Germany: A Tale Of Two CitiesIn 2017, Germany ushers in the next 500 years as it marks the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s Protestant Reformation. Music is key as the nation at the heart of Europe looks to tomorrow. If you haven’t been to Berlin since the 1989 fall of the wall, the transformation is nothing less than startling to the senses. Mighty cranes dot the Berlin skyline as the city re-builds and re-invents itself as a major cultural center. Eyes and ears are tuned in to Museum Island in the capital city’s lively Mitte district where the beloved Berlin State Opera, an 18th century landmark, reopens after a seven-year restoration. Hop on a train for the 90-minute journey to handsome Hamburg, Germany’s second-largest city. Wander across bridges over canals, along rows of restored red brick warehouses to reach Elbphilharmonie, the city’s striking new concert hall and symbol of the city. Built atop a historic warehouse, it balances elements of design and purpose, with views and programming that have already outpaced visits to the legendary Neuschwanstein Castle. Ease of travel is boosted by Air Berlin’s launch of new nonstop routes from San Francisco and Los Angeles as well as increased service from New York and Miami.
Philippines: Tropical ParadiseCebu Province is a tropical paradise that combines pristine beaches, cultural attractions, plus the best mangoes in the world. Unlike so many other islands that have become more built up and overcrowded, Cebu Island and its 150-plus surrounding islands haven’t lost their magic at all. Pack hiking boots and bathing suits to explore Olango Island’s Wildlife Sanctuary and on to the untouched volcanic Camotes with their abundant palm-lined beaches. See the crystal clear turquoise waters of Bantayan and the secluded bays of Malapascua and Mactan, where exquisite diving earns it the nickname “Diving Mecca of the South.” There’s also a sunken island off the west coast of Cebu, which makes a great bucket list item for diving and snorkeling enthusiasts. Not a water baby? Cebu has lively markets, bars, and eateries as well as many cultural sites, monuments, basilicas, temples, and museums.