Square 2 Design Eco Concept Home for Danube Delta

Square 2 Design, a Romanian design group, recently revealed an eco-friendly concept home for the Danube Delta. As you can see, the eco-house features a wall covered in foliage and an indoor greenhouse, making the garden an integral part of the home itself, rather than an addition.

Square 2 Design

The group claims that the interiors and furniture are constructed from biodegradable and recycled materials, making them environmentally friendly too.  I think in the past Romania’s had a bad reputation in the West for being a backward country but this sort of innovative design and eco-thinking demonstrates just how forward-thinking this country can be.

You can find out more about Square 2 Design here.

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Walking with Bears in Slovakia

I’ve written about similar trips before so was excited to hear that the UK’s leading trekking holidays company, Walks Worldwide, is now working closely with conservation group, Projekt Medved, and has created a unique trip called ‘Walking with Bears’ in the High Tatras mountains of Slovakia.

The High Tatras are the highest mountains in the Carpathian Arc which stretch from Romania to the Czech Republic.  The range is small in area but they are very steep and provide the only High Alpine environment in Europe north of the Alps.  There are a number of well-marked tourist trails but the highlight of this new trip are the days spent off the trail, following animal tracks and ancient smuggling paths in the company of guides who know the region and wildlife inside out.


This trekking holiday with a big difference, provides the chance to walk not only in a spectacular mountain area populated by bears, but with the intention of seeking the mighty beasts on foot!  The tour actually begins in Poland and initially follows recognised way-marked trails across the High Tatras, descending into Slovakia.  On reaching the Ticha, the group will be joined by a Park Ranger who will take the group ‘off piste’ and walk among the mountains and valleys in an area where tourists are normally forbidden.  This unique opportunity is restricted to a maximum group size of eight people in order to minimise disturbance.  Walking is graded as demanding, hiking at altitude in mountainous terrain for up to 9 hours per day.

The one-off trip departs on Sunday 14 August and costs from £985 pp (land only). This includes ground transportation, 7 nights’ accommodation, most meals and the services of and expert walking and wildlife guide. Call 0845 301 4737 or visit www.walksworldwide.com

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Cycle Through South Eastern Serbia

As the avid readers of Charlotte’s VVeb will know, I visited Serbia for the first time last year and was blown away by its beauty, culture, food and drink – everything this website is about!  If you aren’t so sure then perhaps consider taking an organised tour and  I don’t mean a bus tour…  There is a lot more to touring these days than coach trips!  For example, Travel the Unknown organise incredible hiking and cycling tours through Serbia’s valleys and gorges.  On such a tour you can discover the ghoulish skull tower of Niš, visit a 200 year old water mill, and stop off to rejuvenate your muscles in a Turkish bath.

Travel the Unknown Serbia Cycle Tour

Plus, you’ll have the chance to experience the cosmopolitan café culture of modern Belgrade and hike through remote regions of Serbia, sampling local wines, brandies, breads, meats and cheeses along the way.  While overnight you will stay in small lodges (pensions) and discover true hospitality in a traditional rural homestay.

There are currently two dates set for these tours (22 to 29 April; and, 16 to 23 September); however, if these don’t suit you, contact the company and they will organise a trip to suit your individual needs.  And if Serbia doesn’t take your fancy, Travel the Unknown offers lots of other touring experiences!

Find out more at Travel the Unknown

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Bavarian Forest National Park Celebrates 40th Birthday

The Bavarian Forest National Park, the oldest National Park in Germany, will celebrate its 40th birthday this year with a range of events and the active support of its National Park Partners. The 76 Partners – hotels, guesthouses, bed and breakfasts, restaurants and self catering accommodation providers – work with the Bavarian Forest National Park to provide holidays in harmony with nature right through the year. One of these is ‘Bavarian Forest Holidays’ in Bayerisch Eisenstein, whose English owners came to the Bavarian Forest from England in 2004.

