Any European Travelers Among the crowd?

John Eaton

South Jersey FC Member
My wife and I will be doing a Rhine River cruise later this year, and plan to add another 7-10 days at the end to travel around Central Europe. I was hoping to do a counter clockwise circle on the train from Switzerland to Italy, then Croatia, Slovakia, Czech R., Austria, and ending in Frankfort Germany.

When I started looking at train details, it seems Italy and Croatia rails don't quite connect, and the 2-3 hr connection is 18-24 hrs through Switzerland & Austria. That's a long way to go out of the way. I'm still hopeful I'll find that connection.

Anyone have any tips to offer? The key cities are obvious, but I'd like to hear about any that are not on the main line.
 

shawn kaderabek

South Jersey FC Member
I spent some time in Budapest this summer. It is a beautiful city, very walkable, and friendly people. Had the fortune while I was there to stumble into a Czech beer festival as well. If you can get a day or two in Budapest, I highly recommend.
 

John Eaton

South Jersey FC Member
Budapest is on my list. We'll probably do Bratislava and Budapest as day trips, then head off to Prague.

Still can't find a short cut east out of Venice, at least not on a train. Shortest trip is 9 hrs via Austria, Slovenia then Croatia. The options/speed drop off dramatically as you go east it seems.

The tentative route is:
Basel Switzerland (cruise end)
Milan
Venice
Vienna/Bratislava/Budapest, alternative Zagreb/Budapest/Bratislava
Prague/Pilsen
Frankfurt (end)

Venice to Vienna or Zagreb pretty much burns up a whole day as the trains take the long way it seems. Pesky Alps probably part of the problem. I also read that Vienna is mostly cultural places, and you can see more by not staying in Vienna.
 
I've done Vienna, Budapest, Frankfurt, Prague and Pilsen. I would say you're really stretching yourself thin and spending more time on the train than I'd personally like. I like to get out in the cities and explore, I travel like a local usually, avoiding tourist traps. When we went to Pilsen it was only supposed to be a day trip, but we liked it a lot and stayed an extra two days. Vienna I would like to go back too, yeah, its full of museums, but its got some great architecture and history. Budapest is probably the one city on that list where I'd make a trip to just go back there for a week. We had a blast there despite crap weather the entire time. Prague was a challenge for me because you start getting into sarilik languages and English was pretty tough to communicate with unlike other cities I've been to in Europe. That said, Prague is beautiful and we had some memorable times there too, certainly not a day trip city either, 3-4 days minimum.

Frankfurt am Main is one city I'd skip unless that is what you were flying into. I was there for 3 days on one of my solo Euro trips and I couldn't wait to get out of it. Totally a commercial/financial center, not much else. Night life was spread out, beers were difficult to find (think one beer for the entire city, though much of Germany is like this.) Basel, Milan and Venice are all on my list for future trips, but I think for what you're planning, a RyanJet/30 euro one way flight would get you the most of the limited time you'd have. I'd think Basel, Milan and Venice could be one 15 day trip in its own, with some day excursions to mountain towns. Its all how you like to travel though, I like to check things out without carrying luggage everywhere I go too.

Maybe consider Munich instead of Frankfurt? Much more fun and not too far from Vienna or Pilsen, depending on where you were going and how. Berlin is also extremely fascinating, beer is challenging but the recent history there had me consumed for a week, and I could easily spend a month or years there.
 

John Eaton

South Jersey FC Member
Blake, Good info.
Yes, I realize that we need another month, or 2, to do this right, but it may be MANY years before we can get there again, if ever. I'm trying to hit some key cities, and overnight in a few. Frankfort is only to get home, direct fights to PHL on our preferred carrier. We have 6 stops on the Rhine in Germany, so not making any effort to do any more in Germany.
Basel is where we end our cruise, but not planning to stay there. Milan may also be skipped to get to Venice with more time there. This path goes through the Alps, and there are 4 360 loops in the mountains. Ought to be amazing.
I found my biggest problem with getting from Venice east, Italy and Slovenia had a pissing match over trains, and just stopped co-operating. That and you can't get good routes for October yet. seat61.com has turned out to be a wealth of information, including Venice to Zagreb with a funicular in the route.
So given that we can get to Zagreb now, the 8-12 hrs to Vienna will be a day trip from Venice via Trieste, Villa Opicina, Ljubljana, and arriving at Zagreb for a late dinner. This even allows 1-2 hours to wander about each town on the way.
I'm still a long way from a final plan, but we need to book our flights soon. I also realized that we may be able to leave from our last stop, rather than wasting a trip to another city, but all that scenery.... Frankfurt wins on the cost factor, hundreds cheaper than any other closer city to Prague, at a glance.

So, in a nutshell:
Basel to Venice
Venice to Zagreb
Zagreb to Budapest
Budapest to Bratislava/Vienna
?? to Prague

Luggage is the biggest concern, and my wife is already stressing out about it.
 
That is A LOT of time on a train. I could never grasp that when I first thought about it. I think we looked at Florence to Venice at one point the time was something like 12 hours, while a flight on one of the regional airlines, Rome to Prague was 30 bucks at 45 minutes. The dollars vs the time spent in a foreign city is what won for me. I'd think you could do something similar from Frankfurt. Though a couple of trips around the mountain would be nice; spending time the cities is more fun.
 

John Eaton

South Jersey FC Member
The train is kinda a key point. Most stations are in the heart of town, so you arrive and depart easily, and the ride is a casual time and wonderful view.
 
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