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Austria, southern Germany, and Czech Republic

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My husband and I are planning a trip (12-14 days) to Europe for August or September. We are interest in traveling to one, two, or all three of the countries listed above, but there seems to be so much to do we aren't sure how to narrow down our focus.

We like historical sites - places, castles, churches, historic towncenters - and natural wonders and landscapes although due to physical constraints cannot do heavy-duty hiking.

We do not want to spend less than 2 or 3 nights at a hotel, so places that can be used as bases to visit multiple towns or parks are attractive.

Thanks for your help!

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    I agree with Russ! My husband and I live in Franconia and it is a great place to visit. It is less than 2 hours from Munich, 3 hours from Prague and 4 from Salzburg. Franconia is known for beer, wine, the food is cheap and good. For history you have Wurzburg and Bamberg, both UNESCO sites. Nuremberg has the Nazi Documentation center. And for natural beauty, Frankische-Schweiz (Franconian Switzerland) is just to the north, plenty of easy walking trails leading from one beer garden to another. A really nice place to spend a day or two.

    The Romantic Road is close by, a really nice drive alongside a river route with gorgeous scenery and castles. Because it caters to tourists, there are nice hotels and restaurants along the way. Most people take several days to drive it, staying in different places along the way.

    You might consider staying in gasthauses in Germany and Austria, they are very nice alternatives to hotels. Usually a few rooms above a dining room or restaurant, they are quiet and affordable.

    If you like beer, you might consider visiting the Chodovar Beer Spa, about an hour from Prague. It is a hotel spa with great food and nice spa treatments, all centered around beer. There is a hop festival in the area during the time you are traveling with over 40 breweries and meaderies represented.

    Speaking of festivals, the towns will be having their wine and beer festivals (the village beer festivals can be called 'kirchweih' so if you see an ad for a kirchweih it is a beer fest) during your visit, it is a great opportunity to see people dressed up in traditional dress. The fairs that are part of the fests are really fun too, and have good food.

    Prague is a must-see city. From Nuremberg there is a bus operated by Deutschbahn that goes to Prague non-stop. 3/12 hours and very affordable. It has a snack and drink service.

    Salzburg is another must-visit, in my opinion. It is a lovely town and there are a lot of cool activities. If you like classical music, the Mozart Dinner is an evening of live music and food of the 18th century in a historic banquet hall. I am a professional classical musician and I have to say the quality of the music is very good. And the meal was also good!

    If you want to go to concerts during your trip, be sure to pack some nice clothes. Many concert halls here still have dress codes. The Mozart Dinner does not have a stated code but people dressed up for it.

    You can take the train from Germany to Salzburg without having to change your connection. Most trains going to the Czech Republic or Austria require that you change trains between countries.

    If you want to take the trains, keep in mind that summer is a heavy travel time. You must reserve your seats ahead of time if you want to be sure of having a seat to sit in. This goes for both 2nd and 1st class. You will want to carry as small of a suitcase as possible, because many train platforms are only accessible by stairs. Also, finding a place for your suitcase on the train can be a real problem. That being said, train travel is affordable in Germany. You can get a 'Lander' ticket for 29 euro per day that allows you unlimited travel by regional train within the state you purchase the ticket in. This does not work for the ICE (long-range express) trains, and if you want to travel within 2 states (ie Frankfurt to Nuremberg) you cannot use the Lander ticket.

    The Lander ticket is good for up to 5 people, so if you meet people that are going the same place as you are you may be able to save some money by purchasing one ticket together. Germans are pretty reticent, but they drop their social barriers quickly to save money this way :D

    My husband and I mostly travel just the 2 of us, so we get day tickets plus (Tages-Ticket Plus) when we can, it is cheaper for us than the Lander tickets. It allows unlimited short-range travel within a designated area by both rail and bus, and the Saturday ticket is usually good for Sunday too. Pretty nice, usually around 10 euro.

    If you decide to travel by rail and you want to book your tickets in advance, know that if you get a 'Spaarpreis' that is a discount price that is train-specific. If you miss your train, you need to buy another ticket for the next one. Non-spaarpreis tickets allow you to catch the next train if you miss your connection. Trains do run on time in Germany, and the fines are pretty high if you don't have a ticket. Buying tickets way in advance saves you money.

    One last thing to consider: school vacation in Bavaria is between Aug 1-Sep 10. So it will be a busy time for travelers, and rooms may be a bit higher in cost.

    Hope you have a great trip, this is a lovely place of the world to visit!

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