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chadbag

Germany (France/Czech Republic) 2020

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chadbag

 

Yesterday I got the airline tickets for a trip to Europe next June I am taking with my daughter.   My daughter will just be finishing school for the year and is excited.   My wife can't take the time from work -- especially if we think about going to Japan Christmas 2020.  And my son is busy swimming and did not want to go.

 

I have a reunion to go to in Germany, in the Munich area, and decided to make a small tour of it.

 

I've only ever been in Paris in the airport on a layover, and my sister and her family lived there for 2 years and said all sorts of cool things about it, so I thought it would be a good place to either start or end the trip in (or both).  And airline tickets to Paris are often cheaper than other places (at least from SLC).  And I had heard all sorts of cool things about Prague, and our music teacher was there last summer and recommended it.  So I kind of decided that those places would be on the list.  Originally I had some other places on the list like Berlin too but decided trying to hit too many places would mean always on a train/plane and never seeing much.

 

I'd been tracking airline tickets for a while but SLC to Europe (looking at various places like Paris, Amsterdam, Zurich, Munich, Frankfurt, etc.) are generally pretty expensive in summer and the cheapest I had seen was some 1 or 2 stop trips on AA (or its alliance partners) for 14-19 hour trips for about $1000 pp roundtrip.  Then Monday night I happened to check LAX to Paris and found $470 pp roundtrip nonstop on AF (and same flights labeled Delta etc).  I have some Worldmark points convertible to travel so I called them up Tuesday morning.  By the time I got someone and they looked, there was only 1 ticket at $470 left but they could get 2 for only $24 each more.   So I had them get those two for me for just under $1000 for two people to Paris from LAX non-stop on Air France.  These are basic economy tickets, so no pre-selected seats, no checked luggage.  I decided I did not want to deal with checked luggage for just the two of us anyway, and on Air France you can pre-select seats by paying $$ (where Delta, on the same flight, does not allow that for basic economy at all), and I wanted some specific seats so that the daughter and I would not be with others, and the price to select them was the same on basic economy as main cabin economy (I could have selected other seats using main cabin economy for no money but I wanted the two in a row that are stand alone in the last row of the first economy section) so I decided it was much cheaper to just buy basic economy and then go pay for the seats.

 

The problem is that the flights leave from LAX, not SLC.  Luckily I have some AA miles stored up that I had not had any use for (since I try to avoid AA when I can -- especially for long flights -- and their mileage redemption fees for international are high).  I had enough to get two main cabin round trip tickets from SLC to LAX and back and the cost was $22.xx (total not each) + 65000 miles.  The flight to LAX is a little over an hour of actual air time plus landing, taxiing, take off, etc.   So for about $1150 total (plus 65k in AA miles) I got the flights to LAX, to Paris, and back, for two of us, with our specific pre-selected seats.

 

I still have Worldmark points I can convert to travel so will get us a 5 days in a month Eurrail pass as well.  And I have a car reserved in Munich for 4 days for $85 total.

 

The plan is

 

Land in Paris.  Two nights and a day there to see something.  Train (TGV/ICE) to Munich.  Stay with friends and visit friends (I lived in Landshut -- 80 km from Munich and worked in Munich 91-93) and attend reunion activities.  See some stuff.  Go to Oberammergau and spend two nights and a day and see the Passion Play (already have reservations for over a year for that as it is hard to get). Then return the car and take the train to Salzburg.  Spend an evening seeing stuff, night in hotel, spend another hour or two seeing stuff the next morning (the hotel is downtown old town Salzburg) and then take the Railjet to Prague. 4 nights and 3 days in Prague seeing things, then a train back to Paris (long 11-13 hour ride but several different trains to ride and see and lots of good scenery.  I could take a plane and probably pay for it by only getting a 3-day Eurrail pass but that is no fun.  2 nights in Paris with a day to see stuff and then the trip back.

