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Travel in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland - Late Setember/Early October

My husband and I will be visiting Germany, Austria, and Switzerland in late September and early October (2013). We are starting in Dresden (due to a conference there), and then we want to make our way down and focus most our time in the Alps. Here is our tentative agenda: 9/29 - Evening train from Dresden to Munich, stay in Munich 9/30 - Morning in Munich, Neuschwanstein Castle, head to Hallstatt, Austria 10/1 - Day in Hallstatt, evening train to Murren 10/2 -Day in Murren/Interlaken Area 10/3 - Murren to Sass Fee 10/4 - Sass Fee 10/5 -Zermatt 10/6 - Zermatt 10/7 - Evening train from Zermatt to Zurich 10/8 - Evening flight out of Zurich Here are my questions: Transportation -Should trains be booked in advance online? -Would we benefit from any Rail Passes? Between the three different countries is any one pass used? -Does the order above seem logical and cost efficient? Lodging -We are considering skirting around Munich because it's during Oktoberfest and we don't drink, or enjoy large crowds - any recommendation of where to stay, maybe nearer to the Neuschwanstein castle, but that isn't too long of a train ride from Dresden? -When we are in the South we have been looking at staying at some of Alpine Huts near Saas Fee and Zermatt. Does anyone have experience with a specific hut they enjoyed (a 1-2 day hike in Sass Fee and 2-3 day hike in Zermatt)? What is the best way to reserve these? Are there any fees if we make a reservation and then weather changes the plan? General
-Weather in late September and early October? Are coats needed (especially for hiking in the Alps?) -Any recommendations or advice is appreciated!

Posted by
2935 posts

Hi Christine, I'm not an expert by any means on trains/public transportation, but you're itinerary leaves little time to see anything. We've been everywhere on your list except Dresden and Saas Fee. You have 8 days total and a lot of traveling. My opinion is for the first 5 days (29-3) you'll be in transport more than sightseeing. Going from Munich to Fuessen (Neusch.) then to Hallstatt to Muerren makes zero sense to me. Hallstatt, IMO, doesn't fit. 1 day in Muerren/Berner Oberland? That I don't understand. This is where I'd spend the most days/nights. I'd skip just about everything else on your list for this area. My opinion, focus on either Bavaria/Austria or Switzerland. Sorry if I sound so negative, but I would rethink this. Paul

Posted by
14580 posts

Hi, On the night train from Dresden to Munich: First of all, it doesn't exist. There isn't one. The distance from Dresden Hbf to Munich Hbf is short enough to do as a day ride, changing once. I would change in Naumburg an der Saale. If you're however not pressed that much for time, then I would suggest Frankfurt. For Dresden-Munich you can tailor your own route. Now, if you're set on doing this ride by night, it's still possible, though circuitous. Take the train from Dresden Hbf. to Berlin Hbf. ca. 2+ hrs. Then take the CNL direct night train Berlin-Munich dep. after 1900.

Posted by
3 posts

Paul - Thanks for the information. Hallstatt is in there because I'd love to see it, but yes, it's the most out of the way and may be cut out. Fred - Yes, we were planning on leaving Dresden around 17:00 and arriving in Munich (or nearby town) by 11-12 pm, and staying there for a night.

Posted by
328 posts

Hi Christine, I agree with Paul. You are trying to do too much and will spend more time traveling than you will seeing the places you want to visit. Simply cutting Hallstatt out of this trip will make a big difference as it is really out of your way. But if you are considering skirting Munich anyway, why not focus all of your time in Switzerland? If your heart is set on it you could always stop for a day to visit Neuschwanstein Castle and a few other of the area's sights on the way to Murren from Dresden? Add your extra time into the Berner Oberland/Murren and your itinerary will be much less rushed. It will also give you some wiggle room if you have a rainy day or two while you are in Switzerland. We usually travel by car, so I'll leave the accommodation suggestions to others who do more traveling in the area by train. Enjoy your trip, this is one of my favourite parts of Europe!

Posted by
14580 posts

Hi, Upon reading your post again, I see you meant an evening train, not a night train. This way saves you the night train option from Berlin. That departure you have in mind requires a transfer in Nürnberg Hbf. I would suggest that getting in Munich Hbf. at 2300 you have the hotel/Pension reserved.

