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Hotel Report Card: Schlosshotel Münchhausen, Aerzen, Germany

Schlosshotel Münchhausen ★★★★★

Schwöbber 9, 31855 Aerzen, Germany, Tel: (0)5154-7060-0

Germany has, by some counts, more than 20,000 castles and palaces, so it's no surprise that some of them have ended up as hotels.

Schlosshotel Münchhausen is an elegant palace on the edge of a lake, a fairy tale setting for the Fairy Tale Road. Two in-house dining rooms: one posh and seriously expensive, and one more moderately priced in the cellar.


Location: A. If you're seeking a quiet country escape, this is the perfect place. Located a couple of miles from the Pied Piper village Hamelin.

Property: A+. The 16th century palace was beautifully restored in 2002, and includes many period antiques. Set in beautiful parkland, surrounded by a moat, and with an 18-hole golf course.

Rooms: A+. Rooms perfectly capture the elegance and history of the castle, while providing completely modern fixtures and amenities.


Hotel Style: Castle; Area: Off the beaten path; No. of Rooms: 68; Singles: €130 to €300, Doubles: €160 to €300; Credit Cards: MC/V/AX

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Hotel Report Card: Chateau d'Audrieu, Normandy, France

Château d’Audrieu ★★★★

Rue de Tilly (D82), 14250 Audrieu, France, Tel: (0)2-31-80-21-52

Remote, beautiful, and yet with easy access to the D-Day beaches, the d’Audrieu is a great luxury option for touring Normandy.


Location: B. In an idyllic setting, less than five miles from Bayeux and about a 30 minute drive to the American Cemetery. The only downside is having to drive if you want to eat somewhere other than the hotel.

Property: A. An 18th century chateau in the countryside, the public spaces and parkland look the part. The restaurant is a gourmet extravaganza. Expect dinner to run €75 to €100 per person.

Rooms: B. Standard rooms are on the smallish side, and not as elegant as I would expect from a chateau at this price. Once you move up into the Junior Suite the rooms fit the property.


Hotel Style: Castle; Area: Off the beaten path; No. of Rooms: 29; Singles: €320 to €485, Doubles: €320 to €485; Credit Cards: MC/V/AX

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The World of the Habsburgs

The territory under Habsburg control in 1600, and this doesn't even include their New World holdings, controlled through their Spanish connections.

If you have way more free time than I do, and are tired of watching cats videos on Facebook, check out the The World of the Habsburgs. Through some good luck and purposeful marriages, the Habsburgs came to control a large swath of Europe, as Holt Roman Emperors for more than 300 years, and rulers of Austria for almost seven centuries.

Venetians protest tourists

As the number of tourists who visit Venice each year rises, the number of people actually living there drops. On a busy day tourists – around 60,000 – outnumber locals – around 55,000 today, down from over 175,000 in the 1950's.

Protesters recently hung a sign over the city's famous Rialto bridge and some carried suitcases to symbolise having to leave.

This follows attempts earlier this year by locals to block cruise ships from visiting the city.

High rents, driven partly by apartments being rented out to tourists at inflated prices, are driving out locals, who fear it will become nothing but an uninhabited museum city.

How do you still enjoy Venice as a visitor?

1) Stay in the city itself. The most enjoyable times to be in Venice are early in the morning (before 10:00 am) and in the evening (after 6:00 pm). Cruise ship passengers will be back on their ships, and the big tour groups, which mostly stay in hotels on the mainland, will have left for the day. These are my favorite times to get out and just wander around, enjoying the atmosphere of the city.

2) Go off season. Venice doesn't have much of an off season, but November to February are your best bets for minimal crowds.

3) Book advance tickets for the main sights. For a very small fee you can reserve an entry time for (the otherwise free) Saint Mark's Basilica, skipping past the long line. It's $2.50 well spent. You can also buy 'print@home' tickets for the Doge's Palace, allowing you to bypass the normal ticket line.

4) Get lost. People jockey themselves into the middle of Saint Mark's Square in the middle of July – and then complain about the crowds. Get away from the crush of tourists, who mostly stick to Saint Mark's Square, the Rialto Bridge, and the busy merchant streets connecting them. Walk off into the Dorsoduro district on the other side of the Accademia Bridge, or into the Castello district east of Saint Mark's, and you may find yourself completely alone, with nothing but the distant sound of a boat engine, and the water of the canals gently slapping against the stone.

    Hotel Report Card: Hotel Gellért, Budapest, Hungary

    Danubius Hotel Gellért ★★★★

    Szent Gellért tér 1, 1111 Budapest, Hungary, Tel: (0)1-889-5500

    Connected to Budapest's most famous baths, this beautiful Art Nouveau building was built in 1918. For the budget-conscious traveler who is willing to overlook some maintenance issues, this hotel can be a good option. Even if you don't plan on taking a dip in the spa, it's worth wandering through the lobby of the hotel and peeking into the entry of the baths.


    Location: B. At the foot of Gellert Hill, it's a short walk from the Market Hall and the southern end of Váci ut. Good transport connections to the M4 metro line, and trams.

    Property: B. Best described as faded glory, the building itself is beautiful, and many of the rooms offer panoramic views of the river and Pest.

    Rooms: C. Maintenance suffered under years of Communist neglect, and unfortunately not much seems to have been done since. Cheap, tired furnishings, and stained carpets are the most obvious things that need to be brought up to date.


    Hotel Style: Business; Area: Gellert Hill; No. of Rooms: 234; Singles: €60 – €75, Doubles: €110 – €195; Credit Cards: MC/V/AX

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