Germany salutes millennium

A thousand residents of the village of Oberammergau, Germany,are rehearsing their lines and letting their hair grow for next year’s big event — the world famous Passion Play, held in the mountain village once every 10 years.

Back in the 17th century, the villagers vowed to revere Christ every 10 years with a play if the village was spared from the Black Plague then sweeping across Europe. The villagers survived, and its residents have kept their promise ever since.

The play has grown into a major event, attracting visitors from across the globe for performances held from May to September.

Since 2000 has been declared a Holy Year, the event is expected to draw a record attendance. Various travel companies, including Saga International, are offering hard-to-get Oberammergau tickets as part of their European tour packages. For details, call Saga toll-free at 1-800-343-0273.

This is also a memorable year for Germany for other reasons — 1999 marks the 50th anniversary of the Federal Republic of Germany and the 10th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Throughout the year, both Bonn and Berlin will host a variety of special events — Bonn as the seat of gornment for four decades and Berlin as the reunited country’s new capital. And a unique celebration called On the Trail of Princes and Knights proved so popular last year that it’s being staged again as towns and villages throughout Germany stage medieval festivals, feasts and jousting tournaments.

For information on all these happenings, contact the German National Tourist Office at 175 Bloor St. E., North Tower, Suite 604, Toronto, Ont. M4W 3R8; phone (416) 968-1570; e-mail [email protected] or checkout the website at for detailed information.

Once-in-a-lifetime destinations
There’s a fast growing market for mature travellers seeking something “upscale” in an overseas excursion — especially for those once-in-a-lifetime trips or celebrations.

So said Sunquest Vacations’ head honcho Leo Desrochers when announcing his company’s new destinations. To meet demands, Sunquest Select will operate special programs to Europe, Africa, the Orient and Asia, featuring flights on British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Olympic, Royal Air Maroc and El Al — not your usual charter service fare — with departures from all major markets. Destinations include Nepal and Tibet, Cyprus and Malta, Israel, Egypt, Turkey, Kenya, Singapore, and Thailand. An 80-page brochure is available from major travel agencies, including CARP Travel.

British Air honours Canadian prices
British Airways will stick with prices listed in Canadian dollars in their 1999 Holiday Planner brochure — no matter what happens to our currency, to the English pound or even to the new Euro — says Malcolm Freeman, the airline’s Canadian chief. “And that goes right through to March 31, 2000. That’s an absolute guarantee. People can plan an overseas vacation until then without fear they’ll have to pay a cent more.”

Pennsylvania, here we come…
The 1999 Pennsylvania Visitors Guide, show casing that state’s rich history, cities, scenic countryside and cultural attractions, is available free by calling 1-800-847-4872, or from their website,

Going back to school
Elderhostel Canada, a non-profit organization dedicated to meeting the educational needs of mature adults, is busier than ever these days, offering a full range of programs right across Canada.

In Ontario alone there are 50 sites hosting a variety of programs, ranging from studying the ecosystem of the Great Lakes, French culture or Toronto’s finest gardens. Fees start at $460 per person which includes five- or six-nights accommodation, all meals, tuition for the academic program, extracurricular activities and taxes. For a free catalogue listing all cross-Canada programs, write to: Elderhostel Canada, 4 Cataraqui St., Kingston, Ont. K7K 1Z7. Phone (613) 530-2222; fax (613) 530-2096.

Vienna celebrates waltz king’s life
The engaging city of Vienna, Austria, is celebrating the 100th anniversary of waltz king Johann Strauss’ death this year. And music will be everywhere. To encourage Canadians to join in the celebrations this summer, Canada 3000 Airlines will be offering Toronto to Vienna flights every Monday from May 10 to October 18. Tour operators such as Canada 3000 Holidays, Sunquest, Alba, Conquest and Sunjet are offering vacation packages starting at $699, including airfare.

The exquisite melodies of Strauss and some of his famous musical contemporaries — Vienna was also home to Mozart, Mahler, Bruckner, Schubert and Schonenberg — will be heard at concerts throughout the year in such magnificent locations as the Schonbrunn Palace, the Imperial Palace and Konzerthaus.

For diehard fans, the Historical Museum of Vienna is exhibiting the original scores and printed music of all of Strauss’ 550 works. For details, contact the Austrian National Tourist Office, 2 Bloor St. E., Suite 3330, Toronto, Ont. M4W 1A8. Phone (416)967-3381.

North, South pool resources
The Northern Ireland Tourist Board and the Irish Tourist Board are now working closely together, and may soon open shared offices around the world.

And tourism officials are promoting the Emerald Isle as a single destination now that peace has established a toehold in the six northern counties. The NITB slogan for 1999 is “Feel the Change” and early indications show this could prove a record year for tourism.

Hotel rooms have increased by 95 per cent in the past four years in Belfast, and direct charter flights from Toronto to Belfast start in May with three to four flights each week (through October). For information, contact the NITB at 2 Bloor St. W., Suite 1501, Toronto, Ont. M4W 3E2. Phone (416) 925-6368 or 1-800-576-8174.