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 Travel Trails By Martin B. Deutsch

martin GO TO EUROPE IN 1965

BY MARTIN B. DEUTSCH

February 1, 1965 -- This may well be the year for you and the family to take that trip to Europe. There are several sound and sensible reasons why 1965 may be the year to get that dream off the ground and get up and go.

First, and most important, the price is right. Last year, if you'll remember, the airlines which fly the North Atlantic introduced a price-shattering new fare concept. That was the twenty-one-day fare, which allows you to fly to Europe on a regularly scheduled jetliner for as little as $300, round trip, between New York and London. (From New York or Boston to Ireland, it's even cheaper. To destinations beyond London, such as Brussels, Paris and Rome, it's somewhat higher.) There were only two requirements which went with this low rate: your maximum stay was twenty-one days, your minimum was fourteen.

This air tariff was so successful in developing new pleasure travel--an estimated 1,500,000 Americans went to Europe in 1964--that the airlines will repeat the program this year. You will be able to get to London and back this summer for only $300, flying in a 600-mile-per-hour DC-8 or Boeing 707, with hot meals, beverages, pretty stewardesses and all the other advantages that your colleagues in the economy-class section of the plane will be paying nearly $500 for. (Regular round-trip economy fare, New York-London, in the year, is $486.50. During the rest of the year, it's $399.) So you can see that this twenty-one-day rate is nearly forty per cent lower than the cheapest regular fare.

The $300 round-trip cost is also comparable with charter costs (about $260), with the added plusses of scheduled departures, flexibility in planning and generally more dependable service. With a charter flight, you have to leave on a particular day to a particular destination, and the return is similarly specific. You can't modify your plans. The twenty-one-day program has a minor drawback: during the peak-season summer months, there are some restrictions on week-end departures, which the airline or your travel agent will spell out for you. There's an obvious advantage to this approach, namely that the planes are far less crowded, and more comfortable, on weekdays. Any way you look at it, you'll be able to get to Europe this summer for as little as $300, round trip. This is an attractive and long-awaited incentive.

Second, you'll find that this year, you can choose any country in Europe without the worry that it will be too crowded, with no accommodations available, or that the welcome mat won't be out.

Why? Well, for one thing, there are no special events in 1965 to clutter up the tourist traffic. There will be no World's Fair in Europe, no Olympics, no Passion Play, not even Will Shakespeare's 400th birthday celebration, which was successfully observed last year. Also, there is every hope that every European country will put its best tourist foot forward this year, an attitude designed to assure visitors a fair shake in treatment, facilities and prices. France, the focal point of growing complains by American tourists in recent years, has served notice that its tourist office will take action to remedy grievances with a program to educate its citizens on the value of tourism, and a smile instead of a snarl.

Third, if you plan to fly Europe from New York, there's the added lure of killing two birds with one trip. On your way overseas, or coming back, you can take in the billion-dollar New York's World Fair, which will be open for the second and final year from late April to late October. Even two or three days in New York at either end of the trip will give you and the family a chance to enjoy the fair's highlights. That's a combination hard to beat: Europe and the World's Fair in New York.

The Europeans themselves believe that 1965 will be an ideal year for the visitor, according to a booklet they have issued. "Why wait till sometime?" they ask. "It's so easy to go to Europe." This attractive, sixteen-panel, four-color job is available free to Argosy readers.

"Everyone dreams of going to Europe," the booklet says. "Europe has everything that dreams are made of--ancient castles, laughing couples in gondolas, snow-wrapped mountain peaks, fields aglow with tulips as far as the eye can see, and a fisherman mending his net. And the dreams never stop!"

An obviously partial bit of "sell" copy, but very few people I've ever encountered have come back from Europe disappointed. The folder also emphasizes how easy it is to go to Europe. For example: "U.S. Passport: You can get one in a few days--sometimes even one day if you apply to the passport office. Ships and Planes: Faster and lower-priced than ever. Hotels: Hospitable accommodations; more in all classes, all prices. Travel in Europe: Your choice--air, rail, hydrofoil, bus--and the fares are right. Motoring: superhighways or picturesque byways, international signs are easy for the do-it-yourself driver. Languages: English spoken virtually everywhere the visitor goes. Borders: Fuss has been eliminated; you're across in a jiffy. Financing: Personal loans can be arranged though your bank, or your travel agents can advise you on credit arrangements. Deciding: Europe is as close as your telephone; call your travel agent." The booklet also carries a handsome map of Europe, plus colorful illustrations and tourist highlights of each country.