Posted by
11294 posts

"Should trains be booked in advance online?" If you want to save money, and can commit to non-exchangeable and non-refundable tickets, yes. For trains starting in Germany (domestic or international), use the Bahn website, following Rick's directions: https://www.ricksteves.com/travel-tips/transportation/trains/online-schedules. Particularly for two people traveling together, there is a substantial saving on advance tickets. For instance, when my mother and I went from Berlin to Dresden, it was €38 per person full fare; advance fare was €19 for one and €29 for two, so we saved €94 on that round trip alone! For domestic trains in Switzerland, there's no discount for advance purchase, but a Swiss pass or half fare card can be a good deal. Once you finalize your itinerary, post it here, so the experts on this Helpline can figure out the best deal for you.

Posted by
3 posts

Thanks for all the advice. My dreams of Hallstatt have been crushed, haha. The new agenda is looking like this: 9/28 - Dresden 9/29 - Evening train from Dresden to Nürnberg. 9/30 - See Nürnberg in morning, then train to Füssen, and connecting bus to Hohenschwangau / Alpseestraße and visit the Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau Castles. 10/1 - Arrive in Murren in morning (or evening before - hike to Rotstock hut and stay the night (http://www.rotstockhuette.ch/wanderungen/muerren-griesalp.html) 10/2 - Hike out from Rotstock hut 10/3 - Through Spiez, Interlaken? to Saas Fee 10/4 - Saas Fee 10/5 - Zermatt 10/6 - Zermatt 10/7 - From Zermatt to Zurich (stay in Zurich)
10/8 - Fly out of Zurich -We plan on buying on tickets from Dresden-Nürnberg and Nürnberg-Füssen on the bahn website. Are our bus tickets to connect to the castles included in those fares or are those purchased separately? -More info about Swiss Rail would be helpful, especially switching from German to Swiss to get to Murren from Füssen. -Any must-do hikes in Murren, Saas Fee, or Zermatt area? (We are experienced -growing up near the Rocky Mountains, but not planning on bringing any real technical gear.) We are hoping the weather will be amiable in early October.

Posted by
12040 posts

Recommended Zermatt hike... the trail head starts just across the street from the church, although it's a little hard to follow initially until the chalets start to thin out. It's a very vigorous ascent, but not a technical climb. When the trail forks, head left towards the Matterhorn. You'll eventually reach a relatively flat and open area where you can take that dream shot of the Matterhorn (weather permitting, of course). If you follow the loop back the other way down, you'll get a good view of just how high the peaks in this area of the Alps tower above you - due to the lay of the terrain, you can't really appreciate this down in the valley.

Posted by
2935 posts

Hi Christine, I don't understand how you'll be making this work: "9/30 - See Nürnberg in morning, then train to Füssen, and connecting bus to Hohenschwangau / Alpseestraße and visit the Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau Castles.
10/1 - Arrive in Murren in morning (or evening before..."

Posted by
30 posts

Hi, Your day on 9/30 is very aggressive and I doubt you'll make it to the castles. If you see Nuremburg in the AM and take the train to Fussen, that will be your day. I was just looking at the train schedule and if you leave between 12:30-1:30 pm from Nuremburg, you will arrive in Fussen at 5pm. You will not make it to the castle by 6pm. My recommendation would be to take Nuremburg out of the schedule and take the train from Dresden to Fussen on 9/29. The train gets in around 10pm leaving from Dresden around 1pm. You can stay in Fussen on 9/29 and explore the town on 9/30. This is a beautiful Bavarian town that I've been to twice. There are some great hotels in town also. I've stayed at the Altstadt Zum Hechten in town and purchased by castle tickets at the hotel. If you did this, you can then take the bus to the castles and go to the will-call window for your tickets. Otherwise, you will have to wait in line which can be lengthy. The castle tours will take you most of the morning if you start off first thing. Then after your morning at the castles and in town, you could take the train to Murren. I am traveling next year to Germany, Austria and Switzerland covering 6 towns in 18 days. I know you want to see all that you can, but if the itinerary is too busy, you won't see anything other than a train. By having only a few stops with a couple of days at each location will allow you to immerse yourself in the culture of that region. Happy Travels!!

Posted by
16919 posts

You can see the route from Füssen to Mürren on either the German ( bahn.de) or Swiss (SBB.ch) rail sites. Either one will tell you that it is journey of around 8 hours with a minimum of 5 changes. If you plan to hike to Rotstockhütte to overnight, you would need to arrive in Mürren the night before. Days in October are not long enough to allow you to complete the hike after an 8-hour journey. You will need to being sleep sacks for Rotstockhütte. If you visit both Zermatt and Saas Fee, you won't really have much time to hike at either one. I suggest you choose one and spend more time there. There are lots of huts above Zermatt; I am not familiar with Saas Fee huts. Weather in October can be iffy. I have friends who were snowed off the Alpine Pass route in mid-September. You 'll need to carry fleece and waterproof jackets ( I have used both even hiking in Switzerland in July and August).