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-   -   Our adventure into Eastern Europe. (https://www.fodors.com/community/europe/our-adventure-into-eastern-europe-985382/)

aussiedreamer Jul 16th, 2013 10:13 PM

Our adventure into Eastern Europe.
 
As promised I'm making a start on this overdue TR. We were in Europe over Christmas and I did do a report, but we went back in May for 5 weeks and I've been feeling very guilty for not starting this sooner. So here goes.........

We are two couples both 50, we've travelled together several times over the years and always work well together. This trip was primarily pencilled in three years ago so the guys could attend a machine expo in Munich and the rest of the trip was planned around those dates.

Our friends are from Melbourne, dh & I are in Brisbane. We flew into Frankfurt via Abu Dhabi with Etihad, this was a real splurge. We picked up a great deal flying 1st class, which was a real treat (if not a little over rated) and I can tick it off my list of things to try. So after a very comfortable flight and a few hours in the lounge in Abu Dhabi taking advantage of all the beautiful amenities including the complimentary spa and on call chef, we arrived in Frankfurt, ready to go.

<b>Driving the Romantic Road</b>

We collected our hire car (BMW X3 for the 4 of us) which we would have for a week and headed towards no where in particular but in the general direction of the Romantic Road, typing in Miltenburg to get us going. What a great drive, and Miltenburg was a great first stop, we walked all over the town and across the beautiful bridge. Bought a few essentials, wine and coffee and off we went. Next stop, Wurzburg really enjoyed this place. There was some sort of university thing going on, lots of young people in doctors coats (& not much else...) doing all manor of pranks, fun to watch, but it was really cold and they were jumping into fountains, brrrr.

From memory we also called into Bamberg (not sure in what order, after Wurzburg I think) as it had been suggested to us on this site. But we couldn't really see the attraction, maybe we missed the main part. So we headed on to Nuremberg as we were getting a little tired and thought we should stop for the day. Loved Nuremberg, we parked and just wandered around for ages. Decided to stay at the BurgHotel for the night, mostly for the location, which was an easy walk to the old town. The hotel was adequate but we found it quite dated, although the breakfast was terrific. We spent the evening wandering until we decided it really was time to call an end to this very long day.

Took another walk around Nuremberg after breakfast, hardly a soul in sight, it was a great comparison to the hectic evening crowds. We then headed towards Munich, our friends were to arrive after lunch from Spain, where they had spent a couple of weeks. We basically spent the morning avoiding major roads and taking the very scenic way, just beautiful. Stopped in a really quaint little town at a roadside pizzeria for lunch, just perfect.

A great reunion at the airport and we loaded up the car and headed towards, Allmannshofen, about an hour from the airport. Due to the expo we really struggled to find accommodation in Munich, so it was decided the guys would catch the train into the expo. Best decision we could have made, we stayed at what was to be our favourite accommodation of this trip and possibly ever. More of a destination in itself than 'just' a hotel.............

irishface Jul 17th, 2013 05:30 AM

Keep going. I love your find a hotel as you go travel style.

Leely2 Jul 17th, 2013 02:48 PM

Me too! Looking forward to more.

Tessie2 Jul 17th, 2013 04:32 PM

Come on --- I fly into Munich tomorrow and although I have those accomadations booked (on points) at the end of 2 weeks I return for 2 or 3 nights and don't have anything booked yet. Need this recommendation - sounds like you had a great trip.

aussiedreamer Jul 18th, 2013 12:48 AM

http://www.kloster-holzen.de/

Cannot say enough good things about this place. From the first glimpse of it in the distance, we new we were in for a real treat. This beautiful old convent has been transformed into a really special hotel. The rooms were exceptional, I think we did have corner suites but we saw a 'standard' room and there was nothing standard about it. Because of the corner rooms we had amazing views to both the cathedral ( more on that shortly) and the orchard. Our rooms were huge and beautifully renovated. The bed was amazing as was the shower. Breakfast was great, we had a lunch & a dinner in the restaurant and it was terrific.

