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OT Trip Report & Photos > Central Europe Part 3 final

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OT Trip Report & Photos > Central Europe Part 3 final

Postby jmq » Tue Dec 02, 2014 2:37 pm

Greetings
Under the theory of better late than never, here is concluding Part 3 of the summer trip to central Europe that included Vienna to Salzburg to Munich to Prague.

Ended Part 2 with the daytrip out to the Bavarian countryside via a wonderful tour with Mario from Pure Bavaria Tours. Called rather last minute and was lucky he had opening for 3 in his 8 passenger van.

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He explained how the small farms were managed in the traditional ways – what we would call organic. I also noticed something pretty amazing – the proliferation of solar panels everywhere – on wood sheds, on barns, on old farm houses – seemingly on whatever angled roof surface that faced south. Turns out that Germany gets like 30% of their electricity from solar power. Not bad for a country that actually sits pretty far north - basically straddling the 50th parallel north latitude (yes – I am a geography geek).

It was on a Sunday, so on the way Neuschwanstein Castle, we stopped in a two small farm villages. Mario seemed to know everybody as we rolled thru town, and each had pretty amazing churches for small countryside towns. Mass was beginning at one of the churches – the ringing bells summoned the town elders from their gathering spot under the big tree.

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Approaching the castle.

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Yes this is the castle that was the inspiration for Disney.

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Its one of those places that would awesome to visit at various times of the year (from the internet).

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The palace was commissioned by the eccentric King Ludwig II of Bavaria as a retreat and as an homage to Wagner – he was a fanatic patron of the composer. The walls of Neuschwanstein are decorated with frescoes depicting scenes from the legends used in Wagner's operas. Ludwig slept only 11 nights in the partially completed castle before he died under mysterious circumstances in 1886. Six weeks later it was opened to the public (no photos allowed inside – below are from the internets).

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We are usually do-it-yourselfers, but it’s nice being with a tour operator who knows the parking attendants, the ins and outs, best views etc.

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On the way back from the castle we stopped at an organic cheese farm for a delightful late lunch. We were highly amused by this motion sensing rotating car wash brush attached to the barn that the cows can use to scratch themselves.

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After a bit more time in Munich (see Part 2 for other photos), it was off via comfortable double decker bus to Prague.

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Thanks to Rick Steves for clarifying that the 4.5 direct nonstop bus was a better option than a 6 hr train trip involving connections etc. We faced the challenge of trying to use up our Euros before getting to Prague, then getting some Koruna at the bus station for cab to hotel. We usually avoid doing that, but there wasn’t any uncomplicated public transport options to the hotel where we were staying in old town right at the foot of the famous Charles Bridge. What a great location and nice hotel. Highly recommend.

http://www.archibald.cz/at-the-charles- ... el-prague/

Cool below street level restaurant where breakfast was served.
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We had a nice dinner at their restaurant with the killer view (lame phone photo quality).

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Prague was spared from WWII bombing and it lives up to its reputation as pretty cool place and a European must-see, although it now has the crowds that reflect - Prague ranked fifth in the Tripadvisor world list of best destinations in 2014. And the beer was just plain FANTASTIC (and cheaper than water in the pubs a few blocks off the main tourist drag).

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The photo ops were pretty impressive, although I must say (grumpy old guy alert) that it kinda annoys me that with the proliferation of smart phones that EVERYBODY is now a photographer. Hey – get out of the way and stop clogging up the good vantage point! (…which I guess is the equivalent of “hey get off my lawn! LOL) Ah for the old days when it was only me and the Japanese making the effort to bring good gear and taking the time to compose decent images…but if you went out early or late, you deal way less with the selfie crowd.

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The astronomical clock on the Old Town City Hall is pretty amazing. The clock was first installed in 1410, making it the third-oldest astronomical clock in the world and the oldest one still working. It shows the zodiac, phases of the moon, has a calendar, etc. A marvel of engineering for the 15th century.

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We made an interesting decision to take a 3 hr segway tour. It was pretty intuitive to operate, but kinda crazy to be thrown in with the cobblestones, crowds, curbs, streetcars, etc. My wife was a bit overwhelmed at times and had a few minor mishaps - - we didn't get killed, so we are glad we did it :D

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Photo bombed by the tour guide.
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Eating was bit of a challenge in Prague as the girls do not eat red meat. We found a really good vegetarian restaurant though that we all enjoyed.

Fight back to JFK was via Zurich and was long but uneventful, which is good nowadays.

