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Post-Soviet East Prussia nurtures tourist industry


Q: As a native of Konigsberg in East Prussia, I would very much like to pay a visit there. Are there any hotels or other facilities? Unlike East Germany, East Prussia was annexed by the Russians and seems to be not easily accessible.

A: More than 50 years ago the Red Army drove the Germans from Konigsberg, the former capital of East Prussia, after a two-month siege that left the city virtually in ruins. The Soviets renamed it Kaliningrad and made this once-beautiful Hanseatic port a military region that was off-limits to tourists.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, travel restrictions were lifted. Since then, Kaliningrad has been experiencing a tourist boom, and new hotels and restaurants have opened.

Some German travel agencies specialize in tours from Berlin, Frankfurt, Stuttgart and Hamburg and offer a wide variety of trips by rail, ship or plane.

One of them is Rail Tours Mochel Reisen, Postfach 48, 77922 Lahr, Germany, telephone (49 7821) 43037, fax (49 7821) 42998. It will arrange transportation, make hotel reservations and take care of visas, provided you send them a visa application, three passport photos and a copy of your passport. Price lists, detailed schedules and information material can be ordered by calling (49 7821) 52407.

Until Sept. 9, Rail Tours Mochel Reisen offers a one-week package by air between Berlin and Kaliningrad on Fridays and Hamburg and Kaliningrad on Saturdays. Fares, which range from $770 to $880, calculated at 1.4 marks to the dollar, include seven nights in a hotel, breakfast and a sightseeing tour. Similar flights, by way of Copenhagen and costing an extra $240, can be taken from Frankfurt and Stuttgart.

Another possibility is to book flights directly through Scandinavian Airlines System or Aeroflot. S.A.S. flies four times a week to Kaliningrad from Frankfurt and Stuttgart via Copenhagen, starting at $585 round trip. Aeroflot flies to Kaliningrad twice a week from Berlin, starting at $410.

The Berlin-to-Konigsberg train leaves every Friday at 10:25 p.m., arriving at 1:30 p.m. the next day. The return trip starts the next Saturday at 5:25 p.m., arriving in Berlin at 7:28 a.m. Sunday. A round-trip ticket costs between $210 for a three-bed compartment and $425 for a single. Hotel prices range from $580 to $880 a week for a double.

From May to September, a one-week trip to Kaliningrad by ship leaves every Friday from the port of Travemunde. Prices, ranging from $820 to $1,880 a person, include all meals and a sightseeing tour.

For more information, contact Baltic Tours, 26 Beim Strohhause, 20097 Hamburg, Germany; (49 40) 241 580, fax (49 40) 246 463.

Q: We read that construction of Norwich Cathedral in England began in 1096 and wonder if any public celebrations are being planned for next year.

A: Norwich Cathedral's 900th anniversary will be celebrated from the end of next May to September. Ceremonies will begin May 25 when stone from Caen, the source of the material used in the cathedral's construction, arrives from Normandy.

It will be transported by sea and then by river on the last traditional trading wherry, a large, broad but light barge.

A flower festival will be held July 11-14, when the four acres of the Bishop's garden will be opened to the public. On July 13 a Lord Mayor's procession will fill the city's streets, followed Aug. 7-10 by the staging at the cathedral's west front of a drama depicting the cathedral's colorful history. A cast of more than 100 will perform in the drama, called "Fire From Heaven." Celebrations will end Sept. 29 with a fireworks show.

Prices for concerts and other performances have not been set but are expected to range from $11 to $24, calculated at $1.60 to the pound. For information contact Liz McGuire, Coordinator Cathedral and Diocese 900, 12 The Close, Norwich, Norfolk NR1 4DH, England; (44 1603) 666900.

Q: I will be in Poland in July and early August and would appreciate information on traveling by train from Cracow or Warsaw to Belzec, the World War II extermination camp.

A: There are two trains a day from Warsaw Central Station direct to Belzec, site of the Nazi camp where some 600,000 Jews were put to death. The first train leaves at 6:47 a.m., arriving at 1:50 p.m.; the second leaves at 11:47 p.m. and arrives at 7:53 a.m. One-way prices are $13 in first class, $7 in second, calculated at 2.33 zlotys to the dollar.

From Cracow Central Station there is one direct train a day, leaving at 10:45 a.m. and arriving at 6:16 p.m. There are also two departures a day from Cracow that require a change in Przeworsk. One-way ticket prices are $11 in first class, $7 in second.

Q: I have heard there is a car ferry between eastern Long Island and New London, Conn. If so, where does one get the ferry and what is its schedule in August?

A: The ferry service you have heard about is between Orient Point, N.Y., and New London. The one-hour-and-15-minute trip across Long Island Sound will shave nearly four hours off the driving time between the two points.

The company, Cross Sound Ferry Services, (203) 443-5281 for reservations, (516) 323-2525 for schedules, operates five ferries with capacities ranging from 22 vehicles and 150 passengers to 120 vehicles and 1,000 passengers. During the summer, the ferries depart from New London and Orient Point every hour on the hour between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. There is a final departure at 9:45 p.m.

Prices are $28 one way for a vehicle and driver; $8.50 for adult passengers and $4.25 for children under 12; there is no charge for children under 2. Round-trip fares are $56 for a vehicle and driver; $17 for adults; $8.50 for children. Round-trip fare for the same day is $13.

While reservations are not required, they are strongly recommended during the peak summer season. A ferry spokesman suggests reserving two to three weeks in advance for weekend travel, and seven days ahead for midweek departures.

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