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Old 6th September 2012, 20:34   #1
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Default Living my Autobahn dreams - Europe 2012

“The world is a book and he who does not travel reads only one page of it” – St Augustine.

In the era when life is a chaotic race, it is necessary that we space time to pursue our passions. For at the end of your lives journey, you do not want to be sorry on the many things you wished but could never space time for!

PLANNING
So from the state of organized chaos called “life”, I decided to take a break to pursue my travel passion. My wife and I had been planning our Europe trip for long and this was the perfect time. I was extremely excited to live my dreams of driving down the Autobahn. Being a Need For Speed addict in my college days it had been my long time wish to zoom down those motorways one dayJ. So along with Germany we added Switzerland and France to the itinerary.

This was the period of mid-June and we slated our travel for late July. July was the perfect time to be in Europe with the pleasant summer playing the perfect host! I sat for 2 weeks monitoring the flight charges and finally got a cracker of deal with Sri Lankan Airlines. No second thought, booked the tickets somewhere in the middle of the night and the very next day rang up couple of travel agents in South Bangalore. I finally zeroed in on HRM Travels, Marathahalli-Bangalore. Mr. Kishore, our travel agent helped file our Visa application with great ease and in a matter of 3 days we had our Schengen Visa stamped and passport handed back. That was the 3rd of July and the countdown began 18… 17… 16...1

21st JULY 2012- BON VOYAGE!!!
We flew out of Bangalore in the 9pm flight. The flight to Colombo was an hour and we landed at 10pm. Our connecting flight from Colombo was at 1:30am local time. Walking down the terminal corridor I glanced up the screens just to realize in dismay that the connecting flight was delayed by 5 hrs. Went to the transit counter where the airline staff quickly helped us with a transit stay facility. We were picked up from our hotel at 4:30am, reached the airport to find that the flight was rescheduled to 7:30am. Colombo to Frankfurt was a 9hr flight, quite silent as most of the passengers were exhausted and remained on their pillows. We finally landed at 4:20pm local time at the Frankfurt Terminal 2.

EUROPE- FIRST IMPRESSIONS

The first impression, epitome of efficiency and discipline! With the massive volume of traffic that the Frankfurt airport handles I was under the impression that the airport formalities would take a sweet 2 hours. However I was grossly wrong, I cleared immigration and walked out with my baggage in flat 15mins. Headed straight to the SIXT Car Rental counter where the very helpful lady showed me the way to Terminal 1 where my pre-booked car was available. We took the connecting bus to Terminal 1 and headed to the SIXT counter. The SIXT Car Rental service was a breeze and I was thoroughly impressed with their professionalism. I was given precise directions to locate my car in the parking. Taking my keys and the contract I left Sixt counter and stopped at Mc Donald’s to grab something for a whining tummy. Tummy full and happy, I proceeded to a huge multilevel parking. Reached the SIXT Car parking and pressed the unlock button of the keys – a beautiful white Peugeot 308 convertible beeped calling me softly, “I’m here”. Opened the boot, dumped the luggage, took a moment to get used to the car and then set off into Deutschland. The remaining 8 days was pure bliss and a thousand words would fall short to pen down that experience.

SWITZERLAND
We headed straight from Frankfurt to Switzerland. The drive to Entlebuch, Switzerland was nearly 4hrs. At the border of Switzerland we purchased a vignette to travel the Swiss motorways. We reached our hotel after midnight, thankfully they were open! This country is more beautiful than any Bollywood camera could ever capture. Even the smallest rivulet has its own beauty and you could exhaust your camera memory clicking around it. In the 3 days we stayed in Swiss here are the places covered.

Mt Pilatus, Lucerne, Switzerland:The ride to the top of Mt Pilatus is enchanting in the Cable Cars. The first leg of the journey is in a 4 seater which takes you up a good height in less than 30 minutes. The last bit of the journey is in a 15-20 seater Gondola. This takes you right up to Mt Pilatus. The view from Mt Pilatus is mesmerizing. You can see the Lake Lucerne below and far at a distance the description of beauty at its best- the snowcapped Alps! There are numerous hiking trails all cross the mountain. There are scores of people who choose not to take the Cable Cars and hike all the way up to Mt Pilatus. We spend 6hrs there and descended down by evening. The days are long in Europe with broad daylight remaining till 9pm. So you get relatively long days to roam around. Interestingly to enjoy the Mt Pilatus excursion it is advisable to take a steam ship from Luzern through Alpnachstad, take the COG Wheel Railway to the top of Mt Pilatus and then return down via the Cable Cars to Kriens. The Cog Wheel railway is an engineering marvel because of the elevation it pulls through. I guess it is termed as the steepest ascent of the world.

