Archive for Germany Tours

How Do You End the Trip of a Lifetime in Germany?

Saturday, August 23rd, 2014

August 23

Dolores Petit takes in the panorama of the Rhein River Valley from above Bacharach

Dolores Petit takes in the panorama of the Rhein River Valley from above Bacharach

BacharachBroadView copy

Dolores Petit always wanted to visit her ancestral country of Germany but her husband would not allow it. A member of the French Resistance as a young teen, he harbored hard feelings against not just some Germans but the entire country. When they traveled, they went to see his relatives in France.

So, when her husband John Petit died a year and a half ago, Dolores started planning a trip that she had been waiting basically her entire life to take. She was going to make it with her cousin, Bette. The highlight would be a visit to see cousins in northern Germany near Bremen.

Bette fell ill just a few days before departure and could not make the trip. Dolores came alone, and had the time of her life. How do you wrap up a wonderful week in a country where you love just everything? We thought an afternoon on the beautiful Rhein River between Mainz and Marksburg would be the perfect way to say ‘Auf Wiedersehen’ to Deutschland.

After having a freshly-made sandwich at a bakery near the departure point in Rüdesheim, Dolores boarded the ‘Vater Rhein’ for a two-hour cruise downstream to St. Goarshausen. She passed many castles, hamlets and miles of vineyards along the way. The weather cooperated and she was able to sit at the stern of the vessel, a perfect spot to catch the entire panorama unfolding before her. Her guide, James Derheim (the founder and owner of European Focus Private Tours) was waiting in St. Goarshausen when she arrived just before 4 p.m. We continued the tour along the road up to Marksburg, an impressive medieval castle which is one of only two fortresses on the Rhein to have never been captured, sacked or destroyed in more than 800 years. We turned around and backtracked, taking the ferry at Pfalzgrafenstein to the other side, and then a short drive to Bacharach for dinner. But wait, James had something else to show Dolores. To put a cherry on the top of the trip, he drove her up, up and up some more to a ‘secret’ overlook point higher than even Burg Stahleck, the medieval sentinel which has kept watch over Bacharach for seven centuries. The view is breathtaking and made the perfect ‘period’ at the end of what she said. ‘This was the trip of my life.’

The ship 'Vater Rhein' cruises past a 12th century castle near Assmannshausen

The ship ‘Vater Rhein’ cruises past a 12th century castle near Assmannshausen

Pfalzgrafenstein has stood since the 1300s. It was never sacked or destroyed.

Pfalzgrafenstein has stood since the 1300s. It was never sacked or destroyed.

Marksburg has never been destroyed or captured in its more than 800 year history. It stands near Braubach on the northern end of the drive Dolores enjoyed after her cruise.

Marksburg has never been destroyed or captured in its more than 800 year history. It stands near Braubach on the northern end of the drive Dolores enjoyed after her cruise.

August 16

This morning a long-awaited journey finally started for Dolores (Braun) Petit, who has deep roots in Germany but who never had the chance to come due to hard feelings resulting from World War II. Her husband was a fighter in the French Resistance as a young teenager and his father was kept in a concentration camp. So, Germany was always off the table as a destination, although she has visited relatives in France several times. Now a widow, her journey began with arrival this morning at Frankfurt’s Airport after a ride on ‘the biggest airplane I have ever been on in my life.’ (A stretch 747 from Washington DC)
After a long day of rain the sun came out so that Dolores could enjoy the views as we traveled north to our overnight stop in Hannoverisches Münden, about two hours north of Frankfurt with a stop on the way for ‘Zweite Frühstuck,’ or second breakfast of a fresh plum tart with a tall latte macchiato at a bakery in Kirchheim, Hessen.

Her first cousin should have also been arriving today but illness prevented her from making the trip. (A testimonial to the value of Trip Insurance)

Dolores Petit has waited at least 50 years for this trip and today it started. We will be visiting cousins in the Steinfeld (Zeven) area as well as some tourist highlights on her Bucket List.

