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Ballarat Jan 24th, 2008 02:11 AM

Germany Trip Report
Trip report - Germany 2007
Last year we received much help in planning our trip to Germany from Fodorites Russ, Larryincolorado, badames,Felly, JudyC and many others. A big thank you to everyone who contributed advice which was largely responsible for us enjoying a great tour of almost 7 weeks in Deutschland.
Apologies for not reporting earlier but I hope better late than never and perhaps now is timely for someone considering Germany.
We visited Mainz, Cochem, Wurzburg, , Potsdam, Berlin and Goslar spending most of a week in each city.In addition we did day trips to Bamberg, Rothenburg and Nuremburg. Apart from the flights from and back to Australia we did it all by train and thanks to Larryincolorado mostly on schoene wochenender tickets easily obtainable from automatic machines at stations.

We like to break a journey to Europe and having our son and his family in Singapore is a bonus. We flew Singapore airlines economy class and were extremely pleased with that airline's service.

Well let's start the report.
We stepped off our plane at Frankfurt and without much further ado stepped on to our train at the airport to travel to Mainz where we would stay two nights at the Hotel Koenigshof near the Mainz station. we were very happy with the hotel, 79euros per night including a cooked breakfast and free internet.
Mainz proved to be a very interesting city of beautiful buildings, many restored after war damage, excellent frequent buses and trams going everywhere and taxis if you preferred.
Places we visited and enjoyed included the Dom (St Martin's Cathedral) the Chagall windows at St.Stephen the State Theatre, Schiller Platz where there is an amazing fountain sculptured by Blasius Spreng and portraying 200 carnival characters from the Mainz carnival and so on. We soon realised our stay in Mainz had been too short and resolved to revisit on our way home.
We ate out at Besitos opposite the railway station on the recommendation of our Hotel manager and he was right "tapas and czech beer" very pleasant food in a bistro atmosphere.
Having rested been fed and watered we were now ready to venture further to the Mosel valley and river. Our destination is Cochem which we will reach by train changing trains at Koblenz. The train runs alongside the Rhein for a long way and then alongside the Mosel. Beautiful scenery, castles perched on mountains, pretty villages and lots of river activies.
We are delighted with Cochem. It is a lovely touristy village straddling the Mosel. Our apartment is House Albers (again thanks Fodorites) and our hosts are Lieselotte and her husband.
There is much to do and see in Cochem. The Castle Burg Eltz is reached by train to Moselkern and then by taxi to the Castle. You can hike from the station. It takes one and a half hours but from all accounts if you are younger and fitter than us it is a beautiful hike up the mountain.
We arrived at the Castle in time for an english guided tour which was excellent. The Castle is a stunning sight atop the mountain and surrounded by the Eltz river forming a natural moat. There were lots of school children there at the time and they of course had hiked to the top.
Later that night I spied a charming little Italian Ristorante, "La Violina" in Cochem and it was a winner run by a young enthusiastic couple, Magdalena (Polish) and Helmut (German/Italian).At the end our meal and fine wine Magdalena presented compimentary sweets and she and Helmut joined us for a long and interesting chat. A perfect end to an enjoyable day.
Our apartment hosts became concerned that we had not taken a boat trip (ein Schifffahrt) on the Mosel and so we did and to the recommended village Beilstein. The trip is scenic and peaceful through Mosel river villages, vineyards and farms. When we stepped off the boat at Beilstein we did wonder. It is a very small village. We did our own walking tour and climbed the 108 steps to the Church on top of the hill. It sits on top of a piece of heaven with heavenly views of the Mosel river and valley below. It was a Carmelite complex but now has an outdoor restaurant in addition to the Church. The restaurant takes full advantage of the views and we had delicious soups and of course a glass of wine gazing over a view to die for.
On our final night in Cochem - of course a return visit to Magdalena and Helmut at Ristorante Il Violina. Don't miss it if you are ever in the region. We were sad to leave Cochem and House Albers. I think the apartment set me back 48 euros per night plus 18 cleaning fee. I was to learn that this was very reasonable when compared to what lay ahead. We had our own kitchen and while breakfast was available in the dining room for a modest fee 6.50 euros we were happy to do some shopping in the village and provide our own breakfast.
Next day off to Wurzburg which will become a base for visits to nearby cities.
To be continued.

