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Old 15th November 2012, 23:52   #1
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Default My European Sojourns: The making of a dream road trip!

Preface:

This travelogue is about my travels to Europe, and how it all led to a dream road trip covering 5 countries and over 4000 Kms with my wife and a 1.5 year old son. It was long due if not for an unfortunate HDD crash which washed away a lot of my pictorial data. Luckily I managed to recover most of it. I shall start with my last year's trip when I really saw Europe like it ought to be for the first time and then start with the real thing. So here it goes...

A bit of a Background:

Europe, one place that has mesmerized me ever since I started understanding travel and films, Yash Chopra films to be precise.. well not exactly, but yes, it has always been in my to do list. To do? How do you do a place? Yes, there is a difference in visiting a place and doing it. Let me try and explain. Ummm.. But wait a minute, I don’t think I can do justice to this explanation. Its better you see Tanveer's intro to his Europe travelogue. He has beautifully explained it here: http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/travel...ml#post2504301 (Sonata Europa - 5 countries, 4000kms and 15 days)

Can’t agree with him more.

Well, after Yash Chopra films incited my interest, I always wanted to go to Europe. See it firsthand. Driving being the first love, used to fantasize about driving on German Autobahns, on the curvy roads in the Alps. As I grew up, this thought of a road trip in Europe used to give a rush, a strange chill down my head to toe. May be it was adrenalin on the job. This is where the desire to go changed to the desire to do.

Finally life gave a chance and in 2009 one of my work assignments required that I go to Germany. And here I was, face to face with my fantasy. Although that was a short stint with work taking the better of the time. I still managed to visit a cousin who lives in Zurich for a weekend and the train journey from Paderborn in north Germany gave me a good chance to see Europe.

Destiny had it and an annual training started taking me to Europe every year. Last year got behind the wheels for the first time and did South Germany and a little bit of Switzerland. Before I show you how I actually ‘Did’ Europe this year, let me first take you through my last year’s escapades. The story unfolds as we go.

I had one and a half week's training in Augsburg. It was my first time in the town. Reached there on a late April rainy Saturday night. Hotel was next door to the Hauptbahnoff (Main Train Station) so pulled my luggage and settled in the small 10x10 room with a moulded bathroom. Yes, moulded. Well there was some trade fair going on and I could only manage a room in a budget hotel as all the other hotels were full. Enough of writing, let’s let the pictures say it all.

The Augsburg Hauptbahnoff from my Hotel room
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Taxis Lined up waiting for passengers
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I got ready and set out for a walk around town. The first thing that struck me were empty streets. It was the main market place but where are the people??
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Well it was a Sunday and people were either in their Haus (German for house) or already out of their homes camping somewhere.
My European Sojourns: The making of a dream road trip!-dscf0811.jpg

Probably a Made in India i10
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A Beauty parked nearby.
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As I went ahead towards the Rathaus (Town hall) which was in the center of the town. It was all deserted.
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A Wood Covered Fountain with a statue. They cover all such fountains during winters to keep Snow from accumulating.
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The Augsburg Dom (Main Cathedral)
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Again empty streets during night.
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The week went by at work and then came the next weekend. Well Friday to be precise. I had planned to visit Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Zugspitze, Innsbruck and Mittenwald for the weekend (Friday Included). The plan was to take an early morning train to Garmish see Zugspitze, which is the highest peak in Germany and then reach Innsbruck in the afternoon. So after an hour long train journey, Here I was at the base of Zugspitze.
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You get down at Garmisch and take a small cogwheel train that suddenly turns into an elevator and lifts you to the top of the mountain.

The Zugspitze station at the top.
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This is what greets you at the top.
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And then you have an option to come down via a ropeway.

This is what you see.
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After coming down, I took another train to Innsbruck (literal meaning, a bridge on the river Inns), Austria from Garmisch.

Due to the HDD crash, I do not have much of Innsbruck left to show. But don't worry, we shall visit Innsbruck again later in this travelogue.

Coming back, I had not done any hotel bookings so fastest way was to take a room at the Ibis Hotel just outside the Innsbruck Hauptbahnoff.

