Europe trip in May 2013

We are a family of 3 adults planning a trip to Europe in May 2013. We have to be in Vienna from the night of the 20th to the morning of the 24th (work for one of us). We want to extend it to include a short holiday. We can land in say Prague on the afternoon of the 16th of May. Plan to leave for Budapest on the morning of the 18th. Would we be able to fit in Auschwitz? Can we leave Budapest on the 20th to Vienna. Is Salzburg a day trip from Vienna? If we were to leave Vienna on the morning of the 24th to Zurich, would we be able to do some justice to Switzerland? We would need to fly out of Zurich on the night of the 25th. If the plan above does not make sense, please advise. We do not want to do France or Italy. We've been to the Black Forest area of Germany. What would the best mode of travel be? Would there be a price difference in train tickets Should we buy the train tickets at Johannesburg or buy it in Europe for individual trips or a multi-country pass? Thank you
Mat

Posted by George
Canada
834 posts

Mat - before you go any further I think you need to look at a map to see exactly what it is you're attempting to do.

Posted by Matt
Washington, DC, USA
566 posts

Mat, If you're traveling all the way from South Africa to Prague, I think it deserves more than just one full day (the 17th)that your plan currently gives it. Why not stay until the morning of the 2oth and enjoy the city? Possibly even have a day trip from there. Alternatively, depart on the 19th for Vienna and settle in there before one of you must start working. I spent 8 days (combined) solo in Prague and Vienna in the middle of winter and didn't lack for things to see and do. I'm sure it's even better in springtime. I've never visited Hungary or Switzerland so I can't comment. Must you depart from Zurich or are you only doing this in order to see a little of Switzerland? Good luck,
Matt

Posted by Ron
southwest, Missouri, U.S.A.
1361 posts

Hello Mat. A day trip to Salzburg from Vienna is possible, but I do not recommend doing that. A railroad train trip from Vienna to Salzburg is nearly three hours.

Posted by Mat
Johannesburg, Gauteng, S Africa
5 posts

Thanks for all the responses. It is obvious that we are attempting too much. We will give up on the Switzerland leg. We will have 5 days between Prague and Budapest and then 5 days for Vienna and some other areas of Austria. Would this work better?

Posted by James
Frisco
1803 posts

You might have put yourself in one of those Prague or Budapest scenarios. You land on the 16th pooped from the long flight. Write that day off. The 17th you tour "The" city and no matter where you are the 18th is necessary too. Now it's the 19th and you don't know what to do. I would suggest that if "The" city were Budapest you could easily fill the day and then catch the train to Vienna the next morning. It's a little over 3 hours. Another option on the 19th is to take the train to Gyor (half way to Vienna) and se the old baroque center and the archabbey. Then continue to Vienna the next day. As for the other side of your stay in Vienna you need at least one more day to do anything with it. I would hang around Vienna, see Melk, etc and then fly home from Vienna.

Posted by Chani
Tel Aviv
3511 posts

Vienna is between Prague and Budapest. From Prague to Budapest is about 7-8 hours on the train. Since you only have 5 days, I suggest you choose one of them. Brno is very close to Vienna and I've heard it's also lovely. From Prague, you can easily visit Terezin as a day trip. The entire city was a concentration camp, lots to see, very interesting. There are a couple of very nice day trips from Budapest to smaller towns nearby.

Posted by Mat
Johannesburg, Gauteng, S Africa
5 posts

Thanks All, we have changed our plans around! If we were to chose between Prague or Budapest, which should it be? We would have two days and we would be travelling from Vienna.

Posted by Ilja
Seattle
1469 posts

It is an eternal discussion: Prague or Budapest? Prague is a medieval jewel with beautiful views across the river at Hradcany Castle. Budapest is more modern with wide boulevards, sights more spread around, nice views across the river toward Fisherman's Bastion. Also has fewer tourists than Prague. Prague's medieval center is relatively compact, streets are very narrow and so in certain parts of Prague are relatively big crowds. Prague is famous for its beer, IMHO one of the best and cheapest in the world. Budapest on the other hand has more famous wine than beer: Tokay. Cuisine in Budapest- quite spicy (which I like), turkish influences. Budapest was occupied by Turks for one hundred years. You can see it in Buda on some architecture. Cuisine in Prague: German and Austrian influence. Bakery and sweets very good. But of course both are cosmopolitan cities and you can have any cuisine you want. Myself when I travel I go local. Google, look at pictures, read and then decide what would you rather see.

