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Old 25th May 2011, 23:39   #1
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Smile Europe on a Shoe-string > 4 weeks trip with family on a backpack!

Preface: We, as a family of three, planned for a trip to Japan during this summer. Our planning started in mid January and was almost done by mid February. All travel necessities were booked. Since the VISA is issued only 2 weeks in advance, we had kept things on hold. Then came the news about earthquake and tsunami in Japan - followed by the nuclear disaster. Even though we had not planned to visit northern Japan, we were concerned that this disaster would effect facilities like public transportation, electricity... etc.

After being completely prepared to tour Japan, it was disheartening to say the least - that the trip had to be called off, due to this unforeseen disaster. Everything that was booked was cancelled - Luckily, we did not loose any money. Also, this made us think about an alternate destination. Europe was the first choice for the following reasons:
  • We always had it in our mind to visit Switzerland & Italy, since we had not visited them earlier.
  • Trip to Europe was easier to plan in the limited time available, since we had an idea about things - in general.
  • Europe - any day is the best holiday destination! Every member gets to see / do something to their liking.
  • One VISA covers most European countries - Which makes it easier to plan activities.
In our previous trip, we had not visited Vienna in Austria & also had not spent enough time around Munich in Germany. So, we added Austria and Germany to our itinerary. To get a taste of the night journey by Eurail, we added a trip to Paris (this was a wrong decision, probably taken in haste). After this, before applying for the VISA - we booked our accomodation, air-ticket, travel-insurance and Eurail pass.

Approximate expenses incurred, is as stated below:
  • Total accomodation cost for 3 adults : Rs.1,60,000/-
  • Air-ticket + Travel insurance : Rs.1,25,000/-
  • Eurail Global Pass (21 consecutive days) : Rs.1,10,000/-
  • Train reservation charges : Rs.35,000/-
  • Museum / attractions tickets and local public transportation extra.
We used our Eurail pass between 30th April to 20th May. All our accomodation had fully equipped kitchen. Since we are vegetarians, we prefer to cook our food and therefore, we were particular about this.

Things we carried with us:
  • Clothes to suffice for a week - Self-service washing machines were available everywhere for a charge of approximately 5 euros per load.
  • Groceries like rice, wheat, ragi, rava, Poha, rasam powder, green chillies and spices. (Green chillies are not available at all, except for some Indian stores in Italy. Even vegetables are on the sweeter side. So, cooking without chillies will not taste to our liking. Rice and wheat will be available, but of a different variety. Again, it won't be to our liking. Therefore we carried all these stuff)
  • A small rice cooker & ready made mix like Maggi noodles, Rava dosa... etc.
This limited our luggage to 2 suitcases of 20kg each and a backpack of 5 kg. Vegetables, fruits, milk and curds are available at the local grocery shops.


Travel Itinerary:


Europe on a Shoe-string > 4 weeks trip with family on a backpack!-travel-itinerary.jpg


Planned train schedule is as below. Trains were available every 30 mins in case of a miss. Some trains need reservation compulsorily.

http://www.eurail.com/planning


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References: Lonely planet, Wikipedia and other Internet sites.

Purpose of this thread is to share my experience during the trip and also provide details which would help others, who would like to travel on their own. Trip details and pictures are to follow.

Last edited by Chethan B G : 13th June 2011 at 23:29.
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Old 1st June 2011, 00:25   #2
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Smile Re: Europe on a Shoe-string > 4 weeks trip with family on a backpack!

Our first destination was Vienna - a beautiful city and also a very big one. City is very well connected by public transport. We could get a weekly pass for 14 euros per head. This covers all transportation and is valid in the inner zone (zone 100). This is quite a big area and covers all major attractions.

