Germany the Perfect Destination for the Whole Family
Germany is one of those places that just keeps getting better. The longer you stay, the more the country and the people open up and share their hidden secrets. From the flatlands up around the North and Baltic Seas, to the vineyard covered hills of the river valleys, to the deep dark of the Black Forest, to the heights of the Schwabische Alb and the southern shores of the Bodensee there is something for everyone and always something new to discover! Late winter is a great time to start dreaming about summer vacation and planning a family adventure, Germany has everything you're looking for!
The Great Outdoors
Germans are famous for their love of nature and for being on the cutting edge of developing sustainable resources and promoting "green living." There are fourteen National Parks in Germany, and 14 Biosphere Reserves as well; not bad for a country slightly smaller than the state of Montana! With more than 1,100 campgrounds across the country Germany makes a fabulous place to "get back to nature" with the kids and a budget friendly European holiday as well! (For an extensive list of campgrounds in Germany visit: www.eurocampings.co.uk/en/europe/germany/ ) Free camping is also permitted in Germany, it is best to find out of the way places, and ask the land owner first, if you can!
The River Valleys
Germany is home to of many of the famous rivers in Europe: The Danube, Rhine, Moselle, and Elbe, to name a few. One not to be missed excursion in Germany is a ride on one of the many riverboats. The Rhine River is a fast flowing river that snakes its way between vineyards planted on impossibly steep slopes, dotted with fairy tale castles and storybook villages along its banks. We lost count of the castles as the children compared turrets and discussed which ones would be easiest (or hardest) to attack and why. There are day tickets, which allow you to go as far as you like in one day, getting on and off at your pleasure. Or there are multi-day cruises with onboard cabins to sleep in at night as you explore the riverside towns by day. On the Koln-Dusseldorfer Line, you sail for free on your birthday, not matter how old you are, and up to three children travel free with each fare-paying adult on Wednesdays! Visit this website for lots of information on your river cruising options: www.k-d.com/englisch
History: Fun for All Ages!
Do your kids groan and roll their eyes when you announce another museum visit? Maybe you're not taking them to the right kinds of museums! Germany is chock full of different and exciting museum options for kids of all ages.
The Frankisches Frieland Museum, in Bad Windsheim will be a hit with even your youngest museum critics as they explore a well-preserved German town, complete with brewery, and working farm! Visit the website (in German): http://www.freilandmuseum.de
Walking through yet another cathedral and having to remain deathly quiet might not be your kids' idea of a great time, but they're sure to love the Schatzkammer (Treasure Chamber) museum that is attached to the Dom at Aachen. It contains piles of golden treasures left from the reign of Emperor Charlemagne, including his hunting knife and horn, a gold, jewel encrusted bust of the Emperor containing a piece of his skull, relics from the Catholic church, crowns and enough other "booty" to have your budding pirates salivating. Hours and ticket prices available at: http://www.aachener-dom.de/infos.php3
The Medieval Crime Museum at Rothenberg is sure to please those fascinated with the darker side of the Middle Ages. Our boys were deliciously horrified by the displays of shame masks, needled chairs, chastity belts, thumb and tongue screws, a real iron maiden and more. Here is some history that WON'T be covered in their fourth grade Medieval Unit Study at school! Visit their website at: www.kriminalmuseum.rothenburg.de/Englisch/page1.html
The Pergamon Museum, in Berlin, looks like just one more ancient history museum to the eyes of a ten year old boy. Yawn. Until he discovers that the price of admission includes a super cool headset that gives him a guided tour of what he's seeing, including telling the exciting stories from Greek mythology that surround the Pergamon Altar (the center piece of the museum.) He doesn't have to be interested in what Mom and Dad are interested in, he can punch in the numbers of the things he wants to know about and his trusty electronic tour guide will tell him everything. Complete control and the ancient world at his finger tips? What more could a ten year old boy want? Ours wanted a hotdog… there's a sausage vendor outside the main gate. Problem solved. Learn more at: www.sacred-destinations.com/germany/berlin-pergamon-museum.htm
Visit a Castle: Castles dot the countryside all over Germany. It isn't hard to find one to tour. The trick might be finding one that isn't absolutely overrun with tourists in the summer. We visited two in July that were not over crowded and provided lots of opportunity for childhood exploration and imagination.
