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Trip Report September in Germany - rain, rain, and more rain

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My husband and I, both in our 50s, took a 15 day trip to Germany in September. We used a combination of trains and rental car. We’re not foodies, so there’s not much restaurant info here, but I've mentioned a few places that we liked. Hopefully this will be helpful to someone in trying to devise an itinerary or choose hotels. I’d be happy to answer any questions.

A few general thoughts: We didn't love Germany. We’re glad we went and we enjoyed a lot of what we saw, especially the World War II and Nazi historical sites. But the weather was very discouraging. We had rain 12 out of 15 days, and when it wasn't raining it was cloudy. Neither of us like beer, so that part of touring Germany wasn't appealing to us. Seemingly a lot of people in Germany smoke, we noticed it more than any of the other European countries we've visited thus far. About half the restaurants we visited didn't take credit cards. We’d been warned about this but it was still annoying at times to always have to be aware of how much cash we had. We liked Berlin and the smaller towns we visited the most. We didn't care for Munich much at all.

Transit: We bought a 3 day 2nd class twin rail pass for $382. This covered our transit from Berlin to Nuremberg, Nuremberg to Munich, and Munich to Salzburg. We could have saved money by using the Bayern Pass but then we would have had to travel after 9 am and we prefer to get an early start. Within cities, many places had an all day group transit pass which was very convenient.

9/6 - Our flight was uneventful.

9/7 - We had a 4 hour layover in Amsterdam and arrived in Berlin around 11:00. Took the taxi to our hotel (see hotel info below). Luckily our room was ready. We dropped off our luggage and went to Hackeschermarkt, only one block away from the hotel. There was an open market on the sidewalk around the station with temporary booths (only on Saturday) selling flowers, vegetables, pastries, bread, jewelry, clothing etc. We had lunch outside at one of the restaurants. It was very pleasant sitting outside eating the food. After lunch we bought a pastry at one of the stands and ate it while strolling around. It was a beautiful warm sunny day. Little did we know it was one of the few days we’d see the sun.

At 2:00 we started a 4 hour walking tour with Original Berlin Walks. Cost was 12 euro and no reservations were needed. Very well done and would recommend it.

The tour ended near Checkpoint Charlie and after a snack break we walked back to hotel, 1.5 miles. We probably should have taken transit, as we were exhausted by then.

Grabbed sandwiches on the way back and ate dinner in the room. We also got an internet code. Internet was supposed to be free in the lobby only but as it turned out it was available on the 3rd floor. It required a new code every day which the hotel was happy to provide.

Hotel: Adina Apartment Hotel Berlin Hackescher Markt, studio room, cost was 628 euro for 4 nights. The room was spacious and spotlessly clean. The location was excellent.

9/8 - We went to Museum Island and saw two museums, the Pergamon and the Alte Nationalgalerie. Although the guide books said that a reservation was required for the Pergamon, this wasn’t the case. We bought a 3 day museum pass. We spent about 2 hours in the Pergamon and then moved on to the Alte Nationalgalerie. We like art museums but thought this one was only ok.

After lunch we visited the Berliner Dom. Nice view of the area from the top of dome. From one perspective of the dome (probably could see 52 degrees of the circular view) we counted 29 construction cranes in sight.

Next stop was the German History museum. It was well done and well presented. The 2nd floor covered through WWI. The first floor covered WWII to the fall of the wall. There was so much to see. You might want to allow a half day or more if you have a strong interest in history.

It rained as we were going to dinner in the evening.

9/9 - After a quick breakfast at a pastry shop along the way, we walked to the Topography of Terror. It rained all the way there and was quite chilly. Lots of pictures and accounts and lots of data, almost too much to take in. We walked to the Brandenburg gate stopping for lunch along the way.

In the afternoon we had a Reichstag tour, which was very interesting (must be reserved in advance). Views from the dome were neat, despite the rain.

After that we took the U-bahn to the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtniskirche. My high school German teacher always spoke of it and I wanted to see it. Unfortunately by the time we got there it was closed. Since we were nearby, we stopped in at the KaDeWe department store and wandered for a while. The food halls were especially entertaining. We ate nearby at Faustus. DH had Pork Knuckle and kraut, I had steak and fries. Food was hot and tasty and service was good.