Have I built it up enough? I will be back shortly to carry on with the tr but just wanted to let you know about this great find, we also found it really reasonably priced. We have all decided that it would be an amazing place to spend Christmas. Wait till you hear about the amazing discoveries we made while exploring this beautiful property........

jean253 Jul 19th, 2013 04:15 PM

ttt

aussiedreamer Jul 19th, 2013 04:46 PM

I'm back,

once we'd checked in to Kloster Holzen, we jumped back into the car and drove into Augsburg to work out where the guys would be catching the train from the next day. Did that with the help of a lovely lady in the info section at the station, then we had dinner in the really cool beer hall at the station. Really enjoyed the meal and the constant stream of travellers and locals passing through.

Had a wonderful nights sleep in our beautiful room, had breakfast with the guys and sent them on their way. Sue & I decided we would just hang around this day, walking & exploring. So glad we did, we started off by exploring the building. It became a bit of a 'thing' that we pretty much just opened every door we came to, sometimes with quite a bit of trepidation, not knowing what we would find. The most amazing discovery was when I opened a fairly nondescript door along a long passage way to be greeted by the most amazing scene I could ever have imagined.

We entered a small room furnished with a few pews and a beautiful old wooden window that opened out to views inside the amazing cathedral (photos to follow). We had decided we would visit the cathedral later in the day but had not expected to see it this way. I cannot describe the beauty, we were basically on the 2nd floor looking into and down to the main Nave of the church. We are guessing this room would be used for the nuns to observe services etc. So after much photo taking we headed up a floor and found a similar room above the other, but this time the view was through a stain glass window, woh, So by now we couldn't climb the stairs quick enough to the 4th floor to see what awaited us, this time it was the amazing organ. Just fantastic, all the while the views over the church were awe inspiring. As we were heading down we found the entrance to the church that took us on the walk ways above the main nave.

We 'ran into' Sister Virgo, one of the 5 remaining resident nuns, who showed us around and was just charming. Unfortunately the language barrier was a bit of a problem but it was still a great treat to meet her.

Next we headed out to explore the grounds and surrounding country side. It took us about an hour to walk around the perimeter of the grounds, through some be gorgeous farm lands running into a few locals along the way and we had some terrific views back to the convent.

Then we headed back and had a great lunch in the sun drenched court yard of the restaurant, before exploring the cemetery and the walled orchard. I saw these two small rooms built into the wall, the first one was some sort of small chapel the next, built into the corner, will forever be my favourite. I climbed the couple of rickety old wooden steps to the equally rickety old door. With some effort and lots of creaking and looking over shoulders (in case we shouldn't have been here), we were greeted with a very cute little room, filled with some beautiful old things. There was an ancient looking apple press (they still make their own cider) and bottles, jars and old tins. The highlight for me was an old wooden chest, absolutely covered in a tapestry of cobwebs that must have taken years to create.

So by now we thought we'd seen it all, until one of the staff offered to show us the library, which stays locked due to the lovely old parish files and books. What a treat, a beautiful room filled with antique furniture and old books. It really did look like someone had just walked out a couple of hundred years ago and locked the door.

So what a day we had, we sat in the courtyard having a wine and chatting about our day while we waited for the guys to return. Dinner again was in the hotel restaurant, before retiring for the night, we just had to show them the discovery of the church through the small rooms, they were as equally as impressed.

Next: Dachau & a monastery/brewery visit.

aussiedreamer Jul 20th, 2013 07:42 PM

The next day dh dropped Dave back to the train, he was heading back to the expo, dh had seen enough. He offered to be our chauffeur for the day. We chose Dachau, Sue had been before but was happy to go again saying that we shouldn't miss it, she was right. What a moving place, it really is hard to fathom that this ever happened. We all just wandered around at our own pace, seeing things as the mood took us. I found the endless rows of the remains of the barracks really moving, just unimaginable. The walk over to and through the crematorium was surreal, trying to imagine what it must've been like, of course we have no clue.

We spent a couple of hours there before a quick lunch in the on-site restaurant, not bad either. Coincidently we had a text from our DD who said we should visit the Andech Monastery and Brewery while we were close by, so off we went. Nice drive and it was lovely to wander around this lovely old Monastery as it was a beautiful day. We had a beer in the beer garden, so many interesting characters, including some very serious looking nuns enjoying beer & sausage for lunch ;-)

We drove onto Munich next as we'd arranged to meet Dave there and all have dinner together, saving him a long boring train ride back. So we had a lovely wander around the city centre and managed to get a bit of shopping in, Sue & I found a lovely bar and had a wine, purely to get out of the rain as the weather had turned a bit. We then headed back towards the car and happened upon a great beer garden, Augustiner Keller. So headed in for dinner, what fun. The sun had reappeared and it was quite a lovely evening. Of course we had ham hocks, sauerkraut and beer, while people watching, a really good night.

