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April, 2022 in Germany

We have just returned from 3 weeks in Germany. Our itinerary was based on opera and symphony concerts. We had fun connecting those dots, and waited as long as possible to buy music and plane tickets lest things shut down again. We purchased medical insurance from Trawick that would have covered the cost of quarantine at the end of the trip, and self-insured for the few things that were nonrefundable. This is lengthy- so buckle up, skim, or just skip altogether. My goal is to pay back all those folks who have helped us plan over time, and especially for this First Post Covid Trip!

Itinerary:
We flew into Frankfurt and recovered at the airport Hilton. We used this time to purchase our German Rail Pass, catch up on sleep, have some good food, and purchase sundries like lotion and toothpaste. The next morning our train left from the station at the airport. We love German airports/train stations. One-stop shopping and transport.

Train to Dresden where we stayed 5 nights. Heard two operas, toured the Green Vault, day trip to Görlitz, and day cruise on the Elbe. Operas were just "ok", the ostentatious Green Vault for us is a "one and done", gusty weather made the walk over the bridge to Poland short but memorable, and the cruise (inside seating) was warm and enjoyable.

Train to Berlin for 3 nights, where we have been several times before. Heard the Vienna Philharmonic, also just "ok" (more about that later), walked around the usual major sites in freezing rain. Glad we had done walking tours of all these sights before, because the bad weather would have marred our memories and shortened our attention spans.

Train to Nürnberg for 4 nights. Full day walking tour (with a break for lunch) in improved (albeit brisk) weather, day trip to the outdoor museum in Bad Windsheim (finally good weather). The Radius tour guide ( whose PhD thesis was about the Nazis/ Hitler) was superb, and seeing the rally grounds was chilling ( and I don’t just mean the weather). Terrifying parallels to current US times. The outdoor museum was interesting , but with limited English explanations. Tired of the cold, we relaxed in our apartment-hotel room and followed up our day tour by rewatching Rick's show on fascism. Again. Terrifying parallels to current times.

Train to Munich for 4 nights. Heard one opera, made a day trip to Kufstein, Austria (included in our pass), did laundry, and revisited some of our favorite sites. The opera had no supertitles, Kufstein fortress was fascinating and the city lovely (we will return), the laundromat made us appreciate our previous hotel room facilities (more about that later), and we stayed outside as the weather was warm and sunny.

Train to Baden Baden for 3 nights of sunny spring weather. Did Rick’s walking tour, went to a concert, had some delicious food, and relaxed over the Easter weekend (everything except restaurants were shut down, so relaxing was the only option). The walking tour on a mild spring day was excellent. The enthusiastic National Youth Orchestra performed a flawless Beethoven’s 5th which was so inspiring (best music of the trip, way better than the Vienna Phil in Berlin). Perfect way to end to our music-based trip. And if those 14-19 year olds are any indication, the future of classical music is bright.

Train back to Frankfurt Flughafen for (hopefully) just one night. Booked a suite at the airport Marriott just in case we had to quarantine (two bathrooms). Did our Covid test at the EcoCare in the airport, results to email in 15 minutes, uploaded to United and accepted in another 30 minutes. Celebrated our negative result with plenty of Sekt in the Marriott Executive Lounge (temporarily at the adjoining Sheraton).

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Segment Two-

Transportation:

Our goal was predicated on the greatest flexibility and avoiding any choice that was nonrefundable. No advance reservations. We wanted to be able to spontaneously respond to our mood, unexpected schedule changes, and the weather. As it turned out, the latter played a huge role in dictating our choices. The first two weeks were brutally cold- snow, sleet, and driving gusts of wind. We chose more indoor venues, and made full use of the included local transport (S bahn) to get from place to place rather than walk in the terrible weather.
For us, the perfect choice was the German Rail Pass. We purchased a 10 day plan for first class for two people. We did not want a scrum to find a seat, and were able to limit our exposure to illness by being in less-subscribed train cars. We were so glad we chose the pass.

