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Author: 1poorguy Big funky green star, 20000 posts Top Recommended Fools Old School Fool CAPS All Star Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: of 20806  
Subject: help me fix this? Date: 9/22/2012 12:59 AM
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I'm still kinda stuck on this. I think it has potential to be a really nice trip. But I'd like to figure out how to keep all train rides short enough that we spend most of the ride asleep (i.e. in a night/sleeper train). Of course, if there's something especially scenic we should be awake for, that's different.

I am thinking to arrive in Amsterdam and spend a few days there. See windmills, get a taste of the culture and food. Then over to Prague (15 hours??). Spend several days there. I like that it doesn't seem to be a major tourist destination, and it will be different from "biggies" like Amsterdam, Vienna, and Paris. I don't like 15 hours on the train, and I'd rather not fly. From Prague to Vienna. Spend maybe a week there. At least one day trip to Werfen. Enjoy the city and the Alps. Need to learn more about what to do there. Train to Switzerland (still debating where exactly...want some charm, some culture, and scenery(!)). That would be another long ride (about 10 hours), but probably manageable. And Paris has been requested, so plan on the better part of a week there (train from Switzerland). I actually don't have that much interest (I'm not into art museums), but I can always go for some culture and local food and sights. Then fly home.

The obvious solution is a midway stop in Germany to break up that first train ride. But where to stop that we could enjoy for a couple of days (as we aren't retired we can't extend this too long, and I don't want to do a day here and a day there...too hectic). Hanover? I know next to nothing about most of the towns I'm seeing on the map that are roughly 1/2 way to Prague. Except Buchenwald. I know that one. I'd love to visit the camp there (if it's still there), but not sure if others in my party would be as interested. (1poorlady feels sick when she sees stuff like that.)

Or maybe I need to re-route entirely?

Three weeks (plus or minus a couple of days) is my target.

TIA,
1poorguy
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Author: CountUpp Big funky green star, 20000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 18905 of 20806
Subject: Re: help me fix this? Date: 9/22/2012 8:03 AM
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1pG: The obvious solution is a midway stop in Germany to break up that first train ride. But where to stop that we could enjoy for a couple of days (as we aren't retired we can't extend this too long, and I don't want to do a day here and a day there...too hectic). Hanover? I know next to nothing about most of the towns I'm seeing on the map that are roughly 1/2 way to Prague. Except Buchenwald. I know that one. I'd love to visit the camp there (if it's still there), but not sure if others in my party would be as interested. (1poorlady feels sick when she sees stuff like that.)

This trip looks do-able. Many places in Germany are worthy os a couple of days. Berlin (almost as far as Prague, but there is likely a high speed train), Cologne, Bremen, Nurnberg, Rotenberg ob die Tauber (Medieval town - touristy, but interesting), Goslar (another Medieval town, smaller and cuter - has its own witch plus runs of Hemry III's palace).

I like Zurich in Switzerland.

Count Upp
... available for guide duty at a very reasonable price!

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Author: OrmontUS Big gold star, 5000 posts Feste Award Nominee! Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 18906 of 20806
Subject: Re: help me fix this? Date: 9/22/2012 8:08 AM
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A couple of things to look at:

1) There are a number of "fast" trains linking Europe's major cities. It will take a bit of digging but there are a number of up-to-date maps floating around on the internet. Here's one example:
http://www.johomaps.com/eu/europehighspeed.html

It appears that getting from Amsterdam to Munich is pretty fast which would allow a stop in Saltzburg. A car rental here will allow you to see some wonderfal Alps views and the old town is very pictuuresque. From there, it's only a few hours by train to Vienna and it's easy to get from there to Budapest/Prague.

Swiss trains are expensive (though sometimes each of the European systems runs sales on their local (not express) routes.

There's abunch of stuff in the travelogue I just finished posting (both about June 12 and then again around August 28) on Amsterdam.

If traveling by train -TRAVEL LIGHT, especially if you are going to attempt to reach your hotel by public transportation.

All of the train schedules, prices, etc. are available on the internet on the various system's web sites and the tickets are generally cheaper than a Eurail pass.

Jeff

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Author: 1poorguy Big funky green star, 20000 posts Top Recommended Fools Old School Fool CAPS All Star Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 18912 of 20806
Subject: Re: help me fix this? Date: 9/22/2012 9:04 PM
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I definitely plan to reference your travelogue in the future.

So after Prague then Switzerland? That would be a very long ride.

I do prefer high-speed trains, but haven't figured out how to search for them yet. I will be consulting the link you provided also. Perhaps I should plan the routes based on the high speed rail. I had been using the Rick Steves "ideal" route as my base.

http://www.ricksteves.com/plan/destinations/europe/eur22.htm...

