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Amazing Two Week Family Vacation to Germany, Czech Republic and Austria


Aug 22nd, 2012, 12:44 PM
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Amazing Two Week Family Vacation to Germany, Czech Republic and Austria

Amazing Two Week Family Vacation to Germany, Czech Republic and Austria

We have been home for just over a week, but the trip still seems like a marvelous dream that is so fresh in my memory. Our family has been fortunate to take several wonderful vacations that I have documented on this board, but this is our first European vacation since 2009. Our sons – previously nicknamed The Scholar (now age 17) and Lunatic Maximus (now age 14) are so active and busy with their own lives. My husband – previously named Mario from our Italy 2007 trip – and I enjoyed every minute of having our boys captive in Europe.

The Scholar is entering his senior year of high school so we let him choose our destination. He chose Germany and we added a little trip into the Czech Republic and Austria. Honestly and truly, this trip surpassed all of my expectations and was marvelous in every way. I would redo every single aspect of our trip again and again!

I am so grateful to the advice I received on this board as well as the trip reports posted by many. Once again, I have to apologize in advance for the overuse of words like amazing, spectacular and magical - those words truly sum up the trip and I still feel the effects of the special pixie dust!

Day One: Frankfurt and Rothenburg ob der Tauber

We arrive into Heathrow on August 1 via British Airways – the eyes of the world are on London with the Olympics going on and it is exciting to be there just for a few hours. We have a brief layover and board the BA flight to Frankfurt. Both flights are perfect and luggage makes the trip with us (after not getting out luggage on another trip, this is something I will never take for granted again).

We arrive in Frankfurt at 1:00 p.m., easily clear customs, eagerly get the stamps on our passports and pick up our Hertz rental car which we arranged with Andy at Gemut ([email protected]) – I can’t say enough nice things about working with Andy. He was helpful, quick to respond and his pricing was significantly better than anything I could find through my local agent. We have a Hyundai four door wagon for our little adventure – spacious and efficient and apparently able to go into the Czech Republic. We also have packed our trusty Garmin with us, but the wagon does have navigation (which we occasionally turn on when the Garmin loses satellite – though we never figure out how to change the voice to English - smile).

Mario immediately adjusts to driving on the autobahn – actually I think this may have been his favorite part of the trip. The boys sprawl out in the backseat and dose off, but not before Lunatic Maximus notices the Ausfahrt signs and chuckles about this for the next two weeks (its good to be on a trip with boys).
Two hours later, Mario delivers us to the most enchanting Medieval village ever – Rothenburg ob der Tauber. I almost deleted this little village off our trip a dozen times – I was so worried about making the drive immediately after landing from the U.S., I questioned if it was worth two nights, etc. Let me say – if I had to return to the U.S. after our two days in Rothenburg, it would have been worth it. We all immediately fell in love with this picturesque gingerbread town.

We drive right up to the Eisenhut Hotel (www.eisenhut.com). This hotel was admittedly a bit of a spurge, but after reading about it in Travel + Leisure, I just had to book it and it did not disappoint. It was indeed a treat to stay in this hotel which was once a grand home in the middle ages. After getting settled into the hotel, we go in search of our first German meal – we are now ravenous! We walk along the cobblestoned streets, the sun is shining high in the sky and the village is simply enchanting – we are completely enamored. We procure an outside table at Alter Keller (www.rothenburg-restaurant.de) – we have an enormous meal of pork tenderloin, rib eye steak, red cabbage, potato dumplings etc. and the local pilsner beer – wonderful and the service was friendly and charming. What a beautiful way to start our first day! We walk back through the narrow streets in search of ice cream – the boys are tired, but delightful and happy. It is a magical time in a magical place.
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Aug 22nd, 2012, 01:34 PM
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I'm along on the adventure! Can't wait to read the rest.
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Aug 22nd, 2012, 02:45 PM
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Rothenburg always makes a good first stop IMO. We've been there a half dozen times and never get tired of it.

