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Itinerary for December and January 2014/15

Itinerary for December and January 2014/15

Old Jan 1st, 2014, 06:37 AM
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Itinerary for December and January 2014/15

My husband and myself will be visiting Europe during the perion 12 December 2014 - 6 January 2015. Our main aim is to experience Christmas markets. The places we have in mind are Vienna, Frankfurt (or region), Prague and Berlin. I have read that towns have diffirent priorities of the festive season, which means that it may be important to start at the right place. My questions are:
1. Which way, where to start? Vienna or Berlin?
2. Should we add or leave out?
3. Should we perhaps add a warmer destination at the end like Greece or Spain?
(Would also love to see budapest....)
We will be using public transport and make daytripps while in a city. Any other suggestions will be appreciated.
Thank you in advance.
Erna
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Old Jan 1st, 2014, 08:39 AM
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How long can you watch water fall off a rock? That is a question I often ask people planning to visit Niagara Falls.

The same applies to Christmas Markets. They are worth visiting if they interest you but you aren't going to spend days on end doing so. I doubt anyone spends more than a few hours at any Christmas Market.

So what ELSE are you interested in seeing/doing in those places you have mentioned? You could easily spend a week in each place if there is enough you are interested in seeing/doing to occupy your time.

Asking what to 'add or leave out' depends on those other interests.

I see Christmas Markets as worth visiting personally but I don't see them as being the primary reason to visit anywhere. More of a 1 in 10 reasons to visit a specific city.

So my advice would be to concentrate on the other reasons to pick a place to visit. Almost every city in Europe has a Christmas Market you can add to your list of reasons to visit that city. http://www.christmasmarkets.com/

Regarding adding a 'warmer destination', you might want to define 'warmer'. Neither Greece nor Spain will be 'warm' as in good swimming weather in December/January. If you actually want 'warm' weather you will need to go as far as the Canary Islands at least.

Keep in mind that the more moving you do, the less time you spend in places seeing/doing things. Moving is your enemy when it comes to getting the most out of your available time. Move less, see/do more.
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Old Jan 1st, 2014, 08:37 PM
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Thank you! I agree that one has to put this in perspective and although we want to experience Christmas in Europe, there are so many other things not be missed. We are very interested in architecture, history, culture and scenery and will therefor see as many as possible in and around the towns we visit. Villages close enough, music (in Vienna) and more. We do not want to swim, just more "moderate" temperature, but this is not really important.
Also, travel less is true, but how to choose!!? That is always the most difficult part for me. Should I drop one town?

Thank you for the link.
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Old Jan 5th, 2014, 08:28 AM
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The best way to 'travel less' is to stand back and think of it from a different perspective.

The common phrase used is 'to see as much as possible' and that is where the problem comes in. The word 'much' is not synonymous with the word 'many'. Yet that is how people tend to think of it.

The way to see as 'much' as possible obviously has to be to spend time IN places seeing/doing things. So logically, the way to get the absolute most out of your time is to fly to one place, stay there and then fly home. All you lose is the arrival and departure days.

The other thing that makes it 'difficult' for you and others in regards to Europe in particular is the use of that word 'Europe'. Europe is not one country obviously but the thinking using that word implies is that you plan to treat it as if it were. Each country in Europe has as much to see/do as your home country does. How then can anyone not find it difficult trying to figure out how to see 'Europe' in a couple of weeks? So forget 'Europe' and focus on one or two countries at most.

But of course flying to one destination in one country isn't acceptable to most people, they want to try to get some balance of places vs. time wasted moving. So the question then is well what might a reasonable balance be.

I suggest no more than 25% of your time should be 'travel days' and that includes your arrival and departure day. If you stick to that it means not spending less than 3 full days/4 nights in a place. So take your total time and divide by 4 to get a number of stops to aim for as a maximum. That includes your arrival and departure points.

Personally, if I had 3 weeks, I'd pick 3 places and that's it. The choice is quantity or quality.

For example, a week in Strasbourg with its Cathedral, Christmas Market and day trips out to the Alsace walled villages nearby. https://www.google.ca/search?q=alsac...w=1280&bih=687

A week in Vienna for the music etc. that attract you. Then a final week in Berlin perhaps for the New Year celebrations.
https://www.berlin.de/en/events/2947...-party.en.html
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Old Jan 5th, 2014, 10:33 PM
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Thank you so much!! What about Nurembourg?
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Old Jan 6th, 2014, 07:37 AM
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Where you go is dependent on what interests you Erna. You are the only one who can decide that. Everywhere is of interest to someone.

Asking on a travel forum, 'what about this place or that place' really won't get anyone very far. You might as well pick up a guidebook on Europe and read through it or do some online searching based on your interests.

Often posts like yours simply get a lot of responses by people saying, 'I like this place' but that is what THEY like, not necessarily what YOU like.

When I listed Strasbourg, Vienna and Berlin, that was just an example of what I would do. Actually, I have little interest in Vienna and none at all in Berlin but it isn't MY trip, it's YOUR trip and your choice.

