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Old 11th August 2023, 18:21   #1
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Summer of '23 | Road trip across Czech, Austria, Switzerland and Germany.

Summer of 2023. Had to go somewhere with the family. Owing to Covid fears, we had been restricting our previous summer holidays to places that were not very crowded. It's 2023- We've all learned to live with Covid and therefore, we relaxed a bit on the same.

Where do we go though?

We've only taken Nordic holidays in the recent past and hence wanted to go south. Italy in summer was getting over-crowded and Greece gets sweltering hot. We have not really 'planned' holidays in recent years. Mostly random plans.

This quandary had to be fixed. We only had a few POI's in our mind and we dumped it in ChatGPT and Voila - Got my travel plan made !!

The Plan as suggested by ChatGPT

Quote:
Embark on an unforgettable 17-day road trip across Europe, starting from the enchanting city of Prague, where you'll explore the historic Old Town and immerse yourself in its rich culture. Next, head to Vienna, where classical elegance meets modernity, and indulge in its stunning architecture and arts scene.

Continuing your journey, visit the breathtaking Hallstattsee, a picturesque lake surrounded by the charming village of Hallstatt. Don't miss the Dachstein Ice Cave nearby, a stunning natural wonder. Then, dive into the world of luxury and craftsmanship at the Swarovski Crystal World.

Crossing borders, you'll reach Zermatt, a Swiss Alpine paradise famed for the iconic Matterhorn. Afterward, venture to Interlaken and ascend to the magnificent Jungfraujoch, the "Top of Europe," for awe-inspiring views.

Proceeding to Grindelwald, Lauterbrunnen, and Murren, you'll be surrounded by stunning mountain scenery and have plenty of opportunities for outdoor adventures.

The road trip takes a different turn with a visit to Europa Park, one of Europe's largest theme parks, followed by a splashy experience at Rulantica, Europa Park's water park.

Car enthusiasts will enjoy the Mercedes Museum and Porsche Museum, delving into the history of these iconic car brands.

Lastly, indulge in some shopping at Fashion Arena Prague, where you can find trendy deals and fashion finds to complete your European adventure.

This road trip promises a perfect blend of culture, nature, thrills, and indulgence, leaving you with cherished memories of Europe's diverse wonders
.



The Route

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The car

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The Places.

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For the TLDR folk, I've documented this trip on Worldee- A travel planning app. Check it out at this link

Last edited by 14000rpm : 17th November 2023 at 15:15.
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Old 13th August 2023, 10:34   #2
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re: Summer of '23 | Road trip across Czech, Austria, Switzerland and Germany.

Leg 1 - Prague, Czechia

Quote:
About-

Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic, is a captivating European city known for its rich history, stunning architecture, and vibrant culture. With a blend of Gothic, Baroque, and Renaissance styles, its skyline is adorned with iconic landmarks like Prague Castle, Charles Bridge, and the Astronomical Clock. The city's Old Town Square is a hub of activity, surrounded by colorful buildings, churches, and cafes. The Vltava River gracefully winds through the city, adding to its picturesque charm. Prague's cultural scene is bustling, featuring world-class museums, theaters, and galleries. Known as the "City of a Hundred Spires," Prague offers a unique blend of tradition and modernity, making it a must-visit destination in Europe.
We flew into Prague from Helsinki, picked up the Rental Car- a Golf R and stayed at a hotel in Old Town given that so much has been spoken about it. It was quite nice to walk around although the weather was getting quite hot.

Old town

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When we couldn't bear to walk around anymore in the heat, we took a cruise down the River Vltava

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When we got back to old town for lunch, we passed by this unique place I remember seeing pics of - Museum of Illusion

The art work and the installations are indeed very clever and play with perceptions. Loved the creativity.

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The mess.

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..and the Illusion

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The mess..

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..and the Illusion. you get the drift.

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Very interesting place.

Last edited by 14000rpm : 28th November 2023 at 03:01.
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Old 13th August 2023, 11:10   #3
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Leg 1- Prague, Czechia. Cont'd

Also in the vicinity was LEGO Museum.

