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When I think of Berlin, beer and a culturally rich city comes to mind. Not an island oasis. But head about 37 miles south of the city and you’ll encounter just that. And in an old military hangar, no less. Welcome to Tropical Islands, an entire island-like resort housed in a giant dome. According to their website, the dome is actually the largest free-standing hall in the world – it’s big enough to fit the Statue of Liberty standing up and the Eiffel Tower lying on its side. Sunbathe, go swimming in the waterfalls, and even stay overnight in the middle of the world’s largest indoor rain forest. Read more
If you listen carefully, you can almost hear the brass bands warming up. Outside of Bavaria, it’s not the kind of music you’re likely to encounter at other times of year, but for the next two weeks, there’s a good chance the autumn air will be filled with the sounds of accordions, tubas, and clarinets. That’s because at noon on September 22nd, the Mayor of Munich will tap the first keg of Oktoberfest beer, ceremonially initiating a 16-day party on the Theresienwiese. Since October 1810, when the first Oktoberfest celebrated the wedding of Crown Prince Ludwig of Bavaria and Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen with free food and drink, Germany’s third-largest city has marked the occasion with bratwurst, brezeln (Bavarian pretzels), and lots and lots of beer. Read more
Get an early start on your winter vacation plans with airberlin‘s rock-bottom rates on flights to Europe. Ski in the Alps or spend the holidays in Berlin with round-trip airfare to Austria, Switzerland, and Germany for as low as $627 from the U.S.
Sample round-trip fares from New York City include:
- Dusseldorf: $597
- Berlin: $627
- Zurich: $636
- Hamburg: $679
- Dresden: $679
- Vienna: $721
- Munich: $727
- Salzburg: $782
Low fares are also available to the same cities from Miami (from $687), Fort Meyers (from $712), and Los Angeles (from $796).
Travel is valid on select dates from November 1, 2012 through February 28, 2013, though we found the lowest rates from mid-January through late February. Visit airberlin.com and enter your cities and dates using the booking engine on the left-hand side. This sale ends August 31, so lock in your flights while these low rates last.
For more trip-planning information, see our Europe destination guide.
Author’s Note: In light of the recent financial crisis in Europe, it seems like the appropriate time to air some grievances regarding traditional practices in the region and how they affect tourism. By no means am I an economist, but I do have a checking account and a fair amount of common cents sense.
Hola. Bonjour. Γεια σας. While I hope that this note finds you well, I know that things have been a little rough on your side of the pond lately. With unemployment in Spain close to 25 percent, at least I know nearly six million people will have time to read this letter. Sorry, that was harsh. I’m not writing this to antagonize you or make light of your economic collapse. On the contrary, I’m here to help. Europe has long relied on tourism to fill its coffers, and summer is prime time for Americans to flock to your ruins, relics, and monuments (your stuff sure is old).
You need Americans to visit you. We need a strong Europe to bolster the global economy. So, how can we get things straightened out over there and encourage Americans to head your way? Here, in no particular order, are a few simple suggestions that you can have for free (which, I imagine, is a pretty good price for you these days). Read more
Booking a summer vacation is so satisfying. Even more satisfying? Saving hundreds of dollars on it. Our deals experts have been scouring the internet in search of the hottest summer deals to help you save. Here’s what they came up with, from an incredible suite in Vegas to a cool Bahamas getaway to a 5-star Spain package. For even more deals, check out our weekly Top 25.
Western Germany’s resilient Rhine River region has thrived for more than 2,000 years in defiance of the violent war scenes that reduced entire cities to rubble on the banks of this major waterway. Proliferating through viniculture, the tourism industry, and commercial business activity of cities like Frankfurt and Mainz, this breathtaking corner of the world has only grown more picturesque – if that’s even possible. After diving into a hotbed of German culture, art, and history during my recent river cruise aboard the Avalon Panorama, I’ve rounded up three must-see attractions along the Rhine:
Cathedral in Cologne
For lovers of spires, towers, and all things Gothic, Cologne serves up a particularly satisfying mix of modernity and history. The birthplace of eau de Cologne and Kölsch beer, this city also features a whopping 12 Romanesque churches. Most famous is the city center’s 475- foot-tall Cologne Cathedral. A breathtaking structure visible from just about anywhere in Cologne, the double-peaked skyscraper dominates the landscape. Visitors are invited to climb 533 steps to the South Tower (approximately 53 flights) to savor the view (and burn off any Kölsch beer-induced calories).
