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Old 7th September 2014, 16:53   #1
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Default Hayek's Road Trips - A Central European Sojourn

When I joined Team BHP, I had hoped to be an active contributor to the travelogues section. Unfortunately, despite having made a number of road trips in this period (Goa, California Route 1, Lake Tahoe, some general driving in the East Coast of the US), I have failed to post a travelogue on the same.

We spent this summer in Germany, Switzerland and Austria, logging over 2500 kms on a mix of Autobahns, B Roads, and some of the most beautiful L roads around. Yes, its been over 2 months since this trip was completed, and I have not yet posted on the same.

But I finally shook off my laziness, and have started writing about our "Central European Sojourn". I have also cross posted this on my personal blog - but am tailoring this thread slightly, to eliminate personal references and photos, as well as to add some nuances that the Team BHP audience may value. It may take a while for me to complete writing up the story of our journey - so please bear with me during that time.

Last edited by Hayek : 21st September 2014 at 21:21.
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Old 7th September 2014, 17:09   #2
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The Autobahn. The very term conjures up images of super smooth roads, and fast German cars traveling at insane speeds. Driving on the Autobahn certainly had been a long standing dream of mine. And I got to live that dream, this June, during our Mitteleuropaisch (or Central European) sojourn.


A Snap from our car - on the Autobahn

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Planning the Trip

In most previous years, we had started planning our summer vacations well in advance, with great clarity about where and when we wanted to go. As usual, I was keen on a driving holiday, but my wife and kid were perhaps not as keen. And hence it was already late March, and we had not yet decided where to go.

Then one day, a couple of our friends mentioned that they were planning to go to Austria in early July for their summer vacation. That got us thinking. Early July didn’t work for us since our son's school reopened by then, and we wanted to have some time for him to recover after a vacation. But our friends had the option of shifting their trip to start June 20 as well. That would imply that we could travel through Austria together, which would be great, since our kids were of the same age.

Given our usual propensity to take 2 week vacations, we decided to also add on a trip through southern Germany before the Austrian vacation. Further, since my wife’s cousin was now in Basel, we decided to visit Switzerland as well. Within 3-4 days, everything had fallen in place. We would fly to Zurich, rent a car, drive to Basel and spend 2-3 days there, drive through the Black Forest and Bavaria (with a few days in Munich), and then join our friends at Innsbruck, before proceeding together to Salzburg and Vienna.

I was all set to book our flights (and had already selected my preferred option), when something caused me to attempt a car booking first. This was clearly unusual - in all our previous trips, the car bookings had been done much after flights and hotels. But given that this was the first time I would be booking a car in one country and returning it elsewhere, I decided to check what it costs.

Given that I would be driving through Swiss, German and Austrian mountain roads, and on the autobahns, I wanted a nice car. I promptly went to the Avis and Hertz sites (I get corporate discounts from those agencies, and also the ability to cancel without cost) to check the cost of renting a 3 series (or equivalent) for a two week period. And was shocked to find that the best price I got was almost CHF 2200. Almost INR 150,000 – the cost of a Nano- seemed ridiculous for a car rental. But even the more local rental agencies (Sixt/ Europcar) did not offer significantly better deals. I was almost resigned to downgrading to the cheapest automatic I could find, when it struck me that Munich was not too far from the Swiss border, and that I should check rates ex Munich. And the difference was stark. The 3 series or equivalent was available for just EUR 890 – still expensive, but almost half the price of an ex Zurich rental. Flights to Munich were no more expensive than those to Zurich. And the extra 3 hours driving time was only a bonus for me.

Thus our itinerary fell in place. Fly to Munich (LH 765), drive to Basel, spend a few nights there – spend a day driving through the Black Forest, then drive to Munich – , and then to Innsbruck via Neuschwanstein Castle. This would be followed by stints in Salzburg and Vienna before flying back to Bombay via Munich.

As an aside, the one thing I did not check before booking was the distance from Frankfurt to Basel. As a matter of fact, Frankfurt is closer to Basel than Munich, and linked to it by a much faster Autobahn. While I did not check rental rates ex Frankfurt either, I suspect they may not have been dramatically different - so as a matter of fact, Frankfurt may have been the best option for me.

