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Old 2nd June 2017, 17:33   #1
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Default Three weeks of bliss in Europe - A self-planned holiday

Three weeks…

After years and years of dreaming about vacationing in Europe, my dream finally came true this summer (spring, actually)!

I do not recall what inspired me first...was it Shammi wooing Sharmila in an Evening in Paris, or Rekha and Amitabh serenading in the Tulip fields of The Netherlands, or the inevitable songs from an Yash Chopra movie capturing the scenic beauty of Switzerland...but I have always wanted to 'do' Europe. And after chasing this dream for years, and having put in more than a couple of decades in the corporate world, I made up my mind to visit Europe in May 2017.

Not for me the typical, packaged tour of Europe. I wanted to spend quality time, at my own behest, in the places of my choice. (Er, wife's choices included, of course!). All aspects - right from choosing the destinations, planning the itinerary, making all reservations and bookings, applying for the visa, and the actual tour itself - was self-planned. And I am happy that we got to tour that way.

So, in three weeks of Europe, my wife and I -
  • Lived like the locals, in apartments, almost everywhere
    Three weeks of bliss in Europe - A self-planned holiday-apartments.jpg

  • Experienced traveling on several modes of transport (Planes, trains, boats, cable-cars, funiculars, cars, a rickshaw, a horse cart, a mountain cart, and a Segway thrown in!), and commuted with the locals on metros, city buses and trams!
    Three weeks of bliss in Europe - A self-planned holiday-transport.jpg

  • Shopped in the local markets and grocery stores. Ate like the locals. And also ate like deprived desis that we were, eating Indian food at almost all the places!
    Three weeks of bliss in Europe - A self-planned holiday-eat-shop.jpg

  • Enjoyed some fresh snow in the Swiss Alps
    Three weeks of bliss in Europe - A self-planned holiday-snow.jpg

  • Went deep underground in the Salt-mines outside of Salzburg (no pics allowed). Went high above and looked down on the world from the top-most access point at the Eiffel Tower. And also the Olympic Tower in Munich. And also from the top of the Atomium in Brussels.
    Three weeks of bliss in Europe - A self-planned holiday-towers.jpg

  • Hiked through the countryside on the Swiss mountains and in the Bavarian Alps
    Three weeks of bliss in Europe - A self-planned holiday-hiking.jpg

  • Soaked in the enormity and architectural splendors of famous cathedrals as well as quaint little churches
    Three weeks of bliss in Europe - A self-planned holiday-churches.jpg

  • Sent up a silent prayer thanking 'Mad king' Ludwig for being who he was, and leaving behind a bevy of castles that are the envy of every architect
    Three weeks of bliss in Europe - A self-planned holiday-castles.jpg

  • Understood a bit of history thru various museums & monuments, and imbibed the modern times as we walked and walked in cities like Paris and Amsterdam
    Three weeks of bliss in Europe - A self-planned holiday-monuments.jpg

  • Got bedazzled with the riot of colors at the Keukenhof Tulip Gardens and got an inside view of a couple of working windmills in Zaanse Schaans
    Three weeks of bliss in Europe - A self-planned holiday-keukenhof.jpg

  • Even camped at a camping park in a caravan! (Ok, a static caravan, granted - but fun nonetheless!)
    Three weeks of bliss in Europe - A self-planned holiday-caravan.jpg

  • And saving the best bit for the last, I got to munch up the miles on the Autobahn in a BMW 420d hard-top Cabriolet, with the roof down, the bright sun and the pristine blue sky overhead, and the snow-covered Alps surrounding us to give an enchanting 360 degree view of the world in Ultra-HD []
    Three weeks of bliss in Europe - A self-planned holiday-bmw420dcabrio.jpg


Three weeks...

Three weeks of bliss!

Last edited by chetan_l : 23rd February 2018 at 20:43. Reason: Sentence corrections
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Old 2nd June 2017, 18:23   #2
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Default re: Three weeks of bliss in Europe - A self-planned holiday

I am attaching a PDF file that contains the complete breakdown of the schedule. I will follow up this post with a series of day-wise travel posts .

Before I proceed, I owe my gratitude to other members in the forum, like the late Sam Kapasi (bless him!), and especially @Chethan_B_G, whose self-planned trips to Europe gave me the inspiration to plan this trip on my own. I relied heavily on several online resources to help in detailing out the plan.

While there are umpteen number of choices when it comes to travel destinations in Europe, I chose the following: Munich as a starting point (Munich acts as an excellent base to reach into the Bavarian Alps, plus it allowed me to book a cabriolet car rental at economical prices); Garmisch-Partenkirchen as the base for exploring Bavaria, Amsterdam (via Cologne), Paris (via a day trip at Brussels) and a couple of bases in Switzerland - Lauterbrunnen and Lucerne. I will explain the choices in subsequent posts.

I locked down my travel dates well in advance - in fact, as early as last Sep/Oct! This helped me in booking travel tickets at very economical prices. Not only flights, but most European trains also have an Airline like fare system - they start out cheap and become more expensive as the travel date nears. I also purchased non-cancellable, non-refundable tickets which were at bargain prices. The risk with this approach is that if there is any cancellation, or even change in dates, then your purchase is down the drain!

