The year to see Amsterdam?

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By Audrey D'Angelo

Cape Town - This is the second year of a campaign to encourage tourism between South Africa, France and Holland.

The Dutch capital, Amsterdam, is celebrating the 400th anniversary of the canals which are a major part of its attraction – and also several other anniversaries which are expected to boost the number of tourists attracted to the historic city.

Dutch airline KLM and Air France, which are merged although each retains its distinct identity, both fly into Cape Town and I was told that attractive special fares were in the pipeline for both airlines, although details had not been announced at the time this column was written. So this may be the year to go, despite the weakness of the rand against the euro.

Amsterdam is, of course, a special city for many South Africans with Dutch ancestry since it was from there that the Dutch colonists set sail and the ancient Tower of Tears under the shadow of which they embarked on their long voyage is still a landmark.

There are many other places in the city with links to the colonists, including a former orphanage, which now contains a coffee bar, with an upstairs room that still contains the lockers where the boys – who were all taught a trade – kept their tools. Many of these apprentices were among the first colonists.

The city has many other attractions, including its museums and art galleries. The other anniversaries being celebrated include those of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, which was founded 125 years ago, the Van Gogh museum, containing many of the artist’s pictures, and the Rijksmuseum, containing some of the most famous works of art in Europe. And apart from this feast of culture and its historic connections, it is a delightful place to visit, which attracts people from all over Europe.

Air France flies to Cape Town only in the summer months, although this year it has extended the season. Because they are both here for the summer, KLM is currently flying only five days a week but it will revert to a seven-day week when Air France withdraws for the winter, during which time it flies daily from Johannesburg.

Visitors to France who travel in economy class on local and short-haul flights can take advantage of special lower fares if they are without checked-in luggage.

* Swiss airline Edelweiss, owned by German airline Lufthansa, is flying in from Zurich for the second year, with two flights a week. The airline’s business development manager, Michael Trestl, describing the route as a “success”, says the demand from incoming tourists is 26 percent higher than last year, with bookings for the rest of the summer season “very promising”, although so far only 10 percent of the bookings are from South Africans flying into Europe. “For this reason our focus will remain on tourism into South Africa.”

He says 12 percent of the incoming tourists are from Germany, with the rest from other countries in the European Union including Italy – Zurich is near the Italian border and at present there are no direct flights from Italy – the UK, Sweden and France.

Edelweiss is using an Airbus A330-200 on the route. - Cape Argus

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