Vienna Public Transport

Public Transport - VIENNA

Transportation in Vienna - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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We planned to visit the following in Vienna:
  1. Schönbrunn Palace (Home - Schönbrunn Palace | Vienna | Austria) - This palace is really worth seeing. Palace and the garden takes the whole day - no other palace we have seen is as charming as this one. This Empress Sisi’s former summer residence, is truly awesome!
  2. Danube tower (DONAUTURM - Observation Tower and Restaurant in Vienna, Austria) - Austria's tallest tower.
  3. Visit city centers at Stephansplatz and Karlsplatz (Naschmarkt) - Naschmarkt - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
  4. Day trip to Wachau (ÖBB travel portal: Wachau-Ticket) - This trip covers Vienna to Melk by train. After seeing Melk Abbey, we take a ferry to Krems via danube river. Krems to Vienna is again covered by train. Church and the library at the Abbey is simply beautiful. Cruise along the danube river takes us along castles and villages.
And now, some pictures!


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Last edited by Chethan B G : 13th June 2011 at 18:30.
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Old 2nd June 2011, 09:05   #3
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Smile Re: Europe on a Shoe-string > 4 weeks trip with family on a backpack!

Naschmarkt Market Area in Vienna : Fresh Food Market Naschmarkt

"Naschmarkt" as they say in Vienna, is a nice place to visit. Apart from fruits and vegetables, we get all types of food, right from kebabs to the Vienna's traditional food. One of the few places where we can have more spices on request - Particularly in Indian kebab centers!

Schönbrunn Palace: Apfel Strudel is a classic Viennese dish - Something similar to the Apple Pie. There was an Apfel Strudel show which was included in the ticket. In this show, they showed us how to make Apfel Strudel. This was a good one - We enjoyed it throughly. It tastes great!

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Entire Vienna is kept very clean - Totally spic and span. Notice the bags that are tied behind the horses!

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Wachau region:


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Library:

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Church:

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Last edited by Chethan B G : 13th June 2011 at 19:01.
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Old 2nd June 2011, 13:29   #4
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Smile Re: Europe on a Shoe-string > 4 weeks trip with family on a backpack!

After our visit to the Abbey, we took a cruise from Melk to Krems. This route is good - But not anything near to the one between Mainz and Cologne on the Rhine river, in Germany (KDRine Sightseeing - Koblenz). That is simply awesome.

More pictures: IMHO, presenting Vienna is incomplete without discussing about it's beautiful gardens. So I have attached quite a few pictures showing nature. I can tell you that the garden and sites were a lot more beautiful that they appear on these pictures.

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On the 30th April, we arrived at Salzburg (Salzburg City - Austria : Hotels in Salzburg : Accommodation in Salzburg : Events in Salzburg :...) - Known for Mozart and his work. The city can also be used as a base to visit western Austria and its Alps (Even though Zell-am-see & Innsbruck are the main base to visit Austrian Alps).

A weekly pass covering all transportation within the city will cost about Euro 14 per head - Salzburg - Public Transport Map.pdf

We planned to visit the following places in and around Salzburg:
  1. Ice cave in Werfen - EISRIESENWELT WERFEN - Site
  2. 3 days to Munich - To visit city in general, its Zoo (Tierpark Hellabrunn: Munich Zoo), BMW museum (Discover Joy: BMW Welt, Museum and Plant Munich) and Deutsches Museum (Deutsches Museum: Information).
  3. A visit to Paris for sight seeing in general.
  4. Sight seeing in Salzburg.
Pictures:

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Salzburg Old city - Around Zentrum:

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Mozart's Birthplace
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Last edited by Chethan B G : 13th June 2011 at 19:04.
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Old 11th June 2011, 19:25   #5
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Munich Zoo: This place is so fascinating that my daughter wanted to visit again. Last seven pictures are of our previous visit. This time around, we felt that the zoo and the animals were not maintained properly. Effect of recession?

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Pictures taken in 2008:

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2nd class compartment of Eurail: Our train to Werfen from Salzburg, did not have a first class compartment.

