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Trip Report Germany Trip Report - Family of 4 with 2 teens

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We just returned from our 12 day trip to Germany (including travel time). Thanks to everyone on this forum who helped me plan it. To level set for others planning their trip in the future, we are a family of four....adults in their late 40s, teenagers 15 (DS) and 17 (DD).

Day 1: We flew US Air via Philadephia to Munich. I originally booked this flight through Orbitz back in April but at the time the seat selection was acting flaky so I booked the flight without seats and told myself I'd follow up on it later. $1400/ticket. Unfortunately I didn't look at my reminder notes until 2 weeks before the trip and when I called to get seats, they said that we'd have to sit in 4 different places scattered throughout the plane...or we could pay $30 extra a seat and sit together in a "premium" row. We did because it's a long trip not to be able to sit together. There was nothing premium about this row. It was exactly like almost every other row in coach. As soon as we booked it, I'm sure another "premium" row opened up. I was glad we got to sit together but the nickel-and-diming that the airlines are doing these days is driving me nuts.

We ate in Philadelphia, even though we weren't terribly hungry, not knowing if they were going to feed us on the plane, and hoping to escape airline food even if they did. The plane flight was pretty good. All the seats had their own video on demand screens so it helped time pass quickly. We tried to sleep but as always never can.

We arrived in Munich at about 8:10 AM and took the S to a U to a short cab ride to get to our hotel. I didn't realize the airport train was part of the subway system so we ended up buying 1-way train passes and then later had to buy multi-day passes to the subway. As a "do over", we'd buy the multi-day passes at the airport and be set for the rest of our stay.

We stayed at the Holiday Inn Schwabing, arriving about 10:30 AM. It was an unadventurous hotel looking like every other Holiday Inn but it was only 86E a night to sleep 4 on a weekend so a deal. It was an ok, not great location. It was a 10-minute walk to the subway and then 4 stops on the U to Marienplatz. There was a tram that ran to the hotel that you could ride to the subway but we never tried to figure out its schedule...seemed easier to walk.

We checked in easily, dropped off our baggage in our room, and then took the subway/train to see Dachau. It probably took about 40 minutes to get to Dachau. DS and DD slept en route. We ate at a pizza place there...probably the only one...and got gelato. Very good. Then we caught the bus to the memorial site. I was actually kind of disappointed in Dachau. I expected it to be more moving from others' posts. It may be that I have read so extensively about the holocaust that nothing really affected me. Very little is really still intact. Half of the buildings standing turn out to be memorial chapels built after the fact when you get close to them. Only the foundations of the original barracks are left. We stayed a couple of hours, toured the prison cells and the single reconstructed barracks, read a lot of information, watched the movie (DH fell asleep) and walked the full circuit.

At this time, it was only about 4:30PM. Everyone was exhausted but I was trying to push them to stay awake until at least 7PM to get on Germany time so we stopped off at Marienplatz on the way home. We watched the glockenspiel (at 5PM I think) and climbed to the top of St. Peter's church to see the view. We headed home and crashed.

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    Day 3: Day 1 was really "Day 1/Day 2". Even though we made it to bed about 8, we slept until about 8:30 the next morning and only roused because DH, DS, and DD wanted to run before we started our day.

    Another reason I had booked the Holiday Inn was to try to be close to the English Garden to give them a good place to run. It turns out that it's a little too far from there. Their run (about a 4-5 mile loop) only got them to the edge of it. The great thing though is that Munich (and Germany) has awesome bike paths. They are everywhere and everyone takes advantage of them. Although it takes a little learning at first when you're walking to stay out of the bike path. Because it's smoother than the walking path which runs beside it, you naturally migrate towards it. There were tons of people biking just to do their regular business and the paths turned out to be a great place to run also. One interesting thing about Germany is that people obey their walk/don't walk signs. In the US, they seem to be more of a suggestion than a law. Also, biking seems to be all about function in Munich and not about "healthy exercise". You'll see lots of folks biking along smoking cigarettes.

    After running and showering, we went off in search of breakfast. The Holiday Inn serves a buffet breakfast but at 23E a person, it was a little too rich for us. We walked about 5 minutes down the street towards the subway to an awesome pastry shop where we all ate (and drank) for 13E total. Germany has awesome pastries....much better than the wursts. Stop in one at least once a day to truly enjoy your vacation.

