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Why I Love Train Travel in Germany

There are different methods of transportation that we have used in Germany over the years. We have boarded airplanes, rented cars and traveled by train. My favorite way to get around? That would be train travel and here are four reasons why I tend to choose spending hours on a train instead of another mode of transportation.

Why I Love Train Travel in Germany

Reason #1 See More of the German Countryside
All trains have large windows where you can enjoy the landscape as it flies by (especially in the ICE high speed trains). You will see rivers, mountains, and small villages - all of which you miss when you fly or take the car on the Autobahn. Of course you can take rural roads with a rental car, but it will be slower and the driver will have to watch traffic much more than any landscape surrounding the car.

Board the train, find your seat, get comfortable and enjoy whatever you like to do. If looking out the window is not your thing, you can read, listen to music, or sleep a bit. Lots of high-speed trains have free Wifi (https://www.bahn.com/en/view/trains/on-board-service/wifi.shtml) and outlets to charge your devices and stay in contact with your family and friends back home. Just don’t get too distracted and miss your destination while enjoying the comfort of the train.

Reason #2 No Luggage Restrictions
Bringing any kind of luggage onto an airplane these days, usually results in a fee you have to pay. This means extra income for the airlines and customers are willing to pay anywhere from $20 to $75 for this convenience. Not so on the train (or your rental car, of course). Bring as many pieces of luggage as you want, or are able to pull along with you. Even pack liquids and something to drink inside the train. No one will take it away from you.

Denise and I usually share a larger suitcase instead of two smaller ones. Most long distance trains have an extra area between seats where you can store your luggage. Otherwise you can lift it onto the rack above the seats, just make sure it is not too heavy and falls on your head.

Reason #3 Less Expensive
When comparing plane tickets or car rental prices to a train ticket, the train ticket is often your least expensive option, especially when you buy your ticket in advance and factor in the hidden costs. The airline might charge you extra for your luggage, even if it is just a carry on bag. And you better buy a preferred seating position with that, so you board the plane while overhead space for your carry-on is still available.

The same goes for the rental car option, which will have you paying for fuel costs and parking, not to mention all the extra insurance fees they try to add when you pick up your car. If you want to know more about this, read our earlier article, What to Consider When Renting a Car in Germany.

The best way to get your hands on an inexpensive train ticket in Germany (usually half-off) is to book 70-90 days before your trip on the website of the Deutsche Bahn.

You can get tickets for as low as 29 € per person for long trips, but ticket prices go up as the departure date draws near, so plan accordingly, and buy early. Denise and I will create a calendar event exactly 90 days before in order to get the best train ticket price. When its time to buy, simply enter your destination, date and approximate time on the Deutsche Bahn website and you will be given a range of options to choose from. When reserving your train ticket, you pick your favorite connection and have the option to purchase reserved seating for about 5 € per person/train. There are no other fees added on after you check out. I highly recommend purchasing a seat, especially if you are on the train for several hours or travel with a larger group of people.

You will also see that some connections will be faster, some slower. Here is a ranking from fastest to slowest trains:

• ICE (Inter City Express) usually pronounced ‘Eye See Eee’, are the fastest German trains

• IC (Inter City) trains are a bit slower than ICE trains with a few more stops along the way

• RB (Regional Bahn) and RE (Regional Express) tend to be highly localized with lots of stops. You will see more of the countryside, on IC/RB/RE trains, but travel time can be up to double compared to an ICE train.

Reason #4 Simply, Faster
In Germany you might overhear someone saying, that the train is “late, again”. Some trains are notorious for running late and Germans, always punctual, are notorious for complaining about this fact. However, I still believe taking a train is the fastest option, and here is why. A train ride from Frankfurt to Paris, France will take about 4 hours. A car ride will take 5 ½ hours, if there is “normal” traffic on the Autobahn 4 from Frankfurt to Paris. It takes longer due to the lower speed limit in France, which is 130 km/h (80 mph). A train can go as fast as the tracks will let it and reaches speeds up to 200 mph on some track parts.

