As a European travel destination, I firmly believe that Germany is underrated among Americans, especially compared to France or Italy.
As far as historical sites, Nuremberg was one of the 3 most powerful cities in The Holy Roman Empire. The Napoleonic wars were determined, in large part, by the actions of the Bavarians. We made it into only the tiniest fraction of museums containing relics from these days - and visited ruins 1000 years old.
In terms of culture, well, the German masters aren’t quite so famous, perhaps, as the Dutch or Italians. But it's difficult to find bigger names in the music scene than Beethoven, Bach, Wagner, Brahms, Mendelssohn, Handel - the list goes on and on. Likewise, German mathematicians, scientists, and artisans paved the way to some of the greatest advancements in human history.
Natural beauty - well, I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves. We found Germany to be breathtaking, not just at the destinations, but across every drive and in every nook and cranny of the countryside and cityscapes.
In our whirlwind trip, we crossed into 4 additional countries (Poland, Czechia, Austria, and France) as we visited the Saxon Switzerland National Forest, Dresden, Munich, Garmish-Partenkirchen (and the mighty Zugspitze Mountain), the Black Forest, Baden-Baden, Heidelberg, Nuremburg, Leipzig, and Berlin.
P..S. Before we start a big shoutout to LensRentals.com who made all these images possible. (This is not a sponsored post and I'm not getting paid to say this.) Less than 48 hours before we left, the on/off dial of my R6 broke off in my hand - it's only 18 months old and not used heavily at all, especially compared to how we used our cameras when I was a wedding photographer. Lens Rentals got me a camera is under 24 hours. Their customer service was super friendly and very timely - they responded to every email within 20 minutes!!! I'm super annoyed at Canon (especially since they want to charge me $409 for a simple fix) but very grateful this happened BEFORE I left and that LensRentals.com were there for me!
Whenever we drove at night, I took a few minutes in the darkness to type up a little account of the previous day(s). I intended to refine these once I got home.
Alas, we arrived home full of memories, very happy - and SICK.
So you’re getting the drafts just as I typed them on our sleepy night drives. I’m ok with that and hope you are too!
You can also use the Table of Contents below to skip ahead to my takeaways and tips.
Table of Contents
Thursday/Friday March 30, 31
Poland, Rakotzbrücke, and Muskau Park
JFK and Norse airlines made everything super easy. After a 4 hour drive from Maryland to New York, our flight left (almost) on-time, about midnight EST.
The nonstop flight was as good as it could be - most of us slept a couple of fitful hours, at least, and we landed on time as well. I'm always grateful for smooth travel!
We lost 6 hours on the flight and arrived about 1:30pm in Berlin.
With a nice strong cups of coffee in hand, we picked up our car - a huge, shiny van with very comfortable seats for the kids - situated to face each other in the back, which I've never seen.
Berlin was almost... unnerving in how clean, organized, empty, and gray it was just outside the airport.
But soon, we were in the German countryside, heading towards our first stops. Anyone who knows my family of origin would agree it's fair to say that I grew up in a German home.
So it was not all that surprising that the nature itself was organized and neat. For an hour, through the rain, we saw endless precise rows and columns of slender, straight birch and evergreen trees shooting up from mossy undergrowth.
Meanwhile, I was watching the black and white road markers, excitedly anticipating when they would switch to red and white.
When they did - we knew we had entered Poland! And in fact, not only the markers, but the trees were painted with the white, red, white horizontal stripes of the Polish flag.
Not for the last time that day, the kids declared it looked like a fairy tale. One of them even asked, "Is this real?" We saw gentle, flat green fields dotted with multicolored stucco homes with pitched roofs, puffing cozy white smoke from their chimneys.
Maybe it's because we were so focused on the beauty behind us, we hit the first snag of the trip about 20 minutes into Poland. Two men in blue uniforms stating "POLIJCA" stepped out into the road and motioned us to the side.
It's not really a normal thing in the US for the police to invite a suspect in the back of the police car, so you'll understand why I was more than a little nervous - and videotaped the entire interaction from the front seat of our van.
My worry was misplaced. 30 minutes after being pulled over, we left $70 poorer and otherwise no worse for the wear.
Meanwhile, the rain had stopped and golden light illuminated every raindrop on every tree, turning the hospitable beauty of Poland into something more altogether more glorious.
