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Germany/Switzerland itinerary--suggestions welcome!

OK, here is my itinerary (revised over the last few weeks). We are a family of 5 (me, DH, 3 boys ages 19, 17, 7) who will be cruising on an NCL 12 night cruise from Barcelona to Venice prior to our land vacation.

Monday/Day 1-
Get off ship in Venice.  Take train to Muerren, Switzerland (8 hours: Venice to Milan, Milan-Spiez, Spiez-Muerren on Trenitalia, will book 90 days out to get cheapest tickets).  With our luggage (1 roller suitcase & 1 carry-on/backpack each) and a day trip train, should I book just regular seats or a compartment, do you think? Stay there 2 nights.

Tuesday/Day 2-
Tram up to Schilthorn, hike around Lauterbraunen Valley area. 

Wednesday/Day 3-
Train to Munich (7 hrs.) What is the cheapest way to book this? Obviously, booking 90 days out, but should I use trenitalia or db bahn? Stay in Munich 3 nights.

Thursday/Day 4-
1.5 hr. train to Salzburg, look around, bus (45 min.) to Berchtesgaden to tour Eagle's Nest, bus back to salzburg, train back to Munich; stay in Munich 2 more nights--use a Lander ticket for the 5 of us (?). Would the train ticket also work for the bus to Berchtesgaden?

Friday/Day 5-
Munich--must sees???

Saturday/Day 6-
Check out of Munich hotel. Early train to Fuessen, shuttle bus to Neuschwanstein Castle area (travel with all luggage, store in lockers @ Fuessen train station) for morning tour (I will buy tickets ahead of time online). Use Schones-Wochenende (Weekender) Ticket for trains for the 5 of us.

Then trains/bus Fuessen to Rothenburg ob der Tauber (~4:30 total travel time) early afternoon, stay in Rothenburg 1 night. Is the Nightwatchman Tour worth it? Not sure if we will do the crime & punishment museum with a 7 year old, but might send the teenagers in on their own.

Sunday/Day 7-
Explore Rothenburg (will things be closed because it is Sunday?), bus & train to Bingen/Bacharach [on the Rhine River] (~4:30 travel time), stay in Bacharach, another Schones-Wochenende Ticket for the 5 of us. If time permits, cruise the Rhine (from Bingen, or Bacharach to Boppard), or, visit Marksburg Castle this day. OR (probably) do these the next day--I am only putting this in here as a possibility if Rothenburg is shut down on Sunday & we leave really early. Buy boat tickets at kiosk on dock.

Monday/Day 8-
boat cruise on the Rhine if we didn't do it the day before, Marksburg Castle or Burg Eltz, explore towns. Lander ticket for train travel, if needed.

stay in Bacharach

Tuesday/Day 9-
Get up super early, take 1.5 hr. train @ 05:30 Bacharach to Frankfurt, flight home to USA at 09:30 a.m. Have to buy point to point tickets at station, since Lander tickets don't work until 09:00.

Any towns seem not worth a visit?  Train schedule make sense?  Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

Thanks so much!

Jen

Posted by
4968 posts

"Thursday/Day 4-"
Way too much traveling around, too little time with your boots on the ground for these interesting places. Bayern ticket doesn't work on the bus through Austria to B'gaden - only on the trains that go there via Freilassing.

"Saturday/Day 6-
Check out of Munich hotel.... Use Schones-Wochenende (Weekender) Ticket for trains for the 5 of us."

There's no reason not to use the Bayern Ticket on this day instead - €35 for your group instead of €44 for the S-W ticket. The BT is good at any hour on Sat or Sun.

This day will involve 9+ hours on the train. 5 of those for a 30-minute tour of N'stein. Definitely not worth the time IMO. Spend the 5+ hours in R'burg. Or in Munich - your Day 5 is really about the only opportunity you'll have to sightsee there.

