A summer vacation in Europe appears on every travelers bucket list at one point or another. I’ve had the privilege of spending time in Dublin, Rome, Paris, and London in past years; this time I got to go to Bavaria! Although the specific regions which Bavaria encompasses can be blurry, just know that southern Germany, Austria, and Switzerland are included.
Even though my family planned on flying into Munich to start the trip, the flights filled up last minute so instead we hopped on a plane to Frankfurt (gotta love standby!). The eight hour plane ride was followed by a scenic four hour drive into Munich. About halfway through, we stopped in Nuremberg to grab some groceries and take a walk around Nuremberg Castle. I absolutely loved this because it wasn’t too crowded and the architecture provided insight into the rich history of this country. If you are taking the drive from Frankfurt to Munich, this is a must do!
Once we arrived at the hotel in Munich, we took a much needed rest and then went to a local Beer Hall for dinner. This was recommended by one of our friends so we decided to try it; believe me when I say it didn’t disappoint! Since I’m allergic to eggs, it was truly a blessing to find out that German potato salad is vinegar based, not egg based! For dinner I had this and a salad (which was delicious) while my parents chose to eat the schnitzel and goulash, two traditional Bavarian dishes. One thing I forgot about Europe is the lack of air conditioning everywhere, especially restaurants! Because we were there during the heat of the summer, it did pose issues for us, but not enough to detract from the trip itself.
We only had one full day in Munich so we decided to try to see as much as possible by exploring on our own and buying tickets for the hop-on, hop-off bus tour. Just a ten minute walk from our hotel was the Glockenspiel, an attraction in the Marienplatz with cuckoo clock pop-outs that “dance” along to music. They only play this little show three times a day (11am, 12pm, 5pm), but I wouldn’t schedule your day around it seeing as it wasn’t totally impressive in my mind. However, the Marienplatz has a multitude of great things to see including fountains, old churches, and cute restaurants.
From there, we decided to do the hop-on, hop off bus tour. It had three different lines you could take and each went to different parts of the city so tourists can experience Olympic Park, the BMW Museum, and some nice parks. We first rode around on the purple line which took you to Olympic Park and a palace which seemed like a German version of Versailles. We then took the blue line over to Euglischer Garten, a beautiful park with a lake in the middle of it. After strolling around for a bit, we finally stumbled upon a restaurant we had been wanting to right outside the park. This was delicious and I highly recommend the outdoor seating as long as you’re not sensitive to cigarette smoke (like me!).
Lake Konigsee Region
On our way to Salzburg, we decided to go to the Eagle’s Nest, a mountain region where Hitler made many of his sickening decisions, and Lake Konigsee, a gorgeous glacial body of water that is a popular tourist spot for many.
On our way to these attractions, we first stopped in a small town near the border of Germany and Austria to grab some breakfast. After ordering some cappuccinos and pastries that were only composed of carbs and sugar, we sat down outside and enjoyed the crisp air & farm smells. From this town you get a great view of the Alps, but that’s true for a myriad of places along the border.
When we finally reached the Eagle’s Nest, there was a long line to get tickets and get on the bus that takes you up to the top of the mountain. We had to wait an extra forty-five minutes for our bus, but the drive up alone was worth it. From this narrow, windy road you can see all of the surrounding countryside- truly a surreal experience. Once you get up to the top, be sure to have your ticket stamped with the time you want to catch the bus down (otherwise it’s a complete madhouse).
From there, you walk inside an underground tunnel to reach an elevator which hoists you up to the very top of the mountain. Even living in Colorado where I see mountains everyday, the views from up here are absolutely breathtaking. Along with 360 degree views of the Alps, you can see Salzburg & Lake Konigsee. Although it is worth the money just to come up here for the views, it did give me an eerie feeling standing in the spot where Hitler made the decision to actively murder almost 6 million innocent Jews and millions of other Soviets, Catholics, Gypsies, and Serbians. However, instead of viewing this as a tainted place, I tried to remember it as a memorial for the victims- a place that drives darkness out by replacing it with the glory of those lost.
From this historical landmark, my family and I proceeded to visit Lake Konigsee, a HUGE mountain lake with a resort town on its banks. You can take a boat ride to Saint Bartholomew’s Church, a beautiful landmark with even more stunning surroundings. It felt so good to stick our feet in the water after having sat in a hot boat for twenty minutes 😉 We ate dinner at the restaurant here, but taking into consideration that the “meatloaf” was a piece of spam, I’d say it was a bust haha! However, the spaetzle was absolutely delicious 🙂 The only really bad part of this excursion was waiting in line for an hour in a non air-conditioned barn for a boat back to the main port. Everyone was sweating and overall it was just so inefficient.
