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Austria & Germany: to MUNICH - Just Getting There- Part 1 [of 7]

Our departure date was the day after the Courts dropped mask wearing on planes. Arriving at the San Diego airport, we immediately find out the flight is delayed four hours- to leave at 11:00pm. We find out that the pilot tested positive for covid!!!!!
So we had 7+hrs from the time we left our house until we got off the ground. We then missed our connection to Munich, but thankfully , we caught the last connection out that same day, arriving Munich around midnight.

In Munich at that hour, the airport was dead, passport control took maybe 10 minutes. We had to find the S-bahn, knew which trains to get, but fumbled once again at the ticket machines. The machines wouldn't take our visa- no pin #. We thankfully had small bills and coin in currency- the machines don't like to give a lot of change, and don't like 20 Euro notes unless your fare is close to that amount. I THINK we could have bought the tickets via the DB app- maybe someone here can confirm. ( We had no problem buying subsequent tickets using the DB app and our visas credit card.) Someone mentioned on the Forum that there is a change machine, but I'm not sure where.

On the flight, about half the passengers were wearing masks, but none of the crew were. We were on the newly-configured British Airways plane- no First Class, 12 rows of Business Class, no climbing over folks. The window seats are all single seats with lots of room, and the middle section is only two seats, not four. The Asian Vegetarian meals were great, as advised here.

After we boarded the S-1 train, there's an announcement that a construction problem requires us to exit the train at Munich Ost , if our destination is the central train station. People around were very helpful, figured out on their apps what the next connection was, and the platform #. Thankfully so many Germans were so fluent in English. We find ourselves at 12:30 am standing outside on a cold platform at Munich Ost [East} hoping our new-found friends were correct.

We finally get to Munich central train station, and our hotel is directly across the street, we were told.
Guess what- we didn't know which exit was for the main entrance. There's lots of construction around the exit we chose , so at 1:00am we are wandering the street lost, not seeing our hotel. Back into the train station for security (perceived) , no one to ask, and we wandered to another exit, and whoa- there's our hotel immediately across the street. I should have researched in advanced what train tracks numbers were by the main entrance. The Marriott Aloft Hotel is directly across from the main entrance to the train station, and was a very convenient choice. However, this is a case study in exhaustion after 24 hours of traveling, and how brain fog sets in. I couldn't imagine doing more traveling that evening: not by train, and certainly not by car.

A few lessons, at least for myself:
Plan that your first day of flying might take two days. Had we bought the train ticket to Salzburg that first night, it would have been money lost. For us, one connection a trip is enough ( SAN to Munich, not SAN to Munich to Salzburg.)
Plan that you may lose a day at the beginning.
Have local currency in hand including smaller bills.
Know how to make international calls. I learned this now at 70 years old- hit zero two times for ++, to call the Munich hotel to hold our room.
Have electrical adapters for the country of your transiting airport, to charge your electronics on the layover ( I did have UK adapters.) And USB-c adaptors for the I-phone 13.
Access to the Business Class lounge was a life-saver for the extended time in the San Diego airport. We bonded with several passengers also delayed, so that really helped.
More later, but Salzburg is wonderful, no crowds, no tour groups, no one is wearing masks (except on train) but us!!! ( I can see it's easy to get exposed, and I want to go home on time!)
Sorry so long , not sleeping regularly yet, more coming!

Posted by
13703 posts

Nice report, Pat! Glad you finally made it to Munich!

This:

Plan that your first day of flying might take two days. Had we bought
the train ticket to Salzburg that first night, it would have been
money lost.

So important for multiple reasons in these days of cancelled or delayed flights! While car rental is often roundly discouraged for arrival day due to navigating with jet leg, arriving middle of the night to find the rental counter closed may be another.

As well, rentals without 24/7 desk services may be another. Apartment hosts would have be willing to get up in the middle of the night to hand over keys if it doesn't have coded entry.

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2150 posts

NB- Correction- I was informed that the Aloft Hotel is by the South exit of the train station. So I still don't know where the main entrance is!!!
I know this is a minor detail, but it is a mountainous one at 1:00am after 24 hours of traveling.
It's also a lesson of not knowing what you don't know when traveling !

