Category Archives: Europe

Frommer’s Guides at 70

Lapsed lawyer’s travel guidebooks defined American travels.

An edition from the early ’70s. I think this was the one I toted around.

While Arthur Frommer was stationed in Europe during the Korean War, he published a slim guide to help nervous GIs navigate the mysteries of foreign travel with its mysterious money, food and customs.

The book sold out, and the inspired Arthur Frommer, a recently minted lawyer, returned to Europe to research and write what became Europe on $5 a Day. It was published in 1957, making this the 60th anniversary. When a college roommate and I toured Europe for three months several years late, inflation had not yet struck, and we managed on close to a $5 daily budget. That trip fueled my lifelong desire to cross oceans to see and experience new places.

There followed more guidebooks a magazine, a television show and a blog. In recent years, he has teamed up with his daughter, Pauline, to keep the iconic brand going. Thank you, Arthur, for kindling the travel lust in millions of Americans.

Bern’s Onion Market

Swiss capital’s unique fall food market.

swissflagSwitzerland has no Thanksgiving, but late November brings the Zibelemärit (Onion Market) to the quaint capital of Bern. This traditional folk festival is held on the fourth Monday of every November.

Farmers from the surrounding area bring over 50 tons of onions that have been artistically woven into braids to the federal capital, along with garlic. Colorful market stalls offer ceramic pots, vegetables, traditional market goodies and mementos. To help resist the winter cold, don’t miss the Glühwein stand with its hot mulled wine.

The bustle gets underway at 5 a.m. as hundreds of visitors from home and abroad flood the city. If you go, be sure to try savory cheese tarts, onion tarts and onion soup that are served in all the restaurants, filling the air with a heady aroma. Younger visitors scatter confetti in the streets and have fun at the fairground.

Special trains are scheduled by  the S-Bahn Bern and Swiss Federal Railways makes travel to the Zibelemärit easy. If you’re not within striking distance this year, consider it for 2017.

Oktoberfest Aloft

Meet Lufthansa’s ‘Dirndlcrew’ on select fall flights.

Lufthansa-logoThis is the 10th anniversary of Lufthansa’s Dirndlcrew, which, since 2006, has flown to some 20 destinations on four continents. Two days prior to the beginning of this year’s Munich Oktoberfest, two cabin crews take-off in Angermaier attire  — first on flights from Munich to Toronto and from Munich to Washington, DC., and then to destinations including Shanghai and Hong Kong on September 20, Denver on October 2 and Boston on October 3.

Lufthansa's variations on the theme of Dirndl during Oktoberfest,
Lufthansa’s variations on the theme of Dirndl during Oktoberfest,

At the beginning and the end of the Munich Oktoberfest, a crew from Lufthansa CityLine swaps regular uniform for the distinctive Dirndl on Belgrade, Birmingham, Cluj, Nice, Olbia and flights.  During Oktoberfest, Lufthansa passenger service employees at Munich airport also wear this endearing national costume. Since Denver celebrates its own Oktoberfest, I’m glad that the Dirndlcrew is assigned the MCH-DEN route early next month.

Europe’s Drinking Water

Is it safe or not? Depends on the country.

Europe-mapIf you’re concerned about drinking tap water when traveling in Europe, I’ve added a page to this blog about which countries have reliably safe drinking water and which don’t. Where the water is possibly unsafe, you might want to heed the usual cautions about fresh but unpeeled fruits and vegetables, water for brushing your teeth and even showering.  And I’ve cited Condé-Nast Traveler as the source of this list.

Croatia’s New ‘Festival Island’

Almost “deserted” island becomes festival site.

In Colorado, Telluride is known for is nearly-weekly summer festivals. The island of Obonjan  6 kilometers from the city of Šibenik will fill that role in Croatia. Once used by the Scout movement and then known as widely known as the ‘Isle of Youth,’ it remained virtually uninhabited, occupied only by the island’s caretaker Mirko who has lived there with his dog, Jimmy, since 2008.

Yoga is to one of Obonjan's wellness offerings.
Yoga is to one of Obonjan’s wellness offerings.

