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Trip report: Munich, Salzburg, Fussen and the Berner Oberland with kids

Trip report: Munich, Salzburg, Fussen and the Berner Oberland with kids

Jul 18th, 2008, 02:37 PM
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Trip report: Munich, Salzburg, Fussen and the Berner Oberland with kids

Hi all. We just got back from a great trip. My husband and I took our two boys (13 and 15) on a trip where we flew to Munich and flew home through Zurich.

I'll post hotel and flight info at the end. I am so thankful for the hotel recommendations that we received from this site - they were great places to stay.

We flew PHL to Munich direct (we were scheduled to fly with a stop-over; I'll explain later as not start my trip report with a long paragraph about the airport!) The flight was only 2/3 full so we actually got some sleep on the plane.

Day 1: Munich

We spent today just walking around the central area of the city.

Marienplatz: did get to see the glockenspiel go off, and I enjoyed the silly gargoyles on the old Rathaus.

Asamkirche: a whole lot of Baroque in a small space! Marble, gold, illusionistic ceiling (I love these), etc. etc. I love Baroque art so I enjoyed the many churches we saw on this trip.

We stayed in Messe, on the outskirts of the city, and drove past our hotel to a small village and got some really good gelato there. Very peaceful setting that you just don't see in America.

Day 2: Dachau/Munich

Dachau Concentration Camp: I thought this visit was more meaningful for me and my older son b/c we visited the US Holocaust Museum last year. Dachau was fascinating in an "I cannot believe humans are capable of thinking, planning and implementing something like this" way. And the whole area is right next to a major city and regular town - that's what seemed odd. Such an awful place tucked into regular geography. The barracks, with the beds just piled on top of each other and all lined up one after the other seemed claustrophobic with NO people in them. The crematorium looked like a regular building from the outside. I was really shaken seeing the ovens.

Observation: we there there when there seemed to be at least 10 tour groups containing only teens. I got the impression that this was just a stop on their tour and not meaningful or important to them in any way. That upset me b/c it seemed so disrespectful.

Back to Munich:

Alte Pinakotech: I love art museums and this was so much smaller and more manageable than many of the art museums in other major cities. Nice collection.

One of my favorite artists is Hieronymous Bosch and my quest to see his work was foiled again. They have a painting by him, but it was in one of the 4 galleries closed for renovation. (I also missed the Durers and other Flemish paintings). When I went to the Prado, I was so excited to see the Garden of Earthly Delights - and it wasn't there! It was out for cleaning - as was the Hay Wain. That was so upsettting! It seems I am following the renovation of all Bosch's paintings around Europe).

Deutches Museum: while I was at the Pinakoteck, my husband took the boys to this museum for a few hours. They really liked the bottom floor and the mine exhibits, etc.

Residenz: I wanted to briefly walk through here but could not find the ticket booth! I walked around for 20 mins. before having to leave and go meet my family. The area around there was nice and I did peek in the nearby church.

We met up at Marienplatz and explored a bit farther out than we did the previous day before we ate dinner and went back to the hotel.

Day 3: Salzburg

Drove to Salzburg and went to explore the city. We walked to the top of the fortress to a great view of the town; walked in the churches; walked through the one graveyard with interesting grave decorations and saw Mozart's birthplace. On the way home, we walked through the Mirabel Gardens. We could not find the dwarf garden. We looked all around for any hidden dwarfs. My husband claimed that one of the statues with a woman holding a baby was the dwarf I was looking for.

Hellbrun castle: we toured this later in the afternoon. My younger son especially liked getting wet by all the trick fountains. The castle had trick fountains (including some hidden in an outdoor table, some along the walkways and some hidden in the statuary). There were water fountains powering moving fish/dolphins and other moving objects, and a huge moving diaroma powered by water. We walked briefly through the interior of the castle before leaving. This was a fun place.

