Germany Summer 2013 Travel Suggestions

Starting to get the bug for next summer and looking for ideas. The "plan" as it stands now is to fly into Berlin or Frankfurt and spend 2 weeks. My wife and I would like to base out of a small to medium size city for the entire time. From there we would like to spend our time sightseeing in the city or nearby surrounding area. Not looking to do super touristy things like museums, etc. More inclined to try and live like locals than wear ourselves out. Ideas? Thanks, Larry

Posted by David
Florence, AL, USA
1972 posts

Larry: You probably need to go to the library and begin reading classic travel books. Or get Rick Steve's guide on Germany to find the towns Off the Beaten Pathlike Rothenburg. Frankfort is just another modern city. Berlin is a really large city in transition. They're not my kind of cities. For a two week trip, we usually stay in 3 different locales and take day trips by rental car. Staying outside Munich would allow you to take in Salzburg, Innsbruck and the incredible Austrian Alps. You could take public transport into Munich, and there are many sites to see there. You could also go north to Rothenburg and Nurnberg. You could also migrate east toward Viennaa great city for day trips. With gasoline so expensive, a central location is required to protect your pocketbook. We still drove 750 miles rambling around for 5 days in Tuscany 4/12and it was worth every penny @ $9.51 per U.S. gallon.

Posted by Ms. Jo
Frankfurt, Germany
4766 posts

If you would like to base somewhere that is convenient to travel to other towns, being in a larger city is a plus. If you stay someplace like Rothenburg, you will spend way too much time trying to get to other towns. Basing in Berlin, Frankfurt or Munich allows for ease of travel. You don't have to stay in the middle of the city, you can stay in a residential neighborhood, with bakeries, farmers markets, parks and never guess you were in a big city. The main train stations are then just a 5-10 min. ride away, with regular, frequent trains. As to Frankfurt and Berlin just being big modern cities with nothing else to recommend them, this just shows a total lack of knowledge about these cities. Both cities have huge residential areas, full of trees, pleasant parks, tons of sidewalk cafes, festivals and more, let alone more history than you can shake a stick at. Basing in Frankfurt would allow you to easily visit medieval walled towns like Büdingen, or towns that are on the Fachwerk Route, like Marburg, Idstein, or Seligenstadt. The whole Rhine gorge and its' castles are just an hour away by train. Heidelberg, Würzburg, Michelstadt, Miltenburg, Worms, Speyer, Mainz, Wiesbaden, Bad Homburg, Kronberg, Gelnhausen, or Asschaffenburg are all very close and easy to reach by train. The Taunus Mountains, the Odenwald, and the Vogelsberg are also close Basing in Berlin, would allow you to easily visit Hamburg, Dresden, Lübeck, Kiel, Potsdam, the Spreewald, or Quedlinburg. Going to museums is not a touristy thing at all. Residents of these cities flock to museums, as they often have changing exhibits. Depends on your interests. Museums don't have to be dry, boring dusty places. They often cover unique themes.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17783 posts

Larry, Jo provided some good suggestions and a good summary of the benefits of each location. In reading your post, I was a bit surprised to see that Munich wasn't on the list. While it's not generally considered a "medium size city", I really enjoy the atmosphere there. Staying in that area would also allow some easy day trips to Salzburg, perhaps Hallstatt, Berchtesgaden, Füssen or other locations in that general area. Good luck with your planning!

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
2700 posts

Hi, In planning for this trip in Germany, I suggest researching the information in Rough Guide Germany. Flying into Frankfurt or Berlin is a good first step. Numerous historical and cultural sights can be seen in both cities. If you want to visit the "nearby surrounding area" of Berlin, see those villages in Brandenburg, it's best that you get a rental car. Within a two hour or so radius from Berlin, numerous towns/cities are accessible by train for a day trip...Leipzig, Dresden, Celle, Lutherstadt Wittenberg, Frankfurt an der Oder, Hamburg, etc.

