Author Topic: Help me decide on my European vacation destination(s)  (Read 10531 times)

Eric

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Help me decide on my European vacation destination(s)
« on: April 16, 2015, 01:27:03 PM »
Hey all,
I'm planning to spend 2 weeks (14 nights) in Europe in (tentatively) May 2016.  This will be my second ever trip across the pond, the first being in 2012 where my wife and I spent 2 weeks in Italy.

In Mustachian fashion, we'll have free flights using miles.  We also have the opportunity to stay up to 3 nights for free in any of the following cities:

Amsterdam
Hamburg
Berlin
Cologne
Dusseldorf
Frankfurt
Zurich
Vienna

So therein lies the dilemma.  How should I structure my stops to maximize free nights while subsequently not spending time in places that aren't worth it?

My initial thoughts are one of two trips (directions can be reversed).

Start in Zurich and make my way to Vienna, stopping in Munich, Salzburg and some mountain towns in between.  That would be 6 free nights and 8 paid nights.
or
Start in Amsterdam and make my way to Frankfurt, stopping in Belgium and Cologne and Dusseldorf.  That would be approx 9 free nights and 5 paid nights.
or
?

As you can see, I'm trying to weigh free places to stay with cool places.  My initial thoughts are the Zurich to Vienna trip would probably be best.  But I also think I'd love Amsterdam and Belgium.  However, I'm not sure if Dusseldorf, Cologne and Frankfurt are worth it.

A little about us -- we like art museums, architecture, and strolling around charming cities/towns.  I am probably willing to travel to more places than most in 2 weeks, as I enjoy staring out the window of the train and watching the foreign landscape go by as well.  Our favorite stops in Italy were Venice, Rome, and the Cinque Terre.

If you've been to these places and have any feedback, I'd appreciate it.  Thanks!

yyc-phil

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Re: Help me decide on my European vacation destination(s)
« Reply #1 on: April 16, 2015, 01:43:54 PM »
Just a quick comment. You mention taking the train, which is in my opinion the most civilized way to travel. However, train travel in Europe is expensive, especially for two people traveling together, and you are limited to places served by the train network. Even if most of Europe have excellent coverage, you would miss many nice spots. Have your considered renting a car? My wife and I have done that several times in the past few years from Frankfurt, Barcelona, Paris, etc., and it ended up being much more affordable than taking the train or bus. For example, you can find a rental car at the Frankfurt airport for under $15/day, and if your credit card has coverage, you don't need to subscribe to the rental company insurance scheme (check the requirements beforehand, some companies will ask you to present a letter from the insurance company associated with the credit card, addressed to you, spelling out that you are covered). A quick search on carrentals.com for Frankfurt shows cars starting at $12.24/day with Dollar or Thrifty, for March 2016. From Frankfurt, you can pretty much drive anywhere within Germany, and you are only a couple of hours from France, Luxembourg, Belgium, the Netherlands, etc.

lise

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Re: Help me decide on my European vacation destination(s)
« Reply #2 on: April 16, 2015, 01:57:05 PM »

Amsterdam
Hamburg
Berlin
Cologne
Dusseldorf
Frankfurt
Zurich
Vienna

I like Amsterdam, Munich, Berlin, Vienna off your free list.
Salzburg is a good choice on your non free list.
And throw in Prague.

I definitely found "Eastern Europe" more charming than northern parts.

So if you drop off Amsterdam, the trip would be: Berlin, Vienna, Salzburg, Prague, Munich (or reverse).  Fly in one end and out the other - easy to do on points.

On a map it looks like I'm making you cover a lot of distance but you can move fast on those autobahns.  I travelled by bus and train while backpacking around Europe.  Tooke the train when I could because it's more relaxing but sometimes the bus is just more convenient.

oldmannickels

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Re: Help me decide on my European vacation destination(s)
« Reply #3 on: April 16, 2015, 02:05:52 PM »
If you sleep on the train is that considered a free night?

You could do Belgium / Amsterdam and then overnight train to Munich and from there hit up the Austria  / Switz region.

Eric

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Re: Help me decide on my European vacation destination(s)
« Reply #4 on: April 16, 2015, 02:27:55 PM »
ykphil -- good points.  I was mostly thinking train because of the lack of hassle and that's how we did our first trip.  Plus in Italy there are a bunch of ZTL areas (where they just mail you the ticket after the fact) that I was worried about.  I'll look into it further.  Probably depends on how many big cities we hit versus smaller towns.

lise -- Unfortunately Munich is not on the free night list, but it's one of the top places I'd like to go.  I like Prague too.  I'm not sure if that would be biting off too much or not.  Berlin > Prague > Vienna > Salzburg > Munich might be pretty cool.  I could get 6 free nights out of that.  Thanks for the idea.

oldmanbutters -- overnight train?  I'm not sure my wife will go for that.  We usually try not to mess with our sleep too much after arriving since it's mostly sleepless the whole way over on the plane.  Have you done it?  Do you actually get sleep?

Megma

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Re: Help me decide on my European vacation destination(s)
« Reply #5 on: April 16, 2015, 03:11:19 PM »
Normally, on an overnight train you can sleep pretty decently. They will usually have a kind of bunk bed that folds down but this varies by country so you want to check! Have you thought about a Eurail pass? They aren't cheap but can be a good value if you use it a lot. You might have to pay a small fee here and there for a seat reservation (yes you can have a ticket but not a seat, you pay for everything in Europe) or a little extra for a night train.

Sometimes smaller towns will have CRAZY connections so you will need to look at this considering where you actually want to go. Most places on your list are ok probably but make sure your train to Amsterdam doesn't stop 1800 places on the way from Berlin.

I have also done the car rental thing. Renting a car in Europe can be pricey (gas is way more), the traffic can be bad and all the signs are different. Will any of that stress you out? Keep that in mind. We also go lost A LOT because we did not have GPS (the rental place was out) and were using paper maps, which wasn't ideal. I did the rental when I was traveling with two other people so the cost worked out in our favor overall. Also, none of us could drive a manual transmission so we had a hard time finding a car to rent.

The Brussels ring road is a hell all its own.

