This year, my boyfriend and I decided to go to Germany because I wanted to see the German castles. We flew in and out of Frankfurt and took trains to Hamburg, Berlin, Munich (for Oktoberfest), and Stuttgart. While we visited many wonderful sights, we skipped many spectacular ones so we’ll just have to go back someday for more. Next time, I’ll want to hit up Baden Baden (spa town), Cologne for the Cologne cathedral, Heidelberg (for the historic and iconic German architecture pre-WWII), Wurtzburg for more palaces and rococo excellence, Hohenzollern castle, Dresden, and Leipzig. Germany was hit particularly hard in WWII so many cities had a choice after the war – rebuild previous old buildings and reconstruct damaged structures or go completely modern (e.g. Frankfurt). And, some cities (e.g. Heidelberg) never got bombed, retained their beauty, and now have an world charm.
I recommend getting a data plan for international roaming. You’ll need it for mapping.
Germany is intensely cash-based; bring tons of cash and an ATM card (w/ no fees)
Oktoberfest is also cash only so bring those big bills
Germany is extremely bike-friendly; do some bike tours and maybe download some local bike rental apps.
Not everyone is 100% fluent in English – they know English but maybe not 100% perfect. We tried to do a to-go order and they still didn’t understand. We tried to pay the taxi via the app MyTaxi (which is everywhere in Germany) and the taxi driver couldn’t understand so we paid in cash. Berlin had the best English speakers.
Where to Go
My Germany guide is made up of these five ‘City Guide’ entries.
It’s true, it really is a bunch of meat and potatoes but more specifically it’s all different kinds of sausages (e.g. bratwurst, currywurst), sliced deli and cured meats, breads (e.g. pretzels, kaiser roll, multi-grain roll), and potatoes (e.g. potato salad). They’re super good at their cereal (e.g. museli) and their chocolate (schokoladen) is reasonable.
Sandwiches – they are everywhere as a quick and cheap snack
Bratwurst – Fried sausage
Currywurst – a sausage cut up into pieces covered in a ketchup sauce topped with curry
Schnitzel – a piece of thin meat (thinned by pounding with a meat tenderizer) that is fried in some kind of oil
Jagerschnitzel – a thin cutlet of meat served with a mushroom gravy
Pretzels (aka Breztel in German) – baked bread shaped into a twisted knot
Gulasch – thick pieces of beef meat slow cooked in a rich, red wine sauce, making the meat very soft and tender. It’s often eaten as a soup or with some side dishes like Spätzle or on top of pasta.
Apple Strudel (aka apfelstrudel in German) – oblong strudel pastry with an apple filling inside. The German one seems to be consistently topped with powdered sugar sitting in a soup of melted, lightly sweetened vanillaness
And, apfelstrudel 2
Black forest cake (aka schwarzwälder kirschtorte in German) – chocolate sponge cake infused with kirschwasser, a clear spirit made from sour cherries, sandwiched with whipped cream and cherries topped with more cherries and chocolate shavings
Black Forest Cake
What to Eat at Oktoberfest
Pork Knuckle (aka Schweinshaxe) – Popular at Oktoberfest/Munich
Grilled fish on a stick (aka Steckerlfisch) – Popular at Oktoberfest/Munich Roasted chicken (aka Hendl) – Popular at Oktoberfest/Munich
What to Drink
1 type of beer in this tent
We didn’t feel like driving all around Germany even though Germans drive on the same side of the car as Americans (the left); instead, we bought a German rail pass and it was wonderful. I do recommend downloading their DB app and you do need to purchase the rail pass maybe 1-2 months before your trip. We did the first class consecutive 15 day train rail pass for ~$400USD/per person.
The German Rail pass gets you all the DB trains but it doesn’t get you regional trains and regional or city metros/subways. You should also reserve all your seats at least 1-3 days in advance of your travel – some trains are booked and busy. The rail pass only guarantees you on the train but not an exact seat. Each seat reservation is an additional fee not covered. If you don’t do a seat reservation, you’ll have to hop around ambiguously trying to figure out where is a free spot until someone tells you it’s taken. And remember, just like an airplane switching gates last minute, a train could change it’s platform last minute and it’s not reflected in the app; it’s announced in German over the speakerphones. We missed a train like that but it’s not a big deal because you can just change your seat reservation for free (since you already paid) to another train as long as you change within the same day.