(Note; this will be the last entry like this from me until I have something to report from our trip to Italy in June. In 2011 we broke away from Europe and went "down under" instead. If Australia and New Zealand have ever interested you, I would be happy to share my blog address - just send me a Personal Message. Writing about places other than Europe here is strictly verboten. FYI; I also have a detailed blog on the trip described below - with posts and photos every day. It was my first attempt at blogging...) After having such a great time slow-traveling in France in 2009, it seemed reasonable to try Germany next, but I was also interested in touching on a lot of areas near Germany. Since I like to focus on area of common culture and at various times in history, that culture was widely spread, it made sense to me to look beyond today's German borders. The result, however wound up getting a little out of hand. The original plan was to fly into Amsterdam and do the "Benelux" run on our way to the Rhine and then work our way south (including Salzburg) on our way to Munich and fly home from there. I found good ticket prices on IcelandAir again, and we bought them before I really had the itinerary in between nailed down. (continued...)
(continued...) A friend of mine had been to Germany a couple years before and always regretted that they didn't make it to Vienna. So I wanted to try to include Vienna. The problem was that Vienna is quite a bit out of the way to the east. So I was conflicted. One day at the library, I saw a Rick Steves Eastern Europe travel guide and was surprised because I didn't even know there was one. I checked it out and poured over every chapter and immediately knew I was going to have to do some major itinerary changes. Since Budapest was just a three hour train ride from Vienna, Krakow was just a night train away from Budapest, and Prague was just a night train away from Krakow, our trip would now have both a loop west of Germany (Benelux) and a large loop east of Germany. It would also take on a sweeping view of the history of WWII. While I was very excited to include all of these new destinations on our trip, it meant that we would have to largely abandon any effort to do a full week-long rental anywhere. To make up for that, I vowed to come as close as possible somewhere in Bavaria and to not have ANY one-night stays. We would use a car for most of Benelux, Germany and Austria, but use trains and buses to the east. By going out of our way to get to Koln in Germany to pick up our car, we could use it in Belgium and Lux. as well as parts of western Austria, then return it in Freilassing (just across the border in Germany from Salzburg) without incurring any huge drop fees. (continued...)
(continued...) So our convoluted itinerary began to look like this; Three nights in Amsterdam (train to Koln, see cathedral, rent car) Two nights in Bruges (spend a few hours in Brussels along the way) Three nights in Bacharach (spend a few hours in Trier along the way) Two nights in Rothenburg (spend a few hours in Wurzburg along the way) Five nights in Schwangau (near Füssen - doing several day trips) Two nights in Salzburg (seeing Berchtesgaden on the way - drop car) Three nights in Vienna (seeing Melk on the way, then train to...) Four nights in Budapest (night train to...) Two nights in Krakow (night train to...) Two nights in Prague (bus to...) Two nights in Cesky Krumlov (shuttle+train to...) Two nights in Munich That's 34 nights including the trains, or 5 full weeks - the longest trip we had ever taken. The danger point for us was the last two weeks, when most of our time would be spent in five major cities. We don't shy away from cities, but we generally try to avoid scheduling consecutive city visits to avoid city fatigue - particularly with children who tend to see all cities as alike. Our solution was to intersperse brief small town visits wherever we could; We saw Melk on the way to Vienna. While in Budapest, we spent an afternoon in Szentendre and a full day in Eger While in Krakow, we spent a day seeing Auschwitz/Birkenau
We followed Prague with Cesky Krumlov It worked. While the pacing was somewhat fast, we had plenty of time. The night trains made two days in both Krakow and Prague actually feel like three. The string of cities did not feel overwhelming. The only problem was that by the time we got to location number 9 or so, we started to forget about the first few. (continued...)
(continued...) We rented bicycles three times during the trip (never had done that before); in Bruges, in Bacharach, and in Munich. Plus we did the "Maria's Sound Of Music Bicycle Tour" in Salzburg (I highly recommend). LOVED riding a bike in Europe! The weather was a bit of a challenge. Amsterdam was cold and blustery in mid-June. Then most of the next 32 days were HOT! Heat in more rural areas seems bearable, but heat in cities with little green space was intense. On the plus side, much of Germany (and especially the area near Füssen) was very economical. Hungary, Poland and to a lesser extent, Czech Republic, were even more economical. Our lodging costs were a little lower than average and our food costs (despite not cooking many of our own meals) were low as well. Even though this trip was five days longer than France, the total cost was the same. While the night trains were efficient and economical (and we slept well in one in Scandinavia), these were without AC and it was too hot to leave the window closed. With it open, the noise made sleep difficult. Favorites; Anniversary walk with the wife in Amsterdam's red light district; Grand Place, Brussels; Bicycling Bruges to Damme; Hostel castle in Bacharach; Burg Eltz; Residenz in Wurzburg; Walking the wall in Rothenburg; Hiking behind Neuschwanstien; Linderhof; Eagle's Nest views; The bells of Salzburg; Abbey in Melk; Baths in Budapest; Everything about Krakow; Prague Castle Hill area; Everything about Cesky Krumlov (especially the rafting). Somewhat disappointed in; Trier; Nurnberg; Szentendre (Hungary); Prague (Beautiful, but hollow). Overall, a great trip!
Randy, We have done the same with our kids and, like you, would encourage others to try it! My kids complained how all their friends had been to Hawaii, after they went to Hawaii, they said "forget that, let's go back to europe." First trip...three weeks in Italy..kids ages 3, 5 Second trip...three weeks split between England and France...ages 9, 11 Third trip...three weeks in Greece...ages 11, 13 Fourth trip...three weeks in Germany austria and Switzerland...ages 12, 14 This year...back to Italy with 14, 16 year olds I would recommend air Berlin for cheap(er) flights from the west coast. As Rick says, happy travels Kaye
Kaye, What a great group of trips with the children! I'll bet they will be world travelers when they are on their own. We leave for Italy in 10 days! Trip reports will follow, as will daily blog entries. Send a PM if you would like to follow along.