    After breakfast, we headed back to Marienplatz and then to the
    Isator to rent bikes. We rode bikes in the English Garden for a couple of hours. It was a gorgeous sunny day in the high 70s/low 80s. Tons of clothed and unclothed folks enjoying the sunshine but the unclothed folks are far enough away that it's still family-friendly. There are tons of paths through the English Garden. We boringly stuck to the main one so as not to get lost. On our way back, we stopped at the Beer Garden with the Pagoda and ate sausages and roasted potatoes. Lots of folks here...a very good atmosphere.

    On our way out of the English Garden, we stopped off and saw the surfers on the Isar river. Lots of teenagers were also floating with the current down the river. We didn't have bathing suits but if we had brought them, it would have been something the kids would have enjoyed doing.

    We rode back to the bike rental store, turned in our bikes, and poked our heads into the Hofbrauhaus which was close by. It was the middle of the afternoon so it was pretty quiet in there.

    Next we took the train to Herrsching to hike to Andechs Monastery thinking we'd get a snack and dessert there. It was a long endeavor...taking us about 5 hours round trip. About an hour to get there on the train each way, an hour to hike there and back, and some time at the monastery. The hike was pleasant enough. You have to follow "little bitty" signs through the town to get to the trail to Andechs. They're very easy to miss. The trail is a very nice, fairly easy hike through the woods and fields. The monastery when you arrive is ok as a destination for a hike but nothing special in and of itself. Another pretty church (among lots of pretty churches in Europe). We ate a pretzel and got some beers, even though we're not big beer drinkers. My travel book had talked about getting apple strudel as a dessert there and we were imagining something hot and fresh but they only had the generic snack cakes you see at stands around Munich.

    After our snack, we decided we'd like to catch the bus back to town rather than hike back only to see the last bus for the day pass as we got there. Oh well....back down the path.

    Back in Munich, we stopped for a gelato in Marienplatz. (The previous night we had stopped for a fruit smoothie. These are like they make in the US...but they unfortunately skip the ice.) Back to the hotel and bed after that.

    Some notes on Munich:
    1) This town feels incredibly safe. You don't feel like you have to chain your wallet in your pocket and you see lots of bikes left unlocked.
    2) Subway tickets seem to be a suggestion. We hardly saw anyone buying a subway ticket and you don't need a ticket to get onto the platform. They supposedly check them sometimes and fine you if you don't have a ticket...but we never saw any checking going on.
    3) The city center is nice but unless you're going to tour some museums, you can probably see it all in an hour.

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    >lots of bikes left unlocked.
    I had 2 bikes stolen in 3 years, always properly locked.
    >Subway tickets seem to be a suggestion.
    People use weekly or monthly tickets. They'll send you a new ticket every month by mail. No need to buy from a machine.

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    Day 4: Up early this morning to run. Breakfast at our yummy pastry shop. Then back to the hotel to pick up our car from Hertz. This was yet another good thing about the Holiday Inn - it had a Hertz office right there. DH was bummed to have to pass up a BMW sedan for a Hyundai station wagon but thought the latter would be better for out luggage. It was a compact station wagon but fit our 4 pieces of luggage well (2 large, 2 medium). It was also a manual which DH hasn't driven in about 20 years so getting out of the steeply inclined Holiday Inn parking lot was an adventure.

    We headed off to Berchtesgaden to the Alpenhotel Garni Weiherbach. An uneventful drive. We had our Garmin with European maps (Thanks Paul!) which was absolutely vital. If you're going to drive between small towns, this is a must. I had printed out maps/instructions for getting between our destinations also in case the Garmin decided not to work but if we had tried to follow those, I'm pretty sure we would be divorced now.

    The Alpenhotel Garni Weiherbach was a fine hotel..although you must drive to town or walk a really long way. It is on the same road as the Salt Mines parking. We had a suite with 2 bedrooms and a small kitchenette..about $200/ only. After checking in, we headed to the Eisriesenwelt ice caves in Austria. These were about 40 minutes away. Not sure if it's the only way to go but Garmin took us from Berchtesgaden to Hallein on very steep, narrow 1-lane roads with 2-way traffic..another adventure.

    Right by the ice caves is Hohenwerfen Castle. We didn't get to see it because we only had time for the caves but it looked really cool, especially views from the top, and would have been cool to see. If anyone else is doing a trip like this, I'd recommend getting an early start and combining both the castle and the ice caves in one day.