So driving can’t compete with taking the train, which leaves us with flying. A plane ride from Frankfurt to Paris takes only 1 hour 10 minutes. However, if you add transportation time to the airport (most are not in the city center, unlike train stations) and being there about 2 hours before your flight takes off for security checkpoints and boarding, the journey will most likely take longer than 4 hours. Keep in mind that the security check at the airport might slow you down, also. Oh yeah, and you have to pay for your bags and deal with less legroom on a plane.

What is your favorite mode of transportation while visiting Germany? Let us know in the comments.

Bonus Germany Train Travel Resource: If you're new to train travel, do yourself a BIG favor and read Lorelei's Your Complete Guide to Using the Deutsche Bahn in Germany. Its a wonderful resource for newbies, full of photos and explanations. We thought of doing one ourselves, and stumbled upon Lorelei's and realized she left NOTHING out. Bookmark it, and you'll thank yourself later.

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Deciphering the Roemer in Frankfurt am Main

Deciphering the Roemer in Frankfurt am Main

Before the stadium-sized exhibition halls Frankfurt am Main, Germany has today, there was the Römer, or Roemer for the umlaut-allergic. Roemer refers specifically to the City Hall complex that grew from a labyrinth of fancy merchant homes that were bought in 1405 by the city and retro-fitted for the city council’s needs. It was here that the first trade fairs were held, in the myriad of halls, nearby square, and neighboring streets, until the trade fairs couldn’t fit anymore. The Roemer resides in the center of the city on the Roemerberg, a square made out of Fachwerkhäusern, half-timbered houses.

The Frankfurt eagle symbol is used frequently on the facade of the Roemer in Frankfurt am Main, Germany

Why the Roemer? Like most good nicknames, no one is sure why the Roemer is called the Roemer. Some allege Italian visitors for the trade fairs stayed there and thus named it the German word for Romans, Roemer, or perhaps because of the building's ties to the Holy Roman Empire and its election of Kings. After a King was elected, the coronation dinner was held in the Roemer in the Kaisersaal, or Emperor Hall. The Roemer hosted the Kings of the Holy Roman Empire from 1562 to 1792.

Typical for neo-gothic, or gothic revival architecture, all structural elements are decorated. Four Kings, such as Friedrich I, are on the Roemer facade in Frankfurt.

Comparing Germany’s Town Halls
Frankfurt am Main’s city hall complex is unlike any I have seen in Germany, and certainly completely different from earlier posts about the Rathaus in Bremen and the Neues Rathaus in Munich. That being said, it is built in the same architecture style as the Neues Rathaus in Munich, Gothic Revival. Both the Roemer and the Neues Rathaus in Munich were built or remodeled at a time when Germany was seeking to revisit the glory days of the time period belonging to Bremen’s Rathaus. If you missed those posts, and you like this one, I encourage you to check them out: Architecture Style Guide to the Neues Rathaus in Munich, and The Epic German City Hall All the Other City Halls Wish To Be.

Typical for Gothic Revival, on the Roemer facade in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, you’ll see pointed arches, decorative patterns, and embellished structural elements.

Symbolism on the Roemer
Typical for Gothic Revival, you’ll see pointed arches, decorative patterns, and embellished structural elements. Without a tour guide, the symbolism on the Roemer’s facade is missed by many visitors.

Symbolism Guide for the Roemer | Typical for Gothic Revival, on the Roemer facade in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, you’ll see pointed arches, decorative patterns, and embellished structural elements.

