Hi, all P1) I am planning a trip to Germany for myself, wife and two children (10&8) for July-August 2012. We have enjoyed Rick Steves' take on Europe, but my wife is a little more prone to 5 star hotels and low effort tours than I am (I am willing to slap on the backpack, climb the mountain, negotiate the highways, tackle the language etc). I will throw in brief notes about myself/family sporadically, not to be self-important, but to give some relevance to what might seem like random decisions. P2) Usually my wife plans the holidays (except when I am planning a solo backpack trip through the grand canyon). With that, I usually have little emotionally invested in the holiday. Thus, whatever she plans is OK by me...but this does leave me a little disappointed in how the trip seems to ignore my tastes. I can only blame myself for that. However, this time, I took on the planning job. Now, I have emotional investment and that is what is leading to my dilemma. You will start to understand that I have a tendency to "over think" things: P3) So the philosophy of the trip: capture the a) culture, b) history, c) esthetics, d) adventure of an area. We land in Munich July 24th, and depart Aug 15th from Brussels. The major centres: 1) Munich, 2) Rothenburg ob der Tauben, 3) Baden-Baden/Black Forest?, 4) Rhine between Koblenz/Mainz, centered on Bacharach, venturing a little down the Mosel, 5) briefly swinging through Koeln (Cologne) long enough to catch a train, 6) Amsterdam, Bruges, Brussels as we see fit.
P4) So here is the dilemma at this point: i) My wife wants to see Neuschwanstein, Hohenschwangau, Linderhof (NHL). These are Mad Ludwig's castles. She quite strongly wants to see them in the form of a Viator dot com tour (no tour shows all of these castles from this company that I know of). She wants to do this via a coach bus, relaxing while someone narrates the trip to the castles. ii) I think that the NHL is good to see, but since they are seemingly the "poser castles" of a fantasy-obsessed crazed ruler, I am wondering if they are a little lacking in "substance". I am wondering if Ehrenberg and Schlosskopf Castle Ruis (ES) are more adventurous, more historically fascinating. I know of no tour that certainly combines NHL and ES in a day-long tour from Munich. P5) Here is my envisioned Itinerary for our Munich-leg of the trip so far. The list is not of all the things we will see, but more of an organized list of the things we "could see" and where they best seem to fit into the schedule: Tues July 24th: Land in Munich, catch train to Marienplatz (arriving near noon)
consider exploring: frauenkirche, St. Peters Church, Marienplatz, ViktualienMarkt BeerHall or Jodlerwirt for meal, get accommodations at Lindner Pension.
Wed Jul 25th: HopOn HopOff Bus (HOHOB) consider exploring: Alte Pinakothel, Neue Pinakothek, Pinakothel der Moderne, Maybe slip in BMW museum (I really like my cars...and while I almost bought a BMW, I happily ended up with a Jag this time. My wife probably wouldn't be concerned if she missed this). Consider eating at Tresznjewski or maybe surprise everyone with a German Picnic from what I can gather from the ElisabethMarkt as the HOHOB passes by Schwabing district towards English Gardens/ Hofgarten. Thurs Jul 26th: Residenz Museum/Treasury Museum
consider exploring: Hause der Kunst, offer to let wife go to Dachau Concentration Camp (not sure if my children will cope with that well, my 10 year old is pretty sensitive to that sort of stuff. While I want to see the Camp too , I am willing to forgo this if I must shelter children, and let wife go for her own interest). Consider visiting Alois Dallmayr, VictualienMarkt more thoroughly. This might be a good time to drag kids through BMW museum (if not yet done) if wife goes to Concentration Camp, either that or take them to the Deutsche Museum, or maybe ask them where they want to go. Fri Jul 27th: Nymphenburg Palace, alternate day for Dachau, could be a "second day on the HOHOB" if we opted for the two-day ticket. Consider Hofbrauhaus for meal/party
Sat Jul 28th: English Gardens, Hofgarten. Consider (window)shopping at Maximillianstrasse shopping district, consider Funf Hofe Mall. Consider eating at Feldhernhalle Sun Jul 29th: consider revisiting Alte/Neue/Moderne Pinakotheks as this is 1-euro-Sunday (but probably no time to do this). THIS IS WHERE I WAS CONSIDERING RENTING A CAR FROM AVIS AT THE HBf, touring down to Reutte and hiring a tour guide to take us through NHL and ES then either heading to Rothenburg or staying the night in/near Reutte (1:38 car time to Reutte, 2:37 to Rothenburg after this...easy travel for me, might be a bit too much for kids). P6) From there its on to Rothenburg for 2 days, Baden-Baden 2 days, Rhine region 5 days, Amsterdam 3 days, Bruges 3 days, Brussels 2 days. This part of the trip isn't planned yet (but likely pick up car in Munich and drop off in Koeln). One obvious short-coming is the apparent absence of the Black Forest at this point.
