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Switzerland?
Old 08-16-2010, 06:30 PM   #1
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Switzerland?

In the very early stages of a trip to Europe next year. Thinking Germany and/or Switzerland. Any suggestions welcome, as are donations...

Actually, the flight should be "free", with accumulated airline miles...
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Old 08-16-2010, 06:38 PM   #2
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We spent 1 week in Switzerland and toured with their train system, and did not rent a car. This was when my wife was working and we did not have the free time we do now.

We might have needed a car if we stayed for 2 weeks. We stayed in Geneva and Bern, and made day trips to other cities.
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Old 08-16-2010, 06:52 PM   #3
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I recommend a side trip to Amsterdam...
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Old 08-16-2010, 08:24 PM   #4
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Everyone has their own preferences in Europe, but seeing as you mentioned Germany/Switzerland.....

I lived in Austria for a year (many years ago). I would recommend spending most of my time between Switzerland and Austria - in particular Salzburg, Austria is well worth a visit. The old part of the city is small enough to be walkable and has a lot of charm. The Dom Catherdral, the Festung, St Peter's Cemetery and catacombs are all worth seeing. Then go to Augustiner Brau for a beer and Getreidegasse for some shopping. Mirabell Palace and Gardens are also nice.

Hitler's Eagle's Nest in Berchtesgarden, Germany is not far from here either and an amazing day trip.

OK....I'm done reminiscing....
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Old 08-16-2010, 09:22 PM   #5
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I recommend a side trip to Amsterdam...
Heh heh...

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Everyone has their own preferences in Europe, but seeing as you mentioned Germany/Switzerland.....

I lived in Austria for a year (many years ago). I would recommend spending most of my time between Switzerland and Austria - in particular Salzburg, Austria is well worth a visit. The old part of the city is small enough to be walkable and has a lot of charm. The Dom Catherdral, the Festung, St Peter's Cemetery and catacombs are all worth seeing. Then go to Augustiner Brau for a beer and Getreidegasse for some shopping. Mirabell Palace and Gardens are also nice.

Hitler's Eagle's Nest in Berchtesgarden, Germany is not far from here either and an amazing day trip.

OK....I'm done reminiscing....
Yes, Austria was an idea, also.

Very early stages, as in thought about it over last weekend...
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Old 08-16-2010, 10:58 PM   #6
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We did a 2 week trip to Bavaria in early '08. Munich was our base and we did day trips to Regensberg, Bamberg and Rothenburg Au De Tauber which were really pretty towns that are all short trips from Munich. Great towns for walking around and soaking up the tiny cobblestone streets and quaint churches. If you can only make one, I think I would lean towards Rothenburg Au De Tauber. There's lots to see in Munich too.

We spent longer times in Wurzburg which has a wonderful fort and a very good museum (which for the life of me I can't remember right now!) Also, took a trip to Neuschwanstein. Yes its touristy, but its worth it.

Salzburg is a GREAT city. The sound of music tours everywhere is a little kitschy but still very nice. Don't miss the Mozart museum or of course the castle. The markets in both Bavaria and Austria were very cool. If you are just hanging out in Bavaria/Austria, there's a special train pass that Deutsche Bahn sells for something like Euro 29 which is go for your entire family for the entire day. Way cheaper than buying individual tickets or a day pass.

Do not miss the beer gardens in Munich, so much fun and a cool way to meet people. Austria has great food, Bavaria, not so much! Just way too much meat/sausage for our tastes and not much variety of other stuff. I'm posting a menu from a menu from a traditional Bavarian restaurant. There are kebab places all around which were good. Ohh, and the pastries in Austria were to DIE for!

I've spent all of my time in the French side of Switzerland so I'll let someone else talk about it, but let me just say it is a BEAUTIFUL country! Try the Golden Circle train trip if you get a chance. I also really liked Montreux which is just outside of Geneva.
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Old 08-17-2010, 08:04 AM   #7
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Udderly intriguing...
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Old 08-17-2010, 08:28 AM   #8
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Wow, over $12 for sour pig liver at the current exchange rate! Does that seem high to anyone?