Quote:
About-
The LEGO Museum in Prague is a captivating destination for enthusiasts of all ages. Situated in the heart of the city, it showcases an extensive collection of LEGO creations, ranging from intricate models of famous landmarks to imaginative dioramas and sculptures. The museum offers an immersive experience, allowing visitors to explore the evolution of LEGO sets and the artistry behind these colorful plastic bricks. With its interactive exhibits and engaging displays, the LEGO Museum in Prague offers a unique blend of nostalgia, creativity, and entertainment for visitors of all backgrounds.
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Interestingly, this Museum belongs to an individual who has been building and collecting kits for several years.
What passion.

Last edited by 14000rpm : 28th November 2023 at 02:41.
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Old 13th August 2023, 11:12   #4
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Leg 2- Vienna, Austria

After hanging around Prague for 2 days, we drove south to Vienna.

Quote:
About-

Vienna, the capital of Austria, is a city of timeless elegance and rich history. Known for its stunning architecture, classical music heritage, and vibrant cultural scene, Vienna offers a blend of imperial grandeur and modern sophistication. The city is adorned with magnificent palaces, such as Schönbrunn and Belvedere, and is home to iconic landmarks like St. Stephen's Cathedral and the Hofburg Palace. Renowned for its coffeehouse culture and delectable pastries, Vienna's charm lies in its cobblestone streets, historic squares, and the enchanting banks of the Danube River.
We had a very inclusive trip in that everybody got a thing or 2 of their wishlist places. We started Vienna with daughters plan of going to the Schönbrunn Zoo.

Quote:
About-

Schönbrunn Zoo, located in Vienna, Austria, is one of the oldest and most renowned zoos in the world. Set within the beautiful Schönbrunn Palace grounds, the zoo offers a captivating blend of historic charm and modern conservation efforts. It boasts a diverse collection of animal species, including endangered ones, showcased in thoughtfully designed habitats that prioritize animal welfare and education. With its rich history, stunning architecture, and dedication to wildlife preservation, Schönbrunn Zoo provides visitors with an unforgettable experience of the animal kingdom.
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note: all zoo pix from the internet. credit to original owners.

It was a long day and we chose to head to the hotel and chill out for rest of the evening.
Next morning when I went to get the car from the garage, I see these cars from Kuwait parked next to me.
The route Map suggests that it was indeed an Epic Road trip.

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Much later I saw another dozen odd similar Kuwait plated cars on the highway.

We then left the hotel and went to the Technical Museum for some Learning time.

Quote:
About-

The Technical Museum in Austria is a captivating institution that showcases the evolution of technology and engineering. It boasts a diverse collection of exhibits spanning from early inventions to modern innovations, offering visitors a journey through time. The museum's interactive displays and engaging presentations provide insights into the mechanics behind various machines, communication systems, transportation vehicles, and more. Whether you're a tech enthusiast, history buff, or simply curious about the world of innovation, the Technical Museum offers a fascinating glimpse into the remarkable progress of human ingenuity.
It has a whole host of things in this very well organized Museum.

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and of course all things Automotive & Mobility in General.

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Daughter was really interested and it was worth a visit but then, we really had to hit the road for the next leg.

Last edited by 14000rpm : 28th November 2023 at 02:41.
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Old 13th August 2023, 11:13   #5
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Leg 3 - Hallstatt, Austria

Some say that the view of of Hallstatt from some vantage point is the most Instragram'd pix ever. Naturally we had to go see what it is.


Quote:
About-
Hallstatt is a picturesque village nestled amidst the Austrian Alps, renowned for its breathtaking natural beauty and rich historical heritage. This idyllic destination captivates visitors with its charming streets, traditional alpine architecture, and serene Hallstätter See (Lake Hallstatt). The village boasts a captivating blend of old-world charm and modern amenities, making it a popular spot for tourists seeking tranquility, outdoor activities, and a glimpse into Austria's cultural past.
We reached there in the evening. We thought it is just a lot of Hype ad nothing else but then, the views are truly astonishing. It is indeed a very beautiful Village which is now very heavily tourist infested thanks to the Insta-fame.

