- Paris and Normandy
- Trier, Mosel River, Bacharach, and Rhine River
- Rothenburg, Erfurt, and Buchenwald
- Berlin, Poznan, and other places
We had been wanting to return to Germany for a long time. Our last trip was back in Nov/Dec 2010 for the Christmas Markets. We had kind of planned to go late summer 2020 but due to Kyle having to do high school orientation next year, that wasn’t going to work out. We were kind of open as to where we wanted to go but definitely wanted to do the Rhine and Berlin. We ended up slotting Trier and a bit of the Mosel, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, and Erfurt. While we had been to all these places before, we hadn’t been since 2003 or even 2002 (Rothenburg). It was also some different areas of Germany including the capital (Berlin), an old medieval town (Rothenburg) and a former East German city (Erfurt).
In addition to Germany, as Kyle is taking French in school, we wanted to do something in France. Paris fit the bill and we hadn’t been since 2003. We were able to add a few nights at the beginning of the trip to have Kyle experience a bit of French culture and language.
In terms of planning, we used our old standby of Rick Steves, using both the Paris city guide and the Germany country guide (link is for the 2020 edition). Both of these were helpful for sights and the like. We used the Germany guide combined with Tripadvisor for hotels in Trier, Bacharach, Rothenburg, and Erfurt. For Paris and Berlin, we went through AirBnB. Of course, we have a good knowledge of getting around Germany so didn’t worry so much about that. Two sites/tools that I found super helpful to keep track of things we needed to do and plans were Trello (Kanban board tool that I use for other things) and TripIt (a trip planning tool I’ve used for several years). These were really handy for this trip as we did a fair amount of moving around (though I also use TripIt for short trips to Boston and have used it for week stays in Cambridge, UK in the past). We used a Google doc to take notes, which is nice as it’s accessible from wherever and both Suzanne and I could edit at the same time from different devices.
We did rent a car from Trier to Erfurt via AutoEurope as it was a lot less expensive than the agencies directly. Total cost was $220 for 5 days including full, $0-deductible insurance. We bought our train tickets early to take advantage of the heavily discounted Super SparPries (and the French equivalent) tickets. These do lock you into a specific train but the savings is well worth it. Our Paris to Trier, Erfurt to Berlin and Berlin to Pozna? and back were bought via Deutsche Bahn (the German national rail company). We bought Paris to Normandy and back via SNCF (the French national rail company).
Fri 16-Aug and Sat 17-Aug – Flying to Paris
We ended up booking flights out of JFK as the schedule worked out better, especially on the way back as Delta is the only airline with direct Berlin to New York flights. (Even Lufthansa has only connecting flights.) Our flight was at 7:00pm but we had a local car service pick us up at 2:00pm as the traffic can sometimes be rough. We ended up getting there in plenty of time and were able to hang out in the Air France lounge (as we were flying AF to Paris). (Likely the last time this will happen as I won’t have any status next year.) The flight over was fine, though I don’t think any of us slept hardly at all.
Our arrival was on time and it was a reasonably quick trip though immigration. (Of course, customs is basically not existent coming into Europe.) We had scheduled a car service to pick us up via our AirBnB host which worked well once we found him. (He used his phone for our name which is kind of small.) The drive to the apartment was uneventful though it was cool to drive around the large circle at the Arc de Triomphe. As we got to our apartment early, we needed to store our baggage. We had found a service (can’t remember which one) at a shop about a 10 minute walk which worked well, though we did have to wait 15-20 minutes for them to open. It gave us an excuse to enjoy a croissant for breakfast.
After wandering Rue Cler and the area for a bit, we grabbed our bags and were able to access our AirBnB apartment. This was a great location, five minutes from Rue Cler and the La Tour-Maubourg Metro stop and less from the 69 bus (which runs to Louvre). The Eiffel Tower was a 10 minute or so walk and there were several markets nearby. The apartment itself was okay with a large living room and good size bedroom. The kitchen was small but adequate. The bathroom was also small, especially the shower, but serviceable for the four nights we were there.
