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itzmichele Mar 5th, 2012 09:10 PM

Where to go?
Hi everyone - I recently won 2 airline tickets to "anywhere in the world." I'm hoping to travel with my two children (ages 9 & 17) to somewhere in Europe over Thanksgiving this year. I have not been out of the states 25 years, so I'm essentially a novice again. We'll have about a week. We don't mind the cold (I prefer it, actually) however we're language-challenged Americans who only know English, so I'm sure it's smarter to stay out of the more rural areas to avoid any language barriers. I should mention I'm a single mom, so I have to be extremely mindful of the budget. My son would love to go to Germany, but I'm not sure if that might be too much of a challenge this first time out (seeings how the extent of our knowledge of the German language is limited to post-sneeze blessings and hot dog toppings.) My daughter was thinking Austria or Ireland. With regards to accommodations, I don't mind B&B's (sometimes prefer them to the big hotels) and ground travel will be limited to taxi's and trains. Given the parameters, where would you suggest we go? ANY guidance would be most appreciated!!

joannyc Mar 5th, 2012 09:23 PM

Language will not be an issue unless you are in small villages and even then the younger people speak English.

German is spoken in both Germany and Austria. But, English is a germanic language so many of the printed words should look somewhat familiar.

You should google the countries that you are interested in to see which has what you are interested in seeing. Or, go to the library and look at some tourist guides. What do you want to see and do?

Taxis can be expensive. Buses, trains and trams are typically not.

Take a look to see where your interests lie... than Fodorites can offer better advice.

Aramis Mar 5th, 2012 09:24 PM

Germany probably has one of the highest English language (as a secondary language, of course) speaking population rates in Europe. Almost everyone under 60 living anywhere but in rural regions will speak fluent English. You can be fearless in visiting Germany from a language perspective. Austria would be similar.

There is probably no "better" (large coverage, clean punctual trains) rail network in Europe than in Germany, as well.

Munich would be a great base that would allow you a tremendous variety of train based day trips, including to Salzburg. Or, you could spend a few days in Salzburg - it is only about an hour from Munich.

So, you could meet both of your kids wishes - I don't know if they deserve it, that's your call :-), have too many local and day trip options to possibly cover in a week and not have any language barriers to worry about.

I just might head over there soon myself.

itzmichele Mar 5th, 2012 09:30 PM

Well if I could swing it, then a split between Munich and Salzburg would be terrific! The language barrier was my biggest fear - I would hate to have to attempt to speak their language, ultimately butchering it and insulting them in the process :/ If anyone has stayed in either city and knows of a great B&B (or a hotel if we must) please let me know! Thanks so much!!

janisj Mar 5th, 2012 09:44 PM

4 days in Munich and 2 or 3 days in Salzburg would be a great 1-week vacation. What is your budget for accommodations?

joannyc Mar 5th, 2012 09:51 PM

All you need to do is learn a few of the courteous words in German, e.g., please; thank you; I don't speak German, do you speak English; etc. and you'll be fine. You can do this on the internet. Approaching people with at least a little bit in their own language will be more welcome than just blasting them with English. ;-)

I've been to both cities but stayed in hotels using points. But, if you do a search here on Fodors and on sites like,,, Orbitz, etc., you should find lots of recommendations.

crckwc1 Mar 5th, 2012 09:53 PM

Agree that Munich would be great. Lots to see and do in the city and more side trips than you'll have time for. We've been there several times and enjoy staying at Hotel Uhland, a small, friendly hotel that serves a great breakfast.
Language will definitely not be a problem, but learning to say hello and a few phrases in German is a nice thing to do. Check some travel guides at your library for things to do that will interest each of you.

itzmichele Mar 6th, 2012 06:09 AM

This has all been most helpful. @janisj - not sure on what the budget will be, as I'm waiting on other information (ie. 2011 tax return.)

MareW Mar 6th, 2012 10:22 AM

I have a slightly different take, but agree strongly that you shouldn't let the language barrier stop you from going to Germany. I spent a couple of weeks in Germany and Austria in 2006, and didn't find that "everyone speaks English", but I didn't expect them to and we muddled through fine. Everyone was friendly and willing to help. We even had to go to an emergency room in Fussen. None of the doctors or nurses spoke more than a few words of English. It wasn't a major emergency, and we eventually made ourselves understood.

itzmichele Mar 6th, 2012 05:42 PM

Well that's good to know. I have access to Rosetta Stone for German, so I'll probably start using that to learn some basic essentials.

madamtrashheap Mar 6th, 2012 06:21 PM

As an added bonus, you might just catch the start of the Christmas Markets (Weihnachtsmarkt/Christkindlmarkt) in both Munich and Salzburg. I believe the main Christkindlmarkt in Marienplatz in the centre of Munich opens on 30th November this year (1st Advent being later in 2012), so depending on your dates around Thanksgiving you might see opening day.

Otherwise there are smaller but no less fabulous markets at Sendlinger Tor (in centre), a medieval market at Wittelsbachplatz (centre), in Schwabing (at Münchner Frieheit hall), Haidhausen Market at the Ostbahnhof/Kunstpark area or the large and international (ie not just Germanic Christmas fare) Tollwood Markt at Theresienwiese (also known as the Oktoberfest grounds).

There is also a Christmas Village with a life-sized nativity scene and small chapel set up in the square in front of the Residenz, along with Sankt Nikolas (Santa Claus), some rides and toymaking. It's a very short stroll (4mins) from Marienplatz and the Manger Market (Kripperlmarket), is all about mangers and nativity figures made in Germany. To top it off, something your 9 y.o. might like is the Town Hall Heavenly Workshop - located inside the Town Hall they have craft making workshops and cookie baking during the day when the Christkindlmarkt is on.

In Salzburg, the markets (there are a few to choose from, but the one in Mirabellplatz and one in Julius-Raab-Platz just around the corner) all open on 22nd November.

itzmichele Mar 6th, 2012 10:10 PM

Wow that all sounds so magical - I'm really starting to look forward to this trip now!! You've all been extremely helpful, and have managed to take some of the fear out of this for me. As soon as I find out what my budget will be, I'll be sure to post again to get more hotel suggestions.

AisleSeat Mar 7th, 2012 02:57 PM

I really envy you and those tickets. Munich is one of my favorite places on earth and it is easy to get to Salzburg for a taste of Austria.

However, For first timers I always recommend Londdon, Paris or Rome (or a combination of those) simply because they have SOOOOOOO much to offer. London/Paris is a great combination and even though they are more expensive than staying in village you can get accomodations in every price range. See if you can fly into London and home from Paris. Maybe the Queen will invite you in for tea.

suze Mar 7th, 2012 03:05 PM

I'm no expert on those destinations, but only chiming in to say don't let the language stop you from going where you want to go. I guarantee you will NOT be the first English-only speaking tourist in any of the places you mention. Just think of it as part of the adventure.

I've had great trips to Amsterdam, Paris, Venice, Geneva and other parts of french-speaking Switzerland, plus Mexico and always do OK.

Learning the pleasantries is always an OK idea if you have the time and interest. If you want to learn a bit more numbers (for money, time, etc.) come in handy. Definitely carry a phase book (for decifering restaurant menus, etc.)

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