Archive for germany

Welcome Back Third Time

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014

July 16

We make coffee stops special. We stopped in the half-timbered town of Alsfeld, Hessen for coffee after leaving the airport this morning.

We make coffee stops special. We stopped in the half-timbered town of Alsfeld, Hessen for coffee after leaving the airport this morning.

Tim S. and his family along with new wife Mary just arrived from Arizona to begin their 12-day adventure in Germany. Mary has never been to Germany, and she has roots here, so this is an extra special trip. Tim and his family last traveled with European Focus in 2005 and 2006. We are very happy to have this wonderful family back on this side of the Atlantic, and look forward to our adventures in Berlin, Dresden, Prague, Berchtesgaden, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Regensburg and the Rhein Valley around Bacharach.

Germany Small Group Tours Available for Booking Now

Tuesday, June 24th, 2014

June 24

Thinking of a small group tour to Germany, Austria or the surrounding areas? Book now through our easy online form. It only takes a few minutes!

We take you to the places that the big bus tours skip.

We take you to the places that the big bus tours skip.

Germany Small Group Tours

Friday, May 9th, 2014
Toru guide and owner of European Focus (right) puts on his lederhosen only once per year, at Oktoberfest time. Here he is with his friend Markus Brenner, owner of our favorite restaurant in Rothenburg ob der Tauber.

Toru guide and owner of European Focus (right) puts on his lederhosen only once per year, at Oktoberfest time. Here he is with his friend Markus Brenner, owner of our favorite restaurant in Rothenburg ob der Tauber.

We have a home and office in Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany and it makes perfect sense to be headquartered there as this is one of the most famous of the medieval walled towns, and a place where we love to bring guests on our private, custom-designed micro group tours of Germany. To find out more, fill out a tour questionnaire today. It only takes a few minutes and can lead to a lifetime’s worth of memories.

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Christmas Markets Tour Germany 2014

Friday, May 2nd, 2014

May 2

There is one more opportunity for a Christmas Markets Tour starting on or about December 3 and lasting anywhere from a week to ten days. Please submit your application form prior to June 1, which is the cut-off date for tours in 2014. Remember that all tours conducted by European Focus are custom-designed around your wishes, interests and abilities. No cookie-cutter tours, no big buses and no hectic dawn-to-dusk itinerary. We limit our tours to families and groups of friends, with no mix and match with incompatible strangers.

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Categories : Europe Tours

This Couple Lives on Top of Roman History

Friday, May 2nd, 2014

May 2

Roland Geiger holds a tile nearly 2,000 years old found in the parking lot of his home in St. Wendel, Germany.

Roland Geiger holds a tile nearly 2,000 years old found in the parking lot of his home in St. Wendel, Germany.

I was invited to have dinner with Roland and Anne Geiger recently. As we sat in their cozy dining room heated by a wood-burning stove with our nostrils being savagely attacked by the wonderful smells coming out of the kitchen behind the wall, Roland entertained me with stories of what he has found on the property. More than once my mouth fell open, and it was not just from hunger. It was excitement at the thought that we were sitting on top of more than 2,000 years of history.

Roland casually pointed out a broken but still useful pot in the corner. ‘Used for cooking meat,’ he explained. They found animal bones and rocks inside. It now serves as a planter. He brought out a tile with wiggles scratched into its surface. ‘This was used to hold plaster,’ he explained. The Romans made these square tiles and attached them to the walls of houses with a concrete mix. Then they plastered over the wiggles, and the wiggles held the plaster in place. This ingenious system is copied today all over Europe with wallpaper that acts as an adhesive for paint.

Holding a Roman invention for applying plaster to a wall so that it would stick.

Holding a Roman invention for applying plaster to a wall so that it would stick.