We next headed out for lunch at Cafe Roussillon on Rue Cler which was good but a bit pricey (as was most of the food in Paris). The weather by this time had gone downhill and it was raining steadily. We hopped down to the Metro and out toward the Galeries Lafayette department store. This was definitely worth a wander and we got to see the Opera House on the way there from the Metro stop. Kyle was really dragging by this point so we headed back to the apartment for a rest. We don’t normally do this but Kyle was really done and the rain was really coming down.
After a couple of hours break, the rain had basically stopped. We wandered back up to the Seine, crossed the river, stopped for an ice cream at a small market event, and then wandered around the Eiffel Tower. Unfortunately, you now have to go through security to walk under it and the line was long. We continued through the Champ de Mars park and back along Rue Cler. Dinner was early, especially by Parisian standards, consisting of some great crepes just down the block from the apartment at Le Crépuscule, both savory and sweet, and then an early night back at the apartment.
Sun 18-Aug – Museums and better weather (eventually)
After breakfast of some great pastries, which took a bit to find as several close bakeries were closed either for Sunday or their summer holiday, we headed out for our visit to Musée d’Orsay, home to many works from the Impressionists. We had got our Paris Museum Passes the day before but still had to wait a bit. Especially annoying was that they weren’t being recognized as active right away and we had to wait 15 minutes by the entrance gate. (I think the attendant eventually just let us in.)
After a couple of hours there, we headed up to the l’Orangerie Museum, home to Monet’s incredible Water Lilies series. Suzanne was especially excited as the museum was closed on both of our previous visits. The paintings are very impressive, in both content and size. We then headed back across the Seine, stopping for a decent lunch including the classic croque monsieur for Suzanne and croque madame for me. (It might have been at La Source but I’m not sure.)
After lunch, we did a visit to Napoleon’s Tomb at Les Invalides followed by the Musée de l’Armée (included in our pass). This was quite interesting. Kyle especially enjoyed it. As a bonus, there’s a location for Angelina’s, home to what many consider the best hot chocolate in all of Paris. By now the weather was turning very nice as the sun started to come out. After a short walk, we visited the Rodin Museum, which we hadn’t done before. Seeing many of his sculpture’s, including the famous Thinker, was a real treat.
We followed on spending some time along Rue Cler again, before having dinner at Le Tribeca. The food was quite good. I finally had French snails, though I also had snails in Japan last year, but it was a bit pricey and the service was slow, even by Parisian standards. After dinner and ice cream from Amarino down the street, we wandered around Champ du Mars park. It was wonderful to see the Eiffel Tower lit up at night.
Mon 19-Aug – Sainte-Chapelle, the Louvre, and the Arc de Triomphe
More pastries for breakfast and then we hopped the 69 bus down to near île de la Cité. Our first stop was the spectacular Sainte-Chapelle. This is truly one of the highlights of Paris with its luminescent stained glass and was as wonderful as we remembered from 2003. It’s really hard to it justice in photos. We continued wandering around, including walking by Notre-Dame cathedral. The fire in April was incredibly tragic but there is a lot of restoration work going on already. Aside from the scorched scaffolding outlining the former roof and lots of extra wooden supports for the butresses, the building itself appears much as it did. We followed this by wandering around the Latin Quarter including stops at Saint-Séverin and the famous Shakespeare and Co. bookstore.
This was our day to visit the Louvre. They had instituted the requirement to pre-book tickets/entrance just, as in a couple of days, before our visit. This proves tricky with the Museum Pass as you need the number to book your entrance time. We did this first thing Sunday morning and got a decent entry time of 1:00 PM. After a lunch from McDonald’s (Kyle) and a supermarket (Suzanne and I), we entered. The line was basically non-existent for prebooked slots and we were through security quickly.
The museum itself was very busy. Luckily, most of the highlights we wanted to see were Denon wing but the Mona Lisa had been temporarily moved to the Richelieu wing. The line for that entrance was massive! (We ended up skipping it as Suzanne and I had seen it in 2000 and again in 2003.) We did also visit the Sully Wing which has a cool exhibit on the Louvre as a castle, including a path around the base of the original wall in what was the moat.
