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Trip Report Trip Report - 5 weeks in Germany

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We are just back from our 5 week trip to Germany, the first time that we have spent more than a day in that country. As usual I sought comments and advice on our proposed itinerary on this forum so I think it’s only fair that I come back and do a trip report so people can see how we got on and maybe provide some ideas for other Fodors readers.

I should say that my initial questions drew some comment from people concerned that I was not paying sufficient respect to diacritic marks so I have made some attempt to correct that failing but this is a trip report, not a German exam, so those with delicate linguistic sensibilities may wish to avert their eyes.

We flew with Malaysia Airlines again and remain happy with them. We left Kuala Lumpur a little late but only because we would have arrived at Frankfurt before we were allowed to land – we still arrived early at around 6:00am. Landing formalities were very straightforward – no landing cards required for Germany – just a quick passport check. We could have done with some fabled German efficiency boarding the shuttle bus to Terminal 1 but no real issue and we then took the short train ride to Frankfurt city.

We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express about a 10 minute walk from the station and that was as expected – nothing special but comfortable & clean and a good price.
http://www.hiexpress.com/hotels/us/en/frankfurt/fraad/hoteldetail

It was too early to check in so we left our bags and set off to find centre of Frankfurt. The hotel was about ½ km from the town centre and not a very inspiring walk the way we went the first time with - lots of building works and, of course, nothing open at that time. We then found the old town –the Römerberg – with some lovely old buildings, most rebuilt after WW2. We continued on to the Dom – the cathedral – which was not yet open, then strolled around the area before returning to the hotel where we were then able to check in.

One of our French house co-owners was visiting family in Frankfurt and we went out again in the afternoon to meet her in Beckenheimer strasse where a wine festival was taking place, with many booths selling wine & food. After a chat and a glass of wine we returned to the hotel for a light meal at a nearby restaurant and an early night.

We woke early and after breakfast headed back to central Frankfurt, finding a more attractive route, and started with a visit to the tourist office at Römerberg where we picked up a walking guide. This time the area was filling with people and shops were opening up to give the town a quite different feel.

Following the suggested walk we revisited the Dom and the archaeological ruins nearby and the Paulskirche. This building had historical significance as the home of the first German National Assembly. It was damaged in WW2 and rebuilt; the enormous dome on the upper level was impressive. We continued to the archaeological museum housed in a former Carmelite monastery before crossing the river and strolling through a busy market as we headed back to the hotel.

Later we took a walk around the area near the hotel looking for a good deal on a SIM card. I settled for a card from Lebara which offered 500mb of data over a month and cheap calls for 19,90€.

In the late afternoon we returned to Beckenheimer strasse where we had another glass of wine and watched people come & go – much busier now and standing room only. We had a very nice dinner at an Italian restaurant – too tired to try and understand a German menu – and returned to the hotel.

On Sunday we checked out and returned to the station to catch our train to Berlin. All went smoothly and after a 4 hour trip we arrived at Berlin’s central station and took a taxi to our apartment.

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    Our Berlin apartment was on the 13th floor of a monolithic block of flats in the Mitte district and the entry did not impress, but the apartment itself was very good – roomy and well equipped – and we quickly became used to the building . . . . well, maybe not the extremely slow lifts. We chose this flat as it seemed to be within walking distance of the “Museum Island” and central to public transport. In fact the location was excellent – the museums were 5-10 minutes away and there were several interesting local areas within easy walking distance.
    http://www.waytostay.com/berlin-apartments/konigreich-alexander-4006/

    We woke early for our first full day in Berlin and started with a coffee & croissant at a nearby café then a walk up to and along Unter den Linden to the Brandenburg Gate. There was a lot of building activity along Unter den Linden, including construction of a new underground line, but in parts the impressive tree-lined boulevard was visible. We continued to the Reichstag and called at the booth to book a visit to the Dome for the following day. We then followed the river back to Museum Island and came to the Pergamon Museum where we bought a 3 day museum ticket for 19€.

    For me the highlight of the Pergamon Museum was the reconstruction of the Ishtar Gate from Babylon but the Pergamon Altar and the market gate from Miletus in Turkey were also impressive. The Islamic section of the museum also had some beautiful exhibits.

    After lunch at the flat we headed out again to the Neues Museum where we enjoyed the Egyptian displays.

    We then walked to the Bebelplatz, where the Nazis staged a book-burning in 1933. There is a memorial on the site – just a glass window on the ground looking down into a room lined with empty bookshelves. Very effective.

    We returned to the flat, taking an alternate route and “found” the Friederichswerdersche Kirsche, a beautiful old church now home to a sculpture museum, before calling at the station in Alexanderplatz to buy an all-day transport ticket to use the next day.

    On Tuesday morning we left early and caught the bus to the Reichstag for our visit to the Dome at 9:00 am. This was a real experience; the Dome is magnificent with an excellent history displayed in text & photos around the base, and spiral ramps to the top level offering great views. In the centre is an inverted cone covered with mirrored tiles that (I think) pass light into the Reichstag assembly below but also create variable images of the Dome.

    We followed our Reichstag visit with a lengthy walk around & through the Tiergarten. I have a GPS application on my phone and, for once, I remembered to set it before we left so I know we walked over 7 kms on this excursion. We stopped for coffee & a bite to eat at a lakeside café and that topped up our energy levels but I think we were both pretty much exhausted by the time we caught an underground train from Potsdammer Platz back to the flat. While in the Platz we came across our first sight of some fragments of the Wall with a series of panels outlining its history and location.

    After a short break we ventured out again to another museum on the island – Alte Nationalgalerie. This wasn’t a long visit as our endurance levels were a bit depleted by then, but we did enjoy the paintings by Cezanne, Pissaro & Renoir.

    We then took a walk to Hackescher Markt, about 5 minutes from the flat, and discovered a lively and interesting area with restaurants, bars and shops. In particular, the Hackescher Hofe was fascinating, a series of arcades, lanes, and interlinked squares full of interesting shops, bars, and restaurants. One arcade is apparently famous for its graffiti and people were busy taking photos of the walls.