Belgium, the first country at which we're going to take a capsule look, is rapidly gaining stature as a gateway for a tour of Europe. Brussels is not only a magnificent city with a quiet charm and long history, but it is the capital of the Common Market and an excellent headquarters for the many visitor attractions which lie nearby. It also has a modern international airport with jet connections to many distant points around the world, including daily nonstop service from New York by Sabena Belgian World Airlines.

Brussels is a handsome capital city, filled with castles, museums, famous old homes, painters' studios, cobbled alleys, cathedrals and lovely parks. The central square, the Grand' Place, has the look of an elegant medieval painting, with its Town Hall, the Maison du Roi and the Guild Halls. A short distance away is the house where Pieter Brueghel committed to canvas the exuberant Belgians of some 400 years ago. Museums in Brussels carry not only his works, but those of many other Dutch and Flemish masters. Take a streetcar to the suburb of Anderlecht and see the house where the great Dutch scholar, Erasmus, wrote one of his famous works.

Besides the Grand' Place, the museums and the renowned homes, you should visit the Royal Palace, Parliament, the Bourse (stock market), the Common Market headquarters, the Royal Library, the Flea Market, the Palais des Beaux-Arts, St. Catherine's Church, the Botanical Gardens, the Abbaye de la Cambre, the Atomium at the World's Fair grounds (which afford a sweeping view of the city) and the Palais de Justice. You'll also enjoy the restaurants, concert halls, theatres and night clubs in this old city, which is believed to have been founded in the eighth century.

Within easy driving distance of Brussels, ideal for one-day tours, are such cities as Ghent, Bruges, three villages which have grown together in a first-class resort area (Albert Plage, Knokke and Het Zoute), Antwerp, Liege and many other charming communities. Every five years, Ghent puts on an internationally famous spring flower show, the "Floralia." Some 750,000 visitors are expected to view the brilliant profusion of flowers in what will be the twenty-fifth "Floralia" in the last 125 years. Also of special interest this year is the thirty-eight International Trade Fair in Brussels, April thirtieth to May eleventh.

Denmark, with its enchanting capital, Copenhagen, will offer the traveler many new, budget-cost country inns, with excellent food, along the country's "fairytale" route through the friendly, picturesque land of Hans Christian Andersen. One of the highlight this year: the Royal Danish Ballet and Music Festival, which will salute the 100th anniversary of the great composer, Carl Nielsen.

Another of the Nordic lands, Finland, will continue to emphasize the appeal of its lake areas. Several unusual tours by steamer and motorcoach will be offered for three or four days in the Eastern Lakes District, renowned for great beauty, romantic islands and sunlit nights. You can also join a one-day tour from the capital city of Helsinki to the South Central Lake District, where you lunch in Lehti, then take a hydrofoil along scenic waterways to Jyvaskyla, cultural center of Central Finland. You can go down by bus or train and fly back to Helsinki for a fine dinner at one of the waterfront restaurants. Also this year in Helsinki: the 100th birthday of Jean Sibelius, with the annual Sibelius Music Festival, May fifteenth to June fourth, and the centenary concert December eight.

In Great Britain, the focus is on Scotland. Several new hotels have opened in the scenic Highlands. The new Fourth Road Bridge, just recently opened, sharply reduces travel time north from Edinburgh. A ferry link from Mallaig to Skye and from Skye to the Outer Hebrides opens up an entire new vacation area. Scotland has also become a land of fishing, golf and festivals, as well as the spectacular Highland games, with piping and Highland dancing, especially at Braemar and Aboyne.

Greece, now one of Europe's most popular destinations, is pressing its development program, which includes new hotels, beach areas, highways, airport facilities, marina and port improvements and the building of tourist accommodations at scenic and archeological sites.

Ireland, bolstered by a recent $30,000,000 investment in accommodations, faces the coming tourist season with more than 20,000 new rooms and greatly increased hotel standards. Also, a growing number of country houses and castles are being converted to house visitors. The innovation of medieval banquets in fifteenth-century Bunratty Castle near Shannon has been a great success; there were some 10,000 visitors last year.

