Highlights of Germany – Our Germany Tour Route, Itinerary and Comments:
This is the itinerary of a 12-day Cosmos Highlights of Germany tour which we did in September 2010. It’s actually 10 days of touring when you discount the arrival and departure days. This tour starts and ends in Frankfurt.
When we were looking for tours of Germany in 2010, Cosmos was the only tour operator that offered an itinerary covering the north of Germany. In particular we wanted to visit towns like Hamelin and Lübeck. Cosmos is the budget brand of the Globus Group and when we booked this tour we were aware that the hotels would be of a lesser grade than the premium tours and that they would probably be on the fringe of towns, rather than in the centre.
In preparation for the trip, I researched a few of the hotels for the tour and emailed them to find out about internet access and transport to the city and the sightseeing attractions.
Unfortunately, some of that preparation work went to waste as by the time we joined the tour, six out of the nine hotels had been changed.
Occasionally tour operators can swap hotels due to operational reasons, however, having such a large number of hotel changes is quite unusual. In choosing our tours, the itinerary and hotels are important considerations, so the hotel changes were very disappointing.
The itinerary for this tour was good but in discussing with our fellow travellers on the tour we found concerns about the following:
- the inconsistent standard of the hotels used
- many of the substituted hotels were a considerable distance from the city centre
- at a couple of hotels there was no porter service
- as the tour covers a huge distance in only 10 days, most of the travel was on the autobahn so we saw little of the country when we were on the road, except for a stretch along the Romantic Road
The sections in blue are from the brochure, followed by my comments in the white panels.
|DAY 1: Frankfurt (Wed.) Fly to Frankfurt where you will be met and transferred to your hotel for one night. (D)
Hotel: Mercure at Friedrichsdorf (4*)
The package that we bought did not include transfers so we made our own way from Frankfurt Airport to Friedrichsdorf by train and were surprised at how far out of Frankfurt the hotel was. The Mercure Friedrichsdorf is about 25 km north of Frankfurt central station. When we arrived at Friedrichsdorf, we shared a taxi to the hotel with another couple. It cost Euro 5.00 which is a very small price to pay since we had no idea where the hotel was.The Mercure at Friedrichsdorf appears to be one of the hotels that Cosmos uses for its Highlights of Germany tour start hotel. The choice of this hotel to start a tour from is ‘interesting’ as it is a long distance from the centre of Frankfurt. Apart from a large supermarket and a petrol station, there was nothing of interest near the Mercure.
The tour briefing was held in a small bar downstairs and this was followed by dinner. The bar was far too small for the size of the group. There were not enough tables for all to have dinner at so some of us had our dinner at the bar whilst others ate at little round bar tables where you’d normally have drinks at. The food was what I would classify as survival food, edible but nothing to write home about.
The next morning, breakfast was again at the downstairs bar. The early risers got some food, but when we arrived there was little food left, i.e. no milk, cheese, fruit or choice of breads. The young waitress on duty was overwhelmed by requests for coffee cups, milk etc.. We did see the breakfast arriving just as we had to leave. For a 4* hotel, one would expect better service.
|DAY 2: Frankfurt – Rhine Cruise – Cologne (Thur.) Begin today with a leisurely cruise along one of Germany’s most famous rivers – the romantic Rhine. Board your cruiser and sail between steep, forested banks and awesome Rhineland panoramas. Pass the legendary Lorelei Rock, said to have been home to sirens who lured sailors to their demise, before heading to Cologne for a visit to the impressive Gothic cathedral with its breathtaking interior. (B, D)
Hotel: Holiday Inn Koeln or Bonn Airport at Cologne (4*)
The 1.5 hour Rhine River cruise was from Oberwesel to Boppard. Cruises on the Rhine are always enjoyable, no matter how many times you’ve done it, especially when the weather is fine. The small town of Boppard was a lunch stop. We weren’t given any information about the town, so we just strolled along the main street and along the riverfront.Next we headed for Cologne and arrived at about 3:30 p.m. We were given two hours to roam on our own. Again, not much information was provided as to where to go and what to see, etc. Fortunately for us, we’ve been in Cologne on a couple of visits previously and we knew our way around.
Our hotel tonight was the Ramada Bruehl (3*) and not at either of the 4* advertised hotels in the original itinerary. The Ramada Bruehl is some 25 minutes out of Cologne so we didn’t feel inclined to try and get into town in the evening. The hotel room was fine, but there was no air-conditioning in the room. It was a warm day so when we arrived, the room felt like a sauna. Tony did the wise thing and asked for a fan to be delivered to our room.
Dinner was a buffet. Breakfast was good and more in line with what we expect traditional German breakfasts to be, i.e. good choice of breads and yoghurt and fruit.
|DAY 3: Cologne – Hamelin – Hamburg (Fri.) This morning, journey into the Lower Saxony region to visit Hamelin, a town made famous by the Brothers Grimm Pied Piper fairytale. Spend time exploring the beautiful medieval old town, with its Haemelschenburg Castle, the town centre’s colourful historical buildings or the Hochzeitshaus, whose elaborate gables and clockwork figures depict the Pied Piper’s tale. Later, continue to Hamburg and arrive in time for an optional harbour cruise. (B)
Hotel: NH Suite Hotel or Queens (4*)
It was a 7:30 a.m. departure this morning as the drive to Hamelin was 3.5 hours. Not many smiley faces this morning and there were complaints about hot rooms and not sleeping well.Being a long drive, there was plenty of time for our Tour Director (TD) to download on optional tours. There was a Hamburg harbour cruise this evening to see Hamburg’s famous port area and she needed to know numbers straight away. Cruising around the industrial port area didn’t attract too much interest initially and TD added a little ‘sweetener’ by saying that after the cruise, she would take us on a walk of the Reeperbahn district to see the nightlife.
