Author Topic: Traveling to Germany  (Read 6242 times)

cbr shadow

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Traveling to Germany
« on: February 11, 2013, 06:26:35 PM »
I hope this is an ok place to post this..

My wife and I have been to Europe once before (Madrid, Spain and Rome, Italy) and absolutely loved it.  We rented a motorcycle in Madrid and took it through the mountains for a day, enjoyed the food and did ALL of the tourist activities.

For our second trip to Europe my wife found some really good deals on kayak for flights to Germany.  We're planning a trip in April (based on cheap flights and our open schedules) and would like some help on where exactly to go, as well as what to do or any other tips you can give.  We'll be going for 7 days.
Here are the options that we have:

1) Munich - Good price on flights, looks like there's plenty to do there, possibly can take a train to Austria or Prague?
2) Dusseldorf - Good price on flights, looks like there are some things to do there, can take a train to Amsterdam
3) Berlin - Good price on flights, plenty of things to do there.

We take our vacations at a very fast pace and like to see as much as possible while we're there.  In Rome we woke up early and walked all day so we could see everything.  I think the worst case scenario for us is going somewhere where we feel like we saw/did everything with a day left still.

A few things to note:
1) We're 29 years old, adventurous, mustachian, and in good shape, so outdoor activities wont be turned down
2) My wife LOVES history and LOVES (reading about) the halocaust. Going to a museum or concentration camp would be amazing for her.
3) We would REALLY like to see 2 places, splitting up the vacation into 2 parts with 2-3 days in each

Thanks!
Ryan

grantmeaname

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Re: Traveling to Germany
« Reply #1 on: February 11, 2013, 07:16:07 PM »
The part of Germany I went to was right outside the Ruhr region -- in one tiny area, you have Dusseldorf, Dortmund, and Essen, and Cologne is just up the road like an hour. If you want to see German urbanism, there's no better place.

bogart

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Re: Traveling to Germany
« Reply #2 on: February 11, 2013, 07:25:02 PM »
Out of curiosity, where are you seeing (finding) your fares?  I'm contemplating a trip from the US East Coast to Europe (further east) to visit family in April.

At the risk of stating the obvious, from Germany you can take a train to pretty much anywhere else in Europe, and within reason, it's within easy reach.  A night train can be economical (and cover a lot of distance), as it saves a night's (other) lodging costs.

As a college kid doing a semester abroad in Alsace and talking with various people about my summer travel plans -- they included Dachau, as one of those places I thought one "must" see -- I was horrified to discover that there's pretty much nowhere in Germany or its border regions where you're not within an hour or two of a site related to the horrors of the holocaust -- often a concentration camp.  Everyone I talked to said, "Oh you don't need to go to Dachau, you can just ... [visit this site near some other destination you've named]."  In the US, and some decades later, I don't think we typically "get" just how vast the Holocaust was in either its human or its geographic scope.

One possible itinerary that I think would appeal based on what you've described is Berlin and Krakow, Poland.  The latter, being in former Eastern-bloc Europe, will be comparatively affordable and presents the opportunity to visit both Auschwitz (which I have not done) and a phenomenally impressive salt mine (which I have).  I was there (Krakow) for one day/night as a college kid and chose the salt mine, having already seen Dachau and not feeling I needed more Holocaust remembrances.  Consistent with what I said in the paragraph about, among other things, down in the mine there was a vast open "room" (mined out space) with a Star of David in the wall (maybe more than one; I forget).  Toward the end of the war, the space was used for hidden forced labor as the Nazis sought to keep their war effort alive (I forget details, but something was manufactured down there -- machinery, I think.  Tanks?  Aircraft?).  Berlin is lovely and of course the history of the wall is its own experience.