Last edited by Hayek : 21st September 2014 at 20:36.
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Old 13th September 2014, 13:23   #3
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Time flew quickly thereafter. We booked our hotels (at Baden Baden, Munich, Innsbruck and Vienna), and rented a villa at Salzburg.

My wife and kid were certainly impressed by the beautiful, new T2 at Bombay airport (I had already made 4 trips through it). After spending some time looking at the various artefacts on display, and grabbing a cup of coffee, we waited for our flight to leave.

A Couple of Snaps of T2, CSIA, Bombay

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As usual for Lufthansa, our flight was on time. Unusually though, a group of European passengers (a Swede, a German, a half Spaniard – half Swede who lived in Munich, and a White Mexican woman married to an Indian) and one of the air hostesses started a loud conversation as soon as the flight leveled out. Given that I had been reading a blog post about how Indian passengers tend to be noisy and inconsiderate just a few days before our journey, I did think that it was ironic that the silent Indian majority was being disturbed by a bunch of Europeans. At any rate, I managed to sleep through the noise, and the noisy troop quietened up once dinner was served.

Munich to Basel

After grabbing a quick breakfast at Munich airport, we crossed over to the other terminal where the Hertz rental counter was located. When we reached there, we were told that the 3 series we had booked was not available, but they instead “upgraded” us to a Volvo V70 station wagon.

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That did seem like a boring option to me, but since we did not have much of a choice, I accepted it, and headed out to the parking lot to collect the car. Hertz tried to convince me to pick up the zero deductible rider for our Loss Damage Waiver insurance, but the cost (EUR 500) was too large relative to the deductible (EUR 1000) and I decided to take the risk of not taking the option. The V70 was brown, had done about 9500 km so far, but had a number of scratches on it. The process of hunting for a Hertz rep, and getting him to give us a record indicating all the scratches took about 30 minutes – but I did not want to risk not having most of them recorded after my experience in Scotland where the rental agency (Europcar) tried to nickel and dime me on virtually invisible scratches.

While I had picked up a D_A_L_CH (Germany, Austria, Liechtenstein and Switzerland) map for my Garmin, it turned out that I need not have bothered. The Volvo came equipped with built in satnav, and a number of other gizmos that I will describe later. We programmed our destination in, and tracked the route before starting, to confirm that the routing was through my preferred option that I had chosen on Google maps – the A96 South West towards Lindau and Austria, followed by the A1 across northern Switzerland. The distance to Basel was about 425 kms, and the GPS estimated we would take a tad over 4 hours. By the time we got all this done, it was past 9 am.

As we started, I discovered the first of the gizmos in the car – in addition to showing the map on the central console, the car also displayed the upcoming turn instructions, and speed limits on the speedometer console. In fact, the entire instrument cluster was an electronic display, with the tachometer and speedometer being images on a screen rather than actual moving needles.

As always before any of my foreign driving holidays, I had taken the trouble to try and understand the rules of the road for our destination. (This link is a good one for German rules). Given that we were going to pass through three different countries, there were more than the fair share of those. The one thing in common however was the emphasis on lane discipline – viz. that we keep right except when passing, and that we never ever pass except on the left. Lane discipline is of course an alien concept for us Indians, and is practiced to some extent everywhere outside India. But Germans take it to a different level, as I would soon realize.

As soon as I hit the A92 outside Munich airport, it turned out that those rules are strictly followed. Except while passing, every car stuck to the right most lane. While the initial section near the airport had a speed limit of 100 kmph, we pretty quickly passed an “Ende aller Streckenverbote”sign, which implied that we were now free to overtake and drive as fast as we liked.

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Initially, I was hesitant to go too fast – and ramped up my speed to a reasonably quick 150 kmph. I soon realized that the only vehicles I was passing was trucks, and spent most of my time in the slow lane, even though I was driving as fast as I had ever driven. Unfortunately, the pleasure of cruising at 150 kmph was short lived – over-head gantries soon announced the arrival of a 120 kmph zone, which was followed by a 100 kmph one, as we entered the ring road around Munich. I then discovered the next of the gizmos in the Volvo – the GPS was receiving data on the dynamic speed limits, since it very accurately reproduced what was displayed on the gantries. As we left Munich behind us and entered the unrestricted sections of the autobahn, I gained confidence, and gradually upped my cruising speed – 160, 165 and then to 175 kmph.