In this light, we crossed back over into Germany and found our first destination: Rakotzbrucke - The Devil's Bridge (see picture above).
We'll skip the part where it took us 30 minutes to download the parking app, but I'll say this: If you're heading to Germany, get it downloaded and your payment method set up now, before you leave.
I wasn't as crazy about Rakotzbrücke as I anticipated, but as usual, it was the less anticipated sight on the agenda that filled me to overflowing...
We arrived at Schloss Muskau in a magical moment, when the dusky moat was covered in mist, lights glowed softly from the castle, and swans silently cut a path through the reflections.
We walked until it was completely dark. (This image above is a real testament to the lowlight capabilities of the R6!)
After dark, we ate our first German meal in a cozy, atmospheric restaurant surrounded by warm light, fresh flowers and an adorable collection of owl decor. We love schnitzel! 😉
Finally, we made our way the 5 minutes back into Poland for a very long and refreshing deep sleep at a little white stucco bed and breakfast named Zazajd.
Saturday, April 1
Saxon Switzerland National Park
Including the Bastei Bridge
As usual, John was up long before the rest of us and, as usual, John tried to make friends with strangers. The problem came in when he attempted to use Google Translate (set to German, of course) to translate their Polish into English. 😉
Just before checkout time, we set off for Saxon Switzerland National Park, winding our way through more fresh green plains and picturesque towns.
The thing is, these towns weren't *trying* to be picturesque. There weren't any visitors flocking to these carefully preserved villages.
They were naturally this way, each only a block or two - maybe three of four - of a few soft pastel stucco buildings cozily situated near each other, almost like they were nestled together against the world.
Since we visited just a week before Easter, we saw "Easter trees" everywhere - a small budding tree with colorful Easter Eggs hanging from strings tied to budding branches.
Ultimately, we got to Bad Schandau, a larger but equally charming version of the tiny towns we passed. In my research, I found a trail that some hiker had called "The best 10K in SSNP" and was very excited about this hike.
Unfortunately, I underestimated how difficult it would be to find the trailhead.
Eventually, we realized we could hike an extra 2 or 3 miles from where we were, or drive another 30 minutes to search for the elusive trailhead. We decided to start walking.
It was an amazing hike, taking us through fairy tale forests, up hundreds of stairs and dozens of ladders, to spectacular views. We hiked through several cycles of clouds, rain, mist, and sun and loved every moment.
We didn't regret our decision until about 2 miles from the end when we realized that, to get back to our starting point, we had to climb up the highest mountain a second time - and this time almost straight up with stairs and ladders.
Thanks to our late start, our general traveling philosophy of hitting touristy spots at sunset, and yet more difficulty finding trailheads, we arrived at the super popular Bastei Bridge at twilight.
Light rain drizzled on us as we passed the last tour bus on the way in, almost jogging to see the famous sight before all the light left.
There were few tourists and no site operators which meant we got to explore not only the bridge, but also the extensive ruins of the Koningsberg Fortress as twilight deepened around us, on our own.
Again, the R6 in lowlight - amazing.
We stopped for a late dinner at another cozy site where we couldn't stop laughing over the type of things that are only hilarious when you're exhausted, warm, and just a little buzzed from a good German beer 😉
The German owners clearly felt 9:30 was too late to usher out their last guests. This issue of very early evenings is a theme we noticed again and again on our trip....
After that, we had just one more thing left - a 2 hour drive to Dresden.
Sunday, April 2
The Zwinger Museum and Frauenkirche Dresden
We pulled into Dresden about 11pm Saturday night and our first thought was - "Where are all the people!?"
Germans, correct me if I'm wrong, we got the definite impression that Germans turn in very early. (And yet, also do not arrive in public places until very late?)
In fact, at 11pm, the only families we saw were Arab families.
And that was just one more way that this trip threw into very sharp relief the difference in cultures between the Hadeed and Haber families of origin that John and I were raised in!!
John and I got up early Sunday morning and walked to a reasonably priced Lidl that was situated under the magnificent Dresden train station across from our hotel.
After breakfast in the room, we set off for a day of city sightseeing. And once again, we couldn't stop asking each other - "Where IS everyone?"