Surie Jan 24th, 2008 04:20 AM

Ballarat-- this is great, and I am interested in your travels by train. We will be doing some in March.

What did you wonder when you got to Bellstein?

Looking forward to more. Thanks!

lucy_d Jan 24th, 2008 01:38 PM

Thanks for posting. I've enjoyed reading your report. :)

artstuff Jan 24th, 2008 02:18 PM

Ballarat -

Great report so far. Keep it coming. We took a similar trip in October and I've yet to post my trip report. Hopefully your report will give me incentive to get mine done. Waiting for the next installment.

Robyn :)>-

Marko Jan 24th, 2008 02:45 PM

Hi Ballarat !! Another Aussie tagging this one for future reference. ;)

Maudie Jan 24th, 2008 10:48 PM

Great trip report so far Ballarat and ditto what Marko said.

Ballarat Jan 24th, 2008 11:03 PM

I omitted Leipzig from the summary of cities visited.
I don't think I have said that this trip was made in April and May 07. The weather was great, usually in the mid 20s and hardly any rainy days to speak of.
Susie. In answer to your question, Beilstein appeared so small we wondered what we would do until the ferry returned. It was not a problem!
Hi Marko. My email address is [email protected] in case you decide you would like more detailed information.
On Sunday we took a 9am train from Cochem to Koblenz, changed for Frankfurt, changed again for Wurzburg. Sounds difficult? Not in the least. The train system is so good, very little waiting, most busy stations have escalators and/or lifts.
In Wurzburg we stayed hotel Muelenhof for 84 euros per night breakfast included and free internet connection. The hotel was in an inner suburb Versbach reached by a very good bus service or taxi if you prefer. We did not find a need for a taxi.The staff were lovely, the breakfasts excellent and the rooms spacious. It is an older hotel but the nice part we found was it was well patronised by the locals for meals and entertainment.
Two of the major attractions in Wurzburg are The Residence and the Fortress Marienberg. I think they are both world heritage listed. The Residence is the former Princebishop's palace and perhaps apart from the Vatican it would be the most interesting and beautiful palace we have ever visited. Frescoes, rich stuccowork, sculptures, paintings and flemish tapestries everywhere. The entrance is large enough to accommodate several horse drawn carriages leading to a sensational stone staircase above which is a most imposing fresco featuring the four civilisations of the world. That is all about impressing the visiting Princebishops and royalties from other parts! Now it is owned by the public and our visits help pay for its upkeep. We enjoyed an excellent tour led by a most informative and articulate guide speaking in German and then in English.
The Residence has its own beautiful church and extensive gardens. We were there in Spring. Plenty of WOW there was.
Then there is the Fortress Marienberg sitting on the highest hill above the city providing magnificent views. The armoury within the fort is well worth visiting for the history of the area is well presented including a large model of the city as it was after being flattened by the war.
As mentioned earlier we made Wurzburg a base from which we could do day trips to Roethenberg, Bamberg and Nuremberg.
The barbecue is ready so those towns will be covered next time. I was quite excited to get feedback from the first post.

