Sorry I keep posting questions but this trip is harder to plan than a wedding! You can see from the map and driving grid that we have to spend a lot of time on the road in Germany. I know it's too fast of a pace but have to cram it in. Any way to reduce the "Rothenburg loop?" Click to see route. Click to see spreadsheet. 1. Which of these could you cut: Strasbourg, or Neuschwanstein castle, or Rothenburg? Really wanted to do the Nightwatchman night tour! 2. Can I get a Rothenburg-like flavor in Switzerland or in the very south of Bavaria? 3. Is Strasbourg a destination or will it's likeness be visible all over Switzerland and S. Bavaria anyway? 4. The trip is firming up except for Bavaria (3-4 days). I'm half-German and REALLY want to get a flavor for medieval storybook Germany. Can anyone suggest a better FOUR DAY itinerary for Germany between Paris and Switzerland(Lauterbrunnen) than what I have? We have time to sleep in four Bavarian towns over four nights. 5. I've always wanted to see Neuschwanstein Castle. How many hours to adequately see it? Is it worth it? Pete
Peter, That's a LOT of driving to do in such a limited period of time. I've never driven a route quite like that, so certainly can't say whether it's "crazy". In looking at your route map and spreadsheet, my first impression was that it seems very "tightly" planned. In my experience (and especially when driving in Europe), the timing rarely goes as planned and trips usually take longer than expected, for a variety of reasons. Given the distance you plan on covering, a GPS along with some good Michelin Maps would be highly advisable. Were you planning to use Strasbourg as an overnight stop? In that area, I prefer Colmar which is a much smaller town and easier to access with a car. Good luck with your planning!
The draw of Rothenburg is that it's remaining old center is larger than that of many other German towns and it's wall is still nearly complete. Off the top of my head, I can think of about a dozen alternatives, albeit smaller. However, for your route, none of the ones I know are necessarily much more convenient than Rothenburg. Swäbisch Hall or Dinkelsbuhl might save you a whole hour of driving time, but not much more. The most direct route for you to save some time would be to drive from Strasbourg to Karlsruhe to Stuttgart to Ulm to Füssen. So, a good way to rephrase your question would be to ask if there is a good alternative to Rothenburg not far off this general route in Swabia or the Allgäu regions. There probably is, but I don't know the individual towns well enough to make a firm recommendation. Perhaps maybe Kempten or Memmingen, but I've never stopped in either town. Some of the posters who live near Stuttgart might be able to give a better answer. "I've always wanted to see Neu(schwa)nstein Castle. How many hours to adequately see it?" The tour lasts about 30-40 minutes, but depending on the time of year, you may have a significant wait before your tour begins. You buy your ticket in the valley, which assigns you to a specific tour group. You then have to walk uphill, or take horse carriage and wait for your group's entrance time. I'm pretty sure you can reserve your ticket in advanced so that you can guarantee a specific entrance time. You can also tour the adjacent Hohenschwangau castle, which some on this website prefer (not me, though...). This will probably add about two hours to your total visit time.
"Is it worth it?" Some say "no", because it's not an "authentic medieval castle". I say "yes", because it's a fascinating, if extreme, example of a Romantic era castle. To get the most out of the tour, though, it helps if you pre-arm yourself with some knowledge of Ludwig II's life and the operas of Wagner.
Peter, One comment on visiting Neuschwanstein. I'd suggest allowing an extra hour or so to view the Castle from the metal bridge over the deep gorge. The view of the Castle and surrounding territory from that vantage point is fantastic, and the one that is often used in Postcards. I'm assuming you've already researched "ZTL" areas in Florence and other Italian towns? Fines can be expensive, so definitely something that needs to be addressed. There's also the issue of an IDP. Especially given your "User Name" on the HelpLine, I don't agree that you should reduce your time in the Cinque Terre due to the flood damage. While it's true that access to some of the towns is currently disrupted when travelling by car, the towns are still easily accessible. For that portion of the journey, I'd highly recommend parking the car in La Spezia (I believe they have a new parking facility there) and travel by train. You could also use Levanto as a "home base" and take day trips to the five villages (it's only about 10-minutes by train from Monterosso). Cheers!
The first thing I noticed was that you have 4 nights in Cinque Terre and that's the 1st place I'd cut 1 or 2 days in order to have more time in Germany. The Cinque Terre area had devastating mud slides this past fall (especially in Monterosso and Vernazza) and there will be problems getting around. Rothenburg o.t. and Neuschwanstein Castle should definitely not be missed. If you really want to see Strasbourg, think about taking the TGV from Paris and then rent the car from there the next morning. If you stick with driving from Paris, then I'd skip Strasbourg and choose Heidelberg for the 1st night.
