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18 Day Itinerary Help Needed

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New Jersey
posts: 70
reviews: 9
18 Day Itinerary Help Needed

Wife and I will be flying to Stuttgart, Germany beginning of August and will have 18 days before travelling to Paris. Purpose of trip is to visit the Black Forest especially Baden-Baden baths (Freiburg?) and if possible visit nearby parts of France (Strasbourg?) and Switzerland (Basel? Geneva? Bern? Zurich?).

We are unsure of how to budget our time and limited finances.

We will NOT have a car and will be reliant on public transportation. We’re fine staying in a simple guest house that has private bath and basic cooking arrangement.

Does it make sense to stay in Gengenbach or some other centralized town in the Black Forest and take day trips to places like Baden-Baden or Freiburg? We know Switzerland is pretty pricey but would like to go to at least one city for as little as 2 or 3 nights. Which would be worthwhile for experienced travelers who like to walk and bike a lot to get to know a place?

What itinerary would make sense for such a trip beginning in Stuttgart and ending in Paris?

ALL accommodation and other help most appreciated.

Thanks for any advice.

Las Vegas, Nevada
Destination Expert
for Stuttgart, Baden-Wurttemberg
posts: 11,269
reviews: 35
1. Re: 18 Day Itinerary Help Needed

First, visit the local sights in and around Stuttgart ( www.stuttgart-tourist.de ). At the airport tourist information office between baggage claims of Terminals 1/2 and 3/4 they will have mostly free information about the area. (They can also sell you tickets for the train or local transportation systems without having to deal with a ticket machine.) I would avail myself of it and also pay the 0.50€ for a map of Stuttgart that has a nice suggested 1-3 hour walk of the sights in the center which also describes their architecture. If you are visiting any of the places I mention below, get a booklet on them if only for the maps so you can easily find your way around and not inadvertently miss any excellent sights.

Stuttgart is where the automobile was invented and commercialized, and the Mercedes Benz Museum is a world-class museum, this one dealing with the 125 year history of the automobile and this firm. It is loved by all visitors irregardless of age, gender, or whether they like cars or not. The Porsche Museum is also excellent and appeals mostly to fans of this brand and of racing. You can also tour both company's local assembly plants, best done through their website and their European delivery programs.

Wilhelma ( www.wilhelma.de ) is Europe's largest combination zoo-botanical garden set amidst the nice Moorish architecture of this former palace. The world's first modern TV tower has an observation deck. Western Europe's most abundant mineral waters have three large mineral baths. Weissenhofseidlung has the houses designed by world-famous architects for a 1927 architectural congress. Stuttgart is world-renown for its ballet and has the most honored opera house in Germany. Besides the automobile museums, Stuttgart also has a number of other excellent museums dealing with a variety of topics, one of my favorite being Museum am Loewentor with its excellent collection of local dinosaurs and Ice Age mammals. Stuttgart is Germany's largest city with vineyards, and they are extensive, making it a rarity for such a large European city. There are pleasant walks through the vineyards with wineries and places to eat along the way ( www.stuttgarter-weinwanderweg.de ).

15 minutes away by S-bahn are two excellent places to visit:

Esslingen ( www.esslingen.de ) with its excellent well-preserved medieval center,

Ludwigsburg ( www.ludwigsburg.de ) which has Germany's largest perfectly-preserved palace (in www.schloesser-magazin.de/en ), called the "Swabian Versailles" with its large gardens including a nice fairytale one and many other excellent things such as the longest and best palace tour that I've been on in Europe.

Slightly further away, any of the towns at the ends of the 6 S-bahn lines except Filderstadt are enjoyable for a few hours. Places such as Weil der Stadt birthplace of the astronomer/mathematician Keppler, Marbach of the poet Schiller, and Schorndorf of the automobile inventor Daimler. All have museums devoted to their favorite sons.

Any of these places can be inexpensively reached by the excellent local transportation system ( www.vvs.de ).

Venturing slightly further afield and less than an hour away by regional train are the lovely town of Besigheim ( www.besigheim.de only in German) which was recently voted Germany's most picturesque wine town, not bad for a place many locals don't even know exists; Metzingen ( www.metzingen.de ) for some inexpensive shopping having Germany's most factory outlets; the lovely mountain valley spa town of Bad Urach ( www.badurach.de ); and our favorite town in Germany, Tuebingen ( www.tuebingen.de ), just quintessential Germany, with its hilly cobblestone streets, half-timbered houses, castle, interesting nontourist shops, one of Europe's oldest universities, and the nextdoor delightful lovely well-preserved medieval Bebenhausen Monastery (in www.schloesser-magazin.de/en ).

These places, and anywhere in Baden-Wuerttemberg and a few places beyond, can be reached using a Baden-Wuerttemberg group (2-5 people) day train ticket for 29€ which covers all public transportation in this state (buses, trams, U-bahns, S-bahns, regional trains) except the fast long-distance IC, EC and ICE trains. If using this ticket, on the www.bahn.com website, check "use only local transportation". One other restriction using this ticket, on weekdays there can be no travel before 9AM.

For information on the Black Forest see www.schwarzwald-tourismus.info . www.urlaub-bauernhof.de and www.familien-ferien.de have information on holiday accommodations which can usually be rented by the week. If you stay IN the Black Forest instead of a place outside of it such as Freiburg or Baden-Baden, you are given a free KONUS card for public transportation.