It was then that I noticed the other remarkable thing about our car – the car was a diesel, and we were happily cruising at over a 170 kmph, listening to music from an iPod, but with virtually no engine or road noise entering the car. I was amazed at the quality of the sound insulation, and only later realized that the car was equipped with active noise cancellation, which clearly worked very well. Being a Volvo, the car was obviously equipped with various other safety features. While cruising on the autobahn, I noticed a set of dim red lights projected onto the windscreen. After a while, I realized that the lights became brighter as I was approaching the vehicle in front, and disappeared if I dropped a safe distance behind it. Later on, I had one experience where the lights came on extremely brightly, and an alarm blared – when I had resorted to Indian style late braking behind slowing vehicles in front of me.

Despite heading away from Munich towards the Lake Constance region at the border of Germany, Austria and Switzerland, traffic was not smooth all the way. There were road works every 20-30 kms, but the way they were managed was amazing. Typically, there would be a dynamic speed limit sign that gets the speed down to 120 kmph, followed by another one about 5 km out getting the speed down to 100 kmph, and then one where the road works started getting the speed down to 80 kmph. (Yes, 80 kmph is the speed limit on sections of the autobahn where lanes are narrower than normal and work is on). While the normal sections of the autobahn had wide lanes, lane widths were low in sections where road works were on. These sections brought out the quality of driver training in Germany. The truckers were able to keep their vehicles centered within a lane that was barely 1 foot wider than their trucks. I tended to stick to the wider right lane and follow the trucks in these sections, even though several cars were passing them (at slightly above the limit) in the narrower left lanes of the construction zones.

The only surprising thing on this route was the absence of fully equipped service areas. There were frequent “Rastplatzs”, places to park for a while equipped with benches and loos, but the fully equipped service areas or “Rasthofs” were few and far between. After driving for about an hour and a half, we arrived at a Rastplatz where we took our first break (about 45 minutes in all) – and also had a meal of idlis we had carried from home even though it was just 10:45 local time. (after all, it was past lunch time in Bombay)

About half an hour after we restarted, we arrived at the Germany Austria border. For an Indian used to the long lines of trucks at state borders (or even at the Octroi naka between Vashi and Bombay), it was amazing to find that only a “Welcome to Austria” overhead sign (and flash on the GPS screen) identified the border between two countries. Of course, these signs are of critical importance – because Austria has a national speed limit of 130 kmph on the Autobahns, and extremely heavy speeding fines. Shortly after the border, we pulled over to purchase the Vignette or toll sticker that is needed for using Austrian (and Swiss) highways. I had the choice of picking up either a 10 day Austrian vignette for EUR 8.5 or a two month one for EUR 24.8. I chose the latter – deciding that EUR 7.8 is a worthwhile price for not having to stop again. The Swiss vignette was more expensive from my perspective EUR 34 valid for the rest of the calendar year. So clearly, the guy who rented my car after me was going to benefit at my expense.

Another Image of the Autobahn

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The Route we Used
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Immediately after exiting the station where we purchased the toll tickets, we entered a massive tunnel – the 6.8 km long Pfander tunnel. Once again the relentless lane and speed discipline that people followed made driving through it a complete breeze. Shortly after the tunnel, we exited the Rheintal Expressway and entered a set of B roads which took us across the Rhine into Switzerland, and onto the A1 motorway. We were keen on getting to Basel as quickly as possible, and though the views of Lake Constance were tempting, we stuck to our task, arriving at my wife’s cousin’s place by 2 PM.

Scenic Switzerland

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It had taken us 5 hours door to door, and given that we halted for almost an hour, we had averaged about 105 kmph (including a couple of wrong turns in Basel). The fuel tank was still over half full – and the MID indicated a range to empty of another 500 kms. Even for a 70 litre tank, this implied a potential fuel economy of about 13 kmpl despite the very high speeds I had driven at.

