Category : Berlin
One of the biggest tourist attractions in Europe is its vast collection of Cathedrals. Towering over every major city and quite a few of the minor ones, they bring visitors face-to-face with the greatest architectural and artistic achievements in history. But if you limit yourself to the Cathedrals, you’re missing out, because Europe boasts many amazing Synagogues as well. Though sometimes harder to seek out and sometimes harder to visit due to security concerns, visiting Europe’s Synagogues provides an equally historical and equally impressive experience. Here are five of the most notable.
The Great Synagogue in Dohány Street, Budapest, Hungary
The largest Jewish Temple in Europe, the Great Synagogue in Dohány Street was built between 1854 and 1859 to accommodate the 30,000 Jews on the Pest side of the Danube. Its soaring Moorish walls leading up to its great twin domes is truly spectacular, as is its sheer size, as it was built to accommodate just under 3,000 worshippers. One of Europe’s more accessible Synagogues, the Dohány Street Synagogue complex offers visitors the chance to visit the Temple itself, the Jewish Museum, the 1931 Heroes’ Temple, which was built in honor of Budapest’s Jewish World War I soldiers, the Raul Wallenberg Holocaust Memorial and the Jewish Cemetery, the final resting place of 2,000 of Budapest’s Holocaust victims. Adding to the history of the site, the birthplace of Theodor Herzl, the pioneer of Zionism, used to occupy the space now taken by the Jewish Museum. There are many hotels in Budapest that can put you close to the Synagogue.
The Jubilee Synagogue in Jerusalem Street, Prague, Czech Republic
The largest Synagogue in Prague, the Jubilee Synagogue is also one of the most architecturally interesting buildings in the city. Built in 1906, the building reflects a unique mix of the Art Nouveau style so popular at the time and a Moorish look so popular in Synagogues. The Mudéjar red-and-white stone facade is particularly beautiful, and inside the Moorish elements are overlaid with brilliantly painted Art nouveau patterning. Its name was meant to honor Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph I, who in 1906 was celebrating the 50th anniversary (Jubilee) of his reign over the Austro-Hungarian Empire of which Prague was part. Prayer services are held here on Friday nights and Saturday mornings, and the Synagogue is open to the public from April until October. Set close to Prague’s central Wenceslas Square, there are many nearby hotels.
The Neue Synagoge, Berlin, Germany
All over Europe following the destruction of World War II, major buildings that had been destroyed have been rebuilt and restored to their original state. One such success story is Berlin’s Neue Synagoge. Built between 1859 and 1864 and designed by Eduard Knoblauch, the Temple was consecrated on Rosh HaShana 1866 with Otto von Bismarck in attendance. This beautiful Moorish style building could accommodate 3,000 of Berlin’s 20,000 Jews. Though the building was set on fire and the Torah scrolls desecrated during 1938’s Kristallnacht, the Synagogue was saved from total destruction by police officer Otto Bellgardt. Unfortunately the bombing raids that followed in 1943 and 1944 largely destroyed the remaining Synagogue, and it wasn’t until the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989 that rebuilding began. As beautiful as the exterior of the Synagogue is, the main sanctuary was never restored, and the small congregation that returned to the building in 1995 meets in what used to be the women’s wardrobe room. The surrounding Spandauer Vorstadt neighbourhood has become quite trendy the past few years, and there are many hotels to be found in the vicinity and in the rest of the city.
Córdoba Synagogue, Córdoba, Spain
If seeing all these neo-Moorish Synagogues makes you want to see the real thing, then head to Córdoba. During the rule of the Moors, Muslims, Christians and Jews lived together in a multi-cultural society. Echoes of this time can still be seen in the Jewish Quarter of Córdoba and especially in the Córdoba Synagogue. Built in the Moorish Mudéjar style, this 14th century gem consists of a courtyard, a prayer room and a women’s gallery up above, reflecting the separation of the sexes required by synagogues of the time. The prayer room is impressive when seen through the gallery’s three ornate decorative arches. After the Jews were expelled by Isabela and Ferdinand in 1492, the building served as a hospital, a chapel and a school before becoming a national monument in 1885. Work in 1929 and 1977-1985 (to celebrate the 850th birthday of Córdoba resident Maimomodes) has brought it to its present state of restoration, and it’s the only synagogue in Andalusia to survive the expulsion and inquisition of the Jews. One of the nicer hotels in the area is the Hospederia Del Churrasco.
The Portuguese Synagogue, Amsterdam, the Netherlands
The Jewish Community of Amsterdam is unique among northern and western European countries, because its background is Sephardic rather than Ashkenazy, meaning that while most European Jews trace their lineage back to the Roman dispersal of Palestine in 66 AD, the Sephardic Jews came into Europe through the Islamic countries of North Africa and Spain. A large number of Jews fleeing the Inquisition in Spain and Portugal ended up fleeing to Amsterdam. Thus we have the Portuguese Synagogue. Dating back to the year 1675, the Synagogue, known as the Esnoga, is quite plain from the outside. This was a common trait for Synagogues, as they did not want to attract the attention of their Christian neighbors who were not always friendly. But inside is where you’ll find the goodies, as the interior is truly beautiful. One unusual features is that the floor inside is covered with fine sand, which is an old Dutch tradition, to absorb dust, moisture and dirt from shoes and to muffle the noise. Located in the centre of the city, the Synagogue also has a variety of hotels nearby.
