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The Munich Residenz (Wikimedia)

Travelling to Europe, wherever you go, is quite the experience. The rich history, varied multiculturalism and cuisine all make for a trip that you won’t easily forget. Like any vacation, you’re probably wondering how you can make the most of the time. There are a lot of answers I could offer here, but there are a few big things you should keep in mind for Europe. Here’s how to get the most from your trip.


First of all, look for ways to save money. As fascinating as Europe is, many of its more populated areas aren’t exactly cheap. If you’re planning on using a phone out there, then get a European SIM card. Getting a data plan for your SIM will allow you to get up maps and book excursions much easier. It will also ensure you don’t spend a fortune through your American plan. Keep an eye on the exchange rate too. Euros, pounds and Scandinavian crowns fluctuate in value pretty often. If there’s a big change before your trip, seize the opportunity. Take your time looking for hotels, too. Hotels in European cities can be horribly expensive. Check out Hotwire hotels for some pretty good deals.

If you want to hit several European locations, then travel by train or bus as opposed to flying. Although this takes a little longer, Europe has some truly stunning countryside. Europe is a big continent, and those long trips will allow you to meet some interesting characters. Hopefully there won’t be too much of a language barrier there! Travelling by train or bus is also significantly cheaper than by air, and if you book in advance you can save an absolutely incredible sum! By using train routes, you’ll also be dropped off in the centre of your final destination. This will help you avoid all the hassle of an airport, and make orientation easier once you arrive.

Finally, research the things you want to see. Having a plan that’s far too rigid can ruin the feeling of a trip. However, Europe is one of those areas where there’s things that you simply can’t miss out on. Sit down with your travelling buddy, and make a list of all the specific places you want to check out. This will help you keep the pace, and avoid any nagging regrets when you’re back on the other side of the Atlantic. If your trip is going to span the continent, you should pack light as well. Bring money rather than things. If you have timetables you need to stick to, you don’t want to be scrambling to pack everything up and risk losing something important. Keep some empty space in your cases, and you’ll have more room to fit souvenirs!

I hope these tips will help you make the most of your trip around this incredible continent. Although preparation is important for any kind of trip, don’t let it dull down your experience. Every country in Europe is full of exciting things to discover. Play things by ear every now and then. You won’t regret it!

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has announced that the US will close 15 military bases across Europe.

The Pentagon says the move will save around $500 million a year, and comes as the US military seeks to shift its attention towards Asia.

The US has named RAF Lakenheath to be the first permanent European base for the F-35 aircraft and currently has more than 60,000 troops stationed in Europe, mostly in Germany, Italy and the UK.

The number will remain the same, as the US ramps up rotations within Europe for training programs.

Many of the closures affect smaller bases that were remnants of the Cold War.

US officials also have finalized plans to cut about 500 military personnel from the Lajes military base in the Azores islands, which drew opposition from Portugal.

Chuck Hagel said he understood it would mean job losses and thanked those who had supported the US Air Force.

“I know that this will result in a reduction of our local host nations workforces at some locations. I value the tremendous support they provided us for decades.”

Other countries with closing bases include Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and Italy.

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EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton has announced that Ukraine’s President Viktor Yanukovych intends to sign a deal on closer EU ties after all.

Baroness Catherine Ashton was speaking as pro-EU protesters continued to paralyze the centre of Kiev over Viktor Yanokovych’s decision not to sign the EU association agreement.

The president’s U-turn late last month followed pressure from Russia.

Catherine Ashton said Viktor Yanukovych had assured her when they met that his aim was to sign the agreement.

The baroness did not give an indication of when she expected this to happen.

She said his concern during their talks was the “short term economic issues” that Ukraine faced.

Catherine Ashton met President Viktor Yanukovych in Kiev

Catherine Ashton met President Viktor Yanukovych in Kiev

Viktor Yanukovych pulled out of the deal last month, explaining that Kiev could not afford to sacrifice trade with Russia. While adding that he still aimed to sign the deal, Viktor Yanukovych said Ukraine would need at least 20 billion euros ($27 billion) a year to upgrade its economy.

Catherine Ashton said on Thursday: “It is my view that those challenges, which are real, can be addressed by the support that not only comes from the European Union institutions, but actually by showing that he has a serious economic plan in signing the association agreement also will help to bring in the kind of investment that he needs.”