Hohenneuffen, is a ruined castle in above the town of Neuffen and is free to enter and explore. The view alone is worth the long walk up the mountain from the lower parking lot. http://www.roadstoruins.com/hohenneuffen.html
Albrechtsburg is a beautifully restored castle in Meissen, along the banks of the Elbe, just north of Dresden. It is at the heart of Saxony and was the first castle built to house royalty in Germany. The wall paintings are breathtaking and every member of the family will enjoy skating around on the glossy wood floors in the special slippers provided for that purpose (to protect the flooring). http://www.albrechtsburg-meissen.de/
History: Not fun, but important
There is a set of museums in Germany that are free and not fun for anyone, but they are very important. These are the museums that have been made on the sites of the World War Two Nazi Concentration Camps. They mark the graves of the thousands of Jews, Catholics, Political dissidents and others who were murdered during the holocaust. If your children are old enough (definitely not for the pre-school crowd) don't miss the opportunity to remember the past and teach the future generation, lest we forget and history repeat itself. Our family's visit to Buchenwald, at Weimar, Germany, was a day we will never forget. The view from Buchenwald is breathtaking. One of the prettiest vistas we have ever seen in Germany. It felt as if we were surveying the whole world and everyone in it, from within a barbed wire fence. I am not nearly eloquent enough to put words to the experience of walking through the iron gates of the camp and turning to look back, only to see the words "to each his own" twisted in the bars. As if this fate was deserved by the interred.
There simply are no words to describe the horror of passing into a white tiled room, scrubbed antiseptically clean, a long tiled table in the center with a drain. The room in which the bodies were mutilated, skin pieces removed to make lampshades and heads prepared for shrinking: as gifts for the SS officers, or their wives. It was all I could do to bring myself to run my hand across the edge of one tile. That room leads to one much worse. The room in which the specially designed ovens stand, mouths gaping, still ready to receive the dead with trenches behind them where the bone ash was shoveled. An elevator from the basement to facilitate moving the men, women and children with lives and a stories from the room below where they had entered knowing fully their fate: to be hung on metal hooks at the top of the wall and removed as corpses. A sink on one wall. A bathroom next to the rear exit. All absolutely still and silent. It was impossible not to look into the semi-circular hole of the oven and not wonder why it was "them" and not I.
There are no words.
For more information visit: http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Holocaust/major_camps.html
On a Practical Note:
Traveling in Germany with kids is safe and easy! Train travel is especially family friendly, with children under 16 traveling for free with fare paying adults and special reduced rate weekends that allow groups of up to five people to travel anywhere in the country on secondary trains for about 30 Euro. While children's menus might not be common in restaurants, there is no shortage of sausage vendors where you can feed a finicky eater something looking very much like a hotdog! Our kids fell in love with doners, prepared by street vendors in every town for about 2 Euro! Many Germans speak at least some English, making this country particularly easy to navigate if you don't speak the language and everyone we met went out of their way to be kind and helpful to us. Youth hostels are another great budget option for families. Be sure to book in advance in the summer months, as the hostels in major cities will fill up. We have found holiday apartment rental to be an excellent option for staying in major cities, and often it is cheaper per night for our family of six than staying in a hostel or hotel! Check out www.holiday-rentals.co.uk/ for a huge directory in any city you could hope for!
For a full list of places we visited and things we learned along the way, please feel free to visit our website: www.edventureproject.com and learn more about how you can join us for a Virtual Field Trip from the comfort of your home, or how you can create your own adventure of a lifetime for your family.
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