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NEWS AND BRIEFS : Marcus Aurelius Rides Again as His Statue Gets a New Home in Rome

April 15, 1990

After seven years of debate and two years' work to repair the damage caused by pollution, one of Rome's most recognizable landmarks, the 1,800-year-old equestrian statue of emperor-scholar Marcus Aurelius, returned to the Capitoline Hill last week, ready to go on display this Saturday.

But instead of being shown in the square specifically designed by Michelangelo to showcase the ancient bronze artwork, Marcus Aurelius' new home will be just inside the Capitoline Museum bordering the square.

There, the two-ton bronze horse and rider, almost twice life size, will be encased by clear plastic in a climate-controlled environment. They will be on display throughout the summer.

The statue of the emperor, his right hand extended in a gesture of greeting or peace, symbolizes for many Rome at the zenith of its ancient civilization.

Whether Marcus Aurelius will remain in the museum or be returned to the pedestal in the center of the square remains the subject of intense debate.

Many Romans believe that, sooner or later, the original should return to its rightful place at the center of the square. Others favor replacing the statue permanently with an exact copy in the piazza and keeping the original in the museum, where it will be protected from smog, acid rain and vandalism.

To meet what is described as "the rapidly increasing demand for London telephone numbers," the city will divide into two area codes beginning May 6.

Instead of dialing 1, the old area code, callers from May 6 on will have to dial either 71 or 81, depending on the area they wish to reach.

The 71, or inner London, number will cover a region roughly eight miles in diameter, centering on Trafalgar Square and including the city's financial district, Knightsbridge and such tourist attractions as the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, Madame Tussauds and the British Museum. The 81 number will apply to the rest of London, including Heathrow Airport, Wimbledon and Greenwich.

A call placed from the United States would follow this sequence: 011 (the international code), 44 (United Kingdom country code) 71 or 81 (the new London codes) and the seven-digit number.

Within London, visitors will have to use the new codes when dialing from one section of the city to the other. When outside London but still within Britain, they would dial 071 or 081, respectively. For directory assistance, callers should dial 142 within any area of London and 192 for rest of the country.

By splitting into two area codes, London will double the amount of telephone numbers available to 10 million.

Travelers to Spain should be aware that a strike by sanitation workers at midweek had crippled Madrid's Barajas International Airport for more than nine days, forcing passengers to dodge heaps of rubbish to board strike-delayed flights, and airport restaurants and cafes to close.

The strike affected flight operations, with arriving transatlantic flights rerouted to other airports for cleaning. The result was long delays.

The stoppage by 18,000 staff members of Madrid's private cleaning companies also affected subway stations. At press time, talks on the workers' demands for a nine percent wage rise were stalled.

Luxury rail travel is being offered between Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area on board the privately owned California Sun Express double-decker dome cars of Amtrak's Coast Starlight trains.

The new service operates daily between Los Angeles and Oakland. Organized sightseeing tours with an overnight stay at San Luis Obispo and Morro Bay are also available.

The upper level on each of the cars seats 64 passengers in upholstered seats with brass handrails, oak tables and plush carpeting. All passengers have seats in the full-length upper dome, with unobstructed 360-degree views.

The lower level features a 22-seat dining salon with white linens, imported china, French stemware and silver flatware. All meals are prepared from scratch by a chef in the stainless steel electric kitchen. Brunch and dinner, featuring a California-style menu, are served on the train.

The one-way fare between Los Angeles and San Luis Obispo is $99.50; from Los Angeles to Oakland without a stopover, the one-way fare is $179. Two-day, one-night packages are available starting at $379.

For more information, contact Princess Railtours, 2815 2nd Ave., Suite 400, Seattle, Wash. 98121, toll-free (800) 835-8907.

Jim Whittaker, the first American to scale Mt. Everest, plans to mark Earth Day on April 22 with a return trek, after 27 years, to collect trash. He will be aided by Soviet and Chinese climbers.

Whittaker is leading the three-nation, 30-person expedition on a "Peace Climb" to celebrate world peace and the 20th anniversary of Earth Day. They will recover discarded oxygen bottles and other debris left by other climbers.

Dozens of mountaineers taking part in the climb will haul gear and food from lower camps to higher camps to support the summit team. They will stop on their way down to fill empty bags with trash left behind by earlier climbers.

Whitaker, who scaled 29,028-foot Mt. Everest in 1963, does not plan to try for the summit.

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