The Ukrainian government’s handling of the pro-EU protests in Independence Square in Kiev has met with a stern response from both the European Union and the US.

Police moved into the main protest camp in the early hours of Wednesday, prompting US Secretary of State John Kerry to express “disgust” at the government’s treatment of a peaceful protest.

At least nine people were detained and there were some reports of police using violence. The state department said later it was considering a range of responses including sanctions.

After her meeting with Viktor Yanukovych on Thursday, Catherine Ashton said she had insisted on the release of anyone arrested because of the protests and that the Ukrainian president had assured her that would happen.

Moscow is concerned the EU free trade deal with Kiev would flood the Russian market and wants Ukraine to sign up to a customs union that includes Belarus and Kazakhstan.

In his annual address to the Russian parliament on Thursday, President Vladimir Putin said he hoped a solution to Ukraine’s crisis could be found and insisted the customs union would not be forced on Kiev.

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New mass protests against Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich’s refusal to sign a trade deal with the EU are planned for Sunday at noon.

They are demanding new elections, and the impeachment of the president.

Rallies continued through the night, with thousands gathered on the main square in the capital Kiev.

Police violently dispersed an opposition camp on Saturday, injuring dozens of people.

New mass protests against Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich's refusal to sign a trade deal with the EU are planned for Sunday at noon

New mass protests against Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich’s refusal to sign a trade deal with the EU are planned for Sunday at noon

President Viktor Yanukovich said he was “outraged” by the police action.

The new rally is planned for Sunday at 12:00.

Jailed opposition leader and ex-PM Yulia Tymoshenko urged Ukrainians “not to leave the authorities’ actions unanswered”.

In a message read by her daughter on Saturday, Yulia Tymoshenko urged Ukrainians: “Fly, drive, walk to Kiev from all parts of Ukraine, but gather everyone on 1 December.”

“We can and should remove these authorities,” an opposition party leader Vitali Klitschko told thousands of demonstrators outside Kiev’s St Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery.

“We should come out and show that we will not allow them to humiliate us, we will stand up for our rights.”

Vitali Klitschko said that supporters were travelling from the western city of Lviv and other Ukrainian cities to take part in Sunday’s rally.

Meanwhile, a court in Kiev has banned protested in Independence Square, European Square and at other locations in the city centre until January 7, 2014.

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Speaking at the Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso has said the EU will not accept a “veto” by Russia on the bloc’s ties with former Soviet republics.

Jose Manuel Barroso said the era of “limited sovereignty was over in Europe”.

The summit failed to revive an association agreement with Ukraine that was due to be its centrepiece.

Ukraine’s President Viktor Yanukovych said he could not afford to sacrifice trade with Russia – which opposes the deal – for EU ties.

Viktor Yanukovych froze plans to sign Ukraine’s trade deal last week. In Vilnius, he defended his refusal to sign, saying the EU was not offering adequate financial aid.

After the two-day summit, Jose Manuel Barroso said: “We will not give in to external pressure, not the least from Russia.

“What we cannot accept is a condition on a bilateral agreement to have a kind of a possible veto of a third country. This is contrary to all principles of international law.”

EU Council President Herman Van Rompuy said the parties had been “really close” to signing the association agreement, but added that “we need to overcome pressure from abroad”.

“We are embarked on a long journey, helping Ukraine to become, as others, what we call now, <<new member states>>. But we have to set aside short-term political calculations.”

However, progress was made with two other ex-Soviet states, Georgia and Moldova.

Viktor Yanukovych froze plans to sign Ukraine's trade deal, saying the EU was not offering adequate financial aid

Viktor Yanukovych froze plans to sign Ukraine’s trade deal, saying the EU was not offering adequate financial aid

Association agreements with both were initialed – a stage prior to signing – on Friday. Diplomats have expressed hope those deals can be signed next year.

EU leaders said in a statement earlier that they “strongly” disapproved of Moscow’s pressure on Ukraine not to sign – while Russian President Vladimir Putin accused the EU of “blackmail”.

Analysts say Russia worked hard to undermine the EU agreement with Ukraine, which it sees as a strategically vital partner.