When I stepped aboard the bite-sized Avalon Panorama, I had no idea what to expect from a ship built to navigate a quarter-mile-wide waterway. The 166-passenger and 47-crewmember cruiser (the ninth Avalon Waterways vessel to be inaugurated into the European river cruise fleet since 2006; two more are in the pipeline for 2012) sailed a five-night christening voyage from Frankfurt to Amsterdam on May 13 and docked at historic countryside and city ports on the Main, Rhine, and Mosel rivers.
Designed more like a floating hotel than a cruise ship – a characteristic of river vessels – the 443-foot-long Panorama is short enough for passengers to walk from the self-serve beverage station at the back to the outside viewing deck at the bow in less than five minutes. This ship trades commercial ocean liner facilities like casinos, theaters, and climbing walls for truly exclusive touches, such as floor-to-ceiling windows in public spaces and suites, insightful local tour guides, and the Silent Drive System for soundless cruising, so you can enjoy the rolling riverside without the background hum of a motor – at unexpectedly affordable prices.
Over the years, I have traveled extensively in Germany to popular places such as Berlin, Munich, and Heidelberg, as well as less-touristy spots like Cologne, Hamburg, Leipzig, Dresden, and Bonn. Yet I had never visited the Black Forest region until last fall.
Bordering France and Switzerland, the Black Forest is a densely wooded area in the southwest corner of Germany, in the state of Baden-Württemberg. The region is known for its picturesque villages, rolling green hills, and intricately carved cuckoo clocks.
A leisurely way to reach the Black Forest is to fly into Frankfurt, rent a car, and drive an hour south to Heidelberg. Spend a couple of days there, then head southwest another hour to Baden-Baden. This postcard-perfect town sits just outside the Black Forest, making it an ideal starting point for exploring the area. Baden-Baden’s renown as a wellness destination dates back to the Belle Epoque of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when members of the French and Russian upper classes visited the region for weeks on end to relax and enjoy rejuvenating spa treatments.
The itineraries listed on the website of BikeSherpa (www.bikesherpa.com), a newly launched bike tour company run by an American expat in Germany, are enough to make any adventure traveler grab their passport and hop on a bike, whether they’re a newbie or have logged hours in the saddle.
There are comfortable rides through Germany’s Black Forest, showcasing the country’s gourmet cuisine and wineries; there’s a challenging trek through Italy, Austria, and Slovenia for intermediate-level riders; and there’s plenty in between, including a river cruise and cycling trip from Amsterdam to Bruges.
Just as enticing as the trips themselves: The fact that you can go for free.
Stuttgart sits in a major German wine region. It’s well worth a visit to the vineyards in the hills just on the border of town (pictured at left). There is wine tasting, which is perfect at sunset. Note that red wines, and not just the German white Riesling, are available. I always thought of Riesling as a somewhat sweet white wine (good on a hot day) and, while many are, there are some excellent dry ones. You can visit one or more taverns up in the vineyards and enjoy the local wine specialty, beautiful views, and good Swabian food.
For dinner in town, go to Cube (www.cube-restaurant.de), an exceptional modern restaurant set on the top floor of the contemporary art museum (in the pedestrian shopping zone). The food is outstanding, the crowd is trendy, and the views over the main square are appealing. I tried pork filet (and generally I’m not a huge fan of pork) – it was outstanding. Also consider Swabian specialties including spaetzel and Swabian ravioli (with beef filling).
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