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Trip Report Solo & RS Berlin, Prague & Vienna -- It's Long!

Independent Solo Travel, May 30-June 4 and June 15-24
This is the second trip I have done partially as a solo traveler. I’m still a little apprehensive and probably over-cautious, but I am getting braver. Eating alone is the worst part, but I was brave enough to eat in restaurants most meals instead of picnicking in my hotel room. It’s all a learning experience.

I’m a planner. I write out a detailed itinerary and revise it as my plans change. In the planning stage, plans change often until I decide what I want to see. I color code everything, even the hangers in my closet. My itinerary includes a list of restaurants for each city, but I tend to eat when I’m hungry if somewhere looks good, interesting or handy. I am not a foodie.

Before leaving home, I download the apps I will need: airline, trains, local transportation, RS Audio Europe. I have alerts and face ID set up on my bank and brokerage accounts. Since my hubby will only use our landline, I set up Google Voice to call him when I’m on WiFi. (Between trips, I will use it occasionally to keep the assigned phone number current.)

I use my phone’s calendar to be sure I allow time for travel, local transit and walking, food breaks and people watching. With a few pre-booked sights/events as exceptions, sightseeing is subject to change. I adjust my calendar accordingly. I also bookmark every place in Google Maps so I can find directions easily. This year I did not over plan or overbook my time like I did last year. One major “A” list sight and a minor “B” or “C” sight per day made traveling unrushed, so more enjoyable. Sometimes I just wandered but not far enough to get lost.

What I can’t plan is how often I get lost in Europe towns. Munich was this worst this year. Google Maps’ directions said such-and-such street; I couldn’t find it; the street was a sidewalk by American standards. Usually once I figured out my landmarks I could explore fairly easy.

Here’s where I went and what I did on my own:
Munich visit #1: I flew round trip into and out of Munich. I usually get jetlagged on Day 3 but this time jetlag hit me really hard, from Day 1 until Day 3, plus I did not sleep well.

The first day on the ground, I usually take a walking tour to get oriented. I signed up for GuruWalks Heart of Munich tour. But after ½ hour, I was so exhausted, I tipped the guide and went to my hotel to check in and nap.

I stayed at Hotel Am Markt on the backside of Victualienmarkt. They held my luggage until my room was ready for check in. I had read before I booked that the hotel was noisy and doesn’t have air conditioning. No A/C didn’t bother me since the first of June was still cool. Noise I learned to ignore but it meant keeping the windows closed during the night; I was too tired to care. The location is great, walk out the door to the market and restaurants, around the corner from Marienplatz. The cherries sold at the market were the best I had in years.

Mignon from Munich who posts on the forum was a great help with which transportation tickets to buy. I bought them on the MVV app (München Navigator) which is very easy to use.

The next day I took the tram out to Nymphenburg Palace. On the map it looks miles away, but it’s ½ hour tram trip. I love old furniture, imperial treasuries, history. I found the palace disappointing, too bare, too little furniture although some rooms were ornately decorated with gilt and artwork. It just didn’t feel regal enough. However, I loved the Marstallmuseum with carriages, harnesses and saddles. Let me be around anything horsey and I’m very happy.

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My last day in Munich I visited Residenz München and Treasury. It was wonderful, filled with old furniture, statues and painted ceilings in great rooms. The Treasury held exquisite jeweled crowns and artifacts from the 12th Century forward. This is what I expected Nymphenburg to be. After spending all morning there, I wandered to Frauenkirche to see the Devil’s foot print. I heard the legend during my too brief walking tour: the architect, looking for funding, made an unwitting agreement with the devil not put in windows. Despite this he built windows into the roof that let light in. The devil was so mad for being duped that he stomped his foot, leaving his foot print.

Next stop on my solo journey was Berlin. I took the train there the day before the Rick Steves tour began. I last visited Berlin in 1969 on a People-to-People student tour. It is not the same town. Instead of a wall dividing the city between modernizing west and dreary east, Berlin is alive and modern, but not afraid to view its history in hopes it will not be repeated.

Kaiser Wilhelm Kirche was on my must see list. I remembered it as bombed out church surrounded by rubble in 1969. It’s still a bombed out church but as a memorial to the destruction of war; it is now surrounded by modern Berlin. This time I could go inside to see the cracked but beautiful remains of the mosaic ceiling. Nearby was Käthe Wohlfart Christmas store where I started this trip’s ornament collection.