Most of Europe’s most popular tourist attractions are on dry land. However, that does not mean that we should forget the wonders of the sea. Here are the five best aquariums in Europe that allow you to discover the mysterious depths of the Pacific, Atlantic and other oceans without getting your feet wet.
1. Oceanário de Lisboa – Lisbon, Portugal
The Oceanário de Lisboa is not just one of the best in Europe. It is, in fact, the largest aquarium as well. Its central reservoir is a 1,000-square-metre tank with four gigantic acrylic windows to peer through. Four smaller containers surrounding the main exhibit also contain inhabitants of the Pacific, Atlantic, Arctic and Antarctic waters. There are more than 8 thousand sea creatures and 500 species of plants for visitors to marvel at. On the first floor of the oceanarium, there are an additional 25 thematic aquariums. Major highlights include two spider crabs, two sea otters, Tropical Indian coral reefs, and a rare sunfish.
the Oceanário de Lisboa's prized sunfish
2. l’Oceanogràfic – Valencia, Spain
The largest open-air aquarium in Europe is actually located in Valencia, Spain. It is l’Oceanogràfic, within the state-of-the-art City of Arts and Sciences. The futuristic compound features more than 110 thousand square metres of aquatic exhibits—and even the architecture was inspired by water! The main building was designed by Felix Candela to resemble water lilies. L’Oceanogràfic is home to 4,5000 fish and marine animals from the ecosystem of the Mediterranean Sea, the Arctic and Antarctic, and even tropical seas.
3. The AquaDom – Berlin, Germany
Housed within the 5-star Radisson Blu Hotel Berlin, AquaDom may not be the largest in Europe—but it is certainly one of the most impressive. Rising up from the floor of the hotel’s atrium, the eye-catching cylinder towers more than 25 metres. With a diameter of 11 metres, the tank holds nearly a million litres of water. Within it are over 2,600 species of fish. However, what makes the AquaDom so incredible is the fact that there is a transparent two-story elevator inside of it! Up to 30 tourists can travel at once right through the water, from the ground floor of the hotel to the upper observation platform.
4. Deep Sea World – Fife, UK
One of the most popular tourist attractions in the Scottish village of North Queensferry is the Deep Sea World aquarium. It is perhaps most famous for its collection of large sand tiger sharks (also known as ragged toothed sharks or grey nurse sharks) and other species. Another premier attraction is the 112-metre-long transparent acrylic underwater viewing tunnel, which is one of the longest of its kind in the world. The tunnel runs through a tank that contains 1,000,000 gallons of seawater pumped in from the River Forth. Because of the water’s low temperature, most of the animals on display are from around Britain. However, the aquarium also has rock pools containing exotic fish and a new seal enclosure among other attractions.
5. Sea Life London Aquarium – London, UK
Right on the ground floor of County Hall on the South Bank of the River Thames, you will find the largest collection of aquatic species in London. Sea Life attracts about a million visitors each year, and it is easy to see why it remains so popular. Along with the requisite displays of fish and mammals, the aquarium is also home to eight gentoo penguins that were transferred from the Edinburgh Zoo earlier this year. Other unique attractions include the underwater Shark Walk tunnel and an exhibit of three robotic fish. Additionally, the centre offers classes and is involved in multiple breeding programs (including seahorses, jellyfish, butterfly goodeids, and the Cuban crocodile.)
Ah, the airport hotel. Those drab, personality-free shoeboxes set out somewhere on a lonely road, far from the cities we’ve come to visit. The things we give up for the convenience of being near our flight. But it doesn’t have to be like that! The fact is that there are now many hotels set near airports that give you all the same luxuries, services and comforts of their downtown counterparts – and with the added convenience of an airport hotel. Here are five great examples of four or five star luxury hotels located minutes from your flight.
Sofitel London Heathrow Hotel, London
The Sofitel chain specializes in providing premium accommodation experiences, and the five-star Sofitel London Heathrow Hotel is no exception. Impressively sized with 605 guest rooms, this is the only hotel providing direct access to Heathrow’s Terminal Five via a covered walkway, and Terminals One, Two, Three and Four are minutes away via the courtesy Heathrow Express/Heathrow Connect rail connection, which can also have you in central London in just 21 minutes. The full-service ESPA offers five treatment rooms, a relaxation room, a hammam and a Massage Hydro Suite, as well as a steam room, a sauna and a vitality pool. Hungry? La Belle Époque serves classic French cuisine, while Tea 5 serves traditional English tea, coffees, and pastries, desserts and light meals. Then there’s Vivre for casual dining with an open kitchen and live cooking demonstrations in the evening. If you’re looking for nightlife, Sphere is a chic bar and lounge with an distinctive fireplace and Icelandic décor, serving snacks, artesian beverages, tap beers, cocktails, and a variety of wines, and you can also grab a drink at the Library Bar.
Radisson BLU Hotel Amsterdam Airport Hotel, Amsterdam
The five-star Radisson BLU Hotel Amsterdam Airport also does a great job of balancing luxury and convenience with a free shuttle service that can have you at your gate in minutes and distinctively decorated guest rooms. You can choose between Maritime, Oriental and Scandinavian décor, and the public spaces in the 10-story high, 279 room accommodation offer a cutting edge atmosphere with a hint of Art Deco touches, from the gold leaf in the ceiling-mounted disks of light to the marble and black veneer of the reception desk. When it’s time to relax, you can get a massage in the spa treatment room or just melt away in the steam room and the sauna. When it’s time to eat, you can either be in central Amsterdam in minutes (or central Den Haag) or stay in and enjoy gourmet Mediterranean cuisine like in the glow of silver candlesticks at the hotel’s restaurant, Talavera. Grilled Scallops with Flash-Fried Red Tuna is a favourite, a hot-and-cold buffet breakfast is served daily, and summer barbecues are held on the outside terrace. For informal dining, there’s the intimate Lighthouse, which displays paintings by local artists, and Rodolpho’s invites you to enjoy a drink in a bijou armchair.