Posted by James
Frisco
1803 posts

Ilja is correct as usual. Whenever the Prague or Budapest or Vienna question comes up there are dozens of dead certain answers, but the truth is it's about what you enjoy and there is no right or wrong answer. I am incredibly biased as demonstrated by the fact that after having been to Vienna, Prague and Budapest I choose to buy property in Budapest so I could return at will. So with that in mind, please don't be critical of my personal opinions and reactions: PRAGUE does have incredible baroque and medieval architecture that is hard to find equal to; anyplace. The downside to that is that the majority of it is crammed into a few tight tourist zones that are packed full of tourists. It reminds me too much of Main Street in Disneyland. Prague has also become popular among the English for Stag Parties. It doesn't do anything for the quality of the experience to see a bunch of drunk Englishmen dressed in strange apparel staggering down the street. The food in Prague is good but not exceptional. Central Europe is about "Classic" culture and there is some very good music and dance in Prague but it seems to exist as a tourist attraction; but still very good. The beauty of the town in general, if you look past the tourists, is hard to beat. The Czech people were "okay" not bad, not outstanding. The Jewish district had a profound impact on me and made my visits well worth the effort. Prague is also a good jumping off point for the towns, villages, and castles of the Czech Republic which are hard to beat. It is a beautiful country. As part of a trip to the whole of the Czech Republic Prague is great; by its self it is just too hurried for me.

Posted by James
Frisco
1803 posts

Ilja is correct as usual. Whenever the Prague or Budapest or Vienna question comes up there are dozens of dead certain answers, but the truth is it's about what you enjoy and there is no right or wrong answer. I am incredibly biased as demonstrated by the fact that after having been to Vienna, Prague and Budapest I choose to buy property in Budapest so I could return at will. So with that in mind, please don't be critical of my personal opinions and reactions: VIENNA is one of those places that deserve to be seen despite what I write next. What comes to mind is "overly restored". It's like walking through a giant Imperial museum; but like a museum nothing feels alive. I don't much care for German personality so the people were not particularly memorable. Here, a place famous for music, you will find a guy dressed like Mozart standing on every street corner hawking tickets to one of the dozens of concerts each day; really turned me off. I couldn't get comfortable in Vienna and have no desire to return. But that's just my temperament. If you are into imperial glory and rich textures then this may be the place for you to go. And in a rare moment of madness I completely understand Fred's post below. It proves the point that there are not correct answers, just what works for you one way or another. Where ever you end up you will have a blast if that is what you set out to do And let me say so it is not misunderstood. Its my temperment that is not condusive to the German personality. Nothing at all wrong with Germans.

Posted by James
Frisco
1803 posts

Ilja is correct as usual. Whenever the Prague or Budapest or Vienna question comes up there are dozens of dead certain answers, but the truth is it's about what you enjoy and there is no right or wrong answer. I am incredibly biased as demonstrated by the fact that after having been to Vienna, Prague and Budapest I choose to buy property in Budapest so I could return at will. So with that in mind, please don't be critical of my personal opinions and reactions: BUDAPEST is a little gritty around the edges. Grand buildings stand in need of paint and plaster repair; some still showing bullet holes from the '56 uprising (or maybe WWII?). The sense of the Cold War past still lingers in areas which gives it a bit of a mystery. There is no Tourist Zone, this is a sprawling minimally restored (although heavily repaired after the siege in WWII) city intact as it was from about 1890 – 1938 and it only takes a little imagination to put yourself back in that time. The architecture is Art Deco, Art Nuevo, Bauhaus with a little Baroque and Gothic Revival thrown in for good measure. The music in Budapest is nearly as outstanding as Vienna but here it is integral to the culture so while in Vienna you will be sitting among tourists in Budapest you will be sitting among Hungarians. Of the three Budapest has the best food, is the most relaxed and has the kindest people. If you want to run down a lists of churches and museums and check of the boxes this probably isn't the right place for you. You go here to live the city and not just see the sights. The single most beautiful view of a city I have ever experienced was at night from the top of Gellert Hill looking down on the lights of Budapest.

