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Old 18th May 2019, 18:30   #61
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Default Day 9 - Königssee

Day 9 - Königssee

We woke up to a beautiful, warm, sunny morning. On a day like this, you would wish that there were no worries in your life, but unfortunately, due to our Airbnb situation, we weren’t sure where we were going to stay tonight. As expected there was a message from Airbnb where they had offered alternatives. Since I had already researched places and decided on one, I was reluctant to spend more time on the same activity again. I felt that the place we had chosen was exactly what we wanted and I didn’t want to settle for something less good. There were, of course, better places - of which very few were available - but they were all more expensive. I sent a message to our Airbnb host hoping that we can work out something.

When you are traveling, you don’t want to waste any time, so while we were figuring out what’s next, we decided to utilize the time by exploring the English Garden which was at a short walking distance from our place.

On the way, we came across a Segway rental company. We enquired but they said you need a driving license for using Segway, and since we were with kids any chance of riding Segway was ruled out.

“Englischer Garten” is a huge park at the heart of Munich. It’s one of the largest city parks in Europe, larger even than New York’s Central Park. We did a quick tour of the park, walked along the central lake, took pictures, etc.

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We soon got a reply from our Airbnb host, she asked us whether it’s ok if she’s not there to receive us? We said that’s fine, but how would we access her place while she’s away? Does anyone have the keys? She said that her place was not locked. She doesn’t need to lock because it’s very safe. WOW!. Couldn't imagine doing that back home.

Now that the destination was confirmed, we rushed back from the English Garden and headed straight for Konigssee.

It takes about 2 by road from Munich to Konigssee. After about an hour, we started seeing the Alpine mountains on the horizon.

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We were soon on the German Austrian border because the route to Konigssee goes via Austria. In fact, the road nearly touches Salzburg. As soon as we entered Austria there were police checking for vignettes. I was glad that I had already purchased one 3 days ago.

By 1 pm we were at Konigssee. It was a Sunday and a sunny day so it was crowded and the car parking was nearly full. We went around a couple of times until we found a vacant spot.

The lake was just a short walk from the parking lot.

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As always, before the boat ride, we decided to have a quick pit stop for food at the nearby McDonald's. Secondly, unscheduled bathroom breaks cost time and money, so best to get done before you start any activity. Needless to say that that’s always the right thing to do when you are with kids.

This McDonald’s is special. It has good views of the Alps particularly the Jenner mountain on the opposite side:

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Jennerbahn cable car. Work on it was still in progress at the time. I think they opened it in June 2018, a month after we visited.

You can see the route if you look closely:
Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe-img_9385panoedit.jpg

The chairlifts. The path on the right side goes to the lake:
Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe-img_9167pano.jpg

From the parking, you can also see Kehlsteinhaus, built atop mountain Kehlstein, more popularly known as “Eagle’s nest”, famous for being Adolf Hitler’s mountain retreat.

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Konigssee in German means “King’s lake”. Flanked on both the sides by mountains the lake is narrow and stretches a few kilometers, in a way it’s more like a Norwegian fjord. The lake is also among the deepest in the country. It’s very clean, the water is clear and since it’s surrounded by greenery on all sides the water also has an emerald green color.

The walk to the lake is surrounded by Cafes, Ice Cream, and Souvenir shops.

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Fortunately, there wasn’t much queue at the ticket counter. We purchased our tickets and the next boat ride was starting in 10 mins. We paid around EUR 46 for the return tickets.

You can purchase tickets all the way towards the other end of the lake from where you can go to Obersee which is another small adjoining lake, but most people go to St. Bartholomew’s church which is about two thirds down the lake. If you have time then it’s worth going to the end stop at Salet, but since we had only three hours in hand, we decided to skip it.

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The ride was very scenic and I would count that as one of the best boat rides that I have ever taken. The lake was very tranquil and since the ferries are electric, the only sounds were that of the boat smoothly gliding over the water. The only minor disturbance was due to the German commentary, which seemed to make little to no sense to many tourists like us. The glass windows were half open which was letting a steady breeze of fresh, cool air, much needed on that warm day.

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Halfway towards St. Bartholoma, the ferry boat comes across the only bend in the lake and you enter the famous Echo Chamber. The steep rock wall of the fjord creates a natural echo surface that bounces even small sounds back at the boat. The boat captain provided an excellent demo of the world-famous echo chamber by sounding his trumpet to show off a reverberating tune.

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Nearly 40 mins later we disembarked at St. Bartholomew’s.

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The onion-domed, red-roofed church is quite small. I had imagined it to be a bit bigger.

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The church traces its history back to the 12th century but the current building was built in the 17th century. On the inside, there is some stucco work, but overall it is quite simple as compared to other churches in Europe.

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We spent some time on the grass like everyone else, explored the hunting lodge and a museum/information centre.

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From here there is a trail that goes to Mount Watzmann.
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There is not much to do here. We took a stroll along the lake marveling at the natural beauty and the serenity the place offered.

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The Sun was shining brightly through the clouds surrounding the Watzmann peak:
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After spending a couple of hours we headed back.

Parting shot of the church again:
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The return trip was quicker because there was no reason to stop for the echo chamber again:
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By the time we reached the parking, it was around 5:10 pm and we wanted to reach our Airbnb in Tyrol while it was still bright because the landlady wasn’t present to guide us if needed. We were wiser from our previous experience in Bavaria when driving from Wurzburg to Fussen.

[Continued in the next post].

