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Traveling Paris to Munich

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We are going to Europe this summer for 3 weeks. Our trip will begin in Paris and our next stop is Munich (to visit a friend). We will be renting a minivan and have three teenagers. Is there an interesting stopover, perhaps in the Black Forest area, between the two cities to help break up the drive? My children and I have never been to either country before.

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    You want AN interesting stopover? ONE? You could easily find a hundred.

    For starters, Strasbourg, or anywhere in Alsace. Across the river in Germany, Baden-Baden (expensive) or Oberkirch (a little further out of your way).

    Paris to Strasbourg is 304 miles (I assume you are more familiar with miles than km in Toadsville - - my apologies if you are not); Strasbourg to Munich is 227 miles. Each leg is about 4 hours (a little more the first, a little less, the second).

    There is no shortage of places you could stop between Strasbourg and Munich, but the distance might not require it.

    Best wishes,

    Rex

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    Jae,
    Rex, above, is a bit of a speed demon, it seems. Optimistically, you can drive from Paris to Strasbourg in five hours; same time from Strasbourg to Munich; realistically you should anticipate delays due to traffic, road detours and inclement weather. Here are some thoughts regarding the Black Forest that may be of interest. Feel free to Email me if you have questions or concerns.

    You could tour the southern part of the Black Forest area from Freiburg,
    a university town with a wonderful old town, magnificent cathedral and
    interesting pedestrian area leading to it and the Munsterplatz. From
    Freiburg drive east on Rte 31 to Hinterzarten then north on Rte 500 to
    Furtwangen, where one of the first tributaries of the Danube, the river
    Breg begins. Furtwangen has a museum, the Deutsches Uhrenmuseum, that
    exhibits more than a thousand clocks and watches and workshops where you
    can see how clocks are made by hand. This is a town in the heart of
    cuckoo clock country. Backtrack a short distance on Rte 500 and follow
    the signs to Gutenbach, Rte 294. You’ll be traveling west through the
    Simonswald forest the Wilde Gutach Valley towards Gutach. Once in Gutach
    turn left and left again at Waldkirch. You’ll now be on the Schwarzwalder Panoramastrasse (Black Forest Panoramic Road) which climbs a winding path to the Kandel mountain and returns after a series of bends and turns to Furtwangen. In Furtwangen, look for road signs leading east to Vohrenach and Hammereisenbach. At Hammereisenbach, continue south through Eisenbach to Titisee with its picturesque lake. Continue south on Rte B317 to Todtnau, a town surrounded by mountains on all sides. For a view of the Black Forest from a mountaintop, take the chairlift up the Hasenhorn. There is a road leading directly to
    Freiburg from Todtnau that passes between a number of mountains.

    If, instead, you choose a hotel near Strasbourg, you can easily tour
    parts of the northern Black Forest including the Schwarzwald Hochstrasse
    (Black Forest High Road). Take Rte E52 (28) east from Strasbourg to Rte
    3 south to Offenburg, then Rte 33 southeast to Gengenbach, a town that
    will make you forget about Rothenburg. Gengenbach has been carefully
    preserved with gates, towers, old walls and timber-framed houses. It’s
    nowhere near as well known as Rothenburg and you’ll encounter far fewer tourists. Continue on Rte 33 to Hausach where you’ll find the
    Freilichtmuseum Vogtsbauernhof, an open-air museum with typical 16th and
    17th century Black Forest homes and working water powered sawmills.
    >From Hausach, take Rte 294 north to Freudenstadt, then Rte 28 west about
    12 kms to Rte 500. Turn right onto Rte 500, the Black Forest High Road
    and continue to Baden-Baden, the spa town. You can take Rte 3 south
    from Baden-Baden back to Rte 28 and Strasbourg, or cross the Rhine just
    west of Baden-Baden and take Rte 68 southbound to Strasbourg.

    Neither one of these itineraries involves much mileage but each will
    easily consume a full day, with stops for strolling through villages
    and stops to enjoy scenic views.


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    Wes, I am a speed demon - - like 10-20% of the drivers on this route. My OWN driving times would be closer to 3.5 hrs Paris to Strasbourg, 2.5 to 3 for Strasbourg to Munich.

    What I quoted are the fairly conservative times given on www.mappy.com - - I said "a little more" than 4 hrs Paris to Strasbourg, "a little less" Strasbourg to Munich. their actual quotes are 4 hrs 50 for P to S; 3 hrs 30 for S to M.