Posted by Martin
Germany
209 posts

As already mentioned, from Berlin you can visit several interesting sights. HOWEVER: Berlin still lies a bit in the middle of nowhere. The Brandenburg marches are often called a "box of sand", because there is not much to see. Many top sights of Eastern Germany are ~3 hours away from Berlin... the Baltic coast with the posh resorts and preserved towns of the Hanseatic League, the medieval towns of the Harz mountains, the cute former capitals of tiny Thuringian states or the rich heritage of Saxony. Don't get me wrong, if you decide to stay in Berlin you will have no problem to fill 14 days. Berlin is good for at least 7 days, and in the second week you can do day trips to Potsdam, Leipzig, Wittenberg, the Dessau-Wörlitz Garden Realm, Schwerin, the Spreewald, Görlitz, Dresden etc.. I however would probably spend one week in Berlin and one week in one of the regions I mentioned before. The Baltic coast is very popular during summer, especially the spa towns full of white villas from the 19th century. In the Harz mountains you can hike, ride the steam train up to the highest mountain of Northern Germany or visit some of the many preserved towns full of timber-framed houses (easily as good as the Romantic Road!). And the south, Saxony and Thuringia, is full of perfectly preserved towns and castles. But contrary to what others said here I don't know a single travel book I could recommend. See if they mention Quedlinburg, Stralsund, the Wartburg or the Emperor Spas on Usedom island. If they don't they are crap. Period.

Posted by Tom
Hüttenfeld, Hessen, Germany
9131 posts

I agree with the others, that if you won't have a car, you would need to base yourself out of or near a large city to allow for extensive and convenient daytrips. In terms of transportation links, Frankfurt is just about a central as you can get in Germany. "Or get Rick Steve's guide on Germany to find the towns Off the Beaten Pathlike Rothenburg." Rothenburg Off the Beaten Path? Rothenburg IS the beaten path, it's been beaten so far down that you can navigate there just by following all the tour buses in the summer! PS- If you REALLY want to live like a local, you can help me do yard work, run errands, clean my house, etc.

Posted by bronwen
maplewood, new jersey, usa
750 posts

I loved Bamberg - not huge but a nice sized town. Nurnberg is bigger and is a real travel hub.

Posted by Stay-ce
Northern California
141 posts

Tom-
I'll help around the house and run errands if my kids and I can stay for free. :)

Posted by Julie
Frisco, Texas, US
54 posts

I agree with previous posts suggesting Munich, and I highly recommend visiting Austria. According to the Rick Steves' Germany & Austria (2005) copy I have, here is his list of sightseeing priorities, depending on length of trip: 3 days: Munich, Salzburg 5 days, add: Rhine Valley, Rothenburg 7 days, add: Bavaria and Tirol 10 days, add: Vienna, Hallstatt, Danube Valley
14 days, add: Berlin, Mosel Valley, Trier

Posted by Gary Mc
Salt Lake City
716 posts

There are plenty of medium size towns that are good transportation hubs. It depends on what kind of sights you would like to visit. I like Franconia (Franken) with its many river cities. Würzburg and Nürnberg are good transportation hubs for that area. I think you can find similar locations in most areas. To determine which area(s) you would like to visit, I like a good, fairly comprehensive guide. Michelin Green Guide is my favorite; there are others. Michelin has a couple maps in the front that show the dispersion of sights that they recommended. "More inclined to try and live like locals than wear ourselves out." Most Germans live in cities, large and medium. Cities are unlikely to lose their local identity to tourism. It is one of the things that I like about them.

Posted by Martin
Germany
209 posts

> "Or get Rick Steve's guide on Germany to find the > towns Off the Beaten Pathlike Rothenburg." > Rothenburg Off the Beaten Path? Rothenburg IS > the beaten path, it's been beaten so far down that > you can navigate there just by following all the tour > buses in the summer! But apart from Rothenburg, Munich and Neuschwanstein there is not much to see in Germany! Want to spend a weekend in Hamburg? Get a flight to Munich!
;-)

Posted by Sarah
Stuttgart, Germany
2012 posts

With 2 weeks I'd honestly split it between a week in opposite ends of the country. I love Berlin but you have more day tripping options elsewhere. A week in Berlin and a week in Frankfurt or Munich (the latter two primarily as bases for day-tripping, the former primarily to see and enjoy Berlin) would be perfect in my book. I'm not sure what you mean like "live like locals." I find the idea that museums are touristy a strange one. Museums exist for much more than just tourism, and most people who go to museums are locals, or at least residents of that country. If you don't like museums, don't go, but Germany has some great ones and I'd see if there's anything that fits your interest. If you're nature types, you could also spend a week on the Bodensee, there's some nice towns down there and it's really beautiful in the summer. Not super cheap, though. Great for bike riding. Another option is to spend a week on the Rhine and/or Mosel enjoying touring by boat and/or bike riding as well. A combination of a week in a large city and a week "in the country" could make for a nice trip.

