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Whimsical palaces and gingerbread castles set the theme of our fairytale rail tour, during which we relax in the wonderful Bavarian countryside, visit the capital of Bavaria, Munich, and take a trip by train up the Zugspitze, the highest mountain in Germany.
Day 1 - International flight to London
Embark on your international flight to London from your U.S. gateway. (International flight not included in tour price)
Day 2 - London to Cologne in First Class
We meet in St Pancras and take the Eurostar to Brussels, traveling in Standard Premier Class with a light meal and drinks. On arrival in the Belgian capital, we change trains, continuing by high speed train to Cologne where we overnight, (D)
Day 3 - On to Garmisch
This morning we continue our journey in First Class to Munich along the Rhine Gorge. This spectacular journey takes us past extensive vineyards and brooding hilltop castles. In Munich, we change for the onward journey through southern Bavaria to Garmisch-Partenkirchen (Standard Class), set in an idyllic location amongst the rugged mountains of the Bavarian Alps. We spend seven nights in Garmisch at the welcoming Reindl's Partenkirchener Hof Hotel, situated in the heart of the town. We enjoy dinner together this evening. (B, D)
Day 4 - A day at leisure in Garmisch
Your day is at leisure, giving you the opportunity to explore Garmisch-Partenkirchen at your own pace. The town has some fine Baroque churches and historic houses decorated with traditional frescoes, as well as an excellent selection of shops and boutiques. You may wish to simply relax in the hotel and make use of its leisure facilities, or perhaps take advantage of one of the many well-marked walking trails into the Bavarian countryside. (B)
Day 5 - Munich
Today we travel by Standard Class train to visit Munich. As the capital of Bavaria, the city has a wonderful collection of museums, art galleries and architectural treasures - along with a fantastic selection of excellent shops and restaurants. We enjoy a guided tour to introduce the sights of the city, before enjoying time to explore at leisure. Be sure to visit Marienplatz, the city's historic center and still its vibrant hub today. Here you can see the impressive neo-Gothic Town Hall, or you could take the lift up one of the copper-domed towers of Munich's imposing cathedral, the Frauenkirche, for great views over the city.
To enjoy a true German culinary experience, the Hofbräuhaus is a must for a typical Bavarian meal accompanied by the local brew. Perhaps you'd like to visit Munich's Englischer Garten or English Garden. Set in the center of the city this expansive green space of 1.4 square miles is a social hub, a popular meeting place for the locals and a fantastic area for travelers to shelter from the bustle of busy Munich. The Kleinhesselohler See is a lake within the garden and offers an enchanting spot to visit and take lunch. Alternatively, you could visit Munich's BMW Museum. A popular attraction, this museum houses a collection of classic BMWs. The exterior architecture, clad in chrome, makes for a striking sight. (B, D)
Day 6 - The Zugspitze
Today we enjoy one of the region's most popular rail journeys, as we take an excursion on the Zugspitze Railroad, reaching the summit of Zugspitze - which at 9,718 ft (2,962 m) is the highest mountain in Germany. Our train departs from the town center and climbs along the mountain base, passing the Eibsee Lake on its way to the Zugspitzplatt, situated by the impressive Schneeferner glacier - Germany's largest.
From here our journey continues by cable car (weather permitting) high above the dense forests to the very summit of Zugspitze. The rocky peak offers breathtaking panoramic views over Bavaria, Switzerland, Austria, and Italy. (B, D)
Days 7 & 8 - Neuschwanstein
Today's full-day excursion is arguably the highlight of our tour, as we visit two of Europe's most beautiful castles. We begin with a visit to King Ludwig's marvelous childhood home of Hohenschwangau. Situated on a verdant and tree covered hill, this yellow fortress is covered in towers and turrets that lend an air of the fanciful to the entire building. Here, we learn about the fascinating history of the two structures. Hohenschwangau was built on the site of the 12th century Schwanstein Fortress but fell into disrepair during the 18th century Later, it was sold on, and then lovingly reconstructed by Ludwig's father in the 1830s.
From here Ludwig planned his own larger, more impressive castle, just a stone's throw away: Neuschwanstein. We continue to this spectacular building, bristling with turrets and parapets, for a guided tour. The inspiration behind one of the most famous castles in modern times - the famed Sleeping Beauty Castle in Disneyland.
Surprisingly enough, for the time it was built, Neuschwanstein was equipped with many modern conveniences but incredibly was only occupied for 170 days before Ludwig was deposed. We take in the opulence of this awe-inspiring palace - one of Germany's most popular attractions - with its sumptuous wood carvings, beautiful chandeliers and lavish paintings which adorn the majestic rooms.
