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Train and time spent in each place-need help please!

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Apr 25th, 2014, 01:27 PM
  #1
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Train and time spent in each place-need help please!

Hello everyone! We are leaving for Germany in 2 weeks and I would love some help figuring out which trains to use and how many nights we should spend in each place. Here's what we are thinking so far--
Fly into Frankfurt early May 11 (Sunday)- Would love to take the train directly to Lake Hallstatt. How is this best done and should we make reservations? Or, if that is just crazy, where should we stay? Is there another small village along the way or would Munich be best?
Lake Hallstatt-2-3 nights-plan to relax, enjoy the scenery, want to tour the salt mines, probably visit Salzburg, take a boat out on the lake
on to
Garmisch-2-3 nights (best train to get there? Reservations needed?)-definitely the Zugspitze
on to
Colmar-3 nights (thinking a rental car may best best here for flexibility to explore villages, etc... Need to p/u car in Germany. Would taking the train to Freiburg to p/u there make sense?
Drive on to Dusseldorf- 2 nights (my husband has to work but we aren't sure about exact days that week yet)
Drive on to
Cochem or other small river town-hope for 2 nights but depends on hubby's work--want to do a river cruise and see Burg Eltz
drive to frankfurt
Drop rental car and Fly home from Frankfurt Sat. May 24-mid-day

This is our first trip to Europe and I am SO SO excited! I would be grateful to y'all for any input, tips, thoughts on our plan, help with figuring out trains-- mostly which ones make sense for our route. Do y'all think a pass would be best?
Would also love any recommendations for accommodations, restaurants, etc...
Also, what's the weather like this time of year? Checked accuweather for the long range forecast and it looks like low to mid 60's during the day and upper 40's at night. Is that about right? Is it rainy this time of year there?
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Apr 25th, 2014, 01:34 PM
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P.S.-with regard to car rental--does this even make sense or will the public transport in the Alsace allow us to explore some of the other villages on the wine route? We definitely aren't tied to renting a car other than hubby will have to have one in Dusseldorf.
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Apr 25th, 2014, 01:39 PM
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Well Hallstatt is a long long way by train from Frankfurt - probably cannot even do it in same day - I'd stay in the Frankfurt area -or go to a sweet town on the Rhine or Mosel the first night - next day relax do a K-D boat cruise on the Rhine.

Head to Munich - go to Garmisch and onto Innsbruck and Salzburg then Hallstatt.

For lots of great info on trains in those countries I always highlight these IMO superb sites: www.budgeteuropetravel.com; www.ricksteves.com and www.saeat61.com. In Germany a German Railpass can be very cost-effective if only taking a handful of trains and it lets you hop on any train anytime with few exceptions. It is also valid on the K-D boats on the Rhine.

Cochem is a perfect base that is not far by train from Frankfurt Airport - the dream picture postcard town most dream of staying in but rarely do.

Situated at a pretty section of the awesomely gorgeous Mosel Valley - to me one of the prettiest river valleys in all of Europe - Cochem also has the castle of your dreams topping a vineyard-carpeted hill right in town.

https://www.google.com/search?q=coch...=1600&bih=1075
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Apr 25th, 2014, 02:15 PM
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If this is a first trip to Europe, I am a bit curious about the choice of destinations? Hallstatt does seem a long way from everywhere else.

FYI, don't expect to buy a German Rail Pass just anywhere in Germany. (It might be too late to risk having one mailed to you.) When I was in Freiburg a few weeks ago, I tried to buy one at the main station but was told the closest station that sold these passes was Basel. I was really surprised; Freiburg's is not a huge train station but not tiny, there's a staffed Deutsche Bahn office. I'm not sure if you'd be able to buy a pass at the Frankfurt airport train station or not.

I was also in Cochem and Colmar (and Freiburg) just a few weeks ago, without a car. I didn't spend much time in Alsace, just a night in Colmar. (Beautiful town.) It's easy to get up to Strasbourg by train, almost as easy to Freiburg (a bus with a train connection). My understanding is that you'd really want a car to get to most of the other small Alsace villages (except for Turckheim).

