Where I Go? Dachau, Frankfurt, Fussen, Heidelberg, Munich, Rhine River Valley and various small villages on the Romantic Road route including Wurzburg, Rothenburg do der Tauber, and Oberammergau
When I Went: September 30 – October 10, 2011
Was That the Best Time of Year to Go? Generally speaking, it wasn’t. It was fall and the days are shorter and nighttime generally cooler, but I was fortunate to be given spring, even summer like weather for the majority of my stay. For me, it was preferable though, because the density of tourists was considerably lower.
Why I Went There: I’ve never been to Germany and Frankfurt was the only city left with a direct flight from DFW I haven’t flown into.
Who Went With Me? Solo the first week and half, but my friends Pia, Chris, and Julien met me in Frankfurt the second weekend.
We Stayed Here: Frankfurt and Munich served as my home bases for the two weeks I spent traveling around Germany. While in Frankfurt, I stayed at the Sheraton Congress for a total of four nights; two for the first week and a couple more the week after arriving back from Munich. The hotel is located halfway between Frankfurt International airport and downtown Frankfurt which is just outside the city center. There’s a train stop across the hotel compound that will take you directly to the Romer (15-20 minutes travel time) which proved to be convenient. The staff here is very nice and the amenities are satisfactory. Breakfast is decent and the bar has a fairly good selection of liquor. If you do not mind solitary nights, I recommend you stay here, otherwise, choose one that’s closer to the city center. My choice for my three night’s accommodation in Munich was the city’s best reviewed hostel, The Wombats, located just minutes walk from the Munich Hauptbahnhof. The location was spot on and the surroundings were relatively safe at night for a female solo traveler. The hostel staff here are very accommodating and the dormitory style rooms are large enough that you do not feel cramped (despite sharing them with as many as five other people). The hostel also hosts a very diverse and interesting crowd of travelers. The only downside of a place this popular is that it can get crowded during peak times (I came right after Oktoberfest).
You Won’t Want to Miss: There are three: the Rhine River Valley, the Romantic Road and Dachau. The Rhine River Valley, particularly the upper middle portion, is quite the sight to see that it was deemed a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2002. This portion of the river is surrounded by medieval castles, quaint little villages and vineyards left and right. There are several cruise companies that run in both directions and allow tourists to “hop on and hop off” on some of the major ports. If the Rhine doesn’t provide you with a softer view of Germany, head on and drive through the fabled Romantic Road. It starts from the Franconian city of Wurzburg and ends up in the Bavarian region of Fussen (city closest to the famed Neuschwanstein Castle). Throughout this magnificent road trip, you will find out first hand, why the Romantic Road is indeed romantic. It is the small historic villages, open area fields and tree lined cobblestone streets that make this one drive to remember. For a whole different, and perhaps more moving experience, one must pay a visit to the Nazi’s first German concentration camp, in Dachau. It is a town just a mere half hour outside of Munich whose façade hardly changed since the dark periods of the 1930s and 1940s. When you go inside, it seems like nothing more than an unused property with meticulously cut grass and trimmed trees, but once you step into the buildings, most of which are originals, you begin to understand the magnitude of the events that occurred here. Thousands of men and women lost their lives, and many more experienced unmistakable grief and suffering. My visit here provided me with a greater appreciation of the world I live in today.
Eat Here: My budget for food was relatively small however my friends and I indulged ourselves at a restaurant named Ratskeller in Rudesheim. Of all the restaurants I ate at, this was the best. The menu has traditional German food and offers a variety of healthier options (fresh salads, seafood, etc). Their house brew and local wine are also pretty good. While in Rudesheim, make sure you try the Rudesheim coffee. It’s their answer to the more popular Irish version. For cheaper eats, my recommendation will be to buy sausages and pretzels at any Biergarten food stands. Munich’s best include Seehaus, which is located in Munich’s largest park, The English Garden and the Augustiner Keller.
If I Went Again: I will spend a night at Rothenburg ODT and Oberammergau. Rothenburg od der Tauber is perhaps the best preserved medieval town in Germany. Its location in middle Franconia is an ideal halfway stop when traveling the Romantic Road. In addition to the building facades to which it is famous for, this charming town also has several points of interest beginning with the Crime and Punishment Museum. This one of a kind collection is perhaps the best catalogue of artifacts and literature depicting criminal justice proceedings during the medieval period. Another museum of interest is the Christmas Museum located within the world famous Käthe Wohlfahrt. This megastore of anything Christmas related hosts a mini museum on the second floor that details the origin of ornaments as well as the evolution of the Christmas tree. The town is also home to the St. James’ Church that houses one of Tilman Riemenschneider’s masterpieces. Mr. Riemenschneider is Germany foremost woodcarver; the Michelangelo of wood. His “Holy Blood” altar piece inside is definitely worth visiting. Oberammergau is a Bavarian town about seventy miles southwest of Munich. The town is known for its house frescos, wood carvings and Passion play that’s conducted every ten years. This was my favourite of all the wonderful places I went to in Germany. The locals here are most welcoming and full of colourful stories that would keep you fascinated for hours on.
Other Tips for Fellow Travelers: For the geeks in you, my suggestion is to visit the Deutsche Museum in Munich. It is five floors of scientific wonders and will easily satisfy the chemist or the astronaut within. Also, for those wanting to experience Oktoberfest be forewarned that despite its name, this biggest festival of beer actually begins in September. For 2012, the dates are from September 22nd until October 7th. Lastly, in addition to being known for some of the best brews, Germany is also home to some of best white wines in the world. Riesling is their primary export.