Instead of taking trains and buses, I would drive except for the Stuttgart area. There are countless places you can visit by car that are not accessible by train, but if you choose to use the train, you'll still have enough to see. If you drive, get the excellent large-scale (at least 1:150000) maps of the area. They will show hundreds or thousands of interesting places to visit and will accurately rate these places. Scenic drives are also noted, and some of them can really be through some remote and interesting places where you won't see any other tourists.

If you drive, then I would visit some of the castles on the next range of mountains to the east, the Swabian Alb ( www.schwaebische.alb.de ) with its many caves, castles and excellent cliffside scenery. Two fairytale-like castles are Burg Hohenzollern ( www.burg-hohenzollern.com ) and Schloss Lichtenstein ( www.schloss-lichtenstein.de ). The largest castle (fortress) ruin is impressive Hohenneuffen (in www.schloesser-magazin.de/en ). The castle/palace at Sigmaringen ( www.hohenzollern.com ) is also excellent and has a large weapons collection. The drive between there and Tuttlingen is idyillic with many castles and palaces perched atop the cliffs above the Danube River in its gorge through the Alb.

Lake Constance ( www.bodensee.eu ) is also nearby on the border wioth Switzerland, with the loveliest town being Meersburg ( www.meersburg.de ).

For me, the purpose of visiting Switzerland isn't seeing towns but visiting the Alps. The Bernese Oberland around Interlaken is one place where the mountains are at their best.

For Alsace, France, I can strongly recommend Strasbourg whether you are driving or not. Make sure to take a boat tour around the island on which the oldtown lies and past the European Parliament buildings. However, if you have a car, then all of the many enjoyable wine towns and villages along the Alsatian Wine Route at the foot of the Vosges Mountains between Obernai and Eguisheim become available. Just one excellent small town or village after another a few minutes apart, each having well-kept old buildings, wineries and flowers. There's nothing like it across the Rhine in Germany. There's also a lot of visible castles. The food is also very good.

For information on the German state of Baden-Wuerttemberg where many of these places lie, look at www.baden-wuerttemberg.de ; www.tourismus-bw.de ; and www.schloesser-magazin.de/en for the excellent castles, palaces, monasteries and gardens operated by this German state.

New Jersey
posts: 70
reviews: 9
2. Re: 18 Day Itinerary Help Needed

Thanks for taking so much providing all the great information. We are less keen to spend time in Stuttgart and more interested in the Black Forest area before tiptoeing into Switzerland.

The sites you included are great albeit somewhat overwhelming for non-German speakers and those not very familiar with this area.

The towns we are most interested seeing in this area are to Baden-Baden, Freiburg and Strasbourg. Many of the guest and farmhouses on the sites are quite remote.

Can you recommend a central town that is both VERY affordable and has public transportation to each?

Again, thanks for your interest helping us in this sometime daunting task.

Las Vegas, Nevada
Destination Expert
for Stuttgart, Baden-Wurttemberg
posts: 11,269
reviews: 35
3. Re: 18 Day Itinerary Help Needed

First, almost all of those websites I gave can be easily changed to English by clicking somewhere on the page, most often perhaps on or by an appropriare Union Jack or American flag. I'm not a big fan of the Black Forest, there's nothing wrong with it but there are many nearby places that I like better, that's why I recommended some other places.

Offenburg ( www.offenburg.de/… ) is centrally located for Freiburg, Baden-Baden, and Strasbourg and gives easy access by rail to parts of the Black Forest. As it is on the edge of the Black Forest and not IN the Black Forest, I doubt that a free KONUS transportation card is given.

As your stated aim is to visit the Black Forest, I would recommend staying somewhere that is actually IN it, and to see it a car gives you a lot of excellent options and scenic drives.

New Jersey
posts: 70
reviews: 9
4. Re: 18 Day Itinerary Help Needed

Thanks for the clarification....much appreciated!

Freiburg im...
posts: 1,796
5. Re: 18 Day Itinerary Help Needed

>Does it make sense to stay in Gengenbach or some other centralized town in the Black Forest and take day trips to places like Baden-Baden or Freiburg?<

Yes, Gengenbach is a quaint little town and it is participant in the "Konus-card" , which is giving free rides on all means of local transport in the black forest. The card is also valid on the local trains to Basel.

A minor disadvantage of Gengenbach is, that you'd have to change trains in Offenburg, if you like to go to Baden-Baden, Freiburg, Strasbourg and Basel. But I would not recommend Offenburg for a longer stay, as it's just a train hub, nothing to write home about. And for a day trip I'd prefer Strasbourg to Freiburg.

http://www.blackforest-tourism.com/konus

http://www.stadt-gengenbach.de/en/tourism/

As for Switzerland, I would recommend Luzern. With it's old town, the lake and the mountains, Luzern is typical Swiss, so to speak.

For your way from and to Stuttgart airport to Gengenbach you can use the "Baden-Wuerttemberg ticket".

bahn.de/i/…

The train schedules: (if you like to use the Konus or the Baden-Wuerttemberg ticket, click "local transport")

http://www.bahn.de/i/view/DEU/en/index.shtml

New York City, New...
Destination Expert
for Santa Fe, Heidelberg
posts: 6,178
reviews: 27
6. Re: 18 Day Itinerary Help Needed

One comment is that you should definitely go to Strasbourg, one of my favorite places, It does give a sense of a French touch, while obviously having the German influence. You might want to try other towns in Alsace, too, that you can access by train, such as Colmar, but Strasbourg is, to me, the best.

http://www.otstrasbourg.fr/?lang=en

http://www.tourisme-alsace.com/en/

7. Re: 18 Day Itinerary Help Needed

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