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Please help – Austria and Switzerland in 1 week?

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Apr 10th, 2014, 08:03 AM
  #1
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Please help – Austria and Switzerland in 1 week?

We have time to take a trip from May 23-31. I originally considered to split the time and relax between Bruges and Salzburg, my travel partner would prefer to concentrate and Austria and Switzerland.

May 23 - entire travel day spent getting to Europe.
May 31 – could return from anywhere very late at night, can extend into June 1 if necessary.

The rest of the time… Our interests include:
1. Maybe a day in Vienna, to capture a bit of the city culture. We are not necessarily needing to see every museum and church, but just sort of take it all in.
2. A day or 2 in Salzburg. Mozart is my idol. Interested in the town, some music, some good food, again just local culture.
3. The rest of the time, the highlights of Switzerland. Actually, big cities aren't essential. We love to just experience some natural beauty, fondue or raclette, the sort of "typical" Swiss Alps or chalet experience.

Planning to travel by train, overnight if needed. We would prefer to have 1 base in Switzerland if possible. Since our time is so short.

Is this doable/reasonable, or just too tight? Thanks in advance for your input.

Also, a silly question… Is sauerkraut a common staple in these two countries? Can you eat it in pretty much any restaurant? Obviously a fan of sauerkraut here!
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Apr 10th, 2014, 09:48 AM
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No sauerkraut is not a staple in either country- you will find it more in parts of Germany and Alsace. You can probably find some places in Austria if you look - not sure about Switz.
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Apr 10th, 2014, 10:28 AM
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You are simply ignoring distances. Bruges and Salzburg are fine places, but they are not close (10 hours by train with multiple changes). Vienna is in a very eastern position, makes little sense spending a lot of time on trains for a single day. Start from Salzburg - Munich airport is not so distant and anyway it would be a more sensible choice than Vienna - and then Switzerland.
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Apr 10th, 2014, 10:32 AM
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Thinking again, you could also spend all your time in Austria. Tyrol has a lot of chalets and mountains - but no fondue. Or consider Garmisch - not impossibly distant from Salzburg and very nice mountains around.
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Apr 10th, 2014, 10:40 AM
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I think the first order is whether you assumption about "return from anywhere very late at night" is realistic. If not, you really have 7 full days. There are not many major airports to return from. You have Vienna, Salzburg, Zurich, or Geneve. Depending on where you are going home, leaving late at night, even if possible, would probably mean staying overnight elsewhere in Europe.

If you only have 7 full days, it will be strech to cover three locations. Two travel days would leave you somewhere around 5.5 days spread across 3 locations.

High altitude locations in Switzerland are between the seasons in May. It is neither the skiing nor the hiking season.

If you return flight has to be early in the morning, that location is best be one of your target destinations. You do not want to add a city just to do an overnight to catch the plane. Putting all this together, one way to do this is to fly into ZRH, travel straight to Berner Oberland or Luzern, travel to Salzburg and return flight from Salzburg. Or return from Vienna if you must.
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Apr 10th, 2014, 05:33 PM
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Not sure where you are coming from the but the last planes form europe to the US typically leave about 4 in the afternoon - or are you flying back to someplace else that has late night flights?
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Apr 10th, 2014, 10:41 PM
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Thank you all. You are right, sometimes it takes an objective outside point of view and not just the glassy-eyed whims of traveler desperately in need of a vacation!

Thinking right now to concentrate in either Austria alone or Switzerland alone - more likely Switzerland. If we do this, a week is certainly reasonable, right? And if so, it is reasonable to take a day trip or 2 days to the Salzburg area? What town/area in Switzerland would you recommend as a base to experience typical small town Swiss life - again, food (raclette/fondue), Alps views, walks/hikes, cute small towns/taverns with a medieval/cobblestone vibe are what we are going for. It's probably hard to find something private and special, but we'd like to avoid the typical tourist traps. We don't mind doing the city thing on the way in/out of Switzerland for a day or so. We aren't really skiers, and not hard-core hikers - just nice walks would suffice.

Thanks.
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Apr 11th, 2014, 10:28 AM
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How do you define 'reasonable'? Even with the entire time in ONE country, a week is not enough time to see/do much in either one.