Before we left, I asked the hotel personnel where the dwarfs where in the Mirabel Gardens, and I got directions. We found the area where there were several comical statues lined up. It was adjacent to a playground that the kids hung out in for a while. It had a really tall slide that we can't have in America anymore b/c the liability would be too high.

karens is offline  
Jul 18th, 2008, 03:14 PM
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Day 4: Salzburg to Fussen

Durenberg Salt Mine Tour: we drove to Hallein to tour this salt mine. I was glad we got there fairly early (9:30) b/c we didn't have to wait. This was a fun tour: silly jokes, two long wooden slides and a small ride into the mine where we crossed the border from Austria to Germany.

Alpine slide: We discovered nearby was a new(er) alpine slide, so we went there afterwards. It was great! My kids love these and we've done several in Colorado and the American west. This one was the longest and most scenic one we've done. Fast, too! It went through the woods for a brief time and the view from the top of the gondola was very nice. We rode twice before we left for our drive to Fussen.

Hall in Tirol: we stopped here for a meal and to walk around a bit. The church had a wall with several skulls and a skeleton that at one time was a very well dressed person.

Peterskirche: this church was in nearby Volders and very Baroque/Rococo inside - painted ceilings, lots of marble, gold, etc.

Fussen: we walked around a bit at night and got some really good gelato.

Day 5: Fussen and castles

Neuschwanstein: we booked a 9:45 tour and did the long uphill walk to the castle along a pretty wooded road. The tour was short, but interesting - any longer and my kids would have gotten bored. We walked up to Mary's Bridge to get a great view of the castle and the surrounding area. Ludwig sure picked great locations for his castles.

Wieskirche: another beautiful Baroque church. Very ornate; well worth the 3 mile detour off the road.

Obergammau: we stopped here to walk around a bit, get a snack and check out all the painted buildings.

Linderhof: Wow. The gardens were beautiful and the interior was amazing. I liked touring this castle better than Neuschwanstein (although to be fair, N. wasn't ever totally completed). The rooms were so amazingly decorated: painted walls, beautifully colored silk furniture and ornate decoration EVERYWHERE. The more you studied the walls, the more decorations and details you saw. The mirror room was amazing - if you stood in a certain viewpoint, the mirrors went on and on.

After the tour we went to see the Grotto, in a separate "cave" in the gardens. Oh. my. goodness. I can see why Disney patterned their Cinderella castle after this King's ideas: he was great at creating these amazing areas. The grotto was in a cave with an artificial lake and fake floral decorations and even a boat. (In Neuschwanstein, as you were walking between two rooms, in one area you walked through a re-creation of a cave!)

The drive back to Fussen was very scenic. This drive, along with the one in Austria near Hall reminded us of being in a national park in the western US - very wooded, mountainous and pretty. We passed a large lake and the boys skipped stones here for a while.

Back in Fussen, we discovered a race course being set up. It passed right in front of hotel (zum Hechten). There was a bike race that night that went for 100 laps. 32 bikers started, and boy they flew by. It was fun to watch periodically right from the front of our hotel. We also learned that our hotel had a mini-bowling alley in the basement! The boys really enjoyed an hour of bowling that evening.


karens is offline  
Jul 18th, 2008, 03:24 PM
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Day 6: drive to Lauterbrunnen, Liechenstein.

We awoke to overcast skies, which turned into an all day rain. We had a loong drive this day: our scheduled 5 hr. drive became much longer b/c we hit 2 areas of road construction that slowed us down.

Valduz, Leichenstein: we stopped here for lunch so the boys could say they visited four countries on this trip. Valduz lacked the charm we saw in the other towns so far on this trip, but was a nice enough place to stop for lunch.

Lauterbrunnen. Almost had a heart attack when I was reading a guidbook that said some of the lifts in the Berner Oberland closed at 6pm. We needed the train to get to our hotel in Wengen. It was 5:10 as we arrived in after a long days drive and did NOT want to be stranded. No worries: ticket office was open until 7:30 and trains longer than that.