On the one hand, it offered Kiev loans and price discounts. On the other, it threatened painful trade sanctions and higher gas bills.

On Thursday, Viktor Yanukovych told Ukrainian TV that an EU offer to lend Kiev 610 million euros ($828 million) was inadequate.

He said Ukraine would need at least 20 billion euros a year to cover the costs of upgrading its economy to “European standards”.

“For three years in succession they [EU leaders] have shown this candy in pretty wrapping to us,” Viktor Yanukovych added.

“We don’t have to be humiliated like this. We are a serious country, a European one.”

Meanwhile pro-EU protests are continuing in Ukrainian cities against the government’s decision to back out of the agreement.

Prominent Ukrainian opposition politician Vitali Klitschko, who is also in Vilnius, said he hoped the agreement would be signed after all.

“We Ukrainians want the changes,” the world boxing champion added.

“We want to live with the European family, with European rules, with Europeans’ life standards.”

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More than 100,000 people are protesting against Ukrainian government’s move to delay the EU trade deal under pressure from Russia.

Opposition leaders joined the Kiev protest, said to be the largest since the Orange Revolution in 2004.

Police fired tear gas as protesters tried to break through a cordon around government buildings.

A pro-government rally a few miles away attracted about 10,000 people.

Kiev police said they had fired tear gas after protesters threw a smoke grenade at officers in an attempt to break into the Cabinet of Ministers building.

Police fired tear gas as protesters tried to break through a cordon around government buildings

Police fired tear gas as protesters tried to break through a cordon around government buildings

Ukraine made the decision on the EU deal last week, saying it could not afford to break ties with Moscow. Russia is trying to bring Kiev into its own customs union.

Russian President Vladimir Putin accused the EU of blackmailing Ukraine to sign the deal during a summit in Vilnius next week.

People arrived at the rally, on European Square, with families and children, many holding banners with slogans like “I want to live in Europe” or “Ukraine is part of Europe”.

Several rallies in Kiev and other cities have been held over the last few days, but Sunday’s has been the largest so far.

World heavyweight boxing champion Vitali Klitschko, who leads the Udar movement and attended Friday’s rally, was not present.

Ukrainian news agency Unian said he had been flying back from the US after celebrating his daughter’s birthday but his plane was not allowed to land in Kiev because of weather conditions.

On Friday, Ukrainian PM Mykola Azarov said the decision not to sign the deal was motivated solely by economics and was “tactical”. He said it did not alter Ukraine’s overall development strategy.

The Ukrainian government says it is now looking into setting up a joint commission to promote ties between Ukraine, Russia and the EU.

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Turkey is to open a railway tunnel underneath the Bosphorus Strait, creating a new link between the Asian and European shores of Istanbul.

Turkey’s PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan has for years championed the undersea engineering project, conceived by an Ottoman sultan in 1860.

Work began in 2004 but archaeological excavations delayed the construction.

Japan invested $1 billion of the $4 billion total cost of the 0.8 mile tunnel, designed to withstand earthquakes.

The Bosphorus tunnel is scheduled to be inaugurated at 11:00 a.m., local time.

The railway tunnel underneath the Bosphorus Strait creates a new link between the Asian and European shores of Istanbul

The railway tunnel underneath the Bosphorus Strait creates a new link between the Asian and European shores of Istanbul

The Turkish government hopes the new route under the Bosphorus will eventually develop into an important trading route, extending from China all the way to Western Europe.

Critics of Recep Tayyip Erdogan have seen the tunnel as one of his grandiose construction projects for the city where he used to be mayor.

Detractors of his proposals, including a third airport, a parallel canal and a third bridge over the Bosphorus, say they illustrate Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s “pharaonic” ambitions.

Authorities came under fire earlier this year when protesters opposed plans to redevelop a park in Istanbul. Widespread violence between anti-government demonstrators and security forces ensued.

The rail tunnel will not be fully operational after its official opening on Tuesday, the news agency AFP reports.

“The part that is in service is very limited. All that has been delayed until much later,” said Tayfun Kahraman, president of the Istanbul Chamber of Urban Planners.

“We are wondering why this inauguration is happening so soon.”

