Thursday, October 23, 2014

Pops' Travel Guide, Copenhagen is the City of Bikes


I have never been to a city with so many bicycles as there are in Copenhagen. People commute to work, go to the store, dine out, and almost anything else you can think of by bike. The city has a network of bike trails where you can get anywhere. My cousin David, who lives and works in Copenhagen, takes his bike everywhere. I asked him what he did when the weather was bad. If the weather starts off bad he just takes mass transit. If the weather changes for the worse on his way to or back from work he will just lock it up and hop on a bus. He will then pick it up later when the weather is better. You need to experience this for yourself. The video will give you an idea of what I am talking about. The only reason the bike procession stopped is that the light turned red.

Pops' Travel Guide, Last Night in Europe

The train arrived in Milan in the evening of our last full day in Europe. Since we were flying out of Malpensa I had booked a hotel close to the airport. For those of you staying in Milan and flying out of Malpensa, the airport is outside the city and a long and expensive taxi ride away. If you have an early morning flight like we did I would suggest staying at a hotel close to the airport. You can sleep in later and avoid the hassle of fighting traffic on the way to the airport.

We stayed at the Malpensa Holiday Inn Express but there are other options as well like the Sheraton which is right in the terminal or the Crowne Plaza which is close by like the Holiday Inn Express.

The Holiday Inn Express has large rooms and a full breakfast that was included. The best part was that there is a shuttle to the terminals which leaves the hotel every 30 minutes. The same shuttle accommodates the Crowne Plaza. All of these made for a relaxing morning as we slept in later,had a large breakfast and when we were ready caught the shuttle to the terminal.

One other thing to note. There were 3 of us in the room and the staff was very accommodating by bringing up extra blankets and pillows.

Staying at the airport is a great way to start or end a trip. If you are beginning a trip find an airport hotel that also includes parking for the length of your trip. It will save you a lot of money that you can use on the trip.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Pops' Travel Guide, A train Ride Through the Alps

At the end of our trip we needed to get back to Milan from Munich to catch our flight back home. What better way to get back than to take a train ride through the Alps. Taking the train to Milan would be longer than the train from Prague to Munich but it was well worth it. I considered this part of the trip a ride through the most beautiful and majestic natural areas of Europe. The mountains along with an occasional castle, the rolling hills and small towns made it a great experience.

We took an afternoon train so that we could get some last minute shopping done in Munich and to enjoy the city one last time. We were able to purchase a few items and have lunch at Paulaner with a few beers before catching our train.

Trains in Europe are an awesome way to travel. For the most part there is a flexible schedule and in our case we didn't have to purchase our tickets in advance. That way, in case plans changed, we weren't locked in. The trains are clean and the compartments are roomy. Just like the train from Prague we had a six person compartment to ourselves. There is always the club car where you can get something to eat, hot and cold meals, and beverage (maybe a beer or more as in our case).

 The route from Munich to Milan is through lush green valleys with the peaks of the Alps on both sides. I only remember a few tunnels and they were fairly short. This made for a ride of breathtaking views.

If you have the opportunity I would high recommend taking a train ride as part of your European experience. If that ride is through the Alps even better.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Pops' Travel Guide, The Eagles Nest

There is something magical about Bavaria. To me the towns all give me a feeling of being brisk, clean and like you are in a faerie tale. When I say brisk I mean it is like a cool autumn day where the wind hits your face that is clear and refreshing. The rivers also have a different look. They have a look of light green jade most likely from containing minerals washed down from the Alps. That's the best that I can describe it.

I have been in the Bavarian Alps before and have seen Neuschwanstien Castle so I wanted to see something else. The Eagles Nest is in Berchtesgaden near the Austrian border in the Alps. The town of Berchtesgaden in itself would have been worth the trip. The town has a river running through it and in the center of the town you get the feel that you are back in time. On another trip I wouldn't mind staying there instead of a larger city.

The Eagles Nest is a house given to Adolf Hitler for his 50th birthday back in 1938. It is perched high above the town of Berchtesgaden at an elevation of 6017 feet. Berchtesgaden sits at 2300 feet. My only regret was the day we were there it was cloudy and we didn't get to see the amazing views.

To get to the Eagles Nest you need to drive to the parking area slightly up the mountain. From there you can buy a ticket for the Eagles Next and a bus ride up the mountain. Taking the bus is the only way up there as the road is very narrow and there is no way to pass. From the drop off point for the bus there are two ways to the house. You can hike up to the house or you can walk through a tunnel inside the mountain which is 300 meters long. At the end of the tunnel is an elevator which will take you up 300 meters to the inside of the house.

My advice would be to book a guided tour in advance. If you go on your own you will be limited to what you can see. Inside the house is a restaurant and we had a great lunch there with some local beer. After lunch we explored the area outside the house and took some pictures. I'll need to come back on a clear day to see what I missed.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Pops' Travel Guide, Austrian Shakedown

Warning: This is a warning to anyone traveling into Austria by car.

While in Munich with my son and a friend we decided to take a side trip to Berchtesgaden, Germany and the Eagle Nest. Being that we were already in Germany and we were traveling to another city in Germany it didn't occur to me that we would be in Austria at all. Austria has a little known law, at least unknown to me, that requires you to have a toll road sticker in your windshield. When entering Austria you can buy one at the border but again I don't remember seeing any signs at the border stating so. A 10 day sticker cost Euro 8.50 and if I had known this I would certainly have paid the Euro 8.50. Remember I didn't even know that I would be in Austria at all.

We crossed into Austria and made the exit for Berchtesgaden where we came across a police checkpoint. We were pulled over and were fined Euro 140.00 for not having a sticker. I tried to explain that we didn't know we would be in Austria to no avail.  After paying the fine we drove for only a few km and we were back in Germany!

Ignorance of the law is not a defense but I still feel like this was a shakedown. I am writing this as a warning to others.

Here is the link to the Austrian Driving Regulations. Take note that it says you also need an "International Drivers License".

Austrian Driving Regulations

Pops' Travel Guide, Munich Day 2 Cont.

After the BMW Museum we headed back to central Munich and a little more sightseeing. This time I was dressed in Lederhosen I had bought back home. I actually wore the Lederhosen for two reasons. One I thought it would be fun and two, more important, was to embarrass my son.

We walked around the city and ended up having dinner at The Paulaner Brauhaus. Ending the day having a great German meal, lots of beer wearing Lederhosen. It was a perfect end of the day.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Pops' Travel Guide, Munich Day 2

On day two of our trip we wanted to go to the BMW Museum located by the Olympic Park. Getting around Munich is very easy since they have a very extensive transit system. Being that we were a block from the train station it was an easy walk to the station and one change of train later we were at the Olympic Park and the BMW Museum.

The BMW Museum has a vast collection of BMW cars and motorcycles. They also had a collection of Mini's. What I didn't know was that BMW must have acquired Rolls Royce because they also had a large collection of Rolls Royce automobiles.

There are different sections of the Museum broken out by motorcycles, BMW's, Mini's, Rolls Royce and concept cars. We also saw a motorcycle demo inside the lobby where a stunt driver went up and down the stairs. We had a great time there and saw some really cool old and new cars.

One thing to note. We did the tour on a Saturday and the factory tour was closed. If you come during a weekday you can also take the factory tour.

After walking the museum we walked across the street and walked around the Olympic Park. There is a lot of history connected with this Olympics, mostly bad, but it was a nice day to walk around the beautiful park.