Last edited by MandarMax : 18th May 2019 at 18:40.
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Old 18th May 2019, 19:37   #62
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Default Day 9 Continued - Königssee to St Johann in Tirol, Austria

Day 9 Continued - Königssee to St Johann in Tirol, Austria

We drove for another 1.5 hours through some of the most scenic roads in the region.

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We went through a couple of tunnels and were soon in Austria.

Tyrolean Alps:
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After entering Austria, we were in the little town of St. Johann in Tirol in a matter of 15-20 minutes.

We navigated the narrow streets and one-ways and reached near the landmark that our host had told us about because her place was not on the GPS map. The house was on a hill at the end of a private road. There was a “private road” sign which we were asked to ignore. We climbed the steep road and there was only one house at the end of the road which was our Airbnb. We stepped out of the car and looked behind. We were blown away by the view!

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The second floor was ours:
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We climbed the stairs to the apartment on the first floor, turned the latch and it was unlocked, just as we were told. The apartment was large and equally impressive. I went to the balcony straightaway and the view was breathtaking.

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All's well that ends well! We forgot all the problems we have had with the cancellation and everything in the morning. The place was perfect. I was glad that I had convinced our host and she had agreed.

With a view like this, I just wanted to sit in the balcony and enjoy the view. The icing on the cake would be to have a nice cup of coffee or my favorite drink , I preferred the latter, but alas it was Sunday and all the supermarkets were closed. You can’t have everything.

We ringed our host to inform her that we had arrived. I also asked her whether there was any possibility of finding what I wanted, and to my surprise she said you don’t have to go anywhere because the previous guests had left an entire crate in the lower apartment and obviously it’s not locked, so it’s all yours. It was indeed our lucky day. I got what I really wanted at that moment!

As dusk fell we decided to explore the town and have dinner.

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The bimmer and the postcard-perfect background (please excuse the picture quality. Next pics were taken using mobile):
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We parked the car downhill and walked to the town. From here you can see the place right in the middle on top of the hill. It does not appear that much high in the photo:

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It was extremely quiet and not a soul was in sight until we reached one of the main roads. We found an Italian restaurant and had a lovely dinner.

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After dinner, we walked back to our Airbnb. It was dark and there was not much light on the road leading up the hill. Every place has pros and cons, and we suddenly found the con - we were a bit cut off from the rest of the town. There were no immediate neighbors and the rest of the town was down the hill. To be fair we had some chickens, ducks, and quails giving us company in the backyard, and the place definitely did not have any bad vibes, but it feels safer if there are others around when you are on someone’s big, unknown property.

Lovely night view:
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You can't always do what the Romans do in Rome...the locals may not be used to locking their doors but that night we sure did!

Last edited by MandarMax : 18th May 2019 at 19:44.
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Old 23rd May 2019, 16:14   #63
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Default Re: Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe

Lucky you Mandarmax. Feeling jealous of you
Great snaps of the mother nature. Keep the travelogue rolling.
Waiting eagerly for the balance 6 days.
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Old 25th May 2019, 10:00   #64
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Default Re: Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe

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Originally Posted by coolmind View Post
Lucky you Mandarmax. Feeling jealous of you
Thank you! The next few posts are going to be seriously jealousy-inducing

Quote:
Originally Posted by coolmind View Post
Great snaps of the mother nature. Keep the travelogue rolling.
Waiting eagerly for the balance 6 days.
Glad to know that I've still got readers following this thread. I was not getting many replies since the last few posts and I was increasingly becoming unsure whether I was boring people to death with too many details.

Having said that as much as I want readers to read it, I am also writing it for myself, and even though I've got an extremely busy schedule, I am determined to complete it while the memories are still fresh (it's been a year already).

Maybe I will speed up the posts.

Cheers!

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Old 26th May 2019, 08:55   #65
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Default Re: Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe

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Originally Posted by MandarMax View Post
I was not getting many replies since the last few posts and I was increasingly becoming unsure whether I was boring people to death with too many details.
Not at all !!! Keep going. In fact I wait eagerly for your posts. On the contrary the details are very much required. The details are what makes the reader of the travelogue connect to what the writer experienced !

Quote:
Originally Posted by MandarMax View Post
Glad to know that I've still got readers following this thread.
This thread ranks among the best Europe travelogues. In fact I have bookmarked your thread. Each travelogue covering Europe is unique in its own way.

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Old 26th May 2019, 15:17   #66
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Day 10 - St Johann in Tirol

After a peaceful night’s sleep, got up the next morning to the sound of birds. Looked out of the window and it was clear, sunny and beautiful outside. The sky was mostly clear. Our luck with the weather continued.

It was Monday today. How many times do you wake up to this view?

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It looked so tranquil from above. No hustle and bustle of the cities. Except for the highway down the valley, there wasn’t much action either.
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I just wanted to sit there and soak up the views. I could retire and I spend the rest of my life here.

Despite all the natural beauty, this area doesn’t attract as many tourists. There are several tourist attractions in Austria, many equally good or better. Nearby places such as Salzberg attract many more tourists. Considering that there are several options to choose from very few people bother to come here. The exception probably is winter months as there are many mountains nearby for skiing. In fact, our chalet was at the end of the skiing slope as you can tell from the picture below.

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We were in the Kitzbüheler Alps with the famous Kitzbüheler Horn peak directly behind us and the Harschbichl ropeway was just next to us running in parallel with the ski slope at the end of which was our chalet.

This 360-degree view from Google earth can give a better perspective of the area and our location.

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Our host told us that during winter it is impossible to drive up the hill and the only way to access it is by walking up or by taking a private cable car.

