Archived Responses: 

Mainz/Frankfurt and Paris in December

Oct 2006

We will be traveling to the Mainz/Frankfurt area of Germany with our 5-year-old daughter over the Christmas holidays to visit friends, and perhaps taking a short side trip to Paris as well. We will be in the area for about a week and a half. We were wondering about interesting places to visit and things to do, as this is our first trip to Germany. I hear the Christmas fairs in Frankfurt are great. Any other highlights in the area to see? We would love to learn about the local Christmas customs and perhaps catch some music concerts, dance, or theater as well (any great local Nutcrackers or Christmas plays for children?) We could also take short trips out to Heidelberg, etc., although we could use some tips on how to navigate the seemingly complex German rail system. As this is our daughter's first trip abroad, recommendations for books that might introduce German customs, especially at Christmas time, would be very useful. A German language/phrase book for children (and adults!) might also be helpful. Also, we would like to take a side trip to Paris to visit a dear friend who has been very ill. Any recommendations on inexpensive flights or trains between Frankfurt and Paris? Looking forward to a European Christmas

About taking your 5 year old to Germany over Christmas. Wonderful idea! We took our 4 and 2 year olds a couple years ago, to that same region, where I had also lived as a child and college student for upwards of 7 years. Advice: it gets dark in mid afternoon, so plan accordingly. The Christmas markets of Rudesheim (on the Rhein river) and Rothenburg ( a little south) are actually not crowded , despite summer crowds in those touristy , but good little towns. Even at nighttime it is charming, safe, and interesting. Visit a couple castles on the Rhein, too. In Mainz you have the Gutenberg museum with his printing press and original Bible, plus a medieval cathedral. In Wiesbaden, next door, you have a pedestrian shopping zone , plus the Bonifatius Church, and at night, it is a little Christmas Markt. You might stay away from crowded big city zones (Frankfurt downtown) and go to the smaller villages or towns. Marksburg castle is a drive north, but amazing medieval fortress. Bingen , also on the east side of the Rhein is home to St. Hildegard's home, church (with heated kneelers!),town, songs, and a wonderful bookstore that sells also nativity pieces and wines and honey, made in her convent gardens. I loved my childhood there! Frieda


April 2004

We will be in Germany this summer, spending at least a day in the Nuernberg area. A web search reveals that there is a Playmobile FunPark nearby. Is anyone out there familiar with this park? Is it too young for a 10-year-old (he still plays with his playmobile stuff now and then)? Is it worth a couple of hours? Or - any other ideas near there? (no major amusement parks - he doesn't do big rides). R.K.

I'm not familiar with playmobil funparks, but you were asking from alternatives what to do in Nuernberg with a 10 year old child, too. There's a castle hill in the middle of the city, with many traditional buildings, a wall around, museum, all this open to the public. You can easily hang out a whole day there, explore, make up stories, and try ot imagine how people used to live a few hundred years ago. (Well, some people, other's had to live in little huts rather than castles... ) The Youth hostel of the city is right there, too, and as many Youth hostels it's in a historical building. This one has 7 attic storeys, that means you see 7 rows of dormer windows. When I was a child, I wished my parents and me had spent the night there in a B & B. We learned about life in Middle ages in elementary school. If you son had no information about this yet, I'd prepare him a little bit, with books etc. Have a good trip, Julia

Tour group or on our own?

Feb 2004

We are planning a two week trip to Germany and wanted to get recommendations on places to stay and semi-leisurely itineraries. Anyone take an escorted tour on a bus? What was your experience? We are having a difficult time planning this and deciding if we should do Germany on our own or book it with a travel agent for an escorted bus tour. hana

I suggest the Mosel River Valley (yummy, cheap wine...not the nasty super sweet stuff that is sold here as Mosel River Wine). My favorite weekend trip while living in Europe was to that valley. Write to me if you choose to visit this part of the country. I can give you specific suggestions on places to stay, a fabulous wine maker, etc. My second favorite place is down in Garmisch (down in the Alpine region). From there, you can see Saltzburg (cheesey Sound of Music still lives on, but it is goofy fun anyway) or Venice without too much of a drive/train trip. I would suggest booking your own trip and using trains when possible. Hanging out with a bunch of other American tourists is hardly the way to experience Europe. Jan

Check out Rick Steves' 16-day tour of Austria, Germany, and Switzerland. My husband and I did a 21-day ''Best of Europe'' trip with ''Rick Steves' Tours'' -- the guy who does the travel show, ''Europe Through the Back Door,'' on PBS. He offers a variety of different itineraries and packages. My husband had never been to Europe, so the ''Best of Europe'' was the best introduction to Europe for him (I've been several times). This trip was my first time, in 20 or so years of independent travel, going on an organized trip. I did some research, and found that Rick Steves adhered, as much as possible when you are traveling with a group, to my philosophy of travel -- stay in small hotels/pensions, walk lots, eat well, and travel light. It was the best of both worlds -- a tour to get you around and into see the highlights (both big cities and small villages), and time to wander on your own. Of course by the end of our trip we wanted no schedule, and so we planned at the end of our tour to stay an extra 6 days in Paris on our own.

We were very pleased with the trip and found it excellent value for the money we paid. Please read the website to see if this type of travel/group tour is for you. Happy travels! Kathleen


December 2002

We'll be traveling to Germany in March and plan to stay for two weeks. The first week will be in Goettingen (attending a conference)and then we are on our own. We'd love to see other parts of the country (we are considering Berlin and Munich) and are curious if folks have any recommendations (hotels, cities to visit, ways to save money) and insights into traveling with preschoolers in Germany. kvorhies

We visited Berlin last summer with our now-two-year-old. We rented a private apartment in Charlottenburg, which was a good idea for several reasons: it was close to public transit and many interesting and child friendly restaurants. We had a kitchen, so we could prepare meals before or in between excursions. The bathroom had a real bathtub (many moderately priced European hotels have only showers). Since the building was residential, it was pretty quiet -- important for naptime! Eric