Marriott to Open Hotel in Romania

Marriott International, Inc. will open its first moderately-priced Courtyard branded hotel in Romania in 2011 under a recently concluded management agreement with a local developer. The 187-room Courtyard by Marriott Bucharest will be located in the city center within walking distance of the award-winning JW Marriott Hotel Bucharest.

Courtyard by Marriott hotel guest rooms are usually larger than those offered by other hotels in its competitive segment and feature clearly distinct rest, relaxation and grooming areas. Amenities include Marriott’s renowned bed and bath linens; high definition, flat screen television; high-speed internet access; large work desk and ergonomic chair; in-room refrigerator; remotely accessible voice mail; dataport for computer modem hook-up and coffee makers in each room.

For dining and entertainment, Courtyard’s public space evokes a residential, open feeling and a casual ambience that encourages guests to feel relaxed, comfortable and welcomed.  The Courtyard by Marriott Bucharest will have a casual restaurant serving three meals daily and a lobby lounge and bar.

For recreation, the hotel will have a fitness center. Business services will be available adjacent to the front desk and The Market, a “grab and go” kiosk, will provide various sundry items and mini-snacks and sandwiches for those in-a-hurry.

For social events and conferences, the hotel will have 2,890 square feet of space comprised of a 2,430-square foot main meeting room which will be divisible into two sections and two separate meeting rooms in varying configurations.

www.marriott.com

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Austrian Spa Holiday Offer

If you are yet to book your getaway this summer, you are in luck because Wahanda has teamed up with Austria’s Finest Spa Hotels and Resorts to round up a whole host of great spa packages to send you on a holistic journey to remember. What’s more, Wahanda are offering a free signature facial during your spa break at a selection of their hotels when you mention Wahanda with your booking.

wahanda-1

Austria offers a world-class wellbeing experience with a breath of fresh air and proves to be an ideal location whether you are searching for a short family break, a short retreat or a longer relaxing holiday.  Charlotte’s VVeb and Wahanda have teamed up to provide you with exclusive summer offers so you can enjoy exquisite alpine waters and soothing thermal pools, combined with an abundance of outdoor activities and top cuisine.

Read more…

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Romania: Volunteering & Luxurious Sightseeing

Mural Painting
Mural Painting

Hands Up Holidays is currently offering you the opportunity to combine a period of meaningful volunteering with luxurious sightseeing, giving you an inspiring holiday. One of the holidays on offer is to Romania, which will captivate you with its stunning monasteries, castles and medieval towns, while the people regale you with stories of legendary Count Dracula and his haunts in Transylvania and the surrounding Carpathian and Fagaras Mountains.

The holiday begins with a panoramic tour of Bucharest, capping off the day with a welcome dinner at the Count Dracula Club. Brasov, the next stop has one of the largest Gothic churches and proves to be an ideal base for visiting Dracula’s Castle: Bran Castle. The trip also takes you to the monasteries of Voronet and Nearnt which are among the greatest artistic monuments to Europe. Then, on to Sighsisoara is a gorgeous medieval town before reaching the Danube where the day is spent on the river. Constanta, the base for volunteering located on the Black Sea, where you can make a positive difference to the lives of orphans. The amazing adventure ends back in Bucharest on Day 9.

Painting orphanage
Painting orphanage

Day by Day Itinerary:

Day 1 Bucharest – Arrival and City Tour (D)

Day 2 Bucharest-Sinaia-Bran-Poiana Brasov-Brasov-Tusnad (B,D)

Day 3 Tusnad-Sighisoara-Mediasch-Sibiu-Sighisoara (B,D)

Day 4 Sighisoara-Piatra Neamt-Suceava-Baia Mare (B,D)

Day 5 Baia Mare-Bacau-Braila -Tulcea (B,D)

Day 6 Danube Delta boat trip (B,L,D)

Day 7 Volunteering in an Orphanage in Constanta (B,D)

Day 8 Volunteering in an Orphanage in Constanta (B,D)

Day 9 Bucharest; tour ends (B)

B = Breakfast, L= Lunch, D = Dinner

The next trip takes place on 22nd August.