For internal travel in Europe, we traveled by train. For the Switzerland leg, after computing all costs, I decided to purchase a Swiss Half-Fare Card to get discounted pricing for travel and attractions. Within each city, I purchased full-day unlimited travel cards mostly, or a Carnet of tickets in Paris (will explain separately)

For accommodation, I used Airbnb for most of my trip, except for Lauterbrunnen, where I chose to go with the simply outstanding Camping Jungfrau Holiday Park. Unfortunately, the Airbnb host in Munich cancelled my reservation quite late, and so I had to book a hostel thru Hostelbookers.com. This actually turned out to be super convenient as the hostel was a very short walking distance from the central train station.

In terms of costs, the total trip costed me around Rs 6.5 lakhs for two people. The major components of the costs were:
  • Airfare: Rs 90k return
  • Accommodation: Rs 1.1 lakhs for 19 Nights (we traveled by Night train on one of the nights)
  • Car rental: Rs 30k for 5 days...I got a BMW 4 series convertible for this price...it was a steal
  • Food: This was actually the most expensive...approx. Rs 1.5 lakhs (and most of the expensive meals were in Switzerland...of course)
  • Local transport: (Including Museum access at Amsterdam) - approx. 90k
  • Museums, shows, entertainment: Rs 1 lakh+ (again, the most expensive spends were in Switzerland for mountain excursions)
  • Rest was into local shopping, airport purchases, etc
I still have to reconcile my expenses. If I get better clarity, I shall provide the same.

If anyone is interested to know more details, I could provide as and when needed. Otherwise, I shall proceed with the rest of the travelogue from the next post.

Hope you'll find it worth your time reading!
Attached Files
File Type: pdf Detailed Itinerary.pdf (363.5 KB, 2854 views)

Last edited by chetan_l : 23rd February 2018 at 20:45. Reason: Rephrasing sentences
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Old 21st February 2018, 18:50   #3
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Default re: Three weeks of bliss in Europe - A self-planned holiday

I am picking this thread back again after a long hiatus! So, here we go again...

My wife and I are living in Bangalore and we had booked an open-jaw flight ticket with Etihad Airways from Bangalore to Munich via a stop-over at Abu Dhabi; and returning from Zurich again via the same stop-over. Originally, we intended this to be a family trip where we would have our daughter and niece joining us; however, both are pursuing different degree courses and they do not have any overlap in their annual holidays! So, it boiled down to just the two of us on this trip.

After all the extensive reading and intelligence gathered on carrying out a self-planned trip abroad, we were pretty much well-prepared. I had booked all the travel tickets in advance covering inter-city travel throughout the entire journey and carried paper prints as well as soft copies on my phone, my wife's phone and our iPad. The good thing is that several of the transit providers also have mobile apps which I had downloaded on to my phone, which means the e-tickets were accessible on demand.

I had opted for a Matrix sim card with 4GB data and several free minutes of calling that worked throughout Europe pretty much flawlessly. The plan was enough to cover three weeks of minimal usage (GPS, maps, google search, few WhatsApp posts,...). Of course, I had installed useful tools like Google Translate with German and French languages downloaded - these came in handy, especially when translating menus and instructions...

The rental car was booked thru Sixt with full insurance coverage including CDW and Zero-Excess insurance cover so that I would have a hassle-free driving experience. We had also purchased the tickets for major monuments & events in Paris - Eiffel tower, Le Lido show and Opera Garnier tour. If you plan to go to the top of Eiffel, you need to purchase your tickets a couple of months in advance, especially during peak season. Same with other major attractions. (I had also booked a Segway tour of Munich in advance). So, the actual day-to-day expenditure while on tour was quite minimal.

I had purchased a dual-currency ForEx card from Axis Bank (Euro and Swiss Francs) and pre-loaded it with enough money to cover about 50% of my expected expenses. The rest, I would cover with my credit cards, and a little bit of ForEx currency that I had purchased. I also remembered to call my banks in advance and enable international usage of their credit and debit cards - it can be a hassle if you find that your card gets locked out when using it abroad just because your bank suspects it to be fraudulent usage!

I do like to be well-prepared when it comes to tour planning...I had even researched and listed down the must-see and nice-to-see places; the only leeway I gave ourselves was the 5 days in Bavaria when we had a car at our disposal, and then the actual day-wise plans once we were based in a city.
For my solo trip in the (hopefully) near future, I will go adhoc!

Despite all the research where umpteen travel experts urge you to travel light, we ended up carrying one huge suitcase, a large backpack, a smaller suitcase, my camera & accessories kit and my wife's day bag...
The one major lesson from my travel - never ever...never ever...carry more than one cabin-size backpack per person! I cannot over-emphasize this enough...

Ok, so now, on to the travelogue...

Our flight was to depart from Bangalore airport at 22:10 hours, which meant we needed to be in the Airport by 19:00. Leaving room for the potentially choc-a-bloc Bangalore traffic, we left to the Airport from home on a Uber cab at 5 PM in the evening. As good fortune had it, we reached the airport well ahead of time, by around 6:15 PM. After checking in and going thru the security drill, we had enough time to kill. So, we enjoyed the lounge at the Bangalore airport (courtesy our AmEx cards) and treated ourselves to a sumptuous dinner...
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Our flight to Abu Dhabi was smooth and we caught up on some sleep. We landed in Abu Dhabi just before 1 AM local time and then crossed over from Terminal 1 to Terminal 3 to catch the next flight to Munich. The Abu Dhabi airport was very crowded at that time of the night and we barely managed to get ourselves a couple of empty seats while we awaited the departure.

