Part 1 Germany & Austria
My wife and I took our two oldest girls on a grand tour of Europe in July 2019 and this is the trip report. We went to Munich, Germany, Nördlingen, Germany, Salzburg, Austria, Lucerne, Switzerland, Beaune, France, Tours, France, and York in the United Kingdom. I want to share this with you in hopes that it will help with planning, or provide inspiration for your travels. The was a 20-day trip packed with history, art, architecture, food, and fun, so we will break this up into four parts. Check back later for further installments.
Traveling with Kids
It wasn’t that hard! They have kids there too, you know. Don’t wait for the perfect time or age to go, or you will never go. We took the two oldest girls to reduce our numbers (and cost), the other kids will go next time. It was already a chore to find accommodations for 4 in one room, so this was probably wise, plus now we have to go again. Our girls loved it. We did have to plan around them, as is usual. Each got their special day on the trip. One got a visit to Salzburg that included a Baroque concert on a period instrument. The other got a visit to a tea house and ghost tour in York. We also had to plan a little bit of down or playtime for them as they are still kids. To help on the budget, the girls got reduced train tickets on most journeys, or we got the family tickets in Germany. Additionally, they got admission into most museums for free or reduced. Don’t be afraid to take your kids too!
Trains are good! We traveled by train to get from place to place on this trip. Well, except of course we flew from the US to Europe. I love traveling by train. It’s so easy. This time we used e-tickets and purchased all of our journeys in advance. The trains are comfortable and go pretty much everywhere. We also enjoyed the convenience of a lunch counter and ate our lunch on the trains when it was time to eat. Trains are the way to travel, their relaxing, on time, and quick.
Our hotels were great, we had no complaints. As always, we select a hotel based mostly upon location. We want to be able to walk to get food and have things nearby to see. We got breakfast at all but Beaune (it was an apartment), it’s worth the cost just to get coffee or tea.
Check out our recent article on how to select a hotel in Europe here: http://www.artway.today/2018/05/31/how-can-you-select-a-hotel-in-europe/
Pack light work less. If you’re going to take a tour like this packing light is essential. It is so much easier to take less. It takes much less effort, to walk to the train station with the bag in tow, stow your bag, grab the bag to change trains, stow the bag, walk to the hotel, and soon after repeat when your bag is manageable.
See more about packing light in our recent article on packing light here: http://www.artway.today/2018/07/16/pack-light-work-less-travel-tips/ Free yourself from the burden of heavy bags, pack light!
Munich ( München )
Beautiful architecture, world-class museums, lovely parks, bratwurst, pretzels, beer, Munich has so much to offer there’s something for everyone. I really enjoyed the hearty food, tasty beer, ample green space, and the walkable pedestrian core.
We arrived early in the morning, droopy-eyed after a transatlantic flight. We were determined not to be hindered by jet lag, dropped our bags in the lockers at Munich’s train station, and off we went to see the Alstadt. Then we did a walking tour around the old town to include the Marienplatz, Frauenkirche, Peterskirche, Viktualienmarkt, and the Odeonsplatz. We even got to have bratwurst, kartoffelsalat, pretzels, and beer for the adults at the Biergarten in the Viktualienmarkt. Then it was check into the hotel, short evening stroll for ice cream, and an early bedtime for tired travelers.
Our second day was the museum and palace day. We started with the Bavarian National Museum. It has a great eclectic collection of various historical artifacts. We especially liked the medieval art and old musical instruments. We even got to see surfers in the river Eisbach on the walk to the museum, so that was also a real treat. That’s right, surfers, it’s mesmerizing. We had lunch at the Biergarten, in the English Garden, at the Chinese tower, before heading to the Residenz Museum. The palace is decoration on top of decoration. I loved watching the girls’ reaction to all the opulence. We ended the day with a visit to the Hofbrauhaus for dinner. Traditional Bavarian food, good beer, music, and a rowdy crowd in an old beer hall – Awesome!
Next, we took a day trip to Salzburg, but in keeping with the by location format, we will get to that in a minute.
