Years before I began working at Stars and Stripes, back when I was based in Rome, I found myself looking for a lake not too far from the city that offered swimming, fishing and camping. I looked on a map and identified Lago di Bolsena as a possibility. A few clicks of the mouse later, I found some helpful English-language information that helped me identify a town along the shores of the lake boasting a campground, restaurants and plenty to do in the vicinity. It sounded like a congenial place, so off we ventured for what turned out to be a pleasant, laid-back weekend getaway. As I realized years later, this was my first encounter with Stars and Stripes’ Quick Trips.
While Quick Trips has proved to be a great resource, I wouldn’t have gotten far without first identifying the place I wanted to go. And therein can lay the challenge. So I thought it could be helpful for me to group links of some of Stripes’ previously featured Quick Trip destinations roughly according to their geographical location. I hope this helps you in planning your next day out.
In and around Bamberg, Germany, tour the city’s underground catacombs; visit Weltenburg’s monastery complex; see Memmelsdorf’s Seehof Palace; ride Pottenstein’s Sommerrodelbahn; admire Bad Staffelstein’s Basilica Vierzehnheiligen, soak up nearby Kulmbach’s shopping, museums and breweries; or take the littlest ones to Adventure Park Castle Thurn.
Nearby Nuremberg offers train buffs the German Rail train museum; those curious about the country’s history should head for the Germanisches Nationalmuseum.
The vicinity of Grafenwoehr offers outdoorsy types the deer-laden Naturpark Fraenkische Schweiz, hiking and mountain biking in the Steinwald Naturpark or the rivers and lakes of the Bayerischer Wald. Tracing the route of the Danube, Kelheim’s Befreiungshalle offers a striking memorial to those who fought against Napoleon’s invasion, while Welternburg’s monastery complex is bound to impress.
In the region of Wuerzburg, good bets include Marienberg Fortress, a monastery complex in Ebrach, or the shopping and sightseeing possibilities of Wertheim. Near Kitzingen, you might find Stammheim’s homespun Museum of Military and Contemporary History or the Benedictine abbey Muensterschwarzach worth an afternoon’s drive. Heading in a vaguely southern direction may be found the palace of Weikersheim, while the small city of Bad Mergentheim boasts attractions such as a spa and a wildlife preserve. Along the Romantic Road, you can discover gems such as Noerdlingen and Dinkelsbuehl; when in the latter, try the night watchman’s tour. Or check out the thimbles in Creglingen’s Fingerhut museum.
The greater Frankfurt area bursts at the seams with attractive destinations. The city proper offers St. Bartholomaues Cathedral, MyZeil shopping mall, the Museumsufer, a flea market along the banks of the Main River; a Jewish Museum, or Sachsenhausen's traditional Aeppelwoi pubs. Just outside the city limits, find Kronberg’s Opel Zoo, the re-created Hessian village of HessenPark, and the spa town of Bad Homburg. Heading east from Frankfurt along the Main River, you will find an abbey in Seligenstadt, Aschaffenburg’s Pompenium and brewery, as well as an early landscape garden, Schoenbusch Park. Continue onward and discover Lohr am Main’s half-timbered charm or the quaintness of Miltenberg.
Southeast of Frankfurt, the Odenwald tempts visitors with Erbach’s ivory museum and the charm of Michelstadt, while the nearby Bergstrasse has a boulder park known as the Felsenmeer and the hiker’s paradise Naturpark. Famous for its annual Halloween parties is Burg Frankenstein; other towns worth a detour include Schreisheim and Weinheim.
If you’re based in, or just passing through Wiesbaden, you are spoiled for day trip destinations. For starters, the city's Neroberg offers a cable car, outdoor swimming baths, and panoramic views. Along the Rhine may be found Biebrich’s palace, Eberbach Monastery, the defensive towers of Oberwesel, Braubach’s Marksburg Castle, Boppard, Remagen and its bridge, the former capital city of Bonn and Cologne’s stunning cathedral. Along the Lahn river can be found the noteworthy towns of Limburg, Bad Ems and Weilburg.
Mainz offers the Museum of the Rhineland Palatinate and the Gutenberg museum of printing.
Mannheim’s sights include the Luisenpark, a baroque palace, and its many museums. An easy drive unveils the charm of Ladenburg or Speyer. Uncover Jewish history in Worms, or trust the UNESCO label and visit Lorsch’s monastery. Catch your thrills on the roller coaster at Hassloch’s Holiday Park.
The area surrounding Heidelberg and the Neckar River, find Hirschhorn, Dilsberg and Bad Wimpfen. Or take a short hop to the Schwetzingen Palace. Alternately, head south to uncover the half-timbered haven of Eppingen, Karlsruhe’s botanical gardens and art gallery, or Rastatt’s baroque Schloss Favorite.
