Destination Europe 2012

Heidelberg, Germany

A number of tourism representatives from various European countries have been in Canada recently, telling of their new – and reminding us of their old – offerings for the 2012 season.  The state of the euro notwithstanding, Europe always has been and will no doubt continue to be an endlessly fascinating destination for enquiring travellers.  Here is a sampling of the news that was shared with us.

 Heidelberg, GermanyAUSTRIA AND GERMANY

The combined title here may at first appear mysterious, but Toronto-based travel industry members were recently treated to a meeting (and an excellent lunch!) with the directors of both the Vienna and the Berlin Tourist Boards,  With much repartee, they were promoting their cities as the ‘perfect two-city experience in Europe’, especially, it was added, as they are also considered the best-value cities in Europe.  Both are historic, of course, but both are undergoing a modern transition too, with large urban redevelopment projects that include adding accommodation and restaurants together with ‘edgy’ nightlife and exhibition spaces. (Apparently the new Sofitel in Vienna is turning heads, with its choice of white, grey or black rooms! www.sofitel.com/Vienna.)

Berlin offers visitors a Berlin Welcome Card which provides unlimited travel for your chosen length of time as well as reductions at tourist and cultural sights, city tours and more. www.berlin-welcomecard.de has all the details.  This can also be combined with a Museum pass which gives admission to about 60 museums and collections at significant savings.   And which museums will you choose?  There are institutions devoted to The Berlin Wall, Technology, Old Masters, Natural History, Sculpture, Modern Art, Jewish History, the Third Reich, an Observatory, Bauhaus and Design, Art Nouveau, Communication, the GDR Museum (‘gripping and emotional’ are the words used to describe this), Science, and underground tours – at Berliner Unterweiten – which reveal bunkers, air raid shelters, escape tunnels and more.  Yes … you may need more time!  And we haven’t mentioned the varied music offerings, the three opera houses, the cabarets and nightlife and the great shopping.

In FreiburgOf course Berlin has a strange and unique city history, but Vienna can hold its own culturally and is probably on most people’s bucket list too.  Their Vienna Card offers unlimited travel and citywide discounts and their museum line-up is an impressive as Berlin’s, with attractions devoted to Fine Arts, Porcelain, Beethoven, Strauss, Clocks, Funerals, the Austrian Resistance, Ephesus, Freud, Torture, the Third Man, Globes, Military History, Ethnology, Imperial Treasures and more.  And next year Vienna (and the art world) will be celebrating the 150th birthday of one of their favourite sons  – Gustav Klimt – with eight exhibitions. Check them out at http://www.wien.info/en/sightseeing/museums-exhibitions/klimt2012/special-exhibitions-2012.  But the city’s most famous attractions concern music, music, music.  Whatever your taste, visit www.viennaticket.com (or other sites via your search engine) for advance ticket purchase.  And for general tourism information, including well-priced packages, visit www.vienna.info and www.VisitBerlin.com

The Lufthansa Group now comprises Austrian Airlines, Lufthansa and British Midland International, making for seamless travel from Canada and around Europe.  You can travel with one airline to one city and return from another city with a different airline in the group.  These – and other airlines including Air Canada – are Star Alliance members.  And hold onto your Austrian Airlines boarding pass, which you can use for free or reduced entry to many cultural institutions across Vienna.  AA also has a new red cab shuttle service from the airport to downtown for just €29.  Book ahead at www.red-cab.at. The two cities are just an hour’s flight apart or, of course, there are frequent and rapid rail links.

KoblenzGERMANY

Yes, we’ve already had a little German news (above) in the shape of Berlin.  But there’s more.  Germany, at www.historicgermany.com/historiccities (and then click on the individual city destinations) offers independent travellers a variety of special packages under the heading Historic Highlights of Germany.  Together with their partner Avis www.avis.com (or by train if you prefer) you can choose one or combine several packages and cover many of Germany’s popular themed journeys called ‘Dream Routes’.  What interests you?  “On the Trail of the Romans;  Emperors, Kings and Palaces;  Treasures of Romanticism;  Wine Samplers on German Rivers;  On the Roots of the Reformation or The Cities of the Hanseatic League?”  The cities involved in this initiative – all historic – are Augsburg, Erfurt, Freiburg, Heidleberg, Koblenz, Mainz, Münster, Osnabrück, Potsdam, Rostock, Trier, Wiesbaden and Würzburg.  They offers lots of culture, but in smaller towns than those that come to mind when we think of Germany.  The rail or self-drive packages are for 5, 7 or 10 days; rail tickets or Avis rental car with GPS are included, as is Prinzipalmarkt, Münsteraccommodation in 3 and 4-star properties.  Also included is buffet breakfast each day, day trips, admissions to different sites and – in the case of the Romantic route – a Rhine River Day Cruise.  Packages start and end in Munich, Frankfurt or Berlin international airports.  Prices from approx. US$699 pp for the 5-day wine trip to US$1,299 pp for the 10-day, 6-city route covering the emperors and their palaces.   Check the above websites or call 1 800 817 8137 for full information.  And if you wish to create your own itinerary and travel at your own pace, this site www.germany.travel/specialoffers offers overnight packages in the featured cities at competitive prices.

As you contemplate how long to stay in Germany, it’s worth mentioning that the country has 36 UNESCO sites.  These are divided into the following categories: cities, palaces, historic places, churches and monasteries, green initiatives and industrial sites.

Floriade, HollandHOLLAND