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Werfen is a beautiful town on the way to Zell-am-see from Salzburg. Other than the Ice caves, it is also known for it's Castle. Our visit to the Ice caves was physically demanding, but was definitely worth it. Taking pictures inside the cave is not allowed. Cave photos are available on the net. Check this link: EISRIESENWELT WERFEN - Site

The cave is completely dark. During the guided tours, magnesium wires are used to light up the caves.


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Last edited by Chethan B G : 13th June 2011 at 19:14.
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Old 12th June 2011, 00:37   #6
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Smile Re: Europe on a Shoe-string > 4 weeks trip with family on a backpack!

Best part of the travel by Eurail is the over-night journey. In fact, we planned a visit to Paris to experience this. This was a mistake - As this could have been planned to Amsterdam or any other place. Somehow, Paris was more tempting. The best time to visit Paris as a visitor is Mid-April. In may, it is too crowded. We got struck twice in traffic jams. Could not really enjoy the visit.

Pictures of the 2nd class sleeper: Tourist-3 cabin has 3 sleepers one above the other, in each lockable cabin. A personal wash basin is available inside the cabin. Toilet & Shower is common - available at the end of the coach.

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Some pictures of Paris:

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Our next destination was Interlaken. Wow! What a beautiful place - Both in terms of the township and surroundings. It is a small town - can be easily covered by walk. City bus is free for people staying in any of the Interlaken accomodation.

Our plan in Switzerland was to visit the following places:
  1. Zürich - City sites
  2. Lucerne - Transport museum - http://www.verkehrshaus.ch/en/
  3. Geneva - City sites including Flower clock & UNO
  4. Mount Titlis - http://www.titlis.ch/en/titlis/titlis_info
Apartment pictures in Interlaken:

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Interlaken: This is a beautiful town - Best place to stay and reach other places. Drinking water fountains are available throughout Switzerland. Water that comes out of the tap, is potable - Tub water is not recycled and left to flow out.

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Zürich: We went around the old town. Guided walking tours were available. But we choose to go on our own - at our own pace, with the help of the city map. Walking tour path is well marked on the city map, which is available for free at the tourist information centers. Not much to do for the tourists except for the night life and casinos, which are rampant.

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Pisa - Continued:

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Florence: Duomo

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Siena: This is a Gothic gem - One of the best preserved sites in Italy - A must see. Old town centre is about 4kms from the Train station. A ticket which is valid for 70mins on the public transport, will cost 1 Euro.

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Smile Re: Europe on a Shoe-string > 4 weeks trip with family on a backpack!

Transport museum in Lucerne is worth a visit. But in general, Switzerland is highly commercialized and not the best place to enjoy activities. We felt that Austria is any day better for all activities involving nature - Cleaner + cheaper + better served.

Food outside is very expensive in Switzerland - Even when compared to other European countries. We could hardly see any locals in the restaurants. It is best to cook our own food here.

Also, shop keepers are strangely rude. They just do not tolerate people who take time to decide. Very strange - Switzerland seems to be on a different planet - Literally.


A double-decker train: Seating arrangement is very unique on this train in the 1st floor.

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Mount Titlis: Variety of cable cars and snow toys. Unfortunately, it was raining and we could not have much fun. Very crowded place. Quality of snow was not all that great - very average.

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Ice cave on Mount Titlis:
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Geneva: Nice place to stay - and cover French Alps. A bit fresh compared to other parts of Switzerland, as you find open minded people. Public transportation is good. But traffic tends to jam around the Train station.

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Flower Clock
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Broken Chair - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Our next destination was Florence - Capital of Tuscany and one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Streets are busy from morning 7am until midnight 12. Our apartment was in the centre - About 1.5 kms from the Train station. Entire city can be easily covered by walk. We did not need any public transport.

Our plan was to visit the following places in and around Florence:
  1. Visit Pisa - Pisa - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  2. Visit Siena - Siena - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  3. Visit Venice - Venice - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  4. Site seeing at Florence - Florence - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Apartment in Florence:

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Pisa: A nice place. Tower is about 2 kms from the Train station. Easily walkable. As we climb the leaning tower, we can literally feel the gravity!