My wife's cousin lived in a city center neighborhood on the south bank of the Rhine, and parking was of course an issue. Net result, we had to park in an under ground pay and park lot at about CHF 25 / day.

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I will certainly never crib about paying to park at CR2 in Nariman Point again.

Last edited by Hayek : 21st September 2014 at 20:36.
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Old 21st September 2014, 21:17   #4
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Basel

Basel is an amazing little city – it houses the headquarters of some the largest and most iconic MNCs such Novartis, Roche, and Syngenta, but still retains a small town feel about it and has a population of just 195,000 (500,000 including neighbouring municipalities in Switzerland and across France and Gerrmany). Switzerland’s entry into the Schengen zone makes most sense around Basel – its airport is located in France, while the railway station has sections devoted to trains from all three countries.

A view of the Rhine in Basel
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The Trination Border
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Later that evening, we went for a walk through Basel. Our cousin’s goal was to walk all the way to the tri-nation border where Switzerland, France and Germany meet – but we were tired after our long journey, and hence after walking a while, chose to take a tram instead. After visiting the tri-nation border (and what a peaceful border, without any check points it is), we returned towards their house, and this time chose to cross the river using a cable powered boat. These boats are quite interesting – they use the power of the river current and the laws of physics to get across the river in both directions without any mechanical power just based on the angle of inclination with respect to the flow.

The next day was spent with family, though we did manage a rather long walk taking in the sights of Basel. The old town of Basel is incredibly beautiful, and very, very pedestrian and cycle friendly. I borrowed a bike from our cousin and went for a long ride along the river Rhine. Every few hundred metres, you find a drinking water fountain - while these are not posted, I was told that only those fountains which are unsafe are specifically labelled.

A Drinking Water Fountain
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I will leave you with a few snaps that we took during our journeys around the beautiful town.

Beautiful Buildings
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Sunrise over the Rhine
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How can there be a Team BHP Travelogue without Cars? - A Bentley Arnage
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... and a Tesla Model S
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The Munster Church
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More Views of the Munster
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A Beautiful Gate in the Old Town
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Another Water Fountain
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Old Residences .. This One Dates to 1390
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For vegetarians looking for a nice meal in Basel, I would highly recommend Tibits, which is a vegetarian restaurant (Yes, they exist even in Switzerland). Dinner was a buffet, with a massive spread, and the cost being based on the weight of the food you put on your plate. After an excellent meal, we headed home – to catch up with the football, and rest before our journey to Mt. Titlis the next day.

Lucerne and Mt. Titlis

My wife and I had “done” Switzerland earlier, but our son had not. Further, he had never had the opportunity to play in snow – barring a few drifts during our journey to the US last year, and “Snow World”, at one of the malls in suburban Bombay. Hence we decided we needed to give him a taste of the real Switzerland, and decided to head for Lucerne and Mt Titlis. Our initial plan was to drive down – but we decided that it does not make sense to split the family between two cars, and hence booked a train.

We decided to take the 8:04 train from Basel to Lucerne. This train was scheduled to reach Lucerne at 9:05, and we were to connect to the 9:10 train from Lucerne to Engelberg, which is the station next to the base of the Mt. Titlis cable car. I guess it is only in Switzerland that 5 minutes is enough to change platforms and catch a connecting train. We made our connection without a problem, and reached Engelberg by 9:55.

On reaching Engelberg, we were welcomed by a stall offering us Indian style Masala Chai on the platform. This stall had been organized by the owners of an Indian food stall located at the Cable car station. We then walked to the Mount Titlis cable car station, and found that the Indian food stall had “Vada Pav” on offer, and spent some more time making a meal of that.

The Cable Cars at Engelberg
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We then took the three cable cars up to Mt Titlis. Despite several people dissing Mt. Titlis as being too touristy, I still think it is great fun – it gave our kid his first real experience of snow, and there is a lot to do over there (apart from the cable car ride).

It was Cold in Engelberg

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... and much, much colder on the Glacier
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The Bridge over the Glacier
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These include a bridge across the glacier (with icy cold winds blowing across even in summer); an Ice Cave, which also has a number of ice sculptures in it; the Ice Flyer, an additional ski lift type car that traverses the glacier; playing with snow balls; and Tubing down the slopes.