Our first stop in Austria was the gorgeous town of Salzburg, famously known for the 1965 classic movie “The Sound of Music.” Because it’s such a classic American film, we HAD to go on the Original Sound of Music Tour. Although I’m not much of a tour person, I was pleasantly surprised at how helpful the tour guide was and how many sights they took us to see. We started at the gazebo where “16 Going on 17” was shot and then continued to see the Von Trapp’s house, the church, and where the boat scene was filmed. We got to get out of our air-conditioned van a few times to explore certain areas and get a little more information from our tour guide.
My absolute favorite part of the tour was going to Lake Mondsee, a region outside the city where the wedding scene was recorded. They allowed us to explore here for an hour, giving us enough time to eat lunch at the cutest cafe on the shore. I really didn’t know what I was ordering because the menu was in German (those language barriers, amiright?), but I ended up with a wonderful shrimp sandwich which I thoroughly enjoyed.
Our tour ended at the Mirabelle Gardens, the botanical paradise where “Do, Re, Mi” was filmed. This place features fountains, flowers, and ivy-bound trellises perfect for daydreaming and taking pictures. Since it was really hot outside and all of us were fatigued from the tour, we decided to rest at the hotel a bit before heading out for dinner.
Salzburg is filled with small alleyways that truly give you those charming, European vibes. While exploring these tiny streets, we stumbled upon Mozart’s birth house which has since been converted into a museum to honor his legacy. This is definitely worth a visit even if you’re not a history/music buff; I highly recommend!
Our final venture of the night took us atop the Salzburg Fortress by a tiny (but speedy) tram. We arrived just as the sun was going down, setting the sky ablaze with hues of orange, pink, and red. You can see all of Salzburg from up here, making it an ideal place to view the city and surrounding countryside from above.
15,000 steps and 24 hours later, I was exhausted but completely in love with this city. If you are planning on visiting Western Europe sometime soon, Salzburg has to be at the top of your list. The food, scenery, and charm are unbeatable, making you want to plan your next trip here ASAP.
After only one night in Salzburg, we drove to Innsbruck, the site of the 1964 & 1976 Winter Olympic Games. The drive between these two cities is enough to make you want to book an Air B’nb in Austria for a month! Innsbruck itself is quite large, which came as a complete shock to me considering its location in the Alps.
When we first got here, we went to the famous Ski Jump, a place many tourists congregate. Because the tram up to the top was broken & my mom had a bum foot, we decided to take a car up to the top (much better than walking up thirty flights of stairs if you ask me). The view from the top was also spectacular, boasting 180 degree sights of the Alps and the town. Going down to the starting point of the ski jump is pretty impressive just knowing how many people actually jumped off of it.
After this outing, we checked into the Wellness Hotel located in Seefeld, a mountain town thirty minutes west of Innsbruck itself. I very much enjoyed relaxing in their pools, eating the freshly cooked meals, and walking around the town’s twelve kilometer lake.
The last stop on our European adventure was the mountainous country of Switzerland. We only had time to visit Lucerne, but it was worth it! On our way here, we drove through Liechtenstein, a tiny country with rolling hills and views of the Alps. Although there’s not much to do here, it is worth a drive through to experience just how small it really is!
Driving into Lucerne was stressful because it was raining and our navigation system was being unclear as to how to reach our hotel, but it all turned out okay in the end. After a night’s rest, my dad and I decided to take a boat ride around Lake Lucerne and summit Mount Pilatus (by tram, of course). Before doing this however, we had time to stroll around the city and walk across the Kapellbrucke Bridge.
The boat ride turned out to be extremely refreshing because it caused time to slow down on a trip that was so focused on go, go, go. After an hour and a half on the boat, we finally reached our stop for Mount Pilatus. We took the steepest tram up the mountain, only to be shrouded by fog and clouds. I really didn’t mind though! Having been so hot and sweaty all trip, it felt good to be chilly. Plus, the clouds made for a neat photo as we took the tram down the mountain. If you are worried about it being cloudy at the top, don’t be!! You can see plenty on the ride up & down the mountain, providing for copious photo opportunities (just be sure you get a window seat).
Even though I only saw a slice of Switzerland, I am eager to return soon!
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