There were canceled trains, late trains, missed connections, and cancelled connections due to the Easter holiday or rail repairs. We were never constrained because using the DB app we had real-time information, and could connect routes in creative ways to get to our destination. After almost 2 years of Covid restrictions, being free to just jump on any train was a treat. We used 9/10 days for travel from north to south and east to west.

Based on the timing and type of tickets we had already planned to buy, the pass saved at least $500 (probably more but we lost track, pun intended). We purposely saved one travel day of the pass. If we tested positive and had to reschedule, the pass would allow us the flexibility to follow the best fare, even if that meant changing airports. Not for everyone we realize, but for us it was a perfect fit and a financially prudent choice even just using 9 days of the pass.

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Segment Three:
Accommodations:

Frankfurt Airport Hilton and Marriott. Typical American hotels, but we like being on-site the night of arrival and night before departure. The Hilton Executive Lounge was closed, the Marriott was open but using the club at the adjoining Sheraton.

Dresden- Residenz Am Zwinger. HUGE apartment with two baths, large master bedroom with a full wall of closets plus two dressers in the dressing area, full kitchen (had fun playing with the Bosch induction cooktop), washer/dryer, balcony, living room with Murphy bed, mudroom, and enough storage for a family to live there permanently. A Middle Eastern grocery below and a Rewe a block away, 5-10 minutes from the Altstadt, opera, restaurants. The tram from the train station stopped at the front door. A true bargain at 134 Euro/night!
https://www.residenz-am-zwinger.de/en/

Berlin- Adına Hackescher Markt. Comfortable despite an awkward layout with a small bathroom and kitchenette. We really appreciated the washer/dryer. and the large comfortable living area. Excellent location close to restaurants and the buses/trams stopped just around the corner. Would probably try the Checkpoint Charlie Adina next time.
https://www.adinahotels.com/en/apartments/berlin-hackescher-markt/?utm_source=googleplaces&utm_medium=organic&utm_campaign=hotellink&utm_content=adina-berlin-hackescher-markt

Nürnberg: Adina Apartment Hotel. Another good location with a short walk from the train/transport station and a shopping mall. A bodega-size Rewe a few blocks away, as well as restaurants which were only taking guests with reservations (lesson learned). Best food of the trip was crispy duck at the Japanese restaurant next door. Again we SO appreciated our washer/dryer, kitchenette, and a comfortable large area for relaxing.
https://www.adinahotels.com/en/apartments/nuremberg/

Munich: Hilton Munich City. We have been to Munich several times, staying in various locations. Decided to try the Hilton. Really like the location, close to trams and the subway. Lavish breakfast included for Honors Gold. The Executive Lounge was open from 5-10 pm each day, with limited food choices but plenty of wine. A 10 minute walk to a laundromat. Having apartment-hotel accommodations with our own washer/dryer will now always be a priority for us. American-style hotels not so much, but they sometimes serve a purpose.

Baden Baden: Aqua Aurelia. This was our final stop, and our real splurge of the vacation. Worth every penny. We had a large balcony, huge bedroom, living room, free minibar, and an amazing walk-in spiral tiled shower. Ahhhhh. Downside was being there Easter weekend with every single thing except restaurants closed. This time we knew to make reservations and had excellent Alsatian, Chinese, and German (owned by a guy from Kosovo) food. Baden Baden is a beautiful town set next to the mountains. We would gladly return, and agree with Rick that it is a perfect serene place to end a trip.
https://www.aquaaurelia.de/en/index.html

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Last but not least:

Overall impressions:

  1. We felt safe in every way during the entire 3 weeks. Personal safety has never been an issue anywhere we have traveled during our dozen trips to Germany. Covid safety was also never an issue. Everywhere we went (and public transport was crowded) everyone wore an FFP2 (KN95-type) mask if they were indoors or on public transport. Masks are sold everywhere for about one Euro each. There was none of that toddler behavior we see in the US wearing your mask below your nose. Outside masks came off. Every music location was a bit different. In Dresden for the first opera we had to show vaccine cards and wear masks the entire time. The second time no vaccine cards, but still masks. By the time we reached Baden Baden, masks were “respectfully requested”. And every one of the 1,200 people attending showed that respect with masks on and worn appropriately. I saw 5 people without masks during this entire trip. Two were very elderly folks who seemed confused about more than just masks, and the others were a family of three from the southern US. (Who took the time to tell us we didn’t need to wear our masks.Ugh.)