Following the Louvre, we took a hop on the Metro to the eastern end of the Champs-Elysées and wandered down, getting some sweets and coffee at Paul and doing some shopping here and there, to Place Charles de Gaulle and the Arc de Triomphe. We did climb the Arc, also covered in the museum pass which was great in terms of skipping the long ticket line, for some great views. After a break at the apartment, we headed back to the Latin Quarter for a good dinner at Chez Fernand, after waiting for a bus that never came and trying another restaurant closed for vacation. Following some ice cream, at another Amorino, and some shopping at Marks & Spencer (good English orange marmalade and lemon curd), we headed back to the apartment as Kyle and I had an early morning the next day.
Tues 20-Aug – Kyle and me in Normandy
Kyle had expressed an interest in visiting Normandy several times. From looking before, it’s best to stay in the area overnight which wasn’t going to work for us. However, I found a tour from Overlord Tours that coordinated with the train to/from Bayeaux to make it a day trip from Paris. The train was early, 7:05 from Gare Sainte-Lazare, but was an easy two hour and 15 minute ride. Our tour guide met us right at the station. It was booked as a group tour but we were the only guests so it was basically a private tour.
Our first stop was Omaha Beach followed by the adjacent Normandy American Cemetery. Both sites were very moving. It was incredible to be on the very beach that was part of the D-Day landings. Next stop was Pointe du Hoc where US Army Rangers had to scale sheer cliffs to take out gun batteries targeting both Omaha and Utah Beaches. This was a very interesting stop as there were several bunker ruins and a lot of bomb craters, helping to set the scene.
For lunch, we stopped in the Norman village of Sainte-Mère-Église, a major goal on D-Day and famous for the paratrooper who was snagged on the church steeple for several hours. This was a very nice village but does emphasize it’s role in D-Day with many souvenir shops and was fairly busy. I did get a couple of nice local beers at a brewery shop as well. Following lunch was a short stop at the site of the battle of la Fière along the Merderet River.
Next up was Utah Beach, again quite powerful. It was interesting here as it was later in the day and many folks were out and I was struck by the dichotomy of the the historic landings and the current beachgoers. We stopped for a brief visit at Église Saint-Côme-et-Saint-Damien in Angoville-au-Plain which served as a hospital on D-Day. Here, US Army medics Robert Wright, buried in the churchyard, and Ken Moore treated the wounded, Allied and German alike. There are still bloodstains on some of the pews. We had extra time, so as a bonus we made a stop at the La Cambe German War Cemetery. It was interesting to see things from the other side and to remember that many of the rank-and-file German soldiers were just serving their country as monstrous as its leaders were. We ended up at the train station early so grabbed a snack before the ride back to Paris. Dinner was at the apartment.
While Kyle and I were away, Suzanne spent the day in Paris, mostly shopping and wandering. She had dinner once again at Le Crépuscule. As we were leaving the next day for Germany, we all had a packing to do.
Wed 21-Aug – Off to Germany
This was the day we were finally headed back to Germany after almost nine years (aside from a couple of hours in Frankfurt during our layover from Croatia back in May). Our train was just past 9:00 from Gare de l’Est. We grabbed an Uber (which worked fairly well in Paris), grabbed some breakfast at the station, and hopped aboard the train to Saarbrücken. This is the famous LGV Est line, one of the fastest trains in Europe. They show the speed and at one point we hit 312 km/hr (193.8 mph). It was still very smooth. A quick change in Saarbrücken to the local train and we were on our way to Trier.
Once in Trier, we walked around 10 minutes to our hotel, Hotel Pieper. This was actually the same place we stayed in both 2000 and 2003 though it has been renovated since and was wonderful. After checkin, we headed out to grab lunch (döner kebab for me which I had been craving, bratwurst for Suzanne, and McDonald’s for Kyle), eating in the main market square. Once done, we toured the city, including visits to the Dom and Liebfrauenkirche churches, the Aula Palatina (ancient Roman Basilica), the Electoral Palace gardens, and the Roman Bath ruins. Trier was once a Roman provincial capital and one of the largest cities in the Empire, hence the Roman sites. We then wandered back for a break at the hotel.