I'm always amazed how much it cost to eat out though, so I'm probably not a good judge. I can't seem to get out of a Mexican joint here in South Texas these days for under $50 (party of four, two boys 10 and 13 who now want to order off the grown up menu, maybe a couple of margaritas). Is this normal?
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Old 08-17-2010, 08:37 AM   #9
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i've always wanted to go budapest. and they're not on the euro (maybe they are now). seems like a beautiful country.

thought i would throw that out there so i can live vicariously.
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Old 08-17-2010, 09:34 AM   #10
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Family member was in Basel, Switzerland for two weeks this summer for a class (I got to go for two days )--he loved it. Easy city to get around in with the tram system and on foot; the Rhine goes through it and people float down it. Basel is also quite the design center and also hosts the second largest military tattoo competition in the world in July, which we weren't able to go to but did see people walking around in interesting costumes for.
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Old 08-17-2010, 10:02 AM   #11
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Wow, over $12 for sour pig liver at the current exchange rate! Does that seem high to anyone?
Switzerland is still on the Swiss franc, not the Euro IIRC. Even so, the franc is about 95 cents now so it's still north of $11 US. But this price does presumably already include sales taxes (VAT).
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Old 08-17-2010, 11:09 AM   #12
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DW/me had the pleasure of taking this ride when we were in Switzerland a few years ago:

Glacier Express - A train to fall in love with - A train to fall in love with

I remember entering a spiral tunnel on the valley floor where the sun was shining (late spring) and not a snow flake to be seen. When we exited the tunnel at the top of the pass, the snow was flying and a foot deep.

Quite a ride (great food on the train) and an experience we will not forget...
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Old 08-17-2010, 11:19 AM   #13
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Switzerland is still on the Swiss franc, not the Euro IIRC. Even so, the franc is about 95 cents now so it's still north of $11 US. But this price does presumably already include sales taxes (VAT).
The posted menu was in Bavaria, so presumably in Euros; €9.95 is about $12.50. But there's no tax or tip to add. In general, with the current Euro rate, a €10 menu item will costs a US visitor what it would back home for the same item at $10, assuming 8% sales tax and an 15% tip.

By the way, Switzerland is fully 20% more expensive than Germany for food, and perhaps 30-40% more for hotel accommodation. It's not a LBYM destination.

A couple of years ago I planned a European trip for a group of Americans and booked them into a guest house in Liechtenstein, which is sandwiched between Switzerland and Austria. The (not too high) price quite surprised me; I had imagined Liechtenstein would be even more expensive than Switzerland with its super-tax-haven *cough* status. The travellers were pretty happy, too.
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Old 08-17-2010, 12:02 PM   #14
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We didn't find Switzerland very expensive, BigNick--

Not to hijack the thread, but as you noted "tax and tip is not included." I wish there would be a definitive answer on tipping in Europe, Our European relatives say do not tip like in the US as the wait staff does not depend on tips for their salaries, unlike in the US. Also our restaurant bills in four countries never added tax--perhaps the amount on the menu includes it?
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Old 08-17-2010, 12:23 PM   #15
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Not to hijack the thread, but as you noted "tax and tip is not included." I wish there would be a definitive answer on tipping in Europe, Our European relatives say do not tip like in the US as the wait staff does not depend on tips for their salaries, unlike in the US. Also our restaurant bills in four countries never added tax--perhaps the amount on the menu includes it?
I think I meant to say "tax and tip IS included", in Europe.

Tax (VAT) is included in the menu prices absolutely everywhere in Europe, including weird places like the UK. It is a trading offence to put up ex-VAT prices in the catering industry. If you see it, you're being ripped off. One exception: if a hotel is in a town with a tourist tax, this will be added on at the end of your stay and is never quoted in the room rate. It's typically 50˘/person/day, so nothing to worry about.

I almost never leave a tip. In a small restaurant you might well be being waited on by the proprietor, or a member of their family. Even if not, the waiter will typically being paid an amount above minimum wage - they may get a cut of the total bill as well. Leaving a tip which is a percentage of the bill is pretty much a faux pas. It is not unheard of for Americans to leave a €15 tip on a €85 bill and be followed down the street by the server because "you forgot your change".

