Germany, Austria, Czech Republic, and a day trip to Switzerland. All in a 2670km roadtrip
Lindau Hafen, Bavaria Germany - Self-drive holidays are my absolute favourite way to explore a foreign land. If you are the adventurous sort, you’d agree that there are places which are only easily accessible if you have your own transport. I also enjoy the flexibility of doing things in my own time, as there is less stress from “chasing after” scheduled transport. Other advantages are that there is a place for you to dump your luggage, especially if you are going on a daytrip and you are miles away from your previous guesthouse and your next hotel.
So recently, I planned a driving holiday to Southern Germany, and while planning, Austria and Prague came-a-calling. In the end, I found myself with a tall itinerary of sixteen destinations which I would go on to cover over a span of two weeks. All of this with a driving distance of 2670km, and a spell of throwing-up in Berlin.
In hindsight, I should have visited less destinations, as I soon found I had less quality time per destination. See lah! Greedy lah!
Lindau, Bregenz and St. Gallen - three countries
My travel story begins at Lindau, which is a main German town along the Northern shores of Lake Constance. This is a little over a two-hour drive, South-west via the A96 from Munich Franz Josef Strauss Airport. As I am departing mid-morning, I know that I will arrive just in time for lunch.
The adventurous soul in me made out that since I would be based in Lindau Insel, why not head across the Austrian border, as I hear that that the restaurant in Gasthaus Seibl (here’s the location map), which is located in Lochau, Bregenz, up on the Pfänder mountain, serves a very good seasonal wild garlic soup (also it was highly recommended by an Audi executive who happened to live in nearby Lindau). You should eat al fresco, as you would be near the edge of a cliff, where you will be rewarded with a commanding view of the town below, Switzerland to the left and Germany on the right.
The drive up includes some entertaining twists and turns, so be careful, as the narrow two-way road does not have any lane markings. Also it is best not to believe what your SatNav says, as the drive up is easily another twenty to thirty minutes.
Travel tip - To travel on Austrian Autobahns, you will need to purchase a vignette (their way of paying highway road tolls). This is best done early in your trip, so that you are stress-free if you happen to board an Austrian Autobahn. These can be bought from fuel stations on the German side close to the Austrian border, at ASFINAG toll stations, and vending machines located at some rest areas. You could also buy a digital vignette, but I prefer a physical one, since you could have it as a keepsake; that is if you were to peel it off correctly at the end of your trip. The vignettes are available for durations of a year, two months or 10 days.
Back in Lindau Insel, the island’s waterfront, which is “guarded” by its iconic Bavarian Lion sculpture and lighthouse on each side of the entrance, is an excellent place to take in the sights. They are also best for photos during the evening and in the early mornings. The stretch of cafes along the Hafenplatz serve a decent spread, including desserts and beer. You can easily cover most of Lindau Insel within a day on foot. Maximilianstraße and Ludwigstraße are the main streets lined with shops and cafes. There is also the historical Town Hall and various churches if the historical trail is to your liking. The restaurant EIL.GUT.HALLE (closed on Mondays and Tuesdays), located along where the train tracks terminate, has a collection of vintage cars. This includes a very rare Type 18A “pre-Volkswagen” four-door “Beetle”, which was built for the Austrian and German police force.
There are a few ferry services which ply Lake Constance. You can head out on a tour of the lake, or if you are keen on heading over to Switzerland for a day trip, which is what I did, you can purchase a ticket at the counter along the t-junction, located on the outside of the Lindau-Insel train station.
Rorschach and St Gallen are possibly two destinations you could head to, if you are in Switzerland for just a day. The ferry to Rorschach Hafen from Lindau Hafen takes between an hour to an hour and a half - a treat on its own, as you can savour both the fresh air, and the lake’s clear waters.
There are two ways to get to St. Gallen by train. At Rorschach Hafen, the train station is located in-front of the wharf, where you can board a train, make a switch at the main station, then head Southwest to St. Gallen. Alternatively, you could also choose to explore the harbour town, then head over to Rorschach Stadt, where there is a direct line to the said city.
The Stadtlounge or Roter Platz is worth a visit if you like art installations. This is the world’s largest outdoor living room, with many installations coated in red granulated rubber, which matches everything else also in red, this including a Porsche. Over here, there is a family-friendly play area, and spaces where you can sit and relax.
The St. Gallen Cathedral should not be missed. The Baroque style church boasts awe-inspiring frescos within its dome-shaped ceiling segments, by Joseph Wannenmacher. Within the same compound, the Abbey Library, which is among the world’s oldest, holds a vast collection of books which tell of the formation of European culture.
Depending on when you arrive, you might also stumble upon flea markets, which carry anything from clothes to antiques. There are two in the city itself, one beside St. Mangen Church, which is open on every last Saturday of the month, from March to October. Another is open from April to November, on the first Saturday of the month, and operates at Gallusplatz.
Zugspitze first before I backtrack westward
From Lindau, my journey eastward takes me past the small town of Bad Hindelang, and up the Jochstraße - a steep winding stretch often used for hill climb races. I had the joy of driving through these bends a few years before (read more here and here). This time around, the car that I have chosen is an Audi Q5, decked out in S Line trim. More importantly, it is also equipped with an adaptive air suspension, which adds more comfort and dynamism to the drive. Moreover, the suspension brings the tail-end of the SUV lower, for easier loading and unloading. As I punch the SUV out of each turn, I can truly appreciate how the Q5’s cornering abilities are significantly enhanced.
Rightfully, my next destination would have been Füssen, but since the cable car for Zugspitze, Germany’s highest peak, is open only on selected days (I must stress that you should always check on opening times and dates before you plan to head over). I have to solder on. I cut through Austria, and then back into Germany, and then arrived at Eibsee, which is where the cable car station is located. If you are keen on exploring the lake, there are hiking trails, and you can even rent a boat to tour on the water.
A return trip by cable car costs 68 Euros per adult, while teens from 16-18 of age, tickets are priced at 56 Euros. Those from 6-15 years, tickets are at 34 Euros. As long as you visit South Germany, Zugspitze is a place you should not miss. If luck is on your side up on its viewing platform, you will be rewarded with a breathtaking view of more than 400 mountain peaks. There is also a glacier tour available, for those who are keen to trudge through some snow, but it is all worth it. If you plan your day right, you could even have lunch at the restaurant while taking in the view of the mountain.
In Part 2 of my travels, join me as I backtrack to Füssen for dinner, explore the old town, and visit Neuschwanstein castle.
About the car I drove, the Audi Q5 is a junior executive SUV, offered in a lower tune of power than what was initially available when introduced in Singapore.
Audi Q5 Sportback 40 TFSI quattro S tronic 150 kW MHEV
Engine 1984cc, inline 4, turbocharged
Transmission 7spd S Tronic dual-clutch
Top Speed 223km/h
Fuel Consumption 6.5l/100km