Who cares where anyone else would go? What matters is where YOU want to go and there is no short cut to doing your own research to decide that.
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Old Jan 7th, 2014, 01:33 AM
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Thank you.
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Old Jan 7th, 2014, 08:15 AM
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We will be using public transport and make day trips while in a city. Any other suggestions will be appreciated.>

Well trains are fantastic in those countries and if going to cities much better than cars, which are fairly useless in cities where public transport is so so good and these cities are really walkable (except Berlin - a huge city but with a great S-Bahn and U-Bahn trains running everywhere)- anyway for lots of great ideas on trains in those countries check out these IMO superb sites: www.budgeteuropetravel.com; www.seat61.com; www.ricksteves.com.

You can either go the discounted ticket route by booking your tickets far ahead of time (discounted tickets sold in limited numbers) but those are non-changeable, train specific and non-refundable. If looking for flexibility to hop any train anytime then investigate the Eurail Select Saverpass for 3 countries - Germany, Czech Republic and Austria - if over 25 it is a first class pass and IME of riding trains in those countries for ages first class is in many ways a much more relaxed ride - usually lots of empty seats whereas 2nd class is more likely to be quite full or even SRO at times.

www.bahn.de/en - the German Railways official site has fares for trains involving Germany and you can book discounted tickets online. For Austria ditto at www.oebb.at or perhaps www.oebb.com.

With that much time it would be easy to do say a Berlin-Munich-Prague (bus is best here, also covered by railpasses)-Vienna-Budapest tour - fly open jaw - into one city and out of another.

The weather at this time of year though not bitter cold usually can be gray and dark with short days, etc - you may want to do some of Germany or Vienna - see some Christmas markets and yeh wing it to Greece or take an overnight train from either Munich or Vienna to Italy.
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Old Jan 7th, 2014, 11:41 AM
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Any other suggestions will be appreciated.>

As the train trip between Berlin and Prague ain't too long - a tad over 4 hours it is easy to break your journey in Dresden to see this wonderful Florence on the Elbe - though horribly smashed to smithereens (needlessly many say as it had little strategic importance and also had many refugees in it but as retaliation many say by Brits for the bombing of Coventry) the main glorious buildings are restored so the river front shines once again - a great few hour stop - throw you bags in a station locker - have some euro coins - the main station is a short enough walk from the main historic buildings that are bundled together on the river front.
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Old Jan 7th, 2014, 09:15 PM
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Thank you PalenQ! Also the info regarding Dresden. I just love the planning.
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Old Jan 7th, 2014, 11:39 PM
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We have lived in Vienna now for just over 18 months, and have experienced two Christmas market seasons. During this time we have also visited markets in Prague, Paris, Bratislava, and Berlin. If I may offer any planning advice with respect to markets it would be, "do your homework."

In Vienna it really pays to do your Christmasmarkt homework; otherwise it is too easy to be lulled into monotony. There is, of course, the "big" WienerChristkindlmarkt at Rathaus: commercial and touristy, but so merry and bright that you can't help but feel holiday cheer. For other markets, the setting is more enjoyable than the actual market offerings (Schloss Schönbrun and Schloss Belvedere come to mind, especially at night); while the reverse is true for the AltWiener Christmasmarkt and markets like the ones at Karlsplatz and Am Hof, all of which offer beautiful handcrafted items but without a palace backdrop. Then there is the Spittelberg Adventmarkt, which combines artsy and handcrafted items in the tiny lanes of the Spittelberg area, trimmed with pretty Biedermeier architecture. Other markets are only open for a particular weekend, and may be in a spectacular setting (Schloss Graffenegg and Burgruine Aggstein, for example) or have a theme, like the medieval Adventmarkt at the Military History Museum or the botanic theme at Hirschstetten Botanical Garden.

We were in Prague after Christmas last year and only visited the Old Town Chrismasmarkt. We were disappointed with the many souvenir-y offerings (similar to Vienna's WienerChristkindlmarkt), but loved the Czech food.

Having spoiled ourselves with the beauty and variety of Vienna's markets last year, we went further afield this year. In Berlin, the Weihnachtsmarkt am Gedachtniskirche had far more food stalls than items to purchase; the Wintertraum am Alexanderplatz (with a ferris wheel and other rides) was similar to Vienna's Christmasmarkt am Prater--very commercial offerings and lots of ordinary food; and the Gendarmenmarkt was our favorite, with interesting handcrafted items and a pleasant variety of different food stalls, as well.

A friend and I day-tripped from Vienna to Bratislava to experience their two markets, and found them small, folksy, and with no shortage of heavy and delicious Central European fare.

The Paris Village de Noel along the Champs-Elysees was the surprise disappointment (for me). If Vienna's WienerChristkindlmarkt, Munich's Oktoberfest, and an infomercial channel had a love child, it would have been that market. It was crowded with families and tourists, and our friends living in Paris absolutely love that market, but we did not enjoy it in the least.

Something else to consider in your planning is that, at least in Vienna and Berlin, the markets that remain open after Christmas often offer New Year's good luck tokens, pocketbook-sized souvenirs of your visits, as well. Have fun planning!
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Old Jan 8th, 2014, 12:15 PM
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ema - check this current thread on Dresden - you may want to make a day or two stop and maybe even replace another city making a tighter, shorter itinerary - Dresden and its area can be amazing!

http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...what-to-do.cfm
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