Doubts grow on how bloc of 65 million can function at critical time in EU history.
Central Europe’s unity is cracking.
The common purpose the region rediscovered during the refugee crisis has frayed in recent months amid differences over matters large and small, concerning everything from regulatory fine print to the future of Europe.
based upon the client’s need to escape and gather strength for his demanding work in prague, uhlik architekti was taken to an area between central and south bohemia with the idea to create a hideaway in the countryside.‘he took us to a spot in the midst of fields, woods and meadows, full of strange boulders, to a remote and somewhat forgotten place. the magic landscape together with the client’s aim won our hearts immediately.after a short hesitation, we decided to build the ‘forest retreat’ (as we called it later) together by our own hands.’
both glassed-in openings can be closed by big shutters
the result is a compact volume measuring 3.1 meters by 5.8 meters that freely rests on the ground with a stern raised on top of a huge boulder. the entry features a flat platform opened by a large glassed-in surface with enough headroom for one occupant to stand. the remaining room gradually rises towards another opening which faces the treetops. these windows can be closed by large shutters, one by a pulley and another by a hand-operated winch. each step of the interior is meant to provide the client with places for leisure and relaxation while concealing hidden storage space underneath. simultaneously, turning one of the benches over creates another double bed for the user.
the openings work as frames for the landscape
the basic supporting framework of the forest retreat is a joist construction which emerged from the cooperation with local carpenters. charred panels encase the exterior with rabbet joints. the wood for the boards, joists, and base was taken from fallen trees in the nearby vicinity. the inside of the dwelling is coated with oriented strand boards in order to reinforce the structure and reduce construction costs. the drainage of the asphalt-covered roof is secured by a steel L profile, which serves as a rail for attaching the idler pulley wheel. all steel components were prepared according to documentation provided by a blacksmith from a neighboring village.
the object appears as a stern raised on a huge boulder
the outer surface is made of charred wood
the entry is a flat platform with enough headroom for one person to stand
the base material is wood from a nearby forest
the construction is coated with oriented strand boards
This Barcelona apartment comes with cartoon doodles on the walls, toy boxes and an indoor hammockYes, a city break with the kids can be enjoyable, if you stay in child-friendly pads like these – from a Barcelona apartment with toys galore to Budapest with babysitters
With a comic-strip-print sofa, cartoon doodles on the walls, toy boxes, and an indoor hammock, this small but sleek apartment has been designed with kids in mind. There’s no television, but the owner Mavi runsmammaproof.org, a blog about exploring Spain with children in tow, so she’ll have plenty of ideas about how to keep the nippers entertained. Guests can even use a brand new Bugaboo Bee 3 during their stay, the perfect vehicle for transporting sleepy little ones to Gaudí’s Park Güell (15 minutes’ walk) or his Sagrada Família (20 minutes).
Voted best for kids by i-escape last year, these two-bedroom apartments are in a 19th-century block in Berlin’s bohemian Prenzlauer Berg district, within walking distance of dozens of child-friendly cafes and twokindercafes (play cafes): Onkel Albert on Zionskirchstrasse, and Das Spielzimmer on Schliemannstrasse. The owner, Simon, lives in the block with his family and is on hand to share tips on Berlin, recently proclaimed Europe’s most family-friendly city by home rental website Housetrip.com. Simon recommends the children’s museum Machmit, a five-minute tram ride away, and the Moritzhof children’s farm at the Mauerpark, with pony riding and a petting zoo. English-speaking babysitting available.
• i-escape.com/brilliant-apartments/kids. From €132 a night for a family of four
Close enough to the action but in a quieter residential area that is dotted with leafy parks and playgrounds, laid-back cafes and boulangeries, this two-bed apartment is a favourite with families. The number 76 bus takes you to the Louvre in 20 minutes and, if the kids behave themselves, afterwards to the Jardin de Tuileries next door. Here you can hire model boats to sail on the lake (€1 for 30 minutes). Trains from the RER station (10 minutes’ walk away) take you to Disneyland Paris within an hour.
• homeaway.co.uk/p89542. From £400 a week for four people, minimum seven-night stay in peak season
Palma de Mallorca
Next to its food market, Mercat de l’Olivar, in the buzzy pedestrianised old town, five minutes’ walk to a park and an indoor pool, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better-situated family apartment in Palma. It’s only a 15-minute walk to the beach and there’s an ice-cream shop on the corner too. There are two apartments – contemporary Lotus and Bougainvillea, more shabby chic – both with two bedrooms and sleeping up to six people. The owner, Zaretta, lives next door and is happy to share tips, let you borrow children’s books, DVDs, and a bucket and spade for beach days. The apartment is double-glazed and has a lift, although there are a few steps to climb first.
