Bacharach Day 3 Bacharach - Rothenburg Day 4 Rothenburg Day 5 Rothenburg - Munich Day 6 Munich (castles) Day 7 Munich-Salzburg Day 8 Salzburg Day 9 Salzburg-Vienna Day 10 Vienna Day 11 Vienna-Prague Day 12 Prague Day 13 Prague-Berlin Day 14 Berlin Day 15 Home Whatever you do, have fun making lifetime memories with your mom!

Posted by
2732 posts

It so happens that I am 56 and love history, so I will give you my take. (I should tell you I am in good health and have lots of energy and a passion for travel.) I would not have any trouble with this itinerary, and if it were my first trip to Europe, I would want to err on the side of seeing too much rather than too litte, especially if I wasn't expecting to return frequently. I am not so crazy about lots of one-night stands but a few like you have here, would not bother me, especially if you were the one in charge of transportation arrangements. I do like the idea of skipping Vienna and adding a day to Salzburg and Munich.

I hope you have a wonderful time with your mom.

Posted by
156 posts

To put my two bits in, I would skip overrated Prague and take a 1 hour late evening flight from Vienna to Berlin which only cost us 118 euro with Air Berlin last September.You need to cut down all the wasted travel time and this way, you would have the day in Vienna,travel late in the evening and go to bed.

Posted by
576 posts

Excellent point about age, Jo! At 52, when sightseeing I can waaaay outlast my 21 and 17 year old daughters (and run much longer, too). I feel better in my 50s than I ever have. Here in Bend I constantly see people in their 60s and 70s running. Energy levels are an individual thing, not limited by age.

Posted by
14580 posts

Hi Katrina,

In light of your mom's age and main interest,(history), I suggest timming parts of your itinerary. Skip Rothenburg, Prague, and the Rhine area. Focus on Berlin where you need at least 4 full days, including a day trip to Potsdam; several places near Berlin are within one to two hours and can be done as day trips; go to Munich, see also the Feldherrnhalle and Odeonplatz as part of your historical itinerary there. If you want to make a day tip from Munich, go to Augsburg, a very historical place in German history. I agree with your choice of Nuremberg; if you have time after Cologne, do a day trip in Bonn, definitely worth it this time or the next. Go to Vienna...a must see. like Berlin, but it's different. I saw Vienna (too short) in August 2009...not since 1977...and was fascinated by the place in terms of comparing and contrasting.

I agree heartily with that fellow exchange from Germany that you go to Hamburg and its vicinity...did the Vienna-Hamburg train ride by day last August, only had to transfer once, but you'll have to save that for another trip, unless you want to skip Munich, Salzburg, Rothenburg this time. Happy Travels with your mom!!

Posted by
8992 posts

Still laughing at the comment "in light of your moms age". She is 56, not 86.

Posted by
977 posts

My tip for surviving a hectic holiday schedule, is to try to make it back to your lodgings by 5.00pm and put your feet up for a couple of hours before heading out again. After 3 trips to the UK and Europe I have found this is the formula to 'staying the distance'.
Our next trip to Europe in September, is going to be much more leisurely. Only doing Germany and France factoring in plenty of time in each place. No more 'whistle stop' tours.

Posted by
9 posts

Just to put my 2 cents worth in, I agree with trimming the itinerary somewhat. Day 1 is killer. However, we all have opinions of what to keep and what to cut.I would not do Hamburg. As for Bonn, it is nice to visit the Beethoven museum and see the older parts of town but if you have to skip it, you can. The Rhine is really great and there are lots of quaint small town s and castles. For lack of time though, I would either do the Rhine or the Romantic Road/Rothenburg. As for Dachau or any of the Holocaust sites, ask your mom how it may affect her. It is extremely impactful and important but I had a group of friends (in their 30s and 40s) who went recently and took 2 days to recover emotionally. The 2 days afterwards they were quieter and slower and they suggested we not do it the last time I was in the area. If you can give yourself a few more hours in Salzburg, you won't regret it. It is the most charming of cities. Good luck to you both!

