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Russian Ice Hotel

Do not remain aloof from the fashionable trends to build snow hotels, Russia is also ready to open the country’s first ice hotel. The hotel is going to be open on Feb. 14, 2010 in Ustyansk area of the Arkhangelsk region, Russia. Presentation of the hotel will take place within Russia’s Ice Sculpture Festival, which will start ten days earlier.

The hotel will comprise nine residential rooms, all the furniture there will also be made of ice. In addition, a theater will be opened inside the hotel with 70 seats. There will be a conference hall, bar and even the palace of weddings. For Russian Ded Moroz, who arrives from the Great Ustyug, the separate apartments already booked. According to calculations of the creators, the construction will last until 30 March,

Moscow Hotels Most Expensive

Hotels in Moscow have been revealed as the world’s most expensive for a fifth consecutive year. Average room rates in the Russian capital were £265 a night, down by £37 on 2008. However they were still more than £40 dearer than the second most expensive destination, Abu Dhabi.

According to the survey by the Hogg Robinson Group (HRG), an international corporate travel services company, average room rates (calculated in local currency) fell in most cities, as hoteliers sought to entice travellers during the financial downturn with cut-price deals.

However for British travellers the falling value of the pound during 2009 meant that the cost of hotels in many cities actually increased. Average room rates in Abu Dhabi were £32 more expensive, accommodation in Geneva in £6 dearer, and prices in Washington were £9 higher.

In New York, the third most expensive city on the list, rates fell by 23 per cent (from $414.52 to $318.98), but due to the weak pound, this represents a fall of less than £20 for British visitors.

Average room rates in London fell by five per cent to £151.45, placing the capital in 29th position on the list

Tuscany brings to light Vie degli Etruschi

The Tuscany Region’s effort to re-launch interest in the Etruscans and develop the places and itineraries of ancient Etruria will have to continue even in the next legislature. The Regional Council has approved a proposal for the support of projects to reconstitute the federation of Etruscan cities and create the ‘Vie degli Etruschi’. The project will include trekking itineraries, horseback riding routes, and cycling paths that are characterised by a coordinated graphic, a common logo and an illustrative set of brochures that will make it possible to visit the archaeological areas, monuments and museums with Etruscan collections as well as other cultural assets or territorial offers.

Valentine’s Day St Valentine’s land

Umbria, the land of St Valentine and St Francis of Assisi is the pretty green heart of Italy of rolling green hills, woods with secluded monasteries, meadows, vineyards and olive groves. It has it own micro climate spring arriving much earlier than at neighboring provinces like Lazio,the more southerly region of Rome.

The celebrations of St. Valentine Day on February 14th go back to pre-Roman times and started as pagan fertility festivities of the Umbri and Etruscan peoples celebrating spring, rebirth and mating time.

Although similar to Tuscany, which it borders, Umbria is slightly less well-known, quieter and with gentler landscape of medieval hamlets and Roman-style villas with serpentine roadways fenced by needle Cyprus trees.

While Umbria is totally land locked in the center of Italy, it has a lively beach-like lifestyle in the summer along Lake Trasimento, the largest lake in the region ideal for water activities.

Umbria is also the legendary land of a thousand saints, among them Saint Francis of Assisi and St Valentine, the third century bishop of Terni. (105 km from Rome)

Italy Religious Holy Shroud Turin

For the first time after its restoration in 2020, the Holy Shroud will once again be on display in the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist in Turin from April 10 to May 23, 2010

The shroud was only displayed 4 times in the 20th century and it will not be again on display until the year of 2025, 15 years from now.

The Shroud of Turin (or Turin Shroud) is a linen cloth bearing the image of a man who appears to have suffered physical trauma in a manner consistent with crucifixion. It is kept in the royal chapel of the Cathedral of Turin, Italy. The origins of the shroud and its image are the subject of intense debate among scientists, theologians, historians and researchers.
Believers contend that the shroud is the cloth placed on the body of Jesus Christ at the time of his burial, and that the face image is the face of Jesus. Non-believers claim contend that the artifact postdates the Crucifixion of Jesus by more than a millennium.
The shroud exhibition is not only a pilgrimage opportunity but also a chance to visit Italy’s less know region of Piedmont and the city of Torino
Piedmont this mountainous northern region of Italy at the borders of France and Switzerland renowned for its rugged castles, unique northern cuisine especially its tasty truffles as well as world-class vineyards. It is the ancient dominion of the Savoys, the ill-fated royal family who ruled Italy from the Unification in 1870 until abdication in 1946. With its many picturesque lakes and hills, many more than you can find in celebrated Tuscany, Piedmont can be a real surprise for visitors.