Kriegsspiel

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Re: Traveling to Germany
« Reply #3 on: February 11, 2013, 07:41:55 PM »
I lived in Bamberg, and I believe Woodpecker is from there too.  Bamberg is an awesome town.  Medieval architecture (wasn't bombed in WWII) is everywhere throughout the city. MANY awesome breweries that you really need to try if you are into beer.  I recommend Fassla, Spezial, and Schlenkerla.  I would suggest you visit the biergartens on the hills surrounding the city, great view, food, and beer, they're really popular, especially in spring and summer.  The downtown has a couple rivers, and you can do some kayaking in the rapids under the bridges (very cool).  You can also take bike trips to the towns a few miles away, or just ride around and soak in the beautiful countryside :)  It's also a college town, so there are a bunch of young people to practice your German on.

Another good thing about Bamberg, especially for you, is that it's a 30 minute train ride north of Nuremberg, which has a shit ton of historical stuff from WWII. 

You could definitely have a day or two in Bamberg/Nuremberg.

Kriegsspiel

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Re: Traveling to Germany
« Reply #4 on: February 11, 2013, 07:42:57 PM »
Also, while you're down by Munich, you can check out the Eagles Nest.

fuzzed

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Re: Traveling to Germany
« Reply #5 on: February 11, 2013, 08:16:35 PM »
We travel about the opposite of you, we rent an apartment and try to live like locals. Other than gathering food at markets and restaurants, we see very little of the normal tourist sites.  If we like it, and did not see it all, we just plan to come back.  We are 40 and 45 so not quite the retired age, but we enjoy traveling slow 

We went to Munich twice last year, once in May and again in December.  Instead of the cafe culture like the rest of Europe, Munich has a beer garden culture.  Every place you find a gathering of chestnut trees, you will find a beer garden.  We really enjoyed just wandering, and trying all the food.  Not the best place for a vegetarian, but if you like pork, your will be in heaven.  We went in December to sample the Christkindlmarkt's which were everywhere.  A return visit has been booked for this December as well.  The thing i really liked about Munich, is, it is very clean and organized, very German that way, vs the chaotic feel of Rome.  The local economy is doing very well, there seems to be little to no poverty, people are very polite and quiet, and if you are a German car person, you will enjoy the scenery.  As far as historical spots, Dachau is about a 1 hour train ride away.   Most people in Munich will speak English, I try to communicate in German as much as I can, but after a while, they will let you off the hook so to speak.

We spent a week in Berlin a couple of years ago.  Berlin feels very modern, a little cold but hipper than Munich.  Berlin seemed to be the opposite of Munich, there is nothing Bavarian about it.  The sheer amount of ethnic restaurants in Berlin is amazing, you can get pretty well anything you want, other than German food.   There are some very interesting historical parts of Berlin, walking through the Brandenburg Gate into the old East Berlin.  The Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church is very powerful, you can gain an appreciation of the sheer destruction of WWII.  My profile photo is actually an Ampelmann which is what is shown on the walk signs in Berlin.  It was originally an East Berlin thing, but the majority of the city has adopted it.   I did find that very few people in Berlin would speak English, but that is part of the fun.

If you have any questions, please email or pm me through the forum.   We have travelled to quite a few cities in Europe, and many of them several times, and honestly Munich is my favourite city.

« Last Edit: February 11, 2013, 08:18:36 PM by fuzzed »

Paul der Krake

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Re: Traveling to Germany
« Reply #6 on: February 11, 2013, 08:40:13 PM »
I lived in Düsseldorf a couple years ago. Köln is the bigger city next door and frankly, a lot more interresting. Either way, I recommend you two rent bikes to explore the city, weather permitting. When will you be going?

Berlin is amazing and amazingly cheap for a capital, especially compared to Paris or London. It's also filled with history and a great opportunity if you have any interest in the cold war. When in Bavaria, you may want to expand the trip a little and visit the castles. They are truly breath taking.

gooki

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Re: Traveling to Germany
« Reply #7 on: February 12, 2013, 01:04:32 AM »
I'd vote for Munich. Spend three days there, then take the train to Austria for another 3 days (or even Italy - Florence).