But the most valuable thing in Roland’s collection, his ‘precious,’ is a broken tile in two parts with a faint etching on it. It could be a name. Yes, it probably is a name. ‘S, and then a very old e, the kind of letter used in the capital until about the year 1 and then in the provinces until around the year 100 AD,’ Roland pointed out as the wind was sucked out of my lungs by the thought that I was holding a piece of history in my not quite steady hands. ‘Then we have here a v, an i and an r and another i.’ The name ‘Seviri’ etched into the tile by the tile maker who needed to keep track of who had ordered which stack of tiles. Like attaching a sticky note, except one made with materials on hand. For this tile maker, it was a tile.

The name 'Seviri' is easily seen once the tile has been moistened

The name ‘Seviri’ is easily seen once the tile has been moistened

Roland sent images of the tile into the ether and soon had an answer from a professor in Madrid, who confirmed the purpose of the tile and the age.

Later Roland took me up into his barn where there are boxes and boxes of finds, many of them absolute treasures to the history nut. More fragments of the wiggly wall tiles. Pottery fragments from Roman and medieval times. All found in his garden, his parking lot, below his 17th century house which itself is a treasure worthy of another story.

Just a bunch of Roman stuff. Really? The heart starts to beat when one sees boxes of fragments of history in the attic of the Geiger home.

Just a bunch of Roman stuff. Really? The heart starts to beat when one sees boxes of fragments of history in the attic of the Geiger home.

Fittingly, Roland Geiger is an accomplished genealogist and excellent researcher who has helped many of our clients dig deeper into their family histories in the Saarland as well as in Rheinland Pfalz and surrounding areas of Germany.
Roland can be reached at [email protected] or through his web site at www.hfrg.com

Our Schedule for 2014 is Nearly Full

Wednesday, January 15th, 2014

January 15

Want to go to Europe on a private tour but depressed to see that your choice of dates are already booked?

Our busy schedule does not mean you cannot have the pleasure of a private, custom-designed tour in Germany, Austria or Switzerland this year. Through our partnership with a reputable company we can offer our services to you in the heart of Europe through these trusted partners. Contact us for details.

2014 calendar update

Friday, November 22nd, 2013

Updated January 15, 2014

Thinking of a dream trip to Europe?

So are these people. And, they have made their reservations already for travel in 2014. Don’t wait to fulfill your dreams of easy and relaxed travel in Europe.

April 11 to 25: Tour for two, renewal of vows in Italy, first time clients Steve and Debbie with James
April 20 to May 3: Tour for two, second time for our clients Dan and Amanda, who traveled in Germany with us in 2012. This time it is Italy. (Jenean’s tour)
May 1 to 19: Second tour for Peter and Gayle, who toured in Germany with us in 2013. This time it is parts of France and Spain with both James and Jenean leading the way from Paris to Santiago de Compostela

Carol, left and Art, right will join us again this year for a trip, this time, to southern Portugal and southern Spain.

Carol, left and Art, right will join us again this year for a trip, this time, to southern Portugal and southern Spain.


May 22 to June 6: Seventh trip for Art and Carol who toured with us most recently in Spain and Portugal in 2013. This time it will be other areas in Portugal and southern Spain with James and Jenean.
June 17 to 29: Dennis comes back for more family history research, this time in Denmark, Sweden and Norway. His first trip with European Focus was in 2013 and it was concentrated on Germany. Dennis first took our business card in 1998. (James’ tour)
June 18 to 26: Family of four starting in Paris where they will meet Jenean, continuing on to Strasbourg, Lucerne and Munich.
June 28 to July 12: Tour with a family of four starting in London and continuing on to Normandy, Reims and on to Germany where we will retrace some of the steps taken by the parents of two of the members of this group during their time in Germany decades ago. The trip ends in Munich. This will be the first European Focus Private Tour for these Texans. Jenean starts the tour and James meets the group in Normandy.
July 16 to 28: Tour with a family of four from Tucson to Germany and Austria, the Czech Republic. This will be Tim’s third tour with European Focus. James will lead this tour.
August 5-13: A couple come for their first trip with European Focus in Germany, mainly visiting ancestral villages.
August 25 to September 5: John comes on his second tour with us, this time in England on a combination ancestral discovery tour and honeymoon. (James and Jenean)
October 4 to 19: Pat and his wife come from Australia for their first tour with European Focus in Germany. Part of the tour will concentrate on family history and part will be slow travel tourism. Pat will meet with relatives in Berlin, who will travel there from Poland.
(James will lead this tour)
October 20: Mariane C. fulfills a lifelong dream of visiting the village of Appenzell, Switzerland. James will pick her up at her hotel in Lucerne and take her to nearby Appenzell for the day. The timing just works perfectly for this long-awaited journey. She will be ending a river cruise a few days before in Basel.
November 23 to December 3: A family of nine comes over to visit some Christmas Markets (starting on Nov 28) and other places of interest which the patriarch of the family enjoyed during his time in the service in the 1960s. This tour will be led by Jenean and James.