The next flight to Munich as well departed on time - at 2:25 AM local time. The flight timings were so convenient...we landed in Munich just after day-break at 7 AM local time ! This allowed us a full day for sight-seeing in Munich even on the day of landing after sleeping through most of our flight time. Unfortunately, I cannot sleep easily on planes and so I caught up on some movies while my wife blissfully slept through.

Customs and immigration process was quite easy. The immigration officer wanted to see our hotel reservations as well as return flight ticket before stamping our passports. I showed him an entire docket with the car rental, train tickets, et all, and so he was convinced that we were not going to immigrate illegally into Germany!

With immigration done, we decided to freshen at the airport itself - minus the showers. Next, we also grabbed a quick breakfast and then walked over to catch the suburban train to Hauptbahnhof (Munich Central Train station).
Three weeks of bliss in Europe - A self-planned holiday-2017-eurotrip-25.jpg

I had researched in advance and we purchased a 1-day XXL (entire network) MVV group ticket (for 2+ pax) from a vending machine, that covers all modes of transport for the entire Munich city region. We then boarded the S1 S-Bahn train to Hauptbahnhof around 9 AM. From the train station, it was a short walk to our stay at the Euro Youth Hotel...but dragging our large suitcases across gave us the first indication of our folly!

Check-in time was only from 2 PM or so (don't remember). We dumped our suitcases at a storage room and headed out for some sight seeing. We only had 2 days in Munich and I had booked the Segway tour for the next day. So, we had to catch the Glockenspiel spectacle at the Neues Rathaus (New Town Hall) today. And the second half of the day would be at the BMW Museum and the Olympic Park.

Last edited by chetan_l : 23rd February 2018 at 20:40. Reason: Rephrasing sentences
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Old 22nd February 2018, 14:58   #4
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Default re: Three weeks of bliss in Europe - A self-planned holiday

30th Apr 2017:

The New Town Hall is one of the most visited sights in Munich, and the center-piece of attraction is the famous Glockenspiel...a mechanical clock that has mechanical figurines coming out to dance and regale the spectators. Every day at 11 AM and at 5 PM (plus noon in the summer), 32 life-sized figures enact the story of the marriage of Duke Wilhelm V to Renata of Lorraine and the story of the Bavarian knights defeating Lothringen knights, while 43 bells chime away in the background. The whole spectacle is indeed a worthy spectacle. We reached 15 mins before 11 AM and caught the visuals, jostling among a fairly large crowd which had gathered at the venue!


The town hall in itself is a glorious building built in Gothic architecture style. The walls of the building are adorned with numerous sculptures of gods, warriors, dragons, and the lot.
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The town hall is in the area called Marienplatz, the old city center. This place is a treasure trove of sights to take in, all within a short walking distance. You can devote an entire day and still not catch up with everything. We walked around and stretched our legs, soaking in our first noon in Europe on a gloriously sunny day while the temperature was a chilly 15C!
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We would be visiting Marienplatz again the next day on the Segway (but not in time for the Glockenspiel spectacle) and so after lazing around a bit and grabbing a quick bite in one of the eateries at the train station, we headed out to the BMW world (showroom).

We took the U-Bahn (Underground train) to Olympiazentrum (Olympic center) and got out for a short walk to reach the BMW Auto Showroom. As soon as we got out of the train station, we were greeted with a series of BMW and Ducati bikes parked outside!
Three weeks of bliss in Europe - A self-planned holiday-2017-eurotrip-52.jpg

This was just a teaser and what we witnessed next was totally unplanned...and an extremely delightful surprise!...

---------------

We got to see a top-class German Stunt Driver demonstrate the Beemer's power & driveability on a public show! The whole spectacle was surreal for us and a great introduction to the world of BMW, and little did I know that day that I would be driving a 420d Cabriolet just two days after!

Notice - near the 1 minute mark - how the driver has literally locked down his left front wheel on a single spot while his car does a series of 360 degree turns!!

(Now, fellow BHP-ians...you will crucify me for not noting down the BMW model on display and getting into the technical details...alas, I am no petrol-head like most of you, so please forgive this blasphemy! )

Last edited by chetan_l : 23rd February 2018 at 18:01. Reason: Rephrasing the sentences
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Old 23rd February 2018, 12:40   #5
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Default re: Three weeks of bliss in Europe - A self-planned holiday

We spent the next couple of hours in the Mecca of auto showrooms...the BMW Welt (World) in Munich! We got to see all the latest cars on display along with legendary race cars kept solely for a look-see. Along with the Beemers, we got to see the legendary Rolls Royces, Minis,

I will let the pictures do the talking...
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Unfortunately, my lack of sleep was starting to hit me and I was very tired after a couple of hours. Also, it was close to 5 PM in the evening, and we decided to skip the BMW Museum next door...(yes, second blasphemy in a single day!).

Instead, we walked out to the lawns outside of the BMW World and took some rest stretching out on the grass. Thereafter, we slowly made our way across the foot over-bridge crossing the 2R ring road and over to the Olympic Park, the lake and the Olympic Tower. We rode up the elevator to the top of the tower to take in a 360 degree view of Munich and its surroundings, all the way across to the Bavarian Alps; the place where we would be headed in 2 days.
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We made our way back to the Central Station and then walked over to a Punjabi restaurant, Rasoi, run by a couple of friendly brethren...they made us feel at home, and my wife couldn't have been happier. She is a staunch vegetarian who loves her rice, sambar and curds any day rather than exotic Western dishes. She would be happy trading her rice and sambar for North Indian cuisine, but beyond that would be a stretch. Btw, we were pleasantly surprised that we could literally find a desi joint almost everywhere we went, including in the villages of Bavaria! Indians are truly global nowadays...