Top to Bottom, the Frankfurt am Main Roemer Iconography, Highlights and Descriptions

• Lantern cupola on top has not been refurbished after the bombings of World War II, it is as it was originally built in the 1700s.
• Clock built by Frankfurt clock-maker Hans Hochgesang in 1452-1454. The time can be read from inside the Kaisersaal as well.
• Two Eagle Sculpture reliefs, the single Eagle on the left is for Frankfurt, the double-headed Eagle on the right is for Germany.
• Four Holy Roman Emperors, all who had a significant impact on the city of Frankfurt am Main. From left to right, Frederick I, the first king elected in Frankfurt in 1152, Ludwig the Bavarian who extended the city’s trade rights in 1331, Charles IV for decreeing the Golden Bull of 1356, and Maximilian II, the first ruler crowned in the Frankfurt Cathedral in 1562.
• Below the balcony are coat of arms of various families of Frankfurt.
• Wall relief commemorates the 1900 remodel, “House of the Romans, bought and rebuilt by the city of Frankfurt am Main in 1405, and the town hall of the Reichstag and Imperial elections 1886 to 1900 by Max Meckel, newly manufactured.”
Wall relief commemorates the 1900 remodel, “House of the Romans, bought and rebuilt by the city of Frankfurt am Main in 1405, and the town hall of Reichstag and Imperial elections 1886 to 1900 by Max Meckel, newly manufactured.”

On the neighboring building front to the left of the Roemer, the Alt-Limpurg house, be sure to see the ‘Frankfurtia’, Statue, or as Germans know her, Francofurtia, the female embodiment, protector of the city of Frankfurt. She's holding the sword of Charlemagne in her right hand and the Pfarrturm, church tower in her left.

On the neighboring building front to the left of the Roemer, the Alt-Limburg house, be sure to see the ‘Frankfurtia’, Statue, or as Germans know her, Francofurtia, the female embodiment, protector of the city of Frankfurt. She's holding the sword of Charlemagne in her right hand and the Pfarrturm, church tower in her left.

Finally, on the far right side of the Roemer facade, the Frauenstein and Salzhaus, look for the three surviving wall reliefs that were salvaged from the World War II bombings. They serve as a reminder for all of what was lost. Currently, there is a Frankfurt Tourist Information Office located in this part of the Roemer.

Finally, on the far right side of the Roemer facade, the Frauenstein and Salzhaus, look for the three surviving wall reliefs that were salvaged from the World War II bombings. They serve as a reminder for all of what was lost. Currently, there is a Frankfurt Tourist Information Office located in this part of the Roemer.

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A Self-Guided Walk Through Frankfurt

Fourteen of the fifteen tallest buildings in Germany are in Frankfurt, which is nicknamed Mainhatten for this reason.

Skyscrapers characterize the cityscape of Frankfurt am Main, my “other” home away from Florida. Fourteen of the fifteen tallest buildings in Germany are in Frankfurt, which is nicknamed "Mainhattan" for this reason. Despite a great subway system to get around, I recommend exploring Frankfurt on foot. This way, you can take in all the details of the exciting architecture in the heart of Frankfurt, and at the same time walk off that good German food or beer.

What You Need to Know About Visiting Main Tower in Frankfurt am Main, Germany

1. Main Tower (Neue Mainzer Str. 52-58)
Let’s start with a good view of the city first by taking the elevator to the top of the Main Tower. There are two ways to enjoy the 360 degree views of Frankfurt's skyline: you can either take the elevator up, for 7.50 Euros, to the observation deck OR enjoy a cocktail and/or meal at the fine dining Main Tower Restaurant & Lounge, located on the 53rd floor of the tower. If you dine at the restaurant, the cost of the elevator ride will be credited against your bill, so hold onto your receipt, or if you make a reservation the elevator operator will not charge you for the ride. To read more about the Main Tower, check out our earlier post, “What You Need to Know About Visiting Main Tower in Frankfurt.”

2. Hauptwache (An der Hauptwache 15)
Within a ten minute walk you will reach the Hauptwache, a 17th-century guard-house. It housed the municipal police and also contained a prison back in the day. Particularly impressive is the architectural contrast of the 300-year-old building with the skyscraper backdrop of the banking district. When Prussia annexed the city in 1866, Frankfurt also lost its military significance, and with it the city armed forces. The Hauptwache was turned into a cafe in 1905, which has remained there ever since. Prices are more expensive than other cafes in Frankfurt, but it is a great spot for people watching.