Ice Sculptures
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The Ice Flyer
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Fun in the Snow
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I had been somewhat apprehensive about whether I would enjoy Mt. Titlis on this second trip, but I must admit that I did. The time passed far faster than we had anticipated, and before long, we were taking the second last cable car down to Engelberg.
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Old 22nd September 2014, 14:46   #5
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Default Re: Hayek's Road Trips - A Central European Sojourn

Thread moved from the Assembly Line (The "Assembly Line" Forum section) to the Travelogues Section. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 22nd September 2014, 15:51   #6
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Hayek in Austria. I want more about Austria and Vienna.
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Old 22nd September 2014, 18:43   #7
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Excellent write-up, Sir!
Some of the snaps of the German autobahn and Engelberg-Titlis reminded me of my short stint (about 10 months) there. I have driven the BMW 3 series touring and BMW 1 series there.
Excellent surface to drive on, beautiful scenic drives, a hassle free travel, high speed cruising and all of those things what all of us crave for.
But...(OT)
I don't know why, but I always wanted to return to my Homeland during that period as well (and I still don't repent). Why on earth I wanted to drive where there is minimal infrastructure supporting a pleasurable drive.
Till date I am clueless about "Why I always love a Holiday drive to places whereby we have to do research (about roads conditions and much more) which is no less than a Phd curricula.
But I never try to explore the reasons as there is some joy underneath which is better kept as it is.
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Old 23rd September 2014, 10:06   #8
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Great travelogue! Loved reading every bit of it specially the drive through the 'bahns and crossing country borders! Driving through Europe has always been my dream. Might be a noob question but what preparation is involved for the driving license? Is an international driving license needed in advance before approaching the car rentals or does the Indian license suffice? I remember reading somewhere on the forum that the Indian license is valid for an year in the UK. Same applies for other European countries?
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Old 23rd September 2014, 13:31   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by deoelect View Post
Might be a noob question but what preparation is involved for the driving license? Is an international driving license needed in advance before approaching the car rentals or does the Indian license suffice? I remember reading somewhere on the forum that the Indian license is valid for an year in the UK. Same applies for other European countries?
I have driven with an driving license in and around Switzerland (i.e. Germany and France from Switzerland). I rented the car from SIXT and they didn't raise any question regarding the driving license validity as such.
I don't know exactly about the tenure of validity of Indian DL, but the last time I rented the car from SIXT Switzerland, it was about 8.5 months after my arrival there.
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Old 24th September 2014, 10:06   #10
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Default Re: Hayek's Road Trips - A Central European Sojourn

Quote:
Originally Posted by deoelect View Post
Great travelogue! Loved reading every bit of it specially the drive through the 'bahns and crossing country borders! Driving through Europe has always been my dream. Might be a noob question but what preparation is involved for the driving license? Is an international driving license needed in advance before approaching the car rentals or does the Indian license suffice? I remember reading somewhere on the forum that the Indian license is valid for an year in the UK. Same applies for other European countries?
When I was in Germany, the rule was that the Indian license was valid for 6 months from the date of your arrival. This is not necessarily applicable in all European countries though.
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Old 25th September 2014, 17:22   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by deoelect View Post
Great travelogue! Loved reading every bit of it specially the drive through the 'bahns and crossing country borders! Driving through Europe has always been my dream. Might be a noob question but what preparation is involved for the driving license? Is an international driving license needed in advance before approaching the car rentals or does the Indian license suffice? I remember reading somewhere on the forum that the Indian license is valid for an year in the UK. Same applies for other European countries?
Hi Deolect,

An Indian driving license is valid as long as it has everything mentioned in English. If your driving license has the local language(i dont know how many states still use that way), an international driving permit would be required.

As stated my MotoNanu, the Indian license is valid for the first 6 months in some European countries. I presently live in Amsterdam and my license was valid for 6 months after which i got my NL DL procured.

Cheers
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Old 26th September 2014, 20:10   #12
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Default Re: Hayek's Road Trips - A Central European Sojourn

Hello Hayek,

Thank you. This travelogue comes at a perfect time.