Went on a stroll in the evening. The Inn river is magical. A small wooden bridge on the Inn river. Probably the real Innsbruck.
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Next Morning (Saturday), I took an Innsbrucker card which entitled me for 24 hours of public transport including the City tour bus and all the Roapways and Trainways up the mountains.

I went to the Nordkette located on the northern part of the town. This is from the top.
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After I came down, I took a city tour bus round trip.

Next day (Sunday) I did Mittenwald (No pictures left unfortunately). Mittenwald is a small sleep town just on the Germany Austria border in the German Alps. Took a room in a small B&B hotel and lazed around in the town the entire day. Took a train back to Augsburg in the evening.

Another Monday comes and I am back at work. But but, the most exciting part of the trip is yet to come. Yes, its when I got behind the wheel for the first time in Europe.

Last edited by vinayrathore : 15th November 2012 at 23:58. Reason: Spacing redone
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Old 16th November 2012, 11:01   #2
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Default re: My European Sojourns: The making of a dream road trip!

Some of the scenes look just like that of World War II computer games like Call Of Duty, especially since there are no people anywhere! I wonder why those roadside businesses were still open.
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Old 16th November 2012, 13:13   #3
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Default re: My European Sojourns: The making of a dream road trip!

Hi,

This is turning out to be a great travelogue on my dream destination.

Beautiful pictures with nice narration. Try not to make it too long and spread out over a month (I am impatient!).

Really excited to read the driving part. After seeing ZNMD, a Europe drive has become the biggest dream-holiday.

Cheers

Vindy
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Old 16th November 2012, 13:28   #4
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Default re: My European Sojourns: The making of a dream road trip!

I have been to Innsbruck.It is one of the most beautiful city i have ever visited.One wonder Hitler took Austria first. Surrounded by mountains, lake cutting across the city, and a small airport. The train journey from Germany to Innsbruck was awesome. Road journey must be more awesome i think.
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Old 16th November 2012, 15:13   #5
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I had planned all the excursions for the two weekends including both Fridays as the trainings were for 4 days. First weekend gone, now was the turn of the second. I had kept this one for a drive which I was planning since 3 years. Had booked a CLMR (Compact Limousine Manual) type car which had example cars like VW Golf, Alfa Romeo Giulietta, Mercedes-Benz A-Klasse from Sixt.com. Got a good deal that cost 117 Euro for 3 days with pickup at Augsburg at 8am on Friday morning and drop-off at 8am on Monday at Munich Airport. It included 900 kms and Loss Damage Waiver upto 300 Euros. I did not take GPS as I had Garmin Mobile XT on my phone with Europe maps. I had my flight back at 3pm on Monday so it was all perfect.

My cousin who lives in Zurich had plans to do the Romantic Road with a couple of friends and since my visit coincided, I decided to accompany him or rather follow him. Reason, I would get a pilot car which I can follow all through and spare myself the stress of driving on the other side with completely alien rules and manners.

The plan was that he will come to Augsburg on Friday morning and then we will continue on the Romantic road till Wurzburg. The Romantic road starts from Fussen in South Germany and goes via Neuschwanstein, Augsburg up till Wurzburg near Frankfurt in central Germany. All these are historical towns that are part of an old trade route from the middle ages.

If only wishes were horses. My cousin's plans changed at the last moment as he had some sudden client visit. This change in plan gave me a big shock. Now I was all alone with a car for a whole day with hardly any courage to drive it all alone. Luckily, I had my experience of being driven in Europe all these years and I gathered all the concentration I had and decide not to cancel the booking.

