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14 days in Germany - Advice please

Old Oct 30th, 2003, 12:49 PM
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14 days in Germany - Advice please

We will be staying with friends in Germany for 14 days. They live in a little town (Lindern) near Geilinkerchen (sp?) NATO base. I am interested in day trips around this area with a couple of overnights. They have been there 3 years and have barely traveled at all (I know, I know...) so they aren?t that big on suggestions.

We have decided on Brugges, Aachen, Monchau, and Cochem (places they have been). I also want to see Neuschwanstein. I am very interested in castles, scenery, ambiance, quaintness, & people watching. I?m looking for ideas on scheduling/order to see and do things.

We will have just finished 10 days in the UK and part of this travel will just be me & my almost 4 yr old so I am looking for a somewhat relaxing time full of fun & culture.

TIA!!!
Vicki
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Old Oct 30th, 2003, 02:55 PM
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If your going to be touring the Mosel, you must visit Burg Eltz. It's very near Cochem, which also has a nice castle, but Burg Eltz is one of the nicest castles in all of Germany. It's also one of the few castle you actually hike DOWN to.
You'll love the Mosel though. If you can, get over into Luxembourg. Vianden is a great little town with a nice castle, and Patton is burried just outside Luxembourg City.
The Black Forest is a great area for kids. Lots of swimming pools, theme parks, etc. yet very relaxing for the parents.
For some great advice as well as lots of pics of places in Germany try http://www.bensbauernhof.com
I have a few trip reports there under the names asbachnate.
Email him for more advice, you'll be glad you did. Tell him Nate sent ya.
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Old Oct 30th, 2003, 03:38 PM
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Cochem and Monschau are both very quaint little spots you'll enjoy. Cochem's castle (right in town, bit of a hike, fantastic setting!) is worth a tour, and the falconry exhibitions there are great.

On the Rhine: Cologne and its amazing cathedral are also very close. You might enjoy a visit to Remagen, just south of Bonn, to see the "Peace Museum" there that chronicles the WW II battle for the Rhine there. A very quaint town just across the river from Remagen is Linz - lots of half-timbered buildings and cobblestones. A bit further south (south of Koblenz) lies Marksburg Castle, in Braubach - the only castle on the Rhine that was never destroyed - good tour there of a very rustic castle with real a medieval feel and a commanding view of the river. I would second asbachnate's suggestion for Burg Eltz as well - my favorite castle in Europe (so far.) I don't think Neuschwanstein alone is worth the trip that far south unless you plan to visit the region anyway; it's visually stunning and splendiferous, but it's only a little over 100 years old (Marksburg and Eltz are 800 or so) and overtouristed, and it lacks the overall historical significance of the real castles in the Rheinland. On the Rhine, there are some other interesting little towns - Boppard, Bacharach, St. Goar - that make for good stops too. The most scenic part lies between Koblenz and Bingen; if you'll be there when it's warmish, try a riverboat cruise somewhere in between for a couple of hours. I'm sure the 4-year-old will enjoy the boat ride and maybe just watching them all come and go, either in Cochem or along the Rhine.
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Old Oct 30th, 2003, 04:20 PM
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asbachnate:
Thank you very much for your reply. I've just started checking out the site you posted. It looks great. I really enjoyed your trip report for your friends wedding. I love reading what "real" people like about places, etc. Much more interesting than some guidebooks. Oy, and the food you talked about, made me think I'm gonna gain 100 lbs before I get home!

Russ:
Thank you for your response as well. I understand what you mean about Neuschwanstein being touristy, etc. The friend that I will be staying with said she didn't want to go there because "everyone" goes there. I have very mixed feelings about it because I know this castle is basically a tourist trap but, the very first picture I ever saw that sparked my imagination and inspired me to dream of Europe was a poster of this castle. Honestly, I don't much care about the inside of this particular castle, I just want to "see" the outside. Now, imagine my dilemna when I know its an 8 hr train trip one way, just to see the outside, take a picture and leave... I just can't decide.

