04 August 2015

Southern Germany to Denmark via Berlin

Images courtesy of Google

 

Planning exactly where to go is not a science at all.  It is a mixture of heart and mind, and finding a balance between the two.

The countries we want to visit are just the big picture and it is up to me to design our itinerary to satisfy more than the 'stamp in the passport' mentality of visiting a new land (and in Europe where there are no internal borders, stamps are a bit of a thing of the past anyway).  Let me take you through the beautiful but messy process that is planning an overseas experience (O.E.).

 

THE WHERE

First Atlas and I prioritised our country wish lists.  You will notice when doing this exercise for yourself that some decisions you make are based on what you know or do not know about a place; othertimes it's how you feel that wins over.  Comparing fact vs feeling is like comparing apples to oranges but it can be done! Surprisingly the first group of 6 (out of 18 destinations) were the same with only 1 difference.  Germany is of course our number 1, but with the potential to stay another 3 months and travel after that, these other countries are our next focus: Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland, Iceland, Belgium & Greece.  

 

THE WHAT

Next I asked each person what they do or might enjoy doing or seeing in a new place.  I wrote about those in our What we'll see and do in Tuebingen post.

The challenge is to find what opportunities exist in each place, not doing too much, and how it might work to get there.

 

THE HOW

Google maps is a real boon to route planning and moreso when you discover that there is an 'avoid tolls' option that you can select when travelling by road.

 

Another tip is instead of entering a broad start and finish location and dragging the route to the places you really want to travel through on the way, use their '+' feature.  Start with your beginning location, add the next one, then press the '+' to add another etc. [Note: it only allows for 10 points.]

 

 

To a certain extent you may also need to consider the time of year you will be visiting.  For us, this applied especially to Iceland, as Atlas wants to see the Northern Lights and they are only visible in the (northern) Autumn and Winter months.  Sadly not being there in Summer means not seeing the Puffins and Reindeer though.  That is something I figured early on:

We are not going to be able to see & do everything; we are not going to ever have the perfect itinerary; we will miss some things BUT we will have experienced something, and experienced it together! 

 

THE WHY

Yes, for us it's primarily experiencing something together.  Parts of our journey are because I want to share something of the past with the family, or conversely try something altogether new; others are because a tourist attraction is in a specific town; one country is for family heritage, others as our foreign 'son' or 'daughter' lives there.  There is no wrong or right reason to go somewhere or do something.

 

In all this complex inexactness of designing our trip I found that it is neither what, where, how or why that consistently trumps the others.  Each takes a turn as the raison d'etre, and that's okay.

You are not going to be scored out of 100 for your personal planning prowess.

21 July 2015

Getting to Germany via plane means knowing where the international airports are (and which airlines fly which routes to which airports).  

Thanks to Lencer on Wikimedia we have the following pictogram for you.  

Red are the international airports, and the larger the plane the more flights there are per annum.

 

 

Here are the links to all the INTERNATIONAL AIRPORTS for your researching pleasure:

Berlin - Tegel

Berlin - Schoenefeld

Bremen

Dresden

Duesseldorf

Erfurt

Frankfurt am Main

Hannover

Hamburg

Koeln (Cologne) /Bonn

Leipzig/ Halle

Muenchen

Muenster/Osnabrueck

Nuernberg

Saarbruecken

Stuttgart

 

I don't know if it will be the same for everyone but we found that flying into Stuttgart (from New Zealand - which for us is always via Frankfurt) was more expensive than flying to London and from there directly to Stuttgart.

You may be interested in Skyscanner which is the website we've been watching to compare airfares.  It aggregates the flight prices of a variety of different airlines and online vendors for the route you search and the day (or month) you want to travel.  If there is something there that suits you can click-through to the relevant website and book directly.

 

 

 

 

14 July 2015

Tuebingen in winter

 

I figure with about 11-12 weeks we can comfortably see / do / experience around 20-25 family-friendly ventures within budget and without too much stress.

The interests of our family include hands-on technical & science activities (Castor, Pollux & Gemma); classical art, fashion, history (Vega);  playgrounds, animals (Gemma & Kita); vehicles - diggers / planes / trains etc (all the boys); art & architecture in general (Atlas) and anything German (me)! 

Not everyone is going to be interested in everything which means we may end up going 2 different ways some days, where it can be arranged and is safe to do so.

 

So here are some of my loose thoughts for our time based in Tuebingen:

  • Punt on the Gondola (if we get there before the season closes in October) or travel part of the Neckar, Rhein or other river
  • Walk & explore the city streets, castle, churches, gardens, museums etc
  • Get a town library card and borrow the German early readers that will help us learn the language
  • Watch the Duck race (Tuebingen) 10 October
  • Explore Tuebingen's Botannical Gardens (the oldest in the world!)
  • Experience a Christmas Market (Tuebingen 11-13 Dec, Esslingen (Medieval too), or Reutlingen)
  • Discover the vehicles at the Technik Museum (Sinsheim) or Mercedes Museum (Stuttgart)
  • Find the animals that we've never seen at the Wilhelma Zoo (Stuttgart)
  • Spy the classics at the State Art Gallery (Stuttgart &/or Karlsruhe)
  • Go up the viewing platform at the Stuttgart Rail Terminal, or climb the Killesbergturm to see over the city 
  • Go to a (Samuel Harfst / Johannes Falk / heavy metal) concert
  • Taste samples at the Chocolate festival (Tuebingen) 1 - 6 December
  • Take the train on a castle trip – Neuschwanstein, Linderhof or Hohenschwangau; or Hohenzollern and Sigmaringen; or Lichtenstein
  • Visiting the neighbouring town of Bebenhausen and tour the monastry before walking through the forest
  • Stand among the Roman ruins (Trier)
  • Have fun at Sensapolis (Sindelfingen)
  • See cuckoo clocks (Furtwangen?), try Black Forest Gateau and see some of the Black Forest (Schwarzwald) perhaps by walking up the Bad Wimpfelpfad spiral
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Our list is by no means finalised or finished.  There's still more to research but I am happy with how it is coming together.  The last thing that I want is to arrive and potentially waste time finding out what there is to do, when we can jump right in and JUST DO IT!  

I know the boys would love to see around a factory that make electronics and one that makes construction vehicles.  

I would like try the local dishes and learn how to make the ones our family enjoys; and somehow want to measurably increase my german language ability. (If I was able to improve to a B2 level on the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) I'd be thrilled.) 

 

Finding things for all the different ages and preferences in our family to enjoy together is harder than I thought, especially when I don't know what that locals know that there is to do beyond the touristy things; and our family don't fully understand what it even means to see inside a castle or be surrounded by history older than 150 years.

 

LINKS FOR LIVING IN TUEBINGEN

German National Tourist Bureau 

Baden Wuerttemberg Tourist Bureau 

Tuebingen Visitor Information Centre 

Tuebingen Local Government 

Tuebingen Business Association 

Tuebingen train stations *

Regional bus & train network *

Language courses: vivat lingua & Sprachinstitut Tuebingen

 

* As a general rule the train/transport companies and many establishments look after families in Germany offering a flexible family pass for 1-2 adults and several or all children (and sometimes even grandchildren!).  Such a breath of fresh air compared to the standard "2 adults and 2 children ONLY" mentality we have here in New Zealand.

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