The 'D' day arrived and I reached the Sixt counter at the Hauptbahnoff at 8am. I give the reservation confirmation to the guy at the counter along with my Passport, Driving license and the Credit Card. He checks and confirms the car is ready and points towards an Opel Meriva parked outside. Looking at the car, I was hugely disappointed as I knew, he is trying to give me a car from a category lower then what I booked. I told him I have a CLMR booking and the Meriva falls under CDMR. Having realized that I had done my homework, he told me to wait. Since I had not done my Breakfast in excitement, I went to the snacks bar at the station to eat as he looked for options. I returned after 10 minutes and he had two options for me. One a BMW X1 which was out for service and was expected in 2 hours and the other a Ford Kuga. Since he did not have a CLMR, he had upgraded my booking to EFMR(Economy Full size Manual SUV) I immediately accepted the Kuga since I had no intention to waste anymore time. All formalities done, he swiped my card for double the amount as a security, gave me the keys and the parking card and explained where it was parked in the basement parking. It took me 15 mins to find the car as it was at the 3rd basement. I had the way out in mind as had done the recce of the area. It was a top end model with Push button start et al. Had to struggle to get the parking machine to release the car and an elderly couple helped me with it. Said my prayers started the car and came out of the parking. I was all shivering with excitement the as if driving a car for the first time. Somehow reached the Blue parking in front of the Hotel as had to bring the luggage.

The Kuga at the hotel parking
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There are Blue zone all around in Europe which have time limit on weekdays and are free on the weekends.

You need to use a parking disc something like this where you set the time on the disc and remove the car before the stipulated time expires. (Source: Wikipedia).
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We cant even think of such honesty in India. However, these Blue Zones can surely save you a lot of Euros.

Now all was set and I was on my Plan B. Good that I had thought of one. Since my cousin could only meet me a day later, I had entire day extra and he had a day less, so I asked them if they can do the Romantic Road on way back so that I can meet them anywhere on the autobahn from Zurich to Wurzburg which will be faster. So the plan was something like this:
My European Sojourns: The making of a dream road trip!-map.jpg

I had planned to see the Black Forest and kept Villingen-Schwenningen as the destination of the day. Anyways, I set the destination as Stuttgart and started off from the hotel and did a few rounds of the town. The best trick is to follow the traffic and trust me it really works. After a few rounds in the town, I was much more comfortable behind the wheel. I started following the lady shouting from the phone and in no time I was on the Autobahn A8 towards Stuttgart.
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Stuttgart is a modern city and amazingly the infrastructure looks out of the world. Just before you enter, you pass the Stuttgart airport and the autobahn passes from right under the parking cum shopping center around the airport. Its quite amazing. Since I was all alone, could not click any pics. Also saw the Mercedes Benz Museum from outside.

It was already 3 when I realized that I am getting late. Pointed the Kuga's nose towards Villingen-Schwenningen. I was now on the A81.

Reached there at 5 with a small stopover at BurgerKing for a quick lunch. Again I had no bookings for the night and I stopped just outside town to search online. The Garmin Mobile XT came in handy. It suggested me some good hotels which I called and finally booked myself a room with Parking/Wifi/Breakfast in Hotel Central. I will share the costs separately. It was already 5:30 when I checked in and was somehow feeling feverish. Since I still had good amount of daylight left, took a Crocin and laid for some time thinking of getting out in an hour. Plans are plan and when I woke up, it was 9. That sadly meant no Black forest for me in this trip.

Next day woke up at 8 got ready, had breakfast. My cousin reached there at 9:15. As I came out we were in for a pleasant coincidence. He had got a white Kuga. He did not had a car till then and used to hire it whenever needed. Started at 9:30 for Wurzburg. As soon as we were back on the Autobahn, we stopped for refueling. Its always better to refuel on the Autobahns as its cheaper outside city limits.

The two Kugas with my cousin.
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After that, I just had to follow him and the put the Lady to some good rest.

On a no limit zone somewhere near Stuttgart.
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Reached Wurzburg by 13:00 where we were staying at a friend's place. Had lunch and started off for a tour around the city. I think I have been talking enough.

The first place we went was the Würzburg Residence. The palace where the Prince-Bishop of Wurzburg resided.
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Can you imagine this was bombed to dust in the WWII and is completely rebuilt. We went inside and spent a good hour there. It was equally amazing from the inside. Sadly no camera's were allowed inside.

Huge gardens around the Palace.
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A Chevrolet Camaro parked nearby.
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After the Residence, we decided to walk towards the town center which has the Dom and a beautiful bridge over the River Rhine that leads to the Marienberg Fortress.

