I’m home from another two-week, girlfriends’ Christmas market trip to Germany and Austria, and determined to write this while I’m still in the spirit and the tree’s still standing. In thirteen nights on the ground we had one gray day and one rainy, both at the end in Munich. All the others were blue skies, often cloudless. I lived in Germany for a few years and have traveled there often in December, and this kind of weather never happens…but I’ll take it!
About our group: four active, curious sixty somethings; all past the acquisitions stage, but enjoy a little market shopping; like lots of walking and looking during the day, then sitting down to a relaxed dinner with wine at night. Seek out small group walking tours, select museums, beautiful old churches, restaurants filled with locals, and seasonal concerts. Often walk 5-9 miles in a day.
Two of my friends had never been to Germany, and the friend who’s traipsed over Europe most frequently with me hadn’t seen the markets since 2012 on our snow markets trip. I planned this one for some favorite markets with a Bavarian break in between.
I make all the plans and reservations and drive, and my friends write me a check before we leave. Once we touch ground in Europe, we live out of a kitty for everything, including food, and I never touch the money again — my idea of a vacation! Extremely freeing if you travel with the right friends!
We try to arrive on the first Advent weekend when the markets open so we can get home well before Christmas, and the airline prices are often better then. We flew nonstop from ATL into FRA and out of MUC, Nov 30 - Dec 13 on 40K FF point tickets on Delta! (I checked the fares every day for almost a month last summer before I saw them drop, and we all bought within an hour.)
It’s certainly possible to cover lots more ground, faster than we do, but my checklist is long done, and I love slow travel. Three nights is usually my minimum stop. Also prefer the freedom of a car when countryside is involved, although I’m starting to mix in some trains. Germans as a group are such good, predictable drivers that driving is a joy, but I can remember when I first moved there, and that’s not how I would have described my first week. (The street names were long, and their car horns loud.)
If you opt for a car, I highly recommend gemut.com, an American broker who books major European brands. Prices are good; you can cancel up to the last minute; you get good info about driving rules and insurance requirements up front; and if something goes wrong, you make a call to an ENGLISH speaker. (I’ve only had to do this once in 10+ years, but it was at 3AM PMT, and they fixed the problem at the rental counter in FRA immediately.) This trip Andy at gemut got us a new BMW kombi (station wagon) for a great price.
German car rental prices are relatively low but the fee for airport pick up is high. Once, I went into Frankfurt fo pick up the car, but I don’t think it’s worth the trouble unless you’re actually staying in Frankfurt. The airport has more cars to choose from anyway, and the airport fee split by four people is a no-brainer if you’re ready to hit the road.
Rothenburg, 3 nights, with day trip to Nuremburg
Mittenwald, 4 nights
Salzburg, 3 nights
Munich, 2 nights