This Park Spends Part of the Year Submerged in Emerald Waters

A changing of the seasons usually means that colors turn, precipitation takes new form, and temperatures rise or fall. When it comes to Grüner See in Austria, the difference is more like 30 feet of water.

At the foothills of the snow-peaked Hochschwab mountains in an Austrian village called Tragöß, Grüner See (meaning “Green Lake”) spends most of the year with a depth of less than 10 feet. A park containing benches, foot bridges, and paths surrounds it. But when spring arrives, snowmelt from the neighboring mountains starts to fill the basin. Walking paths frequented by hikers disappear, benches become submerged, and the lake expands to around 43,055 square feet. With clean, clear water almost 40 feet deep, the lake takes on a new identity and transforms into a destination for scuba divers who are willing to brave the icy waters.

The emerald green color of the lake is a result of those crystal-clear waters and the nearby foliage. It’s a short-lived phenomenon, as the waters start to recede in July.

Unfortunately, the local tourism office is closing Grüner See to divers starting in January 2016 in order to preserve it, but you can take in the sight of this underwater sensation via the videos below (and tons of others on YouTube, if you’re interested).

Green Lake - Tragoss from Peter Nemeth on Vimeo.

[h/t Good]

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Ciao, Roma! Alitalia Is Offering Free Stopovers in 2018

If you’ve been eyeing a trip to Rome, now’s your chance. The airline Alitalia is now offering passengers free stopovers in the Italian capital, allowing them to stay for up to three days before continuing on in their itinerary, as Condé Nast Traveler reports.

There are a few catches: You’ll need to book both your departure and return flights through Alitalia, somewhat limiting your choice of airports. The airline’s website is currently showing the stopover promotion only for flights out of India, South Africa, and Kenya, even though it technically applies to all Alitalia flights, according to Frommer’s—meaning you’ll have to pick up the phone and call to book if you’re located elsewhere. And if you’re American, you’ll have to take your Roman holiday on your outbound flight, since the stopovers don’t apply on flights headed back to North America.

On the bright side, Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci International Airport will hold your luggage during your extra-long layover, so if you’re headed on a monthlong trip to India, you won’t need to lug all of your suitcases around the city. You will also qualify for discounts on some Roman hotels.

Several other airlines have used free stopover options as a way to encourage tourism in their home country, including the Portuguese national airline TAP and Icelandair, whose uber-successful stopover program has contributed to a tourism boom so big that the Icelandic government has started considering new taxes to handle it.

The Alitalia promotion lasts through the end of 2018.

[h/t Condé Nast Traveler]

Michael Gottschalk, AFP/Getty Images
Germany Wants to Fight Air Pollution With Free Public Transit
Michael Gottschalk, AFP/Getty Images
Michael Gottschalk, AFP/Getty Images

Getting people out of their cars is an essential part of combating climate change. By one estimate, getting people to ditch their two-car household for just one car and a public transit commute could save up to 30 percent in carbon dioxide emissions [PDF]. But how do you convince commuters to take the train or the bus? In Germany, the answer may be making all public transit free, according to The Local.

According to a letter from three of Germany's government ministers to the European Union Environment Commissioner, in 2018, Germany will test free public transit in five western German cities, including Bonn. Germany has failed to meet EU air pollution limits for several years, and has been warned that it could face heavy fines if the country doesn't clean up its air. In a report from 2017, the European Environment Agency estimated that 80,767 premature deaths in Germany in 2014 were due to air pollution.

City officials in the regions where free transport will be tested say there may be some difficulty getting ahold of enough electric buses to support the increase in ridership, though, and their systems will likely need more trains and bus lines to make the plan work.

Germany isn't the first to test out free public transportation, though it may be the first to do it on a nation-wide level. The Estonian capital of Tallinn tried in 2013, with less-than-stellar results. Ridership didn't surge as high as expected—one study found that the elimination of fares only resulted in a 1.2 percent increase in demand for service. And that doesn't necessarily mean that those new riders were jumping out of their cars, since those who would otherwise bike or walk might take the opportunity to hop on the bus more often if they don't have to load a transit card.

Transportation isn't prohibitively expensive in Germany, and Germans already ride public transit at much higher rates than people do in the U.S. In Berlin, it costs about $4 a ride—more expensive than a ride in Paris or Madrid but about what you'd pay in Geneva, and cheaper than the lowest fare in London. And there are already discounts for kids, students, and the elderly. While that doesn't necessarily mean making public transit free isn't worth it, it does mean that eliminating fares might not make the huge dent in car emissions that the government hopes it will.

What could bring in more riders? Improving existing service. According to research on transportation ridership, doing things like improving waits and transfer times bring in far more new riders than reducing fares. As one study puts it, "This seldom happens, however, since transport managers often cannot resist the idea of reducing passenger fares even though the practice is known to have less impact on ridership."

The same study notes that increasing the prices of other modes of transit (say, making road tolls and parking fees higher to make driving the more expensive choice) is a more effective way of forcing people out of their cars and onto trains and buses. But that tends to be more unpopular than just giving people free bus passes.

[h/t The Local]


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