Back to the Dilemma: I) I think that we can all hop in a VW Passat Wagon, travel down to the castles NHL/ES, have a professional tour, stay over or march on to Rothenburg and get this all reasonable and efficiently done on the Sunday. II) My wife wants the Viator tour that will have us start and end the day in Munich, miss ES altogether and basically exclude any real time to get to the ES castles later. III) My wife suggests that I just drive to the ES on another day if I want to see it so bad. I quietly think this is a rather bad idea. I encourage reasonable time apart (so we don't burn each other out), but I can only imagine the trouble this will cause when she later decides that I was selfish in taking so much time to myself (basically a whole day to myself). If I were to consider this option, then maybe: a) I would have to squeeze the Fri&Sat schedule options into one day, move the Castle tour from Sunday to Saturday and do the Car-to-ES Sunday OR b) leave the schedule as it is, but follow the Sunday bus tour to NHL in the car, experience that tour with the family, then offer to take the kids on to ES while my wife returns to Munich on the bus without having to manage two kids. Once done at ES, I load the kids up and we make it back to Munich that evening to meet up with wife for dinner.
c) leave the schedule as it is, find a local-person who needs a lift in that direction (or better yet wants to be involved in a similarly free-wheeling tour of five castles) and get to know a local person, and their perspective on their country/history while burning through five castles.
A final thought on my original ideal (#I in this list): If we were to follow through with this option, we could stay in the Reutte region that night, or maybe near Lake Constance, and then approach Baden-Baden from the south, straight through the Black Forest Region. That would satisfy the deficiency noted in paragraphs P3 and P6. This idea would lead to a re-arranging the list of high-light locations in third paragraph to be:
1) Munich, 2) Baden-Baden/BLACK FOREST, 3) Rothenburg ob der Tauben, 4) Rhine between Koblenz/Mainz, centered on Bacharach, venturing a little down the Mosel, 5) briefly swinging through Koeln (Cologne) long enough to catch a train, 6) Amsterdam, Bruges, Brussels as we see fit. So, there you have it....a whole mess of complicated details. I am having a tough time figuring out what to do. Do I give up on the chance to go to ES in exchange for time with family/seeing NHL and little chance of getting in trouble, or do I keep pushing for a family excursion to all 5 castle sites sacrificing my wife's desire to listen to a pre-fabricated/professional history lesson on a bus, or do I let her do her thing while I take a chance driving there myself with a stranger for company? Since I have never been there, I can't let past experience guide me. Maybe that's where everyone here can help me. So, please, post your thoughts, plus any pointers you think I am missing. Any feedback is greatly appreciated and warmly welcomed. Cheers John
To Clarify: c) leave the schedule as it is, find a local-person who needs a lift in that direction (or better yet wants to be involved in a similarly free-wheeling tour of five castles) and get to know a local person, and their perspective on their country/history while burning through five castles. This would be a maneuver that involved following the family's viator tour bus to NHL with local person keeping me company in the car. Then after meeting with family for NHL, pressing on with new friend to ES. Probably wouldn't take the kids on this second leg unless I felt it was safe to mix children and "new friend" in a foreign country
John, Based on the information you've provided, it appears that the total duration of your trip is 23-days and you're planning to visit eight places in that time frame. That's an average of about 2.8 days per location, with no allowances for travel times. A few questions..... > How many days are you planning to spend in each of the locations you're visiting? > Are you planning to travel mostly by train, using P-P tickets? > As your Wife is more familiar with 5-Star Hotels, how are you choosing Hotels for this trip? > Have you looked at a copy of the RS Germany (or other) Guidebooks? > Have you or your Wife been to Europe before? Especially for travel in July & August, I'd highly recommend pre-booking accommodations. For your stay in Rothenburg ob der Tauber, you might have a look at This Hotel. It would be a "splurge" but I'm sure your Wife would be very happy! While there, be sure to take the Night Watchman's tour - it's VERY entertaining! For your tour of the Castles, Dachau and Walking Tours in Munich, you might have a look at This Firm. Good luck with your planning! (* NOTE - I've only had time to go through your first two posts - it will take some time to go through the others).
