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Germany, places less mentioned

Rick's books have been a real boon to me, especially in searching for hotels. However, he makes no pretext of addressing all of Germany's tourist worthy locations. There are some pretty major omissions in my opinion like Regensburg and Bamberg. Still, I understand that you can not cover every place with the same level of detail for which he is known.

There is another type of desirable destination that is not primarily a tourist destination, but that can offer the traveler the great experience of a visited culture. In the last few years we have visited Aschaffenburg, Ansbach and Mainz, not big names in English language tourist literature but still very enjoyable places. These are places where Germans live and work, places that shine for their attractive pedestrian zones and history

This December we are visiting Stuttgart. We try to add one less touristy destination to every trip. I was wondering if other folks do the something similar and how it has worked for you? Which places?

Regards, Gary

Posted by
18237 posts

The one thing I learned very early from Rick was to find your own back doors. I'd say that many of the places (z.B. Fischen, Alpirsbach, Bad Herrenalb) I've stayed in I never found in any guide book, but stumbled on the website. By the time Rick features a place, everyone knows about it, and it is crowded with American tourists. I've been to a lot of places that are popular with Germany tourists, but not well known by Americans :).

Posted by
8064 posts

This is one of the times when I think it is good to look over on Trip Advisor. Most of their destination experts live there and can give tons of advice about the smaller towns that are not on the tourist radar. Tell you about local events that are happening and so on. This can be valuable information for those looking for their own back doors.

Thanks Gary for bringing up a good theme.

Posted by
1357 posts

This is why I get another tour book to take along with me besides Rick's book. I like the Let's Go books, they tend to hit all the towns and at least give them a mention. Plus, it has a lot of practical information in it and cheap/free things to do. I like to look in those books for places to hit in between the big cities, and I haven't been disappointed yet.

But then we get into a sticky situation. If I mention these places here, then they stop being "hidden jewels". One of the great things about these towns is that hardly any Americans go there, and I like that about them.

I will give a shout-out for Heidelberg, though. We're lucky to have family in Mannheim that has taken us to a lot of places around there that we wouldn't have seen otherwise.

Posted by
12040 posts

Ah, great topic! I could go on writing about this for hours... but I won't.

One of the reasons I keep eagerly returning to Europe (beside visiting family) is not to see another selection of museums, cathedrals, palaces, etc, but to see the larger non-Ricknik picture of Europe. I find it fascinating to visit little towns and cities and to see the similarities and differences between American life. It's always a pleasure to discover a scenic little small town that looks that way not to attract tourists, but because the residents like it that way. On the other hand for a more balanced view of Europe, it's good to see that the US is not the only part of the world that suffers from post-industrial blight (Liege, Charleroi, Metz, Nancy, Jena, Chemnitz, Sheffield anyone?).

Posted by
206 posts

Me and my traveling friends never limit ourselves to one travel guide when travel planning. In addition to other guides and books, I check collected travel articles I saved from magazines of places I would one day like to visit. We also get recommendations from friends who have traveled to the area we are planning to visit, and then of course the internet for additional information.

Having just returned from Spain (where we spent most of our time in Andalusia) I have been asked what was my favorite place. In addition to saying we really enjoyed our stay Granada (the Alhambra was awesome) and Ronda (which we liked so much we stayed two nights), I can tell them about our visit to Almuñecar and Sanlucar de Baramende (where we had two memorable lunches) and the great buys we got in a little shop while visiting Grazalema (one of the pueblo blancos) and the scenery along the way.

So research all you can before you leave and never hesitate to get off the beaten path, it’s part of what will make your trip so memorable.

Posted by
1346 posts

"What about Northern Germany?"

We lived in Bremerhaven for about 15 months; our daughter was born at the American Army hospital there. I loved living so near the North Sea. We ate halibut and lemon sole instead of schnitzel. My running routes were on raised roadways above polder lands. It might be hard to convince a traveler hungry for sights that such flat land could be so interesting.