10:30 a.m. – We stopped at a petrol station cafe for half an hour morning stop. It had been raining and accidents have caused traffic jams.
Back on the coach and TD gave a briefing on Hamelin, the legend of the Pied Piper and the German autobahn. I think many of the passengers were too sleepy to pay too much attention.
Arrived in Hamelin at 12:00 and our TD escorted us to the Hochzeitshaus for the the glockenspiel. We had arrived just in time for this. After this 15 minute show, we had time for a quick lunch and a dash around the main mall. Hamelin is a beautiful town, but unfortunately, it was wet and grey. Time here was too short as well.
Drive to Hamburg hotel was two hours and the hotel tonight was the Best Western Queens. This hotel is in the suburb of Winterhude, north from the centre of Hamburg.
We were due to leave for our Hamburg Port cruise at 6 p.m., half an hour after arrival at the hotel. After 15 minutes’ wait and no sign of our luggage, Tony went and fetched our cases. TD tells us later that the porter at this place is notoriously slow. Our friends who chose not to do the cruise stayed in the hotel as, like the first two destinations, there was nothing nearby except for a petrol station and a supermarket. I believe the railway station is about 10 minutes walk from the hotel but in the wet and dark, finding one’s way into town on public transport probably wasn’t too tempting a proposition, especially after a long day on the road.
The Hamburg port cruise was in a small private boat for the group only. There was a covered section that was heated, but after a while it got too hot. The local guide gave commentary about all the ships in the harbour, what was being built, ship tonnages, the freight and Hamburg’s trade with the rest of the world, etc. She was a fountain of information and even knew all the statistics about the cranes in the port. The cruise was pleasant but unfortunately with the rain and grey night skies, photography was impossible.After the cruise, we drove through the Reeperbahn district and saw the bright lights of Hamburg’s red light district with its many clubs and discos. Although the TD said that she would take us on a walk through the Reeperbahn, she changed her mind when the time came. This was a little disappointing as we were hoping to get some shots of Hamburg nightlife.
When we got back at the Best Western Queens, we went in search of this ‘Italian restaurant’ which was the only other place for dinner if you didn’t want to eat at the hotel. The Paradise City Club isn’t exactly an Italian restaurant, but they do serve pizzas, pastas and some other foods. Apart from a couple of elderly ladies there, the place was deserted which got us a little worried as to what the food might be like. The restaurant was actually closed, but the owner said that he could do us a pizza and salad, which was all we wanted. That was very kind of him as his mates at the back were waiting for him to join in for drinks. We were quite surprised when the pizza turned out to be quite nice and complimented the owner on this. He was quite chuffed and stayed around to chat with us.
|DAY 4: Hamburg – Lübeck – Berlin (Sat.) Enjoy an orientation drive around cosmopolitan Hamburg, Germany’s greatest maritime and second largest city. Observe the impressive merchants’ houses, glistening canals and lavish promenades before continuing to the ‘Queen of Hansa’: Lübeck. The founding city of the Hanseatic League, Lübeck was a former centre for all the sea-borne trade around the Baltic and North Seas. Still adorned with beautiful medieval and Gothic architecture, the city is considered the cultural capital of northern Germany and its oval Old Quarter is designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Later, continue to Berlin for two nights in Germany’s vibrant capital. (B)
Hotel: Abba Berlin (4*)
We were meant to depart at 8.00 this morning but there was a slight delay. The ‘slow porter’ did not show for work this morning so the driver, TD and some of the passengers helped with loading the cases onto the coach. TD was ropable about it!We had an orientation drive around Hamburg city centre and then were given some time to take snaps. Being Saturday morning, most of the buildings were not due to open till about 10 a.m. so we didn’t get to see the inside of any of Hamburg’s attractions.
Next stop was Lübeck. We were dropped off at the Holstentor and it’s about a ten minute walk to the old town. This beautiful Hanseatic League town deserves more than the two hours we had. Lübeck is famous for its marzipan and you could spend half an hour in the Niederegger patisserie alone, admiring all the sweets. Like most marzipan lovers, I stood in the long line to pay for my marzipan treat. The marzipan was very good and worth the time queuing.
After dashing around town, we also went up the tower of St. Peter’s Church for an aerial view of Lübeck. This is well worth doing but you do have to watch your time as there is only one lift transporting visitors up and down the tower. Lübeck was one of the reasons for doing this tour and this beautiful medieval town did not disappoint.
After Lübeck we made tracks for Berlin and the Abba Berlin Hotel was our home for two nights. The Abba is a smart hotel and the only one so far that was quite central. There were several restaurants close by, so dining out was not a problem.