In fact, when we arrived at the Zwinger palace/museum, we had the Porcelain wings almost exclusively to ourselves. In some rooms, there were more employees than us.
Yet, their nervous expressions suggested they didn't feel there were enough of them to contend with #teamstrugglebus. 😉
You could easily spend hours in the Zwinger, but we concentrated in the Porcelain and Mathematics/Physics wings. In the latter, we marveled at intricate fusion of art and technology demonstrated by these pioneers of human innovation.
Our family has less endurance for museums than hiking, so we planned for lunch to be our meal out for the day. Hot burgers around the corner from The Zwigler hit the spot and we moved on to Dresden Castle (Residenzplatz).
We entered with our Dresden Museum cards (definitely worth it for us, even for one day) and spent hours exploring the weapons and armor wings.
Finally, we left for Frauenkirche for a concern of Mozart's Mass in C Minor - the perfect fit, I hoped, for Palm Sunday.
Afterwards, a quick stop for ice cream and hot chocolate before we hit the road for 3 hours, on our quest towards Munich Monday.
Side note - German Hot Chocolate is 10x better than American!! It was.... CHOCOLATEY. Not very sweet. So rich.
Split the difference for Munich; drove 3 hours tonight; 2 tomorrow.
Monday, April 3
BMW Welt, Olympic Park, Old Town Munich
We stayed at a Holiday Inn Express in Erlangden which offered a complementary breakfast. We expected the basics - some packaged baked goods, cereal, maybe some eggs if we were lucky.
Instead, we got a breakfast as good as I remember from the fancy bed & breakfast in Italy??
Not a piece of cellophane in sight - the bread and pastries were fresh and so, so delicious. There were rustic loaves and rolls, plates of cheeses and cured meats, pasta and chickpea salads, fresh cucumbers, tomatoes, a whole table of fruits - and the latte/cappucino/coffee machines we've begun to see all over Germany.
During breakfast, an employee introduced herself as Iris. We learned she spent 40 years in the United States, mainly in the South. She was surprised to meet Americans that didn't hunt (!!) and kept saying, "DA-Yum!" in an America accent I did not EVER expect to hear in Germany!
We loaded up and got on the road for 2 more hours of green plains and creamy, brown, and orange towns nestled in gentle hillsides. As we approahched Munich, we noticed the hills began to roll a little more deeply and the towns got closer and closer until we were in suburbs - and then the city.
We planned a trip at the ultra sleek and modern BMW Welt showroom thinking it would be a nice change of pace for all of us and of special interest to Joshua.
I've found I'm wrong as often as right when I try to guess what my kids will like, but in this case - I was right. It was a fun stop which Joshua commemorated by generously buying a model motorcycle for himself and Niholas.
We walked across a bridge to the Olympic Park built for the '72 Munich Olympics, just to get a little fresh air before heading back down to Munich proper.
And then, we were in Munich! And this time, we found a bustling, busy city.
I love city tours. I find it's true enthusiasts that sign up for the job to be tours and I love learning from enthusiasts. It's so much more meaningful to hear the stories behind the sights.
In this case, I didn't want to drag the kids along on TOO many tours, so I thought I'd try something different. I signed up for a self-guided scavenger hunt app. It promised fun riddles while providing education about the most significant sites in the city.
I'll give the app 1 star.
It DID take us to the most important sites in the city, so there was that 😉
But that's OK.
Munich was.... well, I LOVED it. I felt more astonished with each corner I turned.
Cathedrals, monuments, and palaces in cobblestone squares connected through cobblestone streets to housing and clean, beautiful, high-end apartments and shops.
The wind was verycold and blustery, but I couldn't stop smiling.
Our last shop was the famous Munich outdoor market and I wish we had time (and slightly higher temperatures) to spend hours there. The Easter decor for sale was so charming!
We walked about 5 or 6 miles before arriving back at our car and settling in for a 90 minute drive down into Garmish-Partenkirchen.
It was after twilight when we saw the stunning cragged mountains we'd explore the next day. The trip just kept getting better and better!
(Especially when we walked into the huge apartment we'd be staying in for 3 nights. Lodging in Germany is much cheaper than in the US!!!
Tuesday, April 4
Garmish-Partenkirchen, Day 1
Zugspitze and Neuschwanstein Castle
The king of the mountains in Garmish-Paretenkirchen (in all of Germany, in fact) is the Zugspitze.
