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I need some guidance in setting up train itinerary for Germany/Belgium/Fran

I am trying to decide how many days for a rail pass I should get. I am thinking of getting a bahn pass for Germany and for the trip to Aachen from the Brussels airport and from Germany to Rheims, France and a separate pass for France and Belgium. Here is my itinerary: Day 1: Landing in Brussels: Aachen & Cologne Day 2: Trier Day 3: Mainz Day 4: Nuremburg Day 5: Nuremburg, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, back to Nuremburg for the night Day 6: Salzburg, then to Augsburg for the night Day 7: Munich Day 8: Munich Day 9: Augsburg to Fussen then Overnight train to Triberg im Schwartzwald either from Fussen or Augsburg. Day 10 Triberg, Alpirsbach (staying in Triberg) Konus Day 11 Freidburg or Basel (staying in Triberg) Konus Day 12 Basel or Freidburg (staying in Triberg) Konus Day 13 Black Forest or Stuttgart: Overnight train to Rheims, France Day 14 Rhemis Cathedral, France to Chartres Cathedral to Paris Day 15 Paris, France Day 16 Paris, France Day 17 Rouen, France Day 18 to Ghent, Belgium, to Brussels, Belgium to the Brussels Airport at night. Thank you .

Posted by
12040 posts

Rethink this entire trip. Too many changes of location, too many long days spent mostly on trains. And because you haven't planned around managing jet lag, you're going to hit a wall almost immediately.

Posted by
4665 posts

Bloody hell. Are you serious, or just seeing how many shocked responses you get? There is no way to fly into Brussels and see Aachen and Cologne on the same day, unless it's just from a moving train. The train journey from Mainz to Nuremberg itself will take most of the day, with no time to see Mainz properly. Similarly there's no hope of seeing Rheims and Chartres in one day in a satisfactory way, nor of getting from Rouen to Ghent, then Brussels in one day. Pick three or four destinations at most from that list, then get back to us.

Posted by
2932 posts

Also keep in mind the German Rail Pass (is that what you meant by Bahn Pass?) is a good deal if you're making lots of long-distance trips by ICE, but is not great if you're doing shorter trips, which can often be done in a similar timeframe on regional trains using a regional pass or day ticket for a fraction of the price. Trier and Mainz are linked by a regional train only, so you're better off buying a point to point ticket or a regional day pass. RodT is a spur line so not much point in paying ICE prices when you'll be on slow trains anyway. The best way to figure out what's the best fit is to use Bahn.com to price out what tickets would cost individually for each leg, then compare that total to the pass price. In France, passes aren't valid anymore anyway, so just buy point to point tickets well in advance for best prices.

Posted by
5130 posts

Hi, Aaron. Not surprising that your itinerary gets the same thumbs down here as it did on Tripadvisor. It's simply far too frantic. What will you do? I suggest you simply lop off anything that lies east of Mainz; you will enjoy the first other destinations much more if you see them with two feet on the ground than with your backside in a train seat. You might have to drop Neuschwanstein, old-world Rothenburg, and the WW II stuff in Nuremberg. But the Cologne-Trier-Mainz region, if you linger there a bit, offers similar stuff (Rothenburg: think Linz am Rhein, Bacharach, and Oberwesel, all handsome old-world villages; Füssen: think Marksburg and Burg Eltz castles, REAL 800-1,000-year-old castles; WW II: Remagen Bridge Peace Museum.) Someday you'll return to Germany for Bavaria and Salzburg. But now you have another day for Paris, some time for more than just transportation within the Rheinland, and a much more direct route to the Black Forest area. 4 nights for the Black Forest area with daytrips to Basel and Freiburg (I think that's what you mean, note spelling) is quite adequate. But I suggest a different base town. Triberg is quite distant from Basel, and the train station is a healthy trek outside of town. Try Gengenbach instead? It's an amazing old walled town, somewhat like Rothenburg without all the tourists. From there you can visit Triberg by direct train, Alpirsbach by direct train (and make a stop in Schiltach on the way.) And Basel and Freiburg will be a good deal closer. Aren't you going to visit the Vogtsbauernhof near Hausach? You'll probably get a KONUS discount.

