Tourists Pay To Hunker Down In East German Bunker

bunker sign
Martin Abegglen, Flickr

Sleeping in rickety old beds, eating bland food that you’re forced to cook yourself and being bossed around by hotel staff hardly sounds like a fun travel experience, but tourists in Germany are paying $150 a night for exactly that.

It’s all a part of a unique experience that gives travelers the chance to experience life as it was for soldiers in East Germany. Visitors are taken to a forest 200 miles outside of Berlin where they spend the night in the Bunker Museum, which as the name implies, is a former military bunker. The bunker was built more than 40 years ago for use by the German secret police, and was designed to become a military command center if the local area was ever attacked.Today, tourists can experience life in the bunker, which includes donning the soldier’s uniforms before peeling potatoes and cooking sausages for dinner. But don’t expect a good night’s sleep here-the bunk beds are small and uncomfortable with thin mattresses and, naturally, you’re expected to make the bed yourself.

Those who run the hotel say the experience has proven extremely popular among travelers, and quite a few of those who visit are actually former East German residents themselves.

Strange Smells And Lasers Cause Emergency Landings

Emergency landings card
Flickr, Tim Hagen

Two flights recently had to make emergency landings for unusual reasons. “Strong odors” caused a Lufthansa Stockholm-to-Frankfurt flight to stop in Copenhagen, where 129 passengers were rebooked onto alternate flights. The reason for the smell? A new carpet installed in the airplane.

Staff aboard a Sun Country Airlines flight from Minneapolis smelled smoke and made an emergency landing in Spokane. A passenger was carrying two homemade lasers (he is an unemployed chemist), causing several small burn holes near his seat. He was arrested for willful damage to an aircraft.

It’s been a busy season for emergency landings, mostly for precautionary reasons, but a few odd causes too. Most notably, a drunken passenger caused a cross-country flight to stop in Denver after he allegedly groped several passengers, drinking from his own bottle of vodka after he was refused service. A bird strike caused a Southwest flight to return to Raleigh and be taken out of service. Even rock stars have to deal with problems, as ’80s hair metal bands Ratt and Dokken had to trade their private jet for SUVs after smoke was detected. Better safe than sorry!

See more weird emergency landing stories from our archives, plus the story of a Gadling blogger who had her blog post used as evidence in a lawsuit filed by a “traumatized” passenger after a plane made an emergency landing at O’Hare.

Get A Free Ride With Your New Car: European Delivery Programs

Vintage Volvo ad - European Delivery programsLike many longtime New Yorkers, I don’t own a car and know little about the finer points of purchasing or owning a vehicle. A recent Volvo ad caught my eye in an airline in-flight magazine: If you purchase your car and pick it up in Sweden, they’ll pick up the tab on your trip. A new car and free travel? This was something I could get behind! Doing some research, I discovered quite a few of the top European car makers offer an overseas delivery program.

While you’ll have to plan in advance (generally 3-4 months) to get your car and your trip, you’ll save on the vehicle cost, plus get to pick it up hot off the presses and drive it around European roads. Once you have it shipped to the U.S., you will wait another 8-10 weeks or so to be reunited stateside. Some programs include free airfare and hotel nights, most include factory tours, European road insurance and import/export fees.

Here’s a look at the most popular programs, including travel costs and savings.Audi (Germany)
Travel perks: European Delivery customers get 5-15 percent off airfares on Lufthansa, chauffeured pick up from the Munich airport and a free night at a 4- or 5-star hotel near the factory. On the day you get your keys, you’ll visit the Audi museum and factory, with free meals and snacks all day. You then have two weeks to tool around Europe, with free drop off (by advance arrangement) at any one of 16 locations in Germany and western Europe.
Extra options: Serious Audi fans might consider an additional driving or race “experience” in summer or early fall (many of the winter events require special experience like driving in Scandinavia), where you can learn to drive like a pro, take on a racing circuit, or tour Europe in a luxury vehicle. It’ll cost extra, of course, from a few hundred euro per person. Note that all vehicles ready between November 1-April 15 must have winter tires installed at the factory, but that may be included in the cost of the car.
Car pricing: Audis are priced from $33,800, before the discount up to 5 percent off MSRP, except for the highest end models such as the R8 Spyder.

BMW (Germany)
Travel perks: You can get to Bavaria with 5-15 percent off airfares on Lufthansa. At the BMW Welt facility, you’ll get free museum and factory tours, and refreshments at the cafe. They’ll cover European road insurance for up to 14 days, then you can drop off your vehicle at one of 12 locations free, except Italy which has a supplement of up to 850 euro (must be those Italian drivers!).
Extra options: In addition to airfare, you’ll pay to get to the factory from Munich airport, as well as any hotels on your trip. As befitting a luxury automobile, BMW offers a range of luxury add-on trips designed to make the most of driving the Autobahn in the ultimate driving machine. (The “optional” note indicates they aren’t included free in the deal, but they are specially designed for BMW customers.) Winter deliveries will also require seasonal tires in Germany; it is possible to rent the winter tires if you don’t have them factory-installed.
U.S. pick up: Another option entirely is the Performance Center Delivery Program in Spartanburg, South Carolina. If you travel down south for your car, BMW will pay for your hotel and meals, plus a tour of its U.S. factory and museum, and best of all, professional driving instruction. You won’t get the savings you’d get on a European delivery, but the travel costs are much lower.
Car pricing: From $29,065 with savings, up to 7 percent on MSRP. See all models here.