I am currently at Germany and scheduled to visit Switzerland during second week of October. Lucerne will be my base location for 4 days. Mount Titlis is surely one of the places I am going to visit.

Which other places you visited in Switzerland? Is Jungfrau worth going (& worth spending money) if I am anyways going to Mount Titlis?

Have you been to Rhine Falls near Zurich?

Thanks,
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Old 27th September 2014, 12:12   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sgiitk View Post
Hayek in Austria. I want more about Austria and Vienna.
Yes, that is coming. But you will have to wait for a few weeks, given work and family commitments.

Quote:
Originally Posted by deoelect View Post
Great travelogue! Might be a noob question but what preparation is involved for the driving license? Is an international driving license needed?
The rules vary by country. In Switzerland, an Indian driving license printed fully in English is sufficient. In Germany, a national driving license is enough, but the cops have the right to ask you to produce a certified German translation - hence, an IDP would be advisable. However, the rental company happily handed the car over to me based on my Indian license. In Austria, an IDP is necessary. Getting an IDP is relatively easy, from either an RTO or from the WIAA (if you are in Bombay), as long as your license and passport have the same address.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jignesh View Post
Lucerne will be my base location for 4 days. Mount Titlis is surely one of the places I am going to visit. Is Jungfrau worth going (& worth spending money) if I am anyways going to Mount Titlis?

Have you been to Rhine Falls near Zurich?
I went to Jungfrau during my previous visit to Switzerland, back in 2006. I think it is definitely worthwhile - the ride on the mountain railway and the vistas are quite fantastic. The Interlaken area also offers opportunities for paragliding, at least in summer, which is definitely worthwhile. I have not been to the Rhine Falls, even if I made it to some other waterfalls on this trip, as you will see. Apart from this, you should take some time to visit small Swiss towns - Grindelwald (which is one of the halts on the Jungfrau journey) is incredibly beautiful, and you should spend some time there if you can.

Thanks for reading all, and sorry for the slow pace of updates.

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Day 4 and 5 – The Schwarz Wald (or Black Forest), and the Journey to Munich

As mentioned before, Basel is at the border of Germany, France and Switzerland. Shortly after one crosses the Rhine into Germany, one is at the edge of the famous Schwarz Wald, or Black Forest – the home of the Black Forest cake, and the Cuckoo Clock. Driving through the B roads of the Schwarz Wald is considered to be one of the great driving experiences – and most sports car makers like Porsche regularly offer driving itineraries through this area. In fact, one can rent a Porsche 911 or something even better from Zurich, which comes pre-loaded with maps that take you through some of the best roads in this region. (Try Ultimate Drives, for example)


Well before we left India, I had spent a considerable amount of time identifying possible itineraries through the Schwarz Wald. I finally settled on an itinerary mentioned in the guidebook by Karen Brown. We decided to look for a hotel close to Baden Baden, which lies at the end of the most famous driving road in the Schwarz Wald, the B500 or Schwarz Wald Hochstrasse, which runs along a ridge with beautiful views of the forest on either side. Expedia helped us find the Hotel Rebenhof, located in the small town of Neuweier, amidst vineyards, which was not too expensive, and beautifully located. We Googled the map from Basel to Neuweier, with various waypoints. The distance was 216 km, and Google suggested a drive time of just under 4 hours. This seemed like an easy drive, and we therefore were not in a great hurry to leave. However, as it often happens when you are not under time pressure, we took things a tad bit too easy, and it was 11 am by the time we started off from Basel.

Our Route

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Our first destination was the town of Todtnau. We started off along the A5 which heads towards Frankfurt, but quickly turned off onto a smaller highway, the B319, which runs through the Black Forest. The B319 is a single carriageway highway (The B stands for Bundesstrasse or Federal Highway), similar to the older national highways in India, but with a flawless surface. Even on such a road, the speed limit in most sections was 100 kmph. However, I often got stuck behind trucks, which were driving at ~ 80kmph, which itself was commendable in my view given that the road was narrow and winding.

