Fjords, Windmills, Mountains & Lakes
This trip was our most ambitious trip to date, because we visited cities in seven countries and covered 5,400 kilometers. We took all forms of transportation: Airplanes, trains, boats, busses, trams, cable cars, ziplines, rental car and even a tricycle. We planned all of the travel ourselves, because there is so much information available that it's straight forward (ie; lots of Googling) to do this.
Our goals for this trip were to see various things in Europe that we haven't seen previously and to take our time to enjoy each place, sample the food, the beer and wine, the culture and to stretch ourselves beyond our normal life in Florida. This is the first time we are travelling without others (children/parents) being with us and we are excited for our first European adventure together.
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Trip Planning & Destinations
For this trip, we researched hotels and places that we wanted to stay in, to make sure that the locations were easy to get to and central to activities and things we wanted to see. Using Google Maps & Google Images made this process very easy, and the results of our research would be placed into a growing "trip planner document" that provided us with a daily game plan of where we could go, and what we might want to see along the way. To view the details of how we plan trips, click here.
Because of the length of this trip, and the number of cities & countries we visited, this blog will be organized by "City & Area Description" and not "by day". This will allow us to describe where we went, what we did and what we saw & enjoyed in chronological order.
On July 17th, 2017 we drove up to Dulles International from Lake Anna, VA and got onboard an SAS flight to Copenhagen, Denmark. For those of you who may recall that we are flying using United Airlines miles, SAS is a member of the Star Alliance organization, so this SAS flight "shares" passengers with United.
I won't go into detail on this flight, but we were in Business Class and the service, food, wine and entertainment were top notch! As just an example, every bottle of wine on their menu, was rated at 92 or above!
Click here to view our Copenhagen page.
Although Copenhagen had not been a part of our original trip plans, because we were able to obtain such a good flight deal from United Airlines, we decided to spend a few days there to explore the city.
Although we did not have much time in Oslo, we managed to do a whirl-wind exploration of the city and even the surrounding area. The public transportation system is very good in Oslo, if it had not been, we would not have been able to see as much as we did and we'd probably still be lost there!
Click here to view our Oslo Page, and you will enjoy the visit!
Norway in a Nutshell
This is easily the most scenic train ride we have ever taken; Oslo to Flam via train, Fjord Ferry to Gudvangen, Tour Bus to Voss and a final train ride into Bergen. Click here to see our Flam Page.
TheNorway in a Nutshell® tour takes you through some of Norway’s most beautiful fjord scenery that includes the breathtaking experiences on the Bergen Railway, the Flåm Railway, the Aurlandsfjord, the Nærøyfjord and the steep Stalheimskleiva road (May-September). In the comfort of your train and cruise boat, watch fjord scenery with beautiful waterfalls, flowing rivers, deep valleys and mountains.
Many people think of Norway as "the frozen north", with year-round snow and dismal cold. In fact, Bergen’s temperate climate is very mild. Even if it rains sometimes, you will still have your socks knocked off by stunning views of fjords, mountains, and some of nature’s most impressive waterfalls.
Click here to view our Bergen Page, and you will enjoy the visit!
Click here to view our Amsterdam page.
The city of Amsterdam had been on our "bucket list" for a long time, we have flown through there, but never spent any time there. So adding Amsterdam to our list of cities to explore for this trip was a quick decision. We invite you to come and see what we saw and enjoyed!
As neither of us had ever been to Belgium, we had no idea of what to expect, but we were nicely surprised at what an enjoyable city Bruges was. Click here to view our Bruges, Belgium Page.
We landed in Vienna at 12:05PM, had a quick lunch and walked to the
Auto Europe Rental desk to obtain our
car. Wound up getting a VW Golf, very comfortable, good A/C unit and off we drove to find Lake Hallstatt,
Our route took us south from Vienna and over the mountains to the village of Obertraun, where our house rental is located. 311 kilometers, mostly over autobahn with the final 75 kilometers on beautiful mountain roads.
Word of caution - and this is a note to all potential car rental people out there; If you rent a car in one country and expect to drop it off in another country, you are probably going to pay a huge "return the car charge". I used the word "probably" because you would need to ask your auto rental company about their policies, as not all companies may charge you extra for a drop-off in another country.
Your best option is to structure your trip so that you return the rental car to the city & country where you rented it.