    On Wednesday we took the train & a bus to Charlottenburg to visit 3 museums covered by our pass near the Schloss.

    Unfortunately the museum that I most wanted to see, the Berggruen, featuring several Picasso works was closed for renovations so we settled for a look through the other two right next door. The Brohan museum featured an Art Nouveau collection and was Ok – several ceramic items that I liked, while the Sammlung Museum featured Surrealist works. I quite enjoy Surrealism so this was OK. Overall the museums were fine but if we had known that the Berggruen was closed we would not have made the trip just for the other two.

    We considered visiting the Schloss while in the area but decided to return to the flat for lunch.

    In the afternoon, we walked around the Nikolai Viertel quarter, just a little to the south of our flat. Like the Hakescher Markt , quite an interesting little area tucked away from the main roads. We visited the Knoblauch House, a former merchant’s home from the 18th century; interesting but not a lot on display, and no English captions.

    Thursday was our last full day in Berlin and we had intended to go back to Charlottenburg to visit the Schloss and gardens but decided to have a quieter day close to home.

    Our first expedition was to take a tram from Alexanderplatz to the Prenzlauer Berg district where we walked around some very nice tree-lined residential streets before taking a different tram line back to Hakescher markt.

    After lunch we took a bus to Friedrichestrasse and walked a short way to Checkpoint Charlie. No checkpoint there now of course but there was an excellent set of panels covering the history of the Wall. I was 11 when it went up and I remember that being reported at the time and of course we all know about it coming down but being on the spot really brings home the significance. Not far from there is a section of the wall preserved as a memorial and alongside it was a series of panels with text & photos covering the period of Nazi Germany. Very well done, and quite sobering to read.

    After returning to Mitte on the bus we visited the Berliner Dom, the protestant cathedral, which sits on the edge of Museum Island. Very impressive interior with an enormous decorated dome, but the 237 step climb to the top of the dome was a bit difficult after another fairly long day out & about.

    For our last night in Berlin we dined at le Provencal, a French themed restaurant in the Nikolai quarter and that was excellent; not very German I’ll admit.

    Friday morning we went out for our last Berlin coffee then checked out and took a taxi to the Hertz office in Friedreichstrasse.

    All went smoothly and we headed out into central Berlin in our Chevrolet Cruze a bit after 10:00 am. I’d been a bit nervous about driving out of town but it was a breeze – traffic was easy and the route out took us past many of the sites we’d visited in the past few days – Checkpoint Charlie, the Wall memorial, Brandenburg Gate, the Tiergarten – and we continued to Potsdam, about 30 kms away where we planned to visit the Sansouci Palace on our way to Quedlinberg.

    The Berlin Museum pass over 3 days was excellent value, paying for itself in just 2 visits to the more expensive museums, but the equivalent transport pass offered no financial benefit - 3 one-day passes were actually slightly cheaper.

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    Our first stop was Potsdam, about 40 km out of Berlin.

    Our plan was to visit the Sansouci Palace, built for Frederick the Great in the 18th century. It is set in a very large landscaped park and there are several buildings worth seeing but we only had time for the Palace. It was smaller inside than I expected but elaborately decorated. We had a short walk around the gardens while waiting for our tour timeslot and I took the opportunity to buy a Bratwurst mit ketchup from a vendor carrying a tray – not bad at all.

    It took longer than I had anticipated to drive from Potsdam to the autobahn, and we had a number of hold ups with road works. My first real drive on the autobahn was a delight – there are no speed limits on most and it is possible to cover ground really quickly. I am tending to cruise around 140 – 150 kmph, but did top 160 a couple of times; plenty of cars passed us going a lot faster.

    We arrived at Quedlinburg late afternoon but the navigation app on my phone couldn’t handle the last pedestrianized bit so we parked and found the hotel easily on foot. We then had some comprehension difficulties as the lady at the hotel spoke no English at all and needed to explain how we got the car from where it was parked to the hotel parking area. Once we understood, it was only 100 metres or so down the street from where we had parked and another 200 metres or so to drag the luggage.

    The hotel was in good central location on the market platz and was very comfortable but felt small after our spacious Berlin apartment. The area all around the hotel had been dug up as part of a UNESCO funded renovation but fortunately there was no work going on while we were there.
    http://www.hotel-am-hoken.de/englisch/index_en.php

    Quedlinburg is a lovely town and has more than 1400 intact half-timbered medieval buildings. Unlike many medieval towns, the historical buildings are spread over quite a wide area and we were able to take several walks around town finding new areas.

    We had planned to use one of our days at Quedlinburg to visit Goslar and to take a drive though the Harz Mountains but ended up spending all our time in the village. Both days were spent taking different walking routes around and through the village as well as sitting out in the market square with our coffees in the morning and cold drinks in the afternoon.

    We left Quedlinburg for Rothenburg on Sunday morning; a trip of about 375 kms, but we stopped along the way at Eisenach to visit the Wartburg.

    The Wartburg is an imposing castle sited in a high, strategic position above the town. We had to take a German language tour, with English leaflets, and that made for a fairly laborious tour as we read the leaflet quite quickly then had to wait around each room until the guide had finished her spiel. Nevertheless the rooms that we did see were interesting.

    It was slow going as we returned to the autobahn but the countryside through & around the Harz Mountains was very nice. Even on the autobahn driving was tricky with heavy end-of-weekend traffic and we ran into major road works just short of Rothenburg.

    We had emailed our accommodation from Quedlinburg to say what time we expected to get in but were rather taken aback when she responded to say that she had double booked our first night and had arranged for us to stay at a friend’s apartment just outside the town wall. Not much we could do about that and we arrived around 5:00 pm and found our accommodation fairly easily. It was a spacious apartment in a B&B and was about a 10 minute walk into the old town. We walked into town for a look around and were very pleased to see the extent of the old town and the many charming buildings.