Now to destinations:

Munich - I have been there twice (at least) and it is my favorite German city! I have been to quite a few, as I lived in Germany and the Netherlands both. The classical art museum is great (die alte pinokotheck sp?), lovely plazas and people are more friendly than in northern Germany imo.
Belgium - is nice, very good train service from Amsterdam to Brussels, 3 hours and ~ 50E last I checked a few years ago and trains run a lot. Belgium and NL can both have absolute SHIT weather (rain, wind, grossness). If the weather is nice, it is beautiful and you can eat chocolate and drink beer all day.
Amsterdam - See comment about the weather. It's nice, Holland is also small and very good/cheap train service, so you can use Amsterdam as a base and go to the Hague, Leiden, Gouda and lots of other places. Eat the stroopwaffels and the Pancakes! Dutch pancakes are one of my all-time favorite foods, they put cheese, bacon and lots of other yummy things INSIDE their pancakes. Anne Frank House is cool and Van Gogh museum is fab if you like art. The canal boat tours are worth the money, I did it twice, totally recommended.
Hamburg -haven't been.
Berlin - LOVE LOVE LOVE. It's a real city, not just a capital like DC. The zoo is world renowned and so many museums. The check point charlie muesum is one of my faves in the WORLD. I enjoyed see the creative ways people found to leave east Germany.
Cologne - Also fabulous. If you are going in winter definitely go here! Fabulous Christmas markets. Lovely river with lots of views.
Dusseldorf - Go to Cologne over Dusseldorf, they're close to each other. You could also stay in one and visit both.
Frankfurt - kind of industrial, cheap to fly into. Otherwise, it's still pretty cool because I like Germany but you can totally skip it.
Zurich - haven't been
Vienna - haven't been

Other places to consider for your paid nights:

SPAIN is absolutely fantastic. All of it. It definitely helps to know a little Spanish. Go there to eat if for not other reason. Assuming you like pork - I went there with a Muslim friend and he had a rough time.
Italy – I have been to Cinque Terre, Genoa, Pisa, Naples and Milan. It’s harder to get around than Germany/Netherlands/Belgium where a lot of people speak English but it is ghetto in such a beautiful way (I mean this as a compliment to all of Italy). The food is also awesome but not as varied as I’m used to in the US.

Have fun, I'm totally jealous!

Financial.Velociraptor

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Re: Help me decide on my European vacation destination(s)
« Reply #6 on: April 16, 2015, 03:45:47 PM »

In Mustachian fashion, we'll have free flights using miles.  We also have the opportunity to stay up to 3 nights for free in any of the following cities:
Amsterdam
Hamburg
Berlin
Cologne
Dusseldorf
Frankfurt
Zurich
Vienna

I loved Zurich.  Found Hamburg to be a drag, like visiting the Texas Hill Country on a slow day.  No experience with the others.

Also, avoid Paris.  It is a stink hole.  Even the "normal" French people hate that city.

Eric

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Re: Help me decide on my European vacation destination(s)
« Reply #7 on: April 16, 2015, 04:56:04 PM »
Normally, on an overnight train you can sleep pretty decently. They will usually have a kind of bunk bed that folds down but this varies by country so you want to check! Have you thought about a Eurail pass? They aren't cheap but can be a good value if you use it a lot. You might have to pay a small fee here and there for a seat reservation (yes you can have a ticket but not a seat, you pay for everything in Europe) or a little extra for a night train.

Sometimes smaller towns will have CRAZY connections so you will need to look at this considering where you actually want to go. Most places on your list are ok probably but make sure your train to Amsterdam doesn't stop 1800 places on the way from Berlin.

I have also done the car rental thing. Renting a car in Europe can be pricey (gas is way more), the traffic can be bad and all the signs are different. Will any of that stress you out? Keep that in mind. We also go lost A LOT because we did not have GPS (the rental place was out) and were using paper maps, which wasn't ideal. I did the rental when I was traveling with two other people so the cost worked out in our favor overall. Also, none of us could drive a manual transmission so we had a hard time finding a car to rent.

I'm pretty good with figuring out logistics when traveling.  I'm cool with driving a stick in traffic and mostly can handle crazy driving situations without too much stress.  I'm not scared off by driving at all, but parking does scare me a little.  :)  Plus I'll have a long time to fine tune the travel aspect.  It's our free places to stay that book up about a year out, so once I get that decided, I can optimize the travel portion.


Now to destinations:

Munich - I have been there twice (at least) and it is my favorite German city! I have been to quite a few, as I lived in Germany and the Netherlands both. The classical art museum is great (die alte pinokotheck sp?), lovely plazas and people are more friendly than in northern Germany imo.

I've heard a lot of good things.  I believe it's Rick Steves top destination in Germany (I'm a fan of his travel style), so it's hard for me to imagine being in the country and not hitting Munich.  It's nice to hear confirmation.

Belgium - is nice, very good train service from Amsterdam to Brussels, 3 hours and ~ 50E last I checked a few years ago and trains run a lot. Belgium and NL can both have absolute SHIT weather (rain, wind, grossness). If the weather is nice, it is beautiful and you can eat chocolate and drink beer all day.
Amsterdam - See comment about the weather. It's nice, Holland is also small and very good/cheap train service, so you can use Amsterdam as a base and go to the Hague, Leiden, Gouda and lots of other places. Eat the stroopwaffels and the Pancakes! Dutch pancakes are one of my all-time favorite foods, they put cheese, bacon and lots of other yummy things INSIDE their pancakes. Anne Frank House is cool and Van Gogh museum is fab if you like art. The canal boat tours are worth the money, I did it twice, totally recommended.
I can definitely drink beer all day!  :)  Pretty sure I'll enjoy the food too.  Most cities in the Netherlands and Belgium seem like such great wandering around cities.  Assuming the weather cooperates as you mentioned.

Berlin - LOVE LOVE LOVE. It's a real city, not just a capital like DC. The zoo is world renowned and so many museums. The check point charlie muesum is one of my faves in the WORLD. I enjoyed see the creative ways people found to leave east Germany.
Cologne - Also fabulous. If you are going in winter definitely go here! Fabulous Christmas markets. Lovely river with lots of views.
Dusseldorf - Go to Cologne over Dusseldorf, they're close to each other. You could also stay in one and visit both.
Frankfurt - kind of industrial, cheap to fly into. Otherwise, it's still pretty cool because I like Germany but you can totally skip it.

Good stuff, that helps.

Other places to consider for your paid nights:

SPAIN is absolutely fantastic. All of it. It definitely helps to know a little Spanish. Go there to eat if for not other reason. Assuming you like pork - I went there with a Muslim friend and he had a rough time.
Italy – I have been to Cinque Terre, Genoa, Pisa, Naples and Milan. It’s harder to get around than Germany/Netherlands/Belgium where a lot of people speak English but it is ghetto in such a beautiful way (I mean this as a compliment to all of Italy). The food is also awesome but not as varied as I’m used to in the US.

Whoa whoa!  Easy there!  You're getting a little excited and sending me throughout the whole continent.  I only have 2 weeks!  :) 

But really, thanks for taking the time.  I appreciate all the info.

Eric

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Re: Help me decide on my European vacation destination(s)
« Reply #8 on: April 16, 2015, 05:08:59 PM »
I loved Zurich.  Found Hamburg to be a drag, like visiting the Texas Hill Country on a slow day.  No experience with the others.

Alright, thanks!  It looks very pretty from the pictures, with the lake right there and the river.

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Re: Help me decide on my European vacation destination(s)
« Reply #9 on: April 16, 2015, 05:58:18 PM »
I don't think Frankfurt could hold up to those other cities. But if you end up there (because it's a cheap flight?), Heidelberg is an easy train ride away. It sounds like you would really enjoy Heidelberg for the architecture and overall feel (it was one of the few major cities not to receive too much damage during WW2).