Hilton Madrid Airport Hotel, Madrid
If you want to spread out in comfort as you wait to catch your flight out of Barajas Airport, the Hilton Madrid Airport Hotel can help by offering you a 37 square metre guest room with floor-to ceiling windows and heated floors. Marble bathrooms, flat-screen plasma TVs and indoor and outdoor swimming pools are some of the other premium amenities that make this five-star, 284-room hotel something special. The free airport shuttle service to the airport also goes to the city centre, so you’ll feel a great sense of mobility. But with the 24-hour gym, sauna, steam bath and hydro-therapy pool, staying in also sounds like a great idea. For dining, the hotel’s La Plaza offers seasonal local specialities like Serrano ham and churros, while the stylish Reserva Grill specialized in grilled Spanish meats and fish, accompanied by delicious side dishes and wine. The Ferrum Bar is more than just a bar, offering one last opportunity to enjoy hot and cold tapas before you head back home, accompanied by an expertly mixed cocktail or a flute of Champagne.
Albergo Hotel, Berlin
The four-star luxury Albergo Hotel may have you a bit confused, as you wonder how you arrived in Tuscany without even getting on your airplane. But what’s wrong with a little bit of Italy near Berlin’s Schonefeld Airport? This sunny accommodation offers a southern flair accompanied by spa facilities ranging from a sauna with its own roof garden, to a solarium to a modern fitness centre, all open 24 hours a day. The Tuscan stylings of the hotel continue in the 50 guest rooms and in the Ristorante Albergo Restaurant, which may make you want to get on a plane bound for Siena, wherever you’re actually going. You can enjoy exotic cocktails in the Albergo’s bar, and you even have time for an extra drink or two, thanks to the shuttle service that can have you at the airport in just minutes.
Residenza D Epoca Pietra di Ponente, Rome
Going from faux-Italy to the real thing, the four-star Residenza D Epoca Pietra di Ponente Hotel is about as far from an airport hotel as you can get but is still minutes away from Rome’s Ciampino Airport. As you sip wine and take in the view of the countryside surrounding Rome and the Eternal City itself, from the hotel’s open air terrace, your flight will probably be the furthest thing from your mind. Offering just 17 guest rooms, this intimate four-star accommodation is set in a historical building, as you can see from the vaulted ceilings, the ancient fireplace and the cellar which now houses a charming lounge. That wine in your hand comes from the hotel’s serene bar, and you can accompany it with the fresh, regional organic produce used in the authentic cuisine being offered by the hotel restaurant. Dine in the restaurant, out on the terrace or in the privacy of your room. Then take a stroll through the hotel grounds. By the time you have to take that free shuttle ride to the airport, they might have to drag you kicking and screaming.
The Mona Lisa. The Starry Night. Michelangelo’s David. These are some of the works of art you can find in Europe’s top museums. Places like the Louvre, the Uffizi and the British Museum are on everybody’s itinerary the first time they travel around Europe. But what about the 101st visit? Just as it’s full of a wide variety of people, ranging from the eccentric to the downright strange, Europe also boasts a wide variety of museums filling the same range. Here are some of the strangest.
The Icelandic Phallological Museum, Husavik, Iceland
For those of you who don’t know right away what the word “phallological” means, here are two hints: It describes something men have got and ladies haven’t; something that is necessary for the continuation of every species on the planet. That’s right. Tiny Husavik, Iceland, one of the northernmost cities in Europe is home to the largest penis museum on the planet. Speaking of largest, the Icelandic Phallological Museum offers several samples from whales, as well as horses, cows, dogs, wolves and every animal you can imagine, right down to the lowliest interest. Not surprisingly, the one species they’re missing is man. But according to the proprietor, who has spent decades amassing his collection, he has had quite a number of customers offer to leave him a “gift” after they kick the bucket. Husavik is also home to whale-watching and also boasts a few cosy accommodations.
Currywurst Museum, Berlin, Germany
Is it in bad taste to go from a penis museum to a sausage museum? It might be, except for the fact that currywurst tastes so darned good! Welcome to the museum that honors Berlin’s greatest culinary passion. The ketchup-red Currywurst Museum gives you the opportunity to get behind a sausage stand and see what it’s like to spread joy to your fellow human being. Here you can learn all about the currywurst’s illustrious history, as well as what goes into it. Whatever you think of the exhibits, the Currywurst Museum is probably the best smelling museum in the world, with the currywurst sizzling, just waiting to be covered in a sauce of tomato, curry powder, spices and Worcestershire sauce. If you have any doubt of the importance of currywurst to the locals, just consider the museum’s location, right next to the prime tourist attraction of Checkpoint Charlie. The museum is also near many great Berlin hotels.
