13 Day Road Trip Through Germany and Beyond

Our epic road trip that took us through the Alps

I planned the craziest road trip vacation through Europe. We were traveling with my brother and his wife and we tried to get in as many things as possible. The bulk was time in Germany, but I also wanted to spend time in Salzburg, Austria. Plus we planned our flights coming into Europe and out of Europe to be at different cities just to get more cities in.

Sit back, but don’t relax, we didn’t have time for that.

Haarlem at night

Flying in and out of Amsterdam is such a great easy flight out of Portland. We knew that if we went through Amsterdam we needed to spend some time there just because you can. We chose to stay in nearby Haarlem, which we all loved. We had  a great day exploring Amsterdam and Zaanse Schans.

Cute house in the town of Zaanse Schans

From there we made our way to Frankfurt via plane. Our flight was delayed by 2 hours due to fog, then we landed in Frankfurt during bad traffic. Our time in Wurzburg was cut short because of all of that. We were tired from being in the airport for so long and stuck in traffic for 2 hours. When we finally got to Wurzburg we all dropped our bags and took off to the walking bridge and Old Town. As we crossed the bridge we saw that every single person on the bridge was holding a glass of wine. Every.Single.Person.  Then my husband found a line, so we got in it. It’s all local wine and something the city is very proud of. We grabbed our wine and found our way to a spot on the bridge and just relaxed like a local. This was one of our highlights of the trip, even though it was such a simple thing to do.

Enjoying some Franconian Wine with Fortress Marienberg hovering above

The next day we began to make our way south towards Rothenburg ob der Tauber. We took advantage of the autobahn and cut off some time by driving over 100mph, ok over 130mph.  We had been there before, but wanted to share this gem with my brother and his wife. Then we made our way into colorful Dinkelsbuhl. Since it’s so small it didn’t take much time to wander around, grab a bite and continue on. We ended our day in Nordligen. A town built inside of a crater, so it’s built in a circle.

The colorful town of Dinkelsbuhl, Germany

The next day we headed for Dachua Concentration Camp. Again this is a place we had been to before, but it’s something my brother and wife wanted to experience so we spent the morning wandering the grounds and the museum. Even having been here, it’s incredibly overwhelming with all the things that happened. I had forgotten that Dachau was the only concentration camp to open immediately and stay open the whole 12 years. Most is torn down, but many things still remain. Worth a visit if you want to experience this part of history.

Dachau Concentration Camp

By late afternoon we made our way into Munich. Our plan was to visit Oktoberfest. I say “visit” because many of the blogs I had read ahead of time said if you don’t have a reservation you probably won’t get in. I had also heard if you don’t have a reservation then at least show up first thing in the morning. Since that wasn’t an option we just went hoping for the best.

We passed by a few tents and finally pointed and said “Let’s try this one.” Yep, that’s how we chose our tent. But our system seemed to work perfectly… WE GOT IN!!   Trying to explain to people what it’s like is hard. The energized atmosphere is something else. Between a live band playing “Sweet Caroline” and the crowd going wild and a German marching band going between all the tables playing, it was a so much to take in.

Enjoying beers as big as my head in Munich Germany at Oktoberfest

Outside the tents is pretty fun too. And these beers are huge!

We were so excited about our success so we decided to move on and try another tent. We never did not get into another tent, but we were able to sit on the outside of a few others and enjoy some more Oktoberfest Beer. Overall, it was one of our favorite memories from our trip and it was a last minute change to our itinerary. So glad we made that decision.

The beauty of the Bavarian Alps will leave you speechless.

The next day we drove into Garmisch Partenkirchen. The plan was to just hang out and take in the town that is so beautifully nestled in the Bavarian Alps. Instead we found out the next day was supposed to be rainy and we had planned on taking a gondola to the top of the alps in Innsbruck, Austria. Knowing that would not be a good option we decided to go to the top of the Zugspitz, which is the tallest mountain alp in Germany and just outside Garmisch. For some reason the entrance to the German side was closed so we had to drive around to the Austrian side. It was definitely farther, but it was worth it. Stunning views of the alps all the way to Italy we have been told.

Zugspitz – the highest Alp in Germany.

After Garmisch we spent our next day just taking our time driving through the Austrian Alps. Before we left Germany we stopped in Mittenwald just to see the charming town I had heard about. And it was so very cute.

Beautiful, ornate buildings in Innsbruck, Austria

Innsbruck was much bigger than I expected. But we still managed to get ourselves into the heart of the city and check out some the beautiful buildings and churches before the storm started to roll in.

In spite of the weather, this city was still spectacular. And those Alps are back there somewhere.

We ended our day in a little ski town called Going am Wilden Kaiser. There was not much there, which was perfect because all we wanted to do was have a night in and just relax. Since it was during the off season we got upgraded to a suite for free. It had a the bedroom upstairs. And the view out the window would be the people coming down off the ski run in the winter, but on this fall day it was a beautiful, lush green hill. The chair lift was right out the front door of the hotel. But since that was not why we were there we got to take in the beautiful green hills that pushed up against the rugged alps.

Not a bad view to wake up to in Going am Wilden Kaiser

The next morning we did an early start that got us to Berchtesgaden by mid morning. We went to Koingsee first thing and bought our tickets out to St. Barthomews church. I wish we would have had more time, because there are a lot of hikes you can do that can only be reached by taking the boat out. Instead we just took in the beauty of the lake on a crisp fall day. The leaves, the alps and the lake were all stunning.

St. Bartholomew’s on the Koingsee

We then headed back into Berchestgarden and got on our bus to Eagles Nest. Because of the time of year that we went, there were not really lines for many things, which was really nice. We spent a few hours taking in Hitlers Eagles Nest. You can choose to do a tour, but we just walked around and read all the info that was posted throughout. Again there are some trails that you can take once you are up there. We did not have time for any of them.

Hitlers Eagles nest in Berchtesgaden, Germany

We ended that very very long day in Salzburg. We got our car dropped off at the airport and then had the taxi take us into the heart of the city. We stayed there for 2 nights and visited everything that was on our list. We did not purchase a City Pass and in the end we were glad we skipped this. We never got on the public transportation, we instead walked everywhere we wanted to go. The few things we paid for were cheaper than having purchased the pass.

The beautiful city of Salzburg

Just when you think the European vacation might  be over….we jumped on a plane and spent 3 nights in Paris.

The one and only Eiffel Tower

It had been 24 years since we had been to Paris. Let me say Paris in the fall is beautiful. We had previously only been there in the winter. Paris has a lot to see and do, but we also were very tired at the end of our trip, so we took the time to sleep in in the mornings and take our time taking it all in. We did all the great touristy things like, Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Notre Dame and Arc de Triumph.

What we Discovered

  • Traveling like this is a lot of work, but we knew that heading into it. We did this so we could cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time.
  • It is possible to get it all in.
  • Everything must be planned ahead and here are a few tips on how I plan a route.
  • We really do love the small towns.
  • It would have been better to start at Paris and end in a smaller town. We weren’t ready for the crowds we encountered in Paris. We pretty much had it easy up until that point.
  • Renting a car always give you so much freedom.
  • Two weeks sounds like a lot of time, but when planning an overseas trip it really is the minimum amount of time you will need.

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