Our drive here was very scenic through Interlaken on the way to Lauterbrunnen. At one point it was so twisty that the GPS map actually showed a road that looked like a pretzel.

Day 7: Rain in the Berner Oberland

Awoke to rain. (Insert very disapointed face). We went down to Lauterbrunnen to walk around and to tour Trummelbach Falls. There is a LOT of water going through that gorge!!

Came back to Wengen and used a wonderful spa pool in the Victoria hotel. The pool was shallow - 3 ft. surrounded by massage jets, a massage bed and 2 huge water spigots dispensing either a strong flow of water or a more sheet-like dispenser to stand under. There was also a steam room, sauna and hot and cold plunge pools. The pool personnel warned my kids that this was not a jumping and splashing pool, so my younger son kept referring to the pool as the "strict pool". It was great - I wish we had one around here at home! We would hang out near the massage jets in the large pool, then head to the steam room, move on the sauna and then repeated the whole process. Nice way to relax.
karens is offline  
Jul 18th, 2008, 03:25 PM
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karens, thanks for posting. Sounds like you had a great trip. I'm looking forward to more.

How were the crowds? Any problems on the roads with heavy traffic?
bettyk is offline  
Jul 18th, 2008, 03:27 PM
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Looks like we were posting at the same time!
bettyk is offline  
Jul 19th, 2008, 12:23 AM
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Yes, please tell us... How were the crowds?
libssmfamily is offline  
Jul 19th, 2008, 02:40 AM
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Thanks for this trip report. Very interesting.

I also loved the Asamkirche. It was a Wow-effect.

I didn't like Salzburg too much when I was there in March. And the dwarf garden was closed that time of year. Too bad.

Just back from a different part of Switzerland and also had the jo-jo weather. We cannot do anything about it, right?

Keep it coming!

I.
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Jul 19th, 2008, 03:45 AM
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Hi all. Yes, ingo, unfortunately we can't do anything about the weather. The only disappointment of our trip was the 2.5 rainy days we had, and unfortunately they were during our stay in Switzerland. We didn't get the opportunity to hike, which my husband was really looking forward to.

bettyk and libs - the crowds were not bad at all. We toured the popular attractions early (Neuschwanstein at 9:45am and the salt mine at 9:30am). Others we did later in the day (Linderhof at around 3pm; Hellbrunn at about 4:00pm). There were a lot of people walking around Munich, Zurich and Salzburg, but no so much that you couldn't get by on the streets. I was warned weekends on the lifts in the Berner Oberland would be crowded, but it was rainy and cloudy the Sunday we were there, so no one was lining up to ride anything. There were many people walking around Trummelbach Falls at 11am that Sunday.
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Jul 19th, 2008, 03:53 AM
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Day 8: More rain (Grrrr)

Another rainy day in the mountains. We weren't sure how to occupy the boys. We let them surf the (free) internet at our hotel for a while. Our hotel also had table tennis so they played that for a while. (I realize now they probably had more fun doing what we did this day than all the hiking we had planned). We walked around the shops in Wengen and decided to do the Mannlichen-Kleine S. hike. We talked to people who did the hike the previous day and while they said there were no grand views, every once in a while the clouds parted and they saw some nice scenery.

That plan was foiled when we were told that the rain we were getting in Wengen was snow up in the higher elevations and in Mannlichen! The temps were in the 50s in Wengen, and I knew we'd be too cold in our sneakers and light raincoats to hike in snow.

So we went back to the strict pool and hung out there.

Before dinner the rain stopped and after dinner most of the clouds were gone as well, revealing wonderful vistas. The mountaintops were covered in snow. We did a nice hike along one of the roads in Wengen that overlooked the Lauterbrunnen Valley, and took us briefly through the woods. Hiking back into Wengen, we were serenaded by cow bells.
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Jul 19th, 2008, 03:57 AM
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Sounds like the Sunday was 13 July. LOL, had the same weather in Southeast Switzerland ;-) Snow down to 2000 m. Luckily we had two more days and were able to hike a bit and enjoy the freshly snow-capped mountains.