"Sunday/Day 7-"

Hard to see how you explore Rothenburg, travel 4. 5 hours on the train to Bacharach, and still have time for anything else that day If you've done N'stein as scheduled, you will not have had time to do much in Rothenburg on Day 6, so you'll be seeing R'burg on Sunday morning, and you'll be doing these Rhine things on Monday, no doubt.

"Any towns seem not worth a visit? Train schedule make sense? Any advice would be greatly appreciated!"

There's nothing wrong with visiting these touristy (and sometimes hypertouristy) places, but it's too much of a train-hopping marathon just to get to them. I'm not sure you even have time to sit down to a meal anywhere. I'd drop N'stein for sure to free up your other places a bit.

Posted by
30932 posts

Jen,

A few thoughts and suggestions on your newest proposed Itinerary......

  • D1-Mon. What time are you disembarking from the ship, and are you departing Venice from Santa Lucia or Mestre stations? As you noted, that trip will be about 8 hours with between 4 and 7 changes, depending on which train you connect with. Trenitalia may only be able to provide tickets as far as Spiez. When you arrive there, you can either go inside the station and buy tickets to Mürren OR purchase on the sbb.ch website. Note that the trip from Venice to Milan will probably be via Freccia trains, so the tickets will be time, date and train specific. You MUST use the train listed on the ticket or face hefty fines of about €60 PP, which will be collected ON THE SPOT!
  • D2-Tue. The Cable Cars to the Schilthorn will be expensive, about CHF 70 return for adults as I recall. I'm not sure if one of the Swiss Passes would be of benefit, as they only provide a 50% discount. One nice hike that you might consider is to take the Allmend-Hubel Funicular to the top, and then hike back to Mürren. It's a very pleasant walk, through alpine meadows with cows grazing. You could also walk down the small path to Gimmelwald and have a look at one of Rick's favourite spots. Your older boys may enjoy stopping by the famous Mountain Hostel, as there's usually quite a lively group there.
  • D3-Wed. One of the simplest trips from Mürren to Munich will be a departure at 10:06, arriving at 17:28 (time 7H:22M, 4 changes). Some of the routes involve travel by Bus, while this one uses only trains which IMO will simplify things. I'd suggest adding one night to Munich (more on that later).
  • D4-Thu. Salzburg to Berchtesgaden day trip. I can't answer the questions on the discount tickets but Lee or Russ will be able to provide the details. In addition to Eagle's Nest, there's also the interesting Dokumentation Centre and Bunkers just up the hill from the town. Most of the displays are in German, but Audioguides can be rented. The network of Bunkers was extensive and only a small part were restored for visitors. There's also a Salt Mine there which can be toured. If you need to buy tickets, I'd recommend using the EurAide office in the Munich station (desk 1 on the left in the DB Reisezentrum, as I recall). Their English-speaking agents are really helpful.
  • D5-Fri. "Must Sees" will vary depending on individual preference. Some suggestions - Marienplatz and the Glockenspiel, the incredible Deutsches Museum (you could spend the better part of a day there), walking tours, Segway or bike tours. There's LOTS to choose from.
  • D6-Sat. I'd suggest using part of the day for a day trip to Neuschwanstein and the Castles. That makes more sense (IMO) than a grueling marathon trip to Füssen and then directly to Rothenburg. You can either make the time-specific castle reservations on your own and travel there via train and bus OR take a day tour with Radius Tours and let them make all the arrangements.
  • D7-Sun. Unfortunately, I'm not sure Rothenburg will be possible so I'd suggest train to Bacharach. One of the easiest trips will be a departure at 09:28, arriving 14:27 (time 4H:59M, 2 changes). The Bacharach station is very small, and you may not even realize when you've arrived there so be be ready to disembark at the appointed time. You should be able to walk to your hotel (where are you staying?).
  • D8-Mon. Boat cruise. You could consider going from Bacharach to St. Goar, and then returning by train. The trip takes longer in one direction than the other due to currents, but I can never remember which direction is faster. In St. Goar you could tour Rheinfels Castle.
  • D9-Tue. Early train to FRA for flight home.

Continued.....

Posted by
30932 posts

Jen - continued…..