  2. I have seen posts about the impact of the Ukraine invasion. We did not witness any negative issues. Germany is providing free transport to anyone with Ukrainian ID- trains, buses, subways, trams. The big train stations have set aside special areas with translators to help. We assisted one young family who was being relocated to a town near the Polish border. We made sure to let them know which stop they needed, and I gave the two little boys some candy. They looked exhausted, and were so appreciative of our small help.

  3. I would never recommend traveling during the Easter holiday. We did so because of the music, and it was the best way to coordinate the music we wanted to hear. Otherwise it is a difficult time to try and sightsee because of all the closures. We were fine because we had been to most of the locations several times, and had already toured major sites.
    Climate change is real, so pack accordingly. We used the heavy winter stuff we had, and the warm weather stuff as well. Highs from 30-78 F during the three weeks! My Kirkland waterproof coat was the most used item. I took 3 pairs of pull-on pants (thank you Costco) that laundered well. I may never take zippered pants again! My Skechers Go Walk 5 shoes were brand new, and yet comfortable the entire time. The JBU sandals I took just ended up taking up space. As good as they are, with the cold weather and the comfy Skechers they couldn’t compete. The dress flats came out just for the music, but were still useful. We each had just one carry-on size roller bag (2 wheeled Briggs and Riley), and one wheeled cabin bag ( one Briggs, one Samsonite) with trolley sleeves to stack on top of the roller bag. We always check the larger suitcase, and then are free to just pull the small cabin bag with us through airports. It works very well for us.

  4. Having been to Germany many times, we were struck with a difference probably related to Covid. Many fewer people spoke English, and in many cases it was clear that wait staff was avoiding us. Not because they were rude, but because they were clearly not comfortable with their English and/or our awkward German. Once we made contact, all was fine. But that was a hesitation that I had not experienced before.

  5. Flexibility must be packed along with that variety of clothes. If you go with the attitude of appreciation for being able to travel at all, you will have a great time. It may not be perfect, but it is infinitely better than sitting at home. With all the trauma, sadness, and uncertainty in our world we were the most fortunate folks to be able to savor and enjoy the freedom to look, listen, and relax in one of our favorite countries.

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I enjoyed your recap! Germany is probably my "spirit home". I spent the first week of April in Berlin and after seeing beautiful spring weather the week leading up to my trip in my social media feed, it was bitterly cold the whole time I was there. I dressed for it and didn't let it stop me, but like you one very windy afternoon I just packed it in and hung out in my little apartment.

In previous trips I used the German Rail Pass and agree that it was absolutely invaluable. The last two times I used it, my son and I went to Germany over his spring break. Because I was traveling with a teenager, the flexibility the pass gave us was priceless. Slow to get moving one morning? We'll just catch a later train. He sees something on Google Maps he wants to check out? We'll change plans at the spur of the moment. Get on the wrong train? Get off at the next stop and go back. Even if individual tickets priced out to be less - and both times we bought our pass from Rail Europe when they were offering a 20% discount on spring travel - the flexibility was absolutely worth it.

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88 posts

@TravelingMom, thank your the detailed trip report. It is much appreciated. Like you, I intend to buy a German Railpass for my trip this summer. I usually will buy the specific train ahead of time but with COVID I thought it best to have ability to be flexible. And I also intend on buying 1st class, primarily for the reason to not have to worry about finding a seat . Also, my wife and I stayed in the Adına Hackescher Markt in Berlin. We liked its location and we liked the hotel. Per your statement, I will check out the one near Checkpoint Charlie for my next trip there.