Ballarat Jan 25th, 2008 02:48 PM

Our first day trip from Wurzburg was to Rothenburg ob der Tauber. Accurately described as a mediaeval gem. We enjoyed a one and half hour guided tour of the city by Daniel. The city has its origins in the 6th century!
After the tour we visited Kathe Wohlfahrt which houses the largest collection of Christmas decorations worldwide and year round. Jo was in raptures and regrets not having bought more and shipped it home.
We took some time out and enjoyed a cheese platter and wine in a beautiful old garden adjacent to St.Jacob's Church.
A must see in Rothenburg is the Imperial City Museum which is located in a former Dominican Priory. About 60 nuns resided here until the reformation in 1544. The original kitchen has been preserved and displays fascinating methods for washing up, disposal of garbage and an ingenious device which revolved to the outside to supply food to beggars and pilgrims. The nuns followed harsh rules of St. Augustine. Only light meals, meat was frowned upon as being suspected of arousing sexual desires. On the other hand a generous allowance of 2 gallons of wine was provided to each. We don't know if that was for a day, a week or ?.
Rothenburg had an official hangman in those days and the hanging pit is preserved. The families of the hanged are said to have had to provide the rope! Daniel told the stories of the hangman in a very entertaining manner!
Next day we journeyed by train to Bamberg. It is a lovely ancient city not really affected by the war. We used an audio guide for a 2 hour tour of the city which is on the river Regnitz. The old town hall is built on an island in the middle of the river and is reached by bridges from either side which lead underneath and through the Alt Rathaus. Very unusual and oft photographed. We found a Spanish restaurant (Bolero) where we were served by two gorgeous young ladies, one from Turkey the other from Afghanistan. We enjoyed some good tapas washed down with a spanish wine that cost 3 times the food.
One could profitably spend more than one day in Bamberg. It is a very pretty and hospitable town.
Later that week we headed by train to Nuremburg. We had spent time there on a previous holiday and wished to return to visit the Documentation Centre at the old Nazi Party Rally Grounds. There is a permanent exhibition "Fascination and Terror" which covers the rise of the Nazi Party and Hitler from 1923 until and including the Nuremburg Trials. The exhibition pulls no punches and is a must see for anyone wanting to understand Germany in those years.
Nuremburg was flattened at the end of the war. It has been faithfully rebuilt with major help from U.S.A.
When planning our Germany holiday we asked Fodorites for suggestions for a base and Wurzburg came forward. We loved Wurzburg and we hope to return one day. We were there on the anniversary of VE day but there were no celebrations going on there!
Now to Leipzig. We tried to do our longer train travel at weekends using the Schoene Wochenende Ticket which is easily obtained from automatic ticketing machines at the stations. For about 30 euros (it varies slightly according to regions I think) and for that up to 5 people can travel at the weekend anywhere in Germany. We were only 2 but it still represented very good value. The ticket will not let you on the ICE trains but that was not a problem for us. We enjoyed seeing a lot of beautiful countryside from the excellent regional trains (RE). It seems all the rivers are huge and no shortage of water. The crops would make Aussie farmers jealous.
As we approached Leipzig we noticed the run down appearance of many buildings which is I suppose a hangover from the old East German regime. Our hotel in Leipzig is the Vierjahreszeiten (Four Seasons) at 76 Euros per night and fruhstuck (breakfast) not included.
The big surprise when you arrive by train in Leipzig is the Bahnhof (raiway station). It was redeveloped in the 90s and houses two hundred shops,two supermarkets, numerous restaurants and food outlets on several levels.
Our hotel was nearby so all this was very convenient. One of the shops was a wine shop and as you have probably already noted we enjoy trying wines as we travel. This shop stocks wines from all over the world. I couldn't resist and purchased one french, one spanish and one italian. When I got back to the hotel to show Jo these treasures she exclaimed "Where do you think you are going to drink those?" I realised she was right. There are no BYO restaurants in Germany as far as we had seen. I did get refusals but one Asian and one Italian agreed to open them for us to have with our dinner.
We took a bus city tour of Leipzig which was a good thing to do to know where the attractions are. Unfortunately the tour guide was not up to the standards we were used to but the tour served its purpose for us. Leipzig has been a beautiful elegant city much devoted to music and the Arts. Many famous composers spent much of their lives here including Bach, Mendelssohn and Wagner. The tour finished at St.Thomas Church where Bach had been the Cantor of the famous St.Thomas boys choir for 27 years.
We roamed the streets admiring the gracious old buildings, some having been renovated and others still derelict.
One of the travel things I do is jump on public transport with the locals and get a view of the cities from that perspective. We usually end up at a terminus! I asked some people which tram would provide an interesting journey. An animated conversation ensued involving us and three transport staff members until a more senior officer type arrived and asked could he also help. He knew some english and I speak a little German so he took us to buy suitable tickets and then to our surprise decided to join us for our "tour". He was obviously a frustrated tour guide and he was wonderful explaining everywhere to us as we travelled on the beautiful trams they have. That was until he received a call to get back to his job which was apparently to help the disabled and elderly not the tourists! Before he did so he told us about the new fair grounds (the Messe). Leipzig is also famous for its trade and other fairs which apparently date back to the 13th century. So he put us on the tram to take us to the fair ground which is hundreds of hectares housing large halls, conference centres, accommodation and exhibition buildings. Very impressive.
It had been a big day and we relaxed that night at "La Dolce Vita" a lovely Italian restaurant in a lively part of the town near the old market place. They kindly agreed to allow me to bring in my last remaining bottle being the spanish red. For anyone interested it was a Barzagoso Rioja Reserva 2002 and worth waiting for!
At La Dolce Vita Jo tried truffles for her first and she says last time. She thought they were a real let down.
Later that week we returned to St.Thomas Church to hear the boys choir sing at a "Motette in der Thomaskirsche". This evening was one of the highlights of our trip.
The restaurant that night was Osteris Don Camillo & Peppone and the wine was Rocca Dolcetto D'Alba 2003. Very pleasant indeed. Our next city is Potsdam.