OK, that's a lot to read and it's too early in the day for me to dive into the details. But to start off... Your trip seems to stick very closely to the locations highlighted in Mr. Steves' book. I get hate mail every time I suggest this, but I would not recommend using his book as your primary planning tool. He simply leaves out too much, and makes many of the locations seem far more unique than they actually are (ie, Rothenburg, Baden-Baden, Bacharach, Reutte, Beilstein, etc.). Use it for specific recommendations on places you know you will visit anyway, but not to plan your overall tour. If the wife wants to see Neuschwanstein, then go for it. Yes, it isn't a medieval castle. But it is a fascinating example of the German Romantic era of the 19th century. Ehrenberg, on the other hand, is no more interesting than hundreds of other castle ruins you will find throughout Germany (why Mr. Steves makes such a big deal out of this one, I have no idea). I would go out of my way to visit the former, but definitely not the latter.
Hi, First of all, apart from the proposed itinerary, I would also really reconsider bringing children to Dachau, an eight and ten year old...not just in light of their sensitivities (that in itself should be reason enough not to do it) but also to comprehend. They're still in elementary school. Secondly, with your family along the itinerary has to be reduced, maybe for a solo traveler. Figure out what's top priority to be seen and shave the others, skip the Black Forest and Baden Baden, Brugge also. I agree with Russ' assessment of Neuschwanstein. Maybe because I was never interested in seeing it.
I will reply to Ken First, Tom after (here it is too late to really get too deep into it...but Tom I do refreshingly appreciate what you said and wish to explore it further)... John, That's an average of about 2.8 days per location, with no allowances for travel times. **I wanted to do alot in Munich and a fair amount of time in either Amsterdam, Bruges or Brussels. I wanted to see some interesting things in between. A few questions..... > How many days are you planning to spend in each of the locations you're visiting? I do mention some suggested time frames, but this is all flexible right now. > Are you planning to travel mostly by train, using P-P tickets? combination of car and train. For the preliminary plan I have mapped out/timed out/priced out trains vs train passes vs cars and have found that a car for 4 people is quicker and cheaper between Munich to Cologne, then trains are superior from that point on. Further, the car will offer me a little more flexibility if the plan changes. > As your Wife is more familiar with 5-Star Hotels, how are you choosing Hotels for this trip? Haven't fully fleshed this part out yet. Basically, I google map all the site and events I want to see, map the bus and pedestrian areas, build the itinerary and then start mapping hotels/B&Bs/Pensions that logically fit into that scheme. Then I look at prices, ratings, amenities and start sending out emails. So far RS's Pensions are least shocking in price (trying to keep this trip down to $10G as a baseline...but it will go over that). > Have you looked at a copy of the RS Germany (or other) Guidebooks? I have RS's guide. I am waiting for the Lonely Planet guide to come in the mail. > Have you or your Wife been to Europe before?
***Last August we went to Paris and England.
Oof. I don't want to pry but I am getting a bit of a sense from your posts that you and your wife are already in quite a bit of conflict over this, and it seems like you don't want to give too much ground to her because you're resentful of how past trips have gone. Understandable. But you might want to try to force yourself to put a lot of that past stuff away and deal specifically with how to compromise and keep everyone as happy as possible on this trip while still making sure you get to see and do what you want to as well. I don't really think there's such thing as a "fake" castle - what we call "castles" in English today are a mix of fortresses, fortifications, royal residences, and the like. The majority of the ones that still look like castles were generally previously ruins that were rebuilt during the Romantic era, which was the same craze for an idealized version of European history and heritage that led "Mad" King Ludwig to build his castles. This is all still very "historical" by North American standards, where few buildings older than 150 years even exist, so keep that in mind. So with that, if your wife is set on it, why not visit Neuschwanstein and Hohenswangau (the latter being a "real" castle by anyone's measurements)? If you want to see more authentic castles, you are going to the Rhine area/Bacharch which also has a ton of "real" castles too. Literally everywhere in Germany does, to be honest. I was just looking at a brochure for "The Castle Road" this morning which doesn't include either of the two areas you're talking about going and there are dozens! Finding an interesting "real" castle to go to is not a problem, you don't have to do it near Munich.
