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BELGIUM: Throughout the year, King Albert II grants audiences and handles business at the Royal Palace in Brussels. But for a time during the summer, the official staterooms are opened to the public. This year, the rooms are open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily (except Mondays) from Saturday to Sept. 15. Admission is free. Details at www.monarchie.be.

DENMARK: It will be Christmas in July in Copenhagen when hundreds of Santa Clauses flock to the city for the annual Santa Claus Congress at the Bakken Funfair, which begins Monday, the 23rd. Tuesday is the big day, with dancing around the Christmas tree, a noon parade down the city’s pedestrian zone and a Santa Christmas show. Events, which include a daily parade, wind up Wednesday. Details at www.ctw.dk.

ENGLAND: Vikings descend on the northeastern coast of England this weekend at the Vikings Invade! festival. The Norse warriors set up camp in Whitby Abbey, the Anglo-Saxon monastery they destroyed during an incursion in 867. On the program are a Viking camp, combat demonstrations, a re-created Viking village with longhouse, market and Viking battle. The invasion begins daily at 11 a.m. The cost is 5 pounds (about $10) for adults and 3 pounds for children. The Viking village remains until July 27. Details at www. english-heritage.org.uk/server/show/ conProperty.389.

GERMANY: After two years of construction along the Rhine River forced it to move, Mainz’s Beer Fair returns to its original location next to the water Friday through the weekend. More than 60 stands will offer some 400 kinds of beer and all types of brewery paraphernalia in the giant outdoor beer hall. International food and music also are on the program. The fair is open 3 p.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday and noon to 9 p.m. Sunday. Find more at www. bierboerse.com.

SCOTLAND: Are you any good at throwing a 56- pound Scottish hammer? Or how about a 42-pound caber (a long wooden pole that is tossed end over end)? If athletics isn’t your thing, can you dance a Highland fling or play a bagpipe? If so, you (both men and women) can still enter the Highland Games and World Highland Games Championships this weekend in Inverness’ Bught Park. Even if you’re just a spectator, you can enjoy watching the top Highland athletes compete in track and field and heaving events. Dancing and pipe band contests also are planned. Daily tickets cost 6 pounds (about $12) for adults and 2 pounds for children. Find details on the Web at www.inverness highlandgames.com.

Let’s GoVisit Croatia

If you’re looking for something different for a trip to Croatia, check out the I.D. Riva Tours agency.

It offers accommodations in some unusual places, including (based on double occupancy): a small family hotel (starting at 35 euros per person); mountain houses one-half hour from the beach at Gorski Kotar (starting at 59 euros per day); hotels and pensions in the Plitvice Lakes region, including sites on the UNESCO Register of World Natural Heritage (starting at 22 euros); and wellness hotels (starting at 116 euros for seven days). The site also offers sailing and cycling tours, island- hopping trips, hiking, cruises and flight schedules.

For details, plus information on Croatia, see the Web site www.idriva.com.

Italian cooking in Florence

If you’re interested in learning to cook Italian cuisine in Italy, English-language classes offered by Apicius, The Culinary Institute of Florence, is an option worth checking out.

An individual one-day basic Combination Program costs 370 euros and includes an “Italian for survival” crash language course, cooking classes and a wine appreciation class.

A three-hour cooking class by itself costs 265 euros. Each additional class, up to five, costs 200 euros each. Five or more cost 190 euros each.

An individual basic one-hour wine class costs 105 euros. Additional classes up to five cost 85 euros each and more than five cost 75 euros each.

Group prices begin with two people. Costs per person are reduced, depending on the size of the group.

Optional activities include a market tour, shopping tour, gastronomic walking tour and lectures. Two-week workshops also are scheduled.

For those serious about the culinary arts and hospitality field, the academy offers semester, yearlong and summer programs.

For more details, the center’s Web site is www.apicius.it.

Cycle in Vienna

Vienna is a cycle-friendly city with miles of biking paths. Cycling is a good way to see the city as well as a fast way to get around busy streets.

A company called Pedal Power both rents bikes and conducts bike tours. The charge for renting a 21-gear bike is 5 euros for adults (3 euros for children) for one hour; 17 euros for adults (12 euros children) for four hours; and 27 euros (19 euros children) for the day.

The company’s three-hour English/ German cycling tours cost 23 euros for adults and 12 euros for children (child seats provided). These include the Klosterneuburg and Danube Island Tour, Music and Central Cemetery Tour, Danube Island/Heurigen (wine inn) Tour and Danube National Park Tour. If you have your own bike, you can ride along for 19 euros.

The company also offers day trips and a trip on the Danube bike trail from Vienna to Passau and Vienna to Budapest.

Find details on all of the programs at www.pedalpower.at.


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