Just a quick comment. You mention taking the train, which is in my opinion the most civilized way to travel. However, train travel in Europe is expensive, especially for two people traveling together, and you are limited to places served by the train network.

The trains are expensive in general, but there are also deals. It might be worth searching "group travel" and "weekend travel" for the Bahn. Different regions have different specials for group travel, so you might need to search online a bit. When I was in Frankfurt, I used to buy a group travel ticket (5 people, all day) for ~40 Euro. Since normal fares are so expensive, it was never difficult for me to find people at the train stations to pitch in and ride on my ticket. Sometimes I would even make some money if I could get enough people each way.


Eric

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Re: Help me decide on my European vacation destination(s)
« Reply #10 on: April 16, 2015, 06:15:12 PM »
I don't think Frankfurt could hold up to those other cities. But if you end up there (because it's a cheap flight?), Heidelberg is an easy train ride away. It sounds like you would really enjoy Heidelberg for the architecture and overall feel (it was one of the few major cities not to receive too much damage during WW2).

Thanks for the suggestion.  I didn't know much about Heidelberg.  That looks pretty sweet.  And that's a good idea for a side trip from Frankfurt.  Dammit, there are too many good places!!

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Re: Help me decide on my European vacation destination(s)
« Reply #11 on: April 17, 2015, 02:49:45 AM »
It's really a big pity that you're missing out on Eastern Europe, which is much more scenic and affordable than the West. I'm not that fond of Germany or Netherlands and would much rather go somewhere like Spain or Italy or rural France. I'm also crazy about Austria which is exceptionally beautiful, so Wien is a good destination.

However if I were to go now, I'd mainly stick to the East. Slovakia, Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic (which can be pricier than the others), Romania.. these places are ideal for backpacking and seeing forgotten castle ruins, lakes and seas with gorgeous beaches, and still very old world vibe; and the food is amazing. In Slovakia you'll get handmade ice cream on the streets for like 30c a cone. You also have the High and Low Tatra mountain range which rivals the Alps in my opinion and are very unpolluted with tourists. And of course Prague is stunning. Ah... I do miss Europe :(

gooki

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Re: Help me decide on my European vacation destination(s)
« Reply #12 on: April 17, 2015, 03:39:11 AM »
Cologne is a nice city, decent architecture. Can't comment on Frankfurt as I've only seen the airport. Might be a good last stop to fly out from.

Don't be discouraged by the other poster saying train travel is expensive. If you book well in advance it's much cheap. 50% - 75% less.

I found looking out of the train while travelling through much of Germany a bit boring. My favourite journey was from Florance through Austria to Munich.

Personal preference but I prefer the smaller towns in Europe. Munster in Germany, Middleburg in Holland, Nimes in France. All of which are accessible by train.

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Re: Help me decide on my European vacation destination(s)
« Reply #13 on: April 17, 2015, 05:56:15 AM »
Netherlands, Belgium, Luxemburg and Western Germany would make an easy loop by train if you have to fly in/out of the same airport.   If you don't want to rent a car the entire time, many of the city central train stations have car rental so you can get a car for short excursions. 

As Megma indicated, Cologne is nicer to visit as a tourist than Dusseldorf, but Dusseldorf is worth a visit.  I like the Alt beer better than the Kölsch, and the Altstadt is a great place to go drinking for an evening.  Nothing like drinking from a freshly tapped keg, especially when it's a wooden tap driven into a wood keg for beer brewed on premise. 

Near Dusseldorf is the Neander Valley, if you like really really really old history.  Aachen is worth checking out, as are the nearby WWII cemeteries if that is your interest.   The Rhine valley... I could go on and on.

Eastern Europe is cheaper, but while the dollar is still strong Western Europe is as affordable as it will ever be.

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Re: Help me decide on my European vacation destination(s)
« Reply #14 on: April 17, 2015, 08:51:59 AM »
I would recommend taking a look at central Europe, as it is cheaper.
Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary, Austria...

I'll tell you about places I have been, that might interest you.
I've been to different spots in Germany, and it's pretty affordable, in comparison to other countries. The people are very friendly, and most people speak english well enough that you wont have to worry about German. There is lots of cool stuff to see, and this is personally my favorite Euro country.
France is a little expensive, especially Paris, but France is beautiful, and has lots of different things to see and do in it's different regions. I am partial to France, in a way, because I am a French speaker, and I lived there for some time, and have traveled around there quite extensively. But the tuffy is that its really in your best interest to learn some basic French (hello, thank you, ordering food, asking for the bathroom, apologizing for not speaking french and asking if they speak english, etc.). The people are not very "friendly" but they are well mannered, although a little snooty.
Switzerland is even more expensive, and the cities are pretty boring. You wanna get out to the small towns, in the mountains.
Belgium is cheap, and small and there are lots of cool things to see. I've only been to the dutch speaking side, where most people speak English. The people are friendly, but they tend to be kind of "townie" and the country has a slightly "run down" sort of feel to it, as in it doesn't seem progressive and modern, like some of it's neighbors.
Spain is great, it is pretty cheap, the people are very friendly, but they don't speak English very well, but if you know a little spanish it helps, however they dont get butthurt about it like the French do. Although the people along the mediterranean coast are very familiar with english, as there are tons of british tourists and expats around there. There's lots of cool stuff to see in spain (Toledo, Cordoba, Sevilla, etc.). Barcelona is very busy, and theres  lots to see there too, but it's not like the rest of Spain, it tends to be a bit more expensive, a little more refined, and worldly.
I've also been to Amsterdam, Latvia, Prague, London, and Italy.

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Re: Help me decide on my European vacation destination(s)
« Reply #15 on: April 17, 2015, 12:04:53 PM »
You can safely skip Zurich if you don't plan on traveling in Switzerland more extensively. It's 2x the price of German cities (at least) and it doesn't really offer anything different. I've been to Munich and didn't find it all that special either, but then for travel I prefer Souther Europe. From German speaking world in my opinion Vienna is head and shoulders above all other cities. You could easily spend 3-4 days there and not be bored.

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Re: Help me decide on my European vacation destination(s)
« Reply #16 on: April 17, 2015, 12:16:19 PM »
Did a Prague-Vienna-Munich trip last year. Of the three, Vienna was definitely my favorite. Munich is fun, but in a lot of ways felt like any American big city - a lot of the historical attractions got leveled during the war, so much of the city is very new. Prague to my mind was almost too touristy - or at least, most of the sights are grouped together geographically, so in that particular part of the city, it sometimes seemed like there more Americans than Czechs. Vienna though... definitely spend a few days there if at all possible.

As far as transportation, if you're thinking of going the public transit route, I'd take a look at the buses (https://westbus.at/de for example)... for certain routes, they take hardly longer than the trains, while being considerably cheaper.

