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Preliminary Pipe Dream Itinerary

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We're starting to brainstorm ideas for a whirlwind 2 week trip in August, looking towards the Alp's instead the beaches. We found cheap enough flights into Milan, and home from Vienna 2 weeks later, and are looking to fill in the blanks.

Would prefer to take the train and avoid the stress of driving / parking in unfamiliar territory, knowing that this limits us to the more touristy places unfortunately. Open to overnight trains for some sections, as well as shorter car rentals, taxis, hikes, trams for specific destinations. I am particularly in LOVE with the history and the beautiful architecture that we just don't have here in the US, especially against the backdrop of the mountains and rivers and lakes.

General route-thought:
Milan - (very undecided around: Matterhorn, Interlaken/Wengen/Gimmewald/Lucerne, Glacier Express?) then to Fussen, Germany (or other suggestions) - Innsbruck - Salzburg - Vienna, estimating 2 nights per location.

I'm wondering if anyone else has done a similar trip by train and has an itinerary they might suggest, or, if anyone has any advice on what can/can't be accomplished? I know we can't fit everything on the list in, but.. a girl can dream. Is there anything en route we should be sure to not miss? We're assuming we'll buy a 4-country flex-pass for 8 or 10 days & supplement with individual tickets as needed.

I know this was long, I am just so very excited to finally be starting to plan this! Any and all suggestions or advice would be so greatly appreciated!

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    >>estimating 2 nights per location<<

    2 nights will net you just about one full day in each place - a skosh more in a couple of places since they are not far from each other. But even in those nearby pairs, two nights will only give you a day and 2 or 3 hours.

    Do you want to spend your time/money moving that often and not see/doing much?

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    Having done ALL the things/places you mention, my rec/question would be

    1. Why Milan? FF seat availability? Ticket prices? You gonna do anything IN that city?

    2. If Milan and rail are "ideal" then you might consider taking a LONG day to do the Bernina Express from Tirano to somewhere in Switzerland OR

    3. Train from Milan to the Berner Oberland (easily done; change in Brig, etc. (get up early) forget the Matterhorn because Zermatt is, IMO forgettable and the peak could very well be shrouded in clouds; spend your time in Lauterbrunnen or better, ABOVE Lauterbrunnen for spectacular scenery

    4. Train to Salzburg for a day or so (and that's all) and then on to Vienna; you could add stuff along the way

    5. OR, Milan into Switzerland via the Bernina to the Berner O for several days then Salzburg then Vienna, etc.

    You could do the Glacier E but I think what with the route changes that have taken place on the GE over the past years the Bernina will give you more bang for the buck scenery-wise

    6. Have you thought of adding Munich then Salzburg then Vienna? Doable IMO depending on how many nights you use up.

    The "depth" folks will check in soon; the ones who have decided that EVERYBODY must travel at THEIR speed and that you will be dead before you ever return.

    Enjoy your trip.

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    Sorry - I would call this a nightmare rather than a pipe dream.

    You say you want history and beautiful architecture - but a lot of what you have listed is sitting on a train looking at whatever happens to be outside the window.

    Can you clarify what you mean by architecture?

    Are you looking for rococo or baroque palaces? Medieval castles? Pretty alpine chalets? And what part of history? (middle ages, 17th or 18th century, more modern?) If you're thinking Neuschwantsein or other Mad Ludwig castles - they are modern (1860s) not hisotric.

    Your itinerary doesn't seem to match what you say you want to see do?

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    Thanks for the suggestions, Dukey, I will look into them! Milan is our starting point at this stage mostly because the airfare is a solid $1,000/pp less expensive than any place in Switzerland, Austria or Germany. I have set up some alerts and will continue to check for a while before we settle on it though. If we do land there, we would probably spend a day & night and then move off quickly the following morning. Italy is a trip in itself that we intend to plan next, but likely during a less peak travel time.

    I am prepared for our suggested pace to be well criticized. I found I do well with not cementing a strict schedule, but having a solid route/plan on a map with reservations in key points / hard to book locations spaced every 2-4 days apart as needed. This keeps my moving and exploring, without getting too settled. If we find a place we just NEED more time, I am always open to skipping a 'planned' destination to stay a bit longer, and catching up to the itinerary at the next point. I had great luck traveling Spain & Portugal in this manner, although with a car, and have zero regrets aside from not having more money and more time, as always.

    We agreed to rely on trains for this trip to avoid the stresses of driving. I'm a little nervous about this though since I loved the freedom of being able to pull over and ogle at random views, as well as detour to whichever small towns I saw on a map that I wanted, but since this trip isn't solo I have to make some compromises :) I suppose this may mean following an itinerary a little more closely due to some trains having limited departures (I can't just decide to spend an extra half day somewhere and leave later, without first checking the train schedule...).

    Munich was on the original list, but I believe looking at a general map we felt we would have to choose between that, or Innsbruck. Perhaps via train it is possible to do both though? I clearly have a lot of research to do! Thank you again!