Looking forward to hearing more about your trip.
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Aug 22nd, 2012, 06:52 PM
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Looking forward to more!
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Aug 22nd, 2012, 07:21 PM
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Can't wait to hear the rest of the story!
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Aug 22nd, 2012, 07:57 PM
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also looking forward to more!
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Aug 22nd, 2012, 08:26 PM
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A great start! Happily remembering a lovely town called Rothenburg, and waiting for more!
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Aug 23rd, 2012, 12:44 PM
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Great start! We're planning a Germany trip for fall 2013 so I'll be reading this for ideas
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Aug 24th, 2012, 12:03 PM
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Thank you for your kind encouragement.

Day Two: Rothenburg ob der Tauber

While the temperature is warm during the day, the temps drop considerably at night. We sleep very comfortably with the windows open but are grateful for the fan in each room. Our rooms are not adjoining, but our balcony is – we are awakened to Lunatic Maximum tapping on our balcony door. He can’t sleep any more and is enthralled by our view of the city wall and surrounding Tauber valley. While breakfast is not included in the price of rooms at the Eisenhut, we decide to have breakfast on the hotel’s beautiful balcony and the breakfast is extensive with freshly made waffles, and 3 or 4 separate buffet bars, etc.. The morning is beautiful and leisurely.

After breakfast, we stroll into the market square and in and out of little shops. The boys are captivated by the sword shop (/www.waffenkammer-online.de) they turn into 5 year olds and begin roll playing any character from movies, books, TV that ever handled a sword – they are Obi Wan Kenobi and the Three Musketeers all rolled into one. They reluctantly leave the sword shop – a bit later, I remind them that their grandparents wanted them to pick out something they really wanted on this trip and they would give it to them as a present. With a gleam in their eyes, they look at each other and then at me and then simultaneously say “the sword store” and we immediately start walking back. Their swords choose them in a sort of Harry Potter/Hogwarts ritual and before we know it, two swords are being shipped back to the United States – they are thrilled.

At 2:00 we meet Claudia in the market center for a 90 minute walking tour around town (this is a standard tour which does not require being rearranged – just show up, go on the tour and pay a nominal fee following the tour – great tour and great value - www.rothenburg.de). We learn about Rothenburg’s amazing history – walk along the city wall, through the gates into the gardens and we marvel at the picture perfect Hansel and Gretle architecture and incredible history. The town is so congenial and just a very happy place to visit.

Following the tour, the boys and I climb to the top of the tower (not for the faint of heart) and enjoy a gorgeous view of the town and the valley below. Then we sojourn to the criminology museum where we take photos in the stocks and ooh and ahh at medieval torture devices – morbidly interesting.

By dinner time, we are starving again (actually two teenage boys are ALWAYS starving) and we are waiting at the delightful Burgerkeller Famile Terian when it opens – many people have posted about this restaurant before us – it was really great. We were greeted by the owner, his mother was in the kitchen and we enjoyed a feast of brats, pork tenderloin, cordon blue, potato dumplings etc. and in a very charming environment – incredible!

We stroll back into the market square right at 8:00 p.m. for the Night Watchman’s Tour – as we walk up to the crowd, a gentleman is standing beside the obvious Night Watchman speaking to the crowd – he is telling them that following the tour, he would be happy to give autographs and pose for photos, but during the course of the tour, he and his camera crew are just on the tour like everyone else. As we walks into the crowd, I realize it is Rick Steves – I say this to Mario – and Lunatic Maximum (now standing right next to Rick Steves) says, “Who is Rick Steves?” When I don’t answer the question (because he’s standing right next to us) – Lunatic Maximus continues to ask the question two more times, getting louder each time (geez). Anyway, Rick Steves seems just like you would imagine – very nice, interested in all things travel and is an engaged member of our tour.

The Night Watchman’s Tour is awesome – my husband said he reminded him of Gene Wilder in the “Bride of Frankenstein” and my entire family start to talk in his odd speech pattern throughout the rest of the trip. The Night Watchman is fun, informative and makes the village history come to life as the sun is setting. The town is even more enchanting as the full moon rises over the village and we walk along the walls. We truly love this little town. Mario and I drop into hell www.hoell.rothenburg.de for a night cap while the boys are throwing Frisbee in the market square and listening to the bells. We wake up and go to sleep to the sound of the bells – what a beautiful sound!
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Aug 24th, 2012, 12:42 PM
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I agree that R od T is a magical place. I popped in there on a whim once and grabbed the shabbiest room (only one I could afford at the time) yet had the time of my life. That was 20 years ago and I've now had 5 more visits to Germany! Waiting eagerly for more about your travels.
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Aug 24th, 2012, 01:22 PM
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Kimi, I am giggling as I read your report. I recently posted our trip report to Italy with our sons ages 17 and 14. We had almost an identical episode involving a gladiator helmet. Something about traveling seems to really capture their imaginations!

