The German train operator, Deutsche Bahn (DB), has unveiled the prototype of the new high-speed trains it hopes will provide a service through the Channel Tunnel from the UK to the European mainland.
Assuming the trains satisfy all the safety tests and other criteria, DB expects to start the programme in late 2013. It’ll mean that passengers will be able to travel from London to the centre of Frankfurt in five hours (compared with a two-hour flight) and to Amsterdam in the Netherlands in four hours (an hour and a bit by airliner).
DB wants to run services three times a day. Trains would leave London, travel to Brussels and then split. One half of the train would go on to Amsterdam via Rotterdam, with the other half travelling to Frankfurt via Cologne. The trains would be capable of travelling at 200mph.
Eurostar, the only rail operator running passenger trains through the tunnel since it opened in 1994, supports Deutsche Bahn’s move, saying it is another step in the expansion of high-speed rail travel across Europe.
“We welcome Deutsche Bahn’s plans, we want them to help us grow the rail passenger market together,” said Eurostar’s Chairman, Richard Brown, at the presentation of DB’s plans at St Pancras station in London.
by Andy Moreton
London, Brussels, Cologne, Frankfurt, Rotterdam, Amsterdam: Luxique can secure you the best rates at a variety of luxury hotels throughout Europe.
For the fifth year in a row, France has topped a list of the best places in the world to live.
International Living magazine’s 30th Quality of Life Index surveyed almost 200 countries across nine categories, including cost of living, culture/leisure, environment, and safety/risk.
“In France, life is savoured,” said International Living publisher, Jackie Flynn. “I don’t think anyone would disagree that France is one of the most beautiful countries in the world, where there is so much pride in all the small details. The French love little window boxes filled with flowers, tidy gardens, pretty sidewalk cafes and clean streets.”
International Living paid particular attention to provincial France, praising the affordability and services outside Paris, especially for retired people and their families.
Australia jumped up the rankings from fifth to second place on the strength of its economic recovery, while the US dropped from third to seventh. International Living claimed that sustaining the ‘American Dream’ had escalated out of the reach of many.
5. New Zealand
7. United States
The UK’s position? A lowly 25th behind the Czech Republic and Lithuania.
by Andy Moreton
Luxique can help you book some of the finest luxury hotels in Paris and in many other areas of beautiful France.
The Germans are introducing a new hiking trail for people who want to walk in the nude.
It’s an 11-mile route through the Harz mountains near Leipzig in east central Germany and is due to open in May next year. However, some enthusiasts have already stripped off and have been striding off with nothing more than a smile and a rucksack.
There are signs warning more conservative walkers that they might prefer to use alternative routes. “If you do not want to see naked people then do not go past this point.”
The Germans already lay claim to the world’s first nudist hotel, have hundreds of nudist beaches and even hold the occasional nude tobogganing race.
Jeanette Schuchmann, Deputy Director at the German National Tourist Office for UK and Ireland said: “Walking is a passion shared by many nationalities. Nudism is an expression for many a liberated mind in many countries.”
Heinz Ludwig, who runs a nearby campsite and led the project to create the nudist trail, overcame some local protests by pointing out the trail’s potential. “I think it’s a great way to promote tourism here,” he said.
by Andy Moreton
Luxique gives you the bare facts about luxury hotels in Germany.
The city of Dresden in eastern Germany has lost its position as a World Heritage Site because of the construction of a four-lane bridge across the river Elbe.
The Dresden Elbe valley won heritage status from UNESCO five years ago for its 12-mile stretch of landscape, which incorporates the city centre and features Baroque palaces, churches, opera houses and museums.
Conservationists say the four-lane bridge will be a blot on the unique Elbe valley and is sited in a particularly sensitive spot, near the old city, from where it will be seen.
Construction of the bridge began in 2007. Supporters of the project say it’s essential to reduce traffic congestion. An alternative plan for a tunnel was rejected for cost reasons.
UNESCO took the decision at its meeting in the Spanish city of Seville. Areas added to the list of World Heritage Sites include the Dolomite mountains in Italy and the Wadden Sea along the coasts of Germany and the Netherlands.
