Central Europe by Train: Heidelberg, Munich, Salzburg, Vienna, Budapest, Prague

Central Europe by Train! This trip will take us to some of the most interesting cities in Germany, Hungary the Czech Republic and Austria We are visiting Heidelberg, Munich, Salzburg, Vienna, Budapest and Prague We’re presenting you here a summary of the trip showing you how you can do it You will find these fascinating cities are loaded with wonderful attractions Castles, palaces, cobblestone streets and medieval markets abound in the historic towns in each of our destinations, and we will take the time to see them properly Traveling by first-class train and staying in centrally-located hotels will give us the luxury to really experience the local culture and see it as it really is Heidelberg is the first city in our tour Heidelberg is one of the prettiest and best-preserved towns in all of Germany, set in picture postcard perfection alongside the Neckar River, with a classic castle towering above Filled with Old World charm, it’s almost like a fantasy version of an ancient German town, or something dreamed up by Disney — but this is the real thing Heidelberg’s historic center of picturesque early 18th century buildings, about one mile long and four blocks wide, is an ideal-sized pedestrian zone to explore on foot Heidelberg has a pleasant, old-fashioned appearance, with charming four-story buildings that share a similar architecture of matching facades and harmonious, earth-tone color schemes, topped with clay-tile red roofs No two buildings are exactly alike and yet they all blend seamlessly in a simple Baroque style While the exteriors may be centuries old, they are maintained spotlessly with fresh paint and modern fixtures Two days here can be easily filled with walks through the Old Town streets and into the main squares, visiting shops, restaurants and bars, and of course, exploring the castle up on the hill The number one destination for every visitor to Heidelberg is the castle There’s something magical about castles, especially a romantic ruin that sits majestically up on a hill looking out over the Old Town The main lane is the Hauptstrasse, which extends the entire length and is lined with shops, restaurants, bars and cafes This is one of Europe’s greatest streets for walking Another good place to take a walk is up on the hill along the Philosophers Path where you’ll get a great view looking down at the Old Town It’s the scene that you’ll find on every postcard rack back in Heidelberg town, but why not get up here and see it for yourself in reality, in person We’re staying at the Hotel Hollander Hof, conveniently located in the heart of the Old Town right next to the bridge, with the main lane and market square just minutes away We’ve enjoyed our two days in Heidelberg and now we’re taking the train to Munich in Bavaria, southern Germany, enjoying first-class Eurail service on a scenic route Munich is a spectacular town to visit, with a great history that goes back nine hundred years This unique city occupies a special cultural niche because it’s right in the middle of Europe It’s mid-way in spirit between the north and the south, between Germany and Italy, with elements of both nations joining together in this unique mix of order and passion The main pedestrian mall of town extends about one-half mile from Marienplatz to Karlsplatz, lined with shops and cafes all the way, with intriguing side alleys leading off in various directions First called Kaufinigerstrasse, then changing name to Neuhauser Strasse, this is probably Germany’s finest pedestrian area, with a wonderful atmosphere and many interesting sights to see This capital of Bavaria offers the best of both worlds — the efficiency of Germany with the easy-going lifestyle of southern Europe, served up in a medium-sized city that knows how to have a good time The historic center of the city is ideally laid out in a compact scenic way that makes it very easy to get around on foot and cover most of the important sights in a couple of days The Marienplatz is a lively plaza right in the heart of town, with its large City Hall called the Neues Rathaus, which is their most famous building and very symbol of Munich The Rathaus looks like an ancient medieval structure, with its gothic spires, statues

and arches, but actually it was first built in the neo-Gothic style during the late 19th century, then it was rebuilt after being totally destroyed by American bombers during World War II The famous Glockenspiel puts on an elaborate show three times daily, with knights on horseback jousting each other and merry dancers spinning around as they parade by One of their most famous landmarks is the Hofbrauhaus, a massive beer hall where they serve their own draft beer in giant liter mugs accompanied by oom-pah music from a live brass band, with lots of sausages and other basic foods to satisfy you But the good life here is not limited to chugging buckets of brew, for this is a sophisticated cultural center with many entertaining attractions — opera, art, symphony, smart