Thanks for sharing your trip!
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Aug 24th, 2012, 01:41 PM
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I'm loving your report. I stayed at the Eisenhut in 2006 and thought it was wonderful. My room was on the top (gabled) floor and faced the street and town hall.

I haven't been to Hoell, but I took a photo of the very interesting tiny 3-wheeled BMW car from Hoell. It was rather wedge-shaped, and the single door was the front of the car. The logo from Hoell was painted on the side.
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Aug 24th, 2012, 02:06 PM
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Hi Kimi,

Great report! Thanks so much for taking the time to write it. We loved Rothenburg, had dinner at the Alter Keller and thought the Nightwatchman Tour was the highlight of our stay. After getting home, we ordered his DVD online. Should have just bought it while we were there.

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Aug 24th, 2012, 02:58 PM
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You make me want to go back!
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Aug 25th, 2012, 02:20 PM
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Day Three: Rothenburg ob der Tauber and Prague

We all sleep peacefully through the night and wake to the sounds of the bells in our medieval village – ahhhhh. Once again, we indulge in waffles, freshly squeezed orange juice, eggs bacon and sausage overlooking the Tauber valley – so serene.

We pack up our little wagon and head to the Czech Republic. I must admit – I’m not sure what to expect on this little leg of our journey – the entire place is a bit of an enigma to me, but I am cautious mostly because the car rental agencies were so iffy on wanting to rent a vehicle to go there. Right before we get to the border, we stop to fuel up and the boys stock up on kinder bars and Toblerones – so funny. Roughly four hours after leaving Rothenburg, the GPS delivers us safely to the Hotel Pariz (www.hotel-paris.cz). Honestly, this hotel was not my first choice. I tried to book at the Savic Hotel (www.savic.eu/en/home) but they were already booked. The Hotel Pariz worked out nicely – was very comfortable, with a nice staff, ample breakfast, free Wifi in common areas and about 15 -20 minute walk to the Charles Bridge and surrounded by limitless amenities (including a Starbucks – smile). The architecture is elegant – rooms and bathrooms are nicely appointed and spacious. I would absolutely recommend this hotel, however if I were returning to Prague, I would probably book a hotel a little closer to the Charles Bridge and Prague Castle.

We get settled into our rooms then begin to twist and turn our way to the Charles Bridge. As we walk through the mammoth gate of the bridge – looking up at Prague castle and cathedral – the beauty is almost ethereal. Once again, I am in love with a new location. We cross the bridge and take the stairs down below – we have the perfect table waiting for us at Kampa Park (www.kampagroup.com) to celebrate our arrival into Prague. The weather and night are spectacular and we are sitting by the river with a perfect view of the bridge. We enjoy great food, wine, service – the evening is perfect. As we walk back toward the bridge, we stop for ice cream (what a wonderful tradition) and we linger on the bridge listening to a cello quartet (www.pcq.cz/en and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YFeI2...eature=related). The Scholar particularly loves the cello quartet – we are enjoying the magic of Prague. Reluctantly, we leave the bridge – twist and turn our way back to the hotel and are excited to explore the city even more tomorrow!
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Aug 25th, 2012, 04:19 PM
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Thanks for a great report. Awesome that you got to meet Rick Steves.

You have such a wonderfully positive and enthusiastic attitude towards everything. No wonder it has been a wonderful trip!

Looking forward to hearing more of your adventures.
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Aug 26th, 2012, 02:50 AM
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Nice report. We've dined a couple of times at Hotel Pariz and wondered how it would be to stay there. Glad you liked it. Love the Art Nouveau details.
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Aug 26th, 2012, 05:39 PM
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Day Four: Prague

We enjoy a lovely breakfast with several buffet stations and made to order omelets and we are ready to discover Prague! Before the trip, I had reached out to [email protected] to arrange a personal guide and she connected us with Veronika.

