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Five castles to visit in Germany that aren’t Neuschwanstein

Five castles to visit in Germany that aren’t Neuschwanstein

If you follow me on Instagram (and if you like castles, you really should because I am obsessed) you know my family and I visit a lot of them. The thing is, southern Germany is wall to wall with castles. I didn’t know that until I moved here, and if you look at Pinterest, you’d think the only one is Neuschwanstein. Oh no, my friends, there are more. So. Many. More. It’s also worth noting that the entrance fees of the castles on this list are half of what you’d pay for Ludwig’s folly, and they will all be much less busy.

A bit of history

Germany has only been a country for a short period of time really, and before the 19th century, it was a land of hundreds of little principalities, duchies, Free Cities, and more types of city states than you can rattle a sword at. Even more confusingly, due to the mind-bendingly complicated inter-marrying of all these ruling families, lots of these kingdoms would include little islands of land scattered across the countryside. Each of these places would have a castle or two, to show they were the boss, to serve as a reminder you had better pay your river tax, and defensible places for the Duke or Prince Elector or whomever to hole up when the going got rough, or to lavishly entertain other Dukes and Prince Electors. That explains the truly incredible number of castles.

Not all castles in Germany are all that old

There was a bit of a trend in the 19th century, everything medieval was cool. People wrote cheesy approximations of medieval music, and other people with too much money and rotting castles no longer needed for defence, built incredible monuments to castley-ness. That doesn’t make them any less interesting to visit, in fact they are often stuffed full of CASTLE things – crenellations on all available surfaces, over-elaborate knights halls – the whole bit. Neuschwanstein falls into this category, as do a couple of the ones on my list. These castles are often built right on top of an older castle site. The stone was there, right?

Guided tours – don’t miss them!

As with most German castles, you won’t be able to see interior rooms without going on a guided tour, and sometimes these are only available in German. There will always be an info sheet with the translation available, so don’t skip this! You will miss some amazing views, interiors, and furniture. Often the guide will speak some English anyway, and can answer questions.

On to the list! Five castles to visit that aren’t the super busy Neuschwanstein:

Heidelberg Schloss
Heidelberg Schloss is an extensive Romantic ruin.
Heidelberg Castle

This is a favourite of the river cruises, and our local castle. It is in ruins, but what ruins! They have inspired generations of writers and artists – Turner, Mark Twain, and Goethe. A portion of the castle has been restored with period furniture, and you can visit it on a guided tour. My favourite stories of Heidelberg Castle come from Princess Elizabeth Charlotte’s time there as a child, though she’s more famous as Liselotte, sister-in-law of Louis XIV. She loved the castle at Heidelberg, and urged her family to restore it when she was living in France. In her letters, she reminisces about climbing the cherry trees in the gardens early in the morning, and eating fruit until she was too full.

You can easily visit on a day trip from Frankfurt or Stuttgart, and if you do, I have a list of kid-friendly things to do in Heidelberg here besides visit the castle.

Cochem Castle on the Mosel river
Cochem Castle on the Mosel river
Cochem Castle

Cochem Castle is a gorgeous 19th-century renovation right on the Mosel (Moselle) river and sits above a cute little town. This is a great weekend trip, and if you love wine, this is the best castle-plus-wine spot ever. Yes, those are vineyards lining the hill up to the castle, and you can try plenty of the excellent local Riesling in the local restaurants. The tour is particularly good at this castle, and kid friendly if you’re traveling with little ones.

High above the forests of the Palatinate, Burg Berwartstein is a proper haunted castle.
High above the forests of the Palatinate, Burg Berwartstein is a proper haunted castle.
Burg Berwartstein

Were you hoping for creepy tales and ghosts in your castle visit? Then Burg Berwarstein is the one for you. One of the most intact of the old Rhineland cliff castles, this one has loads of excellent stories of robber barons, tragic ladies, and ghosts. You can just see another tower poking out of the trees on the other hilltop in the photo above, and there’s actually a tunnel leading to it from this castle. You can’t visit that tunnel, but they do take you underground into candlelight caverns chiseled out of the sandstone hundreds of years ago.