More and more English speaking international visitors are making their way to the Bavarian Forest – thanks to the marketing activities of Margaret Leach and Martin Holborow who have also designed their 9 holiday apartments
(8 with 5 stars and 1 with 4 stars, awarded by the German Tourism Association) to specifically meet the needs of international guests.

Bavarian Forest

The National Park, which includes the largest area of forested wilderness between the Atlantic and the Urals, offers opportunities for peaceful walking and cycling as well as seeing rare indigenous wildlife such as lynx, wolves, brown bears and capercaillie in vast enclosures in the forest. The National Park visitor centres also provide education and
entertainment related to the National Park. The Bavarian Forest National Park also directly borders the Sumava National Park in Czech Republic, providing access to nearly 100,000 hectares of protected nature.

The National Park Partners offer quality accommodation and comprehensive information on the area to their visitors. They make an important contribution to sustainable tourism and exceed the usual criteria for eco-friendliness and quality. All are passionate supporters of the motto of the National Park ‘Let nature be nature’. Once they have qualified to become
Partners they are obliged to attend regular briefing sessions and hikes in the National Park in order to keep their knowledge up to date.

This year the Bavarian Forest National park celebrates its 40th birthday with many events during the year and a major celebration on 9th-10th October in the Lusen National Park Centre.

For more information on Bavarian Forest Holidays visit Forest Holidays.

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Gardens, Not Walls! Frankfurt Celebrates Birth Of Green City

Last week Frankfurt’s former city walls celebrated an historic birthday. Two hundred years ago, the City of Frankfurt enacted the so-called Wallservitut, an easement with which they moved to protect the parklands along the course of the former mediaeval city fortifications from destruction. This edict also helped to lay the foundation for further natural development within the city. Today, Frankfurt is one of Germany’s “greenest” urban centres, featuring over 50 parks and gardens within its city districts.

Palmengarten, Frankfurt, Germany
Palmengarten (Botanical Gardens) Frankfurt

Today, the Anlagenring, a section of the former city walls now landscaped, forms a five-kilometre-long semicircle around the city centre. Visitors taking a walk along this green ring will come across fountains, ponds, ancient trees, modern sculptures, monuments and memorials, many of which serve as reminders of Frankfurt’s colourful history. The demolition of the former city walls had helped to bring about the establishment of English-style landscape gardens, which were continuously expanded over time. The former course of the star-shaped city fortifications is still recognisable upon closer examination of a city map.

Starting at the massive euro symbol situated in front of the European Central Bank, Frankfurt’s green ring takes visitors past the Beethoven Memorial and Heinrich Heine Memorial to one of the city’s most beautiful locations: Opera Square and Alte Oper, Frankfurt’s grand old opera house and one of the city’s premier landmarks. A few hundred metres further on, one comes across the Nebbiensche Gartenhaus. This oasis of green, built in classicistic style in 1810, was one of the first glasshouses to be erected along the green pathway. Today, it is available for special-event hire. From here, it is not far to the Eschenheimer Tor, the only remaining city gate of the former mediaeval walls. Continuing on, one arrives at the Odeon, a popular dance club. Originally, this classicistic-styled structure was built by order of the Bethmanns, a famous Frankfurt banking family. For many years, it served as the home of the Museum of Sculptures. Taking a few steps away from the beaten track, walkers will arrive at the nearby Bethmann Park and its Chinese Garden, which was designed according to the principles of Feng Shui. Having returned to the green lane, one comes across Frankfurt’s most beautiful “outhouse”. Nowadays, these monument-listed former public toilets with their chapel-like dimensions are home to a cocktail bar named Lala Mamoona. The gabled roof and half-timbered framework provide an excellent background for the lounge music and relaxed atmosphere of this popular location.

The end of the green ring is now only 750 metres away. The former municipal library, rebuilt in 2005 and now the home of the Frankfurt House of Literature, today presents itself as a beautiful café with an attached beer garden, inviting visitors to a refreshing respite. Those fit enough are urged to continue on down Frankfurt’s unique and very natural riverside promenade, which runs along both sides of the River Main. From here, beautiful views of the city’s skyline and surrounding area are guaranteed; in fact, they are best enjoyed from one of the riverside establishments while drinking a glass of Frankfurt apple wine.