Posted by
12040 posts

BTW... we didn't even begin to address the rail pass issue, because the itinerary is so... well, to not mince words, bad. But in general, rail passes are only advantageous to the agency selling them. They don't offer nearly the flexibility they formerly did, and you would need to ride very long train routes to even approach breaking even. Beyond that, though, we're not going to attempt to make more specific recommendations, because the itinerary needs some serious cutting first.

Posted by
4665 posts

Further, you won't get a direct overnight train from Stuttgart to Rheims. You'd need to get an overnight train to Paris and then go from Paris to Rheims. (It's the same station in Paris, although this is NOT, REPEAT NOT, an encouragement for you to actually attempt it.)

Posted by
12270 posts

Hi, What you have as an itinerary needs another two to three weeks to have a decent trip. The itinerary is crammed with too many places within the 18 days. You have to decide which places to drop. On the rail Pass, if your trip could be stretched to five weeks, then I'd say get a French-German Pass, 2nd class. That's still available.

Posted by
45 posts

Guess since I'm not wealthy enough to make multiple trips to Europe during this stage in my life I was just trying to see as much as I can while I am on the continent. I figured on most days I could get up early and take the early morning trains as well as sleep on my flight to Europe to rest up and curb jet-lag. I also figured that since Germany is half the size of Texas that it wouldn't hurt to just hop on an early morning train and commute to the next city. I'm not going to relax per se, otherwise I would just go to Hawaii.

Posted by
1064 posts

I would be rushing through, also, if I had to spend 18 days, including arrival and departure, in Texas. But you are comparing apples and okra. There is a lot more to do and see at virtually every place mentioned here than a comparably sized place in Texas. It is a lot more fun to actually spend some time in any of these places than hours a day -- day after day -- sitting around train stations and in trains,

Posted by
45 posts

My rational was that I would do most of my train rides in the early mornings (for example a 6am or 8am train) or overnight that way I could get to where I was going earlier on in the day and spend the whole day or atleast from 9 am or 10am on getting to see that place then sleep that night and get up early the next day and move on to another city. Does a 2 or 3 hour train ride early in the morning really eat up most of the day? How so? I'm not interested in everything about each city, mainly the medieval sites.

Posted by
12040 posts

Traveling from city to city involves more than just the quoted train duration. You have to pack up and check out of your hotel. You then need to transfer from your hotel to the train station, then do the opposite in your arrival city. This adds anywhere from 2-3 hours to your timeline, and it gets tiring very quickly. RE- jet lag. Sleeping on the plane, if you can manage it, isn't sufficient to avoid jetlag. Your sleep-wake cycle will be on Texas time until at least day 3 or 4, no matter if you get 8 minutes or 8 hours of sleep on the plane... and most people don't sleep well at all on trans-Atlantic flights, even with a little pharmacologic help. By the time you reach Cologne on your first day, you won't want to do anything but go straight to bed, and waking up in the morning any early than 9.30-10 will require a Herculaian effort. We're not trying to be overly critical here, we're speaking from experience. I tried a similar trip in my 20s, and I aborted most of my plan about a quarter of the way through. I was too tired, and all I was seeing was the inside of trains, train stations and my hotel room. By trying to see more, you're actually going to be seeing considerably less.

Posted by
45 posts

I was only planning on seeing the Aachen Pfalz and the Cologne Cathedral on Day 1 then going to bed early. I'm thinking of maybe trying to start my Germany timezone sleep cycle adjustment two or three weeks early by adjusting my alarm clock and starting/ending my days on German time.

Posted by
12270 posts

Hi, No problem in getting the early train, say at 0800 and arriving in a town at noonish, get to the hotel/Pension hostel...that's why you stay close to the train station...stay one-two nights before repeating the process 2 days later. Your itinerary is doable if you drop Switzerland, Not everyone gets jet lag, most do. You may not, work on that assumption. When does the flight arrive in Brussels? If it's in morning, by 1500 or so you should be in Aachen, by 1800 or so in Cologne to check in/have dinner. It can be done, depending how you want to push it. Omit some places in Germany so that the rush isn't so bad.

Posted by
45 posts

Flight arrives at 7:50 am and I was hoping to be on a train headed to Aachen by 9am. Stopping in Aachen to check out Charlemagne's old digs, then to Cologne.

