I walked through my front door yesterday, almost exactly one month after I left for Germany. A MONTH in Germany seems like a long time, in fact it IS a long time, and yet I still didn’t see and do everything that was on my list. Still, I did manage to see quite a bit. This trip was part work, part vacation, and (the best part) part family visit. We stayed in 12 cities… used planes, trains, buses and even drove ourselves in 2 different cars. Left with one suitcase, came back with 2 (both full). Took hundreds of photos, hours of video, wrote pages and pages of notes, and averaged 15,000 steps per day.
How I Spent my Month in Germany
On July 8th, my daughter and I flew to Frankfurt from San Francisco. Thanks to Yvonne at Non-Stop Travel, the flights to Germany went without a hitch. (It was a bit of a juggle, since we had 3 people traveling from 2 Airports 10 days apart… and then returning from another airport to different airports also on different days.) From Frankfurt, Katy and I caught a train to Hamburg (why not fly to Hamburg? Cost and a layover made rail much easier).
Rail is in black… car is in red. (and no, I wasn’t accurate for Autobahns or rail lines)
Hamburg and the Speicherstadt
Speicherstadt Hamburg. Photo credit- Karen Lodder
We spent two nights in Hamburg near the Speicherstadt. That first evening of wandering past the old warehouses, visiting Miniature World (it’s open quite late!) and exploring the Elbphilharmonie worked off the ache of sitting for so long. The next day we took on the Altstadt, the Spice Museum, the Ballinstadt Emigration Center and paid a visit to my cousin and her family. (And I spent time getting reacquainted with a stick shift!).
Lüneburg and the Lüneburger Heide
From Hamburg, we drove south to Lüneburg. Once a member of the Hanseatic League, this old Salt-Mining town has a well preserved Altstadt! Ok, granted, this isn’t a city of nightlife, but it’s a lovely city to wander around in, do some shopping, eat great food (our first Spaghetti Eis of the trip!), or even visit the Salt Museum (my daughter still gives me a hard time about taking her there).
Some of the Heide is just beginning to bloom- photo credit Karen Lodder
South and a bit west of Lüneburg is the Lüneburger Heide. Acres and acres of heather fields are protected from development, and are a magnet for wanderers. We took a VERY long hike (well, ok 7.5 km). It would have been perfect if; 1. The heather had been in bloom (we were a month early). 2. We had seen some Heidschnucken (the local sheep) 3. If the rain had held off another 45 minutes. Still… it was well worth it, and we got good exercise….
Dinner at the Hotel am Pferdzentrum- photo credit Karen Lodder
Vechta may seem like an unusual choice… unless you are very into horses… But I LOVE Vechta because my cousin, her husband and children are there. Should you ever find yourself in this little town south of Bremen needing a place to stay, check into the Hotel am Pferdzentrum (and order the Flammkuchen for dinner, it’s the house specialty).
Buldern in the Münsterland
The back side of Schloss Buldern. My Opa’s office was just inside that gate-
Photo credit Karen Lodder
Another family visit! Better yet, we took a long walk around Schloß Buldern, and my Tante told me all about what it was like to live there after the war. I love the story about how my dad and Uncle would pull her around the frozen castle moat on a sled. Dinner with my cousin and his family capped of our wonderful day.
Rudesheim and the Drosselgasse
The Gondola above Rüdesheim… we took the Sparkling Wine package- photo credit Karen Lodder
My daughter really wanted to stay in a wine village on the Rhine, and Rüdesheim fit perfectly into the plan. Our room was just a block from the touristy and rollicking Drosselgasse (who knew there were SO MANY bands in Germany playing Elvis cover tunes???). To avoid some of the tourist congestion, we rode the gondola up to the Germania statue. From there, the view was spectacular! Later, after a delicious and lethal Rudesheimer coffee laced with Asbach! We enjoyed a delicious dinner and some wonderful wine… and then headed to the Drosselgasse where we joined the party (because who doesn’t like singing along with Elvis tunes?)
Our first priority was enjoying an afternoon Kaffee with my Tante and Onkel in Bad Homburg (outside Frankfurt). It really was lovely to see them again. After this, we checked in to a hotel in Sachsenhausen. This Frankfurt neighborhood on the south side of the Main river near Museum Row is known for its Apfelweinstuben. Oh MY it’s good. We drank a whole Bembel full. It went very well with the Pfifferlinge in Rahm Soße over Rosti. Swoon….
Kevin at Schloß Frankenstein- photo credit Karen Lodder
The next morning, we picked up the third member of our group, Kevin (my partner and photographer) from the Frankfurt Airport. The car was now full… And because the Kevin had never been to Germany before we went to Schloß Frankenstein to throw him in to the deep end!!
Rothenberg ob der Tauber
One of the city gates… see the Stork nest? Photo credit- Karen Lodder
Visiting Rothenberg is a bit like taking a trip back in time with about 1000 other people. The Altstadt of this beautiful city managed to escape too much destruction and modernization. The old buildings and city walls attract loads of tourists, but we managed to avoid them by wandering outside the city by day (most bus away at in the evening). Also, the fascinating Museum of Crime and Punishment kept us occupied. We happily stayed at the Boutiquehotel Goldene Rose (near the famous Plonlein) for two nights, so we had a chance to take the Night Watchman tour… a MUST for anyone who visits Rothenberg!