Frankfurt’s Anlagenring, the first such landscaped parklands to partially encircle a city centre in Germany, raised many eyebrows throughout Europe at the time of its creation. This green ring was instrumental in commencing the establishment of a series of parks and gardens that helped to transform Frankfurt am Main into a truly green city – a fact that often escapes attention due to the many other highlights found in the Main metropolis.

With such an impressive skyline, it is hard to believe that the business and banking city of Frankfurt is also home to several nature reserves, such as Enkheim Moor in the city’s northeast, Schwanheim Forest in the southwest and Fechenheim Forest to the east.

Two hundred years after the creation of the the green ring, Frankfurt’s “GreenBelt” has established itself as the city’s premier place of rest and recreation. Fully completed in 1991, it now encircles the city at a length of some 80 kilometres and consists of hiking and cycling paths as well as countless other recreational opportunities. During summer, the GreenBelt’s many public gardens attract visitors with their impressive variety of flora – be it Mediterranean, like at the Gardens of Niece at the banks of the River Main, baroque-style as at the Bolongaro Gardens, or spacious as the English landscaped parks of old, such as Grüneburgpark and Ostpark.

One location that’s particularly attractive all year round is the Palmengarten. Founded in 1868 with the kind donations of Frankfurt’s citizenry, these magnificent botanical gardens are home to some 3,000-odd species and varieties of plant. Here, visitors have the unique opportunity of experiencing plant life representing the most diverse climate zones.

Frankfurt is also home to Germany’s largest city forest, a 5,000-hectare wood that extends from the airport to the city districts of Oberrad, Sachsenhausen and Niederrad. Recently, during Whitsuntide, Frankfurt locals once again headed to the city forest to celebrate their national holiday, the Wäldchestag, or “Forest Day”. This festival is unique to Frankfurt and has been taking place since 1792.

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Naturidyll Hotels – Austria Doing Good

Respecting nature and working tirelessly to preserve harmony between man and its surroundings is the main aim of Naturidyll Hotels; not just aiming for, but committing to sustainable tourism development.

Naturidyll Eco Hotels Austria

The Austrian hotel network Naturidyll Hotels, a fusion of 27 independent family-run hotels, are at the forefront of ecologically-sound holidays in Austria. The name says it all, Naturidyll is devoted to sustainability. A promise of sincere care, as respect for natural resources is committed at every turn. All hotels have been awarded the Austrian Ecolabel since 2009, a guarantee for implemented environmental efforts, and are quality monitored every second year.

Since the repositioning of the brand last year, a significant increase in enquiries has been recorded. Quality characteristics such as authenticity, hospitality, comfort, beautiful landscapes and a healthy climate, play a key role. Guided nature walks or bike tours, culinary highlights of regional specialties and delicacies of their respective cultural destinations. “Practice makes perfect” is the motto, ensuring visitors have a unique experience of nature, which then lingers on in memories.

Naturidyll Eco Hotels AustriaNaturidyll Holidays – individual, authentic and pure
Whether spending a holiday quietly relaxing or busily adventuring, nature is your constant companion at the Naturidyll Hotels, and gives energy for your daily routing.

However, the hotels are also family friendly, offering spacious apartments, baby sitting with structured play for children, and specialist leisure activities parents from the hotel door.

A Naturidyll holiday is not just a place to refresh the mind, it is also a place to refresh the body. Almost all hotels boast in-house health spas, beauty treatments and massages. The culinary delicacies come from local producers and our breakfast buffets include a bunch of regional products. Have a lie-in and enjoy breakfast in bed, sample a glass of wine or dine outdoors beside a moonlit Austrian lake.

Most importantly a holiday at Naturidyll is the ultimate refuge for everyone who wants to escape the stresses and strains of daily life by getting out into fresh air. If a view alone is not enough, experience the meadows, woods and mountains first hand. All hotels provide comprehensive information and detailed maps covering walks, marked hiking routes and the best Nordic walking trails, as well as day-by-day weather reports.