A few additional thoughts…..

Hopefully I've got everything in the right order and haven't missed anything.

It's only beneficial to buy tickets in advance if there's a price break. In some cases, it's just as easy to buy them locally, either from a Kiosk or a staffed ticket office. For example, tickets from Spiez to Mürren are very easy to buy locally.

In addition to the Italian rail system, the Swiss have also started to fine passengers who have any "irregularities" with their tickets, so be careful with that. You may enjoy reading THIS BBC ARTICLE on the subject.

I doubt that a day trip to Burg Eltz will be possible, as you simply don't have time. That trip takes the better part of a full day from Bacharach (I know, as I've done it), so the only way you'll get there is if you sacrifice one of your other stops.

Your Itinerary is VERY ambitious and keep in mind that towards the end of the trip your group will probably be wearing a bit thin. Unless you can add a few days to the trip, I'm not sure it's realistically possible to fit everything in that you have listed.

Cheers!

Posted by
12040 posts

I won't repeat all the excellent advice the others noted, but I'll add a few details that relate to the Alps.

First, look at a map. The direct route from Venice to Munich passes directly through the Ortler, Dolomite, Tyrolian and Bavarian Alps. The Berner Oberland is a far detour to the west involving a very long day of travel. Here's my recurring advice about the Alps- give yourself an adequate buffer against bad weather. You're headed far out of your way to the Berner Oberland, only spending one full day there then immediately heading back further east again. What happens if the one day you budgeted for the mountains is overcast and rainy? You've traveled very far for a lot of money so that you can spend the day staring at each other in a hotel, instead of those mountain views you dreamed about.

Here's what I would do. Because your itinerary is very tight and it would be difficult to find an extra day somewhere, drop the Berner Oberland and substitute it with an Alpine location in Italy or Austria. You would have a much shorter travel day, and this gives something more along the lines of a day and a half free to enjoy the mountains instead of one. That's still not ideal, but it resets the odds much better in your favor. If you want to look for an idea of where to go, check out the map on Feratel.com and see what notable Alpine resorts lie more along your direct route of travel.

You also have a similar problem with Berchtesgaden... only one day allotted gives you no buffer against bad weather.

Posted by
6543 posts

The leg of your trip through Switzerland is going to be a time consuming detour, and the country is very expensive to travel in.
Why don't you take the train from Venice up to Innsbruck area to get your taste of the Alps? It's just so easy, and a straight shot toward Munich and Salzburg. And it might allow you to slow down a little and enjoy your trip more.

I've stayed in Bacharach a couple of times over the years. I find it to be a good place to spend the night (great B&B's), however it's really not a destination. After your time spent in the incredible Austrian Alps, the hills on each side of the Rhine River will just be hills and not so thrilling. I would say spend the extra time around Munich and fly home from there.

Posted by
1402 posts

You will be exhausted from this itinerary.

Russ mentions the 5 hour train ride to do the 30 minute tour of Neuschwanstein. He might also mentioned at least a hour to get your ticket and get up to the castle. If the castle is a must, then I would add a night to Fussen and then get a train to Rothenburg.

If it was up to me, I would skip the detour to Switzerland and fly from Venice to Munich.

I think the 7 yr old would like the torture museum.

I have finished my past two Germany trips by staying in Bacharach and taking the train as you did - no problem except for getting up so early! The earliest train doesn't run each day - check the schedule!

Posted by
70 posts

"drop the Berner Oberland and substitute it with an Alpine location in Italy or Austria."

OK, so the Innsbruck area? Or other suggestion? Hotel reccommendations? Better get the RS DVD out on Innsbruck! That plan does make sense, but the Swiss alps are just so amazing looking...lots to ponder.

Posted by
12040 posts

"Better get the RS DVD out on Innsbruck!" He has almost nothing to say about Innsbruck, but he somehow convinced millions of North Americans that ho-hum towns like Hall in Tyrol and Reutte are great Alpine destinations. If you're confining your trip to within the Rick Steves' universe, look to see what he says about the Dolomites. And it's worth noting, the Dolomites are just one subrange of Italy's overall vast Alpine territory. They fit well within your trip, though.

