The Grand Plan
I'm not sure if I've mentioned it here before, but this summer Dawn and I are going to Switzerland, Austria, and southern Germany for several weeks. I've been doing a lot of planning for it lately - not because I want an immaculately planned vacation, but because I enjoy the process, and because while planning I learn a lot about where we're going, which gets me more excited to go.
Hiking is the focus of this trip, and most of it will be in the Alps. We actually meant to take this trip last year, but we bought our house instead. We've been saving for the trip since, and now it looks like it's a go for mid-July.
Of course, that's a pretty ugly time to non-rev to Europe. We're just going to buy a ton of backup passes on Swiss, Lufthansa, Northwest, American, British Airways, and Virgin Atlantic. Between all those carriers, and giving ourselves several days for travel, I think we'll manage to get ourselves to Zürich, perhaps via London, Amsterdam, or Frankfurt. Once we're in Switzerland, we'll be using rail passes to get around, and then renting a car for our short stays in Austria and Germany.
After Zürich, we'll be touring Bern and Luzern, before catching a train across the St Gothard Pass and down the Rhône river valley to Zermatt, near the Matterhorn. There, we'll make overnight hikes to the Schönbielhütte mountain hut and Fluhalp berggasthaus. After Zermatt, we'll stop for a night in Interlaken before pressing into the Jungfrau region. We'll be staying at least four nights at the Mountain Hostel in the small village of Gimmelwald, and taking day hikes from there.
After Gimmelwald, we're renting a car in Luzern and driving to Reutte, Austria. Reutte is just across the German border from the more well-known towns of Füssen and Oberammergau, making it ideal as a base to explore "Mad King" Ludwig II's castles (Neuschwanstein, Hohenschwangau, and Linderhof) as well as the ruined castles of Ehrenberg near Reutte itself. We'll be staying in a privatzimmer in Reutte; many people rent spare rooms for around €30/night.
Our last stop will be Munich. Besides the "Hofbräuhaus and Schloss Schleißheim" type stuff, we'll try to get out to the Andechs monastary and Dachau concentration camp - I've wanted to visit Dachau in particular for a long time. After that it'll be time to play the nonrev lotto once more. If it takes a while to get out, oh well - there are worse places to be stuck than Munich.
So there you have it - everything you need to stalk Dawn and I on our trip this summer. If any of you have been to the aforementioned places and have any good stories and/or tips, I'd love to hear'em.