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  • Wally1976 205 posts

    Hi all,

    My eldest daughter is doing GCSE German next year and we would like to take her on a city break to somewhere German speaking next February. I will be going with my wife, our (then) 13 year-old daughter as well as our (then) 16 year-old daughter.

    We are Midlands based so ideally would fly from BHX but willing to go from MAN, EMA, BRS, LTN or, I guess LHR. Definite preference to avoid STN or LGW!

    We are looking to keep costs down and will not be using Avios this time as we are saving our points (and cash) as much as possible for a long-haul trip in summer ’25. So, I guess, we’re looking at Ryanair, Easyjet, Wizz…maybe BA. And a reasonably priced hotel or AirBnB.

    Thinking not Berlin as my wife and I have been there recently.

    We will probably stay 4 nights and would like somewhere with a bit of culture and nice food (although as 3 of us are vegetarian, this part of the world might not be the best!). It’d be nice if we could go on a day trip outside the city to some mountains maybe.

    Any thoughts welcome. TIA 🙂

    AJA 1,168 posts

    Have you considered Stuttgart. It’s compact but has a few cultural places including the castle plus there’s the Mercedes-Benz museum if that’s your thing. And it’s easy to head out towards the Black Forest.

    I improved my German in that city way back in 1999. I used to fly there every three weeks for 2 nights at a time working for a software company. I stayed in a German equivalent of a pensione and had a bilingual conversation with the owner – I spoke fractured German to him and he replied in fractured English. Benefitted both of us. Did the same with my work colleagues although their English didn’t need improving.

    jj 566 posts

    Salzburg. Beautiful and fascinating. But it will be cold at that time of year and competition from skiers means flights might be expensive if you’re travelling at half term.

    When our kids were that age, they spent many hours in the Mozart museum there. It was a simple place, but, as musical kids, they were hugely inspired by the story of a child prodigy who achieved so much at their own age.

    AJA 1,168 posts

    Another place worth visiting for a short break is Nuremburg.

    NigelHamilton 235 posts

    You can fly to Munich from MAN on Lufthansa, which is a great city. You can day trip to the Alps too

    BA Flyer IHG Stayer 2,400 posts

    Have you asked where she wants to go?

    I presume this a trip to help her speak the language and pick up the cultural and history of the country (when I did my French O level that aspect was a significant part of the curriculum)

    What if she says she wants to go to Berlin?

    Wally1976 205 posts

    Thank you for all the suggestions.

    Yes I have spoken to her, she mentioned Vienna but I don’t think she has a strong preference.

    Berlin’s not a definite “no” (Ryanair fly there from BHX for a start). Just exploring options at the moment.

    jek 124 posts

    Let me answer this as a German. So if you want a location where your daughter can understand the Germans, then southern Germany is out. Berlin is out, too, as you would encounter more non-Germans than Germans as a tourist. My recommendation would be Hamburg and the area around. Little to no dialect, lots of culture, great food, and friendly (if you know how to engage) people.

    John 1,102 posts

    Fly to DUS/CGN/FRA and explore around the Rhine and Mosel – Trier, Cochem, Speyer, Worms, Mainz, or go to Wuppertal and ride the Schwebebahn

    I was going to suggest Basel but @jek is right about the dialects, on the other hand, from my experience in Switzerland most people will speak Hochdeutsch to me but in Germany they go straight to English before I even open my mouth

    If you want to practice your language you need to go to small bakeries and restaurants and shops in the suburbs where people aren’t confident in English, or (maybe not appropriate for someone of GCSE age) get accosted by homeless people around train stations :p

    dougzz99 638 posts

    Thank you for all the suggestions.

    Yes I have spoken to her, she mentioned Vienna but I don’t think she has a strong preference.

    Berlin’s not a definite “no” (Ryanair fly there from BHX for a start). Just exploring options at the moment.

    Berlin is an English speaking city.

    NorthernLass 8,549 posts

    Slightly off-topic, but is she searching out German-language programs on Netflix/other streaming and YouTube? Probably harder to find than Spanish/French but there should be some. Even if you keep the subtitles on, listening to the language is hugely valuable.

    I can attest to this as I took (self-taught) French A level during the pandemic to keep my brain from seizing up – the syllabus was so indescribably dull I gave up after a couple of modules and just read the required play and novel. The rest of the time I binge-watched French series and films. I got an A, so I can confirm it works 😂

    LD27 232 posts

    We spent nearly a week travelling through Germany last month, starting in Frankfurt and ending in Nuremberg. It was cold and snow at times. As @AJA has suggested, small Gasthof away from the city centres are the places to stay/eat where not all the menus are in English and she should be able to practise her German with the owners/staff. We travelled by car, bus and train, so were able to practise the language when buying food in small shops, bakeries, transport tickets, asking for directions and asking about events etc. You might need to send her into shop/to ticket office alone, because as soon as they hear you speaking English to each other, she will probably get an answer in English! We had a night at the Opera in Erfurt which was sung in German.

