Great European Road Trip - Part 1: Czech Republic, Germany & Austria
Great European Road Trip - Part 1: Czech Republic, Germany & Austria
Few trips are on more travellers bucket lists than a European road trip, and with good reason! Getting lost in the tiny towns and through the stunning nature of these amazing countries is the experience of a lifetime!
Great European Road Trip: The Plan!
Half the fun of going on a European road trip is planning one and we spent months and months staring at huge maps of Europe trying to plot our perfect route through the most beautiful countries, cities and nature we could find. The only problem, as you’ll soon find out, is that there is simply way too much to see and never enough time to see it all, so you’ve got to plan smart.
We’re huge road trip fans, so when it came to planning our Great European Road Trip we had a handful of countries that we knew no European road trip was complete without, including Germany, Austria and Italy - but we also wanted to add some new ones we’d never been to.
We’ve always loved Prague but always found ourselves walking around the same parts of the old city every time we visited and never getting out to explore the rest of the country. No road trip is complete without a car, and so Prague became our starting point and the spot where we launched off after picking up our trusty car, which Anne named Roger, and heading all through the Czech Republic, Germany, Austria, Italy, Slovenia and Croatia - a journey through six countries, over twenty-three days and over 3,100km.
Great European Road Trip: The Rental Car!
Anne and I have been lucky to travel to over 40 countries together in the last five years, but until last June when we did our “Great American Road Trip” we hadn’t ever done a proper road trip together, and sadly just stayed close in to the city center areas or spent a day on a tour without getting out into the countryside to explore more.
Picking the right rental car is key, because if you travel like we do you’ll pretty much live in it. We’ve been Hertz Gold Plus Rewards members for years now and the perks of the membership simply make it a no brainer. Not only do we get the pick any car we want, but you can get access to the Hertz Connect device with wifi, phone calls and city guides as well as adding a second driver for free and earning Emirates Skywards Miles.
As with any traveling, it is the small things, perks, extras and benefits which add up to make all the difference, and this is one of them.
Anne picked a beautiful rust colored SUV, named him Roger and off we went to start our 23-day adventure!
Great European Road Trip: Czech Republic
Heading out of Prague was simple enough with our navigation and we knew what our first stop would end up being: to get a cooler! A quick stop at the local Czech shopping mall and Lidl, and we were packed with groceries, a full cooler and were heading north to czech out (see what I did there) the Sedlec Ossuari, a literal church made of bones.
According to history, so many people wanted to be buried on this site that starting in the 15th Century they ran out of space in the cemetery and simply started to use the human skeletal bones to build the church - which now contains the remains of between 40,000-70,000 individuals. Nice start to a romantic European road trip, huh?
If you have followed us for awhile you’ll know we rarely plan anything out at all, even where we’re staying at night. Anne managed to find the most random place we’ve ever slept tucked deep in the Czech countryside where a woman had renovated a horse trailer on her farm and listed it on AirBnb for $18/night - sold!
After a peaceful and quiet night we awoke to horses, goats, sheep, cats and one judgemental llama. Quick stop in the eco toilet and a breakfast from our cooler we were off to visit the Bohemian Switzerland National Park, a beautiful forest which is ironically on the border with Germany and the Czech Republic, nowhere near Switzerland.
Operation “Less Fat Jeff” was in full effect as we set off on the first hike of our Great European Road Trip through a stunning forest - the actual filming location for Narnia - and made our way up to the top to the largest sandstone arch in Europe, which isn’t as impressive as the hike itself, but well worth doing the hike.
Great European Road Trip: Germany
Germany is on most travellers buckets lists and there is nothing quite like visiting this amazing country on a European road trip, especially during Oktoberfest! We were keenly aware that Munich is the best place to be for this amazing yearly celebration and we made it an absolute point to be in Munich for the amazing Bavarian celebrations.
