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The Travelator Diaries: Roadtrippin’ Germany, Czech Republic and Austria

The Travelator Diaries: Roadtrippin’ Germany, Czech Republic and Austria

We are sharing our personal travel diaries! We started keeping these so our family and friends could keep up with our travels, and get some laughs at our expense. Here is our entry for our European road trip with my brother and his girlfriend, who we travelled with in December 2016.

After waiting 11 long months, the time had finally come. Ross and Chelsea arrived in Germany – woo hoo! KG’s brother and his girlfriend flew all the way from Australia to spend Christmas with us in Europe.

Europe Road Trip
Group selfie!

We met in Munich, Germany. We had arrived at the hostel late, due to an uncharacteristic delay on a German train from Italy. Surprise surprise – Ross and Chels were napping. Katherine and her family come from a long line of nappers, and this holiday was to be no exception.

We spent three days in Munich learning about beer, pork knuckles and a bit of history. The weather was poo (as predicted) but we battled on. After a couple of days, we picked up our fancy new hire car. With a devilishly handsome smile from Tom, we even managed a free upgrade to a fancy Audi A6. This beast ensured that we were able to make the most of Germany’s (in)famous autobahns, where there is absolutely no speed limit! That’s right folks – 200 km/hr is perfectly legal.

Munich Germay
A rare blue sky behind Marienplatz in Munich

We headed off to Prague via Regensberg. We actually had no idea whether there was anything worth seeing in Regensberg, but it turns out there was a huge cathedral that was very impressive. We also found some metre long sausages at the Christmas market, so it was a big tick of approval from us.

In Prague we attempted to book on a segway tour, only to discover that segways had been banned in the city centre. We resolved to try again later in the trip, as we all fancied ourselves as pretty awesome segway drivers. Instead, we huffed and puffed our way up to Prague Castle on foot like peasants. The changing of the guard was fun, then we wandered back down to the old town to check out the great Christmas markets.

Prague Castle
The view of Prague Castle
Prague Czech Republic
Anyone interested in watching the changing of the guard at Prague Castle? Anyone?
Prague Czech Republic
Discussing the finer points of changing guard at castles

We also went out to dinner at an Italian restaurant where Chels attempted to order her first Bailey’s and milk. Now, this is a tried and true old lady drink in Australia. However, the phenomenon has clearly yet to hit Europe. When she asked for milk, the restaurant owner looked at her in horror and exclaimed, ‘MILK?! In 45 years I have NEVER heard of Bailey’s with MILK!’. He served her the drink with some disgust but also plenty of good humour.

Next we were off to Berlin via the Bone Church. There are over 45,000 bodies buried in the Bone Church, where the bones are laid out as decorations around the church. There were some pretty fascinating skulls which showed injuries some poor sods had suffered during the Hussite Wars.

Kutna Hora
Church decorated with bones in the Czech Republic

Once in Berlin, we attempted to learn more about the Cold War and the Berlin War on a walking tour. However, we soon realised that the assumed knowledge level for this excursion was well above ours. We basically walked around in the cold feeling rather confused for three hours, but did see where Michael Jackson hung his baby out of the hotel window. We also visited plenty of Christmas markets (including a ride on the ferris wheel) and tried our hand (or is it feet?) at ice skating.

Berlin Germany
Ross having second thoughts about agreeing to a ride on the ferris wheel
Berlin Brandenberg Gates
Group shot in front of Brandenberg Gates
Berlin Bagels
Tom lining up for a mobile bagel
Berlin Ice Skating
Ross and Chels showing off their ice skating skillz

Next we were off to Dresden. Dresden was absolutely flattened in the dying days of World War II so it was fascinating to see how well they had rebuilt the old city. We stayed in a great AirBnB apartment with a cat who was intent on giving Ross hayfever, and a rather obese pet rabbit.

Dresden Germany
This was built for some bloke’s orange trees. No joke!
Dresden Christmas Market
Enjoying a gluhwein at the Dresden Christmas Market… with an elf (?)

Our next stop was Fussen, where we finally saw snow and visited the ‘Disney Castle’. The Disney Castle is actually called Neuschwanstein Castle, but honestly, who can pronounce that?! It was very picturesque and we got some great photos from the bridge beside the castle, although I’m pretty sure it hasn’t been maintained since the 1800s. KG and Ross stayed close to land in case the whole thing snapped in half.

