Germany: Must-Sees

Travel agents who sell lots of Germany trips generally agree that if your clients are first-time visitors with limited time, start them off with a trip to southern Germany, more specifically, Munich. And if they can squeeze it in, sell them a stopover in Berlin as well.

Margo Koch, executive vice president of Koch Travel Bureau in New York, names the Bavarian capital city of Munich and the smaller but well-preserved medieval walled town of Rothenburg as must-sees for first-timers.

Koch notes that in addition to its own attractions and appeal, Munich serves as a great base of operations for making day trips to nearby destinations like the mountain resort of Garmisch-Partenkirchen and the popular Austrian town of Salzburg.

Agents generally cite the welcoming ambience of Munich and the nearby unbeatable Alpine scenery as the reason for Bavaria's popularity among American fly/drive tourists.

And they note that U.S. tourists shouldn't worry too much about language difficulties when they're on the road.

"English has been the second language in Germany since the end of World War II," says Christine Keen, a Germany specialist at American Express Travel in New York. "People who are 50 years and older might not speak it, but it's generally no problem."

Roswitha Sterbal, a veteran Germany expert with Mercator Travel in New York, notes that because "most American leisure travelers are interested in history and culture and events," agents should try to sell a Berlin segment as well, since that city is a hub of cultural activity.

"Keep Berlin separate" in selling Germany, she advises. "Berlin is not really Germany in the sense that New York City is not America," but is more of an international urban center with unique appeal.

Agents who tend to think of Germany as mainly a business travel destination should not overlook the potential for selling commercial clients on the idea of adding a leisure stay as well.

"We specialize in trade fairs and exhibitions in Germany, and many times we will sell leisure extensions," says Koch.

"Some business people come back from the shows right away, but many will take the time, especially if they're traveling with their spouse, to combine it with a few extra days or a week and do something else once they're over there."

Koch notes that while most first-timers concentrate on southern Germany, there are plenty of other worthwhile destinations that could turn them into repeat customers for the country. She picks the northern port of Hamburg -- "a lovely city" -- or historic gems from eastern Germany, like the city of Dresden, where so much restoration is under way.

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