A Cute little Alpha Romeo parked on the way.
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The Wurzburg Dom from inside.
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A statue outside.
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After a brief visit inside the Dom, we headed towards the Old Main Bridge.
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A view of the Marienberg Fortress from the bridge.
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After this, we did some shopping and went back for some rest. The plan was to do the Marienberg Fortress in the evening at around 7.

Came back in the evening. It was a great experience roaming about in the fort.

Culminated the Wurzburg trip with some long exposure shots.
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Doesn't it feel haunted.

The City of Wurzburg from atop the fort.
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Next day was it was to be the World Heritage town of Bamberg.

Last edited by vinayrathore : 16th November 2012 at 15:40.
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Old 16th November 2012, 17:04   #6
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Default re: My European Sojourns: The making of a dream road trip!

amazing log and pictures, cant wait for more, when i saw there was no more available, was disappointed, post the rest of the updates quickly
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Old 16th November 2012, 19:34   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by smartcat View Post
Some of the scenes look just like that of World War II computer games like Call Of Duty, especially since there are no people anywhere! I wonder why those roadside businesses were still open.
Sure they do . Being a Sunday, all the businesses were closed. They look like they are open because there are no steel shutters like we have in India, only glass doors. In fact I did not see a single reinforced door in any shop/building anywhere in Europe except Czech Republic. Every square inch is guarded via cameras and they act as a big deterrent against all kinds of crime all over.

Quote:
Originally Posted by VindyWheels View Post
Hi,

This is turning out to be a great travelogue on my dream destination.

Beautiful pictures with nice narration. Try not to make it too long and spread out over a month (I am impatient!).

Really excited to read the driving part. After seeing ZNMD, a Europe drive has become the biggest dream-holiday.

Cheers

Vindy
Thanks Vindy! ZNMD is also one of the movies that inspired me. Will try to make it as fast as possible.

Quote:
Originally Posted by escaflowne View Post
I have been to Innsbruck.It is one of the most beautiful city i have ever visited.One wonder Hitler took Austria first. Surrounded by mountains, lake cutting across the city, and a small airport. The train journey from Germany to Innsbruck was awesome. Road journey must be more awesome i think.
True escaflowne, there are two train routes from Munich towards Innsbruck that onwards go towards Italy. One is the mountain route via Mittenwald and the other via Salzburg. The route via Garmisch/Mittenwald towards Verona is one of the most scenic train journeys in the world. See this The other route via Salzburg is a fast line for trains like ICE and TGV.

Quote:
Originally Posted by srikanthpotluri View Post
amazing log and pictures, cant wait for more, when i saw there was no more available, was disappointed, post the rest of the updates quickly
Thanks Srikanth!! Will try to post it as quickly as possible.

Last edited by vinayrathore : 16th November 2012 at 19:40.
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Old 16th November 2012, 21:29   #8
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Next day was Sunday and as we had planned, everyone was ready by 9:30 and we were on our way out by 9:40. Bamberg is some 95 Kms towards the east of Wurzburg. Being listed in UNESCO's world heritage list, this is one of the most historically rich towns in Germany. It lies on the confluence of Rivers Rignitz and Main. With a large network of small canals within the town, its sometimes referred to as the Venice of Germany.

We reached there by 10:15 and after a search of 20 minutes, found a covered public parking costing 4 Euros per hour. Pretty cheap. Bamberg is best seen on foot and that's what we are going to do. We start with the Rathaus.

The signboard at the Rathaus describing Bamberg.
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Bamberg Rathaus is part of a bridge on the Canal.
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Attention to detail is evident everywhere. Probably things like this makes it a World Heritage town.
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The bridge leads to the street lined with Restaurants.
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A stork with a baby on one of the restaurant boards.
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A street performer. You put some coins and he/she will change poses and you can even pose for a picture.
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A cruise boat leaving the port.
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Art is everywhere.
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An old Morris Mini.
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Another Street Performer.
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A Vintage Heinkel Tourist scooter.
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Then we reach the Bamberg Residence which is situated on a small hill. Its huge too but not as huge as Wurzburg.
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Michaelsberg Abbey, the castle of Bamberg as seen from the Residence. Unfortunately it was closed for renovation.
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The town from the Rosengarten (Rose Garden) near the Residence.
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In between we had lunch at one of the restaurants. Everyone was so tired that by 4 we decided to head back to Wurzburg.