Secondly your day 2 in Munich includes way too many museums. Most of those are fairly large museums, and I think "museum fatigue" can be a real problem. If you want to see a few of Munich's fabulous museums, I think it would make sense to maybe visit one every morning of your stay, and then do something non-museum-y in the afternoon. If you're a car person, by all means, go to BMW-Welt. As for the rest of your trip, as others have said this looks like you planned it from Rick Steve's book and you might want to rejigger based on a more holistic approach to Germany. It's good you're getting the Lonely Planet guide, it's fairly comphrensive (although the actual information for destinations is shallower than the RS book, this is where the RS book becomes valuable to me in Germany). Like castles, preserved medieval towns like Rothenburg odT exist all over Germany, just everywhere. RS says there's no good non-touristy alternative to Rothenburg but I disagree, there are hundreds! The benefit of Rothenburg, in my mind, is that because it IS so touristy there's a little more to entertain you there than in similar towns, particularly if you have kids - things like the Night Watchman's Tour or the Crime & Punishment museum. There are other beautiful walled old towns but they will be less likely to have the tourist infrastructure, in most of them any tours you do will be self-guided with a brochure from the TI. Baden-Baden is overrated. Like castles and half-timbered houses, mineral spas exist all over Germany as well. I think Baden-Baden is a fine day trip if you happen to be in the area, but it doesn't really give you a sense of the Black Forest nor is it that interesting for strolling.
So in short: zig-zagging out of your way to see places like Baden-Baden and Rothenburg odT doesn't really make sense since you can find a lot of what is appealing about those places elsewhere in Germany on a route that might make more practical sense. You also have less time than you realize once you leave Munich. I would consider cutting some stuff out. If you do decide to go with the Black Forest, consider the Southern Forest instead. You could drive from Munich to Baden-Wurttemberg (the state) where you could visit charming old towns like Herrenberg and Tubingen and see the massive Hollenzollern castle "on the way" and base your Black Forest stay in Freiburg, or Staufen, also a beautiful old town. On the way you could also stop in Stuttgart and see the awesome Mercedes-Benz or Porsche museums. I don't think you'll have time to do Black Forest, Rhine, and THEN Amsterdam, Bruges, and Belguim. Try to prioritize what is most important to you and create a more realistic itinerary.
John: It's too much, too fast and too far. With $9 gasoline, touring long distance is out of the picture.
Take the train from city to city. Do mass transit within the cities. Rent a car for day trips out of a central location. I've taken your itinerary twice in 2 years. Grueling. I would suggest Munich for 4 nights, moving an hour east to Salzburg for 4 nights doing day trips, and then going to Vienna which is one of my favorite cities. The Austrian Alps around Innsbruck are absolutely breathtaking. If you feel the need for another region, take the train up the Rhine River stopping at Bacharach for a night and Cologne for a night. Then, use Amsterdam to work day trips out of. I find the Dutch so accommodating, and easy to live with. Belgium has great chocolates and beer, but they're a little conservative. Forget the 5 star hotels. Nobody ever met any interesting characters there. Find yourself a good bed and breakfast or individually owned hotel to stay in. They've been a great source of enjoyment for me. And, have a great time.
"My wife wants to see Neuschwanstein, Hohenschwangau, Linderhof (NHL)." Neuschwanstein isn't a movie set, but it certainly isn't a castle either. Castles by definition are fortified and built principally for defensive purposes. This place has no fortifying wall, no moat; it never saw armor or a crossbow. It protects no strategically important trade route. It was built there so that its oddball owner could enjoy the view. The place was barely even lived in before it became a permanent tourist attraction. Nothing ever happened there. It's just a very, very unique and spectacular structure, and now a tourist trap, that's all. If that sort of place interests you, spend the time and $ to go there. If my wife were sold on the place, I'd send her and the kids on the tour for a day and enjoy Munich on my own terms. The palaces are somewhat more interesting. But you could more easily visit the Residenz in Munich or in Würzburg (near Rothenburg.) The Rhine is cluttered with genuine 800-1,000 year-old castles that you can tour. Be sure to see some. Marksburg, Burg Eltz, Reichsburg (in Cochem, falconry show there too) and Rheinfels all deserve to be called "castles" and are worth a visit. Kids can crawl around Rheinfels and explore the place freely. Like N'stein, Rothenburg is cluttered with tourists but it's a very well preserved historic town worthy of a day's visit. Kids will have fun there. There's an open-air museum near R'burg in Bad Windsheim: http://www.stripes.com/military-life/travel/bad-windsheim-time-travel-at-franconian-open-air-museum-1.102354 This one is in the Black Forest near Hausach: http://en.vogtsbauernhof.org/
Thanks so much for the suggestions so far...please keep them coming. It is giving me alot of ideas to explore. I appreciate them all. I am sorry for giving the sense that their is big conflict over the planning of this trip. It is not that big. I just like to foresee the problems ahead of time and solve them before they happen. Further, I am a strong believer that when asking for advice its always good to give all the details and underlying motivations so people can take it all in context. Combine that with my natural text-verbosity, tendency to "over think" things and the internet's inability to easily portray appropriate emotion....and I usually give off a greater sense of drama and crisis than truly exists. Sorry to those that are made to feel uncomfortable by my rantings. But, I am going to investigate these other places. One specific question though....I recognize I can't see all these things in one trip. My itinerary is more a case of "things we could see", not "things we will see". But, having never been there, I can't be certain how all these sites/events compare to each other. For instance: "Wed Jul 25th: HopOn HopOff Bus (HOHOB)
consider exploring: Alte Pinakothel, Neue Pinakothek, Pinakothel der Moderne, ....ElisabethMarkt as the HOHOB passes by Schwabing district towards English Gardens/ Hofgarten."... I doubt all three pinakothek's will/can get seen. I know Mr. Steves' has a certain soft spot for paintings and so he focuses on the Alte'. But, if one assumes that the first musuem entered is the only one of the three that is likely to be adequately seen (and I love history, kids love interactive displays and wife likes displays of opulence)...which museum would be the best to enter first?