For more information go to www.handsupholiday.com

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Affordable Hospitality in Germany

Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. Credit: Krüger, Norbert
Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. Credit: Krüger, Norbert

The German National Tourist Office in London has published a new “Holidays and Short Breaks” brochure containing a wide selection of affordable Germany holiday and short break offers for 2009. The publication is part of the “Affordable hospitality – Destination Germany.  Great deals.  Easy booking.” campaign, highlighting the country’s excellent value for money offers for international visitors.

The easy to use brochure features a variety of different types of holidays in Germany’s regions, including “Northern Highlights”, “Eastern Promises”, “Western Delights” and “Southern Comfort”. UK travellers can choose from city breaks, walking and cycling holidays, 20 years fall of the Wall tours, family holidays or special Oberammergau Passion Play 2010 packages.

The free brochure can be ordered from the German National Tourist Office, gntolon@d-z-t.com, phone 020 7317 0908.

Germany holiday offers also on www.germany-tourism.co.uk/specialoffers

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Lithuania: New Flights and Events

Vilnius. Credit: V Valužis
Vilnius. Credit: V Valužis

There has never been a better time to visit Lithuania than now as the country enters its second Millennium.  Exactly one thousand years later, capital Vilnius has a golden opportunity to reveal its secrets as the European Capital of Culture 2009. The year has seen more than 300 events planned across Vilnius, in addition to 120 projects scheduled for 2010 and 2011 to continue the celebrations.

The capital Vilnius will play host to various festivals from classical music to the Millennium Song and Dance festival, which is attended by over 40 thousand folk dancers and singers worldwide.  Kaunas will attract visitors with medieval festivals, while Klaipeda will host Tall Ships’ Races and the festival of European folk culture EUROPEADE.

aerlingus-logoIf you can’t make it this summer due to a slightly restrictive flight schedule, not to worry, Aer Lingus have decided to launch direct flights to Vilnius, which is great news indeed!  The new convenient and competitively priced flights will definitely help to attract more tourists from the UK.  Direct flights to Vilnius will commence on 10th September, 3 times a week (Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday). Daily flights start on 24th October. Aer Lingus already operates flights from Dublin to Vilnius 3 times a week (Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday).  Tickets to Vilnius are on sale from 9th June, and will be available for travel from the 10th September. For more information on fares and schedules please log onto www.aerlingus.com.

Vilnius Old Town. Credit: V. Valužis
Vilnius Old Town. Credit: V. Valužis

Events Schedule: Vilnius

Vilnius Opera Festival (9 June – 6 July)

The first International Opera Festival will be presenting acknowledged classics of the genre and modern experimental works, most famous theatre troupes, creative team members and artists from Lithuania and abroad, unique works dedicated especially to the festival. www.opera.lt

The Millennium Song Festival (1-6 July)

Continuing our country’s significant cultural tradition dating back to the memorable 1924, the Millennium Song Festival of Lithuania in Vilnius is being arranged. That will be one of the most prominent events in celebration of the Millennium of Lithuania. The traditions and symbolism of Lithuania’s Song and Dance festivals was proclaimed by UNESCO as the masterpiece of the oral and intangible heritage of humanity. The parade of participants, the folk art exhibition, concerts of artistic collectives, the joint performance of amateur theatres “Amerika pirtyje” and many other events will take place. About 40,000 performers from Lithuania and emigrants from all over the world will take part in different programmes. www.dainusvente.lt

Grand Official Opening of the Reconstructed Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania (06 July)

The restoration of Palace of the Grand Dukes in 2009 is one of the most important projects dedicated to Lithuania’s millennium anniversary. The reconstructed Palace will represent a national pride and will be a powerful reminder of Lithuania’s strong traditions as a state. Also it will be an educational centre meant to promote a greater understanding of the country’s history and cultural heritage. http://www.valdovurumai.lt/Istorija/Rumu_istorija.en.htm

