"Welcome to Mark's Mostly Europe Travel Page" travelfrosch's Profile
Hi! My name is Mark. Most recently, I've created new pages for Tavira, Lisbon, and Oban.
Back from Portugal!
We have returned from an excellent trip to Portugal, Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. Minifrosch charmed many, even when he was being naughty. I'll slowly add tips and observations from this trip over the coming weeks.
To give you some background, I worked in Germany from 1993 - 1997, and tried to take maximum advantage of travel while I was there. When I got back to the States, I tried to go back to Europe at least once a year. So far, I've been able to, though it didn't really occur to me to start taking pictures until 2001. When I got a scanner, I decided to post some of my favorite pictures to the web. Now that I have a digital camera, photos from more recent trips will be coming to the web more quickly.
My writings and my tips are meant primarily for prospective tourists who are planning to visit Europe. (Though some Europeans apparently enjoy my ramblings as well and are welcome! :) I in no way intend my advice to trump those of locals; I just try to use my experiences living in Europe to cater to what tourists (especially those from North America) might want/need to know in their travels. To help get your travel juices flowing, I'll post the itineraries of the trips I've made through Europe since 2001. As time permits, I'll add more tips, photos, travelogues and ideas, so check back as often as you like. Enjoy!
This one was a short trip (9 days), but extremely enjoyable. Just the relaxation we needed!
For this trip, we flew "open jaw," in Munich and out Zürich. We took the S-Bahn from Munich Airport to Herrsching am Ammersee. From there, we enjoyed the area itself (including the Andechs monastery brewery;), as well as day-trips into Munich and the Tegernsee. Next, we used a Bayern-Ticket to take local trains to Lake Constance, and enjoyed the island town of Lindau. Then, a boat across the lake into Switzerland, and on to Kandersteg and some hikes in the Swiss Alps. It was cloudy in Kandersteg, but it was just fine south of the Rhône, so we used our Swisspass to make fantastic day-trips to Saas-Fee and Zermatt. Finally, we made our way to Zürich for a final rainy evening before heading home. As Sara would say, "Not too hard to take."
In 2007, we tried something different. This was ALMOST our first trip together without a single train ride. I say "almost" because we did take the train from Washington to Baltimore Airport. From BWI, we flew Icelandair to Keflavik Airport, where we then took the Airport Bus to Reykjavik bus station, and continued via regional bus to Geysir. At Geysir, we spent 2 nights enjoying the fascinating geothermal area, as well as taking a long walk to the spectacular waterfall at Gullfoss.
At this point, our trip hit a snag. The bus we were counting on to get us back to Reykjavik in time for our flight was canceled. This left us with no choice but to hitchhike. Fortunately, friendly traveling salesman Finnur saw our plight and offered us a ride as long as we didn't mind making several stops along the way. We didn't mind at all. After stops at places such as Laugarvatn, Borg, and Selfoss, he dropped us off at the domestic airport in plenty of time. So much time, in fact, it was too early to check in... so we walked back to Reykjavik and spent an hour or two sitting by the Tjörnin, enjoying the view and writing postcards. After that, we walked back to the airport and took our flight to Akureyri.
We spent 3 nights in Akureyri. While here, we enjoyed the town and its views. But the highlight of this part of the trip was the day-trip we took to the island of Hrísey. In fact, we loved it so much we took a second day-trip to the same island!
After our stay in Akureyri, we flew back to Reykjavik and spent a night there. We explored the city and made an excursion to the island of Viðey, where we had a nice meal and got to see quite a few birds.
Next, we made our way back to the domestic airport for our Atlantic Airways flight to the Faroe Islands. After an overnight at the Hotel Vágar, we walked to the ferry dock at the village of Sørvágur for our boat to Mykines. Our two nights on this remote island were definitely the highlight of our trip, with tremendous views and LOTS of puffin!
After or stay on Mykines, we re-boarded the ferry to the "mainland" and took a bus from there to the Faroese Capital, Tórshavn. We spent four nights at the Kerjalon Youth Hostel. We enjoyed the sights this fascinating city had to offer. We also managed a day-trip to the nearby island of Nólsoy.
Our Faroes adventure over, we returned to the airport and boarded an Atlantic Airways flight back to Reykjavik, where we spent a final Nordic night in the ritzy Hotel Saga. I was a bit under the weather, so we didn't do much other than enjoy the jacuzzi and have a nice dinner at the hotel. It was quite a trip!
In 2006, we had a magnificent vacation to Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden, and northern Norway. Like many of our trips, this trip involved an "open jaw" flight into Zürich and out Oslo. At Zürich airport, we validated our Swiss Saver Flexipass and proceeded by train to Engelberg. After two nights enjoying the area, we took a section of the Golden Pass railway to Interlaken, then connected with "BOB" (Berner Oberlandbahn) to get to Lauterbrunnen. After spending a few hours in Lauterbrunnen, Mürren, and Gimmelwald, we continued on to our favorite destination, Kandersteg. After 3 days of hiking and 3 nights at our favorite hotel, we rejoined the Golden Pass railway and made our way to Geneva. We enjoyed a pleasant day and night in Geneva before we caught a budget flight to Copenhagen.
In Copenhagen, we validated our Scanrailpass and proceeded by rail to the island of Funen and the port town of Svendborg. From there, we took the ferry to the village of Ærøskøbing on the tranquil island of Ærø. After 3 nights here, we retraced our steps and then continued northward to the Swedish capital of Stokholm. After 2 days here, we made our way to the university town of Uppsala to explore and await our night train to the Arctic.