9/10 - It rained on and off all day.

We visited the Berlin Wall Memorial, which was probably our favorite exhibit in Berlin. Nearby was a ghost s-bahn station (now open again). More wall stories related to the station were posted in it. They were repetitive but interesting. There was a viewing platform for a view of the reconstructed wall area. It gave the best idea what the wall was like. The visitor center had 2 good films in English that did an excellent job of telling you what the wall was like, talking about the original fortifications, the wall, the bricked up windows, the torn down buildings and what is was like at night, how it was guarded. Then we walked around the area where there was printed and audio information. There were some parts of the original wall, but where there was no wall, they had tall iron polls stuck into the ground showing where the wall was. There was also some of the inner wall still present.

We walked into the cemetery. Part of its wall was used early on as part of the wall till replaced later with the wall we are used to seeing. It was a neat old and active cemetery. Many of graves were well tended with plants, flowers, shrubs.

Took the S-bahn to Platzdomer Platz to see the Gemäldegalerie. After a rest we went over to the train station to get our rail passes validated for use the next day. We wanted to get an early start and weren’t sure how early the office opened.

9/11 - Took the 6:30 train to Nuremberg. We were at our hotel before noon but our room was ready (see hotel info below).

We bought the TagesTicket Plus (group day ticket) for 8.50 euro which allowed all day transit for both of us.

Took the tram to the Nazi documentation center. The museum was in one of a pair of 3 story buildings that would have served as the front of the Congress building. The other building was out of sight. You entered the corner and went up to the 2nd floor. The exhibits were on the 2nd and 3rd floors. The audio guide was good and a must as no signs were in English.
The exhibit covered the rise of Germany / Hitler, the war, end of war, and the trials. It also covered the Nazi activities in Nuremberg, why Nuremberg and the use and plans of the Nazi grounds there. They talked extensively about the parades, propaganda, the annual Nazi Party rally including the preparations and execution of the event. The whole exhibit was broken into 20 sections, with each section having from 1 to 9 sub sections. With the audio guide, it generally had a longer piece for the major section and shorter pieces for the sub sections, with some additional information on related topics. It did a very good job of covering and telling the story about the entire war and particularly about the planned use of propaganda to change and mold the people’s attitudes.

We then walked around the lake that was part of the grounds. The grounds were a public park and zoo before being turned into the Nazi Congress area. Still visible were:
• The Congress building. It was partially completed as the entire outside U structure was done and the two documentation center buildings. One could view the interior of the congress U from the documentation center. It was supposed to have a covered glass roof and was supposed to seat 70,000.
• The parade road. This was 200 meters wide and meant for parades.
• The Zeppelin field. It held 200,000 people, had a Pergamon like altar front for speeches. It was rectangular and had a large grassy area intended for demonstrations of the German military efficiently. It held 200,000 people. The towers along the 3 sides have been taken down to half their original height. They were probably 30 meters high today. The front area you could climb on, including standing in the area where Hitler addressed the crowds. The building area underneath the altar like front was not available to enter. There was no one here; it was just in the public park. The grounds were under bad repair and they did not have the money to restore them and it was posted, climb on at your own risk. Nobody took notice and everybody climbed on it. Currently there was a soccer field in one corner of the central grounds and the rest was just cut grass.
• The sports stadium. It held 60,000 and is still in use. Its last major use was as a World Cup soccer site when Germany hosted the World Cup. It appeared to be a very modern stadium so obviously it has been upgraded.
There was probably 3 times as much area when it was used as the Nazi Congress grounds as it also held kitchens, barracks, etc. Some of it has been sold off and turned into housing, business areas and the remaining part is once again a public park. There is a lake in the park that was formed by foundation that was dug for a large, LARGE, stadium that was never completed beyond the digging of the foundation. Construction was halted in 1939 with the start of the war. Hitler meant to use it as the place from which to rule the world. And it was one center of 3 others intended in Germany of the same scope and size.

Hotel: Hotel Victoria – The hotel was 150 feet from the station exit. The room was large with a couch (fold out bed). It looked like the biggest room on the floor from the hotel floor plan. It was a corner room, so there were windows on 2 walls. We had a nice view of the Frauentor and of the street. Cost was 256 euro for 2 nights including a huge breakfast buffet, probably the best of our trip.

