Flower power

This year’s theme for the Keukenhof gardens’ show in Lisse, Netherlands, is "From Russia With Love," and it will feature a walk through flower beds designed to look like a Russian landscape, a mosaic of Moscow’s St. Basil’s cathedral and Russian nesting matryoshka dolls.

The 80 acres of gardens, which open Thursday and remain open through May 16, contains 4.5 million tulips in 100 varieties. But there is more to the annual flower display: Product shows, inspirational gardens, works by 100 artists and special events are also included. So are the options of renting bikes for a ride through the tulip fields or taking a ride in "whisper" electric boats through the gardens’ canals.

The gardens are open from 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. daily. Tickets cost 14 euros for adults and 7 euros for children ages 4 to 11. They can be purchased online at

Lisse is not far from Amsterdam, and for those who want to visit both cities, the Blue Tower Hotel is offering an overnight package that includes a trip to Keukenhof and a canal boat ride in Amsterdam.

The hotel is on the edge of Amsterdam’s city center. A bus picks up patrons at 9:30 a.m. for a half-hour ride to the Keukenhof gardens and a 2½-hour visit. It returns them to the city for a one-hour ride on an Amsterdam canal cruise boat.

The online package is currently offered at a 25-percent discount. It costs 89 euros per person Sunday to Thursday (47 euros for an extra night) and 99 euros per person Friday or Saturday (57 euros per person for an extra night). The fee for children is 22.50 euros.

Details are at the gardens’ Web site; click on "The Russia With Love Tours."

Oktoberfest museum

Experience a little Oktoberfest at any time of the year at the Beer and Oktoberfest Museum in Munich, Germany.

It’s in one of the city’s oldest houses and has a variety of beer displays, including steins and brewing equipment, and exhibits that examine the origins of beer mats and giant beer glasses. A whole floor is devoted to Oktoberfest.

And, of course, there’s a beer hall for visitors to sample a few brews. A restaurant is open 6 p.m. to midnight Monday through Saturday.

The museum is open 1-6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Admission is 4 euros for adults and 2.50 euros for children; a family ticket is 6 euros.

Tours for more than eight people, as well as private parties with customized menus, can be arranged by contacting the museum.

See details at; there is an English version.

Northern Europe

Check out northern Europe this summer with one of two trips offered by Interra Reisen, a German travel agency, that can be reserved through the USO.

Spend the Independence Day holiday in Scandinavia, where the extra hours of light give plenty of time and energy for sightseeing. Highlight stops include the UNESCO World Heritage Site city of Lübeck, Germany, and the capital cities of Helsinki, Finland; Stockholm, Sweden; and Oslo, Norway.

Travel is by a combination of bus and ship. For example, you board a modern cruise ship in Stockholm for an overnight journey to Turku, Finland, where the next day you take a tour of Helsinki. In the afternoon you board the ship again and return to Stockholm, where you tour Sweden’s capital.

The cost starts at 799 euros per person, double occupancy, and includes motor coach transportation, two overnights in Scandic Hotels, four overnights in four-bed cabins on Scandinavian ships, breakfasts, July 4 dinner, sightseeing and guides. Buses leave from Böblingen, Heidelberg, Kaiserslautern and Wiesbaden, Germany.

The other trip visits Moscow and St. Petersburg June 28 to July 5. Highlights include a tour of Moscow, a full-day excursion to Sergiev Posad and its monastery, a tour of St. Petersburg and the Hermitage and a visit to Peterhof, the former summer residence of the czars near St. Petersburg.

The cost is 1,599 euros per person, double occupancy, and includes flights from Frankfurt to Moscow and St. Petersburg to Frankfurt, an overnight train from Moscow to St. Petersburg, six overnights with breakfast and dinner, entrance fees, a visit to Moscow’s metro and the Izmailovo flea market, tour guides and transfers. Children’s prices also are available.

Find more information at Interra Reisen’s Web site,, under "Tours" or through USO offices.

Best BetsGermany: Roam through a Middle Ages Easter market this weekend on the grounds of Ronneburg’s castle. Costumed crafts workers and merchants will be offering colorful Easter and medieval goods and demonstrating crafts, such as working with silver, glass blowing, spinning and pottery. Entertainment includes medieval music, juggling, magic shows, theater and jousting. The market is open this weekend and March 27-28 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Admission is 4.50 euros for adults, 3.50 for children and free for children up to age 5. A family ticket is 13 euros. The Ronneburg Castle Web site is (in German).

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