    On Monday morning, after breakfast, which was included at our stand-in accommodation, we checked out, but left our car with cases in the street while we walked back into town as we could not get access until after 12:30 am.

    We called at our accommodation to confirm arrangements and then left to do some sightseeing around the town. Rothenburg is very popular and it is easy to see why. There are many medieval buildings, all in excellent condition, and the town walls and watchtowers are largely intact. We enjoyed several different walks around town during our stay.

    On Tuesday morning we drove to Bamberg, about 130 kms away. In view of the congestion caused by the road works on the autobahn we decided to take a route through the country and that proved to be a big mistake with lots of slow traffic and small villages.

    Eventually we parked right in the centre of the old town, picked up a leaflet showing the key sights and set off to see the town. Bamberg was highly rated in the guidebooks and certainly had some beautiful buildings, particularly along the river, but it didn’t engage us as much as some of the other towns we have seen. Part of the problem may have been that the suggested walk was quite hilly and it was quite a hot day; after the tedious drive maybe the long hot walk was a bit much.

    On Wednesday we headed for Nuremburg with mixed feelings after our experience with Bamberg but this was a great day.

    The route was by autobahn most of the way so we had a lot less travel time even though it was a longer trip and we really enjoyed the city. The old town car park was right next to the tourist office so we called there first to pick up a self-guided walk leaflet then found a café for our morning coffee and to plan our day.

    Nuremberg was almost completely destroyed by bombing in WW2 but it has been extensively rebuilt – using the original stone in many cases. Our walk took us first to St Sebald’s church which had a set of panels inside with photos of the church after the bombing and during the restoration – very interesting.

    We continued up the hill firstly to the castle gardens for some nice views of the town and the castle, then into the castle area itself. There was a German language tour of the castle but according to the attendant most of the rooms were empty so we didn’t bother with that. It was interesting enough to walk around the external courtyard and buildings.

    On our way back down towards the river we stopped to visit Albrecht Dürer’s house. The house was original as it was not destroyed in the war and the information, displays, & English audio guide were every good.

    After a very pleasant stroll around the old town along the river we left central Nuremberg to see the Dokumentation at the site of the Nazi Party rally grounds.

    As we drove in we missed a parking sign – hidden by bushes – and parked around the back of the main building, the unfinished Nazi congress centre, and had to walk almost right around the building to find the entrance. It was worth it though as the centre was excellent, covering the rise of the Nazi party after WW1 through to the end of WW2 and the various peace settlements.

    We arrived back in Rothenburg late afternoon feeling quite tired and were tempted to call it a day but decided to go into the town centre to join the Nightwatchman tour. This is a guided tour, in English, given by the self-styled Nightwatchman who explains what his role was in medieval times and walks around the town pointing out various buildings and giving background to historical procedures and events. The commentary was interesting and witty and well worth the 7€ per person.

    On Thursday we again headed out of town, this time north to Würzburg to see the Residenz.

    An easy drive up the autobahn and we parked right in front of the Residenz. Visits were by guided tour only and we had an excellent guide who explained the history of the building and had lots of anecdotes about the decoration of the building and the restoration of those parts damaged in WW2. Wurzburg was comprehensively bombed 3 weeks before the Americans occupied the town and the Residenz suffered a lot of damage. We also had a look around the town which was attractive and lively but did not walk up the significant hill to the fortress.

    Back in Rothenburg we had dinner at Eisenhut Hotel restaurant which was very enjoyable.

    Friday was our last day in Rothenburg and we took only a short trip south in the morning to visit Dinkelsbühl, which has the only fully intact town wall in Germany. We picked up a self-guided walk leaflet from the tourist office and took about an hour to complete most of the walk. Dinkelsbühl was very attractive, not large, but with very substantial buildings and much wider streets than in many villages.

    We returned to our flat in Rothenburg for lunch and started to pack ready for our departure in the morning. Later in the afternoon we went out for a coffee and a visit to St Jacob’s church which has some lovely wood carvings from the 14th century.

    We went out again for dinner at an Italian restaurant off the market square then walked outside the town walls for some views back. On the way back to the flat we heard music coming from the rathaus (town hall). Tequila Sunrise sounded a bit incongruous in medieval Rothenburg! There was an art exhibition opening night at the rathaus and they had an Eagles cover band playing so we stopped and listened for a while – they weren’t bad at all.

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    Before I continue, I realise that I forgot to add the link to our accommodation in Rothenburg so here it is:
    http://www.froehlich-rothenburg.de/html/froehlich-english.html

    On Saturday morning we were on the road by about 8:30 and drove south in light rain to our first stop, Nördlingen

    The town caught my interest because its intact town wall is almost circular, apparently because it is built inside an ancient meteor crater. As it happens the crater is 25 kms across so that can’t really be the reason – probably just because the centre is flat.

    We really liked Nördlingen and spent longer there than we expected. We first climbed the church tower for views of the town and walls then took the walk suggested by the tourist office map. A bustling town, particularly as it was market day, with a lot of attractive old buildings and a life other than tourism. We saw some excellent wood carvings on the choir stalls in the St Georg church.

    We left Nördlingen after about 2 hours and continued south until we joined the autobahn and headed towards Munich where we took the ring road and then on in the Salzburg direction. Munich was playing football at home and there was some very heavy traffic around the stadium but fortunately we missed the worst of it. After taking the Prien exit we found our rental house without too much trouble and started to settle in.

    We were very happy with the apartment. It was on the second floor, behind the owner’s residence and had a well equipped kitchen, a spacious living room, and a separate bedroom. There was a small balcony off the living room overlooking a stream. The owners spoke excellent English and were very friendly & helpful
    http://www.vacation-apartments.com/19003.htm

    Prien is a nice town, not too big, but big enough to have all services – including an excellent ice cream shop. It is about 2 km from Stock on the shores of Chiemsee, the largest lake in Bavaria.