In the evening we again went to the Wurzburg Dom and I managed to click some long exposure shots.

The pipe organ
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The candles
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We slept with a heavy heart and some great memories for tomorrow was going to be the last day of the trip. I had to start by 5 to reach Munich airport by 8. All alone, I got up, got ready and set off.

At one of the parkings on the A9 towards Munich.
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The entire journey went smooth except for a huge Jam just before the airport. For the first time I saw people breaking lane discipline and using the shoulder. The jam scared me a little but still I managed to reach the Airport by 8:30. They give an hour's grace time so I was almost on time. Filled the Kuga from the Agip fuel station and started searching for the drop location at the airport. Now that was unexpected. I tried calling Sixt but could not get the exact location they were telling me. I was becoming anxious just as my phone rang. It was a gentleman from Sixt and he told me where it was. Ironically, I just had to go into the terminal area and there were big signs for the common Rental Car Return. There were huge signs guiding me there. It was just I was afraid of going in to check.

Finally I was able to return the car just in time. You just park the car in an empty bay, the guy there scans the barcode on the windscreen and asks you if you have checked for anything you have left behind. That's it.

I had clocked some 1500 Kms and was billed for the extra Kms at 60 Cents per Km. Will post the detailed cost soon.

Flight back home was pretty uneventful.

Last edited by vinayrathore : 16th November 2012 at 21:31.
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Old 17th November 2012, 16:33   #9
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Now about the trip costs:

Since it was an official trip and an impromptu one, there was no planning done, infact the car was booked a day before I set off from Delhi and only the Augsburg Hotel was pre-booked. Also most of the expenses, except my personal excursions, were paid by my company. For the perspective though, lets take a look at the costs involved.

Ex Delhi Return Airfare Emirates via Dubai: 47k INR
Train Munich Airport-Augsburg: 38 Euros
Hotel in Augsburg: 110 Euros per night including Breakfast and Wifi (8 Nights)
Hotel in Innsbruck: 108 Euros per night including Breakfast and Wifi (1 Night)
B&B in Mittenwald: 52 Euros per night including Breakfast and Wifi (1 Night)
Hotel in Villingen-Schwenningen: 92 Euros per night including Parking/Breakfast/Wifi (1 Night)
Car rental cost 3 days: 117 Euros
Diesel Fuel: I drove approx 1200 Kms and the Kuga returned a mileage of 14 KMPL. The average diesel cost I got was 1.4 Euros per liter so it was 120 Euros total as fuel cost.

Approx 300 Kms over the limit of 900 Kms charged @ 60 Cents per Km so it cost me additional 180 Euros.

Food cost was over and above this which I do not have any record of. Approx meal in a good restaurant costs 20-30 Euros excluding Alcohol.

Learning from this trip, the next trip was going to be intensely planned. More because I had all the personal part kept at the end and I wanted it worth every penny.

The real part of this travelogue starts with the next post.
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Old 17th November 2012, 17:57   #10
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Default re: My European Sojourns: The making of a dream road trip!

Picture-Perfect places and I must add equally capable steed !
I guess this is the only site, where people instead of marvelling at those beautiful locations which you have showcased, would ask you how did the Kuga drive?
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Old 18th November 2012, 11:48   #11
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Picture-Perfect places and I must add equally capable steed !
I guess this is the only site, where people instead of marvelling at those beautiful locations which you have showcased, would ask you how did the Kuga drive?
Thanks Ampere!