Posted by Chani
Tel Aviv
3509 posts

I think Larry means (and Larry, you can chime in any time) that they want to kick back, relax and explore the towns and countryside, rather than rush around to see all the typical tourist sights, which are, yes, museums as well as cathedrals, monuments, etc. In that case, Berlin is probably not a great idea. I think Frankfurt might be a good place, since it is so central to so many other charming (and yes, much of Frankfurt is charming) towns. Think about it - go to the same pubs every evening and chat with the locals, frequent the same cafes every morning for coffee . . . walk in the parks, get to know the place. Sounds kinda nice.

Posted by Larry
Colorado Springs, CO, USA
26 posts

Wow, thanks to all who posted, incredibly insightful and helpful. And to Chani, spot on! Yes, we want to try and experience a not-so-typical tourist experience. Not sure if we want to help Tom with his household chores, etc. but who knows, if there is someone nearby where we end up and needs help, why not! I know I'll be checking in from time to time for more ideas. For now, looks like we are leaning towards basing out of Munich. More research to do but please feel free to pass along recommendations, etc. Thanks, Larry

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17783 posts

Larry, The area around Munich would make a great "home base" location (IMO). Hopefully Lee will spot this Thread, as he knows some of the smaller towns in that area. One small town that comes to mind is Berchtesgaden. There's some history there as well as a Salt Mine, but it would also be a good location to explore that corner of Germany and Austria. Another location is the town of Bacharach. I found that was a great "home base" for exploring the Rhine and Mosel area. As it's a smaller town, I found it easy to get to know the locals, and ping into the local Irish Pub was always fun. They held a July 4th celebration BBQ during the time I was there, and were nice enough to invite me. I also met some interesting people the day I hiked up to Burg Stahleck for a couple of "cool ones" on a sunny afternoon (the view from there is incredible). One day trip you could take is the KD boats to San Goar, returning either by train or boat. Cheers!

Posted by Anneta
Hamburg, SH, Deutschland
21 posts

Larry, I agree with Sarah above, one week somewhere in the North and somewhere in the South. I agree with many suggestions about Munich being a great S.Germany destination. You can see some really cool stuff and just hang out with out much of a problem. You could take the ICE – intercity train between the two. As far as a destination in the North that is not too touristy you could have a look at the smaller towns in North Rhine-Westphalia – Muenster is a real gem and you will get a warm welcome and struggle to see many proper tourists. Hope this helps, have fun with your planning

Posted by Martin
Germany
209 posts

>"For now, looks like we are leaning towards basing out of Munich." Which is more than 3 hours away from Frankfurt and 6 hours away from Berlin. And mostly super touristy. Berchtesgaden, also mentioned here, is 6 hours away from Frankfurt, 10 hours away from Berlin, and very touristy. The entire region is by far the most touristy in Germany. Exactly what you didn't want.

Posted by Tom
Stafford, Virginia, USA
138 posts

Larry - I suggest Nuremberg or Bamberg, which are about 60 miles apart. Both have good rail transportation to other nearby cities. I think Nuremberg is more central. From there you can take train day trips to cities like Wurzburg, Rothenburg, Bayreuth, Ansbach, Ingolstadt, and Augsburg. You can buy a Bayern railroad pass that lets you use all public transportation in Bavaria from 9 a.m. I think the price for two is about 29 euros. If you drive, you have to worry about parking and parking fees at hotels.

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
2700 posts

Hi, Unless I've missed it, are you planning on getting rental car for going out of Berlin, if you decide on that? With 14 days in the environs of Berlin, a great opportunity, and with a rental car, I could think x number of things to do, esp if you want to see the rural areas of the old Mark Brandenburg and other historical sites, like Seelow, Torgau, Jena. The suggested places up north in the Baltic area and in Saxony to the Oder give you a tremendous choice of places to choose from...just use your imagination.