    After we settled in, we took a short drive to Stock to check out the parking and the ferry terminal and had a short walk along the promenade – several nice looking restaurants & cafés. We had a week in Prien so we made a quick trip to the supermarket to pick up some supplies as almost all retail shops in Germany close on Sundays.

    Sunday morning came out clear & sunny and we drove to Aschau, about 10 kms away, and took the gondola up to Kampenwand.

    We hadn’t planned a mountain excursion but I was concerned that the weather may change and thought we should go for some views etc. while it was fine. The peak is at 1664m but we didn’t attempt the full climb from the gondola station and just walked about 45 minutes along the ridge for some nice views over Chiemsee.

    We then came back and stopped for lunch at Sonnen Alm, a mountain café/restaurant. The menus were all in German and we had no idea what to order but then 3 Germans asked if they could share our table as it was very busy. They all spoke good English, in fact one of them lived in Sydney, and they made some suggestions as to what to order, including obatzda a Bavarian cheese speciality, and we enjoyed our meal and the conversation with them.

    We took the gondola down and returned to Prien for a break and a short walk around the town. We drove to Stock for dinner at an Italian restaurant overlooking the lake.

    We spent Monday in Salzburg. Our initial plan had been to take the train from Prien but after chatting with our hosts here and checking out the train fares etc. we decided to drive. Prien is only about 5-10 minutes off the autobahn and it was an easy drive of about 45 minutes – with a few road works of course, and a quick stop to buy a Vignette for driving on the autobahns in Austria.

    We had no problem finding the old town car parks which are carved out of the Mönchsberg, the rocky outcrop that towers over the old town.

    We really enjoyed our day in Salzburg. We started with the usual visit to the tourist office and picked up some maps and brochures to read over coffee then started with a visit to the Hohensalzburg fortress perched above the old town. After taking the funicular up we were presented with some nice views of the old town – quite small, and hemmed in by the rocks on one side and the river on the other. We spent quite a while in the fortress, partly self-guided through some decorated rooms and partly with a guide for more historical information. After taking the funicular back into town we had lunch in a small arcade restaurant then spent some time exploring the narrow and, by now, crowded streets before heading back to Prien mid-afternoon.

    We had our parking ticket stamped at the café where we had our morning coffee and that gave us a significant discount on our parking. Our fee would have been the daily maximum of 14€ but this was reduced to 6€ as a result of the stamp.

    We were both feeling a bit tired so planned a lighter day for Tuesday.

    After a leisurely start we drove to Stock and bought ferry tickets to Herreninsel, the largest island on the lake. The island is quite close to the port at Stock but the landing area is on the opposite end of the island and the boat takes about 15 minutes. The main attraction on Herreninsel is the Schloss Herrenchiemsee, built by King Ludwig II in 1878. It is modelled on the palace of Versailles and has some spectacular rooms. Money ran out before it could be completed and it is not as big as planned but still quite impressive and in a lovely setting on the island.

    After the tour of the Schloss we wandered around the grounds for a while before returning to the port for our boat back to Stock.

    After lunch at ‘home’ on the balcony we drove about 15 kms to Simsee, another nearby lake, much smaller but a beautiful setting. Our hosts had recommended the restaurant/bar there, overlooking the water and we spent some time there over a drink watching the mountain reflections in the still water. A couple of people were swimming but the water looked a bit cold for me.

    We spent a rainy Wednesday in Munich. This time we did take the train as it is a longer drive and Munich is a much busier city.

    Our train arrived about 10:30 and we picked some information at the tourist office before walking to Marienplatz, one of the main squares, and location of the rathaus. The rathaus is known for its clock with mechanical figures that enact a knights’ tournament at 11:00 am and Noon. We were there just before 11:00 so waited a few minutes to see some of the action.

    We continued to the Residenz museum, where we spent almost 2 hours looking through some of 130 rooms; some of which were beautifully decorated, others which were not. Most rooms are restorations after WW2 but done to original specifications.

    After 2 hours we were in need of a rest so went out and had a coffee and a sandwich – at a nearby Starbucks of all places – and then returned to visit the much smaller Treasury. This was a real bonus with several lovely pieces including jewel studded crowns and the highlight for me was a reliquary topped with an exquisite jewelled statue of St George slaying the dragon.

    The final part of the Residenz visit was the opera theatre with its sumptuous interior but with just the single room to see we were only there 10 minutes or so.

    We then spent a couple of hours strolling around Munich visiting the Hofbräuhaus, a former brewery, now an enormous beer hall. It was almost empty when we visited but no doubt it was packed the next week when Oktoberfest startrd. We continued through the central market back to Marienplatz, called briefly at the cathedral, then returned to the station for our train back to Prien.

    We were very conscious that both Salzburg & Munich were worth longer visits but at least we saw some of these attractive cities.

    On Thursday morning the rain had passed and the forecast was good so we decided to return to the mountains, this time to try a longer walk.

    After calling at the Prien tourist office for some advice and maps we headed off to Ruhpolding, about ½ hour away, with a view to going up Rauschberg but when we got there we weren’t convinced that it had the sort of walks we were looking for, so decided to continue to Bergen and to try Hochfelln. We were very happy with our choice.

    We first took a gondola to the Mittelstation at 1075m then a second to just short of the summit at 1674 m. The views from the summit were just spectacular; the air was clear and all of Chiemsee was visible, the Bavarian countryside was a brilliant patchwork of fields and woods, and the Alps were snow-capped in the distance.

    We decided on some fortification for our walk so ordered erbsensuppe mit wurst und brot at the Alm. This was pea soup strewn with thinly sliced sausage and served with slices of bread. The soup & bread were nice, but to my mind the dish would have been improved by leaving out the wurst.

    We then followed the trail 3.6km down to Mittelstation. Looking at the people we passed struggling up, I was sure we made the right call to do the downwards walk.After taking the gondola back to the base station it was an easy ½ hour drive back to Prien.