Castle Lichtenstein
Castle Lichtenstein has an impressive entrance. That’s stabilizing work they’re currently undertaking on the tower. 
Lichtenstein Castle

This castle is all over Pinterest and Instagram, and understandably so, as it’s very cute. A short drive from Stuttgart, Lichtenstein Castle is not actually in the country of Lichtenstein, but was named after a famous Romantic German novel that was inspired by the original medieval castle on the same site (got that?). In any case, ‘Lichtenstein’ in German is roughly translated as ‘shining stone’ – and you will noticed immediately that the castle is built on an outcropping of white rock. The current castle was built in the 1840s and is full of Gothic Revival castleness. Again, you will need a tour to see the inside, but the tours are only in German. There is a useful brochure with the details in English. My favourite spot? Inside the dining hall, there’s a large gilt grate that allowed the music from a small orchestra to filter down so Duke Wilhelm von Urach could dance with his guests.

Burg Eltz
Our favourite German castle, Burg Eltz is gorgeous and just what you imagine a castle to look like.
Burg Eltz

This is my favourite German castle, and I’ve dedicated a whole post to it over here. The tl;dr version is this: it is one of only three Rhine valley castles to have survived unscathed the many wars that ravaged this countryside, and is one of the most beautiful. The interiors are breathtaking. My favourite is the bed chamber with wall paintings preserved from the 15th century. Incredibly, the same family has owned the castle for the past 33 generations, and they still have quarters there. In fact, the Countess puts huge vases of fresh flowers in the public rooms every day. Burg Eltz is a short trip from Trier, Koblenz and Cologne.

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Road Trip Essentials

Roadtrip Essentials: On the road with dramatic clouds in Germany

We’ve been going on a road trip nearly every weekend for the past two months. When you live in the middle of hundreds of castles and historic sites, and everything is closed on Sundays, well, you get the idea.

Our road trips are generally for day trips, though on our recent drive to Paris, our set-up was basically the same, with added luggage. We aim for no more than 3 hours one way, and start out just after breakfast, and head home just after dinner. There are a few things we do to make our trips more enjoyable for everyone, and we’ve honed our techniques over the past couple of months. We tend to roll with a pretty minimal set-up, I really dislike packing for a day trip taking longer than the trip itself!

Yum! Nothing like being prepared for lunch on the road.
Yum! Nothing like being prepared for lunch on the road.

Snacks and coffee

It’s imperative that we have snacks in the car that work for everyone on our road trips, because otherwise you’re stopping every 20 minutes and it takes forever to get anywhere! We have a cooler bag that sits on the back seat opposite my son, and we stock it with a selection of:

  • Muffins or oatmeal cookies (recipe suggestions below)
  • Good cheese in slices
  • Apples
  • Berries
  • Peanut and raisin mix, called Studentenfutter here in Germany
  • Limited number of protein granola bars for hangry prevention
  • Large 2L of water, plus our own individual refillable water bottles
  • Thermos of latte

If we’re doing lunch on the road as well, it also has:

  • Pretzel buns
  • Sliced meats or leftover roast chicken or salmon
  • Little containers of mayo and mustard
  • Grapes

The coffee is critical for us, as decent coffee at the roadside services in Germany is expensive, and not all that satisfying.

I try and whip up a batch of either these Carrot Cake Oatmeal Breakfast Cookies, or these Chocolate Zucchini Muffins and take them with us. Both are pretty solid eating, relatively low sugar, and easy to make – plus they quell the sweet thing craving that hits mid-morning and mid-afternoon. Obviously part of the joy of these trips is trying out a local coffeeshop, but if nothing takes our fancy it’s easier to say no when there’s something good in the car.