The Wadden Sea coastline is a wetlands area rich in wildlife. The Dolomites, in Italy’s northern Alps, was praised as ‘one of the most beautiful mountain landscapes anywhere’.
Each World Heritage Site is the property of the state on whose territory it’s located, but it’s considered in the interests of the international community to preserve each one.
by Andy Moreton
Luxique offers the best rates at Dresden’s premier luxury hotel, the Taschenbergpalais Kempinksi, as well as three fine hotels in the Italian Dolomites.
The German town made famous in the fairy tale of the Pied Piper, who lured away a plague of rats, has a real-life modern problem with the rodents.
Officials in the town of Hamelin in northern Germany have expressed alarm at a surge in the rat population much like the Great Plague in 1284 on which the tale is based.
“Rats usually come in packs of 20 to 30 but these can expand up to 200 or 300 and that what’s happened in Hamelin,” said Rolf Schmidt, who works for a pest control service in the town north of Hanover.
The town, which has 58,000 inhabitants, has added teams of rat-catchers to try to contain the new plague.
In the tale made famous by the Brothers Grimm and Robert Browning, a man claims extraordinary rat-catching skills and promises to solve the town’s rat problem by playing his magic pipe. He lures the rats into the river where they drown.
But after removing the rats, the villagers renege on their promise to pay him so he takes revenge by using the same pipe to abduct the village children. Some locals believe the tale to be based on actual events.
“We do have a rat problem but this could have happened anywhere in Germany,” said Thomas Wahmes, a city council spokesman. “It’s just a coincidence that it happened here.”
by Andy Moreton
If you happen to be travelling to Northern Germany and want a taste of sheer luxury, try the prestigious Kempinski Grand Hotel at Heiligendamm on the Baltic coast. It hosted the summit of G8 leaders in June 2007.
A Nazi-era resort on the island of Ruegen in the Baltic Sea is set to get a make-over and be opened again to holidaymakers.
Construction in Prora began in 1936 as part of Hitler’s ‘Strength Through Joy’ programme to keep Germans fit and healthy. But it was abandoned in 1943 because of the war. The beautiful sandy beach was never opened to the public; the only Germans to live in the half-built resort were refugees from bombed-out cities and those fleeing the invading Soviet Red Army.
The windows are either broken or boarded up, the roofs are leaking and the plaster is crumbling from the walls. But the six-storey concrete buildings planned as a holiday complex for 20,000 have survived otherwise unscathed.
Now, the local government has teamed up with an investor group to initiate a refurbishment of the complex and turn it into a modern holiday resort.
The decision has been controversial. A spokesman for an organisation that promotes ethics in dealing with historic monuments commented: “Prora stands for a perfidious social policy with which the Nazis intended to bring the entire population into line. Organising entertainment there is what the ‘Strength Through Joy’ programme envisaged.”
by Andy Moreton
One of the perverse joys of travel is the satisfaction of successfully ordering a meal in a language not your own in a crowded restaurant with a hard-pressed waiter or waitress.
Now an entrepreneur in the southern German town of Nuremberg has designed an automated restaurant that has dispensed with the need for waiting staff – and we’re not talking about a fast food joint here.
The tables at Baggers are fitted with touch-screen computers on which customers send orders directly to the kitchen on the upper floor. Diners can also use the screens to check the organic ingredients in every meal or even send e-mails and text messages.
Chefs cook the dishes and then place them on an ingenious helter-skelter rail system that guides the order to the customer. The system calculates the likely delivery times for drinks and meals at every table and keeps customers informed.
Baggers’ owner, Michael Mack, says the experiment has been a hit with customers - the restaurant is booked out for weeks in advance. “People will get more service, better food and more comfort for less money, thanks to the efficiency,” said Mr Mack.
However, it’s not for everyone, it seems. One visitor complained in an internet posting: “We prefer a nice friendly waiter to this cold stainless steel system you can’t talk to.” And another observer commented that the spiralling rails reminded her of the automated feeding system used for pigs on large farms.
by Andy Moreton