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Poetic Potholes

WORD OF MOUTH

from work. He’s now saving other cyclists from the same fate by turning the craggy vacuums on his route into miniature gardens (pictured, below) that are much more visible. The first lasted just two hours before it was destroyed by road traffic, but another was avoided for a full three weeks. Steve even includes props such as chairs to emphasise his small wonders and the 33-year-old’s website – thepotholegardener.com – had 25,000 hits in its first month. But aside from just highlighting the treacherous voids, there is the serious problem of funding road repairs to attend to. One recession-hit village near Leipzig in East Germany has come up with a unique solution by auctioning off its road repairs. For a mere €50, sponsors can pay for a pothole to be tarred over and permanently tagged with their name and optional inscription – more than 100 have been snapped up already. So for anyone who enjoys acting like they own the roads, this season’s hottest trend is to pick a pothole and do it in style.

PHOTO © REX, ALAMY

VARIOUS As Europe’s roads crack under the pressure of some of the most extreme weather this continent has ever seen, potholes are having a moment. Thanks to the work of street artists, guerrilla gardeners and savvy councillors, these hazardous urban pockmarks are being transformed into significant sites from London to Berlin and beyond. When married creatives Davide Luciano and Claudia Ficca careered into a sizeable crater that killed their car suspension, mypotholes.com was born. The couple use clever photography to turn the scourge into a celebration, creating unlikely scenes that give the potholes a new life and then posting photos of the activities on their site. Europe’s asphalt holes are set to host tableaus similar to those they’ve already created in other major cities – from a baptism, to washday, and even a slice of Alice in Wonderland. In London, green-fingered cyclist Steve Wheen also had an epiphany after falling foul of a pothole on his way home

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THE BUZ Z |

EURO GOSSIP

Bleeding Fashion

Meat Machines BILBAO It’s not unheard of to find vending machines selling perfumes in France or pizzas in Italy, but now you can slot in a euro to get your sausages in Spain. In a bid to move with the times, the 100-yearold Spanish butcher Izarzugaza has installed its first coin-operated chiller cabinet for meat. It sits outside one of the chain’s three stores

near Bilbao in northern Spain and dispenses products around the clock. But while standard ready-made snacks such as sandwiches are available, it’s the ready-tocook burgers and sausages that set this kiosk apart. And, proving how up-to-the-minute it is, the focus is on seasonal products: think pasta salads in summer, and meatballs in winter. izarzugaza.com

AMSTERDAM Fashionistas love exclusivity and new label The Red Rail guarantees just that by making its collection available only to blood donors. The initiative aims to entice a new generation to give blood following recent warnings from Dutch researchers of a potential shortage. Since the number of items made by the collective of 18 upand-coming designers is strictly limited, a lottery will be used to pick 20 winners. To enter, give blood and then email: theredrail@ stichtingnobel.nl, listing your donor ID and the item you'd like. The winners will be picked in January. theredrail.com

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Unholy Auction VIENNA The Catholic Church has slammed a cash-strapped Austrian parish for trying to auction a confessional box on eBay. Resourceful priest Otto Weber decided to sell the holy fixture after being unable to fund essential renovations at his church in Vienna. The online auction wooed bidders with

the box’s potential for reinvention, as a child's playhouse or a sauna. But despite Pope Benedict XVI championing the internet as a way of sharing the Catholic faith, Archdiocese Vienna decisionmakers were not amused by the auction. In a hapless twist, just before the lot was withdrawn, online bids reached a devilish €666.

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10/09/2010 16:30


The Flashmob Phenomenon VARIOUS Until recently, an apéritif was the bastion of civilised Gallic routine, but a spate of Facebook flashmob events has changed all that. More than 50 giant cocktail parties (dubbed apéros) have suddenly "happened" in France in recent months and with another 30 planned, it's no surprise the craze is grabbing headlines across Europe. A lot of secrecy surrounded the annual Dîner en Blanc in June, with the location only revealed 15 minutes before the event started. Held at the Louvre, the très civilised Big Open Air White Dinner attracted a mammoth 12,000 diners. As a sign of our mediaobsessed times, savvy advertisers like T-Mobile are also milking mob culture. The brand propelled this utterly modern trend into the mainstream earlier this year by creating two awardwinning TV adverts featuring 400-strong singing and dancing flashmobs in London. Other recent flashmobs have included the "Just Beat It" tribute to Michael Jackson, "Prank Amsterdam", and

WORD OF MOUTH

the Brussels "snooze", promoting the health benefits of an afternoon nap. Mass pillow fights from London to Düsseldorf and Madrid are also frequently advertised in customary flashmob form – via Twitter, Facebook or YouTube. As social networking sites have revolutionised communication beyond simply sharing photographs and personal messages, flashmobs have never been easier to find. But now the fad is taking a new twist and "subtlemobs" are springing up all over Europe. Head to Edinburgh on 13 August (during the Forest Fringe) to spot one – if you can. The point of subtlemobs is to try and remain invisible to all but those taking part. One subtlemob organiser on Facebook describes it as "creating cinematic experiences without cameras". For instance, a subtlemob might involve listening en masse to MP3 soundtracks at a specified place and time and then using simple theatrical gestures to entertain each other on cue. A sophisticated slap in the face of its rowdier forebears.

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15/07/2010 09:10


THE BUZ Z |

EURO GOSSIP

Reclaiming the Streets ROME When university lecturer Rebecca Spitzmiller discovered simple oven cleaner could remove graffiti from her Rome apartment block, she formed the Retake Rome taskforce to reclaim the city’s soiled beauty spots. Now thousands of young and old volunteers, including the mayor of Rome, are joining forces to wage

war against the city’s graffiti problem – one of the worst in Europe. Random scribbles, tags and pictures daubed on walls and monuments from Villa Borghese to Trastevere and Ponte Sisto (the bridge leading to the city centre) are being removed in mass clean-up sessions, which end with picnics.

