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Trip Report Beautiful Germany & Austria by train, bus, and on foot!

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First off, I must thank several people on this board for their recommendations, especially BettyK, whose guidance was especially helpful. I would have completely missed the steam engine train ride up for spectacular views from above St. Wolfgang, had she not mentioned it to me. Also, several advised skipping Appenzell this trip (at the end) and adding more time to Mittenwald and Meersburg. I was also glad I did that, as I was getting fairly tired of moving by the end.

I traveled through Germany and Austria on my own via train or bus for just over 3 weeks.

Favorite hotels this trip:
Hotel Altkolnischer Hof, Bacharach (request a balcony). Family owned -- very nice people. Even the kids are helpful. I had a nice room with lovely balcony. Their restaurant serves very good dinner and breakfast.

Heritage Hotel, Hallstatt. A rather large 4 star establishment -- all new. I was upgraded to a jr. suite upon arrival. Incredible views of the lake from my room and balcony.

Hotel Orphee, Regensberg. I was given a beautiful room with a four-poster bed. Very French in decor. Staff is very friendly and helpful. They paid for my lunch because my room wasn’t ready when I arrived (before check in).

Hotel Zum Baeren, Meersburg. I had a lovely wallpapered room here. The only downside is no WiFi or Internet service available (also, no elevator).

Hotel Kindli, Zurich. This was a splurge for me, but what a charming hotel! It was the most comfortable bed of any on the trip. I booked a single room, but the bed was lovely (like a full, here, not a twin pushed next to a wall), and the room was plenty spacious for a single. The room wallpaper, and other decor was extremely tasteful, and loved the retro (but all new) style of the bathroom, and stylish dark wood flooring in the bathroom.

Day 1: Bacharach am Rhein

Arrived at this Rhineland village at around 5:45 pm after landing in Frankfurt. It was pouring rain, but I was instantly enchanted with this village perched majestically on the Rhine. What a fairy tale town this is with one “gingerbread house” after another.

The Altkolnischer Hof ended up being one of my favorite hotels this trip. I loved the roomy balcony with cushioned patio furniture with views of the medieval Altes Haus in the main square. I also thought the restaurant food was good, and the wine they served here was the best of my trip.

Day 2: My first full day in Bacharach, and it was still raining. I decided to take it easy since I was still recovering from jet lag, but wish now I had gone off down the Rhine to visit some other towns. Had I done that I would have avoided a painful fall on some slippery stone steps coming down from the castle, the painful effects of which, stayed with me for most of my trip. I’m glad I packed some Advil. The hotel owners also offered me an ice pack.

Day 3: Cochem, Germany
Hotel Lohspeicher

This hotel was a splurge for me. The couple who own and run this are very nice, and since I booked half board, was able to experience 4 course dining at their outstanding gourmet restaurant. I also enjoyed their beer garden, just across from the entrance, also available for dining on warm evenings.

I chose Cochem over the smaller villages of the Mosel, since it is easily accessible by train, but if you are traveling by car, one of the smaller towns like Beilstein would be preferable, as Cochem is more of a city, packed with tourists in the high season. I did notice that things were much quieter in the evenings, so I’m sure many of these tourists were just in for the day, most likely from a cruise liner.

Day 4: It was a beautiful, sunny (and hot) day, so decided this should be the day for my hike to Burg Eltz castle. I went over the directions in my mind (that I had read online) many times. I took the train to Moselkern, and found the signs pointing to Burg Eltz. The hike through the town was longer than I anticipated (on a paved road -- not very scenic) and since it was quite hot at this point and there was no shade, it was not enjoyable (this part took about 45 minutes). By the time I got to the “Inn” with restaurant, I was ready to sit down to some cold refreshment, which I did. Others I met on the path had told me in their limited English to just keep walking on, I would see the trail to the castle. When I finally saw the trailhead, there was a big sign out that said the castle was undergoing some structural renovation, etc. “Hmmm,” I wondered what this meant in terms of my interest in photographing this medieval edifice. But I didn’t think it would be much of an issue. I had planned for this excursion for months. I bought REI hiking shoes mainly for this purpose, and had a DSLR camera and heavy lens in my backpack. It must have been over 90 degrees, and a mostly uphill climb (total walk is about 90 minutes from the station). Imagine my surprise then, when I rounded a certain bend and saw the first glimpse of the castle, COMPLETELY covered in white netting material and scaffolding. I truly wish I had captured a photo of this first vision.... After I arrived at the ticket office, I asked if there was another side of the castle I could photograph. “No, it’s covered all around. This will give you a reason to come back and visit us again,” the woman said, as the perspiration dripped down my face. After taking the tour inside, first in German, then in English, I managed to get a few shots of the other side, only partially covered (but the worst possible lighting, as the sun was pointed straight at me).

I met a Canadian couple on the train ride out from Cochem (who decided to look for a taxi ride up). I ran into them again inside the castle, and we decided to split cab fare for the trip down. I was in no mood for more hiking (at this point it felt like a 105 F; it was muggy).

Day 5: Excursion to Bonn to visit Beethoven Haus (birth house of Ludwig Van Beethoven). I’m so glad I made the effort to get here. I recently read a biography of Beethoven, and have been listening to many of his compositions. They had many of his instruments on display, including one of his pianos, his beautiful desk, his glasses, his ear trumpets (which had been custom designed to help him hear), handwritten materials, and scores.

I'll post the first photos tomorrow.

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