Monday, May 7, 2012

Summer in Germany

Summer is approaching in Germany.  For Americans in the country or just visiting.....I'll offer up ten bits of advice on how to handle a German vacation.

1.  There are tens of thousands of things to see in Germany....so don't waste the summer away.  If you just draw a 1-hour driving circle around where you live....you might discover dozens of places worth spending an afternoon.

2.  Utilize German rest-stops on the autobahn.  I would be the first to admit that some stops are one-star in nature (they barely have a pull-off and a garbage can).  A significant number of the rest-stops these days.....will have a restroom and a couple of picnic tables.  One out of ten rest-stops have a full-up gas station with a restaurant that might actually offer a half-way decent meal.  It's to your advantage every two or three hours to pull off and take half an hour to relax.

3.  Most every German village has a swimming pool, where you can acquire a yearly pass for your family for around $40.  I admit, the sun might only come out 42 days this year, but there's that slight chance of having a 75-day summer (one can always hope).

4.  There are tons of fests around the country throughout the summer.  This usually means a fair-like atmosphere, great food, and lots of beverages.  If you pay attention to your local paper....you might find a schedule for all of those fests within driving distance.

5.  Yes, there are amusement parks in Germany.  I admit....some might be two-star types in the eyes of some Americans....but there are a couple (Europa Park for example) which would be worth spending three hours on the road to reach.  None of these are exactly "cheap", and you need to plan on exiting by 7PM typically for all the parks.

6.  Travel packages via TUI?  If you visit the local tour agent in your town....they will drag out the fancy catalogs and show you thousands of vacation packages to countries around Germany.  The packages typically include hotel, breakfast buffet, and the airline deal all combined.  My advice is to ask a lot of questions before you sign anything.  You don't want to end up at a quiet hotel in Italy where they party until 4AM in the morning....unless you were obviously looking for a party hotel.

7.  Using the train to get from point A to point B makes sense.  The cost is reasonable and there's no chance of you getting lost.  The only issue I see in the midst of summer is when the temp rise above 95 degrees and the AC units on the trains have maxed out.  In the old days....you could at least open the windows and get a blast of air on your face.  Today.....those windows don't open.

8.  Heading north or south on the autobahn on a Saturday?  Expect lots of stau's between 0900 and noon.  If you really want to get ahead....you need to pull out around 6AM and expect to take a good long hour break in the late-morning when you start to hit the stau's.  Remember also....on Sundays....there's this rule about no trucks on the autobahn....so Sundays are a lot calmer for travel than Saturday.

9.  Hiking?  Every community in Germany has hundreds of miles of trails established.  Most come near a pub or restaurant about every couple of miles.

10.  Finally, a Rhine River boat trip is worth a million bucks.  Yes, I know the food on board is lousy.  Yes, the beer and wine is over-priced.  But this is something you only do once for the whole year....so don't waste an opportunity. Make sure you've planned the method of return well....if you intend to use the train....keep a schedule of the various trains heading back to the starting point.

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