Day 8 - is at leisure for you to continue exploring Garmisch-Partenkirchen at your own pace. (Day 7 - B, D, Day 8 - B)
Day 9 - Oberammergau & Linderhof
This morning we visit Oberammergau for a guided tour through its pretty streets with elaborately decorated homes featuring historic and fairytale paintings. The town is internationally famous for its celebrated Passion Play, which starts the town's residents and is held once every ten years. The Passion Play has now become an internationally recognized event and is heavily attended by Christians from all around the world.
In the afternoon, we visit Linderhof, the smallest palace commissioned by Ludwig II. The whole complex incorporates a range of architectural influences, and here we explore the striking Hall of Mirrors which was supposedly used by the king as a type of living room, he was known to spend a lot of his time sitting here reading solemnly, candles would burn through the night and create a unique atmosphere because of the myriad of reflections generated in the room.
We also explore the ornate bedchamber of the King, an exquisite and enormous gilded bedchamber that is decorated with gold embroidery and a rich, royal blue, which was used extensively in King Ludwig's decorating as it was his symbolic color. Another place we explore is the Moorish Kiosk, situated within the castle's extensive parkland. Decorated with traditionally Arabic geometric shapes and three golden domes, the kiosk was created for the Paris World Exhibition in 1867 before being bought by Ludwig to decorate the Palace grounds. Tonight in Garmisch, we enjoy a farewell dinner. (B, D)
Day 10 - Back to Cologne
We leave Garmisch-Partenkirchen in Standard Class rail for Munich and then Munich to Cologne in First Class on the high-speed rail service. Our last night is spent in a central hotel, close to the station, the Rhine and the city's UNESCO-listed Gothic cathedral (B, D)
Day 11 - The journey to London in First Class
Today we travel to Brussels where we connect with the Eurostar service to London and home. (B)
Reindl's Partenkirchner Hof Hotel, Garmisch-Partenkirchen
The superb family-run 4-Star Reindl's Partenkirchner Hof Hotel is located in the heart of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, just a short walk from the station. It combines the hospitality and tradition of a Bavarian inn with modern luxuries and the comforts one would expect of a 5-Star hotel. Extensive wood paneling gives the hotel a warm traditional feel, perfect for relaxation after a busy day. The hotel has two restaurants, a bar, and lounge, as well as a wellness center with an indoor heated pool, fi tness equipment, a steam bath, saunas, a relaxation room and a beauty and massage room. The rooms are furnished in traditional style and feature the very best of modern comforts. Each room is equipped with a telephone, a radio, a television, a desk, a minibar, a safe, a hairdryer and bathrobes.
The high-speed Eurostar trains link St Pancras International in London with Paris and Lille in France as well as Brussels in Belgium. Eurostar's Standard Class coaches feature two seats on either side of the central aisle, most of which are arranged in an 'airline' seating configuration with drop-down tray tables. There are two tables for four per carriage. Passengers traveling in Eurostar Standard Class coaches can take advantage of the Bar-Buffet which sells a range of snacks, meals, hot and cold drinks - including Champagne!
Thalys is a brand co-owned by German, Dutch, French and Belgian state railroads, and runs rail services linking Paris and Brussels with Amsterdam or Cologne. The trains are similar in design to French TGVs and can reach up to 190mph (305km/h) when traveling on dedicated high-speed lines. Comfort 1 (First Class) passengers benefit from spacious seating and are usually served complimentary light refreshments once underway. Both Comfort 1 and Comfort 2 (Standard Class) passengers have access to the Thalys Bar, which serves a selection of snacks, meals and hot and cold drinks during most journeys.
We enjoy a journey on the narrow-gauge Zugspitze Railroad on some of our tours. The line takes us from the charming Bavarian town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen on an 11-mile journey to the peak of Germany's highest mountain - overcoming a height difference of 2,897ft.
On leaving Garmisch-Partenkirchen, the electric train runs through the gentle countryside surrounding the town, including flat, fertile farmland and glorious meadows. Continuing past a scattering of small villages, the line begins its ascent; about four miles from Garmisch the train begins to use a rack-and-pinion system to negotiate the steep gradient.
From the base of the mountain, the scenery becomes ever-more dramatic, with the spiky, snow-covered peaks towering over dense patches of woodland below. After pausing at Eibsee station, our journey continues into the mountains, using a series of wide curves to gain height. Zugspitze Railroad then passes through Höllental or 'Hell Valley' named for its dramatic slopes and narrow gorge that made climbing the mountain difficult. We then run through an area thick with pine trees before disappearing onto a long tunnel built to protect the railroad from the most extreme weather. We emerge near the summit of Zugspitze, where the views out over Bavaria and Austria are incredible.
$3185 per person, based on double occupancy. Airfare not included.