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2150 posts

Austria & Germany: Salzburg- Part 3
Our second day in Salzburg was planned by my husband: he had heard about the Red Bull Museum and the Stiegel brewery, both good outings for a rainy day prediction .
The Red Bull museum is located near the airport, simply noted as Hanger 7; there is a parking lot but no signage. We took the #10 bus to this location. The museum is free, opens 7 days a week, and is a pet project by the owner of Red Bull, who lives in the area. It houses Formula 1 race cars sponsored by Red Bull and some vintage airplanes, along with a funky photography exhibit, and ultra modern bathrooms with egg-shaped commodes. There are also places to eat inside and a gift shop, and was an interesting experience.
The Stiegel Brewery is close, so we hopped back on the bus, then had a short walk. The staff was very friendly, and the English tour was self-guided via headphones. The price was about 10 Euros each, and included a beer sample and a small candle gift . The restaurant at the brewery was very nice, with reasonable prices and good service. I was noticing that prices were about the same as my visit about 5 years ago, and that meal prices were cheaper than eating out here in California, as prices, since Covid, have gone up so much in our home area. In addition, beer and wine were about 4.5 Euros each, and were much cheaper than ordering bottled water, as free water is generally not provided at meals.
We didn't feel like walking to the bus stop, and asked the staff about taxi availability. The staff quickly called a cab, which arrived within minutes, and cost about 15 Euros. The was the beginning of our cab use in many situations in Germany and Austria- the cabs came quickly, and were so reasonable.
I had the cab drop me at the start of the Getreidgasse shopping district, and my husband went back to the hotel for a nap- everybody's happy. Again, the shops don't stay open in the evenings or on Sunday, so you need to get the shopping fix before closure.
I should mention that the Boutique Hotel Am Dom did have breakfast, it's a small hotel, and the staff would serve breakfast and provide friendly conversation in the mornings.

Posted by
1814 posts

I THINK we could have bought the tickets via the DB app- maybe someone here can confirm.

Yes, that's easy. Just look up your train connection in the App and tap on the MVV ("Münchener Verkehrsverbund") link. Then a selection of available ticket types (singe, group etc.) will come up.

Posted by
2150 posts

sla, thx, this will be very helpful to future travelers! We just weren't sure about the S-bahn train and using the app, but now we know.

Posted by
21 posts

Luckily Lufthansa now has direct flights from San Diego to Munich.

