Europe 2015

Wednesday, June 24, 2015 - Wednesday, August 19, 2015

We had planned for a trip to Europe for almost a year.  Some of the places we wanted to visit were new, and some were places we had visited before and we knew we liked.  Tami sold her 3-series BMW convertible we had bought in 2010 via the European delivery program, in preparation for a new 4-series BMW convertible to be bought the same way.  We were very happy with the service we received last time, so she worked with the same salesman Dan at the same BMW dealer we used in 2010. We had been planning for a European vacation to coincide with picking up a new car in Munich, with Tami carefully laying out the places to visit, the hotels to stay in, and the restaurants where we would eat.

Chris had almost continuous flight testing for a major UAV program from late January to mid-June in 2015. He was home for the month of March and a few separate weeks during those 5 months, but was in Arizona for most of that period.  The finale of all the flight testing in Arizona was supposed to be a UAV demonstration in Europe.  The demo would have lasted for a week or two of preparation and a week of the actual demonstration, all in Europe, giving us two or three weeks in Europe while on business travel.  It seemed the perfect opportunity to have that European vacation.  Once we had the schedule, we set up the entire trip to begin after the flight demo.   We purchased flights with travel points and airline miles, made hotel reservations, and pre-paid some hotels when the deals were too good to pass up.  Tami picked out and ordered her car, with a scheduled pick-up in Munich to coincide with the start of the vacation.

About a month before it was set to start, the demonstration ended up getting moved to Arizona, and the dates of the demo got moved also.  At that point, we had to reschedule the entire trip.  To top it off, one of the travel companies through which we had purchased some hotel stays went out of business after we had paid them, but before they had paid the hotels.  We re-scheduled our flights, moved the hotel stays we could move, and changed the entire order of the trip so the hotel stays we could not move would still work with our new schedule.  We finally had everything ready to go, and it would all begin a few days after the demo finished in Arizona.  Chris spent the months of April-May-June in Arizona, came home for a few days, and then we headed to Europe for almost 8 weeks.

We flew from Washington D.C. to London to Munich. Our original itinerary had us flying to Munich to pick up the car and beginning the trip from there.  Unfortunately, the car pickup dates in Munich could not be moved, and our new flight date had us arriving in Germany several days before we could get the car.  After spending the night in Munich, we took the train to Berlin for two nights, then to Prague for two nights, then back to Munich to get the car.  Our driving trip began at that point.  We visited twelve countries in total: England, Germany, Czech, Austria, Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Hungary, Switzerland, France, and Monaco.  The car got over 5600 miles, and we drove in all those countries except England and Czech.  In addition to the food, languages, and customs in all those countries, we got to experience the various currencies.  While most of Europe does use the Euro, Czech uses the Koruna "Kč",  Croatia uses the Kuna,  Hungary uses the Forint "Ft", and Switzerland uses the Swiss Franc.

Spread throughout this large webpage are YouTube links to many videos we shot on this vacation.  All these YouTube links have also been collected here.

02 July 2015, Grossglockner Alpine Road, Austria - drive over the pass, 5x normal speed
05 July 2015, Brac Island, Croatia - drive from Bol to Vidova Gora (highest point on any island in the Adriatic), 5x normal speed
20 July 2015, Hahntennjoch Pass, Austria - drive over the pass, 5x normal speed
20 July 2015, Silvretta Pass, Austria - drive over the pass, 5x normal speed
20 July 2015, Golm alpine slide, Austria - POV of 2.6 km long alpine coaster ride at Golm Mountain, normal speed
20 July 2015, Hohenschwangau, Germany - time lapse of sunset from our hotel balcony, looking up at Schloss Neuschwanstein
21 July 2015, Stelvio Pass, Italy - drive down from top of the pass to our hotel on turn five, 5x normal speed
21 July 2015, Umbrail Pass, Italy to Switzerland - drive down from Stelvio Pass and over Umbrail Pass into Switzerland, 5x normal speed
21 July 2015, Fluela Pass, Switzerland - drive over the pass, 5x normal speed
22 July 2015, Klausen Pass, Switzerland - drive over the pass, 5x normal speed
22 July 2015, Susten Pass, Switzerland - drive over the pass, 5x normal speed
22 - 25 July 2015, Grindelwald, Switzerland - time lapses of sunsets from our hotel balcony, looking up at the north face of the Eiger
24 July 2015, First to Grindelwald, Switzerland - POV of trottibike scooter ride from First down to Grindelwald, normal speed
26 July 2015, Grimsel Pass - Furka Pass - Gotthard Pass, Switzerland - drive over the passes, 5x normal speed
28 July 2015, Col de Vars, France - drive over the pass, 5x normal speed
28 July 2015, Jausiers, France - music group "Los Gringos & The Cowgirls" covering Zac Brown's "Toes in the Sand" at a country music concert in Jausiers, France
29 July 2015, Col de la Bonette, France - drive over the pass, 5x normal speed


Wednesday, June 24, 2015, Home --> Dulles --> Heathrow, London

Chris flew home from Arizona on Friday evening, June 19th.  After a weekend to relax and few days at work, we packed and drove to Dulles Airport to catch our flight on British Air to Munich on Wednesday, June 24th.  We had used travel points to get our first class tickets on British Air.  First class travel includes the first class lounge, which has full meals and drinks.  We started our trip with dinner, wine, and champagne, before boarding our overnight flight to London, Heathrow Airport.    

