Travel Newsstand for Dec. 14-31, 2017
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Read all about it! Germany's new train was supposed to cut two hours off the Berlin-Munich run. So far, not so much. The battle between the U.S. and Canadian sides of Niagara Falls. U.S. airlines learn Trump is no different than Obama. Planes, trains and automobiles in London. A new fee in Rome. Mexico City's star chef. Tel Aviv's split hotel. And more.
Germany's Fastest Train Gets Off to a Very Slow Start
Who doesn't love a tale of fast trains, right? Such is the case with the high-speed ICE train between Munich and Berlin. To create the run, where trains can reach 300 kilometers (or 186 miles) per hour, Germany and its primary rail service, Deutsche Bahn, planned for more than 25 years, dug 22 tunnels and built 29 bridges. The project cost a cool 10 billion euros. Web sites and newspapers were agog with all of the possibilities. Besides cutting two hours off the Berlin-Munich trip and making it a four-hour run, the ICE trains would shave more than two hours off a trip between Erfurt and Munich and two hours off the Nuremberg-Berlin ride. The new train would be "the biggest improvement in the history of Deutsche Bahn", the rail giant promised. Yeah, well, best laid plans ... The ceremonial inaugural run last week carrying specially invited politicians, journalists and other celebrities "broke down several times," according to DW, a German broadcaster. And this week's initial commercial voyages "were hit with delays, breakdowns and cancellations." There were all sorts of mechanical and training issues, an embarrassing start for a rail-friendly country still living down the scandal of Berlin's new airport, the delayed Hamburg concert hall and the public-works sinkhole in Stuttgart.
Let the Hotels, Er, Fall Where They May ...
Decades after its heyday as a major honeymoon destination, Niagara Falls remains a powerful tourist draw. In fact, there's substantial, if not quite equivalent, travel infrastructure on both the U.S. and Canadian sides of the falls. But as the Buffalo News reports at some length, hotel builders differ on which side is more friendly to tourism development. It's a convoluted tale of tax abatements, bureaucracy, dueling developers and less-friendly-than-you-think competition between state and provincial governments hungry for taxes, development and the tourist dollar.
Curses! Foiled Again!
U.S. airlines were all-in supporting the candidacy of Donald Trump. That's especially true of Delta Air Lines and its chief executive, Ed Bastian. The sucking up had a purpose. The U.S. carriers, especially Delta and Bastian, wanted President Trump to intervene in their war with the Gulf airlines. As you know, the U.S. airlines claim that Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways are illegally subsidized. (No matter that U.S. airlines are equally lavishly subsidized.) As you also probably know, the U.S. airlines were furious that the Obama Administration refused to take their side against the Gulfies in clear violation of existing trade and aviation agreements. So guess what? The Trump Administration is handling the dispute exactly as the Obama Administration did: It's patting the U.S. carriers on the metaphoric head and saying they'd be happy to talk about it some more. Politico.com has the details. Bloomberg News adds that the Trump Administration wants the Gulf carriers to offer a little more "financial transparency." No truth to the rumor that the Gulf carriers said they would release their tax returns as soon as the audits were finished.
Planes, Trains and Automobiles (London Division)
Brexit continues to drive Britain and the European Union nuts. As negotiations drag on, British Prime Minister Theresa May suffered a defeat in Parliament this week as the Commons reserved for itself the right to vote on the final form of any Brexit agreement. Meanwhile, European officials warned British airlines they won't have traffic rights in Europe without a comprehensive Brexit agreement on aviation. On the ground--well, actually, under the ground--London's massive Crossrail project hurtles toward completion. A year from now, the nearly $20 billion Elizabeth line is due to open with 26 miles of new tunnels and 10 new stations for the London Underground. That's probably just in time because road traffic in London continues to be (literally) murder. A woman in south London, for example, was run over four times, twice by trucks and twice by passenger vehicles. None of the drivers stopped.
Tight Connections ...
Moneychangers in the temple One of Rome's great attractions, the Pantheon, will charge for admission next year. The temple-turned-church, with the miraculous dome and the oculus open to the sky, was built by the Emperor Hadrian. Admission will cost 2 euros starting on May 2.
Splitting the baby One of Tel Aviv's most famous hotels, the Hilton in Independence Park, has been split. Literally. It once had 599 rooms, but now operates as a 393-room Hilton and a 167-room Vista boutique hotel. Reason for the schism? Money, of course. A seaview room at the Vista, on the top floors of the building, is commanding $170 more a night than a similar room at the downsized Hilton. Hotels magazine has the details.
One man, one movement Mexico City has a growing reputation as a fine-dining capital. The reason, says The Wall Street Journal, is Enrique Olvera. His globally famous restaurant, Pujol, has been the training ground for a small group of creative chefs remaking the city's dining ethos. "As a group, we're able to make a big impact" on Mexico's food scene, says Olvera. -- Joe Brancatelli
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