This year the group announced the opening of Hotel St. Oswald in St. Oswald / Bad Kleinkirchheim in Carinthia. Nestled amidst the gentle landscapes of the Nockberge, a holiday paradise awaits. Be it spring, summer, autumn or winter, here at 1,400 metres above sea level, an oasis greets you that will far surpass every expectation. Open yourself to the enchantment of pristine countryside, healing thermal waters, the clean air and people who couldn’t be more endearing. St. Oswald is an 800-year-old village with wooden houses and traditional farmhouses featuring their own unique architecture, located above Bad Kleinkirchheim. The Nockberge, with their glorious high meadows and gardens of alpine flowers, encircle this idyllic town – one of the most beautiful areas in all of Austria. The sunny plateau provides year-round holiday paradise with virtually boundless opportunities for active holiday makers, such as mountain biking, hiking, skiing, snowboarding, golf, horseback riding, … and it’s also a great place simply to relax and unwind. The Hotel St. Oswald offers spa fans featuring a large indoor pool, sauna, steam bath, hot tub, plunge pool, tanning beds and a Kneipp spa.


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Orient Express Ceases Operation

Danube Express

After 125 years the original Orient Express service will grind to a halt for good on 12 December when the famous name will disappear from European timetables.  During its heyday in the 1930s, the Orient Express ran between Paris and Istanbul with through coaches from Calais and Ostende for the benefit of UK travellers.  Now the Danube Express will take up this mantle with a variety of journeys offered in May, June and September to and from Istanbul.

Istanbul is set to top travel hot lists next year after being named European Capital of Culture for 2010 and this coincides with the Danube Express’ arrival in the city.  Reviving the Golden Age of rail and waiting to whisk passengers on a relaxed voyage of discovery is the Danube Express’ Istanbul Odyssey, an exotic overland adventure between London and Istanbul. Offering an altogether more civilised method of travel along this route than hitherto with deluxe en suite compartments, the Danube Express is ideal for those in search of a slice of nostalgia.

Read more…

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Bohinj Park Hotel 5 Star Rating

Bohinj Park Hotel
Bohinj Park Hotel

Being a champion of all things eco, I was pleased to previously write about the new eco hotel located in one of Slovenia’s most beautiful regions.  However, I am even more excited to announce that Slovenia’s eco-friendly Bohinj Park Hotel has now been awarded five stars according to the official hotel classification scheme, making it the highest quality hotel in northwest Slovenia.

The hotel, which opened for business in the summer of 2009, is situated in the beautiful Julian Alps region on the edge of the Triglav National Park. Built mainly from natural materials including timber and stone, the hotel has a range of special energy saving solutions, including being heated and cooled by water from its own well.

Read more…

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Bulgarian Association for Alternative Tourism

baat-logoThe Bulgarian Association for Alternative Tourism (BAAT) was established on in 1998 as a national tourist non-government organization. At present BAAT has more than 95 members: non-government organizations and regional associations in the field of tourism, including the Bulgarian hotelier and restaurant association and a number of NGOs, some of which integrating owners of B&B establishments in rural areas, local tourist councils, incoming tour operating companies, hoteliers, guesthouses, producers of traditional Bulgarian food and products, nature parks, and individuals with business interests in alternative tourism. It is the most progressive public association in the field of tourism in the country.

Folklore Group in Orehovo
Folklore Group in Orehovo

BAAT participates in the most important events and initiatives related to tourism, regional development and ecology.  The association is a member of the National Tourist Council and the Council for Education in Tourism.