Dramatic clouds on the road in Germany.
Dramatic clouds on the road in Germany.


{Please note: there are a few affiliate links here, which cost you nothing extra but provides a small fee to me to help with the blog. So thanks!}

We have all seen the first 100km or so from our place endless times, so the window views don’t do much for any of us at the beginning. We have a headrest iPad holder for my son, so he doesn’t sit there with his neck in a crooked position for two hours, and he watches Netflix shows we download before we leave, with headphones on. We bring a notebook and a few pencils and pens for drawing as well.

Whichever parent isn’t driving is the designated researcher, and we read out some interesting facts about where we’re going. Phones are pretty much the main adult distraction, which often includes German practice on Duolingo. Silently. With headphones. I sing when I drive, like the whole time. Everyone else seems fine with it. No, really.

One external battery, plus enough cables so everyone is plugged in while in the car covers battery usage.

Comfort and safety

We used to bring several pillows, but realized they just took up space, so one regular bed pillow is all we bring now, plus a cheap IKEA blanket that stays in the car. It can double as picnic blanket if we didn’t bring our regular plastic-backed one. All coats and bulky bags and cameras go in the trunk. I bring antihistamines, both liquid and cream, and usually have a few plasters tucked away somewhere.

Things we don’t bring on a road trip

As it’s just the three of us and my son is seven, I don’t bother with a change of clothes for anyone (on a day trip) – though that’s probably tempting fate. I’ve seen suggestions to fill a backpack with toys, but to be honest, they just get lost, either in the car or at a rest stop, so we don’t bring anything like that. Luckily, nearly every roadside services has a play area for kids, so my son burns off a bit of energy there. Huge bags for garbage just seem to expand full of stuff, so we’re vigilant when it comes to de-junking the car at every pit stop.

What do you bring?


Visiting Heidelberg: Ruins up on the Holy Mountain

The Monastery of St Micheal on the Heiligenberg in Heidelberg

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Heidelberg is a university town at the entrance of the Neckar river valley. If you drive in from Mannheim, you will suddenly see the little mountains rising up from the flat plains, and there is the town, nestled between them. It’s quite obvious why people have chosen this spot over thousands of years for their settlements. We took our drone up the mountain for a bird’s eye view of the place.

Holy mountain

The Heiligenberg translates literally to ‘Holy Mountain’ in English, and it has been home to humans since the 5th century BCE. The first big structures were constructed by the Celts around the first century BCE, and you can still see the remains of the double walls that surrounded their hill fort today. It’s always been important spiritually, functioning as a sacrificial site for the Celts, then as a Roman temple, a monastery, and the location for a massive annual Walpurgisnacht party these days. Most of the ruins you can see in our film are from the 12th century monastery. It’s a beautiful place, and it has a distinct feeling to it. I’m not going to go all woo-woo on you, but if six thousand years of humans thought it was important, I figure I’m not too far off the wall in saying it feels kinda neat.

Huge outdoor amphitheatre with an interesting past

There’s also the Thingstätte, a huge outdoor amphitheatre built in 1935 – by the Nazis. It’s creepy, for sure. It has a bit of an odd history, as the whole idea of folk plays was co-opted by the Nazis, but apparently Hitler wasn’t super keen on that whole arm of the propaganda machine. It was hard to convince people to sit outside in grim weather and watch educational plays, unsurprisingly, so by the time this one was finished, they were already being converted into plain old ‘festival sites’ where people came to celebrate the Spring equinox and things like that. By the time World War II arrived, its mountaintop site was more important for defence and a flak tower ended up there. However, after the war, the US troops used to hold jazz concerts there, and a smattering of other performances have attempted to use the site. Now, the biggest thing to happen there is the annual Walpurgisnacht party, which is unsanctioned by anyone, and involved thousands of people going up there in the dark, having bonfires all night and hanging out on April 30. The black circles you can see in our film are the marks left behind, as we filmed this a week after the celebration.