This summer, this idyllic Adriatic island will come to life again, reopening to the public for an inaugural eight weeks for the Obonjan Festival  (July 28-September 6) and independent travelers. Glamping-style tents and air-conditioned Forest Lodges are available, starting at €70 per person per night. The festival features a fusion of creative and holistic pursuits that include art, food, music, talks, wellness activities and entertainment.  Click here for a schedule. Even though visitation is limited to just 800 people at a time, some expect a real party scene too.

FoMoInfo: +44 (0) 203 808 7333. To reserve, email bookings@otokobonjan.com.

Luxe Chairlift in Austria’s Tryolean Alps

Kitzbühel’s sexy new eightpack.

AustriaSkiTwenty or more years ago, American skiers heading for Europe were often put off by the lifts and the liftlines. Many lifts were either high-capacity sardine-packed cable cars or surface lifts (T-bars and platterpulls), while in North America, skiers were accustomed to the relative comfort and ease of chairlifts. And liftlines here have always been orderly.

Fast-forward to now, and the wonders of European lift technology. Swiss cable cars and French and Austrian chairlifts have far eclipsed American uphill transport — and in fact, proved to tough for such American lift-makers as Hall, Riblet and YAN to compete against. Those American lift manufacturers are history.

Here’s a new lift in Kitzbühel, Austria, to show that there’s sizzle as well as steak in the realm of European lifts.

KitzbhuhelLift

It has been called “the world’s luxurious chairlift,” and what with ergonomic, leather seats, heated and bubble- covered, who’s to argue? Leitner Ropeways required 10 months to complete the chairlift, designed with input from  auto industry experts. Audi? Mercedes? Porsche?

Lufthansa Adding Denver-Munich Nonstops

New Airbus service to begin in May.

Lufthansa-logoI have long felt that Denver and Munich are twin cities in spirit, separated by history and time zones. Both are near the mountains but not in the mountains. Both display the energetic pulse of a young, active population. And of course, they are both famous for beer. And come May 11, they will be on either end of new nonstop flights. My husband and I were just talking about our next European trip, so we might well book this one.

A Lufthansa Airbus A330-300 will fly the five-times weekly service. The new eastbound LH 481 will operate on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, departing Denver at 4:05 p.m. and arriving in Munich the following morning. The westbound LH 480 service will also operate on Tuesdays, Wednesday, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, departing from Lufthansa’s Munich hub at 11:45 a.m. and arriving in Denver at 2:30 p.m.(all times local) after a 10 hour, 45 minute flight.

The Denver-Munich route is  the first time that the A330-300 has been scheduled for regular service at Denver International Airport — 177 in Economy and Economy Plus, 30 in Business and a handful in the ethereal front cabin.

The ‘Isle’ of Mont St.-Michel

Supertide phenomenon covers causeway to French coastal community.

MontStMichelle

Once every 18 years, a supertide turns France’s famed Mont St.-Michel into an island — a visitor attraction that never gets old.  Very high tides are part of the reality along France’s entire northern  coast, the periodic supertide is especially dramatic. One such tide occurred yesterday. Legend has it that the supertide comes in the pace of a horse’s gallop. It briefly turns into an island, while the day’s low tide allows people to walk on the expansive flat seabed off the coast of Normandy. Mont St.-Michel is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Some 30,000 people reportedly came to Mont St.-Michel to witness the first supertide of the 21st century.

Actually, the supertide effect is evident elsewhere as well, including the Bay of Fundy on the Atlantic Coast between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, Tierra del Fuego off the southern tip of South America, the northern coast of Australia and the Bristol Channel in Britain.

Soulful Music in a Surprising Austrian Venue

New museum hosted talented artist whose songs stir the soul.

AngelehnerMuseumWe expect cutting-edge museums and compelling musical performances in world cities, but not in smaller, less-known places. One such place is Wels in northern Austria. It’s not near the music meccas of Vienna or Salzburg, but it has a firm spot on the Austrian cultural map thanks to the Angerlehner Museum, which opened in September 2013 to showcase the private contemporary art collection of Heinz J. Angerlehner.