A Crowded Section of the B319

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There were also occasional sections where you had two lanes going in one direction, and one in the other – which were useful from the perspective of getting past lines of trucks. At this point, I realized another thing – everything in life is relative. In India, I would be quite happy to drive at 80 kmph and get frustrated at trucks driving at 40 kmph – here, I wanted to drive at the limit of 100 kmph, and eagerly looked forward to opportunities to pass trucks travelling at 80 kmph.

We got to Todtnau, and took a walk around the centre of town.

The Church in Todtnau
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By this time, we were hungry – and so sat down at an open air café, ordered a completely sinful Schwarzwald Sundae, and also ate the Pav Bhaji we had carried from my wife’s cousin’s place. As we were walking around, we observed a roller coaster like structure on the opposite hill. It turned out that this hill was a ski resort in winter, but they had also built a rail (called the Sommerrodelbahn), on which people could travel in single cars with the speed being controlled individually.

A View of Todtnau
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The Sommerrodelbahn
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We promptly took the ski lift to the top of the hill, and after spending some time taking iPhone pictures of the scenery, took the Sommerrodelbahn down. It was great fun, and after a while, I grew confident enough to take the curves at high speed, until I got too close to the slower car ahead of me, and had to slow down.

By the time we finished all this, it was well past 230, and we had covered only a fourth of our journey to Neuweier. We had originally planned to go around a lake, the Schulsee, after Todtnau. But given the delay, we decided to skip the Schulsee, and instead headed directly to Furtwangen, the home of the German clock museum.

The road to Furtwangen took us into the heart of the Black Forest, with the foliage getting much denser on either side. We crested a mountain pass near Feldberg, and then headed down towards another lake, the Titisee. From there, the road we planned to use to Furtwangen was the B500 (yes, an extension of the same road that the Schwarzwald Hochstrasse is a part of).

Some Snaps Between Todtnau and Furtwangen

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However, there were some road closures on the way, which was a blessing in disguise, since we were diverted onto some incredibly beautiful L roads or Landesstrasse (State Highways). The speed limit on these roads was also 100 kmph, but driving at that speed on such a narrow road (there were sections that were not even divided by markers) was beyond my driving skills. I struggled to drive faster than 70 kmph on these roads, and was promptly passed by several cars driving much faster.

Would you Drive at 100 kmph on a Road Like This?

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A Celestial Clock at the German Clock Museum

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The German Clock museum was quite interesting – with a number of intricate clocks and music boxes on display.

A Cuckoo Clock - No, not the one we bought

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After spending an hour at the German clock museum, we headed for the town of Triberg, which is considered the best place to buy Cuckoo Clocks in the Black Forest. We reached there around 430 – and did not get much time to examine different pieces before the shops were all set to close down. There are two kinds of cuckoo clocks, mechanical ones and electronic ones. Most of the shop keepers claimed that even the electronic ones were made in Germany, within the Schwarz Wald. Some of the clocks were truly incredible, but were well beyond our budget. We kept one of the shopkeepers beyond her usual closing time, and managed to pick up an electronic cuckoo clock, for a relatively reasonable price.

Next we walked down to the Triberg Waterfall, which was extremely beautiful.

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There were long walking trails around, and I was sorely tempted to spend some time exploring them. But it was already past 630, and we did not get a chance to spend too much time enjoying them. By the time we got back to the parking lot, the town was deserted, and we suddenly realized that we were still almost 100 km or 2 hours away from our hotel, and were concerned that the hotel may give our room away. We also realized that given the isolated location of our hotel, we should be prepared for the absence of room service and any alternate meal options – and hence called the hotel to let them know we were late but on our way. They told us that they would hold the room for us, but we would need to make it by 9 PM to get dinner.

We then routed ourselves through a set of local roads, which ran along a small river, and past a number of small logging towns. Very often, it seemed that we were in the only car in miles. Finally we hit a T junction, leading us to the Bundesstrasse heading towards Strasbourg in France. A few miles down this road, we reached the right turn that marked the beginning of the B500 or Schwarz Wald Hochstrasse.