Dolores Petit has waited at least 50 years for this trip and today it started. We will be visiting cousins in the Steinfeld (Zeven) area as well as some tourist highlights on her Bucket List.

August 14

Las Vegas at Miniatur Wunderland, Hamburg. The lights are shining brightly now, but may dim when one sees the huge press of people who crowd the claustrophobic space.

Las Vegas at Miniatur Wunderland, Hamburg. The lights are shining brightly now, but may dim when one sees the huge press of people who crowd the claustrophobic space.

A visit yesterday to Miniatur Wunderland in Hamburg turned out to be a learning experience, and not a positive one. After purchasing tickets in June and reserving an entry time of between 1030 and 1130, I brought my excited guests to the front door and dropped them off, leaving them to get started while I went around the block and parked. After winding my way up to the sixth floor of a large parking garage and finally finding a spot, I walked back to Miniatur Wunderland. About ten minutes had passed. My two clients were ready to leave.

‘It is impossible in there!’ one of them exclaimed. ‘Impossible to see anything,’ said my other client. I urged them to give it another try, and suggested we go to the end of the floor and start at ‘the back.’

The problem with the layout of Miniatur Wunderland (rated by TripAdvisor as the #1 out of more than 325 attractions in Hamburg) is that there is no direction, no front, no back, no plan at all for handling thousands and thousands of people of all ages, sizes and physical abilities. It is quickly becoming the place to avoid, and not the place to spend hours marveling at the tiny figures and the incredible imagination behind the duo of creators and now their large team of helpers.

If Miniatur Wunderland does not figure out a better crowd control system, I am afraid that the negative reviews will pile up to the point where it will start to slip down to place 324 out of 325 in Hamburg, just above the last-place rated ‘Dumpster Tour.’

(By the way, there is no such tour but not a bad idea!)

Comments (0)

Already Dreaming of 2016 Adventures

Monday, August 11th, 2014

August 11

Steve and Debbie plan ahead. Their April, 2014 trip came as a result of their meeting us in Chicago at the January, 2013 Travel and Adventure Show. Now they have just locked in their April-May, 2016 trip to Germany and Austria. We will be visiting Berlin, Dresden, Rothenburg, Nürnberg, Berchtesgaden and Salzburg and the Rhein River Valley with Bacharach.

For the Trip of a Lifetime – it is never too early to start planning. Then you have the fun of thinking about the trip as the calendar pages float on by.

Steve and Debbie arrived in style to their Venice, Italy hotel via private water taxi soon after landing from Chicago this past April. Now they have their sights set on Deutschland, brats, great beer and alpine majesty plus the little back roads that we know and love. Their trip for spring, 2016 is already reserved.

Steve and Debbie arrived in style to their Venice, Italy hotel via private water taxi soon after landing from Chicago this past April. Now they have their sights set on Deutschland, brats, great beer and alpine majesty plus the little back roads that we know and love. Their trip for spring, 2016 is already reserved.

Comments (0)

Visiting Cousins in Grafshaft Veldenz, Germany

Monday, August 11th, 2014

August 11

Family history enthusiast Carl Tiedt stands in the doorway of his great-grandmother's house in Burgen, Germany.

Family history enthusiast Carl Tiedt stands in the doorway of his great-grandmother’s house in Burgen, Germany.

Give us 11 months to prepare for a family history trip and you just never know what you are going to experience. How about stepping foot into the house where your great-grandmother lived as a little girl? What about wine tasting with cousins, who by the way, also make that wine? What about seeing a church that dates back to the 10th century? Meeting the last remaining member of your ancestral line in this part of the world?

All of that, and more, were experiences enjoyed by Carl Tiedt and his wife Barbara during a whirlwind day, August 7, when we spent most of the day with his cousins and other family in and around the hamlet of Burgen, tucked away in a quiet valley just off the Mosel River of Germany.

