Largest and most expensive cruise ship almost ready to take to seas

Helsinki - A thin layer of ice covers the teak wood deck of the cruise ship the Oasis of the Seas at the moment. But the cold weather is just one of the challenges a visitor will need to overcome if they want to visit the vessel: tins of paint are everywhere and sheets of tarpaulin make walking around the ship difficult.

By the start of November the flagship of the cruise company Royal Caribbean International should be ready to set sail. When that day arrives the world will have a few more superlatives: never before has there been a cruise ship as large and as expensive to build as the Oasis. Right now construction and fitting out of the 1.4-billion-dollar vessel is underway at the Aker shipyard in Turku, Finland.

Albino alligator a star attraction at California Academy of Sciences

Albino alligator a star attraction at California Academy of SciencesSan Francisco  - Claude is 13-years-old and snow-white. A rare albino American alligator, he lives in the swamp exhibit at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco.

"He'd be dead already in the wild," remarked Stephanie Stone, the Academy's spokesperson. Claude is a star attraction at the Academy, which is one of the many magnets for visitors in "The City by the Bay."

Central Australia: nothing, to write home about

Central Australia: nothing, to write home aboutAlice Springs, Australia  - Fly from Sydney towards Alice Springs and you start with lots and end with almost nothing: the city, its suburbs, then bigger and bigger farms give way to desert so harsh and unyielding it has mostly been left alone.

That's what you see from the air, but from the ground the view is more varied. What seemed flat is actually undulating. What looked like swirls of different coloured sand are really dunes and creeks and stands of trees.

2009 Taipei International Travel Fair opens with focus on China

2009 Taipei International Travel Fair opens with focus on ChinaTaipei  - The 2009 Taipei International Travel Fair opened Friday with its focus on China, as Taipei-Beijing ties showed improvement and China ranked as the biggest source of tourists bound for Taiwan.

President Ma Ying-jeou cut the ribbon for the travel fair at the Taipei World Trade Centre. He said Taiwan's tourism industry has done well despite the global financial crisis and the August typhoon disaster which damaged many tourist resorts in southern Taiwan.

Istria challenges Tuscany to a duel of culinary delights

Porec, Croatia  - Wine, olive oil, truffles and prosciutto are the weapons in a duel between the Croatian region of Istria, a heart-shaped peninsula in the Adriatic across from Venice, and Italy's tourist-mobbed Tuscany.

"We're aiming at artistically minded, well-to-do married couples who are taken with our culinary delights. And our offensive includes travellers to Provence and South Tyrol," said Istria's head of tourism, Denis Ivosevic, who is nothing if not brimming with confidence.

Istria's inland was largely deserted until the mid-1980s. About 120 villages had been wholly abandoned, and roads, electricity, and telephone connections were completely inadequate.

Tracing the path of the Berlin Wall

Tracing the path of the Berlin WallBerlin  - Twenty years ago the Berlin Wall was the city's most distinguishing landmark. It extended for over 40 kilometres and was officially known by its East German builders as the "Anti-Fascist Defence Wall." Hardly anything remains to be seen of the wall today as most of its 45,000 concrete segments were dismantled and crushed in the years immediately after 1989.

But in the year that marks the 20th anniversary since the fall of the wall ever increasing numbers of people are trying to retrace its path through the city and discover the last few remaining sections.

Sweden's Vasaloppet cross-country skiing race

Sweden's Vasaloppet cross-country skiing raceMora, Sweden  - Almost 50,000 athletes are expected to take part in the longest cross-country skiing race in the world on March 7 next year in Mora, Sweden. The 90-kilometre-long Vasaloppet is the highpoint of more than 10 days of winter sport events. Amateurs are welcome to take part in what is one of the best known cross-country races.

A romantic Christmas in Copenhagen

Copenhagen - The 19th century Danish storyteller Hans Christian Andersen once described Christmas time in his country as "magnificent, incomparably magnificent." A visit to Copenhagen in the run-up to Christmas is proof that this has not changed with the city looking its most festive.

An enormous decorated Christmas tree stands in front of the mayor's house and half a million Christmas lights can be found blinking in Tivoli park which hosts the biggest Christmas market in Scandinavia from November 20 to December 30. Stall owners sell everything from Christmas gift ideas to homemade wooden items.

Austria's Oetztal valley tries to shake off its apres ski image

Vienna  - The alpine valley of Oetztal in the Austrian state of Tyrol is associated by most visitors with skiing and loud apres ski parties in the town of Soelden. But the valley has another side to itself during the cold winter months that is quite separate from the noise and excitement of the ski trails and nightclubs.

The old pub Gasthof zum Stern in the town of Oetz is completely snowed in. Inside sit a few of the regular guests drinking beer while beside the green and white tiled stove Josef Griesser tunes his harp.

Midair collision kills four in France

Midair collision kills four in FranceParis, Oct 18 - Two small tourist planes collided over the coastal region of Charente-Maritime in France, killing all four people on board the aircraft, an official said.

The accident occurred at around 11 a. m., said Eleonore Lacroix, an official of the local administration.