Book your train travel online, in advance and save heaps.
http://www.bahn.com

CNM

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Re: Traveling to Germany
« Reply #8 on: February 12, 2013, 10:44:18 AM »
I vote for Munich, too.  Other than the city itself, the Romantic Road is accessible as a day trip/multiple day trips.  You can see some beautiful palaces and gardens.  If you're an outdoorsy type, the Zug Spitze is close and you can easily take a train to Saltzburg, Austria.  To get to Austria the least expensive way, get a Bayern pass at the Munich central train station.

cyclevillian

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Re: Traveling to Germany
« Reply #9 on: February 12, 2013, 01:31:33 PM »
I was about to post a very similar question. My wife and I are flying into Munich in may and flying back from Frankfurt (free flights from travel hacking!). We have 10 days in between and so far no concrete plans. We are thinking about spending 3-4 days in Munich (seems like a good idea from the responses), then taking the train north to Frankfurt and stopping at different cities along the way for 1 night or so. We are pretty active and Mustachian and are trying to figure out how to stay busy without spending too much money or getting bored.

Sounds like we are pretty similar cbr shadow. Ages 27/28, wife loves history and architecture and we prefer outdoor activities.
We have been practicing our German (shes taking lessons, I'm using duolingo.com) and i hope we can use it a little.

Appreciate any tips from fellow Mustachian travelers!

Kriegsspiel

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Re: Traveling to Germany
« Reply #10 on: February 12, 2013, 04:09:48 PM »
Look at overnight trains.  Spend all day somewhere, get on a train, and wake up soemwhere else.  It's sweet., and you can get a lot more done for cheaper than hotels and hostels.

jrhampt

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Re: Traveling to Germany
« Reply #11 on: February 13, 2013, 06:36:26 AM »
When we went to Germany, we based ourselves out of Munich.  From there, we visited a few of Ludwig's castles -- these also usually provided opportunities for hiking -- took a day trip into Austria, and hiked up to Eagle's Nest in Berchtesgaden (highly recommended!!).  If we had had more time, probably would have spent more time hiking in Berchtesgaden National Park, which was quite beautiful.  I am a huge fan of hiking on vacation -- it's usually a pretty cheap activity minus park admission, the scenery is beautiful, and the activity is good for you.

Mountainman75

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Re: Traveling to Germany
« Reply #12 on: February 13, 2013, 07:24:22 AM »
If you are looking to travel a bit, you might look at getting a "vorteils karte" from the Austrian Railways. It gets you ~50% off on tickets.

http://www.oebb.at/

Other options might be to get a eurorail pass.

Munich to Vienna is €19 typically for a second class ticket, and 4 hours.
It's easy to hit Salzburg, Vienna, Prague, Budapest, and back to Munich in 2 weeks. A few days in each place. We use booking.com to find most of our weekend spots when we travel out of Vienna.

A typical gasthaus in April in Austria should run €30 to €35 a night per person including breakfast.
It will be wet and rainy (mud season) in the alps... but still pretty if the weather is good. Apartments are easy to find too, and typically €50-60 a night with a kitchen, some might charge you a fee for cleaning as well.

Cheap eats? Find a grocery store (Billa, Spar, Merkur, Nah & Frisch, etc.) and walk to the deli counter. Ask for a "semmel mit..." your choice of meat or cheese. Get them to add a pickle, and whatever, should run you less than €2 per sandwich. If you don't speak the language, improvise with pointing and gesturing.. works well in Hungary for me.

Vienna has awesome public transport, pick up an 8 day card at any Tabak and for €3.40 each you can ride all day long all over town. Plenty to see and do, most of it free if you don't go into the museums or take the guided tours. Schonnbrunn palace, Lantzer Tiergarten, and the Prater are not to be missed if you like good walks.