Getting there

You can walk up to the Thingstätte and the Monastery, but make sure you have an offline map available as signal gets spotty up there. Buses run on Sundays, and there are a few tours that will head up there as well. There is a nice little restaurant with a biergarten right below the Thingstätte. Many people talk about these sites in the same breath as the Philosopher’s Walk, which is much lower on the mountain. They are not that close together, so know that if you plan to hit both of them in one day, it’s a fair hike. Hiking up from the Altstadt will take you about an hour. Personally, being from the west coast of Canada next to the Rockies, I think calling this a mountain is a bit of a stretch, but it is bigger than a hill. Take that how you will!

PS – have you read my post on what to do in Heidelberg? How about where to eat in Heidelberg?

Want to know what kind of drone we fly?

I’ve pulled together our drone gear below, please note these are affiliate links.We love our little DJI Mavic Pro

Our drone is the DJI Mavic Pro and we went for the Fly More package and have never regretted it – more batteries are never a bad thing! We recently invested in the quieter blades – they really do make a difference. These Polar Pro filters adjust for different light conditions, and we’ve found they cut down on post-processing time for sure.


Visiting Paris with Kids in Spring

Visiting Paris with Kids in Spring

We took a slow travel approach to our trip to Paris – which is really just a fancy term for not trying to cram everything in. We also have a friend with a son close in age to ours, and seeing them was as important to me as seeing the sights.

paris with kids - batobus
Seeing the sights from the Batobus.
paris with kids - souvenir sellers eiffel tower
Souvenir sellers at the Eiffel Tower.

If you’re travelling with children under 10, I think it makes sense to look at your itinerary realistically. There needs to be playgrounds and unstructured downtime, as well as grown-up sight seeing. Picnics as well as meals in restaurants.

I think it’s impossible not to have a bit of a meltdown at some point, because traveling is a stressful experience at any age, and it takes time to learn how to do it. I’m sure you’re a better flier, car tripper, and tourist now than when you did your first trip. Only by traveling with your kids regularly can they get better at it. But the bottom line is this: Paris with kids is totally doable.

paris with kids - jardin du luxemburg fountain
Jardin du Luxembourg fountain, which is where the pony ride from the top photo happened as well.

paris with kids - hotel de ville carousel
Carousels are everywhere! This one was right in front of the Hôtel de Ville.
paris with kids - notre dame
Notre Dame plus cherry blossoms.
paris with kids - balconies
I am in love with the balcony railings.

We have been to Paris a couple of times before, and will go again in the near future as we don’t live that far away. This takes the pressure off, in terms of making it meaningful. However, even if you’ve saved for this for years and it’s a long flight and everything else, some of the best moments on our trips have been unscripted ones. Leave some room in your days to just explore, or hang out. The Parisian kids yours will meet in a playground, the view over the crest of a hill that time you get a bit lost, the little cafe that becomes your temporary homebase – these things are what make a trip for me.

What really worked for us this trip:

paris with kids - arc de triomphe2
I don’t think I would have bothered to fight my way up to the Arc de Triomphe if we hadn’t already been on a bus tour.

Bus tour and the Batobus

Those hop-on hop-off bus tours are a quick way to get an overview of a city, with the added benefit of saving small peoples’ feet. There are several of these, and lots of deals online, so check before you go. A snack stop afterwards is a good time to get everyone’s priorities for where they want to visit. We love the hop-on hop-off Batobus for seeing things from the river, but not tying you down to a 2 or 3 hour tour.

Embracing Apéro

Not just a drink, but the concept of having something to eat in a relaxed manner in the late afternoon. Nicely accompanied by a ‘Spritz’ (Aperol, Prosecco, and a splash of soda), but not necessarily required, it’s mainly about hanging out from 4pm onwards. Maybe with a spread of fancy food, or just bits from the fridge cabinets at Franprix and a bottle of wine with plastic glasses (ahem) in a park – it’s an excellent way to feed everyone who needs to eat at an earlier dinner time.

paris with kids - seine playgrounds
Ingenious tiny football pitch on the banks of the Seine. Paris kids can play ball without constantly dumping it in the river!
paris with kids - seine playgrounds climbing
Climbing structures built right into the embankment.