The next day, before the tour began, I went in search of the Burning Book Memorial in Bebelplatz where Nazis burned books in 1933 soon after Hitler gained control. It’s difficult to find because it’s a glass covered hole filled with empty book cases, a warning to all that freedom of speech is precious.

The memorial’s plaque states this warning quote by Heinrich Heine (1820):
“Where they burn books, they will ultimately burn people as well.”

I visited the Topography of Terror museum which documents Nazi horrors. I found it very upsetting, more than the other WWII sights. I can’t explain why, especially since I visited Terezin during the RS tour and Dachau on my return to Munich. On a lighter note, I ate Curry Wurst for lunch but can’t see the allure, hot dogs smothered in catsup. Checkpoint Charlie is a tourist photo op instead of the gun-toting, intimidating entrance to East Berlin I remember.

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Fast forward to the end of the RS Berlin, Prague & Vienna tour.
The tour ended in Vienna which was the reason why I chose this tour. Before leaving home I bought passes for “Sisi” and Hofsburg museums. This gave me access to 10 museums without worrying about timed entries. The passes were handy during the tour’s free time when I spent an afternoon at the Imperial Treasury.

First on my to-do list when the tour ended was to change hotels to Pension Susanne. It’s right in the heart of Vienna, literally around the corner from the Opera House, four minutes away from the tram and subway. Restaurants are next door, across the street and on every street in the neighborhood. It’s comfortable and surprisingly quiet. Once settled in I walked 15 minutes to the Imperial Armory and its fascinating collection of medieval armor for man and horse. That evening I attended a very enjoyable, professional string quartet concert at Annakirche performed on period instruments. I bought the ticket online an hour before the performance, very easy to do.

The next day started with the real reason I wanted time in Vienna – the Lippizan horses. I bought tickets before leaving home for both Friday’s schooling session and Sunday’s performance. The performance sells out quickly and I wanted good seats to both. The schooling session will not interest people who know little about dressage training since it looks like horses going around in circles.

Then onward to St. Stephen’s Cathedral and up the elevator to enjoy the views of the city. Afterwards I wandered around the neighborhood, not caring if I got lost again. It is filled with antique shops. I ended up at Trzesniewski which sells open face sandwiches and standing only at shared tables; an experience but not on my recommended list. A block away was the Jewish Museum and the adjoining Café Eckels. Evening entertainment was an enjoyable night at the Opera to see “die Jahrenzeiten” ballet, a modern ballet set to Hayden music accompanied by a choir.

The next morning I braved the subway (U Bahn) to go to Schrönbrunn Palace, the Hofburg summer palace. Sadly no photos are allowed. The grandeur is spectacular with intricate the parquet/marquetry floors. All the palaces and fortresses in both Germany and Austria had large ceramic heating stoves in each room, some plain to blend into the walls, others very decorative. My passes also included the Carriage Museum. The royal and coronation carriages were more ornate than those at Marstallmuseum but fewer saddles on display. Afterwards I watched a strudel making demonstration before returning to Vienna in time to enjoy the antics of the Gay Pride parade down Ringstrasse. Interestingly, Vienna programmed their walk/don’t walk street lights to show same sex couples instead of their usual man/woman lights.

My last day in Vienna started at the Spanish Riding School performance. It was spectacular, at least in my horse lover’s opinion, with upper level dressage and seldom seen haute ecole, aka airs above the ground, movements. Afterwards I headed to the Hofburg museums’ huge Kunsthistorische Museum with ancient, medieval and baroque antiquities. I especially liked the clocks. Imagine a sundial ring with a jeweled hedgehog cover.

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The next morning I boarded a train for a visit to Salzburg. Gästehaus im Priesterseminar was my first experience staying at a monastery stay. Clean, no frills, no TV, comfortable, cheap, breakfast included and an entertaining old courtyard cat with a very loud “meow” when begging. I will definitely stay at monastery stays again. This one had no air conditioning and traffic noise until nightfall from the tram line below my window. I knew that when booking.

Mozart’s Birthplace and Mozart’s Residence were on my sightseeing list. I bought the Salzburg Card online for free admission to those and other sights. Of the two I much preferred the exhibits at his birthplace, more home-like than museum-like. I spent less time than I planned at both so I found Salzburg Salz salt shop that someone on the forum had mentioned. Because there are salt mines in the region, I bought local salt for gifts. It was “fun” going through TSA because they swabbed the packages for explosives even though the salt packages were unopened and the receipt was in the bag.