Elvisly Yours, London
London and Memphis are about as far apart in just about every way you can imagine. Well, expect one. They both have museums celebrating the King of Rock and Roll. And while Elvis never actually lived in Elvisly Yours, as he did in Graceland, this kitschy museum certainly has its heart in the right place. Here you’ll find just about every kind of Elvis memorabilia you can imagine. Elvis jewelry, Elvis sunglasses, Elvis T-shirts, Elvis art posters, Elvis clocks, watches, calendars, magazines and stamps. And of course the Elvis music never stops. But if you’re a US citizen, I have some bad news for you. Because Elvis Presley Enterprises has a government-protected monopoly on Elvis products, the museum is not allowed to sell you any souvenirs. So before you hit the check-out, be sure to brush up on your British accent. While you won’t find a Heartbreak Hotel anywhere nearby, there are still hundreds of London hotels from which to choose.
Catacombes de Paris, Paris, France
If you want to rub shoulders with Parisians from the 18th century and beyond, there are over six million waiting to meet you just below Denfert-Rochereau. Welcome to the Catacombes de Paris. Where else will you find room after endless room of bones piled up and artfully displayed in every configuration you can imagine? Just 286 steps down a narrow spiral staircase you’ll be greeted by a sign stating “Arrête! C’est ici l’empire de la mort.” (“Stop! This is the empire of death.”). The sign doesn’t do much to keep tourists out, and the catacombs, which were stocked after Paris’s cemeteries passed their capacity in 1810, were also used as a hiding place for the French Resistance during World War II. Only a tiny portion of the 300 kilometres of catacombs (that’s 11,000 square metres) are open to the public. But that’s plenty enough to get the feel of the place. The entrance is just opposite the Denfert-Rochereau metro station, and if you don’t mind sleeping atop all those old Parisians, the Hotel du Lion is the closest hotel.
Museum of Witchcraft, Bocastle, England
Known more for as a destination for innocent beach holidays and communing with nature in the picturesque countryside, Cornwall also has a darker side. This can be explored in the Museum of Witchcraft. Located in the charming town of Boscastle for the last fifty years, this is the world’s largest collection of witchcraft related artifacts and paraphernalia. The founder of the museum, Cecil Williamson, is nearly as interesting as the museum itself. A dabbler in the occult, Williamson was also an undercover agent in the MI6 during World War II who collected information on the occult interests of leading Nazi military personnel. The museum offers exhibits on everything from devil worship and Satanism to the persecution of witches, along with
old-fashioned dipping chairs and a library of over 3,000 books on witchcraft and the occult. And don’t miss the Richel Collection, one of the world’s best collections of ritual/sex magic artifacts that has been in the museum’s collection since 2000. Just be sure when you check into your Boscastle hotel that you avoid black cats and that you don’t go under any ladders.
If you want to inject a little bit of Africa, Asia and South American into your European journey, there are many excellent zoos that can help you do just that by bringing you face to face with the animals inhabiting all these places. From the newest to the oldest, from the largest to the smallest, zoos in Europe make a great way to spend the day for the whole family. And though they can certainly get lost in the overwhelming mix of medieval churches, ornate opera houses, massive museums and luxury resorts, chances are you’re never too far from a zoo.
Tiergarten Schönbrunn, Vienna, Austria
Starting at the beginning, we must talk about the Tiergarten Schönbrunn. Starting life in 1752 as an imperial menagerie, this is the oldest zoo in the world. Located on the grounds of the magnificent baroque Schönbrunn Palace and itself boasting many classic architectural treasures, the Schönbrunn Zoo allows you to discover history and culture as you discover the animals. And the collection of animals is also quite impressive, from the orangutans and tigers, to pandas Yang Yang, Long Hui, and Fu Long, to all the slippery creatures in the Amazon Rainforest House. You can even walk beneath a simulation of the Amazon during a flood, for a perspective you couldn’t even get visiting the real thing. Among the museum’s newest additions is the 2004 polarium, which features animals of the Arctic.
Berlin Zoological Garden, Berlin, Germany
From oldest to biggest, the Berlin Zoo boasts 17,000 animals from 1,500 different species, making it the most comprehensive collection of species in the world. Open since 1844, the zoo covers 34 hectares of central Berlin’s Tiergarten, close to the world-famous Kurfürstendamm shopping district. Wildly popular among tourists, the zoo and its aquarium welcomed almost three million guests in 2010, making it the most popular zoo in Europe as well. The zoo is known for its entertaining animal feeding sessions and its celebrity animals like Knut, the polar bear, and Bao Bao, the Giant Panda. The zoo is also active in conservation, specializing in breeding for animals like black and Indian rhinoceroses and gaurs, as well as rare deer and pigs. The 1913 aquarium also features 9,000 animals spread among three floors, including a shark tank and an impressive 25,000 litre coral reef display.
Dublin Zoo, Dublin, Ireland
The largest zoo in Ireland is spread out over 24 hectares in Phoenix Park and dates back to 1831. Known also by its Gaelic name, Zú Bhaile Átha Cliath, the Dublin Zoo specializes in the conservation of endangered species, with its stated mission being to “work in partnership with zoos worldwide to make a significant contribution to the conservation of the endangered species on Earth”. The zoo is divided into sections such as World of Cats, World of Primates, Fringes of the Arctic, African Plains, Birds, Reptiles, Plants, City Farm and Endangered Species. The Kaziranga Forest Trail is worth special attention for its Asian elephants and its red pandas, and the City Farm is great for the kids, with its less exotic but cuter donkeys, guinea pigs and rabbits. Of special historical note, in 1919 the zoo celebrated the birth of a lion named Slats who grew up to roar at the beginning of hundreds of MGM movies as studio mascot Leo.