I've probably added to the confusion..... good luck.
Peter - I can't comment on the actual trip plans, but I will comment on the driving aspect.
I don't think this is an unreasonable amount of driving if you want this itinerary, and it does not leave you bound to transit schedules. We ourselves have a planned Canadian Maritimes trip this summer that will involve around 2700 miles in 15 days, although two 600+ days will be spent solely for the Philadelphia -New Brunswick legs direct, thus 1400 driving miles for 13 days of actual touring. But I do notice one possible issue. Do you really expect to average 50 mph (as per your spreadsheet) for this entire trip? This does not account look like it accounts for various breaks from the driving (food, bathroom, stretching, places you are seeing.) You might want to look at your real-time figures closer.
I don't think 2800km in 20 days (average 140km per day) is too much driving at all, particularly in the routes you have chosen. It is some serious driving, but not what I'd qualify as "crazy". I, for instance, just had a 14-day, 5100km road trip with my parents in NL, B, L and D, and while it was a bit tiring for me (who did all the driving), it was nothing problematic. I'll just suggest something else for you: between Germany and Liechtestein, instead of going via St. Gallen, go instead via Innsbruck and the Austrian highway on Tirol. That road is totally stunning if only for its views, a narrow valley with high mountains on both sites. I'd also suggest you going from Switzerland to Italy not via the Gotthard tunnel, but via the Furkapass and Passo Novena (or Passo San Gottardo), up through the mountains. It is a stunning view, if weather is good (e.g., no low clouds) and you are travelling between April and late October. As for the Rotthenburg deviation, it is indeed one extra day for a few sightseeing hours. I'd head from Paris to Freiburg, than travel through the pre-Alps fo Füssen and, since you will be already there, pay a visit to Garmisch-Parternkischen and then head back via Austria to Switzerland. Now, answering your questions objectivelly: 1. Strasbourg and Rotthenburg in favor of other villages in the pre-Alps (saving you also 500km of highway driving) 2. Half-timbered houses are more typical of Northern Germany anyway. 3. I'd skip it, but that just me. I'd go for Colmar instead. 4. day 1: Paris to Freiburg with a stop in Colmar day 2: village hopping via county roads to LAndsberg am Lech day 3:Romantic route (southern part, the best one), then castle at Fussen
day 4: drive to Garmisch-Parternkirchen, climb the mountain if weather is good
I've driven from Amsterdam to Rome, by way of Cologne, Rhine, Romantic Road, Munich, Salzburg, Verona, Venice, Cinque Terra, Pisa, Siena, Florence, and Orvieto. The worst part was probably the very long trip from Venice to LaSpezia (we stayed a night in Modena). Since we weren't willing to give up either we had to eat the giant dog leg in our route. We leased a car for this trip, it really saved a ton over a rental. The bad part was having to off at the airport in Rome (before staying in Rome), I would have rather ped in Orvietto and trained into Rome for the last part of our trip. Neuschwanstein/Hohenschwangau can be seen in about three hours if you arrive before the crowds. We arrived well before it opened and our line was less than 15 minutes to get tickets for the first tour. You could also save time by skipping Hohenschwangau or the Marienbrucke view but I wouldn't.
Peter, are you asking about Neuenstein Castle, or Neuschwanstein Castle? Some responses seem to be talking about Neuschwanstein (which I suspect is the one you actually mean), but there is a Neuenstein castle as well.
Neuschwanstein Castle. Thanks!
We've never tried leasing a car, so I don't know how that works, but we have frequently rented and always drop the car off in the same country we pick it up in. Attempting to drop in a different country will incur fees of several hundred $. I would find a way around that. You could mix in train trips to avoid taking a car one-way across Europe. Otherwise, I don't think driving that far in that amount of time is bad at all. If you avoid traffic jams, you can make excellent time on motorways. But on 2-lane rural roads, you will average more like 35-40mph due to all the towns and twisty roads.
Ken, they have reopened the local "high" route going there. There are still some minor roads closed, but that affects Varenna, which is to stay out of the visiting plans of any sensible visitor for the time being anyway. They do have a new parking facility in La Spezia, not that far from the train station.