Posted by Neil
Keystone, Colorado, USA
44 posts

Larry The posts have not mentioned traffic. I just spent two weeks visiting family at Ramstein AFB and driving in the Rhineland. The Frankfurt traffic made Denver to the Springs look like nothing. The German locals can comment but I think they may have a higher driving tolerance than Colorado. Took longer and more frustrating to drive places. We made plans and cut them back as we went. We tried to take in WW II locations. See tracesofwar.com and look at the Dresden concert inquiry. The best places were the ones I never heard of before.

Posted by Tom
Hüttenfeld, Hessen, Germany
9131 posts

"The German locals can comment but I think they may have a higher driving tolerance than Colorado." No, it sucks just as much for us, especially the evening commute!

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8758 posts

It is good to see a visitor confirm what several local regulars have said for some time about driving on the Autobahns. Perhaps we can remember to reference that comment the next time somebody comes on and says how much they are looking forward to burning up the Autobahns on their next trip.

Posted by Larry
Colorado Springs, CO, USA
26 posts

It's decided.... Well kind of. We decided not to decide. We are going to fly into Zurich and out of Munich and let the rest in between be decided as we go. We plan on staying a good week at the end of our trip in Munich and may even decide to live like locals somewhere else along the journey. We are not renting a car... just taking the trains. We plan on packing super light..... just a backpack each. We have done this before and love the freedom it provides. Thank you all so much for your recommendations. We will try to post back as we go! Can't wait!!!!!!!

Posted by Lola
Seattle, WA
5444 posts

How can a major world capital with a population of 3.5 million, the vast majority of whom have nothing to do with tourism, be condemned as "touristy?"

Posted by Lola
Seattle, WA
5444 posts

Having 6.6% of your population (232000 out of 3.5 million people) derive their income from the hospitality industry hardly turns a place into Disneyland. Besides, those revenue figures include income from business travelers and convention goers in addition to tourists. Those business travelers are going to be more interested in going out for a nice dinner and a drink after their work day than in seeing a guy in a bear suit by the Brandenburg Gate.

Posted by Michael Schneider
New Paltz, NY
6840 posts

How about this crazy concept.....there are portions of Berlin that attract lots of tourists making them touristy. While there are lots of other areas that don't attract as many tourists and are therefore not as touristy.

Posted by Lola
Seattle, WA
5444 posts

Or how about this: If a guy in a bear suit standing near the Brandenburg Gate can render that historically significant spot " touristy", then the word is meaningless.

Posted by Michael Schneider
New Paltz, NY
6840 posts

"...Or how about this: If a guy in a bear suit standing near the Brandenburg Gate can render that historically significant spot " touristy", then the word is meaningless...." The word touristy isn't pejorative. It simply means there is something out there that attracts lots of tourists. Just like there is good and bad art or music, there can be good/bad touristy places.

Posted by Larry
Colorado Springs, CO, USA
26 posts

Does anyone have any neighborhood suggestions in Munich? We want to be able to walk to small local markets and coffee shops. Hopefully a nice beer garden within walking distance. We would love a neighborhood small enough that by the end of a week, at least the local shop owners faces would be familiar. We just want to experience the community.

Posted by Lola
Seattle, WA
5444 posts

Michael---I find that many people (including Kay) do use the word touristy in the pejorative sense, equating more with "phony" or "contrived" one "kitschy" rather than simply "attracting visitors". That is why I objected. Michael---do you want to be well out of the center of Munich in a residential area with trees and separate houses, or in an urban neighborhood closer to the center, with apartmentsaim 5-story buildings? It may be easier to find a corner grocery and nearby cafes in the latter, but it may not feel as much like home. Have you looked at what is available on VRBBO, airbnb,,etc.?

Posted by Ms. Jo
Frankfurt, Germany
4766 posts

Says the woman with 9 posts on just this one thread, and who is busy bashing Berlin. Kettle meet pot.