Freiburg is a nice town though the biggest reason to visit there (if it even crossed your mind beyond picking up a car there) is the proximity to day trips like the town of Staufen or a hike in the Black Forest.
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Apr 25th, 2014, 02:40 PM
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<< Would love to take the train directly to Lake Hallstatt >>

You can't do this. Any train involves 3 or 4 changes and you may not be able to make the last morning train (the afternoon trains arrive the next morning after stopping for hours during the night).

You should go to Salzburg the first day. Take the train from the airport and relax on the train. There is one change in Munich. It's 28 minutes so enough time to pickup food and drinks at the station. The next day you can go to Hallstat after a good sleep.

I would get the tickets when you arrive as you don't want to take a chance booking discounted non-refundable tickets on arrival day.

Your other thread gave you all the train information you need to know and Pal (above) gave you seat61 again.

Schedules can be found on the German train site but only bookings to locations to and from Germany can be made on this site.

http://www.bahn.de/i/view/USA/en/index.shtml
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Apr 25th, 2014, 02:46 PM
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Thanks for your input PalenQ and Andrew--Well, the destination choices came about like this:
My husband is an engineer and has to go to Dusseldorf for 2 days to look at something he's having built for a project before he takes final delivery. So, we are locked in there. We decided to make this into a vacation for just the 2 of us and I, of course, immediately wanted to go EVERYWHERE. When I came back to reality, we decided to try to make somewhat of a loop, in and out of Frankfurt, and try to focus more on seeing different regions, rather than countries and try to spend 2-3 nights in each place. Colmar is a must see for me, as is the Zugspitze and Garmisch looks beautiful, Cochem/river cruise is a must for my husband and I'm dying to see Burg Eltz (thanks for the Cochem recommendation PQ!) Then, in looking around and thinking about Salzburg, we came across Hallstatt and fell in love. So, I know it doesn't make sense as far as our "loop" goes, but it's a place we both really want to go.
Thank you for the info about the train pass! I hadn't thought of that! I will be checking on that right away. Also, thank you for the info about the villages around Colmar--I was also under the impression that a car would be needed if we wanted to explore more of Alsace--although, if I am being honest, we only have probably 2 full days there so even with a car, that's not much time. We go back and forth on this--especially because we know we will have to get one anyway.
Hope that helps you get a sense of my convoluted thought process
Would love to hear about your trip--did you eat/stay anywhere you would recommend?
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Apr 25th, 2014, 03:08 PM
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Thanks adrienne! I just had a long reply that was more specific and I accidentally deleted it. Frustrating.
I was thinking that Munich or Salzburg would be best for the first night--but was hoping that someone would jump in and say oh no, just do x,y, and z and you're good to go to Hallstatt
As far as the rest of our trip, I've been reading about the regional tickets and wondered if this is something that would make sense for us. There are SO many types of tickets that I'm finding it difficult to keep them all in mind when pricing out the different legs of our trip. I've never been on a train before and have been amazed at all the options for getting from point a to point b!
Thank you again for your help--it is much appreciated!
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Apr 25th, 2014, 03:19 PM
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If you wind up not being able to buy a rail pass, at least try to buy tickets the night before your train, because you can at least get some discount, most likely, vs. paying full fare if you buy the day of the train. You can buy tickets at the train stations but you can also buy them online from www.bahn.com in most cases...HOWEVER, note that you have to print out these tickets on physical paper (not display on your phone or tablet, unless you have a German SIM card). Most German hotels can print out train tickets for you, for free, if you ask. (Email them a PDF of the ticket or copy it to a thumbdrive.)

There are also easy-to-use ticket machines at all the train stations (touch the British flag for instructions in English). They usually take cash but may not take your credit card unless it has a chip in it (American credit cards are only recently trying to catch up and add chips to credit cards). Buying at a station from a person adds a small fee to the cost of your ticket vs. buying online or from a machine.

Just buy the tickets that get you there the fastest unless a regional train is not much slower; usually regional trains cost a lot less than the IC or ICE trains. If you wind up on an IC or ICE train note that reservations are suggested - seats are reserved - but NOT required (cost a few euros more); you might want reservations anyway if you want to sit together on a busy train. I rode a couple of IC/ICE trains solo without reservations but the trains weren't full so I had no trouble finding a seat. Above the seat on an IC/ICE train should be a little display telling you how far the seat is reserved; if you get off at say Munich but the seat is reserved from Munich to Salzburg, you can just sit there. On a full train you can always sit in the dining car.