Christopher Summer Festival (1 July – 28 August)

The Christopher Summer Festival is the largest and one of the most impressive summer events in Vilnius, which will take place for the 15th time in 2009. The conception of the festival was to be original—in that the events, music and theatre premieres, exceptional projects and performances would be executed in the unique surroundings of Vilnius’ architecture and in the unique courtyards and churches of the Old Town so that it would be especially interesting for both visitors and residents of Vilnius. http://www.kristupofestivaliai.lt/http://www.vilnius-tourism.lt/

Klezmer Festival (25-29 August)

Klezmer Music Festival – the first in the Baltic States will confirm once again that Vilnius has been open to different nations, religions and cultures at all times. The main idea of the Festival is to introduce music which can be played and enjoyed irrespective of religion.  http://www.culturelive.lt/en/2009/events2009-re/2009re-4a-9/

Events Schedule: Kernavė:

Festival of experimental archaeology of live archaeology: “Days of Live Archaeology” (4- 6 July)

During the festival prehistoric and early medieval crafts, lifestyle, medieval fights are being demonstrated and archaic music groups perform. A historic and cultural heritage of Lithuania and other European countries from prehistoric to late medieval times will be presented during the event, through the methods of experiment and archaeological reconstruction. http://www.culturelive.lt/en/2009/millennium/kernave/

Events Timetable: Kaunas:

Pazaislis Music festival in Kaunas (01 June – 31 August)

Since 1996 when the first Pažaislis music festival took place a lot of representatives of music elite had visited Lithuania.  Festival is famous for the fact, that the listeners of the most particular taste may find in the schedule of the festival something what interests them, starting from the old music and finishing with jazz, from the subtle chamber music to the grand vocal instrumental pieces, from the modern music premieres to the impressive pageants of Lithuanian dramaturgy in the approaches of Kaunas Castle. http://visit.kaunas.lt

Hansa Kaunas 2009 (22 – 23 August)

The Midlle Ages, the knights, and Hansa markets in Kaunas downtown. http://visit.kaunas.lt

Events Timetable: Elaipėda:

Sea Festival (25-26 July) Annual

The main event of Klaipėda city, celebrated annually last week-end of July since 1934. During the festival there are more than 100 various events organized (concerts, fairs, exhibitions, artistic actions, ceremonies of seamen, etc.). It is also famous for traditional sailing regattas BALTIC SAIL and SPRINT CUP taking place during the festival. More than 500 thousands of people are coming to the city during the festival. http://www.klaipedainfo.lt/en/index.php?page=7&sub=18

EUROPEADE (The festival of European folk culture) (22 – 26 July) only this year

For the first time European folk culture festival “Europeade” will take place in Lithuania, in Klaipėda.

The main goal of the festival is „free and peaceful Europe, where cultures of different nations coexist together“. Thus there are cultural forms of more than 20 European States presented during five days of „Europeade“ and thousands of Europeans (approx. 5 thousands) have their folk-art meeting with dances, songs and music.

Klaipėda will become the 25th city, which has been honoured to accept festival for the 46th time and to present uniqueness of our country and its culture, but also contribute to the creation of an image of the country, which cherishes its identity in the framework of Lithuanian Millennium program. www.europeade.eu

The Tall Ships Races Baltic 2009  (31 July – 3 August) only this year

The first regatta of sail training ships “The Tall Ships’ Races” held from Great Britain to Portugal in 1956, had to mark the end of “the epoch of sails”. But, actually, it happened to prophesy a new era for sailing ships and sail training. Every year the regattas are organized in different seas, but they always cover three routes and are hosted by four ports of different countries. In 2009 Klaipeda will host the finals of the regatta. The event is dedicated to the Millennium of the Name of Lithuania. www.talships.lt

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Go Green – Make Money

Affordable, luxurious and eco-friendly are three adjectives rarely used together at the same time. Yet all three apply to a remarkable water park in Slovakia. Geraldine Faulkner, the former editor of Sustainable Solutions, reports.