3. Paulskirche/St. Paul's Church (Paulsplatz 11)
Keep walking south until you see the Paulskirche, an elliptical building made out of sandstone. This church is very important for the history of democracy in Germany. During the German Revolution in 1848, it was the meeting place of the first all-German parliament since Paulskirche was the largest and most modern building in Frankfurt. In March 1944 the Paulskirche burned completely after a bomb attack and was the first historical building of Frankfurt to be rebuilt after the war. You can see pictures and different flags used for Germany inside, there is no entrance fee. Read more about it in our earlier post, “The Most German of German Churches.”

Standesamt Mitte (Bethmannstrasse 3) Frankfurt am Main, Germany civil registry office, named after the Bridge of Sighs in Venice

4. Standesamt Mitte (Bethmannstraße 3)
Stepping out of the Paulskirche, you will see the Standesamt Mitte (Frankfurt civil registry office) building across the street. This is where the citizens of Frankfurt come for birth certificates, naturalization, name changes and much more. Definitely worth a quick picture, especially with the covered bridge across the street called Seufzerbrücke. This bridge is nicknamed the Bridge of Sighs, and was built in 1898, based on the Bridge of Sighs in Venice, Italy.

Roemer of Frankfurt am Main, Germany

5. Römer/Römerberg (Römerberg 27)
Cross the street and keep left to get to the Römerberg including the Römer building. On the corner is the Frankfurt Tourist Information, in case you have a specific question or need a map. When you walk into the market square, take a minute and look around at all the beautiful buildings. One of the most impressive ones is the Römer building with its characteristic triple facade, which was built in the 15th century. This landmark is the city hall of Frankfurt and the seat of the city council and mayor. This is where couples get married, too and you might run into one of them while you are there.

Alte Nikolaikirche, or Old St. Nicholas Church, to the left of the Roemer, Frankfurt am Main, Germany

6. Alte Nikolaikirche (Römerberg 11)
Looking at the Römer, to your left is the Alte Nikolaikirche (Old St Nicholas Church) built in the 12th century. Because of its central location, this Lutheran church is open all day for visitors and there are often bilingual worship services. Check their posting board for the current hours.

Eiserner Steg, crossing the river Main, first erected in 1868 and rebuilt after World War II.

7. Eiserner Steg
Keep walking past the Alte Nikolaikirche and you will get to the banks of river Main, a great place to rest and watch the boats and kayaks go by. Right in front of you is a bridge called Eiserner Steg (Iron footbridge), first erected in 1868 and rebuilt after WWII. Walk to the middle of the bridge and enjoy the best scenic view of the Frankfurt skyscrapers. The perfect time for a selfie without having to watch out for passing cars.

8. Goethe-Haus (Großer Hirschgraben 23-25)
For the last 2 stops we head back to the inner city, right to the birthplace of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, the Goethe-Haus. This building was the family residence of the Goethe family until 1795. Goethe's study on the second floor is as it once was when he wrote “The Sorrows of Young Werther” and “Götz von Berlichingen” in this room. We loved our visit so much, we even wrote a cheat sheet for your visit, “The Ultimate Cheat Sheet to the Goethe House in Frankfurt.”

And do not miss the Goethe museum next door, included in your Goethe House ticket, where you can discover a comprehensive collection of paintings, graphics and busts from Goethe’s lifetime with artists such as Johann Heinrich Füssli, Caspar David Friedrich, and local Frankfurt painters. To know more, review our earlier article, “What You Must See at the Frankfurt Goethe Museum."

9. Alte Oper (Opernplatz 1)
The last stop on the walking tour will be the original opera house Alte Oper, close to the Main Tower where we started our tour. The beautiful building was built in the Neo-Renaissance style and opened its door in 1880 for just over 2,000 people per showing. The opera house was the venue for numerous premieres, for example Carl Orff's “Carmina Burana” in 1937 and to this day shows concerts and art performances. If you are interested in any upcoming concerts, you can get tickets at the ticket office in the front or one hour before any concert at the box office.