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2150 posts

Austria & Germany: Berchtesgaden - Salt Mines & Konigsee - Part 4
The plan for this day was to tour the salt mines and explore the lovely lake area. Not everything goes according to plan.
The folks on the Forum helped greatly in figuring out the public transportation to the salt mines. One uses bus #840, which starts at the train station but stops at the Old Town area adjacent to Mozart Plaza [as opposed to the Mozart Museum house stop,] 00:26 after the hour, mostly hourly. The TI has a print schedule. The times are a little different M-F, vs Sat and Sunday. The trip takes about 30 minutes from the Old Town. [I believe round trip tickets and admission are available at the main train station.] One can buy the RT bus ticket directly from the driver, I think it was 13 Euros each. I was confused about why some bus tickets can be bought from the bus drivers and some cannot. The explanation- German buses sold tickets directly. Since Berchtesgaden is in Germany, not Austria, we would be using a German bus line.
We went to the TI to buy the timed tickets for the next day, but the gal offering the free information told us it wasn't necessary in the off-season. [THIS WAS NOT ACCURATE.]
The bus ride was pleasant- BUT- we missed the bus stop at Salzbergwerk, as we thought the ride was longer, and because the area was so mundane: suburban area, flat, businesses, schools, and houses. I have been to a salt mine before, and I'm pretty sure a mountain was required. So we had to walk back a few blocks to the correct bus top, turned down the street, and into the parking lot and visitor center [about 10 minutes from the bus stop.] I was really looking forward to the tour! And during the walk back, I did see a mountain in the distance.
Going to the ticket window, the woman informs us that next available tickets are three hours away, and even she said they wasn't three hours of exploring to do in the town. We had been given faulty info- big disappointment. Cunumdrum- what now? Attempting to make lemonade out of the situation, and with the help of the friendly ticket seller, we took her suggestion to take a cab out to the lake: it was 15 minutes away by taxi, so we didn't need to wait for the next #840 bus, which connects to the #841 bus to the lake. The taxi costed 15 Euros and took us straight to the lake's visitor area. The employee generously offered to call the taxi, and the cab arrived in less than five minutes.
For those who will attempt to see the salt mines, definitely buy timed tickets in advance , and I think buying timed-tickets 90 minutes after the designated #840 bus pick-up time would be appropriate. That is the question I was asking the TI- how much time do we need to get out to the salt mines, and what time should we buy tickets, when she told us not to buy tickets in advance. Oh, well, I'll get over this one. I'm still not sure how one gets from the Visitor Center to the actual mines, tho.
Königssee- what a beautiful area. The clear-watered lake, the mountains with snow tips, the blue skies just cheered me up and were a sheer delight. There are several hiking areas, and we took a boat ride out to St Bartholomew Island, which was a former hunting lodge and monastery . Limited food was available, but it was just so beautiful and peaceful to be there, and the boat ride was spectacular. [The boats left from the Visitor Center about every 15 minutes,] At one point, the boat stopped, all was silent, and a gentleman played the trumpet, which echoed against the surrounding Alps. My photos captured the mood & were spectacular! If I were to do it again, I would plan to spend most of the day on the lake, and take the longer boat ride to Salet.
To return to Salzburg, we took the #841 bus from the Lake to the train station, where the #840 bus arrived soon for the return trip to town. I would have returned the next day for the salt mines, but my husband vetoed it.
We did have a very good day!

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Austria & Germany: the Cathedral, Mirabell Gardens, & the Fortress Dinner & Concert - Part 5
For all of those still reading, there's more...this is great therapy for my jet lag irregular sleeping hours...
Sunday started with attending the 10:00am Mass at the Cathedral; this is the Mass with music. Altho not religious, I think it's important to experience churches in the manner for which they were intended. The Cathedral is where Mozart played the organ as a teen, and for which he wrote music specifically. The acoustics are very good, there was a 20-man choir, an organist, and the artwork in the Cathedral is just beautiful. I wasn't intending on staying for the entire Mass in German, but did. [I believe in the high season, there are free organ concerts after the Sunday Mass.] Exiting the Cathedral afterwards, the church bells are pealing, there's a buzz in the plazas, the horse carriages are clopping about, and I go back in time for a little. [I had the privilege attending Easter Mass in this Cathedral a few years ago, and it was a spectacular celebration.]
The horse carriages do add ambiance, and I was fascinated by the gentleman who cleans up after the horses. He rides a three-wheeled bike, and not only scoops up horse droppings, but cleans the area with soap and water, leaving the pavement clean and fresh-smelling. Do walk by the royal horse bath; I hadn't seen that in other cities.
Also creating buzz in the plaza was a two-day bike festival, with over 1,000 bikes on sale, kiosks, children riding areas. In September, 20121, we had run into a bike festival on a Sunday in the plaza in Bern; bikes are a very essential transportation mode in Europe.
We then walked across the river to Mirabell Gardens, [also of SOM fame,] & enjoyed the gardens in a light rain. The rain chased away other visitors, so my pictures were free of other people, with gardens and the Fortress in the background. As the rains increased, we sought shelter in a archway, sitting on the steps, & it was so peaceful. Exiting in the gardens, we found a wine bar, and the American hostess/student was a delight with whom to speak. She spoke of the previous strict Covid restrictions, when the military would check train passengers coming into the country, by closing off all the train exits but one.
Our last night was spent having dinner & the concert at the Fortress, 70 Euros for both; each could be purchased separately. We bought the tickets at the TI the day before. Altho I had communicated directly by email on the website beforehand about dinner options, I didn't get the understanding that the dinner was a pre-sent menu, with an [unspecified] vegetarian option. There is a Classic dinner, & an upgrade. We enjoyed the Classic dinner of soup, chicken w/ potatoes & vegetables, and dessert. The upgrade included a choice of short ribs or whole trout [which freaked out the Americans sitting next to us] and huge pastry dessert, which no one finished. The dinner is in a series of small rooms, with the large windows giving access to the mountain views to all; paying extra for a window table was not necessary. The dinner started at 6:30, and the concert at 8:00pm, in a separate small room. The 5-piece orchestra was very good, and it was a beautiful evening. Dress was traveler casual. At the short intermission, one could go outside and enjoy the lights of Salzburg at night.
I love Salzburg; I find it comfortable, safe, friendly, with many English-speaking folks. I found the costs very reasonable, and eating out in general was cheaper than in the US; the post-covid cost increases in the US did not seem to happen in Austria and Germany. Rain was predicted almost every day, but it generally didn't.
No one checked our CDC cards, & folks weren't wearing masks [exc public transportation]. We could have covered Salzburg in 1 less day, [we had 4 nights], but after we lost a day last Sept for our Swiss trip, [24hr airline delay] we wanted enough time in one of our fav cities.

