Grown-up Travel Guide News Update – 20.11.2012

In which we present a regular round-up of news from the world of Grown-up Travel

Erfurt, Germany largely undiscovered

Toronto Sun

Long ago I gave up looking for an untouristy, half-timbered medieval German town, but recently, I stumbled upon it in the sleepy town of Erfurt.

The capital of German’s Thuringia region, Erfurt has history swinging from its eaves. It’s most notable as the place where Martin Luther studied and became a monk, planting the roots that set into motion the Protestant Reformation. It’s also the rare city in the centre of Germany that emerged relatively unscathed from World War II, after which it became stuck in the strange cocoon of East German communism for half a century. Because of this, Erfurt has a surprising time-capsule quality.

I arrived in Erfurt by train. After spending the previous week in Hard Rock Cafe Munich, Climb Every Mountain Salzburg, and Boys’ Choir Vienna, I was excited to be in a city that was unfamiliar.

I hopped in a taxi to my guesthouse, run by the monastery Martin Luther called home. A tiny wooden cross decorated the blank wall above my bed. The tiles and creaky floor felt like pre-WWII Germany. Pushing out my shutters, I leaned out the window to survey the scene — a thick deciduous forest, chirping and hooting birds, a babbling brook, and a well-groomed lane with locals who seemed as happy to be in Erfurt as I was.

To orient myself, I took a walk through the city, starting in the main shopping square called Anger. Meaning “Meadow,” the name evokes the grazing land that once sprawled just outside the city walls. Famished, I dropped by a characteristic bratwurst stand to buy a Thuringer brat, a long, skinny pork sausage. The man paused until I realized I was supposed to pick up and open my roll so he could place the sausage in it. I beaded it with hearty mustard and then snuck in a little ketchup (a tourist move, I admit). Purists put only the locally made Born brand mustard on their brat.

Munching the sausage, I strolled down to the river. Erfurt is named for a shallow point where ancient traders could ford (furt) a river. The “Er” comes from an old German word for dirty — the water was muddied when people would cross.

As I explored, it started sinking in: I wasn’t in quaint, beer-and-pretzel Bavaria anymore. English was suddenly very foreign. I hadn’t heard a North American voice all day. Despite being very popular among German tourists and Martin Luther pilgrims, Erfurt remains largely undiscovered by North Americans.

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Campaign to restore Tynemouth Outdoor Pool reveals plans

The Guardian

Architects and engineers add ideas to a package which North Tyneside council will consider in the New Year.

The future is looking better at last for Tynemouth’s outdoor pool which was a famous feature of the town between its opening in 1925 and the triumph of overseas package holidays in the 1970s.

A meeting organised by the small but energetic group The Friends of Tynemouth Outdoor Pool has started a process of potential redevelopment of the derelict lido as a modern attraction.

Architects, engineers and enthusiasts gathered at the Cobalt business exchange to talk about on design, energy and power supply and strategic funding. They were also the first to be shown visualisations of what a restored pool might look like, as in this picture here.

Shining brightly – the pool, on the left below the cliff, was traditionally filled by the tide. Courtesy PB Imaging and Kristen McCluskie.

Ideas and modifications from the meeting will now go into a design portfolio which the Friends are submitting to North Tyneside council in January. The group’s co-chair Dave Harland, an architect from Whitley Bay, says:

Now that we have a full design team working on the project, we are well on our way to overcoming a lot of the major technical difficulties associated with the site.

Our financial team are also very close to developing a strategy that ensures the outdoor pool will be a long term sustainable and successful, community driven business.

Money, inevitably, remains the biggest challenge but Harland is optimistic, given the surge in popularity of swimming in recent years, especially out of doors. He adds:

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Ex-BBC broadcasting centre to reopen as luxury hotel

The Telegraph

Bought by the BBC in 1939 to function as an emergency broadcasting centre, Wood Norton reopens this month as a luxury hotel.

Located in Worcestershire, a few miles from the Cotswolds and Stratford-upon-Avon, the site was bought by the BBC in 1939 to act as an emergency broadcasting centre away from London. It went on to become one of Europe’s largest broadcasting centres and produced an output of 1,300 programmes a week.

After the Second World War, Wood Norton became the BBC’s engineering training centre and has also featured in BBC productions. The building was used for some of the filming of the Doctor Who serial Spearhead from Space and it was later used for all of the location filming for another Doctor Who series Robot, starring Tom Baker.

The opening of The Wood Norton hotel this month sees a return to form for the building. It was originally built as a hunting lodge for European Royalty in 1897. Having undergone a £4m restoration, the Grade II listed Victorian property is now a 50-room hotel.

Rates at the four-star hotel start from £85 per night including breakfast, or from £235 per night in one of the property’s handful of suites.

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New Zealand isn’t really like Middle Earth: New York Times

A New York Times article says New Zealand’s clean, green tourism branding is as “fantastical as dragons and wizards” and clashes with reality.

In the build-up to the release of The Hobbit film this month, Tourism New Zealand released Hobbit-themed advertisements promoting 100 per cent pure New Zealand, showing picturesque scenes of the country’s bush and rivers.

But, according to a recent New York Times article, the images portrayed “might not be exactly warranted”.

“There are almost two worlds in New Zealand,” Mike Joy, a senior lecturer in environmental science at New Zealand’s Massey University in Palmerston North, told the newspaper.

“There is the picture-postcard world, and then there is the reality.”

Last month, the New Zealand environment ministry released a survey showing more than half the country’s freshwater recreational sites were unsafe to swim in, largely due to the contamination by the dairy industry.

The New York Times article says the government was “desperate” to have The Hobbit filmed in New Zealand after the success of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, which pumped $NZ400 million ($A317 million) into the economy, through tourism, in 2004.

Pure Advantage, a nonprofit group promoting green business, estimates the country will overtake the United States in per capita emissions in less than eight years, putting it almost into the world’s top 10.

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