Jungfrau- Top of Europe, Bern, Switzerland:Aptly named, this is the highest point of the snow covered Alps only accessible through a rather costly train ride of 2.5hrs. Trains to Jungfrau depart from Interlaken OST station. We had booked our ticket online (www.sbb.ch) so could just walk into the train and have our seat. The ride up is enchanting, taking you through the plains then the foot hills and then inching upwards at a slow pace when you reach the snow peaks! Heaven on earth is one word to describe Jungfrau. Once you exit the trains to the station you have several points of interest at Jungfrau. The Ice Palace, the glacier trail, the ice sports etc. Surrounding you is the picture perfect setting of the snow covered Alps. It’s a treat to the eyes and I guess I might not do justice describing it in this travelogue or through my camera. It’s a place you must visit at any cost. The last train from Jungfrau takes you down at 5:30pm. In between there are many stations where you could alight and hike down.

Black Forest, Germany:The Black Forest is yes, the place where Black Forest Cakes originated. Trust me, Black Forest cakes that we get in India come no way close to it. Located in southern Germany, the Black Forest region shares borders with Switzerland to the south and France to the west. The place was named by the Italians, and true to its name the forest looks pitch black rather than green when viewed from a higher altitude. Black Forest also is the home of the Cuckoo clocks. Beautiful but expensive, these clocks come with manual windings and also battery operated. The stay in Germany was in a farmhouse and this was also one of the highlights of our stay. The sprawling hill slopes neatly trimmed the fields which had beautiful wild flowers and the surrounding pine forests all added a dreamy touch to the view. Breakfast served at the house was purely homemade butter, cheese and breads. Milk was served in abundance and black coffee tasted better than never before. The winding roads cutting through the Black Forest provides an excellent drive to bikers. We were among the very few who were travelling in the cars, majority of them were on their shiny bikes.

Strasbourg, France:This is the capital of the European Union. France on the contrary to Germany and Switzerland wasn’t that impressive. You would sure miss the spotless roads and the disciplined driving of the Germans. However, there are architectural marvels here which can brings you to a standstill, one fine example being the Notre dame Cathedral. Standing at an imposing 470ft this mammoth cathedral was completed somewhere in the 1900s. The many lanes that connect to this cathedral square are covered with roadside cafes which whip out some mouthwatering cuisines.

SIXT Rent-a-Car Experience: Renting a car from Frankfurt looks to be the cheapest option amongst the Schengen Countries. The SIXT Airport counters are extremely friendly and everything is clearly explained to you in the contract printed out. Each and every minor to major damage that already exists on the vehicle to be rented is clearly written down in your contract. You would not be charged for any of these damages at the return of the vehicle. SIXT honors Indian Licenses and though I had made my International Driving License they were not very keen with that. I think the lady didn’t even open and check it J. Returning the car is also an easy affair. There are specified car rental return places at the Airport terminals. Go to the SIXT parking and you will have the team ready to inspect the car and relieve you in less than 2-3 minutes. In fact, by the time we had unloaded our luggage the personal had already inspected our car and moved off. Optional insurances can be purchased over the counter to waive of any damage excess on your bill.