The next morning I wandered through Mirabell Gardens admiring the flowers. I’m not a gardener but can appreciate the artwork of manicured flower beds. Then I headed up the funicular to Hohensalzburg Fortress to see the museums. Several rooms had WW1 artifacts and vignettes, plus there was a marionette museum. Both were underwhelming. Later I returned to the fortress for an outdoor trout dinner and Mozart concert inside the fortress. The pianist was phenomenal and the string quartet was good.

The next morning I met Panorama Tours for a trip to the Eagles Nest. I chose this tour less because of the Hitler history and more to see the Alps. The mountains did not disappoint but gave a clear picture of the impact of global warming. There was very little snow and glaciers on the mountains. Back in Salzburg in the afternoon, I really enjoyed the Salzburg Christmas Museum and learning about Austrian Christmas traditions including St. Nicholas’ companion Krampus.

The next morning I was on a train headed to Munich #2, getting lost as usual at Munich Hbf. I meandered through the construction zones to find Motel One Sendlinger Tor. After checking in I headed to Asam Church. It was under restoration; only the vestibule was open but I could peer into the church. Beautiful but the privately built chapel was smaller than I imagined. I needed to buy a couple more gifts so went in search for what I thought people would like. I had planned to visit NS Dokumentation Center, but to be honest, I just couldn’t see another Nazi site especially since I planned to visit Dachau the next morning.

The tram and local bus were easy to transit to Dachau. You know what you’re going to see because of all that has been written and televised. But that doesn’t prepare you for the terrifying reality people lived through. My takeaway from this trip, both independent and Rick Steves, is that we all must be diligent to prevent autocratic behavior and its ugliness, especially if you believe that history repeats itself.

After a touristy dinner at Ratskeller on Marienplatz, I went back to the hotel, packed and tried to get a good night’s sleep. The next morning I took the tram to the airport. As (bad) luck would have it, I got the dreaded SSSS on my boarding pass which messed up my Global Entry and connecting flight in SFO. I was not a happy camper but it was not the time or place to throw a big hissy fit.

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RS Berlin, Prague & Vienna Tour, June 4-15
This is a very intense tour. 20th Century world and Europen history reminds us how fragile Peace and Democracy are. It shows how easily elected autocrats can change society. It also shows how the resilience of people.

Berlin (3 nights). Hotel stay: Myer’s Hotel. Pleasant rooms, attentive personal, Knut was very personable at the front desk with his rhinestone glasses. Not walking distance to tourist sights, but an easy tram ride. Tram is ½ block away.

Our group of 25 and our guide Jana Hronkova met Sunday afternoon for introductions and to choose “buddies”. We then went on a walking tour of the area. Afterward we enjoyed getting to know each other during our welcome dinner of traditional German food.

The next morning we took the tram to meet our local guide Heidi for a walking tour focusing on Berlin and German history from Frederick II through WWI to the rise of Hitler and WWII ending with West/East Berlin and the fall of the communist regime. Some landmarks, buildings and posts and pillars still have bullet holes in them as reminders of the struggles. A very interesting couple on the tour brought pictures her father took in Berlin in 1945 while he was in the US Army. Heidi added a discussion of them into her tour, helping explain Berlin’s end of war history. She added her Mom’s experience, leaving East Germany for the West.

Group lunch was at a Turkish restaurant. Between courses, the owner explained why there is a large Turkish population in Berlin, to work as reconstruction workers in post-war Germany. My first taste of Turkish food, interesting and good.

A leftover from East Berlin days are the cute Amfelmann walk/wait traffic lights. Chubby green walking man is walk; red forward facing man with outstretched arms is stop. When Berlin was unified, the city planned to retire Amfelmännen but the people said no. They are now beloved characters with their own souvenir stores. After lunch I headed to one to buy key chains and packable shopping bags as souvenirs and gifts.

The next morning we met Heidi for another walking tour that focused on West and East Berlin history and the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Parts of the wall remain, notably next to the Topography of Terror museum. In other parts, there are brick road pavers noting where the wall was. Parks, like the Berlin Wall Memorial, memorialize the people who tried to escape to the West and show how the wall divided the city. The multi-block Memorial to the Murdered Jews undulates into ghost-like shadows as people walk through, in view one minute and gone the next.

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I left the walking tour early because I had an English language tour ticket for the Bundestag, the German parliament, in the Reichstag Building. The free tickets are not easy to get and entry times are limited. I applied as soon as times posted for the day I wanted, two months in advance. After I applied, I waited six weeks for approval and background check before getting tickets. Parliament was on recess. Our in-house guide explained the building to us: the parliament seating, the offices, the history. Unfortunately she was a guide who seemed like she had led too many tours, was bored with giving another and beneath her skills as a political scientist. I wish she would have discussed Germany’s government system more; in a country the size of Germany, there are 730 representatives each elected for six-year terms; there is also the Bundesrat (senate).