Eric

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Re: Help me decide on my European vacation destination(s)
« Reply #17 on: April 17, 2015, 12:48:02 PM »
It's really a big pity that you're missing out on Eastern Europe, which is much more scenic and affordable than the West. I'm not that fond of Germany or Netherlands and would much rather go somewhere like Spain or Italy or rural France. I'm also crazy about Austria which is exceptionally beautiful, so Wien is a good destination.

However if I were to go now, I'd mainly stick to the East. Slovakia, Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic (which can be pricier than the others), Romania.. these places are ideal for backpacking and seeing forgotten castle ruins, lakes and seas with gorgeous beaches, and still very old world vibe; and the food is amazing. In Slovakia you'll get handmade ice cream on the streets for like 30c a cone. You also have the High and Low Tatra mountain range which rivals the Alps in my opinion and are very unpolluted with tourists. And of course Prague is stunning. Ah... I do miss Europe :(

Glad to hear that about Austria.  That's been on my list for some time.  France is definitely on my to do list, although not this trip.  So is Eastern Europe at some point.  The free hotel stays are related to my wife's work, so we're trying to take advantage of those while we have the option.  However, one of my FIRE goals is to work part time in order to fund longer trips to Europe, so I'm sure we'll check out a bunch of these areas. 

Cologne is a nice city, decent architecture. Can't comment on Frankfurt as I've only seen the airport. Might be a good last stop to fly out from.

Don't be discouraged by the other poster saying train travel is expensive. If you book well in advance it's much cheap. 50% - 75% less.

I found looking out of the train while travelling through much of Germany a bit boring. My favourite journey was from Florance through Austria to Munich.

Personal preference but I prefer the smaller towns in Europe. Munster in Germany, Middleburg in Holland, Nimes in France. All of which are accessible by train.

It's funny that you mention Munster as a smaller town.  I just looked it up.  It's 300,000 people!  :)  But I know what you mean.  On my trip to Italy, we worked in some small towns in between the major cities and I thought that worked well.  They're a nice change of pace.  For this trip, I'm sure I'll work in a small town or two in between as well.

Netherlands, Belgium, Luxemburg and Western Germany would make an easy loop by train if you have to fly in/out of the same airport.   If you don't want to rent a car the entire time, many of the city central train stations have car rental so you can get a car for short excursions.

Definitely can fly in/out of different airports.  That's a good point about short term car rentals.  That's probably more my speed.

As Megma indicated, Cologne is nicer to visit as a tourist than Dusseldorf, but Dusseldorf is worth a visit.  I like the Alt beer better than the Kölsch, and the Altstadt is a great place to go drinking for an evening.  Nothing like drinking from a freshly tapped keg, especially when it's a wooden tap driven into a wood keg for beer brewed on premise. 

Near Dusseldorf is the Neander Valley, if you like really really really old history.  Aachen is worth checking out, as are the nearby WWII cemeteries if that is your interest.   The Rhine valley... I could go on and on.

I've been reading about Alt vs Kolsch beer, and how if you order Alt in Cologne or Kolsch in Dusseldorf that they think you're a rube.  :) 

I've been to different spots in Germany, and it's pretty affordable, in comparison to other countries. The people are very friendly, and most people speak english well enough that you wont have to worry about German. There is lots of cool stuff to see, and this is personally my favorite Euro country.
France is a little expensive, especially Paris, but France is beautiful, and has lots of different things to see and do in it's different regions. I am partial to France, in a way, because I am a French speaker, and I lived there for some time, and have traveled around there quite extensively. But the tuffy is that its really in your best interest to learn some basic French (hello, thank you, ordering food, asking for the bathroom, apologizing for not speaking french and asking if they speak english, etc.). The people are not very "friendly" but they are well mannered, although a little snooty.

I plan to learn some German (and others depending) before this trip, even if it's not strictly necessary.  I agree that you're much better off if you attempt to start speaking the native language before switching to English.  Plus it's fun and helps for pretty much all aspects of the trip.  I enjoyed learning some Italian a few years ago and still use some now.

Switzerland is even more expensive, and the cities are pretty boring. You wanna get out to the small towns, in the mountains.
Belgium is cheap, and small and there are lots of cool things to see. I've only been to the dutch speaking side, where most people speak English. The people are friendly, but they tend to be kind of "townie" and the country has a slightly "run down" sort of feel to it, as in it doesn't seem progressive and modern, like some of it's neighbors.

Thanks.  That's helpful.

Eric

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Re: Help me decide on my European vacation destination(s)
« Reply #18 on: April 17, 2015, 01:05:56 PM »
You can safely skip Zurich if you don't plan on traveling in Switzerland more extensively. It's 2x the price of German cities (at least) and it doesn't really offer anything different. I've been to Munich and didn't find it all that special either, but then for travel I prefer Souther Europe. From German speaking world in my opinion Vienna is head and shoulders above all other cities. You could easily spend 3-4 days there and not be bored.

I was secretly hoping you'd chime in Albert.  I think you're the only one around here that I'm aware of that's in Switzerland.  So you think Zurich doesn't offer much different?  At least not for the price?  I was a little concerned about that.  Thanks.  That's making me re-consider.

Did a Prague-Vienna-Munich trip last year. Of the three, Vienna was definitely my favorite. Munich is fun, but in a lot of ways felt like any American big city - a lot of the historical attractions got leveled during the war, so much of the city is very new. Prague to my mind was almost too touristy - or at least, most of the sights are grouped together geographically, so in that particular part of the city, it sometimes seemed like there more Americans than Czechs. Vienna though... definitely spend a few days there if at all possible.

As far as transportation, if you're thinking of going the public transit route, I'd take a look at the buses (https://westbus.at/de for example)... for certain routes, they take hardly longer than the trains, while being considerably cheaper.

I'm getting a consensus here that everyone loves Vienna.  We'll definitely plan for 3 nights there.

It's funny that you say that if felt like there were more Americans than Czechs in Prague.  That's kind of how I felt about Florence when we were there.  It's a great city and I still liked it, but I barely heard any Italian spoken in our 3 nights there.

rujancified

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Re: Help me decide on my European vacation destination(s)
« Reply #19 on: April 17, 2015, 01:23:54 PM »
Hello fellow Rick Steve's enthusiast*! 