shops, and museums — all of them essential elements in the Munich scene Our hotel choice of Munich is the Mercure Altstadt, just a couple of blocks away from Marienplatz in the heart of the Old Town From Munich we continue by train further south to Salzburg, Austria, enjoying a 90 minute scenic ride Salzburg is a town of castles, church towers, elegant gardens and pedestrian lanes lined with alluring shops all located within the well-preserved historic center Nestled in the Alpine foothills of north-central Austria, this cozy town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which has been ranked among the world’s top 20 cities by Conde Naste and Travel & Leisure magazines There is one main street in the old town called Getreidegasse, one of the most fascinating lanes you’ll ever see The Getreidegasse gets very busy during the day, say from 11 o’clock until 3 o’clock especially It’s packed with tourists But if you come earlier or later, it’s less busy It’s a narrow pedestrian street lined with medieval facades that shelter modern shops with many attractive alleys branching off inviting you to explore further You could spend hours meandering through these many lanes The center of town is given over to the pedestrians, so you can have a good look around by simply walking Wear comfortable shoes There is certainly a lot of interesting history you may absorb here, with visits to some of the museums, to the castle, the palaces, but really, it is the ambience of the town itself that is most attractive — the lanes, courtyards, the little shops, the gardens tucked away and small squares are the most rewarding part of the Salzburg experience The Cathedral is magnificent because Salzburg was founded and nurtured by the Catholic Church, and was ruled by bishops rather than secular nobility Considered to be the finest early Baroque church north of the Alps, it was built in the early 1600s Much of the interior art works were added in the following century, resulting in a rich display of ceiling murals, statues, and stucco design elements You will really enjoy a visit the castle on the hill, the famous Hohensalzburg Fortress This citadel is claimed to be the largest and best -preserved medieval castle in Europe It is not enough to just simply look at it from down below — you need to go up and walk through the grounds, and perhaps pay the admission to visit inside the excellent history museum, then step out on the terrace for a grand vista From up here you’ll see how large the cathedral is and yet the Old Town is relatively small In the distance is the Mirabell Gardens across the river, where we’ re going next The beautifully manicured flowerbeds are ablaze with bright red and yellow colors that contrast sharply with the expansive green lawns, interspersed with many statues and large fountains Take a stroll, sit on a bench, listen to the fountains and look at the palace beyond for the complete experience The afternoon will be a perfect time for an excursion out of town to the scenic lakes and mountain district, just one hour away After enjoying the countryside you take 1/2 hour boat ride across Lake Wolfgang, a pleasant excursion that passes some small village clusters along the way and wonderful mountain scenery in the distance The boat soon arrives at the quaint little village of St. Wolfgang where you have some free time to browse around, perhaps have snacks that at terrace café overlooking the water The hotel in Salzburg that we love to use is the five-star Goldener Hirsch

It serves a great breakfast, has a friendly staff and it’s right on the main pedestrian lane, the Getreidegasse From Salzburg we continue our journey through Central Europe by train, traveling to the capital of Austria, Vienna Vienna is a historic and yet modern city — it’s a living museum of monuments and memories connected to a long rich history, but also a sophisticated place with glamorous shops and cutting-edge design Here we’ll present the major sights that you should not miss, and then point you to the little back alleys and minor attractions where you can get away from the tourist mobs and discover the real heart and soul of the city The vast ensemble of visitor attractions in Vienna is actually very compact, covering about one square mile, so you can easily see it all in three well-planned days Here’s a quick summary of how to spend 3 days in Vienna Our suggestions for your three days in Vienna will keep you busy having fun and give some structure to your visit, but this is a loose schedule that allows plenty of free time for you to pursue your own interests On the first day, walk the main pedestrian mall of the city along the Kartnerstrasse and Graben The Graben is the main lane of the elegant pedestrian zone that extends through the middle of town It’s lined with the most glamorous shops, restaurants and cafes, and framed by elaborate building facades People love sitting outdoors here in nice weather In the early evening it’s quite beautiful with the twilight and streetlights and lots of people out You’ll find some musicians on the