Family at Neuschwanstein Castle near Füssen in southwest Bavaria, Germany
Family in downtown Munich in the Square, 2017

Country Information: The capital is Berlin, the main language is German and about 83 million people live here. Most of the population is Christian (about 65-70 percent), split between Lutheran-Protestantism, Calvinism, and the Roman Catholic Church. Its top five exports are vehicles, machines and machine parts, electronic equipment, medical and technical equipment, and pharmaceuticals. 

Interesting fact: Germany is a leader in climate change policies, deciding to replace all nuclear power stations in the country with renewable energy by 2022.

Jim’s Perspectives:

Traveling with the family has been the biggest highlight! After 100s of solo journeys around the world it was fun to play tour guide in Germany, Switzerland and Italy.

After landing we took a bike tour of the city with Mikes & Bikes, which was fantastic. We roamed the city looking at the sights and learning the history of the Bavarian region. It was fascinating to learn that Hitler was an Austrian and was denied entry into art school and as a result got interested in the politics of the German Workers Party in Munich.

Loved riding through the English garden—the highlight was Susan hitting a poor dog. Had an eventful evening eating in Munich’s old town.

The following day rented a car and drove to Fussen to see Neuschwanstein, Ludwig II’s unfinished fairytale castle. Was sad to learn that the eccentric Bavarian ruler never even slept in the place!

The following mourning we headed to Lichtenstein through Austria, to see the Crown Prince’s current residence. Walked through the charming downtown district for a bit and then were off to Lucerne.

Picked up a road bike for Susan to ride and then made our way to the Palace Lucerne which was astoundingly beautiful overlooking Lake Lucerne. Took an evening stroll over the Old Bridge which was built in the 14th century and window shopped. The following morning Susan took a 60 miles bike ride through the local villages while the kids and I rode around exploring Lucerne. Ended the day taking a cable car to the top of Mount Pilatus which enabled us to take some spectacular pictures of the region. But the most fun was cruising down the luge at 35 mph. Hated to leave Lucerne because the lake views from our room were spectacular. Temperatures were cool and the service was truly 5 star. Loved everything about this city even though its overrun with tourists (like me) during the summer.

Our time in Italy couldn’t’ve been more fun. Took the 6 hours train ride from Lucerne then spent 4 days nights in Venice. We stayed at the Danieli which is the finest hotel in San Marco. Everything about this hotel is splendid. It dates back to the 14th century when a fabric merchant ran his thriving business out of the first floor; meeting rooms on the second floor, and he lived on the top floor. Tourists came into the lobby to take pictures—it’s that wonderful.  And the breakfast terrace overlooking the lagoon is mind-numbing.

If Venice is indeed sinking it’s because of the bazillion tourists that besiege it during the summer months. Between the daily cruise ship arrivals and departures and those flying in, its not a place to visit unless you’re willing to rise early to beat the crowds and heat.

We took a tour of the Venice tourist sites—palaces, squares, etc…). But the highlight was gondola rowing lessons and exploring the non-tourist areas of the city [insert vid].

I arranged for Susan to swim laps at the spectacular Cipriani Hotel located on an island across from San Marco. This hotel along with its tennis and pool club caters to the uber-wealthy.

I was sad to say goodbye to Venice but we boarded a train eager to see Florence! Spent 2 nights at the JK Palace which was a 3 minute walk from the train station and a popular square. The JK couldn’t have been better. Although our super room was small-ish, we adored this hotel, as the service was the best I’ve ever experienced. The staff will cater to any need and will do so quickly and happily.

Our bike tour around lasted about 3 hours and is the ideal way to see this beautiful city. The following day Susan took a 50 mile bike ride with a guide through the Tuscan countryside, while the kids and I explored. Did some shopping and then ended up in the Da Vince Museum, which was fun.

Our final train ride was to Rome on the express train which only took 2 hours. I love Rome and everything about it—it’s one of my favorite cities in the world because 1) the sights and 2) I vibe with the place and its gets me too 3) I love its spirit.

Took sightseeing tours of all the sighs and wandered extensively through the streets on multiple shopping tours. Again stayed at the JK Palace (Roma) and this hotel again exceeded all my expectations. Our rooms were incredible as was the service. Located near the Spanish Steps, I consider this hotel to be the best in Rome.


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