Toucan2 Jan 25th, 2008 02:58 PM

Wonderful report! Thank you for a very interesting read. Looking forward to more.

TexasAggie Jan 25th, 2008 03:29 PM

Glad to hear you enjoyed Wurzburg :-) I studied there briefly in 2001 and have returned several times over the past several years. The Residenz really is just stunning. Did you see any of the resident hedgehogs running around in the Court Gardens behind the palace?

Maudie Jan 25th, 2008 04:23 PM

Happy Australia Day to you Ballarat!
Really enjoying your report as we are looking at going to Germany/Austria in April 2009 and wish to travel by train so we don't have the hassle of driving on the "wrong" side of the road.

Surie Jan 25th, 2008 05:43 PM

Thanks, Ballarat! This is great!

KL467 Jan 26th, 2008 08:29 AM


Ballarat Jan 26th, 2008 11:54 PM

Texas Aggie. No we did not see the hedgehogs at The Residence! What a pity. Might have to go back!

From Wurzburg we trained to Potsdam with a change of trains at Magdeburg. Pleasant 3 hour train trip. We stayed at Mercure hotel Potsdam. Near the station, friendly and efficient staff. The hotel overlooks the Havel river a very nice interesting view. Room was small but very new so that perhaps compensates. The daily charge was between 80 and 90 euros varying according to days of the week. Breakfast not included but free internet in the foyer. Excellent dining room and very good breakfast available which we had on a few occasions.
On our first night we had dinner at the hotel. Argentinian Ox and Mendoza red. Me gusta mucho!
We spent two days at Potsdam's major tourist attraction Sanssouci. 290 hectares of castles, palaces, gardens, woods, statuary and sculptures. It certainly is right up there with the best highlights of our trip. We have not been to Versailles so cannot compare.
Sanssouci was neglected during the Soviet rule but now Germany is pouring millions into it to save it for future generations.
Arriving back at our hotel one night we noticed some commotion by the river and the adjoining park. Three large river ships were moored at the wharf and were being boarded by tourists who had spent the preceding hours in Potsdam. It is apparently a regular event. The Potsdam Philharmonic Youth Orchestra entertained the boarding passengers with an extended performance.
We took a river cruise ourselves on an old steamship Gustav You get a different perspective of cities from the river and we enjoyed this trip very much. I even got myself an invitation down to the engine room where the hard work is feeding coal to the boiler.
We visited Babelsburg near Potsdam but found little of interest.
Potsdam we felt was in a fluid state. Major works, soviet style box buildings, new facilities. We loved it as it is now but it may be even better in a few more years. The sound of police sirens through the night and an abundant police presence suggests some problems to overcome.
We found a quaint italian restaurant by the railway station in a cylindrical very old water tower (Wasserturm) where a friendly Sicilian is cook, waiter, everything. We enjoyed him and his food so much we went back a second night.
Now to the much awaited visit to Berlin. We had visited Berlin in 2003. This time we stayed at HSH (Home Sweet Home) apartments in Invalidenstrasse, Mitte. We really enjoyed this apartment with its large bedroom, lounge and dining, beautiful bathroom and washing machines, dryers and ironing free in the basement. Free internet at reception. I think it was about 100 Euros per night breakfast not included. The apartment was fully serviced, had a pleasant bar downstairs, breakfast available in the dining room and friendly helpful staff.
There is much to relate about our stay in Berlin so I will leave that till next time.