The following picture will give you a better idea:
Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe-st_johann_winter.jpg

We had been continuously traveling for the last ten days so our plan was to just relax and do nothing, except maybe go on a small trek later in the day. Having said that when you are living in an Airbnb, it's different from being in a hotel and you want to live like a local even if it’s only for a day or two. This also meant that I had to do some grocery shopping to make breakfast, lunch and possibly dinner.

I started with an intent of walking to the supermarket BILLA - which was only a couple of kilometers round trip - but the thought of climbing up the hill with a bag full of groceries did not appeal me, so I took the car and soon I reached BILLA.

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Hmm, buying milk from BILLA . Of course, I bought not only milk but also other groceries like bread, cereals, chocolate, frozen desserts, and some fresh fruits. Just enough to take care of us until tomorrow’s breakfast.

After spending the morning in a relaxed mood, we decided to go outside. We start with a trek up towards the summit of the hill. As we climbed, the views got better and better.

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We soon climbed the hill and from there we joined a narrow winding road going further uphill. There was hardly anyone except for a bicyclist or two.

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I think these Austrian valleys and the mountains are just as beautiful as Switzerland if not more. It is relatively cheaper and there is no shortage of activities. There are several hiking and biking trails.

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This photo shows the 'Treffauer' and 'Ellmauer Halt' peaks, which are visible pretty much from everywhere in the town of St. Johann.

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This panorama captured from my mobile phone probably gives a good idea of what was visible from the hill:
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After walking for a couple of kilometers we decided to head back and explore the roads in our car.

We went down the hill and again up to the road going towards Harschbichl mountain which is just under the tallest peak in the region - Kitzbüheler Horn (peak with the communication tower).

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Since it was off-season, the cable cars were not operational. They operate during winter and summer seasons and were not expected to start for another couple of weeks.

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We went on the winding road slowly enjoying the views. There were no side barriers on most of the roads, so one needs to be careful (the pic below is an exception). But these roads are much easier than say Himalayan roads or even the Western Ghats for that matter.

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We kept climbing until we reached a road closure. There was a cafe nearby which was almost empty. It had good views so we decided to have a coffee there. The view from the cafe was amazing. You can see the Kitzbüheler Horn from here (the mountain with the tower).

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We took some photographs and then decided to head down towards Sankt Johann, the old town.

Pics on the way down:
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We parked the car downhill near our place.
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There was a small park with a treehouse and a zip line so we stopped there for a few minutes.

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The cable car station was nearby and they had just started some repair/maintenance work and the empty rope cars were going up and down:

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After playing for some time we walked in the direction of the old town along this little stream:

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The ski shops were closed as it was offseason:

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Like most European towns this too is on the rail network. Train journeys in the Alps are very enjoyable I am telling from my own experience later during the trip.

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Pics of the old town and church:
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On a day when we were planning to just relax, we came back quite tired. We would have easily walked 10 kilometers which included trekking up and downhill.

On return, we were greeted by our host. We had already met her that day after she returned from Germany. An elderly woman in her late 50’s she was very chatty and friendly. Spoke good English too. She told us that the Chalet was built by her grandfather nearly 60-70 years ago.

I must give an example of her cooperative nature - we asked for the washing machine, she showed us where it was but she said, “give me the laundry bag, since you are going out I will take care of it”. It was easily two loads worth of laundry but as promised she got them washed, and dried and returned them to us when we came back in the evening.

Next planning

Tomorrow’s attraction was the Grossglockner Hochalpenstrasse i.e High Alpine road and I wanted to do some research on the route, road conditions, weather, etc. Secondly I had not decided where we were going next. The options were - Zell am See which is a beautiful lake town at the foot of Grossglockner, or go to Villach, on the other side of Grossglockner, and from there take a train to Venice. Train to Venice because our car contract didn’t allow us to take it to Italy. This is a common practice followed by most rental companies for luxury branded cars. After coming back from Venice, from Villach, we could have driven straight to Switzerland - about 500 Kms, 5-6 hrs. It was ambitious but not impossible. But this plan meant that we would get one day less in Switzerland, so we dropped the plan. We decided to come back to Innsbruck and spend the night there, after coming back from the Grossglockner. We booked an Airbnb with a popular host in downtown Innsbruck (not a superhost). As you will find out later it turned out to be the worst Airbnb of our trip and we would have been better off in a Hotel.

There was one more surprise in store for us which would have landed me in big trouble. More on it in the next post.

Last edited by MandarMax : 26th May 2019 at 15:31.
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Old 27th May 2019, 23:53   #67
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Problem with the Indian driving license

While researching on the Grossglockner road that night, I came to know that while the Indian license IS valid in Austria, it must always be accompanied by an IDP. So far, I was under the impression that an IDP is not really necessary in Europe. Having said that, at one point I did consider it, but it was way down the priority list and I just didn't get the time to do it before leaving.

As they say, Ignorance is bliss. I was so happy and excited that day but this news took the wind out of my sails!

I was suddenly worried.

The worst case scenario would have been that I'd have to pay a fine and I probably wouldn't have been allowed to drive our rental car back to Germany. This was obviously a HUGE problem as I was already in Austria and was taking a risk.

I frantically tried looking for options and thankfully soon found one workable option - Basically, the license requirement states that you must have the license and IDP or you must carry an official German translation provided by one of the authorities such as ÖAMTC (which roughly translates to Austrian Automobile, Motorcycle, and Touring Club https://www.oeamtc.at/).