At first, we were unsure where to go in northern Sweden. Thanks to excellent advice from VT friend Charlotta (Sjalen), we decided to go to Abisko National Park. After 2 wonderful days enjoying the Midnight Sun and Midsummer celebrations, we got back on the train and traveled to the end of the line in the arctic port town of Narvik, Norway. In Narvik, we were treated to a tour of the area by VT friend Jim (Narviking), which helped us gain excellent perspective on the region. Thanks, Jim!
After Narvik, we boarded a small but fast express boat to Svolvær in the Lofoten Islands, where we awaited the coastal steamer northward. Once aboard the MS Nordnorge, we advanced northward through some spectacular arctic views. On the way,we were able to get off and explore Tromsø, as well as make a triumphant trek to the North Cape, before we were deposited at the ship's final destination of Kirkenes. To cap off our trip, we explored this town on the Russian border before catching an evening flight to Oslo and then a flight back home the next morning. This year was our most ambitious, and most successful, trip -- thanks in no small part to the VTers mentioned above, as well as VT friends bpacker and Cachaseiro.
My first "recorded" trip was in 2001. While it was one of my shortest trips (10 days), it was also one of the most memorable. First, I cashed in frequent flier miles and got a business class flight on Swissair, "open jaw" flight into Munich and out Zürich. I used a 5-day Eurail Select Pass valid for Germany, the Benelux, and Switzerland. After a couple of days in Munich enjoying the varied biergartens, I took a night train to Brussels, where I met a friend of mine from my Germany days. Though the weather was awful, it didn't rain inside the pubs we visited. So many Belgian beers, so little time... Then on to Cologne to sample some Kölsch and await a night train to Berlin. Berlin was impressive, with the rebuilt Reichstag, Savignyplatz, "Ka De We," and Unter den Linden being quite memorable. Still another night train to Basel, Switzerland, and on to Zermatt (note: Brig to Zermatt train trip not covered by Eurailpasses) for some great hiking. Finally, a couple of days in my favorite Swiss village, Kandersteg, for even more hiking. Beer, views, beer, culture, beer, hiking, beer, scenery... did I mention beer? For a single guy, this was without a doubt "the best trip ever!"
Alas, all good things come to an end. So it was with my carefree, single, pub-crawling, beer-guzzling lifestyle. In Sara, I had found someone who could stand to be around me for more than 15 minutes -- definitely a keeper. So how to propose? This trip involved an "open jaw" flight -- in Paris, out Cologne -- and a 5 day "Eurail Selectpass Saver" for two that was valid in France, Switzerland, and Germany. A few days in Paris, the Eiffel Tower, the Île de France, a quiet bistro, a ring presentation... (note: fortunately for me, she said yes. If you're not sure, you might want to propose at the end of the vacation rather than the beginning) "The happy couple" then took an early morning TGV to the French Alps, staying 2 nights in Les Bossons, outside of Chamonix. Then a beautiful train ride via Martigny, Switzerland, to a gorgeous suite at Hotel Bernerhof in Kandersteg (Sara said, "If you're trying to impress me, you've succeeded!"). After some more great hiking, on to our last stop at Bacharach on the Rhine River. Mission accomplished!
Sara and I set a wedding date of June 1, 2003. Unfortunately, in late January, I was informed of a business opportunity that involved many months of work in an exotic, sandy location. This is one of those offers you don't refuse. So the wedding was hastily moved up, with a "family" wedding to be held after I got back. Now Afghanistan was certainly beautiful... but the landmines and less-than-friendly locals made any hiking rather difficult. When I got back, it was time to plan a fall honeymoon.
This trip involved an "open jaw" flight in Brussels and out Rome, and an 8-day Swiss Saver Pass for two. We spent a couple of nights in Brussels and Bruges before taking a budget flight to Geneva. Then on to Kandersteg and Zermatt for a week of hiking with barely a cloud in the sky the entire time. Then a trip on the "Glacier Express" (Eurail invalid, but Swisspass IS valid on the route) from Zermatt to St Moritz. Then we took the "Bernina Express" to Tirano and on to Varenna on Lake Como. Purchasing inexpensive point-to-point train tickets, we continued to Riomaggiore and the "Cinque Terre", Sorrento, and finally, Rome. It was certainly a trip we'll never forget.
The wedding ceremony for the entire family was held when we got back from the trip. We both decided to celebrate this date as our anniversary. But this presented a problem: How can you have your honeymoon before your wedding? Only one possible solution: another honeymoon!
This trip involved an "open jaw" flight --in Munich and out Bergen, Norway-- and a 15-day Eurail Saver pass for two. After we got over jet lag in Munich (OK, so I still drink SOME beer...), we took a train to (where else?) Kandersteg, Switzerland. After some hiking, we took an ICE train to Cologne, Germany. We then backtracked to the Mosel River, where we paid a visit to my landlords of many years ago in the village of Traben-Trarbach. After a quick visit to Koblenz and the confluence of the Mosel and Rhine rivers, we returned to Cologne to take our night train to Copenhagen. After a couple of days and a visit to Tivoli, we continued to Stockholm. We then took the Silja ferry from Stockholm to Helsinki and back. The cruise is beautiful, and if you take the "round trip," you get 8 hours in Helsinki and get to stay in the same stateroom for the cruise back to Stockholm. Once back in Stockholm, we took an X2000 bullet train to Oslo. We then continued via Voss to Ulvik, then back to Voss for the "Norway in a Nutshell" trip to Gudvangen and Flåm. We then took an express boat to Balestrand, further up the Sognefjord. After two lovely nights in Balestrand, we took an express boat to our final destination, Bergen. Why have one honeymoon when you can have two?
We're done with overseas travel for the year. For next year, we're tentatively planning a trip to the Swiss and Italian Alps, possibly including a stopover in Iceland. Other possibilities include Scandinavia, the Netherlands, France, and the Azores. As always, Minifrosch will keep a close eye on airfare deals, and he's ready to change our plans should a bargain present itself.
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