Available dates are in July, August and September plus the last part of October and first part of November for trips led by James or Jenean. For trips in Germany, Austria and Switzerland we can accommodate you through our partners, ask for available dates.

This idea presented as one way to experience Germany and a bit of Austria. We custom design most trips for our clients. This trip can be molded to fit your individual tastes and interests. Available now for September, 2014

The Hoher Goll mountain in the afternoon at Berchtesgaden

The Hoher Goll mountain in the afternoon at Berchtesgaden

Enjoy this tour of some of Germany’s known and unknown places. The ‘unknown’ places are familiar to us, because we have been living and working in Germany and Europe for a quarter century.

Limited size of just four. Because this tour is conducted during high season, couples are necessary due to some restrictions at a couple of the hotels where we will be staying (they don’t rent out single rooms during high season)

Tour guide: James Derheim, who has been living and working in Germany and Europe since 1989

Day 1:
Hirschhorn, Germany and area (2 nights)

You are picked up by your guide and driver, James Derheim, at the Frankfurt International Airport.

We will be traveling in the European Focus tour vehicle, a full-sized van, and so you will have plenty of room for luggage.

We leave Frankfurt and drive south, with our destination being the castle hotel, “Schloss Hirschhorn,” perched high above the hamlet by the same name.

You stay your first two nights of your private tour in Europe in a castle. This 16th century residence, with battlements and towers much older, was restored and turned into a hotel and restaurant decades ago. It was recently fully modernized and is now under new ownership. The castle has been a favorite of our guests since 2000.

The castle is not overly fancy, just comfortable, with large rooms looking down on the Neckar River and a lock, where you can watch barges pass through.

We’ll have dinner tonight together in the hotel’s excellent restaurant.
The next night, James recommends a little hole in the wall down in the village.

Dinner tonight included

The view from our castle hotel over the Neckar River

The view from our castle hotel over the Neckar River

Day 2:
A Crazy Count’s Castle

Definitely not on the American tourist’s agenda, this castle (now a museum owned by the state) was the collection point for an eccentric count’s collections of Roman and Green antiquities. The armory is one of the largest in private hands in Germany. And, you have to see the antlers collection to believe it. All in all, a very unique experience and the town where the castle stands, Erbach, is one of the prettiest off the beaten track places in the heart of Germany that we know.

Days 3 and 4:
Meersburg and Lake Konstanz (2)

One of our favorite historic hotels, “The Bear” was built as a coaching inn back in 1605 but the foundations go back even further.
A long list of innkeepers dating back to the early 17th century is in the entryway. A set of stairs leads to the rooms (As in the case with the inn located in Gleiszellen, there is no elevator) and rooms are large and many have splendid views down into the heart of the town and to the castle beyond.

James doesn’t intend to drag you through castle after castle, but it’s worth noting that the oldest castle in Germany is in Meersburg. It was prominently featured on the old 20 Deutschmark bill, before Germany retired that currency to join the Euro. One of our guests’ favorites, the castle allows visitors to go through the many rooms at their own pace, without a guide.