Dear guests, if the waiter does not bring you a receipt, please do not bother yourself with paying.

This surprising and completely true statement appears on the restaurant menu of the huge indoor spa resort, AquaCity in Poprad, eastern Slovakia, which claims it is the only water park in the world to use geothermal energy as its primary energy source, produces almost zero emissions and which plans to be 99% energy self-sufficient by the end of 2008.

Set in the foothills of the High Tatras, which at 8,000 ft are the tallest peaks of the Carpathian Mountains (the highest mountain range in middle Europe), AquaCity sits above a vast underground lake of hot mineral water 1,200m below the surface that is naturally heated to a temperature of 49ºC and which is believed to measure some 70km by 30km and is up to 500m deep in parts.

Poprad
Poprad

Thanks to this massive natural resource, the spa can rely on an inexhaustible supply of natural heat to provide all the water, heating and electricity that it needs for decades to come.

Read more…

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Mountain Moments in Slovakia

Levoca
Levoca

Slovakia is one of those little bits of Europe that has formed after the tides of imperialism, royalism, fascism and communism ebbed. Its most recent shaping happened after the sub-division of the former Czechoslovakia, following the collapse of the communist government 20 years ago and its amicable, non-violent separation from the Czech Republic, known fondly as the `Velvet Divorce’.

Slovakia’s mountainous north-east region is the country’s main tourism destination and includes the ranges and plains of The Tatry Mountains, made up of the High Tatras and the Low Tatras. The region was a favourite holiday haunt for Europe’s nobility and the seemingly untouchable Austro-Hungarian Hapsburg family during the 19th and early 20th centuries; the grand, gothic hotels from that era are today still adorned with chandeliers, silver and gilt.

Lomnicky Stit is the highest point of one of the High Tatras’s highest peaks, one of eleven in the range that exceed 2,500 metres. Here, bizarrely, I was served Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee, freshly ground and brewed from the world’s most expensive and sought after beans.

Viewing Platform, Lomnicky Stit
Viewing Platform, Lomnicky Stit

The peak at Lomnicky Stit in the High Tatras is home to a surprisingly bijoux restaurant, a weather station, an Alpine flower garden and one cosy apartment for four. It is only accessible by the very fittest, who hike up its flanks, or by an extremely scary single gondola lift, dangling on a wire that sags like a heavily laden washing line. The coffee comes all the way from Jamaica, only to be hauled up like everyone else in the bubble in the sky.  The washing line gondola lift is the third longest span between two points in the world and undoubtedly among the highest, all of which was apparent as we moved, imperceptibly slowly, at heights of up to 1000 feet above the ground.

The High Tatras, a natural border between Slovakia and Poland, became a national park in 1949, and is one of three national parks in the region. It is heavily protected by an environmentally aware management who severely regulate development of its tree lined slopes with the protective instincts of a lioness.

In this land of extremes and surprises, I arrived on the mountain to the whoops of joy from the owners of the ski resort at Tatranska Lomnica who, that very day, had received news that, after 4 years of lobbying, their proposed 33 million euro development of the ski slopes and lifts could go ahead in time for the 2008-9 ski season. Good news for skiers looking for skiable snow and lift pass prices that are around 30% lower than most Austrian and Swiss resorts.

View from gondola station on Lomnicky Stit
View from gondola station on Lomnicky Stit

The surprises became more surprising as the day unfolded. A woodland walk beside a fast flowing river after a funicular rail trip up from the Alpine town of Stary Smokovec found me alternately sipping piping hot herb tea and mountain cold schnapps in `Rainer’s Cottage’, a small stone structure housing a rustic café that struck me as ideally suited for habitation by trolls.