Before dinner, I headed out a bit early to visit the excellent Craftprotz craft beer bar. Obviously, Germany has a massive beer culture but has lagged behind the US in terms of smaller, craft brews. This is changing and this bar had lots of excellent German and other European brews. For dinner, we had made reservations (which weren’t really needed in the end) at Weinstube zum Domstein, specifically so I could have their Roman menu. (While I didn’t eat German food our first night in Germany, I had plenty later.) This was really good and something that I had not eaten before, including Roman fish sauce (which ancient Romans would use like ketchup and put it on everything). We then headed back toward the hotel with a stop for ice cream and for some nighttime photos of the famous Porta Nigra (Black Gate).
Thu 22-Aug – Mosel River to Bacharach
After a great first German breakfast at our hotel, we took the 15 minutes or so walk to pick up our rental car and then stopped at a supermarket for supplies for the next few days. We headed out of town to drive the scenic route along the Mosel River. This was a bit tricky as GPS wanted to go the shortest route so I had to convince it otherwise. We stopped briefly in Bernkastel-Keus and then had a picnic lunch at a peaceful rest area before stopping in Zell. We had stayed here in both 2000 and 2003 so it was nice to walk around a bit. Instead of continuing down the Mosel, we took the shortcut over the hills toward the Rhine valley for our next stop, Bacharach.
Once again, we had stayed here in 2000 and 2003, staying in the same hotel as we did in 2000, the Hotel Kranenturm. It actually was a bit hard to find triple rooms in Bacharach. This hotel is okay, though a bit worn and our room faced the train tracks so was somewhat loud at times. After checking in, we wandered around town, including hiking along the walls and up through a vineyard to the Postenturm overlooking town. Walking back down, we stopped for a couple of excellent pints at the local microbrewery, Kleines Brauhaus, located in a circus tent. Dinner was some traditional German food at Cafe Rusticana.
Fri 23-Aug – The Rhine Valley
While this was our fourth trip to the Rhine (2000, 2001, and 2003), we had never actually taken a cruise on the river so this was the year. We took the train from Bacharach south/upriver to Bingen where we hopped a K-D Line boat for the hour and 40 minute ride to St. Goar. (It’s much faster to do downriver. The same trip in the other direction takes an extra hour.) This was a great way to see the Rhine, especially all of the castles. It also meant I didn’t have to worry about driving and could enjoy the sights.
In St. Goar, we picnicked along the river before heading up to Burg Rheinfels above town. There was a shuttle but we managed to miss it so did the moderately strenous walk up the hill. Visiting the castle was nice though they’ve closed off some areas since our last visit (2003). Next, it was back down the hill into town where we stopped for Kyle’s first spaghettieis. We then wandered down to the train station for the trip back to Bacharach but happened to hit the one hour all day when there wasn’t a train. As there was no Uber/Lyft and we couldn’t find a taxi, we just had a relaxing break for a while while waiting. There are worse things to do on a vacation.
Once back in Bacharach, I wandered up to the ruins of the Werner Chapel above town, visited St. Peter’s church, and then headed back to the Kleines Brauhaus to try the other two beers I hadn’t tried the night before. After an excellent traditional German dinner at Altes Haus, we headed down to the park along the river. It turns out, there was a wine festival going on. We enjoyed some great local wine and some music for a while before heading back to the hotel to pack to head out the next morning.
Sat 24-Aug – Friends and The Romantic Road
From Bacharach, we headed over to Würzburg to have lunch with the Sotriffers. Christoph and I shared an office while I was in Marburg and we had visited them on a couple of previous trips while they were in Gernsheim. It was great to see Christoph, Edith, and the kids again. (Their oldest daughter is seven months younger than Kyle.) After lunch, it was back in the car for the drive along the Romantic Road down to Rothenburg ob der Tauber. This was a nice drive through some smaller towns and the Bavarian countryside. We stopped in Creglingen for a 15-20 minute stroll which was nice.