street and the shops are open, cafés are going, it’s the perfect time and place for a stroll At night, many of the Vienna’s monumental buildings are beautifully illuminated so it’s a great time to go walking around, such as to see Karlskirche and the opera right in the heart of town You’ll also enjoy taking a tram ride around the Ring Road, and spend the afternoon immersed in splendid art at the Kunsthistorisches Museum This museum has one of the finest art collections in the world, with particular strength in paintings of the Old Masters It’s spectacular architecture begins with the front staircase and continues throughout the building Notice this elegant café with the dome looking something like that of a church On day two we can visit Schonbrunn Palace and gardens, the glorious residents of the Habsburgs, similar to Versailles Schonbrunn is a highlight of any visit to Vienna And after Schonbrunn and we can visit the Belvedere Palace, a fine art museum with glorious gardens that we can stroll through leading back into downtown In the afternoon we will take another walk in the pedestrian zone Wandering in the little quiet lanes can be a profoundly moving experience, if you pick the right places and don’t just randomly get lost in some boring streets St. Stephen’s Cathedral, the symbol of Vienna, was first constructed early in the 12th century Unlike many other Gothic churches, the interior is quite bright, with light shining through large, clear windows revealing the many artistic treasures within On day three there are plenty of other things that can keep you busy in Vienna, for this grand capital has so much to offer, such as you could visit the old Imperial Palace of the Habsburgs which has grown over the last 600 years into the largest structure in town with nearly 2 1/2 thousand rooms Perhaps come back to the palace in the evening for a concert of classical music In Austria you will find pastry shops galore and they take extreme pride in creating these artistic visions Demel is certainly one of the most famous pastry shops in the world and it’s not just for tourists So this is a treat for everybody Another fun option is take the tram out to the suburbs to drink fresh white wine in outdoor taverns called heurige, often accompanied by live music You can take your pick from a number of wine villages, but the most popular is the Grinzing Vienna is the only major city in the world with extensive vineyards You can get there on your own by tram number 38, easy half-hour ride Time to go In Vienna we like to stay at the Hotel Wandl It’s a nice independent hotel, just a block from the main Graben pedestrian area

From Vienna we travel to our next city Budapest, the capital of Hungary on another scenic train ride This city on the Danube is a bit different from the other great capitals of Europe in a pleasant old-fashioned way that fills it with more authentic charms Shortage of money has prevented the city from becoming ultra-modernized and even sterilized but instead we have these grand old structures that have been nicely renovated and restored in recent decades resulting in a city filled with real character There’s a wide variety of architectural styles on display, sometimes combined in that unique Hungarian eclectic that blends elements of Classical, Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and Art Nouveau in a single building Budapest consists of the formerly separate communities of Buda on the western bank of the Danube, up on the hill, it contains the former Royal Palace and the old Castle District And Pest, on the east, the flatter, more modern side of town and is the site of the main shopping areas The Museum of Fine Arts Parliament and the National Museum No other city along Europe’s longest river embraces it as much as Budapest, with nine bridges linking the two sides, and a major promenade along the river offering sweeping views to the pedestrian Vorosmarty Square is right in the heart of the city, so begin your visit on day one at Vorosmarty Square surrounded by shops and restaurants, with a central location giving easy access to most of the city sights The main pedestrian street in the heart of town is Vaci utca which leads out from Vorosmarty Square This lively promenade is lined with shops and cafes and filled with people all day It extends about a mile to the Central Market , Hall a huge structure that’s primarily a food market with all kinds of fresh produce, chili peppers, meats and packaged foods, while the upper level is heaven for the shopping tourists with a big variety of clothing and souvenirs on offer, with restaurants and food counters where you can get a traditional affordable meal We will also visit the Castle District up on the hill on the Buda side of the river You can get over there simply by walking across the Chain Bridge It’s very scenic, and then that will lead you to the funicular It began operation in 1870 and still quite old-fashioned It’s a scenic ride Looking back over the bridge at the Pest side of town Take a walk and absorb the historic ambience of this