Here on a rough hewn table, surrounded by walls fashioned from boulders, our troll-like host unravelled tales of delivery men strapping Socialist-style range cookers to their backs and delivering them to remote mountain cottages, the earliest form of white van man. In an area keen to hold onto its heritage, there are mountain back-packing and carrying competitions held to this day in the High Tatras. Slovakia would be a strong contender for Olympic gold stove-hauling.

Slovakia’s second natural border with southern Poland is the charming and fast flowing river of Dunajec. Walnut skinned men wearing blue felt, embroidered waistcoats and hats decorated with cowrie shells punted us downstream past Poles on the left, Slovaks on the right, occasionally pointing, grunting and nodding at passing scenes of possible interest to us.  We followed their nods and passed the shadowy image of an Eagle that magically appeared in a sheer rock formation, the triple granite peaks of a monster, and the guest house where Hitler spent a couple of nights in the late 1930s.

Delivery
Delivery

Today the Hapsburgs may turn their graves to learn of the most recent fate of Europe, now divided and subdivided into 48 countries, including the new Slovakia. An early grave sprung to mind and my skin flushed alternately hot and cold as I eased myself into a self-powered go-kart to hurtle the 3km run back down the mountain. One of the last surprises during a stay in one of New Europe’s surprisingly unspoilt, emerging destinations.

Slovakia fact file:

Where to stay: The Grand Hotel Smokovec, www.grandhotel.sk or the Grand Hotel Praha, www.ghpraha.sk

How to get there: Flights to Slovakia can be booked with Sky Europe from London Luton to Poprad and Manchester or Dublin to Kosice. www.skyeurope.com

For information about the High Tatras visit www.vt.sk and Jasna in the Low Tatras, www.jasna.sk


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The easyGuide to Croatia

croatia-flagLow-fares airline easyJet is encouraging Brits to explore the delights of the Dalmatian Coast after it was revealed that less than three per cent of the nine million tourists that visit Croatia each year come from the UK.  With summer temperatures ranging from 26 to 30°C, a stunning coastline dotted with hundreds of beautiful islands and the Croatian kuna still providing exceptionally good value for British tourists, the reasons to visit Dalmatia are seemingly never-ending.

This year easyJet has expanded its routes to Croatia and now operates regular flights from Liverpool and Gatwick to Dubrovnik, and flights from Bristol and Gatwick to Split.  Both destinations have a flight time from the UK of less than three hours and offer the perfect starting place for island hopping beach holidays, with regular water taxis operating up and down the coastline.  Dalmatia has a long rugged coast, backed by high mountains with hundreds of offshore islands, each one with its own character from trendy hotspots to secluded getaways.

Hvar

Hvar Island is one of Dalmatia’s most popular islands with a combination of beautiful sandy and pebbly beaches, olive groves and pine forests, quiet secluded coves and larger bustling beaches littered with bars and cafes.  Hvar Town is one of busiest resorts, with some of the best bars and clubs in Dalmatia. Its regular beach parties are infamous, as are its chic bars and restaurants.

Read more…

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Bulgaria Travel Channel Launches This July

The Bulgarian launch marks the channel’s 18th language version, and the third new language launched so far this year by Travel Channel International, Europe’s leading travel broadcaster.

Travel Channel will be part of Bulgaria’s leading cable operator Eurocom Cable Management’s new basic digital documentary package, and available across the country from 1st July.

“The deal consolidates our commitment to providing a localised service in Bulgaria” said Travel Channel’s Director of Affiliate Sales and Marketing, Grazyna Gray.

The localisation will begin with prime-time programming and increase to encompass the full programme library.

“Travel Channel’s unique content will give our clients a new perspective on the places and life around the globe. We are very pleased to have this outstanding channel in our documentary package” said Petyo Staikov, Chairman of the board of directors of Eurocom Cable Management Bulgaria.

