Trip Review and Tips

We took this tour the first two weeks of August 2023. We really enjoyed this tour. Lots of interesting places to visit, great hotels and food, and interesting sights. The scenery is among the most beautiful anywhere. Highly recommended.

Who should take this tour: This tour is great for just about everybody, especially people who love the mountains. While all of the destinations are touristy, some cater more to Europeans, so you get away from the huge international crowds. Munich, Salzberg and Lucerne are crowded with international tourists, but not as busy as Paris, London or Rome. They also are included on other Tauck itineraries, so this may be a consideration. The other destinations are more in the class of European resort destinations and are not so jammed with tourists.

Time to go and weather: Much of this tour is at high altitudes. This means generally weather that is generally cooler and can quickly change. I recommend looking at the 10-day forecasts on weather.com for each destination, just before you pack. However, you should expect things to change. This tour is offered from May to September, but I would stick to July or August. While bad weather can hit at any time, it is more likely in the shoulder months. Even in August the scenic drive over the Grossglockner High Mountain Road can be closed due to snow (you take a less scenic route in that case).

Pretrip - Munich: If you haven't been to Munich before, you should schedule at least one additional day at the start. The itinerary includes a 2–3-hour overview tour, but there's very little time to see things otherwise. We arrived a day early and used Rick Steve's audio tour (free app, details on his website) to get a good overview of the old town. We visited the Residence Museum (Munich Residenz) an old royal palace - allow several hours, near the hotel. We didn't get to the English Garden (the large city park), but wanted to go.

A note on beer in Bavaria: Beer is definitely the drink in Bavaria. Many tourists will go the famous Hofbrau Haus to experience a beer hall. If you do, you will be surrounded by thousands of other tourists. That's fine, they know how to cater to tourists. If you want a more authentic experience, try the Augustiner Stammhaus. Augustiner (pronounced Augustina) is the favorite beer of locals and the Stammhaus is their showplace beer hall. It's located on the main shopping street (Neuhauser Str.) a short walk west of the main square (the Marienplatz). If you go to a outdoor beer garden, most serve beer only in liters. The beer garden in the Viktualienmarkt (the outdoor market) serves beer in half liters, too. If you're a lightweight, consider ordering a Radler (half beer and half Sprite).

Itinerary: This is a busy itinerary. If you do all the activities, you won't have too much free time. If you've been to some of the destinations before, you should think about pursuing your own interests instead of repeating the city tour. Generally, all of the activities were excellent, with one exception. The visit to Einsiedeln was something of a bust. We didn't get to visit the ski jump (no explanation given) and spent way too much time at Einsiedeln Abbey = BORING!). Maybe it's because we were there on a Sunday. The abbey church is spectacular, but we had limited access to see it, because of Sunday services. One unusual itinerary item, schedule permitting, is the car train that takes you into the Davos area. The bus pulls onto a flatbed train car and you travel in the bus, on the train, through a tunnel in the mountain. It's about a 20-minute trip. A bucket list item you probably didn't know existed. The travel days between hotels are mostly full day bus rides, with lunch and sightseeing stops.

Food: The food on this trip was outstanding, with one sad exception. The menus varied depending on the country. Count on getting a schnitzel at least twice, fondue once and great Northern Italian food. The restaurants at the Bürgenstock Resort were great. We ate at the Pan Asian restaurant there ("Spices"). It had Indian, Thai, Chinese and Japanese dishes, all authentically prepared - outstanding! That restaurant is also the breakfast restaurant. Unlike every other Tauck breakfast I've had, this one is not a buffet. You can order off the menu or get one of their "towers." The classic tower had a basket of bread and pastries, cold meats and cheeses, and fruit. The is also a healthy version that emphasizes grains and fruits. While the breakfast service is quick, allow a little more time at this restaurant. Now for the bad news, the farewell dinner is terrible. A cruise on Lake Lucerne in a run-down boat with really mediocre food. The boat broke down for a short time (alarms sounding - "something came loose"). The food was just a small step above airline food. I hate to tell you to skip the farewell dinner, but if I had it to do again, I would. This bad meal has probably survived because everyone turns in their comment cards before the meal. You do get a nice cocktail reception in the hotel bar, before the dinner. Think about loading up on the hors d'oeuvres, they're much better than the food on the boat. One final note, dining on your own in Switzerland is expensive, so you may want to look for cheaper, more casual meals there.

Hotels: All of the hotels were excellent, but a few things are worth noting. Some were of the vintage grand hotel variety, some vintage hotels with modern interiors and some modern resorts. Some hotels didn't have air conditioning, but this shouldn't be a problem under normal circumstances. The Steigenberger Grandhotel Belvédère in Davos is an elegant hotel, with some touches need updating. They use the old fashioned, leave it at the desk, physical keys for the room. The room doors were thin wood and open out into the hallway, instead of into the room (weird). On the whole, while comfortable and elegant, this hotel is in need of an update.

Pace: The pace varied, but in general it was on the busy side. Some early mornings, leaving the hotel before 8am, particularly in the second half of the trip. The early departures were either when moving to a new hotel or to comply with local traffic restrictions. Many of the sights required a fair amount of walking with some climbing of stairs or hills. Nothing too strenuous, but people with mobility issues should be aware of the amount of walking required.

Post trip airport transport and scheduling concerns: It's about an hour and a half drive from the hotel in Lucerne to the Zurich Airport. Given Tauck's usual cautious scheduling, the means you leave the hotel 4 1/2 hours before your flight. If you have an afternoon flight, like we did, no problem. If you have a morning flight, you could be leaving before dawn (you will get a box breakfast in that case). So, if the best flights for your destination leave in the morning, I would strongly consider staying an extra night at a Zurich airport hotel. You can either hang out in Lucerne and transfer late in the day or transfer early and see some of Zurich.

Post trip - Lucerne or Zurich: The resort in Lucerne is lovely. You can go back to the city from the hotel by using the hotel's funicular and boat (about 45 minutes each way). The cost of the funicular and boat are included in your stay. Or you can enjoy the resort. However, I think the included tour of Lucerne is enough for most people and, if you haven't been to Zurich before, you may want to book a hotel on your own and stay there. This is a particularly good idea, as mentioned, if you have a morning flight home.

All in all, an outstanding trip.

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