Tuesday, December 28, 2010

What transpired before the holiday

This year there was a deviation from the usual practice of planning for the year end vacation. The decision making  commenced uncharacteristically later than usual, due to Pat's mid year business trip,  and with 8 months left to go, no conclusion was in sight.

A rigorous adventure traversing across central Taiwan previously had given our holiday a different perspective. Do it yourself travel instills  discipline  and awareness which would not be possible with packaged tours. In the process, I also enjoyed  trusting the advise of strangers and act of goodwill from passersby.

So emboldened with the success  in Taiwan, we looked beyond Asia on the atlas for our next destination. Three heads poured over the maps of green and browns,  debating and reasoning. Our votes ended with the  'uncharted territory' of Germany and Austria. A music tour,  most appropriate for the musician member in our three member team !

Munich, the transport hub of Germany, was my choice of entry. On the German rail network, I spied a line emancipating from Munich to Salzburg and then another towards Austria's Vienna in the  north east.  Immediately, I foresaw a troupe of three traveling along this line of black and white. Munich, Salzburg and Vienna, here we  come!

Over at zuji.com.sg, a little study was made  on the connections from Singapore to Munich and Vienna back  to Singapore, with consideration on  price and timings. Emirates was almost as the crow flies, with a stop over in Dubai. A midnight departure meant a good rest on the flight, with a comfortable 3 hour transit at Dubai to cater for any delayed departure from the Singapore sector. The return trip with a 10 hour transit was made less painful with Emirates' complimentary accommodations, meals and transfer at Dubai Milleniem Airport Hotel ( a fact I discovered near the time of departure ).Noon time arrival meant some light left  for finding our way around our base in  Munich. All in all, Emirates offered the best time of departure and arrival without aggravating the discomfort of jetlag. My flight plan was sealed  by Evelyn of Travel Haven, who as usual, gave us the best deals and offers the human touch which online portals could not.

Next was the allotment of time to be spent in the three cities. I was inclined to spend an equal amount of time in  Salzburg and Vienna, home of the classical greats. Ideally, 5 days in  each city would be perfect. In the end, Munich, our first stop ,  was allocated three days, because I was unfamiliar with what it has to offer. Besides, surveyed expenditure seems higher than the other two cities, so hence the cutback.

Two previous winters in non heated self catered accommodations still send chills  shivering in winter cold. Since self catering apartments were hard to come by for stays less than a week, I opted for the predictable heated hotel rooms  inclusive of breakfast, a compromise that still comes with a some regret.

With the overall structure of the holiday in place, I had to fill in the flesh of each single day.  Though not the best choice, we concluded hotels near the train station will facilitate maximum movement in and out of town for the restless three.  With the exception was Vienna, as the town center was far off from the train station and equidistant to the airport.

Driving was a costly affair in the old towns, with many areas out of bounds to vehicular traffic.  Unpredictable winter conditions and inter-country driving was an additional complexity. The cities linked by direct rails were reported to be reliable, frequent and  affordable. For the train addict in me, what was  not to like to look at snowy landscape from the comfort of a train cabin?

Into the bolts and nuts of it all, I had the good people at tripadvisor.com to advise from shoes to events and  countless reference books from the national library beckoning me with colorful pictures. These two main sources were the mainstay of my research and decision making.

The subsequent notes will be daily accounts for the benefit of those who go after me. Hopefully,  many will build upon the data and see Europe through the eye of an Asian traveler.

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