If your image of Germany includes rolling hills and fairytale-esque towns, you my friend, are on point. Germany is exactly that and so much more—a perfect blend of old-world charm with modern conveniences. This is the type of place where renting a car is essential, not only to experience the Autobahn (and experience that you must), but to thoroughly enjoy driving through quaint Bavarian towns and appreciate the varying shades of green landscapes. Driving through Germany is an experience in and of itself–your emotions will range from exhilarating to peaceful, courtesy of the Autobahn and surrounding countryside. When you plan your trip and rent a car, give yourself time to stop and enjoy unexpected surprises on the side of the road—you never know when you will come across abandoned castles, sheepherders and their flock, or historical villages. Here are a few of the most unforgettable places Jesse and I visiting in Deutschland:
Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site
Located 30 minutes outside of Munich, Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site pulled on our heart strings and brought tears to our eyes, but I am so glad we visited and paid our respects to those who lost their lives between 1933-1945. One of the most crucial concentration camps of its time, Dachau was built to house 6,000 prisoners, but was in fact overloaded with more than 30,000, creating even harsher conditions. Nazis used Dachau as an exemplary model for solder training and when creating strict protocols for all other concentration camps. The harshness and brutality of its history are unfathomable, heartbreaking, and unforgettable, yet our visit was a humbling experience reminding us that in honor of all of those lost, humankind must come together in peace, love, and respect to ensure that these horrible crimes are never repeated.
Whether or not you like beer, it is practically illegible (wink) to visit Munich without enjoying a beer at Hofbräuhaus München. One of Munich’s biggest tourist attractions, Hofbräuhaus is a world-famous tavern that must be visited even if only to enjoy one drink. Founded as an inn in 1589, the current restaurant and brewery serve over 17,600 pints or 2,200 gallons of beer a day! Warning: We visited on a cold winter day in March, and the main hall of the restaurant was extremely hot and foul-smelling (a combination of sweat and sewer). In fact, it was so bad that we had no choice but to sit outside. I cannot begin to imagine what this place must be like during the summer months or during Oktoberfest (yuck!). Even with the brisk weather, the outside patio was a great place to enjoy a few beers and large pretzel. My main advice: skip the inside dining hall and head straight outside, trust me.
Marienplatz & English Garden
To experience some of the best of areas of Munich, simply walk the historical Marienplatz. Since the 12th century, Marienplatz has served as a popular market and meeting area rich in architectural elements, and is still visited by over 18,000 tourists per hour. As you walk these streets, don’t miss the glockenspiel (chiming clock) performance at Neues Rathaus (New Town Hall). Every day at 11 AM, 12 PM, and 5 PM, 32 life-size copper figures dance to 43 ringing bells reenacting the celebration of a royal wedding and the passing of the plague, both dating back to the 1500s. As you stroll the famous streets of Munich, make your way to the Englischer Garten (English Garden) about a 10-15-minute leisurely walk from Marienplatz. Founded in 1789, the English Garden is one of the largest public gardens in the world and offers scenic streams and historical attractions, including the Chinese Tower and Japanese Tea Room. While here, don’t miss the the Eisbach (ice-brook) river surfers—a group of skilled surfers who catch waves in the freezing man-made river. As an avid surfer, Jesse was thoroughly impressed.
As you drive along the German landscape, plan a trip to Neuschwanstein Castle—the most popular castle in Europe and the inspiration for various Disney castles. Built between 1868-1886 by King Ludwig II, the king’s lavish taste in grandiose castles left the country in financial ruin. The picturesque castle sits atop a magnificent hill overlooking the Bavarian countryside and beckons to be admired. With up to 6,000 visitors a day, the castle can get overwhelmingly busy. We visited on such a day and choose to simply enjoy the beauty of the castle from the outside. If you plan to tour the inside, buy your tickets in advance online. Note: the walk to the castle is not suitable for everyone. We walked up a very steep hill, stopping halfway at one of the restaurant rest stops to catch our breath (and to eat fried pastries … because, why not?!) before continuing the trek. If you have difficulties walking or tire easily, shuttle bus and carriage services are available.
About 80 miles (128 km) northeast of Munich is Regensburg, the oldest town in Bavaria and the best preserved medieval city of Germany. Founded in 179 AD, it was the first capital of Bavaria and later became the center of the Holy Roman Empire during the 11-13th centuries. This was by far my favorite part of our trip. Jesse and I were both memorized by the historical colors and sights of the cobblestone streets and old-fashioned buildings. It also had one of the best restaurants we have ever been to: Historische Wurstkuchl zu Regensburg (Regensburg Sausage Kitchen). Known as one of the oldest restaurants in the world, Regensburg Sausage Kitchen serves a 500-year-old recipe of the most delicious bratwurst sandwiches simply garnished with sauerkraut and mustard. Thinking of these always makes my mouth water—you MUST have one!
Where we stayed:
Although we prefer to stay in apartment rentals during our vacations, I found an amazing deal at the 5-star Hotel München Palace in the Bogenhausen Quarter. The hotel is a short walk to the English Garden and amenities include a restaurant, bar, gym with sauna and steambath, bike rentals, and onsite parking. Our room was luxurious, romantic, and beyond comfortable. I highly recommend it for couples, special occasions, or folks who love to be pampered.
Wishing you peace, love, and adventure,