Should I include Germany in my European travels?
Everything you need to know and maybe a little you shouldn't.
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While planning out your journey to Europe, whether you are going for a few weeks or a few months, the first thing on your list will be to figure out where you will go. Most of your decision should be based on the type of person you are, so I am going to touch on some of the facts about Germany, and will let you decide on whether these facts determine to take a pass on the Fatherland or go for it.
I am an American who's married to a German, so I've lived in Germany a few different times and am currently living here. We have traveled all throughout Germany and its neighboring countries so feel free to leave any questions in the comments below. I would love to share with you our advice on traveling and living here in Europe!
Is Germany expensive?
One of the first things you should know is that Germany is not cheap, especially with the way the Euro is right now. There is a great app called XE that is simple and straightworfward for you to keep updates on the exchange rate. In comparison to other European countries, Germany is probably somewhere in the middle. Switzerland or France, on the other hand, are some of the most expenisve. Here is a list of the top ten most expensive countries in Europe. You'll see that Germany isn't one of them, but that doesn't mean it's cheap.
- Eating out
Like America or any westernized culture, Germany has places to eat that are more expensive, less expensive and somewhere in the middle. Eating out at a mid-level restaurant will run you anywhere from 10-15 Euro per plate. Fast food is hard to find apart from McDonald's, Burger King or KFC unless you're in a big city. There are options such as Doener Kebaps, a Turkish delicacy similar to a Greek Gyro, but better. Little food stands or trucks are just about everywhere, ready to give you a fresh and yummy Kebap. Those will run you around 6-9 Euro a pop. If you're in little mountain villages, fast food is almost non-existent, so be prepared to spend more at cute little German restaurants.
- Grocery stores
Thanks to Aldi and Lidl you will be able to find anything you need supermarket-wise at a great price. Most times, cheaper than in America. A good bottle of wine there will cost you anywhere from 2 Euro to 10 Euro. I once bought a 2011 Bourdeaux that was amazing for 4 Euro! I did a test to see whether it was all in my head how good these wines were. My father-in-law is a wine snob, to say the least. He has his two glasses of wine every night, and will only drink the best. We had them over one time, and I served him a 4 Euro bottle of Lidl wine. He said it was fantastic and asked me where I got it. So, there you go. If you are on a budget while traveling, these are your places to get food. They are everywhere, so finding one won't be hard.
These are a German's fast food. They have awesome sandwiches, Bretzels, pizza bread, and so much more. It's a dream come true for those of you who like bread. Make sure you buy yourself what is called a Berliner when you are there. It's the best donut you will ever have. Germans just know their stuff when it comes to bread!
- Airbnb - In my opinion, the best way to go. Hotels are very expensive in Germany. Sure, you get a nice, semi-expected experience, but even then, you never know what you're going to get. The hotels in the German Alps or Allgau are absolutely breathtaking but will cost you. The Hubertus is one we have been to, and love it, but for their price, it's a treat once every few years.
- Hostiles - Affordable. That's all I'll say. I have not much experience with them, except for ten years ago. It could be things have changed, but since I don't have the experience, I have little to offer on the subject. You can find some good info here from someone else if you so choose to go this route.
- Hotels - Like I said before, not the cheapest. If it's a pool for the kids you are wanting in a hotel, then make sure you ask ahead of time. Many of them don't have one. One time I called around to see if certain hotels had a pool, and I was laughed at numerous times. Anything that is quaint and cute or culturally enticing, will most likely not have a pool unless it's a wellness center.
- Traveling by car - If you go to Germany, I would highly recommend renting a car. The best places you will find to visit, which I will touch on later, can only be reached by car. Gas, though, is very expensive. Right now it ranges anywhere from 1.20-1.41 Euro per Liter. That's one-third of a gallon, which makes it anywhere from $3.60-$4.23 per gallon. This is a good site for current prices. Numbeo.com
- Train - Deutsch Bahn will be your go-to for trains. Berlin to Munich runs you about $150. The shorter destinations would obviously be cheaper, but then you are still limited in places to go. I would say if you are only traveling from city to city, trains are a good way of public transportation.
- Bus - Buses or subway transportations are great for traveling through the cities. It's just stressful! It took me 2 months living in Hamburg to finally get the subway down. That could just be me, but if I were traveling a short time here, I wouldn't want to mess with it. It's also a different language for you, so you add that on top of it, and it becomes a bit of a hassle.
Is Germany safe?
One of the safest! It also depends on where you are, though. Just be smart about it. Don't go roaming the streets late at night in a big city. I did that in New York City one time, which was probably the stupidest things I could do as a woman, but in comparison to that, Germany is like a safe haven. Obviously, you have your terrorist attacks going on everywhere, but how is America or anywhere else any safer right now? I tend to avoid big festival areas like October Fest and populated big city Christmas markets. Now they have prepared a bit more and usually have barricades that guard the entrances. Again, it's up to you in how comfortable you feel with it, but overall Germany is a very safe country.
Is Germany friendly?
In my experience, not always. Living here is different because once you get to know Germans, they will be your friends for life. Unfortunately, if they don't know you then they won't be the friendliest of people. That goes to say, for some reason, Germans are especially rude while at the grocery store. Here are a few things to be prepared for.
Grocery Store Awareness
Going to the grocery store puts me in a bad mood every single time. Don't be surprised if you are in front of the line at a checkout, and if another lane opens, everyone will shove and push to get to the now open one. It doesn't matter if they were one or ten persons behind you. It's almost as if someone threw a giant wad of cash in the air and everyone rushes to get theirs. Personal space is really not on their radar either. They will bump, push, shove, and think nothing of it.