Despite it's "must-see" designation, our family's plans for Zugspitze were in flux until the very last moment.
Our top priority was to get Jack and Marcus as much time as possible skiing on the glacial surface on the top.
I had rented ski equipment for them beforehand (which was very cheap, by American standards).
The thing I couldn’t quite believe, however, was that it didn’t actually COST anything to ski up there.
But, it’s true!
As long as you pay for the cable car up, there’s no charge for lift tickets, entrance to the ski resort, anything like that!
The price for one ascent and descent in the cable car is quite expensive, but in true Germany fashion - the discounts for a family are incredible (and the bigger the family, the better the deals.)
The problem was that every review said not to waste time or money going up on a cloudy day.
We woke up to a cloudy day. A foggy day, in fact.
I thought we should just drop the older boys off at the bottom and come back.
John thought we should all go up.
As I lay in bed, trying to make a decision, I scrolled through reviews on trip advisor and read one that said - “It was a cloudy day, but as soon as we ascended through that cloud, we popped out overhead into clear blue skies.”
That decided it - we all went for it.
We went up the cable car with Jack and Marcus and sure enough - at some point, we burst through the fog into GLORIOUS blinding sun and deep blue skies!
From the top, we took a second cable car down to the glacier where the ski resort was housed.
We stayed with Jack and Marcus while they rented their equipment, then saw them off on the first slope, and took the car back to the summit of the Zugspitze.
It was cold - so cold we couldn’t stand outside for more than a few minutes at a time.
But the views. THE VIEWS!
We also walked to the Austrian side of the summit, which brought our country count for this trip up to four - Germany, Poland, Czechia, and Austria.
After some hot coffee/chocolate and pastries in the restaurant on top of the Zugspitze, John and I, plus Joshua and Nicholas, descended around midday and dashed into Aldi for a few days worth of groceries, leaving Jack and Marcus to continue skiing.
In 30 minutes at home, I took a shower, we ate a super quick lunch, and we headed to the famous Neuschwanstein.
The entire 1.6 kilometer walk from parking to the castle is uphill - then more up to the Marion Bridge.
I enjoyed the walk very much as it kept me warm on a cold day, but I would have been miserable in the summer.
And we got to do it twice, thanks to a miscommunication with Joshua and Nicholas who ran ahead on the way back...!
60 million people have visited this iconic castle since Mad King Ludwig’s family opened it to the public just 6 weeks after his death.
And frankly, I felt like they were trying to increase that number as quickly as possible. The tour was dry and very rushed.
It was a pleasant enough day because I love being with my family and they had a great attitude, but it wasn’t a great tour or the best thing we did in Germany.
But hey, you can’t win them all - and at least I got “the shot” - the same one everyone else gets from the Mary Bridge 😉
We finally picked up the older boys, who came down on the last cable car of the day, ate dinner back at the apartment and watched Harry Potter as a family.
Slower day tomorrow.
20th Wedding Anniversary! Wednesday, April 5
Garmish-Partenkirchen, Day 2
Rest, Recharge, and Lake Eibsee
John and I went out for a wedding anniversary coffee date and planned a few more details for the second half of the trip, armed with knowledge from the first.
Main thing I learned: Find the parking in every city and map to there! We are used to abundant and - relatively speaking, very few parking restrictions - in the US.
Later we all took a leisurely 5 mile walk around the spectacular Lake Eibsee.
John and I did grocery shopping for the rest of the trip, made sandwiches for the next day, and we all watched Harry Potter together again.
Maundy Thursday, April 6
The Black Forest
Triberg, The Black Forest High Road, Baden-Baden
We made it out of the house at 7:50, only 20 minutes later than planned, for a driving day.
From Garmish-Partenkirchen, we skirted the bottom edge of the Black Forest, hugging the beautiful Lake Constance. We could see across the lake to Swizerland, and this part of Germany felt like how I imagine Switzerland.
We drove through rolling green hills dotted with tall conifers and acres of vineyards - and also hops farms!
Eventually, the rolling hills grew steeper and the conifers grew closer as we approached the Black Forest. We saw rapidly moving streams lined with tall birches.
Four hours into the trip, we stopped in Triberg for lunch, a look at the famous Cuckoo Clocks, and the Triberg Waterfalls. Frankly, all 3 were a bit disappointing.