    All the Museums have information written in German and English so she should have the opportunity to practise her reading skills. Just listening to announcements at railway stations, especially when the train is delayed/cancelled (yes it does happen in Germany and there are lots of strikes at the moment!) will give her confidence with her listening skills too.

    Richie 1,083 posts

    I recommend a Christmas market weekend from late November.

    Lady London 2,185 posts

    Klagenfurt and area?

    Agree with @jek about Hamburg but not a lot to see there.

    Taking a car in Bavaria South of Munich can be beautiful, Neuschwanstein (the Disney castle) and Linderhof (unlike a lot of castles, interesting interior) are easy to reach and there is enough Gasthofs and other low key accommodation about.

    Richie 1,083 posts

    Hamburg Christmas market is great.

    Neuschwanstein castle is a good idea.

    can2 580 posts

    Any midsize city in German speaking Switzerland. It may be a bit more expensive than a big German city. But it can provide more opportunities to chat in German.

    NorthernLass 8,549 posts

    Vienna Xmas markets are lovely, and I found on both my visits that nobody automatically spoke to us in English. I know there must be an accent but it doesn’t sound particularly marked to me – maybe because my German teacher at school adored Austria and that’s where all the school German trips were organised!

    LD27 232 posts

    Have visited the Christmas markets along the Rhein. Particularly liked Rudesheim. Bigger towns like Koblenz and Mainz were also interesting. Have enjoyed the larger markets of Cologne, Düsseldorf, Berlin and Munich. But having just visited Nuremberg, which is on the river with a compact, walled inner city, I think it would make an interesting Christmas market destination.

    Have also visited many Christmas markets in Switzerland (where I used to live) and Austria. Although the markets themselves have been great, I found that when I asked for something in German and they heard me speaking in English to family, they replied in English!

    dougzz99 638 posts

    The OP says February, Christmas Markets…….

    Lyn 190 posts

    Klagenfurt and area?

    Agree with @jek about Hamburg but not a lot to see there.

    Taking a car in Bavaria South of Munich can be beautiful, Neuschwanstein (the Disney castle) and Linderhof (unlike a lot of castles, interesting interior) are easy to reach and there is enough Gasthofs and other low key accommodation about.

    + 1 for the beautiful area south of Munich, or Salzburg or possibly Vienna.

    Yes, the German accent would be purer in Hannover or Hamburg than the south of Germany, and it will be different yet again in Austria or Switzerland, but I honestly can’t see how that would really matter in this situation. As others have mentioned, the opportunity to build confidence by listening and speaking German in everyday situations is far more inportant. Small towns and villages are usually better for this, and I imagine Bavaria and Salzburg are probably still amongst the areas where English is less widely spoken. What a lovely opportunity.

    Wally1976 205 posts

    Lots of food for thought there, thank you

    Londonsteve 213 posts

    @jek was seemingly the only native German speaker to reply to this thread and I’d put great emphasis on his or her advice. The dialect spoken by southern Germans and Austrians is largely impenetrable even for fluent German speakers, much less to someone studying GCSE German. As the main purpose of the trip appears to be to allow your daughter to practice her German, there’s little point in going to a part of the Teutonic world where the accent is so strong as to make it impossible to understand anything, if anything, it could rob your daughter of confidence for her exams. As a tourist, Munich, Salzburg and Vienna are natural draws, in order to actually speak German, Hamburg would make much more sense. It’s a beautiful and cultured city, the centre of Germany’s media industry, if I was studying GCSE German I’d love to attend a concert of Bach or Beethoven at the Elbaphilharmonie to really feel the soul of the country.

    Cologne and Bonn would make a good alternative and is easily accessible from the UK, either directly to Cologne-Bonn airport or to Dusseldorf or Frankfurt if those are the only flights local to you. The Kolner accent isn’t so strong and it’s a lovely city. Bonn is nearby and although very small, it has the Haus der Geschichte covering the post-war history of Germany and the birthplace of Beethoven. Trier and the Moselle valley make for a lovely day trip. Despite the proximity to the UK, my impression is that English isn’t so widely spoken here, I guess because unlike southern Germany or Austria, it gets many fewer UK tourists.

    Lyn 190 posts

    The areas around Koln, Bonn, and Duesseldorf and the Moselle valley are also good alternatives, and I have to admit that the local accents would be more accessible than much further south.

    I must admit that I had to smile at @LondonSteve’s description of the Bavarian dialect being only “largely impenetrable” even for fluent German speakers, rather than completely impenetrable. But, fortunately for visitors, most Bavarians do also speak standard German, however accented, in addition to their own Bayrisch dialect/language.

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