    The road to the ice caves was supposed to be really steep so we parked in the parking lot at the base and took a shuttle up. Most people drove up so it's doable but DH was still not feeling confident enough with his manual to assure we wouldn't fall off a cliff.

    At the top, we bought our tickets, and then hiked 15 minutes to a gondola. At the top of the gondola was a restaurant where we stopped and ate...good food and great views. After that another 15 minute hike to the caves themselves. The hike was strenuous since it was an incline but very doable. We saw all ages of folks who made it fine.

    With information we gathered on this site, we were prepared with out sweatshirts, gloves, and hats. Which is about how the guide was attired also. Inside the cave, you climb 700 stairs up and 700 stairs down which makes the sweatshirt sufficient for keeping you warm even though it's below freezing. But you use cold handrails going up and down the stairs which make the gloves invaluable. I probably could have sold them for big bucks.

    The tour was given in both German and English and was very interesting. Every third person carried a lantern. It lasted about an hour. I found the stair-climbing to be fine but a couple of folks (in their fifties probably) were really struggling.

    After the tour, we just enjoyed the awesome views again and headed down to the restaurant for dessert. They have great strudel here...try it. Back down the gondola and the path. Bad news is the shuttle just comes some time. We had to wait about an hour for it. So if you're not weak of heart, it's probably better to drive up yourself.

    Back to Berchtesgaden. The first night, we wandered what we thought was the main street by the Salt Mines and were underwhelmed. We found out later where the real "much better" town was.

    Back to our hotel...and to our flat square pillows (How are you supposed to use these - lie with your upper torso on them? fold them in half?). Slept with the windows open. Temperature was comfortable.

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    Sorry that the Andechs Monastery was "nothing special in and of itself". To beer connoisseurs everywhere, it is considered one of the best beers in the world and worthy of a pilgrimage :-(

    Enjoying the report, though, and looking forward to more.

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    Yes, for Germany overall, one would do well to hone their beer-drinking skills. As for me, I'm the unfortunate person where only the third glass starts to taste good...even though others find it divine.

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    Day 5: No run this morning as we're trying to fit 2 things into 1 day.

    Standard German breakfast served at the hotel...cold cuts, cereal, hard rolls. Perfectly fine...but wishing for my pastries! Next we're headed to the salt mines.

    We got right in at around 9:30 and the tour lasted about an hour. Robed up in miner suits. Unfortunately, we were with a high school student tour group...which translates to very rowdy. First you take a train into the mine, then go down a couple of slides (good fun), and then ride on a boat on an underground lake with a light show going on. This is accented with some commentary on the salt mining process...and at the end they give you a small sample of salt in a small container. My kids enjoyed the salt mines but it sort of feels like a Disney take it with a grain of salt (stupid but accurate pun intended).

    After the tour, we headed to the Documentation Center which was only a mile or 2 from the salt mines. En route, we saw a sign for a Sommerodelbahn so stopped at that. I had read about these and was expecting a long luge ride down a mountain. This one, and the next one, we went on, turned out to be more like Germany's version of the U.S. Go Kart tracks you see at "fun centers"...but propelled by gravity instead of gasoline. It was pretty cheap though...10 rides for about 15E...and we enjoyed it.

    Then to the documentation center...where finding a parking place was a challenge. We ended up at a parking lot a short hike away and then bought bus tickets to go up the Eagles' Nest. The tickets were for about an hour from the purchase time so we ate at the restaurant near the documentation center...then headed back to catch the bus. The bus ride is maybe 5-10 minutes up to the Eagles' Nest...then you have to wait in line in a tunnel and up an elevator (with lots of other tourists). At the top, we walked out to where a cross is, climbed around the rocks, and enjoyed the view. At this point we lost DS for about 10 minutes which scared me to death as I pictured him plummeting to his death. However, as usually happens, it was just a miscommunication and he had headed back to the building. When we found him, we all headed back to the building to see what was in it...only to find that nothing is. There is one hallway with a few pictures and a restaurant. I was quite disappointed that we paid 16E a piece for a good view. This would be the one thing in the trip that I would recommend for everyone to skip. It's a pretty view but there are a zillion chair lifts around in the Bavarian Alps that will lift you to equally good views at a cheaper price and with fewer tourists.