Zoo de La Palmyre, La Rochelle, France
A much newer zoo, the Zoo de La Palmyre opened in 1966 when the keeper of a traveling zoo decided to lay down roots in La Rochelle. Starting out with 80 animals, the zoo now features over 1,600 in a beautiful seaside location spread out over four square kilometres. The animals are divided into 130 species, and the most unique features is the immense polar bear basin, where you can see the bears above the water or below the water, with the help of the five centimeter thick window. The zoo is active in breeding in order to save endangered species and offers the unique opportunity to view many endangered species. Some, like the Scimitar Oryx from the Sahara Desert, are near extinction. Other endangered animals on display include the Orangutan of Borneo, whose population lost 30-50% in the last ten years, the Golden Lion Tamarin, the White Rhinoceros and the Indian Elephant.
Blackpool Zoo, Blackpool, United Kingdom
Providing a home to over 1,500 animals from around the globe, Blackpool Zoo has only been open since 1972. Also dedicated to animal conservation, the zoo has undergone a £10m refurbishment since 2003. This is a zoo that really caters to kids. In addition to the popular giraffes and sea lions, the zoo has opened the Dinosaur Safari, where you can follow a trail that passes 32 life-size dinosaurs. The penguins are also quite popular, and for a little bit of fun, you can take the Blackpool Zoo Miniature Railway. In 2006, the zoo opened an exhibit called Amazonia, which is a walk-through enclosure of South American animals and birds including 5 species of monkeys.
Vienna hotels near the Tiergarten Schönbrunn
La Rochelle hotels
If you thought going to a museum was all about impressionists, cubists, Roman sculptures and old furniture, think again. Since the 1980s a whole new crop of erotic museums and sex museums have been popping up (so to speak) all over Europe, from frozen Saint Petersburg to sizzling Barcelona and every place in between. Each museum is different, boasting its own specialty and each one is quite entertaining.
Erotic Museum, Amsterdam
The granddaddy of Europe’s sex museums, Amsterdam’s Erotic Museum has been open since the 80s. Set in an old warehouse, the Erotic Museum is quiet appropriately situated in the heart of the city’s iconic Red Light District, a sex museum in its own right. Beyond the 17th century façade, whose ancient screed “God is mijn Burgh” (God is my Castle) ironically overlooks the entrance, are five floors of eroticism. In addition to a wax model of a working girl, a constantly playing x-rated version of Snow White and a collection of vintage erotic photos, the museum features many non-erotic exhibits, like its collection of John Lennon lithographs. Though you may not choose to spend the night in the Red Light District, there are many nice Amsterdam hotels surprisingly close.
Musée de l’érotisme, Paris
From the city of sex we go to the city of love. Even the name, Musée de l’érotisme, evokes romance. Open since 1997, Paris’s entry into the sex museum sweepstakes features the erotic art collection of antique dealer Alain Plumey and French teacher Jo Khalifa. Set in the city’s Pigalle District, the museum has a wide-reaching collection that is as classy as its Dutch counterpart is kitschy. Ancient religious art of India, Japan and Africa rub shoulders with contemporary art with an erotic focus over five floors of exhibitions. One floor is devoted to maisons closes, the legal brothels of the 19th and early twentieth centuries, and a collection of pornographic shorts that were exhibited in these brothels, called Polisson et galipettes is also screened. The Pigalle District boasts many hotels, romantic and otherwise, as does the rest of the city.
Beate Uhse Erotik-Museum, Berlin
The sex museum goes high-tech in Berlin’s Beate Uhse Erotik-Museum, a slick, modern museum featuring interactive exhibits, 3D projections, games and more than 30 LED screens. Here you can see over 5,000 items from around the world, from Indian and Asian erotic miniatures to 2,000 year-old Peruvian drinking vessels to African fertility masks. Don’t miss the carved Balinese phalli, and don’t miss the museum shop and the life-sized dioramas depicting sadism, masochism, fetishism and more. If nothing else you’ll walk away remembering the Japanese shunga art, featuring its oversized genitalia and the Chinese Wedding Tiles are also worth a look. Sex education was never so beautiful. And of course, Berlin has a long list of accommodation choices.
Sex Machines Museum, Prague
The name of this 2002 museum says it all. Located right in Old Town Square, among all the medieval buildings, there are some items in the Sex Machines Museum that are, appropriately, quite medieval. The only museum in the world solely dedicated to sex machines, the museum features toys and sexual aids going all the way back to the 1500s in its 200 item collection. Body harnesses and copulation tables are on display, as well as “coercive” chairs designed for absolute domination. You won’t soon forget the Asian “Magic Box” palanquin with its sliding peepholes or the throne chairs their strategically-placed holes designed for oral pleasure. Other items include chastity belts from the 1580s, whose clawed teeth must have been quite effective, as well as the comparably mild shoes worn by Greek prostitutes, which have the sentence “follow my steps” engraved on the soles so that they could leave an imprint on the ground. Set in the centre of the city, the museum is just steps away from many Prague hotels.
