The summer travel season is here and something like 10 million Americans are headed for Europe and they're all on your flight. (Yeah, those three kids in diapers are sitting next to you all the way to Frankfurt. Sorry, but the phony little captain's wings and cheesy Ajax Airlines coloring books won't help. Before this is all over, uppermost in your mind will be one word: parachute.)
Depending on the departure city, you'll sit stuffed in that narrow metal tube for from seven to 11 hours. That feelin' good, well-groomed jet-setter who boarded the plane in the U.S. is disgorged at Frankfurt a rumpled, dyspeptic, bad-hair wreck who for sure ate too much and maybe even has a slight hangover. But this is the low point, the bottom. From here on, your trip graph line is headed up.
How high it goes depends on an almost infinite number of factors. Such as? Well now, that's why you subscribed, isn't it? To get the most out of your trips to Europe. To find out the good places to go and the bad places to avoid. How to make it easier, how to make it more fun, how to make it cost less.
Well, let's talk about it. Take a seat here at the Stammtisch and let me order you a Pils. You don't look so good; maybe a little hair of the dog will help. In the meantime let's talk about your trip.
• First, let me tell you about the jet lag. There is no cure for it. But there are some things you can do to ease the pain. My best advice is go to your local health food or drug store and buy melatonin. Take a three-milligram pill about half an hour before you want to sleep on the plane. Don't drink alcohol on the flight and every time they bring around a tray of water or juice, grab some. I still have a tough time getting my days and nights sorted out, but with the melatonin-no-alcohol-lots-of-liquid regime, at least I feel decent on arrival. Then, when you get to your first hotel, take a long walk.
• Forget traveler's checks. Instead get a four-digit PIN (personal identification number) for your ATM card and/or credit card and use them to obtain local currency. ATMs are virtually everywhere in Europe. You'll get a much better exchange rate and it's far more convenient.
• To save on hotel rooms in big cities, check with the 800 reservation numbers of the major chains such as Hilton, Marriott, Sofitel, Intercontinental and Steigenberger. Also check "Click-it Weekends" online at priceline.com/. These hotels sometimes have amazingly low weekend specials.
• For travel over long distances in Europe, consider the new Eur Air Pass. For $90 per leg (minimum three legs), you can fly between any of 50 European cities. For example, your $270 could get you from Frankfurt to Berlin to Zürich to Vienna; or from Rome to Munich to Geneva, and so on. Contact: 888-387-2479.
• Get the most out of your rail passes. For example, the Eurailpass, Europass and German Rail Pass are also good for travel on some Mosel and Rhine river routes. These passes are also accepted on the public transportation systems of several major cities. On Lake Constance, German Rail Pass holders get a 50% reduction on ships operated by Bodenseeschiffahrtsbetriebe. Or, you can take a bus down the Romantic Road. For a fee of $40 first class and $25 second class, you can add the Czech Republic to your German Rail Pass.
• The Swiss Pass and the Swiss Flexipass are good for travel on lake steamers and on the transportation networks of 30 Swiss cities. These passes, along with Eurail and Europass are good on the Bernina Express and a portion of the Glacier Express.
• Follow Gemütlichkeit's recommendations for hotels, restaurants and things to see and do. Here are a few we think offer good value in five popular destination cities:
• Hotel Kraft Schillerstrasse 49, Munich, D-80336, tel. 089/594823, fax 5503856. Doubles from about $125.
• Augustiner Gaststätten Neuhauser Str. 27, tel. +49/089/2318 3257, fax 2605379. Inexpensive.
• Don't Miss: The Carriage Museum at Nymphenburg Palace.
• Hotel Trumer Stube Bergstrasse 6, Salzburg, A-5020, +43/0662/874776, fax 874326. Doubles from about $75.
• Zum Fidelen Affen, Priesterhausgasse 8. Inexpensive.
• Don't miss: Get things in perspective with a walk through the gravestones in St. Peter's Churchyard followed by a cold beer at St. Peter's Stiftskeller.
• Pension Altstadt Kirchengasse 41, A-1070, +43/01/526 33 99 0, fax 49 01. Doubles from about $100.
• Restaurant Boheme Spittleberggasse 19, Vienna, A-1010, +43/01/523 3173. Moderate.
• Don't Miss: The Schatzkammer (treasury) in the Hofburg.
• Hilton Hotel (Zürich Airport) Hohenbhlstr. 10, CH-8152 Glattbrugg, tel. +41/01/810 3131 fax 810 9366. About $132 per night double. (Book through 800-445-8667 and ask for rate code P3)
• Restaurant Mere Catherine Nägelihof 3, CH-8001, tel. +41/01/262 2250. Moderate.
• Don't Miss: The stained glass windows by Marc Chagall in the Fraumünster. RHB