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    I think you can have a very nice two week trip into Milan out of Vienna but you do need to focus what you want to see - two nights per destination is, as the others have pointed out - not a way to see or enjoy much at all.

    Since you are starting in Milan it does make sense to go through Switzerland. Hopefully your flight lands early so you could train to Interlaken easily that day, it goes through some beautiful scenery (though not the 'best' really awe inspiring stuff). Then you need to decide do you want to see 'history and architecture' or rural, alpine views (with a few small villages, not much great architecture). Most people go to Switzerland to see the mountains but the cities are great too and that's where the 'history and architecture' are. You could base in Interlaken for a few days and do a day trip up to the mountains and also visit some of the towns along the lake and Bern - there are several castles and lots of nice historic architecture here. Lucerne is beautiful too but you can't see everything. Four nights, which gives you three days, is really a minimum.

    Then I'd pick one base in southern Germany for a few days and then on to Austria. Again, probably just one base (Vienna). You could probably break up the trip with an overnight in Saltzburg.

    If you do mostly 3 or 4 night stays, then one one nighter won't feel so bad. Better than a whole bunch of two nighters.

    Do you actually have 14 nights on the ground or is one of them the day you leave?

    I have photos of all those places if looking at photos helps you decide which places you most want to go.

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    A logical itinerary might be:
    Milan Malpensa airport - bus - Lugano - bus - St. Moritz area (Sils Maria, Pontresina or so) - train - Bernina - Tirano - bus - Stelvio - Mals - train - Meran - Bozen - Toblach - Lienz - Villach - Vienna

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    OK, after much more digging and searching after the prior feedback, we have narrowed down the trip a bit and squeezed a few more days away from the desks, but now actually have a 'gap' / need some help. We've also bumped out to September, instead of August.

    Our knowns/musts are:
    - Flying into Milan (landing mid-morning).
    - Geneva is now a new *must* for my partner based on coworker/friends for some reason. We are thinking 2-3 nights to allow for day trips to Lausanne, Montreux?
    - Lauterbrunnen (or nearby) in the BO - 4 nights.
    - Neuschwanstein castle / area - my *must*
    - Scenic trains - his other *must* - I will have questions on this later.

    We plan to depart Milan the day after arrival since neither of us have a long list of Milan must-see's.

    So from there, given our list, our "current" itinerary sketch looks like:
    Milan to Geneva
    Geneva 2-3 nights (w/day trips)

    Geneva - Thun (1 night)? - or is it feasible to get from Geneva all the way to Interlaken then Lauterbrunnen in one day, and still be able to stop & see Thun for a couple of hours (lunch?)

    Lauterbrunnen (or nearby) for 4 nights.

    This is where we are "stuck". I don't have much to fill the 'gap' between Interlaken and anywhere near Neuschwanstein (Innsbruck, Mittenwald, Fussen..?). But that seems like a long way to travel without there being something on the list to see? It looks like it can technically be done in 1 long day (7-8 hrs of travel) - but is this realistic? I think I would prefer to break mid-way, but not if it is just slowing us down / adding 1 more hotel.

    Part of me thinks it would be neat to stop & take a bus into Vaduz, just to be able to say we've been, but it is certainly not a "must" by any means - but would add more time.

    Then I started exploring a more northern route possibility:
    Interlaken - Bern - Basel - Strasbourg (2 nights?) - the cathedral looks amazing.
    Day trip from Strasbourg to Heidelburg?

    Strasbourg - Munich
    Munich for 3-4 nights, with day trips to see Neuschwanstein? Or stay in a hotel nearby for 1 night & return to Munch? I am honestly a little concerned with being overwhelmed by Munich for that many nights.

    We *think* we will be departing from Munich, by way of Istanbul, with a long layover (15 hours, mostly overnight) - so purchase one more hotel, and then maybe (pretty please tell me it is feasible) visit some sights for a few hours in the AM before a mid-afternoon departure? Has anyone done this? We've heard some mixed reviews about Turkish airlines, and know we will be exhausted, but... it is either that or a long train ride to somewhere with cheaper airfare (back to Milan?).

    As for the 'scenic' trains - the current itineraries above (rough as they may be) - don't allow us to take the Glacier Express or the Bernina Express. We could take Interlaken - Luzern "Golden Pass" which I've read is not any different than the 'regular' train- which is totally fine with me in terms of transport - but I am worried about fulfilling my partner's request for the 'scenic' trains. Will the trains from Geneva to Interlaken be comparably'scenic'? Or, in the course of 4 days in Lauterbrunnen do you think that will be fulfilled in general? If not- any suggestions for re-ordering the must-sees such that we can fit in one of the scenic train rides?

    Apologies for the book- there is just so much we'd love to see I am certainly struggling to stay focused! We've essentially cut out seeing Austria and left that for "another trip" someday. Any help is much appreciated! We're hoping to book the return flight this week, and then start filling in all these details!

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