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West or East?

Got a request for some feedback from the veteran travelers out there. In the Fall of 2014 (just starting to plan for a post-retirement trip) two couples are planning a 3-week trip to Germany. My wife and I have been to Germany several times, my sister less often, and her husband, never. (The poor guy just hasn't lived!) A couple of definites on the trip include Munich and the Alps and Berlin. We're considering flying into Munich, staying for a few days to get acclimated and see the sites in the city (maybe a daytrip to Salzburg or even an overnighter), then driving to Ehrwald in Tirol and staying for a few days to do the Zugspitze, the castles, and spend some quality time outdoors in the mountains. Then is when the questions arise. Would you recommend a trip up the Rhine (probably via car) to see the Koblenz-Mainz area, then Koeln, and a train trip cross-country to Dresden and ultimately Berlin? Or should we forego the west and head directly to Dresden and then Berlin from Munich, probably via train? Would we spend too much time traveling if we take in the Rhine area? Are we missing a classical part of Germany (for the one who hasn't been there) if we head directly into the East? We'll ultimately end up in the northeast visiting close friends in the Kiel area. Not sure about the itineray here. Possibilities are to go to Kiel before Berlin and then to Berlin by bus, or vice versa, flying home out of either Hamburg or Berlin. I know this is very general, but whatever guidance you could offer would be invaluable. Thanks.

Posted by
74 posts

I've always been fascinated by the Hartz area but couldn't find out too much about it. What would we do there for a day or two? Also, our friends live in Flintbeck, a small village about 30 minutes from Kiel. On past trips we've experienced Kieler Woche and enjoyed it immensely. Also, we've been to Hamburg several times, but will probably go again (and enjoy it again) with the newbie. We thought it would be easier to get a train out of Koln to Dresden and maybe catch the cathedral in the process. Do you think it is worth going that far north just to make a connection? Or should we do a short stint on the Rhine and then head east? We will probably travel in early to mid-September, partly to avoid the madness that's Oktoberfest, but we will also look for smaller regional festivals, either to avoid or enjoy, them depending what we find out about them. Thanks for the advice so far. More is always welcome.

Posted by
12040 posts

"I've always been fascinated by the Hartz area but couldn't find out too much about it. What would we do there for a day or two?" Explore the two towns I mentioned (and perhaps maybe Goslar as well). Ride the Eisenbahn to the top of Brocken. And possibly check out Burg Falkenstein, which looks like it would have been worth visiting, but was closed the day I tried to see it. "We thought it would be easier to get a train out of Koln to Dresden and maybe catch the cathedral in the process. Do you think it is worth going that far north just to make a connection? Or should we do a short stint on the Rhine and then head east?" Stopping in Köln between the Mittelrhein and Dresden would add anywhere from 2 to 4 hours of additional travel time. It's over a 6 hour ride from Koblenz to Dresden, and the connections run through Mainz or Frankfurt. If you went to Köln, you would have to travel back south anyway to connect in Frankfurt. I leave it to your better judgement to decide if all that extra transit time would be worth it just to see the Köln Dom.

Posted by
12040 posts

I think for 3 weeks, you have enough time for most, if not all, of what you wrote. The only thing I probably wouldn't go out of my way to see on your list would be Köln. But if you're criss-crossing through Germany on the way from the Rhine, definitely consider a day or two stop-over in the Hartz, either in Queldlinburg or Wernigerode. I also like your idea of putting Erhwald and the Alps near the start of the trip. In early fall, the weather is more likely to be clear and dry to allow you to enjoy the Alpine views. As you move towards late October, it starts to get more overcast and wet. Finally, if you fly out of Hamburg, give it at least a two day look.

Posted by
13530 posts

Hi, Where in the Kiel area? Good that your "definites" include Berlin and Munich. I never tire of going back to those cities, regardless, esp. Berlin. There are cases to be made for going to the middle Rhine area, the East or the West. It depends on your personal preference and above all, priorities under the time constraint of ca. 21 days.

Posted by
13841 posts

I would include 3 days or so for the Rhine, but that is because despite several trips to Germany I have yet to get there! But with three weeks, I do think you have time for the Rhine, and it would miak a nice contrast to big-city time. But let me back up a bit and point out that you will be in Germany during prime "Fest" season. Not just in Munich, but all over, wherever there is a havest to celebrate. Are you pl;anning on going to Oktoberfest, or specifically trying to avoid it? You might want to be thinking about this when you schedule your time in Munich.

Posted by
868 posts

Here is a nice map of Germanys highlights according to Baedeker, Germanys oldest and most popular travel guide: http://i.imgur.com/9BcKenL.jpg I think in 3 weeks it's possible to crisscross the country and see most of Germanys major cultural areas. As you can see on the map, the Harz mountains, or better Central Germany, shouldn't be missed. I also recommend to see one or two cities of the Hanseatic League, which can be done on day trips from Kiel. See the cathedral in Cologne if you don't want to miss one of Germanys icons. The cathedral is also one of the few modeled after the great Gothic cathedrals of Northern France. In case you decide against Cologne and visit the Harz mountains I recommend to see the cathedral in Halberstadt, which is not as big as Colognes cathedral, but one of the purest "French" cathedrals you can find in Germany. Here are a few pics: http://www.raymond-faure.com/Halberstadt/Halberstadt_Dom/halberstadt-dom.html Halberstadt itself however was completely destroyed in WW2... but Cologne shared the same fate.

Posted by
3031 posts

The nice thing about rail transit in Germany between major cities is it's all pretty fast and direct. So I wouldn't worry TOO much about crisscrossing a bit. The beginning of your itnerary sounds great. I've done two daytrips to Salzburg from Munich and one overnighter. While it's easy to see Salzburg as a day trip, an overnight is quite nice and would give you a chance to maybe see Berchtesgaden in the morning and head out of Salzburg back to Munich in the afternoon. You don't need a car in the Rhine area, IMO. Great boat and train connections there. One caveat might be if you want to see Burg Eltz on the Mosel. It's not far from that area of the Rhine, but it can take some planning to see via public transit. Of course now I'm just adding ideas to your intnerary, sorry :) With 3 weeks I think you have time to go to the Rhine, though, since that's the essence of your question, and no, I don't think it's too much train travel (in my personal opinion) for the sights. I haven't been to Koeln yet so I can't comment about whether it's worth the time.