Eastern Europe seizes chance to cash in

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CORNWALL is not the only place in Europe to watch the eclipse, writes Adam LeBor. The moon's shadow first appears in the Atlantic, before crossing Belgium, southern Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, northern Yugoslavia and Romania, where the sun will be eclipsed longer than in any other country.

Eclipse-fever is intense in the countries of the former Soviet bloc. More than a million tourists are expected to flock to the shores of Hungary's Lake Balaton, and thousands more are heading for the mountains of Romania and Bulgaria. Rooms along Balaton's shores have been booked for months in advance. All police leave has been cancelled to counter a feared crimewave in the temporary darkness.

Competition to sell viewers is intense. McDonald's has printed 200,000 postcards with a protective sun filter to watch the eclipse through, to be given away with its pounds 1.55 "solar eclipse menu". In Romania postmen have been selling dark glasses to impoverished pensioners and even to a blind girl, state television said. Police are investigating complaints from people who said postmen had deducted the cost of the glasses before delivering their monthly pensions.