Goway UK & Europe destination specialist Samantha Buckley recently returned from a FAM trip to Germany and nearby Central European cities. Here, she recounts her experiences travelling through Berlin, Nuremberg, Munich, Salzburg, and Prague and answers some questions about selling the destination.
Despite having only been in the industry for six years, I have travelled to many wonderful places, met some amazing people, and explored new cultures. I fell in love with Europe immediately and have made a point to return at least a few times every year since. There is so much to explore in Europe and so much diversity in such a compact area. I enjoy helping people discover this for themselves.
This time I was on a FAM through Germany with a visit to Prague at the end. I also had a day trip into Salzburg. The trip was all done by rail and showcased how it easy it is to travel all over the country using the rail system while also highlighting the famous Christmas Markets. We explored everything from small Bavarian and Austrian towns with their hilltop castles to the modern metropolis that is Berlin to the Old World architecture of Prague.
Which cities did you visit?
We visited Mainz, Heidelberg, Berlin, Nuremberg, Munich, Salzburg, and Prague.
What was the main highlight and why?
My biggest highlight was Berlin. I have often heard of Berlin referred to as the “city of cranes,” in reference to its constant construction, with many people saying it was unimpressive compared to Southern Germany. I was thrilled to discover completely the opposite. Berlin is a diverse, lively city with so much to offer. It may not be as postcard pretty as Bavarian towns, but it more than makes up for it in its possible experiences, history, and culture. It also has plenty of shopping and over 60 Christmas Markets for the shop-a-holics.
What were your favourite properties and why?
Bristol Berlin, Myo Hotel Wenceslas, and Art Deco Imperial Hotel Prague. All three properties have excellent locations. The Bristol and Art Deco have a unique ambiance, while the Bristol also features separate bar and restaurant areas. The Myo is a very small boutique hotel (32 rooms), but the rooms themselves are very spacious for a city centre hotel.
You travelled to Prague. Can you name some things that surprised you about the experience?
The Old Town of Prague is far more spread out than I had originally thought. This meant the crowds were not nearly as large as I worried they would be even in what would be considered the main tourist areas (near the Astronomical Clock and in Christmas Markets, etc.). The locals use the Old Town just as much as the tourists. No matter what restaurant or café you go to there are just as many locals as there are tourists. Same for the shops. The only place you don’t see many locals is in the tourist sites themselves, such as Prague Castle.
What are some interesting excursions, or itineraries that you would recommend?
The Assisi Panorama Berlin is very interesting for history lovers. It gives a 360° virtual reality tour of Berlin when the Berlin Wall was still up. It’s located at Checkpoint Charlie. As well, the baking classes in Nuremberg are unique. During Christmas you can make traditional German Gingerbread, while during the rest of the year they teach you to make traditional German meals. It is located just below the castle so it’s easily incorporated into the day’s touring.
What is your top tip for agents selling the region?
Travellers should always do first-class rail in Germany. It’s only a small amount more but allows more space and quiet than the second class, which is almost always full due to popularity with the locals and having older train cars. As well, always flight between Munich and Prague. Trains are frequently cancelled due to the lack of passengers. As well, the train cars are older and a flight is much faster.
Did anything surprise you about the destination?
I think Mainz is an overlooked destination in Germany. It was far quainter with stunning architecture and far more interesting history than it is given credit for.
If you went back, what would you like to see/do?
I would like to go back to Heidelberg. The weather was terrible when I visited and there were a lot of buildings covered for maintenance so it was hard to get an actual feel for the city. As well, I need to spend at least a week in Berlin to cover all that there is to see and do, and experience some of the nightlife/music scene there.