After 3 weeks of travel to Europe and California, I am back home. After traveling for 2 weeks in Switzerland, Austria, and Germany, I have lots to recommend.
We spent the first week with Mike’s sister, her family and Mike’s parents in Arosa, Switzerland. There were 13 of us and we rented a chalet in the mountains. Arosa is a ski resort similar to a Breckenridge or Steamboat. There is a beautiful lake in the middle of the town and gondolas to take you up to hike the area. The restaurants serve wonderful Swiss food – Schnitzel, sausages, bratwurst, and fondue. We did lots of hiking, a little golf, and other outdoor activities. We also went to visit a tourist site called Heidi Land where the book was based. Along the hike, they had placards with the story of Heidi. There were wonderful views of the Swiss valley. Since Mike’s mother is from Schaffhausen, Switzerland we went to the restaurant where his parents were married and saw the Rhine Falls. Finally, we were in Arosa for the 1st of August celebration (like our 4th of July) with fireworks, kids carrying lanterns down the mountain and other festivities.
Tip #1: For a trip to Europe always add a few days out in the mountains or countryside. It is relaxing, allows for fun recreation and burning off steam and finally really shows how the local people live. We did not hear any English for a week. You will taste the local cuisine, meet local people and have a lot of fun playing golf, tennis, hiking, fishing, biking and relaxing.
Next, we went to Salzburg. This is a beautiful city and very picturesque with cafes along the river. Elizabeth and I made the boys come with us for a Sound of Music tour. We saw where all the scenes from the movie were filmed and saw lots of Salzburg. We had a wonderful guide who was very informative and fun. The Salzburg Music Festival was there while we were in town. Salzburg is home to Mozart so Salzburg is the place to go to listen to some classical music.
Tip #2: Pack light and order a large car if driving. Many of the European “full-size station wagons” are not big enough. All the cars there are smaller so finding a car with enough trunk space for an American family of 5 traveling abroad can be a challenge. We ended up with stick shift mini-van. I keep trying to pack lighter, but from now on I really mean it.
Finally, we went to Munich. We took a WWII bike tour with a company called Mike’s Bikes. Our guide was excellent in giving a lot of the WWII history that occurred in Munich. He made it interesting for the kids and while they had all learned about it in school, we learned much more from our guide.
Tip #3: Add a little history to your trip. Guides make learning much more meaningful and fun. We loved our guide and riding bikes made it even more fun.
We flew home out of Zurich. We had time for one last dinner and by this time we were a little tired of bratwurst and Swiss/German/Austrian food. We opted for hamburgers and steaks even though you can easily get them for a quarter the price at home. There was a $49 hamburger on the menu, but we did have some excellent food for our fond farewell.
Tip #4: Make the last night memorable. Splurge a little, stay in a nice hotel and say goodbye to a wonderful trip.
We stayed in all sorts of hotels during our trip as well as a chalet. I really liked the nice authentic hotels best. The Koenigshoff in Munich was my favorite because it was really nice and not an American chain. I did like the Park Hyatt in Zurich, but it did feel like it could have been anywhere.
Tip #5: Stay in nice, authentic hotels. Nice hotels make the trip much more pleasant and memorable. Hotels run by locals and which are authentic in architecture to the region are really memorable. This is the one part of the trip where I would splurge.
Mike & Liz