Upon arriving in Rothenburg, we parked outside the walls and walked to our hotel, the wonderfully old Gasthof Goldener Greifen right in the heart of the old town, literally a few steps from the central Marktplatz. After checkin, Suzanne and I headed back to get the car as the hotel had parking. Navigating there wasn’t so bad but parking itself was tricky. After a wander through town, following part of the Rick Steves audio tour, and dinner at the hotel, we headed back out to catch the Night Watchman’s tour. This is a real highlight of a visit. The guide is incredibly entertaining and has been doing this for years (almost 30 according to one source I found). We had the same guide on our first trip in 2000!
Sun 25-Aug – Rothenburg
I got up early for some morning photos. I started with a walk along the walls from Rödertor down to Spitaltor. It was great to have many spots mostly to myself, even the Markplatz and the famous Plönlein. After a great breakfast at the hotel, we all headed out. We started with the walk along the walls, this time doing the full walk from Klingentor at the north end of town to the Spitaltor at the south end of town (1.5 miles). At Spitaltor, we also walked around inside the Bastion which was cool.
After finishing the wall walk, we headed back to the center of town and visited St. Jakobskirche, following the RS audio tour some more, and through the Convent Garden (where they were growing hops). Next up was a picnic in the park and then the famous Medieval Crime and Justice Museum which Kyle liked parts of. We had been going most of the day so decided to take a bit of a break at the hotel.
Early evening, we hiked about 15 minutes down into the valley for a visit to the Unter den Linden beer garden. This was wonderful, right on the river and some nice beer. We had thought about eating here but, stupid me, forgot to get any cash. It terms out they were mostly sold out of food in any case. I did get to admire a really nice Mustang. (Can’t imagine what the gas and tax, which is done by horsepower in Germany, is for it.) Dinner was a wonderful German meal, including my favorite, Schweinshaxe (roast pork knuckle) at Restaurant Alter Keller.
Mon 26-Aug – Off to Erfurt
Next up was the drive to Erfurt, in former East Germany. We had originally planned to drive to the Buchenwald Concentration Camp Memorial on the way but Google Maps informed us it was closed on Mondays. I swear I had checked that, but oh well. Instead, we drove straight to Erfurt, taking about three hours. After returning our car, we hopped in a taxi to our hotel, the very nice Hotel am Kaisersaal, right by the famous Merchants’ Bridge. Our room was great as it was really two rooms connected by a hallway so Kyle had his own space.
We headed out to explore the town, following the tour in the RS guide a bit. The main square was mostly closed as they were doing a play of some sort on the steps leading up to Cathedral. We did visit the Cathedral and St. Severus and wandered around the Citadel before heading back into town for some ice cream. After break, I headed out to the Augustiner beer garden along the banks of the Gera river right at the Merchants’ Bridge. I later met Suzanne and Kyle for dinner at Ristorante La Piazetta which was a nice break from German food before another walk through town and some ice cream.
Tue 27-Aug – Buchenwald
After yet another great breakfast, we hopped the tram to the train station to catch a train to Weimer, about 15 minutes from the Erfurt main train station. In Weimar, it was a bus up the hill to visit the Buchenwald Concentration Camp Memorial. (Perhaps you can see why we wanted to drive.) As Kyle was now old enough to understand about the holocaust, we felt it was appropriate to visit. I had been here in 2003 but it was Suzanne’s first visit. (In fact, she had only back to Dachau way back in 2000 as she didn’t come with me there in 2010.) It is incredibly moving to be on the actual grounds of a camp. Nothing can really compare to standing where so many innocent people died and seeing the ovens where their bodies were burned. After a couple of hours, we headed back to Erfurt.
Back in Erfurt, it was some more wandering, a Thuringian bratwurst for lunch, some shopping, and some ice cream. We also hung out a bit in the wonderful beer garden at the Köstritzer “Zum Güldenen Rade”. (Köstritzer is a local beer brewed nearby and exported to the West during the days of East Germany.) Dinner was back at the Augustiner Beer Garden that I had visited on Monday. Seeing Erfurt again was cool as we really didn’t remember so much from 2003.