    

Thursday, June 25, 2015, London --> Munich

After having to go through security again in London and resting for a few hours in the London first class lounge to try to get over jet-lag, we got on our flight to Munich, Germany.  One of the perks of the European Delivery program is to get picked up by a limo at the Munich Airport for the ride into town.  We arrived in Munich to find our name on one of those little signs held by the limo driver.  It was about a half hour drive into town, where we were dropped off at our hotel by the Munich train station. We walked around the local area, had some street food for dinner, and took our extra luggage to the hotel where we would be checking in on June 30th when we returned from Prague.  We had packed a lot of stuff for seven weeks in several bags, but only took one small bag each to Berlin and Prague.

Friday, June 26, 2015, Munich --> Berlin


Munich - Berlin - Prague - Munich
The train ride to Berlin took several hours.  We then took the elevated train from the main train station to our hotel in the former East Berlin. We walked around the area near our hotel, including Alexanderplatz Square, before having dinner near our hotel on the banks of the Spree River, directly across from the Berlin Cathedral Church.

   

Saturday, June 27, 2015, Berlin

We explore Berlin on Saturday, and took the hop-on hop-off bus tour of the city.  It goes all over Berlin, including driving through Checkpoint Charlie and by a small section of what remains of the Berlin Wall.  The clerk at our hotel had told us that the Christopher Street celebration was on-going on Saturday, but we did not realize just how big the celebration was going to be.  There were lots of festivities, with music, dancing, food, and drink in the Tiergarten Park by the Brandenburg Gate.  We spent several hours walking around enjoying the fun and parade with tens of thousands of people.

                               

Sunday, June 28, 2015, Berlin --> Prague

The train to Prague took about four hours with some beautiful views along the way.  Our hotel was a few minutes walk from the Prague train station, and then we went out to explore around the city.  The entire city of Prague is like a fairytale, with fantastic sites around every corner.  We walked through the Old Town Square, across the Manes Bridge to the west side of the Vltava River, along the west bank, and then had dinner on the banks of the river overlooking the Charles Bridge.  We then walked across the Charles Bridge, through the Old Town Square again and to our hotel.

                       

Monday, June 29, 2015, Prague

We spent the day all over the city of Prague. We started the day trying to get on the hop-on hop-off bus tour, and caught a short ride on one of the buses from the train station to the main starting point.  We discovered that the on-board bathroom was horribly overworked and the bus smelled very bad, and that the buses could not go into the city center.  Instead of paying for a tour bus that smelled bad and did not go where we wanted to go, we caught the city tram around and took it to the castle on the west side of the river.  After exploring the castle and climbing to the top of the main tower, we walked down the hill, across the Charles Bridge, and rented a paddle boat for a while on the river.   We walked back to the hotel and had dinner at the hotel restaurant Alcron, which has a Michelin Star.  There were only seven tables and we had incredible service and food.  To top off the meal, we had our desert 'painted' on a glass tray at our table. It consisted of various sauces, Crème Brule (on fire), ice cream, chocolate, wild berries, and lots of other sweet stuff all put together as we watched.  After dinner we went to the hotel bar and ordered some interesting drinks, including one with dry-ice for effect.

                                                 

 Tuesday, June 30, 2015, Prague --> Munich

Our direct train back to Munich was not quite so direct.  A section of the tracks in Germany were under repair, so we had to get off the train right after entering Germany from Czech, catch a bus for a few hours, then get back on a train for the last 60 km into Munich.  We went to our hotel, got our bags from storage where we had left them on Thursday, and then went back out for dinner at the Augustiner-Keller Beer Garden.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015, Munich

We walked around Munich, spending a lot of the day in the English Garden. There is surfing at a standing wave where the main streams enters the park at Eisbachwelle, and lots of people float down the various streams that run though the park as well.  As we sat on the edge of Schwabinger Bach (one of the streams) in the hot July afternoon, Chris decided to cool off by floating down the stream too.  We had lunch at the Chinesischer Turm in the Englischer Garten, and turned in early so we could get to BMW Welt first thing in the morning.

               

Thursday, July 2, 2015, Munich --> Rovinj


Munich - Grossglockner - Rovinj
Today was the day to pick up our new BMW 435i M-sport convertible.  Since we had lots of luggage, we got lazy and and took a taxi to BMW Welt, the giant facility on the north side of Munich where all European deliveries are done. We checked in our bags, had some food from the big buffet and walked around a bit.  Our car was ready on time and our personal customer relations guy showed us all the bells and whistles before we loaded everything in and headed out of Munich, south towards Austria.  Traffic ("Stou") was very bad south of town on the E52, one of the autostradas where there are sections with no speed limit.  In one short section between stopped traffic, Tami got the car up above 100 MPH, before hitting the next stoppage.  We discovered a few weeks later passing through this area that traffic always seems to be bad there. We headed south on the E45 and crossed into Austria, going east past Walchsee, then southeast to Zell am See, and then over the Grossglockner Pass, into Italy.  Here is the GoPro video of our drive over the Grossglockner high alpine road at 5x normal speed. We followed the A23 south to the A4 and E70, past Trieste, through Slovenia into Croatia.  We finally reached Rovinj, Croatia at around 10 PM and had a late dinner at the hotel.  This turned out to be the longest day of driving on the entire trip.

                                   

Friday, July 3, 2015, Rovinj

We spent all day at the beach hotel, and the park beaches next to our hotel.  The hotel had bikes included with our room, so we checked a couple bikes out and rode those around the area.  We had dinner at the hotel.