Stubailtal is a good Alpine base near Innsbruck, as is the Zillertal and Hintux glacier area, but these latter two may be a little more cumbersome to reach via public transportation. Further north, I've also enjoyed Lermoos and Erhwald, but if you're going that far north, you may as well stay in Garmisch-Partenkirchen.

Posted by
30932 posts

Jen,

The suggestions to skip the Berner Oberland are certainly worth considering, as that's the "outlier" in your proposed Itinerary. It appeared to be important to your group so I included it in the Itinerary I posted above.

You might also consider the Dolomites as that's a very convenient stop on your route to Munich. You could for example.....

  • Train from Venice to Bolzano (probably via Verona PN), and then Bus to Castelrotto.
  • Castelrotto: take the Bus and the Cable Car to Alpi di Siusi for hiking or whatever. The scenery in that area is spectacular! There are other possibilities for a "home base" in that area, but will have to leave that to the others.
  • Continue to Munich by train.

As mentioned before, I'd suggest increasing your time in Munich as it not only has a lot to see in the city, but it's also a great base for touring places like the Castles in Füssen, Salzburg, etc. At the conclusion of your time in Munich, you could still travel to Rothenburg and then Bacharach.

Good luck sorting this all out!

Posted by
2663 posts

Hi Jen,

There's absolutely nothing wrong with staying in the Innsbruck area and/or Hall in Tirol. In fact, we've stayed at the Gasthof Badl in Hall in Tirol during 5 trips so far for a total of 16 or 17 nights since 2001. I would also recommend the Zillertal and Italian Dolomites. If you choose to stay in the Dolomites, consider the Val Gardena. Castelrotto, while nice, is not "in" the Dolomites, but on the outskirts.

www.val-gardena.com

Paul

Posted by
70 posts

OK, so for those who have been there, would you recommend Innsbruck or Hallstatt areas? I assume one is more mountainous in terrain, and the other is the beautiful lake area. AND i had originally planned on visiting the Berner-Oberland (mountains). But if we are taking the train from Italy up through the Brenner Pass, we will be seeing lots of mountains, I think(?). Could we do Innsbruck or Hallstatt in 1 night & gain that extra night for Munich that we need? I know there are the salt mines* in Hallstatt & pretty views, are those doable in a day & then continue onto Munich? What about Innsbruck? I guess this should be on the Austria board, but it's a continuation of my mostly Germany itinerary, AND you all are so knowledgeable!

*I 'm not sold on the salt mine thing, anyway--2 of the 5 of us are claustrophobic & not sure how we would do! ;0)

Posted by
12040 posts

Innsbruck's in the valley, not the mountains. Hallstatt's on a lake surrounded by mountains. If you're looking for mountain excursions, neither really offers this.

Posted by
2663 posts

Coming through the Brenner, Innsbruck makes sense. The Nordkettenbahn takes you right from Innsbruck high into the Alps. Hallstatt is closer to Salzburg.

Posted by
2663 posts
Posted by
813 posts

We've been to Venice on the train many times in the last few years. You can go from Munich to Venice without changing trains, super easy. As much as I completely love Switzerland, an extra 8 hours on the train is torture with kids, even the most well behaved kids--ours are extremely well traveled and 5-6 hr is our limit. I recommend you take the stop in the Dolomites on your way to Munich and drop Switzerland. Great mountains, so much closer and on your way. See the ice man! As others mention, Innsbruck is in the valley floor and a regular old town, your time is better served in Salzburg or Munich. Also, for your day in Salzburg, stay there, drop the Salt Mines and Berchtesgaden. Yes, they're really great, but there's better options for spending your one day in Salzburg.

Posted by
54 posts

The Nightwatchman Tour is definitely worth doing! My husband and I went on our first trip and rearranged plans the next Christmas so that we could bring our adult children before the watchman went on his winter hiatus. Fun and entertaining.