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Europe Adventure

My Husband and I will begin our travels in Palermo then take the ferry to Naples (Salerno) then train to Rome (Anzio). From there we would like to take the train to Venice for a day then another train to Salzburg, Austria and stay in Halstatt. While there we want to visit "The Eagles Nest" Berchtesgaden. From there take the train to Munich, Germany and visit Dachau concentration camp.
We will then travel to Paris for a day, then to Normandy to the D-Day beaches. Here is where it gets a little indecisive...possibly a ferry to Ireland, from there ferry to Scotland then train to London and fly home from there. You might be able to tell from this post, we enjoy World War II history. If anyone has suggestions or a better idea of how to go about this trip, please let me know. We are definitely still in the planning stages.

Thanks!
Donna

Posted by
33119 posts

Is this your first trip to Europe?

Are all your stops one single day in each place?

The fastest train connections from Munich to Paris are over 6 hours, even longer on most. Is your one day in Paris after you arrive, or a real full day the next day?

Posted by
2453 posts

I would suggest fewer places with more time spent in each. One day for Paris? No.

Posted by
3196 posts

How long is your proposed trip? It will us a better idea to make suggestions. I would discourage stopping in any large city for only one day.

Posted by
7 posts

We will have at least 3 weeks to travel but trying for four, so I feel confident we can see most everything on our list but might have to adjust as we go...We want to see Rome but not spend a lot of time there, same for Paris. We will however be spending a lot of time in London. My Husbands Grandfather was with Patton through Italy and was wounded in France in Volges(?) so we are trying to retrace his footsteps (by-passing Tunisia for obvious reasons!) Our main reason for going to Paris is to get to the D-Day landing beaches...

Posted by
33119 posts

Donna, is this your first trip to Europe?

Are you driving or taking trains and flying?

Are you going via Luxembourg to see General Patton's memorials and grave?

After he was wounded, did your grandfather-in-law rejoin his unit or was he sent home?

Posted by
7 posts

I have been to England, Scotland and Wales but never to central Europe. This will be my Husbands first trip to any of these areas. My Grand Father-In-Law was wounded too severely to rejoin his unit and was shipped home to spend many months recovering in hospitals. We will be buying the Eurrail pass for the night trains to save money on hotels and to maximize our sightseeing times.

Posted by
14580 posts

Hi,

If you have 4 weeks, all the better, your trip is doable, better still if you drop a place or two. If the purpose is to concentrate and track down the war sites, then that's doable. I can understand why the trip begins at Palermo as reference to the war but keep in mind the logistics of train travel, especially constant train travel. How are you getting to Paris? By train or plane? From Munich? Unfortunately, the Munich-Paris CNL night train direct route has been dropped. I suggest you fly.

Posted by
7 posts

Good to know Fred, thanks. I will certainly look into the train/flying situation from Munich to Paris.

Posted by
33119 posts

In general, Donna, look very carefully at night trains before you plan the dates around using them...

Most night trains, like the dinosaurs, are now extinct. Other connection can be made at night but your journey may be interrupted by a middle of the night change of train, perhaps with a longish waiting, or sometimes spending a good portion of the night in the station.

These days there are trains which travel at up to 360 kilometers per hour, and they gobble up the distances between cities. Since they have come upon the scene people would rather travel quickly during the day than slowly, and with little sleep due to all sorts of bumps and noise, at night.

I've done my share of night trains back before the fast trains came along, usually not getting much sleep, even in deluxe first class compartments. I don't ride night trains anymore.

You should check carefully for the nasty little traps that come with railpasses these days. Rail passes are no longer the no-brainer that they once were, with a number of train companies not accepting them, problems with French TGV pass holder seat rationing, very expensive pass holder reservation fees on Thalys trains, and mandatory costly reservations required on all Italian trains anything higher than regional.

It may still work out best for you but I hope you have taken all those things into account.

When's the trip?

Posted by
8201 posts

I too agree that this is too many stops--even for a month. On our last visit, we took two 3 hour train rides, and that was enough for us. And don't think you can get sleep on a night train, as they're just not restful.
You don't mention how long you're going to be spending in Naples, Rome, Salzburg, Munich, London and Scotland. Every one is worthy of at least 4 days each--except Salzburg which you can see in 2 days. I would just hate to see you put so much time into your odyssey only for the whole trip to be a blur. Your're going to absolutely great cities. What you have is essentially three 2 week itineraries back to back--Sicily/Italy, Austria/Germany/Northern France, London/Scotland. Pick two.

Posted by
1080 posts

I love your idea of retracing the steps of a WWII vet! My only concern is that night trains do not have showers so you would have to go without one many of the times, I like my morning shower so I have to stay in a B&B or hotel.