Further, over the last 12 hours, I have read enough responses to my two posts (I don't hide that I posted this to virtualtourist as well) to realize that Ehrenberg and Schlosskopf are maybe not so important...I am feeling pretty happy to drop them from the itinerary. That solves alot of "problems". But, if I were to consider replacing these with a castle that portrayed the conflicts between the various small baron/states before the unification of Germany, and the transition of technologies over time etc etc....are there any others people would suggest (I am still investigating the other suggestions but don't want to let this thread go cold while people are still willing to make suggestions :) ). Also, are there other locations where one might be able to take an hour or two and scramble up a mountain (not mountain climb)? I love that stuff, but no-one else does. It seems like a shame to miss this opportunity while so close to the alpine regions of Europe. I love all your suggestions....please keep them coming....THIS IS GREAT. Thank you
Come on, John. Chill out. It'll all work out. Just fill in the high points, and the details will work out as you go along. South of Salzburg are the mountains where they filmed Sound of Music. Don't forget to go to Berchesgarden, where Hitler had his house. It's incredibly beautiful, and also close to Salzburg. You'll find all the mountains you'll ever want to climb. Within sight of Innsbruck, there are 50 peaks over 10,000 ft. If you want to take the ultimate day trip, go east of Innsbruck, southeast of Salzburg to Zell-Am-See. Go south over the Grossglockner Highway to the town of Lienz, Austria. You'll experience the second highest mountain in Europe @ some 14,000'. I've been all over the world, including the island of Kauai in Hawaii, and driving to Lienz is the most beautiful place I've ever seen. Then, drive west to Cortina and eventually get back to Innsbruck. It's a perfect day trip.
"I have mapped out/timed out/priced out trains vs train passes vs cars and have found that a car for 4 people is quicker and cheaper between Munich to Cologne" Where did you get prices? I suspect you did not use the best source, the German Rail (Bahn) website, or know how to find the best fares. If you know how to find the best fares, the cost for all four of you will be less than twice that for one person (8 & 10 yo children ride free on German Rail, but for four and luggage you will need a bigger car). I've made 8 trips (16 weeks) in Germany in the last 12 years, all using rail. I've kept detailed records of my transportation expenses along with quotes I got from the car rental service most recommended here and fuel estimates from Michelin. For every trip, a rental car would have cost me 2-3 times what I actually spent for public transportation. Along with Switzerland, Germany has the densest rail network in Europe; there are very few places, particularly those places commonly used by American tourists, that can't be accessed by public transportation. As for 4-star hotels, I think they keep you from a lot of what you came to Europe to see, and cost a lot more. If you are going to stay in that sort of place, you might as well go to the Holiday Inn in Peoria and have them put pictures of Germany in the windows. Before I started traveling on my own, I made two business trips to Europe, and the company put us in 4-star hotels. Since then, I've stayed mostly in small, family run "hotels" and in private rooms, and I find that experience so much more rewarding.
Doing Neuschwanstein,etc. and then driving to Rothenburg in one day is too much. You might consider staying in the area and also include the luge nearby. For a 'real castle' Burg Rheinfels at St. Goar is the best. It is ruins that are amazing to explore. Take a flashlight. Unless your wife wants to have a spa day, the skip Baden Baden and stay in a smaller Black Forest town. Look in another book on Germany to get an idea of some other places to visit rather than just the ones Rick recommends. The Eyewithness Guide(DK Books) is a good one because of all the photos it has.