I stayed at the Le Rapp hotel in Colmar - not awful but can't really recommend it. The room was clean but felt a tad dated, and the hallway was musty and awful-smelling, which sort of ruined my first impression. It is rated highly on Trip Advisor, however.
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Apr 25th, 2014, 05:51 PM
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Are you locked into flying into FRankfurt? If you really want to see Hallstatt and then Garmisch I think flying into Vienna or Munich would make much more sense and wouldn't cost any more (you get open jaw tickets, called multi-destination on the search engines).

You can get full info on train schedules on bahn.de the german rail site. A quick look shows that Hallstatt is about 4 hours by train from either one, with trains running more or less hourly (with 1 or 2 changes). From Frankfurt the trip is 8 hours or so and there are only a few trains in the AM - after that they are much longer overnight trains (but with changes).

So you will either need to rethink your flights or rethink your itinerary.
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Apr 25th, 2014, 08:57 PM
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Andrew--Thank you so much for all your tips and advice--I've been making note of it!! I took a look at your itinerary thread--hope you had a wonderful time!
NYT--I agree--I had hoped an open jaw would be feasible for us when I booked our flights but there actually was a significant price difference between flying in/out of Frankfurt vs. into Munich, out of Frankfurt. Additionally, Hallstatt wasn't on our radar then either. I'd hate to rethink our itinerary (I'm so excited about it!!!)--I feel like there must be a way to figure it out-- after some discussion, neither of us mind spending the day on the train to get to Hallstatt on Sunday as we will be fighting jet lag no matter what.
I know the best way to arrive in Hallstatt is by ferry but I have not seen that come up as a connection possibility on any searches on bahn.de...in fact, when I go to the saver fares for long distance journeys search box, Hallstatt isn't even an option. But, it comes up fine on the regular search box...I think I've probably been looking at my computer screen too long now ;-)
The best plan may be to take the train into Salzburg for that first night and then head to Halstatt. Is that a ticket I can purchase in Salzburg or should that be done before we leave? Is the ferry something different?
Thanks again for all the advice y'all--it is much appreciated!!!
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Apr 25th, 2014, 09:40 PM
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I am going to refer you to this web site: www.bigboytravel.com. Go to the section on Hallstatt. This tells you all possible ways to get there: from Salzburg, from Vienna, from Munich; by bus, train and ferry, and the advantages of each, plus the timing and costs.

I first thought perhaps to continue by air on to Salzburg or Munich, even Vienna, but it would probably be best to catch the next train to Salzburg right from the Frankfurt airport, get a few hours of sleep on the train, then bus to Hallstatt or take the train - ferry combo. That will be a very long day.

It might be more enjoyable to spend the first night in Salzburg, have a nice evening walk there, do a bit of sightseeing the next morning and head to Hallstatt around noon so you can get the full visual affect when you arrive.

Your excitement about the trip is contagious. I hope it exceeds your expectations.
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Apr 25th, 2014, 10:24 PM
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You could take the train from Frankfurt to Salzburg arriving 9PM. Then go to Hallstatt the next day. The train or bus/train ends across the lake. You then take a ferry across the lake to the village..