Posted by
922 posts

I love maps and enjoy trying to map things out, so ... Only for your first day... If your flight arrives early enough to catch the 08:51 train from Brussels airport, you could be in Aachen at 10:36. Ditch your bag in a locker at the Aachen train station (assuming there are some). Google says it's about a 20-minute walk from the Aachen train station to the Aachen Pfalz. Spend about 3 hrs there, pick up your bag and and catch the 14:18 train to Köln (Cologne), arriving by 15:12. Ditch your bag again at the Köeln station because ... the Köln Cathedral is less than 5 mins. walk from the station. Visit first and then check into a room, have an early dinner, and crash in Köeln that night. The 09:18 train the next day would get you to Trier at 11:46. If you acquire admission tickets in advance, you could probably save some queuing time. It's a bit of madness, but when I was younger, had boundless energy and stamina, could sleep on a plane, and didn't even know the meaning of jetlag, I might have tried something like this. That's all I'm up for today... Knock yourself out. :) But one last thought - There's no need to go back to Brussels, and I'd skip Ghent this trip because it's too far out of the way. Stay the last days in Paris and day-trip from Paris to Rouen. An early morning train from Gare Saint-Lazare would get you there in a little over an hour. Then plan to fly out of Paris CDG.

Posted by
12270 posts

Hi, As suggested above the arrival day's plans can be easily done. You can accomplish both places Aachen and Cologne by the evening, just don't waste time at the airport. I was under the assumption that you would not arrive from Texas until 10 or 11am...even better before 0800 since you most likely will land prior to the scheduled time. The Cologne train station (Köln Hbf.) has a good food court. Aachen Hbf. has coin lockers. My 2nd trip at 23 had a full day's schedule after arriving 0900 at Paris Orly from SFO. I was determined after checking in at the hostel in the 12th arrond. to get to the Invalides/Museum, where I spent most of the afternoon. Unless you a specific site you want to see in Trier, I would suggest heading to Frankfurt from Köln Hbf.

Posted by
922 posts

I get the feeling that Aaron is on a cathedral junket and that's why he's got Trier and Mainz on his itinerary. I, too, love to visit cathedrals and always make the effort to do so in every place I travel. After a while, though, I need a break from it because one begins to blur into another. If that's the focus of your trip, Aaron, and you have the endurance and attention span for it, it will be amazing. I hope you'll post your photos and tell us the link when you get home.

Posted by
12270 posts

If that's true, that is a good focus for the trip. In that case I suggest making a day trip from Paris Nord to Beauvais (a nice town not swamped with tourists) and Amiens. You can do both in one day. In Germany do a diversion to Ulm from Stuggart or Augsburg to one of Germany's most famous and biggest cathedrals (das Ulmer Münster). Drop Switzerland and you'll have the time for going into east ... Magdeburg, or Naumburg an der Saale esp to see the unique church tower in Naumburg.

Posted by
45 posts

Well I did study history in college with an emphasis in medieval history. Now, I'm not going to these areas, JUST for the cathedrals but the cathedrals are the last vestiges from that period as everything else seems to have been destroyed in war or built over. It's not like Scotland and England where you can just walk up and know that this entire building, castle was built in a certain time period and kept that way (ie Greyfriars church in Dumfries, Stirling Castle or Caernefon in Wales or the Tower of London). Next year when I go to the UK I'll be doing a self-guide Wallace and Bruce tour for that purpose, but here in Germany its more about experiencing culture with a good mix of medieval/ancient history.

Posted by
1064 posts

Aaron, the greatest concentration of Romanesque and Gothic churches from the Middle Ages is in northern France and western Germany near the Rhine. Your targeted area was the cultural center of western Europe north of the Alps after the fall of Rome. Most of the great churches of Bavaria are Baroque from the 18th century or later. Bavaria has so much to recommend it that it is worth a trip in itself. If you want to include that in this trip, fine, but you will be missing a lot in the target area with a long detour to Bavaria. Since you are already planning a trip to the UK for next year, I can almost guarantee this will not be your last trip to the Continent. Edit/Add: If you want to add other places to your itinerary, I would recommend Amsterdam. It is close to Brussels and is one of the great cities of Europe.

Posted by
1589 posts

Aaron, If you believe this: " sleep on my flight to Europe to rest up and curb jet-lag " I really don't think that anyone here will be of much assistance in talking you out of this high speed trip. Have fun.