Whoa! 2 days on a Ho-Ho bus? Talk about being bored to tears. Munich has its share of good tour companies, so why not go on one of the interesting tours instead of riding a bus around? Get an all day card for public transportation. IMHO, your kids are too young for Dachau. Save that kind of excursion for a later trip when they are older and can appreciate what they are seeing. On to Viatour. This is a middle-man company, simply selling tours for other firms. Many of the tours are generic bus tours. Have you read reviews for any of the tours they are offering? Have a look in the RS book for suggested tours or visit Trip Advisor or Fodors for some other recommended companies that offer exactly what you are looking for. The Graffiti Wall here on this website also offers many suggestions for day trips. Use the Search Function on the Helpline to find info about tours in Munich, etc. If you are looking for high end hotels, then Fodors may offer what you want.
"But, if I were to consider replacing these with a castle that portrayed the conflicts between the various small baron/states". When you come up with your final itinerary, it won't be hard to find some castles along the route. As Sarah and I have noted, castles are anything but rare in Germany. The only area where you don't find very many is southern Bavaria. When you've decided how you want your trip to flow, I'm sure we could point out a few along the way... and even if we can't, if you're driving, you'll see brown sign boards on the Autobahn draw attention to a local historical, cultural or tourist sites. You can't drive for much longer than 30 minutes in any direction without seeing a sign for a castle. This is one aspect of your trip that you don't have to think too much about in advanced.
John, While I admire your verbosity, I'll have to admit I only read enough of your posts to get a flavor of what you ask. I prefer to stick to generalities (just as important - or even more so) Re: The suggestion to read another guide book; Yes you should - as anyone should on any trip. But I understand the practical desire to stick to Mr. Steves. He tells you what he likes. Most other guide books don't. They list everything imaginable as if judgement about a place were a sin. At least you can tell what interests Rick & why. Re: the Füssen-area "castles"; of course they are worth a visit, as long as you take the chance to visit other, more "real" castles elsewhere on your trip. The ruins outside of Reutte are somewhat evocative and nearby. Re: over-planning; That's my natural inclination, too. But I have learned over time that the best way to find balance and keep others happy (as well as deal with weather-related challenges) is to plan in great detail how to get to a location, and then be aware of what there is to do there and how to do them, but NOT to plan each day. It is better to arrive at a place, settle in, take a nice stroll to familiarize yourself with the place, and THEN decide what to do with your remaining time. While big-name sights are the natural attraction, I find it more fulfilling to simply "be" in the place I am visiting. That's the main attraction for me. Give it some thought. Our family with three children covered part of your itinerary in the summer of 2010. Here is our blog link: http://lee-reid2010.blogspot.com/ You might want to skip ahead to the post entitled "Life in a castle" on June 24th
John, "******I have RS's guide. I am waiting for the Lonely Planet guide to come in the mail." It's possible that the LP Guidebook will help to sort your choices a bit, but it could also confuse the situation by adding a myriad of new choices. I'll have a closer look at your other posts a bit later. I'm using an iPhone at the moment and it's more "restrictive" in use than my desktop platform. Another question - is there any possibility of adding some time to this trip? Also, what are you planning to see in Amsterdam, Brussels and Bruges? Some suggestions: > Brussels - the Atomium and the military Museum (some good displays there - I especially enjoyed seeing a MIL-24 Hind "up close") > Amsterdam - Canal boat tour; Were you planning to visit the Anne Frank house? Cheers!
John, FYI, if you do read my family's trip blog (and I don't blame you if you don't - you have plenty on your hands already), you will notice that our trip progressed to Poland where our family visited Krakow and Auschwitz/Birkenau. At that time, our children were 7.3, 11.8, and 14 years old. They were not traumatized beyond what they could handle. We talked about it a lot before hand, and several of our previous stops along the way dealt with Naziism and the results. If handled properly, it's fine. PS; I also would skip Baden-Baden/Black Forest. Use those days elsewhere, preferably bicycling or hiking somewhere in the great outdoors. Your kids will enjoy it.
We've done all of this trip except in segments: there is enough to see in Germany that you don't need to see Amsterdam, Brugges and Belgium on this trip- save the north for another trip and relax some. We took our kids to Germany for their first trip abroad and spent almost 3 weeks,which was great for all 4 of us. They tolerated and possibly enjoyed the art with the audioguide ( better they know what they are looking at); we spent 6 hours in the Deutsches Museum; one hour in the BMW museum ( which is different from the Welt) and played minigolf in the Olympic Park across from the BMW HQ. Also, keep them fed and keep the snacks plentiful. You do not need a coach tour to Neusch/Hoh/Linderhof as there are professional guides in all 3. You can see all 3 in one day as well as do a luge; we prefer to travel by car and read the guidebook ourselves. You will stand in line at the Neuch/Hoh castles and you'll either have to walk 25 min or pay for a carriage ride up the hill to Neusch. I felt hurried thru Neusch, but the painted decorations were gorgeously painted. I do not think the tourguide on the bus is permitted to give tours in the castles.