Around Stuttgart, auto lovers can check out the Mercedes-Benz, Porsche or Auto und Technik museums. Winter pursuits based in the Black Forest might include skiing at Feldberg or checking out sled dog racing in Todtmoos; in summer, head for the Black Forest Open Air Museum. For sweeping views of the countryside, ascend Ulm’s cathedral; for a town awash in cuteness, hedge your bets on Tuebingen; if beauty and culture is your goal, the Wilhelma Zoological and Botanical Gardens or Ludwigsburg Palace might fill the bill. For a glimpse of how the other half lives, there's always Baden-Baden. Munich’s offerings include another auto museum, BMW Welt, whereas a hiker in Garmisch is always happy.
The delights of the environs of Kaiserslautern have been particularly well scouted out by Stars and Stripes' reporters. Kid-friendly destinations include Das Praehistorium in Schiffweiler, Pirmasens’ science museum, Dynamikum, the Wildpark Potzberg’s birds of prey show, Go! Indoor Kart racing, or horseback riding at Diana’s Horse Farm in Otterberg. Teens might enjoy the K1 Waldseilpark in Froehnerhof, Schopp’s mountain bike park, or Camp 4, an indoor rock-climbing facility. For spa town atmosphere, head to Daun. Shop until you drop at Zweibruecken’s outlet shops; Saarbruecken’s downtown area will also help you part with your euros. For something different, check out Homburg’s Schlossberg caves or the old ironworks of Voelklinger Huette.
The joys of the German Wine Road, or Weinstrasse, are many-fold and include Burg Trifels in Annweiler, Neustadt, Villa Ludwigshoehe in Edenkoben, Fischbach’s Biosphaerenhaus, or cycling between the wineries. For outdoor, fair weather fun, climb the rock formations around the Devil’s Table in Unterweidenthal. No car? No problem. Inside K-town’s city limits find the Japanese Gardens (open seasonally), the Theodor-Zink-Museum, and a Wildpark. Or just take a walking tour of the city.
Kaiserslautern is only an hour or so drive to the French border. This makes viable options of destinations in France such as Sessenheim, Dambach-la-Ville, Betschdorf and Soufflenheim, Colmar, Haut-Koenigsbourg, Bitche, Riquewihr or Verdun. Larger nearby French cities include Nancy and Strasbourg.
Around Baumholder, go back in time with a visit to Trier or enjoy a day along the Moselle in Bernkastel-Kues. More adventurous types can try canoeing along the river. If you want to take a dip on a summer's day, try the Bostalsee. Fans of half-timbered houses can head to Monschau or Herrstein; castle seekers will prefer Reichsberg Cochem or Burg Eltz. Around Christmas time, St. Wendel’s monastery offers creche displays; later in the winter, try skiing at Erbeskopf. Speed seekers can take on the Nuerburgring racetrack, but not after visiting Bitburg’s brewery.
Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg pack much into their small packages. In Belgium, beer lovers might enjoy a day trip to Chimay or Silly. In terms of historical interest, remember Waterloo; there’s Castle Jehay in Amay and a fortress in Dinant; if you prefer your landmarks on a smaller scale, try Durbuy, once the world’s smallest town. Tongeren is famed for its flea market. The Netherlands' Valkenburg is best known for its caves, whereas Thorn is on the map for its pancakes, and Maastricht is an all-around good place to while away some time. Neighboring Luxembourg offers a compact capital city with casemates, a Museum of Military History, Vianden’s well preserved castle or a drive along a valley sprinkled with chateaus.
Based in Italy? Surely there are worse fates! From tip to toe, there’s plenty to do outside the gate. In northern Italy, by the Slovenian border, discover Gorizia and its castle. The Dolomites offer villages such as Asolo or Feltre, whereas Lake Garda is home to an olive oil museum, a villa in Sirmione and the Parco Sigurta. Piancavallo, just a few miles from Aviano, offers sled dog racing or skiing. Art lovers can admire the mosaics of Ravenna, Spilimbergo or Grado.
Heading south, discover Tuscany’s Chianti winery, San Gimignano, and Montepulciano. Stop in the hill town of Orvieto. Right inside Naples city limits, find gems such as the Church of San Lorenzo Maggiore’s underground archaeological sites, the museum of the Treasure of St. Gennaro, or the upscale neighborhood of Via Chiaia. Archaeological discoveries are displayed in Paestum and Herculaneum. The Amalfi Coast offers Capri, Procida and Ravello.
In Sicily, visit the citadel of Motta, the Villa de Casale, or the city of Siracusa. If you’re feeling ambitious, climb Mount Etna.
No reason to sit at home: There are plenty of options for a quick trip.