Posted by
12270 posts

Aaron, How long is your flight? From the west coast it's 10 hrs. Regardless, if you get 5-6 hrs sleep by the time you land, you'll be all right energy wise....no problem, Taking a train 2-3 hrs in the morning won't hamper you seeing the sights, esp in Aachen, Mainz, Augsburg. At my age now, between Ger., Bel and Holland, the trip can be done, esp since you're NOT going east to Berlin or Vienna.

Posted by
45 posts

"How long is your flight? From the west coast it's 10 hrs. Regardless, if you get 5-6 hrs sleep by the time you land, you'll be all right energy wise....no problem," I'll be flying from Dallas with a layover in Newark, NJ. Then the flight from Newark will depart at 6:30 pm and arrive at 7:50 am in Brussels. "Taking a train 2-3 hrs in the morning won't hamper you seeing the sights, esp in Aachen, Mainz, Augsburg. At my age now, between Ger., Bel and Holland, the trip can be done, esp since you're NOT going east to Berlin or Vienna." I figure I can sleep some on the trains to offset the having to get up early. I didn't know that it would be considered such a high speed trip. In January I drove the Pacific Coast Hwy from Seattle to LA, then up to Las Vegas then to Dallas in the space of a week. But then again I have never traveled outside of North America so maybe things will be alot different over there.

Posted by
45 posts

Just had an idea, what if I were to drop Trier, then move Mainz into Day 2, then do Heidelberg on Day 3? Would dropping Heidelberg for Trier be a good idea, any thoughts? Trier has a lot of ancient history but Heidelberg seems like a pretty neat place as well.

Posted by
12270 posts

Hi, Given the choice of doing that auto trip you did in a week in Jan. or taking trains in the morning with a two-three hour radius, I'll take the train, since on the train I can count on sleeping the first hour or so before arriving. You time it right, it's doable. Your tran-atlantic flight gives you ample time to rest and sleep, plus the ride from Brussels to Aachen.

Posted by
12270 posts

Hi, Logistically, going from Mainz to Heidelberg is easier. Mainz is worth it...der Mainzer Dom. It will be easier from Köln. Take the fast ICE Köln Hbf to Frankfurt Hbf., then the local train to Mainz.

Posted by
951 posts

When I first started to travel 8 years ago, I did many 1 night stays and thought nothing of it. I also figured fatigue is the price you pay for European travel. Then as I have gotten older, I have even started to resent my 2 night stays. It is a pain to pack and repack and look for your hotel and get to train station and wait for train and get your bearing for what to do in the town you are in. Now, I look to stay a long time in 1-2 places and maybe day trip to my different destinations. It may seem like it isn't a big deal but after awhile, constant on the go travel wears you down. Although I make the most of my first day in Europe, suck it up and hit the road running, I am a tired miserable mess. Sleep on a plane is not good. I never feel rested. I don't feel rested until like the 8th day of my trip, but that is me. While sometimes we must learn from our mistakes with whirlwind travel, I feel that forewarning you that your trip is ambitious justified. But I am sure everyone has had a trip like this because we are excited and want to do everything in such a short period of time. I learn from my mistakes and in my past 8 trips my goal is to maximize the ease of European travel. travel is work unless on vacation on a beach somewhere sitting in a hammock, sipping on fruity drinks. My advise for your trip will come in the form of questions.... Why not spend all of your time in Germany? You mentioned the UK in a future trip. Travel from London to Paris is easy with the Eurostar train. Fly open jaw, into london and out Paris to keep from backtracking. Maybe postpone France for future adventures.
Why not fly into Germany? Have you purchased your tickets yet?

Posted by
1064 posts

"...seems like a pretty neat place..." Lot of deep thinking here. This discussion is a waste of time for all concerned. Aaron, I wish you well on your trip.

Posted by
7885 posts

You will find 100's of towns in Germany that are still medieval and were not destroyed in WW2, or during the 30's year war either. You just haven't looked yet, because you believe the guide books that tell you everything was flattened and destroyed. I am talking old, walled towns here, with original buildings, Gothic or Romanesque churches, maybe even a few Carolingen churches. Even Frankfurt has some of those. Have a look at the Half-Timbered route to find those elusive towns:
http://www.deutsche-fachwerkstrasse.de/uk/index.php