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P.S.

Reserving a comfortable hotel room at the airport in case we tested positive was the best plan we could come up with. Had we tested positive it would have been a TERRIBLE choice. With no opening windows it would have been like living in a terrarium. My advice is to come up with a plan that allows you to stay somewhere that allows you to get fresh air and see something other than the rooftops of airport buildings. We got lucky. In retrospect we should have stayed somewhere like the Frankfurt Adina where we would have had a washer/dryer and opening windows. Our flight back to the US wasn't until afternoon, so we would not have had a problem making it to the airport in time. Lesson learned. The easy way. Phew.

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488 posts

Thanks for informative report. What was your impressions of Gorlitz? It looks great in photos and IIRC has Germany's only surviving pre war mega department store, (though its not in use as one now)

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6437 posts

That breakfast at the Munich Hilton remains the winner for the most amazing breakfast in a hotel in my experience, even after several years. I did appreciate that there was a direct entrance to the hotel from the subway.

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3462 posts

Thanks for the great, detailed trip report. We are headed to several of these cities next week!

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3382 posts

Thanks for the trip report. I'm in Berlin now... the majority of people are without masks in shops... but mask-wearing is generally good on public transportation except the one guy on the U-bahn who was without a mask... he was promptly chided by an elderly German man.

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Rob, Görlitz deserves a second chance from us. The weather was SO cold, wet, and windy that we were just trying to endure instead of enjoy. Even in the gusty cold it was beautiful standing on the bridge into Poland.
We did have a lovely lunch at the Ratscafe. Small and cozy, with good basic food it was a true respite from the weather.
https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g562766-d5851917-Reviews-Ratscafe_Gorlitz-Gorlitz_Saxony.html

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7440 posts

We too enjoyed your report.

We too were in Berlin and Dresden the end of October.

We absolutely loved Dresden, and so few travelers take the time to go there. Prior to the end of WWII, it was perhaps the most beautiful and wealthiest city in Europe. They did a great job rebuilding the city after the fall of the Iron Curtain.

We have a relative that is 98 years old and she left Dresden 11/1938 on the last American ship to leave Germany before WWII. We were so thankful to see where Oma spent her first 15 years.

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1660 posts

"so few travelers take the time to go there"

I've been in Dresden 3-4 times, at different times of the year, maybe travellers take a pass on the former East German city, but tourists sure don't. There can be days when it can get that squishy Prague feeling.

I'm always enamoured with the magnificent Procession of Princes Meissen Porcelain mural in Dresden as well as the salute to Walter Ulbricht mural on the Dresden Kulturpalast.

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1562 posts

Dresden is actually one of the most popular tourist cities in Germany now. Certainly not a "hidden gem".

Just like the UK, you don't travel to Germany for the weather. Thanks for the trip report.

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451 posts

Thanks for reading to those who have waded through my novel. 😂
David, I think everyone who has had a relative who immigrated from Germany needs to visit the museum in Bremerhaven. It is one of the most moving and memorable places I have ever been. Even their re-creation of Grand Central Station is incredible. SO proud of my courageous Prussian grandparents who made that leap of faith. Even if they didn’t leave from that port, their stories are depicted. Seeing those steerage bunks and the depiction of Ellis Island brought tears to my eyes.
https://www.bremerhaven.de/en/tourism/museums-adventure-worlds/german-emigration-center-bremerhaven.16186.html

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TravelingMom:

Thanks for your detailed report; made me feel a little bit of "Heimweh" for the black, red, and gold.

I also agree with you about Bremerhaven's German Emigration Museum (Deutsches Auswandererhaus Bremerhaven). For travellers with extra time in Hamburg, make your way south on an S-Bahn train to Veddel station to the BallinStadt emigration museum.

heather:

The weather in Germany can be soul-crushing for much of the year, but the privilege of spending a couple of weeks in the Alps in late-May and early-June (or any part of a sunny alpine summer) will lift anyone's spirits with long days, fresh air, looming peaks, and glorious hikes and sights.