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Love this Village squares. One can immediately relax in such places and so did we

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but soon enough, we reached the location for the famed view.

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The sheer amount of footfall to this spot in a quiet residential area is sure to annoy the locals and it has. So much so that they had to put a poster asking visitors to be quiet.

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Soaked in enough of the view but we couldn't leave Hallstatt region just yet. We soon discovered that there is a lot more to do. We had certainly ignored ChatGPT's suggestion of Dachstein. How we missed our 'Improvisation' holidays in motorhomes.
Spent some time on booking.com and soon enough, we found a room in a Bed & breakfast kind of setup 30 mins away.

Got back to Dachstein which is right next to Hallstatt..

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..for a hike in the mountains..

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..to see the popular Ice Caves

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Soon enough, on to the next leg.

Last edited by 14000rpm : 27th November 2023 at 15:18.
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Old 13th August 2023, 11:19   #6
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Leg 4 - Kristallwelten, Wattens, Austria

It was back to daughter's choice for next destination which was Swarowski HQ.

Quote:
About -
Kristallwelten, also known as Swarovski Crystal Worlds, is a stunning and immersive museum located in Wattens, Austria. Created by the renowned crystal manufacturer Swarovski, it offers visitors a captivating experience centered around the beauty and versatility of crystal. The museum features a blend of art, culture, and innovation, with intricately designed crystal sculptures, art installations, and interactive exhibits that showcase the history and craftsmanship of Swarovski crystals. Each chamber within the museum presents a unique thematic journey, celebrating the brand's heritage and its artistic collaborations. Visitors can also explore the spacious garden adorned with crystal installations and sculptures. Kristallwelten is a testament to Swarovski's commitment to creativity and design, providing an enchanting exploration of the world of crystals.
I imagined this to be a museum and I wasn't very enthusiastic but then, it is actually an ensemble of Art Installations with, no prizes for guess, Crystals.
All of this is hidden underground.

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One of the installation was Holograms of famous personalities including Mahatma Gandhi.

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The installation outside by the pond is quite good too. Unfortunately, pix don't capture it that well but each of those hanging nets, with is supposed to resemble clouds I believe, have 100's of Crystals which dazzle in the sunlight.

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Impressive place this.

Back to the road towards the next Leg.

Last edited by 14000rpm : 19th November 2023 at 02:30.
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Old 13th August 2023, 11:22   #7
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Leg 5 - Zermatt, Switzerland

We have visited Switzerland 4 times before. 1st time was purely because of the hype but thereafter, it was the sheer beauty. I have, in the past, in my Norway thread, said that Switzerland is over-hyped and Norway is prettier. I still stand by it but one can't take away what Switzerland has.

We drove south-west from Wattens, Austria towards our 1st stop - Zermatt.

Quote:
About-
Zermatt is a picturesque mountain village located in the Swiss Alps. It's renowned for its stunning views of the iconic Matterhorn peak, making it a popular destination for tourists and outdoor enthusiasts. Zermatt offers a range of activities, including skiing, snowboarding, hiking, and mountaineering. The village is car-free, adding to its charm, and visitors rely on electric taxis and horse-drawn carriages to get around. With its alpine beauty and opportunities for adventure, Zermatt is a must-visit location for those seeking a unique and breathtaking experience in the heart of nature.
Zermatt is all about Matterhorn - its most celebrated and most photographed mountain.
A friend of mine, an avid oil-painter, literally sat somewhere in one of those mountain lodges facing the Matterhorn and painted it.

As for us, we hiked. Went up-hill in a train and hiked around till the glaciers and some lakes. I'm really happy that my 7 yr old daughter enjoys it too.


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When we could hike no more, we took a train back to town and hung around the Car-Free Town.

