Fall in love with the German Hamptons – OZY

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Why all eyes are on Europe

Jack Ezon, founder of travel agency EMBARK Beyond in New York, says that for the first time in his 22-year career, his company’s September bookings to Europe exceeded August’s. “Travel to Europe in September and October was up 34% from 2019 and 37% from 2018,” Ezon told OZY. Nearly half of its customers to Europe seek to extend summer in historic Mediterranean locations like the Amalfi Coast and the French Riviera, as well as Lake Como, Mykonos and even the Balearic island of ‘Ibiza this fall.

Ezon credits the continued strength of the U.S. dollar — in addition to other factors, including pent-up demand — for “keeping Americans focused on Europe” this season. And they are on a mission. “Customers are flocking to outlet stores outside Florence with empty suitcases as they did when the lira was the currency of the day,” he says.

Yet amidst all the frenzy, there are still a few hidden gems – places largely unknown to most American tourists.

Reims, France

Planning a trip around a theme — say, wine — is a thing right now, says Tania Swasbrook, co-founder of Vgari Lifestyle, a subsidiary of Travelworld International. She suggests skipping French go-tos, like Loire and Bordeaux, this fall in favor of something different. “Around Reims you have six or seven of the best champagne houses in the world,” she told OZY. It indicates properties such as the Royal Champagne Hotel & Spaoverlooking the hillsides and the Champagne vineyards, and the brand new Mutigny Stationamong other options for a unique stay.

Hire a car for a road trip that will take you south to the beautiful medieval town of Troyes, then on to Chablis and Dijon (wines of Burgundy, Of course), ending up perhaps in the foodie paradise of Lyon, makes for a spectacularly scenic route, she says.

Ljubljana, Slovenia

Swasbrook and Ezon swear by Slovenia during the autumn months as an alternative to the busier Adriatic destination of Croatia. “Ljubljana is one of the most unexpected cities to visit,” says Ezon.

Slovenia appeared on the international radar when it was named Europe’s Green Capital in 2016, says Swasbrook. “It’s still incredibly unspoilt, which Croatia was for a while,” she says. “You can see that in the fact that they don’t really have a lot of high-end properties. You also see it in the hospitality of the people.

Just 2.5 hours by road from Venice, it can easily be combined with a trip to northern Italy, he says.

Swasbrook points to Slovenia’s compact size and “maneuverability” as part of what makes it so attractive for an easy autumn getaway, with golden vineyards added into the equation. “The days of jumping from one country to another are over; people don’t want to do that anymore,” she says. Slovenia makes it easy to cover a lot of ground in a short time.

After exploring Ljubljana, she recommends basing in Ikador Luxury Boutique Hotel & Spaalong Slovenia’s tiny but dazzling coast, and visit Maribor, home to the world’s oldest known grape-growing vine (the Žametovka grape), too.

Thessaloniki, Greece

Let the crowds in search of a quiet summer feel descend on the predictable Greek island destinations of Santorini and Mykonos, and head to the mainland city of Thessaloniki, suggests Ezon. Greece’s gateway to the Balkans, the country’s second-largest city runs along the northern Aegean coast and is rich in Jewish history, with an incredible food scene to boot, he says. “Thessaloniki is much more of a destination for Europeans,” says Ezon. “You don’t go for the beach, you go for a big city.”

Consider planning a detour out of town to Mount Olympus in October or November for fall colors and great hiking.


Turin/Piedmont, Italy

Turin (aka Torino) tends to get overlooked in favor of sexier Italian cities that hardly need to be named. But the northern Italian city and the surrounding region of Piedmont (Piedmont) are particularly attractive during the autumn months. It’s truffle season, when the Alba International White Truffle Fair (International Fair of Tartufo Bianco d’Alba) organizes all sorts of events around the region that revolve around the decadent tuber – from cooking classes and chef dinners to tastings, markets and more.

Treat yourself to a stay in a sustainable five-star establishment, House of Langasouth of Turin, says Ezon, and you will have the Barolo and Barbaresco wine regions on your doorstep. To the east, and also in the Piedmont region, Nordelaiawith just 12 rooms built around an 800-year-old farmhouse, promises more of the fine dining good life of northern Italy (and truffles galore).

Hamburg, Germany

Berlin’s outsized reputation for party and culture makes it a natural choice for a northern German getaway. But Hamburg, less than two hours by train northwest, has an understated, gritty and luxurious appeal that surprises travelers. It’s a big car-free city and full of urban parks and beaches around the Elbe and Lake Alster which shimmer with gold and crimson foliage in the fall too.

After a while in the city (and maybe catch a performance at the iconic Elbphilharmonie), consider traveling to the northernmost state of Germany, Schleswig-Holsteinfor a wellness getaway on the beautiful 22-mile long North Sea island Sylt, often referred to as “the Hamptons of Germany”. Ezon calls it “a great place to detox and re-tox”, with spa hotels, bike paths, Michelin-starred restaurants and miles of beaches to explore.

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Cathy W. Howerton