Best travel experiences in Germany and Austria cover photo

My Best Travel Experiences in Germany and Austria

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Since I am not traveling, I have had plenty of time to reflect on my best travel experiences abroad. My first major travel experience happened all the way back in 2012 when I went to Germany as an exchange student. Since then, I dreamed of living abroad and traveling the world. Eight years later, I have manifested that dream, and am living in South Korea and have traveled to fourteen countries!

While all of my travels have benefitted me in some way, my best travel experiences abroad are the ones that stand out in my mind. They are the ones I always come back to when I find myself daydreaming about getting on a plane. The ones I think about when I look at my scratch-off travel map that my sister got me for Christmas. And I admit, I find myself daydreaming and staring at my map more and more lately. I think the lack of upcoming travel plans has made me a bit nostalgic.

So over the next few weeks, I want to share some of my best travel experiences abroad, in South Korea, and in America. In this post, I will talk about my best travel experiences in Europe.

My Favorite Travel Experiences in Europe

My Most Memorable Travel Experiences in Germany

I went to Germany in 2012 as a part of the German-American Partnership Program. To date, my time in Germany holds a special place in my heart and I had some of my best travel experiences there.

Living as an exchange student allows one to have a more authentic experience. I lived with a family in a small town near the city of Marburg, about an hour away from Frankfurt. While it has been a long time, I remember a few things I did in Germany that stand out to me as things that sparked my love of traveling.

Attending a German High School

While the German-American Partnership Program is a short-term exchange program, there are still requirements for attending school in the host country. These requirements meant that I had to attend a German high school for two weeks. The experience was amazing, because I learned a lot about how another country approaches education.

Each day, my exchange partner and I took the local bus to school, where I attended classes with her. I was so impressed when I learned that she studied languages, including English, Spanish, and Italian.

Some days we would stay at school for lunch and other days we would go back to her house. After school we would walk around and spend time with her friends and other American exchange students.

Being exposed to life and education in another country definitely influenced my desire to live abroad some day.

Rhine River Cruise

During the final week of the exchange, we traveled around Germany with the other American students. We said teary goodbyes to our exchange partners and boarded a bus. One of the things we did after leaving our partners was go on a Rhine River Cruise.

I had never done a river cruise before, and I was looking forward to spending some time in the sun. Since it was late June, the weather was perfect for spending an afternoon on a boat. In fact, most of us were sunburned by the end of the cruise.

While on the boat, we socialized and reflected on our time in Gladdenbach. We also admired the castles that dotted the landscape. There were so many, it seemed like every few minutes we saw another one!

Following the cruise, we took a lift up a mountain overlooking vineyards, then hiked down to the town at the base of the mountain.

Visiting Dachau Concentration Camp

The final formative experience from Germany is visiting Dachau Concentration Camp. This was not a happy or great experience, but it was important for my development as a young adult.

It is one thing to visit a museum or learn about the Holocaust in history class. It is a completely different thing to walk through the gates proclaiming “Arbeit Macht Frei.” I will never forget seeing the gas chambers, the barracks where people were crammed in with no personal space, and the memorial upon entrance emphasizing that we must never forget the horrors that took place at Dachau and the other camps.

Even years later, I remember how it felt to walk through the camp. The silence weighed heavy, so heavy I can still feel it when I think about it. I believe that visiting a concentration camp is important for everyone to do if they have the chance. Because it helps us better understand the past, to qualify it, and to reaffirm that we each have a role to play in making sure the Holocaust and its victims are not forgotten.

My Best Travel Experiences in Austria

After leaving Germany, my exchange group traveled to Salzburg, Austria. I fell in love with Salzburg and cannot wait to go back in the future. The city sits approximately an hour below Munich along the Alps. It is an absolutely beautiful Austrian city that I would recommend to anyone.

Visiting Hohensalzburg Fortress

Salzburg was hot. Like, really hot. But despite the heat, our German teachers decided we would trek up the hill the brings you to Hohensalzburg Fortress. The fortress which overlooks the city was first built in 1077 and is a historical landmark you don’t want to miss in Salzburg.

The hill leading the the fortress is long and steep. When you reach the top, you walk through the fortress, which is now a museum. I don’t remember much of the museum, except the exhibits on Medieval torture devices.

But what I do remember is that when you exit the museum, you come to an overlook. The overlook gives a beautiful view of the city with the Alps in the distance. The beauty of seeing Salzburg from above made the incredibly hot hike up to the fortress worth it.

The Salzburg Salt Mines

While in Salzburg, my exchange group also toured a salt mine. This experience was really cool, and much needed. Going down into the mines was a nice change of temperature. Even eight years later I remember how to mines were about 40 degrees cooler (in Fahrenheit!) that it was outside.

This tour really pushed my German language skills. It was entirely in German, but in Austria, a different dialect of the language is spoken than the German I learned in school. Not only was it a new dialect, but the topic was also specialized. I remember not understanding much aside from “the salt,” but it was cool to tour through the mines regardless.

My First Time Staying in a Hostel

The first night after leaving our exchange partners my group stayed in a bed and breakfast. It was quite nice even with twelve of us staying in one room. When we arrived in Austria, we checked into a youth hostel.

I had never stayed in a hostel before, and the one we booked in Salzburg was beautiful. There were three of us in a room, but people popped in and out of each other’s rooms all night. This experience exposed me to hostels and how great they are when traveling. Since then, I have only stayed in hostels when visiting other countries.

Have you done any of these things in Germany or Austria? What are your most memorable experiences from these countries? Let me know in the comments!

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