I prefer not to be encumbered by having to return a rental car on the day of a flight home from Europe, so our initial—but flawed—plan was to go online a few days before departure, book a hotel near the Frankfurt Airport, and return the car the night before our flight. That meant dropping the car at the airport and taking a taxi or a shuttle to the hotel. When I finally got around to make the booking, three days before departure, I realized our scheme had holes.

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View from all the hotel's guest rooms

We're putting this one in the “find” category. It's a hotel that has it all: great value, good design, waterside location, family ownership, and a very warm welcome.

This is such a terrific value we felt the need to let all our web visitors know about the nine-room Pension Havelfloss, directly on the Havel river in the old city of Brandenburg.

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VW Touranwith luggage for two persons

Yesterday we picked up a rental car in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. I had booked an intermediate sedan and Europcar offered a choice between an Opel Insignia or a VW Touran. I picked the Touran. It's actually an upgrade in the IXMR category (intermediate special vs IDMR, intermediate sedan).

More about this vehicle category in a later post but I wanted to mention what a marvelous factory-installed GPS it has, far better than the complex monstrosity I have at home in my 2008 Lexus LS460. It is simpler and more intuitive when establishing a new destination, and provides more accurate, easier to follow directions.

Lucerne

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Empty ICE Car to Switzerland

There is no below-ground transport system in Lucerne but huge (some three sections long), clean buses seem to be everywhere all the time. As many times as I've visited this country I never fail to be amazed at the transportation system and how it meshes so well all elements: train, bus, automobile, bicyclist, boat, pedestrians, and even cable cars.

The McClean toilets in Swiss rail stations are worth the charge—CHF 1.5 (pissoir), CHF 2 (WC), CHF 5 (shower)—to be assured of a clean and well-maintained facility.

The Lucerne rail station, in an impressive building on the lake, is another routine Swiss marvel, flawlessly meshing rail, bus and boat. One floor beneath the departure and arrival platforms is a vast network of shops.

The standard of living here seems very high. Obviously, the Swiss are willing to pay for a wonderful transportation system and for their many social benefits. The national will seems strong. Immigration is strictly controlled and in hindsight it looks as though the decision to steer clear of the euro was a wise one. One problem: the franc became so valuable vs other currencies that Swiss goods and services became difficult to export. Last year the government stepped in limit its value but this is still a very expensive country. For a few days, however, it's worth it.