I think in America, we refer to a place like Triberg as a "tourist trap". But we laughed a lot on this stop, so I have fond memories of it anyhow.
It took two more hours through the Black Forest to Baden-Baden, including a trip along The Black Forest High Road, which was equally underwhelming.
Baden-Baden, however? Not underwhelming. Better than I expected.
We finally got to our apartment for the night with about an hour and 20 minutes to spare before leaving for a Maundy Thursday service in the town square. John was antsy and wanted to walk, but everyone else wanted to relax. I agreed to go with John and I'm so glad we did.
We found the church, then walked the colonnade behind it, where cherry blossoms and tulip poplars were in bloom and the fresh green grass was dotted with freely growing tulips, daffodils, bluebells, white and purple vinca, and phlox. It was so romantic and I didn't mind sharing it only with John.
Unfortunately, I had unwittingly locked the kids in the apartment when we left, (How is that even possible? And isn't it a fire hazard?) so they didn't make it out to the service, which I don't think they minded 😉
Good Friday, April 7
The Panoramweg in Baden-Baden and Heidelberg
The day involved a bit of aspirational planning, which I generally try to avoid. But sometimes you just need to set your sights high and see how it all works out, right?
In today's case, the main means of it all working out was that we got lost! So after wandering for a few hours - and making it to the main attraction - we bailed an hour early.
Frankly, when we were struggling to find the starting point of Panoramaweg in Baden-Baden, I wasn't much help.
I was too overwhelmed by the beauty around every corner. I didn't care so much that we weren't finding THE path, since every one we took was surprising and beautiful.
Finally, a local helped us, once he got over his disbelief that John wanted to take the long way to the castle ruins. We decided we'd just do that site, then turn around and go back.
Joshua had already figured out the key to the hike however - whenever we got to a fork in the road, he assumed the steeper path was the correct path. And he was never wrong!
Exploring the ruins was more than enough for one morning. It looked like Sleeping Beauty's castle, but the more we searched, the more we were astounded by this massive structure, built in 1428. It had wells on every floor, a huge hearth & chimney, and even the remains of (what seemed to be) an old harp?!
Next, on to Heidelberg!
Because the Heidelberg Castle is so popular, I expected it to disappoint (fresh on the heels of Triberg). I couldn't have been more wrong.
The built these walls - 6m (20 ft) thick - with no modern machinery and thousands of feet above sea level.
And the artistry....
I couldn't stop taking photos of this clock. Actually, all over Germany, there were clocks with different faces. Presumably, all worked in ways I didn't understand.
Along with our ticket to this courtyard, we gained entrance to the Pharmacy Museum inside, which was fascinating on two fronts.
One, it contained samples of medications from centuries past - which included cannibas, along with hundreds of others.
Second, the exhibit took pains to point out how devastating anti-Semitism was to pharmaceutical and medical access for all Germans.
After several hours exploring the castle (it could have taken many more!), we walked back down the steep half mile to the Church of the Holy Spirit.
I was hoping to go inside to see an original version of The Heidelberg Catechism, but there was a concert playing.
We decided ice cream was a good backup option to the catechism 😉
But as we walked toward a shop, I realized that I was missing my purse. I knew immediately where I had left it - in the courtyard of the palace.
So back up the hill I went, as fast as I could. Fortunately, the very strict German ticket-checker let me in when she saw my red face and heard my panting 😉
And the purse was just where I left it.
Rewarded with a Mocha Caramel ice cream cone, we decided to walk across the bridge spanning the Neckar river.
John tried to convince us to walk the famous Philosopher's Way on the other side of Heidelberg, but all 5 of us declared mutiny on more walking for the day. 😉
Instead, I ate the best sandwich I've ever eaten in my life at a tiny little place called Ahmad's.
Saturday, April 8
City of Empire Tours, Nazi Rally Grounds, Old Town
Friday was our longest day, but the upside was that Saturday held the promise of a late start in Nuremberg.
When planning (you know, in all 8 days we gave ourselves to plan), I deliberated about visiting a former concentration camp - Dachau, in particular. My deliberations were brief, because the site suggests not bringing children under the age of 12.
Nicholas (who is 9) had already expressed confusion about the timing of Nazi rule and concern about visiting.