Anyway, thank you both very much!
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Old Oct 30th, 2003, 04:53 PM
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AlyxsMom - I was interested in your comments on Neuschwanstein. It is popular with tourists for one reason - it is spectacular- as is the Alhambra, the Acropolis and the Louvre. Yes, lots of tourists flock to these sites, but I wouldn't consider them "traps". I am sure that when Ludwig built his castle it would turn into a tourist mecca. Yes, it is a long way from your base so perhaps you should spend the night in Fussen or some other small nearby Bavarian town and enjoy the delightful scenery. Actually my favorite is Burg Eltz. A real castle. closer to your base and just as picturesque.
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Old Oct 30th, 2003, 05:28 PM
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If you go to Neuschwanstein, there's an arched bridge overlooking a gorge in which you can get some great photos of the castle. This should be on your "must do" list. The inside of the castle is nice, but you can't take photos inside.

Here's a link to where we stayed. There are other great recommendations of places in the area on this board:

http://www.neuschwanstein-hotel.com/hotel-rooms-rates/
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Old Oct 31st, 2003, 09:45 AM
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CharlieB:
I think I misspoke. I was trying to be brief in my reply and used the wrong words (though thats not unusual for me ;-) ).

What I was really trying to say is, never having been there before, I know it is beautiful. I know it is a dream vision for *me*. But, then, I have heard from many people who all they talk about is it being so crowded, filled with tourbusses, and basically, that it is so touristy that its more like fight for your place in line, wait for hours, and rush through once your in to get to the tourist shop, then back on the bus to the next stop. Then, how much nicer the other castle (can't think of its name right now - I believe it was his parents) is. Then, my friend who lives in Germany says that she never wanted to go there because of its reputation for being touristy and because it is the castle that Disney's was modeled after and yadda yadda yadda... To say that I was really sad to think that something I had dreamed of seeing and had inspired so much romance in me could be so bad is an understatement. It was like someone just popped my favorite red balloon you know.

Anyway, thank you for putting it into a bit of perspective for me! I suppose the other tourists flocking to it are just like me and struck by the beauty and the splendor and the romance and why should I be the only one to feel this way.

Budman:
Thank you. I checked out the website and think it looks like a great place to stay. I've pretty much decided that even if my friends don't want to go doesn't mean I can't take a few days and go just me and the munchkin! Is the arched bridge easy to get to? I like to think I take a few good pics and I would love to take a picture like the one I saw so many years ago that would be my very own picture taken by very own self.

~Vicki
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Old Oct 31st, 2003, 10:08 AM
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There's a bus that goes up and lets you off near the entrance to the castle. The horse drawn carriages go up a different way. We took the bus up and walked down (the horse carriage route).

We were there in late June of last year, and we didn't feel crowded and overwhelmed with tourists.

There are two paths where the bus lets you off, both marked, one to the castle, and one to the bridge. The bridge view is spectacular and a must see.

If you do stay at that place, they have the best breakfast which comes with the room.
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Old Oct 31st, 2003, 10:08 AM
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I just visited Burg Eltz last month. It is terrific. If you love castles, you'll adore Burg Eltz.
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Old Oct 31st, 2003, 10:10 AM
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I think Neuschwantstein and Hohenschwangau castles are well worth the journey. Historically significant is a very relative term--Burg Eltz itself is of little historical significance other than being old and well preserved, but it is well worth visiting because of its setting, the various architectural influences, and its condition.

Much the same goes for Neuschwanstein. Of little historical significance in terms of battles fought and such, but the spectacular setting, its place in Ludwig's tragic saga, and the architectural excesses displayed make it interesting for many people.