           

Saturday, July 4, 2015, Rovinj --> Split


Throughout Croatia ...
We drove south to Split, stopping for a quick visit in Sibenik. The entire country of Croatia is very beautiful, and the coastline is even more so. There were incredible views heading south near Rijeka and Sibenik.  Split is a very large built-up town, and is not so much a vacation destination as more a place to stay while waiting to head out on a ferry to Brac or Hvar.  We drove around Split a little, bought a ferry ticket for the following day to Brac, and had dinner at our hotel.

       

Sunday, July 5, 2015, Split - Bol - Zlatni Rat

We drove over to the harbor, and got on the car ferry to Brac Island. Once on Brac at Supetar, it was about a 45 minute drive across the island to Bol and Zlatni Rat, an incredible beach that is world famous.  It sticks out into the sea and is a great beach.  After a few hours swimming and soaking in the sun, we drove the few miles from there over to Bol and found a small boat to rent for the rest of the day.  We took the boat east from Bol along the coast and found an isolated cove with a small beach that we had all to ourselves.  At the end of the day, we took the boat back west and circled around the end of Zlatni Rat before returning the boat back to Bol.  We then headed out of town and drove north back towards Supetar, taking a side trip to Vidova Gora, the highest point on any island in the Adriatic Sea. It has a great view looking down at Zlatni Rat, the Hvar channel, and across at the island of Hvar.  We finally made it back to the car ferry and to Split, where we had dinner at the hotel again.  Here is a GoPro video of our drive from Bol to Vidova Gora, running at 5x normal speed.

                                           

Monday, July 6, 2015, Split --> Hvar

Back to the harbor again, this time for a car ferry to Hvar Island. After arriving in Stari Grad, we drove across the island to Hvar and checked into our hotel.  We explored the old town a bit, and had dinner overlooking the harbor in Hvar.

         

Tuesday, July 7, 2015, Hvar

We had reserved two beach chairs at the hotel beach club, and spent the day there just relaxing and swimming.  We also reserved a speed boat for the following day, as we planned to spend the day around the small islands off the coast of Hvar.

           

Wednesday, July 8, 2015, Hvar

After picking up our boat early, we set off and spent the very long day at several private coves and beaches, zipping around all the islands off the coast.  Towards the end of the day we boated to Milna to see it from the sea, and finally made it back into our room late, and ordered some room service for dinner.  Chris went out to take some night photos of old town Hvar.

                               

Thursday, July 9, 2015, Hvar --> Dubrovnik

We drove east along the island, stopping in a small town to buy some olive oil and Prosec from a road-side stand, before eaching the car ferry in Sucuraj.  We took that ferry to the mainland in Drvenik, where we then drove south along the incredible coast.  We went through the border crossing into Bosnia for a few miles, then back into Croatia and to our hotel about 20 minutes north of Dubrovnik.  There was LOTS of security at our hotel, and we found out later that the Croatian president was staying at the hotel, in preparation for a national celebration in Dubrovnik the following day.  We took the hotel shuttle into Dubrovnik and spent the evening exploring the old city.  Dubrovnik is where Game Of Thrones is filmed, and the old city is fantastic.  This is where we had one of the best nights of the trip.  There are two buza bars in Dubrovnik; they are small bars perched on the cliffs outside the city walls which are reached via "buza" holes in the city walls.  We spent hours slowing drinking wine with some great people we met from New York, getting more and more drunk.  At the end of very long and enjoyable evening, we said goodnight and stumbled back through the wall, down the narrow city pedestrian streets, along the main street and to the main city entrance where we caught a taxi back to our hotel.

                           

Friday, July 10, 2015, Dubrovnik

We took the hotel shuttle back to the old town again, and explored a lot more.  We walked around the city walls, and Chris walked twice around with different lenses on his camera the second time around.  While waiting for Chris to complete his solo lap, Tami sat at a bar on the city wall overlooking the sea and read Game Of Thrones on her Kindle.  We then caught a boat over to Lokrum, a small island right off the coast, filled with peacocks and cats.  We spent several hours on the beach, and then got the last boat back into Dubrovnik.  We had picked out a restaurant the night before and had dinner there. Our new friends we met the night before had also recommended that restaurant, and as we were waiting in line, they joined the line behind us. We talked for a while in line, but could not get a table big enough for all of us to eat together.  After dinner, we headed for the hotel shuttle and watched fireworks over the city while waiting for it to arrive.

     

                           

Saturday, July 11, 2015, Dubrovnik --> Plitvice

Today was another long drive; back north to Plitvice Lakes National Park.  Chris went out before we left to get a few photos of the hotel, and then we drove along the peninsula wine region north of Dubrovnik, buying a bunch of Croatian wine on the peninsula at a winery near Dubrava.  We also stopped in Ston to look at the ancient city wall.  We took a car ferry from Trpanj, Croatia to Ploce, Croatia, bypassing Bosnia.  We drove north to Plitvice, and had dinner at our hotel restaurant.

             

Sunday, July 12, 2015, Plitvice --> Zagreb

We spent most of the day walking through the Plitvice waterfalls paths.  The park is breathtakingly beautiful. We drove north to Zagreb and found our hotel in the middle of the city. We stayed at the Esplanade, which is an old grand hotel that had been originally built as a stopping point on the Orient Express.  Many famous people have stayed there, and now our car has been parked in front of that grand hotel.  We walked around town and found a nice street cafe on Ivana Tkalcica, just north of the main park by the train station. It was a touristy area, but the food was good.

