Getting around in Germany/Austria

Old Feb 8th, 2012, 04:42 PM
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Getting around in Germany/Austria

My daughter and I will be in Germany for one week this August. We are flying in and out of Frankfurt, but will most likely be exploring in Bavaria and Salzburg. I do not want to rent a car. Getting to major cities will be fairly easy by train, I imagine. However, how about traveling to and from other locations outside of the cities?

Alternatively, what other itineraries would be worth considering for a one week trip? Neither of us has ever been to Germany so we are open to suggestions.
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Old Feb 8th, 2012, 04:55 PM
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You do not say how many days are actually on the ground, 7 or merely 5?
Big difference, especially when you are starting and ending in Frankfurt.

I would drive, controlling my own schedule and what I see.
Go directly to Salzburg, train if you prefer, then work your way back through Bavaria and all of the small southern Bavarian towns to Frankfurt.
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Old Feb 8th, 2012, 05:32 PM
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We arrive in Frankfurt on Aug. 2 and depart on Aug. 9. I know that car travel would afford us more flexibility, but we are both new travelers to Europe - and to be honest, I just don't have the confidence to drive in the cities!

I am thinking that on Aug. 2 we will go directly from Frankfurt to . . . somewhere. But I would like to be in Frankfurt on the night of Aug. 8 for departure on Aug. 9.

How difficult would it be to get to sights outside of Munich without a car (e.g. Berchtesgaden, Neuschwanstein, Dachau, Mittenwald)? Could we possibly fit in a day trip on the Rhine in our coming or going from the Frankfurt area? The more I read, the more confused I become - Heidelberg, Rothenberg, Baden Baden . . . BERLIN! So much to see, so little time!

We need a reasonable itinerary by public transit for 6 days on the ground.
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Old Feb 8th, 2012, 06:10 PM
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Given that Frankfurt is your start and finish point, that you have only 6 days, and that you are restricted to public transport, then Heidelberg, Rothenberg and Baden Baden are all achievable, and with a minimum of strain. Otherwise you would take most of one day to get to Munich, and ditto for the reurn trip, leaving you 5 days to visit Salzburg and various places in Bavaria. Bavaria is large, and, without a car, you would spend a significant time each day on the train just getting somewhere. I am disregarding Berlin, because it is too far from anything else you want to visit on this trip.
You have not stated at what time you arrive on Aug 2, nor what time you depart on Aug 9, and that does make a diffence to your plans.
On the 2nd, you could go by train directly from the airport station to Heidelberg in about two hours. Spend a couple of nights in Heidelberg, then go to Rothenberg for a couple of nights before heading to Baden Baden for the remaining time. Each of these places is worth a couple of days.
If your departure time is in the PM on the 9th, you could catch a train from Baden Baden that morning directly to the airport. Otherwise you could stay the last night in somewhere like Mainz or Worms, which is what I do before flying out. These places are connected to Frankfurt airport by very frequent train services.
Most of your travel is in the state of Baden-Wurtemberg, and, on your travel days, you can buy a Lander Ticket from the ticket machine on any station for 37 euros. This ticket allows up to five people to travel together. It is one of the real travel bargains in Germany.
Final piece of advice: on your first trip to Europe, less is more!
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Old Feb 8th, 2012, 06:29 PM
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I never drive in the cities. I pick up a car at the airport just so I don't have to make my way through city traffic. I'm a 78 year old woman, and I drive everywhere in Europe.

The first thing you need to do is get a guidebook for Germany. That's always essential.

If I were you, I'd get on line right now, go to the Rick Steves website and order a travel map for Germany. It would indicate the rail lines and also the high-speed lines, if there are any. The postage and handling for this map would cost as much as the map itself, but it's really handy for planning a trip.

I am using the Spain travel map for my upcoming trip, and I'm finding it very useful indeed.

Germany has good train service. There's an airport train station beneath the Terminal 1 where you can apparently get trains to other cities. My guidebook mentions the German DB Travel Center, which will give you travel information.