I checked the ÖAMTC website and came to know that they had an office in St. Johann which fortunately also provided the translation facility. I decided to call them first thing in the morning and tried to sleep.

The next morning I called up ÖAMTC as soon as their office opened at 8 am.

The lady on the other end was very friendly and she said “no problem, you can come over to get the translation done. It would cost only EUR 18.”

That expensive piece of paper was going to buy us much needed peace of mind, so I happily agreed.

“No problem, how long will it take?”
She: “About 5 minutes”

“Can I come over now? Is the translator available?”
She: “Sure, you are talking to her!”

So far so good. I hurried to the ÖAMTC office. It was nearly 8:30. The office was a bit away and since I had a long day ahead I just didn’t have the time to walk there. But sometimes I get paranoid. What if they see me driving the car? It was a small office so couldn't park there. To make things worse it was next to the police station. I was in a big dilemma. What to do?

I found a simple solution. I went to a petrol pump nearby, filled the tank and asked the attendant whether I can park there for a few minutes? She agreed. So I walked down some distance and arrived at ÖAMTC. The lady I had spoken to earlier was expecting me and without having to wait, she went to her computer, just translated whatever there was to translate. The main thing was the license type - she asked me, where does it say you are allowed to drive a car and I point her to the words “LMV”. Fortunately, there is a description on the back side of the license explain that it means a “Car”. All this took less than five minutes!

This is what the paper looked like (redacted for obvious reasons)
Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe-austriaoamtc-translationredacted.jpg

I drove back to the Airbnb with a renewed confidence

Had I been a foreigner in India I can’t imagine how many times I would have to jump through the hoops for something as simple as this. Heck, even getting the IDP is not a simple process. They ask for Visa and what not. There is too much red tape and we have a government that doesn’t trust its own citizens.

Since the translation was done so fast, I decided to clean up the car, especially because we didn’t want to miss any of the Alpine beauty while driving. The car, particularly the windshield had become quite dirty. I asked our landlady for the vacuum and some tissues and she not only gave the vacuum, but she also gave her pressure washer and the cleaning kit (both made by Kärcher, not surprising because that’s an Austrian company)

I thoroughly cleaned the car making her ready for Grossglockner, the main attraction of our trip (for me, at least). The landlady complimented me on a job well done, “you take care of the car just like the Germans”. I was flattered. I just smiled. I didn’t want her to tell the truth that back home I almost never clean our cars myself, maybe once in two years.

We bid adieu with a heavy heart to this wonderful paradise of a place, with a promise to come back again.

We headed straight to the Grossglockner road, considered to be one of the world's most scenic mountain roads.

Last edited by MandarMax : 28th May 2019 at 00:01.
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Old 13th June 2019, 10:26   #68
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Delft wasn’t part of our initial plan, but we were done with Rotterdam relatively quickly and were on our way to Amsterdam by 12:15 pm, so when I saw the exit towards Delft I thought since we have time why not explore one more place?
New York times carried an article today on places to visit in Europe that are less touristy. One of the places mentioned is Delft and I remembered your visit there.

Article

Meanwhile waiting for the Grossglockner Hochalpenstrasse leg of your journey
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Old 13th June 2019, 11:52   #69
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New York times carried an article today on places to visit in Europe that are less touristy. One of the places mentioned is Delft)

We lived in a village just outside Delft for many years. I can confirm it is a lovely little town, very close to The Hague. Both are definitely worth a visit.
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Old 13th June 2019, 23:35   #70
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Default Re: Day 2 - Delft

Quote:
Originally Posted by AltoLXI View Post
New York times carried an article today on places to visit in Europe that are less touristy. One of the places mentioned is Delft and I remembered your visit there.

Article
Thanks for sharing the article. Europe has several places that are thankfully still unspoiled by tourism. Delft was definitely one such place, devoid of tourists yet almost as charming as Amsterdam, which sadly was way too crowded.

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Originally Posted by AltoLXI View Post
Meanwhile waiting for the Grossglockner Hochalpenstrasse leg of your journey
It's coming soon. Please stay tuned
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Old 14th June 2019, 00:54   #71
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Default Day 11 - Grossglockner

Day 11 - Grossglockner

Today was a big day. The most anticipated drive of our trip was starting.

I didn’t know much about this road until a few years ago and to be honest, it was not on my radar. I knew about Stelvio pass on the border of Italy and Switzerland and I pretty much knew about most famous passes in Switzerland. However, when I started researching for the trip, I came across a couple of videos on YouTube and I knew immediately that I wanted to go to the Grossglockner High Alpine Road.

At 3,798m (12461 ft), Grossglockner is the highest mountain in Austria and is among the highest peaks in the eastern Alps.

Built in the 1930s the Grossglockner Hochalpenstrasse is considered to be one of the most scenic roads in the world. At 2,576 m altitude, this is the highest paved mountain pass in Austria. This beautiful driving road opens each year early May and closes for the winter early November. Considering this, we had planned our trip so that we would be in Austria during the second week of May. As expected, the road had opened just about a week before our trip.

We left St. Johann around 10 and we drove towards Fusch at the foot of the Grossglockner. The distance was about 75 kilometres but it took us nearly 2.5 hours considering the slow roads - due to speed limits which I felt were unreasonable and the single lane roads. Yes, I found the Austrian roads comparatively much slower than the German roads. Having said the roads and the scenery were lovely, so it was yet another enjoyable drive.