I found the building’s history interesting. The Reichstag was unused during Hitler’s reign because it burned soon after he came to power. Speculation is that it was arson. Russian soldiers entered Berlin in 1945, fought fierce hand to hand combat with Nazi soldiers. Afterwards they wrote graffiti on the Reichstag’s bullet riddled walls. The Reichstag remained unused until Germany’s reunification in 1989. The graffiti and bullet holes remain as reminders of the era.
The tour also included access to the Bundestag glass dome for incredible views of Berlin. More interesting is the dome’s design. The dome centers over the Parliament chamber. From inside looking up, it is clear glass and lets light in. When inside the dome itself, it is mirrored so people cannot see into Parliament. Seen from outside the building the dome appears to be clear glass.

Dresden (1 night). Hotel stay: Hotel Martha. OK room, hotel is walking distance to restaurants and Dresden Castle.

The next morning we boarded our tour bus and headed to Dresden. After dropping our luggage off at our hotel, we walked across the Elbe River to Dresden Castle to meet our local guide Susanna for a walking tour through the town’s history. The royal palace parade ground was under reconstruction but there was lots to see, some historic, some rebuilt after the war. The Meissen mosaic Procession of Nobles is over 300ft long mural depicting the Saxony rulers.

I bought a ticket to the Historic Green Vault prior to the tour. It is an impressive collection of Baroque jewels and artifacts from the early 1700’s.

I didn’t eat lunch between the two tours so by 5pm I was very hungry. Not knowing where to eat and dreading würst by this time, I took a chance on touristy Watzke. It has the best Vegetarian Pasta, huge bowl filled with fresh vegetables and pasta in a light cheese sauce. I returned later to eat dinner with a tour couple. They ate the pasta, I enjoyed apple strudel.

Prague (3 nights). Hotel stay: Hotel Leon d’Oro. Large room with kitchenette. A short walk to Old Town Square and the Astronomical Clock.

On the drive to Prague we had two stops. The first was Terezin, a Nazi internment camp. Housed in the “new” fortress, it was used as showcase camp for the Red Cross and others to dispel rumors of death camps. Detainees included artists and musicians. Displays in the museums showcased their works. But each biography ended in “sent to Auschwitz in” (usually) 1944 or 1945. I read that of 15,000 children sent to the camp, less than 150 survived. The most heart wrenching artwork was “Moonscape” by a 12 year-old boy whose family survived Auschwitz and he did not. His painting traveled to the moon with the astronauts. Across the river is the “old fortress” which was used as a prison before and during Nazi occupation. The most upsetting thing about Terezin is that people still live in the town next to the interment barracks. We could not understand why knowing the history of the town.

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We then headed to Nelahozeves Castle, still privately owned by the same family for 500 years. It is filled with antique and period furnishings and artwork. I got locked in the castle. Our guide Karel said we would stop at the restrooms downstairs. I saw a sign the said “WC Women” and went in. I thought it was too nice and it was very quiet. Wrong downstairs loo. After pounding on the castle door, the guide rescued me. I thought if nothing else, I’d set off an alarm but no.

Then it was on to Prague. Our guide Jana lives in Prague. She gave us so much insight into day-to-day life in Czech Republic. She spent her first 12 years under Communist rule. Her early life experiences were so different than ours. Her mom stood in like to purchase commodities. We sampled the Czech imitation of Coca-Cola, a cross between Coke and Geritol; Coke could not be imported into the country until the government change. I remember the 1968 Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia when Alexander Dubček tried to liberalize the country. This was before Jana was born, but she was very aware of the event causing government and social restrictions. She told us tales of the heroes and impact of the 1989 Velvet Revolution, the student demonstrations that grew en masse until the collapse of the Communist government within a week. On our tour of the city the next day, we stopped at the memorial to those students so Jana could place flowers on it.

The next morning we met our local Prague guide Šárka for a tour of the old town, ending in the Josefov (Jewish) neighborhood. The neighborhood was largely untouched during WWII. Although Hitler’s goal was to exterminate the Jewish population, he planned to make Prague into a Jewish museum. The old Jewish cemetery is intact. Because it’s a very small space, it is 12 layers deep, with tombstones leaning on top of each other. There are five synagogues. On the walls of the Pinkas Synagogue are 80,000 names of the Jewish people who were deported from Prague to concentration camps never to return.