http://www.hallstattaustria.net/2011...ain-and-ferry/
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Apr 26th, 2014, 05:33 AM
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Landing and hopping on a nine-hour train ride the same day - not a sane day IMO - at least stay near Frankfurt in a nice smaller town like Weisbaden, a spa town really close to Frankfurt Airport and rest up before a long-haul train ride.
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Apr 26th, 2014, 06:08 AM
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Pal - I disagree on that. Rather than heading in a different direction, go towards the destination. I find trains relaxing and usually go to sleep with the rocking motion. Salzburg is 6 hours so you can get a good nap and be refreshed for the rest of your trip.
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Apr 26th, 2014, 07:10 AM
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Thank you all so much! Sassafras--thank you for the link-it answered my questions! I feel a little silly not realizing that the train station is located across the lake, making the ferry a necessity. One of many, many goofs, I'm sure
I am truly so excited about this trip (this is bucket list territory!!!), even if we do have to shuffle work into it for a few days, I am FINALLY going to Europe!
I think we are going to stop in Salzburg for the night. I wanted to spend a little time here anyway so that will be perfect. Adrienne, I'm thinking you're right and we will take a nap on the train.
My next questions are--should I go ahead and book the train tickets to Salzburg? If so, do you think 2 hours is enough to clear customs, etc...
What about the rest of our trip? Should I go ahead and purchase tickets if point to point is the most cost effective (still looking into railpass as well)?
I can make a new thread if that would be better!
Thanks again y'all--your help is much appreciated!
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Apr 26th, 2014, 08:51 AM
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We all have different preferences. Landing in Germany in the morning after a long flight and taking a long train ride my first day would be the LAST thing I would want to do - I originally had a six hour train on my first day of my recent trip but I changed it. But my jet lag coping strategy is the "stay up all day the first day" method, so I need to be out doing stuff not stuck on a train where it would be hard for me to stay awake.

I still don't understand why on your first trip to Europe Hallstatt is such a high priority that you want to invest so much time and energy to see it. What if it rains? It's just a small town with a beautiful lake. There are so many beautiful places in Europe closer to Frankfurt than Hallstatt.

But if you are the kind of person who just makes decisions and sticks to them, no matter what, you might as well go ahead and buy the tickets now if you can't buy a rail pass. The saver ticket fares aren't going to go down, only up from here on. On my recent trip, I tried to be flexible, and I did benefit from taking different trains that I might have originally wanted (even on different days), because I changed my plans a little as I traveled. I bought saver fares (when available) usually the night before the train - didn't save as much as buying 2-3 weeks in advance but usually still saved 20% or more.
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Apr 26th, 2014, 08:58 AM
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Yes, we all have different travel styles, and you'll find out what yours is. I am completely used to taking an overnight flight followed by a long train ride, followed by a 45-minute drive. All in all it makes for about 25-30 hours of traveling, but it works fine for me, way better than chopping up the travel time with rest periods and stops. I love to just keep going.
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Apr 26th, 2014, 09:04 AM
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Two hours is plenty of time if your flight is on time.

There is virtually no customs in European airports. You're thinking of immigration (passport control). It doesn't take long. Are you taking carry on or checking baggage?

Don't forget to bring bottled water if you want to brush your teeth or wash your face on the train. There may be a buffet car but prices are premium.
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Apr 26th, 2014, 10:19 AM
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Thanks for the info! Honestly, I've never traveled far enough to really experience jet lag (only central america and I'm from the gulf coast so not a long plane trip!), but in general, even on road trips, I think I am like StCirq--just prefer to get to wherever I'm going without multiple stops.
Andrew--Regarding sticking to travel decisions--I'm actually really flexible. We wanted to go to Austria or Switzerland (but am told Switzerland is very pricey), and Hallstatt is beautiful--just the sort of place my husband and I are drawn to. I would be really interested to know if there is another charming lakeside village that would make more sense for us, travel wise. We are set on the Alsace region and on Garmisch (charm and Zugspitze proximity) and then heading to Dusseldorf (work) and will stop in Cochem for hopefully 2 nights on our way back to Frankfurt to fly home. In Hallstatt, we planned to enjoy the lake and the village of course, along with the salt mine and we wanted to make the trek to Eagles Nest. With all of that info--what other lake town would you suggest? I am completely open to suggestions on itinerary changes! That's the good thing about never having been to Europe, it's all going to be new and exciting for me!
Adrienne-thank you for the info! You can tell I've never been We are planning to check one smallish bag and then have our carry-ons. My husband has some things he needs for work, so that's the reason for the one checked bag. Packing is a whole other thread, lol. I've never attempted to pack so light! I'm a bit nervous but am determined to take as little as possible because we will be hauling it through train stations! I'll take any packing tips y'all have as well!!!
Thanks again!
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Apr 26th, 2014, 10:25 AM
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There are tons of packing threads on this forum so do a search. Basically, take whatever fits in a 19" bag. Leave the rest home.
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