Trip Report Part II, May 2023, Romantic Germany
On Day 7, we had a bus and walking tour of Munich. The group toured Nymphenburg Palace and then walked around the City Center, finishing up at the main square. Excellent local guides. During our free time, we walked over to Viktuallenmarkt, the market area, where we enjoyed a quick lunch and great people watching. We then had a lengthy visit at the Residenz, a very large palace complex. More than 100 rooms are open to tour, in addition to its Treasury. It was very interesting. Some rooms were not destroyed in WWII and some have been carefully restored. We also visited 3 nearby churches: Frauenkirche - known for its twin domes and the so-called devil's footprint, St. Peter's, and St. Michael's - a lovely baroque building and King Ludwig II's tomb. Most of the group chose the optional visit to the Dachau Memorial. Dinner on our own that evening.
On Day 8, the group had a morning drive to Rothenburg and lunch upon arrival at the Hotel Zum Rappen. The Hotel is conveniently located just outside a City gate. Our rooms were air conditioned, which was good as it was a very warm day. Upon arrival, we had lunch at the Hotel and then our TD brought the group on an orientation walk of the City. There was a lot of excitement, as the residents were celebrating Pentecost. Many wore period garb, there was music, reinactments (including battles and a hanging) and lots of partying. We enjoyed walking around, visiting the Square, the Church and the Castle Gardens. That evening, the residents paraded out of town through the gate near our Hotel. Some of our group met up in town for the 8:00 p.m. Night Watchman tour. We bailed early, as I thought it was too crowded. Others stayed and said the tour got better.
Day 9 began with a short, lovely drive to Prichsenstadt, where the group rode horseless carriages through the town, the countryside and vineyards. A beautiful day and very enjoyable. We then had lunch, which included their sparkling wine. The group then headed to Dresden, where we stayed at the Steigenberger Hotel de Saxe. A very nice Hotel, very conveniently located in the square by Frauenkirche - a beautiful baroque church. The staff were very nice and helpful - minibar was included. We had time to walk around, visit the Church (inside is the Cross that sat atop the Church until the bombing at the end of WWII). We also walked across the River Elbe to the Augustus statue. Great views of the old town from the bridge. That evening, we enjoyed our included dinner at the Hotel at a balcony table overlooking the square. Afterwards, we walked over to the River and enjoyed a sunset.
Day 10 was very busy. The group had a guided bus tour, walking tour of the old town and visit to the New Green Vault museum, located in the Royal Palace. The guide and tour was excellent and finished up around 1:00 pm. While the group was organizing for the visit to the New Green Vault, I purchased timed tickets for the Historic Green Vault for later that afternoon (approx 4:00 pm). They were selling fast. During our free time, we grabbed pizza for a quick lunch and then went back to the Royal Palace complex and visited the remaining areas that were included in our morning ticket: the Turkish Chamber, Royal Armory, State Apartments, Coin Cabinet and Watchmen's Tower (great views). Then, we visited the Historic Green Vault. It was worth the extra effort. After our full day, we had a light dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant near the Hotel.
On Day 11, we had the morning free in Dresden, not leaving for Berlin until 1:00 pm. We took a morning stroll along the River and the arrived at Zwinger palace at opening time of 10:00 am to visit the Old Masters Gallery. We really enjoyed the visit, but did not have time for the Porcelain Collection or the Mathematics museum. We then walked to the Altmarkt Galerie Mall, near the Hotel, and grabbed a quick sandwich before departure. On the way into Berlin, our wonderful driver did take us on a brief driving tour, and our TD, a Berlin resident, provided commentary. The beautiful Regent Hotel is very conveniently located within walking distance of Museum Island, Brandenburg Gate, Checkpoint Charlie, and the staff was helpful and pleasant. We had an included dinner at the Hotel. We then walked down the famous Unter Den Linden to the Brandenburg Gate and the Reichstag. After Reunification, this area was rebuilt and it is very impressive.
On Day 12, the group had an excellent morning bus tour of Berlin, stopping to visit Brandenburg gate, the Berlin Wall Memorial and Checkpoint Charlie. During our free time, we had a quick sandwich and walked down Unter Den Linden to Museum Island. There, we visited the DDR Museum, which depicts life in E Germany after the wall was erected. Very interesting. We then walked back to the beautiful Gendarmenmarkt Square, near our Hotel, where we enjoyed a leisurely refreshment at an outdoor Cafe. Later, dinner on our own at Bocca di Bacco, close to the Hotel. Excellent dinner. Afterwards, we walked back to the Gate area, passed the Russian and U.S. Embassies and to the Soviet War Memorial, which we had seen from the bus that morning. Interestingly, it is in what was W Germany because it predated the Wall.
On Day 13, the group first visited the very moving Holocaust Memorial. Then we went to Museum Island, where we were given our museum passes. There was time for one Museum visit before our River cruuise. We chose the Pergamon, which will be closing in September for massive renovations. Very impressive. At 12:15, we went on a one hour cruise on the River Spree. It was a beautiful day, and it was a nice way to see the sights along the River (with commentary from a local guide). During our free time, we had lunch at a museum cafe and then visited the Neues Museum - I finally was able to see Queen Nefertiti and the Golden Hat. I suggested on our comment card that the museum pass should have been distributed the previous day - it is valid for 72 hours. We easily could have gone to one, and possibly two more museums that day. Farewell reception was at the Hotel and the dinner was at the top of the Reichstag. It was a wonderful way to see that historic building.
The next day, we had an early departure for the airport, as we were flying Lufthansa to Frankfort and then to Chicago. We had a very tight connection time in Frankfort, which was made tighter when our first flight was cancelled and we were rebooked on a flight 30 minutes later. Our worries were somewhat alleviated when we saw that our second flight was delayed by 30 minutes. In the end, it a very smooth trip home.
There is quite a bit of walking on this tour, often on cobblestone streets, so I recommend good walking shoes. Other items I brought with and found useful: a washcloth and a nightlight.
A wonderful tour with a good group and excellent guides.