Thanks for the input. Feel free to toss out more ideas any time the mood strikes you!

1poorguy

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Author: OrmontUS Big gold star, 5000 posts Feste Award Nominee! Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 18913 of 20806
Subject: Re: help me fix this? Date: 9/22/2012 10:05 PM
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Unfortunately, each of the European countries has their own train system and web site. That said, they will book tickets for each other at main stations. Most special prices are for those outside of a country (to tempt you to enter, rather than cater to their own captive audience).

A lot depends on what you want to see. The high speed trains can be much more expensive than the local ones, but for example it takes a little over an hour to get from Amsterdam to Brussels and less than three hours to get from Amsterdam to Paris. The GErman, French, Italian and Spanish systems are particularly well developed. I think it only took about three hours when we took the train a number of years ago between Prague and Vienna. Once in Prague, however, you are in a place where everything leaving is pretty slow. Switzerland is certainly an option from Austria or Italy, but be aware that it is probably one of the more expensive places in the world to get a given level of accomodations, food and transport. It depends more on what area of Europe you would like to see and you budget than on the time it takes to make a given train trip (as there are generally lots of routing alternatives).

Jeff

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Author: 1poorguy Big funky green star, 20000 posts Top Recommended Fools Old School Fool CAPS All Star Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 18914 of 20806
Subject: Re: help me fix this? Date: 9/23/2012 12:08 AM
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A lot depends on what you want to see.

I don't really know what there is to see. That's part of the challenge. I spotted Buchenwald. I would find that of great interest. Our last trip I only planned a few things. Most of it was "Sound of Music tour? Cool, let's do it." Very spur-of-the-moment. The glochenspiel in Munich? Didn't even know it was there until we did a city tour and they mentioned it. Werfen would be cool if we could work it (we didn't make it last time).

I'm thinking of using the high speed night trains in lieu of hotels some nights. I can pay hundreds for hotels, or hundreds for a train with the added benefit that it's hotel and transport in one package. We did that last trip from Salzburg to Firenze. Worked out very well. Loaded up on the train in the evening, went to sleep, was awakened by an attendant with a modest breakfast about 30 minutes before arrival. The only wrinkle was that we were there before the apartment rental office was open (so we just hung out and watched Firenze wake up).

I will give some thought to your idea of reversing the loop. I was following Steves' (sort of), but if we do Paris early (Amsterdam to Paris) and Prague last, that could work. Though we might not be able to do Buchenwald, but if that's how it works out then it is.

I tried using Google maps with the transit option selected, but it doesn't seem to work well in Europe. Or maybe I'm doing something wrong. It works fine here in Phoenix.

1poorguy

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Author: richinaz Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 18915 of 20806
Subject: Re: help me fix this? Date: 9/23/2012 2:43 AM
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If you haven't looked at this site (http://www.seat61.com/index.html) I would check it out. Lots of good information regarding trains, how to buy tickets and things to watch out for.

Train tickets can be costly and you don't want to buy them from RailEurope. Also the sooner you get the tickets the cheaper they are. The discounted tickets should be bought a month or two ahead of time or they sell out at times and the prices get more expensive.

You could try Amsterdam-Munich and then Munich-Prague. I think the former is about 8 hrs and the latter is 7.5 hrs but I haven't done either route. Berlin and Prague are cities I'd like to visit one day but they always seem to be just a bit out of the way for me.

Personally I liked Bern better than Zurich because I thought Zurich was too much of a business city. I spent very little time in Zurich so my opinion shouldn't count much.

Going into the mountains bring better views. Interlacken is a popular spot. I spent a day in Grindelwald on the way up to Jungfroch but it was a smallish ski area.

Rich

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Author: Globetraveler Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 18917 of 20806
Subject: Re: help me fix this? Date: 9/23/2012 11:54 AM
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The obvious solution is a midway stop in Germany to break up that first train ride. But where to stop that we could enjoy for a couple of days (as we aren't retired we can't extend this too long, and I don't want to do a day here and a day there...too hectic). Hanover? I know next to nothing about most of the towns I'm seeing on the map that are roughly 1/2 way to Prague. Except Buchenwald. I know that one. I'd love to visit the camp there (if it's still there), but not sure if others in my party would be as interested. (1poorlady feels sick when she sees stuff like that.)

For a couple of days in a German city, I'd recommend Berlin or Munich.

Both have some fantastic museums and sites to see. They are easy to get around, public transportation wise, and offer so much to see.

