Train Trip through Europe?

Old Feb 27th, 2010, 05:39 AM
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Train Trip through Europe?

Hi all,

My fiancee and I are planning a trip after we graduate from graduate school. We are planning three weeks in Europe. We were thinking of flying into Amsterdam and then flying out of Milan. We were thinking of taking trains all the way down. Here is a rough intinerary:

-Amsterdam (3 days)
-Western Germany (few days)--any recommendations of places to see here?
-Zurich (3 days)
-Lucerne (1 day)
-Interlaken (2 days)
-Ticino (1 day)
-Northern Italy (5 days)--which places in Northern Italy should we go to?

Any advice/help would be awesome. Thanks in advance.

-Ariel
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Old Feb 27th, 2010, 06:18 AM
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I am presuming you are young and energetic, so I comment on a few things to rationalize the itinerary.

Did you choose Zurich out of hat, or do you have a specific reason to be there 3 days? Even if you do want to visit both Lucerne and Zurich, they are only 50 min apart by train - stay in one place and do a day trip to another eliminates one hotel checkin/out.

Choice of Interlaken would be good if lakes are your destinations. If the mountains are you destination, go further up to at least Lauterbrunnen or into mountain villages of Wengen or Murren. Since it is a mountain destination, you would want to stay longer to be sure you get some good weather. For a short stay, you might only get cloudy days.

For Northern Italy, the lake Maggiore or Como would be convenient coming from the Switzerland. But after the Switzerland, you might want to go to coastal areas instead? If you are traveling during the warm season, you might want to head to Cinque Terre. Venice (wonderful place with a finance) is another possibility. But the trips into coastal Italy can be long from Switzerland.
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Old Feb 27th, 2010, 07:25 AM
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3 days in Zürich is about 2 days too much, especially if you're also visiting Lucerne, which is close by.
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Old Feb 27th, 2010, 07:44 AM
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>3 days in Zürich is about 2 days too much, especially if you're also visiting Lucerne, which is close by<

That opinion is not shared by me. I really like Zurich, but other than the lake with its beautiful swans, I am not a big fan of Luzern. I think it is extremely touristy.

Some people like big cities; some like charming towns. I am the former.

I would also not stay in Interlaken. I would stay in either Murren or Wengen instead. Keith's parents were in Interlaken and they were shocked that there is a Hooter's in town.

Thin
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Old Feb 27th, 2010, 08:36 AM
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When you rough in your itinerary, do it in nights instead of days. That's more accurate. One day = 2 nights. You may not have as much time, as many days as you think.

And, when you move from one place to another, it takes a minimum of a half day to pack up, check out, get yourselves to the train station, take the train, get yourselves from the train station at your destination to your hotel, and check in. More likely this will take most of a day if you have any distance to travel. So the fewer stops you have, the more time you have to sightsee.

That's why people are saying stay in Lucerne or Zurich, not both. I like Zurich but Lucerne offers 2 good excursions: to Mt Pilatus (including a boat ride on the lake) and to Mt. Rigi. And I liked Interlaken. We stayed near Interlaken Ost station, from which different trains leave to go up into the mountains. And also where the boat for Lake Brienz departs from. (Disclaimer: since I live near snow-covered mountains, I see flowery mountain meadows every year.)

Likewise 1 day in Ticino will requires 2 nights. (I liked Locarno. There's a nice trip from the center of Locarno up into the mountains and offering great views of Lago Maggiore.)

But maybe skip Ticino and end your trip at Lago Como. That's not far from Milan and will give you a big-lake-at-the-foot-of-the-Alps-but-Italian-speaking experience. The rest of your time in northern Italy depends on your interests. You might want to go to Cinque Terre for a sight of the Med from picturesque villages. Or to Florence if you're fans of Renaissance art and architecture. Or Venice (my favorite). You could even do Rome; there are fast trains.

As for Germany, my favorite part is the Mosel River, which is not so easy by train.
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Old Mar 1st, 2010, 05:29 AM
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Book Amsterdam-Germany tickets online at www.bahn.de and print out your own ticets. 'Spezial' fares from Amsterdam to anywhere in Germany from 29 euros if you pre-book. Blows passes out of the water price-wise!

Then book Germany-Zurich tickets online at www.bahn.de too. Prices from anywhere in Germany to Zurich from 29 euros.

Check Swiss fares at www.sbb.ch, but easy enough to buy on the day at the station, the price doesn't change. Sbb.ch will also book direct trains from Swiss cities to northern Italy.
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Old Mar 1st, 2010, 06:11 AM
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For such a wide-ranging train trip i'd look at the Eurail Passes of some type - are you under 26 - if so then you can get the bargain youthpasses - if you book online in advance to get discounts then you lock yourself into an itinerary that you may later want to change, etc. For folks doing a few train trips the online discounts make sense - but it may make a difference if you qualify for the youthpasses or not.
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Old Mar 1st, 2010, 07:01 AM
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Look into the possibility of an overnight train Amsterdam-Munich or if you decide to skip "western germany" an overnight Amsterdam-Basel/Zurich (cheaper if you are holding rail passes).