After a sumptuous dinner, we walked back to our hotel to check in and took some well earned rest in our simple room that had two beds, a heater, and pretty much that's it!

Three weeks of bliss in Europe - A self-planned holiday-2017-eurotrip-121.jpg

Tomorrow, we would go on a tour of Munich city by a Segway ride...something we have never experienced before and I was a little worried if my wife would be comfortable riding it. Besides, I had not told her that I had booked something like this because I was sure she would back out. I debating discussing this with her, but then, the beds were comfy and we drifted off to sleep in no time.
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Old 23rd February 2018, 17:25   #6
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1st May 2017:
We woke up a little after day-break. Our flight the previous day was timed beautifully...our body clocks were quite well-adjusted to Munich local time almost from day 1. After taking our showers and the complementary breakfast at our hotel, we took the S-Bahn S1 headed east and got down the next stop at Karlsplatz-Stachus, to head to the tour operator's office.

I had booked the Segway tour of Munich city from City Segway Tours using Viator. The tour has an average rating of 5 stars on Viator and it is so for a reason. Right from receiving us outside the Karlsplatz station and throughout our ~4+ hours of Segwaying across the city, we had an absolutely fabulous experience. My wife was apprehensive to ride the Segway as I had expected, and our instructor (damn me - do not recall his name) quickly sensed this and put her at complete ease. Besides the two of us, there was only one other lady from US who was part of our tour on that day. She had arrived early and was waiting for us. After the initial paperwork, we put on our helmets, gloves et all and our instructor took us through the basic drills of riding a Segway. It needed a little practice, but within the next half hour, we were confident enough to ride on the streets, come to an abrupt halt, weave thru obstacles, ride over and ride down from footpath to the roads, etc. All thanks to our instructor.

Thereafter, our guide led us through several sights in Munich, retelling stories from before the World War. It is sad to note that most of Munich was destroyed during the second world way; but thankfully, the good people of Munich decided to rebuild Munich to reflect how the city was before the war, rather than opt for modernizing the city like say Frankfurt. Today, what looks like a 200 year old building is likely to have been built in the last 60 - 70 years to look like a 200 year old building. Bless their souls! There is enough in store in Munich to keep the World War researchers occupied for weeks and months...we had only hours. So, for that day, we were just tourists taking in the sights while our guide gave us the backdrop...

Since I was riding the Segway, I couldn't take photographs, but here is a short representative video:


After our return, I have managed to recreate our tour on google maps. It is available as a .kmz file if anyone is interested...[ATTACH=Day 2 Attractions - 1st May.kmz]1734299[/ATTACH]

Our guide took us to several landmarks including Maximilian Square, Karolinenplatz, Glyptothek, Konigsplatz, Odeonsplatz, Alte Pinakothek, Munich Residenz, Hofgarten, National Museum, Angel of Peace, Maximilianeum, Viktualien Markt, St. Peter's Church, Marienhof, Frauenkirche and the Hofbrahaus.

Along the way at the English Garden, we treated ourselves to a sight which is perhaps unique to Munich...a bunch of surfers surfing the rapids in the heart of the city! This occurs at the southern entrance to the English Garden where the Eisbach River flows into the garden through a narrow, rocky entrance that creates artificial waves apt for surfing!


After a thoroughly satisfying tour of Munich, we headed over to the famous Hofbrahaus - a 3 floor B**r Hall, commissioned by the Bavarian king back in the 16th century! The Hofbrahaus is everything that you expect from Bavaria: Gentlemen dressed in Lederhosen, Ladies in Drindl and Brass bands playing German folk music while the serving ladies bring you your 1 liter b**r mugs along with 10 other mugs that she carries over!
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There are a few critics who say this is all very touristy and not authentic Bavarian. They may be true...but for the first time visitor, the Hofbrahaus is everything Bavarian served on a platter, literally!

I enjoyed my customary mug, along with the traditional Schweinshaxe, while wifey managed a lemon drink with some French Fries! :(

With that, we called it a day and returned to our hotel, and just went out for a stroll in the late evening, before retiring to bed. I was excited, for tomorrow, we were to take our rental car and drive over to the Bavarian villages for next 4 nights!
Attached Files
File Type: kmz Day 2 Attractions - 1st May.kmz (8.5 KB, 324 views)

Last edited by chetan_l : 23rd February 2018 at 18:00.
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Old 23rd February 2018, 20:11   #7
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2nd May 2017:
I had booked a car pickup from Downtown east instead of Central station to avoid the additional premium charges which is usually applied on Airport and Railway station pick-ups. The area around our hotel and the Central Train station was undergoing several repairs, and it would be difficult to navigate around the place. I would have therefore liked to carry our luggage with us to the Car Rental agency and then take the Autobahn from there. I hadn't factored in the enormous load that we were carrying - so, I had no option but to bring the rental car back to our hotel to load our luggage! One more reason not to carry such heavy load...

The next reason unfolded as we went in to collect our rental car from Sixt car hire.