Rome Italy Palace concerts

The absolutely gorgeous Doria Pamphilj Palace in Rome, dating back to the 15th century released its new spring concert schedule. In addition to being one of Rome’s largest palaces, the Doria Pamphili Palace is one of Rome’s most important picture galleries privately owned.
The Pamphili family private art collection has over 600 paintings including masterpieces by Velazquez, Titian, Caravaggio. Many of the private apartments have the original furnishing dating back mostly to the 16ht-17th century.
It is already the palace’s 32nd concert season with chamber music performances taking place in the Throne Room fit for a royalty. The Throne Room is part of the private Doria Pamphilj Apartments of the Doria-Pamphilj-Landi, a princely Roman family. The chamber spring concert series starting on 10 April 201, feature works by Alessandro Scarlatti, Antonia Vivaldi and several other Italian composers.
It is also possible to arrange private, exclusive concerts on different dates, either in Palazzo Doria Pamphilj or in other historical buildings or churches.
For information contact

Brussels to Recover Hub status thanks to Star Alliance

When Belgium’s national carrier, Sabena, went bankrupt 8 years ago the nation’s number 1 gateway lost fully one-third of its traffic overnight. Now that Sabena’s successor is a fully fledged member of the Star Alliance, Brussels Airport stands poised to recoup a significant chunk of that traffic.
The failure of Sabena meant that regional carriers serving BRU lost their long-haul feed, and they pulled back on frequencies. Meanwhile, other European long-haul airlines like Air France, British Airways, KLM and Lufthansa boosted frequencies to their home bases to fill the Sabena void. Almost 40% of Sabena’s traffic was on a transfer basis and it was lost overnight. Now that Brussels Airlines is a member of the Star Alliance it can once again focus on transfer traffic.
Many predict that BRU will become a significant Euro-hub for the Star group; in particular for its North American members, which have announced major route additions. Air Canada will inaugurate daily year-round service from Montreal next June, United will add daily Chicago service to its daily Washington operations next March, and US Airways is adding a Philadelphia service on top of Continental’s daily Newark flight.
Brussels Airport has a capacity for 28 million passengers per year and currently it has only 18.5 million per year so it has a lot of room for the Star Alliance to grow there.


Since 2009, St. Petersburg proudly presents yet another tribute to the work of one of Russia‘s greatest figures, Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Reval Hotel Sonya was dedicated solely to his most famous novel, Crime and Punishment.

St. Petersburg belongs to one of the most fascinating cities in Russia. It is a crucial financial and industrial hub as well as a culturally diverse place with more than 300 years of history. Undoubtedly a must-see, tourists come here to admire the typical cathedrals and churches, picturesque parks and the breathtaking views over local canals. There are many hostels and hotels in St. Petersburg, yet one of the latest additions to local hospitality scene undoubtedly deserves all the praise; the new Reval Hotel Sonya is solely inspired by the great novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky.

Dostoyevsky remains one of the most praised authors, whose “Crime and Punishment” has been inspiring artists for many decades. The Norwegian chain Reval Hotel, which had dominated the Baltic market, decided to expand to Russia and chose St. Petersburg for their first hotel. When searching for the right theme, the link between the city and Dostoyevsky, whose “Crime and Punishment” takes place here, seemed perfect.

The 4-star hotel is situated in the heart of the city in the vicinity of the Neva river. It features 173 beautiful rooms, an amazing restaurant and lively bar, a fitness centre, 24-hour room service and WiFi coverage. Reval Hotel Sonya is a tribute to Dostoyevsky and his Russian culture. The interior design possesses a light Russian touch and naturally, the Metamorfos restaurant’s menu does not fail to combine the best dishes of Russian cuisine with delicacies and flavor from all over the world.

The hotel happily assists foreign guests with their visa requirements and diligently caters for all their wishes. Local library is a rather amusing highlight as all the books it features are copies of none other than “Crime and Punishment” in many languages.


A unification of hotel classification systems has started in Prague where representatives of hotel associations from 7 European countries founded a Hotelstars Union. Its members will use the same criteria to determine how many stars a hotel should get.

Hotel stars are a well-known tool for classifying the quality of accommodation world wide. However, the ranking is not unified and as a result, a visitor may receive much different experience from hotels that have the same number of stars. A five-star hotel in Uganda will most likely provide a different set of services than a five-star hotel in the U.S.