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Last edited by Chethan B G : 13th June 2011 at 19:36.
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Old 12th June 2011, 16:16   #9
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These candies are made out of pure fruit - No sugar or milk added. Tastes awesome.

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Our apartment in Florence was right in Piazza Della Signoria. This helped us to literally stroll around the place until midnight.
We could take some pictures of this square around 11pm.

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Venice: Boat is the only means of transportation. We took a day pass, which was not necessary. Can be easily covered by walk. That way, we can also have a good look at the city. Nice place to visit. Gondola is very expensive - costed us 100 euros for a half-an-hour tour. Restaurants charge the service charges + charges for the table per head + tips! We can get a meal elsewhere for just the extra money we spend here! Take-away is the best option in Venice. This place is very different from Tuscany in general.

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Last edited by Chethan B G : 13th June 2011 at 23:33.
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Old 12th June 2011, 17:06   #10
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Our next destination was Rome: How much we had longed to be here! At last!!

Rome pass is available for visitors, which covers all transportation for 3 days and entry for any 2 attractions of our choice. This is a good deal. But we took a pass covering only transportation for 3 days @ 11 Euros per head and separately purchased the attraction tickets. Difference is not much, but the first one is better. Rome is a city which has some thing for all budgets - We enjoyed our stay throughly!

http://www.romapass.it/p.aspx?l=en&tid=2

http://www.rometoolkit.com/transport...ravel_pass.htm


Things we wanted to do in Rome:
  1. Visit Colosseum and the Roman Forum
  2. Pantheon and the Trevi fountain were the other main attractions
  3. Vatican city - St.Peter's square and the cathedral
  4. Santa Maria in Trastevere - The first Christian church in Rome
  5. Visit Naples & Capri - Blue Grotto - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue_Grotto_(Capri)
Pictures:

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Capri Island: Trip to Capri on a hydrofoil, was a good experience. It takes 40mins to cover the distance at the cost of 34 euros per head (to and fro). From Capri, another boat takes us to the entrance of Blue Grotto at the cost of 12 Euros per head (to and fro). Blue grotto has to be entered by another small boat and that will cost another 12 Euros per head! - This small boat will be inside the cave for exactly 60 seconds. Visiting Capri island just for the sake of visiting Blue Grotto is a waste in my opinion - Spending 58 Euros per head is not worth it.

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Pantheon: One of the very few well preserved ancient structures in Rome. Very beautiful - Free entry. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pantheon,_Rome

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Last edited by Chethan B G : 13th June 2011 at 22:07.
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Colosseum! - It is surprising to know that we had this kind of architectural expertise 2000 years back.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colosseum

http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/ancient...sseum_01.shtml

http://www.rome.info/colosseum/

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Vatican city: St. Peter's Basilica - Holi See - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Peter's_Basilica

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Peter's_Square

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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Peter%27s_tomb

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Roman Forum: This is the place where all social and political activities used to take place during the Roman empire. Forum was overlooked by the emperors, who had there residential palace on the adjacent Palatine hill.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_Forum

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Last edited by Chethan B G : 14th June 2011 at 00:04.
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Old 14th June 2011, 08:04   #13
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After 4 weeks, as planned on 23rd - We came back from Rome by Qatar Airways. I must mention that Qatar flights were much better that we had expected. Very good service, food, leg-space and they were always on time.

Thank you for having patience and going through this Travelogue. Please feel free to ask me anything - in case you need any further information.
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Old 14th June 2011, 10:01   #14
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Dear Chean,

Excellent pictures with fantastic details. Planning a 15 day trip next year around Jun? Please send me the details about the booking process for Eurorail and are there homestays. Did you drive around the countryside?
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Good travelogue and good pictures thanks for sharing.
You had been to Interlaken did you visit Jungfrou.
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