I had booked their entry level convertible option via Rentalcars.com. They do show a BMW 1 Series car image at the time of booking; but I had no pretensions of the same. On looking at the typical stock cars available at Sixt for this range, the most likely car I would get would either be an Opel Cascada or hopefully a VW Golf. A BMW 2 series was classified as the higher category 'Premium Cabriolet' group. So, after completing the paperwork, I was delighted to find this car waiting for us at the basement:


I had the Fiat Abarth 124 Spider Roadster for the taking...but alas, it had next to zero luggage space!
(Note to self: honestly, it was not just the luggage that did not fit into the car...). With a heavy heart, I had to ask for a replacement. Unfortunately, they did not have a replacement car of the same class.

Unfortunately for them, that is! Sixt had no option but to give me a brand new 2017 BMW 420d Cabriolet with barely 5000 miles on the odometer!!

To their credit, they did it with a smile and were even apologetic about it! This car was no sports car, but it has the BMW class written all over it! Stepping into the cabin, I wondered for a moment if they had given us a sedan...the hard-top convertible is so snug and solid when the roof is up, that you can hardly differentiate it from its sibling, the Coupe version. It had all the bells and whistles you can expect from a BMW 4 series. Plus, it came with an on-screen GPS navigation system - free - since it is the default configuration for the car!

Boy, were we lucky!

It had been a long time since I had last driven a left-hand drive vehicle on the right-side of the road, and so after navigating gingerly through the quite dense Munich traffic (it was around 10 AM when we took delivery), we entered into our hotel lane. The lane was narrow and with the construction going on, I could not stop the car to pick up our luggage - so we had to park in a parking garage a few buildings down the road and again haul our luggage to load it in...you get the picture by now why I say 'travel light'.

After settling things down, another issue I struggled with was that the car was totally configured in German language. I had to fiddle around a bit before resetting to English - something I should done at the agency itself. Anyway, off we went, on our way to Garmisch-Partenkirchen, our home base for the next 5 days. En route, we had decided to visit the famous monastery and brewery at Ettal and also visit the Oberammergau village. We also stopped at a highway restaurant and had our fill of our brunch for the day before hitting the A95 Autobahn heading south.



The Ettal Abbey is one of the largest Benadictine monasteries, built in a Grand Baroque architecture style and adorned with ornate paintings and sculptures that redefine beauty! We were left totally mesmerized by the church. A preacher was giving a sermon and therefore we could not take many pictures, but we managed to capture a few for the record.
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After experiencing Ettal, we drove over the Oberammergau, a typical Bavarian village renowned for its depiction of the story of Jesus where half the village joins in the for 'Passion Play' event, held once every 10 years. This village is known for its wood carvings and clocks. We enjoyed some delicious ice-creams at the Eiscafe Paradiso before walking around in the town.

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Unfortunately, my wife tripped over a footpath and twisted her ankle. It was not a bad injury, but it did hamper her mobility over the next few days. Anyway, it was close to 7 PM by the time we reached our holiday home at Garmisch-Partenkirchen, home for the 1936 Winter Olympics. We had booked a Studio Apartment thru Airbnb, and we were hosted by an extremely gracious lady and her husband. The Osswalds were not only helpful in helping us settle in, but also went out of the way to get some sprain bandage to help settle my wife's sprained ankle.

That night, we cooked our first meal in Europe and then called it a day. For the next day, we had decided to visit the famous Neuschwanstein Castle.

Last edited by chetan_l : 23rd February 2018 at 20:39.
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Old 23rd February 2018, 21:56   #8
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Default re: Three weeks of bliss in Europe - A self-planned holiday

3rd May 2017
King Ludwig II of Bavaria is infamously known as Mad King Ludwig because of his eccentric nature and his obsession with pursuing the arts and music world at the cost of administering his kingdom. A staunch patron of the composer Wagner, Ludwig went on to build several enchanting castles and palaces. Today, we had planned to visit the world-famous Neueschwanstein, the inspiration behind Walt Disney's castle, as also Hohenschwangau, his boyhood home. On the way, I had included a short detour to beautiful Linderhof castle and its enchanting gardens. However, with my wife nursing a sore ankle and with a late start, we dropped Hohenschwangau from the list but did cover the other two spots.

We can write volumes about King Ludwig and his eccentricities, but suffice it to say that his love for the better things in life have ensured that he has left behind some breathtaking works of architecture. The pictures I took are no patch on the originals, but still, here you go...

The Linderhof Gardens and its fountains...(no photography allowed inside the castle!)
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Further, as we drove across to Fussen for the next castle, we crossed the beautiful Alpine lake of Plansee.
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We reached Fussen by around 1:30 PM. There are several parking lots and most of them were running full. We found a vacant spot at one of the lots close to the ticket counter - and experienced the only sign of an unethical practice by a German. There was a manned gate with a parking ticket counter, and the two guys who had just issued a parking ticket for the car in front of us, noted that we were the foreigners in their land. They accepted the money but did not issue me a ticket; instead they just waved me in with a big smile. I tried asking for a ticket and they feigned ignorance of the English language, and kept jabbering away in German. I knew they were pulling a fast one on me, but I couldn't do much. I was also worried if I would be asked to pay again on exit but that didn't happen.

After parking the car, we purchased the tickets for a tour of Neuschwanstein castle. The time allotted to us was close to 4 PM. We still had to grab some lunch and then take the bus to the top; so we decided to skip Hohenschwangau, which was quite right across. We grabbed some lunch at one of the many eateries, then took the bus up to Marienbrucke (Mary's bridge), that gives a beautiful spot to view the castle. The other option would be to take a horse cart, but we decided we will take the cart on our way down. Of course, there were a few people who were trekking all the way up, but they were all probably half my size and double my fitness, so, no-thank-you! It started to rain when we reached the castle gates but not too badly. After a guided tour of the castle, we made our way back to our holiday home. We were quite tired and decided to have dinner outside - and ergo, we made our way to the Bollywood Tandoori Indisches Restaurant for some pretty good Punjabi food. I told you, you can find Indian restaurants everywhere!