This idea that you will find a local who needs a lift or a castle tour is kinda odd. Rothenburg for a day or 24 hours is good and we enjoyed Bacharach for getting over jetlag and taking the Rhine cruise to Rheinfels Castle. You'll see so many castles in that area that your kids will get tired of you pointing them out. Hope you have read and marked up RS's guidebook as some of your questions will be answered there.
John, There's so MUCH information here, it's hard to wade through it all. However, I have a few thoughts to add (well, maybe more than a few)... It would help to have some idea on what you want to see in Baden-Baden?. It's a beautiful city but I'm not sure there will be much of interest for the kids there? In the same situation, I might consider something along these lines: > Jul. 24 - Arrive Munich (Check into Hotel, brief touring, hopefully stay awake until ~21:00). You might consider This Hotel. - AWESOME breakfasts! It's about a 15M walk from the Hbf - take a Taxi when you first arrive. > Jul. 25 - Munich - Walking tour? > Jul. 26 - Munich - Your Wife could take a trip to Dachau (Radius Tours?), and you could take the kids to the Deutsches Museum (16 kM of exhibits). There are Planes, Rockets, Satellites, Computers and all kinds of interesting things for kids! Meet your Wife later in the afternoon for a walk around Marientplatz or the Viktualien Market. > Jul. 27 - Munich - All take a trip to Füssen to visit Neuschwanstein, either on your own or with Radius Tours. They take care of the reservations for the Castle tour, as well as transportation via train and Bus. > Jul. 28 - Munich - touring. You could also take a day trip to Salzburg. If you need rail tickets in Munich, I've found the staff at the EurAide office were VERY helpful. > Jul. 29 - Train or Car to Rothenburg ob der Tauber (Train ~2H:33M with 3 changes). If you depart about 10:00, you'll arrive at about the right time for Hotel check-in. Take Night Watchman's Tour (~20:00 as I recall). > Jul. 30 - Rothenburg - Crime & Punishment Museum, Kathie Wolfhart Christmas Museum, Walk the Wall, etc. continued....
John - continued.... > Jul. 31 - Train or Car to Bacharach (Train ~4H:50M with 4 changes) - Brief familiarization around town > Aug. 1 - Bacharach - Cruise to St. Goar (perhaps on the KD Paddlewheeler Goethe) - tour Burg Rheinfels (take a small Flashlight - as I recall, visitors are transported to the Castle by a small "train" pulled by a bright yellow UniMog) - return to Bacharach by train. > Aug. 2 - Day trip to the Mosel - perhaps visit Burg Eltz? > Aug. 3 - Bacharach > Aug. 4 - Train or Car to Baden-Baden (Train ~2H:35M with 1 change) - Drop Car? - brief touring. > Aug. 5 - Baden Baden > Aug. 6 - Train to Amsterdam (~5H:43M with one change, but departure for that train is at 07:42) > Aug. 7 - Amsterdam (Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh or ???) > Aug. 8 - Amsterdam > Aug. 9 - Train to Bruges (~3H:30M with 1 change) - you might consider This Hotel - it's excellent! > Aug. 10 - Bruges - Day Trip? > Aug. 11 - Bruges > Aug. 12 - Train to Brussels (1H:02M direct) > Aug. 13 - Brussels > Aug. 14 - Brussels > Aug. 15 - To the Airport for the flight home. Lee or one of the others will be able to provide good information on the different ways to get around Munich & area (S-Bahn, discount tickets). You can take the S-Bahn from the airport to the Hbf when you arrive (S1 or S8?). If you decide to rent a Car, a GPS unit along with good Maps would be prudent. There are lots of ways this trip could be done, and this is only one suggestion. Cheers!
Wow, there is so much here to digest. Clearly this will take a good amount of time to figure out and factor into everything. Thanks so much for the suggestions. I will post back how things develop. Thanks many times over so far for all the suggestions.
You still haven't told us what the attraction is in Baden-Baden. It is completely out of your way especially if you are traveling to Bacharach first. This is a zig-zag way to travel. If you want a luxurious bath/spa experience, there are closer places. Try Wiesbaden, Bad Nauheim or Bad Homburg. You mentioned in one of your posts something about being interested in German history at that point where Germany was just a bunch of principalities and a few Free Imperial Cities. If this really is of interest to you, then you might want to consider a stop in Frankfurt, with a visit to the Pauls Kirche. This was the location for the year long, 1st freely elected Parliament in 1848 and one of Germany's most historic buildings. The 1st Bill of Rights and Constitutions was created here. There are also some fun museums for the kids too, or consider a walk to the top of the Kaiserdom?