Things to do in this area include wine tasting at a small vineyard,
exploring nearby Friedrichshafen and its interesting Zeppelin Museum and an excursion to Mainau Island.

Since Meersburg is so tiny, it is easy to get to know the layout of the town and to easily fit in as a local. A day tripper’s town, once the sun starts to go down, those day trippers get back on their buses or their boats and the town feels like a village again.

Guests enjoy a slice of cake during a relaxed afternoon of travel

Guests from Texas enjoy a slice of cake during a relaxed afternoon of travel

Day 5:
Austrian Alps, Southern Tyrol (1)

We travel through the scenic Austrian Alps, heading for a stay in a pleasant, unassuming lodge in a tiny village above Innsbruck.

We split the drive with a stop to take in one of Austria’s most magnificent waterfalls. Located deep in a stunning alpine valley, this waterfall makes for an exhilarating way to burn off some calories before the next enjoyable meal.

Later, on to our inn. This place is famous for its restaurant. We’ve never seen a night where the place is not full of happy diners who drive up here from Innsbruck and surrounding towns just for the food and warm, authentic ambience. The owner runs a tight ship, and it shows in the sparkling clean rooms and the restaurant’s impeccable service and menu.

Awesome views and the time to enjoy them. Not a rushed bus tour!

Awesome views and the time to enjoy them. Not a rushed bus tour with crazy get up times and a “If it’s Tuesday this must be Belgium’ itinerary!

Days 6 and 7:
Berchtesgaden (2)

Luxury Stop

Hopefully you’re not tired of amazing mountain vistas, deep valleys and quaint villages, because today our drive to the far southeastern corner of Germany will be full of such sights. We’re heading for a vacation within your vacation, with two nights at one of the most beautiful alpine lodge hotels we know. This 4* Superior hotel is owned and operated by a family of hard-working Bavarians, who have with each generation expanded the place to its current dimensions. Nowadays, guests can enjoy heated indoor and outdoor pools, saunas, a chill-out room with heated “waterbeds,” plus a full-service spa with massage, facials, manicures and pedicures and so on. Rooms all have views and private balconies.

Dinners are four-course, relaxed affairs with Bavaria’s biggest salad bar plus a main course that you choose in advance from four possibilities.
And, in the morning, there’s another fantastic breakfast with omelets made the way you like them plus an extensive buffet.

Berchtesgaden and area

So much to see and do in this area. Depending on your activity level, there is:

• Biking
• Hiking both challenging and easy
• Walks in the woods or in the meadows surrounding the hotel
• Poking around charming Berchtesgaden
• Nearby Salzburg, Austria – one of the prettiest small cities in Austria and birthplace of Mozart.
• Or, last but not least – the pools, spa and saunas of the hotel – a key element of staying here and the reason why you are coming to this hotel. Those who are not into relaxation during vacation should let us know so that we can eliminate this stop and restructure your trip

European Focus founder and guide James Derheim at the Eagle's Nest, Berchtesgaden, Germany

European Focus founder and guide James Derheim at the Eagle’s Nest, Berchtesgaden, Germany

Day 8:
Regensburg (1)

We take the rural highways up through Bavaria, zigzagging our way to the former Roman military camp of “Castra Regina,” founded during the reign of Marcus Aurelius. A huge gate from the former Roman town has been integrated into our favorite hotel, another 4* Superior property with a lovely beer garden in a courtyard where the Bishop of Regensburg once held court. The massive Gothic cathedral, one of Germany’s finest, is right next door.

Regensburg is a wonderful example of what a large town would have looked like in the medieval period. Since the city was spared in WWII, it has retained its ancient character. Those narrow lanes are now filled with interesting shops. Best of all, down by the river there is a tiny kitchen which has been making sausages since (no kidding) the 1300s. The place was built to feed the workers constructing a stone bridge over the Donau (Danube) River. We can go there and munch of those delicious sausages and sample some of Germany’s best, sweetest sauerkraut while gazing at this 700-year-old bridge.

