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Road Trip Essentials

Road Trip Essentials

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.

Entertainment

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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?

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Visiting Heidelberg: Ruins up on the Holy Mountain

Visiting Heidelberg: Ruins up on the Holy Mountain

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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.

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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?

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

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

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.

DO

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.

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Burg Eltz: My Favourite Castle in Germany

Burg Eltz: My Favourite Castle in Germany

Burg Eltz: I will say right up front, this has been my favourite castle I’ve visited so far. If you follow me on Instagram (and if you like castles you really should), you know we visit a lot of them. Ruins, restored, popular and empty – I love a castle. If you love this one, check out my list of four other castles less busy than the ultra tourist mobbed Neuschwanstein.

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But Burg, or Castle Eltz, in the beautiful Moselle valley, is my favourite. And it’s nowhere near as crowded as some of the more famous castles. If you’re curious, a Burg is a castle built for defence, as opposed to a Schloss, which is generally more of a home for nobility, or a palace. The lines can become blurred, however, as many of these structures were destroyed and rebuilt many times, changing their functions through the years. However, it’s never Berg Eltz, as that would be referring to a mountain called Eltz!

The gorgeous Burg Eltz nestled in its green valley.
The gorgeous Burg Eltz nestled in its green valley.

Burg Eltz History

This castle has been in the Eltz family for 33 generations, and through clever alliances it has remained in good condition all that time. It’s one of three Rhine castles never to be destroyed at some point. Coming through the Thirty Years War unscathed is a Herculean achievement, really. It’s a familiar refrain in the histories of all the other castles in southern Germany: ‘but in the Thirty Years War it was completely destroyed…’

The castle itself is built on a rocky point jutting out of a valley over a ridge from the Moselle River. There is actually a very small tributary of the Moselle that runs around the castle, and this funny little valley was once a major Roman trade route, making this a perfect place for a castle.

Inner courtyard at Burg Eltz.
Inner courtyard at Burg Eltz.

A castle of many parts

Like many castles of this age, the complex grew organically over the years as each successful generation wanted larger apartments, or just something a bit… different. The oldest part is from the 9th century, with another large portion built in the 12th century. My favourite area of the castle is from 1472, with a gorgeous bedchamber and original wall paintings of thick ivy climbing all up the walls and onto the ceiling. Each little section of the castle would house a different branch of the Eltz family, with some shared kitchens below stairs, one of which you get to visit.

Should you do the Burg Eltz guided tour?

It’s worth noting you cannot see the inside of the castle without a guided tour. Just ask when you buy your tickets when the next English guided tour will be, and you can plan your snacks or meals around it. You can visit the Treasury (described below) on your own, so you can always spend a good half hour there. It is absolutely worth going on the tour. I’ve been on several, and the guides are very patient with young children. You get to see one of the children’s bedrooms, miniature (functioning!) canons, and child-sized suits of armour. You won’t be able to bring a buggy with you, so ask your tour guide if you can leave it in their office while you’re on the tour. Be prepared: like most German castles, you can’t take photos of the castle interior, but the Rick Steves clip from this area had permission to film inside if you’re curious.

A suit of armour in the treasury at Burg Eltz.
A suit of armour in the treasury at Burg Eltz.
An extremely detailed stein in the treasury at Burg Eltz.
An extremely detailed evesin in the treasury at Burg Eltz.

Treasury

The treasury is a little section of the castle you can visit on your own, and houses the usual collection of Roman bits, a few Ottoman swords (all the castles have them as they sent men to fight the Ottomans in France in the 16th century), a couple suits of armour, some truly wacky looking little sculptures, and an adorable set of drinking steins all painted with children’s names. This little gallery has been nicely curated, and we spent a pleasant half hour peering at everything.

External courtyard at Burg Eltz.
My son loves climbing on the rocks in the courtyard at Burg Eltz.

Is Burg Eltz good for kids?

Oh, it’s great for kids. It is so castle-y, and refreshingly under-visited, so you’re not battling your way through crowds to see things. The tour was 45 minutes – and like all German castles, this is the only way you can see the interior – but the guide was patient and kept it as relevant as he could for the small people. As usual, you won’t be able to bring buggies or big hiking carriers (the backpack ones with a frame) on the tour, but babes-in-arms are fine, as are toddlers. There was a baby, plus two or three toddlers on our tour, all of which started complaining and wandering throughout the tour, but no one minded. There’s lot of space to run around outside near the castle, lots of places to clamber over rocks and burn off steam.

 

Courtyard cafe at Burg Eltz.
The courtyard cafe at Burg Eltz is a lovely place to have lunch.
Courtyard cafe at Burg Eltz.
Lovely spot outside the castle for lunch.

Visiting Burg Eltz

When visiting these castles throughout Germany, you have to remember that no central organization runs them – each noble family chooses to open them to the public or not, and arranges staff and restaurants and all that. Consequently, the quality of staff, displays, food, and toilets varies dramatically from one to another. Burg Eltz is obviously well loved, because all the staff were friendly, and everything is clean and well organized.

It’s worth noting that this castle is only open from April to October, so no, you can’t visit Burg Eltz in the winter. Which is too bad, I think it would be beautiful in the snow.

There are two cafes on site, both with tables outside on the terrace in front of the castle. It’s the usual selection of very German food, so expect schnitzel and wurst with fries, as well as some surprisingly good pasta dishes. They have some nice beer on tap as well. Don’t forget to return your beer glass directly to the cafe and ask for your ‘pfand’, that’s a deposit you paid when you bought your beer – it’s €4 so well worth it. I watched two tourists leave them on their trays! You can, of course, take them home with you as well.

Fairy tale inner courtyard at Burg Eltz.
Fairy tale inner courtyard at Burg Eltz.

Getting there

Burg Eltz is not the easiest one to get to, this is true. It’s about an hour’s drive from Trier, and not right on the Moselle, so the tour boats don’t stop there. You can get a tour from Frankfurt that will drive you there and back. If you’ve rented a car, it’s an easy day trip from Frankfurt, Koblenz, Trier, or Cologne. See below for our favourite place to stay in the Moselle Valley.

When you arrive, there is a short hilly hike to the castle from the parking lots, or you can take the little shuttle bus for a small charge. I recommend the shuttle bus, there is a lot of walking on the castle tour and around the outside, no need to tire out little legs before you even start. Get ready for the view of the castle about two minutes into the shuttle bus ride, it is magical.

By train: on weekends and public holidays from May to October you can take a train to Hatzenport or Treis-Karden, and then the Burgenbus that goes straight to the castle. Outside these times, take a train to Moselkern, and then you can take the 5km hike or take a taxi up to the castle. You can book your train right here, in English:




Alter Pfarrhaus, our favourite hotel near Burg Eltz
Alter Pfarrhaus, our favourite hotel near Burg Eltz

Our favourite hotel near Burg Eltz

We stayed in a small village along the Moselle river, right in the middle of vineyards, about halfway between Trier and Burg Eltz. The Altes Pfarrhaus is a lovely old house run by a Dutch couple {affiliate link}. Very affordable, and the food is great. If you’re driving, it’s a very easy place to stay en route. We had a lovely dinner on their huge outdoor patio, with wine from the hills across the river, and it was heavenly.

 

Part of a #CulturedKids linkup.

CulturedKids
Last updated: 16 March 2018
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