Ireland's principal attraction is the fact that it has changed very little. Say the Irish: "We are perhaps less proud of the new than the old."

This is a very good year for driving into and through Italy. Italy will benefit from two great developments: the opening of Great St. Bernard Tunnel with Switzerland, and the Mont Blanc Tunnel, which will be completed by year's end, linking Chamonix and the famous ski resorts in the Aosta Valley of Northwest Italy. The Mt. Blanc project will also reduce the distance between Geneva and Milan to 205 miles, and between Geneva and Turin to 168 miles. Also completed: the 455-mile Superhighway of the Sun, which connects Milan, in the north, with Naples, in the south.

The Netherlands will offer improved services. The Delta works in the southwest are adding recreational facilities, such as lakes and wide beaches. New roads and the longest bridge in Europe are nearing completion. These will eliminate the Delta region's previous isolation and link it with Holland's major highways. This year is also a festival year in the Netherlands, with jazz festival, a dance festival, and the traditional Holland festival.

Norway, with a population of only 3,500,000, played host to an estimated 4,000,000 foreign tourists last year. The gains among American visitors were especially spectacular. Attractions of this lovely land include the majestic fjords and the Midnight Sun. Four new airports in the north have modernized travel. Tromso Airport makes it practical to fly from Oslo to the North Cape in a single day. There's also a beautiful new hotel, the Norge, in the lovely city of Bergen.

Portugal will feature two new vacation playgrounds this year. One is the Algarve Province in the south, which has been brought very close to Lisbon by a new jetport. The other is the island of Madeira, now only 150 minutes from the Portuguese capital by air. Plans here call for the establishment of a gambling casino, and an active hotel construction program is under way.

April is "open-house" month for visitors to Portugal, with all sorts of special events, tours and activities. The climax to all this comes April 30, which has been designated "Tourist Day" by the hospitable Portuguese. The country's tourist office also promises to "hold the price line," in order to emphasize the low vacation costs in this lovely country.

Sweden will focus on tours. "The Top of Europe" program alone will feature thirty-one. This wilderness in the north is said to be the largest area of untouched nature in all Europe. There's plenty of time to explore it during the summer, since the sun never sets for fifty-three days. Then the popular "Folklore Tours" spotlight the famous district of Dalarna. The program calls for three days from Stockholm to Oslo, or vice versa, with two nights in Dalarna.

Switzerland has designated 1965 as "Year of the Alps." Recognition for the rugged majesty of this beautiful, towering range will dominate activities here this year. The reason for this approach: 1965 marks the 100th anniversary of the first successful conquest of the Matternhorn by the Englishman, Edward Whymper. There are many celebrations scheduled to observe this event.

Turkey, rapidly gaining prominence among the Americans, this year will place in the limelight the Aegean Coast, site of many of the country's chief tourist attractions. A chain of motels has been built in places of historic interest and natural scenic beauty. Focal point is Izmir, where the new 350-room Efes Hotel is now open. The city is linked by good roads with Ephesus, Pergamum and Pamukkale. Also not to be overlooked in this region: miles and miles of fine beaches.

A passenger-car ferry, which operates between Nice, in France, and Haifa, in Israel, now also calls at Izmir. There is also regular ferry service between Turkey's ports and the Greek Islands. The longest ride lasts two hours; the highest fare is six dollars.

Yugoslavia was on the itinerary of 75,000 Americans last year. During 1965, new facilities will make this East European lands even more attractive. A modern highway will span the Dalmatian coast by May first, making such famed resorts as Dubrovnik and Sveti Stefan much more accessible by surface transportation. Also by May first, three new air-conditioned hotels in Dubrovnik and Opatija will be open, adding a total of 850 beds. Two new ferries will offer daily service between Italy and the Dalmatian coast. One will run between Ancona and Zadar, the other between Bari and Dubrovnik.

Yugoslavia also remains among Europe's bargain countries with prices very nearly, if not the lowest.

Iceland, Luxembourg and Monaco will also offer new facilities and services designed to make the American feel welcome and at home. Iceland, which is making an especially ambitious bid for United States tourists, was covered in a separate article last July.

This column originally appeared in Argosy magazine.

Copyright 1962-2007 by Martin B. Deutsch. All rights reserved.