I would appreciate information on cathedral tours in Cologne, Aachen, Mainz, Speyer and Freiburg, Germany.
Tours are available at the cathedrals in the five cities you mention. Individuals who are not in tour groups are free to enter the cathedrals during open hours.
A guided tour of the Cologne Cathedral, which took more than 600 years to build (it was completed in 1880), may be arranged at Domforum, 3 Domkloster, 50667 Cologne, (49 221) 9258 4730. Tours for individuals with English- or German-speaking guides cost about $50 an hour. Regular one-hour group tours in German cost about $2. The cathedral is open daily from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Domkapitell, 2 Klosterplatz, 52062 Aachen, (49 241) 4770 9127, fax (49 241) 4770 9150, offers tours of the Gothic and Byzantine-style Aachen Cathedral, which was consecrated in 1414. A one-hour tour in English costs $35; $21 in German. The cathedral is open daily from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Regular tours in German start every hour, beginning at 10:45 a.m., and cost about $2.
Tours of the Romanesque Mainz basilica may be booked at Verkehrsverein Mainz, 15 Bahnhofstrasse, 55116 Mainz, (49 6131) 286 210, fax (49 6131) 286 2155. A two-hour tour in English costs $83. The cathedral is open from 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. weekdays, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays and from 12:45 p.m. to 3 p.m. and from 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Sundays.
Domkapitell, Domfuhrung, 13 Grosse Pfaffengasse, 67343 Speyer, (49 6232) 102 298, fax (49 6232) 102 410, offers tours of the Romanesque Speyer Cathedral, which dates from the 11th century. A one-hour tour in English costs $55, in German $35. The cathedral is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., during the summer season from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Forty-five minute tours of the Freiburg Cathedral, built between the late 12th and 16th centuries, start at 11 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. Monday to Friday, 11 a.m. Saturdays and 2:30 p.m. Sundays. A ticket costs 70 cents. The cathedral is open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
I would like to get information on inexpensive accommodations in Japan. Can you help?
The Japan National Tourist Office can provide you with lists of specific types of accommodations, including a listing of more than 260 minshukus, or private homes that offer lodging and meals; prices average about $62 a person, double occupancy with two meals. The tourist office is at 1 Rockefeller Plaza, Suite 1250, New York, N.Y. 10020, (212) 757-5641, fax (212) 307-6754.
The tourist office also distributes directories published by the Welcome Inn Reservation Center, a Japanese organization that handles reservations for more than 500 minshukus, pensions, ryokans (traditional Japanese inns, in which guests sleep on futons), budget hotels and other accommodations that charge about $76 or less a night, single occupancy.
Entries are arranged by location and include codes indicating which (if any) credit cards are accepted, and whether rooms are "inexpensive" (about $38 or less), "moderate" (about $38 to $57) or "affordable" (about $57 to $76). The center does not charge for booking, and there are no required deposits or cancellation fees.
Reservations may be made by filling out the form that accompanies each booklet and sending it to the center at Tokyo Kotsu Kaikan Building, Ninth Floor, 2-10-1 Yurakucho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100, (03) 3211-4201, fax (03) 3211-9009. Faxed reservations must be received five days in advance; reservations by mail, one week in advance.
Reservations may also be made on the Internet by calling up the Japan National Tourist Organization and going to the Budget Travel Information section. Forms may be completed on the screen and e-mailed to the reservation center, whose address is http://www.jnto.go.jp.
I am interested in visiting places in England associated with Virginia Woolf. Are there any one- or two-day tours?
Unfortunately, most of the Bloomsbury haunts in Kent and Sussex are not easily accessible by public transportation, and apparently there are no scheduled tours of one or two days' duration that include visits to all of the sites.
The principal Bloomsbury sites include Knole House in Sevenoaks, the childhood home of Vita Sackville-West; Sissinghurst Castle in Sissinghurst, home of Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson; Monk's House in Rodmell, home of Leonard and Virginia Woolf; and Charleston Farmhouse near Firle, where Vanessa Bell lived with her children, the painter Duncan Grant and his friend David Garnett.
A series of guided walks is offered by Maire McQueeney, who runs the company Twentieth Century Walks. These include a tour of Rodmell May 1 (about $7), and a tour May 11 of Lewes (also about $7). Information: Twentieth Century Walks, 22 Warleigh Road, Brighton, East Sussex. Telephone and fax, (01273) 607910.
Heritage Touring runs seven-day literary tours that include visits to Monk's House and Charleston Farmhouse. Departures are May 10, Sept. 6 and Sept. 27. Tours cost from about $1,070 to $1,308. Information: Heritage Touring, 40 High West St., Dorchester, Dorset DT1 1UR, (01305) 266-440.
If you are willing to visit on your own, Knole House, (01732) 462100, about 1 1/2 miles from Sevenoaks Station (which is about half an hour by train from the Charing Cross or Waterloo East stations in London) is open from March 30 to Nov. 2. Hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday and Friday to Sunday; 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday. Admission is about $7.