                                       

Monday, July 13, 2015, Zagreb --> Budapest

We stopped at a bakery on the way out of Zagreb and bought some nice pastries and sandwiches to snack on over the next few days.  We drove on to Budapest, checked into our hotel right on the river, and took a boat tour.  We desperately needed clean clothes, so we found a laundry mat and did laundry.  While the clothes were washing, we had dinner at a nearby cafe.

           

Tuesday, July 14, 2015, Budapest

We took the hop on - hop off bus tour of the city, walked around the castle on the Buda hill (Buda = west bank/hills, Pest = east bank/flat), and drove around the central section of the city.  We found a very nice little cafe with great food on top of the hill in a park next to the castle.  After a late lunch, we drove to the Szechenyi Thermal Baths and spent several hours soaking in the various baths.  It is the largest medicinal  bath in Europe and was built in 1913.  Chris went out to take some night photos along the Chain Bridge after we got back from the baths.

                               

Wednesday, July 15, 2015, Budapest --> Vienna

We drove from Budapest to Vienna, Austria and checked into our hotel right next to Cafe Central. We walked around Vienna and had a late lunch at Plachutta, where the Tafelspitz was great.  We then explored more of the city, and finished up the evening with a Sachertorte at the Sacher Hotel street cafe in the heart of the city.

       

Thursday, July 16, 2015, Vienna

We headed east from our hotel through the main pedestrian areas of Vienna, and then we both climbed the main church tower in the center of town.  We climbed back down and walked a bit more east to have lunch at Figlmuller.  Tami was hoping for great snitzel as Figlmuller is known for that, but it turned only turned out OK. We walked around a lot more, but decided to constrain ourselves to the central area of the city.  We had a small afternoon meal at Cafe Central.  Chris went for a walk around town to take some photos, and then we both went out for an evening walk together near the hotel.  Chris then headed back out again to take some night photos.

                           

Friday, July 17, 2015, Vienna - > Salzburg

We drove to Salzburg to begin our Sound of Music tour. Our hotel was on the south side of the river, right in the old town main square, with locations where Sound Of Music was filmed all around us.  We walked across to the north side of the river and through the main park, then back south a short distance along the river. When we looked up the locations of several recommended restaurants, we found that we had been right next to them at the park so we headed back in that direction and had a lunch on a street cafe that was very nice.  We took an elevator up to the city overlook and walked along the cliffs above the city and river for a while.  We had planned to walk back down along trails, but a thunderstorm moved in with high winds and rain, so we ran back to cover at the elevator.   Chris took lots of lightning photos over the city and castle in between rain and wind, and we then rode the elevator back to the city level and headed for our hotel.  The hotel did not have air conditioning and it was VERY hot, even with the thunderstorm to cool off everything.  We had to leave the windows open, but the wind was clanging everything loose in the city streets and a few people were having fun and being very loud.  We asked to move to the other side of the hotel, away from the city streets, and the desk clerk was very helpful but warned us that a bar was on the other side of the hotel, and it was open all night.  We checked out the offered room to find it quieter that the one we had been in, so we moved.  However, not too long after we moved, the party in the bar must have spilled out into the streets as it became louder on that side of the hotel.  We did not get much sleep that night.

                                 

Saturday, July 18, 2015, Salzburg --> Alpenstrasse --> Munich

We should have spent a second night at this same hotel, as our second night was free and we had used travel points and elite status to cover that second night.  Instead, after getting only a few hours of sleep, we checked out of the hotel, having no idea where we would spend that evening.  We drove south out of the city a few miles to find the house on the lake used for Sound Of Music, which is now hotel.  We also went to the gazebo from the movie.  That gazebo is now in the gardens of a castle several miles south of the city.  We decided that we did want to see the castle in town before we left, so we drove back to a parking lot by the old town city and took the funicular train to the castle overlooking the city.   We then headed out of Salzburg, with the idea that we would start early along the Alpenstrasse towards Hohenshwangau, where we had reservations the following night.  This route south took us towards Berchtesgaden. Along the way, we drove up into the foothills where the opening sequence of Sound Of Music was filmed on the meadow on a mountaintop.  

                 

Just a few miles from those foothills where The Sound Of Music started is the Eagles Nest.  This tour involves riding special buses up the very steep mountain road to the top of the Kehlstein, and then riding an elevator that last few hundred feet through the middle of the mountain to the Kehlsteinhaus.  The road to the top and that building had originally been built for Hitler, and is now a beer garden and restaurant. There is no mention of its association with Hitler in any of the narration or literature presented during the tour.  After spending several hours on top of the mountain, including hiking to the very top and eating lunch at the outside restaurant at the top, we road back to the bottom and began the drive west along the Alpenstrasse. The Alpenstrasse is a series of roads along the German southern border, in the Alps, with beautiful scenery and nice driving. We drove for quite a while, trying to find a hotel for the night. We did find a couple possibilities, but nothing that was that nice AND had rooms AND was not obscenely expensive.  We drove back towards Munich along the autostrade, where Chris managed to hit 116 MPH before 'stau' slowed us down again in the same area it had slowed us down on our first day of driving.  We found a clean chain hotel just south of the city, where we had dinner at the hotel restaurant.