• homeaway.co.uk/p438979. From €120 a night for up to six people
Parents of toddlers beware: most apartments in Amsterdam come with steep, narrow stairs. Many also come with balconies. That’s why this spacious stair-free, balcony-free two-bedroom apartment is such a find. It’s ground floor but, thanks to the high ceilings, skylights and large windows, feels more like a loft apartment. It sleeps four comfortably but can accommodate six, or eight with the sofa bed. The location is great too – a short walk to the city’s largest park, Vondelpark, where kids can clamber about at the old-school playground and sample child-pleasingpoffertjes (mini Dutch pancakes) at Groot Melkhuis cafe.
• airbnb.co.uk. From £148 a night for four people
Kids will love rummaging around in the fancy dress cupboard in this large four-bedroom ground-floor apartment, with high ceilings, a large open-plan lounge and kitchen and access to a central courtyard garden. The apartment owners can arrange babysitting and an English-speaking kids’ day camp. They also run a minibus business, so can do airport pick-ups, city tours and get you discounts on family attractions, including Aquaworld(17 pools, 11 slides) and the hire of a bringo hintó, a four or six-man pedal-powered vehicle for exploring Margaret Island, a landscaped park in the middle of the Danube with a small zoo, playgrounds, and a musical fountain.
• housetrip.com/en/rentals/5452. From €98 a night for seven people (10 with sofa beds)
Children aged five and under can stay for free at these two funky ground-floor apartments, which can be joined together via an interior hallway for larger families (nine maximum). They’re just a five-minute walk from the city’s 3,200-acre Prater Park, home to one of the world’s oldest amusement parks with rollercoasters, bumper cars, a ghost train, maze, go-carts, trampolines, mini-golf, and Vienna’s famous giant ferris wheel. Also nearby is the traffic-free campus of the University of Economics, perfect for letting little ones run wild – and it has a toddler-friendly cafe. Another smaller park is just across the road. If the kids still aren’t tired, back at the apartment there’s a little front yard, lovely wooden toys, finger puppets and a rocking horse.
• praterloft.at. €100 a night for four people
This pretty three-bedroom apartment is five minutes from the Vatican and the Piazza del Popole and is even closer to two beautiful parks and arguably Rome’s best ice-cream parlour, Gelateria dei Gracchi. Tech-crazy kids, meanwhile, will be begging to go to Vigamus, the video-game museum, which is nearby. The owner, Audrey, used to live in the apartment with her son and daughter and they have kindly left behind many of their favourite toys and games, tidied away in boxes in their bright and cheery bunk-bed room.
• homeaway.co.uk/p1187828. From €149 a night for up to six people
Little ones will love catching the funicular to these small but charming hilltop apartments in Lisbon’s Pena district. Both have two bedrooms (one double, one twin) and spectacular views: across tiled rooftops and the river to the Rossio, Lisbon’s main square, or from Travessa to the ruins of Igreja do Carmo, Lisbon’s gothic monument to the city’s 1755 earthquake. Both apartments are packed with local antiques, but also have wooden train sets, jigsaw puzzles, children’s books, DVDs, and beach toys. The family-friendly beach, Santo Amaro, is a 30-minute train ride away.
• sawdays.co.uk. From €85 a night, five-night minimum booking in peak season
Even the children will appreciate the magical views from these elegant riverside apartments, looking across the Vltava to the Charles bridge and the city’s famous castle. These spacious and well-equipped apartments are on the first and second floor, accessed by 600-year-old spiral sandstone steps, but don’t worry, there’s also a private lift. Close by is the Kampa Park, which has a great playground for little ones and is home toHergetova Cihelna, a restaurant which does a lively Sunday family brunch with a kids’ corner, toys, professional babysitters and children under 1 metre tall eat for free. Each week there’s face-painting and entertainment, from magicians, pirates or Batman.
• ownersdirect.co.uk. From €114 a night for four people
Europe is home to historic cities, world-famous museums, and phenomenal restaurants. But there are also gorgeous hidden beaches, phenomenal ski resorts, and stunning natural formations like canyons, waterfalls, and gorges.
We’ve come up with the ultimate bucket list of travel destinations in Europe.
