First of all, Merry Christmas! This will be the last post until after the New Year!
As you’ve probably noticed, most of my spontaneous travel plans are price-based. So, weeks ago when I was fooling around with my old hookup, Skyscanner, I noticed a bomb one-way price to Berlin: 37€! Of course, thanks to procrastinating, I ended up shelling out 45€ but that’s how I decided that… I will be spending winter break in GERMANY!
Before arriving in Grenoble, I already knew that I was going to end up in Germany either for Oktoberfest (didn’t happen) or for the Christmas markets. I didn’t realize, however, that I would decide to spend ALL of winter break in Germany. But why not? I only have about 12 days of break and slogging my way through customs for most of it didn’t really peak my interest.
Of course, none of my plans are problem free, including this one, which I am planning out two months ahead of time. You’d think that it’s enough time—and it would be… for more precise people. My problem this time is that I already bought both tickets into and out of the country before knowing what my trajectory was going to be. At the time of purchase, I didn’t even know which cities I would be hitting up!
Sound familiar? Apparently I don’t learn lessons well when money is at risk. I saw the prices mounting and my brain immediately shut down and my purchasing finger got to work. So, I arrive in Berlin by plane on the 24th and leave from Munich by train on the 5th. Yeah. I’m committing myself to an 11-hour train ride. It’s going to be pretty sweet, no sarcasm. It’s up to me to find a way from Berlin to Munich—and to plan my time accordingly.
One complication I keep running into is that my friend invited me to a New Year’s Eve celebration in Berlin, making it a city I was going to have to return to.
Step 1: Pick must-see cities
After a lot of thought, the chosen ones are Berlin (obviously), Munich (again, obviously), Stuttgart, Tübingen, and Heidelberg. Why these cities? I usually hate traveling with fellow tourists and prefer to stumble (key word explaining all my haphazard plans) onto little gems. Also, a few friends have studied abroad in Germany and one even spent a whole year there as an au pair, so I took their top cities into strong consideration.
Step 2: Trajectory
This was—and still is—the hardest part of my planning process so far. Because I have to be in Berlin twice and I refuse to spend an entire week there and lose out on other exploring opportunities, it makes it difficult to plan around. There is no doubt that I’m going to spend NYE in Berlin because having a chance to party with a friend that I most likely will not see for a few years in a foreign country is definitely worth it.
Originally, I planned to stay 4 days in Berlin, 3 in Munich, 2 in Stuttgart, 2 in Heidelberg and 1 in Tübingen. This would’ve been perfect except for the fact that… Berlin to Heidelberg is 6 hours.
Step 3: Realize your plan is impractical and decide day-trips from Berlin is more feasible
As you can see, the relative distance Berlin is from all my other destinations is frustrating. If I wanted a taste of the Berlin Christmas markets and to be able to return for NYE, that would be 2 days in Berlin, losing 12 hours that I couldn’t lose by traveling back and forth only to pass Heidelberg yet again when I’m on my way to Stuttgart.
Something had to be done. From my friends’ experiences, I knew that Berlin would be able to keep me busy for a full week… the problem is that if I stay in Berlin for a week, that would only leave about 6 days to spend in 4 other cities; two days in two cities and day trips for the other cities.
Possible day-trips include:
- Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp
These three things on top of everything Berlin has to offer should keep me occupied for the entire week!
Step 4: How many days where?
If I stay in/near Berlin from the 24-1st, I will only have 4-5 whole days to spend elsewhere. From the 1st to the 5th, there is about whole days for adventuring. I’ve decided on 2 nights in Munich and 2 nights based in Stuttgart with trips to Heidelberg and Tübingen.
- Munich must-see: Neuschwanstein Castle (2 hours away, ~$62)
- Stuttgart must-see: Hoherzollern Castle (2 hours away, ~$35)
In total, there will be around 6 train trips, NOT including the small side trips… which is pushing the envelope for the budget I’m trying to keep for Germany.
Step 5: How are you traveling throughout Germany?
While looking on a train site—my favorite way of travel—similar to the French SNCF, I realized there’s this deal that non-Europeans can cash in on that works a bit like the Eurail pass. You can pick a number of trips you want to take and pay a flat rate on your ticket. 4 trips cost around 150€ and 5 trips cost around 175€. Seeing as a ticket from Berlin to Heidelberg was already 79€, I figured that the German Pass was a good idea. It also offers me flexibility for those days I want to explore a neighboring city.
Step 6: Where will you stay?
Because it seems like my budget for traveling throughout Germany has risen a bit, I will definitely try Couchsurfing—requests to be sent out within the next few weeks or so. I understand that I will need a hostel around Christmas and NYE, which definitely sucks, but compared to needing all 12 nights in a hostel, which will exceed ~100€, I want to save that for food and tickets instead. Thankfully, another friend who had studied abroad in Germany, says that the culture there is the ultimate Couchsurfing culture. They share everything—gas, rides, and couches. Hopefully I don’t run into any bad experiences!
Step 7: Reevaluate your monetary dispensing decisions and comfort yourself in knowing that memories last forever.
Step 8: Repeat step 7 until you go.
One of the worst things about trip-planning is dispensing (my word choice is getting very French) all that money while prolonging gratification. I’m just suffering right now, knowing that my money is flying out the window and what do I have to show for it? Nothing. No memories, no photos, no friendships. That all comes later, in a month’s time. And it sucks…. for now
Planning by city will come later.