Vienna and Prague in December 2005

Old Sep 22nd, 2005, 06:43 AM
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Vienna and Prague in December 2005

Found a package deal to fly to Prague in early December (not christmas time) from New York for 3 nights with air, hotel and breakfast for $499 (not including taxes). The airline is allowing me to stop over in Vienna for free for as many nights for only $49 pppn for hotel accomodations. I thought it was a good deal so I jumped on it!

So my finaly itinerary is to fly overnight to Vienna. Stay in Vienna for 3 nights. On the 4th day, fly into Prague for 4 nights. Leaving on the 5th day. So basically I have 3.5 days in Vienna and 3.5 days in Prague.
I will be travelling with a family of 6 (2 young adults, 2 seniors and 2 babies). It is more of a piligrimage for us, as we are catholics and are looking to view the catholic sites in vienna and prague. Other than touring these cities, I was thinking of making a side day trip or two from vienna or prague. Does anyone have any recommendations?

I was searching through fodors and found people have done day trips from Vienna to Budapest. The EuroCity rail would bring me into Budapest in 2.5 to 3 hours by looking at their schedule. Is this doable? What other day excursions do you all recommend? Does not have to be religiously centered. For instance, if we are not going to budapest then we are most likely to go salzburg. Can anyone shed on light on what they would do as day trips with this itinerary in December?

One last question. I know December is not the ideal time to visit these areas because of the temperature, but we figured it would be nice to visit these cities during winter time and at a such cheap rate, it was too tempting to pass up (flight alone to Prague is over $1000!!!) Plus, the week we are going is during a holy day (Dec 8th, Immaculate Conception) in the Catholic Calendar and would like to see how they celebrate it in a prodominately catholic countries. I have been reading and told though, most sites and museums/parks are closed or have certain hours after november. Is this true? What kind of restrictions are we going to experience? I am assuming the cathedrals and churches are open year round, but the museums are closed? Would be nice to know what to expect as in what we can see and can not see when we go.

Thanks in advance for anyone who responds! Jedi
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Old Sep 22nd, 2005, 07:42 AM
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Hi
I just wanted to mention that the Czech Republic is not primarily a Catholic country. There are many beautiful Catholic churches in Prague from the Counter-Reformation period, but their congretations are relatively small.
Many of the churches do have limited visiting hours for casual visits, mass times are usually posted or your hotel may know.

I am an avid church-visitor, though I am not Catholic, and have long files on Vienna and Prague; if you'd like to see them, email me at
[email protected]

With the time you have in Vienna and Prague, I would not dilute it further by going to Budapest. There will be more than enough to see in V and P.
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Old Sep 22nd, 2005, 07:43 AM
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sorry, that should have been--
congregations
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Old Sep 22nd, 2005, 07:50 AM
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I must not have had enough coffee, didn't express myself correctly at all

about 40% of the Czech population call themselves Catholic, but an equal 40% (which is increasing) call themselves atheists/non-believers. So, Catholics are by far the largest church-going group, but not a majority of the whole population. There are so many RC churches in Prague still operating (many of which are masterpieces of architecture) that within each church, the number of congregants can be quite small.
The remainder of the population falls into smaller groups: Orthodox, a few Protestant denominations, and a handful of Jews.
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Old Sep 22nd, 2005, 09:08 AM
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Thanks for the info elaine. I know there is alot to see, but I have to maximize my stay. I have to take at least one day trip. Only because I do not know when I will be back in the area again. This is one of those once in a lifetime trips =)

Anyways. If you had to choose. Budapest or Salzburg? Where would you go? I am leaning towards Budapest.
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Old Sep 22nd, 2005, 10:14 AM
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MaureenB
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With a group of six, including two babies, I think 6 hours round-trip on a train to and from Budapest might not be enjoyable. So much to see in Vienna and Prague themselves.
An easy day-trip from Vienna is to buy the "combi-pass" at the train station. It's reasonably priced for what you get, but I don't remember the exact price. The pass gives you train fare to Melk; includes entry fee to the gorgeous monastery at Melk where you can have a nice picnic in their garden house if the weather is too cold to be outside, and Melk itself a cute little town on the river; then boat fare from Melk to Krems through some pretty wine country; then train fare from Krems back to Vienna. It makes a great day-trip that is filled with sites, yet not rushed or hectic.
 
Old Sep 22nd, 2005, 11:23 AM
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Re trip to Melk- a nice trip but not in December. Boats finish their daily trips on the Danube Melk- Krems in October!
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Old Sep 22nd, 2005, 11:45 AM
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MaureenB
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Oops-- thanks for the info., molker. What about a train ride to and from Melk, to see the monastery? It's beautiful, as you probably know.
Jedijood, you will be amazed how many gorgeous Catholic churches there are in Vienna. It seemed there was one on every block-- and we looked in each one. Better than museums in many ways.
 
Old Sep 22nd, 2005, 12:34 PM
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wow thats great to hear about vienna and the churches. I can not seriously wait. Actually, I think the 6 hour train ride back and forth from budapest would be a nice relaxing break with the two babies from all the walking and site seeing we will be doing in vienna.

But you guys are right. Budapest is far and if I do it, I would have to make the most of it and leave early and leave from budapest late.

