After 23 days in Germany, including a 2 day detour in Austria, that was the end of our trip. Jennifer would happily have added a few more days to match the Rick Steve's book recommendations, but at the same time, after 20.5 days of touring (2.5 days were my conference), we were also tired :)|
With hindsight being 20/20:
Another day in Dresden to see all the museums that were closed on the moday we arrived, would have
Munich had so many worthwhile museums that it was easily worth another day (mind you, the BMW museum and factory tour did burn 2/3rd of a day, but that was worth it)
I'm sure we missed other worthwhile cities, but you can't be everywhere, after a while you start OD'ing on churches and museum anyway :)
Rick Steves will invariably put 3 stars on anything Nazi and/or Jewish memorial related, but you only need to see so many before they become redundant (I think we saw 5 or 6 of them total, and it felt like more than necessary). For one, going to where Hitler's house was in the mountains in Obersalzbe (Eagle's Nest) was a total waste of half a day that would have been much better spent in Munich. Similarly, taking us to where Hitler's bunker used to be in Berlin where there is absolutely nothing left of it, and not mentioning anything about the beautiful German and French Churches that were just 7mn away by foot, did not make sense to me.
I'm not a huge fan of driving on boring public roads, but Germany was about as good as it could have been. Hightlights on driving:
Autobahns were great, except for all the sections that were closed for rebuilding: in too many other places, we got stopped by a red light to share a single lane with oncoming traffic, each side taking turns, and the Autobahn was often slowed down as everyone merged on a lane or two while the other side of the road was being rebuilt. Bad timing I guess.
Germans are pretty respectful of rules, but did not seem overly worried about speed limits on freeways, when they existed. I was totally ok with that :)
However, their lane discipline, getting back over to the right after passing, and proper signalling, were a delight. If only US drivers actually had a of proper training with a real instructor, and real rules starting with always signalling, and lane discipline (stay to the right, unless you're passing or there is no one behind you).
We got way too many umleitungs (road detours), to the point that we started hating that word :)
The last few days, we were able to get around with trains, and there were quite descent
German and Austrian food, I'm not sure (sorry). It wasn't bad and I like sauerkraut, but I've sadly had better choucroute in France than the 4 places I tried in Germany and Austria (but maybe I got unlucky each time?). Also, some restaurants took up to 15 minutes to even take our order (they were busy) and often 45mn or even 1h to give us one dish. We quickly learned never to order an appetizer or a dessert if we wanted to get back to our room some decent time, which is sad. But speaking about desserts, the ones we ate were good.
The food options at a beer garden in Salzburg were much more limited if you did not consider a pretzel "dinner" :)
The breakfasts we got were mostly the same in all the hotels we went to, but overall we enjoyed them, a good selection of meat, cheese and breads for sandwiches. Hot chocolate just about everywhere and espresso for Jennifer in most locations. Honestly, those were often the best meals of the day.
The food was a bit disappointing overall. Germany is supposed to be known for sausages, so I tried them in different places. At time they gave me most basic and boring hot dog like sausages, a few times, I got somewhat better sausages, but nothing really earth shattering. Along with the rest of the food we ate, nothing really brought me any fond memories outside of a flamenkuche I was able to find somewhere, but those are actually from Alsace, which is now part of France :)
Germany does have fancy restaurant where the food was better, but they were a bit hard to find, and we often didn't have the 2H+ necessary to eat there, not counting reservations, so all in all food was not what ended up being one of our best memories of Germany.
My other thoughts on Germany:
First, German people, outside of some museum goons, were all very nice and helpful. They also spoke English quite well overall, much better than what you'd expect and get in France or Italy for sure.
A sure lowlight was the stupidity of security rules in Munich preventing me from taking my fanny pack with all my money, phones and other stuff I care about, in a museum for "security reasons". What a bunch of crap, are they trying to compete with US TSA in totally pointless "security" measures? (more details in the blog post on Munich)
Similarly, telling Jennifer that she could not carry her light jacket/layer around her waist and had to check it in, and go back to check it out if she needed it later in a different colder room, was just a complete joke. This happened in 3 different museums in different cities, and they were hassling Germans too, so it was not targeted at her specifically.
On the sightseeing standpoint, it was really nice. The amount of diverse and pretty castles they had beats France in my opinion, and France has some nice castles too. On the catholic church standpoint, some were the prettiest ones I've seen the world, bar none. The amount of varied and beautiful art in them was unbeatable, and that includes what I've seen in Italy.
Germany is also full of very nice palaces that were built when they were jealous of Versailles, and let's be honest in saying that many were pretty incredible, not in size, but in the quality of art in them. Sadly at least half of them also did not allow any pictures which is not quite acceptable in my opinion, Versailles allows pictures, they should too, at least in places where the visits are not in mandated tours.
On religion, Germany has been torn between Catholics and Protestants, but the part I didn't know is that unless you specifically declare you are atheist and/or renounce your current religion in writing, you are required to pay 8% (!) of your taxable income to the church. Ouch, talk about lack of separation of church and state... But the bonus for us was a multitude of beautiful churches (well, at least for the catholics).
I do however have to get Germany absolute credit for how they have been handling their troubled history. Every place I saw was to the point, didn't hide anything, and while it did point out that many Germans obviously did not agree with what Hilter was doing, it was also almost impossible to oppose him after a short while. I was very disappointed at Japan and how they flat out lie about their history so that they don't look bad and don't have to admit fault, and they have plenty of it. Germany was an exact opposite of that.
Another thing we saw in multiple places was how Germany leads the world in solar production per capita despite the limited sun they get compared to some better located countries. Good for them!
2400km, not as many as the 3700km we drove in France
So, despite some of the speed bumps due to over strict rules, it was a very nice trip through a country with varied history and culture, resulting in lots of different things to see. Well worth it.
we saw many solar farms on the side of the road
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