When we made trips south for conferences and vacations, we stopped at either Goslar or Bad Hersfeld. Some folks have heard of Goslar with its pretty half-timber houses. Bad Hersfeld was less of a tourist attraction but we found a nice spa hotel that was very near a pleasant pedestrian zone. Our daughter celebrated her first birthday there.

Regards, Gary

Posted by
5668 posts

I think that the thing to remember about Rick's books is that they are aimed at people who have not been to these locations before. This is their introduction to Germany. Think about what you would include in a quick week or two in your home state. What could you include and how much would you have to leave out! For Wisconsin, I'd include Milwaukee, Door County with a side trip to Green Bay. I'd cover the Dells and Madison with some day trips to the west and south. But in a week to ten days you wouldn't make it to the north woods. The Great Rive Road might not make the list. Peshtigo and the great fire museum would be left out to say nothing of the Apostle Islands. Well maybe I'd have to add the Duluth area! Wow, I'm glad I don't write guide books like Rick! It would be a lot easier to write a comprehensive guide than one that is selective for new travelers. As experienced travelers we should be able to find our own backdoors.

Pam

Posted by
669 posts

Ansbach and Mainz are both dear to my heart, and I try to visit both every time. Next time I go, I would also like to explore Thuringia. I have a much more enjoyable time going to places with "real" people. We even enjoyed Heidelberg last visit, because it was a cold December weeknight, so it was only us and locals.

Posted by
2779 posts

Stuttgart is quite an interesting city and the downtown area and castle is quite worthwhile. And there are plenty of picturesque towns and villages nearby. Do visit Tübingen, especially their market square. You can also visit the Hohenzollern castle, a real castle (unlike Neuschwanstein, which has always been something like a 19th century Bavarian Disneyland) used by the family of the Prussian Kings and German Emperors.

Posted by
1346 posts

Cate: "Ansbach and Mainz are both dear to my heart, and I try to visit both every time."

Cate, my wife's father was stationed a while in Katterbach very near Ansbach. Knowing that you were also an "Army Brat", was that your connection?

Andreas: "Stuttgart is quite an interesting city... And there are plenty of picturesque towns and villages nearby. Do visit Tübingen, especially their market square. You can also visit the Hohenzollern castle, a real castle..."

Andreas, we will be in Stuttgart for the Weihnachtsmarkt season. We hope to visit either Esslingen or Tübingen as a day trip. My wife saw the Hohenzollern castle as a young girl. We keep planning some future trip to Baden-Württemberg, but I think that should be in better weather. Thanks for the suggestions.

Regards, Gary

Posted by
11 posts

Two years ago my brother and I were in northern Germany to trace our ancestry. Our base was the city of Muenster-a hidden gem. It is a city where everyone bikes..we biked all over the city on bike paths that lead into the countryside. The city has a wonderful folk museum,a botanical garden, a Picasso museum, and was also the site of the Treaty of Westphalia along with Osnabruck. Love to go back.

Posted by
2297 posts

Oh I completely agree with you about Muenster. I lived there for 8 years and still think it's a great place to live or visit. It's very Catholic, very conservative and very young at the same time with a huge student population at one of the largest universities of Germany that very much influences changes in political life.

http://www.muenster.de/stadt/tourismus/en/

No trip to Germany is complete with a visit of Muenster for me. I always try to go on a market day just to soak in the atmosphere and have some matjes or potatoe pancakes with apple sauce for lunch. Great for shopping, great for biking. On the cultural side look out for the sculptures in public spaces. You can get brochures for self-guided tours for them.

And yes, there's history, too.

Anybody read "Q" by Luther Bissett? I think the German translation has been more successful than the English one but it still can be an interesting read. It's very well researched historical fiction set during the time of Reformation across Europe. The anabaptist movement is at the centre of the story so there are several chapters dedicated to that chaotic time in Muenster. And you find out why there are those cages hanging off the tower of the Lamberti Kirche ....

http://www.amazon.com/Q-Luther-Blissett/dp/0156031965/

Posted by
1346 posts

I have made a note of the comments about Münster. We may be going to Köln next year and were looking some other towns in the area to visit for a couple days.