I'll detail some trips we've done that overlap your list and bold places that I don't think you should miss (parens is number of nights):

Berlin (3) -- Munich (4) -- Salzburg (2) -- Garmisch (1) -- Rothenberg (2) -- Bacharach (1) -- Koblenz (1) -- Cologne (1) -- Amsterdam (3)
--> Berlin was the hands-down favorite. I could live there. Munich has wonderful architecture and museums and beer and food. We couldn't fit Vienna in, but have heard wonderful things. Salzburg is actually pretty awesome if you can squish it in for a day or day trip.
-->This was a ton of moving around. I don't know that I'd go to ALL the small towns now, but would pick one or two and stay longer in the bigger cities.
-->We took trains most everywhere. Flew from Berlin to Munich (IIRC it was under 50 euro). Eurail pass for Germany (Salzburg is included in the "germany" pass), then one direct ticket from Cologne-Amsterdam on a high speed train. Did public transport or walked everywhere once we were in town.
-->If you end up in Cologne, we went to a Kolsch brewery that was awesome. I think it was this: http://www.yelp.com/biz/c%C3%B6lner-hofbr%C3%A4u-fr%C3%BCh-k%C3%B6ln-2

Years later we did Croatia (Dubrovnik/Split/Plitvice)--Lake Bled, Slovenia--Munich--Prague in just under 2 weeks.
-->Prague is awesome. Architecture is gorgeous and it was pretty affordable. We took a train from Munich to Nuremberg then caught a bus to Prague.


*We refer to restaurants that he puts in the books as "Rick-omendations" so we are suuuper cool. Let me know if you have specific q's.

Eric

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Re: Help me decide on my European vacation destination(s)
« Reply #20 on: April 17, 2015, 04:48:01 PM »
Hello fellow Rick Steve's enthusiast*! 

*We refer to restaurants that he puts in the books as "Rick-omendations" so we are suuuper cool. Let me know if you have specific q's.

Ha!  Yes, Rick is the man.  I navigated all of the sites in Italy with such skill that I now can't consider anywhere without reading about how he would approach it.  Skipping the line at the Colosseum was probably the coolest thing ever.  Felt almost as good as riding your bike past a long line of stopped traffic.

I'll detail some trips we've done that overlap your list and bold places that I don't think you should miss (parens is number of nights):

Berlin (3) -- Munich (4) -- Salzburg (2) -- Garmisch (1) -- Rothenberg (2) -- Bacharach (1) -- Koblenz (1) -- Cologne (1) -- Amsterdam (3)
--> Berlin was the hands-down favorite. I could live there. Munich has wonderful architecture and museums and beer and food. We couldn't fit Vienna in, but have heard wonderful things. Salzburg is actually pretty awesome if you can squish it in for a day or day trip.
-->This was a ton of moving around. I don't know that I'd go to ALL the small towns now, but would pick one or two and stay longer in the bigger cities.
-->We took trains most everywhere. Flew from Berlin to Munich (IIRC it was under 50 euro). Eurail pass for Germany (Salzburg is included in the "germany" pass), then one direct ticket from Cologne-Amsterdam on a high speed train. Did public transport or walked everywhere once we were in town.
-->If you end up in Cologne, we went to a Kolsch brewery that was awesome. I think it was this: http://www.yelp.com/biz/c%C3%B6lner-hofbr%C3%A4u-fr%C3%BCh-k%C3%B6ln-2

Wow, sounds like quite the trip.  I really wish Berlin wasn't so far away from everything else, although that's a good idea to consider a short flight.  The pics from that bierhaus make me wish I was leaving tomorrow!  Thanks!

acorn

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Re: Help me decide on my European vacation destination(s)
« Reply #21 on: April 17, 2015, 07:57:08 PM »
If you go to Munich, take a day trip out to Neuschwanstein Castle (train to Fussen). I went in winter 2007 and it was amazing with the snow. Sanssouci, a day trip away from Berlin (train to Potsdam), was also really nice. If you're taking the train from Berlin (must go!) to Prague, consider spending a day or two in Dresden on the way. The buildings were rebuilt after the war, but still gorgeous. It wasn't crowded when I went (in 2007).

From your original list, I liked Amsterdam and Berlin (museum island was great). Vienna and Prague are also worth going to, Ljubljana (slovenia) was also really really charming.

I would skip Hamburg (feels like any other city with a few sprinkles of older architecture, can be nice to walk around the harbor but not worth the trip imo) and Frankfurt (modern city, not much to see, I only stayed for a day because my flight flew in there). Zurich is ok for a day or two, but I would skip it if you are short on time. I haven't been to Cologne and Dusseldorf.

acorn

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Re: Help me decide on my European vacation destination(s)
« Reply #22 on: April 17, 2015, 08:06:13 PM »
Don't be discouraged by the other poster saying train travel is expensive. If you book well in advance it's much cheap. 50% - 75% less.

True! If you go to the german train site bahn.de, you can book tickets in advance for up to 75% off, the earlier you book, the cheaper it'll be. I'm going to Germany for work in a month, and I just bought train tickets a month in advance for 50% off ("Sparangebote", savings rate). There are also rail passes for Europe, single country or multi country ones, but depending on how many train rides you're taking in those 2 weeks YMMV. I got around with trains alone, I didn't see any need to drive. The train system in europe and public transport in germany were great. Compared to the Caltrain/BART *coughcough*
« Last Edit: April 17, 2015, 08:07:55 PM by acorn »

Megma

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Re: Help me decide on my European vacation destination(s)
« Reply #23 on: April 18, 2015, 09:11:12 PM »
I'm living vicariously through you!

+1 for Heidelberg and Potsdam, Hberg has the nicer castle though. Potsdam is *just*a place.


Normally, on an overnight train you can sleep pretty decently. They will usually have a kind of bunk bed that folds down but this varies by country so you want to check! Have you thought about a Eurail pass? They aren't cheap but can be a good value if you use it a lot. You might have to pay a small fee here and there for a seat reservation (yes you can have a ticket but not a seat, you pay for everything in Europe) or a little extra for a night train.

Sometimes smaller towns will have CRAZY connections so you will need to look at this considering where you actually want to go. Most places on your list are ok probably but make sure your train to Amsterdam doesn't stop 1800 places on the way from Berlin.

I have also done the car rental thing. Renting a car in Europe can be pricey (gas is way more), the traffic can be bad and all the signs are different. Will any of that stress you out? Keep that in mind. We also go lost A LOT because we did not have GPS (the rental place was out) and were using paper maps, which wasn't ideal. I did the rental when I was traveling with two other people so the cost worked out in our favor overall. Also, none of us could drive a manual transmission so we had a hard time finding a car to rent.

I'm pretty good with figuring out logistics when traveling.  I'm cool with driving a stick in traffic and mostly can handle crazy driving situations without too much stress.  I'm not scared off by driving at all, but parking does scare me a little.  :)  Plus I'll have a long time to fine tune the travel aspect.  It's our free places to stay that book up about a year out, so once I get that decided, I can optimize the travel portion.


Now to destinations:

Munich - I have been there twice (at least) and it is my favorite German city! I have been to quite a few, as I lived in Germany and the Netherlands both. The classical art museum is great (die alte pinokotheck sp?), lovely plazas and people are more friendly than in northern Germany imo.

I've heard a lot of good things.  I believe it's Rick Steves top destination in Germany (I'm a fan of his travel style), so it's hard for me to imagine being in the country and not hitting Munich.  It's nice to hear confirmation.

