The European Plan From monster music festivals to liberation commemorations, the Continent has something for everyone this year

April 30, 1995|By Alan Solomon | Alan Solomon,Chicago Tribune

Europe wants you. It wants to feed you, house you, transport you, entertain you and send you home richer for the experience )) and poorer for the pocketbook.

There will be, as ever, much to do, see and buy this year across the Atlantic. Travel planners say that while some destinations, France and Germany among them, will remain expensive, there are some countries that will be relative bargains. The consensus list: Italy, Spain, Portugal, Great Britain, Greece and Turkey.

Nations formerly in the Soviet bloc, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary, are expected to continue attracting growing numbers of tourists. And Poland has stepped up its promotion efforts, says Neil Martin, vice president of the European Travel Commission.

"I've seen London [bookings] really pick up," says Bonnie Wesselhoff, travel consultant at Bon Voyage travel agency in Roland Park. "And I've seen a lot of Eastern Europe [bookings] picking up. I think a lot of people are going home visiting family in those countries."

Russia will continue to struggle as more pressing domestic and territorial concerns force its tourism infrastructure to lag.

"I had some people on a very fine tour with one of the best tour companies tell me they had cockroaches in the room," said Richard Curren of Thomas Cook Travel in Chicago. "At a good hotel in Moscow."

What's new this year, of course, is the English Channel tunnel (the "Chunnel"). Florence's Uffizi Gallery is almost fully recovered and reopened from the bombing of a couple of years ago. Luxembourg has become the designated "European City of Culture."

Last year's D-Day commemorations will yield in many countries to ceremonies celebrating 50 years of liberation. And others, such as Croatia, will be welcoming tourists as they continue recovering from more recent upheaval.

"Most of Croatia is OK -- Dubrovnik, Split, Zagreb," says Mirna Jelovac of Chicago's Adriatic Sunshine Travel, the country's official tour agency. "Most of the four- and five-star hotels are fine.

"But a lot of the hotels are not, because they are full of refugees."

The following list is meant to provide a taste of what's happening in selected European countries this year, and is not a complete events summary. For more on what may be happening in your destination of choice, write or call the country's consulate or bureau of tourism, or consult your local travel agent.

AUSTRIA: The enormously popular Salzburg Festival marks its 75th anniversary July 25-Aug. 31. A feast for conductor groupies, with orchestras performing at various times under the batons of Solti, Barenboim, Muti, Mehta, Maazel and Previn. And of course, there will be all the Mozart anyone can stand.

BELGIUM: The 180th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo will be June 17-18 in, of course, Waterloo, with a re-enactment of the battle that was Napoleon's you-know-what, plus a sound and light show and other festivities.

BULGARIA: Join the pickers at the Rose Festival, celebrating the harvest of this country's main cash crop. Parade, singing, dancing, food and folk art June 3-4 in the Valley of Roses towns of Karlovo and Kazanluk.

CYPRUS: "Kataklysmos," a festival commemorating Noah and the flood, runs June 9-14, but the big day is June 12. That's when Cypriots throw water at one another. Folk dancing, singing and good times in Lemesos, Larnaka, Pafos, Polis, Agia Napa and Paralimni.

DENMARK: The nation celebrates its Liberation Grand Jubilee, the 50th anniversary of the end of German occupation during World War II, with concerts, pageantry and memorials May 4-5 in Copenhagen and throughout Denmark.

ENGLAND: The Aldeburgh Festival of Music and the Arts is June 9-25, but if you've never witnessed Royal Ascot, be at Epsom, a short train ride from London, June 20-23. Dress up big-time to join the party, or dress down for the grandstand and gawk between races.

ESTONIA: The Rolling Estonians? The country's monster event, the twice-a-decade Song Festival, is four years away, but there's still Rock Summer, an international rock festival, July 13-16, in the capital city of Tallinn. Past participants: Procol Harum and Jethro Tull.

FINLAND: The Helsinki Festival, with concerts, theater, ballet and arts exhibitions, runs Aug. 21-Sept. 3 in the capital. For other tastes: The Rolling Stones (the real ones) will appear in concert June 6 at the Olympic Stadium.

FRANCE: The French, who invented the projected movie in 1895, will be celebrating the centennial of cinema in a big way all year, with some 500 events throughout the country. For those with no interest in Jerry Lewis retrospectives, there's always Provence and the Festival d'Avignon, July 7-31. And every seven years since 1519, from April through June, Limoges has been host to a series of colorful processions honoring Limousin saints. This is the year.

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