News from Europe

At the Harvard Club for VEMEX 2016 with European Tourism officials.
At the Harvard Club for VEMEX 2016 with European Tourism officials.


Today I learned some interesting facts about what’s new in Europe, when I met with 40 tourism officials, representing 15 different countries, and I asked them all the same thing. What’s new, hot and being talked about where you live?

In Estonia, it’s not a new topic but their annual singing festival is quite the shebang. 30,000 people crowd downtown and sing songs in Estonian every July.

The Laufmaschine, invented in Karlsruhe, Germany, 200 years ago.
The Laufmaschine, invented in Karlsruhe, Germany, 200 years ago.

In Southwest Germany, the town of Karlsruhe holds a big event when the 200th anniversary of the bicycle will be commemorated here. That’s because a farmer who lived near here invented the bicycle. It was originally proposed as a life-saving device, a set of wheels you could sit on and hit the ground Fred Flintstone style, propelling you out of harms way since at that time a volcano threatened to blow up.

The push with your feet idea was slightly modified, and in this part of Germany, there is a lot of pride for that ‘Laufmaschine,’ or running machine.

San Jose, California, too is a city that deserves another look. Lots of interesting attractions, professional hockey, and tours of the high tech giants like Google, and Facebook,  and the nearby Tesla factory. Apple’s new spaceship-like circular campus will open soon in Cupertino, another big tourist and gawker draw.  I was told they also have some of California’s best wines too.

The Faroe Islands are home to 50,000 people on 18 islands. They are part of Denmark and speak Faroeese, as well as English and Danish.  Greenland, I was told by Sarah Woodall, is seeing increased tourism, and cruise ships are taking trips across from Norway to the west coast of Greenland.

The airports Ilulissat and Nuuk are enlarging their runways to accommodate much larger jets, which is always helpful when trying to attract tourists from far away.

Setting up the stage at Bregenz, Austria. Kent St. John photo.
Setting up the stage at Bregenz, Austria. Kent St. John photo.

Bregenz is a city in far western Austria that has a great big festival every year, featuring eye-popping sets that take many, many months to create, displayed on the beach at Lake Constance.

In fact the first set I ever saw was of a giant eyeball, 40 feet high, part of the festival!  I remember my old friend Kent showing me that photo.  Even more eerie when you see it in its perch on the shimmering big lake.

Scotland’s Fringe Festival in Edinburgh celebrates its 70th year of operation, and in 2016 there will be more than 300 different venues for offbeat comedy, drama and musical acts that the fest is known for.  While there are only 5.2 million Scots living in Scotland, there are 50 million descendants of Scots living around the world, and many live in North Carolina and Texas.

Inside the economy cabin of Finnair's new A350XWB planes.
Inside the economy cabin of Finnair’s new A350XWB planes.

Finnair continues its tradition of only flying Airbus jets.  They are the first airline to fly the  A350s, extra wide body jets with more than 300 seats, and the reviews indicate that higher humidity and comfortable seating makes this plane a winner.

In Ljubljana, Slovenia, they’ve completely eliminated cars from the entire city center. Beginning in 2007, they began restrictions, and today, only delivery vehicles are allowed there for one hour and then it’s pedestrian rule. This has been such a success, and tourism and visitors to the shops and businesses downtown is all up.

In Ticino, which is the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland, in the far south of the country, a new tunnel is being unveiled in December that cuts the travel time between Zurich and Lugano to under 2 hours. They also have a special “Ticino ticket” that allows use of every form of transit in the region for one low cost. They make wine in Ticino that’s white merlot.  Really.