Fischerviertel in Ulm- Photo Credit Karen Lodder
I chose our next stop, Ulm, because the Münster (a church, NOT a cathedral) currently has the tallest spire in all of Europe. Ohhhh! It’s TALL! Unfortunately, the whole alter was covered in scaffolding… but it seems like most of Germany is “under construction” this year. Crossing the Danube into the Fischerviertel for savory Pfannekuchen made a perfect afternoon.
Augustiner Keller Biergarten Munich with the MBA Germany Beer Tour
In Munich, our little group split up. Kevin and I joined up with the MBA Germany Beer Tour (Katy wandered Munich for another day, then left for Switzerland.) A few months ago, Ron Smith asked if I would be interesting in taking part in a tour that he’s led for the past 10 years. Since Kevin loves beer (and even home brews), and I love traveling in Germany, we joined the group. While the emphasis of the tour was beer (drinking beer, seeing beer made, drinking beer, learning about the history of beer, drinking beer, and visiting breweries) there were many other activities to keep us occupied. Over the five days we were in Munich, we had a chance to ride bicycles through the city and into the English Garden with a guide from Mike’s Bikes , visit the Spaten Brewery and the Ayinger Brewery, have meals and beer in several fantastic restaurants and Bier Gartens like Ayinger, the Augustiner Keller and the Schneider Weiß Brauhaus. We visited Schloß Neuschwanstein (including a bike ride through the Valley), and traveled to Kloster Andechs. There was also plenty of free time to spend wandering the city (the churches, the Viktualienmarkt, and the Residenz were some of the favorites). Thankfully, our hotel had Air Conditioning, because right about then Germany got hit with a HEAT WAVE (so that jacket I bought in Hamburg got BURIED deep in my suitcase)!
Tasting the many beers made at Spaten Brewery in Munich- photo credit Karen Lodder
The MBA Beer Tour spent the next few days in Bamberg, city of Rauchbier. Naturally we visited the Schlenkerla Restaurant, but we also got to tour the Brewery that makes this special smoke flavored beer. We had plenty of downtime to explore the city… I just LOVE the Altstadt and the Rathaus on its Island. For the real beer geeks, there was a trip to Weyermann Malting Company (I now know how to make my own malt for beer…) Our last night with the group was in Forcheim for the Anna Fest. This Beer Festival on a hill showcased lots of local breweries who were serving right out of their Keller storage dug deep into the mountain. Throw in some food, music and carnival rides… and you have a rocking party that goes on for 10 days!
Bamberg Rathaus photo credit Karen Lodder
Sadly, we left the MBA Tour before they went on to Prague, because we had an assignment for the German National Tourist Board in Quedlinburg. This special UNESCO city in eastern Germany has almost 2000 original Fachwerk houses! Including the oldest Fachwerk house in Germany. But it’s more than just architecture. We had a wonderful tour of the city with Sabine, an incredibly knowledgeable tour guide. This year the city is celebrating the 1000th anniversary of King Heinrich 1! What I found most fascinating is that Quedlinberg spent hundreds of years being ruled by women. It’s a fascinating town with a rich history. And best of all… it hasn’t yet been discovered by hoards of tourists!! I was delighted to get to know this lovely place over a few days, and I’m really looking forward to sharing all the photos and video with you all.
Quedlinburg Marktplatz by night – photo credit Karen Lodder
Richard Glaesser Workshop- photo credit Karen Lodder
Deeper into Eastern Germany in the Erzgebirge, and practically on the border of the Czech Republich, you will find the town of Seiffen. This is the real Santa’s Workshop. Mining was the primary occupation in the Erzgebirge, until that dried up… then many people turned to wood carving and toy making. Slowly, they also began including Christmas decorations like Pyramids, Nutcrackers, Smokers and Arches. Today, these wooden crafts STILL dominate the economy. We visited workshops to see how these beautiful objects were made… and did a little (ok, a lot) of shopping. And because it’s not fun to just go shopping, Kevin was excited to give the local Rodelbahn a try!
Munich- Allianz Arena
Our time in Germany was coming to a close, but we got to end BIG. On the night before our flight home, the Allianz Arena hosted the 2019 Audi Cup (and my Fußball loving guy had tickets). Four Teams (Bayer Munchen, Tottenham Hotspurs, Real Madrid and Fenerbahçe) which meant two games each evening! A double header at the Allianz?!? Watching the games IN the stadium made them even more exciting. Best of all, beer was only 4,80€ (compared to $12+ here in California).
The flight home was long. Luckily my parents met us at LAX, and we spent a few days with them outside of Los Angeles to celebrate my father’s 80th birthday with family.
Now I’m sorting through the pictures and notes. As usual, I’m thinking about the wonderful experiences I had… and fretting a bit about some of the things I missed. Luckily, Germany will still be there when I’m ready to go again.
And this time I will make sure to get that second slice of cake….