Traveling—it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.Ibn Battuta, The Travels of Ibn Battutah
My recent trip to Germany left me in awe of the beauty of the region we visited and with a thirst to see more of the country. This trip marked the first time I traveled with an organized tour group and with my mom. My mom is an expert in group tours, so I let her choose the destination. We ended up with a 10-day trip to the Bavarian region spending most days along the Deutsche Alpenstraβe (German Alpine Road) outside of the major cities. After all the air traveling and time differences, we were left with a jam-packed 7 full-day itinerary. Since this was not my usual travel style, I didn’t know what to expect of the trip but to spend time with my mom. With that in mind, we set off to make the best of what the tour had to offer and to seek out the unique experience in each destination. A picture speaks a thousand words, in this blog I hope to show you the beauty of Germany through my lens.
Day 1 – Taipei to Frankfurt
Day 2 – Frankfurt to River Rhine cruise to Heidelberg
Day 3 – Heidelberg to Titisee and Bodensee to Fussen
Day 4 – Fussen to Neuschwanstein Castle to Weiskirche to Garmisch
Day 5 – Garmisch to Zugspitze to Berchtesgaden
Day 6 – Berchtesgaden to Konigssee to Munich
Day 7 – Munich to Rothenburg ob der Tauber
Day 8 – Rothenburg to Nuremberg to Frankfurt
Day 9 and 10 – Travel back to Taipei
We hit the ground running as soon as we arrived in Frankfurt. The first destination was a riverboat ride along the River Rhine. It was a great first impression of Germany as the shores of the river were lined with charming buildings, old castles, rolling hills, and vineyards. The day was cloudy and cold, but we decided to bundle up and stayed on the outside deck of the boat to soak in the beauty of the area. While our tour mates shopped at the little souvenir store after lunch, we opted for a stroll along the River Rhine. It was a good way to walk off the heavy lunch and breathe in some fresh air before we had to board the tour bus for a long ride to Heidelberg for our first palace/castle visit. It was a ‘wow’ moment when the city came into sight with its reddish-colored Old Bridge and rooftops. We could see miles and miles of the breathtakingly colorful landscape atop the palace grounds. I was glad that we visited this time of year despite the cold to appreciate the vibrant colors of autumn. The cool crisp air and the gloomy sky added a mysterious vibe to the city.
We visited many more castles after Heidelberg and the best was Neuschwanstein Castle. There were three ways to get to the castle from the parking area; walk, by bus and by horse carriage. We planned to take the bus up and walk down. Before the visit to the castle itself, a must-see is Mary’s Bridge where you can walk across the suspension bridge to have a full view of the castle and the hillside surrounding it. Words escaped me when I saw the castle. It’s truly a fairy tale castle standing tall and gleaming with the striking countryside as the backdrop. However, the inside of the castle was telling a different story; it was dark and depressing. You would need your imagination to picture the grandeur of this enchanted castle in its glorious days.
Lakes and mountains were in store for us as we drove through the Alps. We stopped at Titisee in the Black Forest region. This lake is fed by the Feldberg glacier and it’s the home of the world-famous cuckoo clocks. We took this opportunity to walk around the area and learned about the cuckoo clocks from some of the shopkeepers. It was very tempting to bring those clocks with me. We also tasted the best black forest cake ever here. I wish I could bring back some of those cakes too. Of all the lakes we saw, we had the best experience at Konigssee in the Berchtesgaden National Park. A must-do is the short boat ride to St. Bartholomew church. The astounding contrast of the red-roof top of the church and the surrounding snow-capped mountains created this amazingly magical place. I didn’t want to leave this place and hopefully, we can be back in the future to hike the trails to neighboring Austria.
I was happy that this itinerary includes a trip to the top of the highest mountain in Germany. We reached the 2962-meter high Zugspitze by a 75-minutes cogwheel train ride from Garmisch-Partenkirchen to Gletscherbahn station on the Zugspitz Plateau, and then a 5-minute cable car ride to the summit. The cogwheel train is specially designed to go on a steep grade, and it’s an experience not to be missed. The equally thrilling experience was the cable car running practically vertical from the summit down to Eibsee station. Other activities worth considering are having lunch at the restaurant on the summit and walking a short distance to the Austria side of the mountain. The high altitude did get the best of me, and I ended with a headache and shortness of breath. Luckily, that was our only destination of the day, and I was able to sleep it off on the way to the hotel.
We stopped at a few major cities and medieval towns along the journey, such as Frankfurt, Munich, Nuremberg, and Rothenburg ob der Tauber. The cities consist of buildings with modern and old picturesque architecture. The city halls, music halls, churches, gardens, museums, palaces, and even the cobblestone streets all seem fascinating. We were lucky to be there to experience the German Christmas markets, especially the largest and famous Nürnberger Christkindlesmarkt (Nuremberg). Everything looked and smelled festive. The mouthwatering Christmas goodies were calling our names. A variety of cookies and bread, roasted nuts, sausages, fries, crepes, popcorns, chocolates, and drinks. My favorite was the German Glühwein (hot spiced wine). It felt comforting and soothing after drinking it in the cold winter night at the market. I’ll have to start making those at home.
Reflections and tips:
- My first group tour was better than I thought it would be since I started with an open mind. We met some nice people and made new friends along the way. It’s not easy traveling with a group of strangers, just relax and enjoy the journey. After all, you are on vacation.
- I enjoyed this trip because we were able to spend a lot of free time roaming the area after a brief introduction by the tour guide. Picking a tour that suits your interest is important. My mom was able to find a group tour that offered more outdoor activities in nature, which I enjoyed. We were able to clock in at 10,000 to 15,000 steps most days.
- We sought out unique experiences in each destination and enjoyed them as best as we could in the time allocated. We tried to walk a little farther to less crowded areas.
- Don’t be afraid to travel during the cold or winter season. We didn’t encounter any adverse weather and was rewarded with less crowd and breathtaking scenery.
- Spending time enjoying a new country with my mom. Priceless!
Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.Theodor Seuss Geisel