The cause of the accident is being investigated, Xinhua reported. (IANS)

Arabian cottages become a major tourist attraction in Pushkar

Arabian cottages become a major tourist attraction in PushkarPushkar (Rajasthan), Oct 15 : Cottages built on the pattern of Arabian architecture has become a major tourist attraction in Pushkar in Rajasthan.

Rajendra Singh, director of the Arabian Resort, said that the ambience of Pushkar resembled Arabia in many ways, which encouraged him to come out with this resort.

"The ambience of Pushkar resembles Arabia in many ways. We have sand dunes and camel cart. So, we thought of building the cottages built on the lines of Arabian architecture in Pushkar," said Singh.

Where Italy's heel shines: the peninsula of Salento

Where Italy's heel shines: the peninsula of SalentoRome - The southern tip of the region of Apulia is far removed from the rest of Italian life. After Bari and Brindisi comes the peninsula of Salento, which is just 70 kilometres from Albania, and points like an index finger south-east into the Mediterranean.

The Adriatic and the Ionian Sea surround its coast but its beautiful beaches are not all this part of Italy has to offer. A trip to this small but wonderful place begins in the city of Lecce, the provincial capital, with its churches, castles and amphitheatre.

Symbol of a city: Berlin's TV tower turns 40

Symbol of a city: Berlin's TV tower turns 40Berlin  - During the 2006 World Cup the sphere of Berlin's television tower, the Fernsehturm, was decorated to look like a football. Recently its column was painted in love messages and it provides an all-year round backdrop for countless tourist photos. October 3 marked the 40th anniversary of the construction of what has come to be a favourite of all Germans since the fall of the Wall.

Together with the Brandenburg Gate and the Reichstag's glass dome,

San Francisco museum offers Asia photography exhibit

San Francisco museum offers Asia photography exhibitSan Francisco  - San Francisco's Museum of Modern Art is putting the spotlight on Asian photography over the coming months, with two separate exhibits running until December 20.

"Photography Now: China, Japan, Korea" is a collection of 65 photos, many of them collected in the past two years, which are being shown for the first time. Many photos reflect the conflict between traditional values and modern western culture, according to the museum.

Tourist numbers to Prague show sharp decline

Tourist numbers to Prague show sharp declinePrague  - Prague is a dream destination for many tourists. The Charles Bridge, the castle and its old town district attract millions of tourists.

In the first half of this year, in fact, nearly 5 million people visited Prague, spending at least one night there, the tourism bureau in Prague said. But that's about 11 per cent less than the same period in 2008.

The economic crisis and the city's reputation as a tourist trap are damaging the Czech capital's image. But even so, a visit is worthwhile now for tourists who refuse to be misled.

Two new national parks in Norway

Two new national parks in NorwayOslo  - Tourists to Norway can now visit two new national parks.

The mountainous landscape of new national park Breheimen is situated in the districts of Oppland and Sogn og Fjordane. With an area of nearly 1,794 square kilometres, it is among the largest national parks in the country.

The other new national park, Ytre Hvaler, is on the Norwegian-Swedish border and is a "unique maritime landscape" of more than 6,000 animal and plant species on the outer Oslo fjord.

Ancient Roman tower re-opens to public in Turkey

Ancient Roman tower re-opens to public in Turkey Ankara  - The city of Bergama in western Turkey has just made a fortified tower dating back to the ancient Roman era accessible to the public after three years of restoration work.

The 13-metre-high round tower was built in the second century A. D. and according to the German Archaeology Institute (DAI) in Berlin is one of the best preserved Roman domed constructions in existence. "There is nothing like this to be found in the eastern Mediterranean region," says archaeologist Felis Pirson.

Lord Howe Island: an Australian island with South Sea flair

Lord Howe Island: an Australian island with South Sea flairLord Howe Island, Australia  - Friendly locals, no stress, lush green mountains and a deep blue sea. These are the main characteristics of Australia' Lord Howe Island. With its South Sea feeling you might think Lord Howe Island is on its way to being overrun by tourists. But tourism is tightly controlled on the island: Its 350 residents may only accept a maximum of 400 visitors at a time.

Freighters sunk by German U-boats lure divers to Canadian coast

Freighters sunk by German U-boats lure divers to Canadian coastLance Cove, Canada  - Almost seven decades have passed since German U-boats brought World War II to Canada's Atlantic coast. They sank four freighters with cargoes meant for England near Bell Island, in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. The wrecks are still a magnet for divers.

Sofia synagogue celebrates centenary as Jews rediscover heritage

Sofia synagogue celebrates centenary as Jews rediscover heritageSofia  - Two decades ago, Jews could not have traditional Jewish weddings in the Bulgarian capital Sofia, because there was no mikwa, the place for ritualistic purifying baths of women and men. So Jews who wanted to marry according to tradition mostly travelled abroad for their ceremony.

But today, the freshly renovated, magnificent synagogue has all it needs, including the mikwa, so it can serve as the hub of the invigorated Jewish community in Sofia and Bulgaria.

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