DB stands for Deutsche Bahn, or German Rail.

I wouldn't spend any time in Frankfurt. I don't consider it a very interesting town, and you don't have much time.

Heidelberg is about an hour by train from Frankfurt. The big sight there is the castle. I wouldn't spend a lot of time there, as it's very touristy nowadays. I lived there in the 60's and have been shocked when I've returned and seen how it's changed.

I would stay in Rothenberg, which is about three hours by train from Frankfurt.

You can take a day trip out of Munich to Newschwanstein and probably to Dachau.

I suggest you skip Baden Baden. It's pleasant if you have a lot of time, but it's not one of the great cities of Germany, pleasant though it is. If you go to Rothenberg (east of Heidelberg), you'll be in the wrong direction for Baden Baden, which is southwest of Rothenberg.

Gosh, this is getting pretty complicated. Get a map of Germany (preferably the Rick Steves planning map) and a guidebook. If you do those things you won't be so confused.

A guidebook will tell you about trains and travel time.

There's also a website called Viamichelin, which can tell you distances and travel times between cities.

Do some research. That's all part of the fun.
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Old Feb 8th, 2012, 07:40 PM
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"We are flying in and out of Frankfurt, but will most likely be exploring in Bavaria and Salzburg... Alternatively, what other itineraries would be worth considering for a one week trip?"

Germany has lots to see. You need to make some choices. One smart choice is not to spend your time racing around the country by car or by train. Southern Bavaria is nice but it's quite far and requires a lot of time. It's also full not only of international tourists but of vacationing Germans in August.

"Could we possibly fit in a day trip on the Rhine in our coming or going from the Frankfurt area?"

FRA is only one hour or so by train from the Middle Rhine, the most interesting part. One day here is certainly not enough. You could easily spend a week here by including the Mosel River and Trier as well. But let's say you have 4-5 days in the area.

Bacharach, Oberwesel, St. Goar and Boppard are all great towns to stay in. This page will give you some idea of what Bacharach is like and provides some comments on the top-rated inn there:

I would encourage you to take the K-D cruise up to Braubach for a tour of Marksburg Castle and to visit Rheinfels Castle in St. Goar too, just a few minutes north by train. These are REAL castles from nearly a millenium ago, not the late 19th-century mock-up that is Neuschwanstein.

From one of these towns you could also visit Cochem, an impossibly attractive town mid-way between Koblenz and Trier on the Mosel River:

Do you see Reichsburg Castle on the right? It offers tours - not as great as Marksburg - but there's a free-flight falconry show on the castle grounds 4 times every day except Monday that you'll enjoy. Photos:

The tower in the center of the photo is the Balduinturm - the old town area with it's half-timbered buildings and cobblestones is huddled around it. Spend some time wandering there. There's a chairlift ride here too (it offers roughly the view you have in the photo above) as well as a good number of eateries. You can take a 1-hr river cruise up to tiny Beilstein if you like from the docks - very scenic cruise and village. It's an hour's ride back as well.

From this area, you could also make a daytrip to Cologne, a major German city and a good place to spend a full day, with some good museums and the most amazing Gothic cathedral - all sights are close to the station.

I think Pegontheroad wisely advises you to skip Baden-Baden because it's really not a great destination - unless you're into casinos and pricey shops and restaurants.

But you could spend a couple of nights in Heidelberg. It's about 1.5-2 hours from Bacharach. See H'berg your first day. On day 2, take a train trip up the Neckar River - see Bad Wimpfen and adorable Michelstadt (a short train ride north of Eberbach):

Then spend a final day/night in Frankfurt itself - several places of interest for tourists and some good museums.

If this itinerary sounds interesting, I'll help you with the transport details - it will be fairly simple and cheap by train.
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Old Feb 9th, 2012, 01:06 AM
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All these places mentioned so far are well served by local and re4gional trains and absolutely no problem to reach. Use to look up cennections.