Fussen Germany
SNOW!!
Fussen neuschwanstein castle
A great view of Neuschwanstein Castle. Have a go at saying Neuschwanstein too… there’s no chance you’ll get it right!

Then we were off to Wattensberg (near Innsbruck) in Austria for Christmas. We had booked an amazing apartment in the Alps, but as luck would have it, it was unseasonably warm and there was no snow. Never fear, we headed off to a nearby mountain to find a patch of snow we could ski on. Chels and I were absolute beginners, so we got an ex-pro skiier to teach us how to snow plow. We also drank plenty of rum, ate too much turkey, gave up on a puzzle and got p*ssed off at Ross for winning cards all the time.

Christmas Puzzle Austria
The Impossible Christmas Puzzle
Christmas Austria
It wouldn’t be Christmas without matching jumpers would it?
Christmas Austria
“Take the damn photo so I can drink my wine”
Christmas Austria
KG playing cards with all of her friends…

On the way back to Munich, we indulged all of our Sound of Music fangirl dreams by visiting Salzburg. OK, perhaps it was just KG and Chels that were SOM fangirls. We stopped by a few big name sights from the movie, then continued on our way.

Salzburg Sound of Music
The Sound of Music rotunda where they sang ‘I am 16 going on 17…’ It was great so stop laughing now!

The next day, it was sadly time to say goodbye to Ross and Chels as they headed back to Australia and we flew to Paris. Stay tuned for our post on the final week of our trip in Paris!

For our full 17-day itinerary through Germany, Czech Republic and Austria, check out our European road trip article here.

European Road Trip: Germany, Czech Republic & Austria

European Road Trip: Germany, Czech Republic & Austria

In December 2016 we went on an incredible 17 day road trip through Germany, Czech Republic and Austria. Here is a run down on our itinerary, how to organise your car and what to expect while driving through each country.

This road trip covers some of the highlights from each area. Starting off in one of our favourite cities, Munich, this 17 day trip will take you through some of Germany’s most iconic cities, alongside the Austrian Alps and to the bohemian capital of Prague.

This tour will give you a great taste of each country without being in a massive rush. Enjoy!

Recommended Itinerary

Day One: Munich to Prague via Regensburg

Driving Time: 6 hours inc. stops

After a few days exploring Munich and its famous beer halls, it’s time to hit the road!

Pick your car up first thing in the morning. Make sure to allow some time to pick the car up and get used to your vehicle. Use the GPS in the car (or on your phone) to direct you to the centre of Regensburg. Make your way out of Munich and on to your first autobahn!

Regensburg is almost exactly half way between Munich and Prague. When we found our way to Regensburg’s old town and came across the incredible Regensburg Cathedral we were completely blown way – it’s massive! Grab yourself a park in the centre of town. There are plenty of paid car parks and they are quite cheap. Spend a hour or two exploring the cathedral and the old town before grabbing lunch.

Once you’ve finished exploring, jump back in your car and make your way to Prague.

TRAVELATOR TIP: We have explained the vignette system below. Be sure to grab your vignette sticker before entering the Czech Republic. There are a number of service stations selling them just before the border.

Day Five: Prague to Berlin via Kutna Hora (Bone Cathderal)

Driving Time: 6 hours inc. stops

Prague is one of our favourite cities in Europe and leaving is never easy. Alas, it’s time to jump in your car and make your way to Berlin, another of Europe’s showpiece cities. First up, take a detour to Kutna Hora and it’s infamous Bone Cathedral. This fascinating side trip will add around 90 minutes to your drive from Prague to Berlin.

The drive today is fairly stress free. You will have noticed by now that there are A LOT of roadside rest stops where you can pull in for lunch. These stops offer everything from McDonald’s to freshly made sandwiches.

Sedlec Ossuary a.k.a The Bone Church in Kutna Hora

Day Nine: Berlin to Dresden

Driving Time: 2 hours

This is the easiest drive of the trip! The short drive from Berlin to Dresden will only take 2 hours, giving you some time to see more of Berlin before heading off to the beautiful city of Dresden. Dresden was famously flattened by Allied bombing in WWII, but it’s historic centre has been reconstructed beautifully.