We had planned to stop at Zell am See which is a beautiful lakeside town, but unfortunately, our progress was much slower and so we decided to skip the place. We entered the very long (5+ kilometres) Schmitten Tunnel which bypasses the town completely. Just outside of Zell am See, Fusch is a tiny little village situated in a valley. It is surrounded by tall mountains and is the main entry point right at the foot of the Grossglockner.

There is a toll gate at Fusch from where the road begins. The road is 48 kilometres long. Unfortunately for us, the last few kilometres of the road were still not completely cleared of snow, so we couldn’t go to all the way to the last stop that is Kaiser-Franz-Josefs-Höhe.

The toll gate:
Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe-img_9570.jpg

With 36 hairpin bends and an altitude ascent of 2572 meters (8435 ft) - the highest point being Edelweissspitze - this road is the ultimate driver’s delight.

I have created a video of the trip, interspersed with a virtual flight over the road created with the help of Google Earth. Hope you will find it useful to understand the context better:



We paid the entry fee of 26 Euros and stopped to take some pictures. I found that the toll advertised online was a bit more than what we paid.

The ticket:
Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe-grossglockner_ticket.jpg

We stopped to take some photographs:
Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe-img_9571.jpg

It was mostly sunny with the exception of some clouds high up in the mountains. Overall it was a pretty nice day, and not surprisingly there were several enthusiasts like us on bikes, motorcycles and cars heading in the direction of the mighty Grossglockner.

The road does not have well-defined speed limits and being a closed road, there was virtually no policing as far as I noticed. So, for the first time during the trip, I put our bimmer in the “sports” mode and pressed the accelerator.

For the first few turns, it was a constant battle between the driver and the photographer in me. The driver wanted to drive without stopping but the photographer wanted to stop at every beautiful looking turn. After a few turns through the photographer won.

There are several parking spots along the route so it’s easy to pull the car aside and take pictures.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe-img_9589edit.jpg

Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe-img_9585.jpg

Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe-img_9596pano.jpg

Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe-img_9600.jpg

Another stop. We sat down to enjoy the scenery:
Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe-img_9615.jpg

One of the best pictures of our car and the road:
Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe-img_9604edit.jpg

Check out the full panorama:
Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe-img_9611pano3edit.jpg

From the driver's seat:
Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe-img_9638.jpg

We were soon above the snow line and as we approached the higher areas the roads were carved through walls of snow. The snow doesn’t clear until the start of summer in June.

Blue skies:
Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe-img_9640.jpg

Yet another stop:
Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe-img_9644.jpg

Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe-img_9674.jpg

We soon reached Fuschertorl, which is kind of a small plateau along the ridge between the Edelweissspitze and Grossglockner. There is a restaurant here and plenty of parking and magnificent views all around.

Lovely curves:
Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe-img_9675pano.jpg

Fuschertorl
Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe-img_9684pano2.jpg

Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe-img_9695.jpg

We stopped for a few minutes and headed towards the left to the highest point of this road which is Edelweissspitze.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe-img_9687.jpg

The road going up to Edelweissspitze is a bit narrow and is pretty steep.
Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe-img_9705.jpg

There is a restaurant at the summit and a limited amount of parking.
Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe-img_9709.jpg

When we reached, there was only one parking spot available which we quickly occupied.

There are a few stairs to this viewpoint offering views of the Grossglockner and all the surroundings.
Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe-img_9712.jpg

Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe-img_9734.jpg

Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe-img_9734pano.jpg

The pyramid-shaped mountain is the Grossglockner:
Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe-img_9735.jpg

From here you can understand the scale of things and get a good idea about the roads around.

The road that we took to climb Edelweissspitze:
Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe-img_9733pano.jpg

Serpentine curves:
Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe-img_9713pano2.jpg

Zoom in and you can see Zell am See in the distance:
Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe-img_9727.jpg

Souvenir shop and restaurant:
Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe-img_9748.jpg

After spending some time here and buying some souvenirs, we headed to the Hochtor pass, from where there is a road going to Heiligenblut, a picture-perfect alpine town at the foot of the Grossglockner on the southern side.

Continued...

Last edited by MandarMax : 14th June 2019 at 00:58.
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Old 22nd June 2019, 15:09   #72
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Default Day 11 - Grossglockner Hochalpenstrasse (Continued)

Day 11 - Grossglockner Hochalpenstrasse (Continued)


We descended from the Edelweissspitze and came back to Fuschertorl.

View of Fuschertorl from the road (where you can see vehicles parked):

Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe-img_9713.jpg

A couple of bikes at Fuschertorl. This KTM Duke was right at home (KTM is an Austrian company, which I am pretty sure everyone on this forum knows ):

Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe-img_9698.jpg

From here, the road climbs a little and after a complete U-turn around the hill, it descends further towards the Hochtor pass.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe-img_9679enhanced.jpg

On the road, just before you go around the hill, there is a memorial built for the workers who died during the road construction.

The memorial and the Grossglockner mountain behind it:

Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe-img_9763.jpg

We parked the car and walked back to the memorial.
Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe-img_9766.jpg

Here you can find a couple of boards commemorating those who lost lives during the road construction:

Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe-img_9769.jpg

There was also a plaque remembering the governor of Salzburg who got the road built:

Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe-img_9770.jpg

The views were equally breathtaking from here:

Check out these panoramas, one of my best pictures of this road:

Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe-img_9772.jpg

Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe-img_9772pano3.jpg

Another picture looking back at Fuschertorl and the road to Edelweissspitze:

Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe-img_9767.jpg

Looking towards the Hochtor pass where we were headed next. There is a lake near the hotel, but it was still frozen. Also, can you see the tunnel?

Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe-img_9691.jpg

Hochtor tunnel:
Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe-img_9849.jpg

We stopped at the Hochtor pass for more photographs. As soon as we got out, to our pleasant surprise, it started snowing, but it didn’t last much.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe-img_9780.jpg

The tunnel:
Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe-img_9789.jpg

Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe-img_9786.jpg

Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe-img_9844.jpg

Yours truly, behind the steering :
Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe-img_9797edit.jpg

More mountains:
Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe-img_9783.jpg

More curves:
Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe-img_97832.jpg

More snow:
Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe-img_9845.jpg

We started descending slightly and we reached a junction from where you can descend into the valley and go to the Heiligenblut village.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe-img_9836.jpg

Since we didn’t have much time we decided to skip going down the valley to Heiligenblut and continued for the next few kilometres until we reached the road closure.

As I mentioned before, the last section of the road - to Kaiser-Franz-Josefs-Höhe had still not opened.

The road closure was near a hotel - Gasthaus Schöneck.
Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe-img_9821.jpg

We found more tourists here than any other place on this road.

Tourist buses:
Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe-img_9808.jpg

It was pretty crowded and our daughters were feeling very sleepy, so we decided to not eat here.

I stopped for a few photographs as the views of the Heiligenblut village were superb, pictures don’t do any justice. Not surprisingly, Heiligenblut is counted amongst the prettiest of the alpine villages:

Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe-img_9801pano.jpg

A close-up. I regret not using the zoom lens for better capture.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe-img_9806enhanced.jpg

More than that, however, I regret not going down all the way to the village. If we had more time, I would have loved spending the night here, but since we had already booked an Airbnb in Innsbruck we decided to start heading back.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe-img_9831.jpg

We didn’t stop on the way down until we reached the toll booth. We clicked a couple of pictures to say goodbye to this delightful and one of the finest roads in the Alps.

Bye, bye Grossglockner:

Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe-img_20180508_153243.jpg

Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe-img_20180508_153314.jpg

I had driven the car so enthusiastically that I needed to fill up the tank again in Zell am See. The rates were low at MaxiTank so I decided to fill the tank up completely. We also stopped for food at McDonald’s. We found that unlike German McDonald’s the Austrian stores didn’t have the veggie burger option, so after having some fries and coffee, we decided to head straight to Innsbruck.

Last edited by MandarMax : 22nd June 2019 at 15:30.
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Old 13th July 2019, 17:15   #73
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Default Day 11 - Grossglockner to Innsbruck

Day 11 - Grossglockner to Innsbruck

I had driven the car so enthusiastically that I needed to fill up the tank again at Zell am See. The rates were low at MaxiTank so I decided to fill up the tank completely. We also stopped for food at a McDonald’s nearby. We found that unlike the German McDonald’s the Austrian outlets didn’t have the Veggie burger option, so after having some fries and coffee, we decided to head straight to Innsbruck. It was nearly 4:30 pm and Innsbruck was about two and a half hours away.

The drive to Innsbruck was slow due to road works and also because unlike the German Autobahns, the Austrian highways have a maximum speed limit of 130 Kmph.

By 7 pm we reached Innsbruck. Our Airbnb was an apartment very close to the Innsbruck Hbf (train station). The apartment had no parking of its own, so we found a paid parking and parked our car there for about 10 or 15 Eur.

Innsbruck is internationally well known for winter sports. It has hosted the Winter Olympics twice - in 1964 and in 1976. You can see Bergisel Ski Jump in the photo below:
Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe-img_9850.jpg

Mountains:
Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe-img_9858.jpg

Museumstrasse:
Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe-img_9859.jpg

Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe-img_9860.jpg

View of the city and the ski-jump at night:
Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe-img_9854.jpg

Innsbruck is a lovely town. Surrounded by hills on all the sides, it has a great location. Unfortunately, since we reached Innsbruck quite late we didn’t have much time to explore. We went out for a walk after 8 pm, there was still light, but we were very tired. I didn't even take my camera. The pictures below were taken using my mobile:

Street near the train station:
Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe-img_20180508_202403.jpg

Another street with mountains in the background:
Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe-img_20180508_204627.jpg

Tram:
Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe-img_20180508_204955.jpg

We went to an Indian restaurant called Jaipur where we didn’t experience the kind of hospitality and food that you would normally expect.

Secondly, our Airbnb turned out to be a complete disappointment. The location was good, but that was it. Everything else was bad! It was unclean, there were bed sheets hung out to dry and it was full of detergent smell. The toilets were bad and the bed was the worst I have ever seen.

I called up the host to inform him, but he was unapologetic. He didn't even try to do anything. I took photographs of the unclean apartment and the mess that was left in the room. Little did I know then that the photographs were going to help me later. About a week later, when I was about to board the Eurostar, I got a message from the landlord asking for unspecified "damages" to the apartment. I obviously denied them and sent him photographs that I had taken immediately after checking in. I escalated to Airbnb support immediately and informed them as well. I said I am not going to pay a single cent and in fact, the host should be glad that I didn't ask for a refund. Seeing that I had all the necessary proofs, Airbnb dismissed the host's demand immediately. Lesson learned: Always book with a super host.

Coming back to the day - We were having such a good time so far, right from the day we started at Keukenhof and after visiting the Grossglockner, it seemed that our trip had finally ‘peaked’ - both literally and figuratively.

That night, I wasn’t feeling well myself and was having muscle pain in my legs. To make matters worse my wife too had a slight fever.

For the first time during the trip, we felt exhausted!