Posted by
447 posts

kd states "As for Dachau or any of the Holocaust sites, ask your mom how it may affect her. It is extremely impactful and important but I had a group of friends (in their 30s and 40s) who went recently and took 2 days to recover emotionally. The 2 days afterwards they were quieter and slower"

dachau is very sobering as any sites like it would be. we visited on a sun morning and spent the afternoon in the alte & neue pinachotek. it was a nice way to recover. and we were ready to roll again the next day.

Posted by
80 posts

A word of encouragement and a word of caution. Cologne and the cathedral was one of our stops on our Germany trip last fall. Encouragement: the train station is right at the cathedral. You can jump off the train, store your bags in a locker, see the cathedral, and be back on the train in easily 2-2 1/2 hr. Caution: catching the train out of Cologne can be very tricky. It is notorious for changing track assignments at the very last minute. The track # changed on us 3 times in the last 5 minutes before we left, and it is all announced in German. Luckily, we had approached a sweet young German girl to interpret for us, and she led us back and forth and got us on our train. It was lots of fun since we had her to help us, but could have been very frustrating otherwise. She told us it is standard procedure for Cologne station.

Posted by
19146 posts


When I went from Köln to Hannover last November (2008), I made my reservations 2 months in advance, and the train left on the same track it was shown on when I reserved.

The luggage storage system in Köln is strange. They have a single storage room in the basement with multiple recovery stations above. You put your bag into a kind of elevator at one of the "stations" above. Then, you can supposedly reclaim it at any of the stations, later. I didn't trust it and carried my bag with me into town.

Posted by
2 posts

We travel to Germany and Austria every other year for 17 days at a time. We are in our 50s and in very good shape. We use two cities as bases and take day trips from there. To us, it is a far more relaxing way to travel. We stay at a B&B just outside of Salzburg on Moosstrasse and rent a nice apartment in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Public transportation in either place is fantastic. Enjoy!

Posted by
4 posts

Thank you to everyone for the great advice and suggestions! It took me a lot longer than I thought it would to prepare our itinerary but I´m FINALLY finished :) Please let me know if you have any suggestions for hotels in Berlin, things to do in Prague and/or better hotel suggestions for places I´ve already booked!

Day 1 - Fly into Dusseldorf; Train to Koln for sightseeing (Hotel Harmonie)
Day 2 - Train through Rhine Valley to tour Rheinfels Castle and onto Rothenburg (Hotel Spitzweg)
Day 3 - Rothenburg
Day 4 - Train to Munich (Hotel Astor)
Day 5 - Day trip to Dachau
Day 6 - Day trip to Castles via rental car
Day 7 - Day trip to Salzburg
Day 8 - Train to Prague (Red & Blue Design Hotel)
Day 9,10 - Prague
Day 11 - Train to Berlin with 4 hr layover in Dresden
Day 12, 13, 14 - Berlin
Day 15 - Fly back to US

Posted by
29 posts

The Rhine Valley is beautiful but Hamburg--not so much. I'd also take the time to see Oberamergau while in the Munich area. This quaint village is known for its wood carvings and the Passion Play it puts on every ten years. (And 2010 is the year for it; I would try to get tickets for it as well.)

Posted by
1633 posts

Looking over your new itinerary, everything looks good except for Day 2. It just seems too busy. Koln to St. Goar is a 1 1/2 hr. train ride. You then get off and tour Rheinfels castle--actually ruins--for at least 1 1/2 hrs. Then you have another 6 hr. train ride from St. Goar to Rothenburg, arriving in the evening.

Other options would be to bypass St. Goar and go directly to Rothenburg. Or, stop in St. Goar, look around, walk the castle ruins, and then take a Rhine river cruise to Bacharach and stay overnight. Then take an early morning train from Bacharach to Rothenburg the next day--a 5-6 hr. ride. You would get to Rothenburg in the early afternoon--enough time to walk around, shop and take the Nightwatchman's tour. Just some thoughts.