                   

Sunday, July 19, 2015, Munich --> Alpenstrasse --> Hohenschwagau

We headed south back to the Alpenstrass, and rejoined it to continue our drive to Hohenschwagau.  We went over several passes and by several pretty lakes while headed west, and made it into Hohenschwagau that evening. Our room was great - it was one of the nicest rooms on the entire trip, and was very reasonable priced.  After seeing how nice it was, we were sad we had only booked one night.  We had dinner across the street from our hotel, climbed up to Shloss Hohenschwagau, and then walked along the lake in the evening.  Hohenschwagau is a madhouse with tourists during the day, as it is the starting point to tour Shloss Neuschwanstein, the castle used by Disney as the model for Cinderella's Castle.  However, in the evening after the tours have ended and all the tourists have left, it becomes a sleepy little quiet town with beautiful scenery.  This time lapse movie of sunset that evening was taken from our hotel room balcony, overlooking the main street into town and looking upwards to Schloss Neuschwanstein.  The view from our bed looked up the mountain at Schloss Neuschwanstein, but the room was still pretty private.

           

Monday, July 20, 2015, Hohenschwagau --> Trafoi (Stelvio)

We left town, stopping to take the required pictures of our new BMW with Schloss Neuschwanstein in the background.  Incidentally, a lot of the locations we visited around southern Germany, including this photo spot, are called out on BimmerFest. It is the online forum where people post the details of their BMW European Delivery trips.  Today we were headed over several mountain passes, in no way in a straight line.  We stopped at the Golm Mountain alpine slide in Austria and rode it from the top of the mountain.  Our final destination was Trafoi, Italy, at the base of the Stelvio Pass.  We drove over the Hahntennjoch pass and the Silvretta Strasse pass road, then through Nauders, Austria (where we had stayed in 2010) and along Lake Rechen in Italy.  We made it to our hotel just in time to have dinner that evening, and enjoy the fantastic view out our balcony looking up at the Stelvio Pass. The hotel was on hairpin turn 5 of 48, headed up the east side pass.  Here are GoPro videos of the drives over the Hahntennjoch Pass and the Silvretta Pass at five times normal speed, and this is a GoPro POV video of our alpine slide ride.

               

Tuesday, July 21, 2015, Trafoi -- Stelvio --> Davos

More mountain passes were planned for this day, with the Stelvio Pass being the first one.  We got up early before any traffic was on the road, leaving all our stuff at the hotel, and Tami had fun driving up to the top.  Then it was back down the pass to the hotel for breakfast.    We packed at this point, and Chris drove back to the top.  After hiking around a bit at the top and having lunch overlooking the switchbacks, we continued on down the other side, crossing back into Switzerland, headed towards Davos, Switzerland. After dropping down through the Umbrail Pass and going over the Fluela Pass, we made it to our hotel, the Davos Intercontinental.   Our room had been paid for with travel points, and was the biggest room we had on entire trip; the private outside deck was even bigger than the room.  We drove into town and took a lift up the mountain for a short distance, and hiked back down to the car.  We returned to the hotel and had dinner at the restaurant on the top floor overlooking the city and mountains. Here are GoPro videos of our morning drive down the Stelvio Pass back to our hotel, the drive down from Stelvio to the Umbrail Pass into Switzerland, and the drive over the Fluela Pass into Davos.

                        

Wednesday, July 22, 2015, Davos --> Grindelwald

We got up and had breakfast at the hotel, thinking it was included with our room.  As we were eating, we were told that breakfast was not included.  Instead of stopping in the middle of the meal, we just went with it and decided to finish the meal.   When we checked out, we found out we should have eaten more.  Breakfast was 35 euros each, so the the omelets and bacon we had cost 70 euros.  In addition, when we had returned the previous evening to the hotel, the outside parking lot was full so we were told to park in the hotel garage.  We found at checkout that the free parking we had been informed of at check-in was only the outside lot, and the inside garage (which was almost empty) cost an additional 30 euro. In the whole scheme of things, it does not seem like much, but we suddenly had an unexpected 100 euro bill for a free room.  It was a VERY nice room though.

We drove into town, searched a bit to find an ATM to get Swiss Francs, and then took a lift to the top of the mountain overlooking Davos.  It was very pretty.  After walking around at the top for while, we descended the lift half way to the bottom, where we had to wait a bit because they shut down the lifts at lunch.  After getting back to our car, we drove over the Klausen Pass and Susten Pass that were a LOT of fun to drive, and walked out through ice water at the Stein Glacier on the Susten Pass, before making it into Grindelwald just before they closed the streets for the weekly Wednesday evening street party.  Our hotel room balcony looked out on the north face of the Eiger.  These time lapse movies of sunsets from 22 to 25 July 2015, taken from our hotel room balcony, show the view we had to suffer for the next four nights.  Here are GoPro videos of our drives over the Klausen Pass and over the Susten Pass, both running at 5x normal speed.  The waterfall below is half-way up the Klausen Pass.

             

   

Thursday, July 23, 2015, Grindelwald - Jungfrau

During our stay in Grindelwald we had planned to take the Jungfraubahn train to the Jungfraujoch, the highest train station in Europe.  The train trip was based on the weather, with  the best forecast day being when we would go.  As it turned out, our first full day in Grindelwald had the best weather forecast, so we walked to the train station and bought tickets to the top.  We arrived at the train station just a few minutes before our train left, boarded it and took it up to Klein Scheidegg. We transferred there to the train that goes up through the Eiger and Monch mountains, finally reaching the top at the Jungfraujoch at 11,371 feet.  We spent several hours visiting all the attractions at the top, including the Sphinx Observatory at 11,716 feet.  We walked out onto the glacier, and relaxed in the sun.  On the way back down, we got off the train at Eigergletcher and walked down to Klein Scheidegg from there.  The last photo of us below and the last panorama below are our Eiger Sanction photos - they were taken in the same spot just above Kleine Scheidegg where Clint Eastwood stood while contemplating the Eiger in that movie.  We reboarded the train at Kleine Scheidegg to Grindelwald, and returned to our hotel where we rested for a little bit.  We had dinner right across the street from our hotel at the same place we had eaten in 2010.