From biking along the canals of Amsterdam to tasting Chianti in Italy’s Tuscany region, here are 25 things you need to do in Europe in your lifetime.
Stroll along the Promenade des Anglais in Nice, in the south of France.
Hit the slopes at Innsbruck, a breathtaking ski resort in the mountains of Austria.
Dance to house music at an underground nightclub in Berlin, like Tresor.
Hug the cliffs while driving along the Amalfi Coast in Italy, and visit the charming towns of Positano, Ravello, and Salerno.
Pass a day in the beautiful Tivoli gardens and amusement park in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Walk across the 612-year-old Charles Bridge in Prague, Czech Republic.
Snap a photo at the Azure Window, a natural Limestone arch on the Maltese island of Gozo.
Stay up all night partying on the Spanish island of Ibiza.
Test your speed on Germany’s famous autobahn.
Take in the stunning views of the Mediterranean Sea from the Greek island of Santorini.
Play a hand of blackjack at the Casino de Monaco in Monte Carlo.
Hear the roar of Jägala Fall in Estonia, called “the Niagara Falls of the Baltics.”
Marvel at the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City.
Lounge on the stunning beaches of Lagos, Portugal.
Bike alongside the canals of Amsterdam, Netherlands.
Stroll the historic fortified city of Dubrovnik, Croatia.
Seek out Botticelli’s masterpieces, “The Birth of Venus” and “Primavera,” inside Florence’s Uffizi Gallery.
Play a round at Ballybunion, one of the most iconic golf courses in Ireland.
Marvel at the Moorish architecture and tranquil gardens of the Alhambra palace in Granada, Spain.
Smell the tulips at Keukenhof, a vast flower garden in Lisse, the Netherlands.
Catch a show at Scotland’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the world’s largest arts festival.
Test your limits and peer out from the edge of the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland.
Drink a beer from a stein during Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany.
Explore the ruins of Rome’s stately Colosseum and imagine the gladiator fights that once packed the arena.
Sip on a cocktail in a glass made entirely of ice at the ICEBAR, a bar inside Sweden’s ICEHOTEL Jukkasjärvi.
Czech President Milos Zeman sparked a testy exchange with Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt this week at the NATO summit in Wales, declaring that Prague had not yet seen “clear proof” of Russia’s intervention in Ukraine.
“President Zeman should ask his own people,” Bildt retorted. “I don’t know if the Czech Republic has an intelligence service. It does? Then he should ask them.”
The spat underscores a development that has surprised many in the West: Some countries on NATO’s eastern fringe seem decidedly unconcerned by Russia’s intervention in Ukraine and its generally belligerent stance.
The Ukraine crisis has fractured the so-called Visegrad Group — the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia. From alarmist Poland to Kremlin-friendly Hungary, the group runs the gamut of possible positions. And their disunity is one factor making it difficult for the European Union and NATO to adopt a unified response to Moscow.
As tensions between Russia and the West have risen, it has become clear that the Visegrad Four have starkly varying perceptions of the threat posed by Moscow. And for Budapest, Bratislava, and Prague, economic considerations are driving their calculations as the EU tries to reach consensus on tough Russia sanctions.
Expanded economic cooperation with Russia in the region since the 1990s has “undermined the strategic thinking in these countries,” Marian Majer, senior fellow for security and defense at the Central European Policy Institute in Bratislava, tells RFE/RL.
“The Ukraine crisis has [shown] us that strategic thinking and threat perception are different in these countries, and in some of them, economic arguments are prevailing [over] strategic arguments and a long-term vision of the future,” Majer says.
Edward Lucas, senior editor at “The Economist” and author of “The New Cold War: Putin’s Russia and the Threat to the West,” agrees.
“Poland is taking a tremendous lead as the unquestioned leader of the ex-Communist world,” Lucas says. “Elsewhere, it is a very different picture. Slovakia seems to have taken, initially, a kind of almost pro-Putin line or, at least, anti-sanction. The Czechs also, particularly Zeman, have taken a similarly, I think, deplorable line.”
Lucas describes Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban as the “worst of the lot,” citing his “explicit rejection of the liberal-democratic principles that the rest of Europe regards as mainstream.”
“I think it has put a huge strain on the whole idea of Visegrad as a geopolitical or diplomatic actor,” Lucas adds.
The diversity of views strikes many as odd since all four countries directly experienced Soviet aggression between 1939 and 1968. The disunity contrasts starkly with the alarm bells ringing in all three Baltic countries.