    For our last day in Prien we decided to stay local and visited another, smaller, island on Chiemsee. This was the Fraueninsel, which has a small monastery at one end and was said to be home to many painters and craftsmen. We drove about 15 kms to Gstadt and took the ferry across then walked around the island – literally, it is quite small – but we only found one open pottery studio and a couple of closed workshops. The island was very pleasant but an hour was plenty of time.

    We spent Friday afternoon preparing to move on and dined at Maximillian’s, a restaurant overlooking the lake at Stock. The menus were in German only so we went with some trepidation but with some homework with Google Translate and help from a waitress who spoke some English we were able order and enjoyed our meal.

    Our week at Prien was great; it’s a lovely area with a variety of things to see & do.

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    We left Prien in light rain about 8:00 am and followed the autobahn towards Salzburg, turning south just after the Austrian border. We had decided to visit the village of Hallstatt, in Austria, before returning to Germany & Berchtesgaden,

    It was an easy drive of less than 2 hours, on autobahns in Germany & Austria, then a scenic drive to Hallstatt, which was a delight.

    A small village wedged between steep valley sides and the lake, there was nothing really much to do there but we enjoyed wandering though the streets, admiring the views, and to taking photos. The rain was clearing as we arrived and by the time we left a couple of hours later the sun was shining.

    We retraced our steps for about 60 kms, back into Germany, and then headed for Berchtesgaden, where we arrived in good time to check into the Hotel Bavaria. The hotel was fine; we had a large room with 2 balconies that looked out over the mountains – and the railway station, not that that was a problem. Finding the access road to the hotel was a bit tricky and we parked in town first and enquired at the tourist office where we also picked up a map and some brochures.
    http://www.hotelbavaria.net/en/content/welcome-hotel-bavaria

    The hotel is quite close to the town centre but at the bottom of a very steep road – walking up for dinner at the end of the day was a bit of a challenge.

    On Sunday morning we woke to find the valley was blanketed in fog.

    We had planned to visit Kehlstein – Hitler’s “Eagle’s Nest” – but were a bit concerned about visibility. We decided to drive to the ticket office at Obersalzburg and make a call from there. It was only a short drive from our hotel but by the time we got there it was obvious that the fog was lifting quickly so we booked for the next bus and left at 9:45 am.

    Access from the car park is via a convoy of buses that take about 30 minutes to drive the steep and spectacular road to the entry to a tunnel into the mountain, and then the final 135 m is by lift.

    The views from the top are spectacular and we spent more than an hour wandering around looking in all directions and taking far too many photos before having our most expensive coffee in Germany so far – 3.90€ each - and then returning to the lift to catch our pre-booked 11:50 am bus back down.

    The drive from Obersalzburg to Königssee took about 15 minutes and we left the car in the enormous car park to walk past a string of souvenir and food shops to the lake.
    Being a sunny Sunday there were hordes of people around the lakeshore and queuing for the boats that make regular circuits of the lake.

    We were undecided as to whether we wanted to try the boats but eventually we did buy tickets for the shortest return trip, to St Bartholema, 35 minutes each way.

    The lake is lovely in its steep walled valley but we were disappointed with the very slow boat ride. The boat was packed and, even with a side seat (which we did not have on the way out) visibility was quite limited and really no better than from the shore. After a brief stroll around St Bartholema we joined the queue for a return boat. Fortunately the boats were arriving every 5 minutes or so and we were soon on our way back.

    After a break back at the hotel we decided to drive the Rossfeld Panoramic road, which is a toll road of about 15 kms, from Oberau to Obersalazburg, a circuit of about 40 kms from Berchtesgaden. The road reaches a height of 1570 m and offered some great views, particularly to the east as the sun was getting low by then and it was difficult to see to the west.

    Another day, another mountain! On Monday the weather remained good and we decided to return to Königssee, this time to take the 2 stage gondola to Jenner. Unlike Kochfelln where we had to switch gondolas at the mittelstation this time there as a rather clever arrangement whereby, if you were continuing up the mountain, the gondola switched tracks and kept going to the top at 1800 m.

    A walk of about 20 minutes took us to the summit for more glorious views of the mountains, Königssee, and including across to Eagle’s Nest where we could see the bus convoy snaking up the mountain side.

    We walked a short way along one of the summit paths until it started to descend rapidly. We didn’t want to have to walk back up so retraced our steps a short way and again enlisted the support of Mr Gravity as we walked down to mittelstation – about 4 kms all up – where we took the gondola back down.

    One of the brochures that we had picked up at the tourist office was for Wimbach Klamm, a gorge not too far away and we decided to pay a visit. It was a walk of only 200-300 m from the car park to the start of the gorge but steeply uphill and we both found that a bit of a struggle after our walk down the mountain. The gorge was interesting and worth the visit; quite narrow with an excellent series of boardwalks over the lively stream and many small waterfalls cascading down the sides.

    After a break back at the hotel we walked up into town to look around and to get some photos and as we did the rain returned – we got a little wet – at least me who won’t carry an umbrella did. For dinner we returned with raincoats, to the Einkehr restaurant at the Edelweiss hotel for an enjoyable meal.

    We enjoyed our 3 days at Berchtesgaden. The town is attractive, with a good range of shops & restaurants, and it is ideally located as base for seeing this beautiful region.

    The next day was a driving day as we headed for Oberammergau.

    We had thought initially that we might go via Innsbruck and that route would have taken us west from Berchtesgaden but in the end we went directly to Oberammergau and drove north to the Munich autobahn and followed that for some time before turning south. We missed a turn on our way south and wasted about ½ hour tangled in road works in Schliersee but otherwise it was an easy drive.