                                             

Friday, July 24, 2015, Grindelwald - First

We walked across the street and took the lift up to First, where we walked along the trails to Bachalpsee, a pretty lake at 7,431 feet.  We relaxed by the lake for a while, walked back to First, and caught the lift down to Schreckfeld, about 100 meters lower. We walked down the mountain from there and reached Bort, 400 meters lower.  Chris rented a trottibike scooter and rode back into town (500 meters lower) from there, while Tami rode the lift for that final drop back into town.  We rested for a bit after Chris made it to the bottom, and went out for dinner near the hotel.  Here is the GoPro POV video of the trottibike ride from First down to Grindelwald.

                                     

Saturday, July 25, 2015, Grindelwald - Trummelbach Falls

We slept a bit late of this day, and then drove down the valley from Grindelwald, then back up the next valley, past Lauterbrunnen, to the Trummelbach Falls.  These are waterfalls carved so far into the rock that they have formed caves.  A lift cut into the rock, cut passages, and trails take you through the caves made by the falls.  We spent a while touring the many waterfalls linked together in these caves, and then drove up the valley as far as we could go, enjoying the incredible hanging waterfalls coming off the mountains on both sides of the valley.  We drove back to Grindelwald and had an early dinner near the hotel.

 

                     

Sunday, July 26, 2015, Grindelwald --> Lake Como

We left Grindelwald and drove over several mountain passed on this day. First, we went over the Grimsel Pass and down into the Rhone River valley just below the Rhone Glacier, the source for the Rhone River.  We then started up the Furka Pass, stopping at the Rhone Glacier to walk out to and into the glacier itself.  There are tunnels dug out of the ice that go back several hundred feet into the glacier.  This glacier has receded a lot in the 20th century; even a lot in the past 50 years.  There is a photo at the visitor building showing the glacier overhanging the visitor center and valley in the 60's.  It has now receded past the point where it can be seen from the same vantage point.  We then continued on over the Furka Pass and then over the Gotthard Pass, making our way into Italy.  We finally arrived at Lake Como, where we checked into our hotel on the west side of the lake. We took a passenger ferry over to Bellagio, and had dinner there with lots of wine.  We took the ferry back to our hotel; fortunately the ferry dock was only a few hundred yards from our hotel.  Here is the GoPro video of our drive over the Grimsel Pass, Furka Pass, and Gotthard Pass running at 5x normal speed.

                 

         

Monday, July 27, 2015, Lake Como

We rode a couple different ferries around the lake, wandering and exploring.  We did not ride the hydrofoil pictured below, but I could not pass up that photo as it came towards the dock where we were waiting for our ferry.  We went back to our hotel for a short rest, then rode the ferry across the lake to Bellagio, where we had dinner in the same restaurant as we had the night before. On this night, we had more wine.

           

Tuesday, July 28, 2015, Lake Como --> Jausiers

We drove over the Col de Vars to Jausiers.  This was our only night on the trip where we had purposefully not made a hotel reservation, figuring we would find something somewhere.  If we arrived early, we might drive over the Col de la Bonette and stay the night on the south side.  If we found something nice in Vars or Jausiers, we would stay there.  As it turned out, we found a very nice room in an old chateau for a steal, and it was only a two minute walk into town, where we had dinner.  Jausiers is a quiet little town; a great place to relax.  We did get a strange bonus on this night however - there was a free country/western music concert in the town square.  The French must love country music and line dancing, because for two hours, a band called 'Los Gringos and the Cowgirls" played American country music (in English) while a large portion of the audience line-danced, complete with jeans, plaid shirts, cowboy hats and boots. It was neat evening.  Here is a GoPro video of our drive over the Col de Vars, and a video of the band covering Zac Brown's "Toes in the Sand" that evening.

     

Wednesday, July 29, 2015, Jausiers --> Cannes --> Monaco

It was clear and sunny, but VERY windy on this day as we drove over the Col de la Bonette.  We stopped at the top, and Chris hiked that last few hundred vertical feet to the top of the Cime de la Bonette at 9383 feet in 40+ MPH winds.  Our original schedule had us spending two nights in Cannes after entering France, and we had not checked our schedule for that section of the trip in a long time.  We drove along the coast west of Nice, through Antibes, and to our expected hotel in Cannes.  We got our bags out of the car, handed the keys to the valet, and went inside to check in.  The receptionist said "We have you checking in, but in two days."  Sure enough, we had our schedule for Cannes and Monaco backwards.  It is something to go to the wrong hotel, but we were actually in the wrong country!  We all shared a laugh, went back out to get our car, repacked our bags into the car, and drove to Monaco.  We made it to our hotel in Monaco in about an hour, checked in, and went to the pool on top of the hotel for the afternoon. We stayed at the Hotel Fairmont, at the famous Monaco Grand Prix hairpin turn.  The view below of the hairpin turn is from the pool deck on the roof.  Here is a GoPro video of our drive over the Col de la Bonette at five times normal speed.