    We caught the bus back down and toured the documentation center. We only had about an hour left before it closed so we saw the bunkers underground, watched a movie in German that had cool footage from the World War II era even though we couldn't understand a lot, and then spent a short time reading some of the information on the upper floors. We had bought the audio guides as they were recommended but actually didn't listen to them much. They're good but verbose..and I think my family's ADD tendencies kick in way before the commentary ends. This is the same for the written museum information. There is a ton of it. You could probably spend all day in the documentation center if you read all of it (BTW, all written text is in German). But the documentation center was only 3E a piece and was worth it. I'd recommend to skip the Eagles' nest and spend more time here.

    After the documentation center closed, we were raring for dinner and wanted something non-German so we sought out the closest Chinese restaurant which Garmin said was 4.3 miles away. These ended up being the same 4.3 miles we took on the way to the ice caves...steep, windy, and 1-laned but we were ultimately successful in finding the restaurant.

    Back home, I decided that I wanted to attempt some laundry, even though it was early in the trip, since the only laundromat pointed out to me in fodors was in Berchtesgaden. This proved challenging. We found the laundromat fine...4 washing machines, 1 broken, and the other 3 in use...but finishing up we waited. Drinks were for sale in the laundromat but no soap....another thing I didn't expect. Not knowing how/where to get soap, I decided I'd just wash them without least they'd be kind of clean. Got them washed and waited for one of the 2 dryers. The 2 folks in front of me finished up but both took their clothes away damp because the dryer hadn't completely dried them and they didn't want to wait longer. Even so, I attempted the dryer on ours. It got hot, but the clothes came out damp...and the laundromat was we took home damp clothes...and hung them up to dry. The only reason I tell this mundane happening is because, to jump ahead a few days, we decided to have the next hotel wash some clothes for us. They came back nicely folded but all damp. Is this considered normal in Germany? Do folks not dry their clothes all the way or is it just coincidence?

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    Day 6: Early morning run. The hotel is close to the national park so the running was good but a bit hilly. Lots of slugs. Breakfast at our hotel then off to Fussen.

    En route, we stopped in Garmish-P to do some hiking...arriving about 1PM. I originally wanted to hike the Hoellentalklamm gorge but we ended up at the Olympic stadium where the Partnachklamm gorge decided to do this one instead. At the Olympic stadium was another sommerodelbahn so we tried this one also. About the same as the other one but a little more scenic. We hiked down to the gorge (entry fee is required). The gorge was pretty but small and there were lots of people so the tunnels felt more like winding through a ride line at Disney World. At the end of the gorge, there was a sign for a trail that said Eckbauer 20 minutes so we took this...turned out to be a miscommunication. After about 20 minutes, there was another sign that said Eckbauer 45 minutes so I think the original sign was for 1 hour 20 minutes. The hike was pretty much straight up-hill but very few people on the trail and very enjoyable. We made it to the lift and took the 2-person chair down (for a fee). Most people do this hike in reverse which would be a good recommendation.

    I would recommend looking into the other Hoellentalklamm hike (and mapping out directions to it) though which would probably have fewer crowds at the gorge. We had to check in at our hotel in Fussen by 8 so didn't have time to find this. We ate in a Mexican restaurant by the train station...good fajitas...but no burritos, enchiladas, and such.

    On to Fussen, where we checked into the Altstadt-Hotel zum Hechten right in the middle of town. Large suite...2 bedrooms (1 with twin beds) and a huge sitting room with a couch and table and chairs.

    If I had to do this over, I probably wouldn't stop in Garmisch-P. I'd probably stay an extra night in Berchtesgaden and hike there. If I were going to Garmisch-P, it would be good to stay a couple of days and do a couple of hikes. A quick stop was kind of rushed and unsatisfying.

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    The visit to the Eagle's Nest is much, much better if you have an English tourguide. We were given the history of the construction (did you know that the fireplace in the dining room was a birtday gift to Hitler from Mussolini?) and other details during our 30+ minute tour. All the original furnishings were taken as souvenirs by the liberating troops.

    Anyway, for us this made our visit much more than just a "pretty view."

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    See betty, it's not an opinion it's you that is the problem.
    And the law sets limits to peoples expressions of opinion. Be aware that certain things will rightfully ban you from entering Germany.

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    Regarding damp clothes: I believe it finds its roots in the high cost of energy, and Europeans as a whole are much more "green" than many Americans; people are very careful of their energy consumption.