On our last full day in Munich, we visited art museums. Sadly the Nue Pinakothek is closed for renovations, however, we were able to visit the Alte Pinakothek and the Pinakothek der Moderne. The Alte Pinakothek has a surprising amount of masterpieces and is a world-class museum. I have never seen so many Rubens in my entire life. They have masterpieces on display by Rembrandt, Leonardo Da Vinci, Albrecht Dürer, Hieronymus Bosch, and Raphael just to name a few. If you are a fan of art, this is a must-see. We then walked the short walk over to the Pinakothek der Moderne. They had a fascinating display on modern chairs, and an exhibit on architectural drawings, in addition to great modern art. I was so excited to see both. Furniture and architecture are art too! Here we saw works by Picasso, Georges Braque, Salvador Dalí, and Paul Klee among others. The building is also a very nice example of contemporary architecture with a central rotunda, monumental stairs, and expanses of glass. These are great museums, and reason enough to visit Munich.
Best memory – Ice cream and fountain frolic. I can taste the Stracciatella, I can hear the splashing, the laughter, I see the smile on my wife’s face, I can feel the warmth of the Bavarian sun. Wham, I’m right there again in Munich! These memories are the reason I love to travel. There are many places around the old town to get ice cream and several fountains you can put your feet in and splash around.
Baroque architecture, classical music, and a domineering hilltop fortress, all with an alpine backdrop.
We started our tour with the lovely Mirabell Gardens. It’s on the way from the train station to the Alstadt and well worth it for the views of the Hohensalzburg Fortress with the gardens in the foreground.
After the lovely gardens, our group made our way to the old town, across the river, for chocolate shopping, and a tour of Salzburg Cathedral, before an afternoon Harpsichord concert. I love all the chocolate varieties and want to try them all. The Cathedral is one of the finest examples of baroque architecture and certainly deserves a peek. We even experienced one of the daily harpsichord concerts in an old stone abbey – mesmerizing!
We took the funicular up to the fortress. The fortress is impressive, complete with a nice museum, gift shop, and even a marionette display. But the views are what’s spectacular. There’s the UNESCO World Heritage Site Alstadt on one side and the alps on the other. That alone is worth the visit. This was just a day trip so we made our way back to Munich, by train, that evening.
Best memory – enchanting notes from a 200 plus year old harpsichord echoing off ancient stone barrel vaults. It sounds still haunts my ears, lurking like a shadow, whose sleepy tones coerce a dormant peace.
Walled city inside an impact crater. The city was quiet, a nice break from the busy Munich and Salzburg. The architecture has been preserved and you can walk the entire town perimeter on the wall. Interestingly, the city is inside an impact crater that wasn’t discovered until 1960. You can see the ring of the crater when you climb the Daniel (the tower at St. Georgskirche).
On our first afternoon, we walked the walls, had ice cream at a cafe, climbed the Daniel and had dinner before letting the girls play at the hotel. Our hotel had a nice play area with many outdoor games right outside the city walls sort of in the moat.
The next day we went to services at St. Georgskirche in the morning and Harburg Castle in the afternoon. The services were beautiful and I loved the sound of the music echoing off the old stone. That afternoon we took the short train to Harburg to visit the castle. There’s a nice path that leads up the hill from the train station to the castle. On our visit, it had rained that morning so there were snails all over the path on the way up. I think the girls were more impressed with all the snails than the castle. The castle is beautiful and intact so you can really see what it was like to live in a real castle. We took the guided tour and had a nice late lunch at the cafe. The tour is only in german but it’s also the only way to see the interior. Our guide was very accommodating even though the tour was german only, she still helped answer our questions in English. Then back to Nördlingen for one more night.
The next morning it was raining but luckily it stopped just long enough for us to walk to the train station.
Best memories – large outdoor chess, hotel bar, and seesaws. Because sometimes the kids gotta play! Snails on the path to Harburg Schloss.
On to Switzerland, check back later for Part 2 Switzerland.