Burg Eltz is worth seeing; Neuschwanstein is worth seeing. Keep in mind that Burg Eltz is usually not open November through March.
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Old Oct 31st, 2003, 12:29 PM
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Just a couple of thoughts; your friend has been here for 3 years and barely traveled - don't let them drag you down too! While I can think of many places that I enjoyed more than Neuschwanstein, the scenery there is beautiful (the castle didn't seem as amazing in person to me as it did in pictures) and I think its worth a trip. Hopefully your child has the energy to get up the hill from the castle to the bridge on his/her own or it could be a bit of a trial for you (ours was still small enough for a backpack last time we went). Down the road from the castle there is a really neat area where they have a playground, a sommerrodelbahn, a gondola lift, etc... lots of fun for kids and a great place to let out the pent-up energy before a long trip back! www.tegelbergbahn.de
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Old Oct 31st, 2003, 01:47 PM
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AlyxsMom / sounds like you REALLY want to visit Neuschwanstein, but are dredging up reasons why you shouldn't. The "hordes" of visitors to Neuschwanstein share your dream. Yes, Walt Disney modelled his castle after Neuschwanstein and for a very good reason - it is everyone's ideal of a fairy tale castle. I can see the Eifel Tower, the Arc, and take a gondola ride in Las Vegas, but that doesn't mean I should forego the real thing. Share your dream with the other tourists. My first experience with Neuschwanstein was many years ago as a college student. I arrived in Fussen at dusk and biked up to the castle and hiked in the hills behind. There was a full moon and the white castle stood out as an apparition against the dark hills and the moonlight glistening off the lake below. No Kodak picture, but that scene is forever etched in my mind! Disney has been unable to re-produce the setting which makes Neuschwanstein a true treasure.
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Old Oct 31st, 2003, 02:40 PM
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I think Neuschwanstein looks fabulous from the outside and less so on the inside. If you are in the area I would suggest a visitr to Linderhof as well which is much more richly appointed inside. It is unfortunate that you won't have time to see the most impressive one of all at Herrenchiemsee which most foreign tourists don't go to but which is a big draw for the local population. It is, unfortunately, harder to reach and would be best seen as part of an overall trip to Munich and environs.
In terms of not visiting places that are "over touristed" please don't forget that there is a REASON tourists flock to certain sites and the reason is usually a pretty good one. Burg Eltz isn't exactly what I'd call "dead" during "the season" which you've probably figured out from the number of people who have responded favorably about it on this post. I suppose some would call that "over-touristed" too but so what? It is still fabulous. Good luck and enjoy your trip.
 
Old Oct 31st, 2003, 02:45 PM
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I didn't really mean to stir controversy by saying that Neuschwanstein lacks the "historical significance" of the Rhineland Castles. This is simply a more or less indisputable fact. If history is "stuff that happened before now", N'stein must almost immediately be disqualified from any list of venues for historical events. It has indeed endured decades of assault by tourists, but in fact, no other assault, or other event of significance, ever really took place there before the tourists came. It was inhabited by his royal insanity (Ludwig) for less than a year. The Rhineland Castles, in contrast, have seen centuries of living (and dying) and offer a fascinating glimpse into life in the Middle Ages. If you want a glimpse at HISTORY, Castles like Eltz and Marksburg are the places to go.

That's not to say that you shouldn't go to Neuschwanstein, AlyxzMom. If you're in the area, I'd definitely drive by just to look at the place from outside. It's stunning. But the tour is less than awesome; if you've got the time and you're in the area for a tour of Southern Bavaria, maybe it would be worth a try, but I would certainly not travel all the way from Geilenkirchen just to look at either the inside or the outside, myself (I've done the tour twice on separate visits and still can't get terribly excited about the place.)

Although N'stein is much more stunning than Vegas' Eifel tower, CharlieB, they're quite similar - more similar than N'stein and, say, Burg Eltz - in terms of their ultimate impact on the world. Neither has ever had any real usefulness other than to attract tourists.
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Old Oct 31st, 2003, 07:54 PM
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Can't help myself. Must reply

Neuschwanstein is pretty from the outside. Almost common inside. Numerous German castles (and chateaus) are more interesting architecurally, historically, and esthetically inside. Last year, in a 2 week tour of Bavaria on which I took my wife, I made Neuschwanstein the last stop so she could compare it to the other sights we visited. ONLY so she could say she had seen it to folks back home who know it only because it's famous. She thought it was the least interesting of the 10-15 castles/chateaus we visited.
Alternatives: Wurzurg (Residenz)
Bad Mergentheim
Neresheim
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Old Nov 1st, 2003, 05:20 AM
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AlyxsMom,

It would be a shame to spend two weeks in Germany and not take a good look-see at Neuschwanstein and its Bavarian environs.