Belgium - is nice, very good train service from Amsterdam to Brussels, 3 hours and ~ 50E last I checked a few years ago and trains run a lot. Belgium and NL can both have absolute SHIT weather (rain, wind, grossness). If the weather is nice, it is beautiful and you can eat chocolate and drink beer all day.
Amsterdam - See comment about the weather. It's nice, Holland is also small and very good/cheap train service, so you can use Amsterdam as a base and go to the Hague, Leiden, Gouda and lots of other places. Eat the stroopwaffels and the Pancakes! Dutch pancakes are one of my all-time favorite foods, they put cheese, bacon and lots of other yummy things INSIDE their pancakes. Anne Frank House is cool and Van Gogh museum is fab if you like art. The canal boat tours are worth the money, I did it twice, totally recommended.
I can definitely drink beer all day!  :)  Pretty sure I'll enjoy the food too.  Most cities in the Netherlands and Belgium seem like such great wandering around cities.  Assuming the weather cooperates as you mentioned.

Berlin - LOVE LOVE LOVE. It's a real city, not just a capital like DC. The zoo is world renowned and so many museums. The check point charlie muesum is one of my faves in the WORLD. I enjoyed see the creative ways people found to leave east Germany.
Cologne - Also fabulous. If you are going in winter definitely go here! Fabulous Christmas markets. Lovely river with lots of views.
Dusseldorf - Go to Cologne over Dusseldorf, they're close to each other. You could also stay in one and visit both.
Frankfurt - kind of industrial, cheap to fly into. Otherwise, it's still pretty cool because I like Germany but you can totally skip it.

Good stuff, that helps.

Other places to consider for your paid nights:

SPAIN is absolutely fantastic. All of it. It definitely helps to know a little Spanish. Go there to eat if for not other reason. Assuming you like pork - I went there with a Muslim friend and he had a rough time.
Italy – I have been to Cinque Terre, Genoa, Pisa, Naples and Milan. It’s harder to get around than Germany/Netherlands/Belgium where a lot of people speak English but it is ghetto in such a beautiful way (I mean this as a compliment to all of Italy). The food is also awesome but not as varied as I’m used to in the US.

Whoa whoa!  Easy there!  You're getting a little excited and sending me throughout the whole continent.  I only have 2 weeks!  :) 

But really, thanks for taking the time.  I appreciate all the info.

Lyssa

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Re: Help me decide on my European vacation destination(s)
« Reply #24 on: April 19, 2015, 09:06:01 AM »
3 nights in Vienna is time well spend, especially if you are interested in architecture. For the same reason you should seriously consider Heidelberg as a day trip. Like others have mentioned it is one of the places least damaged in WWII. Severly bombed cities have unfortunately been rebuild in a haste (understandebly) and modernized horribly (and not understandebly) in the 70ies.

My favourite city in Europe is Stockholm. To my knowledge it's about the only city consisting of 1/3 buildings, 1/3 water and 1/3 green spaces. Really beautiful and special.
« Last Edit: April 19, 2015, 12:22:36 PM by Lyssa »

RunHappy

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Re: Help me decide on my European vacation destination(s)
« Reply #25 on: April 19, 2015, 10:24:26 AM »
I'm in Dusseldorf now (well just outside) and I think it is worth the trip.  Renting a car might be easier as Dusseldorf is only about 2-2.5 hours from Amsterdam then 1 hour from Cologne.  After that to Frankfurt and Zurich a train would be best. 

NinetyFour

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Re: Help me decide on my European vacation destination(s)
« Reply #26 on: April 19, 2015, 03:20:46 PM »
Following...in case one of these days I make it out of North America...

Moonwaves

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Re: Help me decide on my European vacation destination(s)
« Reply #27 on: April 19, 2015, 03:38:31 PM »
As Megma indicated, Cologne is nicer to visit as a tourist than Dusseldorf, but Dusseldorf is worth a visit.  I like the Alt beer better than the Kölsch, and the Altstadt is a great place to go drinking for an evening.  Nothing like drinking from a freshly tapped keg, especially when it's a wooden tap driven into a wood keg for beer brewed on premise. 

Near Dusseldorf is the Neander Valley, if you like really really really old history.  Aachen is worth checking out, as are the nearby WWII cemeteries if that is your interest.   The Rhine valley... I could go on and on.

I've been reading about Alt vs Kolsch beer, and how if you order Alt in Cologne or Kolsch in Dusseldorf that they think you're a rube.  :) 
Well, the fun part comes if you get people to do a blind taste test - it's really difficult, almost impossible to distinguish the two. I wouldn't have thought it but it's true. We had a beer-tasting with six people once ('cos that's the kind of thing we do for fun here ;) ) and only one was able to tell all of the Alt vs. Koelsch - have done it several times when out since as well because no-one ever believes it.

Dusseldorf is where I live and I definitely prefer it over Cologne. But most people tend to like one over the other and it's hard to tell which one you'd like until you get here really. There's some interesting architecture in Dusseldorf, particularly some of the buildings (Frank Gehry) in the section of the old harbour area, now rejuvenated as the "media harbour".


As far as car rental is concerned, I use insurance4carhire to buy an annual insurance policy to cover the deductible/excess on car hire - costs me €55 or so a year and means I never need to bother getting the extra insurance from the rental places. Of course, if you have money saved and could easily find the €2,500 in case of an accident, you might not bother with even that. For the rental itself, I use http://www.autoeurope.com/, which checks different companies and lets you choose which offer you want. I've been using it for about three years now and often double-check directly with the companies on offer and have never yet found a cheaper offer by going direct.

Eric

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Re: Help me decide on my European vacation destination(s)
« Reply #28 on: April 20, 2015, 01:02:56 PM »
I want to thank everyone for all of your input.  There are obviously a number of great places that I'm going to miss on this trip, but a lot of this has planted a seed for a future trip as well. 

This weekend I checked out a number of travel books from the library and also spent a lot of time looking at plane (and train) schedules, distances, and feasibility.  And I think we've decided for the most part, and we're going to focus on the Eastern half and save the Western half for another time.  Unless something changes between now and next year, this is the new plan:

Fly into Vienna (3 nights) > TBD Austrian Mountain Village (2) > Salzburg (2) > Munich (2 days, 1 night, with the 2nd night being the night train to Berlin) > Berlin (3) > Prague (2) Fly out of Prague.

That will get us 6/14 free nights (Vienna & Berlin), limit some of our moving around, and still be able to hit a number of major sites and can't miss areas, like Berlin.  I was considering chopping off Berlin, as it's so far, but enough of you have professed your love to convince me to keep it.  The night train will help.  I'm hoping 4 nights outside of Vienna (2 in the mountains & 2 in Salzburg) will feel small enough to make up for the bustling cities afterwards.  I like trying to mix big w/ small during a trip, but it's a hard balancing act considering most stuff is in bigger cities.