Posted by
7 posts

Many great suggestions and cautions. Thanks to all. Keep the suggestions coming. We will be taking this trip in the next 2-3 years so I still have plenty of time to plan, rethink, re-plan etc...

Posted by
14580 posts

Hi,

You're welcome. Another suggestion if time allows and you don't want to fly: There is one way going from Munich Hbf to Paris Est on the German ICE train both legs with one transfer. . Do some preparation first. Take the early Munich to Frankfurt, change to the 1301 departure Frankfurt to Paris. You arrive there at 1650. A few years back I took that Paris to Munich Hbf CNL night train, which was all right, but I've had much better night rides on this last trip in June and last year's CNL ride. Munich to Amsterdam on the CNL still exists direct.

If you skip Ireland, you can take the ferry from Caen to Portsmouth, where a D-Day Museum is located. Then the train to London. Keep in mind that WW 2 German planes on display in Munich at the Deutsches Museum have been "sanitized" compared to those you'll see in England, ie the same model plane. You'll notice the difference immediately.

Posted by
2455 posts

Donna, I do not have much knowledge to offer here, except: in Catania, the second largest city in Sicily, there is a really excellent small museum dealing exclusively with the Allied liberation of Sicily in 1943. This was eye-opening to me, as I knew little of this particular history. Also, I took a very nice and inexpensive 1-hour flight from Palermo to Naples on Volotea Airlines. On some days the flights are incredibly cheap. Baggage limits on this discount airline, like others, are very meager, so you have to plan for that. I was generally traveling with a carry-on plus tote bag, but knew that I would need to check a bag on that Volotea flight, so paid for that upon booking, and it was very reasonable, a lot more if arranged at the last minute.

Posted by
3237 posts

I don't know how many night trains are on your route, but until you take one, you don't know if you will like them or not. Some people don't like them. Others love them, my husband and I being the in the love night trains group. We find they are convenient, fun and we sleep well. In addition, whenever I needed a shower on the train, there was one…so I'm not sure what that no shower bit is about. My last European train compartment had it's own private bathroom and shower. If they haven't been in the room, they've had private showers down the hall. Granted, I haven't always looked for a shower so I can't say they are on every single train, but they've been there whenever I wanted one.

Also, your itinerary seems doable to me. It sounds like an interesting theme as well.

Wray

Posted by
14580 posts

@ Donna....This is probably beyond the scope of your travel plans as regards to tracking down historical sites connected with Patton's advance. Thanks to orders he only ended up in Pilsen, where the American Monument is located attesting to the liberation of that city by Patton's troops. It's not too far from the train station, ca 20-25 mins, walk, I saw this in 2001.

Posted by
2143 posts

Donna, to add even more to your list, there is an amazing, very large World War II history museum in Diekirch, Luxembourg, as well as a smaller Patton museum in nearby Ettelbruck, and Patton himself is buried in a cemetery near the airport in Luxembourg City. George Patton and the Americans were considered heroes in Luxembourg, for liberating the country from the Germans. After the war, the Luxembourg people gathered up artifacts and equipment left behind. Many tanks and trucks ended up in barns, and at some point people decided to consolidate everything in the military museum in Diekirch. Admission is just a few euros, and you could easily spend half a day there. In addition to tanks and trucks, they have built life-size dioramas, with soldiers wearing actual uniforms. There are lots of letters and photos from servicemen who fought the Battle of the Bulge. Case after case of weapons, medical supplies ... everything you can imagine. Really interesting.

And Luxembourg is a lovely little country, with great public transportation. My favorite town (and a good base) would be Ettelbruck.

If you do decide to make WWII a focus of this trip, I think you might want to eliminate Ireland-Scotland-London, and perhaps substitute Amsterdam (Anne Frank museum), unless you've already been there. Have fun planning!

Posted by
33119 posts

A big vote for Diekirch. One of the best war museums I have ever been in, and there have been a few.

My father was in Sicily before the main invasion - British Commando - then Montecassino, and finished the war in northeast Italy, so I know what it is like to retrace footsteps.

And a big push for the Imperial War Museum in London. World class, absolutely world class. The only problem there is planning your day so that you have any energy left at the end of the day because you won't see 10 percent of the place. You really have to focus and plan.

Posted by
7 posts

Wow...there have been so many great ideas and suggestions! I am so excited to read the responses and get my map out to look at the geographical possibilities of all the ideas! I will take all this into consideration and of course read many books on the subject. Would any of you suggest looking into escorted tours? I am sure there are advantages to the tours but at the same time I could see them becoming very restrictive and fast paced. The WWII museums that so many have mentioned sound wonderful. I have actually been to the Imperial War Museum before and was so impressed with it that I had planned on going back.
Thanks again to everyone for responding with such great ideas!