Lake Hallstatt, Austria
After an exciting drive from Vienna on the autobahn and then through the Salzkammergut Mountains on back roads that we thought might really be logging trails, we reached Obertraun tired, hungry and ready to explore!
Click here to see our Lake Hallstatt page.
Drive to Grindelwald, Switzerland
Our driving route from Austria will take us past numerous lakes in Switzerland; Zurichsee (above), Zugersee, Lake Lucerne, Sarnersee, Lungernersee, Brienzersee, and then Interlaken, where we turn and drive up into the mountains to Grindelwald.
At this stage of the trip, we thought this was the most spectacular mountain drive we had ever taken, however, we were not yet aware of Route 11 (see our Grindelwald Page for that drive).
Word of caution; To travel on Swiss motorways, road users must purchase and display a Swiss Vignette (sticker) or face large on the spot fines. You can buy a vignette at most border crossings, petrol stations, post offices, by phone (+800 1002 0030) and online. The price of a vignette is currently CHF 40, and is considerably less expensive than the fine would be if you did not have the sticker (CHF 200 and you then must purchase the vignette from the police).
We frequently observed Swiss police on the side of the road, watching for cars that did not have the required sticker. Those cars were immediately pulled over and the drivers were immediately fined.
Click here to read more information about the Swiss Vignette rules.
Speed Detection Devices; All of the mountain tunnels we drove through (and they are numerous) were all equipped with speed detection devices. This has been done because the tunnels are speed limited, and there are signs warning motorists of the tunnel speed limits prior to entering the tunnel. If you exceed the speed limit, there are frequently automatic cameras that take a picture of your license plate. You are able to detect this, because the cameras use an automatic light flash to insure that your license plate picture will be legible.
Click here to view our Grindelwald page.
Grindelwald is 660 kilometers from Lake Hallstatt, and the route we drove took us through some very scenic mountains; alpine meadows, steep uphills, tight corners and steep downhills. The time it took to get to Grindelwald was worth every second of the drive. Come on to our page and see what we found there!
Lake Como, Italy
Click here to view our Lake Como page.
Our last visit to Italy had been in 2007, and as we researched destinations for this trip, we realized that we wanted to re-visit Italy in the Lake Como region. We came to this conclusion, because there's everything from towering mountains to lusciously green scenery and colourful flowers, not to mention the lake itself boasts vividly blue waters.
Varenna, Italy drive to Vienna, Austria
We departed Varenna very early in the morning to avoid the traffic, as I described previously, the streets are very narrow and Italian drivers are generally very fast, so an early departure allowed us to drive (and navigate) without bumping into any issues.
We took the Italian Autostrada E70 to the Austrian Autobahn E59 to the Vienna International Airport. Long drive at 903 kilometers, but we had a very comfortable hotel reservation waiting for us at the Airport Marriott Moxy Hotel. A very nice & noise-free hotel with a good dining room & bar.
We flew back on an Austrian Airlines flight, non-stop from Vienna to Dulles International. We cannot begin to say how comfortable a flight this was, excellent service, excellent food and superb entertainment system.
As you can see in the image to the left, the Business Class seats were awesome! And oh yeah, every wine on their list was rated at 92 or above!
- The entire trip was planned via Google, some Expedia, VRBO and a lot of discussion about what we might want to see in each location. Google allowed us to dig into an area via map & images, and it permitted us to become familiar with each location and what to expect there.
- Most of the trains we used were scheduled in advance via the Internet, going directly to the rail system that had the most train service to the destination we were going to. The rental car in Vienna was also reserved online and we used Auto Europe as they had the best prices, no mileage fees, etc.
- Our detailed planning gave us the ability to navigate through seven countries without any surprises or major failures.
- In most locations, we did not acquire advance reservations or tickets, for example in Grindelwald, we just walked up to the train station to get tickets to ride up to the Jungfraujoch. To preclude issues with that approach, we always went earlier in the morning than most tourists, and we never had a "crowd" problem.
- Seven countries, 5,400 kilometers and we had a great time in each location. We are "morning people" and were out & about each day to see everything there was to see. If we saw something that we had not previously considered or seen, and if we had time, then we would do that as well.
Disclosure: Some of the links on this page are Affiliate Links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, that I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. So we would appreciate any click throughs, if you are inclined.