    For example, the refrigerator in our rented house does not have a freezer compartment and the dryer has a mode"cupboard dry" where the clothes are as you say still very damp and finish drying as they hang in the closet. To me they're just right for ironing that way. :)

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    klondike, what's an iron? :-) We're way too lazy in our house...only the rare item gets ironed.

    Day 7: Rough night's sleep. While the hotel suite was huge and the hotel conveniently located, our room fronted the main street and the narrow cobbled streets seemed to act as an echo chamber. There wasn't a lot of night life going on, but any conversation at all or clicking of heels was amplified. If you choose to stay at this hotel, ask for a room that doesn't front the streets..which would be the majority of them. Also this hotel did "wash and fold" laundry for us...5 days worth of laundry for 4 people for 30E...pretty reasonable compared to prices hotels in the states can charge.

    No run this morning as we have to be at the castles by 9:20 to pick up tickets we reserved on the web. Skies are overcast so we brought our raincoats and umbrellas. The drive to the castles, Hohenschwangau and Neuschwanstein, was only about 5 minutes. Got our tickets easily and walked up to Hohenschwangau. You're supposed to pick up your tickets 1 hour before admission and this gives you tons of time. We were about 10 minutes late picking ours up and still waited outside the castle for 30 minutes. After the tour, we hiked up the road to Neuschwanstein. Arriving early, we walked to Marienbrucke, the bridge with the great photo ops. However, by this time, the clouds had moved in so basically we have a picture of a cloud with one fuzzy turet showing. Back down for the tour, the rain decided to cut loose...and the perfect German weather we had before that ended. Luckily our tour was in about 5 minutes so we took that and then walked back down in the pouring rain. We stopped at a place making fresh fried doughnut ball type of things which were yummy. As for my opinion of the castles, I think they're a must see. Not seeing them would be like going to Paris and not seeing the Eiffel Tower. The crowds were fine and the tours and insides of the castle long enough and interesting enough. If you've seen a lot of Europe, there's a little feeling of deja vu in the elaborateness of the decorations...but still worth seeing...from the inside and outside.

    At this point, our original plan was to drive to the Tegelberg lift, ride it to the top, and hike down but in the pouring rain, it seemed less an optimal the kids' shoes were already soaked even with umbrellas. So we decided to head back and grabbed lunch (very good) at an Italian restaurant called San Marco close to the hotel. As the rain wasn't lifting, we opted for a lazy evening reading in the hotel room stepping out with our umbrellas later for gelato. Since the hotel had a separate "living room", this worked out great.

    Note that musts for any trip to Germany are: umbrellas, raincoats, waterproof (or resistant) shoes, and warm clothes (Day 8's story).

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    >It got hot, but the clothes came out damp...and the laundromat was closing.
    There are two settings "Schranktrocken" and "Bügelfeucht", translated "closet dry" or "damp to iron". It depends what you prefer and how you set the dryer. :-)

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    These particular dryers were preset in that their controls were taped over...but logos' comment does bring up an interesting point I should mention. Buy an English-German dictionary. This seems like an "uh duh" but we didn't. In our first European trip to France, we bought one, but ended up having enough high school French (and Spanish) to puzzle out most things and never accessed the dictionary. In Italy, we didn't buy one but again the language roots were so similar to French and Spanish that again it was easy enough to figure out. Not so the case for German. You will have that dictionary well-worn by the end of your trip.

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    I've enjoyed this report. Just as an aside, I noticed that some people who have washers don't have dryers. They just hang the clothes on a rack. I don't know if it's about economy or being green or both.

    I dry my clothes on hangers or a drying rack, but I also fluff them for a few minutes. Otherwise they're very wrinkled.

    I do dry my towels and sheets, though if I were a really good greenie, I'd put up the umbrella rack in the back yard and hang them there. I'm wondering if Germans hang their towels and sheets to dry.

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    Sheets are to big to hang inside your appartment, but towels fit nicely on the Wäscheständer

    or in many houses you can just put them on a shared clothes line in the basement.

    or you use the washer-dryer.
    Many houses have a coin operated (Miele) and shared washer and dryer in the basement.

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    Day 8: Woke up to the rain still coming down. As we were to check out of the hotel in Fussen today, hanging around and reading was not an option. The original plan for this day was to go to the "crowd-free" Ehrenberg Ruins in Reutte about 15 miles away and to ride the nearby Biberwier luge. Due to the rain, the latter would be shut down so not an option...major bummer as it's supposed to be the longest and wickedest. I'll have to hit in on my Austria trip someday.