Yep, I bet the boys enjoyed the internet and table tennis more than hiking.
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Jul 20th, 2008, 05:58 AM
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Karens - so glad you are posting this!! Looking forward to more.

Did you pack enough warm clothing/rain gear for the weather?
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Jul 20th, 2008, 06:16 PM
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We will be in Lauterbrunnen in early October, are we likely to see snow then too. Is snow in July unusual for Switzerland, I thought it was summer. Great report Karen, glad you had a wonderful trip.
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Jul 22nd, 2008, 04:33 AM
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Day 8: Glorious sunshine in the mountains

This day was bright and sunny – finally!!! The mountains were covered by a fresh coating of snow and were absolutely beautiful. We had to drive to Zurich later in the day, so we decided to just tour the area by gondola/train.

We rode the gondola from Wengen up to Mannlichen. Took a few pictures and then went over to Grindelwald. From Grindelwald we went to Kleine Scheidegg (sp?) Gorgeous views the entire way. At KS we walked up to the top of a viewpoint and ate lunch and enjoyed the view. Then we headed back to Wengen, got our luggage and then went down to Lauterbrunnen to get our car.

I have been all over the Rocky Mnts. in the US, and to the Canadian Rockies, and I think the Swiss Alps are prettier overall.

We drove to Zurich . We spent the evening walking around Old Town Zurich. I didn’t know Zurich was such a vibrant and lively city. There were people all over the place. We ate dinner and walked all around the cobblestone streets, crossed the river, walked around the other side for a while and took a different bridge back.

On the other side of the river was actually a small beach. As we were walking by, I told my son to look up at all the interesting architectural details on the buildings we were passing. At the same time, my husband noticed that several of the girls on the beach were sunbathing topless. I guess we both were paying attention to what interested us!

We decided that it would be very nice to have a home in Zurich and a mountain home in Wengen. We loved how clean and safe we felt touring around Switzerland (really everywhere we went our whole trip).

Day 9: long commuting day and home.

It was a great trip! I’ll give hotel, flight and rental car info next.

karens is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2008, 05:14 AM
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HOTELS

MUNICH: Holiday Inn Express – Munich-Messe. These two nights were free with my husband’s hotel points. This wasn’t the greatest place to stay – it was on the outside of the city, but hotels for 4 were expensive in Munich. The Holiday Inn in central Munich would not guarantee that if we booked two separate rooms that they would be adjoining, so that wasn’t an option.

The room was SMALL. I knew what to expect – we stayed at a HIE in Bath, England last year and it was the same size room.
This hotel was about a 5 min. car ride to the U-bahn station and about a 25 min. ride into central Munich. The second day we just drove into Munich (from Dachau) and traffic wasn’t bad, either going into the city, or back towards our hotel (non-rush hour driving). We did drive past the hotel one night to get some gelato in a small village nearby and that was a nice thing to do.

SALZBURG: Sheraton. This hotel was SO NICE. We didn’t have enough points for even one room, but Starwood has a nice program where you can use some points and just a little bit of money ($60) for a room. They didn’t have rooms for 4, so we got two adjoining rooms. The rooms were huge, clean and quiet – perfect! There were also nice extras in the room (slippers, an umbrella, etc). My boys were very upset that the pool hotel guests are allowed to use was closed for cleaning b/c it had a high dive! You rarely find them in the US anymore. There was free internet access (3 computers in the lobby) and a small gym with very nice equipment. We didn’t do a cardio workout, but I briefly lifted weights.

When we travel with our kids, we are too cheap to spring for 2 rooms, but we might consider this more, depending on the cost and size of the rooms.

FUSSEN: Hotel zum Hechten (Fodors recommendation – many thanks!)