I agree that there CAN be a lot to see and do IN Zurich especially if you enjoy museums; I also like Lucern and during my own rail trip Stockholm-barcelona this past November I purposely stayed in Lucern instead of Zurich but I've been in both many times.

Lucern will look more "picturesque" and it can be somewhat cheaper to stay there, also.
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Old Mar 1st, 2010, 07:33 AM
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Keep in mind how expensive Switzerland is-most of my fellow airline crew members avoid Zurich because of how much money it costs to eat,etc.I also agree that Zurich doesn't need 3 days unless you are doing daytrips.
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Old Mar 2nd, 2010, 08:41 AM
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For the OP i would recommend taking at least one day from Zurich and putting it in the Interlaken (Jungfrau) area. And for great info on trains in these countries i always spotlight these info-laden sites: www.seat61.com (commercial site on Man in Seat 61 who posted above); www. ricksteves.com; www.budgeteuropetravel.com - the latter lets you download their free (and superb IMO) European Planning & Rail Guide that has a rail-oriented chapter on each country - maps, itinerary suggestions, etc.
Another option for passes would be to eschew the Eurailpass and for Germany go the route Man in Seat 61 suggests - the advance discounted fares but in Switzerland look strongly at the Swiss Pass - a bargain even if there for only a few days - again if under 26 look for the Youth Passes.
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Old Mar 2nd, 2010, 09:33 AM
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Zurich is primarily a business city - I wuold cut way back onit and add days either to Lucern (for the town itself as well as lake steams and mountain ascensions or time actuall up in the mountains in one of the smaller vilages.

Won;t say your itinerary is too busy to see much - you must know that - but everyone has their own ideas/pace.
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Old Mar 2nd, 2010, 11:27 AM
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I would first do the research & figure out exactly how long each of the train rides will be that you're anticipating. You are covering some fair distances. Everyone's different but I don't find 8 hour day-time train rides all that interesting myself.

Is there a reason northern Italy on the itinerary? I'd guess go to Venice myself. It's a bit hard to make constructive suggestions, since I have no idea why you picked the places you did in the first place! kindly, suze
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Old Mar 3rd, 2010, 09:40 AM
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Amsterdam (3 days)
-Western Germany (few days)--any recommendations of places to see here?>

Ok

Amsterdam to The Rhine Gorge - with a short stop in Cologne en route to say one of the dreamy Rhine-side towns, like Rudesheim, St Goar, etc.

Next day spend a day exploring the Rhine Gorge - the most gorgeous stretch of the whole long Rhine - about a 20-mile stretch with gorges and cutesy riverside towns. Boats in season go about hourly so you can get on and off - trek up to ruined castles or the rare intact one like Marksburg (said to be the only Rhine castle not decimated by Napoleon??)
Return by train to your Rhine base.

Next day hop the train to Heidelberg, one of Germany's finest old-looking towns - the rare German town not blitzed in WWII - because conspiracy tyypes say the Allies wanted this historic old university town with the castle of your dreams hovering high above it to serve as their post-war headquarters - which for the Americans it did - still zillions of American GIs in the area. but a sweet town on the Neckar River - great for young people also because of the university

Then go via Stuttgart to Zurich for your Swiss adventure - personally i'd skip Zurich with your limited time and head right for the hills - in the Interlaken area - use that as a base and do wonderful, but smallish Lucerne as a day trip from there.
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Old Mar 14th, 2010, 09:59 AM
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Thanks so much everyone for the help. These are great pieces of advice. You guys are amazing!

-Ariel
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Old Mar 16th, 2010, 12:22 PM
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For more on boats - day trip boats thru the Rhine Gorge (Lorelei cliff the highlight) www.k-d.com - if you have a railpass then it is 100% valid on the boat as well and you just board and flash the pass when boarding - on K-D company boats, which run the bulk of these trips between Mainz and Koblenz - best IMO to board at Rudesheim and do downstream to koblenz - 2.5 hour cruise - get off at any dock in between and board next boat or hop on trains at stations that are always near or a short hop from the K-D boat docks.
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Old Mar 22nd, 2010, 01:14 PM
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Instead of the Rhine Gorge you could head to the nearby Mosel River Valley - to me the most beautiful stretch of river in Europe and much prettier than the Rhine. Cochem would make the dream place for most to stay - right at one of the prettiest parts of the Mosel. You can take a train to Cochem and from Cochem you can also do the Rhine Gorge and KD boats.
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