Peter I can't remember how old your kids are. As you mentioned, Days 11, 12, 13, and 14 are all one night stays. This could be problematic for them. It is very disorienting to change hotels every night. The younger, the worse it is. Unfortunately, I am not familiar enough with Germany to make suggestions. The following are answers for questions you didn't ask. Just my thoughts. 1. It is important to provide kid activities. Soccer ball with pump is an instant kid magnet. Even bringing yoyos to learn is fun and easy. Kid friendly Europe map for them to track your itinerary. And be willing to slow down when they show interest. And to have some activities in each destination specifically for them. 2. For a 30 day trip, I would usually suggest 1 longer stay 5-7 nights in one place (Germany?) as well as a 4 night stay somewhere else a week or so later (Italy?). Apartment, agritourismo with a pool, etc. This gives everyone a breather and a chance to immerse yourself in a neighborhood. And saves your mental health. It is really surprising how much mental effort it takes to change countries, languages, signage, hotels, find food/restaurants, etc. 3. As others have mentioned, I think the next step is to see if you can actually rent a car for the 4 countries you want to drive through. And then to see how expensive it is. Cars are so small in Europe. With 4 people plus luggage, you may need a "large" European car! Continued below.
Continued from Above 4. Skip Pisa and Florence to extend your time in Tuscany. 5. Consider skipping Switzerland (expensive) and Northern Italy (Lake Como) and fly a discount airline from one of the southern German cities to Venice, then go to Cinque Terre, and spend extended time in Tuscany. Although for some reason I couldn't find discount non stop 1 hour flights from Munich (at a reasonable cost) although there were several from other southern cities. 6. Remember you will go back! You dont need to put everyplace you wish to see in this trip. Good luck! Bobbie
@Andre L., "Ken, they have reopened the local "high" route going there. There are still some minor roads closed, but that affects Varenna, which is to stay out of the visiting plans of any sensible visitor for the time being anyway." The status of the "high route" was also the information that I have. I'm assuming you mean Vernazza? I still feel that the best method for visiting the CT villages is to park the car and use the local trains. "They do have a new parking facility in La Spezia, not that far from the train station." Thanks for confirming the details about the new parking facility in La Spezia.
we had to eat the giant dog leg in our route Brad, how does giant dog leg taste?
No, you are not crazy. We just did 3950 miles in 28 days. You can do a lot of the miles on autobahns and motor routes cruising at 80 mph. Looking at your itinerary, 1) I would keep Rothenburg ... the night watchman's is super, show up early and stay close to him as he is rather soft spoken. Rothenburg is really neat in the evening after the day-trippers have gone, it's like you have gone through a time warp. 2) I would take a pass on Neuschwnstein. The first time I mentioned it to one of my German cousins he just wrinkled up his nose and said it is not a castle it is a theater set. 3) Definitely keep Lauterbrunnen. there is so much beautiful stuff to see there. 4) You might be planning a bit much in the Cinque Terra with all the damage they have had there. You might want to tack on an extra day in Venice to get some flexibility in case of weather issues. Venice is the real thing.
I would not pass on the Neuschwanstein Castle... especially if you have always wanted to see it. Even if it is a 'movie set' it is a pretty impressive one. I took my grandson (age 10) and he loved it. We took the shuttle bus up to the castle and had a wonderful walk down. It was really one of his best memories, and he did not care if it was 'authentic' or not.
As for Pisa... on another trip, a different grandson (age 9) wanted to go there. I was indifferent about it. But, we went, had a great time. He sat on the steps with his sketch book and did a sketch of the tower, and later a painting of it. We had a quick lunch and looked at the cheesy trinkets at the market. It was a fun half day and a great way to start our trip.
Peter, I think this is the same itinerary, more or less, that you posed before. You got a lot of advice then, but your priorities should rule. We are just a bunch of strangers on the internet after all; you are you. I hope these priorities reflect those of your family. It's not "crazy" to want to do this. Though I would prefer to spend more time in fewer places I am not you. Have a blast.
I think Tom's advice is pretty good. Alternatives to Rothenburg if you were to follow Tom's route, near Stuttgart, would be Esslingen Am Neckar or Tubingen. Both have nicely preserved old towns that haven't been bombed. Esslingen is a little smaller, although it does have a very cool fortress on a hill surrounded by vineyards. It was a former free Imperial city of the Holy Roman Empire. Tubingen is home to Germany's second-oldest university (in a former castle, natch) and has the loveliest Rathaus I've seen in Germany. Neither have walls anymore, but Esslingen still has a gate from it's wall dating back to the 1200s. Both are less than 30 minutes off of the A8. Honestly, I'd cut Rothenburg. It's just too "out of the way" unless you're driving the Romantic Road. I'm sure there are other lovely old towns along various routes you could take to save time. I wouldn't cut Strasbourg - I haven't been to Colmar so I can't comment on it, but I think Strasbourg is fantastic and underrated. It feels very medieval and the cathedral is the most impressive I've EVER seen. I firmly feel it's a destination, it's unique compared to S. Bavaria for sure. You don't want to drive in the center of Strasbourg, but near the various highways there are parking centers. For 3 euro you get a place to park all day AND tickets for their metro system. I've done this twice, it's very easy and convenient.