Mercedes-Benz (Germany)
Travel perks: While airfare discounts aren’t included, you’ll get Mercedes’ travel assistance for booking your trip, airport transfers and one night hotel accommodations. When you pick up your car, you’ll have a tour of the factory and museums, meals at the delivery center, 15 days road insurance and a tank of gas to get you on your way.
Extra options: You can add a self-guided tour of the Black Forest or Alps at additional cost. Drop offs in Italy, England or Spain are additional (Germany, Switzerland, France and the Netherlands are covered at no cost), and you’ll have to arrange for winter tires as with the other programs.
Car pricing: Vehicles from $35,800, with a 7 percent discount on MSRP.

Volvo (Sweden)
Travel perks: The best “deal” of the European Delivery programs, Volvo will include two round-trip plane tickets from the U.S. to Scandinavia (we’d assume Stockholm, but it’s 4-5 hours from the Volvo factory), one night in a hotel in Gothenburg, as well as the usual factory tour and road insurance.
Extra options: You will have to pay if you drop off or pick up anywhere other than the factory location, several hundred dollars or more, but it makes sense given the location of Volvo in Sweden as opposed to more central Germany. You may also see some seasonal charges: $150 per passenger supplement for summer flights, and the rental costs of snow tires between December and April. Volvo offers a variety of trips for more Scandinavian travel if you’d like to extend your trip.
Car pricing: Eligible Volvo models are from $31,420 after savings up to 7 percent on MSRP. See available models.

Bottom line: If you’re buying a new luxury vehicle, you likely aren’t a budget traveler. The savings even with free airfare, road insurance and a night at a nice hotel won’t likely offset what you’ll spend on the rest of your trip, let alone a car. However, if you are in the market for a slick new ride, driving it home on the Autobahn after seeing how it’s made is likely to be an unforgettable trip.

6 Weird Ways To Get Your Food Served Around The World

Monik Markus, Flickr

Now that food trucks are a staple in pretty much every metropolis, people have to get really creative to think about how to serve food in an edgy manner. But from fries in a vending machine to sparkling water in a public fountain, there are plenty of places around the world that will make sure that you have an unforgettable eating experience.

1. Coin-operated Belgian Fries
If you want a cornet of classic Belgian fries, look no further than a vending machine. A coin-operated machine in Brussels has been specifically developed to produce fries made with beef fat. And yes they do come with an option of ketchup or mayonnaise.

2. Ice cream from a monster truck
You’ve seen food trucks, but have you ever seen a monster food truck? Czech carmaker Skoda turned a 5.5 ton van into an ice cream truck, deeming it the “world’s largest ice cream truck.” It has five-foot tall tires after all. You’ll find it touring around the UK.3. Vending machine champagne
In Berlin you can get your bubbles from a vending machine. The gourmet food vending machine at delicatessen Floris Feinkost not only has pint-sized bottles of champagne available for sale, but also Dutch stroopwaffels and flavored salts. That’s what you call one stop shopping.

4. Sparkling water from a fountain
It would seem that only in Paris would you be able to get sparkling water from a fountain (which you can do at three different parks in the city) but earlier this year even Australia tried one out, with the city of Perth using a sparkling water fountain on a three-month trial.

5. Carry-out bacon bar
A restaurant isn’t such an odd or intriguing thing, but a carry-out bacon bar is. In Chicago you now know exactly where to order your bacon when you’re having that random craving thanks to Burke’s Bacon Bar which offers up mini sandwiches stuffed with bacon. As chef Rick Gresh said, “Bacon could be the one legal drug, because once you taste it you’re hooked.”

6. The in-car rice maker
Want food on the go? For those looking for a little more homecooked of a meal while they’re traveling, you might want the new Japanese in-car rice cooker. That’s right, you can now prep your sushi rice while you drive. Could be useful when you’re running late on dish prep for a dinner party.

Gummy Bear Art Car Takes Grand Tour

gummy bear car in New York
Courtesy of Alex Leuchte

Sometimes an “only in New York” moment has a more global story. On a rainy afternoon this week in Manhattan, my friend visiting from Germany was excited to spot a Mercedes with Munich plates. The car had a distinctive pattern covering its exterior, we debated whether it was metal, fabric or beads, but the actual decoration is much sweeter: gummy bears.

The back window detailed the “grand tour” of this visionary art, starting in Munich, traveling to Paris and London, and finally New York. The project is the third installment of artist Guenther Siraky‘s Mercedes Trilogy, which also took him and the car through Europe in 2007. The plan was to take the gummy bear car to each of the city’s major art museums, including the Louvre, Tate and Guggenheim, exhibiting the work of art in front of each museum. Over a million people have seen the car, and reactions range from disbelief and amazement to tears of joy. NYPD officers have even allowed him to park in forbidden places to display his work. While the car should be covered in rain and extreme heat, the slightly melted gummy bears just add to the vehicle’s charm. Siraky intended to sell the vehicle once he completed his tour last month, but he has extended his time in New York, and can be found driving it all over the five boroughs through the end of September.

See a slideshow of the gummy bear car in NYC below, and check in with the art car’s adventures through the artist’s Facebook page.

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