Exploring the banks of the Seine

There are little strips of grass, tiny windows serving beer and coffee, mini playgrounds, ice cream carts, and more all along the river. In 2013, this collection was significantly expanded with the Promenade des Berges de la Seine between the Pont de l’Alma and the Musée d’Orsay. There are little huts, play structures, and more. We spotted them from the river, but didn’t have a chance to explore them. If you’re visiting during late July to mid-August, you can also catch Paris Plage, where the city puts out great big sandboxes along the river, along with loungers and sun umbrellas.

All of this means you can wander along, without much of a plan, and find something fun to do.

paris with kids - parc de belleville playground
Gorgeous Parc de Belleville playground built into a hillside.
paris with kids - parc des buttes chaumont
How fairytale is this? Parc des Buttes Chaumont
paris with kids - parc de la villette dragon slide
The famous Dragon Slide at Parc de la Villette
paris with kids - parc de la villette canals
The lovely canal in the Parc de la Villette. I don’t actually know those people, they just happened to be there.

Go a bit further out

Our Parisian friends took us up to Parc de Belleville with its awesome hillside playground, over to Parc des Buttes Chaumont with its fairytale bridge and lookout point, and finally to the canals and the Parc de la Villette up up in the 19th. I had never been up there, and what a great place to spend a few hours. We picked up our snacks (see Aperol above) and waited while our sons raced down the truly giant Dragon. We watched people put-put down the canals in cute little tugboats, and my son even pulled out some dance moves with the local b-boys and b-girls. There were little bars and cafes all along the canal, and it was much calmer than central Paris.

Go even further out! Check out Salut from Paris‘ best day trips from Paris, she’s a local so you know it’s the real deal

Atelier Fratelli, where the locals get some excellent pizza.
Atelier Fratelli, where the locals get some excellent pizza.

Bonus tip: Atelier Fratelli

Our friends took us to one of their favourite pizza places, Atelier Fratelli. A local food truck and now a restaurant right between the 19th and 20th, this friendly spot serves pizza and focaccia sandwiches for very reasonable prices. Every focaccia and pizza is served with a side salad. ‘1Part’ pizza is a slab of their good stuff with a thick bread crust, and is plenty for one person. The ‘focaccia’ part of the menu are all sandwiches, again on their locally baked bread. I can hear you wondering why I’m suggesting Italian food in Paris. Well, one can only eat so many Croque Monsieurs, and it’s a kid-pleaser. It’s walking distance from Père Lachaise and a small hike from the Parc de Belleville.

Atelier Fratelli
26 rue de la Chine,
75020 Paris

Looking forward to our next visit – do you have any recommendations for us?


10 Things Not to Do When You Visit Germany – and 2 You Should

Beautiful street in Heidelberg, Germany

Germany is a beautiful country to visit full of fairytale castles, beautiful rivers, canals, stunning parks and mountains – but there a few key pieces of information that will make your visit to our adopted homeland more enjoyable. After several years of living here and shepherding relatives and friends around, I have collated some Germany travel tips for you.

My 10 Germany travel tips

Carry nothing but plastic

It is really odd at first, but cash is the deal here. Many restaurants and small shops won’t take cards of any kind, so it’s worth checking or looking for a sign as soon as you come in. Because it’s less fun to discover this when you go to pay, and have no idea where the nearest bank machine is. Most waitstaff are prepared for this eventuality, but they will still roll their eyes at you. I know, I know, but Germans on average are quite distrustful of payment technology of any kind. Apple Pay? Er no.