Our group lunch was at a brewery tasting different beers. I’m not a beer drinker, especially if there is a bitter beer face aftertaste. It started to rain just before we headed out for our free time. After ducking under awnings, a few people I was with made it back to the hotel. I changed into dry clothes and headed to an early string quartet concert at Klementium’s Mirrored Chapel. The Baroque chapel is beautiful with frescoes on the ceiling and mirrors inset into the beams. The concert consisted for a talented string quartet, a fantastic organist playing an 18th century organ and a soprano. Unfortunately the program was excerpts from Baroque composers’ greatest hits, not unlike a PBS infomercial.

The next morning Jana herded us onto the tram up to Prague Castle. We would have been very lost without her help. The castle is an old fortress on top of the hill overlooking Prague. Included in the compound is the medieval St. Vitus Cathedral. In the center of the church is the ornate tomb of St. Vitus. In a separate chamber is the tomb of “Good King Wenceslas” or more correctly the Czech patron saint St. Wenceslas. The Royal Palace was packed with tourists. It was difficult to see the old rooms and architecture. After wandering through the fortress complex old streets and shops, we headed the gardens and free time.

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I had found a Christmas ornament shop online so headed there. After asking two police how to find it, I walked down five flights of stairs to find the store built into the fortress wall. After buying several small glass ornaments, I headed down four more flights of stairs to the road leading to Charles Bridge. It was packed with street vendors and tourists. The only political sign I saw on the whole trip hung across a building facing the bridge “Putin Get Out of Ukraine”.

Český Krumlov (1 night). Hotel stay: Hotel Bellevue. OK room in the old part of town, walking distance to shops.

The next morning we headed to Cesky Krumlov. It’s a picturesque old town with a river running through it. Our walking tour took us to photo op overlooking the town. The highlight was the original 17th century Baroque theater, one of two still in existence in Europe. Local guide Kristýna explained how the sets and scenery worked under the stage by groups of pulleys. We were free the rest of the afternoon to visit the castle gardens or wander the town before regrouping for dinner. Two bears live in the castle’s mote, a tradition since the early 1700s, representing the coat of arms.

Vienna (3 nights). Hotel stay: Hotel Regina. Absolute worst hotel on any of my three Rick Steves tours, ranking in the top three worst hotel rooms I stayed in in 50 years. Jana changed my room within 10 minutes after we talked. I threw everything including wet clothes in my suitcase and was out of there in another 10 minutes. I made a Trip Advisor review of the hotel, which is something I almost never do; my room was that bad.

Back on our bus, we drove into Austria on our way to Vienna. First stop was Melk Abbey, an ornate Baroque monastery. It still runs a school for potential monks, but the students we saw looked too young to make that life decision. We met our local guide Gudrun for a walking tour. Highlights of the abbey are the ornate cathedral with frescoes ceilings and dome to let light filter in. The multi-roomed library is lined with nearly 100,000 books, the oldest dating from 900. It was said that if you read one book a day, it will take almost 300 years to read all the books in the library.

We then drove a short distance to board a two-hour Danube river cruise. The river banks were lined with apricot orchards and remnants of castles. It was a very relaxing interlude on our journey, eating lunch while admiring the scenery.

Then it was back on our bus for the hour drive to Vienna. We said goodbye to our bus driver Philip. After dropping off our luggage at the hotel, Jana guided us on a short walking tour of the neighborhood, pointing out the best gelato kiosk near the hotel. She pointed out Votivkirche as the landmark to find our hotel. We then headed to our group dinner at a nearby restaurant.

The next morning we used our tram passes to meet our local guide Gerhard for a tour of historical Vienna. He pointed out nearby sights along the Ringstrasse, the Burgtheater (state theater) and, across the street, Rathaus der Stadt Wien (city hall). We walked through the People’s Garden on our way to the Hofsburg sights and ended in St. Stephensplatz admiring at St Stephen’s Cathedral.

For clarification Hofsburg is the palaces and buildings, Hapsburg is the ruling family dynasty for 700 years until WWI. We toured the Imperial Palace to learn about Emperor Franz Joseph’s 68 year reign. Sisi’s Apartments introduced us to Empress Elizabeth’s, aka Sisi, stormy independent life, rejection of royal duties and her assassination. Parallels have been made between her and British Princess Diana’s lives.