Posted by Mat
Johannesburg, Gauteng, S Africa
5 posts

Thanks Everybody, for all your valuable input. We have decided on the trip - and hope it all goes well. One night at Munich, 4 days at Innsbruck/Salzburg, 5 days at Vienna and 2 at Budapest. Flights done, hotel in Vienna done, now we'll sort out the rest. Will welcome any more tips.

Posted by James
Frisco
1803 posts

Well, you asked. First if you finish up your work and Vienna isn't everything you had hoped the train ride to Budapest is just 3.5 hours. I have a guide for our guests at http://budapestflat.shutterfly.com Click on INFO and then look to the right for a PDF file called "THE GUIDE" . The guide is sort of central to the apartment but it's still pretty useful for understanding how to use the metro, finding places to eat, antiques if you are interested, bath houses, etc. Since you are coming by train look at the section on how to get from the train station (Keleti) to the Apartment. Follow the guidelines (with the name of your hotel instead of the apartment of course). The taxis at the train station are about the only unpleasant things in Budapest – my apologies. For a hotel there are dozens and dozens of good hotels in Budapest. My advice is to stay in PEST and not in BUDA. Buda is pretty but removed from too much of why you go to Budapest. I suggest you get a map of Budapest and find Andrassy ut (ut = street). Paris' Champs Elysées was modeled after Andrassy ut; or possibly the other way around; I forget ;-). On Andrassy ut you will see an octagonal shaped intersection, this is the Oktogon. From the Oktogon draw a line down the center of Andrassy ut and beyond until you hit the river. Now when you go looking for a hotel try and find one that is within two blocks above this line or three blocks below the line. For me, and everyone's tastes vary, but for me this is Budapest's prime spot; especially on a short trip. Let me know if i can help.

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
2702 posts

Mat, Since the plans have been completed, you'll have the opportunity to size up Vienna, Budapest, Salzburg for yourself. In the end it depends upon what one likes or is willing to put up with or tolerate. I can see the validity of comments pertaining to Vienna as stuffy, stiff, rigid, a nostalgic museum, formal, conservative, etc. Such views I would not dispute but so what. It's now one my top four favourite cities in Europe worthy of return visits, like Paris and Berlin. When I first visited Vienna over 40 years ago, after spending almost two months in (West) Germany as a backpacking student tourist, Vienna struck me as a very depressing, yet fascinating city, the Imperial city ( Kaiserstadt)... the architecture, buildings still in black, but especially the mood which one could not help sense. Coming back six years later in 1977, the same feeling. But since you've set aside a number of days for seeing the city, be sure to take full advantage of the means of public transport, including taking tours. The subway U-Bahn didn't exist in the '70s. On the food Vienna is great if you like Schnitzel, where it's much better than in Germany, the coffee too much as I like German coffee. Re the music: what is emphasised in Vienna is the music of Mozart and J. Strauss, jr. in the popular mind...that light hearted, frivolous "stuff" whereas the Germans play Beethoven (at least, that's what I stumbled on to in Berlin on a Sunday afternoon an open air concert (Konzert im Freien). Vienna has an uniquely different feel to it, its own distinct Viennese personality, reflected in its attitudes, culture, dialect, and accent...different from traveling in Germany.

Posted by Mat
Johannesburg, Gauteng, S Africa
5 posts

Thanks All. We are blown away with all the very helpful information we have received - and we think Vienna and Budapest are covered. How do you think we should do the first leg of our trip? We will land in Munich on 16th May and then go to Innsbruck and/or Salzburg on 17th morning until 20th evening. Is Neuschwanstein Castle a must see or are there other good castles in Salzburg? Do you think we should do Innsbruck at all or should we spend all the time in Salzburg and travel to places around Salzburg? Should we tackle Salzburg on our own - or should we go with organised tours? If organised tours, any you can suggest? Thanks again.

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
2702 posts

Hi, "...tackle Salzburg on our own...?" Depending on what you want to see while there. I suggest seeing both of Mozart's houses. Most visitors only go to the one in the Getreidegasse, "Mozarts Geburtshaus," his birthhouse and museum. Before you reach that one, if you're coming from the train station, you'll encounter another house connected with Mozart, "Mozarts Wohnhaus" where he resided. This Wohnhaus has fewer tourists going through it while the Geburthaus is swamped. Both are across the bridge from each other, only a few mins. apart. You'll see the atmosphere, mood, etc. including accent is different in Salzburg from Vienna.