Best 10 Day Germany Road Trip: A Fairy Tale Route

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Cochem

When you think of Germany, you may think of Oktoberfest, Mercedes-Benz, Sauerbraten or even Hitler, the Holocaust and the Berlin Wall. There is no denying Germany has a complex history that has left a lasting impact on the country and the world but, on a lighter side, Germany is home to fairy-tale castles, medieval towns, picturesque villages, and its own romantic route giving Disney all the inspiration it needs for everlasting fairy tales.  

If you love half-timbered villages, romantic castles and relaxing drives through the countryside filled with flowering meadows and heaps of vineyards, this is the perfect road trip for you! 

This 10 night Germany road trip focuses on the stuff fairy tales are made of. Starting in Cologne in western Germany, you will wind your way along the Rhine River through the German wine route into southern Germany with stops in the Black Forest, and at the most impressive castle in the world, Neuschwanstein Castle, before heading down Germany’s Romantic Road to complete the loop. 

Church tower and colorful houses in a plaza.

This is an epic road trip adventure, perfect for solo travelers, couples or families looking for a route that is less city and more village friendly! You’ll have the option to visit larger cities like Cologne, Frankfurt, or Munich if you wish, but this route focuses on smaller towns and picturesque medieval villages.

I started my road trip with a few days in Cologne, but I recommend adding at least another 2 nights to this 10 night, 11 day itinerary if you want to visit Cologne. There is so much to see along this route it will be hard to fit in another overnight without missing some of the best bits along this German road trip. While I did this route in 11 days (not including Cologne), 2 weeks (or more) is really ideal to have enough time to relax and enjoy more of the town’s attractions and activities. 10 nights is not enough time to see it all, but it’s definitely a great start!

I’ve listed a lot of towns and attractions to visit on each driving day and in the areas for your overnights. I like to get an early start (by 8 a.m.) to see as much as I can between stops but generally speaking, you can take your time and enjoy at a slower pace if that is more your vibe. Most tourist shops and some attractions do not open until 9 a.m. or after so early mornings are best for photographers. There are a few days with drives over 3 hours but most all other days the drive time is under 2 hours. 

 My favorite area on this Germany Road Trip was the Rhine Valley. I didn’t know I would like it so much but the scenic drive down the Moselle River, and Rhine River was relaxing and calm with chill vibes and fewer tourists than some of the other villages I explored (I visited in April, shoulder season). I will absolutely be back to explore more castles and quaint German villages within the Rhine Valley in the future!

If you do have more time, I recommend spending a few more days along the Rhine or taking a side trip into Austria or the Alsace region of France. Innsbrook, Salzburg, Wolfgangsee Lake and Hallstatt are a few areas that are very pretty and close to Germany’s border in Austria, while Strasbourg is a beautiful city to explore just over Germany’s border with France. I’ll let you know the best time to make these side trips in this itinerary.

Day 1

  • Drive from Cologne to Boppard, about 1.5 hours, 125 km
  • Stay in Boppard two nights. 
  • I stayed at The Bellevue Rheinhotel and highly recommend it.

On the way, stop in Kolbenz for lunch, walk around the historic town and along Entenpfuhl, the pedestrian only shopping area with small town charm.

Stolzenfels Castle is only 15 mins from Boppard and makes another great stop along the Rhine if you need to kill some time. I choose to stay in Boppard because a friend of mine recommend the Bellevue Rheinhotel to me. It is a historic hotel right on the Rhine. The town center has a few half timbered buildings and there are lovely gardens and a river cruise stop right in front of the hotel. 

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You could stay in a neighboring village but I enjoyed the area of Boppard. It is very low key and quiet and in a good location to the motorway to visit a few other villages and castles during your stay. There is not a lot going on in this town so expect some time to relax and enjoy the scenic views of the Rhine River. 

Things to See and Do on the Way to Boppard

  • Koblenz-a picturesque town situated at the confluence of the Rhine and Moselle rivers. Walk across the bridge for views of the rivers or enjoy museums and galleries, shops and restaurants in the well preserved medieval Old Town.
  • Stolzenfels Castle– situated on a hill over looking the Rhine, it is a prime example of the Romantic Rhine style, with a blend of medieval and Renaissance architectural elements.