Also right around the corner from our hotel, possibly the best gelato north of the Italian border.

Regensburg is a wonderful place to wander, and plenty of time for that has been built into the plan.

Yum and Prosit! Sausages, kraut and beer riverside in Regensburg

Yum and Prosit! Sausages, kraut and beer riverside in Regensburg

Day 9:
Rothenburg ob der Tauber (1)

With a stop in Nurnberg , James shows you where the Nazis under Hitler had their huge rallies in the 1930s to drum up support for their takeover of the government. It can be a powerful experience to see these places now, crumbling and overgrown.

We then continue on for Germany’s best-preserved medieval town, Rothenburg ob der Tauber.

A trip to Germany doesn’t seem complete without a visit to Rothenburg. This has been our European home base since 2000 and we have an apartment in the old town center.

James knows Rothenburg like a local, because he has been one for so long. You’ll fit right in with the friends of James. Enjoy delicious authentic recipes from the Franconian region of Germany.

Highlights are a walk on the ramparts, a visit to Rothenburg’s amazing museum of torture and enjoying the atmosphere of this town dropped right out of the middle ages.

Brilliant colors above the Rhein at Bacharach

Brilliant colors above the Rhein at Bacharach

Days 10 and 11:
Bacharach and the Rhein and Mosel River Valleys (2)

We continue our trip to the west, bypassing Frankfurt (hello airport, not time for you yet) arriving in the hamlet of Bacharach at lunchtime. We’ll wrap up your journey with two nights at a traditional, family-owned and operated hotel where we have stayed with guests of European Focus since 1998. Dennis, who just might be the one who brings your glass of beer or wine to your room, was just about two and a half feet tall when we first got to know him and his smiling face, serving coffee from a pot nearly as big as he was at breakfast time. Now he’s just over six feet, and we think, still growing. (But, still smiling)

You can watch the goings on in the center of town from your balcony.

All around, there are things to see and do including:
• Biking along the paved path which follows the river (Downhill, as it turns out) You can take the train back when you’re finished.
• Wine tasting at a private vineyard
• Hiking or walking in the vineyards
• Picnic high above the Rhein with a sweeping view. James knows a special place
• Germany’s best-preserved medieval castle
• The Mosel River Valley, with a different character than the Rhein, worth exploring with a highlight being a visit to Burg Eltz

Dinner included your final night in the hotel.

Having a glass of Riesling above the village of Bacharach

Having a glass of Riesling above the village of Bacharach

Day 12:
Day of Departure
Departure from Frankfurt International Airport.

Your Private Tour in Germany and Austria

Includes:

• Breakfast (at hotel) lunches and two of your dinners. We find that most people – after a buffet breakfast and a satisfying lunch, are really not that hungry for another “full meal” in the evening. Therefore, we don’t list “all dinners included” because then people feel compelled to eat those three squares per day. You will be fed well enough, guaranteed. When dinner tab is being picked up as part of your tour, you are welcome to have two alcoholic drinks per person. Beer or wine included up to two glasses per person per meal lunch or dinner. Bottles of wine are not included unless your guide purchases them.
• Spacious double occupancy room, all with private bath/shower.
• Transportation by full-sized van if with James, or other roomy, comfortable vehicle if with Jenean
• Incidentals, tolls, fuel, sightseeing entry fees for those attractions listed on your itinerary, tips or payments to local guides, etc.

Not included: Airfare

Total cost in Euro per person based on this itinerary: 3,975 Euro
Adults preferred. Four persons, couples only

Deposit amount: 500 Euro per person, paid in US dollars
One third of your remaining balance is due 60 days before the start of your trip
Balance is due 14 days before trip start

References gladly provided

To reserve this tour, contact us today by e-mailing [email protected] or by calling 800-401-7802

Guiding tours in European for over 20 years