9/12 - Another rainy day. Did the self-guided walk from Rick Steves which mostly consisted of walking up Konigstrasse to the castle. Very pretty area, rebuilt in pre-WWII style (after it was bombed to smithereens in the war). Konigstrasse was mostly paver paved with light car traffic.

We visited 2 churches and the city museum, which was a wealthy merchant’s house and was not damaged in the bombing. It was turned into a museum. One took the elevator up to the top, floor 5, heard a presentation that used a large model, lighting it as it talked about it. (They liked their models in Nuremberg. It was one of many; this one took 4 people 4 years to build). The presentation was interesting as it discussed the beginning of the city through the destruction of WW II. The rest of the tour talked about the growth of the city, merchants, guilds, nobles etc. through about 1900. They had an English language audio that was effective. We also browsed through the Market Square which was filled with tented vendors for a fall festival.

The walking tour ended at the Imperial Castle. Here we bought the 14 day partner Bavarian Castles Pass for 40 euro, which we were able to use at several more castles during the trip. The castle, which was mostly reconstructed after the war, had exhibits about the kings, courts, knights and battles, from swords to guns. It ended at 1919 with the beginning of the Weimar Republic. We walked to the top of the tower for a great view of the city. We also viewed the well demo. They dug a well of 165 foot to get to water. The demo was 2 parts, first they lowered 4 lit candles down the well, you could look over the well wall into the well and you could follow it down on video. They also had a model tracking the progress. That was ok. 2nd they poured about ½ gallon of water down the well in about 5 seconds. You heard nothing for the next 5 to 10 seconds, and then you heard the water hitting the water in the well for to 5 seconds. That was really cool.

Since it was our wedding anniversary, we asked the hotel to make a dinner reservation at Padelle D'Italia. We had an excellent meal here, probably the best of the trip. Service was excellent as well.

9/13 - We took the 8:00 AM train to Munich and dropped off the luggage at the hotel. Our original plan was to do the Rick Steves self-guided walk but IT WAS RAINING, so we decided to take a walking tour rather than try to juggle the guide book and umbrellas. The tour was with Munich Walks and cost 12 euro. It rained pretty much the whole 2 hours of the tour. The tour was pretty good, but not as good as the one we had in Berlin.

We walked back to the hotel, wet, tired, hungry and disgusted with rain. DH went out and got a pizza from Pizza Hut and Diet Coke and brought it back into the room where we ate lunch.
Went out late in the afternoon and walked around including climbing the spire of St. Peter’s Church (306 steps) for a very nice view. It was actually sunny for a couple of hours, but it didn’t last.

Hotel: Hotel Torbrau – We didn’t care for this hotel. Décor was in need of refreshing. Our room looked out over the car park which didn’t bother us much during the day since we tend to be out a lot. But at night the car park was brightly lit and our room curtains weren’t long enough to block the light. The breakfast buffet was average. They had a sign by the hard boiled eggs saying that you could ask for cooked eggs or an omelet but they never asked if you wanted it, you had to flag someone down. Made me feel like they didn't really want to do it. Cost for 4 nights was 871 euro.

9/14 - Today we visited Dachau. When we arrived at the station to catch the S-bahn we discovered that due to construction we couldn’t get there the way we expected and had to return to the hotel for directions. Once we got off the train at Dachau, we had to catch a bus out to the camp.

Dachau was chilling and powerful. We spent several hours walking around.

We stopped at the visitor center on the way out. Its architecture was stark and barren. There was a cafeteria inside where we had a good, inexpensive lunch.

Made our way back to central Munich and strolled around for a while.

9/15 - Rain again. Toured the Schloss Nymphenburg, which was covered by the castle pass. The Schloss was beautiful but it was currently under renovation and the audio guide did not reflect the actual tour, which was annoying.

The grounds were pretty, both the front and back and the hunting cottage was also worth visiting.

We toured the stables and the porcelain museum above the stables. It was really humid, depressingly so.

After lunch we toured the 180 room Residenz. We just basically walked through and did not attempt to use the audio guide. We were in the mood just to look. We also toured the Treasury.