See the red Ampelmann? Don't walk or a German person will shout at you.
See the red Ampelmann? Don’t walk or a German person will shout at you.

Cross the road against the crossing light, especially with kids

This is a huge no-no. You wait for the Ampelmann (the crosswalk light guy), even if no cars are coming. If you have kids with you, or there are kids also waiting, crossing against the light is an absolute travesty. People will yell at you about being a child murderer, or you will get a stern dressing down in German. The idea is, we are all examples to children, and by crossing against the pedestrian light, you are showing children that it’s okay to ignore it – and the next time they might get hit by a car! I have stood at a road crossing that most North Americans would term an alley, with not a single car within three blocks, along with four other people – I had my son with me so no one was going to go. Hilariously, our Swiss friends roll their eyes at this and run across the road whenever, so this seems to be a German only phenomenon.

Ignore bike lanes

Bike lanes in Germany often take up part of the sidewalk, and can be quite subtly marked. In Munich, for instance, the paving stones are a different direction, but nearly the same colour. Sometimes the bike lanes will be painted dark red. They are also heavily used, particularly in warm weather but pretty much year round. Don’t back into a bike lane while taking a photo, stand in the middle of one while waiting to cross the road, or generally assume it doesn’t apply to you – cyclists are often going quite fast and it is up to you to get out of the way if you’re in their lane. If you rent a bike, it’s also worth noting that it’s illegal to ride on the sidewalk, unless you’re in a bike lane OR riding with a child who is on their bike – this changed in January 2017, so not everyone may know this rule about riding on the sidewalk with kids, so you may still get shouted at. Also, all those little one-way roads? The one way applies to bikes as well, unless you see a bike symbol with the word ‘frei’ underneath. I’ve seen police officers stop and tell people off for riding their bikes the wrong way on a one-way street.

Expect tap water at a restaurant

Don’t even bother asking, because it’s not going to happen. You pay for a bottle of water, and that’s it – and if you don’t want sparkling you have to be very clear! Sometimes if you have children and you’re obviously not German the waitstaff will take pity on you, but don’t expect this in Munich or Berlin. If you want still and not sparkling, you can ask for ‘Stillwasser’ (pronounced SCHtillwassah) or in English they may ask if you want water with gas or without, and the ‘gas’ refers to carbonation, not petrol or gas you put in your car. I know someone who, when she asked repeatedly for tap water, was given a glass and told to fill it in the bathroom. All the more reason to try the local beer and wine, really. Or Apfelschorle (apple juice mixed half and half with sparkling water) for kids.

Think you’re going shopping on a Sunday

Nothing but restaurants are open on Sundays, and not even all of those, or for the whole day. No grocery stores, no shops… nothing. Bakeries will be open for three or four hours, and that’s generally in the morning. The idea is we should all be spending Sundays with our families out and about. You will see herds of German folks out for hikes, walks, and bike rides. The other thing we do on Sundays is go to the museum or the art gallery – so those are generally open, but you will want to check ahead, particularly in smaller towns. The one exception are shops in tourist areas, so some souvenir shops will be open, but don’t count on it. I watched American tourists trying every shop door in Rothenburg ob der Tauber and wailing about nothing being open. I admit, it takes some getting used to, but once I did, I really started to appreciate the tradition of going for a walk or a hike with your family on a Sunday. If you do take part in this national activity, the polite thing to do is to nod at each group you pass, smile, and say hello.

This is the red A sign you're looking for - an Apotheke in Germany.
This is the red A sign you’re looking for – an Apotheke in Germany.

Try to buy medication of any kind anywhere but the little pharmacy

Even the shops like dm and Rossman, that would have basic painkillers and things like that in North America or the UK, will only have vitamins. You will need to go to an Apotheke, easily identifiable by a big red A outside, and ask at the counter. For everything. Look up what you need on Google Translate beforehand, or bring a package with you. It’s worth knowing that there’s always an emergency Apotheke open on Sundays, but it’s only one per area and it rotates, so use Google and type in ‘Notdienst Apotheken [city name]’ (Notdienst = emergency service), or ask at your hotel if you need one. Also, they close at 2pm on Saturdays, and often on Wednesday afternoons. Plan ahead if you know you need a medication.

