Leaving München for Wien this morning we turned our eye to a much neglected part of our trip, namely, our itinerary. Today, Saturday, marks the conclusion of the 3rd week of our journey and our halfway point, at least in time. Because of our extension in Kandersteg and our good fortune in Fribourg we stayed longer in Switzerland than we had originally planned and so are now about 3 days behind "schedule." The schedule itself isn´t really a concern; afterall, we are our own tour guides and we have´t any reservations (Yeah, yeah, "But I´m having SERIOUS reservations..." Shush, you.) but the schedule is a reasonable division of our time and to fall behind it means that we have to rethink our ports of call somewhat to ensure that we get in those places that are important to us and still end up in Paris on the right date. Fortunately, we´re a lot better at planning Europe trips now (funny how that works) so I place a little bit more trust in our ability to create a maintainable itinerary for the balance of the trip.
One principle that we´ve adopted is the 3-nights-in-one-place mercy rule (Also known as 3 Day's Grace). As Gepat, one of the Austrian scoutmasters, explained to me, you can see train stations anywhere in the world and they look the same anywhere in the world. I agree him wholeheartedly, getting there is actually only about 6.25% of the fun. Travel less, experience more and keep your sanity in the bargain. We realized that only two nights in a city left but a single day to explore and a single day off the train. Much better to treat the tour as a series of weekends in which you arrive "Friday" evening, get oriented and settled in, see the sights on "Saturday and Sunday", and leave early "Monday" morning....of course with the benefit that "Monday" morning leads right into "Friday" night!
Another problem we revisted was the state of rail in Eastern Europe. While Austria is still a part of Eurail, and even Hungary beyond that, the Czech Republic, Slovakia (which we may travel through en route), and Poland are not. This means that our magic go-anywhere-do-anything Eurail Passes won´t work and we´ll have to buy tickets for those legs separately. Though we knew this was going to be a bit of a sticky spot when we were planning the trip we figured we´d just deal with it when we got there. Here. Er, now. The nice thing is that we´re working on solutions now so that we still have almost a week before we´ll be needing those tickets.
Our evolving solution for the next two weeks, at least til we´re back in western Europe,looks something like this: (Details, as always, still being worked out.)
19 Budapest (Night train)
22 Krakow (Night train)
25 Praha (Night train)
Notice the use of night trains to help pick up a few days and do something productive over those long hauls. Also note that Berlin found its way to the chopping block. As Frankie put it, "Somethin´s Gotta Give."