Professional researcher Roland Geiger, far left, shows members of Carl Tiedt's extended family in Veldenz plots of land where their ancestors grew grapes more than 125 years ago.

Professional researcher Roland Geiger, far left, shows members of Carl Tiedt’s extended family in Veldenz plots of land where their ancestors grew grapes more than 125 years ago.

Planning started for Carl and Barbara’s trip in late August, 2013. Soon after, Carl was put in touch with Roland Geiger, a professional genealogist based in St. Wendel, Saarland. Roland has been doing consulting work for European Focus Private Tours for more than a decade, with a super track record of success. Roland did not let anyone down this time, either. Not only did he find two ancestral houses, but he also located exact plots of land owned by Carl’s ancestors before they emigrated to America. A highlight of the day was toasting those ancestors, and current cousins, with wine made by the Müller family on the edge of a vineyard once worked by Carl’s ancestors before their emigration in the 1880s.

Martin Müller pours Barbara Tiedt a glass of wine and Carl drinks to his ancestors with cousin Jörg Müller, Martin's father, at his side.

Martin Müller pours Barbara Tiedt a glass of wine and Carl drinks to his ancestors with cousin Jörg Müller, Martin’s father, at his side.

MartinMüllerAndBarbaraTiedtWineAtVeldenz copy

The hamlet of Burgen has a population of 600. Many of them are involved in the production of wine.

The hamlet of Burgen has a population of 600. Many of them are involved in the production of wine.

August 7

Thanks to exhaustive research carried out by our partner Roland Geiger (far left) our guests from Missouri were able to toast ancestors in a vineyard above Veldenz that was owned by them before they emigrated to America. Making it extra special was the fact that current-day cousins are also wine makers. Barbara is in the pink, Carl T. is in the blue pants. This photo was taken above Veldenz, Germany.

Planning and coordination of this tour started in late August, 2013.

Ancestors owned vineyards before they left for America. What a special treat to toast them with cousins on a gorgeous day.

Ancestors owned vineyards before they left for America. What a special treat to toast them with cousins on a gorgeous day.

Carl wrote on his arrival back home on August 25:

Hi James,

I want to thank you again for the great time we had, your work was excellent. I will never be able to thank you enough for putting me with Roland.

I have heard from my Cousin Edgar and from Ernst in Stadthagen.

I’ll let you know when I receive my wine and we can share a bottle in Springfield of Sarasota.

Blessings, Carl

August 6

For tours in Germany or in Europe in 2015 –

New and return clients are making their reservations now for tours in Europe in 2015 and yes, even as far ahead as 2016. Remember, all of the tours arranged and led by European Focus are custom-designed and built one at a time for each client or set of clients. No mix and match, no big bus, no incompatible strangers and best of all, no ‘take it or leave it’ itinerary! We work with you to create the perfect trip for you, and just you. (Even if your ‘group’ is just two people, this is our normal tour size!) Contact us today to start planning your trip of a lifetime.

Our 2012 Volkswagen 'Multivan' Highline edition has all of the bells and whistles for your ultimate comfort on the highways and byways of Europe.

Our 2012 Volkswagen ‘Multivan’ Highline edition has all of the bells and whistles for your ultimate comfort on the highways and byways of Europe.

Welcome to Germany, Carl and Barbara

Tuesday, August 5th, 2014

August 5

Carl and his wife Barbara started planning their trip to Germany with European Focus back in late August of 2013. Now, just shy of a year later, they have landed and are ready to begin their eight-day adventure to see some of Carl’s ancestral towns and villages in Germany. Here they are, fresh from the airport, enjoying a cold beer at one of our favorite villages on the Rhein River, Bacharach. More to come, so stay tuned!

CarlBarbaraBacharachBeer

BacharachCenter copy

BacharachCenterWithHotel copy

Guiding tours in European for over 20 years