If you're having lunch in Germany, say, and the server is settling up at the table with one of those big purses which they have, and the bill is €27.20, it's Ok to say "make it twenty-eight" and the server will thank you (without irony) for the 80-cent tip. This is really hard for Americans to get, as I imagine that a US waiter would probably regard it as a calculated insult, worth than totally failing to tip at all. If you're having lunch in France, you will either go to the central register, or the waiter will bring your change back to your table, and will not be surprised, or spit, if you scoop it all up. (90% of French people pay for their meals by debit card; the little PIN code machine is brought to your table, the exact amount on the check is typed in, you put in your code, they give you your ticket, off you go.)

In some places such as Croatia, I have even had difficulty getting people to accept a really small tip. During the Communist time, tipping was illegal, so they never got into the habit.

The only exception to all this is the UK, which has always had a half-baked approach - Brits are easily embarrassed by this sort of thing - although things seem to have settled down in most cases to "Service charge not included". 10% is considered OK, 15% would get you remembered. But you don't tip at all when eating in pubs if you order and pay for your food at the bar (even if someone brings it out to you). And some places add a 10% service charge as soon as the party gets to be 4 or more, as groups are bad at tipping (the moral pressure gets spread thin, it seems).

You also don't tip when drinking in a bar. This also applies in a pub in Britain - again, it's mostly part-self-service, but if you sit at the bar all evening, you don't have to push coins over at the barman/maid/tron. (There is a slightly strange form of tipping in the pub, which is too complex to go into here and should not be attempted by tourists.)

You should also avoid the American habit of sitting at a bar with your money and/or your cigarettes in front of you. The money will look weird and may get stolen, and in parts of Spain, an open pack of cigarettes on the bar is an invitation for anyone to help themselves to one of yours.

PS: Another place where tipping is almost unknown (and this surprised me): Australia.
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Old 08-17-2010, 12:30 PM   #16
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BigNick, I looked back at your earlier post re "no tax or tip to add" and I can see that I misunderstood that comment.

But I'm glad I did because your next post is most helpful! And relevant to HFWR, too too, so it's even on-topic.
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Switzerland
Old 08-17-2010, 01:30 PM   #17
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Switzerland

I would agree you really need to spend some time in Austria as well while you are there. There are some great inn to inn hiking trips in Switzerland.
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Old 08-17-2010, 01:37 PM   #18
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Everyone has their own preferences in Europe, but seeing as you mentioned Germany/Switzerland.....

I lived in Austria for a year (many years ago). I would recommend spending most of my time between Switzerland and Austria - in particular Salzburg, Austria is well worth a visit. The old part of the city is small enough to be walkable and has a lot of charm. The Dom Catherdral, the Festung, St Peter's Cemetery and catacombs are all worth seeing. Then go to Augustiner Brau for a beer and Getreidegasse for some shopping. Mirabell Palace and Gardens are also nice.

Hitler's Eagle's Nest in Berchtesgarden, Germany is not far from here either and an amazing day trip.

OK....I'm done reminiscing....
I second this recommendation. Salzburg and environs is beautiful

One of the best places I have been in the world is the Tyrol Valley between Austria and Switzerland. Innsbruck is just one town. The train ride from Zurich (one of my favorite cities) to Innsbruck is amazing as is the ride from Innsbruck to Munich/Salzburg.

I used to live in northern europe and spent a couple of months exploring about 25 years ago. The area around Zurich/Innsbruck/Salzburg is not as heavily touristed as many other areas and there is therefore not as much to "do." But in my opinion it is one of the most beautiful areas in the world.
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Old 08-17-2010, 01:57 PM   #19
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I would recommend the following in Switzerland:

Geneva
Gruyeres (pre-Alps)
Zermatt/Matterhorn (Alps)
Lugano or Locarno (Swiss Riviera)
Le Locle (center of the Swiss watchmaking industry)
Berne (Medieval city)
St Gallen (Abbey, Appenzell Alps, Lake Constance, etc...)
Lucerne
Basel
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Old 08-17-2010, 03:42 PM   #20
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In the very early stages of a trip to Europe next year. Thinking Germany and/or Switzerland. Any suggestions welcome, as are donations...

Actually, the flight should be "free", with accumulated airline miles...
We spent 3 weeks in Germany/Austria last year and drove almost all the Romantic Road circle, staying 1-2 nights in smalls towns and also 5 days in Vienna and Munich. If I ever go back to Germany, Rothenburg ob der Tauber will be on the top of my list and I can spend 3-4 night there...
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