I've spent a total of perhaps a year or more spread over various trips of varying durations from a few weeks to a month or more in Switzerland alone and still have not seen and done all that is of interest to me in that relatively small country.

So I would say it is 'reasonable' to spend a week staying in one small town/village in Switzerland and seeing and doing what interests you in that immediate area. Anything farther than the immediate area and it begins to become what I would say was 'unreasonable'.

There are countless places to spend your week in Switzlerland although mediaeval/cobblestone are not that common. Zofingen for example meets that criteria but most people wouldn't want to spend a week there (I would) until after they had seen a lot of the better known places in Switzerland.

I could suggest Meiringen as a base where you would find a lot to see/do within an hour or two by bus/train and still experience relatively 'real' Swiss life when in the town.

https://www.google.ca/#q=meiringen+switzerland
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Apr 11th, 2014, 10:35 AM
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Well going in May skiing isn't really an option - except on a couple of glaciers - skiing ice on mountaintops - but hiking should be good except at very high elevations.

But doing Switz and Salzburg in a week isn't one place. And what airports wold you be using (possibly requiring at least one night somewhere else - giving you 3 places in a week).
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Apr 11th, 2014, 11:05 AM
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I think it's fairly reasonable to understand that Itspat isn't trying to see the entire country of Switzerland in one week. When I read something like that I'm assuming the OP wants to catch the highlights of a given country in a stated time. I think a week in Switzerland sounds wonderful and will provide the time for a person to catch the flair of the country.

I'm not an expert on Switzerland but have traveled through the country 3 times. If I had a full 7 days there I'd do the following:

Fly to Zurich
Day 1 - Zurich/Lucerne
Day 2 - Lucerne
Day 3 - train 2 hr - Bernese Oberland (BO)
Day 4 - BO
Day 5 - BO
Day 6 - Trains and lake travel to Geneva
Day 7 - Geneva
Fly home from Geneva

Now in all fairness I'd love to spend a week in the Lauterbrunnen valley alone but I'll never travel enough to spend that much time in one spot like that (nor would my wife love a week there hiking).

I believe that' the type of trip Itspat is looking for. Now he/she may not want to spend that much time in BO in which case they could add more time to the cities on either end.
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Apr 11th, 2014, 12:18 PM
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Many Austrians would certainly be surprised to learn that sauerkraut -- which is an Austrian word -- isn't to be eaten in Austria!

http://eatingaustria.wordpress.com/?...&submit=Search

Here's a comment from a food blog:

GiGi Eats CelebritiesJuly 27, 2012 at 9:16 PM
LOVE me some sauerkraut! I went to Austria and ate it EVERY day... 3 + times a day. They sort of serve it to you there like you would get bread at a restaurant here... plus my family would order about 5 more dishes for the table!! It is prepared so much differently over there, and let me tell you, if you've never had it over there, you've never really had it! A lot of the bottled ones you can buy at the store are just plain sour... but over there oh my, they're savory and made with.. *GASP* ham hock (I don't eat pork AT ALL... but I definitely said SCREW IT and chowed down- hey, there weren't any pieces of pork in it, it was jsut stewed in a pork broth or something... you know what? I don't wanna know, LOL). Oh man, SO GOOD!
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Apr 11th, 2014, 12:26 PM
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And here is an extended discussion of sauerkraut in Switzerland, where it is pointed out (I dare say by people who know what they are talking about) that sauerkraut is "a vital part" of the regional specialty of the Berner Oberland known as the °Bernese platter.° This is not an obscure or remote part of Switzerland. In fact, it is the one most people tour. You would almost have to go out of your way or not want to eat local food to not get sauerkraut if you want it there.

http://www.englishforum.ch/food-drin...auerkraut.html
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Apr 11th, 2014, 12:29 PM
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(not to shatter your confidence in some of the advice you are getting here, itspat, but ...)
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Apr 11th, 2014, 12:33 PM
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3. The rest of the time, the highlights of Switzerland. Actually, big cities aren't essential. We love to just experience some natural beauty, fondue or raclette, the sort of "typical" Swiss Alps or chalet experience.