We were going to Switzerland tomorrow. I had booked an Airbnb in Zurich. I was aware of the strict driving laws of Switzerland. Not only parking is a pain in the neck, but it is also expensive. Speed limits are on a lower side and they are strictly enforced. Most importantly, speeding is not a violation of a traffic code but is a legal offence in Switzerland. The fines are ridiculously high and I read in an online article that if you are caught speeding, they follow up diligently even if you have left the country. They take speeding and traffic offences very seriously. I was mentally prepared for this before, but today suddenly I wasn’t looking forward to driving there. I didn’t want to be overcautious while driving and it would have come in the way of enjoyment and increased the stress.

It felt like nothing was working out that evening, so I decided to literally sleep on it and delayed any decision until tomorrow morning.

The bed was so bad that it was not easy to sleep that night.

Last edited by MandarMax : 13th July 2019 at 17:21.
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Old 19th July 2019, 22:34   #74
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Default Day 12 - Innsbruck to Zurich (via Munich)

Day 12 - Innsbruck to Zurich (via Munich)


Next morning opened the curtains and looked through the large windows. It was so nice outside. Innsbruck had already woken up.

The muscles in my legs were still sore, but I was feeling much better than yesterday.

Another day, another start, another long drive and another place to sleep tonight. We had been doing that for the last twelve days and we had another week ahead of us. I was kind of exhausted yesterday, but I vowed not to let any negative thoughts spoil the mood.

We made a nice cup of coffee for us using the Nespresso machine, which by the way, is like a standard thing in most European homes/Airbnbs. We were really looking forward to the Switzerland leg of our journey. Wife and I discussed driving to Switzerland, but we both concluded that we would be better off without a car. Switzerland has great train connectivity and secondly, we could take the world-famous Glacier express train to Zermatt. Since we had rented the car in Germany, we had to go back there to return it. So instead of going straight to Switzerland, we decided to head to Munich to return the car four days earlier than planned. As per our original plan we were to return the car in Karlsruhe after driving through Switzerland and then through the black forest Schwarzwaldhochstrasse a.k.a highway B500. The plan sounded too ambitious now. I am used to long drives, but at the moment I thought I had had enough and I was happy using trains or buses.

Due to the change in plan, we had no time left to see Innsbruck. We went to the parking and headed straight to Munich which was only two hours of drive. We crossed into Germany in a matter of 40 minutes. We passed through some very scenic roads from Seefeld in Austria to Mittenwald in Germany, which is part of a historic trade route used for thousands of years. The route goes around the Wetterstein mountains, which includes Zugspitze, the highest peak in Germany (not as high as the Grossglockner, by the way).

We were soon near Garmisch-Partenkirchen where we encountered some traffic due to the small roads near the town, but our speed soon improved once we were out of the town. After about an hour we reached Munich. We filled the tank up and went to the auto rental office. Unfortunately, it was on a busy street and I couldn’t find a place to pull over. I found a truck unloading in a service lane nearby and I stopped behind the truck while my wife went to the office. Luckily, their representative came over immediately. He took the car from me and drove it to a parking area that I obviously didn’t know about.

We unloaded the luggage while he was checking the car for any damage. The inspection was over soon and he found that our car was spotless and I had not caused any damage or cracks.

FYI - this is what they use to measure the size of the damage. Any scratch on the body bigger than the larger circle or any crack or windshield damage bigger than the smaller circle means you've got to pay.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe-enterprise-car-rentals-damages-scale.jpg

We still didn’t have tickets for Zurich. We headed straight to the nearest U-Bahn station called Laim. From here we purchased tickets for Zurich. The only quickest option at the time was a bus operated by DB i.e. Deutsche Bahn. We paid EUR 53 for the four of us which also included a short metro ride to the central bus station in Munich. The bus also had free WiFi. Not a bad deal at all!

The ticket:
Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe-picture1.png

The nice thing about these tickets in Europe (or at least in Germany / Switzerland from what I have seen) is that they have a timetable printed on the backside with all the connections. The ticket above gives the connectivity from local S8/metro train from Laim to the Munich Hackerbrücke station and then a 10 min walk to the bus station and so on. This was incredibly useful as I didn’t have to worry about which train to take and where to get off etc.

It was already 2:30 and our bus was leaving at 3 pm. We had a quick bite at a restaurant near the Laim station and we came back 5 mins before the S8 train. There was almost no margin for error, but there was an announcement in German which I didn’t understand, but I soon realised that maybe the train wasn’t coming or was getting late for some reason. The signboard changed and it started showing a different train number which was arriving 5 mins later than the original train. Now I wasn’t sure whether this new train was going where we wanted, I tried to check quickly on the internet but there wasn’t enough time, so I asked a person on the platform but he couldn’t speak English well and didn’t understand what I was asking him. Meanwhile, I saw the train coming and at the same time, I saw a printed map of stations from that I came to know that this train is going to the same station. It was only a matter of two stations, but boarding a train without checking would have been risky.

On the metro, I checked using Google maps where the bus stop was in relation to the train station because the time table printed on the ticket was showing 10 mins walk, but fortunately, it didn’t appear that far. We had less than 10 mins. We got down at the Hackerbrücke station and rushed in the general direction that I had seen on Google maps. Maybe it is the lack of my German knowledge but I couldn’t see any signboard about where the buses were. I asked a passer-by and he pointed down. We rushed downstairs to find the bus ready and about to leave.

This was going to be a new normal for us. Running around with bags and catching buses or trains was going to be a routine during the rest of the trip. Welcome to life without a car!