You still haven't told us what the attraction is in Baden-Baden. *actually, as you might guess, its the spa. But, I have been looking for another hot springs with similar spa facility somewhere more convenient. Initially I couldn't find another (but that is part due to having to split my time and attention over many things --especially work), but many people have suggested that there are many other similar spas (though I still don't have any names...but that will come). At this moment we have stricken Baden-Baden off the plan. It is completely out of your way especially if you are traveling to Bacharach first. ... there are closer places. Try Wiesbaden, Bad Nauheim or Bad Homburg. (and there you have given me some names....thanks greatly). I am sorry for giving the impression we were going to Bacharach first. My intention was intially Munich, to Rothenberg odT, then Baden-Baden, then Bacharach. Then it changed to Munich, Black Forest, Rothenberg, Bacharach. Now, I am thinking it is changing to Munich, Rothenberg, Bacharach (find a spa near there, and climb a mountain to a ruined castle to enjoy a flask of Macallan 18 yr scotch and a Partagas on the top of a mountain in blissful solitude surrounded by human history...now that is the way to meditate) You mentioned in one of your posts something about being interested in German history... then you might want to consider a stop in Frankfurt, with a visit to the Pauls Kirche. ... one of Germany's most historic buildings...There are also some fun museums for the kids too, or consider a walk to the top of the Kaiserdo ***Thank you for that...I may have to alter the second part of the trip. Can you suggest a good book regarding this pre-WWI/II history? Here in Canada all the books on German history all only concerned about WWII Thanks many times over John
Just so you know, there is a town called Rothenberg (Red Mountain) in the German state of Hessen. I don't think it's what you want. The preserved medieval town in Bavaria is called Rothenburg (or properly Rothenburg ob der Tauber). Just so you don't end up in the wrong place.
Any town with "bad" in the name means it's on mineral springs and/or has "baths" which is how Germans refer to something that we might call a "mineral spring." I can only offer suggestions specifically for the ones in the Stuttgart area, unfortunately. But in general, some baths (baden or baeder is plural in german) are great for families with extensive kid play areas, others cater more to an older, sedate crowd. A few are all nude (those you wouldn't be able to take the kids to, I don't think) but most are bathing suits-in-the-pool area and nude for a separate area with saunas and steam rooms. Germans believe swim suits are unhygenic in saunas so you can't wear a suit even if you want to. I would try to solidify your route and then use google maps to search for "mineralbaeder" in towns you'll be staying in. Most have websites, if you use a browser like Google Chrome, you can have the text automatically translated and get an idea if it would be a good spa for your family. Be aware that they're really more like giant public pool complexes than a fancy mineral spa in North America. That said, they're fantastic, relaxing, and a very authentic experience that's part of everyday life for many Germans. As far as History/German culture books go, I really enjoyed "Germania"by Simon Winder is hilarious and is both a travellogue that goes into a good bit of history, although it's not comprehensive. Steven Ozment's "A Mighty Fortress: A New History of the German People" is more scholarly and comprehensive. Not exactly what you asked for, but Amos Elon's "The Pity of it All: A Portrait of Jews in Germany 1743-1933" is fascinating and moving and does deal a lot of the Napoloenic area and Unification.
One of the oldest, most well established spa towns lies directly on your route of travel between Köln and Belgium- Aachen. Although this isn't a resort like Baden-Baden or Bad Homburg, it's been known for it's hot water springs since... well, since Charlemagne made it the capital of his empire.
A few spa town suggestions to wean folks away from the idea that Baden-Baden is the only place to experience a luxury spa day. Bad Nauheim (Elvis was stationed here) http://www.bad-nauheim.de/index.php?id=992 The Kur Royal in the Kaiser Wilhelm spa in Bad Homburg: http://www.kur-royal.de/info/galerie.htm http://www.bad-homburg-tourismus.de/en/ Wiesbaden has the Kaiser Friedrich Thermal Bad, truly gorgeous:
Aachen Can I vote against the spa in Aachen? We love the town, and its situation in the triangle of Maastricht, Aachen, Liege, and one of our favourite pancake restaurants is just over the border in the Netherlands. There is also a modern spa, Thermae 2000 in Valkenburg aan de Geul, just over the border. But we found the facilities at the spa in Aachen lacking, plain, old fashioned, coolish water, and not particularly welcoming. It is certainly easy to get to, just a short walk from the middle of town.