The Icelandic Phallological Museum, Húsavík
Though not strictly a sex museum, Húsavík’s Icelandic Phallological Museum has the largest collection of penises gathered anywhere in the world. Don’t worry. They’re not human. In fact, the 272 specimens come from the wide and wild world of the animal kingdom. Exhibits range from the tiniest insect to the largest whale, with all sorts of horses, lizards, cats, dogs and more. There are penises under glass, penises mounted on the walls like trophies and penises floating in formaldehyde It really must be seen to be believed, and the proprietor, Sigurður Hjartarson, a former teacher of history, encourages photographs and discussion. He’s very proud of the collection he’s amassed over the years, and love the museum or hate it, you’ll always remember it. After the museum, you can head to the bay for a whale-watching tour, and then it’s on to one of Húsavík’s charming hotels.
In these belt-tightening days when the price of plane fare alone is enough to keep you from traveling, cutting costs is more necessary than ever. Still, you have to get to your destination, and once there you have to sleep someplace. So why not try a hostel? Unlike the old days when hostels were exclusively the domain of rowdy young backpackers, more people are taking advantage of these no-frills budget accommodations. And many times you’ll be surprised at the many amenities and the wonderful locations that a hostel can provide, all for that same low cost. Here are some prime hostel picks. But remember that rates listed here may be higher or lower than what you find, as they change all the time.
Hostal Bahía, Madrid Spain
The centre of Madrid and thus the centre of Spain is the Puerta del Sol, and the Hostal Bahía invites you to sleep there for prices as low as € 25 per night. Double rooms can be converted into triple rooms, and while there are no Jacuzzis, infinity pools or Shiatsu massages, there are vending machines, a first-rate tour desk and complimentary wireless internet access. Of course with all of central Madrid’s tapas bars and cafes just outside your door, you many never notice those vending machines. And you can spend the money you save at the hostel on some real meals. The Royal Palace and the Plaza Mayor are a short walk in one direction, while the Prado, Reina Sofia and Thyssen museums are a short walk in the other direction, with the Parque del Buen Retiro just further.
City 54 Hotel Berlin, Berlin Germany
Though the € 50 single room rate approaches that of a regular hotel, € 72 for an apartment is quite a deal. Especially with its spot less than 10 blocks from the Tiergarten, the Brandenburg Gate, the Reichstag and the famous Museum Island with its Cathedral. You can cut that walking time down by renting one of the hotel’s bicycles, and for points further afield, the nearest S-Bahn station is three blocks away, and the nearest U-Bahn station only two blocks. But before sending you on your way, the City 54 Hotel Berlin treats you to a complimentary buffet breakfast. The hostel also offers the convenience of a 24-hour reception desk and the beauty of a courtyard garden, and all the rooms refurbished in 2008. There are also vending machines and wireless internet access – though here it will cost you. There’s also a tour desk here, and this hotel that prides itself on being gay-friendly also welcomes the whole family – including the family pet.
Superbude Hotel & Hostel & Lounge, Hamburg Germany
The draw at the Superbude is the quadruple room which can get as low as € 123. And then there are all the amenities, hostel-style. Like the in-hotel cinema, furnished with jean-sofas and the Sportsroom, where you can play Wii. Yes, this is a more youth-oriented accommodation, offering bicycles, board games, Nintendo and even the rental of Skype phones. The hostel’s innovative design won it Best Interior Design Award in 2008, and the interiors alone are worth a peek, with shelves made out of water pipes, furniture made from thick ropes and pallets and your choice of six room colours. Like a regular hotel, your room comes with a flat-screen TV with a range of data ports, and in the morning you can choose from the early-bird breakfast and the sleep-in breakfast. There’s even a gift shop, a fitness centre and a ticket service, as well as a complimentary wireless connection.
Ulisse Deluxe Hostel, Sorrento Italy
With double and twin rooms as low as € 50, the Ulisse Deluxe Hostel’s goal is to change the conception of the hostel. They do this by providing public spaces that are as grand and elegant as the city of Sorrento itself. And with the many hotel-like amenities. The wellness center offers a sparkling indoor swimming pool, a fully-equipped gym, a Jacuzzi and even a massage service. Other amenities you might not associate with hostels are the childcare services, the room service and the currency exchange, as well as that old stand-by, free wireless internet access. The Ulisse Deluxe strives to create a chic sophisticated ambience in the rooms and in the bar, where you can choose from a variety of cocktails. And then there’s the location. Right in the centre of the city, the hostel is just a short walk from the Piazza Tasso and the fishing village Marina Grade.
Candy Hotel & Hostel, New York, USA
Let’s jump the pond and land in the surprisingly green upper part of the island of Manhattan and the Candy Hotel & Hostel. Switching currencies, the Candy has done the remarkable by offering dormitory rooms for US$ 25 singles with shared bathrooms for US$ 54. Just two blocks from lovely Riverside Church, the hostel is also easy walking distance from Grant’s Tomb, the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, Columbia University, Harlem’s Apollo Theatre and even Central Park. All the iconic attractions of Mid-town and Lower Manhattan are also easy to reach via nearby subways and buses. You can also rent a bike and ride south along Riverside Park or north to the Cloisters. The Candy itself offers an on-site film room for your entertainment, as well as a business centre, a billiards table and a tour and ticket desk, making it a great budget choice for business travelers as well as leisure travelers.