True, being from the forum, how could I miss telling about the drive

The Kuga I got was a Titanium version with 2.0 L Duratorq, 136 PS (100 kW; 134 hp). It had the smart key with push button start/stop. You unlock, sit on the driver seat, press the clutch, push the start button and all the lights in the instrument panel light up. You press it again and the engine fires up. Since I had been driving my CJ3A too is a LHD, though its been years since I drove it last, I had a hint of LHD ergonomics. However, it was a completely different story when I took it to the road. Being on the other side of the road for me was a horror. But as I said I had gathered all the concentration I had, I manged to get myself used to it pretty quickly. Following the traffic is the best bet.

On the Autobahn, the car was superb. Absolutely terrific suspension made sure I could do the curves even at 200 Kmph. I always like having the maximum control so prefer manuals over autos. It was charm to drive it. All through the gears the car pulls away even with a slight press of the pedal. Even at 180 in 6th gear, you floor the pedal and you feel that push the engine gives. At times in some tight curves I used to got scared but the car remained planted and gave confidence.

I would also like to mention, its only when you drive a European spec car that you feel there is a huge difference in what the manufacturers give us at home. The over all quality and the feel in any euro spec car you drive is a world apart from what we get in India. Feels as if we are being cheated.

Not sure if ever we will get equal treatment.
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Old 20th November 2012, 15:40   #12
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Default re: My European Sojourns: The making of a dream road trip!

After the 2011 Europe road trip, the burning desire to do an extended road trip with my wife and kid started surfacing again from deep within. Since I knew I would be going next year again, this dream started taking shape in my mind and the planning started. Tried talking to a couple of friends if they want to do it, but none of them were convinced enough about driving in a foreign land.

Wifey too was initially not convinced as our son was not even an year old but after a lot of discussions and persuations and since he would be one and half years old when we actually do it, she finally agreed.

Since we had a whole year ahead before the trip would actually take place, the first and the most important thing we did was starting saving on Vitamin M.

As the year progressed, I contemplated various options but I could not think of anything concrete as my official plan was still not decided. I tried talking to my colleagues in Germany to get any tentative dates for the training but all in vain. All I could do till at least 2 months before the trip was save money for it.

Fast forward to January 2012. The plan was on but we had nothing else to it. Germany had no news as we had some major product launches happening this year so the trainings will take some time. By now I had decided about going ahead training or no training. It was about time I think of a plan.

It was this that I started my research. Talked to my cousin and he suggested Paris, Amsterdam etc which somehow I did not like. Asked some colleagues and again they were on the same lines. Being a roadtrip, all that was suggested was somehow not connecting with what I wanted. It was this when I came across Tanveer’s Europe Travelogue (Link in my first post) and I was hooked. Each and every detail written by him seemed to match with what I had in my mind. A plan was coming to life, not exactly as what Tanveer had done, but on the similar lines.

The plan that took shape was something like this:
My European Sojourns: The making of a dream road trip!-initial_plan.jpg

The plan was to cover Blackforest, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Salzburg, Innsbruck, Venice, Milano, Stelvio Pass, Livigno, Interlaken, Zurich and back to Munich.

Sounds too optimistic?
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Old 20th November 2012, 18:33   #13
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Default re: My European Sojourns: The making of a dream road trip!

Lovely. So you did the Stelvio. You had a faster car, must have enjoyed it much more. If I every "do" Europe again, I will surely choose a better ride, esp if Germany is included!
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Old 21st November 2012, 13:03   #14
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Default re: My European Sojourns: The making of a dream road trip!

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Originally Posted by tsk1979 View Post
Lovely. So you did the Stelvio. You had a faster car, must have enjoyed it much more. If I every "do" Europe again, I will surely choose a better ride, esp if Germany is included!
Hi Tanveer!

I think you did not read the entire log . The travel that I have mentioned till now is from last year (2011) when I had the Kuga. I have just started with this year's log.

Last year I had a coincidence when the car I hired was the same as what my cousin got too. This year I did not know that there was one more coincidence in store. This time involving you .
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Old 21st November 2012, 13:42   #15
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Default re: My European Sojourns: The making of a dream road trip!

Glued. Please post the next episodes as soon as possible. If you post before weekend, I might actually spend time reading this travellogue as opposed to watching the Brazilian GP
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