Assume everyone speaks English

People will tell you that everybody speaks English in Germany, and most people speak a little bit, this is true. But I find most of the people who will say this have been to Berlin, Frankfurt, or Munich, and that’s it. Wander away from these big cities and you will find the English-speaking rate go down significantly. If you think back to the second language you learned in high school, and how you’d feel if someone walked up to you and started speaking it to you with no warning, and expected you to understand… you’ll understand the panicked look you sometimes get if you start speaking English to a German person. It’s only polite to say hello, and ask if the person speaks English in German first (‘Sprecken sie Englisch?’) before launching into your question. Better yet, learn a wee bit of German. It’s worth knowing that English was only required in school in the late 1970s or so, people older than 45 will be unlikely to speak English well. Also, if you’re traveling in the former East Germany, they did not learn English in school at all until reunification, so expect the number of English speakers to be even lower.

Eat at the restaurant directly outside the train station

This is a standard one pretty much everywhere in Europe, but the first restaurants outside the train station will be rubbish. Walk for five minutes, and you are sure to find something much better. If you’re desperate, the bakery chains inside the train station are fine for a quick bite and a coffee, though it’s essentially fast food so unlikely to be wonderful.

German public rubbish bin
German public rubbish bin

Get offended when a local tells you not to do something

German people can be quite… direct. It doesn’t help that what you can say in German with perfect politeness comes across as a demand when translated word-for-word into English. They are very proactive when it comes to telling strangers they’ve done something wrong – from going in the wrong door, to putting things in the wrong recycling bins. However, it also stretches to telling you if you’ve dropped something out of your stroller, or you’ve left your cardigan on a chair. Also, it’s worth understanding that unlike North American and British cultures, there’s often no judgement attached to the correction. It’s not about you being an idiot, it’s just about making everyday life smoother for everyone.

Make small talk with your cashier

Generally, Germans are not big on small talk. It’s completely fine, and expected, to stand there in silence as the cashier rings through your purchases. At the end, a ‘Schönen Tag’ (have a nice day) or a cheerful ‘Tchüss!’ (Bye!) is the polite way to finish your interaction. Any kind of extraneous conversation, particularly in English, will hold up the queue and you will immediately hear grumbling and muttering from everyone behind you. I know it feels odd to North Americans and Brits, friendly Americans in particular, but trust me – it’s just not the way here. Just stand there and smile, pack your groceries really REALLY quickly into a reusable bag (the cashiers never pack for you in Germany), and have your method of payment ready to go. If you need to rearrange things, there is often space to do so beyond the cashiers, but you’re expected to clear out of the way quickly.


Ask a local where to eat

They are thrilled to be consulted, on average, and will be happy to suggest the best German restaurant, cafe or whatever else you’re searching for. They will even enlist other strangers, it’s beyond sweet. I’ve had people write me lists on the spot, they are so keen. And I’ve not been let down by their suggestions once yet!

Learn a little German

It will make your life much easier. While yes, in a pinch you will find someone who speaks English, this doesn’t help when you’re in a grocery store trying to find something, or when faced with signs at the train station, bus stop, or pretty much anywhere. Germany has a robust German-language tourist industry, so just because something is touristy doesn’t mean all the signs will be in English. You don’t need to sign up for a class or anything, but a few minutes a day of Duolingo for a week before you go will at least ensure you can read the bathroom signs correctly!


PS – Need help with packing for Germany? I’ve got you covered for packing for your Germany trip in spring or summer.

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Whether you're planning to visit Berlin, Munich, Cologne, castles, or fairy tale villages, Germany is a great place for your next family holiday - but there a few things that will make your trip a better one.