Planning to travel by train, overnight if needed. We would prefer to have 1 base in Switzerland if possible. Since our time is so short.>

Ok the fabulous Jungfrau Region will more than fulfill everything you want - glacier-girdled peaks soaring thousands of feet above lush bell-toting cow-dotted meadows - cute chalet-style guesthouses and hotels with balconies with scintillating views of the high Alps; toylike trains going everywhere - thrilling aerial cable cars to mountain tops - hiking paths for all degrees of energy and fitness - a great place to base

not only for the mountains but to explore either of the two lakes bookending Interlaken, railhead for the region (most folks like to stay in a mountain village like Grindelwald, Wengen, Lauterbrunnen - all short train rides from Interlaken - but boat rides on these lovely lakes, etc.

For lots on Swiss trains check out these IMO superb sites: www.swisstravlesystem.com; www.budgeteuropetravel.com and www.ricksteves.com. Investigate the Jungfraubahn Pass that covers many expensive conveyances in the Jungfrau Region or the Berner Oberland Pass - both sold locally - you are not traveling enough in Switzerlandto warrant a look at the Swiss Pass it seems.
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Apr 11th, 2014, 02:38 PM
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Wekiva whether you choose to move every day or two as you suggest the OP do is up to you but I would suggest that if you have as limited travel time as you seem to, you would be smarter to stay in ONE place.

The best use of time is IN places seeing/doing things, not BETWEEN places moving from A to B to C to D. Don't confuse quantity with quality.

You cannot do the 'highlights' of Switzerland in a week any more than you could the 'highlights' of the USA. There are simply too many of them.

Most of us live in a 'fast food' society and think that travel is more of the same.
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Apr 13th, 2014, 03:06 PM
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Thank you all for the thoughtful replies. I so wish we had more time but we don't (work). It's definitely not easy to travel to Europe in a short period, especially from the desert Southwest, but we don't want to let us stop that from experiencing the wonder of the continent - even if in small tastes at a time.

How realistic is renting a car? Neither of us have ever driven outside the US, and while I'm a safe driver I wonder if it would make me super anxious. Is this something that is commonly done, in your observation, by Americans? Is it relatively relaxed even for first-time drivers in a foreign country?

Say we decided to spend our time in 1 region and really minimize excessive travel for the majority of the trip - how realistic is an overnight trip to Salzburg (overnight train, spend one day in the city, overnight back) and if so, what kind of travel times are we looking at from major Swiss cities?

Thanks again. I know some of these are amateur questions, appreciate your patience.
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Apr 13th, 2014, 03:29 PM
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Another question - do these 2 countries commonly have a place to leave luggage at a train station if exploring for a day? I know this wasn't so easy to find in England. Thanks.
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Apr 14th, 2014, 04:55 AM
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Yes both Switzerland and Austria have luggage lockers in all main stations - sometimes there is also a manually attended left-luggage depot. Lockers usually stow up to 48 hours sometimes 72 hours - each time you open the door you pay again. Sometimes all lockers may be full but that IME is a rarity.
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Apr 14th, 2014, 07:57 AM
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"how realistic is an overnight trip to Salzburg (overnight train, spend one day in the city, overnight back)"

Some people think if they ask the same question in enough different ways, the answer will somehow change.

Either you are spending your time IN places or BETWEEN places itspat. To do what you are suggesting you will have to LEAVE wherever you are and then RETURN to wherever after your day in Salzburg. Whether you realize it or not, it is not just the train journey time itself that is involved.

You will have to check out of your hotel by noon, have no where to change, shower, etc. all day while you wait to take that overnight train you think will save you wasting time. You are assuming there is even an overnight train. You will schlepp your luggage to Salzburg, put it in a locker and then after an overnight train back (assuming again there is one), you will have to find a place to leave your luggage again until you can check in to your hotel sometime in the afternoon. That means you cannot do anything for that FULL day, you must break it up somehow.

There are all kinds of inconveniences involved in what you are suggesting. So you can ask, 'is it possible' and the answer is yes. Or you can ask, 'would you do it' and the answer is no. Asking, 'is it realistic' really doesn't mean much.

If Salzburg is top of your wish list then spend your week in Austria and forget Switzerland for this trip.
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Apr 14th, 2014, 09:01 AM
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About lockers - many stations may only have small sizes available - if you have a large suitcase or bag it may not fit. Travel light on trains - the best advice I can give after decades of European train travel.
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