Day 2

  • Explore Boppard or take a day trip
  • Overnight in Boppard

Today you have a full day to explore this area of the Rhine Valley. I got an early start because I wanted to take pictures at Eltz Castle before it opened. I also visited the town of Cochem before heading back to Boppard and enjoying the rest of the day in green spaces and walking along the river. 

Things to See and Do Around Boppard

  • Thurant Castle-located a hill overlooking the Moselle River, you can explore the castle’s interior, including its furnished rooms, halls, and towers on guided tours.
  • Eltz Castle (burg eltz)– dating back to the 12th century, this castle has never been destroyed and has been owned and inhabited by the same family, for over 800 years.
  • Village of Cochem and Cochem castle- charming half-timbered village on the banks of the Rhine with a picturesque castle open for tours.
  • Rhine River Boat Trip-There is a river cruise stop across from the Bellevue Hotel. Enjoy a few scenic hours along the Rhine, some cruises stop at popular villages.
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Bacharach
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Day 3

  • Drive to Baden Baden (Black Forest), about 2.5 hours, 233 km
  • Overnight in Baden-Baden 2 nights

On day three, it is time to keep moving with a drive to Baden-Baden. This town is a famous spa town popular amongst tourists and local retirees, known for its thermal baths, wellness centers, and picturesque surroundings.  

In the morning I took my time and enjoyed a leisurely stroll along the Rhine river in Boppard, so I got a late start for my drive to Baden-Baden. I visited Bacharach Village, Sooneck Castle and Rheinstein Castle, (where I ate a delicious lunch), then drove straight to Baden-Baden, getting there just before sunset. 

I enjoyed Bacharach, another quiet half-timbered village with some beautiful views. In Bacharach, you can hike to Wernerkapelle, a historic tower with a nice overlook of the valley. To do this, take the staircase along the side of St. Peter Kirch. It only takes about 5 mins to reach the overlook. You can also walk up to the Postenturm, another tower among the vineyards.

The town is very small so a 30 minute to 1 hour visit to walk around the small town will suffice. It was enjoyable because it was not crowded, has some great views of surrounding vineyards and its historic buildings. There was also a lovely park with a public restroom (1 euro cost to use it) along the river bank.

Things to See on the Way to Baden-Baden

  • Bacharach Village-Charming small villages with half-timbered houses and views over the river
  • Sooneck Castle– known for its rose bushes and scenic views.
  • Rheinstein Castle– A larger rebuilt medieval castle with a cafe and hotel on site.
  • Rudesheim am Rhein (on the east bank)- A UNESCO World Heritage Site, known for its picturesque setting, historic landmarks, and wine culture.
  • Johannisberg Castle (on the east bank)- With some of the worlds oldest Riesling vineyards, Johannisberg Castle has a long winemaking history and is known as the birthplace of Spätlese, a late-harvested style of German wine.
  • Weingut Robert Weil (on the east bank)- Since 1875, a historic and renowned winery among the best in the Rheingau (one of 13 designated German wine regions) 
  • Weingut Schloss Vollrads (on the east bank)- Enjoy wine tasting their famous Rieslings
  • Biebrich Palace (on the east bank)- an 18th century, elegant Baroque-style palace with lavishly decorated rooms.
  • MainzA Medieval City, the capital and largest city in Rhineland-Palatinate (one of the 16 German states). Has an Old Town with half-timbered houses. 
  • Heidelberg– Home to the oldest German University, known for its towering castle, Old Town and picturesque setting along the river Neckar surrounded by hills.

You will be coming back towards Cologne along the east bank of the Rhine River so you may have time to stop at some of the areas above if you have a late departure on day 11, or a few more days to spare.

Where to Stay in Baden-Baden

I only stayed one night in Baden-Baden (but definitely regret it) and stayed at an Air B&B that I would not recommend. It was cheap but it was very old and musty and the host was unpleasant. I only stayed one night in Baden-Baden, because I decided to drive to Austria after Füssen during this German road trip and needed and extra time to take a day trip to Hallstatt. In retrospect, I was trying to do too much and while Austria is beautiful, I wish I had spent more time along the Rhine or in the Black Forest to truly experience magic of these areas and save Austria for another time.