Sadly, it was all he knew about German history and misunderstood that the holocaust was ongoing. I didn't feel Nicholas was the right 9 year old to overrule Dachau's age suggestion.
However, I didn't want to ignore the brutal and devastating 12 years of Nazi rule, either.
The answer was this guided tour in Nuremberg, titled The Tour of Empires. Our tour guide, Elisabeth, was absolutely phenomenal.
We started at the city walls, where she explained the significance of Nurmeberg to the Holy Roman Empire (the "First Reich" - first empire). She traced the city's history through the Napoleonic era (the "Second Reich), showing sites along the way where Jews were persecuted for over 1000 years.
Finally, we arrived by bus at the Nazi Rally Grounds, which Hitler chose symbolically to be the seat of propaganda for his empire - The Third Reich. The tour was 5 hours and included lunch and I'm so glad we did it.
We parked beside the gorgeous Nuremberg train station, which was full of soccer fans and a heavy police presence in full riot gear.
At some point, we separated as a family and I was waiting with Joshua, Jack, and Marcus for John and Nicholas.
As we waited, well-kept, handsome man wearing a straw hat and long, groomed beard confidently and aggressively approached Joshua and began speaking to him in German.
I didn't like his swagger or fact that he was talking to a child, especially as Joshua was clearly scared and confused.
I put my arm around Joshua and said, "No."
He started speaking to me with a very angry and disrespectful tone.
I then stepped in front of Joshua and said, "Go away."
The situation got much worse from there, as John and Nicholas joined us and we all attempted to get away from the man.
Even with the language barrier (or languages barrier - John was hearing Arabic mixed with his German), it was clear that this man's ideology stated that Joshua and Nicholas should not be with us. He felt he needed to speak some truth to them, or even rescue them from us.
At one point, the man even grabbed Nicholas’s arm. Jack pushed him away but Nicholas was terrified.
The man tried to join our tour. The guide couldn’t get him to leave.
Eventually, I approached two police officers and asked them for help.
Fortunately, they were very responsive and eventually took him inside the station with themwhile our tour departed.
It was very scary and Nicholas, Joshua, and I didn’t calm down or feel safe again for several hours.
Last stop of the day - we drove by the Palace of Justice, which contains Courtroom 600, where the Nuremberg Trials were held. I was bummed it was closed for the weekend, but you can't win them all!
Another night drive - about 3 hours to beautiful Leipzig.
Easter Sunday, April 9
Leipzig University, The Grassi Museum, Peterkirche, St. Nicholas Square
I woke at sunrise to church bells ringing for a full 10 minutes - no doubt in celebration of the resurrection of Christ on Easter.
Amazingly, the kids slept through it, but for me - what an amazing experience.
Later, we attended Leipzig English Church for a very full, encouraging, vibrant, and welcoming service. We stayed afterwards for over an hour.
Joshua and Nicholas had many kids to play with and many people took time to have long conversations with us.
We drove to the city's center and started a self-guided audio tour. It suggested 2 hours for the tour, but we spent 6!
We stopped in the Grassi museum for two amazing exhibits - the history of musical instruments and the Roman hall.
Afterwards, we leisurely sampled treats at the open market in Leipzig and later, stopped for another ice cream break.
We also popped into the renowned Thomaskirche, where Bach spent the last 25 years of his career, for a few minutes of an Easter concert.
Finally pulled out at 8pm for a 2 hour drive to our final stop - Berlin!
Easter Monday, April 10
The Berlin Wall Memorial, Palace of Tears, Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, Rausch Chocolatier, Brandenburg Gate
I really didn’t take a lot of photos of Berlin. Maybe I was tired, maybe it was the last day, maybe it was the full sun. Or just as likely, it was that Berlin struck me in a very emotional way and I didn’t think I could convey that in the photos.
We visited the Berlin Wall Memorial, the area where the death strip has been turned into a park. The park honors several groups - those killed trying to escape the GDR, the graves that were disturbed by the building of the walls, and the general suffering caused by the wall. We also visited the nearby Palace of Tears museum, housed in the train station where many tried - but most failed - to escape. It was a powerful and personal reminder of the great oppression and evil propaganda of the communist regime.