Has anyon been to budapest? How far is the kieti (?) train station from the center of town?
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Old Sep 22nd, 2005, 01:35 PM
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From the central train station to the area around Vorostmarty Ter (Near the Chain Bridge where I stayed) was a quick cab ride. Taxis are everywhere around the station. Most people speak English.

Budapest is a fabulous city. Even in Decmber. Even for a day.
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Old Sep 23rd, 2005, 06:51 AM
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Any else traveled to these ares in December? Can anyone share their experiences with weather, closings and experience?
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Old Sep 23rd, 2005, 01:34 PM
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We traveled to Vienna the first week of December last year.

Although the weather was really cold(according to this Californian) the museums, restaurants,etc., can be stiflingly hot, so dress in layers. We walked everywhere, which is a great way to keep warm.

Museum times are clearly posted, and you can find most of their opening hours if you google the museum websites. We didn't have any problems with opening hours.

There are many churches, and I don't think you'll have a problem visiting them. Particularly if you choose to attend a Mass.

And at night you can visit the wonderful Christmas markets(but beware the tacky "made in China" stuff). We loved it more for the atmosphere, the food booths and the punsch(sp). The punsch and the gluhwein is guaranteed to warm you up.

We did not day trip out of Vienna so cannot help you there. We found plenty to do just in Vienna.
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Old Sep 23rd, 2005, 02:26 PM
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A do-able day trip from Vienna (only about 1 1/2 hours each way via train) is Bratislava in the Slovak Republic. The Slovaks are way more Catholic than the Czechs and you're likely to see more Catholic churches there. These sights are mainly located in their lively old town pedestrian district which is easy to get around.

I agree with Elaine that you won't be too wowed with the Catholic sights in Prague as they historically were not overly Catholic by European standards. Actually, its Jewish quarter (Josefov) is really the religious highlight, in my opinion. Nevertheless, it's next to impossible to be disappointed with Prague.
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Old Sep 23rd, 2005, 05:19 PM
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Actually, I WAS wowed with the Catholic churches in Prague, among the most beautiful I have see anywhere, and wonderfully restored after neglect during the Soviet years. There is one Baroque masterpiece after another.
Don't miss, especially, St Nicholas in Mala Strana (as opposed to the nice but not spectacular St Nicholas in Old Town.)
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Old Sep 24th, 2005, 01:00 AM
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Message for Maureen regarding Melk:

To me Melk is worth a visit even without boat trip.
Train- Vienna - Westbahnhof to Melk takes about 1:15 - 1:30 with a change in St. Polten ( easy) about 15 euros.

Fewer people in winter makes the visit even more enjoyable.
Several small places in Melk to eat.

A nice day!
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Old Sep 24th, 2005, 03:13 AM
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Re Prague in December. I've visited in late November and it was rather damp and cold so be prepared to dress warmly. Certainly not bitter cold but certainly not shirt sleeve weather, either.

As to Roman Catholic sites in Prague. I assume you are aware that there is a "Loretto" there and I highly recommend a visit. Not because of the Loretto itself but rather for the "vault room" which contains a collection of so-called "religious pieces" mainly monstrances and these have to be seen to be believed..enough jewels and gold encrusted on them that would make the presence of the host seem almost an afterthought.

The Infant of Prague is also on display in one of the churches. This wasn't nearly as impressive as we expected..HE looked a bit inconsequential (I guess I thought he would be huge). And as to the churches themselves..gold leaf central for sure.

Enjoy your stay..it is like going back to the Middle Ages and wonderfully so.
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Old Sep 24th, 2005, 03:59 AM
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Hi jedijood, Congrats on your bargain. I visited Prague a couple of years back over valentines weekend (Feb 14th). At night it was -18, but got up to a massive -8 during the day!! Expect sub zero in December. As a city it is stunningly Beautiful, what with all the very old buildings being lovingly restored, and the art deco pre-comunist buildings still largely unchanged. Can I recommend the "other" opera house for a cheap (good value) but filling meal. Art deco everything and all brass and copper. Wonderful. For a top of the range Meal try Kampa Park at the far end of the Charles Bridge. Dress to impress and book in advance. (Hilary Clintons favorite reteraunt in the world no less). Also Follow people through doorways into hidden backstreet bars. We did a number of times and had a great time in a really friendly atmosphere.
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Old Sep 24th, 2005, 10:35 AM
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Molker, thanks for more detail re: Melk visit. I, too, thought Melk a very attractive little town. And the monastery there was amazing, especially if they are looking for Catholic sites. Also pretty vistas of the town and river below.
And isn't there a museum in Melk, too? Our combi-ticket was good for entrance at one of two places in Melk, but we were interested in the monastery and didn't even research the second option.
I think you're right about it being a nice day-trip to Melk in the winter. We loved the train ride, too, as we don't get to take trains often here in the states. It was a relaxing way to see some of the countryside near Vienna.
 
Old Sep 24th, 2005, 03:24 PM
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Message for Maureen re combi ticket.

I believe the museum ticket you refer to with the Melk combi ticket is for the Museum in Krems,
Krems is the end station for the Danube boat trip.
Krems has a small but very good Museum - Gallery that is only 200 meters from the boat station.
They now show paintings of the " Harem" assembled from several collections. Exhibits change about every 5-6 months.
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Old Sep 24th, 2005, 07:46 PM
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According to the Prague tourist office, the average temperature in December is 5 degrees C or 41 degree F.
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