 

(yes I know I need to finish posting the photos form our Japan trip this summer -- I have not yet taken the time to catalog etc.  They are coming)

 

I've not gotten all the accommodations set up yet but am working on it.  I tried to get a 2 night Vrbo (AirBNB competitor) but the guy replied he was not sure that far ahead about availability.  I did get a request in, not replied back yet on a Vrbo in Prague, and I have a confirmed AirBNB for the second Paris stay, and a confirmed hotel stay in Salzburg.  And a friend in Munich said we can stay with him.  So the plans are falling into place.  Need to research the detailed plans on what to do and how to do it.  My sister spent 2 years in Paris with her family as she studied  (summer in between they were here in Utah) so she said she would help me figure out a realistic tour plan for Paris.  Neuschwannstein is on the list for after Oberammergau (not that far away) and before we take the train to Salzburg. I know nothing of Prague.

 

 

Edited by chadbag

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disturbman

I am exhausted just by reading your description. This is way too intense. 

Paris requires at least a week to be seen (and tasted) properly. Even more since it is better done at low speed, taking the time to enjoy the city, walk its many streets, passing time in cafés and restaurants and brasseries and wine bars, rather than rushing from attraction to attraction. Prague requires a lot less time, it is a much smaller city.

 

Hope you will enjoy 🙂 Paris can be tough for some people to appreciate.

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bill937ca

I recently did five nights and five days in Prague so your trip will probably work good. But it may leave you wanting to go back......

 

Official tourist page of Prague:  https://www.prague.eu/en

 

Avoid taxis in Prague. My hotel arranged transfers to and from the airport. Key attractions are the Prague Castle,  Old Town, Mala Strana and the Charles Bridge. It is a city of towers and view points. The Vltava River runs through a valley creating scenic vistas.

Edited by bill937ca
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ben_issacs

Chadbag, 

A while ago I did a trip to Eastern Europe, and that included the three main cities of the old Austro-Hungarian Empire, Vienna, Budapest and Prague.

All have interesting tram systems if you're into that stuff, Budapest has its magnificent Parliament House on the Danube , Vienna is well documented, if you're into military history, the Military Museum there is worth a visit, it contains large models of A-H battleships of the First World War, when  AH had a good sized navy, also there is the open four seat Graff und Stifft touring car in which the heir to the AH throne, Archduke Karl and his wife were assassinated by a Serbian nationalist, which led to the first World War and all its sorrows.

I only passed briefly through Paris, did a few of the usual tourist things, Germany very little, Italy ditto.

Did more in Turkey, Bulgaria and Rumania, but they are off your itinerary.

Regards, 

Bill, 

Melbourne.

 

 

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chadbag
1 hour ago, disturbman said:

I am exhausted just by reading your description. This is way too intense. 

Paris requires at least a week to be seen (and tasted) properly. Even more since it is better done at low speed, taking the time to enjoy the city, walk its many streets, passing time in cafés and restaurants and brasseries and wine bars, rather than rushing from attraction to attraction. Prague requires a lot less time, it is a much smaller city.

 

Hope you will enjoy 🙂 Paris can be tough for some people to appreciate.

 

 

My sister spent two years (minus the summer in between) in Paris.  I am sure she would agree.  

 

The trip is not about Paris really -- that is a cheap landing spot and a good chance to ride some HST into Germany.  Munich is where the reunion is for a few days, and Salzburg is really just a way to get partway to Prague since we won't be able to leave Munich early enough to get to Prague in one day, at a reasonable hour.  I've been to Salzburg once, and it is very nice, and deserves a few days itself.   I may end up staying a full day in Salzburg and do one less day in Prague.  My friend who was born  there (dual US/Austrian citizenship living in Munich now) is trying to convince me.  

 

For me the trip is really about the reunion in the Munich area and Prague, with a side of Paris to whet the appetite.  We are in Europe 13 days including the day we arrive but not the day we leave; 15 days away from home including all travel).  And a chance to ride some trains I have not ridden on.  Most of my European train riding was the mid-late 80s and a lot has changed since then 🙂

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cteno4

Which way to the Mona Lisa, I’m double parked!