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Old 23rd February 2018, 22:32   #9
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Default re: Three weeks of bliss in Europe - A self-planned holiday

4th May 2017
Having walked around quite a bit despite the sprain, my wife's ankle was swollen when she work up today. I had initially planned a visit to the Zugspitze mountain today but decided to drop it from our schedule. My reasoning was that we would anyway be visiting Mt. Titlis and Mt. Pilatus in Switzerland, so we could skip the German mountain.

Mistake! The Alpine climate decides your experience of the mountains. While we did go to Swiss mountains, it was at a time when it was raining, whereas Zugspitze was awash in bright sunshine on the 4th of May. A lesson to all potential travelers - if you want to go up an Alpine mountain, be willing to change your itinerary and hit the slopes when the sun is smiling bright.

I am anyway an early riser and I went out for a walk around Garmisch while my wife took rest at home. It is without doubt the best morning walk in my entire life. I can post innumerable pictures but none would do justice to the serenity of the town, the beautiful backdrop of the Alps, grassy green meadows, seeing Moms and Dads dropping off their tiny tots in the nearby school, a farmer working his machinery, the uber-clean streets, series of wooden benches along the footpaths where probably most of them have never been sat on,...I can keep going. I will post a few pictures to give you an idea...

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I returned back to a home-cooked plate of Poha and after having our fill and freshening up, my wife decided to join me on my visit to the Partnachklamm gorge. Partnachklamm is a deep gorge carved into the mountains of the Reintal Valley by the river/stream Partnach. Accessing the gorge meant that we had to drive over to the Olympic Ski Stadium and park our car there and walk all the way across to the gorge entrance before hiking inside the gorge itself. We did find a hack to cut down our walking by quite a bit...I have promised my host that I will not share this hack in public forum since it involves stretching the by-the-book German rules a bit, and so, I will keep my promise here. However, I did see the hack jotted down elsewhere too, and so if anyone is interested, do PM me

The Olympic Ski Stadium...this site is featured in a couple of movies
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The tiny cable-car leading up to the Grasek hotel
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The green slopes behind Grasek
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The Partnachklamm gorge in all its glory
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I didn't pay much attention then, but I do have to say that my wife braved her bruised leg quite bravely for all that walking! Later that evening, we made our way to the town center and also visited a shopping mall
A small reward to my wife for having braved the hikes for the day...
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I let her do her shopping while I spent my time sipping my hot cup of coffee at the cafe by the side of the road, watching the whole world go by...bliss!
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If you can brave listening to my soliloquy, you can tune in to this video below, a brief highlight of the place behind our holiday home:


Another short one showing the town center, where I was whiling away my time:

Last edited by chetan_l : 23rd February 2018 at 23:25.
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Old 24th February 2018, 00:57   #10
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Default re: Three weeks of bliss in Europe - A self-planned holiday

5th May 2017
A day for driving...not just the Autobahns, but the back roads, and especially on the indescribably beautiful Alpenstrasse (Alpine Street/Road)...

When drawing up my itinerary, I deliberately included a day where I could spend most of the time on the road. And what better way to do that than on the Alpenstrasse? My plan for the day was to hit the Autobahns headed east towards Berchtesgaden and visit a couple of sights there...the deep underground salt mine at Salzbergwerk and then a boat ride on the pristine waters of Lake Konigssee. On the way back, I would take the Alpenstrasse and cover a route going through the many villages and small towns of Bavaria. I have most of the road trip captured on videos, but it is too long to be posted on a travelogue. So, I will just preserve it for posterity.

Our journey was fairly long, and we had a stop-over at a highway restaurant. Again, I failed to log the name of the place, but it was modeled very much on the lines of the many highway restaurants along US Route 66! After a short-break, we continued our journey to Salzbergwerk. One thing to note in most of Europe is that the rest-rooms all over are mostly pay-and-use types. And if you have a fairly weak bladder, be ready to keep a lot of small change with you.
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The Salzbergwerk is a 16th century salt mine where the salt was mined from deep underground water sources. The name of Salzburg, which is quite close-by, was derived from this salt-mine. We did not include Salzburg in this visit - it is part of my bucket list for a separate, dedicated visit. The salt mine today is a tourist attraction and visitors are taken thru the salt mines by sliding down wooden chutes and later, on a platform that slides over the underground lake. Photography is prohibited and hence no photos from the tour!
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After finishing the salt-mine tour, we then headed over to Lake Konigssee. Lake Konigssee is one of the purest lakes in the region and the authorities keep the lake untainted by ensuring that there are no motor boats plying the lake. The only boats allowed are battery operated ones. Also, fishing is banned in the lake save for one local fisherman, who continues to enjoy his sole rights to the abundant fish in the lake! The lake is surrounded by tall cliffs and one of the highlights of the boat tour is that the captain plays his bugle at a certain spot where the mountains echo back his song right after him...like a pupil following her master! And then of course, who can miss the magnificent onion domed church of Saint Bartholomew!