    The apartment was quite comfortable, and an easy walk from the town centre, but it was really just a studio and seemed a little less roomy than some of our other accommodation. It also lacked storage space so we lived out of our suitcases for the three days we were there.
    http://www.oberammergau-apartments.de/eng/apartments/kreuzweg/amenities.html

    We liked Oberammergau, which was a very manageable size – and fairly flat – and had a good range of tourist shops as well as local shops and restaurants. One of the features was the “illusionist” painting of religious and historical scenes on the external walls of many buildings. This was common in many towns in Bavaria but seemed more widespread in Oberammergau.

    Our plans for Wednesday included a visit to the Zugspitze, Germany’s highest mountain, but we wanted clear skies and the forecast was a bit dodgy so we decided to try some other activities in that general direction and make a call later.

    Our first stop was Linderhof, about 12 kms away, a small palace built by King Ludwig II. This palace was a little gem, quite small (our tour covered only 6 rooms but there would not have been many more) and situated in a lovely garden setting. All the main rooms were elaborately decorated and modelled on the palace of Versailles, including a spectacular mirror room.

    Our admission also covered the grotto, a large artificial cave complex built by King Ludwig for staging opera. It had only 2 seats, both for him, as the palace was primarily for his own occupation, not for entertaining. The grotto was interesting but not particularly attractive, especially as there was quite a lot of restoration activity in progress.

    We then drove to Garmisch-Partenkirchen, originally two villages but now a town with two centres and popular as a winter sports base. As usual, we parked in the centre of town and visited the tourist office for a map. We also enquired about prospects for the Zugspitze and were told that it was not a good day for the mountain.

    Garmisch had a very attractive & bustling town centre and we enjoyed looking around – we both even did some shopping – and stopped for lunch at a bakery. We also enjoyed looking at the many decorated houses in Garmisch, and later also in Partenkirchen.

    The weather remained warm with sunny breaks so we decided to drive to the base station of the lift to Zugspitze and see how it looked there. It was still fine but was becoming very windy and neither of us was keen on being in the gondola in strong winds. It would have been very cold at the top so we finally dismissed that idea and return to Oberammergau after a very enjoyable day.

    It became apparent through the day that we both seemed to be coming down with colds which was very annoying and definitely was not on the holiday spreadsheet.

    Thursday was another King Ludwig day. This time a very pleasant 50 km drive through Bavarian agricultural land, with the mountains as a backdrop, to the Füssen area and a visit to the castle at Neuschwanstein. We arrived in light rain but fortunately that cleared quite quickly and didn’t disrupt our visit.

    I had booked the timed tickets on line a couple of days ahead and we just had to call at the ticket office to pay and pick them up. We then walked up the quite steep path to the castle for our guided tour which we enjoyed. While the castle has a lot of rooms the tour only covered a few as most are unfinished, but those we did see were interesting.

    We then walked a further 20 minutes or so up the hill to the Marienbrucke bridge for the classic view back to the castle. Fortunately the two sides of the castle that were covered in scaffolding didn’t have much impact on our pictures.

    We then drove a further 5 kms into the town of Füssen and spent an enjoyable couple of hours there, wandering around its old town centre and, in particular admiring the painted walls of the castle courtyard.

    On our way back to Oberammergau we detoured to see the Wieskirche, a country church with a highly decorated rococo interior. It was said to stand on its own in the fields but that was a bit misleading as there are several buildings clustered around it. Nevertheless it is certainly much more grandiose than would be expected in that location and the interior was well worth seeing.

    Tried Café Wanningen for dinner and were very happy with our respective meals – recommended.

    We were both affected by our colds and woke very early on Friday so we left Oberammergau around 7:30. The drive to Heidelberg was our longest of the trip at 370 kms and leaving early gave us plenty of opportunity to take breaks.

    Our first stop, apart from a roadside coffee break, was about half way, at Ulm, and we parked in the town centre to take a look around. We picked Ulm purely because of its location along our route but it turned out to be well worth a visit, having not only the world’s tallest church spire on the münster but also the world’s most crooked house! We enjoyed the wood carvings in the münster as well as its unusual gargoyles and the rathaus was also worth seeing for its extensive wall paintings.

    From that point on the travel experience deteriorated considerably even though most of it was on autobahns. There was a lot of traffic, a lot of major road works, and a couple of traffic accidents didn’t help either; the second half of our drive took about 3 hours, an hour longer than we had expected.

    We arrived in Heidelberg around 4:00 pm and found the designated car park without too much trouble and checked in to our hotel. The hotel offered car parking but this was not available as they had allocated the space to support the Autumn Festival.

    The Hotel Goldene Rose was very nice despite having a very small frontage onto its minor street address. The room was large, well furnished, and comfortable; double-glazed as well which was good as one of the stages for the festival was right outside.
    http://www.hotel-goldene-rose.de/

    The hotel was located just off Hauptstrasse, the main street in the old town – a very long main street as we discovered when we set off to find the tourist office at the other end. With our colds depleting our energy levels, we weren’t too impressed to find, when we finally got to the tourist office, that it had closed 15 minutes earlier.

    We broke the walk back by stopping first for a coffee, then for an early dinner, then struggled back to the hotel for an early night.

    On Saturday morning we were both still affected by our colds and resolved not to do anything too ambitious. We started by doing the long walk up Hauptstrase again, and took the funicular up to the castle ruins above the town. We enjoyed the views of the town and of the castle but didn’t bother paying to go in, or to do a tour, we just walked around the surrounding gardens and followed the path back down to town.

    We picked up some information at the Tourist office about the various acts that would be performing and then made our way back to the hotel. Hauptstrasse was starting to get very busy and as the day went on it became almost impossible to walk through the crowds.

    We spent the rest of the day doing short forays into the crowds, looking at different parts of the old town and checking out bands, then retreating to the hotel for a rest.

    The atmosphere was relaxed and everyone was clearly having a good time – drinking beer, eating snacks from the street stalls, and listening to the music. We enjoyed ourselves but didn’t really have the stamina to stay out late and returned to the hotel around 9:00 pm to retire to the muffled sound of the Heidelberg Starfighters playing rock classics just outside.