Japan’s PM Shinzo Abe will be present at the official opening in recognition of the Bank of Japan’s status as the project’s principal financial backer.

City officials say the tunnel will relieve pressure on the two existing bridges, as well as ease traffic congestion and pollution.

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A 13-year-old runaway boy who took his father’s car and drove nearly 1,000 km (620 miles) across Europe is being re-united with his family.

The boy fled after a reported row with his parents in Italy.

Having driven from Italy into Austria, he proceeded to Germany where he was stopped by police after his family had alerted Interpol.

The boy, who had been adopted two years ago, was reportedly heading to his original home country, Poland.

The teenager lives in the northern Italian town of Montebelluna.

After an argument with his adoptive mother – allegedly over a mobile phone payment – the boy, a keen go-cart racer, left on Thursday afternoon.

And he seems to have been completely confident at the wheel of his father’s high-powered Mercedes car.

A 13-year-old runaway boy who took his father's car and drove nearly 620 miles across Europe is being re-united with his family

A 13-year-old runaway boy who took his father’s car and drove nearly 620 miles across Europe is being re-united with his family

His parents say he was probably heading for Poland – he was said to be missing his sister who lives there and to have been in touch with her via the internet, according to Italian media.

The car was eventually tracked and stopped near Moisburg, about 150 km from the Polish border.

Police said it was “incredible” that the boy-driver had managed to cross two international borders and filled up with petrol twice without anyone en route raising the alarm.

The teenager’s parents are understood to have gone to Germany to bring him home.

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Oil prices fell sharply on Wednesday as economic data from China and Europe sparked worries about global demand.

Brent crude for November delivery fell $3.40 to $108.17 a barrel, while US crude settled $3.75 lower at $88.14 a barrel.

In September, Brent crude hit a peak of $117.95, a four-month high.

Analysts said many factors that had pushed up prices, such as tensions between Iran and Israel, had also abated.

“The energy markets realigned themselves to fundamentals last night in dramatic fashion,” said Justin Harper from IG Markets in a note to clients.

Data from China, released on Wednesday, was one of the factors that led to the sell-off in oil and other commodities.

It showed that China’s services sector expanded at a slower pace in September. It came days after government data indicated that manufacturing continues to slow.

China is a major importer of commodities and a slowdown there makes a huge dent in demand.

That coupled with weakness in European economies signaled that there would be plenty of supply.

“US crude plummeted 4.1% through a combination of over-supply and low demand,” said Justin Harper.

“US stockpiles have reached their highest for 15 years.”

Meanwhile, concerns over possible military action between Israel and Iran also eased.

 

Facebook has decided to suspend the facial-recognition tool that suggests when registered users could be tagged in photographs uploaded to its website.

The move follows a review of Facebook’s efforts to implement changes recommended by the Data Protection Commissioner of Ireland last year.

Billy Hawkes, who did not request the tool’s total removal, said he was encouraged by the decision to switch it off for users in Europe by 15 October.

It is already unavailable to new users.

Facebook has decided to suspend the facial-recognition tool

Facebook has decided to suspend the facial-recognition tool

Billy Hawkes said Facebook “is sending a clear signal of its wish to demonstrate its commitment to best practice in data protection compliance”.

Richard Allan, Facebook director of policy for Europe, Middle East and Africa, said: “The EU has looked at the issue of securing consent for this kind of technology and issued new guidance.

“Our intention is to reinstate the tag-suggest feature, but consistent with new guidelines. The service will need a different form of notice and consent.”

The facial-recognition tool was not part of the company’s commercial activities and did not generate many user complaints, he added.

In December 2011 the Data Protection Commissioner (DPC) gave Facebook six months to comply with its recommendations.

They included more transparency about how data is used and individuals are targeted by advertisers and more user control over privacy settings.

On Friday, Richard Allan said: “When you think of the very wide ranging investigation the DPC carried out into Facebook, they looked at every aspect of our service, and our overall scorecard is very good.

“In the vast majority of areas the DPC looked into, they found we are behaving in a way that’s not just compliant but a reasonable model for good practice.”

Also on Friday, the DPC said there were still some areas where more work was required, and it has asked for another update from Facebook in these areas in four weeks’ time.