Ballarat Jan 27th, 2008 05:24 PM

While in Berlin we visited Hackescher Markt a famous old area of Berlin, full of little courtyards, shops, cafes etc. Well worth a visit.
The old National Gallery, the Bode Museum and the Egyptian Museum are all close to each other on museum island. There buildings are exquisite as are their contents. Nearby is the Berliner Dom Cathedral. They are all must visits!
The highlights for me were the large collection of impressionist painters, Rodin's "The Thinker" and the original bust of Nefrititi from the tomb.
For Jo the highlight I think was the Cathedral and the spooky hohenzollern crypt and sarcophagi located downstairs.
The idea for creating this island of museums came from Kaiser Wilhelm IV who also had much to do with Park Sanssouci at Potscam. We think Wilhelm was a clever bloke!
We did the other usual tourist things. City bus hop on hop off tour was good, Unter den Linden Strasse, Brandenburg Gate, KaDeWe store, walked through lovely Charlottenburg attractions, Checkpoint Charlie, Potsdamer Platz and so on. We visited Alexander Platz and thought it was awful. (beggars, street hawkers, punks and rather savage looking dogs).
We dined in a number of places, all good but would particularly recommend the two "12 Apostels" restaurants (italian fare).
There is a museum of old boats down on the Spree which would only be of interest to some. You can go on board and have light refreshments. While on one of these boats we had a most interesting conversation with a retired business man who spent his early childhood right there. He related how he and his friends used to swim right where we were. One of those young friends was Jewish and he remembers his mother one day instructing him not to play with that boy any more. Whenever he tried to get an explanation why, his mother would put her finger to her lips indicating not to speak of it. He insists his mother was anything but racist and was trying to protect her son out of fear for him. We had a long and for me informative and enjoyable chat about those times past in Germany. When we parted he said "my friends will not believe I have been talking to an Australian couple of our age and in Deutsch!" I took that as a compliment.
Surie if you only have four days in Berlin you do not need to look for somewhere else.
We reluctantly left Berlin behind to visit the Hartz region and time was running out before having to be in Frankfurt for our flight home.

MissJane111 Jan 28th, 2008 02:28 AM

Hello Ballarat, from Tassie. Thanks for the great post - we are only going to a few of the places you visited, but the whole post was really interesting and helpful - I love to get the details! It sounds like you had a fabulous time. We go in May, and I keep tantalising myself by reading reports such as yours - I can hardly wait!

SandyBrit Jan 28th, 2008 02:45 AM


I have just started reading this morning and will finish this evening after work.

Well done with great detail. Thank you so much for taking the time to share.


marginal_margiela Jan 28th, 2008 04:22 AM

Please use paragraphs. Your report is VERY difficult to read. I usually skip over reports that aren't written in paragraph form.

Thank you,

Surie Jan 28th, 2008 04:58 AM

Ballarat-- my question had been for the 2 nights before we get to Berlin. I love the city and am excited to have the time there.

Also loved the part of the Harz Mts that I've seen so I'm looking forward to hearing about your visit.


annhig Jan 28th, 2008 05:29 AM

hi ballarat,

your post is so interesting, despite the lack of paragraphs [LOL] as you have been both to places we have been to and places we haven't. your tastes seem pretty similar to ours so I'm getting a good idea of what to see in Leipzig and Postdam.

looking forward to more,

regards, ann

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