This hotel was centrally located. We liked staying in Fussen and walking around at night after sightseeing. For 132 Euros/night, we had a huge family room. When you walked in, there was a huge foyer. To the right was a bedroom with a queen bed, to the left was a large room with a sofa, 2 chairs, TV AND two small beds against the wall. The rate included breakfast, which was good. There was a mini-bowling alley in the basement that the boys enjoyed. We felt “in the center of the action” here, especially the second night when the bike race course was set up on the street we were on. The boys room faced the bustling street; ours was over a courtyard (and a restaurant) but was not noisy and I am usually quite sensitive to noise.

WENGEN: Hotel Baren (Fodors recommendation – another winner!!)

I can’t thank enough whoever recommended this hotel to me. We loved it. We had another larger sized family room – 2 rooms with shared bath – not huge rooms but nice enough. The rate included a breakfast and dinner and the dinners were GREAT. We had four course meals, which was such a treat. When we travel with the boys, we do not usually eat all that well – we usually opt for faster, simpler meals when eating with them.

The hotel had free internet access, table tennis and a TV/viewing area with DVDs for the kids, but a very nice touch – we especially appreciated these amenities b/c it was so rainy for 2 of the days we were there. We also got a discounted rate at the spa pool we visited, which was in the Hotel Victoria.

ZURICH: St. Josef (again, thank you, Fodors, this was a great place)

I wasn’t sure exactly where this hotel was located, all I recalled was that it wasn’t far from the airport. It was on a nice street and we had a large room with 4 beds. It was only 2 blocks from all the “action” of Old Town. I could see living in a place like this – in fact, it reminded me of an apt. we had when my husband and I first lived downtown in Philadelphia (location wise) – actually, the hotel was nicer than our apt!) Also had an included breakfast, which was very good. It was only about 20 min. drive to the airport.

I would highly recommend all the hotels we stayed at, except for the Holiday Inn Express in Munich. It was fine, but I’m sure there are better, more convenient options.
karens is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2008, 05:15 PM
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RENTAL CAR

We originally rented a car through Hertz. One way rentals were not easy to find. When I realized the 770 rate they quoted us was in Euros and not dollars, I knew I had to find a cheaper option.

I used AutoEurope, which rented to us through Avis and was almost half of Hertz’s price. We got an Audi A4 which was an EXCELLENT CAR. I came home and immediately priced one out; was disappointed to see the reliability ratings were low b/c this car drove so nicely.

The trunk was small – I was sort of prepared for that and I purchased a smaller 3rd suitcase for us. It was a good thing I did – our suitcases just fit into the trunk – our original 3 suitcases would have never fit.

The greatest option the car had was a BUILT IN GPS. I think this was the greatest!! I know some of you think getting lost is part of travel. To me, getting lost while traveling is extremely stressful and a waste of precious vacation time. We programmed in everything and our wonderful GPS took us straight there. At one time, it recalculated the route due to “current traffic reports”. I loved this thing (can you tell?!) I am confident we would have gotten hopelessly lost at least several times on our trip (and I came prepared with a road atlas and Via Michelin driving directions).
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Jul 23rd, 2008, 05:53 PM
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FLIGHTS

We flew on four frequent flier award tickets, so we didn’t exactly have the most convenient itinerary. (It could have been a lot worse).

It originally looked like this:

TO MUNICH: PHL, USAir to Zurich, switch to Lufthansa to Munich

TO HOME: Air Canada from Zurich to Toronto; switch to Air Canada to PHL

Our flight to Zurich started to board on time. About 1/3 of the way through, the FA announces the plane has a mechanical - but there was good news. We are to proceed to gate A20 (from A4) and use another plane.

This is a pretty far walk, from one end of one terminal to the other. As we approach our new gate, an announcement comes on: Zurich passengers, please report back to your original gate.

We walk back - and they are not loading us onto the original flight. We wait around for 30 mins. when they announce - OK - now go BACK to A20 and your flight will be there. What a mess.