Afterwards, I wandered to find Pension Suzanne to get my bearings in the neighborhood in anticipation of my solo stay. Back at the hotel I met tour mates for dinner.

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The next morning we again met Gerhard. Our tour first headed to the Opera House for history of the building and arts in Vienna. Afterwards we took the tram to Belvedere Palace where the highlight is tall frescoed ceilings. The art museum showcases Gustave Klimt paintings including his famous “Kiss”. Interesting but I’m not a “modern” art fan, preferring old Dutch masters and portraits.

We were then free to enjoy free time. I used my Museum pass to visit the Imperial Treasury with its jewels and decorative arts. I visited three Imperial Treasuries and other repositories/museums during my trip. Each was more rich and spectacular the previous one(s). The opulence is unimaginable to the average person: Inlaid amber cabinets and plates, jewel ostrich eggs, gold chalices, table ware and clocks, ermine trimmed and jeweled coronation robes.

That evening we celebrated our tour, Jana and tour mates at our good-bye dinner. Parting shots were apricot liquor Jana bought during our journey.

Note: I was the only solo participant on this tour. I hear this is unusual for Rick Steves tours. If you want my experience and opinion, please PM me.

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AND that is exactly how you should post a loooonnnngggg trip report. That why it stays together.

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Sorry it's so long Frank, but people can read what they want. I still have one more short segment to add, as soon as I get the formatting right.

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2230 posts

This sounds like an absolutely wonderful trip!

We stayed at that same home in Prague just as the pandemic hit. We had a great room, and I loved the location.

Love you attitude on traveling solo. I have never done it, but would love to. I am not afraid etc, but rather my husband, daughter, friends etc are always posting me to come along;)

Where are you off to next?

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224 posts

I loved this report! Thank you for your interesting details and color commentary. Totally agree with you on solo travel - you are a normal grown up person and this is a normal and highly entertaining thing to do.

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737 posts

What a great report. You brought back lovely memories of my trip to those areas. I koved your advice about getting into shape. I am starting that now un anticipation of an October trip.

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Lessons to share:
If I hear one more person say “you’re so brave”, “I could never travel by myself” I’m going to scream. My answer to her (always “her”): you can do it if you want to. You put one foot in front of the other and move.
Yes, it can be scary and intimidating. Your choice is to travel solo or stay home and pout because you don’t have someone to travel with. Don't use others as an excuse why you can’t travel.

Planning is the key but give yourself permission to change your plans:
A. Know where you are going, how you are traveling and where you are staying.
1. Learn basic computer/phone skills if you don’t have them: how to make flight, train, hotel, sightseeing reservations.
2. Plan to see what it most important to you; buy timed entry tickets for events with limited seats or entry before you leave home. Research if a pass is better than individual tickets.
3. Read guidebooks, read travel forums, read websites.
4. Ask questions but do your homework first. There are no dumb questions.
5. Find ways to work around what worries you most, e.g. take a cab at night, travel above ground so you can see your surroundings. Force yourself to eat in a restaurant alone.
6. Be diligent and cautious because you literally don’t have someone watching your back. If it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it.
7. Wear a money belt and have zippers and snaps on your purse/backpack to avoid pickpockets; don’t make yourself an easy target.
8. Ask police for directions if you’re lost, which will be often. They are very helpful.
9. Ask people waiting for trains, trams and buses if you need help understanding signs and directions. Many speak some English and are helpful.
10. Learn a few words in the local language if possible. Don’t assume everyone speaks English.
11. Be polite, be respectful and thank the person for his/her help. You are guest in their city, town and country.
12. Call or text home or a friend daily so he/she knows you are OK. Our plan is that I call home 9-10pm nightly when I’m on hotel WiFi. It’s noonish at home, so my hubby and I talk while he eats lunch. He is technology adverse but Google Voice allows me to call our landline.

B. As mentioned above, always give yourself plenty of time for flight connections. I usually try to book three or even four hours connections. Two hours is just not enough; there is no wiggle room when things don’t go according to plan. I don’t mind the long wait, because I don’t want to literally run through an airport to catch my flight.

C. Get into walking shape months before the trip. I walk on the flat, up and down hills working up to 3+ miles a day, plus 150-200 stairs. I do exercises to strengthen my achy muscles, joints and back, lift 5# weights and “suitcase lifts” to be able to lift my carry-on into overhead bins.

D. Read packing light reviews and tips. You do not want to be handling a large suitcase through terminals, on trains and carrying it up and down stairs.