           

Thursday, July 30, 2015, Monaco

We spent the day at the beach in Monaco, soaking in the sun and swimming a lot.  When we returned to our hotel, we cleaned up and went for a walk by the casino. We wandered around looking at the incredible cars, then went into the Hotel de Paris across the street, just exploring.  There was a band and singer performing a combination of jazz and ? (something) in Le Bar Americain that was very entertaining.  We stuck around for a few minutes at the bar, and the Maitre d' found a great table pretty for us quickly (within 10 minutes), especially considering the clientele and everyone who was waiting for tables. We estimated we were surrounded by many billionaires; the first car parked right outside the door was a Lamborghini marked "1 of 1" for the version, with Saudi Arabian plates that said "ROYAL 1".  We ended up staying for a couple hours, drinking our dinner and spending way too much money on cocktails.  It was a memorable evening and a great way to experience Monaco.

         

Friday, July 31, 2015, Monaco --> Eze --> Cannes

We left Monaco and drove to Cannes along the Moyenne and Grande Corniches. We stopped in Eze for lunch, overlooking Saint Jean Cap Ferrat.  We continued on through Nice, along the beach, taking our time through Antibes, pretty much following the same route we had driven two days before.  We arrived at our hotel in Cannes for the second time, but this time we actually checked in.

       

Saturday, August 1, 2015, Cannes - St Tropez

It was a rainy day in Cannes, so we decided to drive to the beaches in St Tropez.  We surveyed the incredible cars parked in front of our hotel in Cannes before we left;  there were a bunch of Lamborghinis and Ferraris, a few Mercedes, and a Polaris Slingshot.  We spent the day at a couple beaches south of St Tropez, including one where we had to hike out a few miles along the coast.  We returned to our hotel in Cannes that evening, and had dinner at a Lebanese restaurant at the hotel.

                   

Sunday, August 2, 2015, Cannes --> La Morra

We left Cannes (and France) and drove along the coast into Italy, heading towards La Morra, which is one village over from Barolo, Italy. This region is famous for its wine, and we stayed at a winery in the heart of the wine area, surrounded by vineyards.  We had originally been looking for a place to stay for one night in between Lake Como and Cannes with our original schedule, but when the schedule got re-arranged, we had no real reason to stop in that area.  However, the photos and description of this winery and the rooms caught our attention and we ended up changing our stay from one to two nights, and staying there even after we no longer needed a place to stay in that area with the new schedule.  It was a great decision, as it was a fantastic two nights.   The room and food were incredible. We had dinner this eveing at a pizzeria in the little village of La Morra, which was a five minute drive from the winery.  We drove around the Barolo area that evening to relax.

       

Monday, August 3, 2015, La Morra

Went drove around to lots of wineries in Barolo and the surrounding area, and bought lots of wine.  We returned to our hotel for an incredible dinner, which was combined with a wine tasting with their wines, done as a wine pairing.  The food was fantastic, and their was plenty of wine. Our room was only 50 feet away, so the stumble back after dinner was easy.

               

Tuesday, August 4, 2015, La Morra --> Cinque Terre

We started off the day by visiting the wine cellar of the winery where we stayed, and bought more wine.  We drove east and south to Cinque Terre, and had dinner at one of the restaurants by the beach where we had eaten in 2010.

     

Wednesday, August 5, 2015, Cinque Terre

Chris got up early and took the train to Vernazza, and then hiked back to Monterosso along the cliff path.  We both then took the train to Riomaggiore and explored a bit, before taking the train back to Monterroso, where we had dinner at the same restaurant where we had eaten the night before.

               

Thursday, August 6, 2015, Cinque Terre

We took the ferry to Manorola and explored that little city.  There is a spot in the small harbor where you can jump off the rocks, so Chris swam out and made the leap.  We then took the train to Corniglia, where we tried to get down to a beach, but found our path blocked.  We ate lunch there, and then took the train to Vernazza and explored so more.  Finally, we took the train to Monterosso and had dinner at a different restaurant up high on a cliff overlooking the city;  dinner was very good so we made reservations for the same place the following night.  Chris went out and took some night photos after dinner.

                       

Friday, August 7, 2015, Cinque Terre - Portofino

We took the ferry to Portofino; it was about 1.5 hours by boat.  We walked around Portofino for a little while, and had lunch in the main square.  We then walked several miles along coast to the closest train station, and took the train back to Monterosso.  We made it to our dinner reservations and had another great meal.

                       

Saturday, August 8, 2015, Cinque Terre --> Siena

We left Cinque Terre and drove to Siena.  We were going to allow ourselves a single visit to a McDonalds for the entire trip - if we wanted it very badly we would stop outside Pisa at the same McDonalds we had eaten at in 2005 and 2010, but when we drove by Pisa we decided to skip it and headed right to Siena.  We explored Siena until a storm hit and we hid out from the rain for while.  One of the restaurants that Tami had pre-picked based on reviews was close by, so we ate there out of the rain.  After dinner, we walked to the Piazza del Campo and then back through the city to our hotel. We both agreed that Siena is a beautiful city and we would be visiting more in the future.

         

Sunday, August 9, 2015, Siena - Saturnia

We drove to the beach at San Vincenzo, and spent a few hours on the beach.  The we drove to the hot springs at Saturnia, where we had visited in 2005 and 2010. We had dinner at pizzeria near Saturnia, and arrived back late to our hotel in Siena.