The only exception is Rothenberg, which is a small village in the Odenwald hills and won't have more than infrequent bus connections, but I bet you don't want to go there anyway. The place you want, and the place the others are talking about here, is named Rothenburg ob der Tauber.
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Old Feb 9th, 2012, 04:35 AM
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It's not unreasonable to plan a week trip in Germany using rail travel. You might have to be more realistic about time and distances though. Rail travel will lend itself better to bigger cities and regions like the Rhine with good transportation options where there are many sights in a relatively compact area.

Given the fact that you have basically 6 full days on the ground at your disposal and you are flying in and out of Frankfurt, I'd suggest a trip on the middle Rhine with potential excursions to the Mosel and Trier and/or up to Cologne/Bonn. You could arrive in Frankfurt and then take a short train ride and base yourself along the Rhine in a town like Bacharach, Boppard, St. Goar. You could easily fill 3 or 4 days including river trips and even day trips to area castles and sights. These towns are easily accessible by train (or boat, or even bicycle).

From there you can go up the Rhine past Koblenz - Bonn - Cologne, or over to Cochem - Trier. Both of these options will leave you plenty to do over two or three days. From Trier you are a mere 3 hrs by train back to Frankfurt for your departure. From Cologne, you are less than 1 hr away from the Frankfurt airport by ICE train.

Munich is a 3.5 hour train ride from Frankfurt. If you have your heart set on Bavaria, you could head directly to Munich (if you can stomach a 3.5 hr train ride after the long flight) and simply base yourself in Munich for the duration of your trip. Public transit or bus options from Munich to some of your destinations are simple (Dachau for instance) and others are less than a 2 hr train ride from Munich (Salzburg, Mittenwald). Obviously, for tooling around the countryside and mountains, car travel would leave you more flexible and able to make more small stops. Munich as the hub and excursions as the spokes of the wheel would work fine for you and certainly fill 6 days of travel.

Play around with the German rail schedules on This will give you an excellent sense about how far apart places are, how frequently trains run, and whether they are direct and convenient or a little complicated (such as to Rothenburg ob der Tauber).
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Old Feb 9th, 2012, 04:41 AM
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PS. A little more direct to your fundamental question"Could we possibly fit in a day trip on the Rhine in our coming or going from the Frankfurt area? The more I read, the more confused I become - Heidelberg, Rothenberg, Baden Baden . . . BERLIN! So much to see, so little time!")

I think you'd be better served trying to narrow your geographic reach to 1 general region (ie, Rhine OR Bavaria) rather than trying to juggle more than 1 territory. Either of those options would fill up your entire week and leave you plenty of time to see so much and enjoy yourselves immensely. Trying to toss a trip to the Rhine in with a trip to Munich (not to mention Baden Baden, Berlin, Salzburg) would cause more harm than good.

The bright side is that you can't really go wrong! You are going to have a wonderful week in Germany no matter what you choose. The only way you can really mess it up is by twisting yourself in knots trying to see everything, and then spend more time going places than being there.
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Old Feb 9th, 2012, 05:20 AM
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I do not want to rent a car. Getting to major cities will be fairly easy by train, I imagine. However, how about traveling to and from other locations outside of the cities?>

Like what locations - folks often think about getting into the countryside but have no idea of what that means or where - public transportation does not go everywhere but it does in Germany go everywhere anyone would want to go and frequently - no need for a car - in Bavaria it is easy to reach Fussen and Mad Ludwig's Castles, his other castles like Herrenchiemsee and Linderhof - by boat and bus respectively from train stations - Salzburg is a short train ride form Munich, etc.