charming neighborhood These streets are the oldest in Budapest and date back to the Middle Ages when this was hilltop refuge Some kind of palace has been on this site for 700 years, but due to frequent warfare it has been leveled and rebuilt many times Inside the Royal Palace, you’ll find an art museum and a history museum specializing in artifacts from the middle ages The Castle District is only one mile long and four blocks wide, mostly consisting of narrow, cobbled streets lined with old homes and quite a few shops selling traditional Hungarian clothing, handbags, ceramics, fabrics, jewelry, antiques and souvenirs You also find intriguing little side alleys to explore, some featuring inexpensive restaurants with local cuisine Several important structures are worthy of a close look, especially the star attraction, the Matthias Church in the town center Behind the church is the famous Fisherman’s Bastion lookout point that provides a dramatic view across the river to the Pest side of town From here you can easily leave the Castle Hill by walking down, back to river level Another fun activity is taking a stroll along that river promenade You’ll see a number of fancy hotels and nice restaurants, maybe some street musicians And while you’re down there you could get on a boat and take a one-hour river cruise That’s a very popular activity here It will give you some grand views looking back at the city and especially when you go past the beautiful Parliament building Hero’s Square is landmark to the nation’s history with monumental statues and typical for Budapest, street paddlers offering items of clothing they’ve made themselves You can do little bargaining here and get good prices It’s also the location of the Museum of Fine Arts, which has an excellent collection of Old Master paintings, along with statues and several galleries of Greek, Roman, and Egyptian

work An excellent collection and housed in a grand old building In addition to all of these heroic sites and monuments, one of the finest pleasures in Budapest is simply walking It’s a wonderful urban atmosphere, with many boulevards and lots of interesting neighborhoods to discover At some point you’ll want to ride on one of the many trams that you’ll see buzzing around town, especially at twilight along the river with a view in the distance of the castle Budapest has many restaurants with live Gypsy music (Music plays) Karpatia restaurant is 130 years old Here’s a little taste and will show you some more of their music at the end of the program.(Music plays) Another great evening activity is going to the concert of folk music and dance.(Music plays) After two wonderful days here enjoying the five-star luxury of our Sofitel Hotel, located right next to the Chain Bridge, we take the train to the final city of our tour, Prague, capital of the Czech Republic We love to travel by train in Europe Our group pitches in and puts the bags on the train easily and were on our way More comfortable than a bus, less hassles than flying, with lots of nice scenery gliding by Another popular way to travel here is the river cruise But the problem is you only stay in the city for a day or less So you really don’t see that much on a river cruise Traveling by train gives you that flexibility to stay in a city for two or three days, as we do in our trip, producing a more authentic in-depth experience Imagine a beautiful, ancient European city that looks like the 18th century never ended, with cobbled lanes and majestic old Baroque palaces, statues everywhere, fountains, gardens, a brooding castle on the hill, a river crossed by historic foot-bridge, and with no automobiles in the center to shatter the time-warp illusion This must be Prague! Capital of the Czech Republic, Prague is one of the most picturesque and interesting cities in Europe It is one of the few major historic places on the Continent that was not damaged by either world wars, so the well-preserved buildings you see are the real thing, not a reconstruction or some tourist bureau fantasy And the city has taken such great pride in his architecture that they have maintained it perfectly You will certainly run into a lot of musicians performing on the streets (music plays) There is nothing run down or broken here in the heart of Prague’s Old Town Everything looks like it was just painted yesterday The center of Prague is the Old Town Square, surrounded by beautiful 18th century palaces, with the glowering twin Gothic towers of the Tyn Church looming over the scene on one side and the high Clock Tower of the Old Town Hall on the other Day and night, this square is the most lively center of action in Prague Just all around us are former palaces and they’re mostly in the Baroque style You see the beautiful decor on each and every one of them A few of them are a little more recent in the Art Nouveau style In particular, this yellowish one over here We have the Renaissance represented in this church of St. Nicholas, the big white church Many of the old palaces have been converted into restaurants, bars and cafés with outdoor tables spilling onto the square The old townhall’s astronomical clock has been putting on a show every hour for the past 350 years, with a dramatic display by the 12 apostles who come marching past two