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Yes. Zermatt is literally car-free. In fact the closest parking for tourists is in a town called Tasch which is a 12 minute train ride away. The hotel we stayed in was in Tasch and that's where we had parked but it was a mistake. No, not the car parking but the choice of town for Hotel. It has some rubbish hotels and pathetic choice of restaurants.
We would have been better off staying in the town of Zermatt. Perhaps next time.

An interesting video about Car-free Zermatt.



Good bye Zermatt, on to the next leg.

Last edited by 14000rpm : 28th November 2023 at 01:09.
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Old 13th August 2023, 11:23   #8
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Leg 6 - Interlaken, Switzerland

Quote:
About-
Interlaken is a picturesque town nestled between two stunning Swiss lakes, Thun and Brienz, surrounded by towering mountains. Known for its breathtaking natural beauty, Interlaken is a popular tourist destination offering a range of outdoor activities such as hiking, skiing, and paragliding. The town also boasts charming Swiss architecture, cozy cafes, and a serene ambiance that attracts visitors seeking both relaxation and adventure.
Enroute to Interlaken, we took our time and stopped at several places to explore the region.

First of them was this nice hike that started after this 280 meter long Hanging bridge that was 92 meters high with the wild Rhone river in the Gorge below. It must've been a nice hike.
So say my wife and daughter. I did not join them coz, let's say, I had starting problems. Well, I have Vertigo and walking across a Hanging bridge that swung precariously, to me atleast, was certainly very unnerving.

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Drove onwards via Grimsel Pass all along to the cackles of the girls poking fun at me. I'd have my fun later.

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Stopped by a lake which had some really nice views.

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and then, this green water body caught my attention. Turns out, it is backwaters from a Dam. We drove on and over the dam to a coffee shop and hotel further up. While hiking around there, wife was casually joking about what would happen if the Dam had a crack.

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Just then, we noticed a lot of construction work going on and one of them drove a nice Corvette C6. While talking about his Corvette, I happened to ask about the construction activity.
Turns out the Dam did have a crack and one of the most intricate repair work was being undertaken right there.

In fact little did I know that youtube would eventually throw me a suggestion of a B1M video about exactly the same.



Eventually we reached Interlaken. Frankly the only thing to do in Interlaken, besides the city of course, is to go up the hill in a Funicular train to Harder Kulm for the views from up there.

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Interlaken was going to be our base for the next few days but our hotel was 30 mins away from Interlaken in a nice family run hotel. Well, it has a charm.
Before we reached the hotel, we went to an Indian Restaurant. It was quite late and we really needed to eat soon and we choose one that seemed good. After we ordered, I happened to read up the reviews one of which was quite critical of the food quality with the rest that felt like it was from a well orchestrated review machine. The response from the restaurant was quite scathing and distasteful. We hoped it was one-off and stayed around but then, the critical reviewer was indeed right. It was horrendous food. Being as hungry as we were, we did eat though but I hated the place.

Interlaken is quite crowded and gets a lot of tourist footfall from all over due to it's easy access. Amongst this ocean of tourists like us, I hear somebody shout out my name loudly.
It wasn't my wife as she was right next to me and I had been behaving myself too. Turns out, it was an Ex-colleague of mine who I hadn't spoken to in several years. It was destined that we'd meet in Interlaken in a mother of all coincidences.

Last edited by 14000rpm : 28th November 2023 at 01:42.
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Old 13th August 2023, 11:25   #9
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re: Summer of '23 | Road trip across Czech, Austria, Switzerland and Germany.

Leg 7 -
Jungfraujoch, Switzerland

This day was reserved for Jungfraujoch and nothing else. We would drive to Interlaken, park the car there and take a train to Jungfraujoch.

Quote:
About-
Jungfraujoch is a renowned tourist destination located in the Swiss Alps. Often referred to as the "Top of Europe," it's the highest railway station in Europe, situated at an elevation of 3,454 meters (11,332 feet) above sea level. Visitors can reach Jungfraujoch by taking a scenic train ride from Interlaken through picturesque landscapes.