 

jeff

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disturbman

Maybe you should make the trip about finding the last Parisian model train shops. One per day. It would take you away from the main flow of tourists 😉

 

Anyway, the best is really to just walk around and follow your heart. The Eiffel Tower and the Louvre are avoidable. Walk along the Seine and the islands (from l’ile Saint-Louis to the Eiffel Tower). Walk along the canal de l’Ourq up to gare de l’Est. The Marais and the 5th arrondissement. The old high line near Bastille is also a wonderful walk. Almost all neighborhoods are worth a visit and a walk.

 

Main view points are Montmartre, the top of the Montparnasse Tower and the Belleville Park. I love Belleville, it’s one of the city’s China Towns, an old immigrant neighborhood that is being gentrified.

 

For greenery, the parc du Luxembourg, the Buttes-Chaumonts, the Parc de Sceaux in the southern suburbs (20mins train ride from Châtelet-Les Halles) and the Père-Lachaise Cemetery. The Père-Lachaise is quite incredible and is the resting place of many famous people.

 

if you are in need of Japanese food the Little Tokyo next to Opéra is the place to go. Otherwise, there are many wonderful restaurant of modern French cuisine restaurants. Just need to do some research. Don’t avoid the bakeries 😊

 

if you want to see some art, Beaubourg/Le Centre Pompidou and the Palais de Tokyo are good starting points for modern and contemporary art. Beaubourg also has a nice café on the last floor, or used to at least. The Picasso Museum – if it reopened after extension – is worth a visit. The Louvre has wonderful collections but it is best in the late hours as it is really too crowded. Don’t try to see Mona Lisa.

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James-SNMB

Going to Europe is kind of a Pandora's box... things are so easy to get to, and everywhere is so cool it's hard to keep things simple! I would generally agree with the posters above that its best to take more time and do less, but the reality is you only have so much vacation time to spread around. I commend you for going for it anyway, even though it's only a two week jaunt. It sounds like you're an experienced enough traveller to manage your time and fatigue levels, and take rest when needed, and not try to do everything all at once. You know what you like and what you can handle. It sounds like your plans are pretty much set anyway, I'm sure you'll have a good trip!

 

My only advice would be to steer you away from the Eurail pass. It definitely has its advantages in certain cases, but I'll bet you if you priced out the individual tickets, and booked in advance, you'd end up ahead. Eurail passes for adults (+26) require 1st class travel (if I recall correctly), so just by booking in 2nd class tickets you'll probably come out ahead. Eastern european trains are also so cheap that a railpass is hardly worth it at all in those countries. Plus, with a Eurail pass (unless things have changed) you have to go to a train station to validate it, and you have to physically go to the train station to make any reservations, and reservations are generally mandatory on international trains, and all TGV's (although not within Germany on the ICE), etc. Reservations generally cost a few euros, which adds extra cost to the railpass option, however minimal. The key savings by skipping the railpass here is going to be your time, since you can just print off your tickets at home before you leave on your trip and you don't have to muck about going to train stations hoping that there is availability on trains that you must be on in order to make your trip work. Buying tickets ahead will make sure you get seats together as well. So save the stress, save the time, and save the money.

 

Bahn.de gives all the train schedules of europe, and you can book on DB trains (maybe OBB as well, not sure). For other trains/countries, I generally still use bahn.de to figure out the journey, then go to the individual national rail websites (SNCF, etc.) and book there.

 

This is what my wife and I did with our 11 month old daughter a few years back, and it was definitely cheaper and more convenient than rail passes for us. In that case, we knew exactly when and where we wanted to go. A railpass is useful when you want more flexibility in your trip, and will plan as you go. Or if you're under 26, and travelling primarily in France, Benelux, Switzerland, Germany, and Austria, then the math may work out better for a railpass.

 

As for your trip, Paris is big, and there's a lot to do, but if you set smaller goals, you can get a taste of it (without hating it) and you can always go back someday. I'm sure your sister has good advice, but I'd echo those suggesting skipping the Louvre this trip. I prefer Orsay and Pompidou as art museums anyway.