All in all, a very good trip and it was a great experience visiting many of the places we wanted to see in central Europe. For those handful of you here who might have been waiting for this last installment, thanks for your patience.
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Throw me over the edge and let my spirit glide
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Re: OT Trip Report & Photos > Central Europe Part 3 final

Postby Lovermont » Tue Dec 02, 2014 3:01 pm

Thanks for bringing us along. Prague is on my wish list, but I don't have any immediate plans to go. Looks beautiful, and I'm sure my husband would love the beers. We've been seeing more Segway tours in various places lately. The tour I saw in Amsterdam this summer really scared me. Too much going on... trams, cars, bikes... oh my! That being said, we totally enjoyed hanging like the locals on our borrowed "city bikes".
Thanks again; really enjoyed the report and photos.
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Re: OT Trip Report & Photos > Central Europe Part 3 final

Postby jmq » Tue Dec 02, 2014 4:13 pm

Glad you enjoyed. Re operating a Segway in an urban old city environment, I thought it was somewhat akin to driving in heavy urban street or heavy urban highway traffic i.e. many points of awareness to deal with, all while operating an unfamiliar "vehicle".
So if you lack those skill sets, it may indeed be wise to think twice. My 21 yr old actually did better than my wife, whose driving skills may have gotten suburban soft. :)
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Re: OT Trip Report & Photos > Central Europe Part 3 final

Postby shoemak38 » Wed Dec 03, 2014 12:02 pm

Thanks for the trip report brings back memories of Bavaria. King Ludwig had three castles built one of which is on an island in the Chiemsee that he modeled after Versailles. Back when I was over there in the service in the summer time they used to light the main hall with 10,000 candles in the evening. King Ludwig is credited with bankrupting the country, which made it become part of Germany.
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Re: OT Trip Report & Photos > Central Europe Part 3 final

Postby toni » Thu Dec 04, 2014 6:10 am

Thanks so very much for posting the final trip section. I am one of those who had been awaiting it :D

Your photos are beautiful and definitely make me want to visit different area. The cow brush one is particularly interesting (I have lots of dairy farm customers, will have to ask if they're familiar with anything like that!)

Logistically did you have most everything planned out ahead of time? Was language ever an issue? (Especially in restaurants?)We are thinking of returning to Italy and taking trains to different countries.

You've definitely given me some ideas! :)
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Re: OT Trip Report & Photos > Central Europe Part 3 final

Postby PA Girl » Thu Dec 04, 2014 9:59 am

Your trip reports bring back such good memories for me. Bavaria was the first place in Germany I traveled without my parents. (Prussian Dad was not a fan of the region) I regret not going to Prague back in the early 90s.

I can relate to your statement of "We are usually do-it-yourselfers, but it’s nice being with a tour operator who knows the parking attendants, the ins and outs, best views etc."

My family was budget travelers, total do-it-yourselfers but I am starting to see the value in paying for local guides now that my son is at an age where he asks 10,000 questions. Ease of travel is also coming into play. We hired a guide to hike in El Yunque and it was so easy because he did the driving and avoided all the crowds.

Where to next?
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Re: OT Trip Report & Photos > Central Europe Part 3 final

Postby jmq » Thu Dec 04, 2014 4:13 pm

Toni – yes logistics were preplanned – I think the 2 bus legs were pre-purchased online (you even learn to use sites without an English option – thank you google translate), but not the train between Vienna and Salzburg.

I think that if you are going city to city in same country you usually don’t have to pre-purchase train tickets. However, one time in Milan the line to buy tickets was so long that we probably would’ve missed the train we were trying to make but went to the automated machine and it had English option and was very intuitive to use – more so than the ticket machines for the DC Metro LOL.

Its probably advisable to reserve train tix if you want to take one of those long high speed runs between countries because they would be running fewer trains, and, those more expensive longer distance train tickets can be significantly cheaper if you prebook them weeks early.

Re language, sort of like “good morning” in the VIs, always helpful to learn a few basic greeting phrases, please, thank you, etc. That effort to do that can break the ice, even in France. Sometimes reading a menu can be a challenge if they don’t have an English section, but usually they can find the waiter who speaks the best English to come over and help out = all part of the adventure.

PA – what’s next? - - no current plans, which is unusual for us, and kinda depressing too.
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Re: OT Trip Report & Photos > Central Europe Part 3 final

Postby linne » Tue Dec 09, 2014 11:14 am

Thank you for the report, which I have been looking forward to see.

After my opinion you are a really good traveler, you experience and see a lot, don’t wasting time at the destination, because you have planned most of it from home, and you take fantastic pictures.

We visited wonderful Prague in December 2009, and many of our pictures are similar yours- but not as good, although we used our camera and not the phone! :)

I have never tried a Segway, didn’t see it in Prague, but I think it was brave of you and your family to try it.

Hope you soon will get a new plan for where to travel in the future. Nice to have a dream.