    With not a lot of options in the rain and cold (temperature was in the mid-50's that day), we decided to head to Ehrenberg anyway. Stop and crawl traffic the whole way...took us about an hour. Turns out it was because of a Ritterspiele festival being held at Ehrenberg. They had all the parking blocked off and you had to park in a nearby town and be shuttled to the museum area. So much for no crowds. Ritterspiele turns out to be a medieval version of a Renaissance festival. DD thought it was really cool. Medieval tents everywhere and everyone dressed up in medieval garb. We watched a jousting match. It was announced in German but was still easy enough to follow. Then we ate some mixed grill lunch and visited the museum. The museum is just a few euros apiece and is a pretty hands-on friendly one. We all enjoyed trying on the knight's armor.

    After this, we were trying to find out how to climb to the ruins (rain and all), but they had blocked off the path from the museum because of the festival and the only way to get there was a trail 40 minutes away. It would be about 4 hours of walking round trip...past our tolerance level in the rain. So...another thing for next time.

    We thus started our drive to Rothenburg and our first experience with a full speed autobahn. In getting from Munich to Berchtesgaden and from Berchtesgaden to Fussen, we had driven on autobahns but they were pretty congested. DH got as high as 106 MPH on the drive to Rothenburg, and this is evidently a pretty timid speed, because folks were whizzing by us. Experiencing a non-congested autobahn was a lot of fun though.

    Arrived at Rothenburg and checked into our hotel, the Goldener Hirsch. Again we have a 2 bedroom suite. This hotel is pretty fancy. Huge common areas and fancy furniture. The view from our suite was spectacular. The hotel is right inside the wall and we have a balcony that overlooks the wall, the Tauber valley, and grape vineyards.

    Walked down the street a short way to a Chinese restaurant for a good meal then called it a day.

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    One more interesting note. One goes from Germany to Austria and back with less fanfare then we go between states in the US. No "Welcome to XX" sign or welcome center. You'd never know you had moved to a new country..other than what I assumed were some abandoned border stations off to the side.

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    Day 9: Beautiful but fairly cold day (for July) in Rothenburg...probably hit highs in the 60's. DH, DD, and DS took their morning run. Very nice but fairly hilly path through the vineyards.

    Standard breakfast at the hotel, but this one was enhanced with waffles (albeit the pre-packaged kind), bing cherries, and hot sausages. It was definitely the best we had of all our hotels.

    We headed out to see the city. Checked out a lot of stores for souvenirs but bought almost nothing..we're very poor consumers.

    We then tried to follow the Rick Steve's walking tour but our ADD tendencies kicked in about half way through.

    Climbed the old tower at the town hall. You take a more modern staircase half way up and then some "very original" staircases and a ladder to the top which is very tiny...fits probably only 6 people or so. Visited the Historiengewölbe museum. It was cheap and the dungeons were cool. Checked out the wood carved altar in St. Jakob's is worth seeing...very detailed and elaborate like the wood carved bed of King Ludwig in Neuschwanstein. We skipped the Kriminalmuseum although it was highly recommended, because we had seen a similar torture museum in Italy a few years ago. Walked through the Castle gardens. On our wanderings, we stopped and sampled a Schneeballen. Rick Steve's book said these were something to pass on but with every 5th shop selling them seemed like a must to at least try. We tried 4 different types and found them a little boring but not bad. Not as scrumptious as other pastries we tried during our trip.

    Then a pizza stop for lunch and a walk of the wall. The wall doesn't go all the way around and we had some starts and stops at first to find out where to find the contiguous part. Probably took us less than a half hour to walk it. Then we decided to take a walk outside the city to DeTwang..which is supposed to be a village that is the oldest part of Rothenburg. It's a very steep walk down (and back up) to DeTwang. The village is nothing too interesting..indicated by the fact that the highlight for my kids was the playground which of course includes equipment way too small for them. There is a church in the village with another wood carving but we passed on it because of the fee. Sometimes, you just feel like you have your hand in your pocket too much. It would be wonderful to have some 1-price church/museum/castle pass for Germany.

    Back in Rothenburg, we had a refreshment break and played some pool at the hotel in one of their fancy rooms. Then out at 8 to the town square for the Night Watchman's tour. We were very nervous at first as we saw the number of folks waiting in the square for the tour. There was probably between 100 and 200. However, the tour was great. The Night Watchman is very interesting and funny. Definitely take this tour.