The next morning we farewelled the beautiful Kloster Holzen & headed back into Munich. Dropped the car off and boarded our train for the 8 hour journey to the next destination!

bilboburgler Jul 21st, 2013 05:49 AM

Wurzburg is pretty, I've used trains to get to the Munich exhibition halls, not a bad way to get round the lack of hotels.

Still, on for the ride.

aussiedreamer Jul 25th, 2013 04:17 PM

I'm back and I've confused myself (doesn't take much ;-) ) I said we headed off on the train next, in fact we spent another few days driving the <I>Romantic Road</I> before we dropped the car off. That's what I get for 'dodgy' journal keeping!

So we did farewell Kloster Holzen but we headed to <b>Rothenburg</b> were we had booked a hotel for the night, www.hotel-spitzweg.de

We took the scenic route as often as possible roughly following the route in Rick Steves book. We called into <b>Ulm</b> first, it was a beautiful day. Walked round the lovely town centre and inside the impressive Ulm Minster, the others climbed the tower. Apparently quite a hard climb and very claustrophobic, I decided to wander around a bit more. There was a market in the square in front of the church, selling the most beautiful flowers, got some great photos.

We had the most delicious ice creams on the way back to the car, the only reason I mention is because I took a photo of the shop so I could share it with you all, so you too could experience the yumminess of these treats :-) "Miraval" gelato Italiano.

As we were driving down the road David spotted a sign for LEGOLAND, I kid you not, he was so excited, apparently he's a massive Lego fan. Who knew? So in we went, dh & I weren't thrilled with the 40 euro entrance fee but hey, we were there now, might as well go in. It is very impressive and clever, I do think there should be a separate entrance fee for site seers as opposed to people wanting to go on the rides etc.

Lovely drive to <b>Rothenburg</b>, it was such fun entering the town, we had two attempts at entering the gate, purely because we weren't sure if we were allowed to drive in. But after seeing a small truck drive in we were sure we were right. What a beautiful town, exactly what I'd imagined, like a fairy tale. Found our hotel with out too much trouble and took advantage of the free parking. Lovely old hotel full of character, the landlord was lovely, have to say that we didn't love the room or bed but for one night it was perfectly adequate. The location, building and hospitality certainly made up for it. We spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around, climbed the stairs up into the wall and meandered around for ages, just beautiful. Had a relaxing dinner in the square people watching on a lovely balmy evening before meeting up to do the Night Watchman Tour. If you get a chance to do this, you really should. Its a lot of fun, maybe a little 'cheesy' at times but informative and amusing, we really enjoyed it. Finished our day with tea & strudel a really magical day.

The next day after breakfast we did some more roaming around, in and out of shops etc. We both ended up buying clocks! One of my favourite souvenirs ever. Dh & I bought a stainless steel pendulum skeleton wall clock, which just means there’s no casing, so you can see all the workings. We just love it and it suits our contemporary home. Dave & Sue bought a magnificent grandfather clock, absolutely gorgeous & suits their country home perfectly. We had them shipped home. So we left Rothenburg with wonderful memories and very happy.

We had a night booked at a hotel in ,<b>Fussen</b>, www.hotel-hechten.com so headed off again taking the scenic route. We called into <b>Dinkelsbuhl</b>, which is described as a 'smaller Rothenburg', it was very quaint and we all liked the church here, didn't seem quite so ornate and garish. Next stop was <b>Nordlingen</b> another sleepy pretty town, we sat in the small square here and had a picnic lunch.. <b>Landsberg</b> was next, where we wandered along the rivers edge, again a really pretty place.

