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Xmas Trip to Europe, Pt 1 - Alsace France, Switzerland, etc.

My wife and I had a wonderful trip last December in Alsace France, Switzerland, Germany and Austria. After reading other trip reports in this forum over the last several months, I decided to share our trip with other travelers who can possibly benefit, especially if you are adventurous enough to travel on your own by car during the winter Xmas season. Our trip lasted 19 days, leaving on Saturday, December 12th and departing Germany on December 31st (flew to Iceland for New Years before returning to the US). We are both in our mid-60's. I spent a lot of time planning the trip to maximize the number of places we could visit in during that time period, with only one extended stay: Salzburg for Xmas. Our basic plan was to drive to and visit the main sights and places during the day and then go to Xmas markets in the evening where we usually stayed for the night. It was some what challenging to schedule because it got dark between 4:30 and 5:00 pm, but we had the added benefit of (usually) fewer tourists for the more popular tourist sites. Here is Part 1 our trip summary.

Day 1-2: Arrived in Frankfurt mid-day on day two. Drove to Colmar France (3 hours drive). Visited the Xmas market for a few hours that evening before they closed. Enough to get oriented. Fortunately, no real jet lag.

Day 3: Walked around Colmar; enjoyed the city, shops, decorations, and Xmas markets; visited the newly opened Unterlinden museum. In the evening, we drove to the near by village of Riquewhir - a very pretty French village - and ate a wonderful Alsace/French meal at Relais des Moines restaurant on the main street. Visited the large Kathy Wohlfart Xmas store. (Her first and most famous Xmas store is in Rothenburg.)

Day 4: Left Colmar, drove south to a rural area in Germany on the Rhine where my grandmother grew up before immigrating to the US. In a small grassy area near the town hall, found WWII memorial crosses for soldiers with my grandmother’s maiden name (i.e. distant cousins) who died during the war. Continued driving to Switzerland to Bern and then to Thun where we stopped, parked our car across the street from the Art Museum, and walked down to the river for a gorgeous view of the river, town, bridge, etc. in the late afternoon sun. Drove to our Swiss chalet hotel in Krattigen on the hill slope over the lake with great views.

Day 5: Drove to Lauterbrunnen; stopped at the village church parking lot to view the waterfalls, etc.; took the tram from Stechelberg up to Murren and walked around the village. Took the tram back down to the valley and drove through Interlaken to the north lake side road on the way to Lucerne. Noticed an interesting church on a hill in Ringgenberg and decided to make an impromptu stop; found a beautiful, peaceful site with a small, restored castle next to the church with a grave site below it overlooking the still, turquoise waters of the Brienzersee. Continued to Lucerne for the night; bought some wonderful (and expensive) chocolates at a Swiss chocolate store in the train station near our hotel.

Day 6: Drove out of Switzerland back up to Alsace France to visit again (because we enjoyed it so much on day 3). Visited Riquewhir again, this time during the day, and drove through the scenic, surrounding wine countryside with castle ruins above in the near by hills. Drove to Freiburg for the night. Visited the Freiburg Xmas market that evening. Found a small shop on the town square that sold hand crafted wood pieces. Bought our one, expensive trip souvenir: three wood carved creches with hand painted clothes for our three adult children.

Weather note: unseasonably warm (40's to low 50's during the day); mostly sunny; only one rain storm.

(If viewers find this interesting, Part 2 next weekend.)

Posted by
93 posts

I am enjoying reading your trip log. I would love to visit the Christmas markets. I am very curious how many hours a day you were driving. Reading it sounds like many hours but I don't know distances.
Can tell you did your homework. Wish we were brave enough to travel alone. Looking forward to part 2 and 3.
Thanks for posting.

Posted by
101 posts

I am totally interested. Can't wait for next weeks edition.
Pam from Bath

Posted by
36 posts

We want to do this in 2017 or 2018 on our own as we can't afford to do another RS tour just yet. Our 17 Day RS Italy trip in 2015 was totally worth every penny, but we need to balance expenses out a bit. Any and all details of your December are greatly appreciated! Did you ever consider a river cruise of the Christmas markets? Thank you.

Posted by
683 posts

I am very interested in your trip report! We are taking the RS 8 day Best of Munch, Salzburg, and Vienna tour right after thanksgiving. We are spending two nights post tour in Strasbourg and one more night in Cologne and of course the Christmas markets will be center stage. I look forward to your thoughts!