 

When I went on a Europe trip with a couple of friends in 2008, we had three days in Paris to start our trip. Obviously, that's on the short side for how much there is to see in Paris, but a local restaurateur helped us plan a monster one day walking tour of Paris which I will share with you now to my best recollection: We took the metro to Trocadero, and walked over to the Esplanade de Trocadero and enjoy the most stunning view of the Eiffel Tower. Then we walked down across the  Seine to the Eiffel Tower. You can take the stairs for cheap, and there's never a line. You can access the lower and second levels by the stairs, as long as you have the legs/lungs. You can take some more pictures of the tower from the grounds in front of the tower, and then either walk or take the metro to the arc de triomphe, and we walked all the way down Champs Elysee (stopping at a grocery store for a picnic lunch) to the Louvre, then along the banks of the Seine to Ile de la cite, and visited Notre Dame (which I guess you'll skip going inside, since the fire).

 

This was a huge, exhausting day, even at 21 years old, and I think we basically did nothing the next day. But it gave us the flavour of the city in a day, and we spent the rest of our days seeing some of the other Paris sights. It was an exhausting three days actually, and when we went to Barcelona after we mostly slept. We had to recover! (It was rainy in Barcelona anyway, strangely). I'm not recommending jamming it all in in a day, but it can be (partially) done if your will is strong enough.

 

I'm sure you know Munich better than I ever could, but the Deutsches museum is my favourite museum ever. Tons of cool stuff. There was even a very cool model train display (although there have been some renovations since I was there in 2008, so no promises that it's still there).

 

Prague is great, never been to Salzburg. It'll be a great trip with your daughter, and I'm sure she has ideas about what to put on the list too.

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chadbag

Actually Eurrail passes have changed greatly since I last used one (in 1990!).   Now you can book 2nd or 1st class as an adult (no more of the 26 or under).  And they have a lot more choices for passes now, including flex passes that are good for X days in a month (or two months for larger values of X).  I actually bought our passes today.  I had priced some individual route tickets for representative routes and we should save a good amount with the pass (ignoring seat reservation costs which would be there in both cases, pass or ticket).  You can get seat reservations online now when using the pass as well.   We got the 5 days in a month pass since the number of days I have us on trains (4) is greater than the other lesser offering of 3 days.  1st class.  $744 for the both of us (1 adult, 1 junior).  The good thing is that for both the basic airline tickets, and the Eurrail passes, I had "credit" through Worldmark points that I could use and those two things there were fully covered so no cash outlay.   I have a car in Munich reserved at a cheap price.

 

The Eurrail pass is not as convenient as JR Passes in terms of use but come to similar costs for a lot of the passes available, I figured last week when comparing roughly what we paid for Green Car 21 day passes for our family this summer and what 22 days in 2 month pass would cost, 1st class for our family, and some other rough comparisons I ran..  Not the most scientific but the costs were similar.

 

This trip is mostly about Munich and the surrounding area -- going to the reunion, staying with a friend and visiting other friends from when I lived and worked in the area, and going to the passion play at Oberammergau (part of the reunion plans -- not my idea).  And Prague, because I've never been there.  So we are staying multiple days in each of Munich and Prague.  Salzburg is included for 1 night because there is no train to Prague that leaves late enough in the afternoon from Munich to get to Prague at a reasonable hour, so we go part way from Munich and continue on from Salzburg the next day.    Paris because I got really cheap airline tickets to Paris for the two of us ($996 for two round trip basic economy LAX -- CDG plus $128 to pre-select specific seats [which are pay-for seats even in non-basic economy]  and AA miles from SLC -- LAX and back so only $22 in fees and taxes)  and a day on each end in Paris is not a bad way to enter and leave Europe, even if Paris is not the main goal.  We'll go back and spend more time to actually get to know Paris at some point (I hope -- my wife is mostly about going to Japan as often as possible).  

 

And it gives us the opportunity to ride TGV/Thalys/ICE (depending on route and time of day) to Munich and back to Paris from Prague and I've never ridden HST in Europe (my time living in Germany predates HST except the beginnings of the ICE1 and I had a car then and never rode one).  And Railjet in Austria and a bunch of other interesting trains.  And isn't riding trains part of the fun 🙂

 

I had originally had other more extensive plans but realized we were just spending a lot more time on trains, increasing costs, and not really seeing as much but covering a lot of ground.  So I scaled back and focused on two main places to visit with the additional due to the travel arrangements.  Berlin was struck from the list 😞     I spent 1 day in Berlin back in 1990.  I would love to go back for a much longer period.