Wed 28-Aug – Off to Berlin
This morning, it was off the station via taxi for the two hour ride to Berlin. Once again, we pre-purchased our tickets and saved a ton of money. We were excited to heading back to Berlin as we hadn’t been since 2003 and it’s a very dynamic city. After arrival, we grabbed an Uber to our AirBnB in Prenzlauer Berg, a great neighborhood in former East Berlin. The apartment was very nice and included a terrace out back. The location was really nice, right by the M1 and 12 tram lines (an easy ride to the center of the city) and a short walk to a couple of U-Bahn stations.
We next headed out to see some of the city, taking the tram and S-Bahn to the Brandenburg Gate. We wandered by the Reichstag building, though we had a tour scheduled for Thursday evening. We followed Rick Steves’s audio guide which led us down through the somber Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, along Unter den Linden, through Bebelplatz, and on to Gendarmenmarkt. Here, there’s a large Ritter Sport (German chocolate bar) store where Kyle even got to make his own bar. We also visited the wonderful Rausch chocolate shop which has large sculptures of both the Brandenburg Gate and the Reichstag Building made from chocolate. After a break, we visited the Berlin Wall Memorial which was great. Though we didn’t see much of the museum as it was closing just after we got there, it was very cool to see some long stretches of wall remnants. We then visited the famous Prater Beer Garden, but it was very busy and took forever to get food, and then stopped at the famous Konnopke’s Imbiss for an original currywurst (a Berlin staple).
Thu 29-Aug – Around Berlin
After a breakfast of pastries from the bakery next door, we hopped on the tram back to the center of town. We continued using the RS audio guide, hitting Neue Wache with its Käthe Kollwitz sculpture, across Museum Island and past the Berlin Cathedral, and on to Alexanderplatz. After lunch in a park, we visited the very interesting DDR Museum. (DDR is the German abbreviation for the former East Germany.) It was interesting to see things from the other side.
Kyle was keen to visit the Germany History Museum which was surprising to us. This was actually a very nice museum and worth the visit. I especially liked how they portrayed the Cold War era with two exhibits divided by a chain link fence. By this time, it was getting toward our prebooked Reichstag tour so we headed that way, stopping for ice cream on the way.
Nowadays, you have to prebook access to the Reichstag dome but you can also book a free tour. This proved really interesting as we got to see the graffiti Soviet soldiers had left after the battle for Berlin in 1945. I was astonished they leave it exposed. We also got to see the Bundesrat chamber, though not go in it. After the tour, we got access to the dome which is very impressive. Dinner was at Brauhaus Lemke am Hackeschen Markt for more great German food (Schweineshaxe again!) and German microbrew beer.
Fri 30-Aug – Off to Poland
When we lived in Germany, we had wanted to get to Poland but never quite made it. While exploring things to do for day trips from Berlin, I learned that Poznan, Poland is just under three hours by train. As it was something new, and prebooked, discount tickets were reasonable at 80PLN round-trip for all three of us, we decided to go. We hopped the 9:37 train from the Berlin Hauptbahnhof and arrived in Poznan„ around 1:00 (as we were a bit late). We walked from the station to the Old Town Square (15-20 mins) and grabbed at traditional Polish lunch at Pioro Feniksa right on the main square. Of course, we had to get pierogis (for us, Kyle had pizza) which Kyle ended up really liking, though you can’t get meat ones anywhere around us, even at the pierogi shops.
After lunch, it was more wandering, including a visit to the Poznan Cathedral, a stop for great ice cream at Lodziarnia Kolorowa, a wander by the Imperial Palace, before taking a break at the Stary Browar mall, housed in an Old Brewery. We then headed back to the train station, getting some snacks and drinks at the attached mall for the trip home. We got back to Berlin around 10:30 and then hopped the S-Bahn back to our apartment. While we speak no Polish, we didn’t have any real issue getting around. We also didn’t bring any zloty but had no issues with using our credit card (but we didn’t try to by anything from a small vendor). All-in-all, a long day but it was very cool to see something new.