    And going as far south as Freiburg is going way out of her way. I interpreted Jae's request as wanting some place to break up the drive, not add totally new destinations to the trip. It appears that we both agree that Strasbourg does that nicely.

    And yes, I certainly agree that the Schwarzwald Hochstrasse is great - - indeed my suggestion of Overkirch can make for a loop back into Baden-Baden also.

    Zoomin' on...

    Rex

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    Jae,
    Rex is quite correct in saying that Freiburg as an interim destination rather than Strasbourg will add miles and time to your drive; about an hour more from Paris, half an hour more to Munich.

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    We love Freiburg so much that we hope to do a house exchange there in the summer of 2002 (anyone in Freiburg interested in coming to the San Francisco Bay area for a month to six weeks?). Don't miss this beautiful city.

    We were quite happy staying at Hotel Alleehaus 011 49 7613 8760. Allee means tree-lined street in German. The hotel is within easy walking distance of the old part of the city.

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    I just love this site! Thank you Wes and Rex for all your input. I didn't mean to offend by asking for one interesting place to visit, I was just wondering where would be a good place to stop overnight. This is the beginning of a three week trip and while we will visit big cities, we decided to drive to see the countryside and get a better feel for the culture and the people of each country. Your suggestions, especially possible routes, were right on the mark. By the way, my husband wanted to rent the BMW so we could go REALLY fast. I think the van is a bit of a disappointment to him!

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    Well, now you have opened the door, Jae for me to give you a lot more advice.

    If the itinerary is NOT entirely set in your mind yet, let me suggest that for most of my traveling in Europe, the enjoyment has been almost directly proportional to the amount of time I spent in small towns.

    Travel in Europe always involves big cities, and it goes without saying that they are treasure troves of the most wonderful attractions. But seeing France and Germany (for the first time or the 99th) will be greatly enhanced if you cut off one day from Paris and one day from Munich and find one or two little towns that you can cover - - on foot - - from one end to the other in a few hours.

    Not even Strasbourg is little by that criterion. Indeed, to a European Strasbourg is one of the "bigger" (cosmopolitan) "little capitals" of Europe (because it is where the European Parliament meets).

    Alsace is cool because it is French and German both, in such a beautiful, charming and harmonious way. You will find a ton of info on better known towns like Riquewihr and Ribeauville. My own personal favorite is St. Hippolyte - - and it pairs well with a visit to Chateau de Haut Koeningsbourg. This castle is far more German than it is French (Germany annexed Alsace after the Franco-Prussian war in the 1870's up until the first World War).

    The Black Forest could eat up days and days, and Wes has given you some golden information. I encourage you to get a book and read up on the Rench valley (Renchtal). The loop I described from Oberkirch up the Renchtal and across the Schwarzwald Hochstrasse is marvelous, even if you never get out of the car.

    I sympathize with the joy of driving a car that is inferior to none on Europe's highways. Renting two cars might be one solution, though there is inherently the problem of being anti-social (in one car or both) if driving that fast. I do indeed drive fast in Europe, and I always recommend these two pointers:

    1. Give yourself at least a day or two (4-6 hours of driving) for your visual-motor processing/reaction time to adjust before driving above 150 kph.

    2. And at, near or above 200 kph requires total concentration (for me at least). This essentially means no conversation, maybe even no radio/music.

    This is inherently NOT the way families can enjoy vacation time together.

    You and your husband might just have to go back (the two of you alone) - - after the kids are no longer teens - - and let him (or both of you) find that true inner fahrvergnugen.

    Best wishes,

    Rex

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    Well now, Jae
    How quickly do you want to get from Paris to Munich? Can you spare a few days out of your twenty one to really explore the countryside? You could well spend your entire three weeks exploring between Paris and Munich. Alsace, Lorraine, the Black Forest and the area of Baden-Wurttemberg north of Lake Constance, the Bavarian Allgau all offer opportunities for delightful adventures. Not the most direct routes between the two cities, but ones offering an interesting excursion filled with varying scenery, charming towns and villages and the prospect of memorable experiences. You'll be shortchanging yourself if you can't allocate a leisurely day or two to explore.

