My buddy and I are going on the RS Prague and Budapest tour in October. We'd like to go over a week before and visit Berlin and/or Vienna, or Vienna and/or Salzburg. Would love to hear your thoughts on what would be worthwhile and have good travel connections.
Berlin to Prague is about 5 hours. Budapest to Vienna is about 3 hours. Vienna to Salzburg is about 3 hours. To find exact train times and connections, follow this advice: http://www.ricksteves.com/plan/tips/db_tips.htm So, your ideas are all doable (although if you want to go from Berlin to Vienna or Berlin to Budapest, that's a night train, a flight, or a VERY long day). Now you have to do some research and see what appeals to you. For me personally, I loved Berlin, Prague and Budapest. I didn't care for Vienna, and I've never been to Salzburg. I would also emphasize that while Budapest, Vienna and Prague are spoken of as triplets, and have not only geographic proximity but shared history, they are as different as apples, oranges, and bananas. So, you won't have any "redundancy" seeing all of them. If you want visual help in deciding, Rick's travel shows are on Hulu and YouTube.
Vienna is so much fun and Salzburg is beautiful. I would go with these two.
See, everyone's opinion is different. That's what makes traveling so personal. Just on proximity if you are going early and the RS tour begins in Prague then I would think you would want to visit Berlin and either Dresden or Warsaw and then move on to Prague. I'm not a great Germany fan so I can't help much with that. If you split your time and arrive a little early and leave a little late then I would suggest maybe three days in Berlin then the train to Prague to start the RS Tour. After RS leaves you in Budapest take the train to Gyor for the Archabbey, the town and the winery, then the next day continue on to Vienna by train. After a few days in Vienna head home. If your whole extra week is at the end of the RS tour I would suggest leaving Budapest to Gyor for the night, then on to Vienna for a few days and then on to Salzburg for a few days. Or you could just stay in Budapest until you have exhausted every one of the Ruin Pubs.
If location/transportation are your sole requirements, then Berlin and/or Vienna seem a match. Have you considered Berlin and Dresden before your trip starts? Vienna is nice enough....it just doesn't have the same appeal, in my opinion, as Salzburg.
A little off your topic but . . I'm doing the RS Eastern Europe tour in June. I spent the weekend planning my free time in both Prague and Budapest. I can pretty safely say that I need at least one more day in both places! With your tour having a little more time in each city, I think you will really benefit from the seeing more things on your own.
Kelly, Good that you want to go over a week prior to participating in the RS tour and see both Berlin (die dufte Stadt) and Vienna. Taking in both places certainly can do done provided you have a full week and that you're willing to take a night train or lose a day in transit. If you take the EC day train, it stops en route in Prague before going on to Vienna. Of course, just focusing on one of the two cities for the whole week is even better. Either way you cannot go wrong in choosing one or the other. On cuisine: both places have their specialties: Berliner and Wiener Spezialitäten. Re: the night train...I suggest taking this route, Berlin-Munich on the CNL, then transfer on the RJ train (Railjet) Munich-Vienna. You'll be at Wien Westbhanhof (the west train station) before noon. Would you be in Berlin in October? That's when it gets a bit chilly, Vienna then would still have relatvely warm weather in the beginning of the month. Chances are it's not going to be as cold as Berlin in October.