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    Day 10: Early morning run then off to Bacharach for our last stop on the trip. The road from Rothenburg to Bacharach is mostly autobahn but a very different experience from our trip from Fussen to Rothenburg. Seemed like every bridge was under repair causing major traffic congestion...lots of stop and roll. Ultimately we arrived and checked into our hotel, the Pension Im Malerwinkel. At 118E a night, this place was a bargain. We had a two bedroom suite with a bathroom. We could see the vineyards climbing the hills outside our room. The hotel was very convenient...and reasonably quiet. It was right outside the city wall (and the city is very small) so it was probably a 2-minute walk to what one might call the city center. The hotel has a small garden in back with tables and chairs that would be a pleasant place for adults to hang with a bottle of wine in the evening. Unfortunately, our teens don't hang very least not with us.

    Off to Burg Eltz. This was supposed to be about 40 minutes away per Garmin but due to autobahn backup and tiny, winding roads (which Garmin says you can go 62MPH on!), it took us about twice that.

    We stopped at a small restaurant/bar in town and had lunch. The food was good but it was a restaurant that made you wish the August 1st "no smoking" law had already kicked in. We then headed to the Hotel Ringelsteiner Mühle where the trail starts. By the way, this was another rainy day so raincoats and umbrellas were the fare. Even so, the trail was a very nice, pleasant one to walk. Unfortunately, the facade of the castle was marred by scaffolding but it was still an impressive castle...and by positioning the camera just right, we were able to get a family photo in front of it that masked the scaffolding...made up for our cruddy picture of Neuschwanstein. We waited about a half hour for an English tour and in the interim toured the treasury that they have there. The tour was interesting. This was definitely my favorite castle, I think mostly because of its secluded location in the woods and the nice hike to it. Without scaffolding, it'd be even cooler. Back down the trail and home to the hotel.

    There is a path from the hotel up to the Castle Stahleck hostel. We took this and checked out the castle. It was very active with its patrons milling around...would probably be a fun place to stay but not as convenient to town. Then we headed into town and selected a German place for dinner. We hadn't tried the German sauerkraut yet so DD got braun brat (spelling probably incorrect) with sauerkraut and this turned out too weird for her. It was sort of a sausage meat loaf with potatoes and carrots. I got the fried trout but it came a little too anatomically correct for me with head and tail intact. I'm the hypocritical type of carnivore that likes to pretend meat comes from the super market and not envision the animal behind it.

    Home to bed.

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    Day 11: Up early to run...easy flat path along the Rhine river. Breakfast at the hotel then off to take the 10:15 K-D Rhine river cruise to St. Goar. It was a cold day at this point but we had overheard someone say it was supposed to be a nice day so we were attired in shorts and jackets. Sky was overcast so we didn't know if rain was also on the agenda. It was breezy and kind of chilly on the deck...long pants would have been good. The cruise was only supposed to be about 40 minutes but the kids lasted about 2 before they had their heads laying on their arms and their eyes closed. It was way too slow-paced for them. There are only about 4 castles to see in the 40 minutes and the Loreley rock...which is a rock :-). So if you have teenagers, I'd skip this. However, if it's just adults, and it's a sunny day, I would take a longer cruise. I found it very pleasant floating down the river and if the weather was nicer, wouldn't have minded floating down for another couple hours. With a bottle of wine to share, it'd be great. The 40 minute cruise seems very short especially because a good % of it is docking/undocking at the next port.

    At St. Goar, we decided we should probably return to the hotel and get long pants on or we'd just be thinking about being cold all day. So we caught the train back to Bacharach...perhaps a 10 minute ride at most, and returned to our hotel (with a pit stop into a pastry shop on the way...wonderful pastries...well worth the back and forth to St. Goar just to discover this place!).

    We then drove the car back down to St. Goar to see Rheinfels Castle. We parked at the river and hiked up...a short perhaps 10 minute hike. Of course now that we had long pants on, that was the signal for the sun to come out and things to warm up. We explored Rheinfels. DH, DD, and myself probably would give this a "medium" rating. However, DS says this was his favorite place...which shows how hard it is to make itinerary recommendations to other people. We had flashlights and DS loved going through all the dark tunnels.