Ludwig's castles, including nearby Linderhof, are well worth your time and attention. True, these sites are hyper-touristy, but for good reason, as the Bavarian setting is oh-so appealing and aesthetically satisfying. Do make a point of getting to Neuschwanstein early in the day, thus helping you stay a few steps ahead of the tour buses. Better yet, secure your tickets to the castles on-line, thus avoiding what can be very lengthy ticket lines.

Finally, combine your homage to the Mad King's fantasies with a trip to the top of Germany, courtesy of the Zugspitze, spectacular on a clear day, featuring tasty bratwurst and suds on the summit. Make time, too, for a trip to the marvelous baroque Wieskirche church. The church's interior is nothing short of wunderbar.

Ludwig, mountains, and baroque places of worship: that's just a hint of Bavaria's touristic pleasures. Enjoy.



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Old Nov 1st, 2003, 06:44 AM
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That whole area is actually quite nice. If you like hiking there are many good hikes around Garmisch. What month are you going? Try to go to a tirolean folk evening. It is fun. Could you break up the train or bus ride and visit Rothenburg?
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Old Nov 1st, 2003, 09:50 AM
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I guess that as a historian and anthropologist my training makes it difficult for me to see one historical era or culture as superior to another based on such factors as age--especially when the main consideration is touristic interest.

Actually, Burg Eltz really is of little historical interest in the sense that nothing of major (and little of minor) importance happened there--even though it is several centuries old. There isn't really much there of human interest either. It is of great architectural interest.

To me, Neuschwanstein is of just as much architectural interest as Burg Eltz, although for very different reasons. Even though it's not of particular major historical interest (like Burg Eltz), its human interest story --the mad King, the monumental wealth, the tragic ending, etc.--far surpasses anything Burg Eltz has to offer.

But this is largely a matter of personal taste and opion. I've seen both. If I absolutely had to choose between the two as a place to visit, I'd take Neuschwanstein, especially with its neighbor, Hohenschwangau castle, being so accessible.

It's getting to be like point/counterpoint in here.
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Old Nov 1st, 2003, 02:06 PM
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Ha, Rufus. Point-Counterpoint I remember well, as well as the SNL parody ("Jane, you ignorant slut...")

Actually, the Eltz tour does a good job of incorporating info on the human side of life and the history of Europe over the centuries there. I remember learning about feudal life and the way the Eltz family interacted with the normal folk outside the walls, the toilet system, the family idiosyncracies and disputes, the succession of rulers in the region across the centuries... all great stories that brought the place alive and put me in touch with history in a way I didn't expect. Aside from Ludwig's fascination with Wagner, I found it much harder to get anything out of the N'stein tour. I attributed my experience to the centuries of real European life Eltz has endured. But perhaps it was just me.

Probably best for AlyxsMom to decide on the possibly more objective evidence from a well-known travel pro. There's a particularly good run-down on N'stein, Marksburg, and Eltz at Rick Steves' page on Germany (see links):

www.ricksteves.com/plan/countries/germ.htm
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Old Nov 1st, 2003, 02:37 PM
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Thank you to everyone for your insights and thoughts!

Budman:
Seriously thinking of staying at that hotel (I am definately a breakfast person!) but I just realized, I have no idea what German's eat for breakfast? What can I expect?

RufusTFirefly:
Thanks for the head's up on Eltz being closed. We are going to be in Germany in Dec.

cparris:
We are going to be there Dec 1 - 14. Breaking the train trip with anywhere interesting would be great so, yes, Rothenburg would do nicely. I need to check the train website and see where it falls between the two.

JonJon:
Why would I not have time to see Herrenchiemsee (I've never heard of it)? If I'm going to take several days to go to that area, I would love to have other places to see while I'm there! Is it very far out of the way?

gottatravel_europe:
Thanks for the info on the kids activities!!!

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