Held over two weeks in September and October each year, this festival started off as a wedding celebration over 200 years ago and simply never stopped! Now an annual tradition, it has only been cancelled 23 times and most of the visitors are actually German. Fun fact, in 2011over people drank over 7.5 million litres of beer!
We had an incredible time and would highly recommend it to anyone, either solo, couple or families travellers. If drinking isn’t your thing, there are tons of rides, games, music, dancing, shops, stalls and fun to be had by everyone.
To get into one of the main tents, you’ll need to reserve a table around the edges months and months in advance and pay a hefty down payment, but all the tables in the middle (right around the band and the most rowdy and fun) are first come, first serve - so enjoy!
As we had only ever visited the city centre in Munich, we were SO excited to head out of the city after a wild weekend and head south towards Austria, but not before visiting the world famous Neuschwanstein Castle, known by so many tourists simply as the Disney Castle. Tickets are around €15 per person for a guided tour inside the castle, but you just came for the view outside and to hike around in the woods, right? Good, so did we. We spent about an hour walking up through the trees to this amazing castle, up around the side of it to the bridge with the most stunning views, although there are amazing views the entire way up.
After a lunch of schnitzel and potato salad we were off to country number three, Austria!
Great European Road Trip: The Cooler & The Backpack!
Now, if you’ve followed us on our travels for very long you’ll know were hobo travellers and don’t much care to be fancy or spend a lot of money, so we always buy as much food as we can at any market or grocery store and pack our sweet cooler and awesome backpacks full of as much food and snacks as we can.
We’re hardcore #backpacklife believers and anytime we can live simply and easily out of a backpack is a good day for us. Once they’re filled to the brim, and if we’re on a longer road trip the cooler as well, we’re good to go.
We try to stay as healthy as possible on the road and stick to the basics, not the junk food. We have lots of protein bars, granola, nuts, berries, cheese, meats, avocado, jerky, etc. This keeps us fat and happy to preps us for any hike we happen to find on the side of the road and feel inspired to explore!
Great European Road Trip: Austria
Austria is one of the most amazing countries in Europe, but without a major city hub that tourists flock to, some of the hidden gems of this beautiful country go unexplored by many, which is such a shame! We headed straight south from Germany and into Austria to the incredible mountain town of Innsbruck, one of our favourite stops on our entire European road trip.
This little town in the middle of the Tirol region has it all - a cute city centre with hundreds of years of history, a river running through it, delicious outdoor restaurants, castles, good beer and is completely surrounded by snow capped mountains - the most lush you’ve ever seen.
Heading up the funicular halfway up the mountain you can easily spend an entire day, or week, exploring countless trails all throughout the mountains with stunning views, postcard forests, mountains and a path which can be empty for miles and then expose a quaint little mountain hut with cold drinks and authentic food - doesn’t get much better does it?
We had to pry ourselves away from Innsbruck but we had one more place to get to before heading further south to Italy, one that all of you told us we just couldn’t miss!
If you thought Innsbruck was a postcard, just wait until you get to Zell am See, Austria - holy moly! This insane town is even more remote than Innsbruck and a place we 110% would never have been able to visit without a car, so this is an absolute must on any European road trip if you are anywhere close by!
We found a HUGE apartment on AirBnb for less than €60 a night and spent the next couple days lost in the mountains, smelling all the fresh air and feeling like we were walking in a movie set. You know the scene in the Sound of Music with Maria waltzing in the mountains? Yes, that is here - it exists! The hills are aliiiiiiiiive!
If you've read this far you’re probably planning your own Great European Road Trip and we’re so excited for you! We’re always here to answer questions and help you plan your perfect adventure.
Click over to our Great European Road Trip Part 2 and follow us as we continue south and explore Italy - with a stop in Venice, amazing Slovenia and Lake Bled and then down along the coast to charming Split, Croatia!
Are you planning a European road trip? Did we leave anything out? Any tips to add for future travellers? Let us know in the comments and we might add them into the next update of the article.
Jeff & Anne