I know, I am running a bit behind on my trip review of Insight Vacations Best of Germany with Christmas Markets. I came home from Munich to a sick husband and 3-year-old. On top of that, it was time to prepare for the holidays! Anyway long story short, it was a crazy couple of weeks.
I chose this itinerary with Insight for a couple of reasons. Just like Thailand was calling me in the fall of 2018, I felt like Germany has called me all year. I called up a friend and asked if she wanted to go and boom! We were booked. I liked the itinerary that it was only 8 days. I have spent a lot of time away from my family this year and I needed a short trip to satisfy my Germany itch.
We arrived into Berlin and checked into the Hotel Bristol. Our room was not ready quite yet, so we decided to grab some lunch and go shopping. After our lunch and shopping excursion, we met up with Ebony, our tour director and our fellow travelers for our welcome dinner. The folks we sat with ended up being our buddies the whole time we were on the trip. Funny how that works, huh?
Today started off with our city tour. Along the way, we saw Bradenburg Gate, State Opera House, remnants of the Berlin wall, Unter den Liden and the restored Reichstag Building. We also took some time to check out the Christmas market. Where we had the most amazing fondue for lunch! That evening, we decided to partake in the optional excursion which took you to Ziko’s grill and enjoyed traditional German food and beer…. Lots of beer. After dinner, the bus took us on a night tour of Berlin. It is amazing how different a city can be in the evening. It was positively enchanting.
Berlin to Leipzig and Dresden
Today, we hopped on our bus and headed to Leipzig. Along the way we stopped to use the restrooms and get coffee.
TIP: As mentioned before, always carry some change with you to use the restrooms in Europe. In Germany, it was really interesting. Some restrooms accepted credit cards. Once you paid the fee, a machine would dispense a paper that gave you a little rebate to use in the convenience store (usually around .50)
We made it to Leipzig with plenty of time to explore the church where Johann Sebastian Bach practiced and to check out the wonderful Christmas markets. We ate lunch at the market and believe me, it was a tough decision on what to get. I settled on a handbrot. A handbrot is kind of like a calzone topped with sour cream. It was heavenly!
After our time in Leipzig, we made our way to Dresden. Our hotel location could not have been more perfect. However, due to our perfect location, we had to unload the bus about a block and a half away from the hotel. We did have to pull our luggage (which is highly unusual for Insight) to the hotel. The hotel is right in front of a wonderful Christmas Market. The old town square was positively magical at night to walk around in.
Today we marveled at the “Procession of the Dukes” mosaic, the cathedral, Semper Opera House and Zwinger Palace and the magnificent Frauenkirche. When the city tour concluded, we made our way to Germany’s oldest Christmas Market and enjoyed a glass of Gluhwein and Christollen (a wonderful cake with powdered sugar and dried fruits) which dates back to medieval times.
After our busy morning, my friend and I decided to continue onto the Meissen Porcelain factory. We learned about the exquisite craftsmanship and care that goes into making one fine piece of Meissen art.
Dresden to Nuremberg
It was cold and rainy today (it was the worst weather we had on the trip). Thank goodness you do not have to worry about packing an umbrella with Insight Vacations. They have one for each person on the bus! We approached the old city walls and you couldn’t help but feel excited for what was within those walls. Nuremberg is famed for their red and white topped Christmas Market stalls and for their gingerbread.
Nuremberg to Rothenburg to Munich
To say that Rothenburg was the most charming town we visited would be an understatement. It is one of the best-preserved medieval towns in all of Europe. I hate to pick favorites, but this was my favorite little town we visited. Be sure to stop at Kathe Wohlfhart where it is Christmas 365 days a year. The best thing I ate there was for sure the freshly fried mushrooms… yum! One of the unique things to Rothenburg is the schneeball. It is like flavored pie dough. I tried the chocolate covered one and it was delicious!
This morning we started off on an orientation tour of Munich which included the Marienplatz, the Town Hall with the Glockenspiel and the beautiful Christmas market. I decided to part from my friend, Shayla and check out Munich Frauenkirche which houses the Der Teufelstritt (The Devil’s Footprint). I was very curious about it and yep, it was a footprint in the marble. The church overall felt pretty creepy, so I high-tailed it back to meet up with Shayla. We did a quick overview of the market and I really wanted to watch the Glockenspiel. After that, we headed over to Hofbrauhaus for lunch. I got my liter of beer on along with pork belly, a bread dumpling, and red cabbage. We were then treated to some regional music.
We finished up lunch and the bus took us back to the hotel. We prepared as best we could for our visit to the Dachau Concentration camp. To this day, I cannot describe the thoughts and feelings I had while walking in the footsteps of the victims. I learned new things that were not taught to us in school for obvious reasons. It was an emotionally taxing place to visit. I feel like it has changed my life. Although it is a very hard place to visit and the things that happened there are unspeakable, I feel like it is necessary to do at least once. It is something that everyone should see and know about so that it never happens again. Travel is not always about the pretty, exciting, and fun activities that are in the world. It is also about educating yourself, understanding the history and connecting with the people from that area. Again, it was difficult to see and experience. However, I do not think I could have completed my trip without paying my respects.
Going home! We flew from Munich to Chicago. The customs in Chicago was quite long and of course, we were a bit nervous about missing our connection. We had 2 hours and I had a mission to get some Garrett Popcorn on my way home, too. I am happy to report the mission was complete. I was at the gate with my popcorn and about 40 minutes to spare.
The German people are not necessarily very warm or outgoing, but they are helpful and efficient. They made us feel welcome in their own special way. Our food experiences were outstanding and we truly enjoyed the Christmas Market experience. I cannot wait to do it again!