Travel Channel has its own in-house production team ensuring programmes are new and exclusive. All programmes produced by Travel Channel productions are filmed in HD.

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Holiday Offer of the Week

slovakia-bear

Mountain Paradise is currently offering £200 off new wildlife watching tours in the Slovakian Tatras meaning you only need spend £995 for a week or £699 for a short break in a spectacular region with incredible wildlife.  The High Tatras are unspoilt and one of the smallest mountain ranges in the world.  They are situated in the northern part of the Slovak republic on the border with Poland.  The region is rich with flora featuring almost 1400 species of plants.  However, the real ornament of the Tatras is the Cedar pine.  It is an alpine species of pine tree, which grows on the steepest parts of hillsides.  Wildlife is also in abundance; above the rocky relief of the Tatras you can often see a Golden Eagle and Chamois and Marmots are both endemic to the area.  Wolves and brown bears can also be found in the Tatra’s forests.

Mountain Paradise, (www.mountainparadise.co.uk 0161 408 8988) is offering exhilarating wildlife tours in Slovakia’s Tatra Mountains for the first time this summer with a special introductory discount of £200 off of a week’s stay and £100 off a short break if booked by 30 June.  Packages start at £995 for a seven night holiday and £699 for a three night break.
Packages comprise: return flights from London, Luton or Manchester, airport transfers, full board accommodation in private rangers’ cottages and in chalets, transport to wildlife locations, two days of wildlife watching on the short break and five on the week stay.

These unique tours, led by expert guides and mountain rangers, take participants to areas of the Western and Belianske Tatra National Park previously inaccessible to tourists.  They offer the chance to see a selection of Slovakia’s abundant and diverse wildlife including: brown bears, wolves, roe and red deer, the elusive lynx and the endangered Tatra chamois.  Pine martins and many birds of prey including golden eagles and falcons also inhabit the area.  The tours run on selected dates between June and October.

slovakia-cat

Mountain Paradise does not use animal hides or bait the wildlife instead they rely of the expertise of the rangers to track animals ensuring that clients see them in their natural habitat. The company also restricts numbers to six per guided group.  The tours are part of the bear research programme being carried out by Tatra foundation, a not-for-profit organisation that provides funding for conservation initiatives throughout Tatra Mountains National Park. Clients will be able to see the results of some of the bear research while on these tours. Mountain Paradise will also donates £100 to the Tatra Foundation for every booking made.

The wildlife tours require a moderate level of fitness as they feature walks of approximately three hours around the valleys of the Tatra National Park with ascents and descents during wildlife watching.  The holidays are not suitable for children under the age of 14.

Despite being in the Euro zone, Slovakia represents excellent value for money with a pint of beer, a vodka, soft drink or large sandwich costing only €1, a main course in a restaurant around €3 and an ice cream just €0.50.  Slovakia is just 2-hours by air from the UK (flights from London, Luton or Manchester) and the short transfer to the mountains means that holidaymakers spend the maximum amount of time on location.

Mountain Paradise’s 2009 wildlife tours are running on the following dates:
27 June to 4 July, 7 nights, ppp £995 if booked before 30/6, £1200 after
14-17 August, 3 nights, ppp £699 if booked before 30/6, £799 after
22-29 August, 7 nights, ppp £995 if booked before 30/6, £1200 after
29 Aug-5 Sept, 7 nights, ppp £995 if booked before 30/6, £1200 after
5-12 September, 7 nights, ppp £995 if booked before 30/6, £1200 after
12-19 September, 7 nights, ppp £995 if booked before 30/6 £1200 after
25-28 September, 3 nights, ppp £699 if booked before 30/6, £799 after
2-5 October, 3 nights, ppp £699 if booked before 30/6, £799 after
9-12 October, 3 nights, ppp £699 if booked before 30/6, £799 after
17-24 October, 7 nights, ppp £995 if booked before 30/6, £1200 after
24-31 October, 7 nights, ppp £995 if booked before 30/6, £1200 after

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