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2150 posts

Tina, yes, the DB app is called DB Navigator. We found it quite friendly. Safe travels!

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Part 6- On the way to Rothenburg , we stopped at Regensburg for the night. This broke up the length of the train travel, & I had always wanted to see Regensburg. It has a long history, but is also a working city. We took a 7 Euro cab from the train station, which turned into Mr Toad's Wild Ride, as the driver sped thru narrow streets, often driving on the sidewalks. The trip was walkable, but we would've easily gotten lost in the maze of small, winding streets. We arrived on a Monday, & the town was very quiet; many shops were shuttered, so I assume the vendors are closed Sundays and Mondays. It's not that I need to shop, but I like the buzz when shops are open, & I enjoy interacting with the employees.
Our hotel was the Hotel Orphee- GroBes Haus, which was funky, historical, & charming. It is centrally located, just a block from the TI, and is decorated in a "Moulin Rouge" theme. The restaurant was very French, and we had a leisurely lunch after arrival; [breakfast was included, but it was not a buffet.]
Off to the TI looking for English walking tours, however there were none. There was a QR code provided, which would access an English tour via our phones; we didn't try it. We wandered over to the Danube River, which I had never seen before. Blue skies peaked out from the clouds, and we got some spectacular pix of this famous river. The historical bridge dated from the 1100's. Wandering more, we found the Gothic St. Peter's Church, with its beautiful stained glass windows. The tall spires were scaffolded, so we couldn't appreciate their ornate beauty.
Bikers were everywhere, as it was interesting seeing how much they could carry, especially the bike delivery folks.
The town is certainly pleasant, but really didn't speak to us, so we stayed less than 24 hours, and moved on to Rothenburg the next morning.
Rothenburg is one of my favorite places to be. I know the criticisms, but it is my guilty pleasure. Many complain of the tourist crowds, but they weren't there our week, which was right past Easter. We had 3 nights in Rothenburg, which was the middle of our trip, a time to slow down and enjoy just being in this well-preserved Middle Age city. I love walking the town walls, wandering, getting lost, sitting in the plaza enjoying excellent dry Riesling for 4.6 Euros. So often, the Germans sitting next to us heard our English, and would initiate conversations with us, which were entertaining and enlightening. They certainly know more about American current events and geography that we know about their country.
Mornings and evenings I love sitting in the Castle Gardens: it's so quiet, peaceful, the birds singing, with the views across the valley. We enjoyed the 8:00pm English Night Watchman's Tour, which includes the history and lore of the Middle Ages, mixed with humor. The same Watchman has been doing these tours for about 30 years.
[There is also 2:00pm English walking tour, which is a more serious trek, all starting from the Town Hall steps.]
And- there's the shopping, so many cute shops with the same owners for my past three trips- and the famous Christmas stores. The vendors are so happy the tourists are back, & are lovely with whom to interact. And, there's one small, jam-packed grocery store in town.
We saw the nesting storks!!! This is the first time I had seen these magnificent birds nesting above the rooftop- definitely a highlight!
We stayed at the Hotel Eisenhut, where I had stayed previously. Sadly, the main section of this large, historical building suffered severe water damage, and is under renovation. Our very large, quirky room was in the smaller building, & I think we were the only guests for a few nights. I look forward to the hotel returning to its former glory; [prices are reasonable.]
Since I am a repeat visitor, we didn't tour the church or "torture" museum, which are worth a visit. The RS Guide has a great section on this lovely town, to which I will return!