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    When we first planned this trip, I planned to visit so many countries. My German friend said I was being "so American", thinking I could cover so much ground in just 3 weeks. So I scaled down. We will do a circle (specifics are completely flexible). We fly into Paris, travel to Munich, Venice, Rome, Florence, Provence (for 5 days--we hope to rent a house and do day trips) and then back to Paris. I know this still seems like a lot, but I don't know when we'll go again as a family and I want to expose them to as much as I can. My kids are 16, 15 and 11. I know I could spend the entire 3 weeks between Paris and Munich. Perhaps we could come back to whatever our favorite place will be. I'm already upset that we won't see Holland, Austria, Slovenia, Northern Germany, Scandanavia, Portugal, etc. etc. etc. So will have to do the best we can. I've already cut a day from Paris to be able to explore more between Paris and Munich. I'm having trouble finding detailed internet maps of the area (to follow your driving instructions). They are either too general or cost money. Any suggestions?

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    Jae,
    Having now seen your proposed itinerary, believe me, you've no time to explore the Black Forest!.

    It’s usually difficult and invariably embarassing to make recommendations to travelers when one doesn’t know the full intent of their travel plans. Once known, it’s doubly embarassing to have to say that those plans are overly ambitious and will probably not provide the pleasure, delight and meaningful memories that the traveler hopes to obtain.

    Let’s look at your proposed itinerary objectively. The drive from Paris to Munich encompasses slightly more than 800kms (500+miles) and 9 hours drive time. Munich to Venice entails 540kms (330 miles) and 5 ½ hours drive time. Venice to Rome is about the same, 525kms (320 miles) and 5 ½ hours. Rome to Florence, a breather, involves 278kms (170 miles) and about 3 hours; Florence to, let’s say, Grasse, in Provence 460kms (280 miles) and a 5 hour drive. Finally, from Grasse to Paris, 912kms (550 miles) and 9 ½ hours drive time. That’s a total of 3550kms (2160 miles) and over 37 hours drive time. I would assume that you’d not want to drive more than approximately 4 ½ to 5 hours a day. On that assumption, the better part of 7 of your 21 days will be spent on the road with an additional half day driving from Rome to Florence.

    You intend on spending 5 days in Provence. Subtract those 5 days and 7 travel days from your 21 days and you’re left with 9 full days to recover from jet lag, find parking space, find and check in and out of accommodations, dine, see Paris, Munich, Venice, Rome, Florence and depart from a Parisian airport.

    Mixed emotions here. I’d be tempted on the one hand to suggest scrapping Provence and adding a day to each of the cities you plan to visit. On the other hand, after barreling around Western Europe, five days of rest and rehabilitation might be just what you will need, particularly after packing and unpacking every other night or so (with three teenagers no less!), loading and unloading a van. On yet another hand (where’d it come from?) I’d be sorely tempted to rethink and reshape an itinerary that would be less ambitious, involve fewer travel days and offer more opportunity to truly get a deepened sense of the European experience. To over simplify as an example, 5 or 6 days in Paris with perhaps a day trip; travel to Munich with five or six days in a central Bavarian location and many, many day trips including Austria; travel to Switzerland for five or six days with day trips. Far less exhausting, far more opportunity to take time to “smell the roses” while still experiencing Europe’s varied languages, cultures and societies.

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    Wes, Thanks for the advice. And pleased don't be embarrassed. Remember, I've never been to any of these places before. But I'm learning. Before I even read your reply today, the family talked and we revised our schedule. Your concerns were our concerns. We were going to scrap Italy all together (save it for another trip) but the kids begged and pleaded to atleast include Venice. So, this is how our itinerary looks now....
    Arrive Paris and stay 3 days
    Take 2-3 days to travel to Munich
    (you've hooked me on the countryside)
    Stay in Munich 3 days
    Travel to Venice and stay 3 days
    Travel to Provence and stay 7 days
    (day trips to other places as much
    or little as we want)
    Travel back to Paris for the last few
    days.
    I know this still is a lot, but our total circle of travel is much smaller now.

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    I think this itinerary sounds great. Three nights is plenty to really get to know cities like Munich and Venice and you will be able to fully appreciate them. (Ignore the people who say you need to spend a week or more in each -- of course that would be wonderful, but I totally understand your wanting to cover a variety of cultures.) The week in Provence will make up for any feeling of being too pressed or too much traveling, and you should actually be able to relax a bit. Even the road trips will be enjoyable as they are all pretty scenic and you are not pushed just to get somewhere. Have fun. You have some very lucky kids!

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    Jae,
    Now you're talkin! What you've now proposed is much more realistic and less harried. You will indeed get the chance to "stop and smell the roses". I've got some ideas regarding the Munich area that may be of interest to you that I'll send you directly.

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