Free train to Hamburg

Through Dec. 12, Hamburg, Germany, is offering a package called “Bahnhit Hamburg” that includes free round-trip, second-class train travel to the city from anywhere in Germany along with three nights of lodging.

The packages run from 179 euros to 319 euros per person, double occupancy, depending on the hotel category. It includes three nights at a hotel, breakfasts, train tickets, Hamburg CARD for transportation and 15-percent discount at selected hotels.

The special will also run Jan. 7 to Feb. 26.

For details, go to and click on “Bahnit Hamburg” or “Vacation Dreams” for the package with free train arrival.

While you’re in Hamburg, you may want to check out the show “Tutankhamun — His Tomb and His Treasures” in the Alte Oberpostdirektion in the Stephansplatz. The multi-media experience re-creates the Egyptian pharaoh’s tombs and their discovery 87 years ago. It includes more than 1,000 replicas of the most important objects and explains the cultural and spiritual world at that time.

Find information on the show and how to order advance tickets at

Istanbul 2010

Each year, the European Union designates several cities as European Capitals of Culture, giving them the opportunity to show off their cultural life and development to the world. In 2010, these cities include Essen, Germany; Pecs, Hungary; and Istanbul, Turkey.

Istanbul already has set up a Web site that shares information on its urban and maritime projects, international relations, palaces and cultural projects. Of special interest is a calendar of events throughout the year. The program at this date lists exhibitions, workshops, festivals, film screenings, dance and theater performances, concerts and seminars.

Find out more at

German train events

In the late 19th century, it took one hour by horse-drawn carriage to travel 3½ miles from Nuremberg, Germany, to nearby Fürth. This all changed on Dec. 7, 1835, when Germany’s first train, the steam-driven Adler, made the journey in just under 15 minutes and opened a new age of transportation.

To celebrate the 175th anniversary of this event, Nuremberg is holding a series of activities from May 15, 2010, to the end of the year under the theme “Bahnjahr 2010.” It includes exhibitions, festivals, projections and train and vehicle parades.

For more information, including highlights of the events, see

FRANCE: Le Beaujolais Nouveau est arrivé! At midnight Wednesday, the first of the 2009 harvest of this popular red wine was released to the public during the Sarmentelles festival in Beaujeu, the little town in the Rhône River Valley from which the wine got its name. According to, this year’s wine is “exceptional, ‘historical’ even.” Although you may have missed the tapping of the first barrels, the festival continues through the weekend, during which you can taste and buy bottles of the latest vintage. Many of the local wine growers also have their estates open for tastings and sales.

If you can’t make the festival, don’t despair. This morning, millions of cases of beaujolais were sent off to Paris, where they will be shipped around the world. For details on the Sarmentelles, go to (in French).

ITALY: On Saturday, the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute, one of Venice’s “plague” churches, will hold its Festival of Good Health, a tradition that has been carried on for hundreds of years. In the early 17th century, tens of thousands of the city’s citizens died from the plague. In desperation, survivors organized a three-day procession around the Piazza San Marco and pleaded with the Virgin Mary to save the city, vowing to build her a church if she did.

Twenty years later, the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute was finished and the occasion celebrated. To shorten the walk for participants over the canals, a bridge of boats was lined up from the center of town to the church’s location.

On Saturday, a procession will repeat the walk, making its way to the church across temporary pontoons set up over the Grand Canal, connecting the Square Santa Maria del Giglio in San Marco with Santa Gregorio street in Dorsoduro, a district in the southwestern part of the city.

Find more information at the Venice tourist board Web site,

ENGLAND: Can’t make it to Germany for a Christmas market? Birmingham’s Frankfurt Christmas market offers such seasonal staples as Glühwein (mulled wine), roasted sausages, wooden toys, spices, gingerbread hearts, fruit dipped in chocolate, and, of course, beer. Offering some 180 chalet-style stalls, a carousel and twinkling lights, a visit to the market makes for an authentic experience. Many of the vendors hail from Germany. The market runs through Victoria Square and along New Street from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. through Dec. 23. For more on the market, see

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