Special thanks to Lifestyle and Wedding Photographer Irene Fiedler, who captured all of the photos in this post. These images were part of a larger photo shoot we collaborated with Irene on, which you can read more about here.

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Self-guided walk through Frankfurt am Main, Germany

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A Frigid Day at the Nuremberg Zoo in Germany

The zoo was huge, and mostly empty. Only die-hard animal fans visit when it's below freezing. We bundled, layered, and kept warm the best we could. Admittedly, if it was sleeting ice we may have hesitated, but it would have taken that and more to keep me from the zoo. We had a hearty, but jealous laugh at the meerkats who huddled under heat lamps.

Meerkats keeping warm under heat lamps in the Nuremberg Zoo, Germany

Wear your walking shoes! It was a long, long trek to the polar bear exhibit, they were completely on the opposite side of the entrance. The Nuremberg Zoo is nestled in 49,000 acres of former sandstone quarry and forest that once belonged to the Holy Roman Empire. When we were there, we noticed several visitors were there solely for the exercise! And sure enough, the Nuremberg Zoo offers a specific guide pamphlet for various tours and whether or not it's a smooth trail or very steep. Click here for more information on the trails in the zoo in English.

Mother Vera and daughter Charlotte, polar bears in the Nuremberg Zoo, Germany

When we finally made it to the polar bears I had to do a double take, the bears were brown! We watched as Charlotte and her mom Vera rolled around in the dead leaves from the fall, and then dig up a poor pine tree. I wondered if Vera was trying to make a den for winter? I was lucky and captured a shot of Vera stretched out on a tree and looking at me.

Sea Lion & Harbor Seal Feeding Presentation at the Nuremberg Zoo, Germany

Sea Lion Feeding & Polar Bear Feeding
Review the scheduled feedings and dolphin presentations for the day you’re attending. One mistake I made was thinking that all of the feedings were handled to the same standard. The sea lions and the polar bears are neighboring exhibits at the Nuremberg Zoo, and when we visited their feeding presentations were scheduled about 30 minutes apart. The sea lions had a very lengthy, detail-oriented feeding presentation where the zookeeper was interacting with them and worked with them individually. After such a performance at the sea lions, I was really excited to see the polar bears feeding and hear what the zookeeper had to say, although I knew it would be secondhand through Sebastian’s translating.

However, when it was the polar bears time to be fed, the zoo keeper literally emptied their bucket of food over the wall, turned around and fled. I stood there speechless with my camera. Left alone, some birds stole some of the polar bear food, which was haphazardly thrown into the exhibit, while other pieces fell into the water. It was a sad sight for me, and a let down after just watching the sea lion feeding. However, the bears didn’t seem bothered by the feeding and ate their dinner without complaints. They weren’t even bothered by the thieving birds.

Mother Vera and daughter Charlotte, polar bears in the Nuremberg Zoo, Germany | Feeding time

Plan to make time to see the dolphin presentation. I was impressed by how well-polished it was. The dolphins loved to perform and seemed to have a positive relationship with the keepers. They did several tricks with a basketball that I’d never seen before at Sea World or at the state of the art St. Vincent Dolphin Pavilion at the Indianapolis Zoo.

Before You Leave
We visited the zoo cafe beside the dolphin lagoon, appropriately named Bistro Lagunenblick, which means Lagoon View. There isn’t any information on this cafe or their larger restaurant in English on their website or the brochure, but there should be. It was a nice surprise to find it on our own though. We chose the Nuremberg sausages and potatoes, plus an apple cake, and all of it was delicious. I was impressed with the self-serve espresso machine that created whatever espresso-based beverage you wanted at the touch of a button. In better weather, you could enjoy Kaffee und Kuchen while watching the dolphins in the lagoon!

Visiting the polar bears in the Nuremberg Zoo, Germany

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Otters in the Nuremberg Zoo, Germany

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Thank you For Reading! Denise & Sebastian | Photo by Irene Fiedler