 

Deutsches Museum would be cool. I am not sure if we'll get that in this time -- I'll have to see what time is not already scheduled as part of the reunion.  I went there in 1983 when we went to Germany for 4 weeks in HS and stayed in Göppingen and went to the Werner Heisenberg Gymnasium for 4 weeks (with a couple trips to Munich, one with the Germans from the Gymnasium and one with just us American kids from our HS).  

 

We also went and toured the Märklin museum at the factory as it existed in 1983, being in Göppingen.  Was pretty cool.   It was very cool in 1983 and I suspect would be a lot cooler now.

 

 

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Yavianice

Deutsches Museum is only available in German and has not been updated in millennia. The technical museum in Berlin is far superior. The model train exhibit is still available as far as I know in the public transport subdivision (there are 3 locations of the deutsches museum). But if you just want to see model trains, Porsche Museum is much nicer.

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James-SNMB

Wow! I had no idea they'd added a class 2 adult Eurail option! I'll have to factor that into my planning for our next trip. It sounds like you have all the bases more than covered! 

 

And this Hans-Peter Porsche museum is getting added to my to do list also...

 

Riding and seeing cool trains is definitely part of the fun. I vividly remember going to Gare du Nord for the first time and being awestruck by the cool trains all lined up. Thalys, TGV, Eurostar... So cool just to see.

 

Looking forward to hearing about your trip after you get back!

Edited by James-SNMB
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martin67

Hi,

 

couldn't find it anywhere, but when do you do your trip to Europe?

 

Cheers,

 

Martin

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chadbag

Hi Martin

 

Next June, so still some ways away.

 

 

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disturbman

@chadbagI remembered of a location you might want to check out when you are in Paris.

https://www.google.com/search?q=au+train+de+vie+paris&sxsrf=ACYBGNSOPtxDul5h99Zf_lcVC2IrSZzOKQ:1581367736130&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwis667x7cfnAhWF_KQKHQXACwsQ_AUoAXoECA4QAw&biw=1920&bih=914

Au Train de Vie, a bar/brasserie located between Gare de l'Est and Gare du Nord. It is famously furnished with old SNCF paraphernalia; seats and other things. In particular, the bar/counter is made of the bottom part of a "Nez cassé" locomotive.

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chadbag

Ah, cool. Thanks.   I'll add it to my list of possibles...

 

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Yavianice

Bit late, but in Paris you could also see La Petite Ceinture, an abandoned train line that circles Paris. 

 

Also, if you have a bit more time then you could also check out the cool church which is about halfway from Oberammergau to Neuschwanstein (Wieskirche, a UNESCO world heritage site)

 

Or check out the Zugspitzbahn if you haven't already, since they reconstructed the German section with big panoramic windows in the restaurant.

Edited by disturbman

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disturbman

Small stretches of la Petite Ceinture are open to the public but the rest is still off limits. In my experience, the best stretch is the viaduc above l'avenue de Saint-Mandé. Unfortunately I think this is still close to the public. Several of the old stations of la Petite Ceinture have been turned into bars or cafés.

There is also la Promenade plantée, the old Vincennes line and its viaducs that were converted in a lovely linear park back in the early 90s. A very nice way to see Paris from a different perspective. One of my favourite places in Paris. I used to live next to it in 12th arrondissement. La Promenade starts at Bastille and continues until La Petite Ceinture in the east.

Railwise, the best will always be the line 2 or 6 and the view they afford you of the city. As well as a couple of footbridges above the tracks that leads to the main train stations.

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chadbag
2 hours ago, Yavianice said:

Bit late, but in Paris you could also see La Petite Ceinture, an abandoned train line that circles Paris. 

 

Also, if you have a bit more time then you could also check out the cool church which is about halfway from Oberammergau to Neuschwanstein (Wieskirche, a UNESCO world heritage site)

 

Or check out the Zugspitzbahn if you haven't already, since they reconstructed the German section with big panoramic windows in the restaurant.