Posted by
638 posts

Gary, try and hit the Christmasmarkt in Stuttgart-it's wonderful! Not sure if it's every day or just weekends.

Posted by
932 posts

I agree, Elaine. And try the Gluewein!

Posted by
7 posts

ahhh!
ansbach and katterbach what memories
us army 1960--1964 @ ansbach
went back in 1996
even went to zirndorf 1996 my what changes

Posted by
1346 posts

We will indeed visit the Christmas Market in Stuttgart, it is part of the reason for our visit. We visited other markets last year and enjoyed Glühwein at each stop.

Mike,

Zirndorf was nearer to Fürth/Nürnberg than Ansbach. We were stationed in Nürnberg in the 1980's and lived in Roßtal. I used to stop at a Zirndorf bratwurst stand on the way home. We once attended a village fair in Zirnforf. I have not been back to Zirndorf but we did revisit Roßtal a couple years ago.

http://mcchelsea.smugmug.com/gallery/3076218_HPHft/1/167805817_hL3Wj

Gary

Posted by
8064 posts

Quick note about the Christmas market in Stuttgart or any other decent sized city. (and just about every city and town have a Christmas market) They do run every day, usually begin the 1st weekend of advent (right around Thanksgiving time) and will usually run until the 22nd or 23rd to allow the stands to tear down and be back home with their families by the 24th. Some cities do have their markets run a few days after Christmas, like Berlin. Small towns on the other hand will have their Christmas markets on just one weekend in Dec. Or really little towns, just one day.

Posted by
74 posts

Hey Gary! We visited a few places on our recent trip to Germany that are not highlighted in Rick's books. Landau in the Pfalz is a great place to visit if you enjoy getting out into nature and hiking the countryside. In the Spring when the Almond trees are in bloom the surrounding countryside is beautiful. There are a number of wineries in the area and many small villages such as Herxheim & Hayna that can easily be reached by bus. Also, Coburg, Bayreuth & Kulmbach in the Fraconian region of Bavaria are interesting smaller cities. When we were visiting these places in May we ran into very few crowds. The fact that there were some local festivals taking place just added to the charm of these cities. I can't close without saying that Ludwigsburg is well worth a stop for its wonderful palaces and gardens. The tour of Schloss Ludwigsburg was nearly two hours long and covered over forty rooms in the palace. It was one of the highlights of our trip.

Posted by
669 posts

Gary, sorry for the delay! My dad was stationed in Germany three times: Ansbach once and Mainz twice. It was in Ansbach that he met and married my mother(her hometown), and I was there for the two Mainz tours.

Posted by
8064 posts

I have just sort of stumbled upon the Harz mountain area, and it looks so lovely. Have never really heard too much about it, but it looks like a fairly popular place with the Germans. Perhaps take a look. It is mainly in German, but the photos give you a good idea.

http://www.nationalpark-harz.de/de/partner/2_urlaub_bei_partnern/index.php

I really like all the little towns up in the Taunus mountains. Places like Schmitten, or Bad Soden, or Königstein, or Büdingen. Hiking around, following the line of Roman forts and their walls that run through there (called the LIMES), or visiting the Celtic burial mound in Glauburg.

Posted by
18237 posts

Jo, I have to agree with you about the Harz. As you well know, I was there last November. At that time, the little town of Braunlage was almost deserted, but I can imagine, considering the number of accommodations in the town, it is probably bustling in the summer.

Braunlage is high up in the heart of the Harz. On the lower ground to the north, Goslar, Wernigerode, and Quedlinburg are well preserved Fachwerk towns. The "high point" (lit) of my trip was the ride by narrow gauge steam train from Schierke to the top of the Brocken, the highest mountain in northern Germany.