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What a detailed report. A few notes - It is Hofburg, not Hofsburg. It is also Habsburg not Hapsburg. The Schönbrunn place is not the Hofburg summer palace but the Habsburg summer palace. The Schönbrunn is well within Vienna, so when leaving you cannot be returning to Vienna as you are already in Vienna. Confusing? Yes.

I’d be curious where you are your meals during the tour portion in Vienna.

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14247 posts

If I hear one more person say “you’re so brave”, “I could never travel by myself” I’m going to scream.

Oh, I am so with you! I also have concluded those people don’t have a travel need like I do!

I am so, so, so thrilled you got your Lipizaner horses and Spanish Riding school in. I know that’s been a dream since you first came to the forum and am so glad it was fulfilled.

What an awesome time you had!!

Thank you for posting,

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3355 posts

I have been waiting for your report. We were actually signed up for this tour, but canceled it. Enjoyed reading about it.

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4329 posts

What a wonderful report! I like how you separated the “non-tour” and “tour” portions. And I absolutely LOVE your ending observations. I am SO with you on the “you’re so brave” junk. I haven’t screamed yet, but it is still a possibility. 🤣 And Frank is right - keeping your report all together makes it so much easier to stay up with, even though I had time to read it all at once. It will make it easier to come back for references. Thanks!

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2589 posts

I enjoyed this very much. I have been to many of the places you visited and liked revisiting them with you. I appreciated that you had commentary along side the descriptions of what you saw.

I was impressed by the way you organized your free time on the tour to see the things most important to you.

I was in Berlin in 1980 on a tour organized by a history professor at the university. We went to the Berlin Wall, of course. I haven’t been back since so was especially interested in your impressions.

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2488 posts

Thanks for sharing your trip experience. You saw so many interesting places and LOL at being locked in a castle!

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2112 posts

Your report brought back great memories of our trips to Prague, Vienna and Salzburg area. We started our trip In Budapest and ended in Nuremberg. Fascinating and sad history.

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2016 posts

I went to Germany and Munich so it was interesting to see your version vs mine. I will suggest the transport apps for both Berlin/Munich and the Welcome Card in Berlin.

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556 posts

What a great report :-)

I love Nymphenburg park in the morning when it is still very peaceful. And I like the little palaces in the park.

The castle is not as interesting as the Residenz. I always would suggest go there only to join a concert.
Still today the head of the Wittelsbach family is living there and therfore what you see is just a small part.

Agree the Marstall is more interesting and the Natural History Museum.

Posted by
2908 posts

Thanks everyone for your nice comments.

Emily: Thank you for correcting my spelling. Schönbrunn did feel like it was out in the suburbs, especially when everything I was seeing was within a 20 minute walk.
I ate at Plachuttas my last night in Vienna. It was on a list of Best Schninzel I think you posted a while ago. The tour ate at Café Diglas the first night we were in Vienna, OK but nothing special. Our Good Bye dinner was at Schübel Aver at the end of the tram line (don't ask me which one); food was very good.

Heather: Yes, MVV (Munich) and BVG (Berlin) are apps you want to have downloaded. Also WienMobil for Vienna. It is very convenient to buy tickets through the apps instead of dealing with paper tickets that you have to validate. Pricing is often cheaper for a 7-day pass than a shorter term pass or individual tickets. Just be sure your ticket goes to the zone you want.
The only city card I bought was the Salzburg Card. The two Vienna Museum passes covered the museums I wanted to see.

Posted by
3259 posts

If I hear one more person say “you’re so brave”, “I could never travel by myself” I’m going to scream.

I always receive this statement as a compliment (or a person's attempt to start a conversation). Either way, I'm happy. This statement generally leads to further conversation about it, which might encourage the person. Besides, I don't mind being considered "brave".

Thanks for this great report! This is the tour I had convinced my husband to join me on when Covid pandemic hit in 2020. There's part of me that would like to take it still. However, two months after my Spain, Camino Frances, walk, I still have some light, but annoying, lingering symptoms from the Covid I caught on that trip, so I am (at least my though process now) not inclined to do so (along with a few other reasons). However, it's a great report and still sounds very interesting...

Posted by
4921 posts

I enjoyed reading your report, horsewoofie. I started about 2 weeks before you in Bulgaria with a similar program of independent travels surrounding my Rick Steves tour. I was very glad I had the mix.

One major “A” list sight and a minor “B” or “C” sight per day made traveling unrushed, so more enjoyable.

I like this strategy as well. And I like mixing in an indoor activity with something outdoors, usually timed around the local forecast for rain or heat.

