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Stars and Stripes, Japan in Turkey

The relationship between Japan and Turkey has been good for more than a century, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan.

It had its roots in 1890, when an Ottoman frigate sank off the coast of Wakayama, Japan. Sixty-nine crewmembers survived and the Japanese emperor sent them back to Istanbul in two Japanese naval vessels. This incident was the first of several events that helped forge the friendship between the two countries.

Visitors to Turkey and those stationed there can enjoy the benefits of this relationship during the 2010 Year of Japan. This year’s slogan is “Turkey and Japan Are Closer Now” and a list of events runs through the year.

It includes Japanese exhibitions, traditional and contemporary music and dance performances, traditional arts shows, symposiums and an official Japanese garden.

For details on the celebrations, go to

Art classes in Zagreb

Artists wanting to improve their skills and enjoy some time in Croatia may be interested in a special pastel-painting course offered through May by American artist Leah Kohlenberg.

The class is appropriate for both beginners and more experienced artists.

The April rate is 845 kuna (about $155) for instruction and all necessary materials for eight three-hour classes, held in a sunny apartment in Zagreb’s old town. The classes are 3:30-6:30 p.m. Tuesdays and 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays.

For details, see

Illumination package

Three times each year, Heidelberg, Germany, marks the destruction of its castle by the French by illuminating the fortress with Bengali torches and afterward holding a grand fireworks display, which sets the entire city aglow.

This year, the castle “burns” on June 5, July 10 and Sept. 4.

The tourist board is offering a special package for the occasion. The price includes accommodations, breakfast, HeidelbergBeWelcomeCard (free public transportation), fireworks cruise, three-course meal in an old town restaurant and walking tour of the old town.

A standard double costs 110 euros per person for one night and 155 euros for two nights. Comfort and first-class options are available, as are single reservations.

More under “Package Deals” at

BELGIUM: The Royal Greenhouses at Brussels’ Royal Castle of Laeken opens its doors to the public through May 9. Designed by Belgian architect Alphonse Balat for King Leopold II and built in 1873, the art nouveau hothouses and galleries, made of iron and glass, cover 6 acres of the castle’s grounds. These hothouses, linked by brick walks, are filled with exotic plants, some related to the king’s first collections, and with colonies of birds. The 19th-century Winter Garden is considered one of the world’s best greenhouses. The complex is open 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 1-4 p.m. and 8-10 p.m. Fridays and 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and 8-10 p.m. on weekends. Admission is 2.50 euros. More details under “Palace and Heritage” at; there in an English-language version.

ENGLAND: Happy 446th birthday, William Shakespeare! Although the bard’s official birthday is April 23 (three days before his baptism was recorded in the Stratford-on-Avon church), the Globe Theatre in London celebrates this weekend with free events centered on his characters, stage visits and workshops. The party runs noon to 5 p.m. Details at

Stratford-on-Avon holds its birthday celebration April 22-25 with a morning parade on April 24, street entertainers, workshops, sonnet readings and performances by the Royal Shakespeare Company. This year’s public challenge is for individuals to perform the balcony speech from “Romeo and Juliet” in their own style and either upload it to YouTube or perform it on the city streets. Look for details at

ITALY: Join the thousands of walkers (and some runners) Sunday who will be footing it over the bridges and through the alleys of Venice during the city’s annual Su e Zo per I Ponti. Advertised as a “non-competitive” race suitable for children, the event includes an 8-mile walk that crosses 53 bridges and begins and ends at Piazza San Marco. Opening ceremonies begin at 9:30 a.m. in the Piazza San Marco with the walk starting at 10 a.m. and finishing at 2 p.m. All participants receive a souvenir medal. Registration for the event is possible until the morning of the walk or until it is sold out. There is a 6-euro entry fee. More details at

SPAIN: Beginning Tuesday and continuing through April 25, Seville welcomes spring with its annual April Fair. On the program are midday processions of horsemen and carriages, colorfully costumed participants, evening bullfights and flamenco dancing. A “city” of tents, the “Real de la Feria,” is set up along the river. Most of its more than 1,000 “casetas” host private parties but several are open to the public and offer drinks and tapas so visitors can enjoy the party atmosphere. Among other entertainment is an amusement park designed for children operating in the Real. For details, see


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