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
2700 posts

But we want the tourists to keep coming to Germany, be it Munich or Berlin, touristy or not, don't we? They won't go outside of their comfort zone in Germany. What about that music person in front of the Brandenburg Gate at Pariser Platz playing those old nostaligic Berliner Milieu songs? To the vast majority of tourists, hearing that, it means nothing, but so what, unless you're into that genre of music. So, along with the Berliner bear and the music person, weitermachen.

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
2700 posts

Re: there are parts of Berlin that attract or are inundated with tourists that make them touristy and there are parts not like that which makes these parts non-touristy...how true! Go to areas like Berlin-Karlshorst, Köpenick, Treptow, Neukölln, Steglitz, etc You won't see them teeming with tourists, at least I didn't see any Americans or hear American English as you would in Prenzlauer Berg, Mitte, Charlottenburg, Wannsee, or even Kreuzberg, which admittedly I was only there once to visit the historical site in the park.

Posted by Lola
Seattle, WA
5444 posts

No worries, Larry. Maybe you should start a new thread asking specifically about neighborhoods in Munich where you can settle in for a week. I wish I had some suggestions for you, but apart from one trip through Englischer Garten, I have only been in the center, not wandering far from the Hauptbahnhof-Marienplatz-Deutsches Museum axis. Actually, the neighborhood just east of the Deutsches Museum, whatever it is called, looked nice when I was scoping out hotels, but I know nothing about how comfortable it is as a place to live for a week. As for the above suggestion to shop at Viktuelenmarkt, it is true that there is a fascinating array of tasty food there, but I doubt the vendors would come to recognize you even if you shopped there every day. It is a very busy (dare I say touristy?) place.

Posted by Jon
Cincinnati, OH, USA
241 posts

Larry:
No particular comment on the "tourist/non-tourist" thing, but the suggestion about a base in the south and another in the north is a good concept. As others have said, probably Munich on the south and what about Hamburg on the north? Hamburg has visitors and you'll hear many languages, but unless you consider New York or Chicago "touristy", it isn't. From Hamburg, you could visit Lübeck, Bremen, etc. With these two stops you could cover a lot of territory and still not be rushed.

Posted by Terry kathryn
Ann Arbor, Mi
2608 posts

It appears Larry has made his choice and left the building... but in case you check back and decide you need one more place to think about... The Bodensee (Lake of Constance) was mentioned.. and I should have chimed in. It is beautiful and I have been a few times and would return again in a minute... I prefer it to the bigger cities.

Posted by Sarah
Stuttgart, Germany
2012 posts

Of course Berlin is touristED and has touristy parts, it's the capital of a western European nation with a ton of history, and every single travel website and book has been extolling Berlin as the "hippest European capital to travel to" for the last decade. And anyone who pays attention knows that the locals in Berlin (many of whom just moved from Baden-Wurttemberg a few years ago, but like "New Yorkers" from Kansas become "locals" the minute they move) have been complaining about tourists and expats for years and years. Jesus. That has no bearing on whether it's worth visiting, or whether or not a traveler will get more of a sense of a "real Berlin" there versus a "real Munich" while there. There are huge swaths of Munich that are largely untouristed, but they are rarely visited as there's not that much for the traveler to see there, whereas all the tourist sites are concentrated in a relatively small area in Munich. In Berlin, the city itself and the sites of interest to tourists are much more spread out and many exist in neighborhoods that are otherwise quite businesslike or residential. Sorry for continuing the hijack, Larry! I'd encourage you to start a new thread about Munich.

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
2700 posts

It stands to reason that one expects Berlin to be touristy in certain parts of the city, even excessively so...good. That won't change my mind about going there, over and over, and recommending it heartily to those wanting to visit it for the first time. Berlin is, after all, as the saying goes, "die dufte Stadt." I do, however, find it weird or tacky that in front of the Brandenburg Gate are those young people dressed up in uniforms of the former Soviet Army and Vopos, in particularily, designed to evoke nostalgia. But that's irrelevant, still anything for the tourist Euro. The tourist floating around there taking in the whole atmosphere of the Brandenburg Gate, Pariser Platz, etc. in need of tourist information can easily walk over to the little Tourist Office at Pariser Platz, right on the east side of the Gate.