Rechargeable Phone Boxes VIENNA Public phone boxes are getting a new lease of life after Telekom Austria unveiled its scheme to transform them into batteryrecharging stations for electric cars,

scooters and bikes. The company plans to convert 30 of its 13,500 phone boxes this year – all suffering neglect due to the rise of mobiles – into E-mobility hubs, starting in Vienna.

The first is already in use and can recharge a car in 6.5 hours, a scooter in 80 minutes, and a bike in 20 minutes. Despite only 223 electric cars being registered

in Austria, the scheme’s ecofriendly credentials are a hit because it reuses a defunct street staple and promotes the use of green transport throughout the Austrian capital.

Power Walking WORD OF MOUTH

TOULOUSE City authorities are planning a world first: generating enough electricity to light the city’s street lamps by harnessing energy created by people walking on the pavement. Eight custom-made modules will be placed in Toulouse city centre for a twoweek trial. The idea originally came from the Dutch company

Sustainable Dance Club, which developed a dancefloor that used the energy produced by clubbers to power the venue. Whether or not Toulouse’s new green initiative will work is yet to be seen, but other European cities are queuing up to testrun (or should that be test-walk?) the quirky scheme.

24 | TRAVELLER | JULY 10

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11/06/2010 18:22


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Future Food VARIOUS Do you know how far round the world the ingredients in your last meal travelled before reaching your plate? Probably not, but at Otarian (otarian.com), a global chain that launched its first two European restaurants in London this summer, you could find out. It lists the carbon footprint of every dish on its menu and ordering just one of its “carbon-saving combo” meals a week can save an average of 2.3kg of environment-harming emissions. Now The Real Greek (therealgreek.com), London’s six-strong restaurant chain, is also opening up about its menus, revealing calorie counts for every dish, from lamb kebabs to cocktails. For diners, such clear labelling makes it easy to be health conscious when eating out. But convenience is still king and popular chain Wagamama (wagamama. com), is the UK’s first to launch an iPhone application for speedy ordering. Hungry app users can simply locate

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their nearest branch, browse its menu and place an order, which is beamed straight to the kitchen. Though the raft of apps for eating out is expanding, the future doesn’t depend on having the right mobile phone. Inamo (inamorestaurant.com) is yet another London restaurant that’s allowing diners to use “e-waiters”: touch-screen menus projected onto tabletops. The Greenhouse (greenhouserestaurant. co.uk) in Mayfair uses similar technology to help diners negotiate its wine selection. The hi-tech revolution is by no means UK-centric. In Tel Aviv, several eateries, including trendy sushi chain Frame (frame-sushibar.co.il), also provide diners with e-menus. So could real waiters become a thing of the past? German restaurant S Baggers (sbaggers.de) in Nuremberg has dispensed with its wait staff altogether. Orders are electronic and food is sent down from the kitchen via a mini rollercoaster.

Stunning location! 80 bedrooms, 5 suites, 1 Deluxe Suite, private apartment and sublime terrace, restaurant with sun-filled South-facing terrace, Crêperie, cinema room and covered garage

ALL-INCLUSIVE WEEKS FROM € 1,850 FOR 2 PEOPLE Including 7 nights half-board accommodation (based on double room), 6-day Three Valleys ski pass and hire of ski material. See our website or contact us for full details.

Tel: +33 4 79 08 02 59 Fax: +33 4 79 08 11 79 info@courcheneige.com www.courcheneige.com

14/09/2010 09:11


THE BUZ Z |

EURO GOSSIP

Lazy Gardening GERMANY Allotments – once considered the refuge of greenfingered retirees – are now all the rage in Europe, but the idea of spending hours toiling in the dirt isn’t for everyone. Cue Meine Ernte (My Harvest; meineernte.de), a bangon-trend garden rental business

in Germany that not only hunts out sought-after plots (which have become harder to get as allotments have become trendy), but also takes care of all the soil preparation and planting. From just €149 a season, city dwellers with no prior experience can reap the rewards of their

own crop, with about €600 worth of produce coming from a standardsized garden; the only commitment from owners being two hours a week of basic tending. The idea has so far taken root in six cities, including Düsseldorf and Dortmund, and is set to infiltrate Berlin and Hamburg.

It Takes Two SOFIA Rudnik is a quiet, largely unremarkable mining village in southeast Bulgaria, with just 5,000 inhabitants. But take a trip there and you might think there’s something in the water making you see double. This small town has an unusually high number of twins in its population (56 pairs have been born in the past 60 years),

and although it has many baffled, residents firmly believe Rudnik’s water supply is the cause. Recently, a leading expert on reproduction backed up villagers' claims, saying that certain elements in the region's soil and water lead to multiple births, though a genetics researcher in Sofia has lately suggested it's a purely hereditary phenomenon.

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Rail Rebels PARIS Whether it’s an armlift over the gates, a stretch across the turnstiles to trigger the exit sensors, or sneakily slipping in behind someone who has a ticket, jumping the Metro is part and parcel of the fight against capitalism for Paris’ mutuelles des fraudeurs. For years, this self-styled group of thrill-seeking fare

dodgers have been paying €7 into a monthly fund to cover the costs of fines, so they can travel for "free". Yet honourable citizens are now bleating that this pushes prices up. Fare dodgers cost the public transport system around €80m a year in Paris, and the cost of a Navigo pass has risen to €53 a month.

28 | TRAVELLER | AUGUST 10

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14/07/2010 13:08


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