Baden-Baden, and the surrounding area hosts a number of chain hotels, boutique hotels and apartment style accommodations. Make sure to book something with parking! Here are a few top recommend accommodations in Baden-Baden with parking.

  • Aqua Aurelia Suitehotel– 4-star-superior hotel (around $230 a night) in a great location for enjoying the spas of Baden-Baden
  • Moscow Areal Suite– self service apartment with many amenities, a 10 minute walk to town
  • Hotel Rebenhof– an intimate country hotel outside of Baden-Baden in a romantic setting amongst vineyards.

Gengenbach

Day 4

  • Sightsee around Baden-Baden and the Black Forest
  • Overnight in Baden-Baden

Two nights is the bare minimum I’d recommend for this area, because there is so much to see and do. At least one full day will allow you to experience some highlights but you will have to choose- adventure, small villages or relax and unwind! You will have some time to explore in the morning on Day 5 as well. I only had a few hours to explore Baden-Baden and then headed to Gengenbach, Triberg and a few castles on my way to Füssen.

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Triberg

On this itinerary you will have five nights along the Romantic Road which is one of the best areas (next to the Alsace region in France) for half-timbered villages, so I wouldn’t waste time visiting Gengenbach or Schiltach like I did unless you really want to. They are not as picturesque as the other villages along the Romantic Road. 

Because you are so close to the French border, if you have extra time and love half-timbered villages that ooze romance, I would recommend going to Colmar, France from Baden-Baden and spending a few nights there, taking day trips to charming towns like Riquewihr, Ribeauvillé, Éguisheim and Kaysersberg. These villages are the epitome of fairy tale villages and are known as the inspiration behind the Beauty and the Beast village. Maybe even more charming than the Romantic Road villages.

Things to See and Do Around Baden-Baden:

  • Enjoy Baden-Baden
    • Friedrichsbad– iconic Thermal Baths complex
    • Old Town (Altstadt)- filled with quaint shops, cafes, and historic buildings. Don’t miss Stiftskirche, a beautiful church dating back to the 15th century.
    • Baden-Baden Casino-one of the oldest and most prestigious casinos in Europe.
  • Hiking and Outdoor Activities:
    • Black Forest National Park (Nationalpark Schwarzwald)- enjoy hiking, cycling, and nature exploration
    • Merkur Mountain– take the funicular or hike up Merkur Mountain for breathtaking panoramic views of Baden-Baden and the surrounding countryside
  • Visit the town of Triberg-located in the center of the Black Forest and famous for its traditional Black Forest cuckoo clocks
    • Triberg Waterfalls– enjoy a hike to Germany’s highest falls 
    • The House of 1000 Clocks-Largest store for locally handmade cuckoo clocks
    • Try Black Forest Cake at Lilie Garten-Cafe (don’t be mislead by the bad reviews, I arrived too early for lunch but the cake and ambience were great!)
  • Visit the Black Forest Open Air Museum– to learn about the local history in an interactive way
  • Enjoy half-timbered towns: Gengenbach (44 mins away) or Schiltach (1hr 20 mins away)
  • Day Trip into Strasbourg, France– another charming half-timbered town with great food and lots to do!
  • Visit the Europa-Park in Rust (50 mins away) 

Day 5

  • Drive to Füssen from Baden-Baden about 3 hours 15 mins, (314 km) 
  • Overnight in Füssen 2 nights
  • I stayed at Hotel Filser and recommend it. My single room was small but the hotel was clean, offered a buffet breakfast and free parking.

Today is the official start of Germany’s Romantic Road, a known tourist route weaving through some of Germany’s most romantic villages, known for wine making, cobblestones streets, well preserved town centers and half-timbered houses. Füssen is the southernmost town along the Romantic Road. The Romantic Road is considered the oldest and most famous holiday route in Germany. There are 29 official towns along the Romantic Road but there is no need to visit them all. I’ve highlighted the best stops and towns to visit in the next half of this Germany Road Trip.