Sat 31-Aug – Last Day
Sadly, this was the last day of our trip. Kyle and I started off taking the Dark Worlds tour from Berliner Unterwelten (Berlin “Underworlds”). This was a tour of the WWII air raid shelter at the Gesundbrunnen S-/U-Bahn stop and was very cool. Suzanne headed into Alexanderplatz to so some shopping and we met up here later in the day. After joining up, we headed to the Topography of Terror museum/exhibit which is on the site of the headquarters of the SS and Gestapo. (The building was destroyed after the war.) This was a very powerful exhibit. Right nearby is another singificant stretch of the Berlin Wall.
Next up was an obligatory photo at Checkpoint Charlie and a stroll down to Potsdamerplatz. This was the center of Berlin cabaret culture in the 1930s but was devastated during the war and subsequently was part of no-man’s land during the Cold War. It was being rebuilt during our trip in 2003 and was amazing to see it now. After a stop for some very good, though kind of pricey, ice cream, we headed back to the apartment to start to pack for real for the trip home. We headed back out a bit later for one last traditional Germany dinner at Schlögl`s Altberliner Gaststätte near the TV Tower.
It was interesting that we spent nearly all our time in Berlin in the former East.
Sun 1-Sep – Trip Home
Our flight home wasn’t until 12:55 so we had a farily relaxed morning before hoping in an Uber to head to Tegel airport. We hung a bit in the Air France lounge, though we had to convince the attendent to let all three of us in. Tegel isn’t a great a airport, especially as the lounge is outside of security and the fact that there was a single security line to the very small waiting area for our gate. The flight itself, a bit over 9 hours, was on time and it was nice to have a non-stop home, though it was to JFK. (The only non-stop from Berlin to the NYC area is this Delta flight. Even Lufthansa requires a connection.) The trip home from the airport took some time as there was a lot of traffic due to some incident on the Verrezano Bridge.
All in all, it was a great trip. It was wonderful to finally be back in Germany after so many years. (It was by far the longest stretch since our first trip in 2000.) While we had visited all the spots in Germany before, it hadn’t been since 2003 at the latest. Getting to Paris was a nice bonus as well though it would be great to spend long there at some point. (All three of our trips combined total only 10 nights.) Our trip to Normandy was a real bonus for Kyle as we didn’t think we would be able to make it this trip. Poland was a nice extra as well. An especially great time was lunch with the Sotriffers. I think our schedule worked out well though we did move quite a bit.
Of course, we know our way around the German train system pretty well so were not worried and had no issues. As I mentioned before, the Super Sparpries tickets can save a bundle. (We likely would not have gone to Poland had we had to pay full price, 183 EUR, instead of 80 EUR.) Within cities, we did use Uber several times and taxis here and there. We also made good use of the Metro and bus in Paris and the U-Bahn, S-Bahn, and Trams in Berlin. The last especially was helpful as the stop was right in front of our apartment. While we did have the car for five days and it was handy, I’m not sure it was worth the hassle of driving and parking. I had thought we would use it more along the Rhine but didn’t really at all. It did make getting to Christoph’s house possible and getting to Rothenburg much easier (as it would have required several train changes otherwise).
For the most part, food wasn’t much of an issue. We actually had a bit of a tough time finding stuff for Kyle in Paris. We also found Paris expensive for dining. (Most meals at a bistro ran around EUR 50 for all three of us.) Germany was easier for the most part. Breakfast at our apartments was generally cereal/muesli, pastries, and yogurt. All the hotels in Germany had good to great breakfasts. (Much nicer than the traditional basket of bread, some ham and cheese, and yogurt though that would have been good too.) We did picnic or get fast/snack food a few times which saved some money and it was nice to sit in a park and have lunch.
Our AirBnBs worked pretty well. Both were in great locations and nice places (for a lot less than we could have gotten a similarly sized hotel room). It was also nice to have some hotels in the mix as well. We found it pretty easy to get triple rooms aside from Bacharach. (To be fair, it was getting into wine harvest season on the Rhine.)
- Paris: AirBnB
- Normandy: Overlord Tours
- Trier: Hotel Pieper
- Bacharach: Hotel Kranenturm
- Rothenburg: Gasthof Goldener Greifen
- Erfurt: Hotel am Kaisersaal
- Berlin: AirBnB