We also spent time at the Memorial for Murdered Jews in Europe, which was even more powerful. As you walk toward the exhibit, it appears to be a vast grid of concrete coffins. But as you walk into the exhibit, you find yourself off-balance as you descend deeper and deeper with the concrete coffins. The ground undulates and the coffins are twice as tall as the average person in some places. We were almost immediately separated from one another and the strong sense was chaos, isolation, and being overwhelmed by death and confusion.
We also visited the Brandenburg Gate and Rausch’s Gourmet Chocolate.
Sorry to end on a bit of a downer! The truth is that the Holocaust is a fact of German history, just as every single country and people group on this earth have their own stories of murder. In fact, human history is one continuous cycle of oppression by the powerful few and the subsequent uprising of the many. Many Germans told us during the trip that they felt the country had more to do in terms of confronting its past. Perhaps this is true.
From our experience, however, we didn’t have to look hard to find acknowledgement of the sins of the past - not just the recent past, but centuries ago as well.
Hopefully, these reminders can cause all of us to look within, at how easily we justify the evil around us, how quick we are to go along with the crowd, how deceptively simple it is to label others as the problem, the bad guy, and to therefore dehumanize them.
Some Final Thoughts
Especially if you're thinking of traveling to Germany
It's very white.
I know. I probably should have foreseen this. 😉
I have always lived in the Greater Washington DC-Metro area and it's incredibly diverse here. I don't notice it; I've never known anything different.
From the moment we arrived at our plane gate in JFK, we noticed people staring openly at our family.
The stares weren't mean or rude, it was just something I'm not used to at all.
(One German told us half the stares were probably just because our moderate family size of 6 is big for Germany.)
It was good to talk about this as a family. And I was especially glad that the English church we attended in Leipzig was extremely diverse.
We heard in advance that Germany is a rules-based country. This was absolutely our experience.
Don't get offended. It's not personal. I had to remind myself of that a few times.
Related: "The customer is always right" is definitely NOT a German value 😉
Do not lose your ticket. There will be no mercy. Marcus learned that the hard way on the top of Zugspitze.
Bike lanes are for bikes only. And this is fair - a bicycle really is like a car to most people, a legitimate means of transportation. Safety depends on everyone following the rules of the "road" and they ride in a way that expects a free and clear path.
Little Things We Loved:
Bright, well-lit garages and stairwells equipped with motion sensors. I felt so safe!
Amazing water pressure in every shower!
Huge, gorgeous windows everywhere - which are meant to be opened - and no screens! Even reading through reviews on lodging, I realized that Germans open their windows a lot more than Americans.
BIKE PATHS! The whole country is paved!
Two Bigger Things We Loved:
The bakeries are.... AMAZING. I'd challenge any bakery in Paris to a bakeoff with any in Germany.
The beds. They're big on their twin mattresses. Even the queens are two twins pushed together. There are no box springs, just very firm mattresses on a frame. I slept SO WELL and half joked to John that we're switching to two twins at home! 😉
Huge, fancy bathrooms, smaller kitchens.
Just an observation. It worked great for us and our needs on the trip!
Dryers - not a thing.
We stayed in a few beautiful apartments along the way and spent 3 nights in a 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom, 2 story home in Garmish-Partenkirchen.
(Lodging is much cheaper in Germany.)
All of these places had washers, none had dryers. Well, one did, but it didn't work 😉
Also, no vent fans in bathrooms.
When choosing your destinations, look up parking in the area and map directly to that parking. It's not abundant and it's very strictly regulated.
Also, plan to pay a lot.
We were shocked that smoking was so common, even indoors.
Download the German dictionary in Google Translate and maps of Germany -
Or, if you're depending on public transportation, the train and bus apps.
Family discounts (and student discounts) are phenomenal
Lodging - ours were all gorgeous, very clean, super comfortable, and cheaper than anything we'd pay in the US
Museums (I'm used to DC, where Museums are free.) - You may even have to pay per wing.
Public bathrooms (although we found plenty free as well.)
Water - not free in restaurants
YOU WILL LOVE GERMANY!!!!
Best Travel Purchases
This inexpensive camera sling. I was carrying an R6 with an adaptor and the hefty 24-70 2.8 L series lens. I felt nothing - no weight, no strain - all day, every day.
These packing cubes. Why didn't I buy these years ago?