Actually, we may end up with more than 6 free nights, as I just started looking at Hilton rewards CCs, so I think it's safe to say 2-3 more nights could be free.  The flights will be free.  I think I can keep this trip under $3000.  I can post my estimated budget once we get closer if anyone is interested.

Thanks again for all the help!

lise

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Re: Help me decide on my European vacation destination(s)
« Reply #29 on: April 20, 2015, 01:22:08 PM »
Great itinerary! 

Eric

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Re: Help me decide on my European vacation destination(s)
« Reply #30 on: April 20, 2015, 01:26:52 PM »
Great itinerary!

Pretty much exactly what you suggested!!  :)

NinetyFour

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Re: Help me decide on my European vacation destination(s)
« Reply #31 on: April 20, 2015, 03:46:06 PM »
I'd be very interested in seeing your budget.  Thanks in advance!

justajane

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Re: Help me decide on my European vacation destination(s)
« Reply #32 on: April 20, 2015, 03:54:55 PM »
I've traveled all over Northern Europe, and FWIW Vienna is my favorite city. Absolutely beautiful. Also, Bratislava is a day trip from Vienna. Great, cheap beer and nice to stroll around the city center.

lise

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Re: Help me decide on my European vacation destination(s)
« Reply #33 on: April 20, 2015, 07:46:20 PM »
Great itinerary!

Pretty much exactly what you suggested!!  :)

I know!  I actually applied to be a travel agent at 18 and got rejected for being too young ... off to college instead and a financially rewarding career in IT, but not emotionally rewarding ...

belgiandude

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Re: Help me decide on my European vacation destination(s)
« Reply #34 on: April 20, 2015, 08:46:38 PM »
I have been to all the cities you mentioned.

Personally, I would spend a day or 3 in Vienna and then branch off to Eastern Europe, including Prague and Budapest or more south, such as  Slovenia (lake Bled) and Croatia (Plitvice, Dubrovnik, any of the islands).

If that is too adventurous, I would suggest Amsterdam -> Brussels -> Cologne . I have hosted several persons when I was living in Brussels. Sidetrips that can be made include Bruges, Ghent, Leuven, etc. Everything is easy reachable by train (take the slow one and rail passes if you have a family of 4) or by bus (eurolines).

Avoid Frankfurt and Zurich. They will eat your budget.

Some pics from small towns:

Leuven:
Library, visit the tower - view is magnificent


City hall; ask for a visit


Ghent:


Cologne:


Plitvice:


Bled:
« Last Edit: April 20, 2015, 08:59:26 PM by belgiandude »

rujancified

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Re: Help me decide on my European vacation destination(s)
« Reply #35 on: April 21, 2015, 09:28:47 AM »
Lake Bled is amazing and isn't that far away from your path, honestly. I got engaged there so I have a soft spot, but it really is stunning! There's likely a direct train to Bled from Vienna and there's definitely a train to Munich/Salzburg from Bled.

Another option would be to add a day to Vienna + Salzburg and do day trips. Berchtesgaden and Halstatt are quite close to Salzburg. Berchtesgaden/Eagles Nest is super cool if you're into WW2 history/a Band of Brothers fan.

Friar

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Re: Help me decide on my European vacation destination(s)
« Reply #36 on: April 21, 2015, 10:09:23 AM »
No London? If you're all the way over in Europe you may as well get on the channel tunnel and visit our fair capital. But being from England I would recommend that :P

For mainland Europe I would recommend Krakow, Poland.

It's a beautiful part of the Poland and you can take a trip to Auschwitz which is a powerful experience.

Eric

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Re: Help me decide on my European vacation destination(s)
« Reply #37 on: April 21, 2015, 12:00:23 PM »
Lake Bled is amazing and isn't that far away from your path, honestly. I got engaged there so I have a soft spot, but it really is stunning! There's likely a direct train to Bled from Vienna and there's definitely a train to Munich/Salzburg from Bled.

Another option would be to add a day to Vienna + Salzburg and do day trips. Berchtesgaden and Halstatt are quite close to Salzburg. Berchtesgaden/Eagles Nest is super cool if you're into WW2 history/a Band of Brothers fan.

Hallstatt is on my list as a possible stop between Vienna and Salzburg.  That could be the "TBD Austrian Mountain Village" that I need.  I saw that it's a UNESCO World Heritage site, so I know it must be pretty special.

I'm not sure if Lake Bled is too far out of the way, but I'll look into that as well.  Looks beautiful!
« Last Edit: April 21, 2015, 12:54:34 PM by Eric »

UnleashHell

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Re: Help me decide on my European vacation destination(s)
« Reply #38 on: April 21, 2015, 12:36:40 PM »
Amsterdam. definately.
Did it last year - only had a full day - could spend a LOT more time there,


I was going to add Bruge to the list - that and Ghent as mentioned above would be fantastic,

no enough experience with the rest of the areas you are looking at but the ones I mentioned are great.

Albert

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Re: Help me decide on my European vacation destination(s)
« Reply #39 on: April 21, 2015, 12:46:01 PM »
You have a pretty good plan. Some of the other places suggested are also stunning, but you can't do it all in the time allotted to you.

Moonwaves

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Re: Help me decide on my European vacation destination(s)
« Reply #40 on: April 22, 2015, 02:51:26 AM »
I'm not sure if Lake Bled is too far out of the way, but I'll look into that as well.  Looks beautiful!
Lake Bled is fabulous. If you're at all into walking/hiking then I would definitely recommend Slovenia - lovely walks and gorgeous rivers that are so clean (riverbeds are mostly granite rather than mud) you can refill your water bottles all over. Some of the nicest tasting water I've ever had.
Disclaimer: it's nearly ten years since I was there so please do check with a local that it's safe to just fill your bottle up like that. :)

We flew into Venice for our trip to Slovenia - it's not far.

shrnjad

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Re: Help me decide on my European vacation destination(s)
« Reply #41 on: April 22, 2015, 03:28:04 AM »
A great way to travel is couchsurfing.org!! My wife and I used it when travelling overseas and also in Europe with spectacular results. Also we like hosting in our own city of Munich.

Not only is it free accomodation, but you will get a wealth of information and insights from your hosts.

It may not be the right thing for everyone, but worth a look!

If you do not want to stay at people's places, you can still meet up with locals. We did that while staying in a hostel in Porto and received a great guided tour. ;)

Finally you can get lots of informations on cities from the local online groups and forums.

Villanelle

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Re: Help me decide on my European vacation destination(s)
« Reply #42 on: April 22, 2015, 06:49:49 AM »
ykphil -- good points.  I was mostly thinking train because of the lack of hassle and that's how we did our first trip.  Plus in Italy there are a bunch of ZTL areas (where they just mail you the ticket after the fact) that I was worried about.  I'll look into it further.  Probably depends on how many big cities we hit versus smaller towns.

lise -- Unfortunately Munich is not on the free night list, but it's one of the top places I'd like to go.  I like Prague too.  I'm not sure if that would be biting off too much or not.  Berlin > Prague > Vienna > Salzburg > Munich might be pretty cool.  I could get 6 free nights out of that.  Thanks for the idea.

oldmanbutters -- overnight train?  I'm not sure my wife will go for that.  We usually try not to mess with our sleep too much after arriving since it's mostly sleepless the whole way over on the plane.  Have you done it?  Do you actually get sleep?