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Playing of the bugle:


And, here is a small snippet of the Alpenstrasse route that we took on our way back to GP (please pardon the inexcusable commentary from my side!):


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Before I wind down the day's story, I have to tell you an incident.
After driving down a few hours, we reached a make-shift check-point on the road. A few cops had put up temporary blockades and all the cars were slowing down to a crawl. The cops were perhaps looking for suspicious characters and they thought I looked like one! A nice young officer flagged me down and I pulled over to the side. I knew the basic rules of engagement and so I kept my hands on the steering wheel, told my wife to avoid any jerky movements, and we both wore a nice, wide, welcoming smiles on our faces. That seemed to do the trick because the officer also returned our smiles

Here's a rough reproduction of our conversation to the best of my knowledge:

Me: Good evening, officer!
O(Officer): Good evening, sir! Papers please...
Me: Sure...(and I dig into the glove box and pull out my rental documents)
O: (Scans thru them and says) - these are your rental documents. Show me the car papers please
Me: Ok (and I pull out the car papers not knowing what all did it contain - something to add to your checklist when renting a car)
O: These papers are good. Are you visiting here?
Me: Yes sir! We are tourists from India, here in Germany for a few days before heading out to The Netherlands!
O: Passports please...(we comply)...do you know why I pulled you over?
Me: (I didn't know then that this is a trick question...if you are guilty of say, speeding, you will tend to blurt out something to reveal so...but then I wasn't doing anything illegal, and so)...you tell me officer; I have no clue!
O: You see that camera over on your windscreen?
Me: Yes....?
O: It is illegal to shoot videos with a dash-cam in Germany. You are violating German rules!

Me: (I was genuinely flabbergasted and I bursted out) But officer, look, your country is so beautiful that I couldn't help myself!!! And, I am sorry but I didn't know the rules! (I think I was beginning to panic a bit)

O: (bursting into a laugh)...no worries sir! I will excuse you this time. Do remove the camera and drive along!

Phew!!! I never knew that I would be violating a German rule so inadvertently. Anyway, all was well in the end...

The rest of the trip was uneventful and we reached back home a little late. We were too tired to cook and so off we went again to the Bollywood restaurant. By the way, we kept doing this so often...and it is a crime that we returned to India with several of our food packs unopened!

So, one last time...(Note to self really)...never ever carry excess luggage...
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Old 24th February 2018, 08:38   #11
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Default Re: Three weeks of bliss in Europe - A self-planned holiday

Thread moved from the Assembly Line to the Travelogues Section. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 24th February 2018, 10:35   #12
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Default Re: Three weeks of bliss in Europe - A self-planned holiday

@GTO: Thank you for moving this thread to the travelogs.

6th May 2017
Today would be our last day in Bavaria as we were catching the night train to Cologne from Munich. I wanted to include one overnight train journey in our itinerary and hence I found this to be quite convenient. After a lazy morning, we cooked our breakfast, packed our luggage, and said our good-byes to our hosts. I shall post a few pictures of the apartment where we stayed:
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There was a small church right across the street and we decided to pay a visit after loading our luggage on to our car. The church was very pretty and had a nice, relaxing atmosphere. Unfortunately, the nun who was the only soul present there was not very welcoming of two strangers. She gave us the cold shoulder and we got the message; so we silently prayed for her and left.
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Whenever you search for images of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, you will see photos of rolling green meadows with beautiful mountains in the backdrop. A few days earlier, I spied a spot close to the Olympic stadium that looked suspiciously like the google photos and hence I decided we would drive down to that spot and spend some leisure time. It was pretty picturesque, though I am not quite sure if the spot is the same as what I refer to.
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After having our fill of the place, we moved on to what would be one of the most beautiful places in our entire tour - the Pilgrimage Church of the Wies (Wieskirche) at Steingaden. The Wieskirche is a beautiful structure constructed in Rococo style, complete with over-the-top interior design and paintings. The church is so beautiful that it is a crime they do not allow photography inside! :(
Anyway, you can browse the web to get a glimpse of what we saw.

I have put together a short video of our visit there.


We had our lunch at one of the cafes near Wieskirche before reluctantly moving on towards Munich. I will post a few photos to add to the video above.
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En route to Munich, we stopped midway at the Starnbergsee, the second largest freshwater lake in Germany in terms of volume. If we had more time, we could have taken a ferry ride on the lake, but we decided to skip it. We eventually did have lots of time later that evening, but we wanted to be inside Munich to avoid any unexpected highway roadblocks. So, after reaching Munich, we spent some time outside the Nymphenburg Palace, particularly its gardens and water bodies.
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We then drove over to the Sixt Car Rental return counter at the Central Train station after filling the tank up to the full. The rental return process was quite simple - you just had to park the car and drop the key at a drop-box; that's it! We ate some dinner at the station before boarding the Austrian OBB Nightjet 420 headed to Cologne.
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We thoroughly enjoyed our stay in Bavaria. Bavaria lived up to all the expectations I had of that region, and then some more. If we are lucky, I would like to visit again. For now, we were content on moving to the next leg our tour - on to Amsterdam via a brief stop-over at Cologne! Oh, another item off my check-list: a night train in Europe!
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Old 24th February 2018, 15:14   #13
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May 7th 2017
The Austrian Nightjet service includes a functional breakfast served in your compartment. We were served a light breakfast which was quite tasty for a train service. After our breakfast and a bit of freshening up, we were all set by the time the train pulled into Cologne at 8:15 AM.
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I had booked our connecting train from Cologne to Amsterdam departing at 10:38, which allowed us a little over 2 hours to visit the Cologne cathedral. Thankfully, the cathedral is situated right outside the train station (or, is it the other way round?) which means all we had to do was leave our bags at the left-luggage counter and pay a quick visit to the cathedral. The luggage carousel at the Cologne station is fully automated. You just go to any of the several luggage kiosks, pay the money for the size of your luggage, and lug it in when the door opens. When you want to retrieve your luggage, you just walk up to any counter and retrieve your bags.