The Autobahn Experience: It was a dream come true and yes, I thoroughly enjoyed my 8 days driving down those motorways, admiring every minute and hour the German discipline. In these high speed motorways neither did I hear a honk nor a police car nor a speed interceptor anywhere. Germans are passionate about their vehicles and pride in keeping their cars in immaculate conditions. No dented, no smoky vehicles and no breakdowns seen on the roads. Driving the Autobahns is thrilling, and I did touch 200+ speeds for short stretches during my drives. The right most lanes are used by all slow moving traffic, the mid lanes for over taking and the left most lane for those who want to test their vehicle’s speed limit. I was surprised at the discipline in which people move off the left lane as soon as they see you approaching behind them at a distance. I felt as if I was driving a police car or some VIP vehicle J while driving in the left lanes. Fuel is generally expensive on the motorways and cheaper in the towns. You need to fill fuel yourself and the first few instances it was a nightmare for me. In some of the fuel pumps you authorize your card first and then fill while the rest of the pumps; you fill fuel and pay at the adjoining grocery store. GPS is a must and was extremely.

Of the many travels, this would be a very memorable one for me adding to the fact that it was my first international trip. Life is different out there and I am glad I could experience that once in life. So till the next travel bug bites me …. Adé
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Last edited by Technocrat : 7th September 2012 at 21:52. Reason: Font Tags removed
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Old 7th September 2012, 11:33   #2
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Default re: Living my Autobahn dreams - Europe 2012

Nice travelogue and some good pictures of the Mt.Pilatus.
You have given a good preview of the places that is to travelled.
I have travelled these places by train.
Very good planning and the roads to be taken is the key and I hope
you had done your home work well before embarking on this trip.
Thanks for sharing.
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Old 7th September 2012, 14:10   #3
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Default re: Living my Autobahn dreams - Europe 2012

Nice writeup and great photos. What was the rental rates for the car from Sixt ? Does it come with e-toll mechanism for paying tolls, if any?
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Old 7th September 2012, 15:31   #4
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Default re: Living my Autobahn dreams - Europe 2012

I had booked the car from Makemytrip. They gave the best rates of 20K for a full week. GPS comes at an additional cost. Additional insurance can be purchased to waive off the Damage Excess on Rental Cars. MMT gives you option of Sixt, AVIS, EUROPCARS & BUDGET. From the reviews and my experience I would any day bank on Sixt.You do not need to pay the parking toll at the terminal, but elsewhere you need to pay the parking manually. If you enter Switzerland you need to buy the vignette.
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Old 11th September 2012, 23:48   #5
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Default Re: Living my Autobahn dreams - Europe 2012

Hi Mohanan,

How did you plan the destinations / places to visit in the itinerary? Was this part of a tour package ?
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Old 12th September 2012, 00:16   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by blip View Post
Hi Mohanan,

How did you plan the destinations / places to visit in the itinerary? Was this part of a tour package ?

This was not part of any tour package. I always wanted to do a road trip in Europe. The most economical location in Europe to land and hire rental cars is Germany. That's how Germany was zeroed in. Switzerland was a place that could not be missed and was also close to southern Germany. We decided South Germany since it was kind of a central location to move around the different places. Strasbourg, France was just 56kms from the Black Forest area. While checking about stay options in South Germany I discovered the Black Forest area. With its natural beauty it proved to be wonderful place to be in.
I did invest a good amount of time reading about the various places for stay and sight seeing before we actually finalized things. That helped me a lot. I would any day take this pain than go through a package tour where you do not get this flexibility.
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Old 12th September 2012, 19:04   #7
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Default Re: Living my Autobahn dreams - Europe 2012

i have a slightly random question. If i wanted to hire a car and sleep in it to save on hotel costs, would it be possible. Eat bread and cheese and mc donalds, sleep in car , and use public utilities, can it be done? Basically do the entire thing in 1 lakh.
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Old 12th September 2012, 19:23   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by manolin View Post
i have a slightly random question. If i wanted to hire a car and sleep in it to save on hotel costs, would it be possible. Eat bread and cheese and mc donalds, sleep in car , and use public utilities, can it be done? Basically do the entire thing in 1 lakh.

You actually can do it! If you are a backpacker, the stay options are a lot cheaper. You have dorms and trust me these multi bed dorms are cleaner than the Indian 2stars and 3stars hotels. The public toilets are sparkling clean. In Swiss, bread is served free on the table, like water in India . Hatchbacks if booked well in advance comes for 14k for a week. Mc D's and departmental stores have good eating options which are extremely light on the pocket. Your main expense would be the flight and visa coming to around 45-50K.

If you are planning one , any help needed, be my guest !!!
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