    The next day we headed for Sankt Goar, our base on the Rhine for the last 6 days of our trip.

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    There was no rush to get away from Heidelberg as we did not have a long drive and we couldn’t check into our apartment at Sankt Goar before 3:00pm.

    When we did come out of the hotel it was amazing how all the sound equipment, stages, food & drink kiosks, as well as all the rubbish left by thousands of people had disappeared overnight.

    Sunday morning traffic was light as we left Heidelberg and headed for the Rhine and our first stop, the small village of Rüdesheim.

    We were there just ahead of the tour buses & boats, parked easily in the centre of town, and made a quick call to the Tourist Office for map to look at over our coffee. Rüdesheim was mentioned in most guide books, and they had focussed on its one very narrow street filled with bars & pubs, but said little else about the town. We expected a quick look then back on the road but we were actually there for a couple hours as many of the other village streets were just as attractive and we enjoyed having a look around.

    Immediately after leaving Rüdesheim we had another road works delay before crossing the river on a ferry at Lorch. We had planned to stop at Bacarach but spent longer in Rüdesheim than expected so continued on to Sankt Goar for a quick look around before we went in search of our accommodation.

    The Rhine is certainly impressive, a big river with a lot of traffic – barges, ferries, tourist boats, and pleasure craft – coming and going and many castles & ruins perched on the valley sides. The valley itself wasn’t quite as dramatic as I’d expected – a case of inflated expectations perhaps as we’d heard such a lot about this region. Busy train lines on both sides of the river plus the roads along each bank detracted a bit.

    The village of Sankt Goar was a bit of a disappointment to us. It was spread out along the river like most of the Rhine villages but was not really charming and had limited services.

    Our apartment was very spacious and well equipped but we were again disappointed because we had expected it to be in the village but it was actually in a newer area above the Rhine valley. I should say that the website description was accurate; we just didn’t understand the geography. Not a big deal really but we do spend quite a bit of time choosing these places and we usually get it right. We couldn’t just walk out our door into the town, and even if we could there wasn’t all that much there.
    http://kdshome.de/en/

    After settling in we took a drive north to the next major town, Boppard, about 15 km along the Rhine. This was a bigger town, with a much nicer face to the river – a lot of hotels & restaurants with terraces facing the river and a wide promenade right on the river bank.

    When we arrived there was a lot of activity which turned out to be the wine festival featuring several brass bands. After a quick look around we bought a glass of wine and settled back to listen to one of the bands. They were very good – amusing to see bottles & glasses of wine being passed around between sets.

    We had dinner at an Italian restaurant just off the main platz then returned to Sankt Goar.

    On Monday we drove west from Sankt Goar, out of the Rhine valley and continued to the Moselle. It was a nice forest drive down to the valley with lots of tight hairpins.

    The Moselle valley was lovely, the river is smaller and there is less development along the banks giving it a softer look. We drove south along the Moselle to Cochem which was a very enjoyable visit. We spent a couple of hours there, walking part way up to the castle for views and looking around admiring the many attractive buildings.

    We then drove north along the west bank of the Rhine, past where we had crossed in the morning, looking for the turn-off for Burg Eltz. There were several signs and we didn’t really know which road to take but eventually chose one and after 3-4 kms found a car park and set off on the 2.4km walk to the castle.

    This was a very pleasant walk, following a stream through a shady forest – the sun was out by then – and not too much up & down until right at the end when we climbed the path up to the castle.

    We really enjoyed this visit. The impressive castle is in a great location and the fact that we walked in added to the effect as it emerged from the forest. We booked for the English tour then stopped for a drink & a snack while we waited.

    The tour was excellent. It was not long but a very interesting commentary and some lovely rooms and décor. The castle has been owned by the same family for more than 600 years and many of the art works and furniture items date from the very early days of the castle.

    It was another pleasant walk back to the car park where I blotted my driving copybook for the first time in Europe by backing into the corner of a parked trailer. It was below the line of sight of my mirrors and I just misjudged it. There was no damage to the trailer but our rental car’s tail light & bumper were damaged and there will definitely be an insurance claim coming up for us.

    We returned to the Rhine valley at Boppard where we stopped to stock up on provisions for the week then returned to the apartment.

    On Tuesday we decided to have a quieter day as we were still feeling the effects of our colds so started with a trip down the hill to Sankt Goar for a coffee and a visit to the tourist office, then drove part way back up the hill to visit our ‘local’ castle, Rheinfels. This was a substantial castle but is now a ruin. It occupies a commanding position overlooking the river but the visit was fairly ordinary.

    There was a self-guided walk in two parts; firstly around the ruins, and then through the fortifications, including some subterranean sections. The latter in particular could have been very interesting but the written directions were very hard to follow and we kept getting lost in the tunnels. In the end our focus was more on getting out than on the historical & structural aspects.

    In the afternoon we drove south along the Rhine to Bacarach, the village that we had “skipped” on Sunday. This was a lovely village, more extensive than I’d expected, with a number of charming buildings around the market square. We walked through the village and part way up the path to the castle for some views over the village and the river. It was interesting here to see vineyards stretching up the steep valley sides and people getting ready for the picking season.

    Rain was forecast for Wednesday so we decided that might be a good day to visit Cologne.

    The drive up was easy, and the traffic around the old town centre was quite light allowing us to easily find the cathedral car park.

    After the obligatory visit to the tourist office we started with the cathedral. This was an enormous building with some beautiful mosaic floors, and stained glass windows. The woodcarving in the choir stalls looked spectacular but it wasn’t possible to get very close.

    Our next visit was the highlight of the day for me, the Romano-Germanic museum. The building was excellent, with large, well lit galleries allowing some quite big pieces to be displayed. There were some great exhibits including an almost complete roman mosaic floor discovered during WW2 while digging an air raid shelter.

    We then walked through the town centre to the river bank which was lined with cruise boats.

