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Visiting Switzerland,Austria, and day trip to Mauthausen- thanks for advice

Hello all! Thanks to Connie, Roy, Martin, and others for their advice and wisdom preceding my recent trip. We went to Austria (primarily Vienna), Switzerland (Geneva & Zurich), and Paris. I begin with Vienna.

I had been to Austria before, and love this country. My colleagues had not been there, so they wanted to go to the Schonbrunn Castle, etc., but as I had already done that, I decided to take a day trip to Mauthausen. I was very glad that I made the effort. As a history buff, I was in awe of the surroundings, memorials, and museum. I could envision the prisoners and Nazi guards, especially as I was in the garage area and the barracks. I stopped a guide and asked him what I should not miss, and he pointed out the quarry (I would've missed this without his advice, because I didn't know its history beforehand.) It was amazing to see and find out its history, especially regarding the "Stairway of Death." I read up on it afterwards and couldn't believe the atrocities that the Nazis had committed there. Mauthausen should not be missed if one is visiting Austria, in my opinion. I was so appreciative that I had read about it on this site. The museum also was very informative, I learned a lot there as well.

As several advised, there simply wasn't time to get to Salzburg this trip, with only two days in Austria. It will always be one of my favorite cities, I prefer it to Vienna as I love the old buildings.

I was happy that I was able to figure out the train system on my own to go to Mauthausen, but will advise future travelers that the posted schedule might not be entirely up to date.... I was almost stranded at the Mauthausen train station. I would recommend checking the schedule on the Internet. I ended up taking a tazi to the next station and caught the train there to Linz, and from there back to Vienna. Live and learn!

From Vienna, we went to Switzerland. My seat-mate that I met on the plane was first to tell me that Switzerland is very expensive to visit. Had not heard this before- and she was spot on. The average meal is about $35, and - this is if you eat on the cheap. On one occasion, I ordered a club sandwich and coke, and it was $30-something you would need to take into consideration if you were coming with a family or group.

The country is beautiful, and we all fell in love with Geneva. Some of our group went to the UN building, some to the Red Cross museum, and others to Reformation museum. So much to see and do there. The shop-keepers were especially nice, and most of our group bought Swiss army knifes for gifts (which were much appreciated by our male friends and relatives.) Just remember to pack them in the luggage you check- not carry on!

On to Paris- what can you say about Paris? It is odd- my group didn't like it overall, because of the rude mannerisms of many of the drivers and clerks, but I loved the city. I figured you have to take the good with the bad. We did the hop-off, hop-on bus on the first day, and found it very convenient. We visited the Louvre, and because I knew what to expect, we planned our time there well to see what we wanted to see. It can be overwhelming- huge and very crowded.

If I were to go again, I'd skip the visit to Versailles- it reminded me of Schonbrunn Palace on a much larger scale- and the excess was nauseating (personal opinion.) It took up almost an entire day, and to me, it wasn't as meaningful as many other places.

Notre Dame (the inside) was disappointing- should've taken a guided tour. We thought it was disrespectful to see all the sales & loudness in this beautiful church, and as services were taking place! The building of course, is amazing.

Loved the Musee d'Orsay. It is focused on Impressionist artists; saw works by Renoir, Degas, Van Gogh, and Monet. Much less crowded than the Louvre, and the cafe on the second? floor had amazing views that overlook the city!

I look forward to your comments or questions.

Posted by
4371 posts

On Paris, I think many people forget that it is an extremely popular tourist destinations and a very busy city to begin with. It ain't no quaint view of village life! While the city caters to tourists, it doesn't cater to tourists. Tourists = business. But it's Paris! What's not to love?!? Many others have the same feelings about the Musée d'Orsay as you, including the café. I feel the same way about Versailles - been there, and it was a mob scene. Too 'ornate' for my taste, too, but I'm glad I went. Besides, it's a very historical place. I always thought I'd return to spend a day at the gardens but there are so many nice - and free - gardens in Paris proper I want to explore first.

It's still difficult to visit a religious building and experience the clash of worshippers vs tourists. Some places handle it better than others. Notre Dame doesn't do the best job, but it's Paris and it's Notre Dame. And tourists are tourists - they can forget that they are oftentimes touring 'real life' and not stage sets.

I, too, really like Austria. Only two days there must have been difficult! I believe you have a future trip planned, though, so maybe you can return to Salzburg then. I also want to visit Mauthausen, and the unfortunate many other camps, in order to pay my respects. My travels so far have only gotten me to Dachau and a few other areas (like the Prague Jewish sites), but I think they are important witnesses to history.

Were you there with work colleagues? Do any of them have plans to return to Europe?

Posted by
2081 posts


great report.

I havent been to Austria or Switzerland, yet. It should be on my trip next year. I was aware of the cost of things over there, but didnt realize it was that much, but i am assuming it can vary with where you purchased it too.

as far a Paris goes, i just love it. I didnt notice any rudeness in anyone other than other tourist. But i will admit that i didnt take any taxis either. the hotel staff in Paris was nice, helpful and informative.

I love the Louve and will go back when i get back there. The MO was awsome. I just loved the art decco furniture and wood working. I wish i could have taken some pictures of it since i know of some wood workers that would have been impressed. No Hop-on-hop-off bus or boat tour for me, yet. I went in March so i didnt think the crowds were that bad. but there were some at the Louve and the Eiffel tower. THe MO had some in the early morning to get in, but it was shorter than our local theaters on opening day.

most if not all of the things i saw i leaned in my art/architecture class and it was waaaaay more fun and interesting to see it face to face.

i didnt make it to Versailles, but from my art/architecture classes, its SUPPOSE to impress you. thats what it was all about. $$$$$ and POWER. no different from the 1% now.

happy trails.

Posted by
357 posts

Faith, thanks for the report. Paris is what it is. It is a huge city with many of the aggravations of urban life coupled with the haughtiness of some Parisians. But it remains singularly beautiful. I have been to Versailles--interesting but need not return. And the d'Orsay is my favorite art museum anywhere.

I have never been to Switzerland, but have travelled to Austria. Like you, I preferred Salzburg, one of my favorite places in Europe, to Vienna.

Posted by
6869 posts

On my last visit to Paris, we had two lasting memories.

We stopped at the tourist information booth in the Gard du Nord (train station.) The young staffers couldn't/wouldn't speak English. And this is the train station where the Eurostar trains drop thousands of tourists daily from London.

We took the subway through the city getting off at the Passy Station. We came up the stairs with the city reflecting the gold of the sunset. We were just across the river and about 250 yards from thee base of the Eiffel Tower. Suddenly, all those strobe lights started flashing, and the sight was absolutely incredible.

When Parisians get on your nerves, just smile a little more. Many locals will change their dispositions then.

I too am big on Austria. We'll be back in Vienna in April, 2014. It's a very classy, conservative city in the continental style. I first went to Vienna 43 years ago, and it's worthy of a 7 day visit. I'm drawn back to the Austrian Alps, and find it much easier to deal with than traveling through Switzerland; and also less expensive. Munich is also so close, and they've got a great airport to fly through.