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Airport hotel specialMany times the stress of driving to the airport for an early-morning flight is worse than the flight and even the security checks. The German agency Der Tour has one solution.

Several airport hotels offer "Park, Sleep and Ride" packages through March 31. For example, the price at the four-star NH Frankfurt Mörfelden hotel near Frankfurt international airport is 45 euros (about $58) per person, double occupancy. It includes one hotel night, breakfast, shuttle service to the airport, two weeks’ parking and free use of wireless Internet access.

Other hotels participating in the program are the Holiday Express Frankfurt Airport 3, Holiday Express Stuttgart Airport, Best Western Hotel Munich Airport, Hotel Mercure Nuernberg West, Hotel Airport Ratingen (Düsseldorf), Holiday Inn Köln-Bonn Airport, Best Western Premier Alsterkrug Hotel (Hamburg) and NH Leipzig Messe (fairgrounds) hotel.

The packages can be reserved through Der Tour at a German agency or through SATO Vacations Europe. The telephone number for SATO’s vacation travel center is (+49) (0)6302-923717, and its Web site is www.europe.satovacations.com.

Berlin Wall anniversaryGerman officials have released more details on some of the events for the 20th Anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall. Berlin will be the site of guided tours, art exhibitions, films, lectures, readings and discussions. Among the bigger events in the city are:

May 7 to Nov. 9: Open-air exhibition on the Alexanderplatz looking at the events of 1989 to 1990.May 28-31: History festival.Aug. 29: Museums Night, in which the theme of the fall of the Berlin Wall is explored in late-night cultural activities.October to Jan. 10, 2010: "Art in Germany during the Cold War, 1945-1989: Confrontation and Dialogue" exhibition in the German Historical Museum.Nov. 9: Dramatization and symbolic reconstruction of the fall with concerts and festival at the Brandenburg Gate.More details, along with a calendar with explanations of specific events, are at www.mauerfall09.de/en.

Green Belt hikeThe Harz mountain range is a popular resort area northeast of Kassel and southeast of Hannover that is famous for its Walpurgisnacht (Festival of Witches) on April 30.

The Brocken is the highest peak in the wooded region. Legend has it that witches pursued St. Walpurgis on this night and anyone that helps her will be rewarded in gold.

While the area has colorful legends, its history also falls under the shadow of a divided Germany. During the Cold War, the East and West were separated by a long strip of carefully guarded land closed to the public. The Brocken was located in this strip, and its surrounding lands were allowed to grow wild. Since 1998, conservationists have preserved it, naming it "The Green Belt."

The Harz Mountain tourist board offers several cultural and nature hikes in the area. For example, a five-night, 38-mile hiking package in four stages takes hikers from Wernigerode to Walkenried. The first day travels about nine miles in six hours from Wernigerode to the Brocken. The second covers about 7½ miles in four hours from the Brocken to Braunlage. The third day goes over about nine miles in five hours from Braunlage to Hohegeiss. The fourth day travels about 12½ miles in eight hours from Hohegeiss to Walkenried. From there, transportation returns hikers to Wernigerode.

The price per person, double occupancy, is 300 euros (about $385), and 350 euros for a single. Prices per person for four people or more are 290 euros (340 euros for a single). The package includes accommodations, breakfasts, packed lunches, luggage transfer, transfer from the train station and hiking assistance.

Details on this and other "hiking without luggage" packages are at www.wandern-im-harz.de. For the Green Belt trip in particular, click on "Harzer Grenzweg."

Best BetsITALY: Carnival season is here to brighten winter spirits. This weekend, one of the country’s liveliest and most colorful pre-Lent parades starts in Viareggio. First begun in 1873 with a flower procession, the city’s parade is now the biggest in Italy, taking place every Sunday in February and on March 1.

Sixteen giant allegorical floats with moving parts, marching bands and performers in papier-mâché masks will compete for prizes in this lively two-kilometer procession that runs along the promenade in the city center in February at 3 p.m. and on March 1 at 5:30 p.m. Tickets at the entrance cost 15 euros for adults, 10 euros for children 11 to 13 and free for children up to 11.

Other festivities in the city include fireworks on Saturday and on all weekends (Friday, Saturday and Sunday), and masked street parties in different quarters of the city.

The parade’s Web site, www.viareggio.ilcarnevale.com/viareggiocarnival.cfm, includes information in English on the parade’s history and ticket prices under "2009 Carnival"; the rest is in Italian. The Viareggio tourist board’s Web site is www.aptversilia.it.

— Jayne Traendly


Stripes in 7



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