  • Creating the Quality Standards Chart “Bulgarski Dom” (“Bulgarian Inn”) that established consistent guidelines for accommodation in guesthouses, family hotels and other B&B establishments (1998); conducting training courses that help providers raise and maintain quality.
  • Founded a project for rural tourism and sustainable development in Strandja Mountains (1998), in co-operation with the Bourgas Association for regional development and Association “Mountains and People”;
  • Initiated the project “The Rhodope craftsman trail” for sustainable development in the Rhodope Mountains. In May 2001 an association with the same name was established;
  • Made a research and completed a database with 99 addresses of guest houses, family hotels and monasteries, situated in mountain and rural areas on a French project with the participation of two French volunteers (2001);
  • With other French volunteers a selection was made among 30 Bulgarian monasteries for the most convenient places for accommodation and receiving tourists and a brochure was published (2002).
  • Participated in the organisation of an international campus for studying the Balkan architecture with participants from Bulgaria, Macedonia, Turkey and Greece (September, 2002) as a project of the French organization GEC.
  • Worked with Bulgarian-Suisse Biodiversity Program for creating a new Plan for management of Pirin National Park (2002);
  • Participated as a partner with the Agency for regional and economic development, Vratza
    on a PHARE Programme project in the field of tourism for cross-border collaboration with Romania (2005, 2006);
  • Won and implement a project under VEGABTD Programme for “Research of the needs and consulting of SME’s in alternative tourism in Bulgaria” (2005).
  • Cooperated in a project “Authentic Bulgaria”, for certifying accommodation places representing authentic Bulgarian architecture and hospitality, within Vega-BTD Program (2006);
  • Applied with a project in the sphere of tourism in cooperation with the Agency for regional and economic development – Vratsa before Phare International Cooperation (2006);
  • Participated in a project of Glavinitsa Municipality for popularization of Malopreslavsko swamp (2007).
Bulgarian Crafts
Bulgarian Crafts

Since 1998 BAAT has been working on:

Since its creation in 1998, BAAT has played a vital role in providing training:

  • Held 8 training courses in co-operation with Association “Tetraktys” (France) during a 3-year project, financed by the French Ministry of Exterior Affairs and the Ministry of Trade & Tourism (1999-2000);
  • Completed training courses on “introducing the profession of a mountain guide” for the regions of Karlovo and Chiprovtzi (2001-2002) which have very high unemployment rate – a project of Beautiful Bulgaria 3 Program.
  • Created training system for mountain guides and realized 2 training courses in Bankso and Ribaritza for representatives of the national and natural reserves – a project financed by the Bulgarian- Suisse Biodiversity Program (2002); The project was selected to present Bulgaria’s NGOs activities on Rio+10 World conference on sustainable development (Johannesburg, September 2002);
  • Organiseed 15-day on route seminar for providers of rural and eco-tourism services with lecturer Mr. Yoan Mansfeld (leading expert from Israel) in the mountain towns Vratza, Chiprovtzi, Elena, M. Tarnovo, Smolyan and Sofia;
  • Accomplished training for preparing a Tourism developing strategy for Batak Municipality (2005)
  • Implemented training on “How to create and establish alternative tourism quality. Best practices”, Samokov and Smolian (2005);
  • Organised experience exchange travel for guesthouse holders between Northwest region and Ezerovo and Mogilitsa (2005).
  • Organised two trainings for 26 attendants in the mountain for the area of Chudnite Mostove under a project financed by PHARE Eco tourism (2006);
  • Conducted a training dedicated to alternative tourism for 25 representatives from municipalities Rudozem and Nedelino with the partnership of Bulgarian Foundation “Biodiversity” and “Rhodope” project (2006);
  • Made a guide with descriptions of trekking routes for the region of “Wonder Bridges” and a small “Manual of the mountain guide” (2006)
  • Carried out trainings for hosts of guesthouses and family hotels in Dobrich, Gyrmen, Chiprovtsi, Berkovica, Belogrdchik, Chuprene, Gorno Damyanovo (2007).
Dishes from the Black Sea region
Dishes from the Black Sea region

In addition, BAAT has led the way in research and provided a much-needed consulting service:

  • Organised the first National round table on the problems of tourism in mountains and villages with French experts from government and non-government organizations (1999);
  • Completed the first SWOT analysis for Bulgarian alternative tourism, which was presented on numerous forums in Bulgaria and abroad (2001). Updated analysis was presented in 2004;
  • BAAT collaborated in the preparation of the National Eco-tourism Strategy (2002-2004);
  • Participated in the debates for the Tourism Law (1998,2001,2002,2003,2004), The Law for VAT (2000,2001), SAPARD Program, PHARE – Program “Culture Tourism” (EU pre-accessing programs);
  • Participated in a working group to prepare the standards for guest rooms and guest houses in the National Decree for categorising in tourism (2002).
  • Consulted the Ministry of Economy during the preparation process of a booklet about eco-tourism in Bulgaria (2002);
  • Consulted creation of an “Alternative Tourism development project” in Antonovo municipally and accomplished 2 trainings for starting small family business (2004);
  • Participated in generating “Developing tourism Strategy” and “Creating a tourism cluster” in Smolian municipally(2004);
  • Provided help for creating “Strategy for tourism development in Central Balkan National Park” (2004);
  • Witnessed the presentation of “Possibilities for financing regional growth projects trough tourism” Sofia (2004);
  • Took part in presenting the new “National plan for climate change” – Sofia (2004);
  • Consulted economic activities with the help of an international experienced American volunteer from VEGA International (2005);
  • Co-organized with the help of VEGA International a study trip to Ireland for BAAT members (2005).

Arguably BAAT’s greatest achievements have been the persistent promotion of tourism in and outside Bulgaria:

  • Printed so far four editions of “Guidebook of Bed & Breakfasts and Guesthouses in Bulgaria” (2003, 2004/2005, 2005, 2006);
  • Initiated and supported the printing of two series of 10 posters in cooperation with the Ministry of Economy, Ministry of environment and waters and Bulgarian-Suisse Biodiversity Program (2002);
  • Organized 6 promotion trips for representatives from the Bulgarian media and press, under the heading “The other Bulgaria”, which were completed in the period 2002 – 2004;
  • BAAT authored and edited materials about walking tours and national parks in Bulgaria in two guide books of Activity series (UK) – “Natural parks in Europe” and “Walking in Europe” (2000);
  • Gave input and supported the publication of an information booklet “The Monastery Route”, financed by the Ministry of Economy as a part of the National PR campaign;
  • Published different materials in leading press Media and specialized editions in the field of tourism in Bulgaria and abroad.
  • Edited 2 brochures for its activity (a run of 10 000) and calendars (1999 – 2007);
  • Represented its members on different national and international tourist fairs and events – “Vacation” – ’98 – ’04 SOFIA; “Nature, hunting, fishing and tourism” – ’99 -’02”- PLOVDIV, “ Tour-expo 2000-2004” VARNA, Philoxenia – Thessalonica;
  • Participated in the Rhodope Tourist Market and made a presentation on “International rural and ecotourism market –Where is Bulgaria”
  • Printed new advertising materials of the association – flyers, T-shirts, calendars. The folders are under construction (2004);
  • Our activities and experts opinion were quoted in 139 Bulgarian media – newspapers and magazines;
  • Presented the members on the 21st , 22nd , 23rd and 24th National Tourist Fair “Vacation 2004”, “Vacation 2005”, “Vacation 2006” and “Vacation 2007”;
  • Organized tour operators trip to Berkovitza with the aim of presenting the city and the new tourist services (2005);
  • Prepared guidebook with description of pedestrian routes for the area of Chudnite Mostove and a short “Handbook for the mountain guide” (2006);
  • Issued new advertising materials in English popularizing BAAT activities (2006);
  • Renovated the web site of BAAT with new vision and more information about alternative tourism and the association on baatbg.org (2007);
  • Presented BAAT’s members at the Bed & Breakfast expo 2007 in Brussels.

For more information on BAAT visit www.baatbg.org or telephone BAAT’s Secretariat – +359 (0)2 980 76 85.


София 1301, бул. “Ал. Стамболийски” 20 – В, партер (вход от ул “Лавеле”)

Тел: 02/980 76 85, Факс: 02/980 32 00


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