Posted by
33119 posts

Donna

Be prepared for a surprise at the Imperial War museum - it has only recently reopened after being closed for a long time for a major remodel. You may not recognise it...

Posted by
15640 posts

And you may not like it. I read a couple of reviews on Trip Advisor. It seems they've eliminated the Blitz Experience and made a one-way route through the museum. For more London, plan to spend at least 1/2 day at the Churchill War Rooms and a day trip to Bletchley Park.

I also thought the WWII museum in Catania was excellent. You can then fly from Catania to mainland Italy.

Do you want to see other sights? Sicily has wonderful Greek temples. I can't imagine only spending a few hours in Venice. There is so much to see in Italy between there and Rome. Berchtesgaden is an easy day trip from Salzburg. Why stay in Hallstatt? It's out of the way, and there are plenty of other scenic places that are easier to visit on your route.

Posted by
18 posts

The Normandy beaches are really interesting. You already have a lot on your list, but try to fit in a trip to St Mere Eglise if you have time.

Posted by
9765 posts

And definitely do engage a guide when you go to the D-Day beaches. There are some real professionals there who can take you around for a day or two. Even if you and your husband know your history, the professional guide will make it come really alive and will enhance your experience. You will need to reserve ahead of time, I know lots of folks here have good recommendations, and they are likely to be able to tailor your visit to your interests.

It can be a little expensive, but I really feel strongly that this is one place that spending a little more money really helps you get the most out of the experience -- and since that's the whole reason for going, why not take advantage?

Most people recommend (as do I) staying in Bayeux for two or three nights while you're visiting the beaches. It's a good central location and nice little town.

Posted by
3057 posts

In our trips, we always stay a minimum of 3 days in each spot. Every travel day is a lost day - you do little save pack, travel, unpack.

We just did 3.5 weeks. Itinerary:

2 D Zagreb - plane to Dubrovnik
4 D Dubrovnik - Ferry to Split
2 D Split - night train to Zagreb-Ljubljana
3 D Ljubljana - train to Salzburg
4 D Salzburg - side trip to Halstatt (note - Halstatt is charming, but very very small - it takes 10 minutes to walk from end to end - it is a 3 hour stop max - we used Bill's Tours which was fun - small van with 8, not 80 on a bus - Berchtesgaden is also a day trip) - train to Munich
3 D Munchen (visit the Englisher Garten and the Chinesium Turm Beer Garden - sidetrip to Neuschwanstein)- train to Cottbus
5 D Cottbus - side trip to Dresden - train to Berlin/Frankfurt
4 D Frankfurt

Note - if you must go to Britain, fine. It's expensive. Europe is on sale this summer, but not Britain.

I would DEFINITELY plan on 3 days in Paris - even 6 is not enough. Rome as well. I think your itinerary is way too big. I would simply drop Britain/Ireland, and spend the time in France or Germany.

Posted by
14580 posts

Hi,

Depending on whose perspective you want to read up on D-Day and Normandy, I suggest first the basic literature on the topic: the works by J. Keegan. M. Hastings, A. Beevor.. R.Levin. There are works on the topic written from the British, US, and German perspective. It all depends on what is your concentration and focus.

Posted by
7 posts

Thanks again to all who have replied to this post and the wonderful suggestions/tweaks for the trip...
I have to say over the last few weeks of seeing Europe flooded with refugees and the subsequent issues associated with this, I am going to research and create a "plan B" approach that could possibly take us on an entirely different geographical vacation trip. If Europe becomes increasingly volatile economically and politically, we might decide to spend our hated American dollars elsewhere.

Thanks again to all.

Posted by
5450 posts

How do you believe the refugees will affect your travel in 2-3 years time?

I also don't understand your reference to the "hated" American dollar. What does that mean? At current exchange rates, Europe is actually quite good for Americans.

Posted by
8293 posts

Canada would welcome your "hated American dollars" but we also are hoping to welcome a lot of refugees in the not too distant future so that might not work for you.

Posted by
14580 posts

Hi,

In light of the current situation in Central Europe, it's good to have a Plan B, what I call a contingency plan based on certain possibilities that might take place. All we can do is basically wait and see. I am planning to be back in Germany and Austria next summer too with a day trip or two included. But I can easily give up Central Europe depending on how events unfold by focusing just on France and England (my version of Plan B) for the few weeks I'm over there. Instead of flying SFO-Frankfurt direct, I'll fly SFO -Paris CDG direct...no problems. There are definite ways to outflank the situation, depending upon the flexibility of your plans and travel style.

As for going somewhere else totally different geographically, (I'm considering that too.), there is always China or Japan. They want US dollars too.