There are volumes written about the Cologne Cathedral and I cannot do justice to the place with my words. One of the foremost examples of Gothic Architecture in the entire world, I was completely bowled over by not only the beauty, but also the enormous size of the cathedral!
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We returned to the train station well on time and retrieved our bags. Our next train to Amsterdam was the German DB ICE (Intercity Express) was scheduled to arrive in Amsterdam by 1:28 PM. Like most trains in Europe, our train too was right on schedule.
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Old 25th February 2018, 19:05   #14
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Amsterdam, the city renowned for its hedonistic pleasures, has a lot to offer to the discerning eye. Call Amsterdam the 'Venice of the North' and the local Dutch will retort that it is Venice which should be called the 'Amsterdam of the South', for this city has more canals than Venice. But what makes Amsterdam the place it is, is that the city is a treatise to the joy of good living. With cosy cafes lining the canals, narrow gothic buildings standing bunched together & showing off their gables, Jazz bands playing at several public spots, and a traffic that has more cyclists per capita than any other capital, Amsterdam is something to be experienced.

We got a taste of what was in store, right outside the train station. We were greeted with a Jazz band welcoming us just as we stepped out from Amsterdam Centraal!


We purchased the I-Amsterdam city card at the ticket outlet in front of the train station and proceeded to board a tram to our Airbnb apartment, located just 7 minutes away by tram. I had booked apartments in Amsterdam, Paris and Lucerne which would be very close to a nearby bus/tram/metro station, and this was a wise call. Our host was a bachelor of my age, who was kind enough to give us a lay of the land and suggested places to visit. (Not to boast, but I had memorized the key tourist spots in Amsterdam and Paris so well, the our host was quite surprised that I not only knew them all by heart, but I could easily locate them on his huge map spread out over his dining table. At one point, I think my knowledge irritated him so much that he just said I should take up being the local guide for the city. I clammed up after that, even though he was just jousting with me; one never knows! )

His house was very tastefully decorated and a treat to the eyes. We checked in, freshened up and left to the Amsterdam city center. We were pretty hungry having skipped our lunch and the first thing we did at the Dam Square was to have our fill with some fresh & tasty waffles.
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I have to tell you something interesting. While researching the plan for our trip, I was pretty active on Lonely Planet and Tripadvisor forums. I came across a query from a fellow Indian traveler who wanted some help with his itinerary. Having finalized my plan and having done my reservations, I was able to help him with an answer. We started exchanging PMs and both were zapped as we discovered more of each other's travel plans: both of us were on a 3 week vacation; I started Apr 30 and he started a week later. While my first week was in Germany, my second week was in Amsterdam and Paris, while the third week was in Lauterbrunnen and Lucerne. Now, imagine our shock when both our itineraries mimicked each other, almost to the day! He was traveling with his wife while their kids couldn't join them. After Lauterbrunnen, he'd move west to Zermatt while we'd move east to Lucerne and then back home. He would then spend his last week in Austria. So, we met up with the Hindochas from Kolkata on the first day of our stay in Amsterdam, and we instantly became friends, traveling together for most of the next 10 days!

After strolling around Dam Square and De Wallen district, we found our way across to Hotel Saravana Bhavan! To those of you from the south, especially Tamil Nadu, you would be familiar with the hotel chain - for others, this is one of the most highly reputed South Indian restaurant chain, with presence all over the world. Truth be told, we were quite disappointed with the quality of the food we had that night :(
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One more thing about Amsterdam; the city is so far up north, that the temperatures tend to truly chilly in early May, even as daylight extends till a half-past-nine! It was quite an experience braving the chill factor as we waited for the tram to take us home. We were prepared for the Swiss Alps to be chilly but didn't factor in the chillness in Amsterdam!
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Last edited by chetan_l : 25th February 2018 at 19:10. Reason: Corrections
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Old 26th February 2018, 19:12   #15
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Default Re: Three weeks of bliss in Europe - A self-planned holiday

I loved the detailed planning you had done for the trip. Kudos to you!

There is a company which offers free walking tours in the cities you have visited like Munich and Amsterdam. They are New Europe Tours
I would definitely recommend you to them next time you visit Europe or somewhere else.

And yes, you took the night Jet. One of the few night services left on Deutsche Bahn but is actually a service offered by rail authorities from Austria. There are few high speed trains between Munich to Cologne which cover the distance in less time. And few times, I have seen low cost airlines in Europe are offering fares which were cheaper than train tickets. I too visited Cologne cathedral when I had a stopover at the station. It is very near to main railway station of Cologne.

Amsterdam: I fell love with this city. I visited Keukenhof just 10 days prior to you. It was heavily crowded and encountered traffic jam near the entrance. I found the food at Sarvana Bhavan in Amsterdam delicious because I was eating bland German food since three weeks. If you want food with slightly different flavours, they are many Indonesian and Surinamese restaurants which satisfy Indian palate.
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