Füssen is nestled amongst the German alps and has beautiful natural views. There is not as much to see in Füssen compared to Baden-Baden, so if you want to spend more time in Baden-Baden, you can do that with missing out in Füssen.

I visited a few towns, Hohenzollern Castle and Lichtenstein Castle, where I had a late lunch on my way to Füssen.

Hotel Filser has an 8 p.m. check in deadline which I made by an hour. Füssen is over 3 hours from Baden-Baden, so make sure you plan your day accordingly, taking into account travel time with any activities you plan to do on Day 5. 

Things to See and Do on the Way to Füssen

  • Enjoy half-timbered towns: Gengenbach (44 mins away) or Schiltach (1hr 20 mins away)
  • Hohenzollern Castle
  • Lichtenstein Castle-Enjoy lunch at
  • Hohenzollern Palace of Sigmaringen (Sigmaringen Castle)- Take a guided tour of one of the largest Palaces in Germany
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Neuschwanstein castle

Day 6

  • Sightsee in Füssen 
  • Overnight Füssen 

Today is your only full day in Füssen  and you may need a full day to visit the famous Neuschwanstein Castle, the reason why you are in Füssen. A fairytale road trip would not be complete without a visit to one of the most iconic castles in the world. Because of its popularity, you need to book reservations to tour the inside of the castle in advance. I tried to book three days in advance and the tickets for Neuschwanstein Castle were completely sold out. I visited in April and thought low season meant I would have my pick of entry times but that was naive. 

Read about my experience at Neuschwanstein Castle so you can visit prepared!

What is great about this castle is you can walk up to the castle and surrounding view points without having a ticket, so even if you can’t get a ticket it’s not a loss. I decided to enjoy the town of Füssen for the day and head to the castle after the crowds to enjoy sunset in peace. I walked to a few viewpoints and watched the sunset over Hohenschwangau Castle, Neuschwanstein’s neighbor.

Things to See and Do Around Füssen

  • Neuschwanstein Castle- This iconic fairytale castle is perched on a hilltop and inspired Disney’s Sleeping Beauty Castle. You can take a guided tour of the castle’s opulent interiors or enjoy views of the castle without buying a ticket. Purchase your timed entry ticket at least 3-5 days in advance during low season and possibly weeks in advance during high season. Tickets often sell out and entry can take hours with public transportation (cars are not allowed at the entrances).
  • Hohenschwangau Castle– The childhood residence of King Ludwig II. Explore the castle’s lavishly decorated rooms and learn about the history of the Bavarian royal family. You can buy a dual ticket to visit both Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau Castle on the same day, but advanced reservations is needed.  
  • Tegelbergbahn cable car– Take a ride on the cable car for breathtaking views of the Bavarian Alps. At the summit, you can enjoy hiking trails, paragliding, or simply soak in the panoramic vistas.
  • Visit Lake Hopfensee– Located just a few kilometers from Füssen, its a great way to spend a relaxing day. Enjoy swimming, sunbathing, or taking a leisurely boat ride on the crystal-clear waters of the lake.
  • Stroll through Füssen’s picturesque Old Town, where you’ll find colorful medieval buildings, charming cobblestone streets, cafes and quaint shops selling local crafts and souvenirs.
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Harburg Castle
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Landsberg am Lech

Day 7

  • Drive from Füssen to Augsburg, it is about 1hour 15 mins, 102 km
  • Overnight in Augsburg 1 night 
  • I stayed at the Best Western. It was simple and close to Old Town with a convenient parking garage and grocery store next to it.

On day 7, I got an early start from Füssen and visited St. Coloman Church for some more views of Neuschwanstein Castle before heading to Landsberg am Lech, a well preserved medieval village known for its colorful row of houses, river promenade and stunning defensive towers.

The tourist walking route of the city takes about 1.5 hours and passes 21 historical sites. There are plenty of shops and cafes in the main square and surrounding streets. There is a tourist center with route maps and toilets in the main square next to the historic Rathaus (town hall) Building. I didn’t spent too much time in Landsberg am Lech and only saw a few sites before the weather got the best of me but I really liked this town. It was pretty, clean and had a lot of speciality boutiques, which I prefer more than the tourist shops with souvenirs made overseas. 

