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Archive for January, 2009

A new “express” bus service now links Südkreuz train station in Berlin with Schönefeld Airport.  Price:  6 euros, 4 euros with any BVG ticket, 3 euros with a weekly or monthly ticket.  For those flying into Berlin, the ticket remains valid for further transit on public transportation in Berlin ABC.

This bus represents no monetary savings to Shoestring travelers.

  • Berliners with a regular AB ticket need only purchase an “Anschlussticket” for 1.40 euros to take the RE train, the S-Bahn or a BVG bus to the airport.
  • Visitors coming into town for a few days will most certainly be better off purchasing a 2-, 3- or 5-day tourist card or a weekly ticket and traveling by one of the aforementioned methods.
  • If you’re still weighing your options, a single Berlin ABC ticket will get you into town and beyond for just 2.80 euros!

I’m posting about the service nevertheless, as you may find that it will save you transit time, depending on where you are staying/living.  For less than 2 euros more (with my monthly ticket), I may cut up to 30 minutes off my route to the airport — and that’s something worth writing about!

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I love capitols — can’t get enough of their marble halls, gilded domes, dark wood paneling and hundreds of tiny desks (at least they always *look* tiny from the viewing gallery) with multicolored voting buttons.  They capture a regal era removed from our own with a permanence found rarely in modern architecture.

While in DC at the beginning of January, my destination of choice was the new visitors’ center at the U.S. Capitol.  On the way, I passed the inauguration grounds with stage building in progress, pictured on Tuesday.  (Where did you spend your inauguration day? Share your stories in the comments.)

In sheer contrast to the classical American dome is that of the German Reichstag, whose glass dome by Sir Norman Foster was added to the building after reunification.  The overarching theme of Germany’s new governmental architecture is transparency, with buildings and offices as visible as possible.  From the visitors’ area of the dome, it is possible to look down into the plenary room below, as pictured here.

Reichstag, inside view

A visit to the Reichstag is fun and free — check all the details for making yours a smooth one in this previous post.

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DC Inauguration Site

Wherever you are in the world today celebrating (EuroCheapo’s got the partial scoop on events in Europe) — Happy Obama Day to you!

Are you headed to the Mall, attending a Ball, or watching the events on your TV in the hall? Share the stories of your Inauguration Day experience in the comments.

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Some friends of mine made an unhappy discovery when departing the Czech Republic with a long-sought bottle of wine (or two):  their duty-free purchase was confiscated when making a connection in another EU airport.

As much as I complain about the security theater Americans abbreviate TSA, there is one upside to the system:  once you’re in (and don’t connect in a stupid airport [ahem, JFK] where you have to exit and reenter secured areas when changing flights), you and your liquids are in.  Put that chapstick back in your pocket, enjoy a long swig from your refilled water bottle — no one will bug you about those items again.

Unfortunately, if you are connecting onward through a European airport, you will be subject to repeated searches — necessitating the return of your chapstick to your 1L ziploc, the dumping of your secure-area beverages and, for the unlucky, the confisciation of your duty-free liquids, creams and gels.

How do you avoid this expensive dilemma?  Find out after the jump.

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Winter Feels Good logoOn Saturday, January 10, retailers, resorts and recreation programs across the United States will be sponsoring free introductions to the outdoor sports of cross-country skiing and snoeshoeing.

If it’s not too darn cold, Winter Trails 2009 is an excellent reason to get off your kiester and get moving!  Are you one of the millions of Americans who’ve resolved to shed weight this year?  Take your first steps toward that goal, on a pair of free rental skis or snowshoes!

If there’s snow on the ground in your state, there is probably an event being held somewhere.  Check out the full list of locations here.  Before heading out, fill a thermos with your warm beverage of choice, consult the list of appropriate outdoor wear and fill out, print and sign the event release form.

Stay warm and have fun!

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I’m sadly making my way back across the Atlantic today, but before I go, I wanted to share a picture from my brief visit to New York City.  This fair maiden guards the Columbus Circle entrance to Central Park, which I walked from top to bottom on New Year’s Day.

Gateway to Central Park

Have you already completed your first travels of 2009?  Have something planned for January or February?  Please share your destination in the comments.

  • Follow other Photo Friday participants here.
  • Download this month’s free desktop calendar here.

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With the focus on staycations and naycations, there’s little reporting on important nuts-and-bolts issues affecting thousands still on the road.  Expect to hear about these only when they start causing major snarls for casual tourists unaware of the changes.

  • Flying to the United States this year?  As of January 12, 2009, all travelers to the U.S. from Visa Waiver countries (that’s Andorra, Austria, Australia, Belgium, Brunei, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Monaco, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom [and in the near future, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, Malta, Poland  and Romania too]) will be required to submit their travel plans online 72 hours prior to travel.  Failure to complete ESTA authorization before travel may result in denial of boarding or entry.  Read the details about this change in the post U.S. to Require Online Registration for Visa-Free Travelers.
  • After January 16, 2009, you’ve got to use Euros when traveling in Slovakia.  They’re the 16th EU country to switch to the currency since its introduction a decade ago.  Later this year, expect the Czech Republic to finalize a date for their switch (expected early 2010).
  • Travelers transiting or changing planes within Mexico will now be subject to customs inspection before continuing to their next flight.  International travelers to the United States will be familiar with the drill:  claim checked baggage and proceed through customs, then drop off baggage again before heading to the connecting gate.  Flights from the Caribbean, Central and South America have already begun the procedure; February 1 is the date for flights from Canada, Asia and Europe; flights from the U.S. have until September 1 to comply.  Be aware and avoid tight connections.  And don’t forget to lock that luggage!
  • Starting June 1, 2009, it will no longer be possible to travel by air, land or sea without a passport to destinations in the Western Hemisphere, such as Mexico, Canada and the Caribbean.  Children under 16 may use a birth certificate in lieu of passport.  This requirement also applies to Americans attempting to reenter the United States.  Details here.

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