Of what you've proposed, to me, this trip sounds the best.

I wasn't especially impressed with Cologne.  It was a gorgeous Cathedral, but to me, there was little else of great interest. 

You mentioned liking architecture.  In Prague, you can see Frank Ghery's The Dancing House (aka Fred and Ginger).  Vienna has a wonderful art museum, and a solid modern art museum as well, in addition to the various palaces and other historical building.  If you are there during opera season and have any interest at all, I highly recommend doing the standing room tickets.  Great experience, and definitely the mustachian way to get in to the opera house and see a performance.  For more info on how this work, I recommend check out a Rick Steves book.  If memory serves, he has a Vienna specific book, but it might be in his Best of Europe or another book, too.  He explains the process quite well.

Eric

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Re: Help me decide on my European vacation destination(s)
« Reply #43 on: April 22, 2015, 11:15:12 AM »
ykphil -- good points.  I was mostly thinking train because of the lack of hassle and that's how we did our first trip.  Plus in Italy there are a bunch of ZTL areas (where they just mail you the ticket after the fact) that I was worried about.  I'll look into it further.  Probably depends on how many big cities we hit versus smaller towns.

lise -- Unfortunately Munich is not on the free night list, but it's one of the top places I'd like to go.  I like Prague too.  I'm not sure if that would be biting off too much or not.  Berlin > Prague > Vienna > Salzburg > Munich might be pretty cool.  I could get 6 free nights out of that.  Thanks for the idea.

oldmanbutters -- overnight train?  I'm not sure my wife will go for that.  We usually try not to mess with our sleep too much after arriving since it's mostly sleepless the whole way over on the plane.  Have you done it?  Do you actually get sleep?

Of what you've proposed, to me, this trip sounds the best.

If may have gotten buried up above, but I think that's pretty much what I've decided:

Fly into Vienna (3 nights) > TBD Austrian Mountain Village (2) > Salzburg (2) > Munich (2 days, 1 night, with the 2nd night being the night train to Berlin) > Berlin (3) > Prague (2) Fly out of Prague.


You mentioned liking architecture.  In Prague, you can see Frank Ghery's The Dancing House (aka Fred and Ginger).  Vienna has a wonderful art museum, and a solid modern art museum as well, in addition to the various palaces and other historical building.  If you are there during opera season and have any interest at all, I highly recommend doing the standing room tickets.  Great experience, and definitely the mustachian way to get in to the opera house and see a performance.  For more info on how this work, I recommend check out a Rick Steves book.  If memory serves, he has a Vienna specific book, but it might be in his Best of Europe or another book, too.  He explains the process quite well.

I've been to one opera performance (in San Jose) before.  We went to see an Italian opera (La Traviata I think) in preparation for our trip to Italy and I fell asleep.  It was Sunday afternoon.  I might just be an uncivilized brute.  :)  But I do think seeing a classical concert in a classical venue (like inside a castle in Salzburg) might be more my style.  Actually, I'd probably like an opera house tour more than the actual opera.

Rick has a Vienna, Salzburg, and Tirol book.  Don't worry, I'll read every word that Rick and staff have written on every place on my list.  Half the fun for these trips for me is the planning aspect.

Villanelle

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Re: Help me decide on my European vacation destination(s)
« Reply #44 on: April 22, 2015, 03:13:11 PM »
ykphil -- good points.  I was mostly thinking train because of the lack of hassle and that's how we did our first trip.  Plus in Italy there are a bunch of ZTL areas (where they just mail you the ticket after the fact) that I was worried about.  I'll look into it further.  Probably depends on how many big cities we hit versus smaller towns.

lise -- Unfortunately Munich is not on the free night list, but it's one of the top places I'd like to go.  I like Prague too.  I'm not sure if that would be biting off too much or not.  Berlin > Prague > Vienna > Salzburg > Munich might be pretty cool.  I could get 6 free nights out of that.  Thanks for the idea.

oldmanbutters -- overnight train?  I'm not sure my wife will go for that.  We usually try not to mess with our sleep too much after arriving since it's mostly sleepless the whole way over on the plane.  Have you done it?  Do you actually get sleep?

Of what you've proposed, to me, this trip sounds the best.

If may have gotten buried up above, but I think that's pretty much what I've decided:

Fly into Vienna (3 nights) > TBD Austrian Mountain Village (2) > Salzburg (2) > Munich (2 days, 1 night, with the 2nd night being the night train to Berlin) > Berlin (3) > Prague (2) Fly out of Prague.


You mentioned liking architecture.  In Prague, you can see Frank Ghery's The Dancing House (aka Fred and Ginger).  Vienna has a wonderful art museum, and a solid modern art museum as well, in addition to the various palaces and other historical building.  If you are there during opera season and have any interest at all, I highly recommend doing the standing room tickets.  Great experience, and definitely the mustachian way to get in to the opera house and see a performance.  For more info on how this work, I recommend check out a Rick Steves book.  If memory serves, he has a Vienna specific book, but it might be in his Best of Europe or another book, too.  He explains the process quite well.

I've been to one opera performance (in San Jose) before.  We went to see an Italian opera (La Traviata I think) in preparation for our trip to Italy and I fell asleep.  It was Sunday afternoon.  I might just be an uncivilized brute.  :)  But I do think seeing a classical concert in a classical venue (like inside a castle in Salzburg) might be more my style. Actually, I'd probably like an opera house tour more than the actual opera.

Rick has a Vienna, Salzburg, and Tirol book.  Don't worry, I'll read every word that Rick and staff have written on every place on my list.  Half the fun for these trips for me is the planning aspect.

The Viennese Opera House is such an amazing place to see an opera.  And the great thing about the standing room tickets is you can leave at any time.  If you grab a spot in the back, you don't even need to wait until intermission.  I wasn't overly concerned about the cost, but I don't remember the tickets being expensive, so you might not feel like you wasted the price of admission if you only stay 45 minutes. And it gets you in to the opera house as well.  I get it if it isn't your thing, though.

Rick Steves' app has an audio version (free) of his Ring Strasse tram tour.  It was nice to get on the tram and have him narrate it in my ear while I looked at the sites, rather than having to read along in a book.  The text is exactly the same as the written version in the book, but the audio version allows you to actually look and not miss things as you repeatedly consult the book. 

Albert

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Re: Help me decide on my European vacation destination(s)
« Reply #45 on: April 23, 2015, 11:56:13 AM »
I see that you are going from Berlin to Prague. If the plan is to do so by train you might consider adding Dresden which is located right in the middle. Definitely worth a day trip at the least.