We then decided as we only had one night in Fussen and we still had some time, we would head to <b>Neuschwanstein Castle</b> and try and do an afternoon tour. I really do think that the most impressive part of Neuschwanstein Castle is the approach. Just breath taking as you get nearer. We did a tour, not sorry I did it as I would've always wondered but none of us really enjoyed it. We did however enjoy the walk to the bridge and the general surrounds, we would've like to get the horse & buggy back down the hill but unfortunately we'd missed the last one of the day so had to walk, its a long way down.

Had a bit of trouble finding our way 'into' Fussen, we think we may have driven down the pedestrian mall :-( but no one was too bothered. Free parking again and this was a really nice hotel. We got a restaurant recommendation from staff and headed to Michelangelo's Italian for a fantastic dinner, highly recommend. Finished our huge day off with another gelato and walk around town.

The next morning was cold and raining, so glad we'd done the castle the day before. We started making our way back to Munich, stopping into the very quaint town of <b>Oberammergau</b>. There are some beautiful shops here selling amazing Wood Carved items. I did come away with a few Christmas tree decorations. Also called into another of Ludwigs castle, this time <b>Linderhof</b>. We all enjoyed the tour and the lovely grounds. We then notice a sign to <b>Wies Church</b> (The church in the meadow), so glad we turned here. Loved this place, a beautiful white church sitting in the greenest meadow with a snow capped mountain as its back drop. The only problem was there was a lot of construction work happening but still really glad we stopped here.

Arrived at our hotel in Munich and Dave decided he would head back to the expo for a couple of hours. The rest of us just wandered around Munich, it was pretty wet and miserable, so we did a lot of people watching in a nice café. Met back up with Dave and had dinner in one of the many beer halls, a really great night. So there we are, the Romantic Road crossed off our list and we enjoyed every second of it, everything and more I'd hoped for.

Now the next morning we really did drop the car off and catch a train.

Next stop <b>Budapest</b>............

live42day Jul 26th, 2013 01:25 PM

I look forward to hearing about Budapest Poland and Prague.

irishface Jul 26th, 2013 05:42 PM

Thanks for sharing! You have brought back a lot of wonderful memories!

aussiedreamer Jul 28th, 2013 09:48 PM

So we all enjoyed our 8 hour train ride to Budapest, we had wifi most of the way. It was grey and overcast on leaving Munich but warm and sunny on arrival into Budapest. Unfortunately we did something we never do, all got into a cab without really asking first how much, we knew the apartment we'd booked wasn't too far away. But alas we do feel we were 'taken for a ride' so to speak. It took way too long and cost way too much.

I'd found this apartment on Trip advisor.
http://www.tripadvisor.com.au/Vacati...l_Hungary.html
and thought it may be too good to be true. But it was fantastic, when the cab pulled up I was a little concerned but on entering the apartment I knew we were on a winner. Everything about it was perfect, from the booking process, to meeting the landlords representative to the apartment itself.

Its huge and absolutely beautifully appointed, nothing was forgotten. By coincidence the owner lives in Australia. So once we'd settled in a little we went off wandering. Unfortunately I began to feel quite unwell and long story short I was very ill all night. Not sure why but I must've picked up a germ along the way, so with that and quite a bit of traffic noise it wasn't a great night's sleep. But the bed wasn't to blame it was magnificent.

We decided the next morning we would do the hop on/off bus. Always glad to do this in a new city, great overview. We got off near the Chain Bridge and just spent time looking around, had lunch by the river which was lovely as it was such a nice day. We really did just meander around soaking up the beautiful scenery as I was a little 'slow' this day. But after a really good nights sleep I was ready to go again.

Walked and walked the next morning, ended up down by the river again and utilised the cruise that came with the bus ticket. So glad we did this, it was lovely and also a much clearer day for taking photos.

We spent a couple of hours in the area around Vaci Street, having lunch in a café, doing some shopping and lots of people watching. This is a beautiful pedestrian area, then we walked along the Grand Boulevard, very Champs Elysees and just lovely. After a quick rest up we used the remaining time on our bus ticket and headed towards Hero’s square and the Szecheni Baths. Another picturesque area, parks and rivers and castles, just lovely.

After working out how to best use our time and what tickets to purchase, we spent a couple of hours at the baths. What fun, I'd never done anything like this before and as it was a beautiful day it was perfect and so relaxing. What an amazing place.