 

Thanks for the ideas.  The WIeskirche looks interesting, as right now we plan on hitting Neuschwanstein either before or after the trip to Oberammergau (for the passion play).   Despite having lived about 45 minutes away from Neuschwanstein for 18 months, I never took the time to go see it 🙂 so am planning on it this trip.

 

2 hours ago, disturbman said:

Small stretches of la Petite Ceinture are open to the public but the rest is still off limits. In my experience, the best stretch is the viaduc above l'avenue de Saint-Mandé. Unfortunately I think this is still close to the public. Several of the old stations of la Petite Ceinture have been turned into bars or cafés.

There is also la Promenade plantée, the old Vincennes line and its viaducs that were converted in a lovely linear park back in the early 90s. A very nice way to see Paris from a different perspective. One of my favourite places in Paris. I used to live next to it in 12th arrondissement. La Promenade starts at Bastille and continues until La Petite Ceinture in the east.

Railwise, the best will always be the line 2 or 6 and the view they afford you of the city. As well as a couple of footbridges above the tracks that leads to the main train stations.

 

Thanks for the ideas.  It gives me stuff to think about.  We have 2 full days in Paris, one on each end of the trip.  I don't want to plan too much but some "light" walkable stuff would be interesting (vs Touristy stuff)

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Tony Galiani

We go to Germany quite a bit (as my wife has family there) and also to Paris (since Delta connects through CDG). 

 

Paris is great but does require a certain sang-froid to deal with, at least for me.  On the last two trips, we have been subjected to theft attempts - my wife's wallet was snatched in the Metro and, on our recent trip this past December, thieves tried to take my wallet.  Being a veteran of the New York City subways, I could tell quickly I was being targeted and grabbed the hand of the guy who was sneaking up behind me to take my wallet.  At which point he and his cronies got off the train.  My wife was not so lucky on our previous trip and, even after losing her wallet, continued to walk around with her purse unzipped!

 

On each trip, we have had to deal with transit strikes.  We made our way around them but it certainly dampens my enthusiasm for the city.  We were there when the last general strike started and couldn't get our pre-booked airport ride as we were inside the blockaded area.  Our hotel receptionist was great and found us a taxi driver who walked in and helped us carry our bags past the barricades so we could get to the airport.  One benefit - my wife no longer complains about my one carry-on bag travel policy!

 

I think I posted previously that there are several model train shops and music stores relatively close together just below Montmartre.  Great for looking, no so much for buying.  Prices in Japan, both for musical instruments (bass guitars in my case) or trains, are much better.

 

We spend most of our time in Germany evaluating the various cafe und kuchen options ...

 

Not sure if you are planning to drive but speed cameras are now all over the place.  On our last trip we managed to pick up three speeding tickets in the span of a week - which was way more than I had gotten in my entire life.  And two of those were for being only slightly (about 10kph) over the limit.  While the fines for most of them were relatively light, the process of paying them was a major headache.  If we didn't have relatives there who took care of the process for us, it would have cost quite a bit to pay the tickets.

 

Tschuss,

Tony Galiani

 

 

 

 

 

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chadbag

I'll have a car in Germany for a few days.  I think 4.  Otherwise we are doing trains and transit.   I'll keep a light foot.  The older I get, the less urge I have to drive fast 🙂

 

I bet they have a lot more speed cameras in Germany compared to when I lived there in the early 90s (or was last there in 2000) but they had a lot then.  We called them "Blitz boxes" -- not just speed cameras, but "intersection violation" cameras, etc.  I've been lucky to never been "blitzed"  ("Blitz" (Blitzlicht) is a camera flash, as well as "lightning").

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roadstar_na6

Check "Honest Prague Guide" on YouTube for everything you need to know when visiting Prague. It‘s an amazing city well worth a visit.

 

Speed Traps aren‘t really common in Germany and are usually announced or well known by navigation systems. Just get the Waze App for your phone and you‘ll be good 😉

 

Enjoy your trip!

Edited by roadstar_na6

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