The Dresden Cathedral

Day Eleven: Dresden to Fussen

Driving Time: 6 hours inc. stops

This will be the longest day in the car with no detours planned. The long drive from Dresden to Fussen will see you almost cover the length of Germany. We would recommend getting up and hitting the road early and grabbing lunch on the way.

Day Twelve: Fussen to Innsbruck via Neuschweinstein Castle

Driving Time: 4 hours inc. stops

Get up nice and early to visit the iconic Neuschweinstein Castle, or the Disney Castle as it is commonly referred to. We spent close to three hours at the castle, but you can save some time by pre-booking your tickets online. You can buy tickets on the day at the ticket office, but in peak times it may sell out – you have been warned!

Once you’ve finished at the castle, make your way to Innsbruck. The drive takes you through the Alps with some stunning scenery along the way!

TRAVELATOR TIP: Grab your Austrian vignette sticker from Fussen as there are no places to buy the sticker between Fussen and the border.

The view from Mairenbrucke of Neuschwanstein Castle

Day Fifteen: Innsbruck to Salzburg

Driving Time: 2.5 hours

After seeing the sights in and around Innsbruck it’s time to head to Salburg, the home of The Sound Of Music and Mozart. This drive will take you back through Germany on your way to Austria but don’t worry – your vignette sticker for Austria will still be valid from your earlier border crossing.

Hohensalzburg Castle sitting above Salzburg

Day Seventeen: Salzburg to Munich

Driving Time: 2 hours

The final day of your trip will take you on the short drive from Salzburg to Munich. The traffic in Munich can be awful at peak hours so plan your arrival to avoid it.

Hiring Your Car

We did a stupid amount of research for this car. We looked for the best value, most reliable and the easiest company to use. We finally settled on booking through Sixt. The main factors for us was their range and price. In the end it was their service which was the stand out.  They were incredibly helpful and prompt before and after our booking.

There are a few must do’s when hiring a car – to see them all check out our Backpackers’ Guide to Car Hire.

What car did we use?

We were lucky enough to be joined by some family members for this road trip. This meant two things: we would need a bigger car and we had a bit more money to play with.

For this trip we splurged a little and got an Audi A6 wagon. It had more than enough room for the 4 of us along with our luggage. We could also fully enjoy the autobahns!

Did we use GPS?

Our fancy Audi came with in-built satellite navigation which we used for pretty much everything.

In saying that, the roads are incredibly well signed and English is used throughout. If your car doesn’t have a GPS, your phone GPS should suffice.

What To Expect

Road conditions

The roads throughout this entire trip are in excellent condition. While the speed limits may vary from country to country everything is very well signed and leaves no confusion. Driving overseas doesn’t get much easier than this.

Road rules

Driving in Europe is a dream, the drivers are careful, aware and considerate. Mind you, if you are holding people up or taking too long to do something they will let you know about it!

Overtaking – you’ll get the hang of this very quickly. The general rule is if you’re overtaking, do it in the left lane. If not, sit in the right lane and let people pass.

Speed limits – unlike our adventure through Armenia & Georgia, throughout Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic speed limits are clearly signed and easy to follow. You will not go far before seeing a sign indicating the speed and and changes are well signed.

Parking – this is the number one concern for a lot of people thinking of driving around Europe. Throughout our entire time with the car we did not have a single problem with parking. Throughout the cities, paid parking lots are well priced and easy to use. On-street parking signs are everywhere and easy to read which is a huge help. Try to book accommodation that includes a car park.

Tolls – we encountered no toll gates or similar systems during our drive. However, you will need to purchase vignette stickers (see below).

Crossing borders – Vignettes

Never heard this word before? Neither had we.

Vignettes are a small sticker that you place on the inside of your front window when crossing borders. Think of them as paying a border crossing toll. For example, if you hire a car in Germany, you will need to buy a vignette sticker in Germany before crossing into Austria. Each country will have their own vignette sticker and they can be purchased from service stations within 20km of the border. Of course, you need to buy the sticker before you cross the border! Stickers are usually valid for 10 days, and cost around 12 euro.

What do you think about road tripping through the Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic? Tell us in the comments below!