10 thoughts I have at the grocery store
- If you touch me with your cart one more time.
- Next time I hold the door for you and you don't say thanks, I'll key your car.
- You're welcome for picking up something you dropped, in response to nothing at all!
- After you!!! Because you are you, you must be SO MUCH MORE IMPORTANT THAN ME!
- I am going to put my groceries in my bag as slow as I can so that you will have no choice but to wait. Then when you bump me with that cart again because you have the patience of a two-year-old, I'll make eye contact, and you won't know what to do with yourself.
- No, I don't go to the grocery store every day, so yes, I do have a full cart of groceries you need to wait in line behind. Yes, it will take the space of the entire conveyer belt, so BACK OFF and stop trying to put your stuff on it before I am done!!!
- I didn't say you could cut me in line lady over 50! I can spot a line cutter from a mile away.
- She's going to cut me in line. Look at her, inching in front of me like I won't notice. Not today she's not!
- Sure, have the parking spot I've have had my signal on for, for the last five minutes.
- Yes, I do speak English to my child. Yes, I see you staring.
I am working on my patience and love while at the grocery store. It’s something that consumes my mind way more than it should. It is really teaching me to not do things because I want something in return.
Bigger cities are more international, which makes cultural difference awareness much better, but anywhere else, don't expect to be treated like you are in the states. I have heard Spaniards are worse, and that came from a German, so. In essence, keep to yourself and just smile. You have to let those crabby people roll right off your shoulders. They might make you feel like your existence is getting in the way of them getting home to have their cake and coffee, but you just have to in the words of Taylor Swift “Shake it off.” I can laugh at it now, but when I first got here, I swear I needed an I.V. of Zoloft when I got back from the grocery store. This is probably the only thing that makes Germany unsafe. You might suffer from mental health issues after being at a grocery store for too long.
Is Germany a place worth seeing?
This question should very much be based on what type of person you are. Here's the kind of people Germany is not suited for.
Germany IS NOT suited for these types of people
- Campers, unless camping to you is being packed into a campground like a sardine. Some people like that!
- Last minute, spontaneous people.
- People who love the sun.
- People without a plan.
- People who don't like people everywhere they go, even the most "remote" places in the mountains.
- Foodies - German food is the only food they do well unless you’re in a big city.
- Slow drivers.
- Prude people, who don't want to see nakedness in family settings.
I just now while writing this article, ate an entire bag of cheese balls. Pregnancy.
German IS suited for these types of people
- Adventurers - Sure there is a lot of adventure. Just beware of the rules.
- Lovers of nature.
- Mountain people - The Alps are breathtaking.
- People who love socks.
- People who love Christmas.
- People who don't mind overcast almost every day or cold air that cuts into your soul during the winter.
- People who love Minnesota.
- People who people watch.
- RVer's! I just found out that you can stay at different locations throughout Europe for free for the night instead of campgrounds. We haven't tried it yet, but it's supposedly great. They are called Aires.
- People with a schedule and plan.
- People who like museums and old churches.
- People who want to learn more about the holocaust and WWII.
- People who like modern architecture.
- People who like old architecture.
- People who like history and culture.
- People who like BEER!!!
- People who like German food.
- People who like beautiful countryside with rolling hills, crystal clear lakes, and fairytale castles.
Where should I go if I visit Germany?
Not only does Germany have beautiful cities full of culture, history, architecture, it has the countryside, scenery, and castles like that you would only see in movies. By the way, no German has ever heard of The Sound of Music, so don’t ask. That was filmed in Austria, and even the Austrians don’t know what it is.
In southern Germany, you can enjoy amazing hiking trails in the Allgau or trails that go around lakes and up mountainsides. This would be your place to visit for information on specific trails. Top Trails of Germany. Almost every trail is intersected with a few stops that have great restaurants where you can rest and scarf down a bretzel and guzzle a beer. This is probably my favorite aspects of hiking in Germany. Bordering the mounatins is an area called the Allgau. They have quaint little restaurants in every village where you can get the most incredible cake and coffee. Here is one I recommend in Oberstaufen. Das Blaue Hause. Anything in this area is really picturesque and what I imagine of when I think of Germany. If you go anywhere here you will be more than satisfied. Activities include skiing, sledding, sledding without snow for the summertime, hiking, biking, swimming in lakes, and much more. The best Christmas Markets are in the little mountain towns as well.
Lake Constance "The Bodensee"
Another noteworthy place to visit in the summertime is Lake Constance. The Germans call it The Bodensee. It's a great place to travel with kids as there is access to swimming around the entire lake, which is also bordered by Switzerland and Austria. It's not just any lake. You almost feel like you're at the ocean because of its size, but without the sand and salt water. The water is crystal clear, and there are so many great spots that are free, so you can just pack a picnic and relax by the water for the day. Insel Meinau is also a fun day trip when you're at Lake Constance. You can take a ferry from any port to get there and spend the day exploring beautiful unique gardens and their butterfly museum.
Grocery stores aside, please go visit Germany. It is a place you won’t ever forget, and if you’re doing an entire European adventure, you will love to get a break from the unorganized chaos of the other countries. Germany is one of the cleanest and well kept. In my biased opinion, southern Germany has a bit more to offer than northern Germany. I would sum up northern Germany to Minnesota except with incredible cities, and you can drive whatever speed you like on the autobahn. Southern Germany is a treasure within itself that offers a variety of adventure as you can see in the pictures.
People who love cities should stick to that, and figure out which ones would best suit your tastes. Every city offers something new and exciting. Some of my favorites are Hamburg, Heidelberg, Stuttgart, and Munich.
People who love hiking, camping, and mountains, shouldn't go north of Lake Constance. That about sums it up!