windows on either side of the elaborate large clock There’s always a big crowd that gathers on the hour for the show And watching the people is part of the fun of being here at this spectacle It’s over before you know it and you’re on your way, or you could buy a copy of the clock at one of the open markets The largest of the street markets is a long block at Havelska located just 200 meters south of the Old Town square with many stalls selling souvenirs, along with produce stands for the locals The next most entertaining sight in Prague is the famous Charles Bridge, spanning the Vltava River The bridge is not only the best way to get across town, it is a destination in itself for the splendid views the street musicians, and the shopping from the outdoor kiosks that stretch along its 500 yard length On the other side of the river you’ll find Prague Castle high up on the hill where the city began way back in the ninth century The primary sites in the Castle are the St Vitus Cathedral and the Royal Palace, and the Golden Lane, all of which should keep you busy for couple of hours or more, especially if you want to see every nook and cranny St. Vitus Cathedral takes its place as one of the great Gothic churches of Europe With vast pinnacles soaring high above the huge nave, it’s 400 feet long and 200 feet wide, making this the largest church in the country It was built over an incredible 600-year period and was not completed until early in the 20th century Well when you finish the castle the best thing to do is exit from the back gate There is the long castle staircase that will lead you downhill to the Mala Strana, which is a most historic neighborhood that it feels like a peaceful little village from times gone by Well keep walking straight through to the lush green park of Kampa Island It’s an island surrounded by the river and canal And it’s a very exclusive part of town From Kampa Island you get a great view of the Charles bridge had the Old Town with its towers and domes It’s refreshing to be out of the city for a moment as you stroll through the lawn There’s undoubtedly dogs running around There’s an old waterwheel that still turns on the side of an abandoned mill Prague is a walker’s city that invites detours and digressions The whole neighborhood is ideal for the aimless stroll Shoppers will find many small stores offering local crafts, clothing and antiques You’ll probably run into some artists displaying their work on sidewalk stalls, another good reason to have enough time to go wandering in the little back streets rather than only focusing on the main tourist sites The historic center is a labyrinth filled with quiet narrow alleys, little squares, charming old buildings, and numerous midblock covered lanes and passages that lead you through little courtyards providing glimpses of behind the scenes life in the city Prague is even more magical just after sunset in the twilight when the lights come on and you still have that deep blue color of the sky The buildings are lit up beautifully A couple of the best places to experience that are the Old Town Square and the Charles bridge Find a little café terrace near the bridge and enjoy the grand vista of the castle One of the great views in Prague, perhaps the best view, is this spot where you can see the bridge at twilight, and the castle and the Cathedral beyond It makes a nice way to complete your visit to Prague We have reached the final morning with time for breakfast before we depart to the airport and fly home Our small group of 17 people has been staying together for the last two weeks on a tour that started way back in Heidelberg, Germany Always nice to enjoy breakfast at our centrally located hotels In Prague we’ve been staying at the Hotel Maximilian, it’s right in the old town of central Prague just a few blocks away from the Old Town Square, very comfortable modernized small boutique style hotel with an excellent breakfast And that concludes our brief summary look at this grand tour of Central Europe from Heidelberg to Prague by train, also visiting Munich, Salzburg, Vienna and Budapest

While we listen to a little more gypsy music from Karpatia Restaurant in Budapest, I have some suggestions for you about this trip If you’d like detailed information about how you can do this trip yourself, either alone or with a group, look at our website, toursbytrain.com for some practical information that you can use in taking a trip like this (music plays) And there you’ll find the itinerary with lots of specific information including many videos and a free hundred page book all about this trip that we’ re giving away Also itineraries for some other trips through Europe by train that you might be interested in taking for yourself We are happy to freely share this kind of travel information so that you can get the most out of your journeys