    After some hesitation we decided to visit the Chocolate museum which was OK but expensive for what it was, and very crowded.

    We then returned to the pedestrianised area and found most shops shut. Then the penny dropped – not much traffic, lots of kids around, shops shut - it must be a public holiday. It turned out to be the Day of German Unity.

    We then returned late afternoon via Boppard, planning to pick up some provisions for dinner but, of course, the shops were all shut there too, so we had dinner at a restaurant in the market square, followed by a nice walk along the river promenade, and then drove back to Sankt Goar.

    On Thursday we had thought of taking the chair lift from Boppard for views of the Rhine and maybe a walk but the forecast was for rain so we decided to go into Boppard for our morning coffee and then see how it looked. Unfortunately the rain had set in so we picked up some bread & cheese for lunch and returned to Sankt Goar.

    In the afternoon we decided to visit Koblenz, about ½ hour north of Sankt Goar and quite a large town on the junction of the Rhine & Moselle rivers. It was a nice drive along the river north of Boppard with extensive vineyards extending up the valley slopes.

    Some of our reading had been lukewarm about Koblenz but we really enjoyed our visit. We picked up a map & walking guide from the tourist office and followed the numbered sites to see some lovely old buildings and very attractive town overall. Our walk took us along the Moselle bank to the point of junction with the Rhine – the Deutsches Eck – and then along the Rhine bank to the town centre. This is obviously a major stop off point for cruise boats and they were “double parked” along the quay.

    We enjoyed a very good meal Thursday night at Landgasthof Rebstock, a guesthouse restaurant in our village; just around the corner and easy walking distance.

    We had booked Sankt Goar for 6 nights but decided to cut it short by one day and booked our last night in Germany at the Holiday Inn Express near Frankfurt airport. With the possibility of some paperwork to do with the damage to the car, we wanted to be closer to the airport on the last morning.

    On Friday morning we checked out of the apartment and drove south along the Rhine bank and, after a brief stop at Bingen, continued to Mainz.

    We parked in town and set out to explore. First call was to the cathedral which was impressive and dominated the market platz but didn’t make as much of an impression on me as some we saw on this trip.

    We then continued to the Augustinerkirche, under the impression that it was St Stephen-kirche. It was well worth a look inside for its baroque decorated interior but we then set off again in the correct direction – quite steeply uphill which tested our energy levels a little – and were glad we persisted as the stained glass windows by Chagall were very good.

    We then returned to the market square for a coffee & cake in the German tradition and then visited the nearby museum dedicated to the invention of moveable type printing by Gutenberg, a native of Mainz. This was a great visit with a collection of historical printing equipment, a demonstration of the Gutenberg printing process (with detailed commentary in German), and many lovely medieval printed books, including some of Gutenberg’s original printed Bibles.

    We had planned to also visit the Landesbank museum close to where we left the car but by the time we got back we had pretty much used our energy quota for the day so left mid-afternoon to find the HIE near Frankfurt airport. We had no problem finding it and checking in. Very reliable hotel – always the same basic comfort and low price – 65 euro for two including breakfast and within 15 minutes of the airport.
    http://www.hiexpress.com/hotels/gb/en/moerfelden-walldorf/framf/hoteldetail

    We had a reasonable dinner at a local restaurant within walking distance of the hotel and then returned to pack for the flight the next day.

    On Saturday morning we drove to airport and dropped off the car. There was a small delay getting from Terminal 1 to Terminal 2 due to some form of security incident but we checked in in good time, and settled into the Cathay Pacific lounge – shared by Malaysia airlines - to wait for the flight.

    We left 20 minutes late but arrived in Kuala Lumpur on time and then left pretty much on time for the flight to Melbourne, arriving ½ hour early. We were though all formalities within 20 minutes of landing, but then had to wait about 20 minutes as the car pick up service we had booked was caught out by the early arrival. We were home by a little after 10:00 pm.

    We had a great trip and really enjoyed seeing a country that was new to us. There’s no doubt that our colds had an impact on the final week as we struggled to tackle some things that we would normally take in our stride. The weather was very kind to us and the rain that we did have really only had an impact in the last few days.

    So, that’s our Germany trip, if anyone would like more information about any of the places we saw & things we did, I’ll be happy to respond.

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    Thanks Greg for taking the time to post!
    I have been to many of these areas before (never Berlin though) and am planning for Quedlinburg/Goslar next September.
    Did you go up the Brocken mountain in that region?

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    Hi Mokka4, sorry for taking a while to respond.

    We had planned to do some walking in the Harz mountains but ended up spending most of our time around the town of Quedlinburg. There were some nice views of the mountains, including the Brocken, from the high points in the town but we found more to see in the town than we had expected, and just enjoyed relaxing.

    Berlin is well worth visiting in my opinion and the location of our apartment in Mitte was great.

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    Great report! Interesting; the bejeweled St. George in the Munich museum really impressed me as well. I can close my eyes and viualize it still 45 years later. Thanks for sharing the links to all the apartments in which you stayed.

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    Thanks, GregY2, for the great trip report. I enjoyed reading it, and envy you for being able to spend 5 weeks touring through Germany (or anywhere, for that matter).

    One question, though... Did you not visit Hohenschwangau when you visited Neuschwanstein? You didn't mention seeing it in your trip report. IMO, the inside of Hohenschwangau is much more complete and interesting than Neuschwanstein. Hohenschwangau was Ludwig's childhood home, and when I saw his bedroom it gave me a better understanding of his quirkiness.

    Robyn :)>-

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    Hi Artstuff, no, we did not visit Hohenschwangau. Not because we had no interest, just the way out intinerary worked out. We had visited Herrenchiemsee and Linderhof in the previous days and probably just had our fill of Ludwig castles. Maybe a good reason to go back another day.

    We've retired relatively recently and now have the time to do some travel which we are enjoying immensely,along with a number of other things we did not have time for when wroking. Hopefully health & funds will last a while yet.

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