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Re: OT Trip Report & Photos > Central Europe Part 3 final

Postby AquaGirl » Wed Dec 10, 2014 8:51 am

Thank you for posting this series of trip reports! I thoroughly enjoyed reading them and plan to share them with my hubby. These places are on our (very long) travel list.
Amusing story about Prague - some friends of ours visited there many years ago and sent us a postcard. They wrote "having some trouble with the currency - I'm not sure whether we paid 5 cents, 50 cents or 5 dollars for this postcard". I think their currency was devalued at that time.
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Re: OT Trip Report & Photos > Central Europe Part 3 final

Postby nothintolose » Fri Jan 23, 2015 8:59 pm

We thought about adding Prague to our trip, but we already had it jam packed and thought we needed more time. How did you like it??? Which was your favorite of the cities you visited???

Not sure you felt similar or not but we felt like the King Ludwig castles were a major tourist trap. We rented a car and drove from Munich so we weren't even with a tour group, but the whole having to be at each destination by a certain time and being hurried through the castles was a major turn off for us. I have seen more palaces and castles throughout Europe where I never felt that way. In hindsight, I would have been happy to have seen Neushwanstein from the road and kept going :D

I loved all of the transportation on this trip...especially in Amsterdam but Munich was great too. We walked EVERYWHERE in Salzburg, like you said ya'll did, and Vienna was also so easy to get around. I wish New Orleans had a system like that. The bike lanes and biker riders in Europe were crazy!!! I envy their bike lanes and how bike friendly (and dog friendly as you mentioned) Europe is!

Your reports make me want to go back tomorrow!!! Thanks for sharing!!!

Oh and I LOVED the vending machines that had beer in them!!!!
"Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die" - Dave Matthews Band
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Re: OT Trip Report & Photos > Central Europe Part 3 final

Postby jmq » Mon Jan 26, 2015 3:26 pm

@nothintolose – thanks for props and glad to provide the flashbacks!

Re the Neuschwanstein Castle experience, we did not mind the crowded and “herded” aspect of that day as our tour guide optimized access and egress as much as possible.

Plus, that was only part of the day for us, as we enjoyed his stories on the ride out in his van and Sunday morning stops in the 2 villages on the way out (where it seemed like he knew everybody) and the charming organic cheese farm on the ride back = all arguments for the guided tour, which however, is hugely dependant on the tour guide (Reason #1 the usual default for us is do-it-yourself).

And despite how much research you do, the quality of that experience is still a wild card. We paid a small fortune for a private van with a well reviewed tour guy for a day trip from Paris out to Versailles and Chartres, and he was a dud who in retrospect is known to us as “Mumbles the Sad Tour Guide”.

Probably looking to do the guided tour thing again in April as I am going out early to a business conference in San Francisco so my wife can join me for 3-4 days pre-conf. Don’t want to rent a car, so might do one of those van tours that run wine tasting day trips out to Napa/Sonoma.
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Re: OT Trip Report & Photos > Central Europe Part 3 final

Postby nothintolose » Tue Jan 27, 2015 12:05 am

jmq - of the places you went on that trip, which was your favorite country or city?
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Re: OT Trip Report & Photos > Central Europe Part 3 final

Postby jmq » Tue Jan 27, 2015 6:19 pm

Hard to say which was a fav. Salzburg really surprised me how charming it was and I was really glad we included it on the itinerary.

Prague was very cool to experience and I think should be on anybody’s “must see” list (especially in the less crowded off season) if you are anywhere in Europe that you can get there via one of those cheap Euro airlines or a reasonable bus ride (long distance train service/connections into Prague doesn’t seem as optimal most other major cities in Europe). IMO it’s a much more wander the streets and pub crawl kind of place than touring museums and churches kind of place, so it appealed to us more than Vienna :D , which would likely appeal much more to an art museum and classical music buff with their world class operas etc. Plus, it does have some great architecture, chocolate, and cafes.

Munich was good to experience also and has a lot to offer, and that memory is augmented by the delightful tour into the Bavarian countryside from Munich. For WWII history, one could also opt to visit Dachau as a half day tour from Munich. Also, if you are a "car person" a rainy day option we didn't have to use in Munich is the well regarded BMW museum. And, if in season, I would've tried to see FC Bayern Munich play (one of the best soccer clubs in the Bundesliga and in the entire world) in the very cool looking Allianz Arena.
Last edited by jmq on Thu Jan 29, 2015 9:41 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: OT Trip Report & Photos > Central Europe Part 3 final

Postby nothintolose » Wed Jan 28, 2015 10:31 am

Thanks jmq!!! You answered my question perfectly!!! It was exactly what I needed to hear. SO is the Vienna type; I am the Salzburg type, but he cares more than I do as I am happy just to be travelling :D

I am with you that Salzburg surprised us both. We were only there for one night, and we wish we had one more day there.

We have discussed, when we go back (probably late September or October again), going to Prague, but not sure. Your comments have helped alot. I LOVE your Prague pictures!!! I wish we would have hit it this last trip when we were closer.

Thanks again for sharing!!!
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