This popular attraction offers breathtaking panoramic views of surrounding peaks, including the Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau mountains. The site features various attractions such as the Ice Palace, a subterranean cavern with intricate ice sculptures, and the Sphinx Observatory, which provides an opportunity for stargazing and exploring the high-altitude research facility.

Jungfraujoch is a hub for outdoor enthusiasts, offering opportunities for hiking, skiing, and snowboarding. It's also a gateway to the Aletsch Glacier, the largest glacier in the Alps and a UNESCO World Heritage site. With its stunning natural beauty and unique experiences, Jungfraujoch is a must-visit destination for travelers seeking an unforgettable alpine adventure.
We got lucky with the weather. Last time we were hear, it was cloudy and therefore very low visibility. I now got to see what I'd missed last time around.

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It was celebration of sorts for those who hadn't seen snow before and I can relate to the time we saw snow in Vaasa, Finland back in 2012.
Swiss tourism caters to all with various snow related fun stuff.

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Switzerland does more than 2 bits to promote itself too. Apparently they held a cricket match in 2009 with legends such as Kapil Dev playing. Swiss Tourism will do anything in the name of publicity campaigns. They have organized all sorts of games up there.

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We then went to the Ice Cave.

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and soon got back to town.

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On to the next leg.

Last edited by 14000rpm : 28th November 2023 at 01:51.
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Old 13th August 2023, 11:27   #10
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re: Summer of '23 | Road trip across Czech, Austria, Switzerland and Germany.

Leg 8 - Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland

Next day we had planned to hike around all the water falls in Lauterbrunnen.

Quote:
About-
Lauterbrunnen is a picturesque village nestled in the Swiss Alps. Known for its stunning natural beauty, it is surrounded by towering cliffs, lush green valleys, and numerous cascading waterfalls, making it a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers. The village serves as a gateway to various hiking trails, including the famous Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau mountains. Lauterbrunnen also offers charming Swiss architecture, traditional chalets, and a peaceful atmosphere, making it an idyllic retreat for travelers seeking a tranquil mountain getaway.
We drove to Lauterbrunnen and parked in the city and hiked on.

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Frankly, we were surprised to see the low volume of water in the waterfalls. We have certainly seen better in this place when we have come here before.

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After all the hiking, we chose to eat dinner at a good Indian Restaurant which happened to be in Grindelwald which was not so far away and in the same region. We had ignored ChatGPT's suggestion but reconsidered it only for the restaurant which, we knew from before, was good.

Last edited by 14000rpm : 28th November 2023 at 02:04.
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Old 13th August 2023, 11:28   #11
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Leg 9 - Grindelwald, Switzerland

Quote:
Grindelwald is a picturesque Swiss village nestled in the Bernese Alps. Known for its stunning alpine landscapes and outdoor activities, it's a popular destination for skiing, hiking, and mountaineering. The village offers breathtaking views of the iconic Eiger mountain and is surrounded by lush meadows and pristine lakes. Grindelwald's charming chalet-style architecture adds to its allure, making it a year-round haven for nature enthusiasts and travelers seeking a tranquil alpine escape.
Weather was still behaving itself when we got there and we looked up things to do in Grindelwald. Took a cable car ride up the Pfingstegg mountain for its stunning views..

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..and took many rounds of the Toboggan till they closed shop for the day.

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Finally chilled out at the restaurant in Grindelwald

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..saw some interesting garage art and left.

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On to the next leg.

Last edited by 14000rpm : 28th November 2023 at 02:21.
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Old 13th August 2023, 11:30   #12
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re: Summer of '23 | Road trip across Czech, Austria, Switzerland and Germany.

Leg 10- Murren, Switzerland

Althought ChatGPT did suggest Murren, it was never on our list. But then, speaking to some locals, we were told it is a beautiful place.

Quote:
Mürren is a picturesque Swiss village nestled in the Bernese Oberland region. Perched on a plateau high in the Alps, it offers stunning panoramic views of towering peaks, including the iconic Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau. Mürren is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, attracting hikers, skiers, and mountaineers who come to explore its pristine landscapes and charming alpine architecture. With car-free streets and a tranquil atmosphere, Mürren provides a peaceful retreat for visitors seeking natural beauty and a touch of Swiss mountain culture.
and so, we changed some plans and added Murren to the next mornings plan. To get there, we had to park our car in Lauterbrunnen train station and took a Gondola ride uphill.