Next I headed to Harburg Castle, took a guided tour of the castle and had lunch, dodging the rain as I went. You may want to skip Harburg and get to Augsburg earlier to have more time to explore the city.

Augsburg is the third largest city in Bavaria, and one I almost skipped-remember my desire to avoid crowded cities with challenging parking? I stopped here anyways because it looked charming and is one of Germany’s oldest cities with a lot to explore. It is also in a great location to end the day.

It could easily take weeks to see all Augsburg has to offer. The city has 15 museums and art galleries with close to 40 historic landmarks or points of interest. I wanted to at least walk through the Old Town, but the weather had other plans. It was cold, windy and rainy and wouldn’t let up. I walked a block all bundled up but said forget it once the sideways rain started plummeting me. Luckily the weather cleared up by morning but by that time I was eager to get to Dinkelsbühl, one of the two most picturesque villages along the Romantic Road, so ended up not seeing much of Augsburg.

Things to See and Do on the Way to Augsburg

  • Landsberg am Lech
    • Walk the town enjoying historic landmarks like the Mutterturm, Bayertor, Schmalzturm and Hl. Kreuz Kirche (catholic church). 
    • Explore Landsberg Castle (Schloss Landsberg) a medieval fortress perched atop a hill overlooking the town. While the castle itself is not open to the public, the panoramic views from its grounds are worth the visit.
    • The Lech River Promenade offers scenic views of the river, lush greenery, and opportunities for relaxa
    • Museum Landsberg– The museum showcases exhibits on the town’s medieval origins, its role in World War II, and local art and culture.
    • Enjoy local Bavarian food and draft beer at a Beer Garden- Try Waldwirtschaft Landsberg or Lechgarten Biergarten
  • Visit Harburg Castle- a well-preserved medieval castle located in the small town of Harburg. They offer guided German tours for additional fee and have an on site cafe-it was good!
  • Augsburg- the third largest city in Bavaria, it would take a few weeks to explore all the city has to offer but the major highlights include, the Goldener Saal (gold room) in the Rathus (town hall), Fugger Palace, St Anna’s Church and the Cathedral

Day 8

  • Drive to Dinkelsbühl, about 1 hour 15 mins, 105 km
  • Overnight in Dinkelsbühl 1 night
  • I stayed in Hotel Deutsches Haus and loved it

I stayed in the center of Dinkelsbühl at Hotel Deutsches Haus, and highly recommend it. It is one of the oldest hotels in the area but has been renovated up to modern standards. There is limited parking in town but a large public parking lot is a 10 min walk away.

Since Dinkelsbühl is only an hour away, you can spend more time enjoying Augsburg and still have time to get to Dinkelsbühl before it gets too late. There is not much to do in Dinkelsbühl. It is most well known for its well-preserved medieval architecture, old citywalls and medieval towers. Its town square hosts a collection of half-timbered houses and stunning gable facades. You can walk around the town visiting its historic landmarks and medieval gates in under two hours. You can climb up some of the towers for views. Head to the tourist center at the House of History museum for maps and touring information. 

Things to See and Do in Dinkelsbühl 

  • Walking tour of the town- visit its major landmarks including: Segringer Tor, Wornitztor, St. George’s Church, Deutschorden Castle, and Carmelite Monastery
  • Dinkelsbühl Museum-located in the former Dominican convent, the museum features exhibits on Dinkelsbühl’s medieval past, its role in the Reformation, and its cultural traditions. 
  • House of History (Haus der Geschichte)- provides a comprehensive overview of Dinkelsbühl’s past through exhibits, multimedia presentations, and guided tours.
  • Museum of the 3rd Dimension (Museum der 3. Dimension)- This unique museum is not specifically focused on Dinkelsbühl’s history, it showcases optical illusions, holograms, and interactive exhibits that explore the perception of space and dimension. 

There are often festivals and markets in Dinkelsbühl throughout the year. If your visit coincides with one of these, you’ll have another unique experience along the Romantic Road!

