Lessons in the "Europe" Category

The Blood Countess

Today, let’s talk about the Blood Countess. Never heard of her? Well, while she was no relation to Count Dracula, her story is equally interesting!

Countess Elizabeth Bathory was actually a real person, as opposed to the fictional character of Count Dracula. Bram Stoker who created Dracula in 1897 is said to have been inspired by Bathory’s real life story.

The Blood Countess acquired her name as she is said to have tortured and killed between 80 to 650 girls. She liked to bathe in the blood of her victims, as she believed the blood of virgin girls would maintain her youthful looks.

Category: History / The Blood Countess / Central Europe

Norway’s Prime Minister goes undercover as a taxi driver

Recently, Norway’s Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg worked secretly as a taxi driver in central Oslo for an afternoon in a bid to woo voters in his country’s upcoming general election. Dressed in a taxi driver uniform and sunglasses the Norwegian Prime Minister drove around the streets of the Norwegian capital for several hours.

Mr Stoltenberg said he wanted to hear what Norwegian’s really felt about their politicians and what they wanted for their country. He added, “If there is one place where people say what they really mean about most things, it is in a taxi. Right from the gut”.

Category: Norway / Prime Minister / Taxi driving

Eurozone slides into recession…

Recent news from Europe tells us the Eurozone has fallen back into a double-dip recession, as the debt crisis deepens. Even the economic powerhouse of Germany is suffering with a slowdown in its economy. The 17-country region, which represents a fifth of global output, shrank by 0.1% in the third quarter of 2012 (July-September). It shrank by 0.2% in the previous quarter (April-June).

Category: Europe / Eurozone / Statistics

Europe 1912, Europe 2012

You are in a bar discussing about how life is at the moment in Europe, its challenges of living there and its politics. You are also discussing the future, about how life might be like, and about how Europe might look like in the future. You live somewhere in Europe where there is one currency and where there are many nationalities. You live where the movement of trade is easy and fair, with little paperwork - thus avoiding goods being blocked at borders for days on end. You live where people can cross vast areas freely from the mountains to the sea without hindrance and false borders.

Category: History / Europe / Change

The unwritten rules French waiters use to get a bigger tip

Today, let’s talk about the unwritten rules French waiters use to get customers to part with their cash in order to get a good tip. These Gallic waiters have an impressive array of tricks and techniques to effortlessly do this.

The unwritten rule book on how “garçons” from Paris and the rest of France manage to lengthen diners bills without raising their hackles has been set in stone by the rue89 website. In their headline “Seven serving tips to increase the bill” rue89 says that waiters and waitresses are taught skills, such as, showing diners to a table right by the front door or window in an otherwise empty restaurant to attract more custom.

A golden rule is never to place bread on the table before an order, as diners are likely to get full too fast for several dishes. A French waiter called Romain explains: “My boss wants me to give it after bringing the dish, even if it means forgetting it entirely so customers will be hungry for dessert.”

Category: France / Restaurants / Waiters

Auschwitz – A lesson in history

Today, let’s talk about Auschwitz. It’s a lesson in history we should never forget. Why discuss it now? Simple – I was recently invited to go to Poland for a long weekend to Cracow. One of the trips we made was to Auschwitz. I can tell you – it makes you think twice on many things once you have visited the place.

Whilst it is not in my top 10 places to visit I believe it is a place you should visit once in your life. Indeed, many tourists do – during mid June to mid September mostly. It is as creepy and shocking today as you can imagine. When you walk around the site you can only imagine how ghastly it was and what it might have been like to live there. I will add – for those non-believers who say the Jews weren’t murdered by the Nazis – I say this – visit this place and you will rapidly think again.

Category: History / WWII / Auschwitz

Europe freezes – coldest spell in 30 years

Sunday – The big ‘Siberian like’ freeze continues to tighten its grip on Europe. Most of the continent remains under a huge blanket of snow. The result is chaos in many places.

Ukraine has seen the brunt of the bad weather where more than 160 people have now died because of the cold weather. Nearly 1,600 have been hospitalised with hypothermia. Hundreds of heated tents have been set up across Ukraine to help the country’s homeless keep warm, with hot meals being handed out at the shelters.

Temperatures in Ukraine have dropped to minus 33ºC. Huge areas of Poland and Slovakia have also been affected by the bad weather with temperatures there dropping as low as -35ºC. So far 20 people have perished in Poland because of the cold snap. There have been further deaths in Russia and right across Eastern Europe.

Category: Europe / Weather - Snow / Disruption

Skiers stranded in Austria by too much snow!

Skiers in Western Austria recently got a bit too much snow for their liking. It was reported that more than 15,000 tourists were stuck in various ski resorts after too much of the white fluffy stuff fell last week. Dozens were reported to have been airlifted out of ski resorts by helicopters after roads became blocked by 5m of snow - though the cost was around £1,800 (€2,017) per person.

On Saturday an Austrian army military helicopter was brought in to pick up 52 people who had been stranded at a mountain refuge in Vorarlberg. Skiers had been unable to make the descent from the Lindauer Huette refuge, which is 1,744m (5,720 ft) above sea level, by any other means because of the avalanche risk.

The snow has caused chaos on the roads and railways. Villages and some tourist resorts have been cut off. The most heavily hit areas were Austria’s western Tirol and Vorarlberg regions that received 1-2 meters of snow (3-7ft) of snow in just four days.

Category: Tourism / Skiing Holidays / Austria

It was like the Titanic!

A luxury winter cruise in the Mediterranean turned into a horrific scramble for survival for 4,000 people as the giant 114,500-tonne ocean liner Costa Concordia hit rocks off the coast of Italy on Friday evening. Survivors said, “It was like the Titanic”.

The drama began when the cruise ship hit some rocks, which tore a 300ft gash along the lower side of it. The cruise ship was near the tiny Tuscan island of Giglio, off the west coast of Italy, north of Rome. Holidaymakers, who were enjoying the last day of their vacation, suddenly faced the horrifying ordeal of abandoning ship. Panic soon spread as they realised how serious the situation on board actually was.

The ship soon lurched to starboard throwing passengers all over the place. There were desperate scenes on board as people fought to survive. The ship soon flipped on its side half submerged in the sea.

Category: Italy / Holidays / Cruise Ship Disaster

British women are officially the fattest in Europe

British women are the fattest in Europe. The deeply worrying statistics are contained in a report from Eurostat***, the EU’s statistical agency, which compares obesity levels in 19 countries from 2008-2009. According to alarming figures a quarter are obese – so fat it threatens their health. The figure is far higher than in other countries of Western Europe. British men are not much better, with more than one in five classed as obese.

Experts are concerned by the young age at which so many women in Britain are developing serious weight problems. A disturbing 16% of young women aged 18-24 are obese – up to 16 times higher than many other European countries where the rate is between 1% and 3%. Young men are doing better, around 6% are obese, but a worrying one third of men aged 45-64 are obese in Britain. Only in the U.S. and Ireland*, which are not included in the league table, have higher obesity rates in the developed world.

Category: Britain / Women / Survey