Like art museums elsewhere, it hosts concerts and recitals of surprising quality and variety.  Just as the art is contemporary, the music is often of our own time. One such was an October performance by Latin American/Austrian musician Jessie Ann de Angelo. Her commentary on pictures of the exhibition comprised clever words and personal associations. She also dedicated one of her songs, performed evergreens or her own compositions to each work of art. It was the most successful performance in the museum’s short history. Whatever the musical era, Austrian audience tend to have finely tuned ears, and the accolades she received were not just for her technical gifts but for the soul and passion she brought to the performance.

Jessie Ann de Angelo in concert.
Jessie Ann de Angelo in concert.

As a friend whom I trust on such matters put it  “It was with fireworks of musicality and a remarkable proficiency that she released the feelings expressed by the pictures without becoming too sentimental. It was singing that, as was once described by Rossini, will be heard by the soul (“Il cantar che nell’anima se sente”).”

In this performance, as in others, Jessie Ann’s music moved the audience’s hearts, her vitality and joy of life were contagious, and the associations global. For instance, the rhythm of a Rhumba Catalán perfectly fitted a picture painted by the Chinese painter Xianwei Zhu, and even ripped the listeners from their seats.

She dramatically accompanied a picture that communicated a fear of heights and vertigo with a stirring song from Paraguay. It tells the story of a child who climbs a tree before his proud parents’ eyes and then suddenly falls.  When the child’s soul rises to the sky as a small blue bird, everybody in the auditorium responded. The universal question seemed to be: Is there a greater misfortune than the memories of lost happiness?

In this performance, the program by turns expressed clever and worthy thoughts or told cheerful stories. And she made the listeners feel her happiness at the privilege and honor of playing for them on that evening. A rare gift that roused a feeling of mutual esteem and gratefulness reciprocated by her fans.

Jessie Ann might come on stage in a costume like the enormous boa below stretched out to mimic a condor’s wingspan or a tall fruit and flower headdress in the manner of Carmen Miranda, but when she gets down to the business of music, she is absolutely compelling. Here’s a YouTube video of a performance:

I wonder whether she will ever tour in the United States — and if so, by a stretch in Colorado. Otherwise, it is necessary to travel to Austria or elsewhere in Europe to hear her. Come too think of it, that’s another reason to go.

Wow Fare on WOW Air

Ultra-cheap airline to offer $99 fare to Iceland

WOWAirThe latest à la carte airline offering super-cheap base fares is WOW Air, an Iceland-based carrier that I never herd of — even when I was in Iceland. It recently announced that this coming March, it will begin non-stop service from both Boston and Baltimore to Reykjavik for introductory fares as low as $99 one-way and one-stop flights onward to London and Copenhagen starting at $228 round-trip. The airline will begin offering the flights next March.

Like every other deep-discount carrier, a ticket on WOW Air will buy a seat, a mini-tray table and an 11-pound carry-on limit. Everything else will cost extra. A carry-on heavier than 11 pounds will be $29 additional when booked online or $48 at the airport. Checked luggage will be even more expensive,  each piece  adds an extra $48 online or $67 at check-in. And extra leg room, pre-assigned seats and food will add to the total cost of a the journey. Flying round-trip? Multiply by 2.

WOW Air says that it will be able to cross the Atlantic for so little thanks to some built-in efficiencies. Online sales and marketing enable it to avoid paying booking engines or travel agents. This is similar to other low-fare carriers and even Southwest. It currently a mini-fleet of only four aircraft. In theory, by refueling in Iceland, WOW can fly smaller planes, which is fuel-saving. Another fuel benefit is that planes don’t need to carry sufficient fuel for the entire transatlantic flight.

In addition to intra-European and US, Norwegian Air started flying cheap London-New York flights over the summer, but flights were reportedly plagued with delays, which could be a real issue for small-fleet WOW. Once a small-fleet airline’s flights get off schedule, there’s little redundancy and therefore difficult to get back on track again.  Discount airlines currently control nearly 0ne-third of the Noth American market (that must include Southwest) and more than one-third of it in Europe, but only Norwegian flies the transatlantic.

There’s room for growth but also for miscalculation.