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Day 9

I stayed in the center of town at Reichs-küchenmeister, one of the most recommend hotels in town. It’s in a great location, with an easy to walk to many landmarks.

Rothenburg ob der Tauber, is the most iconic and well known of the small towns that run along the Romantic Road. Its narrow streets, preserved half-timbered architecture, and colorful gardens in summer makes it an easy choice. If you have more time, you could stay a few days and dive deeper in to the local community but if a day is all you have, it is best spent on a self guided walking tour of the town.

In about two hours, you can walk through the main town square and along its historic walls for great views over the town and surrounding Tauber valley. Make sure to visit Marktplatz (market square), Rathaus (town hall), Gothic Jakobskirche (church), Klingenturm tower, Gallows Gate, Markus Tower and Weisser Turm (white tower).

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The most famous view is that of the Siebers Tower (Siebersturm) and the tower of Kobolzell Gate, which can both be seen at once from the cobblestone pathway of Spitalgasse. You can walk up to the walkway of the town walls at the Spitalturm or Spital Gate to get great views of the town and surrounding Tauber Valley.

The weather turned bad by the time I arrived to Rothenburg ob der Tauber but I still enjoyed strolling around the town even in cold, misty rain. I enjoyed a late lunch at Eiscafe-Pizzeria and spent most of my time taking photos. The day I left the sun was finally out but it was so cold (28℉, -6℃), if you are visiting Germany in April, make sure to come prepared for any kind of weather!

Things to See and Do in Rothenburg

  • Walk around the town enjoying the historic landmarks
  • Enjoy a Museum -The Medieval Criminology Museum, Imperial Museum and the German Christmas Museum
  • Try local pastry– The Rothenburger Schneeballen (a snow ball)-a deep-fried pastry made from shortcrust pastry 

Day 10

  • Drive to Würzburg, about 2.5 hours, 233 km
  • Overnight in Würzburg 1 night or head back towards Cologne for departure day

Your last day of this 10 day Germany road trip takes you to Würzburg, a lovely Baroque city in the Franconia wine region. There is a lot more to see and do in Wurzburg than can be done in one day, but since this itinerary is only 10 nights long we had to limit our time.

I planned to stay the night in Würzburg but last minute decided to drive closer to Cologne for my final road trip night since I had an early train the next morning.

I only visited the palace at Würzburg before driving back towards Cologne. I spent my last night 30 minutes outside of Cologne in Königswinter, a town along the east bank of the Rhine river. It had a neighborhood feel with some attractions close by.

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Things to See and Do in Würzburg

  • Tour the Würzburg Residence, a UNESCO World Heritage Site​ with lovely gardens and impressive architecture.
  • Tour the Marienberg Fortress for panoramic views of the city and Main River.
  • Go Wine Tasting a a local vineyard or wine bar for tastings of the region’s renowned white wines, such as Silvaner and Müller-Thurgau.
  • Explore the charming streets of Würzburg’s Old Town, filled with historic buildings, picturesque squares, and quaint shops and cafes.
  • Visit St. Kilian Cathedral a Romanesque cathedral, which features impressive twin towers and beautiful interior decorations.
  • Take a River Cruise along the Main River, offering views of Würzburg’s skyline, vineyards, and surrounding countryside.
  • Visit museums like the Mainfränkisches Museum, Museum am Dom, and Museum für Franken to learn about the region’s history, art, and culture.
Harburg

Day 11

It is time for departure day. You may have have some time today to continue exploring Würzburg or one the the surrounding towns.

Things to See and Do Heading Back Towards Cologne

  • Wineries, castles or villages on the East bank of the Rhine River: Weingut Schloss Vollrads (winery), Johannisberg Castle, Schloss Drachenburg (19th century castle)
  • Bonn– the former capital of West Germany and birthplace of the renowned composer Ludwig van Beethoven. Known for its many parks and green spaces, museums and mix of historic and modern architecture.

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This scenic route through Germany’s wine region, river valleys and charming fairy tale villages is a fantastic way to enjoy some of the best of Germany. It’s a road trip in Germany I wish I had a few more weeks to complete. Be ready to discover so many hidden gems along the way!

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Sam wearing backpack and hat walking through town.

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