You mentioned Buchenwald. Instead of Buchenwald, you can do a tour of Dachau from Munich.

http://www.kz-gedenkstaette-dachau.de/index-e.html
http://goeurope.about.com/cs/germany/l/aa_dauchau.htm

I've visited Dachau and it's a very intense experience. It's hard to put into words my personal experience. I will say it was one of the most important travel experiences of my life.

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Author: ChiliChild Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 18918 of 20806
Subject: Re: help me fix this? Date: 9/23/2012 12:36 PM
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I've visited Dachau and it's a very intense experience. It's hard to put into words my personal experience. I will say it was one of the most important travel experiences of my life.

Agreed. Have been there twice. The first visit, I went alone at age 27, on a bus full of Germans. Not a tour, just a bus from Munich to Dachau. We arrived mid-afternoon, so time was limited. Everyone seemed brusque and unhelpful, including the guards. By the time I entered, I was feeling very alone, vulnerable and scared. Dachau only magnified the feelings. Wow. What an experience.

The second time just happened to be the 40th anniversary of the prison's liberation. The four of us were unaware of the date, but it was interesting in that it appeared to be just a regular visitor day with only a sign pointing out the significance. This time I took longer to study the great sculpture titled "Never Again," and spent more time wandering the grounds and contemplating. Another deeply moving experience.

Chili

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Author: 1poorguy Big funky green star, 20000 posts Top Recommended Fools Old School Fool CAPS All Star Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 18919 of 20806
Subject: Re: help me fix this? Date: 9/23/2012 12:50 PM
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Wow. I didn't realize Dachau was so close to Munich. We went to Munich on our trip to Europe. We ended up touring King Ludwig's castles (which were really cool, except for the photo-nazis..."keine photo!").

I think one of the things that distinguishes Buchenwald is that it was designed from the ground up to be a death camp. So it has chutes to deposit corpses in a cellar under the crematorium, and small elevators to bring them up to the actual furnaces for disposal. All very efficient. I dug up a couple of Dachau pictures and I don't see those features, so it likely was "retrofitted" as a death camp sometime after its original construction. (Did I mention that WWII used to be my hobby?)

Still, it would be very interesting (and intense, I'm sure) to visit. Dachau does have the distinction also of being the site of the massacre of prison guards by US soldiers. Plus we let some prisoners kill a few guards also. Numbers are iffy, but estimates are 50 to a few hundred were killed.

Of course, Berlin offers Cold War relics (I would expect). The wall (or what's left of it), maybe some of the gates? I would assume most of the architecture is that really boring post-WWII style since all the original stuff was blown to hell by the war.

I'll have to play with the trains to see what schedule will work better. I think the ones we want are called "hotel trains". Sounds right. Pretty sure that's what we did from Salzburg to Firenze. Not that expensive, as I recall. Though the prices on eurorailway.com seem steeper than I remember.

Thanks to everyone for all the input! Feel free to add more! I'm on a steep learning curve here...

1poorguy

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Author: ChiliChild Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 18921 of 20806
Subject: Re: help me fix this? Date: 9/23/2012 5:13 PM
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If you go to Berlin, do me a favor, please. Walk from the west side of the Brandenburg Gate to the east side.

When we were there, the wall was still up and there were what was called "death stakes" posted around it discouraging anyone who knew their significance from getting near it. Death stakes (innocuous-looking white stakes with orange tops) near any potential escape route indicated that East German police would shoot without warning if you got too close. "Too close" being at their discretion, we were told.

We went into East Berlin and it was like walking back into the 1940s/50s. Went into a shopping area on Alexander Platz (where a massive book burning occurred at Hitler's direction) and the stores were full of furniture my parents had when I was a kid. Checkpoint Charlie was still operational and the "show of force" was still the order of the day. It was laughable even then to watch US forces move heavy artillery right up to the border and do the staredown, then move back.

Now I understand that East Berlin is a happening place.

Chili

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Author: Frydaze1 Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 18922 of 20806
Subject: Re: help me fix this? Date: 9/24/2012 6:52 PM
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Perhaps I should plan the routes based on the high speed rail. I had been using the Rick Steves "ideal" route as my base.

LOL I was going to search his site for information for you. Nevermind.


(Though now you've got me dreaming...
22 Days in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland
http://www.ricksteves.com/plan/destinations/germany/germ22.h... )


Frydaze1

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Author: tconi Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 18925 of 20806
Subject: Re: help me fix this? Date: 9/26/2012 3:55 PM
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Paris has been requested, so plan on the better part of a week there (train from Switzerland). I actually don't have that much interest (I'm not into art museums), but I can always go for some culture and local food and sights.

Don't forget the Wine Museum in Paris.
Small, out of the way, but something *different*

peace & vino
t

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