TORONTO — They’re an hour apart by plane (nine hours by train), but Vienna and Berlin share a common history, culture and language and offer many new reasons to visit.
One intriguing new attraction is the Spy Museum Berlin which opened this fall in Leipziger Platz (where the Wall once stood). It contains 1,000 exhibits spanning hundreds of years and sheds a light on a hidden chapter in the Cold War.
Travel agents attending a breakfast meeting in Toronto last week hosted by Visit Berlin and the Vienna Tourist Board in cooperation with Lufthansa German Airlines and Austrian Airlines, were told the centrepiece of the museum is an Enigma machine like the one featured in the film The Imitation Game. The Spy Museum is just one of 180 museums in the city, or as Berlin’s Astrid LaMarche puts it, there are more museums than rainy days.
The city also has some quirky transportation experiences. For example, visitors can rent an electric tricycle, or a bed bike (a bed connected to a rickshaw) that LaMarche said can be fun for honeymooners; or take a Trabi Safari where you drive around the city in the vintage East German vehicle.
There’s also a new video tablet tour that allows you to view old and new Berlin at various sites, plus a free app called ‘Going Local’ with 600 tips that are regularly updated on tours, dining and other highlights.
Living up to its reputation as a ‘cool’ destination, LaMarche described places where visitors can make their own chocolate (Rittersport chocolate); perfume (Frau Tonis Parfum); or gummy candies using 3D printers (Magic Candy Factory). To learn more about Berlin, agents can check campus.visitBerlin.com, to earn a certificate and points which can be exchanged for gifts.
Vienna meanwhile is marking a number of anniversaries this year including the 100th anniversary of the death of Emperor Franz Joseph, the 125th anniversary of the founding of the Museum of Fine Arts, and the 15th anniversary of the MuseumsQuartier.
The Vienna Tourist Board’s Elke Bachner described a city of contrasts where you can experience the imperial (visit or even spend the night in Schonbrunn Palace) and the modern (at the Museum of Contemporary Art or the Kunsthalle Wien); where you can travel by horse and carriage or by hot rod; attend classical music concerts (Vienna Philharmonic) or the Danube Island Festival in June (with rap music, djs etc).
One way to travel between the two cities is with Lufthansa (Lufthansa Group includes Lufthansa, Swiss, Austrian and Brussels airlines). The airline introduced new premium economy class this fall which allows two pieces of luggage of 23 kg each, as well as 50% more space including seven inches more legroom, more entertainment options, bigger screens, amenity kits and more.
Meanwhile Austrian, (the airline which brings you coffee in the clouds – 10 different types of coffee onboard) now has full flat beds in business class on every one of its long haul flights worldwide. The airline, which gets high ratings from Skytrax for its airline staff and business class catering, has also launched nine new destinations including Miami.