We had dinner at a Greek/Balkan restaurant called Opatija which was very good

9/16 - We took the 8:30 train to Salzburg. Cold, rainy day. We stopped at the TI in the train station and got a map and bought the Salzburg Card. I suspect we should have skipped this, I don’t think we got our monies worth from it. We toured the Salzburg panorama, which was a waste of time. Seemingly they were in the process of taking down a display and many of the display cases were empty.

We toured the cardinal’s residence, the cathedral, and various other sites. Walked up the hill to funicular, to get you to the fortress on top of the hill. Had lunch in what looked like the back area of a tourist souvenir shop. It was relatively inexpensive and good. We took the funicular up to the castle, toured the castle museum and grounds and then took the funicular down. Toured the cemetery and church (small) and a larger church which was quite lavish.
We walked down the main road of shops that had many small side alleys. It was interesting looking at the shops, their signs. The shops were both touristy, high end clothes and local shops. We stopped for a pastry and a hot chocolate.

By luck we came out where we got off the bus. We crossed the river and found a bus stop and had about a 5 minute stop for the bus. Got to the station just in time for the Munich train which was good since it would have been an hour wait for the next train.

9/17 - We picked up our rental car at an Avis office about 1.5 miles from the hotel. We rented the car through gemut.com. We paid $237 for a five day rental of a compact car with automatic and A/C. We actually got a larger vehicle than we reserved, a Ford Galaxy, which had a built in navigation system. We loved the navigation and resolved that we’d never rent again in Europe (and perhaps even in the US) without it.

The weather was rainy and cool yet again. First on our itinerary was to go up the Zugspitze so we decided to drive there before deciding whether to go ahead with the plan. Once we arrived we decided there was no reason to pay (about 50 euro) to go up to the top of mountain if it was raining and cloudy. We would not have seen anything.
So we moved on to Linderhof castle. The tour only covered the 1st floor and was covered by the castle pass. No pictures were allowed. Reminded one of Versailles, but much smaller. This was apparently not surprising as Ludwig II used Versailles as the inspiration for building it. It was the nicest castle. We saw the grotto and the massive front fountain and gardens, quite beautiful. In the back of the castle, there was a high back fountain as well coming down the hill.

We drove to Oberammergau and spent about an hour walking around looking at the shops. The town was very cute. Last stop of the day was the Ettal Monastery which was very beautiful. The sun came out briefly here.

We had a very scenic drive to Fussen. The route was via wandering and often narrow mountain roads. We were routed through Austria for a short time and followed a long lake for quite some miles.

Hotel: Hotel Hirsch – Nice sized room but with an odd layout. There was a large room when you first entered that contained the shower/tub and a large sink area. Then all the way on the other side of the main room was a very small room containing the toilet and a tiny sink. The bed was very hard. There was a nice balcony but unfortunately it looked right out over a huge construction project. Breakfast was average. The free parking was a nice convenience. Cost 350 euro for 2 nights.

9/18 - Yes it rained again.

We toured Hohenschwangau and Neuschwanstein. We had pre-ordered our tickets.
We walked to the path to Hohenschwangau and up to the castle. There we waited about 50 minutes for our starting time in the drizzle, on and off. The castle was very ornate. We walked to Neuschwanstein. It took 50 minutes, mostly up hill. The tickets were timed so one could do both castles. We still had to kill 30 minutes before our time to enter. After our castle tour, we walked to the Marienbruke, about a 15 minute walk. The view was worth the walk. We started to walk back and saw a bus to take down the mountain which saved our knees.
Drove to Wieskirche, a church in the middle of nowhere. The navigation system routed us on the narrowest roads. We felt at one point that we drove through somebody’s farm, but there was no other traffic on the road.

It rained on the way to the church. Stopped long enough for us to walk to the church and tour it and then rained as we were getting in our car and back to Fussen.
The church was ornate and amazing

9/19 - Drove to Rothenburg. Weather was cloudy and drizzly to start. It had stopped raining by the time we got to Rothenburg. Since we were there so early, we parked outside the city wall rather than driving directly to the hotel. Toured the city, including St. Jacobs’s church. It had a carved alter in the back upstairs that was supposed to hold a bit of Christ’s blood. We had lunch just off the main market square where DH finally had the kind of potato salad that his cousin’s grandmother used to make, with a vinegary dressing rather than mayo based.
We walked the wall for some distance and somehow got turned around and ended up where we started without circumnavigating it. We walked back to our car, drove into the city and to our hotel.

