Munich Expert

Say hello to Nick Selby, prolific scribbler, world traveler, and Münchener. This month we welcome him to our small stable of Gemütlichkeit contributors.

From his Munich base, Nick takes on a variety of writing assignments, mostly for the hugely successful, respected and extensive Lonely Planet series of guidebooks. He has either authored or coauthored Lonely Planet's Germany; Europe On a Shoestring; Scandinavia & Baltic Europe On a Shoestring; Brazil; St. Petersburg (Russia); Russia, Ukraine & Belarus; USA; Texas; Florida; and Miami.

Since he lives there, we thought Munich was a good place for him to start. When looking at stories submitted to Gemütlichkeit—and when writing them myself—I always hope they are literate and entertaining, but most of all that they contain useful information. Funny is great, erudite is good, even hip is okay. But bottom line the traveler needs to know where to go, how to get there, where to stay, where to eat, what to eat, how much it will cost, and all the necessary phone and fax numbers, and street, email and Web addresses. I'm sure you'll agree Nick's piece covers all those bases.

Among the more interesting job titles culled from this native New Yorker's resume are:

  • Producer and Morning DJ, Radio Zet, Warsaw, Poland
  • Music Mixer and Utility on The Guiding Light, (yes, the daytime Soap Opera) NY Production Center, New York City;
  • Assistant Sound Designer, Penn & Teller on Broadway, Ritz Theater, New York City.

One of the unspoken, just-below-the-surface, philosophies we have maintained in publishing Gemütlichkeit, is that its reporters should experience our three countries just as its readers do—as visitors. We reasoned that we would encounter the same language and culture hurdles as our readers and not get so deep into the forest we couldn't see any trees. But no matter how often we U.S.-based reporters travel to Europe, Nick, as a resident, offers an insider's perspective we simply cannot duplicate. We think providing both vantage points—visitor and insider—will make for a better than ever Gemütlichkeit.

So stick around, there'll be more Nick Selby in the months ahead.

Add Internet Sites

Last month we ran a list of useful Internet sites for the traveler to Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

Let me tell you about an important one we left out. A year or two ago, Priceline.com emerged with a big splash of publicity. The idea was—and still is—the user goes online and makes an offer on various services, the most common being travel. Let's say you want to go New York to Los Angeles roundtrip; you offer to pay $250 per ticket, if Priceline.com finds an airline that will accept your bid, you've got yourself a great deal. The less specific you are about your requirements - number of stops, time of travel, etc., the better chance of success you have. At the outset, either Priceline.com didn't have many participating airlines or users didn't understand the service, because the first press reviews were almost entirely negative. Consumer Reports Travel Newsletter was especially skeptical and a few even called it an outright fraud.

Since that rocky start, Priceline.com has become a viable source for inexpensive travel services. Let me give you some real-world examples of the savings possible for those with the guts to play by the Priceline.com rules.

Our daughter and her husband wanted to spend a long weekend in the Pacific Northwest scouting out a place to relocate from Boston. Their airfare bid to Priceline.com for Boston-Seattle tickets at $200 each was accepted by TWA. Of course, they had to agree to fly at any time (return trip left Seattle at 12:30am) and there might be stops (one each way).

Next, they needed accommodations. For $60 per night in Seattle they got a room with king-size bed and separate sitting area at Seattle's Sheraton Downtown. Their bid for a Portland hotel specified three-star, downtown. Portland's Doubletree Hotel Downtown gave them a nonsmoking room with two double beds for $49. (We wanted to stay in the same hotel with them, something Priceline.com couldn't guarantee, so we contacted the hotel direct. First quote was $129. How about a corporate rate? O.k., $99. Went to Yahoo.com. Under "shopping", clicked on "travel," then clicked on "hotels." Booked a room at the same hotel for $89. Not bad, except when considering our kids had the identical accommodations for $40 less.)

This week, our oldest son, needing to spend three nights in Portland with his wife and two young children, used Priceline.com to get a $35 per night rate for a room with two double beds at a Red Lion.

For those willing to commit to the unknown, Priceline.com is for real.

Swissair Fare Reduction Info

Subscribers wishing to take advantage of Swissair's Gemütlichkeit fare reduction program should phone 800-238-0399 rather than the main Swissair booking number.

The airline is merging its U.S. reservation system with partner Sabena and not all reservationists are fully conversant yet with the Gemütlichkeit program. If you still have a problem, phone us at 800-521-6722 and we'll help.- RHB

September 1999