This story had a very happy ending for us, though. They were going to give the Zurich people the Munich plane (which was scheduled to leave 2 hrs. later) and fix the plane for Munich. I asked if we could be put on the Munich flight since there was no way we were going to make our connection through to Munich in Zurich. US agreed and we got to fly direct!

BONUS: The Munich flight was only 2/3 full - I have never seen such an empty plane. My family of 4 had the entire row (2-3-2) to ourselves and we took turns throughout the night spreading out on the seats. We actually got some sleep.

The Munich plane was the mechanical problem plane from Zurich - there were problems with the radar and they fixed them. We did leave about 30-45 mins. late, but we were so happy to be flying direct we didn't care.

The Zurich flight, scheduled to leave at 6:30, didn't end up pushing back until around 8pm.

The headache was our luggage. It was originally on the Zurich flight, and we asked the one agent to see if they could retrieve our bags. She was miserable and asked the ramp agent, who of course said No. In the meantime, a really helpful supervisor was checking out the situation and she went down to the ramp to have them retrieve our bags.

Unbelievably, and thankfully, all 3 of our bags were pulled and correctly placed on our Munich plane. A very happy ending.


Return flight: Air Canada Zurich to Toronto to PHL

We flew on a new plane and it was SO NICE. My jaw dropped when I saw what the first class seats looked like. They were like narrow recliners that folded back all the way – each had its own TV. Back in the cheap seats, we all had our own TVs, too. My older son loved this – he watched 4 movies. He did well on that 8 hr. flight.

B/c we flew on FF seats, the only flight they would give us had 4.5 hr. layover in Toronto. The one woman in the airport really screwed us – sorry for the strong language, but she really could have helped us out and chose not to. We saw on the board there were 2 USAir flights going to PHL before ours. We asked to be moved up and she said, Oh there’s only one AC flight and that’s yours. My husband said, I am looking at 2 USAir showing on the schedule. I didn’t’ push it, b/c I didn’t think USAir would let us on one of their flights when we were ticketed AC, even though we were using USAir miles.

My husband tried to switch us later, after we cleared customs, and re-checked our bags. The same woman said, well, now that you re-checked your bags, there’s nothing I can do! A different woman said a switch WAS possible, but b/c we sent our bags through, we had to stick with our scheduled flight. I accepted the 4.5 layover going into this trip – but knowing we could have easily switched but a lazy nasty employee stopped us was extremely frustrating.

We loved our AC airplane on the way to Toronto, but the one from Toronto from PHL was smaller (understandably) and leaked a drop of water on my husband’s arm! I started getting worried. My husband told me to calm down, it was only the condensation from the air conditioning. We hit a lot of turbulence and at one point the plane fell about a 1’, and that bothered me less than that one drop of water. Then two women switched seats b/c their seats were also dropping drops of water on them! This can’t be normal, can it? The FA seemed unconcerned.

We arrived in PHL basically on time, despite leaving a few minutes late b/c a USAir flight at our gate in Toronto took longer to load and push back.

All’s well that ends well!!!


karens is offline  
Jul 23rd, 2008, 08:00 PM
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Karens - I am trying to nail down my rooms in Salzburg and have SPG points and it is available points/cash - I take it you would highly recommend the hotel?
MomDDTravel is offline  
Jul 24th, 2008, 03:38 AM
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Nice report, karens. I really enjoyed reading about your travels.

Robyn >-
artstuff is offline  
Jul 24th, 2008, 04:11 AM
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Yes, MomDD, I would highly recommend the Sheraton. It's a nice walk to the town - and it's only a block away from the pretty Mirabell Gardens.

The room was very large (esp. by European standards) and really nice. Free internet access in the lobby ( you don't see a lot in Europe, either), and from what my kids told me, a really nice pool.
karens is offline  
Jul 24th, 2008, 04:35 AM
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Thanks very much for writing and posting this excellent report.

Sorry you weren't able to get into the Residenz and given what you've said about the other places I am certain you would have enjoyed it (guess you'll simply have to go back!!!)

Cheers and thanks again for the detail.
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