Topdeck Tour – Winter Express 2013

I should say right away that I’m not going to write very much about the time Alex and I spent on tour. There are a couple of reasons for this – most importantly, the tour involved doing a huge number of things in a very small amount of time, so any blog I wrote would read like a list, which is boring to write and (presumably) even more boring to read. Furthermore, in a certain sense, I don’t feel ‘qualified’ to write about the places I visited in the same way I did for France – both because French language and history are familiar to me and because we passed so much less time in each place. In light of these things, I’ve decided to keep this short-ish and supply some highlights and photos from the major places we visited, excluding Paris (obviously). So, here we go.

Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland.

Lauterbrunnen is a tiny little place nestled in a valley in the Swiss Alps, in the German speaking part of the country. The views from the village proper are breathtaking – surrounded by huge, snowcapped mountains and half-frozen waterfalls, it’s a real winter paradise. Alex and I were both stunned by the beauty of the place – it didn’t wear off.

The highlight here was most definitely visiting Jungfraujoch, the railway station near the summit of the Jungfrau mountain. Apparently, it’s the highest railway station in Europe. The views from the top of the mountain are amazing, and it was also the first time Alex and I had really seen snow. We celebrated in the logical fashion – having a snowball fight at the mountaintop. Really, though, the entire time in Switzerland was a highlight of our whole trip. We vowed that we would return as soon as possible.

To see a gallery of photos taken in Switzerland, click here.

Venice, Italy.

Perhaps slightly more well-known than Lauterbrunnen, Venice was one of the most lovely cities we visited during our time away. It’s also intensely difficult to navigate, since the streets between the canals are a warren of twists and turns that render maps extremely unhelpful.

The Rialto bridge.

To be honest, the highlight for us in Venice was just walking around the city and getting a bit lost. We did – of course – take a gondola ride which was quite enjoyable and was a great way to see the city, but Venice is so walkable and so lovely that it really warrants spending time just wandering. We also stopped at a bunch of different places to get food – bakeries, pizzerias and so on – as well as stopping for gelati.

To see a gallery of photos taken in Venice (and also a stopover in Verona, where I groped Juliet’s magic boob) click here.

Munich, Germany.

Unfortunately, we were only in Munich for an evening on our way to the Rhine Valley. This was actually a real pity, since all of us agreed that we adored the city – it’s beautiful – and wanted to stay longer and see the sights a little. That said, the highlight of the evening was most definitely having dinner at the Hofbräuhaus in Munich’s city centre. A proper German beer hall, the atmosphere in there was contagiously festive and the food was superb.

Rhine Valley, Germany.

Our day in the Rhine Valley was designated as something of a ‘recharge day’ – something which we were sorely in need of by then, being travel-sick and quite tired. That said, the most notable thing about the day was our accommodation – a twelfth century German castle transformed into a youth hostel. The boys’ room was, naturally, down in the dungeons.

To see a gallery of photos relevant to both Munich and the Rhine Valley, click here.

Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Amsterdam was one of our very favourite places on tour – it’s stunning – although it received a little help from the several inches of snow that fell overnight just after we arrived. Along with some of our tour-mates, we spent our free day exploring and enjoying the snow, which meant many thrown snowballs and (for Alex) a lot of falling over. It’s difficult to pick a highlight – the Red Light District was pretty neat – but I’d say it was similar to Venice; the most fun thing was getting to know the city a little, and eating our way through it. We loved Amsterdam.

Alex and I at the 'I Amsterdam' sign.

To see a gallery of photos relevant to Amsterdam, click here.

The End.

After Amsterdam, we were on our way ‘home’ – for us, this meant our return to Paris by way of Belgium, then Calais, then London. Absurdly, this was the cheapest route to take, since the tour bus was going all the way to London and the Eurostar was very cheap.

Even though our tour lasted a mere eleven days, I really feel like we made some good friends while we were away and it was sad to split up as it ended. I’m also a bit overwhelmed when I think about how many things we did along the way – not mentioned in this post are stopovers in Austria (seeing the Swarovski vault), Dachau concentration camp (horrible, but definitely worth visiting) and Bruges (beautiful – wish we could have stayed), plus all our time bonding ‘on the road’.

For us, the tour served its purpose admirably – we wanted an introduction to Europe to set us up for our next trip (whenever that will be) – all things considered, our favourite places were probably Switzerland and Amsterdam, but the whole thing was pretty amazing.

All up, the best thing about the tour was most certainly the friends we made along the way. It was so much more fun exploring these foreign places with our friends – christened the Pappadopoli clan – than we expected. That alone would have made our tour worthwhile.


3 thoughts on “Topdeck Tour – Winter Express 2013

  1. Hi Dan,

    A friend and I (both 20-something females) are really interested in this topdeck tour as well as a similar contiki one, so we’d be delighted if you can tell us a bit more about your trip.
    I was wondering why you chose this over over other tour companies?
    Also, was 11 days really rushed to see all these places? I’m really not sure if I should do this or a single-country trip (eg Italy) but in more depth. This will be our first time to Western Europe, and we’re not really the party type. What’s your opinion on this?

    Also, can you describe the condition of the accommodation a little more? The tour seems to be a mix of hostels, hotels and bungalows (what ever this means?)

    Last question, when exactly did you go and can you tell me roughly what the weather was like? We’re bit worried about the cold.

    Thanks & looking forward to hearing back


  2. Hi Daniel,

    I am also doing this tour and departing on the 20th December. I have simile questions to the above.

    I also have never seen snow. I am from Australia and concerned about what kind of attire I am going to need or can I get away with just regular australian winter clothes. Did you need a decent pair of snow boots?

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s