Hope this helps.

sheepstache

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Re: Traveling to Germany
« Reply #13 on: February 13, 2013, 10:00:26 AM »
I don't have any suggestions but I'm excited to hear you have a cool vacation coming, have fun!

acj

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Re: Traveling to Germany
« Reply #14 on: February 13, 2013, 11:29:14 AM »
As someone who grew up in Berlin I might be a bit biased but generally I agree with what has been said about Munich (its the cliche Germany, very rich and very nice). Nonetheless Berlin has more in terms of history regarding WW2 and is as hip as it gets in Germany. Its also a lot cheaper and bigger than Munich and the most international city you can find (which is why I'm surprised by fuzzed who couldn't find English speakers?). Another advantage is that you can get to Hamburg from Berlin in 1:20h by train - which is basically Munich just up north and no bavarians ;) So you could see both the old east and west Germany.
From Berlin you also got the Warsaw-Berlin express which takes you there in about 5h if I remember correctly (which might be too long for you, but just as a thought). Also Poland generally is close from Berlin and Krakow is supposed to be incredibly nice.

fuzzed

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Re: Traveling to Germany
« Reply #15 on: February 13, 2013, 11:43:23 AM »
Its also a lot cheaper and bigger than Munich and the most international city you can find (which is why I'm surprised by fuzzed who couldn't find English speakers?).
It could be, that my German was that bad, or it could be that i am of German descent and definitely look like it, so they were offended I and couldnt speak it... 
It was strange, but fun, every place we went, even the Currywurst  stands, nobody spoke English.  I am Canadian, so by nature we are very polite and apologetic ;), but no luck.  I would even lead sometime with my old standby, "Mein deustche is nich ser gut" but no luck.  It was no big deal, it just added to the experience.

We really did enjoy Berlin and plan to return in the next few years.   And I agree it is way cheaper that Munich, at least where renting apartments is concerned.   


ajmers

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Re: Traveling to Germany
« Reply #16 on: February 13, 2013, 11:56:27 AM »
I lived in Berlin for a year (teaching English) and I'd say 100% - you absolutely shouldn't miss Berlin!!
Reasons:
-it is immensely walkable - go for a few days and spend a day in different areas: Prenzlauer Berg (LOVE!!!), Mitte, Charlottenburg, Kreuzberg are great places to start
- the Canadian Pizzeria Ron Telesky, I beg you, don't miss it! Go for the Couch Potato and don't skimp on the Maple Syrup Chili sauce http://ron-telesky.de/
- Great public transportation and tickets are completely interchangeable between bus, tram, subway, light rail, even ferry
- Within the city limits you can see whatever city/cultural/museum/nightlife things you can imagine, and also go for a nice paddleboat ride on a huge lake (Mueggelsee) or climb a mountain
- Concentration Camp?  You got it - Oranienburg is about 40 minutes outside the city by train
- Not the most mustachian way to walk around, but for 10 euros, the walking tours (there are several companies who offer very similar tours) are PHENOMENAL. They're advertised as 3 hours but often last 5 or 6. I've gone on probably 5 and would go again.
- In terms of speaking English, I'm not a good judge because I speak German and tried to avoid English, but my friends who visited said they had no problems. I knew people who lived there for 2 or 3 years and never learned German.

- Want a tour guide? :)

Other than that, of the places I visited, my favorite other city was Freiburg. The sunniest city in Germany. It has one of my favorite hostels too - the Black Forest Youth Hostel.

Have fun :) Can't wait to hear where you end up going!
« Last Edit: February 13, 2013, 11:58:05 AM by ajmers »

gooki

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Re: Traveling to Germany
« Reply #17 on: February 14, 2013, 01:26:11 AM »
If you want to stay in Munich cheap you can't beat The Tent.

http://www.the-tent.com/

Stupid cheap if you are prepared to sleep in a massive Marque, just bring your own sleeping bag. Breakfast and beer were also very reasonably priced.

cyclevillian

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Re: Traveling to Germany
« Reply #18 on: February 14, 2013, 06:37:31 AM »
The Tent looks awesome but it appears to only be open in the summer. website says june 6 - october 7th. We'll just miss it.