The Czech, Slovak, and Hungarian governments are dragging their heels as Europe discusses the so-called third wave of harsh, sectoral sanctions against Russia.
The coalition government in the Czech Republic has been more open to stiffer sanctions. But it is carefully monitoring its own bottom line and has said it would like to tailor new sanctions to minimize harm to Czech industries. The leftist Social Democrats — a key coalition member — oppose stronger sanctions against Moscow.
Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico said on August 31 that his government could “reject certain sanctions that would hurt national interests.”
Orban, Hungary’s nationalist prime minister whose style and tactics have been compared to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s, says it is “self-delusion” to believe sanctions will alter Russia’s behavior.
Russia has hinted that it might ban the import of European cars, a measure that would hit Hungary and Slovakia particularly hard.
There is no obvious explanation for the differences in how the Visegrad Four members perceive potential threats from Moscow.
It is unclear whether the governments and publics in these countries, excluding Poland, really do not see Russia as a threat or whether they are hedging due to uncertainty about NATO protection in the event of a serious confrontation.
“Central and Eastern Europe simply do not trust the allies, fearing that they will fail to fulfill their promises in a moment of crisis,” Russian political analyst Fyodor Lukyanov wrote on September 4.
In July 2009, a group of leading intellectuals and former politicians from across Central and Eastern Europe, including all of the Visegrad countries, wrote an open letter to the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama, warning Washington not to take the region’s “transatlantic orientation” for granted.
The writers warned the region could cease to be a “pro-Atlantic voice within the EU” under pressure from a “revisionist” Russia that is “pursuing a 19th-century agenda with 21st-century tactics.”
Russia “uses overt and covert means of economic warfare, ranging from energy blockades and politically motivated investments to bribery and media manipulation in order to advance its interests and to challenge the transatlantic orientation of Central and Eastern Europe,” the letter states.
Former Czech Defense Minister Alexandr Vondra, a signatory of the letter, says he and his co-authors were seen by many in the West as “confrontational neocons.” At the time, the West was coping with the global economic crisis, and the Obama administration was committed to its “reset” policy in relations with Russia.
“Rereading the 2009 open letter five years after,” Vondra wrote in July, “I would not change a word of it. All six of its recommendations remain unaccomplished. All our arguments remain valid. Time has proven we were right.”
Some of the “negative predictions” in the 2009 letter have come true, Vondra added.
“The 2014 European Parliament elections have confirmed the risk of growing nationalism in Europe, and some statements from the new generation of politicians who incline to realpolitik in Prague, Bratislava, Budapest or even Warsaw have shown that even in those parts of Europe, a pro-Atlantic stand should not be taken for granted,” he wrote.
Lucas of “The Economist” agrees that the 2009 letter was prophetic.
“They warned against taking the Atlantic alliance for granted, and since then everything has really gotten worse,” he says. “The reset with Russia didn’t bring much in retrospect — the gains were really temporary. The damage to the alliance has been deep and, I fear, even permanent. And what we are viewing is a sort of post-Atlanticist age.”
Pro-Western and Atlanticist sentiment is still strong among the publics in the region, especially in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, notes Majer, the analyst with the Central European Policy Institute.
Average citizens, he says, are certain about their countries’ pro-Western course and are not interested in returning to Russia’s orbit.
However, this unity breaks down when specific policy measures and sacrifices are discussed.
“I think, in general, the position is the same, the feelings are the same,” Majer says when asked about the 2009 letter. “But there might be some slight differences, and that might be problematic when getting such a letter today, five years later.”
Prague – More and more Czechs consider Russia dangerous and two-thirds of them (65 percent) say Russia may be a threat for Czech Republic in future, due to the conflict in Ukraine, according to the latest STEM opinion poll whose results were released today.
In 2013, 36 percent of Czechs considered Russia a threat, the pollsters recalled.
A slight majority (54 percent) believe that Russia does not pose a threat to democracy in the Czech Republic. The remaining 46 percent hold the opposite view.
However, most people (80 percent) agree that the conflict in Ukraine endangers European peace.
Seventy-one percent agreed with the position of the Czech government that calls for respect to the territorial integrity of Ukraine.
A prevailing majority (72 percent) said they believe the sanctions imposed on Russia would have no effect.
But according to 74 percent, the Russian retaliatory measures against EU countries will harm Czech farmers, the poll showed.
STEM conducted the poll from October 3 to October 10 among 1024 people.