Veronika is delightful, passionate about her city and overflowing with knowledge. We collectively decide to focus our 3 hours together on our side of the Charles Bridge and I do believe we may have covered every inch of the Old Town. We view the gothic and Art Nouveau architecture on our way to the astrological clock – which is so incredible that is unfathomable that they would have had the ability to create something so complex 600 years ago! We continue onto the Jewish Quarter where “80,000 human beings were rounded up and exterminated by the Nazis” – hard to believe such atrocities. While we are well aware of history, it is haunting to be where it happened and so disturbing to think of words like “rounded up” and “exterminated” in reference to human beings.

We simply marvel at the history of Prague and how it survived countless obstacles throughout time. As we walk along the streets, I particularly love the signs above the doors: blue lion, golden angel, red lion, two fish, blue dragon, green frog and even the executioner! As we leave Veronika, we walk back to the astrological clock to watch it on the hour – all 12 apostles make their appearance – the sins of vanity, greed and lust along with the skeleton nodding at them all that their time is running out – and the rooster announcing each new day – phenomenal!

We walk back toward the hotel and discover an underground network of shops: pharmacy, convenience store, juicer, Starbucks and such. For dinner, we walk back near the Bethlehem chapel and the hanging man sculpture to Svejk Restaurant www.uzelenehostromu.eu/EN/main - we love this place! We arrive just as the Czech women are facing up against the Brazilians in beach volleyball (is this every male’s favorite Olympic sport?) – so of course, we cheer on the Czechs! The Scholar has the pig’s knee – which has a very grand presentation and he loves it! We also have the ribs, goulash, salmon and Czech Pilsner beer (which is fantastic). While we are there, we are also able to cheer Michael Phelps on to Gold – great and festive night! We go in search of ice cream on our way to the Charles Bridge to enjoy the cellists and energy of Prague at night! Our weather is perfect – the full moon is hanging low in the sky – we have another phenomenal day!
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Sep 4th, 2012, 01:13 PM
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Sorry for my delay. Here is my next post:

Day Five: Prague

My sweet Mario begins my day with a Venti Non Fat Latte from the nearby Starbucks – it really is just the little things in life! Veronika had a family commitment today, so our guide today is Marketa. She is equally passionate about her city, delightful and informed. I only wish we had spent a bit more time with her because we covered a lot of territory in a very short period of time, but she could not extend her time with us.

We meet Marketa at our hotel and walk up to the bus station to take the bus across the river, up the hill to the monastery. What a beautiful place to start our day and gorgeous view of the city! We walk this area for the next few hours – down to Prague castle and cathedral, say a prayer at St. Nicholas church, picked up a yummy round cinnamon pastry and enjoy the history and stories of the city. We say good bye to Marketa near the Charles Bridge where we spend a little more time. We sit and enjoy crepes near Kampa Park and just enjoy a lazy afternoon and a little people watching. We meander around this area then we hire one of the red Skota convertibles to take us back up to the monastery. Along the way, the driver stops and reiterates many of the stories we previous heard from Marketa. We stop at the palace and there is no one there – we take photos in the convertible as if the boys are driving us in front of the palace – nice memories.

The Skota takes us back up the monastery and we walk to Bellavista (www.bella-vista.cz) for dinner – which of course, is a beautiful view. We relax, enjoy a glass of wine and the view. The Scholar has the roast, Lunatic has the pasta Bolognese, Mario has the pasta with garlic butter and I have the pasta with pesto sauce. We all enjoy the meal immensely, love the panoramic view and agree that it is the perfect place to spend our last night in Prague. As we leave Bellavista, the streets are almost empty, we walk back to the castle and take photos around the cathedral – we are the only people there. We continue down toward the river and enjoy listening not only to the cellists, but to someone playing a didgeridoo, a bluegrass band, a soprano soloist - we love the Charles Bridge – it is another magical evening and no one wants to leave. We finally call it a night and pick up ice cream as we walk back to our hotel. Everyone is jovial, relaxed and enjoying every minute of our time together.
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Sep 4th, 2012, 01:22 PM
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Wonderful report, and I'm looking forward to more. Can you tell us how the weather was in the cities you visited as well, please?
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