Flights, Accommodations

Last fall I flew Lufthansa from San Francisco to Munich and from Frankfurt back to San Francisco on United, all in business class. The Lufthansa flight was very nice, good food, good service, and the new ergonomic seats in the intermediate couch position are actually better for sleeping than in the “lie flat” position.

The United return flight, however, was on an older plane with older business seats, but not too uncomfortable since, in accord with “The Jet Lag Diet,” I do not sleep westbound. Service was nothing to rave about, the food pedestrian at best, and the entertainment limited to very bland child-friendly movies and a few video clips.

As you have observed, business travel was absolutely dead. Only a handful of travelers occupied the Star Alliance lounges in Munich and Frankfurt midweek, midday.

Priceline.com was a good choice for a Munich hotel. On two-days notice I booked the Munich Marriott (North) for $65. It is a four-star hotel and the room, bath, linens, etc. were all of high quality. The location is almost perfect, particularly if driving, since it is only a block off the Petuelring, close to the Nürnberg-Munich Autobahn, near BMW Welt, and about two blocks or so from the U-Bahn. On-street parking is possible, avoiding the €24 a day parking fee typical in Munich hotels. Munich itself is still booming and full of travelers and locals crowding Marienplatz and the better restaurants.

We rented a very nice two bedroom condo in Lierna, (Italy/Lake Como) just south of Varenna for four days for about €120 a day from This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. The condo was “Tulipino”.

Otherwise we found very nice accommodations through the local tourist bureaus in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Schenna (above Meran), Kitzbühl and St. Ulrich.

Very nice three-star luxury suites with breakfast and five-course dinners were €60 to €100 per person, but these accommodations would beat any US five-star location any time. For pre-planning, the tourist offices in any of these places will send you a catalog that displays all their hotels, apartments and B&B’s with web sites and phone numbers for each. At the economy end, we rented a few vacation apartments for about €60-70 a day. Several of the hotels now offer room with breakfast but include in the price a buffet in the afternoon that would suffice for dinner for light eaters.

All in all this is a great time to travel to Europe.

Donovan Leyden, Via email

VAT Refund Problems

We returned from three weeks in Germany and Austria with of course many wonderful purchases. This was the first time in all our years of traveling that I asked for duty free paperwork.

Imagine our surprise when we got to the airport to turn in our “Duty Free” receipts to find out that we needed to present our purchases (which were already in our checked suitcases) in order to get our tax money back.

What a rip off! Nobody told us it wasn't enough to have the paperwork and receipts but that we actually needed to show the purchases.

Another thing that could have put a damper on our trip was when we went through customs in Detroit. The customs officer asked what candy we were bringing into the country “Kindereggs?” On this particular trip I didn't purchase any but have on many other occasions and nobody ever questioned me.

When I asked why he asked I was told “they are illegal and I’d have to confiscate them.”

Maybe you could put the word out to other travelers.

Debby Riplinger, Via email