It was really well worth a visit and we hiked around the region and the town.

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..and ended with a nice Cup of coffee with beans for a local Roastery. Something I always appreciate.

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and soon, it was on to the next leg.

Last edited by 14000rpm : 28th November 2023 at 02:26.
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Old 13th August 2023, 11:31   #13
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re: Summer of '23 | Road trip across Czech, Austria, Switzerland and Germany.

Leg 11- Rust, Germany

After Murren, we had to head into Germany towards the Black Forest region for 2 days in Rust. The little one had chosen the Amusement park and a water park in this town.

Quote:
Europa-Park is a renowned amusement park located in Rust, Germany. Spanning over 90 hectares, it offers a diverse range of themed attractions, roller coasters, shows, and entertainment for visitors of all ages. The park is known for its attention to detail and immersive themed areas, each representing a different European country. Europa-Park has received numerous awards and is considered one of Europe's most popular and well-regarded amusement parks.

Rulantica, on the other hand, is a water park adjacent to Europa-Park. Opened in 2019, it features a Nordic mythology theme and offers a variety of water slides, pools, and relaxation areas. Rulantica complements the Europa-Park experience, providing guests with a refreshing aquatic adventure in a creatively designed environment.
I had under estimated the challenge in getting tickets to this place. It was not so much of an issue with the amusement park but then, the water - phew. got the last 3 tickets for the day. Saved by a whisker.

Anyhoo, first up: Europa-Park. It is a pretty big premise and is divided into various Country-themed sections each having their own rides some of which are themed around famous stuff from that country. In my opinion this is far better than Disneyland in Paris.

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Rulantica Waterpark

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note: most pix of Europa Park and Rulantica are from the internet. credit to original owners.

the 2 days we had was really good fun but it was time to move on to the next leg.

Last edited by 14000rpm : 28th November 2023 at 02:50.
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Old 13th August 2023, 11:33   #14
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Leg 12 - Stuttgart, Germany.

Now this was my day. I planned it just for my viewing pleasures. Being an automobile engineer, Stuttgart is a city I had dreamt of living in after B.E but it was never to be. The desire to visit was still the same though but now, to see the awesome museums.

Quote:
About- The Porsche Museum in Stuttgart, Germany, is a captivating showcase of the iconic Porsche brand's history and achievements. Through a striking architectural design, the museum presents a diverse collection of Porsche vehicles, ranging from classic models to cutting-edge sports cars. Visitors can explore the evolution of Porsche's engineering excellence, motorsport heritage, and design innovation, providing a remarkable journey into the world of automotive artistry and craftsmanship.
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Quote:
About- The Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart is a striking architectural marvel that showcases the rich history and innovation of the renowned automotive brand. With its unique double-helix structure, the museum houses a comprehensive collection of automobiles, from the earliest models to cutting-edge designs, providing visitors with an immersive journey through time and technology. The exhibits highlight the evolution of Mercedes-Benz vehicles, engineering prowess, and cultural impact, making it a must-visit destination for automotive enthusiasts and history buffs alike.
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Being the Mecca's that each of these Museums are, I will post dedicated 'break-out' threads soon.

It was soon end of day and end of a beautiful summer holiday.
Next day, it was our long drive on the Autobahn from Stuttgart to Prague. Had my share of joy hitting 250 kph wherever possible. The Golf R did well. I like the car.

Now, my visit to Porsche and Mercedes Museums cost me...a Lot. a Promise to take the missus to Fashion Outlet in Prague before flying back home. Bore a big hole in my wallet before getting back to Airport, returning the Rental and heading back home to Helsinki.

Last edited by 14000rpm : 28th November 2023 at 03:00.
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Old 28th November 2023, 06:42   #15
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