   

Monday, August 10, 2015, Siena - Panzano

We drove around Tuscany, exploring at random before making our way to Panzano for lunch.  After meeting the "Butcher of Panzano", Dario Cecchini, and then having lunch, we bought some food to eat as snacks over the next few days.  We then drove to The Mall and Space, a high-end shopping center and the outlet store for Prada.  We had visited there in 2010, and Tami was planning on buying a few things this time around she missed out on last time.  We found out that both places had been discovered by huge crowds of tourists and the prices were no longer at their very low levels we had seen last time, so we ended up not buying anything.

       

Tuesday, August 11, 2015, Siena

We spent the first part of the day wandering around Siena on foot, then we wandered around Tuscany in our car.  We ended up driving through several vineyards before finding a pretty spot where we had a  snack on a hilltop overlooking those vineyards.  We made it as far as Montalcino, where we visited the castle overlooking the city and had a few glasses of wine.

                         

Wednesday, August 12, 2015, Siena - Panzano

Chris got up early and walked over to the main square to climbed the Torre del Mangia (main tower) in Siena's Piazza del Campo.  We then drove around Tuscany at random some more.  We made it back to Panzano for a little more food and drink.  On this day, Dario was happily pouring ouzo and handing out food in his store.  Because of this freely flowing alcohol and food, which both of us sampled, we had to spend a while walking around Panzano to let the alcohol wear off.  When it finally did, we drove to Chianti, where Tami found the "best invention ever". It is a automatic wine-tasting machine that allows you to sample lots of wines, at various pour sizes, all done with a pre-paid wine credit card.  Based on one of those wines, we found the winery about 10 miles away, where had a small wine tasting and bought more wine to take home.  We drove on some dirt back roads off the hills east of Siena, sort of getting lost and soft of finding our way back to a road into town.  It is a neat way to explore that area, and you never know what you will find.

                                               

Thursday, August 13, 2015, Siena --> Venice

  We drove to Venice and caught a vaporetto boat to a stop near our hotel.  We had dinner at Becafico, where we had eaten in 2010. These two maps show the routes from Siena to Venice, and then from Venice to Rovinj to Ramsau to Munich.
 

Friday, August 14, 2015, Venice

We got lost in Venice, spending the whole day just wandering around.  We found a little food place that sold fresh pasta (made as you waited) in take-out containers.  We ate it sitting on a step in St Marks Square, enjoying the sights. After walking back to the hotel and resting a bit, Chris went out and took the elevator to the top of the St Marks Campanile, and then went out again that evening to take night shots around Venice. A big thunderstorm moved through and caught Chris in St Marks, but then dissipated enough so he could take some lightning photos in the square.

                                                                 

Saturday, August 15, 2015, Venice - Murano

We took the vaporreto boat to Murano island and bought glass "stuff" for us and for gifts for family.  We headed back to the main island and had dinner at a street cafe near St Marks.

               

Sunday, August 16, 2015, Venice --> Rovinj

We had purposefully left a few days at the end of our trip unscheduled, planning on going somewhere unplanned or somewhere we discovered on the trip. We decided to drive back to Rovinj, Croatia to spend the last couple days of our vacation.  We missed going into old-town Rovinj on our first visit, so we walked around the old-town and had dinner at a restaurant that had great reviews. We also bought a few more gifts.

Monday, August 17, 2015, Rovinj --> Ramsau

It was a very dreary rainy day, and Tami was sick as well.  The rain was forecast to last all day and most of the next, so our last few days at the beach were not going to work out well.  Chris walked into town in the rain to take a few photos, and then we decided to drive closer to Munich so we could get to the airport more easily on our last day.  We headed for Austria, but the traffic on the roads leaving Croatia was horrible approaching the main border checkpoint north of Rovinj.  We finally reached a spot where we could turn around, and headed south and then east then north again, through a different border checkpoint in Slovenia.  This one turned out to have no line, and we got to see other sections of Croatia and Slovenia, so it kind of worked out.  We finally made it through Slovenia into Austria and to our hotel in Ramsua, where they had kept our dinner warm, waiting for us.

     

Tuesday, August 18, 2015, Ramsau

Tami was still not feeling great and did not want to hike, so Chris drove about 10 miles to the waterfall gorge Riesachfall, where he hiked through the gorge along the path called "Wild Waters", up to a pretty lake in the Austrian Alps.  He drove back to the hotel, where he and Tami had cake and tea for lunch at the hotel.   We both then drove a few miles to Dachstein and took the cable car to the top of the mountain.  At the top, we explored the ice caves, and ventured out onto the "Stairway to Nothingness", a walkway with a glass floor and walls that juts out over a big drop-off.  Unfortunately, there were lots of clouds so the view was not as breathtaking as we had hoped. Here are some photos when the clouds are missing. Then it was back to the hotel for dinner, before repacking everything so we could get on the plane home the next day.  We had bought styrofoam wine shipping containers, and put all our wine from Croatia and Italy in those boxes.  Everything else got re-stuffed into all the bags along with all the gifts we had bought while traveling.

                                                           

Wednesday, August 19, 2015, Ramsau --> Munich --> Dulles

We checked out of our hotel for last time and drove to Munich to fly home.  After dropping off our bags at the Lufthansa check-in counter at Munich airport, we drove a short distance to the BMW car drop off spot right around the corner, and left our car there to be shipped home.  We walked back into the terminal, went through customs and had dinner at the Lufthansa first class lounge.  We boarded our flight home to Dulles Airport outside Washington D.C., and relaxed for our 10 hour flight home.  Lufthansa has a special service for first class passengers; we made it through immigration and customs, retrieved our bags, and were heading out of the airport in less than 20 minutes after landing.  We picked up our rental car and drove home.  All the wine survived.