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Part 7-
Leaving Rothenburg, we began the 4.5 hr train journey to Boppard, with 3-4 connections. [Coming into Rothenburg our last connection was only 3 minutes, & the platforms weren't adjacent, so we learned to be ready to jump off a train, grab our carry-ons, have our platform #'s, & attack those steps.] We also appreciated the over 65 yr discounts on the train fares.
The Boppard train station is 3 blocks above the town, so it's an easy walk downhill to the Rhine. There is a Penny's grocery store on the way. Boppard is a lovely river town, with cafes situated right on the river, & our Hotel Bellevue was immediately adjacent to the KD boat landing. A Forum contributor recommended Boppard, and it was a great choice, as it has a friendly buzz, with shops and restaurants & streets to wander, plus a free local transportation pass. Our hotel was actually the busiest hotel we had stayed in during our trip. The Bellevue Hotel is rather grand, with a stately staircase, beautifully decorated, with a small sofa seat in the elevator, and excellent wi-fi. Our balcony room was right behind the "L" on the Bellevue sign, facing the Rhine. The hotel has a sauna, heated pool, & a wonderful, large buffet breakfast, in the restaurant facing the river. The hotel also has a garden cafe outside on the Rhine banks, with very reasonable prices, where we had several meals, watching the barges navigate the very fast current, & marveling at the skills of the ferries and KD boat captains bringing their boats in against the currents. The Rhine is a very busy, working river, & showcases some of the industry which is the backbone of Germany.
Planning our activities, we found that the TI is closed on Saturdays & Sundays- very strange indeed. However, we found the folks at the KD ticket window to be more than helpful, & somewhat colorful, giving us advice on trains, boats, the area, - they were our TI's!
We chose the Marksburg Castle to visit, as I'd been to Berg Eltz. Marksburg retains its original construction materials. Our day started out windy, gloomy, cold, & never got better, altho we had no rain. I had problems with the travel logistics, even with the help of Forum members. We finally took the KD boat to Braubach, about a 30 minute delightful ride, & would try the train back. Once in Braubach, the town seemed deserted, & we found no transportation to the top. The castle seemed straight up! Whatever, we did the trail climb, almost 30 minutes, on the rocky path. Once at the castle, there were additional steps, even for those with car/tour bus transportation, & the castle itself had more step & uneven flooring- just a warning for those with mobility challenges. Tours were required; we knew they were in German in the off-season; we had the RS Guide and an English text from the castle. The view from the castle would have been spectacular on a good day; for us it was windier and colder, so we didn't appreciate the magic. We missed much of the color commentary not having an English tour, altho the guide was friendly & encouraged us to ask questions.
Getting back to Boppard was a bit awkward & time-consuming: a bus, a wait in Koblenz, and a train.
Our next day for the KD river cruise to Bacharach, & return, saw better weather, and was relaxing. Scores of castles marked the route, including Rheinfels, altho I'm told many more are further east. Bacharach is an RS favorite for tour lodging, as it's a charming very small town. We had lunch and climbed the tower of the town walls, which yielded spectacular views. After exploring, we waited the return of the KD boat. [We could have returned by train.]
On our final half day, we walked 15 min. to the Boppard chairlift, [which can be seen from the riverfront.] It was a scenic ride over the vineyards, up to the hilltop restaurant with 180 degree views, & we toasted farewell to the Rhine with our last glass of Riesling & a German beer!