However, the problematic situation seems to be changing now. A new scheme has been recently founded under the patronage of HOTREC – Hotels, Restaurants & Café in Europe (a society of EU hotel and restaurant associations). On their meeting in Prague this December the hotel associations of Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland established a “Hotelstars Union”.

More than 17,000 hotels that are situated in these seven countries could be thus soon categorised based upon the same criteria. The new classification system will be launched in Austria, Czech Republic, Germany and Sweden from 1 January 2010. Hungary will implement the categorization in 2010, and Switzerland and the Netherlands in 2011.

So far, the countries use different classification schemes but as soon as they start to use the new system, it will be much easier for a guest to pick a hotel based on the number of its stars. The common classification is based on 270 criteria, which are based on guest surveys. Among the judged criteria is e.g. the width of beds, Internet-PC in the room, safe in the room or ironing service.

The idea of common hotel classification is not new but only now it can be actually implemented at least in some European countries. Other members of HOTREC are invited to join the Hotelstars Union and it is expected that the membership will grow to 15 within two years.

Not everyone, however, agrees with the idea of the common classification. For example, the International Hotel & Restaurant Association (IH&RA) considers current national hotel classification and grading systems as sufficient. They point out that standards as well as customer expectations vary country to country. According to the IH&RA, one single 5-star-system cannot capture the entire diversity of hotels worldwide. They also add that the cost for creation of a global standard would be extremely high.

Top 5 Destinations for Chocolate Lovers

Don’t you love the ecstatic feeling when you get hold of your favorite chocolate delicacy? If chocolate is your cup of tea then here is your chance to get some ideas for your next holidays. What is the country to get the best pralines? Where do people eat the most chocolate? Where can you become a chocolate chef?

Zürich & Bern, Switzerland
Where else to start then in Switzerland, the country that has the highest per capita rate of chocolate consumption world wide (11.6 kg per capita per annum)! Switzerland is also home to TOBLERONE, the famous triangular chocolate bar created at the beginning of 20th century in Bern. In Zurich there are based three well-known chocolate producers namely Sprungli, Lindt and Teuscher. Here in the largest Swiss city you can spend hours admiring and tasting the hundreds of different shapes of chocolate bars, figures and desserts in local cafés and shops. Close to the lively Paradeplatz Square you will find for example the big chocolate shop called Confiserie Sprüngli which is simply heaven for all chocoholics.

As the locals boast “Belgian chocolate has been the food of champions, a lure for lovers, the indulgence of the rich and later, the favorite of the masses.” The country is home to more than a dozen chocolate factories, sixteen chocolate museums and 2000 chocolate shops. Basically, every town or even small village has its own chocolate store with luxurious pralines. Producing 172,000 tons of chocolate per year Belgium is regarded as top chocolate destination of Europe. Especially the various flavors of chocolate pralines are popular. Many Swiss chocolatiers still make their pralines by hand.

Tain L’Hermitage, France
Tain L’Hermitage is a small old French town in a wine-growing district near Lyon where Valrhona is based. Valrhona is a premium chocolatier founded by a pastry chef Monsieur Guironnet in 1922. Today it is one of the leading chocolate producers in the world focusing mainly on top-quality luxury chocolate as well as vintage chocolate. The company also maintains its own École du Grand Chocolat, a school for professional chefs, chocolate makers and caterers. Even amateurs can learn here to prepare delicious desserts through a three-day course for $1000.

Villajoyosa & Alicante, Spain
The oldest gourmet brand for chocolate and pralines in Spain, Valor, is based at La Villajoyosa which is sometimes nicknamed “Chocolate City”. The town offers many delights like for example the local chocolate museum where you can find out how your favorite treat is produced. The fame came to this town when it started importing cocoa beans from Ecuador and Venezuela in the 18th century. The Valor brand is well known not only in Spain but all over Europe. In their flagship boutique and cafe in Alicante you can try besides delicious chocolate mousse or ice chocolate drinks a local specialty – chocolate with churros. This sweet pastry is ideal for a cup of hot chocolate.

San Francisco Bay Area, USA
The San Francisco Bay Area is definitely one of the world’s chocolate capitals. In San Francisco you will find the legendary Ghirardelli whose chocolate is as much a San Francisco icon as the trolley car. The company was founded in 1852 and is the second oldest chocolate company in the U.S. Across the bay you can find the Scharffen Berger, a chocolate manufacturer and first American company founded in the past 50 years that made chocolate from “bean to bar”. Six times a day visitors can tour their factory for free.

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