Starting in Germany in 1930, Steigenberger has spent the last few decades expanding into neighboring Switzerland, Austria, the Netherlands and Italy and more recently Egypt. Offering mostly five-star accommodations, with several four-star hotels slipped in as well, Steigenberger enjoys a reputation as the most luxurious hotel chain in Europe. Though most Steigenberger hotels are set in magnificent historical buildings, some are more modern. They also boast gargantuan chalet-style hotels in their mountain locations. Though most are located in major metropolitan areas, some are set in more rural surroundings, like the Steigenberger Inselhotel Konstanz, which is located on a private island in an old Dominican Cloister. Here’s a sampling:
Steigenberger Hotel Herrenhof, Vienna, Austria
The Steigenberger Hotel Herrenhof’s historical Viennese building fits right in with its vintage neighbours in the heart of the city, which has become a UNESCO World Heritage Site. From here you can walk to the Hofburg, the Gothic St. Stephen’s Cathedral and the famous Kohlmarkt. The hotel features 186 rooms, and its two suites come with private rooftop terraces from which you can survey your surroundings. For relaxation, the hotel offers the 250-square-meter SpaWorld, where you can exercise in a fitness centre and relax in a sauna or steam bath. The 500-square-meter conference area is quite popular with those staging events, and the hotel’s Café Herrenhof specializes in Austrian pastries and homemade gateaux, all under a glorious glass cupola in the hotel’s centre. At night the café becomes a piano bar, and authentic Viennese cuisine is also served in the Restaurant Herrenhof.
Steigenberger Hotel Berlin, Berlin, Germany
The Steigenberger Hotel Berlin is a most modern hotel for a most modern neighborhood. Set within walking distance from the city’s famous Kurfürstendamm Boulevard, the hotel puts you close to Berlin’s most exclusive shops, department stores, cafés and restaurants, not to mention lots of nightlife. The Steigenberger Hotel Berlin has 386 rooms and 11 suites, and they are also proud of the executive floor with its lounge, swimming pool, sauna and relaxing massage service. If you have business to conduct, there is a business centre and 15 conference rooms that can accommodate up to 300 guests. Feel like an after-dinner stogie? Just stop into the hotel cigar lounge. In the Berliner Stube you can sample fresh draft beer and fine wine. As with its Vienna counterpart, the Steigenberger Hotel Berlin also offers a piano bar.
Steigenberger Kurhaus Hotel, Scheveningen, The Netherlands
This palace by the sea is one of the most iconic images in all the Netherlands. Dating from 1885 and designed by German architects Johann Friedrich Henkenhaf and Friedrich Ebert , the Steigenberger Kurhaus Hotel towers over the vibrant Palace Promenade of the traditional Dutch beach resort of Scheveningen. All the museums and palaces of Den Haag are minutes in one direction, and the lonely sand dunes and crowded beaches of the North Sea are in the other. In the hotel you can dine at the classic Kurzaal Restaurant, where you can start your dinner with fresh oysters and Champagne and end it with live jazz. Or dine at Kandinsky Restaurant, which serves French and Italian cuisine, along with sea views from its terrace. There’s also a bar, a fitness room and 19 conference rooms that can accommodate up to 600 guests. Re-opened in 1979 after a lengthy closure, the hotel also boasts its own casino.
Steigenberger Grandhotel Belvedere, Davos Platz, Switzerland
Whether you’re in Switzerland for the winter skiing or the summer hiking, the 1895 Steigenberger Grandhotel Belvedere makes a wonderful place to which to return at night. Nearby are such Alpine attractions as Vereina Tunnel, the Glacier Express, Klosters, and the Ernst Ludwig Kirchner Museum. One hundred twenty-seven large guest rooms are complimented by a spa centre featuring a sauna, a Jacuzzi, an indoor swimming pool and a massage service. You can also wander among the hotel’s lush gardens and experience wonderful cuisine in the grand restaurant. A modern business centre awaits business guests, and there’s also a beauty shop. If you’re in a hurry to get out the door, the hotel staff will even pack you a lunch before sending you on your way.
Steigenberger Inselhotel Konstanz, Konstanz, Germany
Life is good when experienced from a private beach on the shores of a private island. That’s the philosophy anyway of the Steigenberger Inselhotel Konstanz, a former monastery which boasts its own private beach and island. Privacy seemed to be on the monks’ minds, as there’s just a small romantic bridge separating you from Konstanz’s romantic old town. This is where you’ll find the train station. You can find it even faster by renting a bicycle from the hotel. Or maybe you’d prefer to stay in and melt away in the sauna and steam room or gaze at the 13th century wall paintings. If you’re hungry and crossing that bridge seems like too much work, you can choose between the formal See-Restaurant and the less formal bar, café and lakeside terrace.
Posted in Amsterdam, Berlin, Dublin, France, Frankfurt, Germany, Ireland, London, Netherlands, Paris, The UK on 26. Jan, 2011
Anyone who has ever seen a painting by Johannes Vermeer understands what all the fuss is about. The beauty of his work and its photographic realism has never been matched, and reproductions in prints, books and posters come nowhere near doing it justice. Unfortunately only 36 known paintings have been positively attributed to the 17th century artist from Delft, the 37th, “Concert,” having been stolen from Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in 1990.
What follows is a list of the 22 Vermeer paintings located in Europe (the other 14 are in the US), divided by city and museum. Of course like all other artists, Vermeer travels a lot. So a website by artist Jonathan Janson called the Flying Fox features a “Vermeer Tracker” which tells you where his paintings are at any given time.