Deputy Commissioner Gary Davis said the DPC remained concerned about whether photos marked for deletion were actually being deleted within 40 days as required under Irish Data Protection law.

“We also want some clarity about inactive and deactivated accounts – we think Facebook should contact those users after a period of time and see whether they want to come back,” he said.

Many people did return to the website after long periods away, Gary Davis said, but users with inactive accounts should be contacted within two years of their last log-in.

Gary Davis also said he would like Facebook to do more to educate existing users about its privacy policies.

“We would also like more information in relation to advertising – there is the potential for the use of terms that could be sensitive – such as ethnicity, trade union membership, political affiliation – to be used by advertisers to target others based on those words,” he said.

But he added: “The discussions and negotiations that have taken place, while often robust on both sides, were at all times constructive with a collective goal of compliance with data protection requirements.”

 

Europe has almost exhausted its stock of old-style internet addresses.

Strict rationing of these addresses – called IPv4 – has been started by the body that hands them out in Europe.

From now on, companies can only make one more application for IPv4 addresses and, if successful, will only get 1,024 of them.

In addition, any application for more old addresses must demonstrate how an organization is using the new, replacement, addressing scheme.

“The day has come, finally,” said Axel Pawlik, managing director of the Ripe NCC that hands out addresses to European ISPs, firms and other organizations.

Europe has almost exhausted its stock of old-style internet addresses

Europe has almost exhausted its stock of old-style internet addresses

Every device that goes online is allocated a unique Internet Protocol (IP) address.

The internet grew up using an addressing scheme called IP Version 4 (IPv4). In the 1970s when the web was being built the 4.3 billion IP addresses allowed by IPv4 were thought to be enough.

However, the rapid growth of the internet and popularity of the web have swiftly exhausted this pool.

The growth of the net is linked to the size of the pool because everything that connects to the net needs an IP address to send and receive data.

Plans are afoot to move to a new scheme, known as IP Version 6 (IPv6), that has an effectively inexhaustible supply of addresses.

On 14 September Ripe NCC got down to its last 16 million IPv4 addresses. While this might sound a lot, said Axel Pawlik, the use of this last substantial block would be so heavily restricted that the supply could be considered to be at an end.

“Applicants will only get about 1,000 addresses and that’s it and they only get them once and that’s the end of it,” said Axel Pawlik,

To even get that small number of IPv4 addresses, he said, applicants must already have an allocation of IPv6 addresses and demonstrate how they planned to use them.

Immediately prior to reaching the last big block Ripe was handing out just under four million IPv4 addresses every 10 days.

Anyone planning expansion based around the net should already be committed to using IPv6, said Axel Pawlik.

Other techniques based around technical tricks that share IPv4 addresses among many different devices would prove increasingly unworkable, he said.

“They are complicated, potentially unstable and expensive,” he said.

“The other route they could go is to v6 as it’s in most of the net equipment now.”

 

Facebook users faced problems accessing the social network in many countries across Europe for about two hours on Wednesday due to “technical difficulties”.

Facebook smartphone and tablet apps were also affected, as users reported on Twitter.

The company apologized for the incident and said the issue was now resolved.

“Today we experienced technical difficulties causing the site to be unavailable for a number of users in Europe,” Facebook said in a statement.

“The issue has been resolved and everyone should now have access to Facebook. We apologize for any inconvenience.”

More isolated accounts of inaccessibility were posted by users in further afield places such as Pakistan and South Korea.

Facebook users faced problems accessing the social network in many countries across Europe for about two hours on Wednesday due to "technical difficulties"

Facebook users faced problems accessing the social network in many countries across Europe for about two hours on Wednesday due to "technical difficulties"

Facebook has about 850 million users worldwide and many took to Twitter to share information about the down time, with “#facebookdown “quickly becoming a trending topic on the microblogging site.

Most took a humorous view, with user @Purple_Cow tweeting: “#Facebook is #down, expect a surge in productivity in offices everywhere today.”

However, some website owners who make use of the Facebook Connect service – which allows people to log into external sites by using their Facebook account – were left frustrated by the technical issues.

Launched in February 2004, last month Facebook announced plans to float on the stock market. It seeks to raise $5 billion from the move, making it the biggest sale of shares by an internet company.