My travel delight is dance events. I plan trips around them. It made me happy to read that you planned and got to see the riding school events.

Posted by
4174 posts

Loved your trip report, horsewoofie! Hope you're staying cool up there in the Phoenix area this weekend.

I was particularly interested in what you had to say about Berlin. I lived in Nürnberg and worked as a US Army librarian on 3 army posts near there 1982-85. Getting to Berlin and back home was complicated back then, to say the least. It's a city where I'd love to go.

I've never been attracted to Vienna, but your report may make me rethink that.

Your bathroom story cracked me up. I wonder if as solo travelers we are prone to this situation? Something similar has happened to me 3 times that I can think of. All were somewhat weird and in one case I was only saved due to the RS tour buddy system.

Posted by
317 posts

Great report horsewoofie.

Glad you finally got to see the Lipizzaner horses. I know you’ve been wanting to for a long time.

Posted by
2852 posts

Great report!! Thanks for taking the time to write it up.

I’m glad you were able to stop by the Salzburg Salz store. My sister and I just placed another order for more of the salt candies. 😊 The package is currently at Newark airport and will hopefully arrive next week.

I’m bookmarking to read the Prague and Vienna sections more closely at a later date as I’m planning a trip to those 2 cities for March 2025. Looks like you have a lot of helpful info. here.

Great planning tips!! I consider myself to be an over-planner compared to most, but it makes me feel more comfortable when traveling, especially when travelling solo.

I think it is more difficult for women to travel solo than men. We certainty have to worry more about safety. I take the “you’re so brave” comments to be a recognition that it does take a certain kind of person to travel solo. And I think some people are in awe and maybe a little envious that they are not that type of person and that is how they express their admiration for you. That’s the way I look at it anyway.

Posted by
594 posts

Not at all too long, a great trip report! Most all of us enjoy the details, it gives us ideas for our own trips in the future. Thanks Horsewoofie!

Posted by
3901 posts

The schooling session will not interest people who know little about
dressage training since it looks like horses going around in circles.

Hey! I think that's aimed at me! It's okay though. I freely admit that I am not a horse fan.

Enjoyed the trip report. Sounds like the RS tour hotels did not "wow" you. That's unfortunate. I have not done a RS tour, but some of the hotel stories make me a bit reluctant to do one.

I have stayed at your solo travel hotels in Vienna, Salzburg, and Munich. I enjoyed all of those!

I'm impressed by your variety of activities. For the record, I liked Mozart's birth house much, much better than Mozart's residence, too.

Thanks for sharing your report. It was fun to read.

Posted by
302 posts

This is a belated thank you for sharing your experiences, I hope you see it, and apologies.
From your packing posts on the Forum I can tell you meticulously plan each detail- it was wonderful and affirmation (since I do the same) that you were so prepared yet were also flexible when necessary- admirable, and a combo for which I strive! Not always easy.
I also appreciated, as a fellow solo traveler, your attitude about doing so and, how you can tailor your travel to those experiences of most interest and savor them as long as you want- admiring ceilings, horses, etc. I have also combined some RS tours with solo travel before or after and appreciated those observations.
I am only starting to venture out again due to COVID concerns, but there's so much I want to see- including Berlin- so you were inspiring in every way!
Healthy and happy further adventures to you!

Posted by
165 posts

Enjoyed your report. I can't wait to see the Lipizzaner horses! I started traveling to Europe alone in 2010 at the age of 67 and am still at it (with a break for covid) - planning a trip to Austria and Germany for next year at the age of 80. I was so surprised at the reactions I got about my bravery etc! It never occurred to me to be afraid. None of my friends could go and I wanted to! I have enjoyed every trip and have never felt afraid or uncomfortable. I had to learn to enjoy good restaurants eating solo, but now it's easy. I encourage everyone to do it. I don't take tours, but I read about them for suggestions of what to do. Plan carefully but be flexible, curious and laugh at the hiccups that come along! People are kind and helpful so don't worry and keep traveling. Sue

Posted by
8866 posts

Great report. Detailed and informative.

By choice I’ve traveled solo since the 70’s. Armchair psychology, I’m an only child so never a thought to travel any other way. Eating alone never bothers me. Rather enjoy it.

I have done 2 RS tours. Istanbul and Florence. Paid the single supplement. Throughly enjoyed both tours, especially getting to see David before the masses were allowed inside. Memorable as our RS guide for an art historian to join us.

Travel keeps me sane. Love meandering.