The driver had already started the bus and was about to leave. He opened the luggage compartment quickly and I loaded the bags with his help. One more minute and we would have missed the bus. Whew!

It was a double-decker Setra bus identical to the one shown below (picture taken from the Internet):
Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe-db_setra_bus.png

The bus was already full. Looked like we managed to get last of the seats. We were glad to find that our seats were on the top deck. My daughters were delighted and even though I am not a kid, I still prefer the top deck with the front seat. (That’s what we did in London at every opportunity )

Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe-img_9862.jpg

The seats and the legroom were good. Not as spacious as a train, but decent as compared to a budget airline.

The driver announced in German followed by English (with a German accent) and the bus started.

Zurich was only four hours away.

Random click. A Mercedes dealership in Munich:
Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe-img_9863.jpg

For the first time during the trip, I was not driving. It was a welcome change and I was able to enjoy the roads as a tourist for the first time. I managed to catch on much-needed sleep and in no time we reached Switzerland.

I woke up just before we crossed the border. We were near Lake Constance (Bodensee in German) which is on the border of Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

The Sun was shining brightly for a late afternoon. Lake Constance was looking beautiful from a distance.

I managed a quick snap:
Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe-img_9868.jpg

I was tracking our location using Google maps. The border crossing was uneventful, just as it is in other Eurozone countries, for some reason it felt special, we were soon in Switzerland! Another country could now be struck off the bucket list!

Our driver announced that there was big traffic congestion near Zurich, so he was taking a slight detour. We were supposed to reach by 6:45 pm, but we got delayed by about 45 minutes.

We got down at the Zürich Sihlquai bus terminal.

I think Bus terminals everywhere have the same feel

Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe-img_20180509_191354.jpg

We went to a tram stop and purchased a 24-hour group ticket for about 25 Swiss Francs (using the card, didn't get a chance to change Euros yet)

Our first experience of travelling in Zurich:
Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe-img_20180509_193731.jpg

After about a minute, the tram dropped us in front of Zurich HB station. From here we changed to a city bus, it was one of those long ‘bendy’ or trolley electric buses. It was very crowded and we soon realised that our bags were “running around” if we didn’t hold them tightly. Fortunately, it was only 10-15 mins away by bus.

Caught between a rock and a "Hardplatz" - the bus stop near our place:
Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe-img_9883.jpg

We were lucky to find a pretty good apartment in Zurich through Airbnb. Considering that we had booked it at short notice, we found a very pleasant apartment that too with a Superhost. The best thing was it was only 2.5 Kms from the central station but in a quiet residential area, very close to buses and other public transport.

The landlord had left the keys in the letterbox inside a key vault, it’s a box with a mechanical combination lock. He had already texted the password to me. Finding the apartment wasn’t an issue. We had to haul luggage for a short distance but I was still glad that I didn’t have to worry about parking. The lift wasn’t working (yes, that happens in Switzerland too!) but it wasn't a big deal because our apartment was only on the first floor.

Some pictures from the balcony of our apartment (taken the next morning)
Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe-img_9871.jpg

Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe-img_9872.jpg

It was already 8 pm and time for dinner. We were too tired to go to a restaurant, and I had heard stories of expensive Swiss restaurants so I decided to take it easy. I found a Domino’s Pizza outlet nearby and ordered two vegetarian pizzas.

But the pizza didn’t arrive even after 30 minutes. I was about to call them when I heard a knock on the door. The delivery boy - actually a man - seemed extremely livid for some reason.

I: “Hi, are you alright?”

He: “No. I kept ringing why you didn’t open?” (In heavily accented English)

He was being rude, I didn’t know why.

“What? You just knocked and I opened”

“I kept pressing the buzzer downstairs”

“But, it didn’t ring!”

“I’m sorry, maybe it is faulty” (Turned out that it was indeed faulty)

He handed over the pizzas.

“That’s 39.50 Francs.”

But I didn’t have Francs. I had forgotten to convert them, and I didn't mention it when placing the order.

“Do you take Euros?”

“What you don’t have Francs? Ok, I take Euros. But 1 Franc is 1 Euro”


“Come on! That’s too much. It’s more like 0.85 for a Euro”


I was being annoyingly pedantic and that certainly ticked him off! I thought he said something under the breath, must be cursing the cheapskate Indians!

“That’s the rate or I take the pizzas back”


“Alright! Alright!” I had no other option.

I gave him 50 Euros and he returned me 10 Francs. To be honest, it was not that bad considering the amount involved and I shouldn’t have argued.

What mattered the most was neither Euros or Francs, the Pizzas were still expensive. Two pizzas cost me 45 Euros, about 3400 INR as per the conversion rate at the time.

What a rip-off! That was the true "Welcome to Switzerland" moment!

We mentally prepared ourselves for the days ahead. We were going to eat more expensive food and meet more rude waiters.

Last edited by MandarMax : 19th July 2019 at 22:56.
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Old 20th July 2019, 10:57   #75
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Default Re: Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe

Eagerly waiting for the next post! This Teutonic leg of your trip is such a vivid trip down memory lane for me. I am sitting in the office reading this, only wondering when is the next time that I will be in Germany.Now I am planning to make the next trip with my wife and little daughter . Need to earn some vitamin M for that though!

Also, you can actually walk from Sihlquai to Zurich HBf. It is just behind the train station!And I agree with your observation on the bus stops. They actually are the same everywhere in the world . As regards food in Switzerland, if you think that it is expensive (which of course it is) please do try in Scandinavia. You get the shock of your life when you want to eat in any Scandinavian country
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