Hotel was really nice. The hotelkeeper moved his car so we could park. The room was large and had an amazing view and a separate sitting room and a four poster bed. It was our favorite hotel of the trip.

After a not particularly memorable dinner, we took the night watchman tour, for 7 euro each. DH was dubious about doing it since there must have been 200 people. But the watchman was quite good and one could hear him easily enough. The tour was very entertaining and we would recommend it.

Hotel: Burghotel - 195 euro including breakfast

9/20 - It was pouring down rain in the morning. We decided not to walk around the city or outside the city in the green lands that were around the city. Instead we drove to Bad Mergentheim. The route did not take us via the autobahn, but by smaller two land highway roads. We went through many small towns. We toured the Palace/Residence. It was where the Teutonic order of knights were headquartered after being kicked out of eastern Europe. They morphed into a society that supported hospitals, which they still are today. The exhibits were on the scale of a smaller town, but they looked quite interesting and well done. Most of the signage was only in German. The only English was a brief description (a few sentences) of what a given room was displaying. Apparently not a big tourist stop.

We toured the church attached and grounds around the residence. We crossed a railroad track and we think we walked onto the grounds of a spa. Bad Mergentheim is known for its spa. Seemingly there were buildings for hotel rooms, places to eat, places for concerts, hair salons, etc.

There was a sign at the entry to the grounds and a booth for charging 2.50 euro for entry. The booth was not manned and the locals were cutting through, using it for running etc. I don’t know when they charge. The grounds were not small and we saw at least two entry points with booths.

From Bad Mergentheim we drove to Wurzburg. We checked into our hotel and walked around the Wurzburg central market square area and crossed the Old Main Bridge that led to castle on the other side of the river. It also provided a good view of the locks to allow boats to navigate the river. We toured 2 or 3 churches in the area.

Hotel: BEST WESTERN PREMIER Hotel Rebstock – Well located with a modern pleasant room. Attached parking garage, good discount for hotel guests. Breakfast not included but cost was 12 euro, more reasonable than many places. 190 euro for one night.

9/21 - We walked to the Marienberg Fortress. We did not take transit, nor did we take the 20 minute “heart thumping” walk, but took the 40 minute walk through the vineyard. There were vineyards all over the hills in the area; probably 1000’s of acres of grapes were viewable.
We toured the art museum in the fortress, mostly 17th and 18th century art. We went to another inner court of the fortress and toured the inner fortress building. It too was turned into a museum having some art and some artifacts however they did tell what the room in the fortress was used for and when it was built and when it was changed. We walked around the outer edge of the fortress and had a Coke in the beer garden. It had a great view of the surrounding vineyards. We took the 20 minute heart thumping walk down. It was pretty easy to go down.

After lunch we walked to the Residenz Palace. A nice old lady who hardly spoke English stopped and gave us directions when she noticed we were looking at a map.
We toured the Residenz Palace which was covered by our castle pass. It was very impressive, ornate and decorated in the 18th century style. The ceiling in one room was intricately painted providing 3D effects of arms and legs descending below the ceiling
We toured the outside gardens. There was a French garden on the side of the palace. Very pretty and very trimmed. There was an English garden that looked like an overgrown wooded bushy area. There was a large Italian garden behind the palace. It was terraced and decorated the entire width of the Palace. It was quite beautiful.

We drove to Frankfurt. The Chip and Pin card did not work at the Frankfurt airport unattended gas station, but he navigation system saved us, directed us to another gas station only 2 km away that was attended. Dropped off the car. The Avis person spotted a tear on the side wall of the tire, which we may have caused when we were Rothenburg and drove up over a curb to make way for an oncoming car. Anyway, we had to buy a tire. As it turned out it was less than the deductible we had on our insurance policy we bought before we left.

Once we were in the airport it took us 20 minutes to find the hotel in the airport. It was huge and complex. Seemingly if you were coming there to catch a flight, there was a lot of signage that led you to your gate but not so to find the hotel.
Hotel: Hilton Garden Inn (at the airport) – smallest room we had on the trip but clean and quiet. Paid with points.

9/22
Non-stop return flight was uneventful.

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