The Milkmaid, The Little Secret, The Love Letter, Woman in Blue Reading a Letter
Jan Luijkenstraat 1
1071 CJ Amsterdam
A Lady Seated at a Virginal, A Lady Standing at a Virginal
The National Gallery
London WC2N 5DN
020 7747 2885
The Music Lesson
The Royal Collection, Buckingham Palace
13 Buckingham Palace Rd
Westminster, London SW1W 0
020 7766 7300
The Guitar Player
Hampstead NW3 7JR
020 8348 1286
The Girl with the Pearl Earring, View of Delft, Diana and her Companions
Korte Vijverberg 8
2513 AB The Hague
The Glass of Wine, Woman with a Pearl Necklace
Staatliche Museen Preußischer Kulturbesitz, Gemäldegalerie
The Preocuress, A Girl Reading a Letter by an Open Window
Staatliche Kunstsammlungen, Gemäldegalerie
The Lacemaker, The Astronomer
Musée du Louvre
75058 Paris Cedex 01
01 40 20 57 60
Lady Writing a Letter with her Maid
National Gallery of Ireland
Merrion Square W
Dublin 2, Co. Dublin
01 661 5133
Christ in the House of Mary and Martha
National Gallery of Scotland
Edinburgh EH2 2EL
0131 624 6200
FRANKFURT AM MAIN
60596 Frankfurt am Main
The Art of Painting
The Girl with a Glass of Wine
Herzog Anton Ulrich Museum
Of course you’ll need a place to stay after your trip to the museum, so here are lists of hotels in Amsterdam, hotels in London, hotels in Berlin, hotels in The Hague, hotels in Dresden, hotels in Paris, hotels in Dublin, hotels in Edinburgh, hotels in Frankfurt am Main, hotels in Vienna and hotels in Brunswick.
Posted in Amsterdam, Berlin, France, Germany, Italy, London, Netherlands, Paris, Rome, The UK on 12. Nov, 2010
Every country has its own way of ringing in the New Year, and Europe is no exception. The largest capital cities tend to have equally large celebrations; however, the unique traditions and ceremonies vary from country to country. Whether you are looking to celebrate with fireworks or a quiet night in, you will be able to find your ideal New Year’s Eve in Europe.
Parisian nightclubs are generally packed on New Year’s Eve (or, in French, “la Saint-Sylvestre.”) The night is also commemorated with a lavish feast (typically including pancakes, foie gras and champagne) called “le Réveillon de Saint-Sylvestre” and a formal ball or “soirée dansante.” The next day is the first of the year, or “Jour des Étrennes.” It is marked with a gigantic parade through the streets of Paris that ends right under the Eiffel Tower. Other activities include gift-giving, cruises down the River Seine, torchlight processions to pick grapes at midnight, and pranks among children (similar to the American April Fool’s Day) to honor a tradition called the “Poisson d’Avril.”
Recommended hotels in Paris: Hotel Elysees Mermoz, Adagio Paris Opéra
New Year’s Eve in Italy, or “La Festa di San Silvestro,” is a celebratory affair filled with food (especially lentils to symbolize money and good fortune, and pork to symbolize the richness of life in the upcoming year) and drink (a lot of prosecco, Italian sparkling wine.) Fireworks, music and dancing also play major roles. Big cities like Rome and Naples are hubs of excitement, and Bologna hosts the annual Fat Ox Fair. In the southern part of the country, locals celebrate by throwing their old things out the window to ready themselves for a new year—and don’t forget to wear red underwear for luck!
Recommended hotels in Rome: Hotel Villa Pinciana, Navona Palace Residenze Di Charme
Not surprisingly, the city of Amsterdam is a happening place on New Year’s Eve. If you’re looking for a big party scene, definitely head here on “Old Year’s Evening” (which is what the locals call the holiday.) Parties and nightclubs aside, the Netherlands has a handful of unique New Year’s traditions. Locals typically spend the day visiting friends and family members and historically, men were required to eat and drink a glass of liquor at each home they visited. Other distinctly Dutch traditions include burning Christmas trees, eating donuts (anything in the shape of a ring is thought to bring good fortune) and—most famously—diving into the freezing cold waters of the North Sea at noon.
Recommended hotels in Amsterdam: Grand Hotel Amrâth Amsterdam, Hotel Estheréa
Like in other major cities around the globe, London rings in the New Year with a huge fireworks display. Fancy restaurants and nightclubs are packed on New Year’s Eve, and many opt to take a cruise down the romantic River Thames. Additionally, London hosts the largest fetish ball in Europe—the Torture Garden New Year’s Eve Ball—on the big night. The next day, British locals celebrate in unique ways: the old customs of the “burning of the bush” and “first footing” are still followed in earnest. The latter tradition states that the first male visitor to enter a house on New Year’s Day brings good luck (he also brings with him auspicious gifts, like bread or money.) A blonde, red head or woman is not allowed to enter first. Lastly, the UK has one of the world’s largest New Year parades.
Recommended hotels in London: Lancaster Gate Hotel, Radisson Edwardian Bloomsbury Street Hotel
One of the most interesting New Year’s traditions in Germany is the custom of “Bleigiessen,” or the telling of fortunes. Molten lead is dropped into cold water, and the shape it takes predicts the future of the person in question. Locals also leave a bit of every food on the table until after midnight; this is thought to ensure plenty of food in the upcoming year. Quirky customs aside, Germany celebrates the New Year as most other countries do: with eating (especially fish, lentils, cabbage and carrots for good luck), drinking and general merriment. The giant celebration on New Year’s Eve is called “Brandenburger Tor,” and it is accompanied by fireworks and ringing church bells.
Recommended hotels in Berlin: Hotel California am Kurfürstendamm, Hampton by Hilton Berlin City West