    Back down to the car and to Bacharach. We parked the car at the hotel and rented bikes from them...also changed back into shorts. This is so convenient and cheap that it's another great thing about the hotel. It was 6E a piece for all day. We stopped with the bikes at a pizza place in town then took the river path towards Bingen. Our destination, just to have a destination, was the Rheinstein castle. It took us about 40 minutes to get there. Very pleasant, flat, easy ride. We walked up to the castle but didn't go inside. It was only 20 minutes until it closed and as it was our last day in Germany, we were rationing our euros to get as close to 0 as we could. We had also already seen 3 castle insides on this trip so felt fine passing it up. There is a 2.5 km trail from here to Reichenstein Castle also if you have the time to take it. If I had to replan this day, I would probably skip the Rhine cruise and rent bikes 1st thing in the morning...ride down to Reichenstein and see it..then hike to Rheinstein and back and then ride down to St. Goar to see Rheinfels, eating in St. Goar. The real experience is the bike ride I think. It gives you the same views as the Rhine cruise but in a more active way. Lots and lots of folks biking in this region. Lots of folks that seemed in their 50s and 60s also...good to see.

    Rode the bikes back and grabbed some gelato. Then home to pack for the trip home the next day.

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    Day 12: Flight home day. We had to catch an 11:20 flight out of Frankfurt so decided to leave at 7:30 given our recent experience with autobahn congestion. The hotel didn't start serving breakfast until 8 so we thought we'd just get pastries at the airport.

    No problems getting to the airport and to the Hertz checkin...arrived around 8:30. After that, we found the Frankfurt airport to be the worst one ever. It is truly an international airport...seems like 1, maybe 2, billion airlines flying in and out. :-) DH had looked up US Air and found that it was in terminal 2 but after checking in the car at terminal 2, we found that it was in terminal 1. There are no signs outside as in smaller airports, saying which airlines are where...probably hard to fit a billion names on a sign. So off we go to terminal 1. Now how to find US Air. There are rows upon rows of airline counters for EVERY airline in the world and no obvious signs that direct you one way or the other. Eventually, we find it...lots of luggage dragging. I'm not sure if they had the luggage carts there...but these would be a good idea.

    We saw one pastry shop but thought we should do the "must do" stuff first before relaxing with breakfast and waiting for the plane. So we went through passport control and one other checkpoint (forget what it was...but both took us about an hour) to get to the gate section only to find that there is nothing near their gates. There is a Duty Free shop and a small stand selling pretty much water/juice and unenticing croissants/muffins. No real restaurants or souvenir shops (DD was hoping to pick up a last minute souvenir for a friend). We grabbed some of the stand's offerings as we had no other choice then went through the final gate security. The gate security is a very small space at the bottom of an escalator. They had to turn off the escalator because folks were backing up on it.

    My recommendation if you ever do an open jaw is to do it in reverse of what we did so you don't have to fly out of Frankfurt. Fly into Frankfurt and out of Munich...or another final destination.

    Home on the plane. US Air had trouble with their seat back televisions and they kept rebooting the whole system to try to fix it. Each reboot took 30 minutes. Ultimately, DH ended up with no working TV but the rest of ours worked. This was the "screaming babies" flight. One, I think, lasted the whole 8 hours...quite impressive.

    In Philadelphia, we had an hour and 40 minutes but had to do the whole passport control/luggage recheck so just made it to our next flight when check-in was starting.

    Landed tired and to our favorite quick Mexican restaurant before heading home.

    Just a note about what the family says their favorite things were:
    DH: Ritterspiele (would be even better warmer and dryer)
    DD: English Garden and Ritterspiele
    DS: Rheinfels
    myself: Burg Eltz and the ice caves

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    Thanks for finishing your trip report. I must say, I was quite impressed that your family chose to hike in to Burg Eltz, in the rain, none the less, when you could have easily opted to drive to the castle parking lot. IMO, hiking in is the best way to first set eyes on this castle (sorry to hear it was covered in scaffolding).

    Robyn :)>-

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    "2) Subway tickets seem to be a suggestion. We hardly saw anyone buying a subway ticket and you don't need a ticket to get onto the platform. They supposedly check them sometimes and fine you if you don't have a ticket...but we never saw any checking going on."
    Most of the ones who did not buy a ticket have a monthly ticket. Better don't misuse our sophisticated based-on-trust system, because it will be pretty expensive if they catch you without a valid ticket.

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    I just read your whole report. Really informative and good
    tips for my upcoming trip. Glad to know about the Eagle's nest,
    etc. so that I will spend more time in the park instead.
    Thanks much!

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