We had hoped to finish off our Budapest visit with a lovely meal in the restaurant recommended by the owner (its across the road) but unfortunately we didn't think to book. So we ended up at Bohemia Bistro, which was a lovely looking place and seemed to have a lot of locals. Unfortunately I ordered the goulash as I'd really wanted to try a 'proper' one but it was pretty bad, over salted and very tough. But everyone else's dishes were great.

Enjoyed a last bottle of wine in our beautiful apartment and packed up, next we take two small flights to Krakow, for me an absolute highlight.

live42day Jul 29th, 2013 05:00 PM

I am glad you enjoyed the hop on hop off bus. We like to do that when we arrive at a new city too to get the lay of the land.

nanael Jul 29th, 2013 05:22 PM

Brought us back wonderful memories of our trip along the Romantic Road a few years ago, thank you!
Looking forward to more ...

HelenJ Aug 1st, 2013 02:51 AM

Hi aussiedreamer

Loving your report and waiting to hear of your time in Krakow. We will be there in January 2014.

From another Aussie.
Helen

Leely2 Aug 1st, 2013 09:25 AM

I am in Prague now, Krakow was last week. Like you I found it a delightful city. Will catch up on your report next week to relive my time there!

aussiedreamer Aug 1st, 2013 10:52 PM

Sorry again for the delay, I do try to get on with it.....

Just checked my 'scrappy' notes, our two flights were both on Dash8's, I'm not a fan of smaller planes but no complaints except there didn't appear to be any air conditioning! 30 minute flight to Vienna, then 50 onto Krakow. Car service was waiting for us, arranged through our hotel, it was about a 25 minute drive into the old town. We arrived at our hotel and were thrilled beyond belief. What an amazing location right on the square with lovely old timber windows opening out onto the great view of the square, four stories below. www.wentzl.pl click on the link and you will see what I mean about the views, WOH! This hotel is just wonderful, friendly staff, great rooms c/w coffee machine :-), fantastic bed and large bathroom and the use of two bikes. The restaurant where breakfast is just beautiful, so old world and lovely.

So we walked around the square in awe of it all, we knew this was going to be one of those special places. Dinner was in an Italian restaurant we discovered, down below the street via some terrific stairs. http://www.mydestination.com/krakow/...rattoria-prima We enjoyed a lovely pasta dish each and a bottle of wine, we really liked this place. We had a great nights sleep and were thrilled to hear the church bells ring and the bugler play on the hour, magical.

The next day we had organised a driver and tour out to the Wieliczka Salt Mine, what an amazing place. Our driver took us there, about a 15 minute drive from the old town, where we then joined up with an english speaking tour group. What an experience, we went down 145m below the surface, there is over 300km of tunnels down there but we only covered about 2km on the tour, mining has been going on for 800 years. The sculptures and cathedrals were breath taking. The tour ends about 700m away from where it began, so its a nice walk back to the car.

Back into the old town for lunch, sat in the hotel's outdoor cafe, great place for people watching. We then decided to use one of the small electric trolleys to visit Schindlers Museum. These trolleys are a great idea, although the sprookers in the square do get a bit tedious. The one we chose was great, told him where we wanted to go and off we went, didn't have to stick to a set route or tour.
We toured the museum, then drove back via the Ghetto area, I especially found the section of wall that still remains, very moving. Then we stopped at Heroes Square, I was again, really moved by the empty bronze chairs, what a poignant reminder.

On our return to the square we just went wandering, all around the university, to the city walls and the barbican and to Wawel Palace, a really fantastic day. Dinner was at Weseles, /www.weselerestauracja.pl/pl/ the food and atmosphere were great but it was very hot inside. We ate traditional soup, dumplings, cabbage rolls, schnitzel and trout, really yum. We foolishly had desert back in the out door cafe/ice creamery in front of the hotel, we ordered a sundae each. Oh dear, they would each feed a small family, very funny but we did our best ;-)

The next day was to be ANZAC day for us Aussies and we'd planned our visit to Auschwitz to be on this very special day, its an Anzac day we'll never forget.

aussie_10 Aug 2nd, 2013 01:04 AM

Enjoying your trip report Aussie. Will be visiting some of your places in September/October
Thank s for sharing

live42day Aug 2nd, 2013 08:49 AM

Still reading. Great report.


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