For travel only in Bavaria check out the Bavarian Pass good on all buses, trams and regional trains for 29 euros for up to five people for a day - If coming from Frankfurt and going back to Frankfurt then you would either want to buy a discounted ticket online for a specific train on a specific date and not change it - buy it weeks in advance to guarantee the limited in number fares at those levels - if paying full fare then the German Railpass may be cheaper than two round-trip Frankfurt to Bavaria tickets and you can just hop any train anytime and with the pass in Bavaria say you want to go to Salzburg then you can also hop the much faster ICE trains and not be relegated to slower regional trains that take an hour or more longer each way. And you could use the pass to take trains to Fussen, Rothenburg and also hit some other cities en route back to Frankfurt - like doing the fabled Rhine Gorge K-D boats - the pass is also valid on those boats. And after arriving in Frankfurt you could hop on any train from the airport - the next train as the pass is valid on any train and you can just hop on. For a more leisurely trip I always suggest paying extra for first class, at least on longer trips - seats bigger - often empty seats - more room for luggage and if just hopping on you will always IME find empty seats - not so in 2nd class.

anyway great info on German trains and passes - - official German Railways site for fares and schedules -; and
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Old Feb 9th, 2012, 06:18 AM
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I think you need to cut down on the distances you are planning to travel. Make a sample itinerary and then go to the website to check on trains and the times they take.

For the time you have, I would concentrate on the Rhine/Mosel, Heidelburg, Nuremburg, ROthenburg areas. That is much more than for the time you have. Remember that it will all be new to you and all be interesting. don't take up all your time on a train.
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Old Feb 10th, 2012, 02:14 AM
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Flying in/out of Frankfurt causes logistical problems, especially when you are in Germany for only one week. Have you booked your flights yet? If not, Munich would give you a huge time advantage, especially if you want to visit places like Berchtesgaden & Mittenwald.
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Old Feb 12th, 2012, 02:32 AM
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Thank you ALL so much for taking the time to respond! This is my first time on the Forum, and I am simply amazed at how helpful people want to be. I need to take some time to digest all of the information here, but I am sensing that we should save Bavaria and Salzburg for another trip so as not to spend so much time traveling.

Unfortunately, the arrival/departure point of Frankfurt is set. Actually, I will already be in Germany when my daughter arrives on Aug. 2, having traveled for three weeks with a University choir in other parts of Europe. Frankfurt is the ending location of that tour.

So my next question is . . . how do I efficiently pack for a total of four weeks in Europe? I will be moving around alot.
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Old Feb 12th, 2012, 03:55 AM
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If you do a search for packing light you will find a lot of info on the subject. You'll want a small suitcase and it's easily done.

I think Russ had a good suggestion with the Rhine cruise.

Although, there is one question that is unanswered.

When you think of going to Germany, what do you imagine you'll want to see?
this is important because you want to take your own trip, not someone elses.

If it's castles, a trip up the Rhine will be perfect.

Another important thing to remember about Germany is to take your time and slow down. There is so much to see that you'll miss what is in front of you if you worry about getting to the next destination.

quokka gives some excellent advice well worth noting. Be careful of exact names Rothenburg ob der Tauber is a good example Rothenburg would be a waste of time.
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Old Feb 15th, 2012, 02:03 PM
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Packing for a week or 4 is pretty much the same - you bring a week's worth of clothes and then do laundry Focus on flexible clothing - mix and match, items that you can wear more than once between washes (mostly pants), things that wash and dry easily, layer well, etc.
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Old Feb 16th, 2012, 05:06 AM
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If it's castles, a trip up the Rhine will be perfect.>

ruined castles that is as just about only one, Marksburg has survived Napoelon and other maurauders on this crucial waterway. But ruined castles have their appeal too but may not be the castles of your dreams.
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Old Feb 21st, 2012, 08:10 PM
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ttt Thanks. Allso planning Germany in 2013.
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Old Feb 22nd, 2012, 12:26 AM
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The facts are: In upper Bavaria, the train/bus will get you to the most frequented tourist attractions. Most small towns are accessible only every 2 hours by (RVO) bus or by car. At this monent, I'm at a small spa, inexpensive room, Bus/train to Munich every 2 hours, last bus at 7pm. 7km walk to the train station, so a taxi would do in case you miss the bus. I'm on the balcony, wearing a t-shirt, tons of snow and brilliant sunshine, feeling like summer.
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Old Feb 22nd, 2012, 04:39 AM
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