The Schwarz Wald Hochstrasse was a fantastic road, with beautiful vistas on both sides, and full of twists and turns. It had that smooth flow that is present in all the great driving roads in the world – alternate curves, with rises and dips, and fantastic views on both sides. The road was also relatively broad, and with very light traffic at that hour of the day. This was a relief, as I had been warned that the road could get very crowded at times. The only problem was that it was posted with a 100 kmph speed limit, and as a foreigner driving in Germany, I did not have the guts to break the rules, and had to grit my teeth and prevent myself from speeding. Very clearly, the locals had no such compunctions - I was repeatedly overtaken by cars and motorbikes doing insanely high speeds. Unfortunately, since we were so late, we could not stop too often to take pictures. But the drive itself is something that I would highly recommend to one and all.

The Black Forest - From the Schwarz Wald Hochstrasse
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We reached the Rebenhof around 830 – and after quickly checking in, walked over to the restaurant. While the vegetarian choices on the menu were limited, the chef was nice enough to whip up something special for us – even though it was almost closing time. As we had dinner, we caught sight of an amazing sunset behind us.

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The next morning, we set out for a long walk amongst the vineyards, and through the town of Neuweier. The town itself is quite nice, like lots of small European towns are.

Some Snaps of Neuweier

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While we had until 2 PM to check out, we finally decided to head to the town of Baden Baden, and hence left the hotel by 1130. After a quick drive to Baden Baden, we walked around the quaint city centre, and then settled down for lunch. Baden Baden used to be a playground for the rich, and is famous for its Baths. However, we chose not to sample them.

Baden Baden

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A Palace

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As we were heading back to the car to start our journey to Munich, I got a call from a German number on my phone. It was from the Rebenhof – the cleaning lady had found our iPod in our room, and they had called my India mobile to tell us about it.

Fortunately, we were only half an hour away, and hence were able to drive over and pick it up. We thanked our stars that the hotel staff had been so honest, and considerate – it would have been very easy for them to either keep the iPod, or not bother to call having realized that I had not given them a German contact number.

Our Route to Munich

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We then headed for Munich – this time using the autobahns instead of B roads. We first headed north on the A5 towards Karlsruhe, and then took the A8 past Stuttgart to Munich. There were numerous sections along the A8 where road work was on – this time I was more confident, and managed to stay on the passing lane with cars (which were going at about 90 kmph against the posted 80) instead of sticking to the slow lane which was full of trucks. The sections where road work was not on were a pleasure to drive on – the lane discipline was fantastic, and I was able to cruise at about 190 kmph. Even at such high speeds (which admittedly was faster than most cars that were doing about 160), there were times when someone or the other came barrelling down towards me, before moving into the passing lane at well over 200 kmph. While Google had predicted about 3.5 hours to Munich, the speeds I did in the fast sections ensured that we made it in just about 2 hours and 45 minutes.

As we approached Munich, we passed the Allianz Arena (the home of Bayern Munich). Our hotel, the Westin Grand Munich, was at Arabellapark, which is in the outskirts of central Munich, and hence was relatively easy to get to.

Last edited by Hayek : 27th September 2014 at 12:24.
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Old 1st October 2014, 00:12   #14
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Default Re: Hayek's Road Trips - A Central European Sojourn

Wow !! Keep up the tempo. Since, you're a frequent traveler, you can contribute a lot to the Forum. Thanks a lot for posting. We can get the Pictures from any source from the Internet, but what matters and keeps us glued is the experiences along with the Pics. Practical experience in real terms.
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Old 13th October 2014, 22:34   #15
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Default Re: Hayek's Road Trips - A Central European Sojourn

Quote:
Originally Posted by Hayek View Post
Apart from this, you should take some time to visit small Swiss towns - Grindelwald (which is one of the halts on the Jungfrau journey) is incredibly beautiful, and you should spend some time there if you can.
Hello Hayek,

We just came back from 4 days trip to Switzerland and it was indeed great visit. We went to Titlis and Jungfraujoch and both the mountains are absolutely spectacular.

Thank you very much for your suggestion to go to Grindelwald. We went to Jungfrau from Interlaken via Lauterbrunnen in the morning and came back via Grindelwald. The town is very beautiful with picture perfect views in all directions. We spent good time there walking across the main street and clicking pictures of wonderful views around.

Thanks,
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